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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!

August 14, 2022
“Advice from Jesus”  How do I Engage with Someone with a Different World View than Mine”
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August 7, 2022
“Advice from Jesus”  How do I care for youth and children whether I have kids or not?

July 31, 2022
“Advice from Jesus” Coming to Terms with Anger

July 24, 2022
“Advice from Jesus” Finding Meaning in the Last Years of Life
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July 17, 2022
Guest Preacher Denton Nissley

July 10, 2022
Christmas in July

July 3, 2022
Guest Preacher Sally Narr

June 26, 2022
Start of Series “Advice from Jesus” Stepping on People’s Toes

June 19, 2022  Father’s Day

June 12, 2022
Chain of Lakes Core Values

June 5, 2022
Pentecost and Chain of Lakes Core Values

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, August 15 
 Luke 10:29-37    But wanting to vindicate himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and took off, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan while traveling came upon him, and when he saw him he was moved with compassion.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, treating them with oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and when I come back I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The story of the Good Samaritan is easily one of the most important stories of the Bible. The story has so much depth that we could read it every day for thirty days and still see something new on our thirtieth day of reading.

The story is a response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

Neighbors might be many different people to us. They might be people who live in an adjacent house or apartment; they might be close friends who we would trust. Most likely our neighbor would not be someone who has a different world view than us.

But here Jesus is actually suggesting that our neighbor could be this type of person. Samaritans and Jews had vastly different world views. Both religions came from the same starting point, but they had gotten to a point where when Jesus lived, Samaritans and Jews were enemies. They had a different world view.

But in this story a Samaritan was helping a Jew.

The story concluded by the lawyer—the person who asked the first question—saying that a neighbor is a person who shows mercy.

From this story we learn that our calling from God is to share and show mercy to all people—especially people who have a different world view than ours.

How hard do you find it to share mercy with someone who has a different world view than you? Please share

Tuesday, August 16 
 Psalm 103:1-14  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.

The Lord works vindication
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.

 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. 
For he knows how we were made;

    he remembers that we are dust.

 Verse eight in this Psalm is one to memorize.

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

This is the perspective that God has for us. As followers of God, we are called to have the same perspective towards our neighbors—especially people who have a different world view than us.

Oftentimes it’s anger that leads us to have problems with a person who has a different world view. We see the person as less than human; we are quick to criticize; we might try to convince the person to change his or her views and conform to the views that we have.

The best way to relate to a person with a different world view is to be like God—merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

We can take hope in that this perspective on others is possible to share—even if it seems extraordinarily difficult. God is willing to help us be merciful people. Sometimes God is waiting for our prayers.

Do you have a story of someone sharing mercy with another person? Others would love to hear more about your story.

 Wednesday, August 17
Matthew 9:10-13
 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

The Pharisees had a vastly different world view than tax collectors and sinners. Tax collectors were agents of the Roman government. They were often corrupt. A Pharisee often saw himself as righteous; they didn’t see themselves as sinners.

But here was Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus came to call sinners to his way.

Sometimes a way to relate to someone in a healthy world view is to invite them out for dinner. Have a meal with them. Only talk about your differences if it seems to be a healthy and safe space to do so.

Having dinner with someone who is different turns the person into a human for us. We can see the person’s strengths and weaknesses.

With whom can you have dinner in the next week?

 

Thursday, August 18
Ephesians 4:11-16   He himself granted that some are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers 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 Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming;  but speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Speaking the truth in love is a way we become mature followers of Jesus. As we read in this passage, when we speak the truth in love we grow up.

Truth and love need each other. Speaking the truth without love can be judgmental and even harmful to the other person. Sharing love without sharing the truth can lead us to enable actions by another person that are not healthy.

You might have a person who has a different world view with whom you would like to speak the truth in love. An important way to do this is to first establish the love you have for the person. Go out of your way to convince the person that you care for the person. Your caring is authentic and real. You want the person to know and trust this.

From this atmosphere of love you can speak the truth.

Do you have a story of speaking the truth in love with someone? Without sharing names would you consider sharing the story?

 

Friday, August 19
Romans 13:8-10   
Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

To keep a person who has a different worldview as a friend, it’s essential to see the person as a neighbor. The person is not an enemy. Different views don’t have to make people oppose each other. As a neighbor you don’t have to change the other person’s mind or try to convince the person of the error (as you see it) in their ways.

Instead focus on love. And keep speaking the truth (see yesterday’s devotion.)

How hard is it to see people with different world views as your neighbors. This view of being a neighbor is not based on geography, of course. This view is based on the idea that everyone is our neighbor at some level.

Is this hard for you? On the scale of 1-10 with ten being the highest, what number would you give yourself? Please consider sharing your number.


Saturday, August 20
Psalm 75    We give thanks to you, O God;

    we give thanks; your name is near.

People tell of your wondrous deeds.

At the set time that I appoint,

    I will judge with equity.

When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants,

    it is I who keep its pillars steady. Selah

 I say to the boastful, “Do not boast,”

    and to the wicked, “Do not lift up your horn;

do not lift up your horn on high

    or speak with insolent neck.”

  For not from the east or from the west

    and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,

but it is God who executes judgment,

    putting down one and lifting up another.

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup

    with foaming wine, well mixed;

he will pour a draught from it,

    and all the wicked of the earth

    shall drain it down to the dregs.

But I will rejoice forever;

    I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,

    but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

It’s easy to want to judge people with different world views than us. We might want to feel superior in our views; or we might want to look at the person as diminished because of their views.

This is not the way of faith.

Ultimately God is the one who judges. We are not called to judge others because God can do this.

Do you have a hard time resisting judgment or letting go of your judgment to God? If this is so, what is hard about resisting or letting go of judgment. Consider sharing your responses to these questions.

Monday, August 8

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy,’

for you shall go to all to whom I send you,

and you shall speak whatever I command you.

Do not be afraid of them,

for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me,

“Now I have put my words in your mouth.

See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down,

to destroy and to overthrow,

to build and to plant.”

We’ve read this passage often when we look at God’s love for youth. This passage is so powerful because it shares the trust that God has for youth. God didn’t believe that being a young person disqualified a person for service. God issued a call to Jeremiah even though Jeremiah was a teenager.

If we think about this deeply, we’ll understand what a risk it was for God to call Jeremiah. God wanted Jeremiah to share God’s word with the country of Judah. Over time Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the terrible exile of the people of Israel.

Jeremiah tried to avoid God’s call by sharing that he was only a youth. Look at verse six, “Truly, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy or youth.” However, being a young person was not a reason not to receive a call from God. Look at how God responded in verse 7, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy or youth’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.”

As you pray today, pray that we at Chain of Lakes will value youth in the same way that God did in this passage. Also pray that the church worldwide will have the courage to issue a call to youth to serve.

 

Tuesday, August 9
 John 11:17-37  

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,  and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.  Now Jesus had not yet come to the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus began to weep.  So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

 

Often we think that involving youth is a complicated process.  We look for the right ministry, or person, or technique to keep youth involved in the church. Though having the right ministry, person, or technique is important, even more important is the level of care that congregations display for youth.   

In this story Jesus shared deep care for Lazarus. In verse 35 Jesus wept. His tears revealed his care.

Congregations are called to care for youth in the same way.  Youth ministry in a church starts with the personal care that adults have for youth.

Today as you pray, pray for a particular youth in our congregation. Think about this youth for a moment. What are the youth’s needs? With what is the youth struggling with?  Pray for that youth. If you don’t know the youth’s needs or the youth’s struggles, take some time over the next month to get to know the youth. 

Just taking time to show care is one of the most important things you can do for youth ministry at Chain of Lakes! Pray that our congregation will always share deep care for youth and children.

 

Wednesday, August 10

Psalm 1

Happy are those

    who do not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path that sinners tread

    or sit in the seat of scoffers,

but their delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and on his law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees

    planted by streams of water,

which yield their fruit in its season,

    and their leaves do not wither.

In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so

    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous, for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

 In this passage the Psalmist shared a powerful metaphor of faith.  In verse three he wrote, “They are like trees, planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.  In all that they do, they prosper.” 

This metaphor of a strong tree is what we want for all people.  We pray that no matter what happens to a person, that person will stay planted in streams of water, yield their fruit in the right season, and their leaves will not wither.

Today as you pray, pray that every youth who attended Vacation Bible School this past week will grow to be this type of tree.

Pray for each one of the youth who attended Vacation Bible School:  Addie, Aiyanna, Annette, Audrey, Camden, Danny, Eastyn, Eli, Emily, Henry, Kendel, Landon, Lexi, River, Sinclair, Skylar and Trenton.

 

Thursday, August 11

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room;  the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!”  and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”  Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.  The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.  Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

  Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.  On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.  Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”

  Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.  But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.”  So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”

 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.

