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Chain of Lakes Videos

Select a link below to view past videos of sermons. Don’t forget to also check out Pastor Paul’s blog!

May 21, 2023
“Running on Empty” – Guest Preacher Rev. Gary Hanson
Video shown above

May 14, 2023
Mother’s Day – Testimonies from Kim Tura, Fauna Nissley and Becca Larkin

May 7, 2023
The Serenity Prayer – “The Prayer that Brings Peace” series conclusion

April 30, 2023
The Serenity Prayer – “The Prayer that Brings Peace” part 3

April 23, 2023
The Serenity Prayer – “The Prayer that Brings Peace” part 2

April 16, 2023
The Serenity Prayer – “The Prayer that Brings Peace”

April 9, 2023

April 2, 2023
Palm Sunday

March 26, 2023
“Greatest Letter Ever” – Transformation

March 19, 2023
“Greatest Letter Ever” – God’s Enduring Love

March 12, 2023
“Greatest Letter Ever” – What’s the Deal with the Apostle Paul and Homosexuality?

March 5, 2023
“Greatest Letter Ever” – Justification by Faith

February 26, 2023
Book of Romans -“Greatest Letter Ever”  – The Apostle Paul

May 29, 2022
First Ever Worship Service in the New Church Building

May 22, 2022
Memories – last worship service at Davenport location

Daily Devotions

Comments about the devotion can be emailed to

Monday May 22
2 Samuel 6:12-19
It was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing, and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatted calf. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. They brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

This week we have the opportunity to read stories about soulful living. The Scriptures have many stories that illustrate people who lived with soul.
Along with Abraham and Moses, David is one of the most important people in the Old Testament. He led Israel in one of the nation’s most glorious periods of its history. This story is a significant one for the development of Israel. Israel had re-captured the ark from the Philistines. And now the ark had been brought to Jerusalem. The ark represented something very significant to David and the people of Israel. The ark is where people went to be in conversation with God. It reminded the people of the sojourn of their ancestors in the wilderness. It functioned for Israel like a significant piece of history functions for our own country—imagine the actual Declaration of Independence. When the ark was brought to Jerusalem, David could not help but dance. His soul was alive and had to be expressed through his dancing.
People who live with soul frequently find ways to express themselves. They do it without concern for how other people will view them. In fact, soulful people oftentimes will run into trouble with people who don’t appreciate how they express themselves. In this story Michael despised David for his dancing. To live with soul and to express our soul means we might encounter the wrath of others. This potential wrath does not stop a person living with soul from expressing themselves. Have you found yourself in a situation where living with soul put you in conflict with others?

Tuesday, May 23
Deuteronomy 26:16-19  “This very day the Lord your God is commanding you to observe these statutes and ordinances, so observe them diligently with all your heart and with all your soul. Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him. Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep all his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.”
These words were given by God to Moses with the intent of Moses sharing them with the Israelites. The Israelites were about to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. These words and many others in the last section of Deuteronomy were guides for the people as they entered a new reality. God asked the people to observe the ordinances with their heart and their soul.
Following the law was more than something the people were to do with their feet. Doing the law was like half the message. God wanted the people to follow the law with their heart and soul. God wanted the people to follow the law with a sense of deep desire. Think of someone you know who has soul or desire for an activity. This could be a musician or an athlete or someone living out a hobby. The person has a deep passion for the activity. They had a high amount of desire to do it well. This is how God wanted the Israelites to follow the law. Do you have an example of someone who lives with soul? Please share.
Wednesday, May 24
Psalm 23:1-3 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

This Psalm is the most famous of the 150 psalms that are in the Bible. It’s worth memorizing for it shares a treatise on the Christian life.
Right away in this Psalm we learn that God can refresh our own souls. We can’t live for long with soul without God. Living with soul is a profound spiritual experience. And in doing so we are connected to God. Memorizing this Psalm is worth the effort. Today try memorizing the first three verses. These three share quite a lot about God.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his sake.” Psalm 23:1-3
Have you had an experience recently of having your soul restored? Please share.
Thursday, May 25
Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22   Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (1-5) Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word. Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers who do his will. Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul. (20-22)

This Psalm is a beautiful description of the nature of God and the reality of humans within the world. It starts out and ends with the phrase, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
The soul is drawn to God. The soul is replenished through and by God. We can find refreshment through our faith practices—weekly worship, daily prayer, service in the community, and financial giving. All these practices refresh the part of us that desires to be connected to God.
God does the refreshing of our soul, but God does not force us to take time to be refreshed. God waits for us to be in situations where our soul can be refreshed.
Which one of the above faith practices refreshes your soul? Which one of the above faith practices comes a bit harder for you? Please share.

Friday, May 26
John 12:27-28 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

The start of verse 27 should grab our attention. Jesus shared that his soul is troubled. It’s interesting that Jesus would use this language of the soul. It shows us that the soul was important to him; it shows that Jesus could access what was happening in his own soul; and it shows that Jesus was concerned enough about his own soul to articulate that it was troubled.
Hopefully our soul is not troubled often. And even though we don’t want to have our soul troubled, it’s worth thinking about what can trouble our soul. What are the huge things in life that would trouble our soul? Jesus was so troubled that he asked Abba, father if he could be saved from this hour or what was about to happen—you and I know that Jesus was referring to his crucifixion. Immediately after Jesus shared that his soul was troubled a voice came from heaven. God was paying attention to what Jesus was saying.
Think about sharing this language of a troubled soul with God. When our soul is troubled, we are called to pour out our soul to God. God is waiting for us when we pray like, “My soul is troubled, Lord; I’m pouring out my soul to you, my Redeemer; my soul needs to be restored O Great One.”
Have you had an experience where your soul was troubled and you found help from God? Please share.

Saturday, May 27
Acts 4:32-37 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite from Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

The whole group was unified in heart and soul. Acts 4:32
This is the hope for all congregations—that our souls are unified. Imagine the power and spiritual depth of a group of people whose souls are unified!
Pray that this can happen for Chain of Lakes. Pray that the souls of our new faith community will be unified!

