GPS October 13, 2019
Sermon: Emulate Christ
Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1-10, John 13:31-35
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” – John 13:34-35, The Message
Things I’d like to remember from today’s message:
Monday October 14- John 13:1-17
In this familiar passage, Jesus is washing the disciples’ feet. We see, the disciples’ teacher and leader, our Savior, Jesus acting as a servant. He washes his disciples’ stinky, callused, tired feet AND THEN Jesus commands them to love one another as he loves them. We hear the story so many times we may have forgotten the radical-ness of what Jesus is commanding. Love with total and extreme humility. How are you loving with humility today?
Prayer: Humble God, teach me to love with humility like your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Activity: Today, place yourself intimately in the Scripture. Use all your senses as you read the passage. What do you hear, see, smell, taste, and feel as you read? During the day recall the senses you experienced in this Scripture. How can you choose to emulate Christ today?
Tuesday, October 15- Luke 15:11-32
The parable of the Prodigal Son, comes directly after two other parables of the lost and found. What we witness in all three parables of Luke 15 is a God whose love does not ever give up. God’s love is extraordinary. God’s love extends to those of us who are lost and struggling. Look around for those who are lost – or remember a time when you were lost. How can you love EXTRAordinarily like God today?
Prayer: Searching God, thank you for always seeking the lost and finding us with your extraordinary love. Amen.
Activity: Read the story of the Prodigal Son in a busy and bustling place today; the grocery store, a mall food court, a metro station. Wonder about the experience of being lost. Do you notice people who look lost today or do you feel lost in the crowd? Pray for God’s love to be known with those who are lost. Pray that you will receive God’s love when you feel lost.
Wednesday, October 16- Matthew 25:34-40
The King in this parable tells those who have gathered, “the blessed,” that when they cared for the hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, imprisoned strangers they were caring for the King. When we love others the way Christ loved us we are loving God fully. What opportunities do you have to serve those in need this week? Sign up for Rise Against Hunger, volunteer with a new mission. Find a way to show your love for others and love God this week.
Prayer: God of love, I desire to serve your people and show you love. Equip me today to be your servant. Amen.
Activity: Visit St. Matthew’s website and check out all of the missions we are involved in or visit the Welcome Desk at St. Matthew’s and pick up a Missions brochure. Pray for each of the missions at St. Matthew’s individually and those who are leading missions. Do you feel called to any of the Missions or eager to learn more? Try a new way to serve God today.
Thursday, October 17-Luke 14:12-14
Jesus gives a clear command in this passage. This Scripture isn’t just about emulating Christ, but about following Christ’s commands. In Luke 14, we see Jesus teaching that we should invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind to our banquet table. And following this passage in Luke 15, Jesus eats with tax-collectors and sinners. Jesus is commanding and then leading by example; reminding us to be in relationship and care for those who are different from us. How are you extending God’s love to those who are different from you?
Prayer: Christ, my Lord, guide me to find ways to love those on the margins. Amen.
Activity: Have lunch, a cup of coffee, a “watercooler chat” with someone you don’t know as well, or someone who is different from you. Focus on learning about their story – not about telling your own – what surprised you? What challenged you? How can you learn and grow in your love for God as you encounter people who are different from you?
Friday, October 18 – Luke 9:23-25
In verse 23, Jesus tells the disciples to “deny themselves.” Or, to let go of their selfish desires and choose to live as Jesus has modeled for them. One way to consider this Scripture is to hear Jesus’ call to reckless love. Reread the Scripture. How are you being called to let go of selfish desires? How is Jesus calling you to give up your life to share God’s reckless love? Today, look for opportunities to put others before yourself.
Prayer: In your extraordinary love and grace I desire to live, O God. Equip me to deny myself and lift up your love. Amen.
Activity: Consider your conversations today. How many times do you talk about yourself? How much do you talk about what you want? How often do you try to push your own ideas, agenda, or perspective? Today, listen to other’s perspectives first, try to understand their ideas before suggesting your own, invite others to tell their stories before sharing your own.
Saturday, October 19 – Mark 12:30-31
Our Reckless Love sermon series began with Mark 12 – love God with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself. We have focused on beginning with love, expanding our circles, lavishing love, having openhearted love, valuing the vulnerable, and emulating Christ. How has your understanding of God’s love changed? How can you continue to work towards loving recklessly? Spend time reflecting on God’s love in your life today and work to extend that love to others.
Prayer: God of reckless love, today I start with love, expand the circle of those I love, guide me to lavish love on others with a full and open heart. Teach me to value the vulnerable as I work toward emulating Christ. Amen.
Activity: Write out the words, “Love God, Love Neighbor.” Write them on a few post-its and leave them as a reminder in your car, at your desk, on your mirror. Or, write it on paper and color or decorate the paper and post it where you’ll see it everyday. You could even take a poster board and the words “Love God, Love Neighbor” and color and decorate with your family or friends. Place the poster board in a community space or your Sunday School room. Spend time in prayer today and reflect on how you can truly love God and love your neighbor.
