Series – Keeping Sabbath
Sermon – Keeping Sabbath in a 21st Century World
Scripture Readings: Psalm 92, Jeremiah 17:21-27
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. (Psalm 92:1-4)
Monday August 19 — Jeremiah 17:21-27
As we read in Exodus 20:8-11, keeping the sabbath is one of God’s highest expectations, and one of the primary ways we experience the life God intends for us. For the Israelites, keeping the sabbath was non-negotiable. But because human beings, then and now, fail to live up to God’s expectations, prophets like Jeremiah were called and sent to remind the Israelites of the importance of the sabbath. Re-read Jeremiah 17:21. We are to keep the sabbath, “for the sake of [our] lives.” What does this mean to you? Why is keeping sabbath so important for us?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the ministry of the prophets, who teach me your ways and remind me of your promises. Help me follow your command to keep sabbath. Amen.
Tuesday August 20 — Psalm 92
Although there is no mention of the word “sabbath” in the text of Psalm 92, the heading says that it is, “A Song for the Sabbath Day.” It turns out that the “Song for the Sabbath Day” is a song of thanksgiving. It celebrates and gives thanks for God’s guidance and God’s goodness. As we learn how to keep sabbath in the 21st century world, we discover that sabbath-keeping is a spiritual discipline that includes worshipping and praising God. How have you worshipped God this week?
• Prayer: God of Wonder, thank you for revealing yourself in your creation. Thank you for guiding my life. Thank you for pouring out the blessings of your goodness. Amen.
Wednesday August 21 — Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus’ words in Matthew 11 are not directly related to the sabbath, but they speak to our 21st century lives. If we believe that Jesus is ultimately Lord of our lives and Lord of the sabbath (see Matthew 12:8), then we can trust that we find the rest in him. When we practice the spiritual discipline of sabbath-keeping, we make time to nurture our relationship with the one who offers rest, whose “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30), and who gives us life. How would you characterize your relationship with Jesus right now? Is it life-giving for you? How do you find rest for your soul?
• Prayer: Life-Giving God, today I choose to trust you more fully, to discover that your burden is light, and to find rest for my soul. I want Jesus to be Lord of my life. Amen.
Thursday August 22 — 1 Kings 19:11-17
Elijah’s encounter with God at Mt. Horeb teaches us that we can experience God’s presence in unexpected ways. Elijah would have expected to meet God in the earthquake, the wind, or the fire, but God wasn’t found in those. Elijah met God in the “sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12). One of the reasons that we need to keep sabbath is so that we can calm our minds, our hearts, our spirits, and our bodies long enough to meet God in the silence. When was the last time you experienced enough solitude and silence to connect with God?
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for not stopping long enough to experience your presence in the sound of sheer silence. Help me to hear your voice. Amen.
Friday August 23 — Luke 5:12-16
Luke 5:16 is a verse that is easily missed in between two powerful healing stories (the leper in Luke 5:12-14 and the paralyzed man in Luke 5:17-26.) It simply says that, “Jesus would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” The way Luke writes this sentence, it sounds like Jesus withdrew to pray on a regular basis. It was one of his spiritual disciplines, something he did when the demands for his time and attention were high. How might you follow Jesus’ example in your own life?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I often think that I am too busy to pray. Forgive my arrogance. Teach me that nothing I do is more important than spending time with you. Amen.
Saturday August 24 — Hebrews 10:19-25
Today’s reading is part of a larger section that is often entitled, A Call to Persevere. Its point seems clear, when our faith wavers and we experience fear and doubt, we can enter God’s presence and experience reassurance. We are to, “provoke one another to love and good deeds” and not neglect to “meet together” (Hebrews 10:24-25). How does your practice of keeping sabbath strengthen your relationships with others?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for helping me persevere during the difficult days of my life. Connect me with others so that we can journey with you in confidence and faith. Amen.
Sermon Series: Keeping Sabbath
Sermon: Holy Play
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 58:9b-14, Luke 13:10-17
… if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the LORD… – Isaiah 58:13b-14a
When have I experienced healing?
Where in my life do I need healing now?
How can I be freed for joyful obedience?
Things I’d like to remember from today’s message:
Monday, August 12 – Mark 1:40-45
While in the Bible we often read about physical healings; we are often in need of emotional, mental, spiritual, and even relational healing. The leper in Mark 1 begs Jesus for healing. After receiving the healing the leper proclaimed it freely and spread the word about Jesus (vs. 1:45). He recognized his need for healing and brought that need to Jesus. In bringing this need for healing before Jesus he was free to live joyfully. What healing do you need in your life to live joyfully?
- Prayer: Healing God, help me to recognize the ways I need healing in my life and live joyfully in your presence. Amen.
