Sermon – The Decision to Believe
Scripture Readings: John 20:1-18, John 20:24-31
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. . . . Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. (John 20:1, 6-8)
Monday April 22 — John 20:1-10
On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified on the cross and was buried in a garden tomb. Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. When she saw that the stone had been rolled away, she thought someone had stolen Jesus’ body. So she went to get the disciples. Slowly, but surely, they came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but they did not yet fully understand the whole story. Sometimes we are like Mary and the disciples. We do not fully understand the meaning of Easter. How has God helped you increase your faith and your understanding of the Good News of Easter?
• Prayer: Living God, help me grow in my faith, and understand the true meaning of Easter. Prepare me to encounter the risen Christ in my life today. Amen.
Tuesday April 23 — John 20:11-18
In the garden, Mary Magdalene has an encounter with Jesus, but she does not recognize him until he calls her by name. Like the Good Shepherd that he is, Jesus knows his flock and calls every one of us by name. (See John 10:3,14.) The Good News is that Jesus knows and loves us before we know or love or even recognize him. God’s love and grace are present in our lives before we can know or name them. The living Christ is ready and able to open our eyes so that we can see him and follow him. Where have you encountered the living Christ today? Will you ask him to open your eyes so that you can see and follow him?
• Prayer: Eternal God, despite the fact that I often do not recognize your presence in my life, I believe that you know and love me. Amen.
Wednesday April 24 — John 20:19-31
The second part of John 20 includes Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples (John 20:19-23) and his relationship with Thomas, and Thomas’ need to see in order to believe (John 20:24-29). What Jesus tells Thomas is a message for us: seeing Jesus in the flesh, in first-century Israel, is not a requirement for Christian discipleship. If we are willing, we can hear the Good News of Easter—and believe. What is preventing you from believing the Good News of Easter? Are you willing to believe in God’s life-changing resurrection power?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I doubt the Good News of Easter. Help me to believe in the life-changing power of Jesus’ resurrection. Amen.
Thursday April 25 — John 21:1-14
The final chapter of John’s Gospel serves as a transition between Jesus’ earthly life and ministry and the continued ministry of his disciples (the Church). We know that the resurrected Jesus is the one who both commissions the disciples (John 20:21-23) and empowers the disciples to perform miracles (John 21:6). The point is that the power of God that was present in Jesus’ earthly ministry will be available to Jesus’ disciples as they continue to serve in his name. In light of the resurrection stories in John 20 and 21, how have you experienced Jesus’ commission and Jesus’ power? Where is Jesus sending you? What is Jesus sending you to do?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for Jesus and for the gift of salvation. Fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I might serve you today. Amen.
Friday April 26 — John 21:15-19
Jesus’ final conversation with Simon Peter demonstrates the life-changing power of God’s grace. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, is offered grace and is able to affirm his love for Jesus and his willingness to serve as Jesus’ representative in the world. The work of the Good Shepherd (see John 10:11-18) is passed on to Peter. Everyone who loves Jesus is expected to fulfill the commandment to love one another (John 13:34-35). Do you love Jesus? Do you really love Jesus? If so, how will you fulfill Jesus’ command to love and care for others? How is your love for Jesus evident in your love for others?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, I love you. I love your Son, Jesus. And I love your Holy Spirit. Let your love flow through me into the world. Amen.
Saturday April 27 — John 21:20-25
The Gospel According to John ends where it begins: with an invitation from Jesus to, “Follow me” (John 21:19, 22). When we decide to follow Jesus, we may not know where he will lead us, but we can trust that he will be with us. We can trust that he will be our shepherd, our guide, and our Savior. And that, through him, we will find eternal rest and peace. Have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow him? If not, what is preventing you? Take the next (or first) step on your journey today.
• Prayer: God of Grace, grant me courage to take the next (or first) step in my journey of discipleship. With your help, I will follow Jesus. Amen.
Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Sermon – The Decision to Surrender
Scripture Readings: John 12:12-15, John 10:1-6, 14-18
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (John 10:14-15, 17-18)
Monday April 15 — John 13:1-38
During supper with his disciples, Jesus got up from the table and washed their feet. Peter’s response is a clue that this was an extraordinary event. In a world of unpaved roads and open-toed footwear, washing feet was essential, but it was usually done by servants, not by the master or host. Jesus sets an example for all of us. Even though we may not wash dirty feet, Jesus calls us to serve others with the same kind of love and humility. What do you think about Jesus’ example? Do you prefer to serve or be served? Are you willing to follow Jesus’ example?
• Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for your Son, Jesus. Grant me courage to follow his example and be your servant in the world. Amen.
Tuesday April 16 — John 14:1-15:17
Chapters 14 through 17 in John’s Gospel contain Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples. In this section, he prepares them for his departure — for when he will no longer be with them in the flesh. Jesus reassures his disciples that he will come again and take them to their heavenly home, and that God will send the Holy Spirit to be their Advocate. The ultimate promise is found in John 14:3. It is similar to the promise made in Matthew 28:20, which is that the living Jesus Christ will be with us. Always. How do Jesus’ words in this section of the Gospel provide you comfort and peace? Which promise is most comforting to you?
• Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, I long to be in your presence. Send the Holy Spirit into my life to guide and comfort me all my days. Amen.
Wednesday April 17 — John 15:18-16:33
The promise of the Holy Spirit is a central theme in Jesus’ final discourse. Five different times he tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will be their Advocate and will teach them everything they need to know. When the Holy Spirit is present in their lives, Jesus’ disciples will continue to experience his presence and will be empowered to continue his ministry. The Holy Spirit will be the source of the disciples’ continued learning and growth as they follow and serve Jesus in the world. How do you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? How is the Holy Spirit helping you to learn and grow?
• Prayer: Gracious God, open my heart and mind to receive and trust in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit today. Guide my life. Amen.
Thursday April 18 — John 17:1-26
After teaching his disciples, Jesus prays for them and for everyone who will believe in him through their witness. He prays for the Church universal. He prays for us. He prays that we, the Church, will be in the world but not of the world. He prays for our unity, the unity of the Church, “that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). Do you believe that God will answer Jesus’ prayer? If so, how do you see his prayer being answered in your life? Do you see signs of love? Do you see signs of unity? Are you helping to answer this prayer?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to love my brothers and sisters in the Church. Use me to help answer Jesus’ prayer for unity. Amen.
Friday April 19 — John 18:1-40
John’s entire account of Jesus’ life and ministry has been moving toward the events described in chapters 18 and 19. John 18:4-5 are critical verses. They fulfill the promises Jesus made in John 10:17-18. Jesus’ life is not taken from him. As the Good Shepherd, he lays it down “of [his] own accord” (John 10:18). As the suffering servant, he freely offers himself for the sins of the world. This is the ultimate sign of God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Have you accepted the gift of God’s love? Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus is the way to eternal life?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the promise of eternal life through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. Today, I believe in Jesus. Amen.
Saturday April 20 — John 19:1-42
On the cross, we see the paradox of the Gospel. The man who was crucified was — and is — the King of the Jews. God’s Messiah was not an earthly leader. He was not the kind of king the people wanted (see John 6:15) or expected. He was the suffering servant, the sacrificial “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Spend time today thinking and praying about what Jesus’ death means to you. Allow the darkness of his death help you prepare for the light of Easter.
• Prayer: God of Love, I can’t comprehend the depth of your love. I am ready and willing to follow and serve the crucified Messiah. Amen.
Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Sermon – The Decision to Persevere
Scripture Readings: John 7:25-36, John 7:37-44
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
Monday April 8 — John 7:37-53
Not everyone who meets Jesus chooses to follow him. This is one of the themes of the Gospels. We find several different reasons for rejecting Jesus, including lack of understanding about what the Scriptures say about the Messiah and lack of belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. Some of the religious leaders are also jealous of his popularity. But for many people, Jesus is not going to be the kind of King and Messiah they want him to be. He follows God’s agenda, not theirs. He is not a mighty warrior in the conventional sense. Have you ever wanted to turn away from Jesus? Have you ever wished that Jesus would follow your agenda and not God’s agenda?
• Prayer: Eternal God, forgive me for the ways I resist or even reject Jesus. Help me learn to trust that you know best and that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior that I need. Amen.
