Sermon: We are Alive
Scripture Reading: Romans 6:1-11, Ephesians 2:1-10
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Monday September 18 — Psalm 41:1-13
The 41st Psalm expresses both a need for God’s help and healing and a confidence in God’s promises. When we read and pray this Psalm, we are inspired to take our every concern, our every need, to God with confidence and faith. We can trust in God’s promises and experience the fullness of life that God desires for everyone. When we read and pray this Psalm we affirm that God’s grace is the ultimate source of the life we seek. So we join the Psalm-writer in the repeated petition: “O LORD, be gracious to me” (Psalm 41:4, 10). Let the words of Psalm 41 guide you into your own prayer. Trust in God’s promises for healing. Ask God to make you fully alive this week.
• Prayer: O LORD, be gracious to me. Fill me with your Spirit and make me fully alive. Grant me confidence and faith to trust you at all times and in all situations. Amen.
Tuesday September 19 — Acts 1:1-5
The New Testament is clear that salvation is the gift of life—in both the present moment and in the future. We believe that this gift of life is the result of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, if we are going to be fully alive, we need to have confidence in the central message of the Gospel: Jesus died on the cross, but was raised from death to life on the third. In other words, if we are going to be fully alive, we need to be Easter people. Reflect today on the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. What does it mean to you? How does Jesus’ resurrection change your life?
• Prayer: Living God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending him to be my Lord and Savior. Thank you for his death and resurrection. Thank you for the gift of life. Amen.
Wednesday September 20 — Galatians 2:15-21
As followers of Jesus, we experience our own death and resurrection. On one hand, we believe that when we (physically) die, we will be raised to new and eternal life with God. That’s the Gospel promise. But we also believe that when we make the decision to follow Jesus, we experience another kind of death and resurrection. We are crucified with Christ and our sinful selves die, so that the living, resurrected Christ can live in us. What parts of your life need to die today, so that you can experience new life as a follower of Jesus?
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for holding tightly to the comfortable life I’m living today. Give me courage to let my old self die, so that Jesus can live in me. Amen.
Thursday September 21 — Ephesians 2:1-10
The heart of the Christian message is found in Ephesians 2:5 and Ephesians 2:8. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The promise is that when we acknowledge our need for God’s grace and accept the gift that God offers us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). Spend some time today reflecting on your life and your relationship with God. Have you accepted the gift of God’s grace? In what ways have you experienced the new life that God offers you? What is preventing you from being fully alive today?
• Prayer: God of Grace, today, I confess my need for your grace and accept the gift of new life that you offer me through Jesus. Make me alive together with Christ. Amen.
Friday September 22 — Romans 6:1-11
The letter to the Romans proclaims the same message that is found in the Scripture readings from the past two days (Galatians 2:15-21 and Ephesians 2:1-10): like Jesus, we experience our own death and resurrection. As a result we “consider [our]selves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). What Romans 6 adds to our understanding is that following Jesus sets us free to live a new life. Before Christ, we are not free from the power of sin. Now, we are free to love God, grow in our faith, and serve Christ in the world. On a scale of one-to-ten, how much freedom (from sin) are you experiencing today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the gift of freedom. Thank you for setting me free from the power of sin. Thank you for setting me free to love and grow and serve. Amen.
Saturday September 23 — Luke 15:25-32
In the parable of the prodigal Son, Jesus describes God’s great love for all of God’s children. He also describes the kind of death and resurrection we experience. In the parable, the Father tells the older son, “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:24). This is what happens to each of us when we choose to follow Jesus: we are united with God and God’s family, and we experience the joy of new and abundant life. Let yourself experience God’s joy today.
• Prayer: God of Love, I am amazed at the depth of your love for me. Remind me that nothing I face—today or any other day—will separate me from your great love. Amen.
Sermon: We Are Chosen
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Monday September 11 — Isaiah 41:8-10
Starting with Abraham in Genesis 12, the relationship between God and humanity was based on this simple truth: God chose them. The question was then—as it is now—what does it mean to be chosen by God. Like the Israelites, we need to be reminded that God’s chosen people are God’s servants. This is what God does: God calls (chooses) us to advance God’s purposes in the world. In this light, do you see yourself as someone who has been chosen by God? What does that mean for you? What has God chosen you to do today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for choosing me. Remind me once again that you chose me to be your servant. Use me to do your Kingdom’s work in the world. Amen.