 Just like in the story of Jeremiah we read a story of a youth who was called by God. God called Samuel to be his follower.  In his life Samuel went on to help choose Saul and David to be kings—Samuel was one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament.

Not only was Samuel young, he was mentored by an adult.  Look at the start of this story. “Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli.”  (1 Samuel 3:1)  Samuel received a call from God, but needed Eli to help him know that it was God who was issuing the call. Samuel couldn’t have known that God was calling him if he hadn’t had Eli.

Do you know of a youth to whom you could be an Eli?  A youth who you could mentor, someone in whom you could take a special interest. That youth could be a part of Chain of Lakes, or the youth could be someone in your neighborhood. 

Think how powerful we at Chain of Lakes would be if every youth had an adult mentor in the church!!

Today as you pray, pray for mentors for youth.  Pray that many adults could be an Eli to young people.

 

Friday, August 12

Luke 18:15-17
People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

In Jesus’ day children were viewed as property.  They had no legal rights and were not viewed as fully human. This is why Luke started out this story by using the word, “even,” “People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them.”  It was shocking to people that Jesus would touch infants.

We know that in Jesus’ eyes infants were very important. 

Today as you pray, pray that our world will respect and teach children in a similar way to Jesus. Pray for a world where children don’t suffer from poverty, physical and sexual abuse, that children receive a quality education. 

Children were especially important to Jesus; pray for a world that shares this value!

 

Saturday, August 13

John 21:1-17

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he showed himself in this way.  Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”  He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.  That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he had taken it off, and jumped into the sea.  But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them, and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

 This was a story that was shared on the last day of Vacation Bible School this past week at Chain of Lakes.

We can imagine the frustration of the disciples as they tried to catch fish. They threw out their nets the entire time, but had caught nothing.

Jesus gave the disciples hope in their fishing. He encouraged them to throw the net to the other side of the boat. Suddenly the net was swamped with fish—153 of them. There were so many fish that for a while it seemed that the boat might be swamped under the water.

We can take many lessons from this story. One lesson is persistent. We can practically hear Jesus say, “try something new if your way is not working.”

We can take this lesson and apply it to youth ministry. Sometimes it takes a lot of patience to connect youth and even children to church. We throw our out net symbolically for a long time, but nothing comes into the net.

“Try something new,” we can practically hear Jesus telling us. “Who knows, you might catch 153 youth!”

Do you have a story of being in a church that tried something new with youth and was very successful? Please share.

Monday, August 1

Matthew 5:21-26   “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment, and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council, and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.  So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.  Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

 This is an important passage to understand.

At first glance it might appear that Jesus was condemning anger. Condemning anger would be outside of the way Jesus approached people. Jesus always accepted people (and accepts us) where we are. It’s impossible for humans not to experience anger. Jesus would never ask us to do something that is impossible.

Some people add the phrase without cause to verse 22. The verse would then read, “But I say to you that if you are angry [without cause] with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.

Today’s reading comes from the antithesis section of the Sermon on the Mount. This section goes from Matthew 5:21-5:48. Consider reading the entire section. We’ll discover that in this section Jesus revealed his deep care for the friendships that humans have with each other. If something gets in the way of a friendship, Jesus would want us to recognize this and take appropriate action that would deepen our friendship.

We can imagine Jesus saying, “If your anger is getting in the way of a friendship, do everything you can to be reconciled with your friend. Your friendship is even more important than worship. So if you are worshiping and you are angry with someone, go and talk to that person immediately. Don’t let the sun set on your anger.”

Do you have stories of your own anger getting in the way of a friendship? Please share.

 

Tuesday, August 2 
Mark 3:1-6  Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They were watching him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.”  Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Jesus was like you and me—he experienced anger.

In this story Jesus wanted to help the man who had a withered hand. It’s hard to imagine living with a hand that was so deformed. This deformity had to prevent the man from earning complete wages. It might have caused the family shame—others could have easily thought that God was punishing the man for something he had done.

Jesus wanted to heal the man. And even more significantly Jesus wanted the leaders of the synagogue to want the man to be healed. Unfortunately, the religious leaders were more interested in following the ancient Sabbath laws. It would have broken a law for Jesus to heal this man on the Sabbath. This grieved Jesus—it made him angry.

The anger of Jesus was justified, of course. This leads us to think of other situations where anger would be justified. What would these situations be? Have you ever found yourself feeling anger that you believed was justified? What led you to believe that your anger was justified? Please share.


Wednesday, August 3
Ephesians 4:25-5:2  So then, putting away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with your neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Those who steal must give up stealing; rather, let them labor, doing good work with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths but only what is good for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The writer of Ephesians made a powerful statement that can help us with anger in verse 26: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”

Being angry is not a sin or problematic. What we do with our anger is very significant. And letting go of our anger is very significant.

On Sunday Pastor Paul shared some strategies for letting go of anger. One of those strategies is recognition. Knowing that we are angry is important. Being able to say, “I am angry” can be a significant step for dealing with our anger and following the teaching of verse 26.

This is hard, for many people were not taught how to identify their emotions. And because anger has such a volatile history, people have not been encouraged to vocalize their own anger.

How hard is it for you to recognize your anger? What tools do you use to let go of your anger? Please share. Your sharing can help another person with their anger.

Thursday, August 4
Exodus 32:7-14  The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.  Now let me alone so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, and of you I will make a great nation.”

 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?  Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.

 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”  And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.


God—the abba of Jesus and the first person of the Trinity—had moments of intense anger. This story is one of them.

God was extremely upset with the Israelites and was justified to have anger. The Israelites had made a golden calf and were worshiping the calf. God wanted to destroy the people because they were worshiping a calf.

The anger of God might be disconcerting to us. However, if we think about how God dealt with God’s anger, we can be encouraged. God didn’t follow-up on God’s plan of destruction.

Moses convinced God to let go of the divine anger.

God didn’t let anger consume God. God let it go. Even if we become angry, we can learn and teach ourselves to let it go. What are some strategies that you have used in the past that help you let go of anger. Please share!

 

Friday, August 5

Exodus 34:6  The Lord passed before him and proclaimed,
“The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

Just two chapters after the chapter we read yesterday, God revealed the divine character to Jesus. We can read the divine character in this verse. One part of the verse that stands out for us is God is slow to anger.

God does not say that God would never experience anger. But God was willing to be slow to anger. God was not going to act rashly when God had this experience.

This idea is important to us. What would it look like if others could describe us as slow to anger? Would we have to change significantly for us to be slow to anger?

One strategy that can help us is our own prayer life. If we are experiencing anger, give that anger to God in our prayers. A breath prayer like, “Lord help me release this anger” can help immensely. Breathing that prayer out and in for three minutes can help our own spiritual situation.

What are some other strategies that help you be slow to anger? Please share.

 

Saturday, August 6

Proverbs 15:18 & Matthew 18:15-20  Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife,
    but those who are slow to anger calm contention.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If you are listened to, you have regained that one.  But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If that person refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.  Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

The reading from Proverbs is a specific example of what we’ve been reading all week. We don’t want to be tripped up by our anger—we will stir up strife; instead we want to be slow to anger.

The story from Matthew 18 illustrates a way to let go of anger we might have towards a friend. First meet with that person and let the person know how you’ve been hurt. If the person listens to you, then your friendship will be restored. If necessary, bring another person or two to have this conversation. If nothing happens, tell a network of your friends what is happening.

If that does not work, then let go of the friendship.

The focus of the angry person is on him or herself. WE own our own anger. Even if another person causes us to be angry, that anger is ours. It’s up to each of us to deal with our anger.

How can this process help you with your anger? Please share.

 
 

Monday, July 25

Genesis 5:25-27 When Methuselah had lived one hundred eighty-seven years, he became the father of Lamech. Methuselah lived after the birth of Lamech seven hundred eighty-two years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty-nine years, and he died.
 
Methusaleh is the oldest person in the Bible and an excellent example of looking at aging—the theme of the week.
According to this story he lived 187 years before he fathered Lamech. He then lived another 782 years meaning he lived to the age of 969.
It’s hard to imagine that this actually happened. The oldest person of the last century is Jeanne Calmut who lived to 122. The oldest current living person is Lucile Randon who lives in France and is 118.
Thinking that Methusaleh didn’t live to the age of 969 doesn’t lower our respect for the authority of the Scriptures. Many different explanations exist for the age of Methusaleh. Some believe that each year of Methusaleh was ten years; others have written that the length of age was meant to illustrate that Methusaleh lived a long time ago.
Methusaleh is listed in other genealogies in the Scriptures. If you have some time look at 1 Chronicles 1:3 and Luke 3:37 where Methusaleh is listed as part of the ancestory of Jesus.
Who is the oldest person you have ever known? What is something about them that you found interesting? Please share.
 