Tuesday April 9 — John 8:1-59
The encounter between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery is an attempt by the scribes and Pharisees to test Jesus and get him to indict himself. (Jewish law insists that both men and women caught in adultery are to be punished by death – see Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22.) Instead, Jesus insists that only people without sin can render judgment on her. In some sense, it’s a parable of the Gospel: when we encounter Jesus, we can experience God’s grace, which has the power to change our lives. Have you received God’s grace? Has it changed your life?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I am not without sin, and yet I eagerly render judgment on others. I am a sinner who needs to encounter your love and grace for myself. Amen.
Wednesday April 10 — John 9:1-41
Each of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) include stories of Jesus healing people who are blind. These miracles demonstrate God’s power, but John’s Gospel teaches us that Jesus’ miracles are signs that point to a larger truth about God. That is: an encounter with Jesus can heal our spiritual blindness. When we trust Jesus, and grant him access to our lives, we begin to see more clearly. We begin to see ourselves the way God sees us. We begin to see the world the way God sees it. In prayer, ask God to open your eyes to see more clearly.
• Prayer: Almighty God, I am amazed at your power and your grace. I am ready to give you access to my life, so that I can see you, myself, and the world more clearly. Amen.
Thursday April 11 — John 10:1-41
As we read John’s Gospel, we discover that the entire story is pointing to Jesus’ death and resurrection. We read about conflict with the authorities. We read about Jesus’ veiled and not so veiled references to his own suffering and death. And we discover that Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd who protects and cares for us, we discover that is the kind of shepherd who will lay down his life for us. Ultimately, what we discover is that God’s love is sacrificial love. How have you experienced God’s sacrificial love? How have you shared sacrificial love with someone else?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending Jesus to be the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for my salvation. Thank you for loving me this way. Amen.
Friday April 12 — John 11:1-54
The story of Lazarus shows us how Jesus is at the same time fully human and fully divine. He weeps at the death of friend, but the power of God – the power to overcome death – is at work in and through his words and actions. John 11 looks forward to Jesus’ own death and resurrection. It also shows us how God works in our lives, setting us free from the power of death, so that we can live fully and abundantly. Do you have a sense of how much God loves you? How have you experienced God’s live-giving (resurrection) power in your life?
• Prayer: God of Love and Power, I hear your voice calling to me, inviting me to live a new life with you. I am ready to be set free from the power of sin and death today. Amen.
Saturday April 13 — John 11:55-12:50
By the time we get to the twelfth chapter of John’s Gospel, we are ready to accompany Jesus through the last days of his earthly life. We follow Jesus into the city, waving our own palm branches to hail him as our King. We feel the pain of discovering that Jesus will suffer and die – and we join the crowds in struggling to understand how and why he must die: how is it that God’s Messiah will be lifted up (on the cross to die)? What kind of King suffers this way? Are you ready to follow Jesus through his last week?
• Prayer: God of Life and Death, give me the courage I need to trust that you know best. Give me the courage I need to follow Jesus all the way. Amen.
Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Sermon – The Decision to Respond
Scripture Readings: James 1:22-25, John 6:1-14
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. (John 6:9-11)
Monday April 1 — John 6:1-15
An account of Jesus feeding a large crowd of people is found in each of the four New Testament Gospels. But only John’s Gospel tells us about the little boy who has five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes what the little boy has to offer and uses it to perform a miracle. The Good News is that Jesus can also perform a miracle with what we have to offer. But, like the little boy, we must be willing to let Jesus use what we have. What is preventing you from allowing Jesus to take everything you have and use it to perform a miracle? What are you holding back?
• Prayer: God of Miracles, I give you everything I have today. Use it to share the Good News and accomplish your mission on earth. Amen.
Tuesday April 2 — John 6:15-21
When the people saw that Jesus had performed another miraculous sign (feeding the large crowd), they wanted to make him their king. But he refused and retreated to the mountain alone. Later, John tells us, Jesus walked on the water to meet the disciples on the sea, demonstrating his glory as one who shares God’s mastery over the entire creation. If Jesus is Lord over creation, have you let him be Lord over your life? What part(s) of your life have you not surrendered to Jesus’ Lordship?
• Prayer: Lord of Creation, today I surrender my entire life to you. I am willing for you to be Lord over every part of my life. Amen.
