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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!

November 27, 2022
New Sermon Series “What We Carry – The Light We Carry”, Baptisms
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November 20, 2022
Giving Thanks

November 13, 2022
Happy birthday Chain of Lakes
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November 6, 2022
“Fueling Our Dreams”

October 30, 2022
“The Gentle Whisper of God” – Guest preacher Rev. Brenda Alexander

October 23, 2022
“Don’t Judge Me” conclusion

October 16, 2022
“Don’t Judge Me,” part 2

October 9, 2022
“Don’t Judge Me,” New Sermon Series
Baptisms

October 2, 2022
“The Inspirational Intersection,” part 3

September 25, 2022
“The Inspirational Intersection,” part 2

September 18, 2022
“The Inspirational Intersection”  New Sermon Series

September 11, 2022
Grand Opening

September 4, 2022
“Choosing the Path of Wisdom”  Proverbs

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 pastor@colpres.org

Monday, November 28

Genesis 1:1-4

It is significant that the fourth word of God’s first sentence in the Bible is the word, “light.” Light was the very first piece of the creation that God was installing. Five times we read the word light in these verses. At this point in the Scriptures we could say that the story of God was about light.

Light can have different meanings to us. Light can be the actual physical light that we see; light can be the natural light that comes from the sun; light can be the clarity that we receive when we are confronting a problem; light can be an experience of God.

Light can be different colors. In this story we probably have all assumed that the color of the light was white. But it’s fun to think about the light being blue or orange or purple or another color.

God saw that the light was good.

Yesterday in worship Pastor Paul talked about how we carry the light of God. Inside of each of us is a part of this divine light. When we are baptized, the light is sealed within our spirits for all of eternity.

What does it mean to you that God’s light is sealed in you? Please share.

Tuesday, November 29

Exodus 13:20-22

Our Jewish friends celebrate Sukkot which remembers this story of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness.

As they walked to the Promised Land the Israelites were literally guided by God’s light. This light gave them direction, purpose and a path forward.

‘We can see how God’s light gives each of us direction, purpose, and a path forward. On our own journey we receive clarity from God when we are directed by God’s light.

This light is not just a physical substance, it’s a spiritual reality. Just as God guided the Israelites through the wilderness by light, God is guiding each of us through the wilderness of our own lives through light. 

Think about your own life. How often are you directed by God’s light? How often do you intentionally look to be guided by the light of God?

Most everyone has had experiences of God’s light. These experiences were a moment of clarity, or a deep experience of love, or direction for a path that we were taking.

Sharing our experiences of God’s light can help others on their journey. Congregations are doing well when people frequently share their own stories of being directed by God’s light.

When have you had an experience of God’s light? Please share.

Wednesday, November 30

Psalm 36:7-9

Verse nine is especially powerful and is worth memorizing. “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” Psalm 36:9

If we look deeply at this sentence we might initially be confused. It seems that the writer of the Psalm is repeating himself. All he would have had to say is “we see light.”

The Hebrew word that is translated as light is the same word that described what God shared in Genesis when God said, “let there be light.” Genesis 1:3

We could deepen our understanding of these verses from Psalm 36 if we added a synonym for light. Or another way to think about this verse is to ask ourselves the question, “What do we see when we see God’s light?”

Take a moment today and reflect on what you see when you see God’s light. How would you fill in the blank, “in your light we see _________”

Some possibilities for our reflections are love, justice, peace, goodness, grace, righteousness.

What are some other words you would add to this short list?

What do you see when you see God’s light? Please share.

Thursday, December 1

Isaiah 2:1-5

This is the Scripture that was read this past Sunday. Isaiah was imploring Israel to walk in God’s light. In verse five we read, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

On our journey through Advent, we can think about how we can walk in the light of the Lord. What can you intentionally do this Advent to walk in the light of the Lord? Perhaps you could worship every Sunday, perhaps you could decide to read the Bible for 15 minutes a day, perhaps you could pray every day for 15 minutes, perhaps you could go out of your way to serve, perhaps you could give your resources to an organization whose mission you love.

These faith practices help us walk in the light of the Lord.

It does take intentionality to walk in the light of the Lord. Most times this just doesn’t magically happen. It takes an open spirit.

What can you intentionally do this Advent to walk in the light of the Lord? Please share.

Friday, December 2

John 1:1-5

These verses from John are very similar to the verses we read on Monday from Genesis. “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

When we experience God’s light or are directed by God’s light or acknowledge this light that is inside of us, we experience life. This is the spiritual power that light offers to us.

Even as we read that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it, it’s important to be careful about communicating negative language about darkness. When we simplify the idea by saying, light=good; dark=bad, we can encourage racist tropes. Certainly we don’t believe that light skin is good and dark skin is bad. But the history of our country tells us something different. The point is to be careful about how we assign morality to darkness. Yes, evil exists, but we can expand our language when describing it.

When have you experienced life recently? Have you had a moment in the last month when you experienced light and life? Please share.

Saturday, December 3

Ephesians 1:15-19

The entire book of Ephesians is a warehouse of spiritual nuggets. These five verses would be included in the warehouse.

One result of our personal faith is that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened so that we may know the hope to which we have been called and the riches of God’s glorious inheritance.

When Paul wrote these verses the heart was seen as the center of spiritual illumination. To have our heart enlightened meant that we could see what God wanted from us.

How powerful it can be to have our heart enlightened by God!

Do you know of someone who is a role model for having their heart enlightened by God? Who have been your own role models for having your heart enlightened? Please share.

Monday, November 21

Romans 5:1-11  Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
We have many reasons to be thankful.  We can feel the blessings of family, a good job, financial security, a place to live, hobbies and activities that give us meaning, our health.  Unfortunately, all of these can be taken away from us.  When our own thanks is dependent on an external circumstance we can find ourselves in misery.

The basis of our thanks is our faith.  In this passage to the Romans Paul wrote about the love of God that is poured out to us.  At the right time Christ died for us.  Because of this we have peace with God—access to grace.

May our own hearts burn with love and thanks to God.  In sermons before I’ve asked people to compare their love for God with the temperature of an oven.  What temperature is your love for God today?  The more we appreciate and give thanks for grace, the hotter is our own love.

Today as you pray, meditate on the gift of grace that we have been given.  Open yourself up to the understanding that because of Christ we have a relationship with a God who will always love us and care for us deeply.  Our only response to this gift is our thanks. 

What is the temperature for your own love for God? Please share.

Tuesday, November 22

Luke 17:11-19   On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.  As he entered a village, ten men with a skin disease approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.  He prostrated himself at Jesus’s feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? So where are the other nine?  Did none of them return to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

 This was the New Testament reading from this past Sunday. Imagine that you were one of the lepers who was healed.  As a leper you were ostracized by the community.  You most likely lived in a leper colony on the outskirts of the town.  People thought you were unclean.  Some regulations called for you to say the words “unclean, unclean” when someone approached you.  You were also a Samaritan, so you were different religiously compared to many others.

Jesus changed all of that for you.  He told you to go to a priest and when you encountered a priest you were not afflicted with leprosy anymore.  You were healed.

The only appropriate response is thanks.  As Jesus noted it’s puzzling that the other nine lepers didn’t come back to share their thanks with Jesus. 

We know that giving thanks is the right thing to do.  The place to start is to appreciate all that God has given to us.  The leper who returned understood the gift he had been given.

Today as you pray, give thanks to God for all that you have received from God.  Give thanks for the healing that God offers to us.

Wednesday, November 23

Psalm 92:1-4  It is good to give thanks to the Lord,

    to sing praises to your name, O Most High,

to declare your steadfast love in the morning

    and your faithfulness by night,

to the music of the lute and the harp,

    to the melody of the lyre.

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;

    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

 The superscription for this Psalm says it is a song for the Sabbath Day.  We can imagine people singing this song to God in worship on the Sabbath.  This is the only Psalm of the 150 Psalms where a superscription of “A Song for the Sabbath Day” is written.

Our worship of God is a way to express thanks.  When we gather with others we offer the community’s thanks to God for all that we have received. 

Take some time to write out all that you are thankful for in 2022.  Make a list of 10-15 events that have happened in 2022 for which you give thanks.  When you’ve completed the list read these four verses from Psalm 92 again. 

Consider sharing your list for what you are thankful!

Thursday, November 24

Luke 9:10-17  On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. Then, taking them along, he slipped quietly into a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed those who needed to be cured.

The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside to lodge and get provisions, for we are here in a deserted place.”  But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”  For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”  They did so and had them all sit down.  And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke them and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled, and what was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

 Happy Thanksgiving!  May your day be filled with joy!  May your feast and festivities be similar to what the 5,000 must have experienced when they were fed with a loaf and two fish.

When the Pilgrims started the tradition of Thanksgiving in 1621 they were filled with joy at a good harvest.  Initially they did not have enough food to feed the 102 people of their colony.  The Wampanoag Native Americans had helped the Pilgrims by providing them seeds and teaching them to fish.

The festival of Thanksgiving has come a long way from that celebration in 1621. 

Today give thanks for all that you have.  May your day be filled with a sense of gratitude for the gifts that surround you.

Friday, November 25

Galatians 5:16-26   Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.  Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,  envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

 The Fruit of the Spirit

In this passage Paul contrasted the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.  The fruits of the Spirit that he shared in verses 22-23 come from out of our heart.  The seeds of these fruits are our own thanks and gratitude.

