Friday, January 31, 2014

Isaiah 49:15-16
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;  your walls are ever before me .

It is sad to admit but even at times the relationships in our families is not unconditional. It is no one’s fault, we are all human, even our families. We need to realize that unconditional love can only come from God, and that God working through us is the only way to show that love to others. Think about the relationships you have had with your family. Are any of them conditional. Take time now to give that pain and hurt to God and ask Him to show you how to love unconditionally. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

1 Peter 4:8-10
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 

Today our scripture asks us to love without grumbling. Have you had a time in your life when you have grumbled about showing hospitality? What caused you to grumble? Share this experience with God.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

1 John 3:16-18
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

As we read our scripture today, we are reminded that love is not a passive action. Love requires action on our part. How do you show God’s love in this world?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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.

In our scripture today, we learn that we ought to share the unconditional love God has showed us. In fact, all love flows from the love that God has showed us in Jesus Christ. Is there someone you know who needs the unconditional love of God? Pray for them.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Romans 5:7-8
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This week we will look at our understanding of unconditional love. Unconditional love is a rare thing in a conditional world.  We see the greatest example of unconditional love in the love God has showed us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How do you experience the unconditional love of God? 

Weekly Theme January 26 through February 1

Mutual Unconditional Love

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” 
-John 3:16-17

Many of us can count on one hand the number of unconditional relationships that we have had during our life outside of our immediate family members with many of our family relationships not being unconditional either. A person is very fortunate indeed if during their life time they have had the privilege of one or two relationships with individuals where there is a bond of mutual unconditional love.  What would a relationship of this kind look like?  It would be two people who accept one another completely and totally and nothing would be able to get them to walk away from the relationship they have forged together. Relationships that share and display mutual unconditional love can only be described as spiritual friendships.  This kind of relationship is impossible without the love that God sows in the hearts of both friends.

Spiritual friendships are unique.  Spiritual friendships move far beyond what is found in our “everyday” friendships and acquaintances.  It may seem idealistic or even impossible to imagine a friendship so deep and true, but the reality is that if God is placed at the center of a friendship it can be transformed into something that goes far beyond the quid pro quo nature of most relationships.  True spiritual friends are not looking out for themselves or for what they can gain from their relationship.  They give from the heart without tallying up anything that might be “owed” them.  They go out of their way to “serve” in the very best sense of the word, expecting nothing in return.  A spiritual friendship practices mutual unconditional love.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

John 17:1,5,10,22,24
1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 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.

In our scripture today, we hear about sharing Jesus’ glory with Him. From our reading today what does it mean to share in Jesus’ glory?

Friday, January 24, 2014

John 17:11,18,21-23
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.  18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 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. 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.”

Today our piece of John 17 talks about the two types of
relationships we have in our lives. Our relationship with God in the Trinity and our human relationships. What do you think our scripture today tells us about the overflow of the fellowship of hearts in the Trinity into our human

Thursday, January 23, 2014

John 17:11-12,21,24,26
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 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. 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. 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.”

Reread the verses.  Reflect as you read what it means to be “in God,” “in Christ,” and “in us (the trinity).”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

John 17:6, 11-12
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.  11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to
destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

In Scripture, a name reveals the true nature or identity of a person. In verse 11,  Jesus prays that we be united through the powerful name of God. Think about the names you know for God (Father, Creator, etc.) What do these names say about the nature of God? And how could that nature unite us?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

John 17:3
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Today we hear a wonderful relational definition of eternal life. Jesus says that by knowing the one true God we have eternal life. This week we are reminded that we need a connection with God. Our faith is relational. How is your relationship with God? Have you talked lately?

Monday, January 20, 2014

John 17:2,6,9,24
For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.  I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 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.

Today we hear that Jesus views us as a gift from the Father. Have you ever thought about being a gift from God? How can this view change how you think about yourself? How can this change your thoughts about other people keeping in mind that people you are upset at are also a gift from God?

Weekly Theme January 19th through 25th

The Common Thread

 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”
—1 John 3:1a
The common thread that is at the heart of a spiritual friendship is that spiritual friends share a love of God.  When one truly has a spiritual companion, the relationship starts not with the two individuals who are friends but starts with God and the love both friends have for and receive from Jesus. 

When we find a friend, that desires to share with us the most important thing in our life, our journey toward moving closer and closer to Jesus, then that common thread, the love and desire for God, will establish the foundation of a relationship that can go far beyond the usual “meeting for coffee” casual friendships that most of us have.  At the heart of a spiritual companionship are two people who love Jesus with all of their hearts and share the common bond of that love.

The love of God is the common thread that binds people together in a spiritual friendship.  Even though it is good and necessary to have the more casual kind of friend, it is even more essential that we have the deep kind of relationship that can be described as spiritual.  When we find someone who loves God in the same way that we do that common thread binds us together in a deep and satisfying relationship.  We all need that kind of relationship.

Saturday, January 18, 2013

Proverbs 27:9-10
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
    and the pleasantness of a friend
    springs from their heartfelt advice.
10 Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family,    and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—better a neighbor
nearby than a relative far away.

Our scripture today reminds us of the importance of our friends. The author of Proverbs describes friends as better than the sweetest perfume. What is a good friend worth to you?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Amos 3:3
Do two walk together
    unless they have agreed to do so?