Series – Reckless Love
Sermon – Value the Vulnerable
Scripture Readings: 1 John 3:16-18, Mark 5:1-13
And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. (Mark 5:2-5)
Monday October 7 — 1 John 3:16-18
The biggest challenge for many people who want to follow Jesus is understanding what he means when he insists that we must, “love your neighbor as [y]ourself” (Mark 12:31). For many of us, love is a positive feeling or emotion. But for Jesus, love is a decision that we put into action on behalf of another person. In other words, the love that Jesus’ commands, and models, is love that seeks the best for another person, “not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18). How have you practiced Jesus-like love in the past few days? How might you put love into action today?
• Prayer: Loving God, continue to transform my heart and mind so that I choose, everyday, to put my love for others into action. Help me learn to follow Jesus. Amen.
Tuesday October 8 — Exodus 22:21-27
The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, insists that caring for vulnerable people is one of the highest priorities for God’s people. Resident aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor represent vulnerable people in the world of the Bible. They are at a disadvantage because of their circumstances and rely on the support of others. What we discover in the Bible is that God cares deeply about how we treat them and care for them. Who are the most vulnerable people in the world today? How are they treated by God’s people?
• Prayer: God of All People, grant me the courage I need to advocate for vulnerable people in the world. Open my eyes to see others the way you see them. Amen.
Wednesday October 9 — Luke 7:11-17
In Jesus’ own words, he has come to “bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), and the widow in Nain is someone who needs some Good News. Jesus’ love for the woman is put into action when he restores her son to life. This is one of many examples, in the Gospels, of Jesus acting on behalf of people who were on the margins of society. Jesus’ disciples — then and now — are faced with a decision: will they follow Jesus’ example and continue his ministry. What will you do?
• Prayer: Merciful God, if I am honest, I too often ignore or look past people who are on the margins of society. I too often fail to follow Jesus’ example. Forgive me, I pray. Amen.
Thursday October 10 — Mark 5:1-13
Jesus’ encounter with the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20) teaches Jesus’ disciples several important lessons. First, it teaches us that the Spirit of God working through Jesus is more powerful than any evil spirit — or anything else that we will ever face. Second, it teaches us that love for neighbors must include the vulnerable people, who live on the margins of society: the man lived in the tombs. (See tomorrow’s GPS reading for another lesson.) How might you apply these lessons to your own life and experience?
• Prayer: God of Compassion, thank you for having compassion on me and loving me despite my faults and failures. Show me how I might share your love with others. Amen.
Friday October 11 — Mark 5:14-20
The second half of Jesus’ encounter with the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20) serves as a model for faithful discipleship (which would likely have been very troubling to many of the first readers of Mark’s Gospel). While some in the community are afraid of Jesus (because of what he did), “demoniac” wants to be his disciple. So Jesus sends him back to his home to tell his story. Is it possible that Jesus is sending you to someone or someplace to share your story?
• Prayer: God of Grace, grant me the courage I need to tell the story of how your love and grace has changed my life. Send me to the people who need to hear it. Amen.
Saturday October 12 — Acts 3:1-10
All four of the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — demonstrate over and over again the way Jesus loves his neighbors, including (or especially) those who are not loved by anyone else. The message of the New Testament is both consistent and insistent: Jesus’ disciples are expected, and empowered, to continue Jesus’ ministry in the world. The challenge is to believe that the same power that was at work in Jesus then is available to us now. Do you believe that God has empowered you to continue Jesus’ ministry in the world today?
• Prayer: Almighty God, forgive me for not believing that your power is at work in the world today. Open my heart and mind to trust you and allow you to guide my life. Amen.
Series – Reckless Love
Sermon – Openhearted Love
Scripture Readings: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, 1 John 2:7-11
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
Monday September 30 — 1 John 2:7-11
As you might expect, the word “new” plays an important role in the Bible’s account of God’s actions in the world – especially in the New Testament. What we discover is that God is constantly doing something new. Yes, there is an unchanging aspect to God’s nature and God’s character, but we believe that God is constantly teaching us new lessons and guiding us into new places. The new commandment to love one another is a word that we need to hear (anew) on a regular basis. As you read 1John 2:7-11, what new lessons are you learning today? Where is God guiding you?
• Prayer: Eternal God, I am thankful that you are eternal and unchanging. I am also thankful that you are constantly doing new things in my life. Help me see you in my life. Amen.
Tuesday October 1 — Luke 8:1-3
As we discover when we read the Gospels, Jesus is constantly expanding the circle of God’s love in the world, taking the Good News of the Kingdom to new people and new places. The first three verses of chapter 8 contain one of the many summary statements in Luke’s Gospel. What’s new in this passage is the inclusion of the women who are traveling with Jesus and providing for him. (In Jesus’ time, women would have typically been neither seen nor heard.) Where are the new places that the risen Christ is taking the Good News about God’s Kingdom today?
