Select a link below to view past videos of sermons. Don’t forget to also check out Pastor Paul’s blog!
Sunday, November 28, 2021
The Best Christmas Ever – Spirit
Video featured above
Sunday, November 7, 2021
NEXT – Vision of the Future
Sunday, October 31, 2021
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Learning More about Mental Illness
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Learning about Mental Health
Sunday, October 10, 2021
Sunday, October 3, 2021
World Communion Sunday
Sunday, September 26, 2021
“What is a Church?” – Guest Preacher Chaplain Richard Bahr
Sunday, September 19, 2021
“Coming Up Short” – Guest Preacher Rev. Denise Dunbar-Perkins
Sunday, September 12, 2021
1 Corinthians Series – Spiritual Gifts
Sunday, September 5. 2021
1 Corinthians Series – Life – Death – Resurrection
Sunday, August 15, 2021
BAG GROCERIES AT CUB FOOD
Come bag groceries at Cub Food 12595 Central Ave NE, Blaine, Saturday, December 4 to raise funds for our partner organizations serving people experiencing homelessness or hunger. People can serve during a two-hour shift. The shifts are 9 to 11am; 11am to 1pm; 1pm to 3pm. Sign up at Chain of Lakes Church or on the Communication card on this website.
HOPE 4 YOUTH HOLIDAY DINNER
Sign up to bring food to the HOPE 4 Youth Holiday dinner Thursday, December 16, 6:30pm. Check the Communications card at church or at colpres.org.
ARE YOU IN NEED OF FOOD?
Drive Through Food Pick up Locations
Hope Church, Hope for the Community
1264 109th Ave NE
Blaine, MN 55434
Food Pick up Times:
Thursday ~ 10am – 5pm
If you are in line before the end time, you will receive food, while supplies last
ARE YOU AVAILABLE TO VOLUNTEER AT FOOD PICK-UP LOCATIONS?
Every Thursday, Hope for the Community at Hope Church, 1264 109th Avenue NE, Blaine, provides food for approximately 700 families.
Volunteer any time you are available Thursday between 9am – 5pm, or choose one of the suggested shifts: 10am – noon; noon – 2pm; 2pm – 5pm. Once you are there, ask for Jeff – he will give you instructions and get you started
Volunteers are also needed on Wednesdays, noon to 2:30 to prepare for Thursday.
- Blaine High School
- Anoka Regional High School
- Anoka Technical High School
- Spring Lake Park School District
- River Trail Learning Center at L.O. Jacob
Monday, December 6
Read Genesis 25:19-34
This week we are going to read the story of Jacob and Esau. It’s a story that can help us in our own personal relationships.
Jacob and Esau were twins. And they were very different people. Esau was a skillful hunter while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents.
Right away we read about an alliance that happened in their family. Isaac loved Esau; Rebekah loved Jacob. The story doesn’t say this, but we get the sense that Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob and Rebekah loved Jacob more than Esau.
As Pastor Paul shared in his sermon on Sunday it’s natural to have alliances with some people. We can relate better to some people than others. When it comes to our family, we might find ourselves getting along with one person much easier than another person. That is normal.
But it’s not normal to have an alliance at the expense of another person.
Having favorites is normal. Having favorites at the expense of other relationships is not healthy.
Have you had an experience where people had favorites at the expense of other relationships? The experience could have been painful. But sharing the experience can be helpful. So if this has happened or you’ve seen it happen, please share.
Tuesday, December 7
Read Genesis 27:1-29
Rebekah and Jacob manipulated the situation at the expense of Esau.
We can see Rebekah’s manipulation. She wanted Jacob to receive the blessing from Isaac. When she heard what was going to happen, she made a plan with Jacob’s consent to take the blessing from Esau and give it to Jacob.
Jacob consented in the plan too. He could have told his mother that what they were doing was wrong. He could have refused to participate in the scheme.
Both participated in a lie.
We might find some of this manipulation amusing, but the manipulation came at a great cost.
Can you remember a situation of manipulation like this? An experience where someone used a situation to advance their own interests in a deceitful way and as a result another person was hurt. Perhaps you were the victim of a situation like this. Or perhaps you found yourselves involved in a situation like this.
With discretion, please do share.
Wednesday, December 8
Read Genesis 27:30-44
Esau was the victim in this story. The blessing that was his was deceitfully given to Jacob. He had every reason to be angry.
But Esau certainly didn’t handle his anger in an appropriate way. He not only hated Jacob, he wanted to kill him.
The word for “hate” comes from the Hebrew word that is transliterated as “salam.” It means to bear a grudge or to cherish animosity against a person.
Often a person as a victim can nurse a grudge for a long time against a person. The person might even receive some benefit from thinking and reflecting on how deeply the person was hurt. Being hurt by another person is not appropriate and not healthy. To nurse a grudge or hate a person is also not appropriate or healthy.
Rebekah could see that deep trouble was happening. She told Jacob to escape for she knew that Esau was planning to kill Jacob. The alliances in the family were now out in the open and causing extreme pain.
Do you know of someone who has been a victim who has nursed a grudge for a long time? Perhaps you are the person! As you pray today, pray that people can release grudges and can let go of their hate.
Thursday, December 9
Read Genesis 28:1-22
Because of what happened Jacob and Esau would not live in the same location. They left. Before they left Jacob received another blessing from Isaac; Esau also received a blessing from Isaac.
At the end of this chapter, we read of Jacob having a very intense dream. God shared with Jacob that God would be with Jacob and some day Jacob would come back to the land from which he was leaving.
God never shared in the dream that what Jacob did was okay. But through the words that God shared we get the sense that God forgave Jacob. Jacob did not deserve forgiveness (and in reality, who does deserve forgiveness?), but Jacob received it.
Have you had an experience where you did something wrong and had an experience of forgiveness? Perhaps your experience of forgiveness came in a dream. The forgiveness gave you a sense of relief.
Please share your experience.
Friday, December 10
Read Genesis 32:1-32
Jacob wanted to experience reconciliation with Esau. Meeting with Esau caused Jacob significant anxiety. The night before he met with Esau, Jacob wrestled with an angel. Jacob permanently walked with a limp because of that encounter.
Jacob spent a lot of time talking to messengers from God about the possible encounter with Esau.
We might have had a time that we experienced reconciliation with someone. It could have been a time when we hurt someone and wanted to offer our apology. Or perhaps someone hurt us and reached out to us and offered an apology.
These moments of reaching out are nerve-wracking. We can see the anxiety of Jacob in this story.
Have you had an experience where you reached out to someone you had hurt, or someone who hurt you reached out to you. What happened? Please share.
Saturday, December 11
Read Genesis 33:1-17
Years of bitterness were let go in this story. Jacob was worried how Esau would treat him. This is why he put four hundred men in front of him.
Esau was ready to let go of the past. The story is so beautiful. “But Esau ran to meet [Jacob], and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”
The two experienced reconciliation.
The possibility of reconciliation can keep us going during difficult times.