Tuesday July 26 
Proverbs 16:31 & 20:29 Gray hair is a crown of glory, it is gained in a righteous life.
The glory of youths is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair.
 
When this Proverb was written, grey hair was seen as a symbol of wisdom. In other places in the Bible we read that age is seen as a reflection of wisdom. If you have some time read, Proverbs 8:22-31.
In his sermon on Sunday, Pastor Paul encouraged people to stay open-minded as they grow older. It’s easy to fall into patterns and ruts and not want to change. We like something that is happening and want to keep that pattern.
This can happen in churches. The famous last words of the church are “we have never done it that way before.” Usually these eight words are shared by people who have grey hair. There can be an intolerance for different ways of being together as a community.
How open are you to new ideas and new ways of doing things? On a scale of 1-10 with ten being the highest where would you identify yourself?
What prevents you from having a higher number? Please share? Your sharing can help others.
 
 
Wednesday July 27 
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:7 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For our slight, momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen, for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that, if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly dwelling, for surely when we have been clothed in it we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan under our burden because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. The one who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a down payment. So we are always confident, even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight.
 
It’s hard to know if the Apostle Paul was talking about aging when he talked about his outer nature wasting away. People think that Paul was born about the same year as Jesus and lived until his early 60’s.
He never stopped advocating for Jesus. He was killed because of his outspoken teaching.
Paul was probably in his late 50’s when he wrote this letter that we know of as 2 Corinthians. He far exceeded the life expectancy of people in his day.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that when he wrote these words he was experiencing some level of health decline because of his age.
Paul knew that even though his body or earthly tent was wasting away he had something to look forward to. Paul knew that God had prepared a place for him and for humanity. We know of this place as heaven. The prospect of heaven gave him comfort as his outer nature wasted away.
What are your thoughts about dying? Do you believe that heaven awaits you when you die? Are you worried about what happens after death? Our views of death are important for our own mental health.
Please share.
 
Thursday July 28
Isaiah 46:3-4 Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he; even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
This section of Isaiah is known as second Isaiah. It was written after Israel was conquered by a foreign country. The people of Israel had been exiled.
This harsh reality must have led some people to question God. People must have wondered why God had left them to be conquered by a foreign country.
Through Isaiah God assured the people that God had not abandoned them. Even until their old age, God was willing to be with the people. Even when people’s hair turns gray, God would be with them.
Have you had moments in your life that felt like God had abandoned you? Have you wondered if God is still present? These verses can give us comfort that God is always with us.
If you have had a moment when you felt abandoned, please share.
 
Friday July 29  
Ruth 4:13-17 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
At the end of the book of Ruth, the women around Naomi made a powerful statement. The statement is even more powerful when we remember what Naomi had said earlier in the book of Ruth. Naomi believed that because of the death of her husband and the death of her sons that the Lord had turned against her.
In talking to Ruth, Naomi had said, “No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” Ruth 1:13
At the end of the book of Ruth, Naomi was in a different place. She was told by the women that God was a restorer of life and a nourisher of a person’s old age.
Have you had a turn similar to Naomi’s in your thoughts about God? Have you had an experience where you were angry with God, and then life changed? Having this type of experience is not embarrassing. Instead these types of experiences reveal our own humanity. And these types of experiences connect us to Naomi, a significant person in the Bible.
Please share.
 
Saturday July 30 
Psalm 90:12 & Psalm 39:4-5   So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. “Lord, let me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
Most people would not want to know the date of their death.
But the Psalmist is different The Psalmist saw his death as something inevitable. Knowing the date would lead him into the arms of God. Knowing this information would give the person a wise heart.
Would you like to know the date of your death? If you knew the date of your death, do you think this would lead you into the arms of God? Do you think you would have a wise heart?
Please share.
 
 

Monday, July 18

Psalm 117   Praise the Lord, all you nations!
    Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!

As we enjoy the long and warm days of summer, this week we’ll take some time to express our praise of God. Learning and growing in our praise of God is an important part of faith. Reading the Psalms can help us grow in our own understanding of praise.

With two verses and sixteen words in Hebrew, Psalm 117 is the shortest Psalm of the 150 of the Bible. In the King James Bible, it is the 595th chapter of 1189 chapters making it the middle chapter of the Bible. (Information taken from Wikipedia site on Psalm 117).

The Psalm starts out with the phrase, “Praise the Lord.”  It goes on to share reasons for people to “praise the Lord.” In this Psalm we read that people praise God because of God’s steadfast love and enduring faithfulness.

One definition of “Praise” is extolling favor on God for specific qualities of God.  Praise is different than thanks in that in thanks a person is thankful for a human quality or occurrence. A person might be thankful for something that goes well during the day.

Praise is different. Our lives could not be going well, but we still can share praise.  No matter what is happening in our lives a person can give praise for God’s steadfast love and enduring faithfulness.

A prayer of praise can be repeated over and over. It almost becomes a mantra.  Today repeat the following prayer over and over. Pray it 100 or even 200 times.

“God I praise you for your steadfast love and enduring faithfulness.”

How is your day different because you shared this prayer of praise? 

 Tuesday, July 19

Psalm 145 I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
    his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall extol your works to another
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
They will recount the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works I will meditate.
They will proclaim the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The Lord is good to all,
    and his compassion is over all that he has made.

 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
    and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words
    and gracious in all his deeds.

 The Lord upholds all who are falling
    and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
 You open your hand,
    satisfying the desire of every living thing.
 The Lord is just in all his ways
    and kind in all his doings.
 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;
    he also hears their cry and saves them.
 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
    and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever

 This Psalm is the only Psalm that has the superscription, “Praise. Of David.” It is an acrostic Psalm meaning that each verse starts out with consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. If the Psalm was an English acrostic, the first line would start with a word that begins with the letter, “a,” the next line would start out with a word that begins with the letter, “b” and so forth.

Given this form the Psalmist did remarkably well at sharing qualities of God to praise.

Take some time to identify different qualities of God that the Psalmist praised.

Verses eight and nine are almost the same as Exodus 34:6. The verses share a terrific description of God.

“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.”  Psalm 145:8-9

Like yesterday repeat these verses during the day.

Do you have a story of your reflections of praying this prayer during the day? Please share!

 

Wednesday, July 20

Psalm 146  Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
    on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
 who executes justice for the oppressed;
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
  the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
    he upholds the orphan and the widow,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

 Once again this Psalm shares qualities of God that are worthy of praise.  Look at verses 7b-9.  The Psalmist shared the passion for people who are on the margins of the world.

“The Lord sets the prisoners free;

The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

The Lord loves the righteous.

The Lord watches over the strangers;

He upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked God brings to ruin.” Psalm 146:7b-9

Even though it was written hundreds of years before Jesus entered the world, it could be described as the work plan of Jesus.

How would the world look differently if we understood God’s desire to lift up those who live on the margins? Please share!

 Thursday, July 21

Psalm 147 
Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.

 He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
    he casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
    make melody to our God on the lyre.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
    prepares rain for the earth,
    makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the animals their food
    and to the young ravens when they cry.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse
    nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner,
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love.

 Extol the Lord, O Jerusalem!
    Praise your God, O Zion!
For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
    he blesses your children within you.
He grants peace within your borders;
    he fills you with the finest of wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth;
    his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
    he scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down hail like crumbs—
    who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word and melts them;
    he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.

 He declares his word to Jacob,
    his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
    they do not know his ordinances.
Praise the Lord!

 In this Psalm the Psalmist once again shared reasons to praise God.  And once again it’s worth noting what is important to God. The Psalmist shared what gives God delight.  Look at the following:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

Psalm 147:10-11

Fear is not being afraid—it means a healthy sense of reverence and even awe.

How do you do at having a healthy sense of awe towards God?  Please share!

 Friday, July 22

Psalm 148  Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights!
 Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever;
    he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
    stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
    creeping things and flying birds!

 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
    princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
    old and young together!

 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
    praise for all his faithful,
    for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

 As Pastor Paul has shared in the past, the phrase, “Praise the Lord” comes from two Hebrew words. The words are “hallel” and “Ja.” “Ja” is a shortened version of Yahweh. When a person says, “Hallelujah” that person could also be saying, “Praise the Lord.”

What is so fascinating about this Psalm is how different parts of nature can praise the Lord. Look at verses seven through ten:

“Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,

Fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!”

Animals can praise God through their beauty. Even if an animal doesn’t realize it is praising God, we can see beauty in an animal and give God praise.

You probably have a story of seeing the beauty of an animal and wanting to praise God. Please share!

Saturday, July 23

Read Psalm 150  Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty firmament![a]
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

 The first three verses of Psalm 150 are worth memorizing.

“Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;

Praise him in his mighty firmament!

Praise him for his mighty deeds;

Praise him according to his surpassing greatness!”

If you were going to list three reasons you would praise God what would your reasons be? Take your reasons and create your own psalm of praise.

Please share three reasons that you praise God.

Praise the Lord!

Monday, July 11

Matthew 5:1-11
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he began to speak and taught them, saying:

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

 In part of his sermon on Sunday, Pastor Paul talked about what it means to be blessed. Typically, we think that to be blessed means we have money or a large house or a wonderful job. We might also think that if we are good to God, then God has an obligation to bless us.

But the blessings that Jesus spoke about in these eleven verses are far from that.

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said people are blessed when they are poor in spirit, when they mourn, when they are meek, when they hunger and thirst for righteousness, when they are merciful, when they are pure in heart, when they are peacemakers, when they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, when they are reviled and persecuted and have all kinds of evil uttered against them falsely on account of Jesus.

These “blessings” from the mouth of Jesus don’t seem like blessings!

We could spend a significant amount of time thinking through the reason for this teaching of Jesus. One of many ways to think about these blessings is to reflect on what or whom we are reliant. The people who Jesus recognized as blessed are not reliant on themselves or their hard work or their niceness or their character. They are reliant on God. A person cannot be poor in spirit, or mournful etc. and experience blessing if they rely on themselves. People in these situations need something way beyond themselves to be blessed.

What are your thoughts on these blessings? Please share.

 

Tuesday, July 12

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.”

 Often a blessing is thought of as a benediction. It’s the final part of worship where people receive something from the person who is doing the benediction.

This Scripture is known as the Aaronic benediction. God gave it to Moses to give to Aaron. Often this passage is used as a benediction at the end of worship.

One way to think of this blessing or benediction is to think of what we carry. When someone blesses us, we carry that spiritual substance with us. We can appeal to that spiritual substance when we are having a hard time during the week.

The shining face of the Lord is seen as protection. This Scripture sees the blessing as carrying the protection of the Lord.

When have you heard a benediction in worship that was especially meaningful to you? How did benediction or blessing make an impact on you? Please share

 

Wednesday, July 13

Luke 1:67-79

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
    in the house of his child David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
    that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors
    and has remembered his holy covenant,
 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us 
 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
    in his presence all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High,
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
    by the forgiveness of their sins.
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to shine upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Another way to think of a blessing is as a form of praise. The first word out of Zechariah’s mouth was “blessed.” He wanted to praise God.

He had a lot of reasons to praise God. His wife, Elizabeth, had become pregnant and had delivered a child. Zechariah had been told by the angel Gabriel that this would happen, but Zechariah didn’t believe it. Perhaps he couldn’t believe it as Zechariah was old when Gabriel spoke to him, and it seemed impossible to Zechariah that he could conceive a child at his age.

Because Zechariah hadn’t believed the words of Gabriel, Zechariah was struck mute.

So it is significant that after not speaking for many months the first word from his mouth was the word, “blessed.”

Zechariah wanted to praise God. He was praising God that he and Elizabeth were going to be parents and he was praising God that Jesus was going to be born.

For what would you bless God or praise today? Please share.

 

Thursday, July 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 think that the story of the Bible really starts in Genesis 12. God told Abram to go to a far away country. God would bless Abram, so that Abram would be a blessing. God would bless those who bless Abram and curse those who curse Abram.

Abram carried this blessing with him and then passed on this blessing to his own sons. Abram is thought of as the father of Israel. And his being the father of Israel was conceived in this blessing by God.

Jesus was a descendant of Abram. Jesus carried this blessing—as did all of Abram’s descendants—that God gave to Abram in Genesis 12.

Each of us carries this blessing with us.

How can you acknowledge these blessings today?

 

Friday, July 15

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.

 Sometimes a blessing is thought of as a prayer before a meal.

This is the ultimate example of sharing a prayer before a meal. We know of this story as the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus took five loaves and two fish and blessed them. Miraculously there was enough food to feed all of them. There was so much food that twelve baskets were full of food after everyone ate and was full.

How this happened is a mystery and ultimately a miracle.

Sharing a blessing or prayer before a meal is important. When we ask God to bless the food we are about to eat, we are asking God to be present at the meal. Even if we are eating by ourselves, we are asking God to nourish the food, so that we can continue to do God’s work.

When you were a child did you share prayers before meals? If so, what were some of the prayers? Please do share.

Do you pray before meals now? Perhaps you could try this for a certain length of time. Could you make a commitment to pray before every meal—to offer a blessing—for a certain amount of time?

 

Saturday, July 16

Psalm 1

Happy are those
    who do not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path that sinners tread
    or sit in the seat of scoffers,
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
    planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous,
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

 We read this Psalm last week, but the Psalm is so significant that it is worth reading again. 

The person who is blessed is rooted in God and the way of God. The person who is blessed takes delight in the law of God or the way of God.

Taking delight in the law of God is much more than following rules. It’s following and taking delight in the ways of God. It’s having our hearts and minds open to the direction of God and then being excited when we receive a word of direction. That is a blessing.

What can you do this week to take delight in the direction of God? How can you pay special attention that God has for you? This Psalm communicates that the entire process is a blessing.

Monday, July 4

Jeremiah 31:27-34   The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals.  And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord.  In those days they shall no longer say:

“The parents have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of the one who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.

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. 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. 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. 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.

God shared with Jeremiah a new covenant that he was going to establish with Israel and Judah.  God was going to take Israel and Judah from exile and literally sow or plant a new nation.  The people would come back and live there.

On this day of celebrating the Declaration of Independence, it is worth noticing the similarities of the Declaration and this passage.  Reading the Declaration of Independence is a worthy exercise on July 4.  To read it go to: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

One way to describe God is that of a planter—often the term used is a sower.  God is planting something within nations and planting something within individuals.  In this passage, God was going to plant a covenant—it was a new covenant.

We could paraphrase an important verse in this passage by using planting language.  The following paraphrase illustrates God as a planter or sower.

“But this is the covenant that I will plant with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:  I will plant my law within them, and I will plant it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”  Jeremiah 31:33

Something special was planted in the Declaration of Independence that still exists today. What is important to you about what was planted? Please share.

 

Tuesday, July 5

Read Psalm 1    Happy are those  who do not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path that sinners tread or sit in the seat of scoffers,

but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.

In all that they do, they prosper.

 The wicked are not so but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous, for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

 

The image of a tree is one that can describe our faith life.

“They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.  In all that they do, they prosper.”  Psalm 1:3

Pastor Paul has often mentioned this passage as his own motivation to start a devotional life. While he was in college he started his devotional life by reading this Psalm. He’s been hooked by daily Bible reading ever since.

Reading the Bible every day is one way we can grow to be strong trees planted by streams of water that yield their fruit in their season.

How is it going for you on reading the Bible every day? Do you have a set time when you read the Bible? Do you have a process that works for you? Others would be interested in your story of your reading the Bible.

Please share.

 

Wednesday, July 6

Ezekiel 36:8-12   But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot out your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel, for they shall soon come home.  See now, I am for you; I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown,  and I will multiply your population, the whole house of Israel, all of it; the towns shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt,  and I will multiply humans and animals upon you. They shall increase and be fruitful, and I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times and will do more good to you than ever before. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.  I will lead people upon you—my people Israel—and they shall possess you, and you shall be their inheritance. No longer shall you bereave them of children.

Like the reading on Monday, this is a promise by God for the future.  The people had suffered terrible tragedy in the exile.  Now God was going to replant the people and the land.  It’s interesting in verse 11 to see that God included animals in the replanting of the nation. 

Look at the planting imagery that God—the great gardener—used. 

When you read this Scripture what ideas about God being a great gardener come to you? Have you thought of God in this way before?

Please share.

 

Thursday, July 7

Hosea 2:16-20    On that day, says the Lord, you will call me “my husband,” and no longer will you call me “my Baal.” For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more.  I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground, and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.  And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.

Once again God gave a vision for the future.  This is a beautiful vision of peace and safety.  It is not a vision that we see when we look out at the world today. 

This vision is not created unilaterally by God.  God expects us to help create this vision.  When enough followers of Jesus are inspired by this vision, they will push back the darkness that we see in the world.

Living out this vision is part of tending to the garden of our own spirit. 

What can you do to create this vision?  How can you be a participant in a world of peace and safety?  In what ways can this vision that God has planted be lived out through you?

Please share.  

 

Friday, July 8

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23   That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell on a path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun rose, they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. If you have ears, hear!”

  “Hear, then, the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet such a person has no root but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of this age and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.  But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

 We read about the different kinds of soils in which God sows or plants the seed.  We can also learn what prevents the seed from producing a terrific yield.

