Have you been challenged by the sermon or other speakers into being involved in daily Bible Reading and Meditation? The Discipleship team has designed a way for you to begin doing just that. Below you will find weekly devotionals designed to “stretch” your faith followed with thought provoking questions.

June

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Praise and Worship

Sunday, June 3 – Why Worship?

For so long I was convinced that I was supposed to worship God for all of the things that He’s done: goodness, mercy, grace, loving-kindness, salvation, family, health, jobs, financial provisions etc. These sound reallygood and the act of praising and worshipping Him for what He has done by providing us these things along with all the other things he does for us not wrong, in and of themselves. However, these things are not the primary purpose for which we were created to worship our creator. These are all things God has done, is doing and will continue to always do for us because He never changes.

Our number one purpose in this life and the reason WHY WE WORSHIP God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is because of WHO HE IS!  We were created to Worship Him for Who He is.

It’s so easy to walk into our weekend gatherings of corporate worship and fellowship and be excited about worship when life is grand. Remember, it honors God when we bless Him with our mouths.

Our praises and thanksgiving are huge vehicles of worship. It’s important to honor God and be constantly aware of His presence that’s in and around us and not wait for a tragedy or crises to go running to or cry out to Him. The more we recognize His Spirit and His presence and not just wait for Sunday morning to roll around, the more of an understanding we’ll have for true worship. We can actually become worship beings. We can BE worship, not just do worship.

Read: Psalms 40:3

Reflective questions:

  1. What is the greatest gift that God has ever given us? What is the greatest thing He has ever done?
  1. What is the foundational purpose or reason why we worship?
“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Praise and Worship

Sunday, June 10 –The Value of Worship?

Just as something wonderful happens when God’s people get together and study His Word, something extraordinary happens when God’s people get together and sing His praises. Jesus said in the book of Matthew, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Now this verse is not saying that God only shows up when people worship, because God is omnipresent. But He manifests His presence in a special way when His people lift up His name in praise and worship.

The early church was a worshipping church. Acts 2:46–47 tells us, “They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” The phrase “gladness and simplicity of heart” literally means “with unaffected joy.” There was joy in the early church. There was vibrancy. But there also was reverence. A few verses earlier, we read that fear came upon every soul, and wonders and signs were done through the apostles (verse 43). There should be joy and reverence. Those are elements that should be in our worship. The Spirit-filled church will be a worshipping church, and the Spirit filled Christian will be a worshipping Christian.

Someone might say, “Well, I just don’t always feel like worshipping.” Do you think the first-century believers always felt like praising God? They were harassed. They were beaten. They were mocked.  These Christians faced persecution on a massive scale, but they were thankful to God.

The Bible doesn’t say, “Give thanks to the Lord when you feel good.” Rather, it says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” (1 Chronicles 16:34). That is how Job was able to worship God after calamity came knocking at his door.

Sometimes worship can be a sacrifice. But we should still worship.

Read: Acts 2:42-47

Reflective questions:

1. How do you value Worship in your everyday life?

2. Are you giving your all to God and holding nothing back when we come together in cooperate Worship on Sundays?

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Praise and Worship

Sunday, June 17 – What is the Difference between Praise and Worship?

The ministry of praise and the experience of worship are not the same. Praise is our acknowledgement of His power, authority, wisdom and worthiness. Praise does not require a response from the one who is being praised.

On the other hand, worship is relational. It is not only our communion with God. It is also His communion with us.

Praise is something that we can do by ourselves–or with others. Worship is something that we do alone with God–in our innermost being.  Praise has to do with our telling God and others how wonderful He is.

Praise has to do with shouting forth of his marvelous character, compassion, and marvelous creation, just to name a few of his powerful attributes.Praise manifests itself in our body and soul.

Worship manifests itself in our human spirit where God dwells.

Worship flows both ways. God wants to be with me. I want to be with God. The more time we spend worshipping with Him in our spirits the more intimate our relationship, and friendship with Him will be.