Monday, May 15
Exodus 1:22-2:10  Pharaoh then commanded all his people, “Throw into the Nile every boy that is born, but you may let all the girls live.” Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and the woman conceived and bore a son. Seeing what a fine child he was, she hid him for three months.  But when she could no longer hide him, she took a papyrus basket, daubed it with bitumen and pitch, and putting the child in it, placed it among the reeds on the bank of the Nile.  His sister stationed herself at a distance to find out what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe at the Nile, while her attendants walked along the bank of the Nile. Noticing the basket among the reeds, she sent her handmaid to fetch it.  On opening it, she looked, and there was a baby boy crying! She was moved with pity for him and said, “It is one of the Hebrews’ children.”  Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and summon a Hebrew woman to nurse the child for you?”  Pharaoh’s daughter answered her, “Go.” So, the young woman went and called the child’s own mother.  Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will pay your wages.” So, the woman took the child and nursed him.  When the child grew,[d] she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses; for she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Moses, one of the greatest people in the Old Testament almost didn’t survive beyond the first year of his life.  It was only because of the women in his life that he lived.

The Pharaoh of the time was extremely upset and threatened by the growing number of Israelites.  He ordered that all the male Israelite children under two be killed.

Amidst this chilling and frightening decree three women displayed courage to save Moses.  Moses’ mother, Jochebed, hid Moses in a basket so that Pharaoh and his minions wouldn’t see him.  Moses’ sister, Miriam, stood watch to protect Moses from anyone who would threaten him.  And the daughter of Pharaoh—the Pharaoh who pronounced a death sentence on the children—was willing to have Moses nursed by a Hebrew woman.  We don’t even have a name for her. She is known as the daughter of Pharaoh. But her actions live far beyond.

How ironic that Miriam, one of her attendants was able to maneuver the situation so the mother of Moses nursed Moses!

Their display of courage allowed baby Moses to live.

What are your thoughts about the courage of Jochebed, Miriam, and the daughter of Pharaoh. Please share.


Tuesday, May 16
Mark 3:20-35, Luke 2:41-52  He came home. Again [the] crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat.  When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”  The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.  And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.  Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit will never have forgiveness but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”  For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.  A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.”  But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers?”  And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-35)

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.  After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man. (Luke 2:41-52)

It might be easy to think that Jesus had a perfect family life, but it was not so.  Once Mary and Joseph lost track of Jesus for three days.  Another time Mary and the brothers of Jesus came to take control of Jesus because they were worried that Jesus had lost his balance.

Jesus went on to say at the end of the third chapter of Mark that “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  Mark 3:35.

It had to be painful for the family of Jesus to be connected to such a public person.  Jesus wasn’t available to his family as his family would have liked. The level of public involvement by Jesus must have caused sadness in his family.

The myth of the perfect family is just that—a myth.  No matter how we view our family, may we know that the struggles each of our family experience are like the struggles that the family of Jesus experienced. 

How have you seen the myth of the perfect family causing harm to people? Please share.

Wednesday, May 17

1 Samuel 1:10-11, 19-20, 24-28, 2:18-19   In her bitterness she prayed to the Lord, weeping freely,  and made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the hardship of your servant, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life. No razor shall ever touch his head.” … Early the next morning they worshiped before the Lord, and then returned to their home in Ramah. When they returned Elkanah had intercourse with his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. She conceived and, at the end of her pregnancy, bore a son whom she named Samuel. “Because I asked the Lord for him.” … Once he was weaned, she brought him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the house of the Lord in Shiloh. After they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the child to Eli.  Then Hannah spoke up: “Excuse me, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here near you, praying to the Lord I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request.  Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.” Then they worshiped there before the Lord Meanwhile the boy Samuel, wearing a linen ephod, was serving in the presence of the Lord His mother used to make a little garment for him, which she would bring him each time she went up with her husband to offer the customary sacrifice.

Hannah was an incredibly courageous woman who is a role model for being a parent.  She stayed devoted to her husband, Elkanah, even though another of her husband’s wives (Peninnah) teased Hannah about Hannah’s inability to have children.

When Hannah was accused by Eli the priest of being drunk, Hannah stood up for herself.  She explained that she wasn’t drunk, but instead had been praying in a very deep way.

Even when Hannah was able to conceive a child, she was willing to give her son to the Lord.  Samuel, her son never lived with Hannah.  Samuel was trained to be a priest.

Hannah wouldn’t let other people define her. 

Do you have a story of your own mother or another woman standing up for something amidst pressure from others? Please share.   

Thursday, May 18
Proverbs 31:15-30 
She rises while it is still night, and distributes food to her household, a portion to her maidservants. She picks out a field and acquires it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength; she exerts her arms with vigor. She enjoys the profit from her dealings; her lamp is never extinguished at night.  She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches out her hands to the poor and extends her arms to the needy. She is not concerned for her household when it snows—all her charges are doubly clothed. She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing. Her husband is prominent at the city gates as he sits with the elders of the land. She makes garments and sells them and stocks the merchants with belts. She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs at the days to come. She opens her mouth in wisdom; kindly instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband, too, praises her: “Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all.” Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

The writer of Proverbs shared a vision of life as a woman and as a mother.  It’s a beautiful vision written in a culture that didn’t value women.  The writer also assumed that one of the roles of women was to be a good wife for her husband.

Nonetheless, these verses share a beautiful vision.

Enjoy some parts to this vision.

“She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. (Verse 15)

She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong (verse 17)

She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. (Verse 20)”

If you have some extra time, you might write a similar Proverb about your own mother.  What are the qualities about her which you most respect?  If you wrote a proverb for her, what would you write?

Please share.

Friday, May 19
Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-4 
Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.”  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4)

The passages in Ephesians pointed back to the 4th Commandment.  In the 4th Commandment we’re told to honor our father and our mother.

This commandment could be used in an authoritarian way.  We can use it as a hammer on our children commanding them to honor us.

The commandment wasn’t written for this reason.

If you are a parent, think about what you do to earn the honor of your children.  Your children should honor you—most definitely!  But they have a choice about whether they will honor you.  Their choice will depend on how we love them.

Think about how your own mom lived in a way that prompted you to love her. No doubt your love for your own mom didn’t happen because you were commanded to love her. She has certain qualities that prompt you to love her.

What are some qualities in your mom that prompted you to love her? Please share.

Saturday, May 20
Isaiah 49:8-15, Psalm 131
Thus says the Lord: In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you; I form you and set you as a covenant for the people, To restore the land and allot the devastated heritages, To say to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves! Along the roadways they shall find pasture, on every barren height shall their pastures be. They shall not hunger or thirst; nor shall scorching wind or sun strike them; For he who pities them leads them and guides them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roadways and make my highways level. See, these shall come from afar: some from the north and the west, others from the land of Syene. Sing out, heavens, and rejoice, earth, break forth into song, you mountains, For the Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. (Isaiah 49:8-15)

A song of ascents. Of David. Lord, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty. I do not busy myself with great matters,with things too sublime for me. Rather, I have stilled my soul, Like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul. Israel, hope in the Lord, now and forever. (Psalm 131)

Many images of God are used in the Bible and some of the images are feminine.