• Prayer: God of Love, open my eyes to see clearly where your son, Jesus, is leading me today. I’m ready to meet new people and serve you in new ways. Amen.
Wednesday October 2 — John 4:1-15
The story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4 is unexpected in several ways. First, John tells us that Jesus “had to go through Samaria” (John 4:4). This was because of his mission, not because it was the only way to get from Judea to Galilee. Second, Jesus was engaging a woman (something a righteous Jewish teacher would not typically have done.) Third, he asked her for a drink (see John 4:9). How can we re-imagine this encounter in this day and age? How willing are you to go with Jesus and serve the kind of people he serves in the kinds of places he goes?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for placing too many limits on what I’m willing to do as one of your disciples. Grant me the courage I need to step outside my comfort zone. Amen.
Thursday October 3 — John 4:16-30, 39-42
The rest of the story about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well illustrates the unexpected (or shocking) nature of what Jesus did. The reaction of Jesus’ disciples in John 4:27 tells us what we need to know. The larger point of the story is that the Samaritan woman is the ideal illustration of the transforming power of God’s love and grace offered through Jesus. Meeting Jesus changed her life. She (and others in her community) experienced new life. What is God’s love and grace doing in your life this week? In what ways are you being transformed?
• Prayer: Loving and Gracious God, I am ready to be transformed by the power of your love and grace. I am ready to be saved from the power of sin and death. Amen.
Friday October 4 — Galatians 3:23-29
In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul compares and contrasts life before Christ and after Christ. What he says is that when Christ has come into the world (and into our lives) and we are “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27), we are no longer bound by human categories. In Christ, human distinctions disappear. We are saved by grace, through faith, not by works or any other kind of human status, accomplishment, or human characteristic. What does that mean for you?
• Prayer: God of Saving Grace, I know that I am a sinner who can only be saved by your grace. I freely accept your grace, through faith in your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Saturday October 5 — 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
2 Corinthians 5:17-19 summarizes this week’s message: in Christ, “everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is God’s gift and it changes everything for us. As a result of our being reconciled to God through Christ, “we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20.) As ambassadors, we represent Christ in the world. Or put another way, the world is watching what we say and do to learn more about God. Think about the people in your life (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors): what is the way you live your life teaching them about God?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for offering me forgiveness and reconciliation. Teach me to be a good steward of your grace and an ambassador for your Kingdom. Amen.
Series – Reckless Love
Sermon – Lavish Love
Scripture Readings: 1 John 3:1-3, Luke 6:27-36
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you…. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-31, 35-36)
Monday September 23 — Luke 6:17-26
After choosing the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-16), Jesus proceeds to teach them, along with the larger group of disciples and an even larger crowd. His teaching covers many of the same topics we find in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthews 5-7). In Luke, it’s called the Sermon on the Plain (see Luke 6:17) and it starts with a series of blessings and woes. Here, as in many other places in the Gospel, Jesus contrasts the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of the world. He challenges us to trust the Gospel’s promise of salvation. What do you think about what Jesus has to say?
• Prayer: Eternal God, Jesus’ words can be both challenging and comforting. Help me to seek your Kingdom and trust in the gracious promise of salvation. Amen.
Tuesday September 24 — Luke 6:27-36
Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain continues with some of the most challenging words in all of Scripture. Loving our enemies is the last thing most of us are willing to do. Even if we want to follow Jesus, we struggle to accept that loving enemies is really what he expects us to do. It is hard. It helps to remember that loving our enemy doesn’t mean that we have to like them—just that we should seek the best for them and follow the Golden Rule in our relationship with them (Luke 6:31). How might you put these words of Jesus into practice this week? What is the first step you can take?
• Prayer: God of Sacrificial Love, I realize that, on the cross, Jesus shows me what love really looks like. It is hard. Give me the courage I need to follow his example today. Amen.
Wednesday September 25 — Luke 6:37-49
The final paragraphs of the Sermon on the Plain emphasize Jesus’ expectation that his teaching will be put into action. It is not enough to know what he said or simply affirm that Jesus is Lord. Being a follower of Jesus (a citizen in God’s Kingdom) requires that we put his words into action. We are expected to produce good fruit in our lives. The Good News is that hearts transformed by God’s love and grace will produce good fruit. What helps you experience God’s love and grace?
• Prayer: Gracious God, transform my heart today so that I can bear the good fruit of sacrificial love. Teach me to trust that you know best for me and for the world. Amen.
Thursday September 26 — 1 Peter 4:7-11
First Peter has much to teach us about the power of love and grace. Not only does it insist that we are stewards of God’s grace, it says that love for one another “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). One of the threads running through the whole letter is that mutual love (for one another) should be the defining characteristic for the Christian community. Do you agree with the point of the letter? Does love cover a multitude of sins? Is love the defining characteristic for the Church?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus, and for the transforming power of your love and grace. Thank you for your lavish love for me. Amen.
