Series: How Will You Measure Your Life?
Sermon: By The Risks You Take
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. (Genesis 12:1-4)
Monday November 20 — Genesis 12:1-9
The account of God’s covenant with Abram in Genesis 12 is the first of many descriptions of God’s intended relationship with all humanity. God promised to bless Abram (and Sarai) so that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Likewise, God promises to bless our lives so that we will be a blessing to others. These are the terms of God’s covenant with us. We know that God keeps God’s promises. The question is: will we keep ours? Genesis 12:4 says that, “Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” What about you? Will you do what God asks of you?
Prayer: Covenant-Making God, thank you for the many blessings you have given me. With your help, I will go where you send me and do what you ask of me. Amen.
Tuesday November 21 — Luke 5:1-11, 27-32
All four of the New Testament Gospels include accounts of Jesus calling his disciples. The two call stories in today’s reading (Simon, James, and John; and Levi) end with the same striking phrase. It says that they “left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11, 28). It’s possible that Luke is exaggerating to make a point, but the message is clear: Jesus asks us to go “all in.” All other priorities fall away. Everything else gets left behind. What is holding you back? What’s keeping you from going “all in” with Jesus?
Prayer: Merciful, God, I know that, like Simon, I am a sinner who needs your grace. Forgive me for my reticence. Help me let go of everything that is holding me back. Amen.
Wednesday November 22 — Luke 10:1-9, 17
As we read the Gospels, we discover that Jesus not only called people to be his disciples, he also sent them into the world to share his mission and his ministry of announcing the Good News of God’s Kingdom. (Compare Luke 4:43 and Luke 10:9.) It is noteworthy that the seventy disciples that Jesus sends out are completely anonymous. We know nothing about them other than that when Jesus told them to go, they went where he sent them and then rejoiced at the success of their mission. Jesus is still sending people to share the Good News? Will you go?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, let your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. This is my prayer today. Use me to accomplish your purposes in the world. Amen.
Thursday November 23 — Luke 17:11-19
Happy Thanksgiving. The story of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers is often read on Thanksgiving Day. It makes a connection between and thanksgiving and salvation. (It is important to know that the Greek phrase in Luke 17:19 could also be translated, “your faith has saved you.”) The Gospels connect healing and salvation. And in this passage, healing and salvation and thanks-giving are inseparable. In other words, when we give thanks to God, our relationship with God is transformed. For what are you most thankful today?
Prayer: Eternal God, I am thankful for the bountiful blessings you have given me. For the food I eat, the air I breathe, and the gift of life itself, I give you thanks and praise. Amen.
Friday November 24 — Luke 22:39-46
On the Mount of Olives Jesus prays with anguish for God to remove the cup (his coming death). In this brief passage, we experience the fullness Jesus’ humanity as he asks God if there is another way. We also experience the fullness of Jesus’ obedience to God: “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Even though most of us will not be asked to sacrifice our lives for the sake of others, what God asks of us is often difficult. We will be tempted to look for other options. It is hard to pray, “not my will but yours be done.” To the best of your ability, surrender your life to God today.
Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for resisting your will for my life. Give me the courage I need to follow the example of Jesus: “not my will but yours be done.” Amen.
Saturday November 25 — Acts 9:10-19
After Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, God sent Ananias to minister to him. Ananias was reluctant because of all that Saul had done before his conversion. But he went anyway. He did what God asked of him, despite his fear and his doubt. Have you ever let fear or doubt prevent you from doing something that God asked you to do? What helps you trust God in these circumstances? What is asking God of you today?
Prayer: God of Love, thank you for using me to help advance your purposes in the world. Help me overcome the fear and doubt that paralyze me. Help me trust you fully. Amen.
Series: How Will You Measure Your Life?
Sermon: By What You Give Away
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, Luke 19:1-10
Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:8-10)
Monday November 13 — Galatians 2:1-10, 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
In Galatians 2:1-10, the apostle Paul describes the internal struggle of the early church to expand its ministry to the Gentiles. When the leaders of the Jerusalem Church (James, Cephas, and John) acknowledged Paul’s ministry, they asked him to “remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10.) The collection described in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 and elsewhere in the New Testament reflected Paul’s eagerness to do what was asked of him. Do you believe that God continues to ask followers of Jesus to “remember the poor”? If so, how well are you “remembering the poor”?
• Prayer: God of Compassion, open my heart and mind to understand your will for my life. Help me to remember the poor in the world today and give generously. Amen.