 

Look at the difference between the person described in the first six verses and the person described in the last four verses.  We have a choice about which person we will be.  The choice starts with an orientation that we take towards thanks.  When we are filled with thanks with all we have it’s easier to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  When we focus on what we lack, it’s easier to commit what Paul calls works of the flesh.

Today as you pray, pray that you will be the person described in the last four verses.  Pray that we at Chain of Lakes can design ministries that encourage the people of our new congregation to be these people.  Pray that the people of the church worldwide will be people filled with the seeds of thanks and gratitude and people living out the fruits of the Spirit.

Saturday, November 26

Psalm 105:1-6  O give thanks to the Lord; call on his name;

    make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him;

    tell of all his wonderful works.

Glory in his holy name;

    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Seek the Lord and his strength;

    seek his presence continually.

Remember the wonderful works he has done,

    his miracles and the judgments he has uttered,

O offspring of his servant Abraham,

    children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

At the start of this Psalm Israel shared thanks to God.  For the rest of the Psalm the writer of the Psalm recited the history of Israel.  We can imagine these words being shared in a worship service.  The history of the people prompted them to give thanks.

We can do the same for our own lives.  Take some time to reflect or even write down the three ways you are thankful for what has happened in the last 24 hours. What would they be?  Take some time to thoughtfully come up with this list.

Then when you have your list, shower God with thanks.  Let God know how deeply you appreciate each of the events. 

In doing this exercise you are connecting with the writer of this Psalm.  You are joining hands across history with someone who gave thanks for their history.

What are three ways you are thankful for what has happened in the last 24 hours? Please share.

Monday, November 14

Genesis 12:1-3  Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

 Some people believe that this story in Genesis is the start of the Old Testament. Up until this point in Genesis the significant stories were the Creation, Noah, and the tower of Babel. And genealogies that can be found in four different chapters.

Now we hear about Abram—who later became Abraham. God asked Abram to go to Canaan. God promised Abram that Abram would be blessed and that he would be a blessing. The people who would come after him would form a nation. That nation would be great. The greatness would be because of the blessings that Abram’s descendants would share.

What a powerful definition of greatness! Greatness would happen not because of might or power or strength. It would happen because of blessing.

In the run-up to the recent elections not too many candidates promised that greatness would happen because of blessings.

A congregation can be a place of greatness because the people see their identity as one of sharing blessings.

Part of our task as followers of Jesus is to share blessings. We are blessed to be a blessing.

To whom can you share a blessing today? To whom can you share goodness and love and beauty?

Those who read this devotion can share prayers for you! In what ways can the group pray that you can share blessings? Please share.

Tuesday, November 15
Numbers 6:22-27   The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,  “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
“So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

One way that a blessing is understood is that of a benediction.  When a religious leader holds up his or her hands at the end of a worship service that person is sharing a benediction or blessing. The blessing in the benediction are words that people are to remember and carry with them during the week.

These words we read today are known as the Aaronic benediction. Moses shared this blessing with his brother Aaron. The blessing or benediction is one that God told Moses to give to Aaron.

Most likely we’ve heard of this blessing or benediction before. We are blessed when God’s face shines upon us; when we experience God’s graciousness; when God’s countenance is lifted upon us.

When all of this happens we experience peace.

Your spirit might be anxious today. Read these words over and over; imagine that Moses is extending his arms over us and reciting these words. Think about how these words are transferred to our spirit.

Knowing that we are blessed is knowledge that can help any of us with our daily anxieties.

What are some recent ways that you’ve experienced these blessings? Please share. People are interested in learning about your story.

Wednesday, November 16

Deuteronomy 1:9-11  “At that time I said to you, ‘I am unable by myself to bear you.  The Lord your God has multiplied you, so that today you are as numerous as the stars of heaven.  May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times more and bless you, as he has promised you!

 These words are the fulfillment of the blessing that God gave Abram in the story we read about on Monday. God had increased the number of people who were Israelites by a thousand times. And God had blessed the people. The story of what happened between Abram and this passage in Deuteronomy were not always of blessing. However, we can see how blessings framed the story of the Israelites.

God wanted to communicate through Moses that blessings were part of the story of the nation.

How do you see blessing as part of your own story. How do you see yourself blessed—blessed by God and blessed by others. Identifying ourselves as blessed is a significant statement.

How often do you look in the mirror and say, “I am blessed!” Try it this week and see what happens. Every time you look in the mirror say, “I am blessed.”

If you try that for a day, share some of your experiences. What difference does it make in your own life to acknowledge and recognize that you are blessed? Please share your thoughts.

Thursday, November 17

Luke 24: 50-53  Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,  and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

In this story we see Jesus giving a benediction. The words that Jesus shared were right before he ascended to heaven. Luke is the only gospel that has the story of the ascension in it.

Jesus lifted up his hands and blessed the people who were there.  While he was blessing them, Jesus was taken up into heaven.

Certainly the disciples missed Jesus when he physically departed from him. And they also carried this blessing from Jesus.

None of us have ever seen Jesus. But we can communicate his image to other people when we bless them. Every time we bless someone, we are communicating Jesus to them. It’s as if we are raising our hands over the person.

Have you had a moment recently where you blessed someone? Please share your story as when people read about your blessings, they will be more motivated to bless others.

Friday, November 18

Romans 12:14-21  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.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14)

Most likely none of are experiencing persecution right now. Though it’s most likely that all of us are annoyed by the actions of another person. People are causing us pain—whether it is intentional or not.

How to respond to people who are causing us pain? If we go into the world and ask for guidance, we will often be told to aggressively go after the person.

In these verses the Apostle Paul is urging a different approach. Try blessing the person who is causing you pain. Don’ try to inflict pain back on them. Try different ways that you can bless this person.

Do you have a person who is causing you pain? Without sharing any names or sharing in a way that reveals the person, consider sharing some of your story. What are some ways that you can bless the person? And then ask for prayers that you can bless that person and not persecute him or her.

Saturday, November 19

Psalm 103:1-5  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.

 

This Psalm starts out with a familiar phrase, “Bless the Lord, O My Soul.” (Psalm 103:1)

We can share a blessing with God. God doesn’t need us to bless the almighty. But God is always looking for people who will bless the divine.

Blessing God is like praising God. We’re acknowledging and extolling certainly qualities of God.

Go through your day by being conscious of blessing God. How many times can you bless God today? One, five, fifty, a hundred? If you have the time keep track of the many ways that you are blessing God. You could even keep a journal where you write down the ways you are blessing others.

What does your day look like when you are conscious of blessing people? Please share.

Monday, November 7

Ephesians 2:11-18
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.

 

The devotion this week looks at the question, “Why be part of a church?”

 

The author of Ephesians addressed this chapter to the Gentiles, non-Jews. He shared that through Christ the Gentiles had been brought together with the Jews into a community.  “[Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups [Jews and Gentiles] into one, and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

 

The possibility of what Jesus for people who are divided is the same in the 21st century as it was in the 1st century. Through Jesus people can come together. That which divides people—dividing walls—can be broken down.

Pastor Paul has talked about how in a faith community people come into relationship with others whom they would never otherwise know. [All of Pastor Paul’s sermons can be found at vimeo.com/chainoflakes] People are no longer strangers to each other. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus people can become friends.

This possibility of friendship in a faith community is a powerful witness. When others see the dynamic nature of these friendships, they will want to experience them. Even the “Nones,” those who have nothing to do with a church, can be inspired to be part of a faith community when they witness these friendships.

Today reflect on the quality of friendships in your church. And though many people who read this devotion are part of Chain f Lakes Church, some are part of another congregation. What would you say about this? Please share.

 

Tuesday, November 8

Ephesians 2:19-22

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.

 The devotion this week looks at the question, “Why be part of a church?”

At the end of this chapter the author of Ephesians wrote about how people “are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” Ephesians 2:22

A different type of connection exists between people in a faith community. It’s a deeply spiritual connection—one which is the foundation of a spiritual household.

Worship is one place where people can experience this spiritual connection. An energy should exist in a worship service. When people encounter this spiritual energy they are better people. This energy is something towards which people might look forward during the week to experiencing in worship.  People gladly gather in anticipation of this spiritual energy. People are living at the highest level of who they are as humans when they worship. Because of worship people are connected at a deeper level

Wow!

How is the energy level of worship at the faith community in which you participate? When you are in worship does time stop existing. Do you enter a realm that is different than the realms of your daily week? Please share.

 

Wednesday, November 9
Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but they doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 These five verses are known as the Great Commission. They are the last teaching of Jesus while he was on earth. Jesus shared this teaching with his eleven disciples. 

In verses 19-20 Jesus described the nature of the church. In a congregation people will be baptized, they will receive teaching, and they will experience the presence of God.

When Jesus said, “I am with you always,” the “you” was plural. Jesus meant that he was spiritually present when people gathered in community. When people gather in the name of Jesus, Jesus will be present.

To experience the presence of God in community is awesome. This experience is worth all of the effort that sometimes happens in a faith community. Do you frequently experience Jesus in the church in which you participate? Do you remember the last time you had an experience like this? Please share.

 

Thursday, November 10

Acts 2:43
Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.

This verse is part of the story of Pentecost. The people had seen the work of the Holy Spirit and had gathered in a community. The community is known of as the first church.

“Awe came upon everyone…” (Acts 2:43) A three-letter synonym for “awe” is “wow.” Wow came upon everyone.