You might have had a story like this—a time when past bitterness was let go. Or you might know of another person who had a story like this.
If you know of a story like this or have had a story like this, please share.
Monday, November 29
Read Luke 1:13-17
This past Sunday, Pastor Paul talked about being full of Spirit as we live through Advent in 2021. This week in the devotion we are going to look at stories in Luke and Acts of people being filled with the Spirit. Being full of Spirit can certainly help us experience the best Christmas ever.
Even before John was born the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that John would be full of the spirit. Gabriel told Zechariah that John would turn many people to God during John’s lifetime. He would have the intensity of Elijah as John shared his message with people.
John was inspiring. His presence was commanding with people.
All of us have times in our life when we’ve been inspired—they might even be times when we have felt that God was inspiring us. In this way we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
When have you had a time like this—a time when you felt inspired that God was touching you and helping you and encouraging you to do something? What were the circumstances of your own story? Please share.
Tuesday, November 30
Read Luke 1:41-45
Elizabeth did not know that her relative Mary was coming to visit her. Elizabeth also did not know that Mary was pregnant. Mary had been told by Gabriel that Elizabeth was pregnant, but Elizabeth had not been told.
What a deep moment of connection Elizabeth must have had when she saw Mary. The connection was even more when the child leaped in Elizabeth’s womb.
It was as if Elizabeth had clarity about the world at that moment. It was like an “Aha” moment. Now everything made sense.
This is partly what Luke meant when he wrote that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She had a sense of clarity about what was happening.
All of us have had moments like this. They are moments when we suddenly are clear about something that has been happening. Perhaps we were confused or misunderstood an event. But at this moment our confusion and misunderstanding were taken away.
When we have these moments, we are full of the Holy Spirit.
When have you had moments like these? Please share.
Wednesday, December 1
Read Luke 4:1-15
Jesus was full of the Spirit at the start of this story and at the end of this story. The Holy Spirit helped Jesus in different ways in each part of the story.
At the beginning the Spirit helped Jesus as the Devil confronted Jesus. Jesus hadn’t eaten and was alone. He was tempted three times. It was possible that Jesus could have made the wrong decision, because by definition temptation means someone could choose the wrong path.
Of course, Jesus didn’t choose the wrong path. The Holy Spirit had to have helped Jesus. The next time you are tempted ask the Holy Spirit for direction and help.
At the conclusion of the story Jesus was full of the Spirit as he began to teach in the synagogues of Galilee. Most of us have memories of someone who preached or taught in a very powerful way. We might have even said that the person was full of the Spirit. This was Jesus, full of the Spirit, teaching in synagogues.
When can you remember hearing someone speak where you felt the person was filled with the Spirit. What was the experience like? What do you remember? Please share.
Thursday, December 2
Read Luke 15:20
The father saw his younger son and was filled with compassion. Pastor Paul has shared that compassion comes from the Greek word, “splanchizomai.” This word comes from the form, “splancha.” It literally means guts.
It’s as if the father’s guts went out to his son when he saw him. He was full of love and care and concern.
All of us have had these types of experiences. We saw something happen and our insides were literally turned upside down. We were touched deeply. We were filled!
Luke didn’t write that the father was filled with the Holy Spirit. But we can imagine that he was. This deep level of care for another person is in indication that the Spirit is near.
These types of experiences are important for our development as a follower of Jesus. Jesus wanted his followers to be full of compassion.
When have you had this type of experience, that is being filled with compassion? Please share.
Friday, December 3
Read Acts 2:1-4
This is the only story in the Bible where a group of people were filled with the Holy Spirit. All of the other stories are of one person being filled with the Holy Spirit.
It was quite a scene when this group of people were filled with the Holy Spirit. People started talking in their native language. Even though they spoke in different languages, everyone could understand each other.
You might have had an experience where you were in a group where a collective wave of emotion went through people. Perhaps at a large concert or a large sporting event. The group suddenly might have felt connected to each other. There was a common purpose or experience that was very meaningful to people.
This can also happen in worship. When people gather together for worship the Holy Spirit will often move among the group. The people who are present experienced something that is hard to explain. The people were touched by something that was far beyond themselves.
Have you had a moment where you were in a group and there was a collective sense of connection? Perhaps the experience did happen in worship. Please share!
Saturday, December 4
Read Acts 13:44-52
Being filled with the Spirit does not mean that only pleasant things will happen. In this story many people were gathered to hear Paul and Barnabus speaking. Many were turning to God.
Unfortunately, the Jews were upset and threatened about what had happened. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabus.
Look at what Luke wrote about how the disciples responded, [they] were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit can come in all sorts of situations—good, bad, scary.
Though an external circumstance might not turn out well, the Spirit can give us a sense of peace.
Do you have a story of having a sense of God’s presence or being filled with the Spirit even when an external circumstance is not going well? Please share.
Monday, November 22
Read Romans 5:1-11
We have many reasons to be thankful. We can feel the blessings of family, a good job, financial security, a place to live, hobbies and activities that give us meaning, our health. Unfortunately, all of these can be taken away from us. When our own thanks is dependent on an external circumstance, we can find ourselves in misery.
The basis of our thanks is our faith. In this passage to the Romans Paul wrote about the love of God that is poured out to us. At the right time Christ died for us. Because of this we have peace with God—access to grace.
May our own hearts burn with love and thanks to God. In previous sermons I’ve asked people to compare their love for God with the temperature of an oven. What temperature is your love for God today? The more we appreciate and give thanks for grace, the hotter is our own love.
Today as you pray, meditate on the gift of grace that we have been given. Open yourself up to the understanding that because of Christ we have a relationship with a God who will always love us and care for us deeply. Our only response to this gift is our thanks.
What is the temperature for your own love for God? Please share.
Tuesday, November 23
Read Luke 17:11-19
This was the New Testament reading from this past Sunday. Imagine that you were one of the lepers who was healed. As a leper you were ostracized by the community. You most likely lived in a leper colony on the outskirts of the town. People thought you were unclean. Some regulations called for you to say the words “unclean, unclean” when someone approached you. You were also a Samaritan, so you were different religiously compared to many others.
Jesus changed all of that for you. He told you to go to a priest and when you encountered a priest you were not afflicted with leprosy anymore. You were healed.
The only appropriate response is thanks. As Jesus noted it’s puzzling that the other nine lepers didn’t come back to share their thanks with Jesus.
We know that giving thanks is the right thing to do. The place to start is to appreciate all that God has given to us. The leper who returned understood the gift he had been given.
Today as you pray, give thanks to God for all that you have received from God. Give thanks for the healing that God offers to us.
Wednesday, November 24
Read Psalm 92:1-4
The superscription for this Psalm says it is a song for the Sabbath Day. We can imagine people singing this song to God in worship on the Sabbath. This is the only Psalm of the 150 Psalms where a superscription of “A Song for the Sabbath Day” is written.