Isaiah made the case that God would not forget the people of Israel when Isaiah said this about God:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?”  Isaiah 49:15

The Psalmist wrote about the feminine characteristics of God:

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.”  Psalm 131:2

Gender can’t describe God.  But we can understand God through characteristics of our parents—certainly of our mother and our father. 

Some are disturbed when a feminine image of God is shared. What are your thoughts? Please share.

Monday, May 8
John 14:1-14 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  Where I am going you know the way.”  Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.  And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

 Yesterday Pastor Paul shared a final sermon on the Serenity Prayer—a prayer for peace. This week we have the opportunity to read the final words of Jesus to his followers in a prayer called the “High Priestly Prayer.” These words can bring us peace. This week we have more reading of Scripture than normal, but the words can give us peace.

In this first section of the prayer Jesus started out by sharing, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This is the word that Jesus has for us. In the rest of these verses Jesus shared about the place that he had prepared for them.

As followers of Jesus, we have this place prepared for us. It’s heaven, of course. And the promise of salvation can help us release the troubles of our heart. When we are in heaven, it’s quite possible we’ll look at our troubles on earth and think, “I was troubled by that?” From a perspective of eternity our troubles are small.

This idea is not intended to diminish the importance of our troubles, or to say that we won’t experience trouble. However, if we can see our troubles in the perspective of eternity, the weight of the troubles can seem less.

What troubles are you experiencing right now? Think about them with the perspective of eternity. How can the promise of salvation lessen the troubles you are experiencing today? Please share.

Tuesday, May 9
John 14:15-31   
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,  the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.  Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”  Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. “I have told you this while I am with you.  The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.  I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me,  but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.

In this series Pastor Paul has given two statements. They are: “I am not in control of much of my life and I am okay with that.” And “I am not in control of much of my life and this causes me anxiety.”

If you thought of the first statement as a #1 and the second statement as a #10, what number do you find yourself most of the time? Please share.

Wednesday, May 10
John 15:1-27 
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.  It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another. “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.  Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin.  Whoever hates me also hates my Father.  If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.  But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’ “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.  And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

 Seven times in this chapter, Jesus used the word, “love.” Jesus was making the case that the people who would carry on after him were no longer servants. They were now his friends. People would know that they were friends of Jesus by the way that they loved each other.

Living out the Serenity Prayer is a very healthy way we can love others. In letting go of control of situations, we can allow the Holy Spirit to work within the situation. We’re open to seeing where God is leading us. This is one way to love—to be open to the direction of where God is intending you to go.

Would you describe your heart as more of a closed fist—not listening to what God wants, or would you describe it more as an open hand—available to do what God puts on our hands? What helps you keep your hands open? Please share.

 Thursday, May 11
John 16:1-24 
“I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.  They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.  I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.

 “I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you.  But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’  But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts.  But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me;  righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me;  condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.  He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.  Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.

 “A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.”  So some of his disciples said to one another, “What does this mean that he is saying to us, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”  So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks? We do not know what he means.”  Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing with one another what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?  Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.  When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.  So, you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.  On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.  Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

Jesus made the case in these verses that by going away, the Holy Spirit could work within them. The pain of the cross would be diminished because of the presence of the Spirit; just as the pain of childbirth is diminished when a baby arrives and grows up. The Holy Spirit can help us live out the Serenity Prayer. When we have problems letting go, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us. Letting go is not just a human activity. It is something that God helps us do.

Have you had some moments that the Holy Spirit has helped you let go of a situation that you wanted to control? What happened? Please share.

Friday, May 12
John 17:1-19 
When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.  Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.  I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.  Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me, I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.  I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. When I was with them, I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.  I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

 In these verses Jesus looked to his Abba and shared a final prayer. He shared what eternal life is—that people may know God and know Jesus. In his life on earth Jesus glorified his Abba through his teachings and examples. At the end of these verses Jesus shared how he was sending his followers into the world. Being a follower of Jesus does not mean we ignore the pain of the world or only associate with people who are followers of Jesus. We are sent into the world to live as followers. What does it mean to you that you are sent into the world? What are some ways you can live out this commandment today? Please share.

Saturday, May 13
John 17:20-26   
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.  And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.  Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am, they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me.  I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

 In these last verses Jesus prayed that his followers would be one. This oneness is a command by Jesus that people of faith work well together. It doesn’t mean that we have one gigantic church, but it does mean that we see our life in the church as part of something much greater than our own congregation or denomination.

Jesus wanted the love that he had for his Abba to be the basis for the love that each of us has for each other.  One way to express this love is through the Serenity Prayer. When we let go of control, we trust the person with whom we have a relationship. We love the person enough to let go.

What are some lessons you’ve learned the last few weeks in this focus on the Serenity Prayer? Please share.

Monday, May 1
Proverbs 1:7 
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Yesterday we heard about the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer. This week the focus of the devotion is on wisdom, specifically what the Scriptures teach about wisdom.

This verse is worth memorizing and carrying with us in our spirits. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The fear of the Lord does not mean a person is afraid of God. Instead, a person has a great amount of awe and respect for God. God is someone who attracts our interest and attention.

To say the ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ is to say that God initiates wisdom. Wisdom is not just a secular pursuit for making the right decisions. The search for wisdom is a path that begins with God. No doubt as you are reading this you have a decision that you are making that is unclear. The direction for the decision starts with God.

Today spend some time praying to God that you will be directed to the right decision.  Have you had some moments recently when God directed you to make a decision that turned out to be wise. Not necessarily a life-altering decision, but one that was important to you. Please share your experience.


Tuesday, May 2 
Proverbs 2:1-15   
My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding, if you indeed cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures—then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path, for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; prudence will watch over you, and understanding will guard you. It will save you from the way of evil, from those who speak perversely, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, those whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.

All sorts of words are used in this Scripture that are relevant for wisdom. They are insight and understanding (verse 3), the fear of the Lord (verse 5), righteousness and justice (verse 9).

In the Bible, wisdom is described as a path. It is a path where people discover insight, understanding, righteousness, and justice. Through it all a person has great respect or awe for God.

On Sunday in worship the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer was shared. This wisdom is knowing the difference between what we can control and what we can’t control.

What are some ways that you’ve discovered this type of wisdom—that is knowing what you can control and what you can’t control? Please share.


Wednesday, May 3
Proverbs 3:5-8 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.