Friday September 27 — 1 John 3:1-3
Luke 6:36 says that Jesus’ disciples are to, “Be merciful, just as [our] Father is merciful.” 1 John 3:2 says that, as God’s children, “we will be like him.” These are high expectations—to love the way God loves and to be merciful the way God is merciful. The truth is: we will fail to live up to these expectations and we will need to rely on God’s grace. The good news of the Gospel is that when we fail (and experience God’s grace) we are transformed. How have you experienced God’s grace so far this week?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for the many ways I fail to live up to your great expectations for my life. Mold me in your image today. Amen.
Saturday September 28 — Psalm 103:1-14
Close this week by using Psalm 103 as a song of praise and thanksgiving. Let the words remind you that God is good, even when we are not, and that God is the source of “steadfast love and mercy” (Psalm 103:4). The only way you will live up to and live into God’s intention for your life is to accept the love of God, offered through Jesus, for yourself. In prayer, celebrate and accept God’s love today.
• Prayer: Almighty God, crown me with steadfast love and mercy today. Take away my sin. Take away my fear and doubt. Create in me a clean heart. Fill me with your Spirit. Amen.
Series – Reckless Love
Sermon – Expand the Circle
Scripture Readings: 1 John 3:11-18, Luke 5:27-32
We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. (1 John 3:14-18)
Monday September 16 — Luke 5:1-11
When we follow Jesus by reading and studying the Gospel accounts of his life and ministry, we discover the way that Jesus offered reckless love to the people he met. In Luke’s Gospel Simon Peter is the first disciple called by Jesus. In his call story, Peter makes a confession that every one of us could make: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful [wo]man!” (Luke 5:8). As we discover in the rest of the Gospel, Peter is far from perfect, just like us. How do you feel about Jesus calling a sinful human being to be his first disciple? Do you find yourself in that story?
• Prayer: Merciful God, like Simon Peter, I am a sinner who needs the fullness of your love and grace. Forgive me. Use me. Send me to continue your ministry in the world. Amen.
Tuesday September 17 — Luke 5:12-16
Jesus’ journey through the Gospels is filled with accounts like these. Jesus reaches out—both literally and figuratively—to people considered by the “good people” and religious authorities to be dangerous, unclean, and unworthy of his attention. Viewed objectively, Jesus acted recklessly when he touched the leper. What kind of actions might be considered reckless love in the world today? To whom might God be calling you to reach out with a tangible expression of love?
• Prayer: God of Love, thank you for the example of Jesus. Give me the courage I need to practice the same kind of reckless love that was the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. Amen.
Wednesday September 18 — Luke 5:27-32
Chapter 5 of Luke’s Gospel is filled with examples of Jesus acting in ways that might be considered reckless: calling Simon Peter (a sinful man), touching a leper, sparring with the religious authorities, and eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners—like Levi. In Jesus’ time Levi and his associates would have been considered a different level of sinner than someone like Peter. If we are honest, many of us sympathize with the Pharisees and scribes and wonder why Jesus does the things he does. What do you really think about what Jesus is doing?
• Prayer: Eternal God, help me examine my life honestly today. Help me see where I am thinking and acting like Pharisees and scribes of old. Help me follow Jesus. Amen.
Thursday September 19 — Luke 6:12-16
There are a couple of interesting details in this brief account of Jesus naming the 12 apostles (out of the larger group of disciples). First, Jesus spent the night in prayer—preparing spiritually for this important decision. Second, based on what we know about the men he chose, this was not a homogenous group of like-minded believers. These men would have had very diverse opinions and beliefs about God and God’s Kingdom. Why do you think Jesus chose the people he chose? What does this passage teach us about God’s Kingdom and God’s Church?
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for trying to place limits on your love and grace and the way you are at work in the world. Help me see people the way you see them. Amen.
Friday September 20 — Luke 7:1-10
The recklessness of Jesus’ love continues in Luke 7, where we discover that Jesus cured a centurion’s servant. The shocking (or reckless) aspect of this act of compassion may be lost to us if we do not remember that centurions were commanders in the Roman army—the military force that was occupying Israel—and would have been sworn enemies of people like “Simon, who was called the Zealot” (Luke 6:15). Who might you consider a “centurion” in the world today?
• Prayer: Life-giving God, too often I turn away from people in need because of who I think they are. Give me the courage I need to follow the example of Jesus. Amen.
Saturday September 21 — 1 John 3:11-18
More than 40 verses in the NRSV version of the New Testament contain some variation of this phrase: “love one another” (see 1 John 3:11). It is clear that this is the expected standard of behavior for Jesus’ followers. We should note that there is no requirement to “like one another,” just to “love one another” in “truth and action” (1 John 3:18). Jesus-like (reckless) love is sacrificial love that seeks the best for another human being. How have you followed the teaching of 1 John 3:11-18 this week? How have you loved in “truth and action”?
• Prayer: Loving God, let your love abide in me so deeply that I love others in truth and in action. Grant me the ability to love my brothers and sisters the way you love me. Amen.