Tuesday November 14 — 2 Corinthians 8:8-15
In reminding Corinthian Christians about the collection (see 1 Corinthians 16:1-2), Paul insists that their generosity is a response to Jesus’ sacrifice and follows his example; but he goes on to say that giving should be proportional, “according to what one has—not according to what one does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12) This is consistent with Biblical teaching about tithing. A tithe is a proportional (10 percent) offering to God in response to the abundance of riches that God provides. If the Bible calls for proportional giving, what proportion of your resources do you return to God?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for the gift of Jesus and for the material blessings you provide. Teach me to make a proportional response to your love and grace. Amen.
Wednesday November 15 — 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
The apostle Paul’s final exhortation to give generously calls on the Corinthians to trust in God’s promises to care for them. His words are reminiscent of Deuteronomy 8, which says, “Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11). The lesson seems clear: generosity flows out of our relationship with God. It is a sign of our confidence and trust in God. It is an act of obedience. Think about how you make decisions related to your stewardship of your material and financial resources. How does your relationship with God impact your decision-making?
• Prayer: God of Grace, grant me the courage I need to trust your promises. Strengthen my relationship with you so that my generosity reflects my confidence in your grace. Amen.
Thursday November 16 — Luke 18:18-30
Jesus gives an extraordinary response to the wealthy ruler’s question about eternal life. Jesus says that he needs to sell everything and give it to the poor. His point is not that all of us need to sell our possessions and give everything away, but that our possessions can interfere with our relationship with God. We should be willing to give it all away. We should be willing to do whatever God asks of us. We should be willing to trust that God knows best. What does your current level of generosity say about your relationship with God? What might Jesus be asking of you right now?
• Prayer: Eternal God, I long to enter your Kingdom. Help me let go of everything that is preventing me from serving and obeying you completely. Teach me your ways. Amen.
Friday November 17 — Luke 18:31-43
According to Luke, Jesus’ encounter with the wealthy ruler was followed by an encounter with a blind beggar near Jericho. In between those two scenes, Jesus told his disciples once again about his impending death and resurrection. But Luke says they couldn’t grasp what he was saying. That’s why the healing of the blind man was so important. It pointed to the power of God to reverse physical blindness and spiritual blindness. Like the disciples, we need God’s power to transform our lives and heal our spiritual blindness. How will you answer Jesus’ question in Luke 18:41?
• Prayer: Healing God, forgive my sin and heal the brokenness in my life. Open my eyes to see and my ears to hear the Good News of salvation that you offer through Jesus. Amen.
Saturday November 18 — Luke 19:1-10
Repentance is one of the central themes in Luke’s Gospel. To repent to is change one’s heart and mind and change the direction of one’s life in response to an encounter with Jesus. Sinners are expected to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8). The story of Zacchaeus is a perfect illustration of what repentance looks like in real life. Zacchaeus’ inner transformation was reflected in his actions. How do your actions reflect the transformation of your heart and mind? How might what you give away be a sign of a renewed relationship with God?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess my need for forgiveness and repent of my sin. Transform my life from the inside out and teach me to “bear fruit worthy of my repentance.” Amen.
Series: How Will You Measure Your Life?
Sermon: By The People You Bless
Scripture Reading: Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 5:1-12
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. (Romans 12:9-16)
Monday November 6 — 1 Chronicles 16:7-36
In 1 Chronicles 16, we read about the return of the ark of God to Jerusalem and David’s call to worship. There are two parts to the story: first, David appoints worship leaders; second, David sings a psalm of praise and thanksgiving. The heart of worship is found in the opening verses of David psalm, “Remember the wonderful works he has done” (1 Chronicles 16:12). This is worship: we remember what God has done; we offer praise and thanksgiving; and we find hope for the future. What wonderful works of God are you remembering today?
- Prayer: God of Eternity, thank you for the wonderful works you have done in my life. Thank you for your constant presence. Thank you for your love and grace. Amen.
Tuesday November 7 — Isaiah 63:7-14
Like David in 1 Chronicles 16, the prophet Isaiah teaches God’s people to remember God’s mercy: “I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord” (Isaiah 63:7). If we are honest, we recognize that we have been blessed in many ways. Most importantly, we have been blessed by the gift of salvation and “the abundance of his steadfast love” (Isaiah 63:7). Too often, however, we focus on scarcity—what we think is missing. How might you focus on God’s abundant love and mercy today?
- Prayer: God of Abundant Love, forgive me for focusing on what’s missing, and not on the abundance of your generosity. Help me remember your gracious deeds of mercy. Amen.
