Series – A Reluctant Servant: Lessons from the Life of Jonah
Sermon – Getting A Second Chance
Scripture Readings: Jonah 3:1-10, Luke 11:29-32
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. (Jonah 3:1-5)
Monday February 18 — Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-4
The prophet Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh to proclaim a message of judgment. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh and tried to run away from God. But God did not let Jonah get away. Through a storm and a big fish, Jonah was brought back to the place where he could hear God’s call a second time (Jonah 1:4-2:10). This time, he went where God sent him. God gave Jonah a second chance. Have you ever been given a second (or third) chance to answer God’s call? If so, how did you respond?
• Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for giving me many chances to answer your call. Grant me the courage and faith I need to respond. Amen.
Tuesday February 19 — Jonah 3:1-10
In response to Jonah’s message, the people of Nineveh believed God, put on sackcloth and ashes, and began to fast. The king of Nineveh made a proclamation that the entire city — including the animals — would fast, and that everyone would repent and turn to God, hoping that God would accept their repentance and spare their lives. Fasting, sackcloth, and ashes are all signs of repentance. How do you signify your repentance? How do you demonstrate your desire to change your ways and (re)turn to God?
• Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy, I confess my sin and my need for your grace. Forgive me and restore me to fullness of life. Amen.
Wednesday February 20 — Daniel 9:3-10
Sackcloth and ashes are also physical demonstrations of humility. There are many Biblical accounts of individuals or groups of people humbling themselves before God, confessing sins, and seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy. In modern times, we use ashes at the beginning of the Lent (on Ash Wednesday) as a sign of our need to confess our sins and renew our commitment to God and God’s way. Ashes acknowledge our mortality and remind us that we need God’s amazing grace. What helps you remember your mortality and your need for grace? What will help you confess your sins today and renew your commitment to God? What are the next steps in your Christian life?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the witness of Scripture and its reminder of my need for your grace. Show me your ways. Amen.
Thursday February 21 — Mark 1:14-15, Matthew 4:12-17
Jonah was not the only one of God’s servants to call for repentance. The New Testament Gospel writers tell us that Jesus proclaimed that God’s Kingdom had come near and that people should repent and believe the Good News. It is a universal message: when we encounter the presence of God, we become aware of our sin and our need to turn back to God. Graciously, God offers us many chances to turn away from sin and turn to God. How have you experienced God’s presence this week? How have you experienced God’s love and grace? How has God’s love and grace changed your life?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for sending Jesus to be my Lord and my Savior. Today I choose to repent, believe, and follow him. Amen.
Friday February 22 — Romans 10:14-17
Just as God called and sent Jonah to deliver a message to Nineveh, God still calls and sends people to deliver the Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Even those who, in the past, have rejected God’s call (like Jonah) are given second and third chances to respond with faith and obedience. How did you first hear the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ? Who were God’s messengers in your life? Who helped you learn to trust and obey? Is God calling you to share the Good News with someone today? If so, will you go where God sends you?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, I have not always been willing to answer your call. Forgive my reluctance. Use me today. I am ready. Amen.
Saturday February 23 — Luke 11:29-32
When he was asked for a sign, Jesus reminded the crowds of Jonah and the people of Nineveh. The people of Nineveh — who repented at the proclamation of Jonah — would judge “this generation” if they did not repent at the proclamation of Jesus. After all, Jesus is so much greater than Jonah. The death and resurrection of Jesus is a sign of God’s power at work in the world. What does it mean to you? How have you experienced God’s power at work in your life and in the world? How have you responded to Jesus’ death and resurrection? Have you repented?
• Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Grant me a new life of grace and peace through him. Amen.
Sunday February 10 – Jonah 2:1-10, Luke 5:15-16
“I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me;” – Jonah 2:1-10
“But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” – Luke 5:16
Monday February 11 – Matthew 6:5-8
Jesus gives instructions in Matthew 6 about how we should pray. He uses comparisons of people who pray for attention and people who pray in private. Jesus encourages us to have a personal and private prayer life. Prayer is not about the attention we get from others but instead about being in relationship with God. During this week try and find time to pray privately and focus your prayer on building your relationship with God – asking for clarity about how God calls you or guidance in your day to day life.
- Prayer: God, you are always with me and today I desire to know you more. Strength my commitment to spending time in prayer with you. Amen.
Tuesday February 12 – Hebrews 12:1-2
The line, “let us run with perseverance the race,” is well known. This passage refers to the practice of our faith. Jesus is the model, or “perfecter” of our faith. Just as we would practice to run a 5k, practice an instrument, practice for a play, our faith requires practice. Practicing our faith includes reading the Bible, worshipping, serving others, giving of what we have, and sharing our faith. When we intentionally practice our faith we are made more like Christ. Consider how you practice your faith today, what practices can you add or what practices can you strengthen?