When Chain of Lakes was first started Pastor Paul talked about these wow moments. He shared that Chain of Lakes Church would be successful when people would frequently say the word, “wow.” In fact one indicator of success of the church is how often people say the word.

Pray today that when you participate in a faith community you will frequently say the word, “wow.” God wants to answer this prayer request.

When is the last time you said the word, “wow?” When is the last time you said the word, “wow” in a church? Please share.

 

Friday, November 11

Luke 10:25-28
An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”  He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

 These four verses are known as the Great Commandment. When a church lives out these verses along with the verses that were shared on Wednesday, that church will have a powerful ministry.

The Great Commandment is all about living out agape love. Agape is self-less, sacrificing, not at all prideful. This love does not come naturally to many people. Most of us need examples of others who live out agape love.

In a faith community people can grow in agape love. They can see examples of others. They can be examples of agape love themselves. Through the entire experience of illustrating agape love the community becomes a glimpse of heaven.

Pray today that the faith community in which you participate will be known for this agape love. Pray that the Great Commandment will be a visible representation of people’s actions.

How well does your faith community share agape love? Please share.

 

Saturday, November 12

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 These two verses very important for churches to read. “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

A church is operating well when people are provoking each other to love. People encourage others to love; people are growing in love; people gather to help each other love. One way to think of a local congregation is a laboratory of agape love.

As you pray today, pray that local congregations can be these laboratories of agape love. Do you have an experience when a congregation was provoking you to love? Please share.

Monday, October 31

Luke 15:11-32  Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the wealth that will belong to me.’ So he divided his assets between them.  A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant region, and there he squandered his wealth in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that region, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that region, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.  He would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to his senses he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!  I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

This week we have the opportunity to read devotions about humility.

We can learn so much about humility in this story. Each of the actions of each character can be seen as a reflection of humility.

Look at the actions of the father. He illustrated humility on two different occasions. First, at the beginning of the story he gave his younger son the share of his property. In retrospect we can see that his action led to destruction. But put those thoughts away and look at the actions of the father as an act of humility. The father was willing to do something that was risky; he was willing to give his younger son the benefit of the doubt; he was willing to trust his younger son. In knowing the entire story we can look at the father’s actions and say, “but, but, and but …” But try to put yourself in the father’s shoes at that particular moment to get a taste of his own humility.

 

The second place he illustrated humility was when his younger son came back. If the father had been full of pride, he would have punished his son. “You disgraced yourself and our family and lost all of this money.” And though that statement is true, the father didn’t express it. Instead, he embraced his flawed son.

Is the father a role model for you? Please share.

 

Tuesday, November 1

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus described himself in these three verses.  “I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

At the core of the character of Jesus is humility.

Take a moment to reflect on the ministry of Jesus. Think how often he shared himself in a humble way. He was always looking out for the interest of others. He was not trying to win attention or even be the center of attention.  Ironically it was his own humility that brought Jesus so much attention.

To what extent do you think of humility as a core principle of Jesus? When someone says, “Jesus” do you initially think of humility? Please share your thoughts.

 

Wednesday, November 2

Matthew 18:1-5   At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Becoming great is something that everyone is encouraged to attain. In these verses Jesus changed the traditional understanding of what it means to be great.

Jesus said that to become great a person first must become humble. He pointed to a child as an example of humility.

Usually to be great a person is thought of as having great knowledge or wisdom or fame or money or accomplishments.  But Jesus didn’t mention these qualities.  He mentioned humility.  “Be humble like a child and you will be the greatest in the kingdom.” (Matthew 18:4)

We rarely hear people say that to become great a person must become humble. Why do you think our culture has not embraced Jesus’ understanding of greatness?

Please share.

Thursday, November 3

Ephesians 4:1-6  I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace:  there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

 The Apostle Paul shared a beautiful description of the life of a follower of Jesus. Live a life worthy of your call, he mentioned in verse one. Specifically live your life with “all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3.

These two verses are worth memorizing. They are worth writing out and putting in locations where you will see them every day.

Think how the world would be different if every person lived by this motto.

Each of us can’t make other people live by this motto; however we can commit ourselves to living by this motto.

What is one small step you can take today to live out these two verses? Please share

 

Friday, November 4

1 Peter 5:1-11  Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it, not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must be subject to the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for

 

“God opposes the proud

    but gives grace to the humble.”

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.  And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because God cares for you.”

We might believe that to humble ourselves we put ourselves down in front of God and in front of others. Doing that is false humility and is not what humbling oneself means.

Humbling oneself means we are open to learning from others. To be humble means we admit to ourselves that we don’t have all the answers, and it is okay not to have all the answers. It’s acknowledging that God does have the answers that we need. It’s turning to God with anticipation that we can receive something special from God—something we can’t receive from ourselves.

We might think that humbling ourselves is an act of self-degradation. It is not this at all. Instead, it is a recognition that our self is not the center of the Universe.

Others have ideas and suggestions that are important to hear and incorporate into our life. It’s saying to another person, “I’m interested in your thoughts and ideas because your thoughts and ideas might be the way I need to go.”

Who do you know who is an example of this type of humility? This is a person who is very curious to learn from others. Please share.

 

Saturday, November 5

Luke 15:11-32  Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the wealth that will belong to me.’ So he divided his assets between them.  A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant region, and there he squandered his wealth in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that region, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that region, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.  He would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to his senses he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’  So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.  Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

 At the end of the week we’re back to the story where we began at the beginning of the week. As we read on Monday each of the actions of each character can be seen as a reflection of humility.

Look at verse seventeen. The younger brother came to himself. The younger brother could see that his life messed up. And he understood that he was responsible for his mess. His actions had caused his mess.

When he came to himself, he went from a person of pride to a person of humility.

 

Look at how he demonstrated humility with his father. First he confessed his sin, recognizing his actions were wrong; second he admitted that he wasn’t worthy to be called his father’s son; third he was willing to suffer the consequences of his actions by becoming a servant in his own father’s home. This is humility. It’s his willingness to suffer the consequences of his actions.

How easy is it for you to admit that you messed up?  Please share.

Monday, October 24
Genesis 37:1-4
 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. These are the descendants of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives, and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.  Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children because he was the son of his old age, and he made him an ornamented robe. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

Pastor Paul shared in his sermon this past Sunday that the judgment or criticism we share with others does not happen in a vacuum. Our own judgmental spirit develops because we might have experienced judgment from a parent when we were children.

In this story Joseph’s brothers shared judgment or criticism with Joseph. They were jealous of Joseph because their father, Jacob, loved Joseph more than he loved them. Jacob obviously played favorites with people.

Much of the time highly critical people take on their criticism because they received it as children.

When we experience judgment or criticism from other people, it’s helpful to take a step back and reflect on what is driving the other person’s judgment. Most likely the person was judged or criticized as children by their parents.

Knowing this information does not excuse judgment or criticism. But it gives us a perspective that can help us stay in relationship with the person. Knowing this information can even prompt our own empathy or compassion.

Think of a person who has criticized or been judgmental of you. Do you think that person was criticized or judged as a child? Without divulging names, please share.

 

Tuesday, October 25

Genesis 16:1-6
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.  He went in to Hagar, and she conceived, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!”  But Abram said to Sarai, “Your slave is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.

This is a difficult story to read. Sarai—her name hadn’t been changed yet to Sarah—treated Hagar horribly. Sarai’s intention was for Hagar to be a surrogate mother for her family. Instead, Sarai made a terrible mistake that is often made. She masked her own pain by judging Hagar.

This story also illustrates how power dynamics can cause judgment to be even more painful. If Hagar hadn’t been the slave girl of Abram and Sarai the punishment that Hagar had received would not have been as painful.

It’s hard to know if Hagar looked with contempt on Sarai. (Verse 5) Did this really happen or was the story shared through the perspective of Sarai? If Hagar had been telling the story, would we have read about Hagar’s contempt?

Certainly, Sarai didn’t respond with grace. She couldn’t accept what had happened and didn’t see the potential joy that a new child would bring to their family. She was consumed with judgment. And because of her position of power, her judgment caused significant pain.

 

Wednesday, October 26

Luke 9:51-55
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to prepare for his arrival, but they did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them.

 We read this story last week in the devotion and heard Pastor Paul preach on it in his sermon on October 16.

The story also illustrates that judgment does not happen in a vacuum. The judgment that James and John wanted Jesus to impose on the Samaritan village resulted because of the long-time enmity between Samaritans and Jews. As Jews, James and John grew up hating Samaritans. They saw the faith of the Samaritans as inferior to a Jewish faith.

Jesus would have none of this judgment. When he was asked his opinion about imposing judgment on the village, he ignored it. He didn’t carry the hatred of Samaritans that James and John possessed. In fact, Jesus used a Samaritan as the hero of a famous story that is rightly titled, “The Good Samaritan.”

The judgment that we exhibit towards others also does not happen in a vacuum. Past situations have led us to be critical. Our actions in the present are formed by actions from the past.

Can you think of a time when you were judgmental of another person? How do you see your own judgment as part of a larger story of judgment that might be in your family? Please share.

 

Thursday, October 27

Luke 6:32-42
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive payment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.  Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;  give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap, for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but every disciple who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

We read Matthew’s version of this story last week in the devotion. Once again, we read about the perils of judging or criticizing others.

This story illustrates the old adage that when we point our fingers at another person, three fingers are pointing back at us.