Wednesday November 8 — Matthew 5:1-12
In the opening section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares the blessing of God for people who might not see themselves as blessed. The conventional wisdom of Jesus’ time would have considered these people (poor in spirit, mourning, meek, …) unworthy of God’s blessings. The point is that nobody earns God’s blessing. God’s blessing is a gift. Are you willing to allow God to be generous with God’s blessing? Are you willing to believe that God blesses you?
- Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for the teaching and example of Jesus. Thank you for the wideness of your mercy and for the generosity of your blessing. Amen.
Thursday November 9 — Luke 6:27-36
We can summarize our relationship with God this way: we are blessed to be a blessing (see Genesis 12:1-3 for the terms of God’s covenant.) When we are aware of the wideness of God’s mercy and the generosity of God’s blessing, we are expected to share what we receive. We are expected to be a blessing. The problem is that we are often tempted to limit the reach of our efforts. That’s why we need to follow Jesus. He teaches us to see the world through God’s eyes and challenges us to a higher standard of faithfulness. What do think about Jesus’ words?
- Prayer: God of Grace, I know that you have high expectations for me. Forgive me for my failures. Help me to do better: to bless the people you want me to bless. Amen.
Friday November 10 — Romans 12:1-3, 9-21
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul describes not only the gift of God’s salvation; he also describes the marks of a faithful Christian life. His words remind us of the teaching and the example of Jesus. Paul teaches us that a faithful life flows out of a transformed mind that discerns the will of God. How are you allowing God to transform your mind so that you can discern God’s will and live a life that pleases God? What is your growing edge this week?
- Prayer: Faithful God, renew and transform my mind so that I can discern your will. Teach me what is good and acceptable and perfect in your sight.
Saturday November 11 — Matthew 25:31-46
The parable of the sheep and the goats concludes Jesus’ teaching ministry in Matthew’s account of his life. What is striking about the parable is that those who inherit the kingdom do not even realize that they have served Jesus himself. They have not sought reward or recognition. They have been so completely transformed by God, that blessing others—in particular, those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, in prison, and homeless—is who they are. They have been transformed by God’s grace. They serve and bless not to earn favor; they serve and bless because they have been blessed to be a blessing. Who have you served and blessed this week?
- Prayer: Gracious God, transform my heart and mind so completely that I will seek to serve and bless others in Jesus’ name with every thought, word, and deed. Amen.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
John 15: 12-17
Monday October 30 Ruth 1:16-22
“Where you go, I will go; where you stay, I will stay; your people shall be my people.” (v16) In this one line, we can see clearly the love and dedication of Ruth toward her mother-in-law Naomi. She didn’t just make promises to love Naomi, she was willing to go with her, no matter where it took her. Who are the people in your life that you would be willing to walk with? Who are the people in your life that would walk with you? How can we make a commitment to walk with others?
PRAYER: God, let us go where you lead us and love whom you love.
Tuesday October 31 Job 2:11-13
After Job had lost everything, his three friends come to comfort him. They sat with him for seven days and seven nights and did not say a word, because they knew how great his suffering was. When difficult things happen, our responsibility as friends isn’t to fix the problem or say the right thing, it is to be willing to be present with our friends. To sit with them, whether it be in a hospital waiting room or by a bedside, during times of suffering. Who do you need to be present for this week?
Prayer: God, we pray for all those who suffer, and we pray we can be present to those who suffer.
Wednesday November 1 Luke 10:25-37
If we could boil down the scriptures into it’s most basic laws, they are these: To love God and to love your neighbor. These are the greatest commandments, and the laws on which all other laws rest. This week we are challenged to live by these two basic but powerful commands: love God and love neighbor.
Prayer: Let us see our neighbors, let us help and love our neighbors.
Thursday November 2 Hebrews 13:1-6
How do you treat strangers? Do you ignore them? Are you mean to them? Our passage reminds us that living in mutual love means showing hospitality to strangers, but it is in strangers that God becomes incarnate. This week, how can you show hospitality to a stranger?
Prayer: God in your love, strangers become friends.
Friday November 3 1 Samuel 18: 1-5
David and Jonathan’s friendship is one of most powerful depictions of friendship in our scriptures. Because of their friendship, Jonathan protected David from harm. True friendship is more than just casual get togethers, it is being willing to share your life and possessions with those whom you love. What are the friendships in your life that you treasure and value? How can you share your life with your friends?
Prayer: God, We thank you for true friendships.
Saturday November 4 Colossians 3: 12-14
What does what you are wearing today say about you? While our clothes may tell us something about our jobs, age, and socioeconomic class, do our clothes reflect our character and values? What would it look like if we dressed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? What would we have to change about the way we dress and behave so those values were reflected?