Series – Reckless Love
Sermon – Begin with Love
Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
Monday September 9 — Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Leviticus 19:17-18
These familiar verses serve as the context for tomorrow’s reading in Mark 12. What we discover is that loving God and loving our neighbor has always been God’s expectation for God’s people. In the Gospels, Jesus affirms what the Hebrew people were already supposed to know. The problem is that knowing the great commandment is far easier than obeying the great commandment. Which is easier for you: loving God or loving your neighbor? Where do you need to grow?
• Prayer: God of Love, forgive me for failing to obey the first and greatest of your commandments. Teach me to love you, and my neighbors, more fully. Amen.
Tuesday September 10 — Mark 12:28-34
We usually refer to this passage as the Great Commandment. Speaking about loving God and loving your neighbor, Jesus says, “There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). However, loving God and neighbor is not just the great commandment, loving God is the first commandment (see Mark 12:28-29). Being the first commandment means that it is the highest priority. It’s where we begin. It’s where we start our relationship with God. If we do nothing else, we do this: we begin with love. What, if anything, is preventing you from beginning with love?•
- Prayer: Loving God, I know that loving you and loving my neighbor is my highest priority. Help me to remove everything in my life that prevents me from beginning with love. Amen.
Wednesday September 11 — James 2:8-13
The early church took Jesus’ words and example very seriously. Following on Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels, James also quotes Leviticus 19:18 and calls it the “royal law” (James 2:8). He reminds his readers to begin with love amid his warnings against showing partiality and discriminating against people who are poor. He goes on to insist that we will be judged, first and foremost by our obedience to the law of love and mercy. If God really does expect us to begin with us, how well are you doing?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, thank you for showing me mercy that I do not deserve and love that I cannot earn. Help me to fulfill your law and show mercy to all. Amen.
Thursday September 12 — Galatians 5:13-15
The apostle Paul also echoes the teaching of Jesus and quotes Leviticus 19:18. (You’ll find another example in Romans 13:9). One of the themes of the letter to the Galatians is that God has given us the freedom to make decisions about how we live our lives, and that our decision-making should begin with love. What might change in your life if the process of making every decision (large and small) began with love? What might change in your most important relationships?
• Prayer: Eternal God, I am aware that I do not always make decisions by beginning with love. Love is not always my highest priority. Please forgive me. Amen.
Friday September 13 — Galatians 5:16-21
After reminding the Galatians to begin with love, Paul goes on to warn them about the dangers of choosing to gratify what he calls the desires of the flesh. (Note that when Paul uses the word “flesh” he’s not talking about the human body, but rather that part of us that opposes and resists God’s Spirit). The works of the flesh he lists are what come out of us when we do not begin with love. Using Paul’s list in Galatians 5:19-21, review your life. Where do you need to grow?
• Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for helping me see myself more clearly. Remove anything and everything from my life that opposes and resists your Spirit. Amen.
Saturday September 14 — Galatians 5:22-26
In contrast to the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit. Rather than a to-do list for a self-help project, this list outlines the expected result of a healthy relationship with God that is nurtured in worship, prayer, service, study, and other spiritual disciplines. The fruit of the Spirit are God’s intention for our life and an indicator that our relationship with God is on the right track. Notice that the fruit of the Spirit begins with love. Using Galatians 5:22-23, review your life. Where do you see signs of God’s Spirit in your life?
• Prayer: God of Spirit and Truth, I desire to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life. Help me grow in faith and trust in the life-changing power of your love and grace. Amen.
Sermon: In the Love of the Lord
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 and Luke 14:1, 7-14
“Let mutual love continue.” – Hebrews 13:1
Things I’d like to remember from today’s message:
Monday, September 2, Hebrews 12:28-13:3
Can serving others be worship? Hebrews 12 and 13 answer YES! As people of God’s unshakeable Kingdom (12:28) we worship God with reverence and awe. When we worship in this way, we love one another, and we serve one another. Hebrews 12:29 refers to a consuming fire which leads to our mutual love. When we live in the love of our Lord we worship by giving love and we are overwhelmed by God’s love in our lives. When have you been overwhelmed by God’s love in your life? When have you witnessed the outpouring of God’s love?
- Prayer: Unshakeable God, may your love overwhelm me today so I can pour out that love on others. Amen.
Activity: How often are your actions motivated by love? Consider your conversations and your choices this week. When are you being motivated by God’s love or by your love for others? Is cooking dinner an act of love, talking with a coworker, visiting a family member an outpouring of God’s love in your life?
Tuesday, September 3, Genesis 18:1-15
Hebrews 13:2 tells us that some have entertained angels when they showed hospitality to strangers. This can be read as a reference to Abraham and Sarah at the Oaks of Mamre welcoming strangers. They offered an abundance of welcome. Abraham and Sarah found that God’s presence was with them in this act of hospitality. When have you encountered God in serving others and extending love and welcome? How can you be intentional about recognizing God as you welcome others?
- Prayer: Welcoming God, help me to spend the day in your presence and welcome others like Abraham and Sarah. Amen.
