Select a link below to view past videos of sermons. Don’t forget to also check out Pastor Paul’s blog!
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Y series – Y Are There so Many Different Churches?
Video featured above
Sunday, January 16, 2022
Y series – Y Can’t I Feel God?
Sunday, January 9, 2022
Y series – Y Believe in God
Sunday, January 2, 2022
A Word for the Year – Guest preacher Rev. Jana Swenson
Sunday, December 26, 2021
Christmas Eve, 2021
The Best Christmas Ever
Sunday, December 19, 2021
The Best Christmas Ever – Faith
Sunday, December 12, 2021
The Best Christmas Ever – Serving
Sunday, December 5, 2021
The Best Christmas Ever – Relationships
Sunday, November 28, 2021
The Best Christmas Ever – Spirit
Sunday, November 21, 2021
Sunday, November 14, 2021
NEXT – Happy Birthday!
Sunday, November 7, 2021
NEXT – Vision of the Future
Sunday, October 31, 2021
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Learning More about Mental Illness
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Learning about Mental Health
Sunday, October 10, 2021
Sunday, October 3, 2021
World Communion Sunday
Sunday, September 26, 2021
“What is a Church?” – Guest Preacher Chaplain Richard Bahr
Sunday, September 19, 2021
“Coming Up Short” – Guest Preacher Rev. Denise Dunbar-Perkins
Sunday, September 12, 2021
1 Corinthians Series – Spiritual Gifts
Sunday, September 5. 2021
1 Corinthians Series – Life – Death – Resurrection
Sunday, August 15, 2021
HOPE 4 Youth
HOPE 4 Youth supports young people, ages 16 to 24, who are experiencing homelessness. They provide assistance with basic-needs case management, stable housing, education and employment. You are welcome to serve by cooking meals, sorting supplies, mentoring and more at the Drop-in Center
HOPE Place is a 12-unit Coon Rapids transitional housing facility that offers supportive services to young people who are experiencing homelessness. You can serve by becoming a Volunteer Greeter. They are stationed at the front desk to create a welcoming environment for residents and guests.
For more information about all HOPE 4 Youth programs, go to https://www.hope4youthmn.org
Threshold for New Life Ministry
Serving Breakfast Downtown Minneapolis
They are looking for 2-3 individuals to serve with regular volunteers setting up and serving breakfast daily to individuals experiencing homelessness. The location is the Salvation Army-Harbor Lights building at 1010 Currie Ave Minneapolis. Arrival time is 5am. Masks are required while you are in the facility. You will be done by 7am.
For more information contact
Hope for the Community is a humanitarian organization in Blaine that feeds hundreds of families each week. To accomplish this, individuals are needed to serve Wednesday 12-2:30 p.m. or Thursday from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.
You will receive a warm welcome whenever you are able to serve. For more information go to
IF YOU NEED FOOD –
Hope Church, Hope for the Community
1264 109th Ave NE
Blaine, MN 55434
Food Pick up Times:
Thursday ~ 10am – 5pm
If you are in line before the end time, you will receive food, while supplies last
Stepping Stone Emergency Housing
provides emergency shelter and critical support services for individuals 18 and older experiencing homelessness while striving toward self-sufficiency. Stepping Stone requires you complete an application and attend a short training session before serving.
The residents are in hotels as a response to covid. The target date of their return is January 17, 2022.
At this time, Food Service prepares and delivers meals to residents in the hotel.
There are a variety of service opportunities in food service – 11 am – 3 pm Monday-Friday
At this time, assistance is needed with:
- Sweeping the kitchen daily
- Mopping, twice a week, in the kitchen
- Sweeping & mopping in the kitchen hallway
- Cleaning the women’s bathroom twice a week
- Washing dishes & putting them away
- Take kitchen garbage’s & recycling out daily
- School donations -They receive food daily from the schools. Help is needed to inventory, pan, label, & put away.
- Second Harvest -Receive & put it away
For more information contact
ENDING HOMELESSNESS THROUGH PARTNERSHIPS
- Blaine High School
- Anoka Regional High School
- Anoka Technical High School
- Spring Lake Park School District
- River Trail Learning Center at L.O. Jacob
Monday, January 24
Read Genesis 12:1-3
Some people look at this reading as the start of the Old Testament, as 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.
Most likely you know of people who are part of a different congregation. The next time you talk to someone who is part of a different congregation, share with them how the two of you are part of one church. Think of the power that the church could make if people from different congregations communicated the church in this way!
Please share how differently the world would look if people in congregations identified their unity of being in one church.
Tuesday, January 25
Read Matthew 28:16-20
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 the past Pastor Paul has shared that the church is “a dynamic network of friends leading and experiencing personal and social transformation as they follow God.”
Please share your thoughts about this definition.
Wednesday, January 26
Read Matthew 16:13-20
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 an organization in the world.
How have you seen Chain of Lakes be a different place that lives by different values? Please share.
Thursday, January 27
Read Ephesians 2:11-22
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 seventeen congregations exist in Blaine, one church exists. All of 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.
Friday, January 28
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
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 connected to people from other denominations. 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 a superior brand. But the Apostle Paul was clear that this way of thinking is wrong. We are all baptized into one body—Presbyterians, Lutherans, Church of Christ, nondenominational people.
Have you had an experience of a congregation or a faith community saw themselves as superior? If you have, would you share your experience? Even though your experience might be painful, others can learn from your sharing.
Saturday, January 29
Read Acts 2:37-47
Pastor Paul preaches on this story from Acts on special occasions at Chain of Lakes. The first Sunday that Chain of Lakes worships in the new building, this will be the Scripture.
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.”
When have you had a “wow” moment in a congregation? Please share. Others are interested in your experience.
Monday, January 17
Read Psalm 23
Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known Psalms of the 150 in the Old Testament. Many people have memorized it.
Part of its power comes in verse 4—the verse starts with the two-word phrase, “Even though.” Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
The writer of the Psalm doesn’t wonder if this hard time will happen. It is assumed.
The writer of the Psalm ends verse 4 with a powerful statement acknowledging that God is still present. The sentence is short and simple. “Thou art with me.”
The writer of the Psalm might not be able to feel God, but this does not mean that God is not present. And God offers comfort.
“Thy rod and thy staff thy comfort me.” God is present.