 Just like the one verse we were encouraged to memorize on Monday, verses 5-6 are worth memorizing.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And do not rely on your own insight.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

And he will make straight your paths.”

Do you find yourself easily trusting God? Or do you perhaps have some issues with God because of something that has happened in the past?  Is it easier for you to rely on your own insight or to acknowledge God and God’s direction?

The last sentence of verse 6 mentions the idea of a path. This is the path of wisdom. We discussed this in yesterday’s devotion. On this path we discover insight, understanding, righteousness, and justice.

What are some ways that you can grow in your trust of God? What are some ways you might have trouble trusting in God? Please share.


Thursday, May 4
Matthew 5:1-2, 13-16, 7:28-29   
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he began to speak and taught them, saying, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  ”But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin,  tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Jesus was a wisdom teacher. These three chapters that make up the Sermon on the Mount are the greatest sermon that was ever given. In this sermon Jesus shared pearls of wisdom that have lasted ever since he shared this teaching. To start out the sermon, Jesus climbed a hill or mountain and sat down to teach all the people who came to hear him preach. By sitting down Jesus displayed that he was a wisdom teacher.

In this sermon, Jesus shared teachings about blessings, metaphors about salt and light, specific teachings about anger, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and love for enemies. He taught people about giving away money, prayer, fasting, and worry. He discouraged people from judging, and encouraged people to follow what we know of as the golden rule.

When Jesus finished the sermon, people saw that he had taught with great authority. The wisdom was overflowing! The wisdom overflowed so much that people still read his sermon today to discern the direction of God. If you have some extra time, read all three chapters of this sermon—Matthew 5-7.  What are the wisdom teachings in this sermon that speak to your heart? Please share.


Friday, May 5

Psalm 1  Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread or sit in the seat of scoffers, but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. The wicked are not so
 but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous, for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
 but the way of the wicked will perish.

This Psalm shares a stark contrast between the path of wisdom and the path of scoffers. When it comes to wisdom once again the idea of a path is shared.

The writer of this Psalm shared the deep rootedness of wisdom. A metaphor that is used is a tree. It is planted by streams of water and yields its fruit in its season or at the right time. In all the person does, the person prospers. This prosperity is not financial prosperity. It’s the result of being wise and living on the path of wisdom.

The wicked or the fools take an opposite path. They do not have deep roots or do not look to discern God’s intention for all the decisions they are making.  A wise person and a fool make the same number of decisions. This Psalm shares that the wise person is on a path with God—seeking out God and always discerning from God what is to be done.

What have you found to be helpful to you to stay on the path of wisdom? Please share.


Saturday, May 6
1 Corinthians 2:6-13  Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are being destroyed. But we speak God’s wisdom, a hidden mystery, which God decreed before the ages for our glory  and which none of the rulers of this age understood, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”—God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For what human knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

 Seven times the word wisdom is used in these verses. We read about the difference between God’s wisdom and human wisdom.

The Apostle Paul was teaching that the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit leads people to discover and discern God’s wisdom.  If we are wrestling with a decision right now, we can call upon the Holy Spirit to help us. Even a simple prayer like, “Holy Spirit help me choose the path of wisdom,” can help.

Have you had moments when the Holy Spirit has helped you make a wise decision? Please share.

Monday, April 24
Psalm 31:24
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.

 “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Yesterday was the second week of a four week focus on the Serenity Prayer. The focus in worship was the line, “courage to change the things I can.” This week we are going to look at the concept of courage from a perspective of faith.

This verse from the 31st psalm is one we could pull out and keep in a place that we say every day. It could be a mantra for our life. It’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to be strong or letting our heart take courage as we wait for the Lord. One way to think of courage is taking action or staying resolute in the midst of high anxiety or pressure. It’s keeping on the path towards which we feel called even when it would be easier to get off the path.

We might think of courage as a firefighter running into a burning building to save children, but courage doesn’t have to be that dramatic. It can be the day-to-day steadfastness amidst high anxiety or pressure. Each of us has displayed courage in these types of situations. And even if we might not like to talk about ourselves in this way, our stories can help others. Do you have a story of staying resolute amid high anxiety or pressure. Please share.

 Tuesday, April 25
Exodus 14:10-14
As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?  Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today, for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

 This is one of the most dramatic and high intensity stories of the entire Bible. The Israelites had been let go from Egypt. Now they were facing a dead end. Behind them were the facing chariots of Pharaoh’s army; in front of them was the Red Sea. The Israelites were sure they were going to die. They were afraid. Moses was steadfast amid this extreme pressure. His words in verse 13 are worth memorizing. “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today …”

Moses was courageous.

From our viewpoint we know what happened. We know that the Red Sea opened, and the Israelites walked through, and then the seas crashed upon the Egyptians. But the Israelites didn’t know this; and Moses didn’t know this. He courageously stayed resolute.

What are your thoughts about this story? Please share.

Wednesday, April 26
Matthew 26:36-46
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be grieved and agitated.  Then he said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”  And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not what I want but what you want.”  Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?  Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  Again, he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Now the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up, let us be going. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

Jesus displayed courage as he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew that his destiny was the cross and death. And he was uncertain. He prayed in verse 39 to his Abba that if it was possible that this suffering would pass from him. And as he prayed this, he submitted himself to the direction of God.

This is courage—praying for something with passion and submitting to whatever happens. This is also an example of incredible faith and ultimately serenity.

We can experience serenity if we pray with passion and submit to what happens. We might not like what happens, but we can accept it.

Do you know of someone who had an experience of praying for something and then submitting to what happened. Perhaps this has happened to you. Please share.

Thursday, April 27
Isaiah 41:4-10
Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, am first
 and will be with the last. The coastlands have seen and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come. Each one helps the other, saying to one another, “Take courage!” The artisan encourages the goldsmith, and the one who smooths with the hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil,
saying of the soldering, “It is good,” and they fasten it with nails so that it cannot be moved. But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend;  you whom I took from the ends of the earth and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant;
 I have chosen you and not cast you off”; do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; I will help you;
 I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

The sixth verse is something that we could pull out and share our focus.

“Each one helps the other, saying to one another, “Take courage.” One way to think of helping another person is giving the person courage. We could even identify with the phrase, “I’ll encourage you to be courageous.

One definition of a faith community could be “people helping each other to take courage.” Part of our own identity could be to help others take courage.

Try an experiment. For a week pray each day that you’ll help another person take courage. Go out of your way to encourage another person at least once a day to take courage.  This is a marvelous way to live. Do you think you could try it? Who’s in? Please share if you are!