Prayer: Let us be clothed in your righteousness rather than by our worldly standards.
Series: How Will You Measure Your Life?
Sermon: By How Much Joy You Experience
Scripture Reading: Psalm 30, John 15:8-13
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. (John 15:8-11)
Monday October 23 — Psalm 30
Joy is one of God’s greatest gifts. The dictionary tells us that joy is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” In Christian life, joy encompasses everything that the dictionary describes, but it is also so much more. Because joy comes from God, we experience joy even when we don’t feel “great pleasure or happiness.” We experience joy, despite human pain, suffering, and grief. Because joy is a gift from God, we can trust God to turn “mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11). Allow God to clothe you with joy today (Psalm 30:11)—no matter what you may be facing.
• Prayer: God of Eternity, thank you for tuning mourning into dancing and for clothing me with joy. Open my heart to experience the true joy that only comes from you. Amen.
Tuesday October 24 — Nehemiah 8:9-12
Because joy is a gift from God, we experience joy when we encounter God in our reading and study of the Bible. The Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah describe the return of the Israelites from the Babylonian exile to their home in Judea and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. In response to God’s act of redemption, Ezra called the people together to hear the reading of the Law (the Hebrew Scripture.) In Nehemiah 8, we learn that the people wept when they heard the words and that “the joy of the LORD” was their strength (Nehemiah 8:10). How do you feel when you read the Bible? Which parts of the Bible bring you the most joy?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the Scriptures that have formed and transformed my relationship with you. Help me experience joy as I read your Word. Amen.
Wednesday October 25 — Luke 24:36-43
For Christians, the greatest joy comes from the life-changing power of God’s love and grace that we experience as followers of Jesus. Like the first disciples, we may wonder if Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of salvation are too good to be true. But when we gather for worship and encounter the living Christ in the reading of Scripture, hear the proclamation of the Good News, join our voices in song together, and share the Communion meal, we experience joy. When do you feel most joyful? How might you enter more fully into God’s joy when you worship God?
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for allowing the cares of the world to prevent me from experiencing the joy of worship. Grant me the gift of joy through worship. Amen.
Thursday October 26 — 1 Peter 1:3-9
Some of us struggle to experience joy. The pain and suffering we experience, along with the pain and suffering we see all around us, make us wonder where we can find hope. In the opening words of 1st Peter, we are reminded that hope comes from God through the resurrection of Jesus. Like the first readers of 1st Peter, we have not seen Jesus in the flesh, as the first disciples did, but because we believe, we “rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for [we} are receiving the outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls (1 Peter 1:8-9). How does that make you feel?
• Prayer: God of Salvation, once again, I confess my sin and need for your grace. I accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. I want to live eternally with you. Amen.
Friday October 27 — John 15:8-13
Jesus has high expectations for his disciples. We are expected to love one another in the same way and with the same level of commitment that Jesus loves us. We are to make our home (abide) in God’s love. As Jesus’ disciples, our lives are expected to bear fruit. If we do this, Jesus said, his joy will be in us and our joy will be complete (John 15:11). This is an amazing promise. Do you believe it? Does your relationship with Jesus make your joy complete?
• Prayer: Merciful God, grant me the courage I need to trust Jesus and be his disciple. Help me to abide in his love and bear much fruit. Make my joy complete. Amen.
Saturday October 28 — Galatians 5:22-23
The Scripture is clear that the best things in our lives come from God. We do not earn our salvation. We do not deserve the gifts we have received. The “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) that give our life meaning are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This means that we don’t create the lives we desire, we nurture the seeds that God implants in us through the Holy Spirit. If you want to experience joy—true joy—be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life. Trust God. Follow Jesus. Experience joy.
• Prayer: God of Joy, fill me with the Holy Spirit today and transform my life. Nurture the seeds you have planted so that my life bears fruit and I experience joy. Amen.
Sermon: “The God of Surprises” – Reverend Reggie Tuck
Scripture Reading: Acts 11:1-18
And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” (Acts 11:15-17)
Monday October 16 — Isaiah 43:14-21
In chapter 43, the prophet Isaiah spoke to the people of God while they were in exile in Babylon. In the midst of their despair, Isaiah had a word from God (see Isaiah 43:14) that offered hope. The LORD was going to do “a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19). The problem was that the Israelites either did not believe or could not perceive that God was at work. We are like that too. God wants to do “new things” in our lives, but we do not believe or cannot perceive it. What “new thing” do you perceive that God wants to do in your life today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the promises of Scripture and for a word of hope in desperate times. Help me to perceive the new thing that you are doing today. Amen.