Activity: Consider being a Sunday Morning Greeter, joining our walk-in ministry, volunteering at the Lamb Center, or volunteering for our Hypothermia Shelter Week this Winter. Read Genesis 18:1-15 before you volunteer and take note of how you can have a welcoming spirit in your service.
Wednesday, September 4, Romans 12:9-21
Reread verse 10 and focus on “mutual affection” and “outdoing.” What does it look like to “outdo one another?” Yesterday’s GPS with Abraham and Sarah was a model of outdoing one another and mutual love. Romans 12 titled “Marks of the True Christian,” teaches us how to live our life in God’s love. When we live in God’s love we continually pour God’s love towards others. Pick one verse from this passage and focus on living this way today.
- Prayer: Great God of LOVE. Thank you for loving me. Teach me to love others and truly be a follower of Christ. Amen.
Activity: Make a list of the command words in this Scripture – “be genuine, hate evil, serve the Lord, rejoice in hope.” Which commands are easy for you and which are difficult? Pick one to focus on, not just for a day but a full week. Take each week and try to show the “Marks of a True Christian.”
Thursday, September 5, Jeremiah 2:9-13, Jeremiah 7:5-7
God is unhappy with how Israel is living. God is heartbroken that the Israelites have chosen their selfish desires over his commands to care for others. The prophet Jeremiah is reminding the Israelites in chapter 2 that God is the fountain of living water – but the way they are living it’s like they are collecting the living water of God with broken jars. They can’t continue to live in God’s love. Jeremiah 7 is a reminder of how we are called to live in God’s love. How are you showing God’s justice and mercy today?
- Prayer: God of justice and mercy, fill my life with your living water so I can continue to show your love to others.
Activity: Spend some time in quiet reflection today and meditate on these images: Imagine a fountain flowing with fresh water. The water looks so fresh you are eager for a drink. When you drink from this fountain you realize you have been filled with something more than water; “living water.” You have been filled with God’s love. You are amazed that when you are filled with God’s love you are moved to share God’s love with others. Wonder about where you can share God’s love today. Today continue to imagine yourself filled with living water. How does this change your interactions and relationships?
Friday, September 6, Proverbs 25:6-7, Luke 14:1, 7-14
Jesus quotes from Proverbs as he gathers around the dinner table on the Sabbath. Jesus is sharing a meal with church leaders, the Pharisees, and he doesn’t want them to forget that humility and hospitality are markers of righteous living. When we live in God’s love we are called to extend humility and hospitality. How do you show a humble spirit? Look for opportunities during this week to put others before yourself.
- Prayer: God, I come before you today with humility. Show me ways I can put others before myself today. Amen.
Activity: Be intentional about letting others go ahead of you today. While you’re driving in traffic let someone in, let a person go before you in line for lunch or at the grocery store. In every interaction today work towards humility in your relationships. How does this alter your perspective? Is this easy or difficult? Where did you struggle the most?
Saturday, September 7, Psalm 112
Psalm 112 is titled “Blessings of the Righteous.” In some ways it reads as a litany of all the things we should do to be righteous people; gracious, merciful, show justice, give to the poor. When we live in this way we are delighting in God’s commandments and following God’s call for right living with God and one another. How can you live into this Psalm and be who God calls you to be?
- Prayer: My God, I desire to show justice, compassion and mercy in all I do. Help me to live as you intend today.
Activity: Reread Psalm 112:1. Write it on a post-it or piece of paper. As we enter our next sermon series on Reckless Love work towards delighting in God’s commandment to love. Pray this Psalm during the next six weeks and ask for God to tune your heart to love like God loves.
Youth Mission Sunday
Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 25:5-8, John 15:1-11
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 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. (John 15:1-5)
Monday August 26 — 1 Samuel 25:1-8
The theme for Appalachia Service Project (ASP) this year was “Be the Peace.” It was based on 1 Samuel 25:6, “Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.” Throughout the mission trip, the team was challenged to experience God’s peace for themselves and share God’s peace with the families they served and the surrounding community. This is not a bad goal for everyone. Think and pray this week about how you can “be [God’s] peace” and share God’s peace with everyone you meet.
• Prayer: God of Peace, open my heart to receive the gift of your peace. Give me the strength I need to work for peace in a world that desperately needs it. Amen.
Tuesday August 27 — Psalm 29
There are more than 370 references to peace in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. Many of the Psalms remind us that God is the ultimate source of peace in our lives and the world in which we live. The 29th Psalm reaches its high point in the final line, “May the LORD bless his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). When have you experienced God’s peace in the past few days? What helps you experience God’s peace? What prevents you from experiencing God’s peace?
• Prayer: Eternal God, heal the blindness of my heart and mind that prevents me from seeing signs of your peace in my life. I want to experience your peace today. Amen.