Do you have a story of the presence of God? A story that might be similar to what the writer of this classic Psalm was sharing in verse 4? Please share!
Tuesday, January 18
Read Isaiah 45:15
This verse is a perhaps startling expression that God at times seems distant.
Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” Isaiah 45:15
Much of this chapter is describing Cyrus. Cyrus was a Persian king who rescued the exiles who came back to Judah. It made no sense that Cyrus would be an agent of God. Isaiah was expressing his own confusion about what was happening. It didn’t seem possible that a non-Jewish king could be an instrument of God.
We might have experienced times when God seemed hidden or absent. These are times that no would wish on another person. They can be painful—full of anxiety and doubt.
Have you had a time when God seemed absent? If you feel comfortable, consider sharing. Your story can help others assess their own situations when God seems absent.
Wednesday, January 19
Read John 15:1-11
The metaphor of Jesus as the vine and we are the branches is a beautiful metaphor when we are bearing fruit. When life is going well it’s much easier to stay connected to God. For who doesn’t want to stay connected to the source of our fruit and goodness?
However, when we do not feel a connection or we are not bearing fruit, this metaphor is much more difficult.
It’s too bad Jesus didn’t respond to the question, “If we are not bearing fruit does this mean that we are not connected to you?” Or “If we do not feel your presence, does this mean that we have failed in some way?”
Jesus wasn’t asked this question, so we can only make guesses about his response to this question based on his other teachings and based on the way he lived his life.
Jesus consistently encouraged his followers and people in the crowd to get to know him. Remember the words that we hear before we celebrate the Lord’s Supper – “Come onto me all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Jesus wanted people to abide in him just as he abided or was present in people (John 15:4)
Having faith sometimes means we trust even when we don’t feel God.
Thursday, January 20
Read Matthew 28:16-20
These verses are known as the Great Commission. They are some of the best known verses in the Scriptures. Many people remember them from the first three words, “Go, make disciples …” (Matthew 28:19).
Sometimes we forget the last part of the Great Commission.
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
Jesus promises that he is always present to people.
This presence is something that we celebrate in baptism. As Pastor Paul has taught before, in baptism the grace of God is sealed within a person. That person who is baptized always carries grace with them. This grace can never be taken away.
On this day, like any day, it’s important to know and remember that we carry Jesus and the Holy Spirit with us. Even if we can’t feel God, God is still present.
God’s presence doesn’t depend on our own feelings. God’s presence is real because of the promise in Scriptures like the Great Commission.
What difference does it make to you that you are carrying Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Please share.
Friday, January 21
Read Numbers 6:22-27
These verses from the book of Numbers are known as the benediction from Aaron. We might have heard this benediction shared in a benediction at the end of worship.
A benediction is like a charge. At the end of worship is a concluding summary of what people are to take with them during the week.
In these verses we read about God’s face shining upon us. This is one way that the presence of God is communicated. When we experience the presence of God it’s literally like having God’s face shine upon us.
Other places in in the Scriptures talk about God’s face shining upon us.
What does it mean to you that God’s face shines upon us? That no matter where we are in our own journey, God is very willing to share God’s shining face with us. Please share.
Saturday, January 22
Read Hebrews 11:1
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
The writer of Hebrews makes the startling statement that faith means we might not see or even experience God.
Not feeling God is not a crisis of faith; instead we can look at this as a normal part of our journey of faith. Most likely many of us went through a time when we couldn’t feel God.
Even if we’ve been through a time like this, most likely we were able to work through it to some extent.
Faith is not something that we always see. Often in the Scriptures we might read of someone who was anointed by God. That anointing doesn’t mean that the person is always going to see God clearly. What it does mean is that person is carrying a blessing(s) that God shared. We might not even see God when we acknowledge our own blessings.
How hard is it for you to have this “conviction of things not seen.” Do you need to see something to believe it? Please share.
Monday, January 10
Read John 1:43-51
As part of a new sermon series called, “Y,” Pastor Paul preached this Sunday on the question, “Y believe?” In the sermon Pastor Paul encouraged everyone to come up with two or three reasons of why they believe in God.
Here is a story where Jesus helped Nathaniel identify why Nathaniel believed that Jesus was the Son of God. Nathaniel was brought to Jesus by Philip.
This is one of only two times that Nathaniel was mentioned in the gospel of John. Nathaniel also appeared in a story after Jesus was risen. John 21:1-3. Though some identify Nathaniel as Bartholomew, one of the 12 disciples, most do not think of Nathaniel as part of this group.
Jesus identified Nathaniel’s reason for believing in him. Jesus told Nathaniel he saw him under a fig tree. Nathaniel was very surprised by this as Jesus was not with Nathaniel when he was under the fig tree. Nathaniel believed in Jesus because of this supernatural action by Jesus.
What is a reason that you believe in God? Knowing the reasons for our own belief can help us develop a mature and healthy faith. Please share a reason for your own belief.
Tuesday, January 11
Read Acts 17:16-34
On Sunday, Pastor Paul talked about the concept of apologetics. Apologetics is a branch of faith where someone makes a case or defends the faith against objections. The English word “apology” comes from the Greek word, “apologia” which means verbal defense.
Many people throughout history have been effective in Apologetics.
The Apostle Paul was the first Apologist. In this story he argued about the faith with Jews, devout persons, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Because of that he was brought to the Areopagus and defended the faith or made an apology of the faith.
Take some time to notice the arguments that Paul used in verses 23-31 to defend the faith. Do these arguments resonate with you?
Like most times that people defend the faith Paul had mixed results. Some scoffed at his arguments. Dionysius, Damaris, and others became believers.
Have you ever had a time when you had an argument about God with someone? Perhaps the person with whom you had a conversation did not believe in God. You made a case or apology with that person for the faith.
If this happened, how did it go? What lessons did you learn from the conversation?
Wednesday, January 12
Read Acts 26:1-23
Once again, the Apostle Paul made a defense of the faith. This time Paul was making a case for the faith in front of Agrippa. Paul had been in jail and was brought before Agrippa to make a case.
The English word “defend” in verse one comes from the Greek word apologia. We looked at this word yesterday.
In his defense Paul talked about his own conversion to the faith. This story can be read in Acts 9. Paul had a personal experience with God that he shared with others. His story was a powerful story that was persuasive with others.
Each of us have most likely had powerful experiences with God. These experiences are part of our story and our own faith journey.