On the path it is easy for the evil one to snatch away the seed.  The seed doesn’t go into the soil.  The soil is too hard

On the rocky ground the seed doesn’t establish any root.  It might produce immediately, but when it is under any pressure (like heat) it can’t endure because its root system isn’t established.

Amidst thorns a seed might produce a plant, but no yield is made.  The cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke off the plant from developing.

In good soil the seed can produce thirty, sixty and even a hundred fold.

If you don’t find your own spirit as good soil, what can you do to tend to your own garden so you can be in good soil?

How would you describe the garden of your spirit? Please share.

 

Saturday, July 9

Galatians 6:7-10    Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh, but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all and especially for those of the family of faith.

 We reap what we sow.  This is a famous phrase from the Bible.  And though it has been misused at times, it still describes the importance of tending to our own garden.

God is willing to plant seed in the soil of our spirit.  But God expects us to tend to the soil.  We need to water our garden, fertilize our garden, weed our garden, and protect our garden from intruders.

Faith is something that can be developed.  It takes tending, thought. 

What tools would help you tend to the garden of your spirit.  What do you think would be most helpful?

Please share.

Monday, June 27

Read Luke 2:25-35   Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

  “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”

 It’s hard to find ourselves stepping on other people’s toes. Or at least it’s quite probable that we find it hard to step on other people’s toes. Very few people enjoy finding themselves in situations where a conflict exists, or a significant disagreement is happening, or others are hurt and perhaps even offended by an action of ours.

 And it might be easy to fool ourselves into thinking that followers of Jesus Christ should never step on another person’s toes, that we’re doing well when we get along with everyone and don’t have any disagreements.

Hopefully we know that not stepping on another person’s toes is impossible.

Jesus stepped on people’s toes. While being circumcised shortly after he was born, an older man Simeon confronted Jesus. Simeon took baby Jesus in his arms and predicted or prophesized that Jesus would be opposed in his ministry. People would push back against what Jesus said; Jesus would step on people’s toes as he communicated and lived out his message.

Have you ever convinced yourself that Christians shouldn’t get into disagreements with others? Please share.

 

Tuesday, June 28

Read Luke 7:18-23  The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?”  When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?’ ”  Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, afflictions, and evil spirits and had given sight to many who were blind.  And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight; the lame walk; those with a skin disease are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised; the poor have good news brought to them.  And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

 One of the ways we can be comfortable in the result of stepping on people’s toes is being comfortable in our own identity. Pastor Paul asked two questions on Sunday about this. The questions are: 1) Are you clear on your own identity?

2) Are you comfortable with your own identity?

It seems almost funny to ask the question on whether Jesus could say, “yes” to these questions. It’s not funny because Jesus was human—just like you and me.

Jesus was clear about who he was, and we can see this clarity in his response to the messengers to John. “Tell John what you see,” Jesus essentially said, “I’m healing the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, the dead, and the poor.”

There was no apology from Jesus about what he was doing. He was so clear on his purpose that he wouldn’t sell himself short for being himself. We get no sense of apology from Jesus for what he was doing. We almost get the sense that he thought, “this is who I am and what I do; if John is upset about who I am and what I do, then that is John’s issue.”

What a refreshing and ultimately freeing way to look at the world. Our task is not to worry about how other people will respond to us. Our task is to be clear about ourselves and then to act based on that clarity. If we are acting from ourselves, then that is what is most important. If people get upset, then that is on the other people.

None of us purposefully tries to step on other people’s toes. Instead, we purposefully try to be ourselves.

Do you have a clear sense of your own identity? Is it hard for you to step on other people’s toes? Please share.

 

Wednesday, June 29

Read Luke 6:27-36  “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who asks of you, and if anyone takes away what is yours, do not ask for it back again.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“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.

 One expression that Pastor Paul shared on Sunday is speak the truth in love. One significant part of this phrase is to love people. Our task is to act and communicate agape love with all the people we meet.

Jesus was making the case for agape love in this passage taken from Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. Jesus was teaching people that they were to love their enemies; loving their friends does not give credit. But loving our enemies is very special.

Our task, then is to love people. Even if we find ourselves in disagreement with another person we are still called to love that person. Knowing that we’re loving another person can give us security to speak the truth. We want to love the other person so beautifully that the other person is clear that they are being loved by us.

This is the highest form of love and can be difficult to live out consistently. What is the biggest obstacle to you to living and acting out this love? Please share.

Thursday, June 30

Read Ephesians 4:15-16  but speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

At the end of this very significant passage in Ephesians, the Apostle Paul shared that followers of Jesus are to speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth in love is part of growing up.

Speaking the truth can be very difficult—especially if we know that we have to have a hard conversation. Some of us who might be conflict-avoidant, might rarely speak what is on our mind with another person.

However, if we are confident that we are loving another person, then we can much more easily speak the truth. In this case we know we are not bringing down the other person. Instead, we’re speaking the truth as we see it.

The combination of “speaking the truth” and “love” is significant. It can allow us to be honest with others and not feel guilty if we have stepped on their toes. We are not trying to bring the person down by our words—this would be the opposite of love. Instead, we are sharing the truth.

What resources have you found that help you speak the truth in love?  Please share.

Friday, July 1

Read Galatians 5:13-15  For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become enslaved to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

 Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves gives us tremendous freedom. We can be ourselves and not worry about how we are going to be received. Because we are so comfortable in our own skin and because we know we are loving another person, we know we can speak the truth. Others might call us one of the most honest people they know. We are consistently sharing the truth.

This is the message written by the Apostle Paul in this section of Galatians.

Having freedom doesn’t mean we hurt other people or bring down other people. Just because we can do something does not mean that we do that something.

How often do you experience this level of freedom? Please share.

 

Saturday, July 2

Read 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 words written down by Luke carry some of the most important teachings in the Bible. The teaching is not new. Instead, the teaching is something that we work on every day of our life.

This passage is worth writing down and putting on a card that goes near your own personal Spiritual Place.

Try that today. Either carry around your card or put it in your personal Spiritual Place so you see it every day. Could this work for you? Please share.

Monday, June 20

Read Genesis 1:1

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,

This week we will have the opportunity to go deeper into the different names of God that are used in the Bible. According to the NIV and RSV translations, this first verse of the Bible starts out “In the beginning God …” The NRSV puts the word, “when” after “beginning.”

One way to think of the Bible is the story of God.

If we read the Scriptures in Hebrew we would learn that the names that are used for God are different. The Hebrew word that is translated as God is Elohim. “In the beginning, Elohim.” As Pastor Paul shared on Sunday the fact that God has different names doesn’t change the identity of God. Just as each of us has one primary name, we also might be described by a nickname or another name. These different names don’t change our own identity.

Elohim is plural. This doesn’t mean that there is more than one God at creation. The plural form describes the vastness of God. The singular form can’t adequately explain God.

Try using Elohim when you address God. As you pray to God say, Elohim instead of God. In doing this your prayers will probably feel differently.

Do you have a favorite name for God? Please share.

 

Tuesday, June 21

Read Exodus 3:13-15
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”  God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

 This is my name forever,

and this my title for all generations.

As Moses anticipated sharing with the Israelites the mission God had asked Moses to perform, Moses knew he needed a name for God. Moses essentially asked God, “What do I say to them when they ask your name?

God responded by sharing, “I am who I am.” Another way to describe this verse is “I will be who I will be.”

This is a rather cryptic expression by God of the divine name. But it was meant to be cryptic. To pronounce someone’s name is to claim power over someone. It doesn’t work for humans to claim power over God as God is so holy. Traditionally our Jewish friends don’t even say the name of God as they believe the name of God is too holy to be spoken.

The name that God shared consisted of four letters—YHWH. Sometimes the four letters are called the Tetragrammaton, which is Greek for four letters. Originally the Hebrew language has no vowels. Vowels were added to these four letters to form the name Yahweh. In some cases, the first letter is seen as a J and the third letter is seen as a V. This makes the four letters JHVH, from which the name, Jehovah comes.

Try using Yahweh when you address God today. How do you think that would work for you?

Wednesday, June 22

Read Hosea 11:3-4

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;

    I took them up in my[a] arms,

    but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness,

    with bands of love.

I was to them like those

    who lift infants to their cheeks.

    I bent down to them and fed them.

 Another way to identify God is to have an image of God. An image of God is a reflection of who God is.

Most of the images of God in the Bible are male images; however, these verses share a female image. In describing how God had related to Israel, God shared that God was to Israel like “those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” 

We can imagine our own mom lifting us as infants to her cheek. We can imagine her bending down and feeding us as babies.