Tuesday October 17 — Jeremiah 31:31-34
Jeremiah was another one of God’s prophets serving the “families of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:1) during their exile to Babylon. The restoration of Israel promised by the prophet included a new covenant between God and God’s people. This does not mean that God cancelled the old covenant. The new covenant restored the broken relationship between God and God’s people through forgiveness, and through God’s intentional act of “remember[ing] their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). This covenant is written on human hearts. Are you aware that it has been written on yours?
• Prayer: Covenant-Making God, I know that I need your forgiveness. With your help, I accept the terms of your covenant and ask that you write your word on my heart. Amen.
Wednesday October 18 — Joel 2:28-32
There are approximately 150 references to dreams in the Bible. Biblical characters have dreams and God often uses dreams in the Bible as a means of divine-human communication. But the Bible also uses the word “dream” to describe a vision that points to an aspiration—a vision of God’s will (or God’s preferred future.) According to Joel, the ability to “dream dreams” is a gift of the Holy Spirit. What Holy Spirit-inspired-dreams are you dreaming today?
• Prayer: God of Dreams and Visions, pour out your Spirit on my life. Give me the courage I need to trust your promises and follow the dreams that you dream for me. Amen.
Thursday October 19 — Acts 2:1-4, 12-21
On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the waiting disciples. When the Spirit filled them, they began to announce the Good News in the languages of the world. When the crowds saw and heard what was happening, Peter interpreted the Pentecost event for them through the lens of Joel 2:28-32. He said that the outpouring of the Spirit was just the beginning of the great new things that God would do through Jesus: God’s covenant promises were being fulfilled through Jesus. God’s dreams would be fulfilled through Jesus. How does Jesus fit into the dreams you are dreaming today?
• Prayer: Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me today. Prepare me for the next steps in my relationship with Jesus today. Show me how Jesus changes everything. Amen.
Friday October 20 — Matthew 22:34-40
According to Jesus, God dreams about a world where human beings love God with all their heart and soul and mind and love their neighbors as themselves. Jesus’ statement about the greatest of the commandments was so striking that it was repeated and reinforced by the early church. (Galatians 5:13-15 and James 2:8-9 are two examples.) We are clearly expected to make loving God and loving our neighbors our primary response to God’s saving grace. Is that true for you? How fully are you loving God and loving your neighbors this week?
• Prayer: God of love, thank you for the gift of salvation you offer through Jesus. Help me respond to your grace by loving you and loving my neighbors with Jesus-like love. Amen.
Saturday October 21 — Matthew 28:16-20
In the final few sentences of his Gospel, Matthew describes what the Church calls The Great Commission. The resurrected Jesus sends us (his disciples) to the ends of the earth to make more disciples through baptism and teaching. But Jesus is clear that the purpose of our teaching is not just increased knowledge. The purpose of our teaching is to “obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). We’re not just supposed to know about Jesus, we’re supposed to do what he tells us to do. Which teaching of Jesus do you need to practice today?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, forgive me for letting fear and doubt interfere with my discipleship. Teach me everything that I need to know, and everything that I need to do. Amen.
Sermon: We are Gifted
Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 4:11-16, Ephesians 4:1-16
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. (1 Timothy 4:12-15)
Monday October 9 — Exodus 31:1-11
One of the truths of Scripture is this: God equips the people God calls into service. We often think that it works the other way, that God calls people that are already equipped for ministry and service. But what we find in the Scripture—both Old and New Testaments—is that when God calls us to serve, God gives us the abilities we need to do what God asks of us. This is one of the lessons from the story of Bezalel and Ohaliah. God called them to construct the tabernacle and give them the gifts they needed to do so. What do you think God has called you to do? Do you trust that God will give you the ability to do what you’ve been called to do?
• Prayer: God of Eternity, thank you for calling me into your service. Help me to not only hear your call, but also to trust that you will provide the abilities I need to serve you. Amen.
Tuesday October 10 — Jeremiah 1:4-10
One of the consistent themes of the Bible’s call stories is that the people God called were reluctant to say “yes.” Abram and Sarai were too old (Genesis 17:17); Moses had a checkered past and couldn’t speak very well (Exodus 4:10); Isaiah was a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5); Simon Peter was a sinful man (Luke 5:8); and Jeremiah was only a boy (Jeremiah 1:6.) Yet God used them all to do great things in God’s name. What excuses have you used to resist answering God’s call in your life? Based on these examples, how might God respond to your reluctance?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, forgive me for having too many excuses for not answering your call. Forgive me for not trusting your promises. Transform my life by your grace. Amen.