Wednesday April 3 — John 6:22-59
After Jesus fed the large crowd and walked on the water, he interpreted those events in a long discourse that also included dialogue with both his disciples and the crowds. Since John’s Gospel does not focus on the bread and wine at the Last Supper (instead it focuses on the foot-washing, see John 13), the sixth chapter helps us understand that in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Jesus himself is the Bread of Life that sustains us and provides strength for our Christian journey. Where do you turn to find strength for your journey? In what ways do you rely on God to strengthen and sustain you as you follow Jesus? Is the Sacrament of Holy Communion one of your spiritual disciplines? How is Jesus the Bread of Life for you?
• Prayer: Sustaining God, I am aware that I need your love and grace to sustain me in life. I am thankful for Jesus, the Bread of Life. Amen.
Thursday April 4 — John 6:60-71
Jesus’ words always call for a response. Some people respond in faith and trust. Some people question what they hear. Some people wonder if it is possible to do what Jesus asks. Some people respond with disbelief and reject Jesus and his teaching altogether. John’s Gospel tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples stopped following him. But Simon Peter speaks for all who keep following Jesus when he asks, “to whom can we go?” (John 6:67). In other words, who else offers eternal life? Do any of Jesus’ teachings trouble you and cause you to question what you hear? What helps you to trust and follow Jesus when you have questions and doubts? Do you ever pray about your questions?
• Prayer: Eternal God, I know that your grace is sufficient for my questions, my fears and my doubts. Today I choose to follow Jesus! Amen.
Friday April 5 — John 7:1-24
John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him and challenged him to go to Jerusalem and perform his acts in public. Jesus refused to let them set his agenda, but he went to the festival in Jerusalem anyway and taught in the temple. Like before, his words created conflict as he challenged people to see that God was present in his words and his life. What helps you to pay attention to the presence of God in your life? Are you willing to consider that God works in unexpected ways?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to be aware of your presence in my life. Open my eyes and help me see more clearly. Amen.
Saturday April 6 — John 7:25-36
One of the themes of John’s Gospel is that God is firmly in control of all of the events surrounding Jesus’ life. (See John 19:11 for an explicit statement of this truth.) Despite the fact that the people are divided and the authorities want to arrest and kill him, Jesus remains in control of the situation. In John 7, we are reminded that even Jesus’ arrest, trial, and death are within God’s control. God ensures that Jesus’ mission is fulfilled. What prevents you from trusting that God is firmly in control of your life? This does not mean that you will not make mistakes and suffer during your life, but that God will strengthen and sustain you—always.
• Prayer: Loving God, I know that you are with me always. Help me grow in confidence and faith that you are Lord of my life. Amen.
Monday March 25 – John 4:1-26
There are so many things we could focus on in this Scripture. Today consider verse 15, the Samaritan woman asks for the water that Jesus offers. She seems confused, thinking after one sip of this “magic water” she will never be thirsty again. But Jesus is instead offering eternal life through him, the Messiah. She doesn’t understand this fully until verse 26. How often do we come to Jesus expecting one thing and receiving another? Consider today how an encounter with Jesus can be surprising or even change your entire world view.
Prayer: Surprising God, sometimes I come before you expecting one thing and receive something totally different. Prepare my heart today to be surprised by you. Amen.
Tuesday March 26 – John 4:27-42
The disciples and Jesus, and the Samaritan townspeople were very different from one another. Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another or even speak to each other. However, the Samaritans in the town of Sychar had the same converting experience to the Good News of Jesus as the disciples. So much so, that they invited Jesus to stay with them in their home (vs. 40). We live in a world of stark division and it can be hard to find ways to even start a conversation with people “across the aisle.” Maybe we could start with welcoming one another? How can you actively welcome someone today who is different from you?
Prayer: God today I welcome Jesus. Help me to welcome others in Jesus name every day. Amen.
Wednesday March 27 – John 4:43-54
The stories of Nicodemus (John 3), the Samaritan woman (4:1-42), and the official’s son (4:43-54) intersect in this passage. Jesus offers Nicodemus new life if he is born of water and the Spirit. Nicodemus is confused. The Samaritan woman initially does not understand the offer of water from Jesus. However, she embraces the fullness of the gift of eternal life and shares it with others. The royal official asks for life for his son and his entire household comes to believe in Jesus. Life with Jesus can mean different things to each of us. Have you been confused like Nicodemus, transformed like the Samaritan woman, or desperate for healing like the official’s son? What does life with Jesus mean for you?
