Sermon: What Makes a Family
Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8, Mark 3:31-35
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)
Monday June 18 — Psalm 15
This short Psalm asks and then answers a very important question: who may come into the presence of God? Each of the answers to the question are worth our time and attention. The commands to speak the truth, not use our tongues to slander others, or do evil to our friends and neighbors hit particularly close to home. We know how easily we can hurt people close to us with what we say about them. This week, pay attention to what you say about people who are not present? Do you build them up? Or do you tear them down? Using Psalm 15, think about what God expects of you.
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for expecting the best out of me. Help me live up to your expectations for my all aspects of life.
Tuesday June 19 — Matthew 7:12-14
The Golden Rule is an excellent guide when speaking about our friends, neighbors, and members of the church family. Jesus’ teaches us that we should talk about others the way we want others to talk about us. Most of us want our friends to defend us and speak highly of us, but many of us do not defend our friends and speak highly of them when they are not in the room. Many of us choose to take the easier path. Answer this question: how do I want my friends and neighbors to talk about me? Then use your answer to guide your conversations when you are talking about other people.
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to obey the teaching of Jesus. Forgive me when I choose the easy path instead of the right path.
Wednesday June 20 — James 2:8-13
James reminds us of the words Jesus quoted when he was asked which commandment is the greatest of the commandments: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Like the Golden Rule, the Great Commandment serves as a valuable guide for everyday life. However, we cannot forget that Jesus also answered the question: who is my neighbor? (See Luke 10:15-37) How have you treated your neighbors today? Have you loved your neighbors “as yourself”? If not, why not?
- Prayer: Loving God, fill me with your love, so that I might share your love today with everyone who is my neighbor.
Thursday June 21 — James 3:3-6
In describing the power of the tongue, James says that words can start a fire the way a spark sets a forest ablaze. It is very difficult to extinguish a forest fire. In the same way, it is very difficult to stop gossip from spreading out of control. The best way to control gossip is to prevent it from starting in the first place and extinguish it before it is out of control. How do you feel about gossip? Is it harmless fun? Or is it dangerous and hurtful? When you hear gossip about someone, do you fan the flames, or do you try to put out the fire?
- Prayer: God of Wisdom, grant me the courage and self-control I need to keep silent and hold my tongue when necessary. Use me to put out “gossip” fires.
Friday June 22 — James 4:11-12
Using our words wisely means that we choose carefully when we speak to one another and when we speak about one another. James warns us about the danger of speaking evil against our brothers and sisters. His warnings about speaking evil are set in the context of his warnings about “friendship with the world” (see James 4:1-10). The fact that everyone else spreads gossip, doesn’t mean that we should spread gossip. What kind of gossip (or hearsay) are you tempted to spread about others? What helps you resist the temptation to gossip?
- Prayer: Almighty God, I am humbled in your presence. Cleanse my heart and mind so that I can fully obey your teaching.
Saturday June 23 — Ephesians 4:15-16, 25-32
The Bible is clear: we must, “grow up in every way . . . into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). This “growing up” includes learning to control our tongues and to think (and pray) before we speak. The rules for a new life include “putting away falsehood,” “speaking truth to our neighbors,” saying “only what is useful for building up,” and “being kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:25-32). Which of these instructions for growing up into Christ are easiest for you? Which of these instructions are most challenging? Which have you done more of this week: build up or tear down?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, fill me with your Spirit and renew my heart and mind. Transform my life. Help me grow up into the full stature of Christ.
Sermon: “And This is My Prayer…”
Scripture: Philippians 3:9-11
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 3: 9-11
Monday June 11 – Philippians 1: 27-30
Paul encourages the community in Philippi by telling them to live a life worthy of the gospel. Living worthy lives means standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side, and not being intimidated by what challenges us. This life is not an easy one, in fact, Paul warns that it may come with suffering. But when we are willing to live in this way, we become pure and blameless, and produce the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.
Prayer: God, help us to live lives worthy of the gospel.
Tuesday June 12 – Philippians 2:1-11
Humility is one of the most essential things that characterizes true Christianity. In fact, humility is one of the characteristics that set Jesus apart from all other religious leaders. Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus demonstrated profound humility, giving his own life to demonstrate his love. We are called to imitate Christ’s humility, to be of same mind, the same love, and of one mind, so that we could have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.