Prayer: God, today I ask hope to practice my faith more and more working to draw closer to you and be more like Christ. Guide my faith practices each day and make me more like you. Amen.
Wednesday February 13 – Psalm 69:13-18
Jonah quotes all the Psalms in this week’s GPS. The writer of Psalm 69 asks for deliverance from their enemies and the deep waters that threaten to overtake them. The Psalmist offers a prayer to God and chooses to trust in God’s steadfast love. While we may not experience literal “deep waters,” we do find ourselves overwhelmed; being overtaken by the things of life. Sometimes it’s grief, or debt, family situations, problems at work… Jonah models the choice to pray at the darkest point in his life. Read the Psalm again and be comforted by God’s steadfast love.
Prayer: God of Steadfast Love, whether in times of joy or times of trial help me to trust in your unfailing and relentless love. Amen.
Thursday February 14 – Psalm 5
The writer of Psalm 5 relies on and trusts that God will hear their voice. Prayer isn’t just offered to an unhearing or uncaring God. Instead, Psalm 5 reminds us that when we prayer God listens. We can bring joys and struggles before God and God will remain with us, will listen and will not abandon us. The end of Psalm 5 asks for God’s protection and and trusts in God as a shield. When we go to God in prayer we build up our reliance and trust in God. Today, wonder about your prayer life. Do you bring all prayers to God or just some prayers? How can you choose to expand your prayer life; trusting that God will receive and respond to each prayer?
- Prayer: Abiding God, I know you are with me always. Today, I lay before you every hope and every burden. Comfort me and inspire me. Remind me that you hear every word. Amen.
Friday February 15 – Psalm 42
Psalm 42 ends with the words “hope and help in God.” What help or guidance do you need from God today? Pause now and lift these up to God. The Psalmist describes all the ways their soul is “cast down.” However, the Psalmist chooses hope. Pause now and reflect on hope. Where and when do you experience hope? How can you include hope as part of your prayer life? Lift up your hopes to God now.
Prayer: God of both help and hope, you are my rock. In my darkest moments and my greatest joys you remain constant. Today I choose to trust in your help and live in your hope. Amen.
Saturday February 16- Psalm 139
The title of this Psalm is “The Inescapable God.” Jonah discovered that wherever he found himself God was truly inescapable. The end of Psalm 139 says, “Search me of God and know my heart.” How are you inviting God to know all of you? Read Psalm 139 throughout the day; just a few verses at a time. As you read the Psalm consider how God is “inescapable;” remembering that God remains with you always.
Prayer: Inescapable God, your love is relentless and your presence is constant. In every moment of the day remind me that you are with me. Amen.
Monday February 4 — Esther 4:12-17
The Bible is full of call stories. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find accounts of God calling women and men of all ages and life situations to serve in very special ways. Queen Esther is one example. She was called to use her royal status to save the Jewish people. You may or may not have been called to serve in such a dramatic situation, but you, too, have been called to serve God in a unique and special way. How have you experienced God’s call in your life? What has God called you to do? How have you answered God’s call?
- Prayer: Gracious God, open my eyes and ears to see and hear your call in my life. Show me how you want me to serve you today. Amen.
Tuesday February 5 — Jonah 1:1-10
Like Esther, Jonah was called by God to serve in a unique and special way. He was sent to Nineveh, a great Assyrian city. (At one time, Nineveh was the largest city in the world.) However, Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. Instead, he set out for Tarshish, trying to escape God’s presence (and God’s call). Jonah was neither the first nor the last person who tried to avoid God’s call and escape from God’s presence. Have you ever resisted God’s call? Have you ever tried to avoid God’s presence in your life? If so, what happened? Are you resisting or avoiding God’s call in your life today?
Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I resist your call and try to avoid your presence. Give me courage to answer your call. Amen.
Wednesday February 6 — Luke 5:1-11
Many people who experience God’s call feel like Peter in today’s reading. We want to tell Jesus (or God) to “go away from me” (Luke 5:8). We don’t believe we are worthy of God’s attention. We don’t believe we are worthy of God’s presence. And we don’t believe we are worthy of God’s call. But God still calls people like Peter, and people like us. God does not call us because we are good enough. God calls us because God is good enough. Have you ever pushed God away? What were your reasons? What would it take for you to leave your fears and doubts behind to follow Jesus and serve God? What is holding you back today?
Prayer: God of Love, remind me today that you call me not because I am worthy or good, but because you are worthy and good. Amen.