- Activity: Brainstorm a list needs to bring to God in prayer. Write some out on a post-it and place it where you can see it daily. Pray each day for healing.
Tuesday, August 13 – Matthew 9:1-8
In this passage from Matthew Jesus’ miracle is more than a healing but also the forgiving of sins. Those who witnessed this in the crowds were filled with awe and glorified God. When we witness the movement of God in our world we are called to respond as the crowds did in this Scripture. In what ways do you witness God? How can you respond to God with awe and give God glory?
- Prayer: Glorious God, when I recognize your movement in this world I will offer you praise! Thank you God! Amen.
- Activity: Look for God sightings during your day today. Pause each moment to celebrate how God is moving in our world!
Wednesday, August 14 – Luke 7:11-18
This story of Jesus’ healing in Luke is not only the miracle of restored life but also restored relationships. In Luke 7:15, the Scripture says that “Jesus gave him (the man who died) to his mother.” Living joyfully with Jesus – Sabbathing in a way that leads to “Holy Play,” – is difficult when are relationships are suffering or struggling. Jesus can bring healing to our relationships as well. What relationships in your life need healing? How can you celebrate and live joyfully when your relationships are healed?
- Prayer: God, continue to reach out to us and guide us into more loving relationships with you and one another. Amen.
Activity: On Tuesday we reflected on witnessing God in our world. How do your relationships change when you see God in one another? As you seek healing in your relationships focus on witnessing God in every relationship in your life.
Thursday, August 15 – John 5:1-9
So often in Scripture those who need healing come to Jesus. In this Scripture, Jesus sees the need of this man and asks him if he wants “to be made well (vs. 5:6).” Jesus desires to restore us all to health and fullness of life. When we live in the fullness of life with Jesus we are freed to live joyfully. As you pray today, invite God to offer you healing. Are there unexpected places in your life that need healing? How can God be a part of that?
- Prayer: Loving God, I need your healing in my life today. Teach me to live joyfully with you each day. Amen.
- Activity: Practice listening to God today. Are there places in your life that need healing that you haven’t shared with others? How can you share this with God now?
Friday, August 16 – Matthew 20:30-34
Even as they are in need of healing, the two blind men in this Scripture cry out to Jesus calling him “Lord (vs. 20:30).” The crowd orders them to be quiet but they are persistent. Living joyfully with God may not come easily to us – we must be persistent in reaching out to God. How can you persistently seek God today?
- Prayer: God you listen to my every need. Today I pray as the two blind man did and ask you to have mercy on me. Amen.
- Activity: Today, find multiple times to say out loud, “Lord, have mercy on me, Son of David!” How does it feel to cry out to God? How can crying out to God bring you closer to receiving joy?
Saturday, August 17 – Luke 17:11-19
In this parable of the ten lepers, one returns to Jesus and praises “God with a loud voice (vs. 17:15).” It can be hard to praise God in the midst of struggles. What struggles in your life keep you from offering praise and living joyfully with God? How can you choose to praise God today?
- Prayer: God I offer you praise, even in the difficulties I face today. Thank you for all you do in my life. Amen.
- Activity: Make a mental list of the concerns that are on your heart and mind right now. What are some ways to offer God praise as you think of each situation? Practice offering God praise today.
Series – Keeping Sabbath
Sermon – Jesus and the Sabbath
Scripture Readings: Mark 2:23-3:6, Luke 14:1-6
Again Jesus entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:1-5)
Monday July 29 – Exodus 31:12-18
God’s terms for the covenant established with the Israelites concludes with instructions for keeping the sabbath. Observing the sabbath is a sign of the covenant and a sign that the Israelites trust in God as they follow God’s own example from the creation story. The importance of keeping sabbath is clear: it is a matter of life and death. While we may not view keeping sabbath in the same way as the Israelites, we can appreciate how it is a sign of our own trust in God and how having a practice of sabbath rest affects our health and well-being. How will you keep sabbath this week?
• Prayer: Covenant-Making God, forgive me for not trusting you fully and not obeying the terms of the Covenant. Help me see how keeping the sabbath is good for me. Amen.
Tuesday July 30 — 1 Samuel 21:1-6
This account of David and his men eating the holy bread is quoted by Jesus in the Gospels. (See tomorrow’s reading.) It is an example of someone breaking God’s ritual law for the sake of a higher purpose. That’s the point that Jesus makes in Mark 2. How do you read this passage? How do you weigh the differences between accomplishing God’s purposes and following God’s expectations for worship and community life? What helps you make these difficult decisions?
• Prayer: God of Eternity, give me the wisdom I need to seek your will at all times and make decisions every day that will be pleasing to you. Show me your way today. Amen.