Wednesday October 11 — 1 Timothy 4:11-16
Some modern-day Christians have described the New Testament letters to Timothy and Titus as, Letters to Young Christians. The recipients of these letters were next generation church leaders and probably considered too young to have any responsibility or authority in the church. But the writer insists that Timothy should “let no one despise your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12). In the church, we often dismiss ourselves, and others, for a variety of reasons. How has the impact of your service to God been limited by your own mindset, or the mindset of someone else? How has your judgment of someone else, impacted their service to God?
• Prayer: Loving God, open my eyes and ears, my heart and mind, to the promises of Scripture. Use me—in what way you please—to set an example for others. Amen.
Thursday October 12 — Exodus 4:10-12, Acts 2:1-4
Through our baptism, followers of Jesus are both called and empowered to share the Good News of the life-changing power of God’s love and grace. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, who gives us the words we need to tell others about all that God has done. Yet, even though the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, we let our doubts and fears get in the way of what God wants to do in and through us. How have you experienced the power of fear and doubt in your life? To whom is the Holy Spirit sending you to tell about Jesus today?
• Prayer: Sending God, I am so grateful for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. I am willing to go where you send me. With your help, I will share the Good News today. Amen.
Friday October 13 — 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (12-31)
The twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians describes the Church as the Body of Christ. This image helps us understand that the Church is made up of a variety of unique members and that the Church is the embodiment of the living Christ in the world today. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ (the Church) continues the earthly ministry of Jesus in the world. The Good News (for us) is that the Holy Spirit distributes the variety of gifts that makes the Church’s ministry possible. We are gifted, so that we can be the Body of Christ in the world. What gifts have you received? How are you using the gifts that God has given you?
• Prayer: Gift-giving God, thank you for making me a member of the Body of Christ. Thank you for giving me the gifts I need to do my part. Teach me to trust you more fully. Amen.
Saturday October 14 — Ephesians 4:1-16
Ephesians 4 uses the image of the Body of Christ to call for unity within the Church. All of our abilities come from God and they are all essential for a healthy Body and an effective Church. Specifically, we are gifted “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God …” (Ephesians 4:12-13). In other words, we are not given gifts for our own glory. We are given gifts to accomplish God’s purposes in the world. We are given gifts to be the people God calls us to be. We are given gifts to be the Church God calls us to be. How are you using the gifts that God has given you?
• Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the ultimate gift: your Son, Jesus. Help me grow up in my faith, so that I can do my part to build up the Body of Christ. Amen.
Sermon: We are Strong
Scripture Reading: Psalm 68:32-35, Ephesians 3:14-21
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)
Monday October 2 — Isaiah 40:25-31
When Isaiah 40 was written, God’s people were in exile, discouraged and afraid. They thought that God had abandoned them and forgotten them. The prophet’s message was hopeful: the God of creation was with them; God would save them. This is a message we need to hear when we are struggling to make sense of our lives. When we are weak, we need to know that God is strong, and that God will support us and save us. What helps you remember God’s promises? Where do you find the strength to keep going in the middle of difficult and challenging situations? How is God strengthening you today?
Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, I often feel weak and powerless. Remind me of your promise today. Renew my strength so that I will “mount up with wings like eagles.” Amen.
Tuesday October 3 — Romans 15:1-6
The second half of the letter to the Romans is full of instructions for responding to God’s grace and living a Christian life. It says that if we are going to be Jesus’ disciples, we will follow Jesus’ example. We will serve those who need our help. We will stand with the weak and powerless and love our neighbors by building them up, not tearing them down. We will seek the best for our neighbors, putting their interests and their welfare before our own. How will you respond to these challenging words? How will you use your strength to follow Jesus’ example?
Prayer: God of Eternal Life, thank you for the life and teaching of Jesus. Strengthen me to follow his example. Teach me how to love others the way you love me. Amen.
Wednesday October 4 — 1 Corinthians 16:13-24
In the conclusion to 1 Corinthians, Paul challenges his readers to put their faith into action: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:3). The letter starts with an explanation of the differences between human wisdom and God’s wisdom; human strength and God’s strength. The ultimate gift of God’s spirit is love. This is why the Corinthians are expected to be strong and courageous and remember that the greatest of God’s gifts is love. Where will you find the courage you need to put your faith into action and let love be the guiding principle in your life?
Prayer: God of Love, fill me with your love, the greatest of all your gifts. Grant me courage to put my faith into action and love others the way you love me. Amen.
