This past Sunday Pastor Paul preached about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. During this walk we are always searching and trying to discover God’s will or God’s way. The discovery is one of the most important tasks we can ever do.
This week we have the opportunity to read Scriptures that will help us in the discovery. Hopefully after reading these Scriptures you will have a clearer understanding of how to discover God’s will. Enjoy!
Comments about the devotion can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, September 21
Read Proverbs 3:1-8
Even in the midst of pain we can discover God’s will or God’s way. This passage teaches us that discovering God’s will or way is a partnership. It is discovering the intersection between what God wants us to do and what we want to do. Pastor Paul has called this the “Inspirational Intersection.” At that intersection is tremendous joy, energy, and passion. We feel alive.
The writer of Proverbs was teaching the beauty of discovering God’s will—even when we experience pain. The last four verses of this chapter are worth reading and eventually memorizing:
“Trust in the Lord with all you heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.” Proverbs 3:5-8
Tuesday, September 22
Read Colossians 1:9-14
Like the passage we read yesterday from Proverbs, this passage is worth committing to memory. Try starting off with the first three verses:
“For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:9-10
Discovering God’s will or way can be different than making a decision. Think to yourself how your own life would be better if you discovered God’s will in every situation you find yourselves. How would your life be better? How would knowing God’s will for our lives be different than making a decision about what we are doing with our time, or if we are going to the doctor, or whether we will get more involved with an organization.
God gives us principles by which we live. Our task is to take these principles and then bear fruit in all that we do.
As you pray today, pray this reading from Colossians. God wants you to discover God’s way. How exciting it is to find this for our own lives!
Wednesday, September 23
Read 2 Timothy 3:10-17
In this letter to Timothy the apostle Paul shared his own life as a model for discovering God’s will. We might think of people who were examples to us in the faith. The way they lived their life helps us know how to go deeper in our relationship with God. And ultimately their own life can help us discover God’s will.
Paul concluded the passage by sharing the importance of Scripture in discovering God’s will. Discovering God’s will or way is more than making a decision based on how we are feeling at one particular time. Scripture instructs us on the ways God wants us to live. The stories from certain people in the Bible teach us, just like the stories of people who are our own faith mentors teach us.
We don’t discover God’s will without being informed by the Scriptures. The Bible teaches us, corrects us, and trains us to live the right way—to discover God’s will!!
As you pray today, think about specific Scriptures, stories, or even people from the Bible who serve as role models for you in discovering God’s will. Name those Scriptures and people. Give thanks to God for them!
Thursday, September 24
Read Matthew 6:7-15
God’s will already happens in heaven. When we discover God’s will in our own lives it’s as if a part of heaven comes to earth.
Isn’t that exciting?
God’s will is more than following the 10 Commandments or doing our duty by “going to church.” It’s a journey of discovery where we connect to heaven. It’s heaven breaking out on earth.
Think what would happen if every person you knew suddenly was inspired to discover God’s will. Think how the world could change.
And then think how the world would change if you were successful in discovering God’s will. Think how the world would change. You would be an example of the breaking out of heaven onto earth.
This should be enough inspiration in discovering God’s will to make this discovery the most important thing that you will ever do! Pray about this today.
Friday, September 25
Read Romans 12:1-2
This is another passage that is worth committing to memory. The two verses teach us about discovering God’s will or way.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
What is good and acceptable and ultimately perfect for you? That is God’s will. How exciting it is to discover this.
Saturday, September 26
Read Mark 12:28-34
Discovering God’s will always involves love—loving God with our heart, soul, and mind & loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. If our actions aren’t motivated or prompted by love, then they are not God’s will.
Jesus confirmed this at the end of this story. When Jesus saw that the scribe understood that loving God and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves was central, he saw that the scribe had answered wisely. He then said this:
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
When we discover God’s will from a place of love, we are not far from the kingdom of God. How exciting is that!
One title or metaphor for God is that of the shepherd. Psalm 23 starts out with the phrase, “The Lord is my shepherd…” The idea of God as a shepherd can be found in many different passages in the Bible. This week we have the opportunity to read and reflect on a few of these passages.
Pastor Paul asked for feedback on the devotion. He is looking to possibly change the format of the devotion. Take some time to email your thoughts about the devotion to email@example.com.
Monday, September 14
Read Psalm 23:1-3
As Pastor Paul shared in this sermon, the phrase “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” is a famous phrase that most of us instantly recognize. The phrase is like: “Four score and seven years ago,” or “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” or “I have a dream that people will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character,” or “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
You might have phrases that were said often in your household. What were some of them?
The Hebrew word that is translated as “want” is transliterated as, “ehsar.” It means “lacking”. With God as our shepherd we are not lacking. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have many needs—physical or emotional needs. This phrase is a spiritual statement of how God, the Good Shepherd, makes us spiritually complete.
One word of encouragement that Pastor Paul shared in his sermon on Sunday was to look in the mirror and say, “I am not lacking.” Try that at least once a day this week. Reminding yourself each day that you are not lacking is a terrific source of encouragement and support.
Tuesday, September 15
Read Psalm 95:6-7
The metaphor of God as our shepherd and we as the sheep is explored in these verses. The Psalmist wrote that “We are the people of the pasture and sheep of God’s hand.” (Psalm 95:7)
Having God as our shepherd gives us much meaning.
As a shepherd God helps us find green pastures where we can find rest. As a shepherd God leads us beside still waters that restores our soul.
When is a time recently that you experienced rest or that your soul was restored? Reflect on this moment. How did God lead us to that moment?