Thursday February 7 — Acts 9:1-19
The ninth chapter of the Book of Acts describes two different kinds of call stories. Saul — an opponent of the Christian movement — was called to be a missionary to the Gentiles. Ananias was called to help Saul discern and answer his call from God. Sometimes God uses dramatic means to call us. Other times, God uses a quiet voice, but in every situation the appropriate response to God’s call is to say, “yes.” Has God ever used another person to help you answer God’s call? Has God ever called you to help someone else hear and answer their call? Have you ever hesitated to do what God has called you to do?
Prayer: Eternal God, shine your light in my life. Help me to see clearly where you want me to go and how you want me to serve. Amen.
Friday February 8 — Luke 8:26-39
Sometimes God calls people to leave their homes and share the Good News in faraway places. But other times, God calls people, like the Gerasene, who was a demoniac, to go home and share the Good News with their friends and family. We often resist God’s call because we are afraid that God is going to send us someplace we don’t want to go, but if we will listen, we may discover that God wants us to serve where we are. Does anyone close to you need to hear the Good News? Is it possible that God is calling you to share the Good News with them?
Prayer: Loving God, send me to people who need to hear the Good News. I am ready and willing to go where you send me. Amen.
Saturday February 9 — Luke 9:57-62
Not everybody is ready to follow Jesus and go where God sends them. Like Jonah, some people resist or run away. Others, like the would-be followers of Jesus in today’s reading, want to follow Jesus and serve God on their own terms. Their willingness to be a disciple of Jesus is conditional. They will follow Jesus and go where God sends them only when they are ready. Their response to God’s call is: “not now, maybe later.” What conditions, if any, do you place on your willingness to answer God’s call and follow Jesus? If you have not decided to follow Jesus and go where God sends you, what are you waiting for?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I hear Jesus calling me to follow him. With your help, I am ready — unconditionally — to say, “yes.” Amen.
Monday January 28 — Genesis 20:8-18
Human beings were made to be in a relationship with God. Although the first use of the word “pray” does not appear until Genesis 20:17 (according to many modern English translations of the Bible), we know that from the very beginning, God related to humanity in direct and personal ways. (See Genesis 3:8-13 for an example of a conversation between God and the first humans.) How do you relate to God? In what ways does God communicate with you? How do you communicate with God? What are your habits and patterns of prayer?
- Prayer: Loving God, grant me wisdom to maintain my relationship with you. Hear my prayers and help me experience your presence.
Tuesday January 29 — 1 Samuel 3:1-21
God uses a variety of means to get our attention. (See Exodus 3 for a familiar example.) Sometimes, God wants to get our attention and we either do not hear the sound of God’s voice, or fail to recognize that God is calling us. Samuel needed the help of Eli to discern. Eli taught Samuel to be ready and, when he heard God’s voice, to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9-10). How does God get your attention? When you hear God calling, are you willing and able to listen? What might God be saying to you today? Sit quietly for a few moments and listen patiently for the sound of God’s voice.
- Prayer: Eternal God, teach me the sound of your voice and open my ears to hear. Speak, for your servant is willing to listen.
Wednesday January 30 — Isaiah 56:1-8
Worship and prayer are completely interconnected: worship is prayer and prayer is an act of worship. Both worship and prayer are sources of God’s joy—channels by which we experience the joy of a deep and lasting relationship with God. When have you experienced joy in the past week? Was there any connection between your experience of joy and your prayer-life? Was there any connection between your experience of joy and worship?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to experience your joy because I fail to spend time with you in prayer and worship.
Thursday January 31 — Luke 22:31-34, 39-46
According to the New Testament’s Gospels, Jesus taught his disciples to pray by his words (see Luke 11:1-4) and his example. For Jesus, prayer (conversation with God) was so ingrained in his daily life, that it comes as no surprise that, at a time of crisis—a time of great stress—Jesus prayed for his disciples and spent time alone with God in prayer for himself. How do the daily events of your life shape your prayer-life? Are you able to spend time with God in prayer in times of crisis? How does your prayer-life help you navigate stressful situations in life?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the example and teaching of Jesus. Help me follow the example of his prayer-life.
Friday February 1 — Philippians 1:12-26
The apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was written while Paul was in prison. But it is probably the most joyful letter in the New Testament. In the opening chapter, Paul describes his situation in a way that celebrates with great joy the spread of the Gospel. Paul endures, because
he knows that God is doing great things through his ministry and his witness. The faithfulness of the Philippians is a source of great joy. Think of the most joyful times in your life? Have these always been “good times”? What might bring you joy during one of life’s “bad times”?
- Prayer: Faithful God, remind me today that you are with me always. Teach me to trust you in good times and in bad times.