Thursday October 5 — 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul connects human weakness with God’s strength. He warns of the dangers of boasting and says that the thorn in his flesh not only keeps him humble, it also teaches him about God’s grace. It’s not that God gives us thorns in the flesh, but that our life experiences remind us of our need for God’s grace. We discover that when we are at our weakest, we can rely more fully on God. We discover that God’s grace and God’s strength is sufficient. When we are weak, we are strong. How have you experienced God’s strength in the midst of human weakness? Can you agree with Paul: “whenever I am weak, then I am strong”?
Prayer: God of Strength, forgive me for failing to trust that your strength is sufficient for my every need. Help me affirm that whenever I am weak, then I am strong. Amen.
Friday October 6 — Psalm 68:32-35
Psalm 68 is a song of praise and thanksgiving. It is a helpful reminder that, in difficult seasons of life, we can trust in God. Like the message found in Paul’s letters, we find strength in God. We know that “God gives strength to his people” even when they are weak and broken and marginalized (see Psalm 68:5-6). In which parts of your life have you discovered God’s strength? How does God empower you to live the life you were created to live?
Prayer: Awesome God, Lord of all creation, you are the source of true strength and power. Empower my life so that I will serve and glorify you in all that I say and do. Amen.
Saturday October 7 — Ephesians 3:14-21
The first half of the letter to the Ephesians concludes with a prayer and a doxology—a statement of praise to God. The prayer requests that the Ephesians be “strengthened in [their] inner being with power.” This means that strength is a gift from God. It is an answered prayer. We are strong because God makes us strong. We must remember that we are not strengthened with power for our own glory. We are strengthened with power for God’s glory. Have you asked God in prayer to strengthen you in your inner being? Have you received God’s strength as a gift?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray that I be strengthened in my inner being with power through your Spirit, and that Christ will dwell in my heart through faith. Amen.
Sermon: We are Alive
Scripture Reading: Romans 6:1-11, 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. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Monday September 18 — Psalm 41:1-13
The 41st Psalm expresses both a need for God’s help and healing and a confidence in God’s promises. When we read and pray this Psalm, we are inspired to take our every concern, our every need, to God with confidence and faith. We can trust in God’s promises and experience the fullness of life that God desires for everyone. When we read and pray this Psalm we affirm that God’s grace is the ultimate source of the life we seek. So we join the Psalm-writer in the repeated petition: “O LORD, be gracious to me” (Psalm 41:4, 10). Let the words of Psalm 41 guide you into your own prayer. Trust in God’s promises for healing. Ask God to make you fully alive this week.
• Prayer: O LORD, be gracious to me. Fill me with your Spirit and make me fully alive. Grant me confidence and faith to trust you at all times and in all situations. Amen.
Tuesday September 19 — Acts 1:1-5
The New Testament is clear that salvation is the gift of life—in both the present moment and in the future. We believe that this gift of life is the result of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, if we are going to be fully alive, we need to have confidence in the central message of the Gospel: Jesus died on the cross, but was raised from death to life on the third. In other words, if we are going to be fully alive, we need to be Easter people. Reflect today on the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. What does it mean to you? How does Jesus’ resurrection change your life?
• Prayer: Living God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending him to be my Lord and Savior. Thank you for his death and resurrection. Thank you for the gift of life. Amen.
Wednesday September 20 — Galatians 2:15-21
As followers of Jesus, we experience our own death and resurrection. On one hand, we believe that when we (physically) die, we will be raised to new and eternal life with God. That’s the Gospel promise. But we also believe that when we make the decision to follow Jesus, we experience another kind of death and resurrection. We are crucified with Christ and our sinful selves die, so that the living, resurrected Christ can live in us. What parts of your life need to die today, so that you can experience new life as a follower of Jesus?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for holding tightly to the comfortable life I’m living today. Give me courage to let my old self die, so that Jesus can live in me. Amen.
Thursday September 21 — Ephesians 2:1-10
The heart of the Christian message is found in Ephesians 2:5 and Ephesians 2:8. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The promise is that when we acknowledge our need for God’s grace and accept the gift that God offers us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). Spend some time today reflecting on your life and your relationship with God. Have you accepted the gift of God’s grace? In what ways have you experienced the new life that God offers you? What is preventing you from being fully alive today?
• Prayer: God of Grace, today, I confess my need for your grace and accept the gift of new life that you offer me through Jesus. Make me alive together with Christ. Amen.
