Thursday, October 31, 2013

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I=Informed by the Word of God
Paul reminds us today that we abide in Christ when we live life informed by the Word of God. To be in-formed by Scripture is more than head knowledge — it’s relying on God’s words through study, meditation, and prayer so that they live in you and draw you closer to Jesus. How can you live your life informed by the Word of God?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

1 John 2:3-6
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

B=Becoming like Christ
Our scripture today reminds us that to test our connection to the True Vine, Jesus Christ, is by the fruit it produces. The fruit in this case is that we become more and more like Christ. Do you see yourself being transformed into Jesus Christ? What things do you need God to work on in your life to make you more like Christ? Write them here and ask God’s help to transform them. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Psalm 95:1-7
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

A= Awe-filled wonder for God
Our scripture today points out that abiding in Christ begins with an awe-filled wonder for God. this begins with our worship. In worshiping Jesus and his Father we remember it’s about God, not me! We worship God not just by singing songs of praise to him but by bringing our daily lives into His kingdom and doing that together. We do this by appreciating God (e.g., the beauty of His creation, forgiveness for our sins, and the gift of eternal life) and by being humbled in God’s presence.  How do you take time to appreciate what God has done? Have you ever been humbled by God’s presence? Take time now to list the many things god has done that inspire awe in you?

Monday, October 28, 2013

John 15:1-4
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit
unless you remain in me.

Intimacy with Jesus is the source of everything that is good in our lives. The blessing of enjoying God’s love, the wisdom to live right and well, and the power to advance God’s
kingdom all are based in our intimacy with Jesus. But how do we know if we’re truly intimate with Jesus? What does it mean to you to abide in Christ? 

Weekly Theme October 27 through November 2


 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ
Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.  And being found in
appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
-Philippians 2:5-8

So if we want to deepen our discipleship it starts with attitude.  We must adjust our attitude to reflect surrender to Jesus.  We should seek to love Jesus and live with passion for Jesus.  If we do that we will have the right attitude to allow our discipleship through connecting, growing, serving, and giving to flow out of our lives. If we are having trouble with living out the characteristics of a disciple then we need to return to the basics.  We need to discover whether our love for Jesus has grown cold.  We need to return to abiding in Christ. We can reform our attitude by abiding in Christ through a deeper relationship and intimacy with God. It’s us having the kind of relationship with Jesus that he has with the Father — he shows us this divine life in the Gospels and provided our access to this through his cross and his resurrection. Jesus’ word for this divine intimacy is abide. By abiding in Christ we remember that God is the source of everything in our lives. And this will help us change our attitude. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:29-31
29-31 But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts. But now I want to lay out a far better way for you.

If there was more room in this journal, we would read on into 1 Corinthians 13 to see the better way Paul has for us. Many of you would recognize the verses that would come because they are used at weddings. Paul’s better way for us to remember that we are a part of the body is love. How do you think loving one another can remind us that we are part of something larger than ourselves? How can the love God showed us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ remind us that we are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves?

Friday, October 25, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:27-28
27-28 You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”:
miracle workers
those who pray in tongue

In our scripture today we learn  that we need to continually remember we are a part of something larger than ourselves. Can you think of a way to remind yourself that you are a part of the body of Christ? What will remind you that you are not on this journey alone?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:25-26
25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

Paul reminds us today that we are all in this together. We need one another. We need one another to share our hurts, our losses, and our victories. How do you help your brothers and sisters in Christ? How can you share their hurts, mourn in their losses, and celebrate their victories?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:19-24
19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn't be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If
anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn't you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

In today’s scripture Paul reminds us that we also need to be humble in remembering that we are part of the body. Because honor befalls on the entire body not on one part. What do you think of Paul’s question? “If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?” What does this mean for how we treat other members of the body of Christ?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:14-18
14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

Paul talks about how God placed you right where you are. How does it make you feel to know that you are exactly what God wanted? How can this change your outlook on life that God has something special planned for you to do right where you are?

Monday, October 21, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:12-13
12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

In our scripture today, Paul talks about the old labels we use to describe ourselves and how they are no longer useful. Take time now to write the labels that you think describe you. Then, cross them out and write “I am a beautiful child of God.”  