Saturday February 2 — Philippians 4:4-9
The fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians includes his final exhortations. He calls on the church to rejoice always, to not worry, and to take everything to God in prayer (with thanksgiving). He also calls on the church to think about things that are “worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). His words provide the “secret” to finding joy in a stressful world: pray, be thankful, remember God’s blessings in life, and “keep on doing the things that you have learned and received” (Philippians 4:9). Make your own list of things that are “worthy of praise.” In prayer, thank God for everything on your list. Use your list keep you focused on God’s blessings when you’re in a stressful situation.
- Prayer: God of Grace, you have blessed me far more than I will ever deserve. Help me stay focused your gifts of love and grace.
Sunday January 20
Sermon: Less is More
Scripture: John 3:22-30, Philippians 2:1-11
For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase but I must decrease. – John 3:29-30
Monday January 21 – Psalm 118:19-29
This Scripture passage opens with the Psalmist asking to enter the gates of righteousness; or, to enter into and receive the fullness of God’s salvation. In verse 25, the Psalmist asks for “success.” So often we connect success with more, but success in Psalm 118 is about living in the abundance of God’s love and grace. How can you refocus your understanding of success and live in God’s abundance?
Prayer: God I give you thanks for your steadfast love. You have answered me and you are my salvation now and always. Amen.
Activity: Make a list of the things you associate with success. Make a list of what success looks like with God. How do your lists compare? How can you be more aligned with success with God?
Tuesday January 22 – Isaiah 55:1-2
These verses from Isaiah may sound contradictory; “Come buy wine and milk…” and “why do you spend your money for that which is not bread?” However, this Scripture passage is inviting us to thirst for God and delight in what God offers instead of spending money and laboring for things that are not of God. Consider for a moment the things you delight, the things that bring you joy. Where do you find God in these things? How can God be a part of these things?
Prayer: God, you invite me to your waters, to be satisfied by the richness of your love. Help me to delight in you today. Amen.
Activity: Track your moments of joy today or during the week. When do you feel joyful?
Wednesday January 23- Mark 6:7-11
We find in multiple places in the Gospels that Jesus reminds us not to worry about what we will wear, or eat, or even money (Luke 12, Matt. 10, for instance). In Mark 6, Jesus is sending out the disciples and instructs them to take nothing with them on their journey. Instead of worrying about all the things they carry with them they are able to focus on God and caring for others. What things preoccupy you and keep you from focusing on God and caring for others?
Prayer: God, as the disciples were sent, you send me in love and service to others. Focus my heart and mind today and the ways you call me. Amen.
Activity: For us today, unlike the disciples, we rely on technology, social media, computers. Consider giving up Facebook or Instagram for one day, or putting your devices on do not disturb when you pray today.
Thursday January 24 – Hebrews 13:5-6, 1 Timothy 6:6-8
Contentment is a common theme in these passages. Contentment is satisfaction, ease, in our situations, our body and mind. These verses remind us that we find contentment in relationship with God and not in money and possessions. When have you experienced satisfaction and ease in the past few weeks or months? During your prayer and devotion today try to seek contentment.
Prayer: God you are the author of my contentment. Create in my heart today satisfaction, ease and peace with you. Amen.
Activity: Breathe deeply. As you breathe in, breathe in God’s love and grace; as you breathe out the things that hold you back from receiving the fullness and contentment God offers. Continue breathing in and out until you feel relaxed and peaceful.
Friday January 25 – Luke 12:13-21
We have all been taught to prepare and plan for our futures, saving up so we can “relax;” this may sound like the Rich Fool. The Parable of the Rich Fool reads like a harsh warning against providing for our futures. However, this scripture isn’t a warning about taking care of ourselves, but a warning against greed and abundance of things. Abundance is found in God (see further, John 10:10). How can you reframe your understanding of abundance; abundance not in things, but in God’s love? Where do you experience God’s abundant love?
Prayer: God of abundance, sometimes I get confused and try to find abundance in things instead of in you. Center my spirit on your love and grace today. Amen.
Activity: Close your eyes and focus on the word ABUNDANCE. Repeat the word or just imagine the word before you. What imagines or connection come to your mind as you consider abundance? Now focus on ABUNDANT LOVE. How do the imagines or connections change?
Saturday January 26 – Philippians 2:1-11
Philippians 2 makes the surprising connection between complete joy (vs. 2), and the interests of others (vs. 4). Paul, the writer of Philippians, explains that his joy is complete when the Philippians put others before themselves. Instead of joy coming from the things we desire, joy comes when we care for others. Take time today to think of things that bring joy to those around you. How can you create joy for others and share God’s love?
Prayer: God of all joyfulness, so often I focus on making myself happy and not on the needs of others. Inspire me to care for others before myself. Amen.