Before we judge, Jesus asks us to look at the log in our own eye. Looking at the log in our own eye can be painful, but it’s necessary for us to grow up as a human.

Some questions that can help us remove this speck are:

Where did we learn judgment in our own family?

How often did we experience judgment or criticism in our birth family? Who are my role models for extending grace?

If you are comfortable, please share some of your responses to these questions.

 

Friday, October 28

 John 7:19-24
“Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?”  Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished.  Because of this Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the Sabbath?  Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

The last verse of this story is key for us.

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Jesus never said that we should never judge or be critical of another person. However, he wanted us to judge with the “right judgment.” What does it mean to judge with “right judgment?”

Yesterday we read some questions that can help us understand our own judgment. Consider the following questions as potentially helpful to us.

Is my judgment or criticism trying to help the person, or am I trying to tear down the person?

Is my judgment a reflection of the judgment that I received when I was growing up?

Who is being helped by my judgment?

Would I be more effective by not saying anything?

Am I expressing love in my judgment?

Do you have other questions that would help people know if their judgment is right? Please share.

Saturday, October 29

Romans 12:1-3

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.

Often thoughts might come into our mind that we would identify as highly critical or even judgmental. Knowing what to do with these thoughts is very important for our own emotional and spiritual health.

An important first step is not to be critical of ourselves because we are judgmental or critical. Having thoughts that we don’t like doesn’t diminish us as a person. What diminishes us as a person is what we do with those thoughts.

What’s important is we learn how to let go of some of these thoughts. The questions that were asked in yesterdays’ devotional reading can help.

Renewing our mind can help also. This renewal can take place through our faith habits. When we worship and read the Scriptures and pray, we give our mind the opportunity to be renewed.

What do you find helpful to renew your own mind? Please share.

Monday, October 17

Luke 9:51-56  When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.  And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to prepare for his arrival,  but they did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem.  When his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them.  Then they went on to another village.

 It’s amazing that James and John would have responded as they did to the lack of interest by the Samaritan village to Jesus. At this point the two had traveled with Jesus for some time. They were learning who Jesus was and what message Jesus was communicating.

James and John were brothers. They were part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. James is referred to in church tradition as “James the Great.” Jesus called the two “sons of thunder or Boanerges” perhaps because of their strong personalities.

But when the two saw behavior that they didn’t like, they wanted to punish the people in this village.

Isn’t this how we as humans can be at times? When people don’t act a way that we want, it’s easy to want to lash out at people. People in the church can lash out at a culture or at unchurched people when things happen in the culture or unchurched people ignore their message.

It’s too easy for our first response to be judgment and not understanding.

Have you ever experienced the judgment of a church or a follower of Jesus? You don’t have to share names, but have you had a story when you experienced the wrath of someone who professed to be a follower of Jesus? Please share.

 Tuesday, October 18

Romans 2:1-11  Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others, for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.  Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  He will repay according to each one’s deeds:  to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life,  while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but injustice, there will be wrath and fury.  There will be affliction and distress for everyone who does evil, both the Jew first and the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, both the Jew first and the Greek.  For God shows no partiality.

 This passage written by the Apostle Paul illustrated the difference between judgment and kindness. Pastor Paul talked about this in his sermon on Sunday.

When we judge others, we are displaying the very same conduct that we are condemning. The Apostle Paul was very critical of people who used God’s name to be judgmental of others. The Scripture is worth reading again:

“Do you imagine, who ever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of [God’s] kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

Romans 2:3-4

Communities of faith are called to be known for their kindness, not their judgment. In fact, it is our kindness that will lead other people to explore God.

Too often the reverse is the case. People feel they have to represent Jesus by judging other people. To establish credibility they want to judge instead of being kind.

Why do you think among unchurched people that churches are known more for judgment than kindness? Please share.

Wednesday, October 19

Matthew 7:1-5  “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For the judgment you give will be the judgment you get, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.


It’s certainly easier to see the speck in another person’s eye than to see the log in our own eye. It’s easier to point a finger at another person and not see the three fingers that are pointed back at us.

Taking the log out of our own eye is a recognition of our own humility. When we can look at ourselves and acknowledge that we are a work in progress, then we can more easily face the world.

In his sermon on Sunday, Pastor Paul encouraged people to say with authenticity that we are a “work in progress.” Doing this is an act of humility. When we do this with sincerity, we acknowledge that we need to work on ourselves first.

Try saying at least once a day to people that you are a work in progress.  Do you think you can do this? Please share.

Thursday, October 20

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.

Like the passage we read on Tuesday, once again the Apostle Paul spoke out against judgment. It’s interesting to follow his line of thinking.

Paul didn’t want to set up practices that would be hard for newcomers to join the faith. If something was too hard, then a new person wouldn’t take God seriously.

At the time that Paul wrote, there were dietary regulations. Following these dietary regulations helped determine the seriousness of a person’s faith. Paul turned the idea around. Don’t set up situations or rules that are going to cause you to judge another person. It was as if he was saying that the community should not set up a dietary regulation and then use that regulation to say that some people are followers and others are not.

Paul was saying not to set up a rule that was going to cause you to judge another person. God is the ultimate judge. All of us are going to go before the judgment seat. The role of the faith community is to let God pass judgment.

Dietary regulations probably mean nothing to us or to our faith. But it’s easy for congregations to set up litmus tests for following. It’s easy to say, “You can’t be a follower of Jesus unless you do _______.”

Paul was discouraging faith communities from doing that.

Have you had an experience where people set up litmus tests to be a follower of Jesus. Please share.

Friday, October 21

Galatians 5:22-26  By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

 How much better would it be for a congregation to be known by the Fruit of the Spirit and not judgment. Read over these nine parts of the Fruit of the Spirit. Which ones come easy for you? Which ones are more difficult for you?

This past Sunday, Pastor Paul closed his sermon by talking about kindness. The English word for kindness is translated from the Greek word, “chrestotes.” According to the web site called Bible Hub, chrestotes is “the Spirit-produced goodness which meets the need and avoids human harshness (cruelty).”

It’s not an accident that this value is something that God produces in us. Sharing kindness by ourselves without the help of God is difficult if not impossible. But through our own relationship with God, God can inspire us to treat others with chrestotes or kindness.

Who do you know who illustrates this kindness? What is a story about this person that you would like to share? Please do share.

Saturday, October 22

Philippians 2:1-11  If, then, there is any comfort in Christ, any consolation from love, any partnership in the Spirit, any tender affection and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

  who, though he existed in the form of God,

    did not regard equality with God

    as something to be grasped,

 but emptied himself,

    taking the form of a slave,

    assuming human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human,

he humbled himself

    and became obedient to the point of death—

    even death on a cross.

 Therefore God exalted him even more highly

    and gave him the name

    that is above every other name,

 so that at the name given to Jesus

    every knee should bend,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

 and every tongue should confess

    that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus was our best example of someone who resisted judgment. At times Jesus judged people, but his judgment was on behalf of the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable.

Much more of the time Jesus illustrated these words from Philippians. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

These two verses illustrate how Jesus would want congregations to approach the world. He would want them to look to the interests of others and not to their own interests. He would not want congregations to judge others, but instead to go out of their way to love others.

Why is judgment so much easier to communicate than grace? Please share.

Monday, October 10

Genesis 3:20-24  The man named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living.  And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife and clothed them.

 Then the Lord God said, “See, the humans have become like one of us, knowing good and evil, and now they might reach out their hands and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever”—  therefore the Lord God sent them forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which they were taken.  He drove out the humans, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

 In his sermon yesterday about God’s judgment, Pastor Paul talked about how judgment is something that we do to ourselves rather than a punishment that God gives to us. The consequences of our own decisions are judgment enough.

In this story, Adam and Eve acted in a terrible way. God had told them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And they were seduced into eating the fruit of that tree.

God didn’t make them act in this way. The two acted this way themselves.

This story is so powerful for us because it reflects the human condition. Often we know the right direction to take, but we take the other direction. The truth of this story is not in its history, but in its description of each of us.

Adam and Eve did suffer judgment in this story. If you have some extra tie read the judgment from God in verses 14-19.

God drove Adam and Eve from the garden because of the decisions that Adam and Eve made.

Judgment does not always work this way—however in this story the judgment started with the decisions from Adam and Eve.

What’s also significant from this story is that even though God judged the two, God helped the two. At the start of this story we read that God clothed both of them.

Have you had a story when you did something wrong, but you still felt God present with you—trying to help you? Please share.

 

Tuesday, October 11

Genesis 6:5-8; 9:15-17  The Lord saw that the wickedness of humans was great in the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that he had made humans on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the humans I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air—for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.

I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

 The story of Noah and the ark is a cute story that is fun to tell  children. “What must have it been like to be with all of the animals for forty days?”

However, the story happened because of the wickedness of humanity. God was grieved about what he saw in the world. Because of the wickedness that God saw, God sent a great flood. The judgment resulted not because of what God wanted to do, but because of what humans did.

Most people have no interest or desire to grieve the heart of God. We don’t wake up in the morning thinking we’re going to do wicked deeds or grieve God’s heart.

What is also significant about this story is that God made a covenant with humanity promising to never again wipe out the earth. The rainbow is part of this covenant. The rainbow is a reflection of grace and forgiveness.

 

Wednesday, October 12

Jeremiah 31:31-34  The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.

 Amidst terrible destruction God was willing to make a new covenant with people. This covenant would be placed within people’s hearts.

This covenant foreshadowed the grace that God gave to humanity through Jesus.