It’s very easy to get trapped into thinking that God has a gender. But God cannot be contained by gender. We can’t say that God is a “he” or a “she” because gender isn’t an adequate way to describe God.

Pastor Paul encourages people to use language about God that does not fall into gender categories. Why is this important?  Please share.

 

Thursday, June 23

Read Mark 14:36

He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me, yet not what I want but what you want.”

 Jesus often used the name, “Abba Father” when talking to God, the first person of the Trinity. Abba is like a phrase of endearment. Imagine Jesus saying, “Papa.” Or if we said “honey” when we were addressing our spouse.

When Jesus used “Abba” he was describing the closeness he felt with God.

These terms are appropriate for us to use also. Even though God is awesome and huge, God is as close to us as our breath. We can address God with intimate names.

Do you have particular names that you like to address God? Perhaps the name is a reflection of an experience that you had with God. Saying that name is a reminder of that experience. Please share!

 

Friday, June 24

Read Romans 8:15-17
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”  it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if we in fact suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

 The last part of verse 15 and verse 16 describes the power of what a name means. Read these Scriptures over slowly again.

“When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

Using the name, “Abba, Father” is a description of the relationship that we have with God, the first person of the Trinity. Our identity as children of God or even our identity as disciples is described by the name, “Abba, Father.”

In a way the name, “Abba, Father” is a statement of belief. By saying that name we are claiming that we are children of God.

Try this prayer today:

“Abba, Father, just by saying this name I am claiming my identity as your child. Throughout the day when I talk to you, may your name give me clarity about who I am. In your name I pray, Amen.”

 

Saturday, June 25

Read Genesis 1:1

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,

We end the week with the same Scripture in which we began the week. “In the beginning God.”

As we learned on Monday, the English word, God comes from the Hebrew word, “Elohim.” Many other names for God exist. Knowing these names and using these names when we describe God or talk to God is very important. Sharing the different names of God expands our own understanding of God.

Below are fifteen names from the Scriptures that describe God—Elohim, Eloah, Yahweh, Lord of Hosts, Lord, Adonai, El Shaddai, Creator, Father, Mother, Holy One, Mighty One, Shield, Shepherd, Rock. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it does give a clear picture of the range of understanding of who God is.

Try an experiment. Take a name and use that name for one day. Perhaps today you could use “Rock” when talking to God. Then tomorrow a different name—perhaps, Shepherd. Then the next day “Shield.” You get the point. You have the possibility of using fifteen names over the course of fifteen days.

Doing this exercise will expand your understanding of who God is. What are your thoughts about trying this? Please share.

Monday, June 13

Read Genesis 33:1-17 

Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.

But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.”  Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand, for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God, since you have received me with such favor. Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.

Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you.”  But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me, and if they are overdriven for one day, all the flocks will die.  Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

 So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “Why should my lord be so kind to me?”  So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed to Succoth and built himself a house and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth.

 

Jacob was scared to death to meet Esau.  Esau was Jacob’s older brother.  When both were younger Jacob had stolen Esau’s birth rite and then fled in fear.   Jacob had never spoken to Esau since that incident.

Jacob agonized over meeting Esau.  The night before the meeting he wrestled all night with an angel of God; he sent presents to Esau in advance.  However, Jacob’s fear turned out to be greater than the reality.  Esau was very gracious in meeting Jacob.  Jacob’s advanced fears didn’t turn out.

Often our fears about a situation are much greater than the resulting reality.  When we know we have to disagree with someone, our fears often are much greater than they need to be. 

Healthy Disagreement is an important Core Value at Chain of Lakes.

Do you have a person with whom you are having a disagreement?  Do you have fears about meeting the person?  If so, are your own fears overblown? Without sharing personal names, please share your own story.

 

Tuesday, June 14

Read Matthew 18:15-22
“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If you are listened to, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If that person refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.  Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if my brother or sister sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

 This passage from Matthew shares an excellent process for approaching someone with whom you have a disagreement.  First go and talk to the person in person.  If that doesn’t work, take another person with you.  If that doesn’t work, let the church—the community of faith know.  If that doesn’t work, then let it go.  The situation is in God’s hands.

Do you have someone with whom you are having a disagreement right now?  Consider visiting that person today!  Or consider contacting the person and setting up an appointment.  What is stopping you from participating in this process outlined in Matthew 18?

Do you have an experience of using this process when you had a disagreement? Without sharing names, please share!

 

Wednesday, June 15

Read Philippians 1:12-26

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the progress of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ,  and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.

Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry but others from goodwill.  These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel;  the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment.  What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my salvation.  It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way but that by my speaking with all boldness Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me, yet I cannot say which I will choose.  I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith,  so that, by my presence again with you, your boast might abound in Christ Jesus because of me.

 The letter that Paul wrote to the people in the town of Philippi is often known as the letter of joy.  Joy is the principle theme of the letter.  The word “joy” occurs five times and the verbs “rejoice” and “be glad” occur eleven times.  If you have some time today, read this letter—it would only take about 20 minutes.

That Paul experienced joy is remarkable as he was sitting in jail not knowing if he was going to live or die when he wrote this letter.  Despite being under a death sentence, he wrote of joy.

How can this happen?  Paul was able to look beyond his own self and see how God was working and alive in the circumstances in which he found himself.  Paul saw that his own imprisonment was helping spread the gospel.  Paul was willing to suffer so that people would receive Christ.  This gave him joy.

Joyful Love is an important Core Value at Chain of Lakes Church.

How easy is it for you to look beyond your own self? Do you have a story of when you were able to do this? What happened. Please share.

 

Thursday, June 16

Read Jeremiah 1:4-10

 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

This passage shares God’s passion for youth.  God didn’t believe that being a young person disqualified a person for service.  God issued a call to Jeremiah even though Jeremiah was a teenager.

This was quite a risk that God took to call Jeremiah. God wanted Jeremiah to share God’s word with the country of Judah. So much was at stake in what God was asking Jeremiah to do.

Jeremiah tried to avoid God’s call by sharing that he was only a youth. (look at verse 6).  Being a young person wasn’t a reason not to receive a call.  Look at what God said in verse 7, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.”

Over time Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the terrible exile of the people of Israel. Despite what Jeremiah witnessed, he is still known as one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament.

Investing in Future Generations is an important Core Value at Chain of Lakes.

Do you have a story of seeing a young person being called to do something special? When have you seen youth go above and beyond what you would expect? Please share.

 

Friday, June 17

Read 1 Samuel 3:1-21

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the 
Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!”] and he said, “Here I am!”  and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.  The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”  Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.  The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.  Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.  Therefore, I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.”  Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.”  So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”

 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.

Just like in the story of Jeremiah in this story we read a story of a youth who was called by God.  God called Samuel to be his follower.  In his life Samuel went on to help choose Saul and David to be kings—Samuel was one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament.

Not only was Samuel young, he was mentored by an adult.  Look at the start of this story.  “Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli.”  (1 Samuel 3:1)  Samuel received a call from God, but needed Eli to help him know that it was God who was issuing the call.  Samuel couldn’t have known that God was calling him if he hadn’t had Eli.

Do you know of a youth to whom you could be an Eli?  A youth who you could mentor, someone in whom you could take a special interest.  That youth could be a part of Chain of Lakes or the youth could be someone in your neighborhood. 

Think how powerful we at Chain of Lakes would be if every youth had an adult mentor in the church!!

Have you had an experience of mentoring a youth? Please share.

 

Saturday, June 18

Read 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.”

 This story of the Great Commission is a foundational story of the Bible. These are the final words of Jesus to his followers before Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus commanded those who were with him to go out into the world and to preach the gospel.

This certainly was an Outward Focus. Jesus didn’t want his followers to keep the message about him to themselves. He wanted his followers to share the message with outsiders.

Having an Outward Focus means we focus on personal needs of people who are not part of our congregation, and focus on community or social needs.

To learn the personal needs of people we need to build a relationship with them. By being in relationship with them we communicate how much we care about them.

The Connection Team has talked about each person at Chain of Lakes inviting four friends to our congregation who are outside of the church.

One step to living out this Core Value is to immediately know of these four friends. Do you have four friends who you consistently invite to Chain of Lakes. Please share.

Monday, June 6

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.”

This past Sunday Pastor Paul preached about four Core Values of Chain of Lakes. A Core Value is a principle, quality, belief, and/or attitude that is foundational to our community. It’s worth thinking about the Core Values of Jesus. If you have some extra time today, think about this question, “What is foundational to Jesus?”

One of many foundational teachings from Jesus is this story from Matthew. The church has called this teaching the Great Commission. Jesus shared this teaching with his followers after he had risen from the dead. This teaching is like the last lecture of Jesus.

The Great Commission is something we could study for a long time and still learn something new. One idea from the Great Commission is that of making disciples. Jesus wanted his followers to encourage others to be a disciple.