 Friday, April 2
Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God.  And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”  Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 This story is not all that different than the story we read on Wednesday of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Just as Jesus was facing a situation that caused him uncertainty, Mary was facing a situation that caused her uncertainty.  We can understand her uncertainty. No one in the history of the world has ever conceived a baby without another human.

She knew that she would be under tremendous danger by being pregnant and not being married. An extreme interpretation of the religious law would be to have her stoned to death at the edge of the village. (Deuteronomy 22:23-24) But Mary submitted herself to God. “Let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary was courageous.

What are your thoughts about this story. Please share.

Saturday, April 29
Romans 12:1-2
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship.  Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 We focused on these verses during Lent when we took a deep dive into the book of Romans.

Paul wanted people to be transformed by the renewing of their mind or Noos. Noos is the Greek word from which the English word, “mind” comes. Mind in this case is more than the materials inside our head. It is the space in our lives where we discern what God wants for us. It is the connection to God.

And often this connection involves courage. It takes courage to constantly be searching with our Noos what God wants.

What has helped you to stay resolute in discerning God’s direction for you. What stories do you have? Please share.

Monday, April 17  Psalm 23 
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

So begins the Serenity Prayer, a prayer that can make a significant impact on our own psychological health.

Serenity is a synonym for inward peace. It is a state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled.

This serenity is similar to what David shared in the 23rd Psalm, probably the most famous Psalm ever written. Even though David was going to go through very difficult times, he did not fear those times. He knew that God was with him.

This presence of God did not mean a life that didn’t have troubles or challenges or situations that don’t cause stress. These times do not happen on this side of heaven.

Instead, the presence of God gives us a sense of comfort and stability. It’s knowing that no matter what happens situations will be worked out.

This type of serenity or peace takes practice and intentionality. It doesn’t just naturally happen.

What practices help you experience this peace or serenity? Please share.


Tuesday, April 18  John 20:19-23
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

 On two separate occasions in this very important story, Jesus shared the same message, “Peace be with you.” These four words were more than a greeting. They were an expression of what Jesus wanted for his male disciples.

The male disciples were not in a place of peace. They had locked the doors of the house they were staying in because they were afraid for their own physical safety.

Our fears can rob us of the opportunity to experience peace, or serenity.

This does not mean we ignore our fears. Instead, it is healthy to focus and acknowledge their presence. Just saying, “I’m afraid of ___, right now” can lessen the impact of fear and help us experience peace.

What other techniques have you used to let go of your fears? Please share.


Wednesday, April 19  Matthew 5:9, 43-48
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 When we identify ourselves as a Peacemaker, we claim the mantle of being a child of God. We are always children of God, but we display this status when we work for peace. In this most famous sermon ever given, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the eternal message that people experience God’s blessings, when they advocate for peace.

The peace that Jesus taught was both an internal or individual peace, and a peace that could exhibit in the wider community. This second sense of peace is peace with justice or equity. It’s the peace of not having people who are homeless in Anoka County.

At the end of this chapter in Matthew, Jesus talked about loving our enemies. Loving our enemies might seem to be an odd juxtaposition with peace as our enemies do not cause us peace. Perhaps we don’t have enemies, but certainly we have people who push our buttons.

Jesus had directions for us in how to treat people who push our buttons. We are called to love them and pray for them.

Do you have experiences of praying for people who push your buttons? Please share.


Thursday, April 20  Isaiah 2:2-4

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction
 and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.

These important words were shared by God with a man by the name of Isaiah through a vision. Isaiah literally saw these words being lived out.

This vision is one where people don’t use their swords. And fortunately, most people don’t use swords today! But we can’t take these words literally, for they describe not using weapons that can cause pain.

God’s way are not ways of violence; they are always ways of peace. Just as the ways of heaven are peace, God wanted to share how the line between heaven and earth was not so strong. Heaven can come into earth.

This sense of peace is always combined with justice or mishap. It’s a piece of fairness and equity for all people. This is the vision of blessing that Jesus mentioned in the reading from yesterday. We are called to be peacemakers.

What is one step you can take today to live into this vision of peace? Please share.


Friday, April 21  Proverbs 17:27
One who spares words is knowledgeable; one who is cool in spirit has understanding.

 Proverbs are short expressions of wisdom that can make a difference in our life. We could take these expressions of wisdom and put them on a card that we carry with us.

The idea of being cool in spirit is similar to living with serenity.

This past Sunday Pastor Paul talked about accepting the things we cannot change. Each of us has some level of control issues. We might want to have a sense of one hundred percent certainty about what will happen.

But living with such certainty does not bring serenity.

What are some ways that help you accept the things you cannot change? Please share.


Saturday, April 22  Ephesians 2:11-22
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.

 These verses share a beautiful vision of a community of people who are committed to peace or serenity. At the core of the vision is Jesus. For we read that he is our peace. (Verse 14). He breaks down the hostility between people.

In these verses we read that not only is Jesus the embodiment of peace; Jesus makes peace and proclaims peace. Four times in these verses we come across the word peace, which comes from the Greek word, Eirene.

The ancient Greeks constructed a statue of Eirene. Do a google search to see a picture of the statue. Today we create a faith community that embodies this peace or serenity.

What does this peace mean for you? Please share.

Monday, April 10  
Matthew 28:1-10  After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

 As Pastor Paul shared yesterday in the Easter sermon, the first words out of the mouth of the angels and of Jesus were the same.  Both said, “Do not be afraid.”  This is quite a statement considering that the worst event in human history had just happened—the willful murder of Jesus.

The words by the angels and by Jesus can transform our own fears.  If the crucifixion can be transformed, then our own fears can be transformed.

Living without fear is more than hearing these words from Jesus. It takes intentionality on our own part. It might take talking to a counselor or participating in a group or participating in other activities that can help us let go of fear.

What fears do you have right now?  Imagine the angels and Jesus coming to you and saying, “do not fear.” 

What are some ways that help you let go of fear? What practices or activities have helped you? Please share.

And give thanks in your prayer life that our fears can be transformed.  Pray that Chain of Lakes Church can be a place where people can release their fears. 


Tuesday, April 11

Mark 16:1-8  When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”  So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 The resurrection story in Mark has three endings.  The first ending ends in verse 8, the shorter ending ends in verse eight, and the longer ending ends in verse 20.  Most Bibles include all three endings.

Imagine the story ending in verse 8.  The story said that the women said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  If that had happened no one would know about the resurrection.

What if you were responsible for sharing the story of the resurrection with the world?  Would you be quiet and afraid or would you share the story? 