Wednesday July 31 — Mark 2:23-28
The Gospels record a number of accounts of Jesus’ conflict with the religious authorities happening on the sabbath. Because keeping sabbath was such a central aspect of Jewish identity, Jesus was accused of not being a good (enough) Jew and of not following the law. In his response to the Pharisees, he makes an important statement: “The sabbath was made for humankind” (Mark 2:27) and not the other way around. In other words, the sabbath is for our benefit, so that we can live the life that God intends. Is that true for you? How does sabbath-keeping bless your life?
• Prayer: Gracious God, help me to understand how honoring and keeping the sabbath is not simply a rule to follow, but a way for me to live the life you intend for me to live. Amen.
Thursday August 1 — Mark 3:1-6
Jewish law had very detailed instructions about what faithful Jews were and were not allowed to do on the sabbath. (Much of sabbath law was established by Rabbis, who interpreted Hebrew Scripture for the Jewish people.) Thirty-nine categories of activity were prohibited, but saving a life was not one of them. Note Jesus’ anger at the Pharisees’ “hardness of heart,” or lack of compassion (Mark 3:5). How might Jesus respond to our own desires to seek justice without mercy or the many ways we can rationalize our lack of compassion toward others?
• Prayer: God of Compassion, thank you for the example of Jesus. Thank you for teaching me to see the world as Jesus sees it and act with compassion at all times. Amen.
Friday August 2 — Luke 14:1-6
Today’s reading from Luke 14 speaks to us on multiple levels. First, it is another account of conflict between Jesus and the authorities on the sabbath. Second, in Jesus’ world, in addition to being a physical condition, “dropsy” was used metaphorically to describe greedy people. (People with dropsy retained too much fluid, but they still experienced insatiable thirst.) The point is that Jesus provides healing, and that keeping the sabbath is supposed to be life-giving, no matter what our condition –physical or spiritual – might be. Is keeping the sabbath life-giving for you?
• Prayer: Life-Giving God, grant me the ability to discern which activities in my life are life-giving and which activities are not. Heal the parts of my life that are broken. Amen.
Saturday August 3 — John 5:9-18
There are stories of Jesus curing people on the sabbath in all four of the Gospels. In every case, Jesus’ actions lead to conflicts with religious authorities. Part of the conflict with Jesus is driven by theological disagreement about the meaning of sabbath. But the conflict is also about dynamics of power within the Jewish community. By his words and actions, Jesus establishes himself as God’s ultimate representative on earth. Do you see Jesus as the ultimate authority in your life? How is Jesus influencing and guiding your life today?
• Prayer: God of Love, thank you for the teaching and example of Jesus. Today, I choose to give him authority over my life. With your help, I will go where he leads me. Amen.
Series – Keeping Sabbath
Sermon – Remember the Sabbath?
Scripture Readings: Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work….For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (Exodus 20:8-11)
Monday July 22 — Genesis 2:1-3
The first creation story (yes, there are two distinct creation stories in Genesis, the second one begins in Genesis 2:4b) concludes with God resting on the seventh day, thereby establishing it (the seventh day) as holy and sacred. The weekly cycle of work and rest is written into the fabric of God’s creation: the life that God intends for us includes a holy day for rest, re-creating (and worship.) Consider the shape of your life right how. Where do you find rest and re-creation?
• Prayer: Creator God, help me to understand the deeper meanings of the creation stories and recognize that your creation calls for a day of rest. Amen.
Tuesday July 23 — Exodus 20:8-11
The importance of the weekly day of rest is codified in the Ten Commandments. God’s instructions to Moses include these words: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work.” (Exodus 20:8-10). Keeping sabbath is not just something we do when we have some extra time: God expects us (commands us) to remember and observe the sabbath day. In what ways do you remember the sabbath? Is sabbath-keeping one of your spiritual disciplines?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I too often treat sabbath-keeping as optional, for when I have some extra time. Help me to remember the sabbath every week. Amen.
Wednesday July 24 — Exodus 20:1-17
We misread and misuse the Ten Commandments when we reduce them to a set of laws to obey or a set of criteria to judge whether we (or someone else) is living a good life. The Ten Commandments describe the live that God intends: worshipping and honoring God alone, living in right relationship with our families and neighbors, and living a faithful and healthy life. Keeping the sabbath is essential for staying in right relationship with God and others. It seems that we can’t keep the rest of the covenant without keeping the sabbath. Consider your priorities: is keeping the sabbath as important to you as it is to God?
• Prayer: Covenant-Making God, thank you for describing in great detail the life you intend for me to live. Teach me that keeping the sabbath is essential for a faithful life. Amen.