On Sunday Pastor Paul guided each person through a short meditation that helped people imagine lying down in a green pasture or being by still waters. If you have a moment, watch that part of the sermon again. The sermon can be watched at colpres.org. This section of the sermon is at the end. Join him in that guided meditation. Doing this can help restore your soul.
Wednesday, September 16
Read Isaiah 40:6-11
This chapter from Isaiah is part of a book called 2nd Isaiah. It was shared with the people as they were in exile. The people were deported from their home country of Israel and now were living in a foreign country. The people had no choice about this exile.
Amidst this pain Isaiah shared a word of comfort. God was their shepherd. The last verse of this passage expresses this idea.
“[God] will feed his flock like a shepherd; God will gather the lambs in God’s arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” (Isaiah 40:11)
Even as the people had to live in a place where they didn’t want to live, God was still helping the people. God was willing to feed the people and gather the people and carry the people forward. Even as they lived in pain, the good shepherd would help.
This message is very important for anyone who is suffering in pain today. Our pain is not a sign that God has abandoned us. On the contrary, God is helping us—even when we find ourselves in a place where we don’t want to be.
As you pray today, open yourself up to this comfort of God. God is the source of our healing and not the cause of our pain. Be open to how the Good Shepherd wants to heal us and is the source of our healing.
Thursday, September 17
Read Psalm 78:70-72
At the end of this long Psalm, God shared how God chose David to be a shepherd. David lived during a time that people looked at their kings as a shepherd. The task of a king was to protect the people of his (and all the kings were men) country from a foreign intruder. Just as a shepherd was to protect the sheep, a king was to protect the people.
David took on this role. He eventually was the second king of Israel. As the last verse of this Psalm shared, David tended to the people with an upright heart and guided them with a skillful hand.
We don’t think of our political leaders as shepherds, but they do function this way.
Today, pray that the political leaders of our country can act like a shepherd. Pray for the President; pray for the two Minnesota Senators; pray for your representative to Congress; pray for the Governor, your state senator and rep, your County Board rep and your City Council rep. If you don’t know who these people are, then take some time to learn who they are. Pray that each of them can act like a shepherd.
Friday, September 18
Read John 10:11-18
In these verses Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd. As a shepherd Jesus had deep and abiding care for the sheep. He was willing—and ultimately did—lay down his life for the sheep. A hired hand would not lay down his life for the sheep because the motivation of a hired hand was to make money. As the Good Shepherd Jesus had a different motivation. His motivation was the deep care that he had.
This care of Jesus extends to you. Jesus cares and ultimately loves you deeply.
The people who heard this message from Jesus had a hard time understanding it. It was unfathomable that a person would lay down his or her life for another person. But Jesus was willing to do this.
As you pray today, give thanks for the deep and abiding care that Jesus has for you. And give thanks that he did give up his life for you.
Saturday, September 19
Read 1 Peter 2:22-25
In these verses, Peter was explaining what the death of Jesus meant. Read them slowly, more than once. The words give clarity of the love that Jesus as the Good Shepherd has for us.
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.
When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:22-25)
As you pray today, give thanks that Jesus embodied these words as the Good Shepherd.
This week we have the opportunity to learn about knowing God in the gospel of John. The word is used 102 times in 82 verses.
Knowing God brings us life—and it’s life that extends beyond death. We receive eternal life from knowing God.
This week reflect on how you are doing in knowing God and pray about going deeper in your own knowledge. Enjoy!
Comments about the devotion can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, September 7
Read John 17:1-5
John 17:3 is worth knowing and memorizing. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Jesus shared this verse in one of the most famous prayers he offered. The prayer is known as the High Priestly Prayer.
We can learn from this verse that eternal life does not begin when we die. It begins while we are on earth. In this verse we also learn that eternal life consists of knowing God. We know God here on earth and our knowledge of God will expand beyond death. Knowing God is not limited by life or death—it happens in both.
It’s worth reflecting on how knowing God while living on earth brings us life. The more we learn and grow and move deeper in our relationship with God, the more we grow in our spiritual life.
How are you doing at knowing God? As you pray to God today, talk to God about how deeply you know God. Ask for help in knowing God more deeply. The benefits of this knowledge are clear—it’s life—that will last beyond our own death.
Tuesday, September 8
Read John 1:10-13
These verses in John are from the Prologue to John. The Prologue is eighteen verses of rich teaching about the identity of Jesus and the relationship of Jesus (the Logos) to Abba, Father, or the first person of the Trinity. In verse 10 we read that the world did not know Jesus.
This does not mean that everyone who lives does not know Jesus. The phrase “the world” does include humans; however here John was talking about people who don’t know Jesus or God.
Do you know people who don’t have an active relationship with God? If you had three minutes with that person to share how Jesus brings life to you, what would you say? In what ways does your own relationship or knowing Jesus bring life to you?
If you have some extra time, write out your response to this question, “In what ways does my relationship or knowing Jesus bring life to me?”
Wednesday, September 9
Read John 3:11-21
These verses come from the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus, a Jewish man who came to visit with Jesus at night. Some people believe that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because he knew that he would be threatened by fellow Jews for just talking to Jesus. Nicodemus needed to be careful about being seen with Jesus.
In verse 11 we read the following statement by Jesus, “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.”
Knowledge in this verse is similar to belief. Jesus was saying in verse 11 that he spoke about what he believed. Later in these verses Jesus talked about how believing in him, Jesus, would bring forth eternal life. This idea of knowledge bringing forth eternal life is the same idea that we read about on Monday.