Making an apology for the faith is not always winning an argument. Sometimes it is sharing our story and helping others see the power of our own story.
When have you had an experience of God? Your compelling story could help another person believe in God. What is an experience that you have had? Please share!
Thursday, January 13
Read Luke 9:18-19
In his sermon on Sunday Pastor Paul gave three reasons that he believed in God. One of the reasons is Jesus. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus make a compelling case to believe in God.
Our ability to answer the question, “who is Jesus” can be a reason to believe in God.
In this story Peter answered the question, “who is Jesus?” Peter said that Jesus is the Messiah of God. A synonym for Messiah is Christ. Jesus is the representative from God that was going to liberate the people.
Your own answer to the question, “who is Jesus?” can help you in your own belief. By having a clear understanding of Jesus, we can have a more developed belief.
If someone asked you the question, “Who is Jesus to you?” what would you say? Your answer can help you be clearer about your own belief in God.
How would you answer this question? Please share.
Friday, January 14
Read Genesis 1:1-5
Another reason Pastor Paul shared in his sermon on Sunday that he believed in God was the complexity of creation. Think about all that has to happen just for humans to be able to live on planet earth. The earth is just the right distance from the Sun so plant life can form and grow; enough oxygen exists in the world so everyone can breathe; the carbon dioxide that we exhale is distributed through the earth. These are just three incredible realities that allow humans to live. Do we think that these happened just by chance?
Believing that a force helped design creation is a reason that a person can believe in Evolution and God. In this way of thinking God was a force that helped evolution happen.
On Sunday Pastor Paul took out his iPhone and shared how complex the iPhone is. This piece of equipment was designed by someone to work. The complexity of the earth and its place in space is infinitely more complicated than the design of an iPhone.
If we don’t believe that an iPhone was put together by chance, how could we believe that the Universe was put together by chance?
Saturday, January 15
Read Psalm 46
A final reason to believe in God that Pastor Paul shared on Sunday is the incredible answer to prayer that sometimes happens. As the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” God is willing to help us in our own pain and uncertainty.
Many people have stories where their prayers have been answered in ways that far surpassed their imagination. Pastor Paul has shared many times that his meeting his wife Amy was a longshot that could not have happened by coincidence. It was an answer to prayer.
You probably have had times in your life when your prayers were answered in ways that far surpassed your imagination. Did your experience deepen your own belief in God?
Please share a story when your prayer was answered in an incredible way. Your story can help others believe in God!
Monday, January 3
Read Matthew 2:1-12
This Thursday is the celebration of Epiphany. Epiphany means revelation—it is the revealing of God in human affairs.
In this story the Magi were led by the star. It was a brilliant light that took them to Jesus. People have debated whether the star actually existed. What’s more important is understanding that the light from the star led people to Jesus.
We are led by the light—just as the Magi were led by the light.
This light is not universally accepted and celebrated. Some are always threatened by the light. In the story of the Magi Herod was threatened by the light. When he found out about it, he ordered all the children under two near Bethlehem to be killed.
The decision we make is whether we will be led by the light. It’s a decision that we make every day of our life; it’s a decision that is always available to us; and it’s a decision that will change us.
One helpful prayer is to pray that we will be led by the light. Make this your prayer this week.
Tuesday, January 4
Read Genesis 1:1-5
The very first words of God in the Bible had to do with light. The words are simple—but important to know.
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. Genesis 1:3
In the story we know the light as a physical reality. This time of year we need light. In the Twin Cities we receive less than nine hours of sunlight. Some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder—a lack of light. One mode of therapy is to sit by a warm and bright light.
As followers of Jesus, we know of light as also a spiritual reality. It can bring life to our spirits. The opposite of light is, of course, darkness—which is associated with death.
Many people who have had near death experiences have remarked that they saw a light as their physical body temporarily stopped working. Even in death the light leads us.
Wednesday, January 5
Read Exodus 13:21-22
When the Israelites left Egypt, they were led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. These two pillars never left them. Another place to read about these pillars is Exodus 40:34-40.
It’s appropriate to remember how the pillar of light came into the darkness at night. It gave the people comfort and security—just as God does.
When we are young, we often need a “nightlight.” This gives us comfort and security and ultimately helps us relax and sleep.
The same ideas can apply to the light of God. It never leaves us; it gives us comfort; it gives us security; it ultimately helps us relax. Today as you pray, pray over and over this prayer, “Lord, let me be comforted by your light.” Repeat that prayer fifty to a hundred times. Pray it as you breathe. Let go of your thoughts and just focus on the prayer.
Thursday, January 6
Read John 1:1-9
The New Testament continued the theme of light that we read about earlier this week. The writer of John said it best.
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:9
We know of Jesus as the light. It gives us life.
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:3b-5
Note that darkness is always affiliated with light—just as in the Old Testament. Note that light gives life and direction—just as in the Old Testament.
The transliteration of light for Greek is phos. Today as you pray, give thanks for this phos. It will give you life and direction. This phos will shine out of your own darkness.
Friday, January 7
Read Matthew 5:14-16
What a wonderful passage these three verses are! These verses are part of Jesus’ first sermon—we call it the Sermon on the Mount. The “you” is plural. Jesus was talking to his disciples and meant that the community was called to share this light.
The church is the light of the world. We bear witness to this light through our good works and give glory to God.
Chain of Lakes was called into being so that we can bear witness to this light.
We do this in a variety of ways. Over Christmas many folks shared Christmas gifts with people who needed them. Through this act we were a witness to the light. Chain of Lakes has done much with homeless youth in Anoka County. Through this initiative we share light.
Once we have this light, we are not called to hide it. Instead let it shine. Remember the children’s song. Consider singing it today.
“This little light of mine; I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine; I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine; I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine; let it shine; let it shine.”
Saturday, January 8
Read Revelation 22:1-5
Just as the beginning of Scripture focused on light, the end of Scripture does too. The very last chapter shares this ending vision of light. Look at this verse:
“And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:5
This future vision contains light which comes from God. Just as God created light at the beginning of Scripture, God shared this vision of light at the end of Scripture.
Monday, December 27
Read Matthew 1:1-16
This might seem to be a strange way to start a gospel. Matthew shared the genealogy of Jesus. Why would Matthew do this? It’s important to know that Matthew wrote his gospel for a Jewish audience. He knew that the people listening to this story would be interested in the history of the family of Jesus. They also would be interested in knowing that the credentials of Jesus were quite strong.