Thursday July 25 — Genesis 15:1-6
Living the life that God intends requires that we trust God. Sometimes, when we consider the Old Testament Scriptures, we assume that it is primarily about God’s demands for obedience and God’s judgments for disobedience. But when we read carefully, we discover grace and forgiveness. And we discover that a healthy and faithful relationship with God requires that we follow Abram’s example, where it says that “he believed the Lord” (Genesis 15:6). Keeping the sabbath and obeying God’s commandments are ultimately an act of faith. We have to trust that God knows best. What are the next steps for you as you grow in faith and trust?
• Prayer: God of Love, even though I believe that you know best, I don’t always act that way. Forgive me. Help me grow in faith and trust you more fully today. Amen.
Friday July 26 — Exodus 16:22-30
Early in the Israelites’ wilderness journey, they started complaining: they were hungry and thirsty and wanted to go back to Egypt. Exodus 16 tells us about God’s response to their needs. God gave them manna from heaven to sustain and strengthen them for their journey. For the first five days of the week, they received their daily bread (an answered prayer?). But on the sixth day of the week, they received enough for two days – so that, on the seventh day, they could keep the sabbath and rest. Do you see any parallels between the Israelites’ experience and your own?
• Prayer: Gracious God, I often pray, “give me this day my daily bread.” Help me to live with faith that you will answer the prayer that Jesus taught me to pray. Amen.
Saturday July 27 — Exodus 16:1-8
If we read the whole story we discover that the manna from heaven was not only a sign of God’s providence, it was a test (see Exodus 16:4-5). The Israelites had to learn to trust God’s promises. Keeping the sabbath was an act of faith and trust and some of the Israelites learned the lesson the hard way (see Exodus 16:27-28). It seems that by keeping the sabbath we not only demonstrate our trust in God – we grow in our trust in God. It is not easy to stop working and trust God. It takes practice. How might you practice keeping the sabbath this week?
• Prayer: Eternal God, like the Israelites in the wilderness, I struggle to keep the sabbath and trust your promises. Help me learn to keep the sabbath. Amen.
Sunday July 14 – Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37
“ “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” ” – Luke 10:36-37
Questions to consider:
When was the last time you were rushing?
What does it feel like to be in a rush?
When do you linger?
Plan ahead: pick a time this week to slow down and linger.
Monday July 15 – Colossians 1:1-10
Paul the Apostle is writing to the Colossians from prison. The opening of this letter reads like a set of reassurances, maybe even confirmations. Paul almost says, “Don’t worry I am praying for you; don’t stress you are saved!” Paul confirms that he knows this because the church in Colossae is bearing fruit – they have been faithful and they have grown in faith, hope, and love. Consider today how you are growing in faith, hope and love.
Prayer: Holy God, work in my spirit today. Mold me to continue to follow Christ and to grow in faith, hope, and love. Amen.
Activity: Sometimes we rush so much we fail to nurture God’s gift of love and grace within us. Find time to pause today to “linger” in God’s presence. Choose to pray, or choose to engage in deeper conversation with someone, choose to risk trusting. How can you “linger” today and receive and witness God’s love and grace in your life?
Tuesday July 16 – Colossians 1:11-14
1 Colossians 1:13-14 says that God “rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom…” In this Kingdom we receive redemption and forgiveness. The verses that precede this passage tell us about how we live in God’s Kingdom; be strong, endure with patience, joyfully give thanks to God (vs. 11-12). How are you living as a part of God’s Kingdom today? When can you be strong, endure with patience, and joyfully give thanks?
Prayer: God, today I seek to live as a member of your Kingdom. Show me how to be strong, be patient, and be joyfully thankful. Amen.
Activity: Today focus on one of these ideas – 1) being strong in God, 2) enduring with patience, 3) joyfully give thanks. Track how often you are able to be strong, patient and thankful. When was it difficult? When was it easy? How did you connect with God through this practice?
Wednesday July 17 – Colossians 1:15-20, 24-28
The opening of this passage is a “Christ Hymn.” We read a description and celebration of Christ. In verses 24-28, we learn that the purpose of the church is to proclaim Jesus Christ. We are to be witnesses of how Christ is at work in our lives and in the world. This reality pushes us beyond our own doors to proclaim faith, hope, and love of Jesus Christ to our world. Our focus is no longer inward but outward. How can you witness to the faith, hope, and love of Jesus?
Prayer: Holy God, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus I have been redeemed. Help me to live and witness the faith, hope, and love I have through Jesus to others.
Activity: Think on what it looks like to live as a person of “faith, hope, and love in Jesus.” How does your life look different because of “faith, hope, and love?” Write the words “faith” “hope,” and “love,” on post-it notes, or a paper and place it or tape it where you can see it each day. As you start each day, pray to live as a person with the “faith, hope, and love of Jesus.”