To what extent does your own knowing God bring you life?
Take some time and write out your answer to this question. Understanding how our own knowing God brings us life is a powerful, and in some ways basic part of faith.
Thursday, September 10
Read John 7:25-31
The word “know” is used many times in these verses.
John 7:27 Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, not one will know where he is from …
John 7:28 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him.”
John 7:29 “I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
We learn from these passages that one way to learn or grow in our understanding of God the Father or Creator is to learn more about Jesus. Jesus illustrates the identity of God.
As Pastor Paul shared in his sermon on Sunday, we can’t see God, but we know Jesus. This knowledge of Jesus gives us a much clearer expression of the identity of God.
Friday, September 11
Read John 8:48-59
Jesus claimed clearly that he knew God the Father or Creator, the first part of the Trinity. And because Jesus knew the Father or Creator, we can also.
It’s not easy to say that we can know God the Father or Creator. How can we know something that we don’t see? In the Old Testament people could not see God because seeing God would bring forth death.
This changed when Jesus came. In this and other passages in John we learn that Jesus is a reflection of God. Jesus is God, but also reveals what his abba, Father is like.
Do you want to know God, the first part of the Trinity? Learn and get to know Jesus even better.
As you pray today, pray that you can come to know God even better.
Saturday, September 12
Read John 10:22-30
Jesus gave a beautiful illustration of what it means to know God. Just as a sheep knows the voice of the shepherd, we know God by following the voice of Jesus. We don’t hear the voice, but we can learn about the impressions of the Holy Spirit.
In his sermon on Sunday, Pastor Paul shared the acronym, IFAR. It stands for:
- Information – facts, truths, principles
- Familiarity with a person or topic
- Awareness of what makes a person think or believe or want
- Relational – understand or know the character of a person
We know God by knowing information, being familiar with God, being aware of the thoughts or desires of God, and being in relationship with God in our heart.
Of these four letters which one do you do well? Which one would you like to improve? Talk to God about this today.
Praising God is a wonderful way to connect to God. Many of the Psalms are expressions of praise. In fact, the last six Psalms of the book of Psalms are expressions of praise. They each share reasons for us to praise God for a quality of God.
The word praise in these Psalms is transliterated as Hallelujah. When people say this word they are saying “Praise be to God.”
We have a wonderful opportunity this week to read these praise Psalms. These Psalms are especially appropriate to read during the end of summer. As you read them keep an open heart to how these Psalms of praise can help your own heart burn stronger for God. Enjoy!
Comments about the devotion can be emailed to email@example.com.
Monday, August 31
Read Psalm 145
Some people believe that Psalm 145 originally ended the book of Psalms. This Psalm was written in the Acrostic pattern—each line was begun with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
In this Psalm we read many wonderful qualities of God—reasons to Praise God.
If you have a chance, try writing out a Psalm praising God using the acrostic pattern. Fill in the following blanks
Have fun!! When you are finished, offer up your praise to God as a prayer.
Tuesday, September 1
Read Psalm 146
This Psalm confronts us with a very important question. Whom do we ultimately trust? The writer of this Psalm had an answer—“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
In his book Love Wins, Rob Bell wrote that “Hell is refusing to trust, and refusing to trust is often rooted in a distorted view of God.” (Page 176)
How would you rate your own trust of God? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, what number would you use to describe your trust of God. Share your number with a trusted family member or a friend.
Re-read the Psalm focusing on what it teaches us about trust. As you pray today, pray for added trust of God.
Wednesday, September 2
Read Psalm 147
Look at the active verbs used in this Psalm to describe what God does:
- v. 2 builds, gathers; v. 3 heals, binds up; v. 4 determines, gives; v. 6 lifts up; v. 13 strengthens, blesses; v. 14 grants peace, fills; v. 15 sends.
Which of these verbs speaks to you right now?
Verses 10-11 are worth memorizing
“[God’s] 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 hear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
As you pray today, repeat these verses over and over. They are wonderful words upon which to base our lives.
Thursday, September 3
Read Psalm 148
This Psalm gives another dimension to Praise. Praise is the reflection of the creation. The elements in creation give praise to God—sun, moon, shining stars, sea monsters, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind, mountains and all hills, fruit trees, wild animals and cattle, creeping things and flying birds.
These objects and animals in creation give praise to God.
Think about the last 24 hours. Think about something in creation that you believe is a reflection of praise to God. If you have a moment, share your discovery with a friend or family member.
As you pray today, give praise to God for this part of creation.
Friday, September 3
Read Psalm 149
This Psalm has been misused in history. Verses 6-9 have been used to justify war. Caspar Schopp used the verses to incite Catholics to a holy war against the Protestants which resulted in the Thirty Years War. Thomas Muntzer appealed to the verses to incite the German peasants to revolt. (Page 1276 New Interpreters Bible, Volume IV) Instead of an incitement to war, the Psalm encourages us to be active in the world.
The Psalm also gives a description of worship
“Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. Let them praise God’s name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre. For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.” (Psalm 149:2-4)
Reflect on how well Chain of Lakes worships God in a spirit of praise. We might not dance, but does praise describe our worship? As you pray today, ask God for help in worship and reflect on how well our worship illuminates a spirit of praise.
Saturday, September 4
Read Psalm 150
This Psalm concludes the longest book of the Bible with a cacophony of noises—all of them are meant to praise God.
I—Pastor Paul—have always encouraged people to make a joyful noise. Imagine trumpet sound, lute, harp, tambourine, strings, pip, clanging cymbals, loud clashing cymbals all being shared at the same time. It would be noisy—AND—it would be praise.