Prayer: Today God I request life with you. Life with you can be confusing, transforming and healing. Surround me with the fullness of your gift of life today.
Thursday March 28 – John 5:1-18
The opening of John 5 is almost abrupt in the limited interaction Jesus has with the paralyzed man. Jesus heals him so quickly. In their second conversation Jesus gives him an instruction, “Do not sin any more… (vs. 14).” Receiving healing and new life in Jesus is more than just the transformation. We are called to respond; to live a life continually following Jesus. We are called not to sin and to ask for forgiveness when we do sin. How do you choose to follow Jesus every day? How can you be reminded to live a life free of sin with Jesus?
Prayer: Forgiving God, you offer to me healing and a life with you. Guide me to seek forgiveness and healing in every moment. Amen.
Friday March 29 – John 5:19-30
Each passage from John this week teaches about life in Jesus. The gift of life in Jesus happens in different ways, however, this gift does not happen apart from the Father. Verse 5:30 confirms this as Jesus says, “I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” In this passage we come to a full understanding that God’s intention and covenant with humanity is that we may have life and have it abundantly through Jesus Christ (John 10:10). What does abundant life mean for you? How can you accept abundant life from God through Jesus Christ today?
Prayer: God of abundance, from the beginning, you have sought to love and care for your creation. Remind me today that you want a full and abundant life for me. Amen.
Saturday March 30 – John 5:31-47
When reading this Scripture, it almost sounds like a trial in courtroom. Jesus talks about testifying, testimony, and accusers. Jesus speaks about John as a witness, the works of God through Jesus, himself, as a witness, and even Moses (vs. 45-46). What does it mean to be a witness of Jesus? Recall the Samaritan woman witnessing to her encounter with Jesus, the royal official’s household witnessing healing and believing, the paralyzed man testifying to the Jews about his healing. Who witnessed to you and shared the stories of Jesus? How can you be a witness for Jesus today?
Prayer: God, I have witnessed you moving in our world. Open my eyes to see you at work. Equip me to witness to others about the great things you are doing each day. Amen.
Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Sermon – The Decision for New Life
Scripture Readings: 2 Corinthians 5:16-19, John 3:1-8
Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:3-6)
Monday March 18 — John 1:35-42
The journey of Christian discipleship begins with a three-word invitation from Jesus: “Come and see” (John 1:39). Jesus invites everyone to enter into a new relationship with him—to follow him every day and learn to live and love the way Jesus lived and loved. For Christians today, this requires a commitment to worship, to prayer, to reading and study of the Scriptures (especially the four Gospels), and to sacrificial giving and service. How have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see”? Do you follow Jesus’ example every day? What is the next step for you?
• Prayer: Calling God, grant me the courage I need to follow you every day of my life. I will go where you send me and do what you ask of me. Amen.
Tuesday March 19 — John 3:1-8
Nicodemus was a Pharisee (a highly religious teacher and leader of the Jewish people) who visited Jesus at night. He recognized God’s presence in Jesus’ actions, but misunderstood when Jesus told him that he must be “born from above” (John 3:3). Jesus calls his followers to experience a new beginning through the power of the Holy Spirit. This requires that his followers let their old life “die” so that they can be born again. How much of your life are you willing to surrender (let “die”) so that you can be born again through the Holy Spirit? What are you holding back? What are unwilling to surrender to God?
• Prayer: Almighty God, today I am ready to be born again through the presence and power of your Holy Spirit. Transform my life in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Wednesday March 20 — John 3:9-16
The new life offered by Jesus is a gift from God. It is not earned by living a good life or doing good works. New life is the result of God’s love for the world through Jesus Christ, which is freely given and must simply be received in faith. When Jesus says that the Son of Man will be lifted up (in John 3:14) he is referring to his own death on the cross. New life begins when we believe that Jesus died for the salvation of the world. Do you believe that salvation is a freely offered gift from God, or do you believe that you can earn your salvation? Have you accepted the grace of God, offered through Jesus Christ, God’s own Son?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for loving the world so much that you sent Jesus to be our Savior. I believe in your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Thursday March 21 — John 3:14-21
Jesus affirms that God offers every person the freedom to choose to follow Jesus and walk in God’s light. New life is a gift that can (and should) be accepted. It is also a gift that can (but should not) be rejected. New life in Christ begins when we accept the fact that God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. For many people, this is not easy to accept or understand. Jesus says that judgment begins when people reject God’s love and the invitation to walk in God’s light. Can you believe that God’s loves the world enough to sacrifice his Son to save it? Can you believe that God loves you enough to sacrifice his Son to save you?