Tuesday September 12 — John 15:12-17
As disciples of Jesus, we have been chosen (called) by Jesus to be his friends. This means that Jesus loves us and that we love Jesus. It also means that we love one another with the same kind of sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross. We have been chosen “to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16). In what ways are you living the purpose for which Jesus chose you? In what ways does your life bear fruit that will last—the fruit of God’s Spirit and the fruit of God’s Kingdom?
• Prayer: God of Love, I confess that I have not loved you in the same way that you love me. Grant me the courage I need to follow Jesus’ example and love sacrificially. Amen.
Wednesday September 13 — Ephesians 1:3-14
Today’s reading is actually one long sentence in the original Greek (New Testament texts were originally written in Greek.) It reminds the Ephesians of their relationship with God: chosen and adopted through Jesus Christ. Like the Ephesians, we too often forget that we are God’s children and let the world label us in other ways. Like the Ephesians, we need regular reminders about who we are and whose we are. What does it mean to be a child of God? As a child of God, do you live your life in a way that is pleasing to God?
• Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for reminding me that you have chosen me to be one of your children. Help me to be a faithful member of your family. Amen.
Thursday September 14 — 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
The first letter to the Thessalonians follows the pattern found in most of the New Testament letters. It begins with a greeting and a prayer of thanksgiving. Paul is thankful that his ministry (his preaching) was effective because the Thessalonians experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit and the transforming power of the Gospel. For Paul, the effectiveness of the Gospel was a sign that God had chosen the Thessalonians to be part of God’s Kingdom. How have you experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Gospel in your life? What signs of God’s presence in your life remind you that God has chosen you to be one of God’s children?
• Prayer: Faithful God, fill me with your Holy Spirit today and remove everything in my life that prevents me from experiencing the transforming power of your grace. Amen.
Friday September 15 — Luke 12:4-7
In the vastness of the universe, our individual lives can seem miniscule and insignificant. We wonder if God really knows us and if God really cares about us. So the promise in the Gospel, that we need not worry or be afraid about what the future holds—because “even the hairs of your head are all counted”—is a great comfort (Luke 12:7). How does is feel to be known this intimately by God? How does the fact that God knows you, cares for you, and loves you, change your life?
• Prayer: Creator God, I am amazed that you know me and love me. Too often I fear the future and worry about my life. Grant me confidence to trust in your promises. Amen.
Saturday September 16 — Luke 9:10-17
To be called (chosen) by Jesus to be one of his disciples does mean that we are better than others. It is not a symbol of status; it is a gift of God’s grace. It is an invitation (to which we are expected to respond) to participate in Jesus’ ministry. When the large crowd needed to be fed, Jesus told the disciples, “You give them something to eat” (Luke 12:13). This is what it means to be called (chosen) by Jesus. We are called (chosen) to be the body of Jesus Christ in the world. What has Jesus called (chosen) you to do today?
• Prayer: Calling God, I hear your call and with your help I will respond. Use me today to serve your purposes in the world. I will go where you send me. Amen.
Sermon: “Remember Who You Are”
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Monday September 4 — Galatians 3:27-28
What do your clothes say about you? How do you express your personality, your values, and your life in what you wear? What would it look like to be clothed in Christ (v.. 27)? Today, you are challenged, as you get dressed, to put on the character of Christ. To reflect Christ in your family, work, and to others that you meet.
Prayer: God, clothe us with Christ, so our faith may be revealed.
Tuesday September 5 — Genesis 9:1-17
What are signs of promises in your life? It may be a wedding ring, a sign of your commitment to your spouse, or perhaps a picture you carry in your wallet. These signs remind us of the promises in our lives and guide us in our everyday decisions. In one of the most famous stories of the Bible, after a flood had covered the earth, God sets upon the sky a rainbow, a sign of a new covenant between God and God’s people. God promises to always be with us. What promises do you have in your life and how can you remember them?
Prayer: God, let us remember the covenant you made with us.