As a person listened to this story of the genealogy of Jesus, they probably knew some of the stories of people who were mentioned in the list. They might have known some of the stories of David or Abraham. Perhaps they even knew Joseph themselves or Jacob, the father of Joseph. These names were more than names, they were stories that illustrated faith.
At Christmas time many people have the opportunity to remember and create stories among the people who were present.
As you think about these gatherings, take a moment to reflect on the faith stories of the people who are most important to you. What are their faith stories? What is a faith story that everyone in your family knows and shares? By remembering these stories you are like a Jewish man or woman listening to the genealogy of Jesus.
Tuesday, December 28
Read Matthew 1:17
Matthew started his genealogy by sharing that Jesus was the son of David and the son of Abraham. He then went on to share that there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David and 14 generations from David to the deportation and 14 generations from the deportation to when Jesus was born.
And the summary in verse 17 is a way to divide the history of the Old Testament. If you have some time today, learn a bit about Abraham, and David and the deportation. They are markers of faith for Israel.
Each of us has important markers in our own faith journey. These are moments of faith in our life that were important to us. Take some time to identify one or two important moments of faith that you have had. Reflect on questions like, “What are my most important moments of faith? How did this moment of faith impact me as a person? What are some additional takeaways from this moment of faith for me?”
Others are interested in your moments of faith. Please share!
Your reflection exercise can lead you closer to God.
Wednesday, December 29
Read Matthew 1:18-25
This story prompted all of our Christmas celebrations. You’ve heard the story before, but as you read it today pretend as if you haven’t read it before. Empty your mind of what you know and try to hear the story for the first time.
If you have some extra time today, read Luke’s version of the story. You can find it in Luke 2:1-20.
As you read the story give thanks to God for the birth of Jesus. Reflect on what it means that God would enter into the world in the form of a baby. Think about the dangers that surrounded the story of the birth of Jesus. This was not a safe and sanitary story.
We can learn quite a lot about God when we reflect on what it means that God entered into the world as a baby.
Thursday, December 30
Read Matthew 2:1-12
The birth of Jesus immediately received attention when three wise men from the East came to bring gifts. These people were not Jews and did not practice their faith as a Jew. They weren’t kings as the famous Christmas carol written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. in 1857 shared.
Herod shared his own insecurity by wanting to trick the wise men. He couldn’t bear that someone would be born who might receive a lot of attention. Herod wanted the attention himself.
The wise men eventually found baby Jesus. When they found him, they bowed down and paid him homage. They worshiped him. They gave gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The tradition of gift giving that so defines Christmas originated in this story of the wise men sharing gifts.
God was already looking out for Jesus. He knew that Herod was going to try to harm Jesus. He told the wise men in a dream not to go to back to Herod, but instead to go to their own homeland by another path.
Friday, December 31
Read Matthew 2:13-18
Dreams were an important part of the birth story in Matthew. In a dream, Joseph was told not to divorce himself from Mary; in a dream the wise men were told not to return to Herod; and then in a dream Joseph was warned about the impending persecution that Herod was going to initiate.
Sometimes we receive messages of God from our own dreams. Perhaps you can remember a time when you had a dream that felt like a message from God. The dream was powerful and clear, and you knew that something in that dream was meant for you.
Take some time to think about times in our own life when we had a powerful dream. As we get older it’s harder to remember our dreams. But we might remember a dream from the past that still stays with us.
Not every dream, of course, is a message from God. But sometimes our dreams can be messages from the divine. We see how God communicated to people in the first two chapters of Matthew through dreams.
Have you had a dream that you believe had a message from God? Please share.
Saturday, January 1
Read Matthew 2:19-23
God continued to lead Joseph in dreams. In these verses we learn about two dreams that Joseph had. In one dream, Joseph was told to leave Egypt and go back to Israel. In another dream Joseph was warned about the leader Archelaus. Because of this dream Joseph settled in the village of Nazareth.
This story has many elements of the story of Moses. And if you were listening to someone share the story with you, you would have known about Moses. When Moses was born, the leader of Egypt wanted to kill all of the baby Israelites. The family of Moses had to be on the run from what was happening.
Like yesterday, take some time to reflect on when you experienced a powerful dream where you believed that God was speaking to you.
Monday, December 20
Read Luke 1:1-25
Luke wanted to write an orderly account of the gospel so that Theophilus would know the truth of what happened. Luke was a historian who wanted to place the births of John and Jesus in a historical context. We can see this as Luke shared the long details of when Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and the ancestry of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
If you read the story carefully, you’ll see how God surprised Zechariah. However, Zechariah wasn’t open to being surprised. Even though an angel of God appeared in front of him to tell him what was going to happen, he still couldn’t believe.
It’s not surprising that Zechariah had a hard time believing that his wife, Elizabeth, would become pregnant. Both of them were old.
Pastor Paul shared on Sunday that it seems a bit harsh that Zechariah was made mute because he was not able to accept that this surprise would happen. Do you think this was a harsh action by Gabriel?
An even more important question is “Are you open to surprises?” The surprises happen all around us, but often we can miss them. Being aware and available to being surprised can fill us with joy and expectation.
Tuesday, December 21
Read Luke 1:26-38
Mary’s response was quite different than Zechariah. The message that the angel, Gabriel, shared was not any more surprising, but Mary was willing to accept it. She couldn’t understand how the words of Gabriel would happen—she knew how babies were conceived! Even though the message was unbelievable she was willing to believe.
As you prepare to celebrate Christmas this Saturday, take some time to reflect on the unbelievable message of Jesus’ entrance into the world. If you can, share this story with someone today. Talk about how Mary was willing to believe the unbelievable.
Sometimes faith is believing even when the evidence is contrary to what we think is going to happen.
Wednesday, December 22
Read Luke 1:39-80
Quite a lot happened in these 41 verses! Mary went to visit Elizabeth. John was born. Both Mary and Zechariah shared a song of Praise for God.
The song of praise that Mary shared was called the Magnificat based on how she was magnifying the Lord. The song of praise that Zechariah shared is called the Benedictus based on the first word of his song.
Praising God is a beautiful expression of faith. When we are praising God, we acknowledge specific qualities or actions of God. We then fill in the blank, “We praise you, God for _____.”