Prayer: Let us humble ourselves , and share in your Spirit.
Wednesday June 13 – Philippians 2:12-18
Joy is a central theme in the book of Philippians. There are over 15 explicit references to a form of joy (or rejoice). But joy is not just about having no worries or concerns, or dependent on circumstances but about the gift of grace that comes in Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul wrote this letter from prison suffering because of the gospel. But Paul urges this church to be complete in joy, then they will shine like stars in the world.
Prayer: Let our joy be complete in you.
Thursday June 14 – Philippians 3:1-11
Too often we reduce faith to getting all the rules right. But in this passage, Paul reminds us that true righteousness is not based on what we do right, but what Christ has already done for us. Paul warns us against false teachings that idolizes “right actions” above surrender to Jesus Christ. What actions do we substitute for true faith and how can we seek true righteousness in Jesus Christ?
Prayer: Less of me, more of you.
Friday June 15 – Philippians 3:12-4:1
We are called to press on towards the goal! It is easy to give up on faith when life gets hard or when we get discouraged. But Paul encourages us to press on towards the goal because waiting for us is the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus! Today we are encouraged not to give up, but to press on towards the goal.
Prayer: Let us press on towards the goal.
Saturday June 16 – Philippians 4:10-20
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. As Paul gives thanks to this church in Philippi, he names that while his circumstances have not been easy, while he has suffered much, been hungry and thirsty, he has learned the secret of not giving up in the midst of life’s circumstances: that through the faith of Jesus Christ, he is strengthened to do all things. How can we find strength through Christ to live with joy and passion?
Prayer: Strengthen us to do all things in your name.
Series: This Thing Called Church
Sermon: From Church to Kingdom
Scripture Reading: Luke 11:1-13, Revelation 1:1-6
Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” (Luke 11:2-4)
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6)
Monday June 4 — 2 Samuel 7:8-17
When the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah, he says that, “God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David…and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). This means that Jesus’ birth fulfills the promise made to David through Samuel. Because God kept this promise, we can have confidence that God will keep other promises – and that God’s Kingdom will endure forever. In the midst of our fears and doubts, we can trust God’s promises. Which promises of God are you trusting this week?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for your faithfulness and for keeping your promises. Help me to trust you more fully and believe in your Kingdom promises.
Tuesday June 5 — Luke 4:42-44
The primary subject of Jesus’ preaching ministry was the Kingdom of God. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the crowds that he was sent (from heaven) to “proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). Through Jesus, God is doing something new and offering new life in a Kingdom that is unlike any Kingdom the world has ever known. What does Jesus’ good news mean for you? Do you believe that God is doing something new in your life and in the world?
- Prayer: God of Amazing Grace, thank you for the gift of new life through Jesus. Give me courage to believe the good news and live as a citizen of your eternal Kingdom.
Wednesday June 6 — Luke 9:1-6
Not only did Jesus proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, he also commissioned and sent his disciples to expand the reach of his ministry. Like Jesus, they were to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2). As the Body of Christ, the Church continues Jesus’ ministry of proclaiming God’s Kingdom in both word and deed. In what ways does your life reflect the good news of the Kingdom? How might you share the good news of God’s Kingdom with someone this week? In prayer, ask God to give you the courage you need.
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive my reluctance to share the good news of your Kingdom with others. Fill me with your Spirit so that my life will reflect my faith in you.
Thursday June 7 — Luke 11:1-13
We know that, during his earthy ministry, Jesus spent much time in prayer, often separating himself from others to be alone with God (see Luke 5:16). One time his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. His response forms the outline of what we call The Lord’s Prayer. (An extended version of the same prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13.) We should note that Jesus does not teach us to pray for the Church or the Church’s mission, but simply to pray that God’s Kingdom will come (on earth, as it is in heaven). The eternal Kingdom (promised in 2 Samuel) is God’s ultimate goal and is the subject of faithful prayer. Use The Lord’s Prayer to guide your own prayer today.
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, let your name be holy. Let your Kingdom come, and your will be done in my life, and in the world. Let me experience your grace and power today.