• Prayer: God of Love, thank you for sending Jesus to save me from sin and to provide your light for my life. I accept your love today. Amen.
Friday March 22 — John 3:22-30
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist was very popular and influential. Many people wondered if he was God’s Messiah. John himself told people that he was not the Messiah but was sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. Each of the four Gospel writers emphasize that Jesus—not John, nor anyone else—is God’s Messiah. Do you ever look to another person to be your Savior? Do you ever trust yourself or another person more than you trust God? What needs to change in your life so that you will trust God completely?
• Prayer: Eternal God, grant me the courage I need to trust you completely. I believe that Jesus is the only Messiah I need. Amen.
Saturday March 23 — John 3:31-36
One of the primary themes in John’s Gospel is that Jesus’ earthly life and ministry testify to the nature and character of God. If someone wants to know God, they must know Jesus. Jesus’ life reveals what is important to God: God’s concerns, God’s priorities, God’s passions, God’s sacrificial love, and God’s desire to save and redeem humanity. What attracts you to Jesus? Why have you chosen to follow him? Which of Jesus’ characteristics are most important to you? What do these characteristics of Jesus teach you about God?
• Prayer: Gracious God, today I renew my commitment to follow your Son, Jesus. I want to experience your love and saving grace. Amen.
Youth Musical – “Surrender”
Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
Monday March 11 — Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is known as the Shema. For centuries, these words have been part of Jewish prayer services, passed down from generation to generation. It is a reminder that we worship God, not only because we are in awe of God, but because we love God. We remember that God loves us and is worthy of our love and adoration. Loving God is our primary purpose in life. What does it mean to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”? How do you express your love for God? How does God’s love for you affect your life?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for loving me in ways and for reasons that are beyond my understanding. Increase my love for you. Amen.
Tuesday March 12 — Matthew 22:34-40
When Jesus was asked to name the greatest, or most important, of the many commandments in the Hebrew Scripture, he quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. He then quoted Leviticus 19:18 and said that these verses summarize the primary message of Scripture. These great commandments help us understand God’s priorities for our life. They serve as a lens that helps us focus our attention and our actions. How would you describe your purpose in life? Is your life purpose aligned with God’s purpose for your life? What helps you focus your attention and your action?
• Prayer: God of love, forgive me for failing to love you fully and failing to love my neighbor. Grant me courage to obey your Word. Amen.
Wednesday March 13 — Matthew 18:1-5, Matthew 20:25-28
On more than one occasion, Jesus’ disciples asked him who was the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1) It seems that they were jockeying for position in the Kingdom, and were looking for status and recognition. Jesus’ response was to say that in God’s Kingdom greatness looks like humility and service. Jesus clearly had a different definition of greatness than his disciples or the rest of the world. How do you define greatness? How do you feel about Jesus’ definition of greatness? How does Jesus’ definition change your life?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the teaching and example of Jesus. I am humbled and willing to serve you today. Amen.
Thursday March 14 — Matthew 9:35-38
According to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, he called men and women to follow him not only so that they would learn about God and God’s Kingdom, but so that they would also share his ministry and serve God’s purposes in the world. The greatest of Jesus’ disciples are the ones who answer Jesus call to follow him and to serve him in the world. In what ways do you serve God’s purposes in the world? In what ways do you participate in Jesus’ ministry? Do you labor for the harvest?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to answer to your call and join you in ministry. Here I am, Lord, use me today. Amen.
Friday March 15 — Matthew 28:16-20
Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus sent his disciples into the world to make more disciples by baptizing and teaching them. The church calls this the “great commission.” It is one of the two “great” pillars that individual Christian life and the Christian community (the Church) is built upon: the great commandments to love God and neighbor, and the great commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. How is your life built upon the two “great” pillars? In what ways do you participate in the two “great” pillars of the church: loving (worshipping) God and helping make disciples of Jesus Christ?