Wednesday August 28 — John 14:25-27
In his final instructions to his disciples, Jesus promises them that the Holy Spirit would be their Advocate. He also promises to give them peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). As you consider how you experience the peace of Christ, remember that “peace” (according to the Bible) is more than the absence of conflict. God’s Peace, offered through Jesus, includes wholeness, completeness, and wellbeing. It is an essential aspect of God’s dream for our lives and God’s creation. It can even be experienced in the midst of conflict. Look for signs of God’s peace as you go about your day.
• Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for the gift of salvation, the ultimate peace that can only come from you. Help me experience the wholeness you desire for my life. Amen.
Thursday August 29 — John 15:1-11
The theme verse for the Jeremiah Project this year was John 15:5, “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.” It teaches us that when we stay connected to Jesus, our lives bear fruit – meaning that we change the world in Jesus’ name. Bearing fruit takes many forms, from mission trips to acts of mercy in our daily lives. How are you bearing the fruit of your relationship with Jesus today?
• Prayer: God of Grace, remove anything and everything in my life that prevents me from bearing fruit today. I want my life to make a difference in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Friday August 30 — John 15:12-17
One of the ways our relationship with Jesus bears fruit is by sharing God’s peace and loving our neighbors. Being a follower of Jesus requires us to take Jesus’ example and teaching seriously. This means that we learn to love others with the same passion with which Jesus loves us. When we experience God’s love for ourselves, we are set free to “love one another.” Do you know yourself to be unconditionally loved by Jesus? How does that knowledge help you love others?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for loving me. Forgive me for the many ways I do not follow Jesus’ example. Show me how to love others the way that Jesus loves. Amen.
Saturday August 31 — Colossians 1:9-14
The opening paragraphs of the letter to Colossians include an affirmation that the author is praying for them. He prays that their spiritual growth will continue, which will result in their lives bearing fruit “in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). This is God’s desire for all of God’s children (who share in the inheritance, (Colossians 1:12)). The promise is that when our lives are transformed by our relationship with Jesus, there is a tangible result in the way we interact with the world. We do the good work for which we were created. (Ephesians 2:10). Review the past week. What good works have you done?
• Prayer: Almighty God, help me grow in my relationship with you so that my life produces the fruit of good work. Transform my life and use me to transform the world. Amen.
Series – Keeping Sabbath
Sermon – Keeping Sabbath in a 21st Century World
Scripture Readings: Psalm 92, Jeremiah 17:21-27
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. (Psalm 92:1-4)
Monday August 19 — Jeremiah 17:21-27
As we read in Exodus 20:8-11, keeping the sabbath is one of God’s highest expectations, and one of the primary ways we experience the life God intends for us. For the Israelites, keeping the sabbath was non-negotiable. But because human beings, then and now, fail to live up to God’s expectations, prophets like Jeremiah were called and sent to remind the Israelites of the importance of the sabbath. Re-read Jeremiah 17:21. We are to keep the sabbath, “for the sake of [our] lives.” What does this mean to you? Why is keeping sabbath so important for us?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the ministry of the prophets, who teach me your ways and remind me of your promises. Help me follow your command to keep sabbath. Amen.
Tuesday August 20 — Psalm 92
Although there is no mention of the word “sabbath” in the text of Psalm 92, the heading says that it is, “A Song for the Sabbath Day.” It turns out that the “Song for the Sabbath Day” is a song of thanksgiving. It celebrates and gives thanks for God’s guidance and God’s goodness. As we learn how to keep sabbath in the 21st century world, we discover that sabbath-keeping is a spiritual discipline that includes worshipping and praising God. How have you worshipped God this week?
• Prayer: God of Wonder, thank you for revealing yourself in your creation. Thank you for guiding my life. Thank you for pouring out the blessings of your goodness. Amen.
Wednesday August 21 — Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus’ words in Matthew 11 are not directly related to the sabbath, but they speak to our 21st century lives. If we believe that Jesus is ultimately Lord of our lives and Lord of the sabbath (see Matthew 12:8), then we can trust that we find the rest in him. When we practice the spiritual discipline of sabbath-keeping, we make time to nurture our relationship with the one who offers rest, whose “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30), and who gives us life. How would you characterize your relationship with Jesus right now? Is it life-giving for you? How do you find rest for your soul?
• Prayer: Life-Giving God, today I choose to trust you more fully, to discover that your burden is light, and to find rest for my soul. I want Jesus to be Lord of my life. Amen.
Thursday August 22 — 1 Kings 19:11-17
Elijah’s encounter with God at Mt. Horeb teaches us that we can experience God’s presence in unexpected ways. Elijah would have expected to meet God in the earthquake, the wind, or the fire, but God wasn’t found in those. Elijah met God in the “sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12). One of the reasons that we need to keep sabbath is so that we can calm our minds, our hearts, our spirits, and our bodies long enough to meet God in the silence. When was the last time you experienced enough solitude and silence to connect with God?
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for not stopping long enough to experience your presence in the sound of sheer silence. Help me to hear your voice. Amen.