A disciple is a follower of Jesus. This means putting Jesus first in our life. We want our thoughts and our actions to be consistent with the thoughts and actions of Jesus.

Do you find this foundational teaching of Jesus to be hard or easy to follow? Please share.

 

Tuesday, June 7
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.”

Another foundational teaching of Jesus is in these four verses. People have called this teaching the Great Commandment. In answering a question from a lawyer Jesus taught that to inherit eternal life his followers were to love God with all of their heart, soul, strength, and mind. And they were to love their neighbors as they love themselves.

The word for love, of course, comes from agape. This is a self-sacrificing quality that looks to the interest of others. Jesus wanted his followers to embrace agape love.

How do you want to be known after you pass from this earth? We can have many answers to this question. We might want to be known as someone who loved our family, or a person who had a terrific faith, or someone who accomplished quite a lot.

Jesus taught in this commandment how he wants us to be known. He wants us to be known by agape love.

When people talk about you when you are not present, what do they say? Our hope as disciples or followers of Jesus is that people will say that we love God and that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. As followers of Jesus we want people to say that we are full of agape.

How hard or easy is it for you to live out agape love? Do you believe that others describe you as someone who is identified as living out agape love? Please share.

 

Wednesday, June 8

John 4:7-15, 27-30 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

      Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”  Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”  They left the city and were on their way to him.

One Core Value of Chain of Lakes is Hospitality. We understand it to mean that “We will go out of our way to welcome people as Jesus welcomed them, with an open heart and open arms.”

In this story Jesus welcomed the presence of a Samaritan woman. Normally Jesus would have ignored the woman who was at the well. People would not have been surprised if Jesus had acted this way. But Jesus initiated a conversation with her. It became obvious that Jesus loved this woman and wanted the best for her.

When the disciples arrived at the well they were astonished that Jesus was talking to this woman. We can almost hear the judgment working itself out in their minds. “If Jesus really knew,” we can imagine them thinking, “who he was talking to, he wouldn’t be talking to her.”

Jesus resisted this judgment. He welcomed this woman with an open heart and open arms.

On Sunday Pastor Paul preached on the spiritual energy that happens when people live out hospitality. You can’t be lukewarm towards another person and share hospitality. Hospitality prompts you to look at helping the other person.

What is at stake in living out hospitality? Please share.

 

Thursday, June 9

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

Another Core Value of Chain of Lakes is God’s Church. We understand it to mean that “in every decision we seek to discern God’s desire. No leader, person, or ministry is more important than what God wants.”

This Core Value causes us to be a people of discernment. We’re always seeking to discover the will or ways of God—that which is good and acceptable and healthy.

No person or pastor or Presbytery owns the church. God owns the church. People and pastors and the Presbytery have important roles to play, but those roles are subordinate to what God wants.

What is at stake in living out God’s Church? Please share.

 

Friday, June 10

Matthew 13:1-10  That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on a path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun rose, they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. If you have ears, hear!”  Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”

Another Core Value at Chain of Lakes is Relevance. We understand it to mean, “Jesus successfully communicated his message by using examples and symbols of first century culture. We will be open to using examples and symbols of our culture to communicate Jesus’ message.”

By sharing parables Jesus showed his relevance. He wanted to do everything he could to communicate successfully to his followers. Think about the many ways Jesus could have communicated. He could have lectured them on what it means to be a disciple. He could have shared five to ten principles of being a disciple. But Jesus didn’t do this. He shared stories.

Often his stories took real-life situations and people to communicate his message. By sharing parables Jesus illustrated his relevance.

Too often churches are caught in the past. We use old models and methods. We look with scorn on new possibilities. What is the newest Social Media platform? We need to be using it!

What is at stake in living out relevance?

 

Saturday, June 11

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.”

Another Core Value at Chain of Lakes is Acceptance. We understand it to mean, “We accept people without judgment, regardless of what has happened in their lives or where they are on their faith journeys.”

It is hard to live without judgment. Some of us grew up in families where judgment was normal. Some of us might be in work settings where judgment is expected. We take our own ideas of judgment and place them upon Jesus.

Jesus had expectations of people, but he didn’t judge them according to the ways others expected him to judge. He loved a criminal on the cross; he wanted people who were weary with heavy burdens to come to him. He didn’t ask why the criminal was a criminal or why someone has a heavy burden. He accepted that person.

What is at stake in living out acceptance?

Monday, May 30

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.”

 This week we have the opportunity to go deeper into the Purpose Statement of Chain of Lakes Church. We will look at certain words and see their importance for our own faith. Whether we are part of Chain of Lakes or not, we can grow in faith this week.

The first word is “call.” The Purpose Statement starts out with the statement “We are called.”

A call is something that God asks people to do. It can be a big thing or a small thing. A call can also be something that relates to our character—something God wants us to work on.

In his sermon this past Sunday Pastor Paul talked about the Inspirational Intersection. This is the intersection between what God wants us to do and be AND what we want to do and be. At this intersection is a place of tremendous energy, imagination, and love.

We could replace the words, ‘We are called’ with ‘We want to live at our Inspirational Intersection.’

Abram received a call from God in this story. He was asked to do something extraordinary. Through his life he was living at his Inspirational Intersection.

Have you had a time in your life when you were at your Inspirational Intersection? A time when you were excited about what you were doing. Every ounce of our being was attentive to the task. When has this happened for you? Please share

 

Tuesday, May 31 
Matthew 23:1-13  Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’s seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it, but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others, for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.  They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them rabbi.  But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father, the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant.  All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in you stop them.

  Another important word is authentic. At Chain of Lakes God has asked the people to be an authentic, Christian community.

Jesus never used the word “authentic,” but he had opinions about people who didn’t live authentically. He called them hypocrites. He was very critical of the Pharisees and the Scribes—religious leaders who weren’t were not living authentically.

Another way to understand a hypocrite is a “play actor.” Jesus was declaring that the Scribes and the Pharisees were play acting at their faith.

Young people have a high intolerance for hypocrites. In fact one reason they fall away from church is they see people play acting in their faith.

Can you relate to the criticism of Jesus? How hard is it for you to be authentic in your faith? Please share.

 

Wednesday, June 1

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.

Another important word in the Purpose Statement is community. We are not called to be a place of individuals who gather. Instead we are called to be a place where individuals form community.

In this story we read of the power of community. People came together and accomplished fabulous things. Awe came upon everyone because of what they saw.

Another word for “awe” is “wow.” When a community is functioning at a high level people say “wow” often.

Can you remember a specific time when you were involved with a community where people often said “wow?” What was happening at that time. Please share.

Thursday, June 2

Deuteronomy 10:17-22  For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  You shall fear the Lord your God; him you shall serve; to him you shall hold fast; and by his name you shall swear.  He is your praise; he is your God who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen.  Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.

 It’s easy to think that we should be afraid of strangers or ignore them. This passage from Deuteronomy teaches us a different way. God has a particular love for the stranger. God was telling the Israelites that they were strangers in the land of Egypt, and God loved them deeply. Because they were strangers and were loved, they are called to love the stranger.

 This message is consistent with how Jesus acted. Jesus went out of his way to love those who were on the outside of the culture. Jesus had a special place in his heart for the widows and the orphans. He loved the Samaritans and the poor. Jesus loved the stranger.

The beginning focus of Chain of Lakes is the stranger. We are called to go out of our way to love the stranger, to become friends with the stranger. We don’t need to be afraid of the stranger; instead we learn about the stranger when we share love with that person.

Who would you identify as strangers in our community? Who needs special care and attention from a group of followers of Jesus? Please share.

 

Friday, June 3

John 15:12-17   “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.  I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

An important word in the Purpose Statement is “friend.” In fact the tagline for Chain of Lakes is “strangers become friends.”

Jesus had plenty to say about being a friend. He talked about the ways people could be a friend with him. He clearly taught in this passage that to be his friend people were called to do what he commanded them. And that command was to love.

To be a friend of Jesus means we love him and we love others.

The Great Commandment is another way to understand what it means to be a friend. Jesus commanded people to love God with our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is what it means to be a friend.

The love that Jesus taught was agape love. This is a self-sacrificing, do whatever it takes to help another person type of love. By this people Jesus taught that people were friends.

When newcomers come to a congregation it’s vital that they sense this love. When they sense this love, they will know that they are safe to make friends in the congregation.

 

Saturday, June 4

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

 A significant word in the Purpose Statement is “impact.” The people of Chain of Lakes want to be disciples who impact the world.

We can see impact in this story from Acts. The people have deep love and appreciation for each other. They love each other so deeply that they didn’t even claim private ownership of their possessions. Everything they had was held in common for the good of others.

