Monday, September 11
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Some people look at this reading as the start of the Old Testament. The reading begins the story of God’s relationship with a group of people. In verse two, we read that God told Abram to go to a different land because God would make a great nation. In this reading, nation doesn’t mean a nation like the “United States” or “France” or another current nation. It means a group of people who are connected to each other. In this case it means a group of people who are connected by faith to each other.
It is not far-fetched to paraphrase this reading to say that God would make a great church.
Pastor Paul shared in his sermon yesterday that there is one church. The church is made up of followers of Jesus Christ. A spiritual connection happens between followers of Jesus. So even if people worship in different congregations, people who are disciples are part of one church. The origins of being the church comes from this story in Genesis.
Take some time today to talk to someone who attends a different congregation. Celebrate with that person that the two of you are part of one church.
Do you feel a connection with people who worship in other congregations? Please share.
Tuesday, September 12
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but they doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Yesterday we read in Genesis 12:2 that the word “nation” was in a command by God. In today’s reading the word “nation” is found in this command from Jesus. We read in verse 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”
In this case the word “nations” comes from the Greek word, ethne. When Jesus shared this verse he didn’t only mean the nations that existed in his day. He also meant future nations.
The word, ethne is more than a description of a political state. Ethne means a group of people who are connected to each other. If we push into this command, we can see where Jesus was encouraging the apostles to develop the church.
In his sermon on Sunday, Pastor Paul shared a definition of a church as “a dynamic network of friends leading and experiencing personal and social transformation as they follow God.” This definition of a church is what Jesus encouraged his followers to create and develop.
What are your thoughts about this definition? Please share.
Wednesday, September 13
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
In this story Jesus told Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock [on you] I will build my church.” This is one of two places in the gospels that Jesus used the word church. The other place is Matthew 18:17.
The English word, church, comes from the Greek word, ekklesia. Ekklesia is made up of two parts—ek and kaleo. Ek means “out” and kaleo means “call.” Ekklesia is a group of people who are “called out” of something. They are called out of the values of the world. Values like power and abuse and hate. The church is called out to live by different values. These values are personal—the Fruit of the Spirit: love joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These values are also social—justice, righteousness, and peace.
The church should look vastly different than any other organization in the world. As you pray today, pray that the church will look different. Pray that the church can be called out to live these very precious values.
When have you experienced the church sharing different values than the world? Please share.
Thursday, September 14
So then, remember that at one time you gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us, abolishing the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone; in him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
Verses 19-20 share another definition of the church:
“So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”
One can see how these verses form the biblical foundation for the Purpose Statement of Chain of Lakes Church.
In his sermon on Sunday, Pastor Paul shared that one church exists. Even though eighteen congregations exist in Blaine, one church exists. All those congregations are part of the one church.
Being a disciple or follower of Jesus means you will have an instant connection with other disciples who participate in other congregations. As we read in Ephesians you are citizens with them and members of the household of God.
You might think of a family member or close friend who participates in another congregation. The two of you are part of the one church. How exciting to be part of a movement that is intended to change the world!
Friday, September 15
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect, whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
The Apostle Paul shared in this reading that the body of Christ—the church—is one. One church exists. Verse 13 explains this well, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
Chain of Lakes is a PC(USA) church—Presbyterian. But the people who are part of the church are part of one body. We could paraphrase these verses from the Apostle Paul to say, “Presbyterians can’t say to Lutherans—you are not part of the body. Presbyterians can’t say to the people from the Church of Christ—you are not part of the body. Presbyterians can’t say to those who don’t have a denomination—you are not part of the body. Everyone who follows Jesus is part of the one body.”
This isn’t an easy reading to follow because throughout history people have thought of their brand of church as the only brand or a superior brand. But the Apostle Paul is clear that this way of thinking is wrong. We are all baptized into one body—Presbyterians, Lutherans, Church of Christ, non-denominational people.
All of these denominations are made to enjoy or drink of one Spirit.
What does this passage mean to you? Please share.
Saturday, September 16
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Pastor Paul preaches on this story from Acts on special occasions at Chain of Lakes.
Read the story closely. The Holy Spirit moved among the people. People were speaking in different languages (some believe that the people were speaking in tongues). But despite the cacophony of noise everyone could understand what everyone was saying.
Awe came upon everyone. Awe is a three-letter synonym for wow. It’s as if “wow” came upon everyone.
The church exists for people to have these experiences of “wow.” For an individual congregation to have power, the people must have these experiences of “wow.”
Reflect today on your experiences of “wow” in a church. They will define the power that the church has in your own life. When is a moment that you’ve had this type of experience? Please share.