Wednesday September 6 — Matthew 3:13-17
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (v. 17) When Jesus is baptized, these are the words uttered by a voice from heaven. When we are baptized, this is the affirmation that we too receive. We are claimed as God’s own and invited to participate in the Christian life. What does this affirmation meant to you? How does knowing that we are claimed by God change the way we live our lives?
Prayer: God, thank you for claiming us as your beloved children.
Thursday September 7 — John 3:3-5
Baptism is not just about the past, but about the future! While baptism includes forgiveness of past sins, it is also about the start to a new life. A new life that looks different than the life we lived before, a life that is meant to be holy. As we begin a new school year, how can this year look different than last year? What changes do you need to make to have a holy year?
Prayer: God, let us be holy as you are holy.
Friday September 8 — Romans 12:9-21
“Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” (v. 9). These are the marks of a true Christian. This week, you are invited to live by this motto, write it on a sticky note and put it next to your work computer or your bathroom mirror. Say this prayer in the morning and in the evening, let this guide your day.
Prayer: Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.
Saturday September 9— 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Even though we are all different, we are all connected as one body of Christ and called to care for each other. When one of us suffers, we all suffer together; when one celebrates, we celebrate together. As baptized people, we share in one Spirit and are inextricably connected to one another and called with special purpose to care for one another. Who is God calling you to care for today?
Prayer: God, show us a still more excellent way
Monday August 28 — Psalm 118:21-29
God’s enduring love is the primary theme of Psalm 118. Beginning with a statement of praise and thanksgiving, the Psalm reminds God’s people that God is the ultimate source of salvation—and that God works in unexpected ways. Psalm 118:22 is often quoted in the New Testament. In the Psalm it likely refers to King David, but New Testament writers apply it to Jesus. The point is that God uses unlikely people to change the world—including people like us. How might God be using you this week to change the world. Are you willing to let God use you to bless others?
• Prayer: God of Love, fill me once again with your love and grace. Use me to spread the Good News of salvation and be a blessing to the people I meet this week. Amen.
Tuesday August 29 — Acts 4:1-12
The early chapters of Acts describe the work of Jesus’ disciples in ways that are very familiar to readers of the Gospels. Peter and John and the other disciples were continuing the ministry of Jesus (empowered by the Holy Spirit) and were experiencing similar consequences. Like Jesus, Peter and John were brought before Caiaphas and the religious authorities. In his response, Peter told them about Jesus and quoted Psalm 118:22. As Jesus’ disciples, we also continue his ministry and often face the consequences. The Good News is that the risen Christ is with us always.
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for his life, his teaching and example, his death, and his resurrection. Empower me to continue his ministry. Amen.
Wednesday August 30 — 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians Christians, used the image of construction to describe the way God works in the world. In God’s Kingdom, we each have different abilities and have unique roles in the process of building up the Body of Christ (the Church). But ultimately, everything that we do in the Church is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. Individually, we need the same foundation, the one that will keep us strong and secure, even in the most difficult times. Is your life built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ? Is he your cornerstone?
• Prayer: God of Grace, give me courage to use the gifts you have given me to do my part to build your Church on the strong foundation of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thursday August 31 — 1 Peter 2:4-10
Today’s reading describes the nature of the Church using a number of different images. The Church is a community chosen by God for a specific purpose: to “proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). This is the promise of Scripture. We are covenant people, blessed by God so that we can be blessing to the world. This is why the Church exists, to glorify God by receiving and sharing God’s love and grace. In what ways does God’s light shine through you into the world? Are you both receiving and sharing the Good News of God’s mercy?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I too often fail to reflect the light of your Son. Forgive me. Call me out of the darkness of sin into the marvelous light of your grace. Amen.
Friday September 1 — 1 John 3:11-15
The primary message of the Letters of John might be best summarized in 1 John 3:11, “we should love one another.” This was not original to John. Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The apostle Paul said, “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14). This is what God expects of every one of us. It is a sign of our salvation. How fully do you embody God’s primary commandment to love your neighbors.
• Prayer: Loving God, it is not always easy to love my neighbors. I need your help. Open my heart to receive your love so that I can share it with others. Amen.