Friday August 23 — Luke 5:12-16
Luke 5:16 is a verse that is easily missed in between two powerful healing stories (the leper in Luke 5:12-14 and the paralyzed man in Luke 5:17-26.) It simply says that, “Jesus would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” The way Luke writes this sentence, it sounds like Jesus withdrew to pray on a regular basis. It was one of his spiritual disciplines, something he did when the demands for his time and attention were high. How might you follow Jesus’ example in your own life?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I often think that I am too busy to pray. Forgive my arrogance. Teach me that nothing I do is more important than spending time with you. Amen.
Saturday August 24 — Hebrews 10:19-25
Today’s reading is part of a larger section that is often entitled, A Call to Persevere. Its point seems clear, when our faith wavers and we experience fear and doubt, we can enter God’s presence and experience reassurance. We are to, “provoke one another to love and good deeds” and not neglect to “meet together” (Hebrews 10:24-25). How does your practice of keeping sabbath strengthen your relationships with others?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for helping me persevere during the difficult days of my life. Connect me with others so that we can journey with you in confidence and faith. Amen.
Sermon Series: Keeping Sabbath
Sermon: Holy Play
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 58:9b-14, Luke 13:10-17
… if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the LORD… – Isaiah 58:13b-14a
When have I experienced healing?
Where in my life do I need healing now?
How can I be freed for joyful obedience?
Things I’d like to remember from today’s message:
Monday, August 12 – Mark 1:40-45
While in the Bible we often read about physical healings; we are often in need of emotional, mental, spiritual, and even relational healing. The leper in Mark 1 begs Jesus for healing. After receiving the healing the leper proclaimed it freely and spread the word about Jesus (vs. 1:45). He recognized his need for healing and brought that need to Jesus. In bringing this need for healing before Jesus he was free to live joyfully. What healing do you need in your life to live joyfully?
- Prayer: Healing God, help me to recognize the ways I need healing in my life and live joyfully in your presence. Amen.
- Activity: Brainstorm a list needs to bring to God in prayer. Write some out on a post-it and place it where you can see it daily. Pray each day for healing.
Tuesday, August 13 – Matthew 9:1-8
In this passage from Matthew Jesus’ miracle is more than a healing but also the forgiving of sins. Those who witnessed this in the crowds were filled with awe and glorified God. When we witness the movement of God in our world we are called to respond as the crowds did in this Scripture. In what ways do you witness God? How can you respond to God with awe and give God glory?
- Prayer: Glorious God, when I recognize your movement in this world I will offer you praise! Thank you God! Amen.
- Activity: Look for God sightings during your day today. Pause each moment to celebrate how God is moving in our world!
Wednesday, August 14 – Luke 7:11-18
This story of Jesus’ healing in Luke is not only the miracle of restored life but also restored relationships. In Luke 7:15, the Scripture says that “Jesus gave him (the man who died) to his mother.” Living joyfully with Jesus – Sabbathing in a way that leads to “Holy Play,” – is difficult when are relationships are suffering or struggling. Jesus can bring healing to our relationships as well. What relationships in your life need healing? How can you celebrate and live joyfully when your relationships are healed?
- Prayer: God, continue to reach out to us and guide us into more loving relationships with you and one another. Amen.
Activity: On Tuesday we reflected on witnessing God in our world. How do your relationships change when you see God in one another? As you seek healing in your relationships focus on witnessing God in every relationship in your life.
Thursday, August 15 – John 5:1-9
So often in Scripture those who need healing come to Jesus. In this Scripture, Jesus sees the need of this man and asks him if he wants “to be made well (vs. 5:6).” Jesus desires to restore us all to health and fullness of life. When we live in the fullness of life with Jesus we are freed to live joyfully. As you pray today, invite God to offer you healing. Are there unexpected places in your life that need healing? How can God be a part of that?
- Prayer: Loving God, I need your healing in my life today. Teach me to live joyfully with you each day. Amen.
- Activity: Practice listening to God today. Are there places in your life that need healing that you haven’t shared with others? How can you share this with God now?
Friday, August 16 – Matthew 20:30-34
Even as they are in need of healing, the two blind men in this Scripture cry out to Jesus calling him “Lord (vs. 20:30).” The crowd orders them to be quiet but they are persistent. Living joyfully with God may not come easily to us – we must be persistent in reaching out to God. How can you persistently seek God today?
- Prayer: God you listen to my every need. Today I pray as the two blind man did and ask you to have mercy on me. Amen.
- Activity: Today, find multiple times to say out loud, “Lord, have mercy on me, Son of David!” How does it feel to cry out to God? How can crying out to God bring you closer to receiving joy?
Saturday, August 17 – Luke 17:11-19
In this parable of the ten lepers, one returns to Jesus and praises “God with a loud voice (vs. 17:15).” It can be hard to praise God in the midst of struggles. What struggles in your life keep you from offering praise and living joyfully with God? How can you choose to praise God today?
- Prayer: God I offer you praise, even in the difficulties I face today. Thank you for all you do in my life. Amen.
- Activity: Make a mental list of the concerns that are on your heart and mind right now. What are some ways to offer God praise as you think of each situation? Practice offering God praise today.