Activity: Think about the things that bring you joy. Share the things that you take joy in with someone else today.
Series – Finding Joy in an Anxious World
Sermon – “Do Not Worry”
Scripture Readings: Luke 12:22-31, Luke 21:34-36
Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:22-26)
Monday January 14 — Ecclesiastes 2:24-26
Joy and happiness are two of God’s greatest gifts. We long to experience the peace and contentment that comes from knowing that God loves and cares for us. Qoheleth, the writer of Ecclesiastes, describes both the futility of self-indulgence and the joy of living a life that pleases God. Mortals can “eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil” (Ecclesiastes 2:24) when they learn to put their complete and total trust in God. For followers of Jesus, life is good because God is good. Where do you find the greatest joy in life? When you do experience peace and contentment? How is your relationship with God related to your joy and happiness?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the gift of life. Help me to trust you enough to experience joy, happiness, and contentment. Amen.
Tuesday January 15 — Psalm 30
The Book of Psalms is the Bible’s prayer and songbook. For centuries, the people of God have found comfort in the Psalms’ beautiful and powerful poetry. When we read the Psalms, we find the full range of human experience, including powerful emotions like grief and anger. But without exception, the Psalm-writers affirm God’s presence in their lives and look for joy, even in the most difficult circumstances. What helps you keep your faith in God when you are in the midst of a difficult situation? Consider making a habit of reading one Psalm every day to help you remember that God really is present in your life.
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I wallow in self-pity and forget that you are always present in my life. Teach me to trust you. Amen.
Wednesday January 16 — Luke 12:22-31
Worry is a seemingly universal human experience that interferes with our ability to experience joy. It also interferes with our ability to serve God effectively in the world. So, Jesus told his disciples, “do not worry” (Luke 12:11, 22, 29). He made the connection between worry and (lack of) faith, challenging his disciples to trust that their lives mattered to God and that God would take care of them. Make a list of your worries. Take them to God in prayer. Trust God.
• Prayer: Faithful God, I spend too much of my life worrying instead of trusting you. Increase and strengthen my faith in you. Amen.
Thursday January 17 — Luke 12:29-36, Luke 4:42-44
Jesus suggests two antidotes for worry. The first is simply to increase our faith and trust in God. The second is to focus our attention on the Kingdom of God. These two antidotes are related to each other, because making the Kingdom of God our priority requires that we turn the rest of our lives over to God. The Kingdom of God was clearly a priority in Jesus’ life and ministry. It should also be a priority in ours. What do you think Jesus meant when he said to strive for the Kingdom? Where and when is your life focused on the Kingdom of God?
• Prayer: God of Grace, Jesus teaches that I should strive for your Kingdom. Open my eyes to see your Kingdom in my life. Amen.
Friday January 18 — Luke 10:38-42
Faithful Christian discipleship requires that we make decisions about our priorities. In Jesus’ conversation with Martha, he challenged her priorities. Martha’s concern for hospitality was important, but it was not as important as the Kingdom of God. Because she was worried and distracted, Martha was missing an opportunity to listen and learn from Jesus. Do your worries distract or prevent you from learning and serving as a disciple of Jesus Christ? How do you keep your priorities in order?
• Prayer: Loving God, guide me as I set the priorities for my life today. Help me set aside my worries and obey your will for my life. Amen.
Saturday January 19 — Hebrews 12:1-4
It is possible to experience joy, even when we are experiencing pain and suffering. The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we are not alone when we seek God’s will and find joy in our lives. Not only are we surrounded by a community of believers and follow in the footsteps of everyone who has gone before us, we have Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Despite the world’s hostility and the suffering and shame of the cross, Jesus persevered for the sake of God’s joy. By God’s grace, we can follow Jesus’ example. How do you maintain your priorities and experience God’s joy when you are suffering? Where do you turn for love and support? How can you follow the example of Jesus and not grow weary or lose heart?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant me the courage I need to follow the example of Jesus—persevering in faith and experiencing joy. Amen.
Series – Finding Joy in an Anxious World
Sermon – Follow Jesus
Scripture Readings: Matthew 2:1-12, Matthew 2:13-23 (Isaiah 65:17-19, 25)
Monday January 7 — Matthew 2:1-12
The Christian season of Christmas officially ends on January 6 with the celebration of the day known as Epiphany of the Lord. Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the Magi who travelled a great distance to worship Jesus, the newborn King. Matthew’s account of their journey says that when they arrived at the place where Jesus was, “they were overwhelmed with joy”(Matthew 2:10). This is what happens when we worship: we experience joy when we are in the presence of Jesus. Think about your relationship with Jesus. Does it bring you joy? If not, what needs to change?