Saturday September 2 — 1 John 3:16-24
If loving one another is what God expects of us, then we need to be reminded that we love, “not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18). Sometimes we limit our love to the people who love us. Sometimes we limit our love to the people we like. Sometimes we limit our love to good feelings and kind words. But Biblical love—God’s love—is a choice. We choose to love in word and deed, in “truth and action.” What loving actions have you done this week? What actions will you take in the next few days to fulfill God’s commandment.
• Prayer: God of High Expectations, forgive me for limiting my love to the good thoughts and nice words. Help me to love everyone through my words and my actions. Amen.
Monday August 21 — Matthew 25:1-13
The 25th chapter of Matthew contains three parables, which illustrate Jesus’ desire for his disciples to be faithful as they wait for his return. Through the Gospel, Jesus speaks to us, teaching us to stay awake and be prepared. This means that we should be ready for the final days, whenever they might be, but it also means that we should also be ready to encounter and welcome the living Christ into our lives at any time. Instead of sleepwalking through life, Jesus wants us be awake and be aware of his presence in the world today. Where might you encounter the living Christ today?
Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the promise that Jesus will return and establish your reign forever. Help me trust your promises and be awake to your presence. Amen.
Tuesday August 22 — Matthew 25:14-30
The parable of the talents teaches us that Jesus expects his disciples to be faithful stewards of everything that belongs to God (e.g. creation, the Good News, the Kingdom, the mission of the church.) As Jesus’ disciples, we are expected to do with the master’s property what the master would have us do. We are expected to know the master and know the master’s wishes. We are expected to share the master’s goals. The condemnation of the third servant is that he didn’t really know the master. What do you need to do to more fully understand what the master – God – expects of you? What are you doing with all that God has placed in your care?
Prayer: Loving God, open my eyes and ears, mind and heart to receive and more fully understand your will for my life. Teach me everything I need to know. Amen.
Wednesday August 23 — Matthew 25:31-46
Like the other two parables in Matthew 25, the parable of the judgment insists that God cares about how we live our lives. In contrasting the righteous and the unrighteous, Jesus describes what will happen to us if we accept God’s grace and choose to follow Jesus. He says that we will be transformed from the inside-out and, as a result, will care for the poor and marginalized. This is who we will become, not for any kind of reward, but because God has changed our lives. So the question is: are you allowing God to transform your life?
Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for holding you at arms length. Forgive me for resisting your life-changing grace. Transform my life from the inside-out. Amen.
Thursday August 24 — 1 Peter 4:1-6
We know from Scripture, and from our own experience, that an encounter with the living Christ does not leave us unchanged. Our decisions and our actions are transformed. According to 1 Peter 4, we begin to follow Jesus’ example and live our lives according to God’s will, not our human desires. Because we will all have to account for how fully we let God’s grace transform our lives and how fully we live according to the will of God, consider your life today: what is preventing you from following God’s will for your life? What parts of your old life are you holding onto? What are you afraid of giving up?
Prayer: God of High Expectations, I am glad that you want the best for me, and the best from me. Give me the courage I need to follow Jesus’ example and obey your will. Amen.
Friday August 25 — 1 Peter 4:7-11
The theme of stewardship is found in many Biblical passages. In 1 Peter 4:10, we are told to be good stewards of God’s grace. We have received something (grace) that we are responsible for “managing” according to God’s will. It is not to be hoarded; it is to be shared through love and service to others. If we have accepted God’s grace for ourselves, it will be reflected in our words and our actions. Are you gracious? Are you grace-full? If not, what do you need to do so that God’s grace will be more fully evident in your words and your actions?
Prayer: God of Manifold Grace, fill me with your love and supply me with your strength so that you will be glorified in everything that I say and everything that I do today. Amen.
Saturday August 26 — 1 Corinthians 4:1-7
According to the apostle Paul, we are stewards of God’s mysteries, which are revealed in Jesus’ life teaching, death and resurrection. The mystery of the Gospel does not belong to us. We are just (hopefully) faithful stewards of what God has done through Jesus. We have a message. We have an example to set. Our lives bear witness to the life-changing power of God’s love and grace. Think about this past week: how has your relationship with Jesus informed your words and actions? How have your words and actions revealed Jesus to others? Would the people you met this week know that you follow Jesus because of what you have said and done? What will you do differently next week?