Today as you pray, pray that this wonderful sense of spiritual energy will pervade worship at Chain of Lakes.
This past Sunday Pastor Paul preached about going the extra mile for our friends. At the end of the sermon, he encouraged us to pray for ways we could each go the extra mile for a friend.
In his sermon he talked about the friendship between David and Jonathan. The friendship between the two was quite remarkable. This week we have the opportunity to go deep into their story. Enjoy!
Comments about the devotion can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, August 24
Read 1 Samuel 18:1-9
These verses are the start of a description of the friendship between David & Jonathan. Jonathan was the heir to the throne of king Saul. But in this story he gave up the throne to David. There was a connection between the two. Jonathan loved David just as he loved his own soul. People have argued what type of love Jonathan and David shared. For the point of this devotion we can see that they became deep friends—perhaps best friends.
Jonathan’s love for David was a reflection of what Jesus taught many years later. Jonathan loved David as Jonathan loved himself.
Jonathan made a covenant with David. This covenant was based on the Hebrew word, hesed, or loyalty. The two were very loyal to each other.
In each of our own lives we have different best friends. Take some time to reflect on the different times of your life and who was your best friend during that time. Think about right now. Who is your best friend? How can you go the extra mile for your best friend? Spend some time praying with God about going the extra mile for your best friend.
Tuesday, August 25
Read 1 Samuel 19:1-7
In these verses Jonathan learned that his father, Saul, wanted to kill David. Saul became jealous of David. And his jealousy fueled his own hatred.
Jonathan stood up for David. He spoke well about David in front of his father. He shared how David had risked his life in his encounter with Goliath and that the nation of Israel had achieved a great victory because of David’s victory.
Saul listened to Jonathan and decided not to follow-up on his own desire to kill him.
Each of us have had times where people stood up for us. People defended us when we needed help. These actions were done by our friends. And this is what friends do for each other.
Reflect on a time in your own life when someone stood up for you.
And perhaps your own story of having someone defend you can inspire you to stand up for one of your friends. This is a way to go the extra mile.
Wednesday, August 26
Read 1 Samuel 20:35-42
Once again Saul became upset with David. Saul’s jealousy kept fueling his own hatred of David. This time Jonathan could not convince Saul to let go of his hatred.
Saul had to give a secret sign to David. He told David that the words he gave to the boy who was retrieving his arrows would be the signal about how Saul viewed David.
Jonathan didn’t view his friendship with David as something which would enrich his own life. Jonathan knew that David didn’t exist to serve his own needs. Instead Jonathan went the extra mile to help David.
People who go the extra mile to help their friends will be remembered. We might not even remember the story of Jonathan and David if Jonathan hadn’t been so willing to help David.
Jonathan’s loyalty to David is an example to us.
How can you express this loyalty with a friend today? To whom can you go the extra mile?
Thursday, August 27
Read 1 Samuel 23:15-18
This is the last time that David and Jonathan are together face-to-face in this story. We can feel the poignancy and sorrow that each of them experience.
Before they left each other, they made a covenant with each other. It was a promise.
We can sense how important faith was to David & Jonathan. Faith connected the two as friends.
Who would be a friend with whom you can share faith? This is a person with whom we would have no problem sharing what is happening in our faith life. We look forward to talking about God with this person.
Each of us needs this type of “faith friend.” Who would yours be?
If you don’t have such a friend, spend some time talking to God today about who could be this friend.
Friday, August 28
Read 2 Samuel 1:1-16
Losing a close friend is something that none of us wants to experience. In this story David learns that Jonathan (and Saul also) have been killed in a battle. Along with others, David mourned and wept and fasted. He was very sad.
Have we had a friend who we have lost? A friend who is so close to us that we have mourned and wept and were so full of sorrow that we couldn’t eat?
If we have had such an experience, spend some time thinking about the legacy of the friend who you have lost. What was good about the person? What lessons from your friend do you carry with you? What are some experiences you shared with your friend that you will never forget?
Saturday, August 29
Read 2 Samuel 1:17-27
In his own grief David sang this song for Jonathan and for Saul. It’s significant that even though Saul had wanted to kill David, David still grieved his passing.
The connection that David shared in these verses was very deep. Look at verse 26
“I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love for women.” (2 Samuel 1:26)
David and Jonathan shared a deep love of friendship. The way they stood up for each other and cared for each other is a model for our friendships, even as we live thousands of years later. Today as you pray, pray that your friendships can look like the friendship between the two.
None of us can ever experience grace too deeply. When we embrace grace in our heart, we become new people. This can be a daily process. This week we have the opportunity to read six Scriptures and devotional readings about the gift of grace. May your own heart burn with love for God as a result of your reading these six Scriptures and devotionals.
Monday, August 17
Read Genesis 4:8-16
This might at first seem an odd story to read when discussing the idea of grace. The story is a difficult one. Cain killed Abel, and then God punished Cain. Where is the grace?
In verse 15 we read that God put a mark on Cain so that Cain would not be killed by anyone. This mark is a sign of grace. One way to think of grace is “something that which we receive which we don’t deserve.” Cain didn’t deserve this protection from God—but God still provided it.
One of the most significant obstacles to a grace-filled life is the belief that we don’t need grace and to fail to see that grace is a gift—we don’t deserve it.
Cain didn’t deserve to be protected from others because he killed Abel; however God was still willing to extend grace. Today as we pray, may we recognize all the benefits that each of us don’t deserve to receive from God—but we still receive these benefits. This is grace!