Thursday July 18 – Colossians 2:1-7
This passage from Colossians reminds us that we have “received Christ Jesus,” and we must continue to live our lives in Christ (vs. 6). When we live our lives in Christ, our lives show gratitude. This is the fullness of living life with Christ; a life of gratitude. When we live this way, our hearts are united in love, we are reassured of that Christ is with us and that we receive grace in Christ. How can you live a life of gratitude and be united in love?
Prayer: Christ, my Lord, refocus my heart and mind today to show gratitude and reflect gratitude. Guide me to live my heart united in love towards you and others. Amen.
Activity: How are you practicing gratitude? Today, listen for how many times you hear the words, “thank you.” Are these words casually said or said in passing? Do these words convey deep gratitude or common courtesy? When our hearts are united in love we are reflecting our gratitude for God’s love and grace in our lives.
Friday July 19 – Colossians 3:1-11
Paul teaches that life with Christ is a “new life,” not doing things the same old way. Paul challenges us to be honest about the ways we sin and to be clothed with a new self. This new self is in the image of our creator. This Scripture is a call to do two things, 1) recognize our own sins, and 2) live as new people formed by God, our creator. Paul, then takes this a step farther, he reminds that all people are incorporated into this new life in Christ. How can you claim new life in Christ for yourself?
Prayer: Creator God, forgive me for the ways I have sinned against you and others. Clothe me in your love and grace. Let me live truly as one who is created in your image. Amen.
Activity: Take a good look at yourself in the mirror. What are the first things you see? Do you go to your flaws first? Do you see your age or focus on a wrinkle or gray hair? When you look in the mirror today see yourself as a person created in the image of God. At the end of the day, look in the mirror again, list a few things you like about yourself and give thanks to God for creating you in God’s own image.
Saturday – July 20- Colossians 4:2-18
On Sunday, Pastor Nickie preached about “lingering.” Lingering is uncomfortable and even odd. But the Apostle Paul seems to linger at the end of every one of his letters in the Bible. His farewell in Colossians is a list of people, situations, and faithful reminders. Today, remember that when you choose to linger, you have the opportunity to see God in others and see the needs of others. Where and when can you linger today?
Prayer: God, I want to linger in your presence today. Open my eyes to see with your eyes. Open my heart and mind to be receptive to you and to others. Amen.
Activity: Choose to linger. Not just with God but with people. Sit in a coffee shop longer and notice who comes in and out. Sit with your kids and their friends and just listen (maybe annoy them a little). Leave early for work and see how your commute is different or how your office is different. Stay late at work, notice those you may not have seen before. Lingering takes bravery, but when we do we open ourselves up to recognize God more fully.
Sermon – When Life is Confusing, Always Choose Love
Scripture Readings: Romans 8:1-4, Matthew 22:37-40
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Monday July 8 — Romans 3:21-31, Romans 4:1-25
There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24) God uses the word ALL in this passage. Why is it often easier to see sin in others than in our own actions? Do you believe that God can forgive your innermost sin? What causes you to doubt God’s promise? Dear Lord, if nothing else help me be kind this week. Amen.
Tuesday July 9 — Romans 5:1-21
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2) Do you have the faith to accept God’s grace to you?
Wednesday July 10 — Romans 8:1-39
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4) Does this statement bring you comfort?
Thursday July 11 — Colossians 3:12-17
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14) What can you do to be more forgiving? Is there someone in your life you need to forgive? Are you willing to try?
Friday July 12 — John 3:16-18
“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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18) Dear God, thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus. Help me know and love him more and more each day. Amen.
Saturday July 13 — Matthew 22:37-40
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’”” (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus confirmed that these are the two most important commandments. What gets in the way of living out these commandments in your life?
Series: Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon – Kingdom-Centered Community
Scripture Readings: Revelation 1:1-6, Matthew 16:13-19
Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19)
Monday July 1 — Matthew 16:13-19
The word, “church,” is used sparingly in the Gospels, and very rarely by Jesus. As the Gospel narrative looks toward Jerusalem and Jesus’ death and resurrection, he asks his disciples who the people think he is and who they think he is. In response, Peter replied, correctly, that Jesus is the Messiah. What Jesus says next points to the Church’s ministry after Jesus is gone. Jesus’ commission to Peter and the disciples insists that the ministry of the Church will be kingdom ministry. In what ways do you see evidence of God’s Kingdom in your congregation?
• Prayer: Eternal God, I believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I also believe that I am a member of your Church, which has been commissioned to serve you in Kingdom ministry. Amen.
