Whether you’re just looking for answers to spiritual questions,
have begun (or re-started) your spiritual journey,
or have been on your faith walk for many years,
we’d like to help you continue to
wrestle with your questions, find answers, and grow.
Following are some resources to assist you in your spiritual growth.
Word for the Week
Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I was talking with a friend the other day about my son, Jonathan, who is passionate about cross country running. My friend commented that it is one of the few sports in which the whole point is to go out and make yourself miserable. After all, he said, the athletes aren’t doing their job unless they run until they are completely worn out. It didn’t sound like much fun to him.
Runners know, of course, and I’m sure my friend does, too, that there is a certain euphoria that comes with running, with “getting into the zone,” pushing yourself to your limit and seeing yourself accomplish a little more and do a little better every day—most days, anyway. When you get your second wind during a run or recover after a run, you experience a feeling that lifts your spirit far above the challenge.
This euphoria is one of the things that enables runners and other athletes to endure such difficult circumstances and, indeed, often to endure them with a sense of joy. As one definition of euphoria states, they experience a state of “extreme happiness, sometimes more than is reasonable in a particular situation.”
It sounds a lot like what the Apostle Paul is encouraging us toward in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where he writes, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Are you kidding! In all circumstances, even more than seems reasonable in a particular situation?
“No, I’m not kidding,” the Apostle Paul would respond, “This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Wow. Many of us have questioned what God’s will is for us along the way. We often link the question to the big picture issues of our lives like what school to attend, what jobs to pursue, what volunteer activities to engage in, where to live, whether to marry or not, and so on. Yet, while these questions are good ones to wrestle with, in many ways it is the smaller, daily choices we make, the daily attitudes and actions we practice, that determine who we are and are becoming regardless of the answers to the big picture questions.
It is worth noting that the words “give thanks” come from the Greek word, “eucharisteo,” which stems from the same root as euphoria. In contrast to euphoria, though, the Apostle Paul is not suggesting we should feel “extreme happiness, sometimes more than is reasonable in a particular situation.” Rather, he is commanding us to “eucharisteo,” that is, to give thanks more than may seem reasonable in a particular situation.
Why? Because we who “eucharisteo,” that is, who give thanks, are people who celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion, another name for which is the Eucharist. As you likely noticed, it has the same Greek root, too. We who celebrate the Eucharist give thanks to God as we remember Christ’s death, a circumstance through which, against all odds and contrary to all human wisdom, God enabled grace and life to break forth for us and for all. We are people who give thanks in all circumstances knowing that God’s great resurrection power can and does work through every challenge, every difficulty, even death itself, for God’s good and loving purpose in our lives and world.
God of the resurrection, we praise you for your steadfast love, your faithfulness to all generations, and your tender care for each and every one of us, including me. Forgive me for my lack of faith and gratitude. Fill me with a spirit that overflows with thanksgiving. Help me to trust your love and to practice putting my faith in you by giving thanks for your presence and loving power in every situation, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Suggested Verse for Meditation and Memorization:
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Things to Try:
- Count your blessings. Seriously, right now. Take a moment, count them, and thank God for them.
- As you begin each day this week, thank God for five things you are grateful for as you look to the day ahead.
- As you end each day, thank God for five things you are grateful for as you look back on the day you just experienced.
- Go out of your way to thank someone who has blessed you.
- Take three minutes to look out the window and gratefully notice God’s blessings. Notice the air you breath, the warmth or cold you feel, the clothes you wear, the sights you see… notice and give thanks.
- Talk with God about the challenges you are facing, the worries you are dealing with. Balance your statements of concern with statements of gratitude for God’s presence, power, and provision.
- Put an object in your pocket or in another place that will lead you to notice it occasionally through the day. Each time you notice it, take a moment to thank God for something – God’s presence, something you enjoy, someone you a grateful for…
- Practice giving thanks to God this week knowing that whatever we practice becomes second nature.
Further Suggested Readings:
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
- Colossians 3:12-17
- Luke 17:11-19
- Psalm 16
Copyright © 2018 Word for the Week a devotional resource of Salem Covenant Church
These devotional thoughts will typically be based on the Scripture text for the upcoming Sunday’s sermon. While the weekly devotionals will be titled a Word for the Week, that last word might more aptly be spelled “weak.” For all our necessary and sometimes unnecessary attempts to be anything but, acknowledging our weakness and our need for God’s help is crucial. As Adam and Eve learned, though there are a great many things we can do, becoming gods is not one of them. We are not immortal, nor as powerful, wise, and wonderful as we sometimes like to pretend. Like Adam and Eve when they stepped out of the Garden, we find ourselves living in an unimaginably immense universe, one full of forces and challenges that, for all of our incredible abilities, have the capacity to impede, overpower, even annihilate us. We are vulnerable. We need God.
Week of November 5
Week of October 29
Week of October 22
Week of October 15
Week of October 8
Week of October 1
Week of September 24
Week of September 17
Week of September 10
Week of September 3
Back to the Basics
Back to BASICS Devotional Guide
BE STILL: Be still before God. Breathe deeply. Be present to God, as God is present with you. (Psalm 46:10)
ADORE: Offer praise and thanksgiving to God. (Psalm 100)
SHARE: Talk with God about the people and things on your heart and mind. (Psalm 62:8)
INVITE: Ask God to speak to you as you look to the Scriptures and listen for his Word.(2 Timothy 3:14-17)
COMMIT: Dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to God and to living out God’s call in your life. (Romans 12:1-2)
Rooted Devotional Exercises
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
Rooted: be still and be rooted in the Lord.
Open your heart to God: give God praise; invite God’s Spirit to cleanse and fill you.