Friday June 8 — Revelation 1:1-6
The entire New Testament describes the cosmic conflict of kingdoms: the kingdoms of the world versus the Kingdom of God. The Revelation to John uses rich and expressive imagery to illustrate this conflict at the end of the first century. The purpose of the Revelation is to remind God’s Church that God is faithful, and that God will ultimately be victorious. The Revelation calls the Church to worship God, no matter what is happening around them. What helps you worship God, even on the most difficult days of your life?
- Prayer: Almighty God, sometimes in the darkest hours I experience fear and doubt. I am grateful for the witness of Scripture that teaches me to trust you and worship you.
Saturday June 9 — Revelation 21:22-27
In the end, God wins. That’s the good news that helps us live and work and pray and worship with confidence and faith. Centuries of believers have found hope in the final chapters of the Revelation, which describe the new heaven and new earth, the holy city, and the river of life. What we discover, when we read these chapters is that there will be no temple (church) in the holy city. The church will have served its purpose and will no longer be needed. It is a vivid reminder that God’s Church is temporary. How will you help God’s Church point to God’s eternal Kingdom?
- Prayer: Holy God, you alone are worthy of my praise and worship. I confess my need for your grace. Write my name in the Lamb’s book of life today. Amen.
Series: This Thing Called Church
Sermon: The Body of Christ
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-31
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. . . . For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. . . . Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 12-13, 27)
Monday May 28 — 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
The apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth contains some of the most beautiful and familiar words in the entire Bible. (See 1 Corinthians 13 for example.) But the beauty of Paul’s writing does not negate the serious message of the letter. The Corinthian Church has some problems that Paul needs to address. Namely: the church is divided. Some of the Corinthians think they are better than others, which leads to arrogance, boasting, and condescension. What can you do to foster unity in God’s Church and help others grow closer to Jesus?
- Prayer: God of humility, forgive my arrogance, boasting, and condescension. Remind me of my need for your grace. Make me more gracious.
Tuesday May 29 — 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
Paul reprimands the Corinthians for their spiritual immaturity. He says that they are not ready for solid food because they are still “of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:3). For Paul, giving allegiance to a human (like Apollos or Paul himself) and not to Jesus is a sign of being “of the flesh.” He goes on to say that every servant of Christ plays a role in God’s work, but that “only God . . . gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). How would you describe your current level of spiritual maturity (as a follower of Jesus)? Are you still in diapers? Or have you matured in your faith? Are you ready for the solid food of Christian discipleship?
- Prayer: God of wisdom, help me to continue growing in my trust and obedience. Feed me solid food, so that I will grow as a disciple of Jesus.
Wednesday May 30 — 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Evidently, the Corinthians believed and acted as if certain spiritual gifts were a sign of preferred status in God’s Kingdom. So Paul reminds the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit is the source of all gifts, services, and activities, and that every gift, service, and activity comes from God for the common good—the ministry of God’s Church. What gifts, service, or activity have you received from God? How are you using your gifts for the common good?
- Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for pouring out your Holy Spirit and providing gifts, services, and activities for the Church’s ministry.
Thursday May 31 — 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
God’s Church, Paul says, is like a human body. It is made up of many different kinds of members. The members each have their own purpose and every one of the members is essential for the health of the body. Just as the many different members of the human body are supposed to work together, the different members of the Church are supposed to work together to accomplish God’s mission in the world. As a follower of Jesus, do you see yourself as a member of a body, someone with special gifts that the body needs to accomplish its mission and purpose? If not, why not?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I diminish the importance of my work within the Church. Use me and empower me to accomplish your mission.
Friday June 1 — 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
Picking up where he left off, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). This means that the Church is the human “body” that is empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s purposes in the world, by continuing the earthly ministry of Jesus: preaching, teaching, helping, and healing. How are you connected to other followers of Jesus? In what ways, do you work with other followers of Jesus to continue the earthly ministry of Jesus? How is God empowering you to accomplish God’s purposes in the world? How fully are you engaged in God’s work?
- Prayer: Holy God, fill me with your Holy Spirit today. Connect me to the body of Christ, so that we can continue Jesus’ ministry together.
Saturday June 2 — 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13
The gifts of preaching, teaching, helping, and healing are vitally important, but according to Paul, there are “greater gifts” and a “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). What Paul is referring to, is the gift of love. Without love, the other gifts are worth nothing. He says that faith, hope, and love are the primary virtues of Christian life, but “the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). How do you keep love at the center of your relationship with God and your relationships with others? Are you growing up in love?