Tuesday July 2 — Matthew 16:21-28
After Jesus affirms his identity as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), and gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom, he teaches the disciples that he will not be the kind of Messiah they expect (or want.) This means that God’s Kingdom will not be the kind of kingdom that the disciples are expecting. What does Jesus’ death and resurrection say about God’s Kingdom? What does Jesus’ death and resurrection say about the Church?
• Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for being like Peter and not fully understanding what Jesus’ death and resurrection says about you and what it means for me. Amen.
Wednesday July 3 — Luke 14:15-24
Many of Jesus’ parables are parables of the Kingdom. They help us envision how God’s Kingdom contrasts with the kingdoms of the world. In the parable of the great banquet, Jesus teaches us that in God’s Kingdom everyone is welcome – including people who would have usually been excluded. (See Luke 6:20-26 for other examples.) Jesus also warns us about making excuses. If the Church is expected to have Kingdom ministry, how does Jesus’ parable reflect your experiences of the Church. What do you think about Jesus’ list of excuses (Luke 14:18-20)?
• Prayer: God of Love, I am grateful that you have invited me to be a citizen of your Kingdom. I am sorry for making excuses and not trusting you more fully. Amen.
Thursday July 4 — Revelation 1:1-6
Revelation was written to congregations, in what was called Asia Minor, encouraging them to keep their faith, trust God, and worship God. The Revelation describes the Christian community as a Kingdom of priests who are serving God. As priests, we not only have access to God (in worship, prayer, … etc.) but also have responsibility for the mission of the community. We are expected to continue Jesus’ Kingdom ministry. In what ways are you serving God and God’s Kingdom?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for allowing me to serve you and your Kingdom ministry. Teach me your ways and help me fulfill my responsibilities to you today. Amen.
Friday July 5 — Revelation 5:6-10
Revelation 5:9-10 are verses of a song composed to worship God and celebrate what God has done. It points to God’s desire to include everyone (“from every tribe and language and people and nation”) in a Kingdom of priests who serve God. Consider your life in light of the message in these verses. Do you see yourself as someone who has been saved by God’s grace? Do you see yourself as a member of God’s Kingdom? Do you see yourself as someone called to serve God?
• Prayer: God of Salvation, I confess today that I am a sinner who needs to be saved by your love and grace. Thank you for offering forgiveness and new life through Jesus. Amen.
Saturday July 6 — Revelation 11:15-29, Revelation 21:22-23
In the end, according to Revelation 21:22, there will be no Church. God will have finished the work that began in Jesus and God will reign forever. The promise that, in God’s time, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord” (Revelation 11:15). The point is that the Church is temporary. When its mission is complete, it will no longer be necessary. The Church is God’s means to the end, not the end itself. How does this information change the way you think about your congregation and the Church universal?
• Prayer: Everlasting God, thank you for your Church. Help me remember that the Church is not your ultimate goal. Help me to seek your Kingdom, today and always. Amen.E
Series: Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon – Living a Kingdom-Centered Life
Scripture Readings: Matthew 7:21-29, Matthew 18:1-5
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:1-5)
Monday June 24 — Matthew 5:1-12
As Christians, we can’t separate the Kingdom from Jesus. According to the Gospels, he proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom (see Matthew 4:17) and in his example and teaching, we discover the shape and character of Kingdom life. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) describes Kingdom life, starting with the Beatitudes, which insist that the blessings of the Kingdom are also available to people who were excluded by the conventional wisdom of Jesus’ day. As you read through the Beatitudes, where do you see yourself? Does Jesus make you feel welcome in God’s Kingdom?
• Prayer: God of Blessings, thank you for opening your Kingdom to everyone, including me. Help me to see signs of your blessings in my life and in the lives of others. Amen.
Tuesday June 25 — Matthew 5:17-20
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges us to see ourselves, others, and the world from God’s perspective. In other words, he challenges us to look at life through the lens of the Kingdom. What we discover is that God has high expectations for citizens of the Kingdom. The good news is that God’s grace helps us become the person that God wants us to be and forgives us when we fall short. How is God helping you grow into a life of greater righteousness right now?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for giving in to the temptation to be “good enough” or to compare my life with others. Give me courage to seek your greater righteousness. Amen.
Wednesday June 26 — Matthew 6:25-34
Following Jesus is an invitation to trust God. “Do not worry about your life,” Jesus says, inviting us to live with confidence that God will answer the prayer that Jesus has taught us to pray. (In Matthew 6:11, Jesus teaches us to ask God to, “Give us this day our daily bread.”) He insists that we trust God when we, first and foremost, seek God’s Kingdom and leave the rest to God. This is more easily said than done. What helps you trust God when you are worried about some aspect of your life? Read Matthew 7:7-11 for another one of Jesus’ teaching about God’s promises.