Prayer: Almighty God, I am humbled that you have made me a steward of the mysteries of the Gospel. Transform my life today so that my words and actions point to Jesus. Amen.
Monday August 7 — 2 Chronicles 7:12-18
The first nine chapters of 2 Chronicles describe the reign of King Solomon. It includes the building and dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. In chapter seven, God reaffirms the covenant made with Solomon’s father, King David (see 1 Chronicles 17.) The covenant affirms that God’s “steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:3, 6). In response God’s people are expected to: humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face (in worship), and repent. Of these four expectations, which one is easiest for you? Which one is most challenging? How will you keep this covenant?
- Prayer: Loving God, open my heart to accept and believe that your love is steadfast and eternal. Grant me courage to respond with humility and repentance today. Amen.
Tuesday August 8 — 2 Chronicles 7:19-22
After describing the terms of the covenant, God offers a warning to Solomon and to all of Israel. The main point is: there will be consequences for idolatry. It is important that we remember that turning away from God and worshipping other gods is the primary temptation and the primary sin of God’s people. Other gods, like wealth and material possessions, other human beings, and human institutions, are constantly luring us and seeking our attention and loyalty. But the biggest temptation and most attractive idol is our own self-interest. We want to be (like) God (see Genesis 3:5). If that is true for you, what helps you to resist the temptation to take God’s place?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for giving into the temptation to make my own self-interest my highest priority. Forgive me for wanting and trying to be my own god. Amen.
Wednesday August 9 — Luke 18:1-8
The centrality of prayer, as a means of God’s grace, is one of the themes of Luke’s Gospel. Not only does Luke describe in detail Jesus’ habits and practices of prayer. Luke also records Jesus’ teaching about the importance and nature of prayer. He instructs us to be consistent and persistent in prayer. This doesn’t mean that we will always receive what we seek from God, but rather that faithful discipleship requires endurance and trust in God’s promises through good times and bad. Read the final sentence in verse 8 again. How do you answer Jesus’ question in your own life?
- Prayer: Faithful God, remind me once again of your promises. Give me endurance to keep my faith in good times and bad times. Help me to be faithful to the very end. Amen.
Thursday August 10 — Luke 18:9-14
In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus contrasts two ways to approach God. The Pharisee – a devout, religious leader – should have been the example for everyone to follow. But in an unexpected twist, the hero in Jesus’ story is the sinful tax collector who humbled himself and called on God for mercy. According to Luke, the parable is for people who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). Is he talking to you? What lesson does the parable teach you?
- Prayer: God of Grace, today I confess my sin and humbly ask for your mercy and forgiveness. Transform my life through the power of your love and grace. Amen.
Friday August 11 — Philippians 2:1-11
By all accounts, Paul, the first-century church leader and the author of the Letter to the Philippians (and several other New Testament letters) was a proud and confident man. But in the paradox of discipleship, he warned believers about the dangers of boasting (see Romans 3:27) and used Jesus’ humility as an example for all Christians to follow. There are many definitions of humility, but the best one is found in Philippians 2:3-5. Be honest with yourself (and with God). How well does Paul describe you?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the example of Jesus. Help me to understand the importance of humility and have the same mind and Spirit as Jesus. Amen.
Saturday August 12 — Philippians 2:12-18
As a response to the example of Jesus, Paul instructs the Philippians to work out their salvation by allowing God to continue working in their lives. Paul recognizes the centrality of God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit while also emphasizing that we are expected to cooperate with God through intentional and faithful living. How has God been at work in your life this week? How have you responded? How have you been cooperating with God’s grace?
- Prayer: Righteous God, I am both humbled and inspired by your presence in my life. Teach me to get out of your way and allow you to work in my life. Amen.
Sermon: “There Was a Rich Man Who Had a Manager”
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Luke 16:1-13
“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:10-13)
Monday July 31 — Luke 12:22-34
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry are clear: God cares about our whole lives. Everything we say and do impacts our relationship with God and our relationship with God impacts everything we say and do. God’s love and grace changes our whole lives, including our relationship with our money and possessions. To be clear, money and possessions in and of themselves are not bad. But Jesus insists that what we do with what we have matters. Jesus’ counsel is to use our money and possessions in a way that pleases God. Think about your financial status and your recent financial decisions. Do you think your actions are pleasing to God?