- Prayer: Loving God, thank you for Jesus, the greatest gift of love. Help me to love you and love others. Help me to love the way Jesus loves.
Series: This Thing Called Church
Sermon: Powered by God
Scripture Readings: John 20:21-23, Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)
Monday May 21 — Isaiah 40:28-31
The Old Testament prophets spoke both words of warning and words of hope. In their desperate times, the Israelites not only felt hopeless, but also powerless. So, Isaiah’s words in chapter 40 served as a vivid reminder of God’s promises to provide for the needs of God’s people. He said that God gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Have you ever felt hopeless or powerless? How did you experience God in those times? Often, God’s power is only evident when we acknowledge our own powerlessness. Can you do that today?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for strengthening me when I am weak and powerless. Teach me to trust your promises. Amen.
Tuesday May 22 — Luke 24:45-49, Acts 1:8
The Gospels describe Jesus as a power-full man. He was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14) and performed many miracles through the power of God (Luke 4:36, 5:17, 6:19, 8:46). However, Jesus did not keep the power of God for himself. Before he ascended to heaven, he told his disciples that they would receive the power of God—so that they would be his witnesses and continue his ministry on earth. Jesus promised that God will supply power, not only for daily living, but for ministry. How has God empowered you to serve Him?
• Prayer: Promise-keeping God, forgive my lack of faith. Teach me to believe in your faithfulness and trust you with my whole life. Amen.
Wednesday May 23 — Acts 2:1-13
One of the Bible’s great themes is promise and fulfillment. For example: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the fulfillment of God’s promises to send a Messiah to save God’s people from the power of sin and death. The coming of the Holy Spirit (recorded in Acts 2:1-4) is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in Luke 24 and Acts 1. The Good News is that the Holy Spirit is also promised to us—so that we will be empowered to share the message of salvation. How do you know when you are filled with the Holy Spirit? Have you ever been inspired (literally, filled with Spirit) to share the Good News about Jesus? If so, you have experienced the power of God.
• Prayer: God of Spirit and Truth, fill me with the Holy Spirit today. Empower me to share the Good News about Jesus with others. Amen.
Thursday May 24 — 1 Corinthians 1:17-31, 2 Corinthians 4:7
The apostle Paul describes the paradox of God’s power. He says that God’s power is not evident in the same ways that worldly power is evident. God’s power is often most evident in weakness. The crucifixion of Jesus being the best example of power that looks like weakness. Paul insists that his own life and ministry witnesses not to the potential of human power, but to the “extraordinary power of God” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Have you ever experienced the paradox of power? Have you ever experienced the power of God in something (or someone) that appeared to be weak or foolish or powerless?
• Prayer: Loving God, forgive my limited awareness of your power at work in the world. Open my eyes to see more clearly. Amen.
Friday May 25 — 1 Corinthians 4:14-20
It seems that, during the time that Paul was absent from them, many of the Corinthian Christians had become arrogant. Paul promised that when he returned to Corinth, he would confront their arrogance and show that they were all talk, without any evident sign of God’s power. He warns Christians in all generations that arrogance is not a channel for the Spirit and power of God, but often blocks the flow of God’s power in the world. Have you ever experienced the truth of Paul’s warning to the Corinthians in your own life? Has arrogance ever blocked the flow of God’s power in your life? How can you cultivate humility and trust?
• Prayer: Eternal God, remind me once again that you are God and I am not. Forgive my arrogance and self-centeredness. Grant me humility, faith, and trust. Amen.
Saturday May 26 — Ephesians 3:14-21
The prayer in today’s reading asks for the strength of God’s power for individuals, but it also asks for God’s power to be at work in the Church, God’s community of believers. It says that the power of God can accomplish far more than any human being can hope for, ask for, or even dare to imagine. The catch is that God’s power works for the glory of God, not for the glory (the arrogance?) of human beings. How does your life reflect the glory of God? How would your life be different if you sought to glorify God in everything that you do today?
• Prayer: Glorious God, I give myself fully to you today. Fill me with your Spirit. Empower my life. I will glorify you in everything I do. Amen.
Sermon Series: This Thing Called Church
Sermon: A “Sensible” Mission
Scriptures: Luke 13: 6-9, John 15:1-11
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
Monday May 14. 2018: Galatians 5: 22-23
There’s a familiar song: They’ll know we are Christians by our love! When we abide in God’s love, we were bear the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What fruits are you bearing? What changes do you need to make to bear the fruits of the Spirit?