Our worship of God is a way to express thanks. When we gather with others we offer the community’s thanks to God for all that we have received.
Take some time to write out all that you are thankful for in 2021. Make a list of 10-15 events that have happened in 2021 for which you give thanks. When you’ve completed the list read these four verses from Psalm 92 again.
Consider sharing your list of what you are thankful!
Thursday, November 25
Read Luke 9:10-17
Happy Thanksgiving! May your day be filled with joy! May your feast and festivities be similar to what the 5,000 must have experienced when they were fed with a loaf and two fish.
When the Pilgrims started the tradition of Thanksgiving in 1621 they were filled with joy at a good harvest. Initially they did not have enough food to feed the 102 people of their colony. The Wampanoag Native Americans had helped the Pilgrims by providing them seeds and teaching them to fish.
The festival of Thanksgiving has come a long way from that celebration in 1621.
Today give thanks for all that you have. May your day be filled with a sense of gratitude for the gifts that surround you.
Friday, November 26
Read Galatians 5:16-26
In this passage Paul contrasted the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit that he shared in verses 22-23 come from out of our heart. The seeds of these fruits are our own thanks and gratitude.
Look at the difference between the person described in the first six verses and the person described in the last four verses. We have a choice about which person we will be. The choice starts with an orientation that we take towards thanks. When we are filled with thanks with all we have it’s easier to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we focus on what we lack, it’s easier to commit what Paul calls works of the flesh.
Today as you pray, pray that you will be the person described in the last four verses. Pray that we at Chain of Lakes can design ministries that encourage the people of our congregation to be these people. Pray that the people of the church worldwide will be people filled with the seeds of thanks and gratitude and people living out the fruits of the Spirit.
Saturday, November 27
Read Psalm 105:1-6
At the start of this Psalm Israel shared thanks to God. For the rest of the Psalm the writer of the Psalm recited the history of Israel. We can imagine these words being shared in a worship service. The history of the people prompted them to give thanks.
We can do the same for our own lives. Take some time to reflect or even write down three ways you are thankful for what has happened in the last 24 hours. What would they be? Take some time to thoughtfully come up with this list.
Then when you have your list, shower God with thanks. Let God know how deeply you appreciate each of the events.
In doing this exercise you are connecting with the writer of this Psalm. You are joining hands across history with someone who gave thanks for their history.
What are three ways you are thankful for what has happened in the last 24 hours? Please share.
Monday, November 15
Read Exodus 36:1-7
Generosity is an attitude that is not always influenced by circumstances in which people find themselves.
At this point in Exodus the Israelites were in the wilderness. Pastor Paul shared a few pictures of the wilderness in his sermon yesterday. It was a desolate place with limited food and limited water.
At one time in the wilderness the Israelites became upset because they didn’t receive any water. The place was so desolate that the people quarreled with Moses. (See Exodus 17:1-7)
Despite this desolate environment, in this part of the story the people responded with generosity. They wanted to honor God by building a tabernacle, or place to worship. The place had to be portable.
Bezalel and Oholiab were chosen to lead the construction of the tabernacle. They appealed to the people to bring offerings so the tabernacle could be constructed.
The people brought so many offerings that Moses was required to ask them to stop. It was as if he was saying, “you have been too generous!”
Who have you known who exhibits that level of generosity? An attitude of going above and beyond of what is asked. Please share!
Tuesday, November 16
Read Proverbs 3:5-10
First fruits giving is a way to be generous with God. The writer of this section of Proverbs recognized the value of first fruits giving.
“Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
Think of the difference between fresh food and leftovers. Obviously all of us would rather eat fresh food compared to something that is left over from other meals. Leftovers still might be tasty, but the quality is lost.
The same idea connects to first fruits giving. Giving the leftovers of our finances is much different than honoring God with the first fruits of what we have.
What are your thoughts about first fruits giving compared to sharing the leftovers? Please share.
Wednesday, November 17
Read Luke 21:1-4
The widow’s offering was nothing. Some think that the two small copper coins she shared were called leptons, which was the smallest currency of Roman coin.
But her generosity exceeded the generosity of the rich people who were putting gifts into the treasury. Even though the total amount of gifts that the rich people were sharing far exceeded the widow’s two coins, Jesus extolled the generosity of the widow.
Was the widow generous? For sure, yes! She was generous because she gave everything she had. The percentage of her gift compared to her wealth exceeded the percentage of gifts of the rich people’s wealth.
You might take some time and reflect on the percentage of your financial gifts that you give away. Do you know the percent?
The idea of a tithe makes sense—and it is a generous gift. When we give away ten percent of our pre-tax income, we are sharing our first fruits and we are sharing a significant percentage. A tithe is always a reflection of being generous.
Do you know of people who didn’t have many possessions, but were still very generous? Like the widow in this story? Please share.
Thursday, November 18
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-15
Our own generosity starts with understanding God’s generosity with us.
It’s interesting that when people were asked to give their offerings, they were asked to share what God had done for them. Pay special attention to verses five through ten. These verses are a recital of how God had helped the Israelites escape from Egypt and had led them to the Promised Land.
What does this story have to do with being generous? Everything. Before the people could give they were asked to remember the generosity of God. God had been so good and faithful with them that the people could not help remembering that when they shared their gifts.
Today take some time to reflect on this question—in what specific ways would you describe God as generous? Take some time to write out your response? Consider sharing your response on the Expressions of Faith Facebook page.
It’s very difficult to be generous if we can’t claim the generosity of God.
Friday, November 19
Read Luke 10:25-37
The Samaritan in this story was very generous with his time. The Priest didn’t see himself as having the time to stop for the man who was lying half-dead on the side of the road. The Levite didn’t see himself as having the time to stop to help the man who was lying half-dead on the side of the road.
But the Samaritan did.
Look at the amount of time the Samaritan shared to help the man. He was willing to get out of his own schedule to share his time. His willingness to be generous with his time is a significant reason that he is a hero.
When we are asked the question, “how are you?” what is one way that people often respond? “Busy.” When we say that, we are saying that we don’t have time for others. We might be busy, but to be generous is to be willing to take the time to get out of our own busyness to help.
Everyone is given the same amount of time in a day. But not everyone shares their time in the same way. Some people see themselves as too busy to share their time. Some people ignore their own busyness and are generous.
Who is a person you know who is very generous in the way he or she shares their time? Please share.
Saturday, November 20
Read 2 Corinthians 8: 1-15
If you have some extra time read the 8th and 9th chapters of 2 Corinthians. The Apostle Paul was encouraging his readers to make a gift for the Christians at Jerusalem.
In verse nine he talked about Jesus. He described him as generous. Some translations of generous are grace. Grace is a gift that is not earned.
When we are generous we are sharing gifts with people who don’t earn them. Sharing gifts with deserving people is wonderful. But what about sharing gifts with undeserving people? This is true generosity.
Do you have a story of someone sharing a gift with an undeserving person? That is true generosity.