Tuesday, August 18
Read Psalm 86:14-17
The Psalmist compared a band of ruffians to God in these last verses. The ruffians are trying to seek the Psalmists’ life. By contrast God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
People in the world treat us sometimes based on what they think we deserve. If we have been especially nice and kind and considerate to them, they will do the same back to us. If we are mean and nasty, we might receive that too.
God doesn’t treat us based on what we deserve. If we received grace according to our behavior, none of us could last. Grace is a free gift given without condition by God.
For some people this idea of receiving something from God without condition is hard. We are programmed to think that only if we are extra good will God pour out grace upon us.
This is not only a false idea, but it’s inconsistent with the Bible. We don’t deserve grace, but God is more than willing to give it! Hallelujah!
Wednesday, August 19
Read Psalm 145:1-9
This Psalm was written in an alphabet acrostic style. The writer took the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet to start the first word of the first verse; the first word of the second verse was started with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. This continued through every verse.
The Psalmist knew the story of the golden calf and Moses which we read last week. In verse eight of this Psalm he quoted the identity of God that God revealed to Moses.
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 145:8
Carry this verse around with you today. You might consider writing it down and carrying it in your pocket. You might consider sharing it with a friend or even a stranger. This verse shares the character of God! What a wonderful message to embrace and proclaim!
Thursday, August 20
Read Luke 1:26-30
When Gabriel appeared to Mary the angel shared a message that changed the world. We know that Gabriel shared the announcement that Jesus was going to come into the world.
Within this overall message is Gabriel’s declaration in verse 30 that Mary had found favor with God. This is a definition of grace! We could replace our name with the name of Mary in this verse. Try that today.
Do not be afraid, (Your name,) you have found favor with God!
Repeat this message over and over today. Write this message on a piece of paper and carry it with you today. The message should give us confidence that we are always loved by God. Imagine God taking a picture of us, looking at the picture and then declaring that we are beautiful.
Just by being human we have found favor with God. Yay, God that God loves us so deeply!
Friday, August 21
Read Mark 2:1-12
In addition to finding favor with God grace is the forgiveness of our sins. Our sins are like a weight that prevent us from moving forward on our journey of faith. They weigh us down.
Through Jesus God removes this weight from us.
We don’t deserve this gift of grace. If anything we deserve condemnation. Think of how you might feel towards a person who hurts you. Most likely you want to lash out at the person, and perhaps respond with judgment because of the pain that we are experiencing.
God doesn’t look at us this way. God could punish us for our sins, but God instead gives us grace. We are released.
As John wrote: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” We are free! We are not condemned.
Saturday, August 22
Read Galatians 5:1-13
For freedom Christ has set us free! (Galatians 5:10) The Apostle Paul began these thirteen verses by making the case for Christian freedom. He essentially wrote that a power exists in grace that we won’t receive by following a law. In this passage circumcision represents the law.
The assurance we receive through the gift of grace doesn’t happen when we follow a religious law. Following religious laws are important—in particular the 10 Commandments; however the power we receive from grace is very different than the power we receive in following a law. Grace and the law represent two very different spheres of power
We first focus on receiving the gift of grace. Through that process we will want to follow God. If our hearts were completely full of grace we wouldn’t even need a law because we would naturally do the right thing. The law wouldn’t be a restriction on our lives; instead we would want to follow the law. Our hearts would be so full of love.
This past Sunday Pastor Paul preached on being a peacemaker and what a person can do to combine peace with justice. To learn about justice we can turn to the Old Testament prophets. They frequently teach about justice and how justice relates to people’s lives. This week we have the opportunity to read a passage about justice in six different prophetic books in the Old Testament. We will learn that each of them looks at justice a bit differently.
Information in this devotion was compiled from a variety of sources. One important source that informed the information in this week’s devotion was Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Enjoy!
Monday, August 10
Read Amos 5:14-15, 21-24
The book of Amos was written in the 8th century before Jesus. The man called Amos was a shepherd and possibly a man who owned land that was able to support sycamore figs that were given to cattle.
God was upset with the people of Israel because they had neglected justice. He couldn’t stand their religious assemblies or their offerings or their songs. What God wanted from the people was a commitment to justice that sprung from their hearts.
In this book justice meant treating people who were poor with dignity. It meant not ignoring them or their plight.
Amos 5:24 is a very famous Scripture – Martin Luther King Jr quoted it in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham jail.” The Scripture can be instructive as people in the United States come to terms with our country’s racial history.
The Scripture is this: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an every-flowing stream.”
In your life may you let justice roll down today!
Tuesday, August 11
Read Hosea 2:16-20
The book of Hosea was written in the 8th century before Jesus. The book is the first of the twelve minor prophets. The first three chapters of Hosea share a metaphor of Hosea’s relationship with a prostitute. This relationship mirrors that relationship between God and Israel. The people of Israel were going off to worship and serving other Gods. God’s heart was broken by the idolatry of the people.
In these verses from the second chapter God presented a vision of the relationship between God and Israel. The words are beautiful. “I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.” Hosea 2:19-20
These words could be the basis for anyone’s wedding vows.
Think about your most important relationships. How can you live out these words and in particular the call for righteousness and justice in those relationships? Talk to God about this today.
Wednesday, August 12
Read Jeremiah 22:1-5
The man named Jeremiah was a priest in the line of King David and a descendant of Abiathar. He received a call from God to be a prophet when he was a young man, perhaps as old as a teenager, Jeremiah 1:4-10
In these verses for today God asked Jeremiah to go to the place where the king lived and proclaim a message. If this story happened in the United States, we could imagine Jeremiah going to the White House and sharing this message.