Prayer: God, help us to bear the fruits of the Spirit
Tuesday May 15, 2018: 1 Corinthians 3: 6-9
While our job is to plant and to tend, Paul reminds us that only God can grow. We are God’s servants that work for God, for God’s purpose. Often in the church, we bring our own agenda and only want to see the results we desire. Paul reminds us that God calls us to work hard to build for God’s kingdom, but that we must trust God to do the building. What agenda do you bring to the church? How can we let go of that agenda to let God grow in us and through us?
Prayer: God, help me to let go, and let you grow in me.
Wednesday May 16, 2018: Luke 8: 4-15
We live in a culture of instant gratification. We seek immediate results and we are not very good at waiting. But bearing fruit is not always easy and requires patience endurance. In this parable, Jesus reminds us that we need to have good soil, first, before we can bear fruit that will last. How can we slow down this week from our culture of instant gratification and trust in God’s timing?
Prayer: God, help us to have patient endurance, and to bear fruit that will last.
Thursday May 17: Colossians 1: 9-14
Bearing fruit in God means trusting in God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We need to pray daily and read God’s scriptures so that we may better know and discern God’s will in our lives and in our churches. What is it that God is calling us to? This week, we are challenged to make time to pray and read the scriptures and to listen for God’s voice.
Prayer: God, help us to be filled with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Friday May 18, 2018: Matthew 7: 15-20
“Thus you will know them by their fruits” (v. 20). Jesus reminds us that we will be known by our fruits. If we treat others with kindness, we will be known as kind people. But if we are impatient, or unloving, or cruel, we will be known by those same traits. What fruits are you bearing? And how will others know you? What fruits do we need to cut off?
Prayer: Help us to bear fruits worthy of your kingdom.
Saturday May 19, 2018: Psalm 1:1-6
In the first Psalm of the book of Psalms, the Psalmist writes about people who reflect the character of God in their lives. They delight in the law of the Lord, yield fruit and do not wither.
This is the life that God intended for us! How can we live into the glorious life God intended for us?
Prayer: God, help us to live as those who delight in your word and reflect your character in our lives.
Series: This Thing Called Church
Sermon: Because I Said So
Scripture Readings: Luke 24:25-31, Luke 24:44-49
Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)
Monday May 7 — Ephesians 2:17-22
The household of God—also known in the New Testament as the Church—is built upon a sturdy foundation of God’s people throughout history, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. (See Psalm 118:22, Luke 20:17, and Acts 4:11.) When we think about why the Church exists, we remember that, from the very beginning, God has called people into community, and we know that the Church is built upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Church began with Jesus. When you think of the Church, what images come to mind? What is the Church? Where did the Church begin? To whom does the Church belong? What does the Church mean to you?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for adopting me into your household. Teach me how to be faithful in the world today and every day. Amen.
Tuesday May 8 — Luke 5:1-11
The community of God that is built upon the cornerstone of Jesus Christ began when Jesus started calling disciples to follow him. Jesus’ encounter with Simon (Peter), James, and John reveals several truths about the Church. The Church is made up of people who answer the call of Jesus and leave everything else behind to follow him. The Church’s reason for existence is to “catch people” (Luke 5:10). And the Church accomplishes its mission when it does what Jesus says to do. (Notice that the disciples did not catch any fish until they did what Jesus told them to do.) How does this story connect with your personal experience? Have you answered Jesus’ call? Are you engaged in the ministry of “catching people”? Are you willing to do what Jesus tells you to do?
• Prayer: Almighty God, I hear the voice of Jesus calling me. Grant me the courage to trust you and leave everything to follow him. Amen.
Wednesday May 9 — Luke 24:1-7, 34, Acts 20:7
Christians are Easter people. The primary worship services in most Christian churches are held on Sundays because it was on the first day of the week that the tomb was discovered empty and the Good News was announced for the very first time: He has risen! (Luke 24:5, 34). Death did not have the last word. On Easter Day God gets the last word. Where were you when you first heard the Good News of Easter? What does it mean to you that Christians are Easter people?
• Prayer: God of Resurrection, remind me of the Good News that Jesus Christ is alive, and that he is with me today and always. Amen.