- Prayer:God of Wonder, thank you for the example of the Magi, who followed your star to find and worship Jesus. Help me to be overwhelmed with joy in 2019 and beyond.
Tuesday January 8 — Matthew 2:13-23
Matthew’s Gospel describes, from the very beginning, the conflict of two kingdoms: God’s Kingdom, which has come into the world in the person of Jesus, and the kingdom of the world, which is represented by Herod and everyone who opposes Jesus and his message. We have an opportunity (every day!) to choose in which kingdom we will make our home. Following Jesus seems like the obvious choice, but it is not easy. What helps you differentiate between the two kingdoms? What helps you choose to make your home in God’s Kingdom?
- Prayer:Eternal God, the Christmas story invites me to enter your Kingdom and worship you, but I’m often tempted by other kingdoms. Help me choose you every day. Amen.
Wednesday January 9 — Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus’ parable about the talents teaches us that we are stewards of God’s “talents” (don’t forget that in Jesus’ time a “talent” was a very large sum of money) and will be held accountable for what we do with everything (time, talent, treasure, the Gospel message, the mission of the Kingdom, …etc.) that God has entrusted to our care. This parable includes the commendation that we all hope to hear: “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; … enter into the joy of your master.”(Matthew 25:23). Jesus suggests that faithful living leads to “the joy of the master.”Have you experienced that connection?
- Prayer:Generous God, I am humbled that you entrust your “talents” into my care. Guide me into faithful discipleship and trustworthy stewardship of your Kingdom.
Thursday January 10 — John 15:1-12
In Jesus’ final instructions (before his death, resurrection, and ascension), he commands his disciples to stay connected to him and “abide in his love”(John 15:9). He said, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete”(John 15:11). The point is: if we want our joy to be complete, we must follow Jesus and keep his commandment to “love one another as I have loved you”(John 15:12). If joy is a sign that we are fulfilling Jesus’ expectations to love one another, how are you doing this week? Is your joy complete?
- Prayer:God of Love, strengthen my relationship with you. Grant me the courage I need to keep your commandments. Make my joy complete today and every day.
Friday January 11 — John 21:15-19
John’s Gospel ends with an example of faithful discipleship – the kind of discipleship described in John 15:1-12. Jesus challenges Peter to put his love for Jesus into action by loving others (the way Jesus loves them; see John 13:34-35). Although Jesus’ words to Peter in John 21:19 point to Peter’s death: for Peter, following Jesus will require that he lay down his own life for the sake of the Gospel. But the larger point is that Jesus simply wants us to follow him – to follow his teaching and his example. Think about what it means for you to follow Jesus in the world today.
- Prayer:Gracious God, forgive me for the many ways I fail to put my faith into action and resist Jesus’ teaching and example. Teach me how to follow him in the world today.
Saturday January 12 — John 21:20-25
The final words of Jesus in John’s Gospel are: “follow me”(John 21:22). It’s a summary of what it means to be his disciple. Following Jesus in the world today is a daily challenge, but the first step is clear: we meet Jesus when we read the Gospel accounts of his life and ministry. As we read and study the Scriptures, we learn and grow and experience the transforming power of God’s grace. By God’s grace, when we follow Jesus, we experience overwhelming joy. Follow Jesus today.
- Prayer:Almighty God, thank you for sending Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Open my heart and mind as I read and study the Gospels. Inspire me to follow Jesus. Amen.
Sermon – Hitting the Reset Button
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 65:17-19, 24-25, Revelation 21:1-7
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress….The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:17-19, 25)
Monday December 31 — Isaiah 65:17-19, 24-25
There are five (5) primary themes in the Biblical story: creation, covenant, Christ, community,and completion (or consummation.)The Bible starts with the creation story, but what we discover as we read through to Revelation is that creation was not a one-time event. God is always in the process of creating and re-creating. This is good news because we can count on God to do something new in the world and something new in our lives. As you prepare to change the calendar from 2018 to 2019, what new things are you hoping God will do in your life and in the world around you?
- Prayer:Creator God, thank you for the gift of life and the gift of hope for the future. Open my eyes and ears to see the new things you are doing in my life and in the world.
Tuesday January 1 — Revelation 3:7-13
Happy New Year! The New Testament Book of Revelation is a pastoral letter. It has a message from Jesus (given to John of Patmos) for seven churches in Asia Minor (see Revelation 1:9-11). The first section of the letter includes a specific message for each of the churches. The church in Philadelphia is commended for their faithfulness and reminds them of the promise of a new Jerusalem. In other words, Jesus promises that God will do something new, so they should “hold fast.”Which of God’s promises will help you “hold fast”as the new year begins?