Friday September 22 — Romans 6:1-11
The letter to the Romans proclaims the same message that is found in the Scripture readings from the past two days (Galatians 2:15-21 and Ephesians 2:1-10): like Jesus, we experience our own death and resurrection. As a result we “consider [our]selves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). What Romans 6 adds to our understanding is that following Jesus sets us free to live a new life. Before Christ, we are not free from the power of sin. Now, we are free to love God, grow in our faith, and serve Christ in the world. On a scale of one-to-ten, how much freedom (from sin) are you experiencing today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the gift of freedom. Thank you for setting me free from the power of sin. Thank you for setting me free to love and grow and serve. Amen.
Saturday September 23 — Luke 15:25-32
In the parable of the prodigal Son, Jesus describes God’s great love for all of God’s children. He also describes the kind of death and resurrection we experience. In the parable, the Father tells the older son, “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:24). This is what happens to each of us when we choose to follow Jesus: we are united with God and God’s family, and we experience the joy of new and abundant life. Let yourself experience God’s joy today.
• Prayer: God of Love, I am amazed at the depth of your love for me. Remind me that nothing I face—today or any other day—will separate me from your great love. Amen.
Sermon: We Are Chosen
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Monday September 11 — Isaiah 41:8-10
Starting with Abraham in Genesis 12, the relationship between God and humanity was based on this simple truth: God chose them. The question was then—as it is now—what does it mean to be chosen by God. Like the Israelites, we need to be reminded that God’s chosen people are God’s servants. This is what God does: God calls (chooses) us to advance God’s purposes in the world. In this light, do you see yourself as someone who has been chosen by God? What does that mean for you? What has God chosen you to do today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for choosing me. Remind me once again that you chose me to be your servant. Use me to do your Kingdom’s work in the world. Amen.
Tuesday September 12 — John 15:12-17
As disciples of Jesus, we have been chosen (called) by Jesus to be his friends. This means that Jesus loves us and that we love Jesus. It also means that we love one another with the same kind of sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross. We have been chosen “to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16). In what ways are you living the purpose for which Jesus chose you? In what ways does your life bear fruit that will last—the fruit of God’s Spirit and the fruit of God’s Kingdom?
• Prayer: God of Love, I confess that I have not loved you in the same way that you love me. Grant me the courage I need to follow Jesus’ example and love sacrificially. Amen.
Wednesday September 13 — Ephesians 1:3-14
Today’s reading is actually one long sentence in the original Greek (New Testament texts were originally written in Greek.) It reminds the Ephesians of their relationship with God: chosen and adopted through Jesus Christ. Like the Ephesians, we too often forget that we are God’s children and let the world label us in other ways. Like the Ephesians, we need regular reminders about who we are and whose we are. What does it mean to be a child of God? As a child of God, do you live your life in a way that is pleasing to God?
• Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for reminding me that you have chosen me to be one of your children. Help me to be a faithful member of your family. Amen.
Thursday September 14 — 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
The first letter to the Thessalonians follows the pattern found in most of the New Testament letters. It begins with a greeting and a prayer of thanksgiving. Paul is thankful that his ministry (his preaching) was effective because the Thessalonians experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit and the transforming power of the Gospel. For Paul, the effectiveness of the Gospel was a sign that God had chosen the Thessalonians to be part of God’s Kingdom. How have you experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Gospel in your life? What signs of God’s presence in your life remind you that God has chosen you to be one of God’s children?
• Prayer: Faithful God, fill me with your Holy Spirit today and remove everything in my life that prevents me from experiencing the transforming power of your grace. Amen.
Friday September 15 — Luke 12:4-7
In the vastness of the universe, our individual lives can seem miniscule and insignificant. We wonder if God really knows us and if God really cares about us. So the promise in the Gospel, that we need not worry or be afraid about what the future holds—because “even the hairs of your head are all counted”—is a great comfort (Luke 12:7). How does is feel to be known this intimately by God? How does the fact that God knows you, cares for you, and loves you, change your life?
• Prayer: Creator God, I am amazed that you know me and love me. Too often I fear the future and worry about my life. Grant me confidence to trust in your promises. Amen.
Saturday September 16 — Luke 9:10-17
To be called (chosen) by Jesus to be one of his disciples does mean that we are better than others. It is not a symbol of status; it is a gift of God’s grace. It is an invitation (to which we are expected to respond) to participate in Jesus’ ministry. When the large crowd needed to be fed, Jesus told the disciples, “You give them something to eat” (Luke 12:13). This is what it means to be called (chosen) by Jesus. We are called (chosen) to be the body of Jesus Christ in the world. What has Jesus called (chosen) you to do today?
• Prayer: Calling God, I hear your call and with your help I will respond. Use me today to serve your purposes in the world. I will go where you send me. Amen.