Weekly Theme October 20 through 26

Belong to Something Bigger than Yourself

 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – all the more as you see the day approaching.”  
-Hebrews 10:25

We are not called to be single, solitary Christians operating on our own.  We are called together to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves.  We are called to be a part of the church. Too many times people claim that they can follow Christ on their own.  They don’t need the church.  They don’t need fellow believers.  They embrace a “Jesus and me” approach and they attempt to be a disciple of Christ completely on their own.  It doesn't work.  Jesus never intended for us to go it alone.

Jesus has given all believers a mission.  That mission is to go into all the world and share the love of Jesus with everyone who will receive his message.  We are to transform lives and
ultimately the entire world by spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This cannot be accomplished by each of us operating as a lone ranger.  We need one another.  We are called into the church, the Body of Christ, so that we can fulfill the mission of Christ.  As we join with others to fulfill the mission of Christ we become a part of something that is much bigger than ourselves.
That is why we are called into a family called the church.  We need each other so that we can accomplish the mission that Christ has given us.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mark 14:17-26
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will
betray me—one who is eating with me.” 19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” 20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who
betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,  “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus and his disciples went to the Upper Room for the Last Supper. This was more than a meal – it was a mini-retreat. There was food, drink, conversation, laughter, singing, teaching, and communion (the first one). This was an important time of renewal and preparation for the trials of the cross that were coming.  How do you think modeling Jesus’ spiritual disciplines can help prepare you for trials that may come? How do you stay connected to God?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mark 9:2-13
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them  Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

Jesus took Peter, James, and John to climb a mountain for a spiritual retreat. They were renewed in the beauty of nature. They talked. They prayed. They rested on the mountaintop. Then Jesus went out a ways from the three disciples, perhaps a hundred feet, so that he could abide in prayer. suddenly right before their eyes, Jesus engaged in a conversation with Moses and Elijah and he was transfigured so that they saw his glory radiate like the sun! Jesus showed the disciples his divine nature as the Son of God and it changed their lives and ours forever! We see Jesus’ glory and we know that his connection to the Father is the source of our life and transformation. How do you see God as the source of your life and transformation? How can abiding in God through Jesus Christ give you life and transformation?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mark 6:45-47
45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray

Jesus went up to a mountainside to walk and pray in the quiet solitude and beauty of nature.  How do you think you can find connection to the Creator in nature? Take a walk and give thanks to God for all of creation.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mark 6:30-34
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.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

In today’s scripture Jesus went out on a retreat with his disciples by boat.  John the Baptist died so they needed to grieve together and comfort one another.  The disciples had just finished a mission trip and wanted to talk with Jesus about it,  but the crowds of people interrupted their retreat. You’d think that Jesus might set a boundary because he had his own needs to take care of. We can sympathize with the disciples getting irritated with the crowds at this point. But Jesus’ regular patterns of abiding in prayer provided a deep storehouse of grace that he could tap into in times of stress like this. Jesus patiently and generously ministered to the people.  We are kidding ourselves if we think we can always get the space we need to be with God. We need to  be continually making time for God because we will be
interrupted. Do you sympathize with the disciples? Do you know how it feels to have your personal time with God interrupted? How could increasing your time with God help you build a storehouse of grace?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mark 1:35-37
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him,37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

Early in the morning, Jesus had a custom of going out to lonely places to pray.  Undoubtedly, his prayer times included meditating on passages from the Psalms and the prophets that he had memorized. In this instance his prayer time gave him the discernment to leave Capernaum and go to minister in Galilee. It is always interesting to think  if we were stranded on a desert island, without any electronic device or a physical bible, how much of the Word of God would we have with us? It is a good thing to think about having lists of Scripture memorized to help you in your life. Take some time to find a verse you like and find helpful,  then write it down on a card, carry it with you for the rest of this week, and try to memorize it.   

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mark 1:9-13
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Jesus went on pilgrimage to be baptized and spent forty days in the desert praying in silence, being in solitude, meditating on Scripture, and fasting.  His spiritual disciplines connected him deeply to his Father, nourishing him and strengthening him. On this wilderness retreat, he solidified his mission for his public ministry and how he would carry out this ministry.  He was empowered by the Father and by Scripture to overcome temptation. How do you think God can empower you through prayer and Scripture? How can you make time like Jesus to pray in silence, solitude, and meditating on Scripture?  