Monday, November 8
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11
The idea of first fruits giving comes from God’s teachings to the Israelites as they prepared to enter into the Promised Land. God wanted the people to remember that this land where they would live was a gift to them. God had given them the gift.
The people were to respond by giving the first fruits from the land. This was an act of stewardship. God owned the land—the people were to give back the first fruits of God’s gift.
In this story giving is an act of worship. The priest would take the gift and set it down before the altar of God and recite the recent history of the Israelites.
This is an inspiring way to give! God asks us to give in the same way. As you consider your financial gifts to Chain of Lakes this week think about your gift as an act of worship. You are giving the first fruits of what you have back to God through the church.
What are some ways that you look at ownership? Is it hard to see that God owns everything that you have? Please share.
Tuesday, November 9
Read Luke 21:1-4
In Jesus’ day widows had nothing. The reason they had nothing was that a woman’s financial status was dependent on her husband. Throughout the Scriptures God asked people to take care of the widows.
Jesus explained the story in verses 3-4, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them [the rich people]; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.
Today as you pray, think about the widows in our own world. Think and reflect on the lives of those who are hurting and suffering. Think about what it would mean to give out of our own poverty. All of us are in much better financial shape than this widow. She gave extravagantly. We are called to do the same!
Our giving to Chain of Lakes is a way that we can give to the widows of our day.
When you give your money away, do you think about how you are helping the widows and poor in our world? Please share
Wednesday, November 10
Read Amos 4:1-5, 5:21-24
God was upset with the nation of Israel. These two passages are hard to read—for they are filled with anger and judgment with God. The people were bringing their sacrifices, tithes and worship, but their hearts were far from God. The poor were being exploited in a terrible way.
We can feel the irony in the last part of Amos 4:5. The people love to bring their offerings. But God wanted more than an offering. He shared with the people what he wanted in Amos 5:24 “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
This verse from Amos 5:24 is worth memorizing. No matter what we give to God, God desires justice and righteousness.
Today as you pray, pray for justice and righteousness in our country. Pray that we at Chain of Lakes can make an impact on the world through justice and righteousness. Pray that no matter what we give to God, we will always live out the call to justice and righteousness.
Thursday, November 11
Read Matthew 23:23-28
Like the Amos passage, these are hard verses to read. Jesus is angry. For us it’s important to get beneath his anger and try to understand what was making Jesus so mad. If you have a chance, read Matthew chapter 23.
The gift of mint, dill, and cumin went to support the Temple and the priests. The three herbs were the smallest of herbs. Jesus was not against the Pharisees making these gifts. These gifts were small in comparison to the weightier matters of justice and mercy and faith.
The comparison in verse 24 is almost comical. We can all imagine the size difference between a gnat and a camel. The Pharisees were so focused on the obligations of their faith that they were missing the big picture.
The condemnation of Jesus is not about giving and what the Pharisees gave; instead it’s the focus of the Pharisees.
As you pray today, pray that we at Chain of Lakes can always keep this big focus in front of us. May we give extravagantly, and may we stay focused on the big issues of justice, mercy & faith.
Friday, November 12
Read 1 Peter 4:7-11
Look at verse 10—again a verse that is worthy of memorizing: “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”
The notion of stewardship comes from this verse. You and I are stewards of God’s grace. Just as in the 15th century a steward oversaw the operations of a wealthy landowner, you and I are called to live out grace. Through all of our giving we are called to be a graceful people.
On Sunday everyone at Chain of Lakes will be asked to turn in their Estimate of Giving cards. As you pray today, pray that we at Chain of Lakes can be stewards of God’s grace; pray that we will give extravagantly, but we won’t miss the big issues of justice, mercy, and faith. Pray that our gifts will be a reflection of our love for God and the world that is in our heart.
Saturday, November 13
Read Matthew 28:16-20 & Mark 12:28-34
Today we read two passages because both are central to congregations being great. This greatness comes from the description of each passage. One is called the Great Commission and the other is called the Great Commandment.
In the first we read Jesus’ command to go make disciples. A disciple is a follower of Jesus. Other ways to think about a disciple is a student or someone who believes in the philosophy of a person. This is partly what it means to be a disciple. We are students of Jesus and people who believe in the philosophy of Jesus. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we become the people God desires us to be.
And in the second we read of the Great Commandment. We are called to love God with all of our heart and mind and soul and called to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Jesus shared that this Great Commandment is most important to him. Congregations can be evaluated on how well they help people live this Great Commandment out.
Now imagine a congregation that is passionate about the Great Commission and the Great Commandment!
Chain of Lakes is committed to being a place that lives out the Great Commission and Great Commandment.
As you share your Estimate of Giving card tomorrow, you are sharing your gift with a place that truly wants to be Great!
Monday, November 1
Read Genesis 1:26-27
Three times in these two verses we read that God created humans in the image of God. The writer of Genesis wanted to stress this important point, so the idea was repeated.
The English transliteration of the Hebrew word is tselem. It means image or likeness. It is a resemblance. Humans resemble God.
An old phrase that has been shared with children is “you are a chip off the old block.” You look like the person who created you.
As humans we are a chip off of the divine block.
This is important when it comes to culture. Beliefs about culture and other cultures can be dividing. Throughout history people of certain cultures have wanted to dominate other cultures.
Underneath our own culture is our humanity, and the reality that all of us are created in the image of the divine block.
When we see another culture, one helpful practice is to see the person underneath the culture. Instead of seeing a belief system, or a practice, or a certain appearance see the human. For that human is created as a chip off of the divine block.
What are some practices that can help you take on this perspective of others today? Please share.
Tuesday, November 2
Read Luke 9:51-55
Samaritans were different than Jews. Samaritans were a religious system. People who were Samaritans had some beliefs about religion similar to Jews. They traced their ancestory back to Moses; they believed that they learned about God through the Torah; they believed that God was one.
Samaritans also had some different beliefs than Jews. They believed that Mount Gerizim was their religious hub.
Even though they came from a common background, Samaritans and Jews grew to dislike each other. We can see this dislike in this story.
The Samaritans would not receive the word of Jesus. James and John saw what happened and wanted to see the village punished. Their desire for punishment came from a cultural belief that Samaritans were less than Jews. The two believed that if the Samaritans acted in a certain way that they deserved to be punished. James and John wanted to command fire from heaven to punish the village.
Jesus would have none of this. He did not view Samaritans as lesser than he viewed Jews. Even though Jesus was Jewish he would not let a tradition of enmity define how he would behave.
It’s easy to see “others” as less than us. It happens with culture all of the time.
How do you see this “otherness” displayed in our own culture? Please share.
Wednesday, November 3
Read Galatians 3:23-29
This reading from Paul’s letter reveals a central message from Jesus and from the Scriptures about culture. Everyone is a child of God. Verses 25-26 describe this well.
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”
Faith in Christ should lead us to reach out to people of different cultures.
At the end of this passage Paul set up some groups who are traditionally opposed to each other—Jew/Greek; slave/free; male/female. Paul’s message is that each of these different groups are still one in Christ. That underneath the cultural ways that people share themselves with the world that we are one in Christ.