God depends on us humans to communicate the resurrection story with others. 

Have you had a moment recently where you shared a message or a story that illustrated the resurrection? Or have you talked to someone about the resurrection? Please share.

And today as you pray, ask God for an opportunity to share the resurrection story with someone today.


Wednesday, April 12

1 Corinthians 15:1-11  Now I want you to understand, brothers and sisters, the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,  through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you believed.

 This passage written by the apostle Paul is like a statement of faith.  Paul shared the story of the resurrection.

Look at verses nine and the first part of ten, “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”

Paul identified himself as a person of the resurrection.  He could not have become the person God wanted him to be without the resurrection.

Would you ever introduce yourself as “Hi, my name is ___, and I am a person of the resurrection.” 

How does the resurrection make a difference in your life? Please share.

And as you pray today, talk to God about how the resurrection forms you as a person.


Thursday, April 13

Luke 24:1-12  But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body.  While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to the hands of sinners and be crucified and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

The seventeen words of the angel in verse five are worth committing to memory today, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen.” 

These seventeen words have changed the world. Consider putting these words on a piece of paper that you see every day. Perhaps you could tape them on the inside cover of your Bible. These are words of life!

As humans we sometimes need reminders of these words. It’s not that we forget about them, but life can take away our own life and even inspiration. Having these seventeen words in a visible place can be helpful to our own faith life.

The question that the angel asked is one that can be asked of us.  Where do we discover life?  Where do we discover renewal?  Please share.


Friday, April 22

John 20:1-18  Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’s head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed, for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

 The resurrection story in John is not often heard on Easter Sunday because it’s not part of the regular lectionary readings.  The story is quite different than the resurrection stories in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

One of the most poignant scenes in the Bible is the conversation between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.  Mary Magdalene is so overcome with grief that she mistook Jesus to be the gardener.  When she realized that Jesus was alive she exclaimed to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”  These words started the sharing of the resurrection story.

Can you see yourself sharing frequently the words, “I have seen the Lord.” Being able to say this is a sign that we are in tune with what God is doing in the world and in our lives. 

Where have you seen the Lord lately?  When are some times in the past two weeks that you have seen the Lord?  This isn’t the physical seeing of the Lord, but instead an experience of God. Noticing and even sharing these experiences are important for our own faith life.

When have you seen God recently? Please share.


Saturday, April 15

Romans 8:31-39  What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not withhold his own Son but gave him up for all of us, how will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? It is Christ who died, or rather, who was raised, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?  As it is written,

 “For your sake we are being killed all day long;

    we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 This passage from Romans is often read at funerals as a source of comfort.  It’s also an excellent primer on the resurrection. Pastor Paul shared a sermon on these words during one of his Lenten sermons on Romans.

The Apostle Paul was convinced that the love of God is the most powerful force in the universe.  This love demonstrates that God is always on our side.  We know that God is on our side because of the resurrection. 

Paul closed this reading with a powerful recital that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Take some time to slowly read these verses—read them more than once if you like.  Ponder how our reality on earth is different because of the gift of the resurrection displayed through God’s love. 

Monday, April 3

Read Matthew 24

These stories are about the coming of the kingdom in its fullness.  Many people have looked at these and other Scriptures to try to determine when Jesus was going to come again to create his Kingdom.  People look at this story and passages in Daniel and Revelation to try to prove the “when” of Jesus’ return.

It wasn’t an accident that Jesus never told us when he was going to return.  He does teach us how to live in this “in-between time.”  We are always called to be ready for Jesus’ return, but we aren’t called to be obsessed with it.

The same idea applies to our own death.  We all know that we are going to die.  We can try to predict the time of our own death, but this isn’t ultimately healthy for us.  Our task is to live in a way that shows we are ready.

On this most holy of weeks, we can give thanks to God that we don’t need to fear death.  Jesus has prepared a place for us.  Death has been overcome. 

Have you had times in your life when you’ve been afraid of death? What has helped you? Please share.

Tuesday, April 4

Read Matthew 25

This chapter is one of the most important in Matthew and it doesn’t need a lot of explanation.  Jesus shared the priority of reaching out to those on the margins.  Jesus wanted his followers to reach out and help the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, and those who are in prison.

And even more than helping, Jesus taught that when we reach out to those on the margins, we are reaching out to him.  We see the face of Jesus in the person who is hungry or thirsty or naked or in prison.  Helping is more than helping.  Helping is recognizing the face of Jesus in those who need help.

Another part of this phrase is the first part of verse 37.  “Then the righteous will answer him …” Jesus defined righteousness about reaching out to people who needed this help.  This is a non-negotiable part of faith.

We can live out this righteousness in a lot of ways.  But living out this righteousness is an essential part of being a disciple or follower of Jesus.

What does it mean to you that you can live out this righteousness? Please share.

Wednesday, April 5

Read Matthew 26:1-16

The anointing of Jesus by the woman with the alabaster jar of ointment is a beautiful story of ministering to Jesus.  Whether she knew it or not she was preparing his body for what was going to happen the next day. 

This story appears in all four gospels.  Matthew didn’t choose to name the woman; John called her Mary. 

Her action was misunderstood.  Some couldn’t understand why this ointment was not sold and the proceeds given to the poor.  This would make logical sense and would have helped people.

But we wouldn’t be talking about this story if the story was about money being given to the poor. We are still talking about the story because of the extravagant actions of the woman.   She was willing to do whatever she could to bring comfort to Jesus—even if it meant stepping outside of the comfort zone of those who were watching her. 

We don’t have the actual body of Jesus to anoint, of course.  But we can do extravagant ministries to help people. 

What are some examples you’ve seen recently of someone helping another person in an extravagant way? Please share.

Thursday, April 6

Read Matthew 26:17-75

Jesus started a revolution on this day of Holy Week.  He gathered with his closest of friends to celebrate the Passover.  During the celebration he shared with his friends that one of them would betray him. 

Then he started this revolution that we call Communion.  It’s worth reading the words again:

“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  Matthew 26:26-28

As you pray today, reflect on the place of Communion in your own life.  Do you remember the first time you took it?  Do you remember some very special times that you participated in Communion?  Do you remember the last time you took it?  What is special to you about Communion?  Share with God your response to these questions.

Please share some of your responses to the questions.

Friday, April 7

Read Matthew 27:1-56

This chapter is one of the most solemn in the entire Bible.  It really needs no explanation.  Jesus’ death on the cross distinguishes him from any other person who has ever lived.  To think that the Messiah would willingly go to the cross to suffer and die is hard to grasp.