• Prayer: Almighty God, grant me the courage and desire to be “great.” Increase my ability to love and my willingness to serve. Amen.
Saturday March 16 — 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Second generation Christians, like the apostle Paul, saw themselves as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. They believed they were the resident representatives of the risen Jesus Christ in the world, and that God was using them to share the Good News and invite people to be reconciled to God. To become an ambassador of Jesus Christ is to accept a new identity with a new set of responsibilities. It is what happens when “everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Do you see yourself as an ambassador of Jesus Christ in the world? If you were the only Christian a person ever met, what would they think about Jesus Christ? Does your life inspire anyone to follow Jesus?
• Prayer: Merciful God, by your grace make me a new creation. I am willing to be a resident representative of Jesus Christ in the world. Amen.
Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Sermon – The Decision to Follow
Scripture Readings: John 1:14-18, John 1:35-42
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” (John 1:35-39a)
Monday March 4 — John 1:1-18
The Gospel According to John begins with a poetic prologue that celebrates Jesus as the Word of God in the flesh and the Light shining in the darkness. The prologue serves as an introduction to the Gospel and an introduction to Jesus. It tells us that if we want to know God, we must get to know Jesus and that, through him, we can receive grace upon grace and become children of God. What does the prologue of John’s Gospel teach you about Jesus? How does Jesus serve as the Word made flesh for you? What does your knowledge of Jesus tell you about God?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for sending Jesus to be your Word made flesh for your children. Thank you for grace upon grace. Amen.
Tuesday March 5 — John 1:19-28, Luke 3:1-20
All four of the New Testament Gospel writers introduce John the Baptist as a prophetic preacher who prepares the way for the Messiah. (Note: John the Baptist is not the author of The Gospel According to John.) He, (John the Baptist) preached a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. But he insisted that repentance was more than a mental exercise. His hearers’ lives were expected to bear fruit worthy of their repentance. How is your relationship with God reflected in your daily life? How has your life changed as a result of your relationship with Jesus?
• Prayer: Gracious God, I confess my sin and acknowledge my need for your mercy. Forgive me and teach me to follow your ways. Amen.
Wednesday March 6 — John 1:29-34
John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus tells us that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and “the Son of God” (John 1:34) Identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God reminded the people of the Passover Lamb, which in turn reminded them of how God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. For us, the Good News is that through Jesus, God is offering salvation from humanity’s slavery to sin and death. How do you respond to God’s offer of salvation? Do you see yourself as someone who needs to be saved? If so, from whom or from what do you need to be saved?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, thank you for Jesus, for the promise of salvation and the gift of freedom from the power of sin and death. Amen.
Thursday March 7 — John 1:35-39
When John the Baptist tells his disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God, his (John’s) disciples begin to follow Jesus. When they ask where Jesus is going, he invites them to “come and see” (John 1:38-39). This is the same invitation Jesus offers to anyone who is curious about being his disciple: come and see. Choosing to follow Jesus is the beginning of a life-long journey of discovery —learning about God and about God’s ways. How would you describe your relationship with Jesus? Are you a seeker? Are you a follower? Are you a disciple? If you do not follow Jesus as his disciple, whom do you follow?
• Prayer: Loving God, grant me the courage I need to follow Jesus wherever he leads me. Help me learn to trust him today. Amen.
Friday March 8 — John 1:40-52
The first chapter of John’s Gospel teaches us that one of the first things that happens to a disciple of Jesus is that they are compelled, by their encounter with Jesus, to tell someone else what they have discovered. Andrew told his brother, Simon Peter; Philip told Nathaniel. Notice the way Philip responded when Nathaniel asked him a question about Jesus. He simply said, “come and see” (John 1:46). Have you recently told anyone about Jesus? What have you told them? How did they respond? Whom might you tell today?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, fill me with your Holy Spirit. Empower me to be a witness and to invite someone to “come and see” Jesus. Amen.