Some people think that the God of the Old Testament is a God of judgment, and the God of the New Testament is a God of grace. This is certainly not true. We frequently read about grace in the Old Testament and read about judgment in the New Testament.

What is important from this reading is that grace is part of God’s character. It was part of God’s character from the beginning of the Scriptures.

Have you experienced a difficult moment and then experienced grace? Please share.

 

Thursday, October 13

John 3:16-21  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.  But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

 This is an important Scripture for us to know. Perhaps one of the most important Scriptures to know in the Bible. Everyone who came to worship this past Sunday received a card with part of this Scripture on it.

This Scripture talks about grace and judgment.

God loved and loves the world so much that God sent Jesus into the world. The gift of Jesus is a reflection of the love that God has for each of us.

Sometimes we ended up judging ourselves by turning away from the light that God has given to us. We love darkness and not light.

Within every one of us we have the inclination to choose light and to choose darkness. Sometimes we choose darkness and bring judgment onto ourselves. This judgment originates with us and not God.

What’s significant about God is that even when we choose darkness God never gives up on us.  

What are your thoughts about this Scripture? Please share.

 

Friday, October 14

Luke 13:10-17  Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.  And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”  When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured and not on the Sabbath day.”  But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it to water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame, and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things being done by him.

 Jesus frequently judged people. He expressed in a strong way that the actions of a person were morally wrong. This story is one of many examples of Jesus judging people.

A woman approached Jesus in a synagogue on the Sabbath. The woman had been tormented by a back problem for eighteen years. She was crippled because of her back ailment.

Jesus quickly healed her. How powerful it was to hear him say, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

The leader of the synagogue didn’t see the situation this way. He believed that Jesus had sinned greatly by working on the Sabbath.

Jesus responded in judgment. He called the man a hypocrite. This was very strong language that Jesus used.

Jesus went on to share that every person works at some level on the Sabbath. People had taken the Sabbath regulations so literally that it had blinded them to the power of this woman being healed on the Sabbath. The judgment that Jesus shared came from a misinterpretation of the Scriptures of the day. The judgment really originated from the leader of the synagogue. Jesus expressed his outrage that anyone would find offense in the healing of this woman.

What are your thoughts about this story? Please share.

 

Saturday, October 15

John 5:19-24  Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own but only what he sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.  The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,  so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and does not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.

 Some people might believe that God the Creator is judgmental, and Jesus is not. This passage clearly states that this idea is not true.

One way to understand judgment is the entrance from this life to the life to come. If we believe in Jesus, we do not come under judgment.

This authority of Jesus is ultimate. We do not need to fear this authority as Jesus is just and compassionate on all of us.

What are your thoughts about this reading. Please share.

Monday, October 3

Genesis 6:5-6, 8:20-22

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humans was great in the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humans on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humans, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.

 As long as the earth endures,

    seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,

summer and winter, day and night

    shall not cease.”

 This week we’re going to look again at the heart of God. In this story God was grieved in the divine heart about what humans were doing in the world. This grief shows the deep passion that God has for the world. God cares deeply about what is happening and the decisions that humans will make.

Because of what God saw and because of the grief in the divine heart, God chose to send a flood to the earth.

After the flood, God decided never to destroy the earth again. This promise came out of the divine heart. Look at verse 21, “And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor [that Noah had shared through a burnt offering], the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind …”

God cares deeply about what happens in our life and what happens in the world.

How does the deep care of God or the world in the divine heart, influence you? How does seeing the deep care God has for the world make an impact on you? Please share.

 

Tuesday, October 4

Exodus 3:7-12

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.  Now go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  He said, “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

 God saw the misery of what was happening in Egypt. The Israelites were suffering terribly in slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. The Israelites cried out in pain to God. And God heard their prayers.

And then God responded to the prayers. It’s important to note how God responded to this injustice. God called or sent someone to fight against the injustice. We know, of course, that God called Moses to go to Egypt and to liberate the slaves.

God could have snapped the divine finger and the problem would have been solved. But God didn’t do this. God sent a human to take care of the injustice.

This action by God is very significant for each of us to understand. Most of the time God does not snap the divine finger and clean up a mess. Instead God calls someone to go into that mess to clean it up. God cares deeply about the injustices that God sees. God’s care comes with a responsibility and challenge—go and clean it up.

You might be involved in some sort of mess right now. Perhaps God is calling or asking you to clean it up.

Do you have a story of being involved in a mess in the past that your faith helped give you guidance to clean up? Please share.

 

Wednesday, October 5

 Job 34:12-15

Of a truth, God will not do wickedly,

    and the Almighty will not pervert justice.

 Who gave him charge over the earth,

    and who laid on him the whole world?

 If he should take back his spirit to himself

    and gather to himself his breath,

 all flesh would perish together,

    and all mortals return to dust.

 The story of Job is a deep and interesting conversation about God and the nature of suffering. 

In this Scripture Elihu is making the case about God. In particular, Elihu was sharing the benefits of God and what would happen to humans without God.

“If [God] should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, all flesh would perish together, and all mortals return to dust.” Job 34:14-15

Imagine how bleak our own lives would be without God.

We might not think often about the benefits of God in our own life.  If someone came up to you and asked you, “In twenty words or less would you share with me the benefits of a relationship with God?” what would you say? Please consider sharing your response.

 

Thursday, October 6

 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.”

 Jesus surprised the disciples by visiting them shortly after he had died. The disciples were in a locked room. They were afraid and disoriented because of the death of Jesus.

Jesus came into the room and changed everything.

The first words out of the mouth of Jesus were, “Peace be with you.” Jesus came into a situation of fear to bring peace.

At the end of the story Jesus breathed on them. His breath was literally the wind of God. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said.

One way to describe the Holy Spirit is the breath of God. This breath offers each of us peace. It also offers us forgiveness. When we encounter this breath of God, we are different people.

Consider setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to pray to be used by the Holy Spirit during the day. Perhaps you could set your alarm for 9am, noon, and 3pm. Try this for a day and see what happens.

Have you had a time in your life, when you were particularly focused on being used by the Holy Spirit? Please share.

 

Friday, October 7

Matthew 14:13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.  When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”  Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”  They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”  And he said, “Bring them here to me.”  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  And all ate and were filled, and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

 Jesus was in a difficult place at the start of this story. John the Baptist had just died in a brutal and unjust way. Because John was holding Herod accountable for Herod’s actions, Herod had John killed.

Jesus wanted to be away by himself to process all that had happened.

The crowds, though, wouldn’t let Jesus be by himself. Crowds of people came to Jesus looking for something for themselves.

It would have been easy for Jesus to be upset with the crowds for invading his space. Jesus was sad and upset. He wanted to be alone. The crowds wouldn’t let this happen.

Instead of being upset Matthew wrote this about Jesus.

“When [Jesus] went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

Jesus exhibited tremendous compassion for the people. Jesus didn’t respond to the crowds with irritation. He didn’t say, “Leave me alone I need some space for myself. I’m hurting about what has happened.” Instead the heart of Jesus went out to the people.

Have you had moments in your life when you’ve had an experience of God’s compassion? Please share.

 

Saturday, October 8

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 world, 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.

 What does God desire? The Apostle Paul shared God’s desire or will in this Scripture.

“Do not be 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

Read this Scripture over and over.  Try to memorize it. Write it down and carry it with you today. This Scripture is what God wants in the world. God always wants what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Make this Scripture your own prayer today.

Monday, September 26

Exodus 2:23-25, 3:7-12

After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Their cry for help rose up to God from their slavery. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the

Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. Now go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

 This week we’re going to read stories that show how God called people into situations that broke God’s heart. AND we’re going to hear a brief story of a person who followed God’s call to change the world.

Pastor Paul shared in his sermon yesterday how God took notice of the suffering of the Israelites. God didn’t ignore the suffering that was happening in the world. God responded to the suffering by sending a person—in this case Moses—to address the suffering. Moses led the people out of slavery.

William Wilberforce was an English evangelical who was prominent in ending the slave trade in the British colonies in the early 19th century. Wilberforce was willing to use his gifts to address conditions that broke his own heart. This is one definition of the Inspirational Intersection—using our gifts to address conditions in the world that break our heart.

Wilberforce’s faith led him to be a leading reformer of his time. His life is an example for anyone who wants to make a difference.

 

Tuesday, September 27

Ruth 1:15-18
So she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said,

 “Do not press me to leave you,

    to turn back from following you!

Where you go, I will go;

    where you lodge, I will lodge;

your people shall be my people

    and your God my God.

 Where you die, I will die,

    and there will I be buried.

May the Lord do thus to me,

    and more as well,

if even death parts me from you!”

 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

 God is not mentioned in the story of Ruth, but we can see the results of God’s action. Ruth was not willing to leave Naomi alone. Even if it made sense for Ruth to go back to her family in a different country, Ruth was not willing to do it. She was willing to persistently stay with Naomi.

Dorothy Day was a Catholic lay woman who started the Catholic Worker movement. She started a newspaper called the Catholic Worker that highlighted the pain of workers during the Depression. Her Catholic faith was central to her own life. Her own faith led her to leave her husband who didn’t share her interest in the church.

She was a staunch follower of pacifism and spoke out strongly against the wars of the 20th century.

Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker have been models for people who want to follow their faith in community, and they have been models for people who desire justice.