Friends are of like mind. The truth that comes from all of this is a friendship or a relationship that is entered into by individuals, and it is only as good or as close as those individuals choose to make it. Someone has said that if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you are blessed. A friend is one whom you can be yourself with and never fear that he or she will judge you. A friend is someone that you can confide in with complete trust. A friend is someone you respect and that respects you, not based upon worthiness but based upon a likeness of mind. Friendships don’t just happen, they grow, and to grow they have to begin. Is there someone in your life that you could build a relationship with or someone that you can continue to grow your friendship with? How can the two of you continue to grow in faith together?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Proverbs 27:6, 17
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
    but an enemy multiplies kisses.
17 As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another.

We read today that a good friend sharpens us like iron sharpens iron. How do you think that we cause each other to grow as a result of our spiritual friendships. Is it hard for you to tell others the truth in love? How do you think sharing the truth in love can cause friends to grow together?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Proverbs 17:17
17 A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Proverbs 18:24
24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,   but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Our scripture today again reminds us that spiritual friends stick with one another even when times are tough.  Real biblical friends will come to your aid when your life is falling apart.  When your chips are down they come through, a friend won’t let you fall to the bottom but they would rather sacrifice to help you.  Of course this is a two way street. Think about the relationships you’ve had. Have you had relationships with people just because they were useful or did you stick with them through thick and thin?  Remember this is not meant to be judgmental but a time to reflect on true friendships.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

1 Samuel 18:1-4
1After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

1 Samuel 19:4-7
Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”
Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.”
So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before.

In our scripture today, we hear part of another great friendship. This is the friendship of David and Jonathan. Even when Saul (Jonathan’s father) is trying to kill David, Jonathan remains good friends with David. Friends stand with one another through thick and thin. Do you have a friend like Jonathan in your life? Has there been a time when you needed someone to defend you and what did that feel like?   

Monday, January 13, 2014

John 15:9-15
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

This week we will look at Biblical examples of friendship. Of course, the person who laid out the model for friendship is Jesus Christ. In our scripture today, Jesus tells us that he no longer calls us servants but friends. There is no greater love than this: Our friend Jesus Christ died for us. If Jesus is the example for friendship what does that mean for the relationships that we have with one another?   

Weekly Theme January 12 through 18

A Friend for the Journey
“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.”
-Genesis 2:18

It is a truth that we all need friends.  We particularly need friends where the relationship goes deeper than having an occasional cup of coffee or seeing a movie together.  We need spiritual friends.  Spiritual friends are soul mates who share our spiritual longings and help us to become the best person we can be. 

It is just not possible to walk the Christian journey alone.  We need people in our lives who share our faith.  We need people who are willing to listen to us when the journey is hard, and we wonder if we can go on.  We need people who can love us and help us turn to the love and strength of God.  We need people who care for us enough to be willing to take the risk and confront us and hold us accountable.  We need people who can rejoice with us when we have that spiritual breakthrough where the reality of Jesus becomes even clearer.

Our independent society tells us we can make it on our own.  We don’t need anything or anyone except a desire to succeed and a willingness to work hard.  No matter how much we want to believe it no person is sufficient unto themselves.  We all need companions.  Spiritual friendships feed our souls, and when our souls are nourished and calm and strong, we tend to handle the rest of our lives with less friction and chaos.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Numbers 22:36-41
36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?” 38 “Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” 39 Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the officials who were with him. 41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.

Our scripture today reminds us that the world may not like our new found ways after God has set us on His path for us. Take time right now and think about something you could do that would show the love of God so as to cause people to question your sanity. What is keeping you from doing that?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Numbers 22:32-35
32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.” 34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” 35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

Again, God tells Balaam to say only what He tell him. This time God’s message is from an angel but God is very serious. In fact it’s interesting that the angel says he would have killed Balaam but he didn’t want to hurt the donkey. It is also a key role reversal. Earlier in the story Balaam threatens to kill the donkey and now the angel threatens to kill him. So many times we get upset at those things that keep us from moving forward. We say things like if I only had... or if this person would not have done this…life would be better. But what if like the donkey, the very thing we are angry at is not the perceived object that is  in our way but we are angry with God. Angry  that God has not given us what we think we want. Do you find this to be true about anger? Why or why not?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Numbers 22:26-31
26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of theLord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then theLord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” 29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said. 31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

Hopefully God does not have to make a donkey talk for us to get the point, but God wants the best for us. Is it hard for you to let go and let God? Why?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Numbers 22:21-25
21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his
donkey and went with the Moabite officials.22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

The scripture today points that God becomes angry with Balaam. The reason God is upset is because Balaam is not listening and trying to go his own way, on his own terms. Many times in our lives, we say to God and other people that we can do things ourselves and do it our way. Interestingly in our scripture today, God tries to keep Balaam from making a mistake.  Have you ever felt like you were running into a brick wall and that something was trying to hold you back? What do think about the possibility that in some of those situations God is trying to tell us to go a different way?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Numbers 22:9-20
God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?” 10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 11 ‘A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.’”12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” 13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.” 14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”
15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first.16 They came to Balaam and said: “This is what Balak son of
Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me,17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.”18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. 19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.” 20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

In our scripture today, we have a great reminder that God will take care of us. Look at the last word of verse  12. The word is “blessed.” We, like the Israelites, are blessed people. Whatdoes that mean in your life to be blessed? Is it a struggle to think about being blessed? 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Numbers 22:1-8
Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.
The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.”
So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said:“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.“Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.

This week we will look at the odd story of Balaam. This story is set toward the end of the journey of the people of Israel. They encounter a king named Balak that threatens to
destroy the Israelites. Balak summons Balaam to curse the Israelites and something strange happens to Balaam on the way.  Balaam’s story gives us a good reminder to reflect on our life and decisions with God. Do you take time  with God to reflect on your life and the plans God has for you? Take some time right now to spend time with God.