Weekly Theme October 13 through 19

You Need a Place to Grow

 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
-2 Peter 3:18

             The church is a place of transformation. God in Jesus Christ loves us way too much to leave us where we are.  As we continue to encounter God’s grace in our lives we will grow
closer and closer to Him. As we delve deeper into the love and grace of Jesus Christ we cannot help but be changed. The love of God in the midst of this spiritual family moves and challenges us to move forward as His disciples always changing, always growing. The church is not a place for status quo. There is no limit to the changes that God can do through the family if we do not set up barriers. This is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unlike the world it has no limits. 

We have a great example of how we can grow in our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus spent time in prayer, solitude, and study. We read in the Bible that, “Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52) and that “He learned obedience from what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). What a mystery that our sinless Savior grew in grace and learned to obey God!Jesus learned and grew in the context of his relationship of abiding in the Father’s love. His time with God was the most important thing to him – not his ministry to others. Many Bible students miss this! Yet, there are many examples in the Bible of the centrality of Jesus’ solitude and silence with the Father.
It was Jesus’ rich life of quiet prayer and tender intimacy with God that was the source of his love, wisdom, and power. His ministry was an overflow of his oneness with the Father. This week we will examine some of the examples we have of Jesus’ relationship with his Father.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:12-14
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Our scripture reminds us that no matter where we have come from and no matter who we are that we are brought together as one body. What does it mean to you that  no matter where you came from and who you are you are a part of the body? Is it hard to look at some people who you would not want to be a part of this body? How do you show them the love and acceptance that Christ does?

Friday, October 11, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:4-6
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Our scripture today reminds us that we need to remember who has given us our gifts and talents. Take time now to list the gifts and talents you have. (And yes everyone has gifts.) Give thanks to God for what God has given you.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Exodus 19:3-6
Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.

Our scripture today is a reference to the Israelites who at this point are a people without a land. The reason we need to use our gifts is that God has given them to us as a part of our relationship with him so that we might live in this foreign land. Then God will use our gifts to build His Kingdom here. How do you think we, as a family in Christ, can live as God’s “holy nation?”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Romans 12:9-13
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual
fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope,
patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice

These are the verses we looked at last week, but it fits with our verse from yesterday so let’s look at it again. How do you think that God can use love to unite what seems like a random gathering of people?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Romans 12:3-8
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.

In our scripture today Paul is expressing how the grace of God can be lived out in community. He expresses that this grace is lived out through unity much like the human body. What are your thoughts and feelings about all of us fitting together like a body? Think about how would life be different if we were without a part of our body. What do you think this means for our unity  as Christians?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Philippians 3:17-21
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly
bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Today’s verse reminds us that this is not our home. We belong to another authority, our Lord Jesus Christ. One theologian likes to think of this verse as describing a “colony of heaven.” This week as we talk about what it means to use our gifts it is important to be reminded that our gifts are designed not to build things of this earth but building for the Kingdom of God.  How do you think God can use our gifts and talents to help us in this “colony of heaven” so that we may live as believers in an unbelieving world?

Weekly Theme October 6 through 12

A Place to Use Your Gifts

“Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” 
-1 Timothy 4:14-15

How many of you have ever tried something and it just was not for you? Or how many of you have admired the gifts and talents of another person thinking I wish I had that kind of
talent? We all have it. It is a normal feeling. We cannot all be great at everything. And the truth is God made us that way. We are all one of a kind. After God made you, He broke the mold. There is no one else in this world exactly like you. Even identical twins are not identical. They have their own personalities, gifts, and talents. We are all special orders: no two are alike.

So it is quite understandable that the church, God’s special instrument in this world, works with the diversity of His creation. In fact, the church operates not in spite of our differences but because of them. The church, the gathered followers of Christ, is given its strength through the fact that we all bring our unique gifts and talents to the church.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

1 John 4:7-12
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 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.

Reread our scripture today. What does it mean to you that through our love God lives inside of you? What do you think about the fact that by loving one another God’s love is made complete in us?