Saturday March 9 — John 2:1-25
John (the Gospel writer) describes the miracles of Jesus as “signs” (John 2:11). This means that when the power of God works through Jesus in a specific event it points to something beyond itself. In this case, the first of Jesus’ signs points to the transforming power of God. If God can change water into wine, God can change our lives. Like the tables in the temple, Jesus is ready and able to turn our lives upside-down. Have you had a life-changing encounter with Jesus? How has Jesus turned your life upside-down? In what ways have you experienced the transforming power of God’s love, grace, and mercy?
• Prayer: Merciful God, transform my life by the power of your love and grace today. I am ready for Jesus to turn my life upside-down. Amen.
Series – A Reluctant Servant: Lessons from the Life of Jonah
Sermon – Being Angry with God
Scripture Readings: Jonah 3:10-4:5, Jonah 4:6-11
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. (Jonah 3:10-4:2)
Monday February 25 — Exodus 20:1-6
The basic terms of God’s covenant with humanity is (from God’s perspective): I will be your God; you will be my people. (See Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:12, and Jeremiah 30:22.) From God’s perspective, the covenant relationship is based on (God’s) steadfast love. From humanity’s perspective, the covenant relationship is based on (humanity’s) love for God and obedience of God’s commandments. Think back over your life. How have you experienced God’s steadfast love? Have you responded to God’s steadfast love for you by loving God and keeping God’s commandments?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for making and keeping your promises to me. Give me strength to make and keep my promises to you. Amen.
Tuesday February 26 — Psalm 145:1-21
Psalm 145 celebrates the goodness and greatness of God. There is an element of thanksgiving for what God has done, but the emphasis is on God’s character—the person and nature of God. Verses 8 and 9 are the heart of the Psalm: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” Whatever else we know about God, we can rest in the assurance of God’s grace, mercy, compassion, and steadfast love for all of us and all of creation. Do any of God’s characteristics trouble you? If so, which ones? Which of God’s characteristics are most important to you?
• Prayer: Gracious God, grant me a sense of assurance that your grace, mercy, love, and compassion will sustain me always. Amen.
Wednesday February 27 — Jonah 3:10-4:5
The story of Jonah is about God’s willingness to offer second chances to Jonah and to the city of Nineveh. When Nineveh repented and God did not destroy it, Jonah became angry with God. He knew that God would show grace and mercy and steadfast love. He knew that God would keep God’s promises. But he didn’t like it. Have you ever been angry with God? Was it because of something God did? Or was it because of something God didn’t do?
• Prayer: Merciful God, today I surrender everything to you, including my anger. Calm my spirit and teach me to trust you fully. Amen.
Thursday February 28 — Jonah 4:5-11
The Book of Jonah ends with a conversation between Jonah and God about a bush and about the city of Nineveh. God’s message to Jonah was framed in the form of a question: if Jonah was so concerned about something as trivial as a bush, shouldn’t God be even more concerned about the people of Nineveh? What kind of relationship do you have with God’s love and God’s forgiveness? Do you ever feel the way Jonah felt? Does God’s love and forgiveness bother you?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for your love and forgiveness. Forgive me when I refuse to accept that you offer your love and grace to everyone. Amen.
Friday March 1 — Luke 13:22-30
Some of Jesus’ words are difficult to understand. As he made his way to Jerusalem, he was asked about salvation. His answer was troubling to many of his hearers then, and it’s troubling to many hearers today. He said that some people who expect to enter God’s Kingdom will not, and that people from the four corners of the earth will be welcomed. What do you think about Jesus’ message? How does it make you feel? Can you accept the breadth and depth of God’s grace?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus and for the gift of salvation. Today I choose to follow him, trust him, and obey him. Amen.
Saturday March 2 — Acts 10:34-48
Peter, who was one of Jesus’ disciples and a leader of the early church, was led by God to have an encounter with a man named Cornelius (Acts 10:1-33). Cornelius was a Roman centurion, which means he was a Gentile—someone who was not an Israelite and who was assumed (by Peter) to be outside the reach of God’s grace. However, God, through the Holy Spirit, led Peter to understand that Gentiles like Cornelius could also be God’s people, and could be saved from the power of sin and death by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Are you willing to consider the possibility that God, through the Holy Spirit, is leading you to a new understanding about the scope and the power of God’s grace? What is God teaching you today?
• Prayer: Almighty God, open my eyes to see and my ears to hear your message of love and grace. Teach me what I need to know. Amen.
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.