Take some time to write down specific qualities or actions of God that are very important to you. Then spend time praising God today. Your spirit will benefit.
Thursday, December 23
Read Luke 2:1-20
The story of Jesus’ birth speaks for itself. Within the story we can see the markings of Luke the historian. At the start of the story Luke wanted the hearer of the story to know who the political leaders were. He was placing the story into a context.
The angels first words to the shepherds are worth remembering. “Do not be afraid …” Often when an angel appeared to a human these were the first words out of the angel’s mouth.
We live in a world that encourages us to be afraid. Open the newspaper and we read headlines that tug at our fears. Turn on the television and we see stories that can make us afraid. At times our leaders will appeal to our fears.
God does not appeal to our fears or want to have us be afraid. The words of the angels confirm this fact. Even though the shepherds were surprised that they came across these heavenly creatures, they need not be afraid. God did not send Jesus into the world, so we would be afraid. God sent Jesus into the world, so we would not be afraid. Do not be afraid!
Friday, December 24
Read Luke 2:21-40
Again, God was orchestrating the connection of people in the story. God had shared with Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. What a privilege it must have been for Simeon to receive this message!
Simeon knew his call because God had told it to him. When he saw baby Jesus, he took the baby in his arms. This might have seemed a bit forward, but to Simeon it was very natural. How could he not take Jesus in his arms and give praise to God. The promise of God had been kept! The baby was the illustration of the promise.
Anna has a wonderful part in this story. She was a deep woman of faith who never left the temple. Because of her faith she could see that this baby was the Messiah. She was ready to praise God and to speak about the child to anyone who was ready to hear.
Our faith practices can prepare us to welcome Jesus—just like Anna did. Over the next week you will have the opportunity to welcome Jesus into the world like Anna. Prepare your heart to have an encounter with Jesus as Anna did.
Saturday, December 25
Read Luke 2:41-52
This is the only story about Jesus as a boy, and it only appears in Luke. By going to the Passover celebration, we learn that Joseph and Mary were committed to the rituals of their faith. In the Passover the Jews remembered their liberation from Egypt.
As a twelve-year-old Jesus was beginning to assert his independence from Joseph and Mary. Most parents can understand this. Luke ended the chapter by saying that Jesus increased in wisdom and in divine and human favor. He was growing up to be an adult who would change the world!
On this Christmas day think about the wisdom and divine favor that God has given you. Through Jesus and the presence of the Spirit you are equipped to face the challenges of the world. Today is the day to give praise to God for these beautiful gifts!
Monday, December 13
Read Amos 5:14-15, 21-24
This past Sunday the people of Chain of Lakes looked at serving and service. We heard stories from partners of Chain of Lakes who directly serve people who are homeless and people who are hungry. This week we will have the opportunity to learn what the Bible shares about justice—an important dimension of service.
Today’s Scripture was written by a man called Amos. He was a shepherd and possibly a man who owned land that was able to support sycamore figs that were given to cattle.
God was upset with the people of Israel because they had neglected justice. He couldn’t stand their religious assemblies or their offerings or their songs. What God wanted from the people was a commitment to justice that sprung from their hearts.
In this book justice meant treating people who were poor with dignity. It meant not ignoring them or their plight.
Amos 5:24 is a very famous Scripture – Martin Luther King Jr. quoted it in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham jail.” The Scripture can be instructive as people in the United States come to terms with our country’s racial history.
The Scripture is this: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
What are some times in your life when you’ve seen justice roll down?
Tuesday, December 14
Read Hosea 2:16-20
The book of Hosea was written in the 8th century before Jesus. The book is the first of the twelve minor prophets. The first three chapters of Hosea share a metaphor of Hosea’s relationship with a prostitute. This relationship mirrors that relationship between God and Israel. The people of Israel were going off to worship and serving other Gods. God’s heart was broken by the idolatry of the people.
In these verses from the second chapter God presented a vision of the relationship between God and Israel. The words are beautiful. “I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.” Hosea 2:19-20
These words could be the basis for anyone’s wedding vows.
Think about your most important relationships. How can you live out these words and in particular the call for righteousness and justice in those relationships? What are some ways you’ve found helpful to live out justice in your most important relationships?
Wednesday, December 15
Read Jeremiah 22:1-5
The man named Jeremiah was a priest in the line of King David and a descendant of Abiathar. He received a call from God to be a prophet when he was a young man, perhaps as old as a teenager, Jeremiah 1:4-10
In these verses for today God asked Jeremiah to go to the place where the king lived and proclaim a message. If this story happened in the United States, we could imagine Jeremiah going to the White House and sharing this message.
The message that Jeremiah shared was to act with justice and righteousness and go out of the way to help those on the margins of the world—the alien (person from another country), the orphan, and the widow.
This message is similar to the message of Matthew 25. “Whatever you do to the least of these my brethren you do it to me.”
We can learn from these words that God has a special place in the divine heart for those who are on the margins. God wants to see justice done. Who do you know you lives out the message that God gave to Jeremiah?
Thursday, December 16
Read Isaiah 42:1-4
Isaiah is the longest of the Old Testament prophets. The book can be divided into three sections. Isaiah 1-39 happened before the exile; Isaiah 40-55 happened after the exile of the people; Isaiah 56-65 happened when the people were returning to Jerusalem.
Today’s reading is one of the four servant songs in Isaiah. The other three servant songs are 49:1-7, 50:4-11 & 52:13-15.
Some see this story as a foreshadowing of Jesus. We read in these four verses that God put the divine spirit into a person. And that person would bring forth justice to the nations. The servant would follow God to do what was right and bring care to those who are most vulnerable.
In the last verse we read that the servant would not grow faint until justice has been established in the earth.
From the beginning of the servant’s life to the end, doing and creating justice was vital.
Friday, December 17
Read Micah 6:6-8
The person named Micah was a prophet from the Judean town of Moresheth. Micah was active as a prophet in the 8th century.
The book of Micah is one of the twelve books in the Old Testament that are known as the minor prophets. Having the word “minor” as a description does not make the book less important than the “major” prophets. It indicates that the book is shorter than the major prophets.
These verses from Micah are very famous.
“What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking with humility are all significant parts of the life of a disciple.
How do you do on these three. How would you rate yourself on each of the three on a scale from one to ten with ten being the highest?