To live out this message would mean that the church would be a far different place. The church would be leading people of different cultures to be together.
How can Chain of Lakes continue to be this sort of place in the world? A place that celebrates cultures, but also sees that underneath all of it we are one in Christ. Please share.
Thursday, November 4
Read Acts 2:1-13
This is a powerful story of cross-cultural connection. Many different types of people had come to Jerusalem to celebrate a festival called, “The Feast of Weeks.” This was a festival where people arrived from many different places. Luke—the writer—of this story wanted to emphasize these differences. This is why he named all of the groups.
When the Holy Spirit moved in a powerful way, people connected to each other. It’s important to note that people connected to each other while they were speaking their own language. Even though people had this connection they didn’t give up a way to communicate the language of their own culture.
We can take this lesson and apply it in many different ways. We don’t have to give up our own cultural identity and cultural practices to connect to each other. We will not be one culture in the world.
What are some ways that you balance the task of being part of your own culture while connecting to people of different cultures? Please share.
Friday, October 29
Read Matthew 28:16-20
In this concluding story from Matthew, Jesus shared marching orders with his followers. They were to go out and make disciples of all nations.
The English word “nations” comes from the Greek word, “ethne.” Ethne could be defined as cultures. “Go and make disciples of all cultures.”
Sometimes cultures can become toxic. This happens when cultures see themselves as superior to other cultures. “I am better and superior to you because …” This belief can lead to horrible events among humans.
Jesus never lifted up one culture above others. He wanted to have disciples of all cultures. To be a follower of Jesus means that you are open and interested in seeing people from other cultures live out their faith in Jesus.
Saturday, November 6
Read Luke 1:25-32
Simeon had been waiting for Jesus to come to the Temple. Luke described Simeon’s waiting as the consolation of Israel. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.
At this point in the story the Messiah was an infant.
When Simeon saw Jesus he took him into his arms and shared an invocational prayer. As part of the prayer, Simeon prayed that Jesus would be, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Jesus was meant to bring different cultures together—Gentiles (non-Jews) and the people of Israel (Jews)
This is a moving statement about how faith can bring people and cultures together. Jesus calls us to do that!
Monday, October 25
Read Job 30:16-31
Job was in a difficult place. Look at what he shared with God.
“The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest. With violence [God] seizes my garment; [God] grasps me by the collar of my tunic. [God] has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry to you and you do not answer me; I stand, and you merely look at me.”
Other verses in this passage expresses Job’s disdain for God.
Many people who live with mental illness can identify with Job’s words. They would like to be rid of the pain that envelops them and have cried out to God for that pain to be gone. But nothing has happened. God has been silent.
That a passage like this is in the Bible shows the honesty of the Bible. This passage illustrates that people can express honestly their anguish with God. God never condemned Job for sharing pain.
Do you know of someone who was in a place like Job was in? What happened? Please share.
Tuesday, October 26
Read Luke 5:17-26
This is an amazing story of people who cared. People were committed to bringing this man who was paralyzed to Jesus. Look at their effort! First they put the man on a stretcher and brought him to the house. Imagine the strength it took to carry him on a stretcher. When they came to the house, there was no way to get inside the house. So many people were crowded around the house that it appeared that the man would not be healed by Jesus. This was no problem! The men went to the roof and dug a hole in the roof and then gently lowered the man so he could be next to Jesus.
When Jesus recognized what was happening the first thing he did was to acknowledge the faith of the people who brought the man who was paralyzed to the feet of Jesus. It was their faith that inspired Jesus to ultimately heal the man who was paralyzed and to forgive his sins.
Sometimes this is the effort that is needed to help people who are living with mental illness. It takes extraordinary resolve and commitment to stay on the right path.
Can you think of people who have shown this level of resolve? Give a prayer of thanks for them. And then share a bit of their story. Their story is important to be recognized!
Wednesday, October 27
Read 1 Kings 19:1-9
Elijah was literally at the end of his rope. Jezebel had sent a message to Elijah that she and Ahab had won their confrontation with Elijah. Many prophets had been killed with a sword. Elijah had to escape because he feared for his life.
Elijah walked a day into the wilderness and sat underneath a solitary broom tree. He was ready to give up and die. He asked God to take his life.
Elijah must have felt like he was all alone.
In one part of his sermon this past Sunday, Pastor Paul preached about suicide. What Elijah felt is what many people who take their life feel. They are emotionally beaten down and feel all alone.
What’s significant about this story is what happened next. An angel came to Elijah and told Elijah to eat. God did not leave Elijah alone.
God never leaves us alone. Even if we don’t feel God or haven’t an experience of God or are going through a very dry period in our own relationship with God, God has not left us alone.
Communicating the presence of God to someone who believes God is absent might literally be the difference between life and death. Pray today for all who are at this place where Elijah was in this story.
Thursday, October 28
Read Mark 5:1-20
This is Mark’s version of the story we heard on October 17. It’s the story of a man who was living with mental illness.
This man was very scary to others. The treatment for his illness was to be restrained with shackles and chains. The man was so strong that these chains and shackles could not keep him down.
The man recognized Jesus as the Son of God. It must have been scary for Jesus to be confronted by this strong man.
If Jesus was scared, he certainly didn’t reveal it. The first words out of his mouth are so important for us. “What is your name?” Jesus wanted to know the man; he wanted to understand his identity; Jesus was interested in the man.
Sometimes just showing a person who lives with mental illness that we want to help is enough. Just sharing repeatedly that we care and love the person is enough to allow us to help.
“What is your name?” To whom can we ask this question today?
Friday, October 29
Read Psalm 42-43
These two Psalms were originally together as one Psalm. The writer of the Psalm was very upset. He was upset with God, and he was upset with himself.
Even though he was upset he pleaded with himself to stay connected to God.
The end of both Psalms share this.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”
On Sunday Pastor Paul shared that hope is keeping faith even when we’ve lost faith. The writer of this Psalm had lost faith, but he was still approaching God. This hope is not an “everything will turn out all right” type of hope. This is keeping hope even when optimism seems gone.
Have you had this experience or do you know of someone who has had this type of experience? Please share.
Saturday, October 30
Read Romans 8:26-27
The Spirit intercedes for us even when we do not know how to pray.
Knowing that the Spirit is always with us is a terrific source of comfort. Even if we feel a long way from God and do not know how to pray, the Spirit will help us.
Look at the power of verse 27. It is worth memorizing. “And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
May this be your prayer today!
Monday, October 18
Read Matthew 8:1-13
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. It was quite surprising and even radical that Jesus would be willing to touch someone who suffered from 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 the second story Jesus healed the servant of a centurion. The centurion was an outsider. He wasn’t a Jew. He was part of an occupying power—the Romans.
It didn’t matter to Jesus what label a person carried. Just as in the first story, Jesus was willing to cross a boundary to heal this girl, the servant of the centurion. Jesus 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.