Thursday May 10 — Luke 24:13-35
Luke’s account of Jesus’ Easter appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus provides an outline for the worship of the Church: word and table. On the first day of the week, the risen Jesus interpreted Scripture and then broke bread with the disciples—and their eyes were opened. When we gather to worship, we interpret Scripture, we break bread together, and we know that the risen Christ is with us. How fully are you aware of the presence of the risen Christ in the worship services of the Church? What practices of Christian faith increase your awareness of God’s presence in your daily life?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, for his death and resurrection, and for the opportunity to worship in his presence. Amen.
Friday May 11 — Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:44-49, John 20:21-23
The witness of the Gospels is clear: the resurrected Jesus commissioned his disciples to continue in ministry after he ascended into heaven. The mission of the Church—proclaiming repentance and forgiveness, making disciples by baptizing and teaching—comes from Jesus. As the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12), the Church is empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world. In what ways do you participate in the mission and the ministry of the Church? In what ways do you fulfill Jesus’ commission?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I resist your call and fail to participate fully in the mission and ministry of your Church. Amen.
Saturday May 12 — Ephesians 1:15-23
Like most first century epistles, the letter to the Ephesians includes a prayer in its opening verses. The prayer is that the Ephesian Christians will receive God’s wisdom and power, which was demonstrated in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. It is the resurrection of Jesus that makes it possible for Jesus to be the head of the Church, which has become Jesus’ earthly body in the world. What does it mean for you to be a member of the body of the risen Christ? What does it mean for you that Jesus is the head of the body of Christ? In what ways do you experience God’s resurrection power?
• Prayer: God of love, I am ready and willing to be a member of the body of Christ in the world. Fill me with resurrection power. Amen.
Children’s Musical & Modern Worship Hymn Sing
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 11:1-9, John 6:1-13
One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. (John 6:8-13)
Monday April 30 — Isaiah 11:1-9
Isaiah 11 vividly describes God’s vision for the world. It’s a world where all creation is transformed and lives in peace and unity with God and one another. We often read this passage in the weeks before Christmas because Isaiah promises that “a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1), a reference to the expected Messiah (who will be a descendant of King David who was the son of Jesse). We believe that Jesus fulfills this promise and that his death and resurrection is transforming the world. What evidence of the new creation have you seen recently?
• Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, open my eyes to see the signs that your vision for creation is being fulfilled. Help me learn to trust in the life-changing power of your grace. Amen.
Tuesday May 1 — Matthew 13:31-32
According to Jesus, God’s Kingdom is already in our midst (see Matthew 4:7). In his parables, he teaches his disciples (and the crowds that gather) about the nature of his Kingdom. He says that it might seem insignificant at first, like a tiny mustard seed, but it will ultimately become a great tree that sustains life for all creation (represented by the “birds of the air”). It’s easy for us to become disillusioned and experience doubt about what God is doing in the world. Jesus invites us to trust him. What helps you increase your ability to trust God in the world today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for sending Jesus to save me from the power of sin and death and transform the world. Give me courage to trust his promises. Amen.
Wednesday May 2 — Matthew 19:13-15
The entire story of Jesus confronts and challenges our human understanding of “the way things work.” Jesus’ disciples represent the conventional wisdom of the first-century that believes that important people, teachers like Jesus, should not be bothered by little children, who lack status and power and influence. But Jesus turns conventional wisdom on its head by insisting that God’s Kingdom belongs to the little children – and everyone else who society excludes and ignores. How might you respond to Jesus’ teaching about children. (See also Matthew 18:1-5.)
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for the many ways I misunderstand your intentions for me and for the world. Help me believe and trust that you know best. Amen.
Thursday May 3 — John 6:1-13
The account of Jesus’ feeding the multitude is the only miracle story that is recorded in all four of the New Testament’s Gospels. But John’s account is the only one of the four that tells us about the source of the loaves and fish. It was a little boy who had brought his lunch or was running an errand for his family. We don’t know why he had the food, but we know that Jesus used it to feed the whole crowd. This is how God works. God takes whatever we have to offer and uses it as the raw material to perform a miracle. So, what aspects of your life does God need to perform a miracle today? Are you willing to allow God to use what you have to transform the world?