Saturday, December 18
Read Ezekiel 34:11-16
Ezekiel was a man who was a prophet from 594 BCE to 574 BCE. He was the son of a priest and was one of the people who had to go into exile to Babylon.
Most people know the 37th chapter of Ezekiel where Ezekiel talked about the dry bones and the life that was brought to the dry bones.
In this 34th chapter Ezekiel shared that God was like a shepherd. “I [God] will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.”
Do you ever wonder about God’s desire for justice? If you do, remember these words from Ezekiel.
Monday, December 6
Read Genesis 25:19-34
This week we are going to read the story of Jacob and Esau. It’s a story that can help us in our own personal relationships.
Jacob and Esau were twins. And they were very different people. Esau was a skillful hunter while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents.
Right away we read about an alliance that happened in their family. Isaac loved Esau; Rebekah loved Jacob. The story doesn’t say this, but we get the sense that Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob and Rebekah loved Jacob more than Esau.
As Pastor Paul shared in his sermon on Sunday it’s natural to have alliances with some people. We can relate better to some people than others. When it comes to our family, we might find ourselves getting along with one person much easier than another person. That is normal.
But it’s not normal to have an alliance at the expense of another person.
Having favorites is normal. Having favorites at the expense of other relationships is not healthy.
Have you had an experience where people had favorites at the expense of other relationships? The experience could have been painful. But sharing the experience can be helpful. So if this has happened or you’ve seen it happen, please share.
Tuesday, December 7
Read Genesis 27:1-29
Rebekah and Jacob manipulated the situation at the expense of Esau.
We can see Rebekah’s manipulation. She wanted Jacob to receive the blessing from Isaac. When she heard what was going to happen, she made a plan with Jacob’s consent to take the blessing from Esau and give it to Jacob.
Jacob consented in the plan too. He could have told his mother that what they were doing was wrong. He could have refused to participate in the scheme.
Both participated in a lie.
We might find some of this manipulation amusing, but the manipulation came at a great cost.
Can you remember a situation of manipulation like this? An experience where someone used a situation to advance their own interests in a deceitful way and as a result another person was hurt. Perhaps you were the victim of a situation like this. Or perhaps you found yourselves involved in a situation like this.
With discretion, please do share.
Wednesday, December 8
Read Genesis 27:30-44
Esau was the victim in this story. The blessing that was his was deceitfully given to Jacob. He had every reason to be angry.
But Esau certainly didn’t handle his anger in an appropriate way. He not only hated Jacob, he wanted to kill him.
The word for “hate” comes from the Hebrew word that is transliterated as “salam.” It means to bear a grudge or to cherish animosity against a person.
Often a person as a victim can nurse a grudge for a long time against a person. The person might even receive some benefit from thinking and reflecting on how deeply the person was hurt. Being hurt by another person is not appropriate and not healthy. To nurse a grudge or hate a person is also not appropriate or healthy.
Rebekah could see that deep trouble was happening. She told Jacob to escape for she knew that Esau was planning to kill Jacob. The alliances in the family were now out in the open and causing extreme pain.
Do you know of someone who has been a victim who has nursed a grudge for a long time? Perhaps you are the person! As you pray today, pray that people can release grudges and can let go of their hate.
Thursday, December 9
Read Genesis 28:1-22
Because of what happened Jacob and Esau would not live in the same location. They left. Before they left Jacob received another blessing from Isaac; Esau also received a blessing from Isaac.
At the end of this chapter, we read of Jacob having a very intense dream. God shared with Jacob that God would be with Jacob and some day Jacob would come back to the land from which he was leaving.
God never shared in the dream that what Jacob did was okay. But through the words that God shared we get the sense that God forgave Jacob. Jacob did not deserve forgiveness (and in reality, who does deserve forgiveness?), but Jacob received it.
Have you had an experience where you did something wrong and had an experience of forgiveness? Perhaps your experience of forgiveness came in a dream. The forgiveness gave you a sense of relief.
Please share your experience.
Friday, December 10
Read Genesis 32:1-32
Jacob wanted to experience reconciliation with Esau. Meeting with Esau caused Jacob significant anxiety. The night before he met with Esau, Jacob wrestled with an angel. Jacob permanently walked with a limp because of that encounter.
Jacob spent a lot of time talking to messengers from God about the possible encounter with Esau.
We might have had a time that we experienced reconciliation with someone. It could have been a time when we hurt someone and wanted to offer our apology. Or perhaps someone hurt us and reached out to us and offered an apology.
These moments of reaching out are nerve-wracking. We can see the anxiety of Jacob in this story.
Have you had an experience where you reached out to someone you had hurt, or someone who hurt you reached out to you. What happened? Please share.
Saturday, December 11
Read Genesis 33:1-17
Years of bitterness were let go in this story. Jacob was worried how Esau would treat him. This is why he put four hundred men in front of him.
Esau was ready to let go of the past. The story is so beautiful. “But Esau ran to meet [Jacob], and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”
The two experienced reconciliation.
The possibility of reconciliation can keep us going during difficult times.
You might have had a story like this—a time when past bitterness was let go. Or you might know of another person who had a story like this.
If you know of a story like this or have had a story like this, please share.
Monday, November 29
Read Luke 1:13-17
This past Sunday, Pastor Paul talked about being full of Spirit as we live through Advent in 2021. This week in the devotion we are going to look at stories in Luke and Acts of people being filled with the Spirit. Being full of Spirit can certainly help us experience the best Christmas ever.
Even before John was born the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that John would be full of the spirit. Gabriel told Zechariah that John would turn many people to God during John’s lifetime. He would have the intensity of Elijah as John shared his message with people.
John was inspiring. His presence was commanding with people.
All of us have times in our life when we’ve been inspired—they might even be times when we have felt that God was inspiring us. In this way we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
When have you had a time like this—a time when you felt inspired that God was touching you and helping you and encouraging you to do something? What were the circumstances of your own story? Please share.
Tuesday, November 30
Read Luke 1:41-45
Elizabeth did not know that her relative Mary was coming to visit her. Elizabeth also did not know that Mary was pregnant. Mary had been told by Gabriel that Elizabeth was pregnant, but Elizabeth had not been told.
What a deep moment of connection Elizabeth must have had when she saw Mary. The connection was even more when the child leaped in Elizabeth’s womb.