- Prayer: Generous God, thank you for giving me all that I have and making me all that I am. Guide my life and help me to live in a way that is ultimately pleasing to you. Amen.
Tuesday August 1 — Luke 16:1-13
In this parable of the rich man and the manager, Jesus teaches us that how we live in the present moments of life affect our future in God’s Kingdom. He says that we should learn a lesson from the way of the world to use our money and possessions in a way that pleases God. He is not encouraging us to be dishonest. He is encouraging us to be faithful, and to be aware that what we do with what God has given us is important (to God.) Put another way: our stewardship of all that we have matters to God. What are you doing with all that God has given you?
- Prayer: God of Eternity, teach me to be faithful in the little things of my life so that I will be ready to experience the true riches your Kingdom. Teach me to serve you alone. Amen.
Wednesday August 2 — 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
In general, the Bible teaches us the importance of seeking and following God’s wisdom for our lives. For instance, in Matthew 7: 24-27 Jesus teaches us the difference between being wise (hearing Jesus’ words and acting on them) and being foolish (hearing Jesus’ words and not acting on them.) Our challenge is to understand the difference between God’s wisdom and human wisdom. In the world’s opinion, Jesus’ death on the cross seems quite foolish, but we believe it is the wisdom of God. To the world, Jesus’ teaching about money and possessions might also seem like foolishness, but we believe it is the wisdom of God. What do you think?
- Prayer: God of Wisdom, thank you for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Grant me the courage I need to trust that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. Amen.
Thursday August 3 — 1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Paul, the write of the letter to the Corinthian Church returns to the foolishness vs. wisdom comparison that he used in chapter one. He reminds his readers that humility is a primary characteristic of Jesus’ disciples and contrasts his willingness to be a fool for Christ with the Corinthians’ desire to be wise. One of our greatest temptations is to think that we have everything figured out and no longer depend on God’s grace. Paul was willing to be a fool for Christ. Are you?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive my arrogance. Remind me of my need for your grace. Teach me humility and help me learn to trust you so that I can be a fool for Christ. Amen.
Friday August 4 — 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
For many people in our world, trusting in God’s abundant provision and giving generously to God through the Church is foolish. Yet throughout the Bible, Old and New Testaments, we discover that generosity is the expected response to God’s blessings. When we discover that our material blessings come from God, we respond by giving a portion of what we receive back to God through tithes and offerings. Then God uses our generosity to bless the poor and people on the margins of our society. How do you respond to the blessings you have received from God?
- Prayer: God of love, forgive my lack of faith in your promises. Forgive me for hoarding your blessings for myself. Teach me to be a generous and cheerful giver. Amen.
Saturday August 5 — 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
In the parable about the rich man and the manager, Jesus refers to “children of the light” (Luke 16:8). A similar reference is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:5. As followers of Jesus, who is the “light of the world” (John 8:12 and John 9:5), we are “children of the light.” This means that we follow Jesus’ example and Jesus’ teaching. With God’s help, we do the kind of things that Jesus did and the things Jesus told us to do. We love God and our neighbors. We share the Good News of God’s love and grace. We care for people who are hurting and who live on the margins of society. We live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God. How have you lived as a child of the light this week?
Prayer: God of Creation, let your light shine in my life through your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me to follow his example and his teaching. I want to be a child of the light today. Amen.
Sermon: “Which One of You, Having a Hundred Sheep”
Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1-7, Luke 19:1-10
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:1-7)
Monday July 24 — Luke 5:27-32
From the very beginning, Jesus’ life and ministry created conflict with the leaders of the Jewish tradition into which Jesus was born. What he said and did pushed boundaries and challenged conventional wisdom. We don’t always understand the conflict because our world is very different from the world of first-century Israel. However, we can relate to the complaints about Jesus in Luke 5:30. According to the religious authorities, Jesus was spending time with the wrong kind of people. This was an affront to their sensibilities. What do you think about the accusations made against Jesus? What do you think about Jesus’ response? Where do you find yourself in this story?
- Prayer: Seeking God, thank you for calling people like me to follow Jesus. Teach me to look at the people around me with the same love and grace that you look at me. Amen.