Think about what the cross means to you and your own life.  Do something today that illustrates what the cross means to you.  Perhaps you could write something, or do some art, or share with another person your own understanding of the cross.  May this day deepen your own relationship with God and relationship with others.

How do you understand the cross? Please share.

Saturday, April 8

Read Matthew 27:57-66

The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event that has ever happened in the world.  We are like the disciples in that we are ready to worship while also doubting.

Tomorrow we are gathering at 9:00am and 10:30am to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Please pray that people who will worship at Chain of Lakes will understand a new reality about their own life because of the Resurrection.  Please pray that the Spirit will touch everyone who is present in worship.  Please pray that a large number or guests will participate in both services. 

And reflect today about your own understanding of the resurrection.  What does the resurrection mean to you?  How are you a different person because of the resurrection?  How is our faith community different because of the resurrection?

Please share.

Monday, March 27

Romans 13:1-14

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval, for it is God’s agent for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the agent of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore, one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s agents, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is already the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone; the day is near. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us walk decently as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in illicit sex and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

This chapter has three different sections. All are important to know and understand.

The first section (verses 1-7) mentions the importance of being subject to governing authorities and paying taxes. This passage might not be too positive for us with April 18 not far away! However, Paul is not making a universal statement about obeying the government and taxes. Instead, he is giving practical advice for people living in Rome about obeying the government. Consequences exist if people do not.

The second section in verses 8-10 is a universal statement. The main purpose of the law is to love each other. As Jesus mentioned and Paul expresses agape love is the end of the law. What we owe to another person is love.

The third section in verses 11-14 shares an important metaphor for us. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ”—verse 14a. Paul was expecting that Jesus was going to return. As people waited, Paul wanted them to put on Christ. “Put on the armor of light” he exhorted people.

What does it mean to you to put on or literally wear Jesus Christ on your spirit? Please share.


Tuesday, March 28

Romans 14:1-12

Welcome those who are weak in faith but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat, for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on slaves of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it for the Lord. Also, those who eat, eat for the Lord, since they give thanks to God, while those who abstain, abstain for the Lord and give thanks to God.

For we do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each one of us will be held accountable.

 Paul continued his advice in his first section of chapter 14 when he encouraged people not to judge each other. His is an important message which is consistent with the Core Value of Acceptance at Chain of Lakes. The wording of this Core Value starts out, “We accept each other without judgment …”

Paul made the case against judgment by sharing that each person is part of God and each person’s life is connected to God.

“We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:7)

Paul was sharing that since we belong to God so deeply, we have no reason to judge.

God is our ultimate judge, so we let go of our own judgment.

Do you find yourself judging other people? How often does judgment cloud your own perspective on others? Please share.

Wednesday, March 29

Romans 14:13-23

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother or sister. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who considers it unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be slandered. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  The one who serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.  Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong to make someone stumble by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble.  Hold the conviction that you have as your own before God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat because they do not act from faith, for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

 When Paul wrote this letter there was quite a debate about eating food sacrificed to an idol. Though this issue has no relevance for our own lives, the thought process that Paul shares can help us see how we are role models in faith for others.

Paul didn’t believe that eating food sacrificed to an idol was a sin. However, he didn’t want the eating of food sacrificed to an idol be a hindrance to another person who was weak in the faith. So though eating this food was not a sin, the example that a person shared was very important.

“Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:15b)

Whether we acknowledge it or not each of us is a role model in the faith for another person. Our own example influences the faith life of others.

Being a role model doesn’t mean each of us wears the hat of pride or think of ourselves as better than others. It needn’t put pressure on us to try to be perfect. Each of us has enough pressure! What it does mean is we look to do our best in our faith. As we do our best others can see our own authenticity and grow in faith too.

How do you understand being a role model in faith? Has this added pressure to you in the past? Has it caused you to put a mask on your life and prevent others from seeing the doubts that you might have? Please share.

Thursday, March 30

Romans 15:1-13

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself, but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.  For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised-on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the ancestors and that the gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore, I will confess you among the gentiles
    and sing praises to your name”;

and again, he says,

“Rejoice, O gentiles, with his people”;

and again,

“Praise the Lord, all you gentiles,
    and let all the peoples praise him”;

and again, Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse shall come,
    the one who rises to rule the gentiles;
in him the gentiles shall hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 Two sections in these thirteen verses are worth committing to memory. Try it today.

The first is this:

“May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)

The second section is this.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Memory is a process of repetition. Keep reading these two sections over and over. Eventually you will have the verses planted within your own spirit. You will have them memorized.

When you memorize them, they will most likely come up at important times.

Have you had the experience of having a memorized Scripture come to you at an important time?  Please share.

Friday, March 31

Romans 15:14-33

I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless, on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not be so bold as to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. Thus, I make it my ambition to proclaim the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him shall see,
    and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”

This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints, for Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them, for if the gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things. So, when I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain, and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.

 Paul started to wrap up this powerful letter by letting the people in Rome who received the letter that Paul would visit them soon. Remember that Paul dictated this letter to Tertius who then hand-delivered the letter to the people in Rome.

Paul wanted to travel to Rome and visit the people for whom he wrote this letter.

Paul asked the people in Rome to pray for him for refreshment as he prepared for this long trip. Paul was traveling to Jerusalem and then traveling to Rome.

Asking for prayers from others is an important part of our faith journey. Some of us might be shy to ask for prayers because we’re afraid of how others might look at us.

Have you had a time when you asked for prayers, and then experienced how these prayers were a significant help to you? Please share.


Saturday, April 1

Romans 16:1-27

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord, as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but also all the churches of the gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Israelites who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our coworker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my fellow Israelite Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and greet his mother—a mother to me also. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who create dissensions and hindrances, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. For your obedience is known to all; therefore, I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and guileless in what is evil. The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Timothy, my coworker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Israelites.

I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord.

Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus greet you. Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

 We finally come to the end of Paul’s letter. In this chapter we read about the greetings that Paul wanted to extend to others.

Congratulations on reading through Romans! Share with others what your experience was like. Had you read Romans before? What was your experience in reading Romans? What did you enjoy about reading this book? What did you find challenging? Please share your thoughts as they can help others.

Monday, March 20

Romans 9:1-33  I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;  to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

 It is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all those descended from Israel are Israelites,  and not all of Abraham’s children are his descendants, but “it is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.”  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants.  For the word of the promise is this: “About this time I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac:  even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue,  not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.”  As it is written,

“I have loved Jacob,
    but I have hated Esau.”