Read: 1 Corinthians 14:15, Psalms 100:4, John 4:21-24

Reflective questions:

  1. Jesus makes it clear that God is seeking out true worshipers. Think what it means to be the kind of person with whom God wants to spend time. What does it do to your heart when you realize that God wants to spend time with you in worship?
  1. What are ways you can Praise and Worship Him in your everyday

life, as well as, in corporate Worship on Sunday mornings?

July

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Forgiveness

Sunday, July 1—Forgiveness from God

Read Exodus 20: 3-17; Luke 18: 18-27

Most people in a church would not argue that they need forgiveness from God.  However, let’s be honest.  Our personal sin doesn’t seem that bad to us. After all, we, like the rich young ruler, have kept all the commandments (Luke 18: 18-23).  Let’s look at those commandments, shall we? Read Exodus 20: 3-17.

If you are like me, you think these don’t seem that bad.  For instance, the first—“You shall have no other gods (idols) before me.”  Well, of course I don’t worship anything else.  However, Colossians 3:5, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Oh, wait a minute. God defines an idol by a different standard. So, maybe I have broken this commandment.

Read Matthew 5: 21- 27.  Wow. It looks like I may have broken more.  Okay, what’s the big deal?

Romans 6:23 There is a penalty for sin. Romans 3:23We are all guilty of it.  However, there is hope. John 3:16.

Reflective Questions:

By the standards given to us, can you think of anything for which you need to ask God’s forgiveness?

Much of the world does not think sin is a big deal. Looking at the verses mentioned above, does God think it is a big deal?

Repentance means to change your ways of thinking. Will you take time to reflect and see if there is maybe some thinking you need to change about sin?

Psalm 139:23 – 24  

23Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Forgiveness

Sunday, July 8—Forgiving others

 

Read Mathew 18:21-35

Jill, a 35 year old divorcee and mother of two, had just begun to put her life back together.  Her 36 year old ex-husband, who she had supported for half their marriage, has now left with Jill’s (former) best friend.  She came home this afternoon to find out that her ex-husband had emptied her bank account, before she could get his name off, and has left town with her money.

As we look at the example Jesus has given us, we look at the slave who wouldn’t forgive his fellow slave and think.   What an awful person.  We look at Peter who asks the question in the first place.  “Lord how many times should I forgive my brother.”  Be honest didn’t you want to say to Peter of course forgive. Isn’t that the obvious answer?

The slave had a right to collect the debt he was owed.  Jill has a right to be furious with her husband. We have a right to be angry with those who wrong us.  Forgiving others is dangerous.  It makes you feel vulnerable to that same loss again.  Somehow, if we can hold onto the pain a little while longer, maybe we will be warier enough to avoid the hurt.

But Jesus knew the answer. He knew that if we “forgive deeply and from the heart” Vs 35. We are showing more than grace to a person, who hurt us.  We are showing trust in God.   We are trusting God to protect us from loss and to heal our hurts:   By forgiving others we are truly demonstrating that we are His sons and daughters.

Read the passage:

Can you think of anyone who has hurt you deeply?

Do you still feel angry or unable to forgive this person for the loss and injury they have caused you?

Seek the Lord’s guidance and be willing to try what God lay’s on your heart.  Maybe you need to forgive someone.  “Deeply and from the Heart.”

Reflect on forgiveness of others  Can you journal two examples

 

Proverb 3: 5-6

Trust in the Lordwith all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Forgiveness

Sunday, July 15—What right do I have?

As a young man in college, I was going through a very challenging time.  I often struggled with self-doubt.  This day was no different.   The girl of my dreams had left me, due to something I was doing that had offended her. My struggle had gotten to the point where I was thinking of doing harm to myself.  So, I called a friend named Keith.

Keith was a large, trim, young man with light brown hair, a beard that rimmed his face, and a broad smile.  He was very serious about his relationship with God.  After I shared my struggles, it didn’t take him long to get to the root of the problem. I want to share with you his words of wisdom to me.

Read Acts Chapters 10 & 11

Acts 10: 12-15

The actions God told Peter to take were confusing to him.   It wasn’t what he had always been taught.   Verse 15 “… What God has cleansed, you must not call unholy.”  This was an emphatic command to Peter.   He was not to call the Gentiles unholy.  It happened three times.   This is similar to our thinking of good, better, and best.  Well, in Peter’s era, when something was emphasized three times, it had the force of being absolute.