Wednesday, September 28

1 Kings 17:1-7

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the Lord came to him, saying,  “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”  So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.  The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the wadi.  But after a while the wadi dried up because there was no rain in the land.

 

Elijah was a man who lived out a full range of experiences in following his own Inspirational Intersection. Hs full story can be found in the last half of 1 Kings and the first few chapters of 2 Kings. Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he revived a boy from death, he confronted King Ahab, and he had to flee for his life from Queen Jezebel.

Cesar Chavez was a devout Catholic who followed his faith to establish the first movement of farm workers in the history of the United States. Farm workers are the poorest of the poor. They work in extremely difficult conditions to pick the fruit that all of us enjoy in grocery stores. All of the grapes that we currently eat come from the Bakersfield, California region. They were picked by farm workers.

Cesar fasted for long periods of time as an act of purification.

In 1968 he went on a water only, 25 day fast. He repeated the fast in 1972 for 24 days, and again in 1988, this time for 36 days.

The last fast in 1988 most likely led to his death five years later.

His faith and his persistence led to astonishing success that still has an impact in California.

 

Thursday, September 29

Acts 9:1-9

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.  For three days he was without sight and neither ate nor drank.

 Saul was a man who persecuted Christians. Because of Saul Stephen was stoned to death. Many others died also.

God noticed what was happening and called out to Saul to change his ways. God asked Saul in this story the question, “why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4)

Martin Luther King Jr. was an African American man who used his gifts to enter into the pain of the world. The pain that he entered was segregation in the South in the 1950s and 1960s. He taught his followers the philosophy of non-violent resistance. He aimed to appeal to the heart of the person who was oppressing him.

The Civil Rights Movement that he started was rooted in faith and the African American church. The worship services that he led often led people to put their lives in jeopardy for the cause of racial justice.

 

Friday, September 30

Genesis 3:20-21

The man named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living.  And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife and clothed them.

 Probably you remember that Adam ate the fruit of the tree that God asked Adam not to eat. But we might not remember what happened after Adam ate the fruit.

God drove Adam out of the Garden of Eden because God was concerned that Adam would become a god. But we read in these two verses that God made garments of skin or clothes for Adam and Eve. God was a clothes maker!

Even though God was very upset with Adam for what he did, God did not abandon Adam. This story is one of beautiful grace that God shared with Adam and Eve.

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son two years later, she became the first black woman to win her freedom in a case against a white man.

She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth after she became convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the countryside to testify to the hope that was in her. Her best-known speech was delivered extemporaneously at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

The speech became widely known during the Civil War by the title “Ain’t I a Woman?” The speech is worth reading for anyone who wants to read about the struggle of a faithful, African American woman in the 19th century.

 

Saturday, October 1

Genesis 16:7-16

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.”  The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.”  The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.”  And the angel of the Lord said to her,

 “Now you have conceived and shall bear a son;

    you shall call him Ishmael,

    for the Lord has given heed to your affliction.

He shall be a wild ass of a man,

with his hand against everyone,

    and everyone’s hand against him,

and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”

 So she named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El-roi,” for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

 Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

 

The story of Hagar is a story that is not well known in the Bible. But it is a story that shows the love of God for a person who was shunned by others.

Hagar was married to Abraham. However Abraham was also married to Sarah. And Sarah made life miserable for Hagar. So much so that Hagar fled Abraham and Sarah and was ready to die in the wilderness.

God heard the cries of Hagar and would not let her die. Hagar eventually went back to Abraham. The two conceived and Hagar had a son, Ishmael. God’s heart and love for Hagar kept Hagar alive.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German clergyman in the 1930’s in Germany. He led the Confessing Church, a church that would not accept the horrible persecution that the Nazis enforced in Germany.

Because of his enduring faith Bonhoeffer was sent to a Concentration Camp. He was hanged at dawn on April 9, 1945. Bonhoeffer is still known today because of his steadfast witness to faith and justice.

Monday, September 19

Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-13

This passage is the central Scripture that explains the Inspirational Intersection. Pastor Paul has defined the Inspirational Intersection as “discovering the intersection between what God wants us to do and be and what we want to do and be.” 

An important first part of this discovery is identifying our own gifts.

This passage from Corinthians identifies a few gifts that people are given by God.  The gifts identified in this passage are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, various kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues.  Each gift is a manifestation of the Spirit.

Yesterday Pastor Paul encouraged people to identify and claim three spiritual gifts. The gifts that were identified yesterday were similar, but not exactly the same as the gifts listed in this passage.

If we have trouble identifying and claiming our gifts, God is willing to help us. As you pray today, talk to God about whether you have been given one of these gifts.  Perhaps your prayer could be, “Lord, help me know if I have the gift of (wisdom.)” There are nine gifts listed. Take a bit of time and share nine separate prayers to God.

What are your spiritual gifts? Please share.

 

Tuesday, September 20

Read Romans 12:1-8

Like the passage we read yesterday, this passage shares a listing of spiritual gifts. And it shares the idea of a body or community. A healthy community is made up of different gifts. One way to think of a faith community is not a collection of people, but a collection of gifts.

The gifts that are listed here are prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhorting, giver, leader, compassionate.

It’s important not only to identify the gifts each of us have, but to see these gifts in other people. Sharing with another person the gifts you see in that person can be a terrific benefit to the person.

Take a moment to reflect on a friend of yours.  Which of the above seven gifts to you see in that person? The person doesn’t have all seven gifts, but the person has at least one. Take some time to pray over the person and reflect on the person’s gifts.

To take the next step, consider writing or emailing a note to the person. In the note share what gifts you see in the person. Your note or email could be the highlight of the person’s day!

 

Wednesday, September 21

Read Ephesians 4:1-16

Like the passage in 1 Corinthians 12, this passage shares foundational teachings about gifts and the purpose of gifts in a community. The gifts that are listed in this passage are more like positions. The positions listed are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

Look at the purpose of the positions.

  • “to equip the saints for the work of ministry,
  • for building up the body of Christ
  • until all of us come to the unity of the faith
  • and of the knowledge of the Son of God
  • to maturity
  • to the measure of the full stature of God”

Ephesians 4:13

One important point from this purpose is to see that these gifts are not meant for us. They are shared by God with us, so that others might be helped, and they are shared so others can be helped in their faith. When a gift becomes more about the person then the actual gift, then the purpose of the gift has become lost.

Can you think of an example of seeing someone using their gifts? Please share.

 

Thursday, September 22

Read 1 Peter 4:8-11

These verses from 1 Peter share one result of using our gifts.   Gift are given to so that God can receive glory.

As was shared in the devotion yesterday, we can probably think of a time when we saw someone using their gifts in a powerful way. Think about the person as the person shared his or her gifts. The person was probably happy, driven, inspired—operating at their fullest potential.

We might think of a time in our life when we were using our gifts in a powerful way. Think of the joy we experienced during this time. Most likely we were working hard and perhaps even experiencing stress about the outcome. But during this time, we were most likely operating at our highest potential of our humanity. 

When was a time that you were using your gifts? Please share.

 

Friday, September 23

Read Jonah 1:1-3

Sometimes we don’t do what God wants us to do. The prophet Jonah is one person who didn’t do what God wanted him to do. God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh. Instead Jonah went the opposite direction. 

If you have some extra time, read the book of Jonah today. It’s only four chapters. As you do this, you might identify how unhappy Jonah was in the story.

This is what happens if we don’t use our gifts in a way that God wants us to use them. We become unhappy and dissatisfied. Life doesn’t work out in ways that we want life to work out.

Resisting God is a decision that can lead to great unhappiness.

It’s a tribute to God that God does not give up on us when we resist God’s desires. God didn’t give up on Jonah. God is persistent with us—always asking us to choose God’s ways.

It’s hard to have to recognize times in our life when we were resisting what God wanted for us. However, sharing these moments can help others. Please share a time in your life when you were resisting what God wanted you to do.

 

Saturday, September 24

Read Genesis 2:4-7

One important point about spiritual gifts is the idea that they come from God. God gives us these gifts.

In these short verses from Genesis we read about God creating humanity. God took dust, blew the Spirit into the dust, and the result was a human.  Every part of the human is from God.

Each person is different than the other—but the source of our creation is the same.

In his sermon on Sunday, Pastor Paul encouraged people to claim their gifts. We might resist doing this because we might believe we are being prideful. But claiming our spiritual gifts is not an act of pride. We are recognizing what God has done in our own life. Claiming our gifts is an act of praise to God.

How easy is it for you to claim your gifts? Please share.

Monday, September 12

Genesis 12:1-3

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Some people look at this reading as the start of the Old Testament. The reading begins the story of God’s relationship with a group of people. In verse two we read that God told Abram to go to a different land because God would make a great nation. In this reading nation doesn’t mean a nation like the “United States” or “France” or another current nation. It means a group of people who are connected to each other. In this case it means a group of people who are connected by faith.

It is not far-fetched to paraphrase this reading to say that God would make a great church.

Pastor Paul shared in his sermon yesterday that there is one church. He talked about how his family celebrates one church in two congregations. The church is made up of followers of Jesus Christ. A spiritual connection happens between followers of Jesus. So even if people worship in different congregations, people who are disciples are part of one church. The origins of being the church comes from this story in Genesis.

Take some time today to talk to someone who attends a different congregation. Celebrate with that person that the two of you are part of one church.

Do you have close friends who are part of another congregation to whom you talk often about faith? Please share.