Tuesday July 25 — Luke 7:31-50
The entire seventh chapter of Luke describes the many ways Jesus demonstrated God’s love for the poor and people on the margins of society. In his own words, Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Don’t forget that in Jesus’ day, tax collectors were often corrupt and were viewed as traitors to their own people. Yet not everyone saw Jesus’ love and concern for the poor and marginalized as “good news.” His words and actions provoked a response both then and now. How about you? How do you respond to Jesus’ words and actions in chapter seven?
- Prayer: God of Love, forgive me for the ways that I hoard your love for myself and resent the grace and forgiveness you offer to others. I need your grace more than ever. Amen.
Wednesday July 26 — Luke 15:1-7
By the fifteenth chapter of Luke, the message is clear: Jesus (and by extension God) cares for the least, the last, and the lost of society. But it is also clear that the focus of Jesus’ ministry bothered some of the people and they were grumbling. So Jesus told them three parables. Luke 15:1-2 are essential for a faithful interpretation of these parables. Jesus was telling the religious people that heaven rejoices when the lost are found and sinners (like us) repent and turn to God. Jesus’ parables force us to look at ourselves. Do we celebrate when the lost are found and sinners repent? Or do we resent God’s grace when it is offered to others?
- Prayer: Creator God, I am humbled that you care for me and sent your Son to find and save me. Today I repent of my sin and pray that others will do the same. Amen.
Thursday July 27 — Luke 15:8-10
The second of the three parables in Luke 15 is short and sweet. It continues the theme of lost and found and great joy in heaven when sinners repent. Through the parable, Jesus invites us to consider God’s perspective on human life. (God rejoices when humans turn back to God.) He challenges us to find joy in the abundance of God’s grace. He challenges us to share in Jesus’ mission to bring Good News to the poor and people on the margins of our society. How will you respond to Jesus’ challenge?
- Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that my heart is too small. I confess my unwillingness to share Jesus’ ministry to the poor and marginalized. Forgive me, I pray. Amen.
Friday July 28 — Luke 15:11-32
The parable of the prodigal son is one of the most familiar passages in Scripture. Most of us can relate to one (or more) of the main characters. Maybe you are a prodigal child. You’ve wandered to a far off place and need to return to God. Maybe you are a parent, anxiously waiting for the return of a lost child. Maybe you are an elder child, angry and resentful when generosity and mercy is offered to someone who does not deserve it. Where do you find yourself in Jesus’ parable?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your steadfast love and kindness. Thank you for being faithful. Thank you for including me in your kingdom. Thank you.
Saturday July 29 — Luke 19:1-10
The account of Jesus’ encounter with Zaccheus in Luke 19 concludes with a verse that summarizes the entirety of the Gospel, and the entirety of Jesus’ ministry, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). There are several lessons in the story—the need for repentance and for bearing fruit worthy of repentance by giving to the poor (see also Luke 3:7-14)—but the primary point is that Zaccheus experiences salvation through his relationship with Jesus. Jesus wants to enter into your life today. Will you be “happy to welcome him”?
- Prayer: Lord of the Universe, I am amazed that you want to have a relationship with me. Come into my heart. Come into my life. I am happy to welcome you today. Amen.
Sermon Series: Tell Me A Story
Sermon: The Parable of the Great Dinner
Scriptures: Isaiah 25:1-10, Luke 14:15-24
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
We live in a culture that places great importance on networking and making sure you “know the right people.” The common rule of thumb is that the more people that you know, the higher you will rise. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of humility and hospitality. In this passage, Jesus encourages us to do the complete opposite. He tells his listeners: instead of seeking a place of honor, instead of trying to make connections, be humble and bless those who cannot repay you. What would our culture look like if this was the way we operated? We are encouraged to seek humility and hospitality over political or financial gain.
Prayer: We pray that we will extend the table to the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
What do you think heaven is like? While we may think of angels and harps, the prophets imaged a great banquet. The prophets anticipated a heavenly banquet at the end of the days, when death would be swallowed up, tears wiped away, and disgrace removed, all as the culminating experience of God’s salvation. This would be the day that the faithful had been waiting.
Prayer: God we pray and wait for your heavenly banquet when we will feast in your heavenly presence.