Keith asked me, “Do you think we have the right not to forgive someone whom God has forgiven…a neighbor or a friend?”

“Absolutely not,” I responded.

He then told me, “What right do you have not to forgive yourself when God forgives you?  Was Jesus’ death not enough?  Did God do an incomplete job so we need to add more punishment?  Or did God get it right and we truly are forgiven?”

Psalm 103:12

12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Reflections:

Is there something you have done in the past to someone that still bothers you?  Have you sought God’s forgiveness?

Are you holding onto this painful memory to punish yourself?

Is this person not forgiving you and therefore you can’t forgive yourself?

Remember the Scriptures above.  Write down what these memories are and believe that God’s forgiveness has cleansed you.

Read Psalm 51. David knew.

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Forgiveness

Sunday, July 22— Hindrances to Forgiving

Ask anyone who has worked with people and they will tell you. You are going to

be disappointed, offended, misunderstood and even dismissed.  This can be both intentional and unintentional.  The sad reality is that these are very real things that happen in churches.  So, what do we do?  How can we keep a spirit of cooperation

and love when these things are happening to us?

Let’s look back on the early church.  Did they have these problems?  Were their members offending one another?

Read Acts 6:1–4

Apparently, some of the Jews, who were from Jerusalem, didn’t consider the widows of the Greek-speaking Jews to be as important.  They were neglected.

What did you say? Did you mean to say they were prejudiced?  Absolutely.  I’ll bet the early church members were offended.

Read Philippians 4: 2, 3 

These are two spiritual women.  They were invaluable to Paul’s ministry. Their disagreement was so sharp that Paul had to step in ask them to “be of the same mind.” He also had to ask other members of the Philippian church to help them.

There are many more examples:  Barnabas and Paul-They quarreled so passionately that they stopped working together; Paul and John Mark- Paul was so angry with John Mark that he refused to work with him, at least for a while; Peter-He was being two-faced to the Gentiles.   It must have offended some of the Gentiles. Paul had to point out Peter’s hypocrisy.

Hebrews 12: 14-15 has a Key:

“…See to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Bitterness happens when either we, ourselves, are offended or someone is hurt and we are offended for them.   You can see how bitterness grows.   When we hurt, we tend to nurture it.  “They didn’t have the right to speak to [him, her, me, or them] like that.”   This is a church. They should have treated people better. We get offended.  But, being offended is okay, as long as there is forgiveness.   When we refuse to forgive, we nurture that hurt.   We try and draw others to our cause. “Did you hear what _____ did to ______?” The result is a split church and many who refuse to come back. Offenses will come. But we must be careful about a “root of bitterness.”

Reflection:

In your life, do you still feel angry about something that has happened to you, by someone in the church?

Ask God how He wants you to handle this.  Does he want you to forgive this person?  Do you need to speak to them?

Prayerfully consider if a root has crept up in your life or if someone is trying to involve you in their root?

“Dare To Be Stretched

Series: Forgiveness

Sunday, July 29— A Better Way

We have looked at forgiveness in several lights…our need to be forgiven, our need to forgive other, and our need to forgive ourselves. But let’s be clear: forgiveness is not easy to do. It costs us to forgive others.  Let’s not forget what it costs God…His One and Only Son.

We have looked at the need.  Now let’s look at the why…

 

I Peter 4:8

“Above all else, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of transgressions.”

 

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have eternal life.”

Love is God’s motivation to forgive. He doesn’t get any special honors. God is the pinnacle of everything.  He doesn’t forgive to show His nobility. As a matter of fact, Jesus demonstrated how foolish and extravagant God was to forgive.  He did it for love.

 

Read I Peter 4:8

Knowing why God forgave us is what inspired Peter to write this.

Reflection:

Can you remember a time when someone you cared about hurt you?

However, for the sake of love, you forgave them.

Could you have done this without love?

Do we win any special honors for forgiving others?

 

Read I Corinthians 13

How important is love?  Do you love like this?