 

Tuesday, September 13

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  When they saw him, they worshiped him, but they doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Yesterday we read in Genesis 12:2 that the word “nation” was in a command by God. In today’s reading the word, “nation” is found in this command from Jesus. Verse 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, …”

In this case the word “nations” comes from the Greek word, ethne. When Jesus shared this verse he didn’t only mean the nations that existed in his day. He also meant future nations.

The word, ethne is more than a description of a political state. Ethne means a group of people who are connected to each other. If we push into this command we can see where Jesus was encouraging the apostles to develop the church.

In the past Pastor Paul has defined a church as “a dynamic network of friends leading and experiencing personal and social transformation as they follow God.” This definition of a church is what Jesus encourage his followers to create and develop.

What are your thoughts about this definition of a church? Please share.

 

Wednesday, September 14

Matthew 16:13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

In this story Jesus told Peter, “you are Peter, and on this rock [on you] I will build my church.” This is one of two places in the gospels that Jesus used the word, church. The other place is Matthew 18:17.

The English word, church, comes from the Greek word, ekklesia. Ekklesia is made up of two parts—ek and kaleo. Ek means “out” and kaleo means “call.” Ekklesia is a group of people who are called out of something. They are called out of the values of the world.  Values like power and abuse and hate. The church is called out to live by different values. These values are personal—the Fruit of the Spirit, love joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These values are also social—justice, righteousness and peace.

The church should look vastly different than an organization in the world.

What are some examples that you’ve seen of congregations who have illustrated this being called out? Please share.

Thursday, September 15

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.

Verses 19-20 share another definition of the church: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone”

One can see how these verses form the biblical foundation for the Purpose Statement of Chain of Lakes Church.

Even though nineteen congregations exist in Blaine, one church exists. All of those congregations are part of the one church.

Being a disciple or follower of Jesus means you will have an instant connection with other disciples who participate in other congregations. As we read in Ephesians you are citizens with them and members of the household of God.

You might think of a family member or close friend who participates in another congregation. You are part of the one church.

Do you know of someone who you feel close to because you are both spiritual and part of a congregation, that is do you talk to the person often about your experience in a congregation? Please share.

 

Friday, September 16

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many members yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,  and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect,  whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

The Apostle Paul shared in this reading that the body of Christ—the church—is one. One church exists. Verse 13 explains this well, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

Chain of Lakes is a PC(USA) church—Presbyterian. But the people who are part of the church are part of one body. We could paraphrase these verses from the Apostle Paul to say, “Presbyterians can’t say to Lutherans—you are not part of the body.

Presbyterians can’t say to the people from the Church of Christ—you are not part of the body. Presbyterians can’t say to those who don’t have a denomination—you are not part of the body. Everyone who follows Jesus is part of the one body.”

This isn’t an easy reading to follow because throughout history people have thought of their brand of church as the only brand or a superior brand.  But the Apostle Paul was clear that this way of thinking is wrong. We are all baptized into one body—Presbyterians, Lutherans, Church of Christ, nondenominational people.

All of these denominations are made to enjoy or drink of one Spirit.

What are the different denominations of congregations in which you’ve participated? Please share.

 

Saturday, September 17
 Acts 2:37-47
 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”  Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”  And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Pastor Paul preaches on this story from Acts on special occasions at Chain of Lakes and did so at the Grand Opening  this past Sunday.

Read the story closely. The Holy Spirit moved among the people. People were speaking in different languages (some believe that the people were speaking in tongues). But despite the cacophony of noise everyone could understand what everyone was saying.

Awe came upon everyone. Awe is a three-letter synonym for wow. It’s as if “wow” came upon everyone.

The church exists for people to have these experiences of “wow.” For an individual congregation to have power the people must have these experiences of “wow.”

Reflect today on your experiences of “wow” in a church. They will define the power that the church is having in your own life. Have you had an experience of “wow” in a congregation? Please share.

Monday, September 5

Proverbs 10:27-32

The fear of the Lord prolongs life,

    but the years of the wicked will be short.

The hope of the righteous ends in gladness,

    but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing.

The way of the Lord is a stronghold for the upright

    but destruction for evildoers.

The righteous will never totter,

    but the wicked will not remain on the earth.

The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,

    but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,

    but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.

This week we will have the opportunity to read the proverb section of the book of Proverbs. A proverb is a short saying that expresses a general truth for practical living. From chapters 10-31 we read about these general truths for practical living. Often a proverb is a two-sentence statement that is separated by the word, “but.” Sometimes the second statement contrasts part of the first statement.

It’s important not to take any one proverb and see it as the ultimate word of God for our life. Each proverb represents a nugget of wisdom. There are approximately 900 proverbs in the book of Proverbs. Taken together they illustrate wisdom.

Three themes that often come out in these proverbs are justice, righteousness and equity. Taken together the proverbs give illustrations of these three themes.

We often read about the “fear of the Lord” in Proverbs. In Proverbs 9:10 we read that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Fourteen times in the book of Proverbs we read about the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is not being afraid of God; instead, it’s a deep reverence for God. It’s choosing a path that God wants for us instead of ignoring God.

Part of choosing the fear of the Lord is being aware of God. What can you do today to be aware of God? What are some strategies that you use to keep God in front of you? Please share.

 

Tuesday, September 6

Proverbs 11:24-31
Some give freely yet grow all the richer;

    others withhold what is due and only suffer want.

A generous person will be enriched,

    and one who gives water will get water.

The people curse those who hold back grain,

    but a blessing is on the head of those who sell it.

Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,

    but evil comes to the one who searches for it.

Those who trust in their riches will wither,

    but the righteous will flourish like green leaves.

Those who trouble their households will inherit wind,

    and the fool will be servant to the wise.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,

    and the wise capture souls.

If the righteous are repaid on earth,

    how much more the wicked and the sinner!

One of the overall themes of Proverbs is trust. When we read about trust we will often be asked about where we put our ultimate trust.

In many cases in the book of Proverbs we will read about the foolishness of trusting our own riches.

“Those who trust in their riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like green leaves.” Proverbs 11:28

Whether we feel rich or not, most of us reading this devotion are wealthier than ninety percent of the world. We have access to housing, food, transportation, and entertainment that a majority of the world would envy.

But we often don’t feel secure in what we have. The writer of this proverb is saying that we can’t flourish by trusting in our wealth. We will never have a sense of security if constantly  worrying or trying to acquire money.

This is not an easy message, because our culture encourages us to accumulate wealth; and we are often bombarded with warning signs that our wealth might be in danger.

What are some strategies that you use to ignore the drumbeat of trusting in our riches? Please share.

 

Wednesday, September 7

Proverbs 12:13-22
The evil are ensnared by the transgression of their lips,

    but the righteous escape from trouble.

From the fruit of the mouth one is filled with good things,

    and manual labor has its reward.

Fools think their own way is right,

    but the wise listen to advice.

Fools show their anger at once,

    but the prudent ignore an insult.

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,

    but a false witness speaks deceitfully.

Rash words are like sword thrusts,

    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Truthful lips endure forever,

    but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil,

    but those who counsel peace have joy.

No harm happens to the righteous,

    but the wicked are filled with trouble.

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,

    but those who act faithfully are his delight.

 In his sermon series on Wisdom, Pastor Paul has talked about how choosing wisdom leads a person to a path. These choices that we make happen every day. We might make twenty to thirty choices a day about whether we take the path of wisdom or the path of foolishness.

Verse 15 describes the path of foolishness.

“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice.”

The path of foolishness is full of pride. It’s believing that my way and decisions are the best way, and I’m not going to listen to anyone else. Even if Jesus came to us and suggested another way, a foolish person would ignore this advice.

The choice of wisdom is much different. These choices begin with God and are open to other opinions.

How easy is it for you to listen to advice? Do you have times in your life when you’ve been so stubborn or prideful that you were led to foolishness? These times are not easy to acknowledge, but they are helpful for us today as we attempt to choose wisdom.

Please share.

 

Thursday, September 8

Proverbs 15:14-18

The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge,

    but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

All the days of the poor are hard,

    but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord

    than great treasure and trouble with it.

Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is

    than a fatted ox and hatred with it.

Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife,

    but those who are slow to anger calm contention.

In these proverbs we again read about the fear of the Lord and the demonstration that our anger or pride can lead to foolish decisions.

In these proverbs we also read about the importance of love.

“Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.” Proverbs 15:17

The writer of this proverb is not making a statement about vegetarianism. Instead, the assumption of the writer that eating meat is better than eating vegetables. But even if that is the case for the writer, it’s better to live with an atmosphere of love than hatred.

There is a pragmatism to these proverbs. It’s as if the writer is saying, “The difference of pleasure between love and hate is greater than the difference of pleasure between eating meat and eating vegetables.

What are your thoughts about these proverbs? Please share!

 

Friday, September 9

Proverbs 16:1-9

The plans of the mind belong to mortals,

    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes,

    but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Commit your work to the Lord,

    and your plans will be established.

The Lord has made everything for its purpose,

    even the wicked for the day of trouble.

All those who are arrogant are an abomination to the Lord;

    be assured, they will not go unpunished.

By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,

    and by the fear of the Lord one avoids evil.

When the ways of people please the Lord,

    he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them.

Better is a little with righteousness

    than large income with injustice.

The human mind plans the way,

    but the Lord directs the steps.

 In these proverbs we can see the themes of righteousness and justice and the fear of the Lord expressed in different ways.