Open God’s Word: invite God to transform and guide you as you listen to his Word.
Talk with God: share your heart and mind with God, giving thanks for his love.
Enter: look to the day ahead, thanking God for his presence, power, and guidance.
Dedicate: commit yourself to God.
Remember: thank God for three things that made you smile today.
Embrace: breathe deeply and let God embrace you with his presence and love.
Share: cast your anxieties on the Lord, entrusting your cares and concerns to him.
Thank: give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love and faithfulness.
PRAYER AND SHARE (around the table or whenever there is opportunity)
What was one high and one low from today?
Where have you seen God at work? What are you grateful to God for today?
What is something you learned today?
Take time to give thanks to God and pray together.
What is something that surprised you or made you wonder today?
(based on what we used on the Ecuador Mission Trip 2016)
A Way to Listen
Listening Prayerfully to the Scriptures – Lectio Divina
Let anyone with ears to hear listen! Mark 4:9
Lectio Divina is an ancient method of listening to the Word of God. For centuries, people of faith have used this method to prayerfully open their hearts and minds to God’s Word. It can be practiced individually and/or together with others in a group and is a great way to seek insights and applications from the Holy Scriptures.
Key to the experience is trusting Jesus at his word when he said, Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. (Luke 11: 9-10) With this in mind, when you open the Bible, ask God to speak to you and trust the Holy Spirit to help you hear God’s Word for you as you seek it. Before reading the Bible passage each time, pray for God to open your heart to the Scriptures.
Here is the basic format:
1. Read the passage; ask God to speak to you and then sit quietly before God for a minute; then share with God (and others, if you are in a group) a word or phrase that stood out to you.
2. Read the passage; ask God to speak to you and then sit quietly before God for a minute; then share with God (and others, if you are in a group) the images, feelings, and thoughts that struck you (Lord, I was struck by …; I felt…; I saw or heard …).
3. Read the passage; ask God to speak to you and then sit quietly before God for a minute; then share with God (and others, if you are in a group and feel comfortable sharing this) what you hear as God’s Word to you (Lord, I hear you telling me to …).
4. After the previous steps, you may want to read through the passage one more time and then sit quietly for another five to twenty minutes (this can be a time for centering prayer or other types of prayer).
Further ideas to deepen your experience:
- In either your first or second time reading through the passage, read it in the larger context in which the passage is situated.
- Before reading through the second time, take time to study the passage. For example, look at the footnotes related to it in a study Bible or read what a commentary has to say about the text.
A Way to Pray
Long ago, Jesus offered what we now call The Lord’s Prayer as a guide to his disciples in answer to the question of how to pray. Many have found it helpful both as a prayer that can be prayed briefly while saying the words thoughtfully and as an outline for longer times of prayer. What follows is a quick overview of how I use the Lord’s Prayer in my own time with God each day.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. (Praise and thanksgiving) I reflect on who God is, how great God is, and how thankful I am to God. Often I reflect on what affirming God as “Our Father” says about who I am, who is in my family, how I ought to act in general, and how I should relate to others in particular.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Petitions) I pray for God’s blessing; I pray for God’s rule as King to become a reality in fullness for all. I bring before God the various people, places, and things that are on my heart. I pray God’s good purpose be done in and through me, my family, our church, and beyond. I can pray no greater prayer for anyone or anything than this.
Give us this day our daily bread. (Petition for provision) I ask God to provide what I need and what we need. I acknowledge in faith that God does provide all I/we need and ask for help in receiving the nourishment offered, especially as I take time to listen to the Scriptures.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Confession) I confess my sins to God, including my struggle to forgive others who I feel have wronged me. I pray for those I am having a hard time with, for those I suspect may be having a hard time with me, and for our relationship together.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Prayer for guidance) I pray for guidance, away from and out of destructive pitfalls, and toward and along the life-giving pathways of God’s loving purpose.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Praise and commitment) Although these words may not have been part of Jesus’ prayer as recorded in the Bible, many have found them meaningful through the years, myself included. As I conclude my prayer with these words, I am reminded that my aim, my hope and my confidence are in God and God’s purpose, power, and glory.
And this is the boldness we have in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we have obtained the requests made of him. 1 John 5:14-15
The Cross Walk
Spiritual Disciplines for the Lenten Journey
Lent is the path along which Christians have walked in preparation for Easter through the centuries.
It is a pilgrimage that Christ’s followers take knowing that when our hearts and lives are more fully ready, the depth and power of Christ’s death and resurrection can be experienced and lived out more fully.
With this intention, all are invited to commit to walking differently for the next 40 days.
Choose one or more of these disciplines and allow them to reshape the Lenten season for you.
Inward and Personal Disciplines:
- Spend at least 30 minutes in solitude (alone and silent) each day.
- Read a book for inner growth.
- Keep a journal of prayers to God, personal reflections, thoughts based on Scripture readings, and/or questions, etc.
- Make a list of people with whom I need to be reconciled. Pray for them and let Jesus guide me in my thinking, feeling, and acting toward them.
- Choose to de-clutter some part of your life (a room, a relationship, a commitment, a plan, etc.). Clean out some things. Simplify some things.
- Other promptings:
Outward and Social Disciplines:
- Plan to visit a “shut-in” neighbor or church member weekly.
- Write a letter of affirmation and gratitude once a week to a person who has touched my life.
- Begin to recycle waste from my home and workplace.
- Give blood and recall the cross.
- Say “NO” to something that is a waste of money and time.
- Other outward and social promptings: _____________________________
As a way of being accountable, I will either:
- Share my intentions for Lent with my fellowship group, Bible study, or ministry team at its next meeting, or
- Share my plan with at least one other person and share with that person my experience of Lent during Holy Week.