The message that Jeremiah shared was to act with justice and righteousness and go out of the way to help those on the margins of the world—the alien (person from another country), the orphan, and the widow.
This message is similar to the message of Matthew 25. “Whatever you do to the least of these my brethren you do it to me.”
We can learn from these words that God has a special place in the divine heart for those who are on the margins. God wants to see justice done.
Thursday, August 13
Read Isaiah 42:1-4
Isaiah is the longest of the Old Testament prophets. The book can be divided into three sections. Isaiah 1-39 happened before the exile; Isaiah 40-55 happened after the exile of the people; Isaiah 56-65 happened when the people were returning to Jerusalem.
Today’s reading is one of the four servant songs in Isaiah. The other three servant songs are 49:1-7, 50:4-11 & 52:13-52:12.
Some see this story as a foreshadowing of Jesus.
We read in these four verses that God put the divine spirit into a person. And that person would bring forth justice to the nations. The servant would follow God to do what was right and bring care to those who are most vulnerable.
In the last verse we read that the servant would not grow faint until justice has been established in the earth.
From the beginning of the servant’s life to the end, doing and creating justice was vital.
Friday, August 14
Read Micah 6:6-8
The person named Micah was a prophet from the Judean town of Moresheth. Micah was active as a prophet in the 8th century.
The book of Micah is one of the twelve books in the Old Testament that are known as the minor prophets. Having the word “minor” as a description does not make the book less important than the “major” prophets. It indicates that the book is shorter than the major prophets.
These verses from Micah are very famous.
“What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking with humility are all significant parts of the life of a disciple.
How do you do on these three. How would you rate yourself on each of the three on a scale from one to ten with ten being the highest? Spend some time reflecting with God on these important questions.
Saturday, August 15
Read Ezekiel 34:11-16
Ezekiel was a man who was a prophet from 594 BCE to 574 BCE. He was the son of a priest and was one of the people who had to go into exile to Babylon.
Most people know the 37th chapter of Ezekiel where Ezekiel talked about the dry bones and the life that was brought to the dry bones.
In this 34th chapter Ezekiel shared that God was like a shepherd. “I [God] will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.”
People can never escape that which is right. Justice is at the core of the universe.
In his “Character of a Christian” sermon this past Sunday, Pastor Paul explored what it means to be informed by Scripture. An important question for each of us is to ask how deeply Scripture impacts our own life. How deeply does Scripture inform us?
In his sermon this past Sunday, Pastor Paul encouraged everyone to read the Bible every day.
This week we have the opportunity to read some important Scriptures. Knowing these Scriptures will help each of us be informed by Scripture. Enjoy!
Monday, August 3
Read 2 Timothy 2:14-15, 3:15-17
These two Scriptures from 2 Timothy have been used to justify a literal interpretation of Scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote that “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness …” 2 Timothy 3:16
Paul wasn’t making the case that every word of the Bible is useful to learn about salvation. Paul was sharing the importance of Scripture for teaching us and training us in righteousness.
Think of this Scripture as looking out a window in an airplane. It shares the 35,000-foot level on the role of Scripture.
Paul would most likely be very sad if he witnessed the battles and arguments over the Bible that have taken place since he lived. He wrote in the first reading that we are to avoid wrangling over words—even words of Scripture.
These verses don’t share that every word in the Bible is completely important. They do share the importance of knowing the themes of the Bible to instruct us in the ways of salvation and training in righteousness.
Tuesday, August 4
Read Hebrews 1:1-4; John 1:1-4
Over time the church has come to believe and teach that Jesus is the Word of God. When we read Scriptures we think of them in how they would relate to the teaching of Jesus. In fact, the teaching of Jesus is like a strainer through which we understand the Bible. If a verse or teaching isn’t consistent with the teaching of Jesus, then it is not as authoritative in our life.
Jesus is the Word, and Word in this case is spelled with a capital “W.”
John wrote it best at the start of his gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was 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.”
We find life when the words of Scripture lead us to experience the message that Jesus taught!
Wednesday, August 5
Read Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Luke 15:11-24
Sometimes even Scriptures are not consistent. This doesn’t negate the power of the Bible. It reveals the importance of interpreting the message of Scripture.
If everyone followed the first reading, no male children would still be alive. For every male child (and female too) have had some experience of rebelliousness. The message in this passage is not consistent with the message of Jesus.
The man in the story in Luke that is known as “The Prodigal Son” didn’t follow these words in Deuteronomy. If he had followed these words, he would never have welcomed back his son. And Jesus would have never lifted up the father as an example of grace.
Not only did the father in the story not look to punish the younger son, but he ran to him when the younger son came back. Before the younger son could even get a word out of his mouth, the father was welcoming and loving the son.
All of us are grateful for the witness of this story! It shares how deeply God loves and accepts us.
Thursday, August 6
Read Luke 10:25-28
One central message that Jesus taught was the importance of loving people. Jesus taught how to live out “agape” love, or self-sacrificing love.
Perhaps the greatest act you can do today is to go out of your way to share agape love with someone. Think how you can sacrifice in a way that is helpful to a person. Getting attention is not important; instead communicating agape love through your words or your actions is most important.
All of us are fortunate that Jesus was so clear about what is so important in our faith life. Love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as we love yourselves.
Friday, August 7
Read John 8:1-11
In this story Jesus found himself being tested in a way that many of us can understand. Somebody puts us in a box.
In this story Jesus faced this dilemma. If he responded one way he would be accused of not following the Scriptures; if he responded another way he might be causing harm to someone.