Again, we read about the different paths that are available to us. We can commit ourselves to God and seek God first in all we do. Or we can arrogantly choose our own path and ignore God.

Verse nine is a proverb worth memorizing.

“The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.”

When we seek God first, we don’t turn off our mind. We use our mind to seek the direction of God.

What are some strategies that you’ve used that are helpful to seek God’s direction? Or perhaps some moments when you’ve had to make a decision, and you were able to find God’s direction. What worked for you? Please share.

 

Saturday, September 10

Proverbs 19:20-23

Listen to advice and accept instruction,

    that you may gain wisdom for the future.

The human mind may devise many plans,

    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

What is desirable in a person is loyalty,

    and it is better to be poor than a liar.

The fear of the Lord is life indeed;

    filled with it one rests secure

    and suffers no harm.

 These verses share an excellent summary of the message of the book of Proverbs. Listen to advice from others and gain wisdom. Have a sense of the fear of the Lord as this will give a person security. Seek God with our own ideas.

What have you learned about reading the book of Proverbs that can be helpful to you in your own life?

Please share.

Monday, August 29

Proverbs 1:20-33

Wisdom cries out in the street;

    in the squares she raises her voice.

At the busiest corner she cries out;

    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?

How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing

    and fools hate knowledge?

Give heed to my reproof;

I will pour out my thoughts to you;

    I will make my words known to you.

Because I have called and you refused,

    have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
 and because you have ignored all my counsel

    and would have none of my reproof,

 I also will laugh at your calamity;

    I will mock when panic strikes you,

when panic strikes you like a storm

    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,

    when distress and anguish come upon you.

 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;

    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.

 Because they hated knowledge

    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,

would have none of my counsel

    and despised all my reproof,

therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way

    and be sated with their own devices.

 For waywardness kills the simple,

    and the complacency of fools destroys them;

but those who listen to me will be secure

    and will live at ease without dread of disaster.”

This week we have the opportunity to read sections of the first part of the book of Proverbs. In this section we read about wisdom. And we come across this figure of Wisdom.

Wisdom—in Greek the word is Sophia—almost seems like a real person. Some people have seen Sophia as a god. This idea has been controversial, but it’s important to know.

Here we see Wisdom with the attributes of a person. Wisdom has a voice and is crying out to people. Wisdom has thoughts and shares them with people who will listen.

Often Wisdom is calling out to people to choose a path. It is the path of wisdom, of course. When this path is identified, we often find another path. It’s a contrary path. It’s a path of people who are scoffers, one where people hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, one where people choose their own way.

Wisdom communicates that this path will lead to disaster.

Each day each of us has a choice to choose one of these paths. The choice is not always easy.

What are some ways that you have found helpful to choose the path of wisdom? Please share.

 

Tuesday, August 30

Proverbs 3:1-12

My child, do not forget my teaching,

    but let your heart keep my commandments,

for length of days and years of life

    and abundant welfare they will give you.

 Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;

    bind them around your neck;

    write them on the tablet of your heart.

Then you will find favor and high regard

    in the sight of God and of people.

 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.

 Honor the Lord with your substance

    and with the first fruits of all your produce;

then your barns will be filled with plenty,

    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

  My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline

    or be weary of his reproof,

 for the Lord reproves the one he loves,

    as a father the son in whom he delights.


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.”

We read often in the book of Proverbs that wisdom is a choice that begins with the fear or acknowledgment of God. The other path is one where people don’t turn to God. People rely on themselves.

This is the choice—start with God or start with ourselves.

Human insight and knowledge is important. We use them in making decisions and living our lives. But we turn to God first and then use our insight and knowledge. By turning to God first we are trusting in the Lord.

A simple prayer that can be helpful is this, “Help me choose you first today. Don’t let me be so self-centered that I fail to look for your guidance.”

Try this prayer and see what happens. Remind yourself to pray this prayer.

Memorizing Proverbs 3:5-6 and sharing this prayer will help ground us in wisdom.

 

Wednesday, August 31

Proverbs 3:19-20

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
    by understanding he established the heavens;
by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
    and the clouds drop down the dew.
Once again we come across the idea that Wisdom founded the earth.

We can interpret these verses in two ways—and perhaps even more. One way is to see Wisdom as divine who was with God when the earth was created. Another way is to see wisdom as a concept that was put into the earth at creation.

Throughout history, people have given strong arguments for each way.

Quite a lot is at stake in which way we interpret these verses. The church has always seen God as a Trinity (which has never been easy for many people to understand). The Trinity believes that God is three in one—Father, Son and Holy Spirit or Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit. To think that wisdom is divine suggests that another part of the divine has not been mentioned.

In our day-to-day faith life, the way we interpret these verses might not seem significant. But for people who teach and preach a lot is riding on our interpretation.

What are your thoughts?

 

Thursday, September 1

Proverbs 8:1-21

Does not wisdom call

    and understanding raise her voice?

On the heights, beside the way,

    at the crossroads she takes her stand;

beside the gates in front of the town,

    at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

“To you, O people, I call,

    and my cry is to all who live.

O simple ones, learn prudence;

    acquire intelligence, you who lack it.

Hear, for I will speak noble things,

    and from my lips will come what is right,

for my mouth will utter truth;

    wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
 All the words of my mouth are righteous;

    there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.

They are all straight to one who understands

    and right to those who find knowledge.
 Take my instruction instead of silver

    and knowledge rather than choice gold,

for wisdom is better than jewels,

    and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

 I, wisdom, live with prudence,

    and I attain knowledge and discretion.

 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.

Pride and arrogance and the way of evil

    and perverted speech I hate.

I have good advice and sound wisdom;

    I have insight; I have strength.

By me kings reign,

    and rulers decree what is just;

 by me rulers rule,

    and nobles, all who govern rightly.

 I love those who love me,

    and those who seek me diligently find me.

Riches and honor are with me,

    enduring wealth and prosperity.

 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,

    and my yield than choice silver.

 I walk in the way of righteousness,

    along the paths of justice,

endowing with wealth those who love me

    and filling their treasuries.

 

The eighth chapter of Proverbs has been one of the more controversial chapters in the Scriptures. The controversy has to do with whether Wisdom is divine or something else.

However a person looks at this issue, we can see attributes of wisdom in this chapter.

The words of wisdom are righteous (verse 8)

The instruction of wisdom is better than money (verse 10)

Through wisdom a person lives with prudence, knowledge and discretion (verse 12)

The fear of the Lord is the path of wisdom (verse 13)

The fruit of wisdom is better than gold (verse 19)

The concepts of wisdom are righteousness and justice. (verse 20-21)

These ideas give us a general understanding of the path of wisdom. By choosing this path we live by these ideals.

What take-aways do you have from these words? Please share.

 

Friday, September 2

Proverbs 8:22-36

“The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,

    the first of his acts of long ago.

Ages ago I was set up,

    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

When there were no depths I was brought forth,

    when there were no springs abounding with water.

Before the mountains had been shaped,

    before the hills, I was brought forth,

when he had not yet made earth and fields

    or the world’s first bits of soil.

When he established the heavens, I was there;

    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when he made firm the skies above,

    when he established the fountains of the deep,

when he assigned to the sea its limit,

    so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

 then I was beside him, like a master worker,

and I was daily his delight,

    playing before him always,

playing in his inhabited world

    and delighting in the human race.

“And now, my children, listen to me:

    happy are those who keep my ways.
 Hear instruction and be wise,

    and do not neglect it.

Happy is the one who listens to me,

    watching daily at my gates,

    waiting beside my doors.

For whoever finds me finds life

    and obtains favor from the Lord,

but those who miss me injure themselves;

    all who hate me love death.”

 When we read these verses we can see how someone would see Wisdom as divine.

Whether we look at Wisdom this way or not, the important idea is choosing the path of wisdom that is presented to us.

Praying for wisdom is significant. In a recent sermon Pastor Paul offered the following prayers that can help us live out wisdom.

“Lord, help me choose the path of wisdom in this situation that is causing my burden.”

“Lord, may this situation lead me to greater wisdom and understanding. Lord, may my suffering reveal to me the path of wisdom.”

Pray these prayers today!

 

Saturday, September 3

Proverbs 9:1-6

Wisdom has built her house;

    she has hewn her seven pillars.

 She has slaughtered her animals; she has mixed her wine;

    she has also set her table.

 She has sent out her female servants; she calls

    from the highest places in the town,

 “You who are simple, turn in here!”

    To those without sense she says,

 “Come, eat of my bread

    and drink of the wine I have mixed.

 Lay aside immaturity and live,

    and walk in the way of insight.”


Throughout history people have debated what are the seven pillars of wisdom that are mentioned here.

Some have seen them as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Some have seen them as the seven churches in the book of Revelation.

Some have seen seven as a holy number.

Some have seen seven to be a description of many.

We can imagine our own home to be a house of wisdom. We could even imagine a church building to be a house of wisdom. It could be possible for a congregation to name itself, “House of Wisdom.”

Whatever the meaning, pray that your own foundation will be of wisdom.

Events

Click on the above image to go to the Facebook Event page

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.
 
Contact the office for information at 763.208.8049 or info@colpres.org
 
If you are interested in a garden plot complete this form:
Community Garden Plot Application 2022 – Chain of Lakes
 
Please print and complete the application, and up until May 22, mail to:
Chain of Lakes Church
10130 Davenport Street NE #160
Blaine, MN 55449

Event Photos

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

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