What does it mean to you that Jesus was willing to go outside of “respected” circles to help people? Please share.
Tuesday, October 19
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. Jesus carried an orientation inside of him that prompted him to reach out. When Jesus saw Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever his instinct was to help. His compassion made it possible for Peter’s mother to be healed.
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.
Compassion is a characteristic that we often need to keep cultivating in ourselves. What have you found to be helpful to you in keeping a compassionate heart? Please share.
Wednesday, October 20
Read Matthew 8:23-9:1
Jesus showed that he has authority over the winds. 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.
The second story is Matthew’s version of the story that was shared in worship this past Sunday. It’s easy to understand the stigma of mental illness that the people in the village carried. They were probably afraid of the person who suffered from a demon, who was identified as a Gadarene or Gerasene demoniac. In Mark and Luke’s version 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.
Have you ever been ignored or even shunned by a group of people? What helped you through that experience?
Thursday, October 21
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. We can see how the focus of the scribes was so off base. They were more concerned about a particular point of view than about the possible healing of the man who was paralyzed.
It’s possible for all of us to lose focus like this. It’s easy for a point of view or an ideology to be more important than a life-giving healing.
What would it look like if each of us pledged to take on an orientation of healing. We would look for opportunities to help people in a helpful way. We wouldn’t look at the world through the lens of an ideology or a strict point of view. Instead we would want to help someone—no matter what the person believed, thought, or how the person behaved.
This orientation is an example that Jesus taught.
This orientation of healing and helping is similar to the orientation of compassion that we talked about on Tuesday. What helps you keep this orientation of helping? How do you cultivate that desire in yourself? Please share.
Friday, October 22
Read Matthew 9:9-26
The woman who suffered from a hemorrhage was an outsider. She had tried to get medical treatment, but she 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.
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.
Who does the world ignore that you would like to see helped? Please share.
Saturday, October 23
Read Matthew 9:27-38
Jesus continued to heal people by healing two blind men and a man who was mute. Like in the story we read yesterday, 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? Jesus might be looking to you to be one of the laborers!
Monday, October 11
Read Psalm 8:1a
“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
The writer of this Psalm, probably David, starts out by sharing an expression of praise for God. Pastor Paul has shared that praise is extoling God for a quality of God. In this case David praised God for the majesty of God’s name.
You could turn this expression of praise into a prayer. Try repeating this prayer over and over, “God I praise you for the majesty of your name.” How many times could you pray this prayer today?
Another way to repeat this prayer of praise is to share it when something happens—like when your phone goes off, or when you turn on Social Media, or when you see a particular item. You could even set the alarm on your phone for a number of times during the day, and then share this prayer of praise when your alarm goes off.
Praise is a powerful expression of prayer. Think of the many qualities of God. Some of these qualities are shared in Psalm 8. Then take these qualities and turn them into a prayer of Praise. “Lord I praise you for (a quality of God’s)”
For which qualities or attributes of God are you quick to give God praise? Please share!
Tuesday, October 12
Read Psalm 8:3-4
The vastness of the night sky gives us an eternal perspective. Many of us have had an experience of going out at night without any light pollution and seeing all the stars.
In doing this we can get a sense of how small humans are in relationship to the universe. Some have estimated that the universe is 93 billion light years in diameter. Such a vast distance is hard for our human minds to comprehend.
The vastness of the universe can cause us to ask the question that David asked in this Psalm, “what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:4)
The vastness of the night sky can give us a new appreciation for God. God knows this vastness and is even bigger than this. This is hard for our minds to comprehend. It takes faith to believe that God can be bigger than the universe.
Have you had an experience recently of seeing the night sky without light pollution? What did that experience do to you? Please share.
Wednesday, October 13
Read Genesis 15:1-6
Abram—later known as Abraham—was troubled. God had told Abram that God would make a great nation of Abram’s descendants. But Abram’s wife, Sarai could not birth children. She was barren. Abram could not understand how this promise of God would come true.
Abram wondered if his descendants would come through his slave’s wife.
God calmed Abram by telling him to go out and view the night sky.
“Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them,” God said. “So shall your descendants be.” Genesis 15:5.
Abram believed God, and understood that God’s words were righteous.
Have you had a moment when your anxieties melted when you saw the night sky? If not, how could you imagine that looking at the night sky could calm you? Please share.
Thursday, October 14
Read Psalm 8:5-6
Even though humans are miniscule in relationship to the universe, humans have been given dominion from God.
This is an important concept to understand.
Dominion is not domination. Having dominion over the earth does not mean that humans can do whatever they want to do from a sense of power and control.
The English word dominion comes from a form of the Hebrew word, “mashal.” It means to rule or have power.
How do you want to have dominion? You could choose to have dominion by exercising control and power without regard for the consequences. You could have dominion and not worry about how your actions affect the future.
Or you could look at dominion as an expression of stewardship. You are a steward of the earth, charged to take care in how you treat it.
This latter understanding of dominion is what is expressed in Palm 8.
What are some specific ways you can express dominion in a healthy way? Please share.
Friday, October 15
Read Genesis 1:26-28
Like the reading yesterday in this story humans are given dominion over the earth. They are asked by God to look over and rule what happens on the earth.
When we read this passage we can see that the language of Psalm 8 is very similar to the language in this Scripture. In both, humans are given dominion over the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.
Yesterday we read that dominion is an expression of stewardship. We are called to take care of how we treat the earth.
Sometimes it’s helpful to see how others treat the earth with care. What are some ways that you express dominion as a steward—with care and nurture.
Saturday, October 16
Read Psalm 8:1, 9
Psalm 8 ended in the same way that it began—with the verse, “O Lord our Sovereign how majestic is your name in all the earth.”
Thinking of God as majestic can help us grow closer to God. Some synonyms for majesty are glorious, stately, magnificent, noble.
As on Monday share a prayer of praise with God today. Repeat the following prayers twenty-five times.
Lord, your name is majestic;
Lord, your name is glorious;
Lord your name is stately;
Lord, your name is magnificent;
Lord, your name is noble.
Share your experience of sharing this prayer 25 times. What does this do for your own spirit?
Monday, October 4
Read Isaiah 27:7-9
The ninth verse is especially powerful:
“My soul yearns for you in the night,
My spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgments are in the earth,
The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.”
We don’t know if Isaiah woke up during the night and then wrote this verse. However, it wouldn’t be surprising as in verse nine he expressed a deep desire to connect to God.
Each of us probably can relate to waking up during the night and not being able to sleep. If you find yourself awake at night see if you can focus your thoughts on connecting to God.
Remembering what happens in the Lord’s Supper offers us this connection. When we drink from the cup and eat the bread that is offered, we are connected by the Holy Spirit to the living God—Jesus Christ. Whether we feel this connection or not, we still are connected.
The next time you have a hard time sleeping, remember what Communion is like. Close your eyes and picture in your mind the act of taking the bread and the cup. This connection can settle us and help us connect.