What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!  For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

 So it depends not on human will or exertion but on God who shows mercy.  For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I may show my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”  So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”  But who indeed are you, a human, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?”  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?  What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction,  and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the gentiles?  As he also says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
    and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”
 “And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they shall be called children of the living God.”

 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,  for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left descendants to us,
    we would have fared like Sodom
    and been made like Gomorrah.”

What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith, but Israel, who did strive for the law of righteousness, did not attain that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,
    and whoever trusts in him will not be put to shame.”


This week we will read a controversial section of the letter of Romans—the ninth through twelfth chapters. These chapters have formed many views about God—predestination, election, salvation, that have confused people.

In chapter nine Paul is trying to come to terms with his ancestors—the Jews—falling away from God. He acknowledged his great sorrow and anguish that was in his heart (verse 2). Paul asked the question of whether God had failed because of his ancestors rejecting Jesus. We can see this question in verse 14, “What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part?”

We can sense the turmoil that existed within Paul.

We might have had a time in our life when something went very wrong. In our grief about what had happened we looked to God for being responsible. If something didn’t go well, then God—who is in charge of all—must be accountable in our own minds. Right?

Paul answered the question he posed in verse 14. His answer is simple, “By no means!”

God was not responsible for some of the Jews falling away from Jesus.

Questioning God is a human vocation. It’s inevitable to question the intentions of God when something goes terribly wrong. It would be surprising if we haven’t questioned God in our own life.

Do you think that God is responsible for our own suffering? Please share.

Tuesday, March 21

Romans 10:1-21 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not based on knowledge.  Not knowing the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.  For Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down)  “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
    in your mouth and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim),  because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart, leading to righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, leading to salvation.  The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  But not all have obeyed the good news, for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”  So faith[ comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have:

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth
    and their words to the ends of the world.”

Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Paul turned to the topic of salvation in this chapter. He shared a significant teaching in verses nine and ten that most have undoubtedly heard.

“because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” Romans 10:10-11

The offer of salvation is for everyone.

We can take these words of Paul and do with them more than they were intended. Salvation is not a formula. Instead, it is receiving & opening up and ultimately enjoying a gift that God has given to all of us.

Paul would want people to be assured of their own salvation. He wouldn’t want people to experience anxiety or be frightened about it.

Have you at some time in your own life been insecure about your own salvation, or have you known someone who was or is? Please share.

Wednesday, March 22

Romans 11:1-32   I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?  “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.”  But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”  So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

What then? Israel has not achieved what it was pursuing. The elect have achieved it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,

“God gave them a sluggish spirit,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”

 And David says,

“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
    and keep their backs forever bent.”

So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.  Now if their stumbling means riches for the world and if their loss means riches for gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you gentiles. Inasmuch as I am an apostle to the gentiles, I celebrate my ministry in order to make my own people jealous and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted among the others to share the rich root of the olive tree,  do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember: you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  That is true. They were broken off on account of unbelief, but you stand on account of belief. So do not become arrogant, but be afraid.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you, if you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And even those of Israel, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

I want you to understand this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not claim to be wiser than you are: a hardening has come upon part of Israel until the full number of the gentiles has come in.  And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”
“And this is my covenant with them,
    when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their ancestors,  for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.  Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so also they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they also may now receive mercy.  For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

 Paul noted that when his own faith tradition rejected Jesus, this led him to share a message with Gentiles. The acceptance of the message by the Gentiles led Jews to receive the message of Jesus.

People in Paul’s day could take this message and criticize God. “God how could you have let or even encouraged this to happen?”

Paul didn’t want people to criticize God. He asked in the first verse of this chapter whether God had rejected God’s people. And Paul answered the question. No. God had not done that.

Have you ever felt or have you known someone who felt rejected by God? It’s a difficult place to be. If so, consider sharing your story.

Thursday, March 23

Romans 11:33-36    O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him,
    to receive a gift in return?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.

 This lengthy and somewhat complicated chapter ends with a beautiful verse.

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are [God’s] judgments and how inscrutable [God’s] ways.” Romans 11:33

This is a verse that is worth committing to memory.

Paul was sharing that God knew what God was doing. God’s wisdom and knowledge is unsurpassable.

It might seem odd to question God’s wisdom and knowledge, but all of us do this at some point.

Paul shared that God’s wisdom is complete.

How is this reality helpful to you on your own faith journey? Please share.

Friday, March 24

Romans 12:1-8   I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship.  Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same function,  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;  the encourager, in encouragement; the giver, in sincerity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

 Paul thankfully comes back to grace and the impact that grace has on people’s lives. That impact is transformation. The second verse shares this.

“Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Discerning God’s ways or will is the most important task of a follower.

Each of us has different methods for discerning God’s ways or will. Discernment might involve prayer or fasting; it might involve worship or Bible reading; discernment might come after serving.

What do you find most helpful as you discern the ways or will of God? Please share. Your sharing might help someone else.

Saturday, March 25

Romans 12:9-21  Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good;  love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints; pursue hospitality to strangers.


Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” Instead, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink, for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 Paul closes these chapters by sharing a flurry of imperative teachings. Any one of them could be put on a bumper sticker and hung in a place that we see them often.

These teachings illustrate the way to be a follower or disciple of Jesus. They teach what it means to be formed in God.

Our life on earth is a journey of living out these imperative teachings. We gather in community to help each other do this. And on our own journey we become more like Jesus.

Becoming like Jesus does not mean we suddenly have magical powers. It means that our spirit is a reflection of the spirit of Jesus.

What does it mean to you that your spirit would be a reflection of the spirit of Jesus? Please share.


Church Calendar

Community Gardens

Very big pumpkin grown in the Chain of Lakes Community Garden by Jeremy Feuks. 10/7/2021
Chain of Lakes Church is excited to offer a Community Garden Ministry next to the new church building at 2650 125th Ave NE, Blaine, MN 55449. It’s just east of  Malmborg’s Garden Center on 125th Ave NE in Blaine or .8 miles east of Radisson Rd on 125th Ave NE, Blaine.
The garden is open to the wider community, not just people who attend Chain of Lakes.
Contact the office for information at 763.208.8049 or
If you are interested in a garden plot complete this form:
Community Garden Plot Application 2023 – Chain of Lakes
Please print and complete the application, and up until May 22, mail to:
Chain of Lakes Church
2650 125th Ave NE
Blaine, MN 55449

Click on Event Photos for Clear Image

Some highlights from recent events in the community! Click on image for clear, entire picture