• Prayer: God of Miracles, I know that all that I have and all that I am ultimately comes from you. Today I offer it all back to you. Use it to transform the world. Amen.
Friday May 4 — Ephesians 1:3-14
There is a question that seems to be common to everyone, across all cultures. The question is, where did I come from? The question can be answered on many different levels, from cosmic to biological. Both the Old and New Testaments try to answer the question using the image of family: we are children of God, and according to the first chapter of Ephesians, we become children of God not by birth, but by adoption. As God’s children, we have a wondrous, eternal inheritance. It is a gift we neither earn nor deserve. It is a gift of God’s grace. Are you willing to accept that you have been adopted into God’s family? If so, what are you doing with your inheritance?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, I eagerly accept my place in your family. With your help, I will use my inheritance according to your purposes, not my own. Amen.
Saturday May 5 — 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
The beautiful ode to the power of love found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. It reminds us of the primacy of love – above faith and hope and every other gift from God. But it also reveals the character of God-like love. Re-read the description of love in verses 4-7. Using these words as your criteria, how is your “love life”? In what ways do you embody the kind of love these words describe? In what ways are you lacking? In prayer, ask God to help you love the way God wants you to love.
• Prayer: God of Love, help me love you with all my being. Help me love others the way you love me. Help me follow the example of Jesus and love completely and sacrificially. Amen.
Series: The Greatest Commandment
Sermon: Love Neighbor
Scripture Readings: Romans 13:8-10, John 15:12-17
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
Monday April 23 — Leviticus 19:9-18
The Old Testament Book of Leviticus has been called the “manual of the priests” and was traditionally used as a resource for teaching Jewish children about the Jewish faith. It contains laws that encompass all aspects of individual and community life in Israel: everything from worship rituals to dietary regulations. In chapter 19, we learn about living a holy life. At the heart of the chapter are these familiar words: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). How might these words guide your actions this week? How will you love your neighbor today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for teaching me your ways. Help me to understand what is important to you. Give me courage to live the holy life you desire for me. Amen.
Tuesday April 24 — Deuteronomy 15:7-11
Leviticus 19 is not the only chapter in the Torah (the first 5 books in the Old Testament) that describes God’s intentions for relationships with neighbors. Deuteronomy 15 insists that God’s people not be “hard-hearted or tight-fisted” (Deuteronomy 15:7). Instead, we are to “give liberally and be ungrudging” (Deuteronomy 15:10). The message is clear: God desires mercy, compassion, and generosity. What do you think about this teaching? How will you respond?
• Prayer: Compassionate God, remind me of your amazing grace and inspire in me the desire to extend your mercy and compassion to my neighbors and people in need. Amen.
Wednesday April 25 — Luke 10:25-37
When Jesus was tested by a lawyer (an expert in Jewish law), he (Jesus) affirmed that God’s primary desire is that we love God and love our neighbor. But the lawyer asked a very important follow-up question: “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Like the lawyer, we want to set limits on God’s requirement that we love our neighbor. What we discover is that Jesus’ definition of a neighbor is quite different than ours. Remember: Samaritans and Israelites had a contentious relationship. They would more likely have been enemies than “neighbors.” So, how will you embody Jesus’ teaching in your life today?
• Prayer: God of Love, teach me to see other people the way you see them. Teach me to treat others the way you want me to treat them. Teach me to be a good neighbor. Amen.
Thursday April 26 — Romans 13:8-10
According to his letters and the tradition of the Church, the Apostle Paul took Jesus’ teaching and example quite seriously. Writing to the Church in Rome he insisted that all of the commandments “are summed up in this word: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9). What is the single commandment that guides your life? What would change in your life if “love your neighbor as yourself” was your primary guide for your words and actions?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I do not always obey your teaching and love my neighbors as myself. Forgive me I pray. Transform my life according to your word. Amen.
Friday April 27 — Galatians 5:13-15
Being saved by God’s grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8) does not set us free from having to obey God’s law. Instead, God’s grace sets us free so that we can obey God’s law and live the life that God intends for us, a life of joy and abundance, a life of grace and peace: a life of love. Review your words and actions over the past few days. How well have you obeyed God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself”? (Galatians 5:14). What would like to do differently next week? What will you do differently next week?
• Prayer: Almighty God, do not let me use the gift of freedom for my own purposes. Instead, transform my life so that I can obey your great commandment to love my neighbor. Amen.