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the promises you make to provide for my needs. Forgive me for not trusting you fully. Increase my ability to trust you with my life. Amen.
Thursday June 27 — Matthew 7:21-29
Entering the Kingdom of God and living the Kingdom life is far more than saying the right words or even thinking the right thoughts. It’s about more than our heads and our hearts; it’s about living our lives in a way that pleases God. Jesus says that the Kingdom is for, “only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Later, Jesus says that a wise person is one who, “hears these words of mine and acts on them” (Matthew 7:24). That’s what it means to live a Kingdom life, the life God intends – by doing the things that Jesus teaches us to do. Based on what you have read this week, which words of Jesus do you need to act on?
• Prayer: God of Love, today I ask that you help me understand that your will for my life is revealed in the life and teaching of Jesus. Help me be more like him every day. Amen.
Friday June 28 — Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Jesus’ teaching about God’s Kingdom is not limited to the Sermon on the Mount. Many of his parables are Kingdom parables, including the parable of the sower and the seed. Its message is consistent with the Sermon on the Mount. Kingdom life is one that bears fruit through hearing and obeying Jesus’ teaching. Use Jesus’ parable to review your life? How would Jesus describe your life? How well is your life receiving Jesus’ teaching? How well is your life bearing fruit?
- Prayer: God of Miracles, I surrender myself to you. Cultivate the soil of my life so that I can bear the fruit of living the life you intend for me and help others do the same.
Saturday June 29 — Matthew 18:1-5
Finish this week by reflecting on what you think Jesus means when he says. “unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). It’s important to note that there is a significant difference between “child-like” and “child-ish.” What characteristics of children do think Jesus wants to see in you? What aspects of your life needs to diminish so that you become more of the person that God intends?
• Prayer: Faithful God, help me to maintain the child-like characteristics of Kingdom-life while at the same time growing up in my faith. Show me the life you intend for me. Amen.
Series: Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon – Kingdom Collaborators
Scripture Readings: Luke 9:1-6, Luke 10:1-12
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. (Luke 9:1-6)
Monday June 17 — Luke 4:38-44
The beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s Gospel reveals the tension between our human desire to receive and keep God’s blessings for ourselves and God’s desire that these blessings be shared with others. The crowds wanted Jesus to stay and serve them, but Jesus insisted that he “must proclaim the good news of the kingdom” (Luke 4:43) to others. Like the crowds described by Luke, we sometimes find ourselves wanting Jesus to serve us alone. How might you resist the desire to keep Jesus to yourself? How might you share the good news of the God’s Kingdom today?
• Prayer: God of Many Blessings, thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus. Open my heart to receive your blessings through him and then share them with others. Amen.
Tuesday June 18 — Luke 9:1-6
The mission of the twelve (in Luke 9:1-6) is an important development in the Gospel. Until this point, the ministry of sharing the good news of the Kingdom has centered on Jesus. Now, the same power and authority – and responsibility – is given to the apostles. (Don’t forget that the word “apostle” means “messenger” or “one who is sent.”) Note how their ministry included “bringing the good news and curing diseases” (Luke 9:6). In other words, the apostles’ served whole persons, body, mind, and spirit – helping them experience life as God intended for them.
• Prayer: Eternal God, grant me wisdom to understand that you not only want the best for me, but that you also want me to seek the best for others. Amen.
Wednesday June 19 — Luke 9:10-17
The account of Jesus feeding the multitude not only demonstrates that the power of God was at work in him, it also illustrates Jesus’ (and God’s) intention to provide for the daily needs of the crowds that were following him. This tells us something about God. After all, Jesus taught his disciples to ask God to “Give us each day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). We have to believe that God will answer the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. We also believe that God will use us to answer that prayer for others. Read Luke 9:13 and think about how that verse might apply to your life.
• Prayer: God of Abundance, help me remember that you not only promise to provide for my needs, you also want to me to share what I have with others. Amen.
Thursday June 20 — Luke 10:1-12
After sending the twelve apostles on a Kingdom-mission in chapter 9, Jesus sent another, larger, group of disciples ahead of him to minister to the people and announce that, “the kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:9). What’s striking is that we know nothing about these disciples. They are anonymous. All we know is that Jesus “appointed them” and “sent them” (Luke 10:1). And they went. The point is that Jesus calls and sends people like them (and us) to serve his Kingdom purposes in the world. What call from God are you hearing today? How are you responding?
• Prayer: Faithful God, when I hear your call, I often make excuses and am reluctant to go where you send me. Give me the courage I need to trust you more fully today. Amen.