It was as if Elizabeth had clarity about the world at that moment. It was like an “Aha” moment. Now everything made sense.
This is partly what Luke meant when he wrote that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She had a sense of clarity about what was happening.
All of us have had moments like this. They are moments when we suddenly are clear about something that has been happening. Perhaps we were confused or misunderstood an event. But at this moment our confusion and misunderstanding were taken away.
When we have these moments, we are full of the Holy Spirit.
When have you had moments like these? Please share.
Wednesday, December 1
Read Luke 4:1-15
Jesus was full of the Spirit at the start of this story and at the end of this story. The Holy Spirit helped Jesus in different ways in each part of the story.
At the beginning the Spirit helped Jesus as the Devil confronted Jesus. Jesus hadn’t eaten and was alone. He was tempted three times. It was possible that Jesus could have made the wrong decision, because by definition temptation means someone could choose the wrong path.
Of course, Jesus didn’t choose the wrong path. The Holy Spirit had to have helped Jesus. The next time you are tempted ask the Holy Spirit for direction and help.
At the conclusion of the story Jesus was full of the Spirit as he began to teach in the synagogues of Galilee. Most of us have memories of someone who preached or taught in a very powerful way. We might have even said that the person was full of the Spirit. This was Jesus, full of the Spirit, teaching in synagogues.
When can you remember hearing someone speak where you felt the person was filled with the Spirit. What was the experience like? What do you remember? Please share.
Thursday, December 2
Read Luke 15:20
The father saw his younger son and was filled with compassion. Pastor Paul has shared that compassion comes from the Greek word, “splanchizomai.” This word comes from the form, “splancha.” It literally means guts.
It’s as if the father’s guts went out to his son when he saw him. He was full of love and care and concern.
All of us have had these types of experiences. We saw something happen and our insides were literally turned upside down. We were touched deeply. We were filled!
Luke didn’t write that the father was filled with the Holy Spirit. But we can imagine that he was. This deep level of care for another person is in indication that the Spirit is near.
These types of experiences are important for our development as a follower of Jesus. Jesus wanted his followers to be full of compassion.
When have you had this type of experience, that is being filled with compassion? Please share.
Friday, December 3
Read Acts 2:1-4
This is the only story in the Bible where a group of people were filled with the Holy Spirit. All of the other stories are of one person being filled with the Holy Spirit.
It was quite a scene when this group of people were filled with the Holy Spirit. People started talking in their native language. Even though they spoke in different languages, everyone could understand each other.
You might have had an experience where you were in a group where a collective wave of emotion went through people. Perhaps at a large concert or a large sporting event. The group suddenly might have felt connected to each other. There was a common purpose or experience that was very meaningful to people.
This can also happen in worship. When people gather together for worship the Holy Spirit will often move among the group. The people who are present experienced something that is hard to explain. The people were touched by something that was far beyond themselves.
Have you had a moment where you were in a group and there was a collective sense of connection? Perhaps the experience did happen in worship. Please share!
Saturday, December 4
Read Acts 13:44-52
Being filled with the Spirit does not mean that only pleasant things will happen. In this story many people were gathered to hear Paul and Barnabus speaking. Many were turning to God.
Unfortunately, the Jews were upset and threatened about what had happened. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabus.
Look at what Luke wrote about how the disciples responded, [they] were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit can come in all sorts of situations—good, bad, scary.
Though an external circumstance might not turn out well, the Spirit can give us a sense of peace.
Do you have a story of having a sense of God’s presence or being filled with the Spirit even when an external circumstance is not going well? Please share.
Monday, November 22
Read Romans 5:1-11
We have many reasons to be thankful. We can feel the blessings of family, a good job, financial security, a place to live, hobbies and activities that give us meaning, our health. Unfortunately, all of these can be taken away from us. When our own thanks is dependent on an external circumstance, we can find ourselves in misery.
The basis of our thanks is our faith. In this passage to the Romans Paul wrote about the love of God that is poured out to us. At the right time Christ died for us. Because of this we have peace with God—access to grace.
May our own hearts burn with love and thanks to God. In previous sermons I’ve asked people to compare their love for God with the temperature of an oven. What temperature is your love for God today? The more we appreciate and give thanks for grace, the hotter is our own love.
Today as you pray, meditate on the gift of grace that we have been given. Open yourself up to the understanding that because of Christ we have a relationship with a God who will always love us and care for us deeply. Our only response to this gift is our thanks.
What is the temperature for your own love for God? Please share.
Tuesday, November 23
Read Luke 17:11-19
This was the New Testament reading from this past Sunday. Imagine that you were one of the lepers who was healed. As a leper you were ostracized by the community. You most likely lived in a leper colony on the outskirts of the town. People thought you were unclean. Some regulations called for you to say the words “unclean, unclean” when someone approached you. You were also a Samaritan, so you were different religiously compared to many others.
Jesus changed all of that for you. He told you to go to a priest and when you encountered a priest you were not afflicted with leprosy anymore. You were healed.
The only appropriate response is thanks. As Jesus noted it’s puzzling that the other nine lepers didn’t come back to share their thanks with Jesus.
We know that giving thanks is the right thing to do. The place to start is to appreciate all that God has given to us. The leper who returned understood the gift he had been given.
Today as you pray, give thanks to God for all that you have received from God. Give thanks for the healing that God offers to us.
Wednesday, November 24
Read Psalm 92:1-4
The superscription for this Psalm says it is a song for the Sabbath Day. We can imagine people singing this song to God in worship on the Sabbath. This is the only Psalm of the 150 Psalms where a superscription of “A Song for the Sabbath Day” is written.
Our worship of God is a way to express thanks. When we gather with others we offer the community’s thanks to God for all that we have received.
Take some time to write out all that you are thankful for in 2021. Make a list of 10-15 events that have happened in 2021 for which you give thanks. When you’ve completed the list read these four verses from Psalm 92 again.
Consider sharing your list of what you are thankful!
Thursday, November 25
Read Luke 9:10-17
Happy Thanksgiving! May your day be filled with joy! May your feast and festivities be similar to what the 5,000 must have experienced when they were fed with a loaf and two fish.
When the Pilgrims started the tradition of Thanksgiving in 1621 they were filled with joy at a good harvest. Initially they did not have enough food to feed the 102 people of their colony. The Wampanoag Native Americans had helped the Pilgrims by providing them seeds and teaching them to fish.