The important point from this reading is the connection that people had to each other. Because of that connection, an impact was made in the world. This is not the only way to make an impact. But having deep community is one way.

Have you had a time where you’ve felt such a connection in community that an impact was made in the world? If so, please share.

Monday, May 23

Read Matthew 8:1-13

With this being mental health month, it’s important to read and know stories in the gospels that focus on mental health. This week we have that opportunity.

The two people that Jesus healed in these stories were quite different.  The first was a leper.  Lepers were seen as morally unclean.  Their skin disease was seen as a sin.  People were not supposed to touch lepers or they would become unclean.

Jesus was not afraid to cross this boundary.  He was more interested in healing people than following a boundary that separated people.  We might be so familiar with this story that we can’t see the surprising nature of Jesus touching someone who had leprosy. 

In one sense the Roman centurion was a powerful man.  He was a military officer and a Gentile.  He had people under his command.  He was an outsider to the Jewish people.

In another sense the centurion was an outsider to Jesus.  He wasn’t a Jew.  He was part of the hated Romans.

Again, Jesus was willing to cross a boundary to heal this girl.  He didn’t even touch the girl.  He healed her.  Just as important as the healing was Jesus’ willingness to go outside the “respected” circle of people to be a healer.

Have you ever had a time when you had to cross a boundary to share love with someone?

Tuesday, May 24

Read Matthew 8:14-22

This story happened in Capernaum, the fishing village on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee.  In other gospels the story takes place at the beginning of the gospel. 

We can sense that Jesus wanted to heal people.  He had an orientation of wanting to help.  When Jesus saw Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever, he immediately healed her.  There was a deep compassion inside of Jesus to help.

When we live with compassion we enter into another person’s suffering. We don’t experience that suffering ourselves, but we do our best to understand what the other person is feeling and thinking.

We might not be able to heal people like Jesus, but we can carry this orientation of compassion with us.  When we see someone who is struggling we can immediately try to help.  Our helping comes from our compassionate heart.

Who do you know who is an example of this compassion?

Wednesday, May 25

Read Matthew 8:23-9:1

Jesus showed that he has authority over the wind.  He told the disciples that they need not be afraid.  This message of “do not be afraid” was the same message that angels frequently told the people they encountered.

We can understand the stigma in mental illness in the second story.  The people of the village were probably afraid of the person who suffered from a demon, who was identified as a Gadarene or Gerasene demoniac.  In other gospel versions of the story there was only one person who suffered from a demon. 

The people were probably confused and bewildered by the man’s behavior.  They probably tried to stay away from him.  They shunned him. 

People who suffer from mental illness acknowledge similar treatment from others.  They are shunned and ignored. 

Jesus, of course, was very willing to enter into the person’s problems.  He healed them.

What can you do to help reduce the stigmas that people have about Mental Illness?

 

Thursday, May 26

Read Matthew 9:1-8

When Jesus told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven, he was criticized by the scribes.  The scribes were Jewish leaders of the day.  The focus of the scribes was so wrong!  They were more concerned about a particular point of view than about the possible healing of the man who was paralyzed.

We can lose focus too.  A point of view or an ideology can be more important to keeping and promoting than a life-giving instance of healing.

What if we had an orientation of healing?  Even if we can’t heal people, what if we looked at the world not through an ideology, but with our heart?  Our hearts would leap to want to help someone—no matter what they believed, thought or how they behaved. 

This orientation is an example that Jesus taught.

What would it look like for you to look at the world through the lens of your heart?

 

Friday, May 27

Read Matthew 9:9-26

The woman who suffered from a hemorrhage was an outsider.  She had tried to get medical treatment but had never received any help.  The doctors gave up on her.  The fact that she practically snuck up on Jesus from behind to touch his cloak showed how beaten down she was by the world. She was too beaten down to identify herself to Jesus as needing help.

When Jesus encountered her, he immediately embraced her!  “Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.”  Matthew 9:22

These words from Jesus are a prime reason to call him Lord!  He was willing to help people who the rest of the world ignored or couldn’t help.

Do you know of individuals or groups of people who are easily ignored?

 

Saturday, May 28

Read Matthew 9:27-38

Jesus continued to heal people by healing two blind men and a man who was mute.  Like before, these were people who the world ignored.

Jesus concluded these chapters by saying, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  Jesus wanted people to be like him.  Even if people didn’t have the power to heal others, he wanted his followers to reach out to people on the margins.

Would you be willing to be a laborer for Jesus?  Would you be a person who responds to folks on the margin with compassion?  A great harvest still exists.  Jesus wants us to be a laborer.

What can you do to help people who live with mental illness?

Monday, May 16
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. 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 overtake it.
When Chain of Lakes enters into its new home, we want it be full of light. Light brings life. We read in John,
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:3b-5)
These words from the “Prologue to John” describe a foundation of life. We read about this foundation all throughout the Scriptures. We read about it in Psalm 23:4 when we learn that “even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil.” We learn about it on Easter morning when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to tend to a dead body, but instead discovered that Jesus was alive.
The relationship between light and darkness is not only a physical relationship. It is a spiritual relationship. “Even though” we go through hard times or see people suffer, the promise of light is that these hard times and suffering won’t last. The light can be muted for a while, but it can’t be extinguished. This spiritual reality defines the belief system of a disciple.
Reflect today on how you have internalized for yourself this spiritual message. Even though pain and darkness can come, to what extent do you have faith that the light will ultimately come?
 
Tuesday, May 17
Psalm 4:6-7 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!” You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound.
In a number of different places in the Old Testament we read about the shining face of God. If you have some extra time, read Numbers 6:22-26, Psalm 31:4-6, Psalm 80:3, and Psalm 89:15.
When Chain of Lakes enters into its new home, we want the face of God to shine among people.
The face of God is a metaphor for God’s light. We don’t think that God has a face, but we can imagine God’s face shining light.
When a person has a sense of peace, we can literally see light shining in the person. The person’s expression shares light and energy, and ultimately peace.
The light of God’s face is not a physical light—it’s deeply spiritual. As you pray today, ask that the light of God’s face might be with you. Look for that light in other people’s faces. Pay attention to when you see this light.
 
Wednesday, May 18
Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When Chain of Lakes enters into its new building, we want God’s light to give each person who enters the building a sense of confidence. This is what the writer of Psalm 27:1 was communicating.
God’s light gives us an assurance that we can’t receive from any other place. This light gives us a confidence, a sense of peace, and the reality of connection.
Even if we have moments of being afraid, we do not have to fear. These moments of being afraid are temporary and aren’t necessarily long-lasting. God’s light leads us to a far different place.
We can see the relationship of God’s light and joy. One definition of joy is “letting God’s light shine with us.” When this happens, we enter a different realm. It’s a place of inner peace and serenity.
Today pray that you have confidence that these moments of being afraid won’t last for you. Pray that you can have this type of confidence.
 
Thursday, May 19
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
We want our new church building to be known as the light of the world.
In his most famous sermon Jesus said, “you are the light of the world.” The you in this phrase is plural. One way to interpret this is to say that communities of people reflect God’s light.
Faith communities can be known for this light—really it is a spiritual energy. When people come into contact with the community they sense that something is different about this place. Often in the first minute of a visit, people can get this impression of energy. Even if a person experiences a faith community in an on-line setting a person can get this sense of energy.
Today as you pray, pray that congregations will be known as communities of light. Pray that Chain of Lakes Church will be known as a congregation of light. This spiritual energy can last with a person for a very long time.
 

Friday, May 20

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Seven times in the gospel of John, Jesus made an “I am” statement. These I am statements share the identity of Jesus. These seven statements are worth knowing.
“I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35)
“I am the gate for the sheep.” (John 10:7,9)
“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
“I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14).
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
“I am the true vine.” (John 15:1, 5)
And today we read that Jesus said,
“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12)
Followers of Jesus Christ are looking to be led by this light. It’s the light of life and love and wholeness.
Sometimes people make faith to be much more complicated than it really is. To know Jesus is to be willing to be led by this light. It’s a light that always shines in the darkness.
Recommit yourself to this light today. Pray that you can be on the lookout for this light.
 
Saturday, May 21
Revelation 22:1-5 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
The last chapter of the Bible is similar to the first chapter of the Bible in that light appears. In the Creation story we read that God said, “let there be light.” This was a physical light. These verses from Revelation say that God will be the light of all people and that this light will never be extinguished.
These verses are a description of heaven.
When people have near-death experiences, they often remark how they saw a light. This light is wonderful and beautiful and very inviting.
This light is a profoundly spiritual illustration of God’s Kingdom.
Today as you pray, pray for the light of the Kingdom in our new church building. Pray that heaven can indeed come to earth. And that when heaven comes to earth the words of this last chapter of the Bible will come true.

 

Events

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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