Have you had an experience of focusing on God when you wake up during the night? Please share.
Tuesday, October 5
Read Genesis 17:1-14
Communion is a Sacrament. Presbyterians celebrate two Sacraments—Communion and Baptism. We understand a Sacrament to be a sign and seal of grace. God made a covenant through Jesus Christ to offer us this grace.
In this story we read that God made a covenant with Abram. God shared that Abram’s name would be changed to Abraham and that Abraham would be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. This resulting generations of Abraham would be the community of followers.
The sign of the covenant was circumcision. Every male was to be circumcised on the eighth day of their life as a sign of the covenant that God made with the Israelites.
As followers of Jesus we don’t see circumcision as a sign of the covenant. But understanding circumcision can help us have a clearer understanding of Communion. Communion is a sign of the new covenant. We can’t see the resulting mark of Communion, but a person’s spirit is drawn to God through Communion.
Your life is a sign of the Communion covenant. Think how Communion has made an impact in your own life. How has your spirit been marked by this gift of grace from God? Please share.
Wednesday, October 6
Read Exodus 12:1-13
The celebration of Passover was a very special celebration for the people of Israel. In Passover the Israelites were liberated from Egypt. God passed over the Israelites and saved them from death. The first born of the Egyptians were killed. Pharaoh was so enraged that he let the Israelites go from slavery.
This is a hard story if you were an Egyptian. It’s hard to reconcile the level of violence that took place so that the Israelites could be free.
This is a wonderful story if you were an Israelite and eventually a Jew. The people remember the Passover by celebrating the Passover meal. When Jesus gathered with the disciples the night before Jesus was killed, they gathered to celebrate this Passover meal. The Lord’s Supper or Communion became a new sacrament.
People see the relationship between the death and resurrection of Jesus to the Passover. Just as Jesus died, the first-born of the Egyptians died. Just as Jesus was raised and released from death, the Israelites were release from slavery.
When you celebrate Communion you are connecting to this story of Passover.
When you celebrate Communion do you think about Passover? Please share.
Thursday, October 7
Read Luke 7:36-50
Jesus often shared meals with his followers. In fact, seven times Luke wrote about Jesus sharing a meal in this gospel.
These meals give us a “taste” of what it was like to celebrate Communion or the Lord’s Supper with Jesus.
In this meal Jesus was invited by a Pharisee to enjoy a meal. The events of the meal revealed that the Pharisee was more interested in following the law and being holy than loving his neighbor. His neighbor was a woman—who was identified as a sinner and came to anoint the feet of Jesus.
She literally gave of herself to anoint the feet of Jesus. This was an incredible gesture by the woman who was willing to give everything she had to bless Jesus.
The Pharisee didn’t “see” what was happening. All he could see was that a “sinful” woman was touching Jesus.
When we celebrate Communion we are given the opportunity to see what Jesus sees. When we come into the presence of Jesus through Communion we receive an entirely different outlook on the world. We shed the judgmental eyes that the Pharisee demonstrated in this story.
You probably have had an experience where you saw the world differently because you celebrated Communion. Please share.
Friday, October 8
Read Matthew 26:17-30
This is Matthew’s version of the Passover meal. This extraordinary celebration happened in ordinary circumstances. The room was not special. It was in a house of an unnamed man whom Jesus knew about. The disciples were to find this man and share that the time is near for Jesus.
While they were gathered to celebrate the Passover Jesus acknowledged that one of the twelve would betray him.
Then he shared some of the most well-known words in history.
“Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:26-28
Share some ways that your own spirit is refreshed in Communion.
Saturday, October 9
Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Last month we had the opportunity to read through 1 Corinthians. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to a community that was very divided. He believed and hoped that the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist could bring people together.
Pastor Paul shared in his sermon on Sunday that different beliefs about Communion have divided the church. This is a tragedy and was never the intent of what Jesus wanted when he instituted the Last Supper.
Today as you pray, pray that the Lord’s Supper can bring people together. Pray that in this era of division and partisanship, we can look forward to celebrating Communion with all people—particularly people with whom we have large differences.
Take a moment to pray, and then share how Communion can bring us together as people.
Monday, September 27
Read Psalm 139
We are continuing a focus on significant chapters in the Bible by looking again at important chapters in the Old Testament. This week we will read from six important chapters in the Old Testament.
Take some extra time to write down the chapters in the Old Testament that are significant for you. The exercise is worth your time.
This Psalm starts out, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.” (Psalm 139:1) The writer of the Psalm then went deep into describing how God knew him (most likely the writer was male) and what impact this knowledge made for his life. Make sure you read all twenty-four verses. This is one of the richest chapters in the Bible. Read these verses slowly, attentively, and carefully.
Pastor Paul has a story of a seminary professor saying that if a person read this Psalm every day for thirty days that person’s life would change.
When each of us understands that God knows us completely then we will be encouraged to go deeper in our relationship with God. God knows every part of us. And God loves us. We can’t escape or hide from God.
What difference does it make to you that God knows you so completely? Please share.
Tuesday, September 28
Read Isaiah 6:1-8
When Isaiah had this encounter with God in the Temple his life was changed. Isaiah received a vision of God. The vision was awesome and touched Isaiah at the core of his being.
Isaiah encountered holiness at the deepest level. In experiencing this holiness, he realized that he did not compare at all to God. He saw his many flaws. “Woe is me!” he said. “for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 40:5)
Even though Isaiah knew he was fallen in comparison to God, Isaiah knew that God accepted him. God commissioned or called Isaiah to be God’s representative.
At the end of this story the seraph or angel reached out and touched Isaiah’s lips with a piece of hot coal. The seraph asked the question of who would be God’s representative. Isaiah responded immediately. Isaiah would go!
God does not send perfect people to do God’s work. God sends all of us—even those of us who know how deep our faults and problems are.
ave you had a time in your life that you knew you were supposed to do something? Everything about the task seemed so right. The task might not have been easy, but you knew you had to do it.
Please share your experience.
Wednesday, September 29
Read Isaiah 40:1-8
Many believe that this chapter starts a new section of Isaiah. Some have called this section Second Isaiah. This section goes from chapter 40 to 55.
The people of the nation of Judah had been exiled from their home. They were forced to travel to the nation of Babylon where they would be in slavery.
And the words from God through Isaiah to the people were “Comfort, comfort my people.” (Isaiah 40:1)
God knew what was happening with the people and reached the people at their greatest need. God was willing to comfort the people.
Some people see the writings of the prophets as God comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. We see this in this chapter.
Have you had an experience of the comfort of God? Please share.
Thursday, September 30
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10
These words are similar to Psalm 139. God told Jeremiah that God formed Jeremiah and knew him. Jeremiah was consecrated a prophet before he was even born. Jeremiah was created to follow the call of God.
Jeremiah was afraid because he was a young boy—probably a teenager. And as a teenager he had difficulty accepting the significant responsibility that God was giving to him.