- Prayer:God of Hope, inspire in me the confidence I need to hold fast to your teaching and live my life with patient endurance. Show me how to serve you in the year to come.
Wednesday January 2 — Revelation 21:1-7
As promised (Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 3:12) the Biblical story ends with a completely new creation: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, …. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God”(Revelation 21:1-2). The main point of Revelation is that because we can trust in God’s faithfulness, we can worship and serve God no matter what happens in our lives. In the end, God wins, and we can live with confidence and faith. That’s the Good News. Do you believe it?
- Prayer:Loving God, forgive me for too often doubting your promises and not living with the confidence and faith that you desire. Help me to believe the Good News.
Thursday January 3 — 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
There are no better examples of how God can do new things and change lives from the inside-out than Paul, the New Testament missionary, pastor, and author. You can read about how God transformed his life in Acts 9:1-19 and, in his own words, in Galatians 1:13-17. So, when Paul writes about his ministry of reconciliation and becoming a new creation in Christ, he speaks from his own experience: God can perform miracles and God can use our transformed lives to do new things in the world around us. How might God use you to do something amazing this year?
- Prayer:Reconciling God, I am grateful that, through Jesus, you have reconciled my broken relationship with you. By your grace, I’m ready to be your ambassador.
Friday January 4 — Jeremiah 31:31-34
We know God as a covenant-maker and a covenant-keeper. The divine-human relationship is based on a covenant established by God. The terms of the covenant are non-negotiable. They are established by God and are summarized by Jeremiah: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people”(Jeremiah 31:33). Our life-long task is to obey the terms of the covenant. Even when we break the terms of the covenant, we discover that God continually renews and restores the relationship. God never breaks God’s promises. How will you keep your promises this year?
- Prayer:Covenant-Making God, let this be a year of learning and growing. Continue to teach me your ways and help me keep the covenant you have made with me.
Saturday January 5 — Luke 22:14-20
At the table of the last supper, we discover that Jesus’ death is the ultimate act of covenant-making and covenant-keeping. When we share in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we experience, in a deep and powerful way, God’s covenant with us—a covenant that is established and maintained through God’s gift of forgiveness. As you prepare to receive the Sacrament in worship tomorrow, spend some time in prayer. Confess your need for God’s grace and accept God’s forgiveness.
- Prayer:God of Grace, I confess that I am a sinner who falls short of your glory. I repent of my sin and accept your forgiveness. Set me free to live a joyful and abundant life.
Monday – John 1:1-14
The words of this scripture are familiar, comforting and hopeful. They remind us that God had a plan from the very beginning to be in relationship with us, to show us love, and to incorporate us into the family of God. In the busyness and rush of this holiday season we are invited this Christmas Eve to pause and celebrate the truth that God came to us here on earth so we would know the fullness of life with God. How can you embrace the richness of God’s love in your life today?
Prayer: God, you came and lived amongst. You have known the joy, pain, blessing and suffering of human life. Remind us today that you are with us and your love lasts forever. Amen.
Tuesday – Matthew 1:18-25
Today as you celebrate Christmas think about Mary and Joseph. Each of them made a choice to follow God’s command. Instead of choosing to abandon their faith, instead of choosing to abandon one another they remained united and faithful. How can you follow the models of Mary and Joseph and live faithfully following God?
Prayer: God of Mary and Joseph, in their example you remind us to follow your commands. Invite us today to follow you as we celebrate the birth of your Son. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Wednesday – Isaiah 9:1-7
This traditional Christmas scripture is filled with surprising darkness. It describes oppression and war. Simultaneously it illustrates the joy of living in the light of God and the gift of Jesus Christ. Four phrases describe Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. How can you encounter Jesus as each of these? How can you faithfully experience Jesus as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace in the midst of struggling and darkness?
Prayer: Jesus you are Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Help me to experience theses truths of you today. Amen.
Thursday – Luke 2:8-20
A common theme throughout the nativity story God’s reversal of power and strength. Instead of Jesus being born in wealth, he was born to a young peasant girl. Instead of being born in a proper room Jesus was born in a stable. And the Shepherds, the first people the birth of Jesus was announced to were those working the “night-shift.” This story invites us to humble ourselves before God. In what parts of your life have you found God reversing your expectations? How can God’s reversal of human expectations shift our values?
Prayer: God of Heaven and earth, in the humble hearts of shepherds you shared the story of the birth of our King. Surprise us, turn our expectations upside down, teach us to follow the king of humility. Amen.
Friday – Galatians 4:3-7
When we imagine the Holy Family, we see Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. Do you imagine yourself in the scene? Galatians 4 teaches us that because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we are God’s children. We are members of God’s family. As members of God’s family we are freed from the things of our past, the things that held us back and oppressed. How can you live in the freedom as a member of God’s family?