““I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (v.35) Just as we need food and drink to nourish our bodies, we need Jesus to nourish our lives, our bodies and souls. This means that we need to spend time with Jesus daily, we need to pray and read scripture and act with compassion and justice. These are the ways that we partake of the body of Christ. Spend time with Jesus everyday this week to make sure you are eating bread that will last.
Prayer: Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
What are you tempted by? In Jesus’ temptation, he was tempted to turn stones into bread so he wouldn’t be hungry anymore. But even in a state of hunger, Jesus replied: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (v.4) While temptation is a part of our lives, when we trust fully in God and remember that God is bigger than our temptations, we are able to remain true to the expectations of our faith.
Prayer: We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God.
God provides for our every need. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert after escaping from Egypt, they did not know where they would find food and drink, and complained bitterly to Moses. When God heard their cries, he provided bread from heaven. Every morning for 40 years, God made sure the Israelites had enough manna to eat each day until they reached the border of Canaan. The hardest part of receiving God’s blessings is trusting that God will provide for us. It is much easier to complain than to give thanks for God’s provision. But this passage reminds us that God always provides for us. This week, give thanks for God’s blessings in your life.
Prayer: God we thank you for always providing for us.
The passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples the night before his death is one of the most important meals in our Scriptures. It represents Jesus’ sacrifice that was to come, the betrayal of his disciples, as well as a foreshadowing of the great banquet that is prepared for us in heaven. In this meal we see the fullness of the Biblical narrative: while we turned away, God loves us, and invites us to feast at his table. This week, when you sit down for supper, take a moment to remember this important meal.
Prayer: Thank you for inviting us to feast at your heavenly banquet.
Sermon Series: Tell Me a Story
Sermon: “A Man Had a Fig Tree Planted in His Vineyard”
Scriptures: Ezekiel 17:1-10, Luke 13:6-9
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Luke 13: 6-9
At the very core of the covenant God makes with Abraham is the promise and expectation of fruitfulness. As God makes this promise to Abraham: “I will make you very fruitful” (v.6), God also states an expectation that the fruitfulness of Abraham and Sara’s way of life will be a blessing to others. In the same way, God makes this covenant with us; God promises to make us fruitful with the expectation that we will use our fruitfulness to bless others. How can you bless others today?
Prayer: God, help us to use our fruitfulness to bless others.
“Only God gives the growth.” (v.7) Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth who were plagued with factions and divisions. Unfortunately churches today continue to struggle with power struggles and egos. This passage reminds us that t is not us that gives growth, but only God alone. While we are called to be laborers and servants, we are servants of God with a common purpose. We are challenged to put aside pride and arrogance and to be faithful servants of God.
Prayer: Humble us to remember that you alone give growth.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (v.2) While there is much fruit to be harvested, there are few that are willing to labor. In this passage, as Jesus sent out his disciples, he sends us out as well, and commands us to share the Kingdom of God to all we meet. Jesus calls us to work this week, will we respond? How can we be laborers that harvest fruit?
Prayer: Let us be laborers willing to work for the harvest.
In this passage, we are reminded that God is the vine and we are the branches. If we want to grow, we must abide in God. If we want to bear fruit, we must abide in God. If we want to live a good and fruitful life, we must be rooted in God’s grace that nourishes and sustains us. We must spend time reading the Bible and praying to God, otherwise, we will wither and fall. We are encouraged this week to make sure we have strong roots and foundations.
Prayer: God, you are the vine and we are the branches.
What practices, attitudes, and behaviors do we have that keep us from bearing fruit? While it is not easy, it is important for us to reflect on how we keep ourselves and others from bearing fruit. When we do that, we can heal and correct relationships and transform the world. Spend some time reflecting on where we need pruning and correcting in our lives.
Prayer: God, we confess that we still need pruning, guide us to bear fruit.
In this familiar parable, we are reminded of God’s extravagant mercy. While the Father had expectations for both of his sons, his love for them was not conditional on those expectations. When the prodigal son returns home, his Father welcomes him with open arms and celebrates because what was lost is now found! In our conversation about bearing fruit, let us also be reminded of God’s extravagant love.
Prayer: Thank you God for always loving us, even when we make mistakes.