Saturday April 28 — John 15:12-17
In his final words to his disciples, Jesus gave them “a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). It turns out that the phrase “love one another” occurs four different times in Jesus’ final instructions. This means that it is important and that we should take it seriously. If we are Jesus’ disciples, we will bear the fruit of love. What is one way that you will “go and bear fruit” today? (John 15:16)
• Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending him to be my Savior and friend. With your help I will bear the kind of fruit – love – that will last. Amen.
Scripture Readings: Matthew 9:18-26, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, Philippians 4:4-7, Hebrews 10:19-25
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Monday April 9 — Ruth 1:16-19
Ruth is one of the heroes of the Biblical story. Her faithfulness to Naomi, poetically described in verses 16-17 have been used to inspire relationships of all kinds for thousands of years. Her decision to remain with Naomi was wrought with uncertainty and risk. As Christians, we believe that Easter hope gives us courage to do the right thing, no matter the cost. Easter hope overcomes our fear and our doubt. How might you follow Ruth’s example and do the right thing this week?
• Prayer: God of Easter Hope, inspire in me a desire to do the right thing, no matter the consequences. Grant me courage and fill me with resurrection power. Amen.
Tuesday April 10 — Esther 4:9-17
Esther, like Ruth, also makes a decision to do the right thing, no matter the consequences. The words of Mordecai’s challenge to Esther as she struggles with her future are timeless and speak loudly and clearly to our lives today. Who knows, perhaps we have been called for just such a time as this (paraphrase of Esther 4:14). The world desperately needs to see and hear the message of Jesus. Will you answer God’s call and live boldly as one of Jesus’ disciples this week?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for calling me to be one of Jesus’ disciples. Teach me your ways so that my life will be a witness to the world-changing power of Easter. Amen.
Wednesday April 11 — Luke 1:26-38
It is difficult for us to imagine what Mary would have been thinking and feeling as she heard Gabriel’s message. A young girl, not yet married, was asked to be the mother of the Son of God. What would she tell her family and friends? Who would believe her? Did she really want to say “no” to God? We don’t know what she thought, but we do know what she said: “let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). What would it take for you to have the same response when the risen Christ calls and sends you to be his witness?
- Prayer: Loving God, I have heard your call to follow Jesus and your commission to witness to all I have seen and heard. Let it be with me according to your word.
Thursday April 12 — Luke 10:38-42
Martha and Mary are important characters in the story of Jesus’ life. It is likely that Jesus spent considerable time in their home; they were his friends. When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus wept. When they were angry at Jesus, he consoled and comforted them and reminded them of the Good News of resurrection. (See John 11:1-44). In Luke 10, we read how Jesus commended Mary for her discipleship. It’s not that Martha’s concern for hospitality was not important, but that our relationship with Jesus is always our highest priority. How might you follow Mary’s example today?
• Prayer: Faithful God, help me set aside time today to sit at Jesus’ feet so that I can listen and learn. Help me grow closer to Jesus. Help me follow Mary’s example. Amen.
Friday April 13 — John 4:7-26
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well would have been controversial for many reasons: men and women did not have these kinds of conversations; she was a Samaritan (an enemy of the Jews); and she had a troubled past. But Jesus did something nobody else seemed to do, not even his own disciples. He saw her not by her labels (Samaritan, woman, troubled past); he saw her as a child of God. And as a result, she bore witness to Jesus and “many from that city believed in [Jesus] because of the women’s testimony” (John 4:39). How has your relationship with God transformed your life? What testimony will you offer today?
• Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for seeing me as one of your children, and not by the labels I wear. Transform my self-image so that I can bear witness to your love. Amen.
Saturday April 14 — Acts 18:24-28
Apollos was a coworker of the apostle Paul and a leader in the first-century church (see 1 Corinthians 3:5-9). But he didn’t become a powerful instrument for God’s Kingdom on his own. Despite his many gifts, he needed the teaching of Priscilla and Aquila to help him learn and grow. Like Apollos, we need the help of others to grow in our faith and serve the living Christ effectively. Who is God using to help you grow in faith? How is God using you to help others learn and grow?
• Prayer: God of Love, I am thankful for all the people you have sent into my life to help me grow in my faith. I am willing to be used by you to help others grow in their faith. Amen.