Prayer: God of freedom, thank you for welcoming us into your family. Help us to live each day as your sons and daughters. Amen.
Saturday – Luke 1:57-80
Elizabeth and Zechariah celebrate the birth of their son John the Baptist. Zechariah sings God praise, not unlikely Mary sings to God earlier in Luke 1. Christmas Season is a time of special music and songs. The world at large was not that way during the season just before Jesus birth – but for those in whose lives God was at work, it was different. They sang songs of joy and expectancy like Zechariah. How can you continue to celebrate the joy of Jesus’ birth even after the Christmas season has ended?
Prayer: God during Christmas we sing our favorite songs and proclaim our joy at the birth of you son. Today, we pray, that we never lose sight of this joy. Amen.
Music Sunday – “Let There Be Christmas” / Advent, Poem, Songs & Art
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:3-5, Luke 1:78-79
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)
Monday December 17 — Luke 1:5-25
The first chapter of Luke’s Gospel begins with a brief prologue and continues with an extended narrative that intertwines the birth of John the Baptist with the birth of Jesus. We discover in Luke 1:36 that Mary and John’s mother, Elizabeth, are related. Luke includes the details surrounding John’s birth because John was an important character in the Gospel story and the account of his birth affirms that John and his ministry are part of God’s plan. In reading about Zechariah, do you see yourself. Do you ever have doubts? If so, you are in good company. How might the Christmas story inspire you to deeper faith and more confidence in God’s presence in your life?
- Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I often have doubts that paralyze me and prevent me from trusting and obeying your will for my life. Strengthen my faith today. Amen.
Tuesday December 18 — Luke 1:39-45
Jesus’ mother Mary and John’s mother Elizabeth are both pregnant with anticipation of their babies’ births when Mary visits Zechariah and Elizabeth at their home. The intersection of the two mothers emphasizes the primacy of Mary’s yet-unborn son. John will be a prophet, used by God to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. But Jesus will be the Savior of the world, God’s Messiah-King. In verse 45, Elizabeth praises Mary’s faithfulness, reminding us to follow Mary’s example and trust in God’s faithfulness. How might you grow in your ability to trust God today?
- Prayer: Faithful God, thank you for the example of Mary, and everyone who trusts in your faithfulness. Give me the courage I need to trust you with my life.
Wednesday December 19 — Luke 1:57-66
Luke is clear that the birth of Elizabeth’s son John is a gift from God. (Remember what Luke tells us in Luke 1:7.) In fact, John’s birth fulfills all of the promises made to Zechariah in verses 13-14. This is one of the Gospel’s themes: God keeps promises! As we will discover, the ministries of both Jesus and John fulfill promises made by Israel’s prophets. God is the ultimate promise-keeper. Which of God’s promises are you trusting God to keep?
- Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, the promise of salvation is the greatest gift I can ever receive. Thank you for saving me from the power of sin and death. Amen.
Thursday December 20 — Luke 1:67-80
In response to the birth of John, his father, Zechariah, spoke (or sang) his own prophecy. In Christian tradition, Zechariah’s song is called the Benedictus. It celebrates God’s faithfulness and the promise of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. Its final stanzas describe the miracle of Christmas: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79). How does God’s light shine into the darkness of the world today?
- Prayer: God of Light, thank you for the power of your love and the amazing gift of your grace. Shine your light in my life. Use me to reflect your light in the world today.
Friday December 21 — Isaiah 40:3-5
During the season of Advent, the Church often listens to the voices of the Old Testament prophets in anticipation and preparation for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, into the world. The 40th chapter of Isaiah anticipates the coming of God’s messenger (John the Baptist) to prepare the way for God (and God’s Messiah.) This passage challenges us to prepare a way for God to access our hearts and transform our lives. Are you ready for Jesus to come (again) into your life at Christmas?
- Prayer: God of Glory, continue to prepare me for Christmas. Clear out everything in my life that might prevent me from experiencing the miracle of Christmas this year.
Saturday December 22 — Luke 3:1-17
John’s ministry in the wilderness fulfills the promises made in Isaiah 40:3-5. As Jesus’ ministry is about to begin, John calls the people to prepare for his coming through repentance, service, compassion, and justice. John is clear that the Good News about God’s salvation through Jesus, the Messiah, requires a response – not just in our hearts and minds, but in our lives. We are expected to “bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8). In what ways are you responding to the Good News of salvation? In what ways does your life bear fruit worthy of your repentance?
- Prayer: Gracious God, I am humbled by the gift of salvation and transformed by the life-changing power of your grace. Help me bear fruit worthy of my repentance.