Friday June 21 — John 20:19-23
The primary report of how the Holy Spirit came into the lives of Jesus’ disciples is found in the Pentecost story described in Acts 2, but John’s Gospel has a different account. John 20:21-22 says that, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Or in other words, Jesus sent the disciples – filled with the Spirit – to continue his ministry. Do you see yourself as someone who has been sent (into the world) to continue Jesus’ ministry?
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for resisting your call and not believing that you have sent me into the world to continue Jesus’ ministry. Fill me with your Spirit today. Amen.
Saturday June 22 — Acts 5:12-16
The New Testament is clear that Jesus’ Kingdom ministry did not end with his ascension to heaven after his resurrection. In fact, the New Testament describes the many ways that Jesus’ disciples, with God’s help, were able to do the same kinds of things that Jesus did: announcing the good news of the Kingdom and helping people live the life that God desires for them. We are expected to do the same. Review the past week. How have you collaborated with Jesus’ Kingdom ministry?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for including me in the work of your Kingdom. Thank you for filling me with your Spirit and empowering me to serve your purposes in the world. Amen.
Series: Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon – Life as God Intends
Scripture Readings: Acts 2:1-4, Ephesians 2:1-10
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Monday June 10 — Acts 1:1-11
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Biblical story of God’s presence in the world continued in a fresh and powerful way. The New Testament book of Acts (which was written by Luke, the Gospel writer) describes how the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of Jesus’ disciples to continue his ministry in the world. When we accept the Holy Spirit in our lives, it not only gives us comfort, it empowers us to continue Jesus’ ministry, share the Good News, and change the world. How are you experiencing the Holy Spirit today? Can you sense the Spirit empowering you to serve God?
- Prayer: God of Resurrection Power, continue to prepare my heart and mind to receive your Spirit, and give me the courage I need to let your Spirit guide my life today. Amen.
Tuesday June 11 — Acts 2:1-6
In Acts 2, Luke describes the birth of God’s Church. On the day of Pentecost (which was a Jewish festival), the Holy Spirit descended and the waiting disciples (see Acts 1:4-5) were filled the God’s power and began their ministry of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom to the world (represented by the “Jews from every nation …” in Acts 2:5).God’s promise of filling waiting disciples with the Holy Spirit is still being fulfilled every day. What is the Spirit doing in you today?
- Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit into my life and empowering me to share the Good News. Thank you for changing my life. Amen.
Wednesday June 12 — Acts 2:37-47
Starting with verse 5, the second chapter of Acts describes the beginning of the Church’s ministry—ministry that was empowered by the Holy Spirit. It includes a message preached by Peter and the response of the listening crowd. Luke also describes the character of the early Church. We know this is an idealized summary of what the Holy Spirit can do and what God desires for us, so we can read it as a description of Kingdom life – life that God intends for us and for everyone. What do you think of this description of Kingdom life? Is it good news for you?
Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for not always allong your Spirit to guide my life. Forgive me for the ways I fail to live the Spirit-filled life you desire. Amen.
Thursday June 13 — Matthew 5:13-16
The Bible is clear that our salvation is a gift that we have not earned and do not deserve. We are saved by grace, which we accept in faith. The Bible is also clear that when we accept God’s grace, our lives are transformed, and God uses us to continue Jesus’ ministry and change the world. By God’s grace, we perform good works and serve as salt and light for the world. One Bible commentator says that Kingdom people are to be “a good, not useless, presence in the world.” What good works will the world see in you today?
- Prayer: God of Light, let the light of your Son shine in my life so brightly that my life produces the kind of good works that will reveal your love and mercy to the world. Amen.
Friday June 14 — Colossians 1:9-14
Today’s reading connects three important themes: the power of God (through the Holy Spirit); God’s Kingdom (into which we are “transferred”); and the good works that are pleasing to God (the life that God intends.) It also adds the image of growth and bearing fruit. In other words, we never stop maturing as citizens of God’s Kingdom and our lives reflect (in tangible ways) the power of God. This invites some personal reflection: what difference is God’s Spirit making in your life? what difference are you making in the world?
- Prayer: Loving God, I confess that I do not always allow your Spirit to have complete access to my life. Forgive me and help me trust you more fully every day. Amen.
Saturday June 15 — Ephesians 2:1-10
Many Christians are familiar with this summary of the Gospel found in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” But too often we use these words to excuse ourselves from seeking to do good works. We fail to read and consider verse 10, which says, “For we are … created in Christ Jesus for good works.” The point is that we are saved to do good works, not to avoid them. What does it mean for you to be created for good works?
- Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the gift of salvation. Thank you for creating me for good works. Thank you for helping me become the person you want me to be. Amen.