Take some time and journal today any unforgiveness in your heart.  Ask God to give you a heart of compassion that forgives even as He does.

August

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Characteristics of Discipleship

Sunday, August 5—Covenant Community

 

 

Read Genesis 12:1-4

God’s purpose is to reveal the one true God, and to show a way of life compatible with Him. God wanted to show a way of life compatible with His holiness and helpful for human wholeness.

God wants a people who trust, a people who will leave their familiar surroundings (culture, land) and go forth in obedience to a fresh place in order to be a blessing to all the families of the earth.

A covenant community is more that just agreeing to meet together. We have a choice to be intentionally a child of God and bound by pact between God and His people. Blessing comes from trust and obedience.

God does not reveal His will to the curious but to the obedient. Faith is not belief without proof; faith is obedience without reservation.

Read I Corinthians 1:27

God purposely chooses “what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. Two characteristics of a Covenant Community are trust and obedience without reservation.

 

Reflection Questions:

What weaknesses do you have that God might see as strengths He can use?

What are some marks by which we Christians can tell we are a part of God’s Covenant Community?

What evidences of obedience and trust distinguish your commitment?

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Characteristics of Discipleship

Sunday, August 12—God’s Call

 

Read Mark 3:3-39

Jesus calls His followers where He finds them. His disciples were called from whatever they were doing. There were fishermen, tax

collectors, and other walks of life. Jesus calls us out of our world, from all that we know, to a community that is different.

Jesus calls us to a place where he is our savior and our redeemer. Jesus takes us just the way we are and gives us the invitation to trust Jesus to change our lives to make a difference in our world.

Disciples understand that their ministry as a call to self-denial and suffering. As a disciple life is not all roses and no thorns. Jesus came as the Suffering Servant and he expects the same of His disciples.

Disciples are proof of the power of Jesus Christ to call; to forgive, to save, and also to be a community that brings His message to the surrounding neighborhood.

One of the characteristics of Disciples is accepting the call that Jesus gives to everyone who is listening and ready to accept.

Reflection Questions:

Think about the time you felt called by Jesus to follow Him. How did you respond?

What are you doing to continue your walk?

How do you live out being the suffering servant for Jesus?

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Marks of Discipleship

Sunday, August 19—Every District has a Gift

 

God gives at least one Spiritual Gift to every disciple.

Read I Corinthians 12:1-15

The really cool thing about God is that he calls us to

ministry AND gives the covenant community every gift that is needed to have an effective ministry.

The one thing that we have to consider that disciples must use their gift(s) in the community.  There is nothing mystical about Spiritual Gifts. They are the tools God gives to us use in the ministry to which He calls us.

There are more gifts than those listed in I Corinthians. There is also a list in Romans 12. There additional gifts listed throughout scripture. No gift is better or higher than any other gift. Every gift is needed.

You may be wondering how we know what gifts we have to use?  In the fall, we will have the opportunity to take a class where you will take a survey that will help you find out your gifts. Now

another interesting thing about spiritual gifts is that as you mature in your Christian Faith, your gifts may change.

 

Reflective Questions:

From the lists you read, what do you think your gifts might be?

If you have taken a survey and know your gifts, do you use them?

“Dare To Be Stretched”

Series: Marks of Discipleship

Sunday, August 26—The Job of a Disciple

 

God gives at least one Spiritual Gift to every disciple.

Read Matthew 28:16-20

The only real job of the disciple is to “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” As disciples of the Covenant Community we are to trust God to give us the opportunities to share His love and message with other people.

There are many ways to share our stories of how Christ has changed your life. Many people say, I can’t talk to people and write themselves off as being a sharer of God’s message. There are so many ways to share our stories besides talking.

One way is to live your life as close to Christ as you can, letting your life flow into relationships, the way you deal with people and how you handle yourself when you are by yourself. People will notice and ask your questions and give you a chance to explain.

Another way is to earn your credibility with people and invite them to activities, events and worship. We earn the right to share Christ with others. Inviting people to places where others can share the message is a good way to share the message.

Reflection Questions:

How do you feel about “Making Disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” being a disciple’s top job?

How do you share your story about Christ with others?