Jesus masterfully responded to this situation. He wasn’t going to ask that the woman caught in the act of adultery be stoned. Even if the religious laws did communicate that the woman should be stoned, the heart of Jesus never would have allowed it.
In this story, Jesus wrote something in the dirt. Wouldn’t you have liked to have known what he wrote? What would you imagine that he wrote? Perhaps he wrote, “don’t hurt this woman” or “do not judge if you don’t want to be judged” or “this woman can be helped more through love and less through judgment.”
Today as you pray, ask God to help you respond to situations with the skill that Jesus did in this story. Pray that your heart can be more loving and less judging.
Saturday, August 8
Read John 4:7-26
Everyone was surprised that Jesus would talk to a woman who was a Samaritan. The woman was surprised; and the disciples were surprised when they came onto the scene.
Jesus was willing to break the rules of his day in order to help someone.
His actions are less about breaking the rules than his desire to help. Jesus taught that what was most important was to love. If something got in the way of that love, then perhaps it needn’t be followed.
His actions were widely misinterpreted by others. Their misinterpretation was rooted in their inability to see the purpose off the religious law and Scriptures. The religious laws and Scriptures were not an end in themselves. They pointed to something deeper.
This is how we can understand Scripture. They point to something much greater than the words that they share. They point towards experiencing the love and life that God offers.
When we live with compassion we connect to a life-force that will always bring people together. When we live with compassion we share the best parts of our heart with others.
Compassion is not something that is necessarily natural to many of us. It takes practice and role models to live with compassion. This week we have the opportunity to read stories in the Bible about compassion. Enjoy!
Monday, July 27
Read Luke 10:25-37
The word that is translated as pity in verse 33 really should be translated as compassion. In many other places in the Bible the word “splanchizomai” is translated as compassion, and not pity.
Pity can be an attitude of the head. It’s looking at a situation and knowing that someone is suffering, but pity doesn’t motivate someone to help. Pity looks at the world and identifies that suffering exists, but pity doesn’t motivate someone to take action.
Compassion is different. When a person experiences compassion, the person’s innards reaches out to someone. It’s as if our heart is touched and goes out to someone. It doesn’t matter how fruitless it might be to help; compassion motivates a person to help.
Some people aren’t gifted with compassion. For these people it’s important to cultivate compassion. Compassion can be a learned behavior. Some people do have the gift of compassion. They can be role models for responding to pain.
How can you cultivate compassion inside of you today?
Tuesday, July 28
Read Colossians 3:12-17
This reading from Paul’s letter called Colossians, exhibits a vision of a person’s spiritual heart. The lining of that heart is compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Colossians 3:12b.
It’s not an accident that compassion is the first quality on the list. Paul recognized that compassion is the start of the lining of a person’s spiritual heart.
Later in these verses Paul told the readers of his letter to let the “peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15) This peace is the peace that passes all understanding that Paul wrote about in Philippians. Philippians 4:7
This peace results from compassion. And it is not dependent on a situation. We can experience this peace whether we are married or not, rich or poor, successful or not, happy or sad. This peace is a profoundly spiritual quality that does not necessarily happen because of something that is happening in our physical world.
Since compassion is so spiritual it requires prayer. Consider praying for compassion today. Pray for it at the start of every hour; pray for it when you see a certain item like a blue car or a colorful bird; pray for it when someone addresses you by name. Be intentional and consistent about talking to God today about compassion.
Wednesday, July 29
Read Psalm 103:6-14
Fortunately God is a God of compassion. The character of God is compassion. The word “compassion” is not used in these verses, but we can see how “compassion” could be substituted for any of these qualities of God that are recognized.
“The Lord is merciful and gracious slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 103:8
If you ever wanted a more complete definition of compassion this fourteen-word sentence shares it.
Consider memorizing these 14 words. Carrying around through memory this description of God will help us live with compassion. If God is a God of compassion, then it’s worth spending a significant amount of time training ourselves on how to live with compassion.
Thursday, July 30
Read Judges 21:1-7
The tribe of Benjamin had been expelled from the nation of Israel. The tribe had been defeated in a vicious civil war.
The people of the tribe could have been permanently expelled from Israel. But somehow the people of Israel mustered compassion.
“But the Israelites had compassion for Benjamin their kin, and said ‘One tribe is cut off from Israel this day. What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them any of our daughters as wives.” Judges 21:6.
The nation was spared division because the leaders had compassion. They connected to a spiritual force that led to unity.
We might have people we can think of who deserve our anger. Instead of responding with anger, could we respond with compassion. Pray about this today.
Friday, July 31
Read Matthew 14:1-14
The actions of helping people come from the compassion in our heart. This story reveals how this works.
This is a terrible story where John the Baptist is killed because King Herod did not want to lose face in front of Herodias and the daughter of Herodias. Instead of facing the truth and reality of a situation, Herod had John the Baptist killed.
Jesus was deeply grieved about what happened. “Now when Jesus heard this [the death of John the Baptist] he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” Matthew 14:13
The crowds wouldn’t let Jesus be by himself. The crowds were so captivated about what Jesus was offering to them that the crowds found Jesus in this deserted place.
How would you respond if you wanted some time to yourself because something horrible happened, but a group of people wouldn’t let you grieve in silence? Many of us would have lashed out in anger and frustration at the crowds. Jesus shared a different response. He responded with compassion. (Matthew 14:14) We could have understood if he had responded with judgment.
Without this response of compassion the crowds never would have been fed and we wouldn’t know about this story.