Of course, this did not deter God. Do not claim your young age as a disqualification, God essentially told Jeremiah. You will go to where I send you.
Just like in the Isaiah story we read on Tuesday, Jeremiah was touched by God. God touched Jeremiah’s mouth. God told Jeremiah that God would give Jeremiah the words that Jeremiah needed to follow this calling.
Take some time to ponder the six verbs in verse ten. They are quite different and even vast. What do you find significant about them? Please share
Friday, October 1
Read Micah 6:6-8
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
This verse is worth committing to memory. It is so significant that it’s worth writing down and then carrying the piece of paper in our pocket.
Micah wanted to know what God wanted from him. This is a question that most people eventually ask. “God, what do you want from me?”
Micah proposed offering a gigantic offering to God. A thousand rams, ten thousands of rivers of oil.
God was not interested in the quantity of Micah’s offering. God wanted Micah to live out the 8th verse.
How does this story touch you? Please share.
Saturday, October 2
Read Amos 5:18-24
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
This verse is very similar to the verse we memorized yesterday. And this verse from Amos is worth committing to memory.
God wasn’t interested in the worship or the gatherings or the offerings that the people were sharing with God. What God wanted was a quality of the people’s heart. God wanted the people to do acts of justice and righteousness. This was most important to God.
At the start of these verses God questioned why the people wanted, “the day of the Lord.” “The day of the Lord” was a dark day of judgment—think of it like some conceptions of the second coming.
God didn’t want people to expect “the day of the Lord.” Instead God wanted people to do acts of justice and righteousness.
What do these verses tell you about God? Please share.
Monday, September 20
Read Genesis 12:1-3
What are your favorite chapters in the Bible? Consider taking some time to off the top of your head write down Scripture chapters that have significant meaning to you. This week we’re looking at six chapters from the Old Testament that have been identified by meaning as significant.
This story is the first “call” story in the Old Testament. At certain moments God “called” people to particular tasks. In this story God called Abram to go to a distant land to start a new nation. Some people think that this story starts the narrative story of the Old Testament.
Abram was going to be blessed by God, so that Abram could be a blessing to others. Five words describe some of this call, “Blessed to be a blessing.” Perhaps you could take these five words and be especially attentive to living them out today. No matter what is happening in your life, you have been blessed. Are there ways that you can share those blessings with others?
Please share some ways that you can identify the blessings you have received from God in your own life.
Tuesday, September 21
Read Exodus 15:1-21
In these verses Moses and then Miriam shared a passionate song of praise to God. They both sang this song right after the Israelites had escaped from the Pharaoh’s armies. Right before their escape the Israelites faced the Nile River on one side and the advancing army of Pharaoh on the other side. It appeared that the Israelites were doomed.
But God made a way for them. God opened up the Nile, so the Israelites had a path through it. Then when the Egyptian armies went into the path, the water closed on them. The Israelites were rescued.
No matter how strong their faith, Moses, Miriam and the Israelites must have believed they were going to die. Then they were rescued. They had lived. And they knew that God had rescued them from disaster.
Take some time to read slowly these twenty-one verses. They describe the praise of God that Moses and Miriam had experienced. In reading them we can feel the passion and love that both had for God.
Have you had a time in your own life when you had a sense of rescue? A time that you were facing potential doom, and you thought that the doom was going to happen. But then you were released—even saved.
Wednesday, September 22
Read Exodus 20:1-21
We know of these verses as the 10 Commandments. We can find them in Deuteronomy 5.
Take some time to read all twenty-one verses. They are informative. If you have some extra time read Exodus 19. You can get a sense of the holiness of the moment. This was a time when the people received the majesty and power and completeness of God.
As people who follow Jesus we are people of grace and not people of the law. But these Commandments are still authoritative. In following them we live a life that God intends for us.
Some of us might have memorized these 10 Commandments when we were young.
How do you look at the 10 Commandments? Are they an archaic list of rules that don’t bring life to you? Are they guard rails that protect you from wrongdoing? Are they something different? Please share.
Thursday, September 23
Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9
This Scripture is known as the “Shema.” Shema is a Hebrew word that is translated as hear. This reading starts out, “Shema” or “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your might.”
This prayer was recited in morning and evening prayers by our Jewish friends.
Jesus combined this prayer with Leviticus 19:8 to form the Great Commandment. Followers of Jesus are to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind and to love their neighbor as they love themselves.
In reading these verses, we see the importance of communicating the message. People were to bind them on their hand, fix them as an emblem on their head, and put them on their door post.
How do you communicate your own love for God? If someone did not know you and came to your home, would they know of your love for God. By watching your life, would another see that you love God? Please share how you communicate your own love for God.
Friday, September 24
Read Psalm 1
A person who is rooted in God and God’s law is like a tree, rooted in streams of water that yield their fruit in its season. In all that they do they prosper.
This sense of rootedness is important for our faith. When we root ourselves in Scripture, prayer, and worship we are grounded in something much deeper than ourselves.
Without being rooted, we run the risk of being like chaff that the wind drives away. When life does not go our way, or we encounter suffering, or we see the pain in the world it’s easy to turn away from God. We might wonder why God would let something like this happen.
But when we are rooted, it’s easier to be like a tree that can withstand the seasons of life.
How do you keep rooted? Please share
Saturday, September 25
Read Psalm 23
These six verses are the most famous verses in Scripture. We heard them frequently at funerals, but they are intended for more than a funeral service. They describe the relationship of God to us.
God is our shepherd—guiding us, helping us, leading us in the right direction.
And even though we go through hard times, God is leading us forward as a good shepherd. We do not need to fear evil for God is always with us.
God is preparing something special for us. When we hang onto God, we can celebrate goodness and mercy all the days of our life. And we can dwell with God forever!
November 28 Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Pastor Paul is beginning an Advent sermon series called, “The Best Christmas Ever.” Each Sunday he is speaking about specific ways that can make this the Best Christmas Ever. Today he is talking about being filled with the Spirit.
December 5 As part of the “Best Christmas Ever” series Pastor Paul will talk about relationships. He will provide tools for deepening the relationships that are most important to us; he will also provide tools for reaching out to people who have become cut off from us. If you know of someone who is struggling with relationships, invite that person to worship. Communion will be shared.
December 12 As part of the “Best Christmas Ever” series Pastor Paul will talk about service. LaChelle Williams, the new Executive Director of HOPE 4 Youth will speak. Information about Hope for the Community will be shared.
December 19 As part of the “Best Christmas Ever” series Pastor Paul will talk about faith.
If you have not had the opportunity to turn in your Estimate of Giving card, consider doing it today. Estimates of giving are just that–an estimate of what you think you will give to the operating budget of Chain of Lakes in 2022. These cards are helpful to the leaders of Chain of Lakes as a budget is put together for 2022. You can fill in and send the confidential Estimate of Giving card below.
Estimate of Giving Card
Community Garden Plot Application 2021 – Chain of Lakes
Chain of Lakes Church,