The festival of Thanksgiving has come a long way from that celebration in 1621.
Today give thanks for all that you have. May your day be filled with a sense of gratitude for the gifts that surround you.
Friday, November 26
Read Galatians 5:16-26
In this passage Paul contrasted the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit that he shared in verses 22-23 come from out of our heart. The seeds of these fruits are our own thanks and gratitude.
Look at the difference between the person described in the first six verses and the person described in the last four verses. We have a choice about which person we will be. The choice starts with an orientation that we take towards thanks. When we are filled with thanks with all we have it’s easier to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we focus on what we lack, it’s easier to commit what Paul calls works of the flesh.
Today as you pray, pray that you will be the person described in the last four verses. Pray that we at Chain of Lakes can design ministries that encourage the people of our congregation to be these people. Pray that the people of the church worldwide will be people filled with the seeds of thanks and gratitude and people living out the fruits of the Spirit.
Saturday, November 27
Read Psalm 105:1-6
At the start of this Psalm Israel shared thanks to God. For the rest of the Psalm the writer of the Psalm recited the history of Israel. We can imagine these words being shared in a worship service. The history of the people prompted them to give thanks.
We can do the same for our own lives. Take some time to reflect or even write down three ways you are thankful for what has happened in the last 24 hours. What would they be? Take some time to thoughtfully come up with this list.
Then when you have your list, shower God with thanks. Let God know how deeply you appreciate each of the events.
In doing this exercise you are connecting with the writer of this Psalm. You are joining hands across history with someone who gave thanks for their history.
What are three ways you are thankful for what has happened in the last 24 hours? Please share.
Monday, November 15
Read Exodus 36:1-7
Generosity is an attitude that is not always influenced by circumstances in which people find themselves.
At this point in Exodus the Israelites were in the wilderness. Pastor Paul shared a few pictures of the wilderness in his sermon yesterday. It was a desolate place with limited food and limited water.
At one time in the wilderness the Israelites became upset because they didn’t receive any water. The place was so desolate that the people quarreled with Moses. (See Exodus 17:1-7)
Despite this desolate environment, in this part of the story the people responded with generosity. They wanted to honor God by building a tabernacle, or place to worship. The place had to be portable.
Bezalel and Oholiab were chosen to lead the construction of the tabernacle. They appealed to the people to bring offerings so the tabernacle could be constructed.
The people brought so many offerings that Moses was required to ask them to stop. It was as if he was saying, “you have been too generous!”
Who have you known who exhibits that level of generosity? An attitude of going above and beyond of what is asked. Please share!
Tuesday, November 16
Read Proverbs 3:5-10
First fruits giving is a way to be generous with God. The writer of this section of Proverbs recognized the value of first fruits giving.
“Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
Think of the difference between fresh food and leftovers. Obviously all of us would rather eat fresh food compared to something that is left over from other meals. Leftovers still might be tasty, but the quality is lost.
The same idea connects to first fruits giving. Giving the leftovers of our finances is much different than honoring God with the first fruits of what we have.
What are your thoughts about first fruits giving compared to sharing the leftovers? Please share.
Wednesday, November 17
Read Luke 21:1-4
The widow’s offering was nothing. Some think that the two small copper coins she shared were called leptons, which was the smallest currency of Roman coin.
But her generosity exceeded the generosity of the rich people who were putting gifts into the treasury. Even though the total amount of gifts that the rich people were sharing far exceeded the widow’s two coins, Jesus extolled the generosity of the widow.
Was the widow generous? For sure, yes! She was generous because she gave everything she had. The percentage of her gift compared to her wealth exceeded the percentage of gifts of the rich people’s wealth.
You might take some time and reflect on the percentage of your financial gifts that you give away. Do you know the percent?
The idea of a tithe makes sense—and it is a generous gift. When we give away ten percent of our pre-tax income, we are sharing our first fruits and we are sharing a significant percentage. A tithe is always a reflection of being generous.
Do you know of people who didn’t have many possessions, but were still very generous? Like the widow in this story? Please share.
Thursday, November 18
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-15
Our own generosity starts with understanding God’s generosity with us.
It’s interesting that when people were asked to give their offerings, they were asked to share what God had done for them. Pay special attention to verses five through ten. These verses are a recital of how God had helped the Israelites escape from Egypt and had led them to the Promised Land.
What does this story have to do with being generous? Everything. Before the people could give they were asked to remember the generosity of God. God had been so good and faithful with them that the people could not help remembering that when they shared their gifts.
Today take some time to reflect on this question—in what specific ways would you describe God as generous? Take some time to write out your response? Consider sharing your response on the Expressions of Faith Facebook page.
It’s very difficult to be generous if we can’t claim the generosity of God.
Friday, November 19
Read Luke 10:25-37
The Samaritan in this story was very generous with his time. The Priest didn’t see himself as having the time to stop for the man who was lying half-dead on the side of the road. The Levite didn’t see himself as having the time to stop to help the man who was lying half-dead on the side of the road.
But the Samaritan did.
Look at the amount of time the Samaritan shared to help the man. He was willing to get out of his own schedule to share his time. His willingness to be generous with his time is a significant reason that he is a hero.
When we are asked the question, “how are you?” what is one way that people often respond? “Busy.” When we say that, we are saying that we don’t have time for others. We might be busy, but to be generous is to be willing to take the time to get out of our own busyness to help.
Everyone is given the same amount of time in a day. But not everyone shares their time in the same way. Some people see themselves as too busy to share their time. Some people ignore their own busyness and are generous.
Who is a person you know who is very generous in the way he or she shares their time? Please share.
Saturday, November 20
Read 2 Corinthians 8: 1-15
If you have some extra time read the 8th and 9th chapters of 2 Corinthians. The Apostle Paul was encouraging his readers to make a gift for the Christians at Jerusalem.
In verse nine he talked about Jesus. He described him as generous. Some translations of generous are grace. Grace is a gift that is not earned.
When we are generous we are sharing gifts with people who don’t earn them. Sharing gifts with deserving people is wonderful. But what about sharing gifts with undeserving people? This is true generosity.
Do you have a story of someone sharing a gift with an undeserving person? That is true generosity.
Community Garden Plot Application 2021 – Chain of Lakes
Chain of Lakes Church,