Saturday, August 1
Read Luke 15:11-32
This story presents a terrific contrast between compassion and judgment. The younger brother in the story messed up. He had taken the money from his father and squandered it carelessly. The younger son knew he had messed up. He was going to ask for forgiveness.
The father would have had every reason to treat his younger son with judgment. The younger son even knew himself that he deserved this judgment. But the father didn’t respond with judgment. He responded in a different way—with compassion.
The older brother responded in a way much of the world would understand. He wanted to punish the younger brother. He judged him.
None of us would know about this story if the father had responded with judgement. His response of compassion makes the story memorable.
We will most likely be remembered long after we pass away if we respond to situations with compassion and not judgment. Cultivate the compassion inside of you. It will cause you to be remembered!
This week we have the opportunity to learn more about the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is the most important prayer in the universe. Many people know the prayer, but how many of us know where we can find the prayer in the Bible? Or that the prayer is connected to the Old Testament. And how the prayer is relevant for our own lives today.
Monday, July 20
Read Matthew 6:5-15
Adult Israelite males were expected to pray morning and evening in the direction of Jerusalem. They would recite long prayers by memory. Jesus changed the direction of prayer in his time by sharing a short, easy prayer to remember that was meaningful to the people who prayed it. We know the prayer, of course, as the Lord’s Prayer.
The phrases of this prayer are not empty like the prayers the Israelite males said. The Lord’s Prayer has two sets of three petitions. The first set of petitions starts with God. We hallow God’s name; we pray for God’s Kingdom; we pray that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. The second set of petitions has to do with human requests. We pray for daily bread; we pray to be forgiven and to forgive others; we pray that we do not experience temptation and are delivered from evil.
These two sets of petitions are clear and memorable.
The audience of this prayer, of course, is God. We’re not trying to impress others by praying piously or by sharing long, flowery prayers. The Lord’s Prayer is an honest prayer that gets to the core of what is important.
Tuesday, July 21
Read Luke 11:1-3
The disciples became interested in prayer when they saw that Jesus was praying. The disciple who asked Jesus, “Lord teach us to pray,” probably wouldn’t have asked if he hadn’t seen Jesus praying.
Jesus modeled the importance of abiding with Abba, Father. His prayer life became an example to his followers.
We can become examples of prayer with others. Too often we think of prayer as personal and private—but Jesus didn’t view prayer this way. He talked about prayer and taught about prayer and encouraged his followers to pray.
On July 12, Pastor Paul preached about the importance of talking about our prayer lives. Look for ways to talk about your prayer life with others. If you have a prayer partner, perhaps today is a day to contact that person. If you don’t have a prayer partner, share what is happening in your prayer life with a friend or family member.
Sharing our prayer lives with others might seem a bit odd at first, but when we do it over time we will become more comfortable. Sharing our prayer lives with others can help us grow in our own relationship with God.
With whom can you talk about your prayer life today?
Wednesday, July 22
Read 1 Chronicles 29:10-13
The Lord’s Prayer that is used in worship by churches is a bit longer than the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer in the gospels. The part of the Lord’s Prayer that is added is called the doxology. That part of the prayer is:
“For thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.”
This doxology is based on a prayer that David offered to God. This prayer can be found in 1 Chronicles 29:11.
“Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11
In the past Pastor Paul has often described this part of the prayer with three words, “It’s all yours.” Everything that we have is God’s. Every part of our life belongs to God.
Use this verse as your prayer today. Consider memorizing it. Pray this verse over and over until it becomes part of you.
Thursday, July 23
Read Romans 8:12-17
The Apostle Paul wrote that when we cry, “Abba, Father,” we receive confirmation that we are children of God. The term “Abba” is a term of intimacy. It’s the way that Jesus addressed God in Jesus’ prayers. It’s as if Jesus was saying, “Papa.”
Unfortunately, some in the church have turned the term, “Father,” into a litmus test of faith. They won’t use the term because it reflects gender exclusivity; some others will only use the term “Father” because they want to claim the term.
“Father” is not a gender phrase. Instead it’s a phrase of intimacy. We are addressing God in an adoring and familiar way. It’s similar to the way a spouse may say “honey” or when a child says, “Daddy.” This is an intimate phrase that reflects love.
We can come up with our own intimate terms for God. Certainly “Father” can be one. What are some intimate terms for God that you use? Make a list of three phrases that reflect your own view of God. Use these phrases today as you address God in prayer.
Friday, July 24
Read Psalm 89:1-11
To start out the Lord’s Prayer by praying, “Hallowed be thy name” is to praise God. We are praising God that God’s name is holy.
Praising God is a wonderful way to start out our prayers. In praise we praise God for certain qualities of God. In Psalm 89 David praised God for many divine attributes. Look at verse 1, “I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever.” We can almost imagine David singing out with the full sound of his lungs praising God.
Try praising God with this decibel level! If you feel comfortable, shout out praise to God. Shout out with such passion that other people in your residence will hear you. Why not! You want others to know of your praise for God!
Saturday, July 25
Read Matthew 4:12-17
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Praying for God’s kingdom connects us to Jesus’ message. Jesus taught his followers that the kingdom had come through him. Look at verse 17.
“From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”
One way to live out the kingdom is to pray for people who have different views on life than each of us do. Consider praying today for someone who will vote differently than you in the next election. To take it to the next level, consider contacting that person and sharing with the person that you’ve prayed for them. Don’t pray that the person will change their view. Instead pray for the person’s welfare and goodness. Pray that the person will continue to become the person God desires for him or her to be.