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
Finding Our Way
Scripture Reading: Mark 9:30-37
If someone wants to know the way to my heart, it’s simple. It’s not food, much as I love food! It’s not acclamation, much as I appreciate it. It’s not money or gifts or material possessions, much as I enjoy nice things. No, the way to my heart is by caring about and for my children. No question. Nothing else comes close.
In this coming Sunday’s Gospel Lesson, Jesus tells his disciples for the second time that he is going to be betrayed, suffer, die, and rise again. They don’t understand, but they are afraid to ask him about it. Instead, they start arguing with each other about who’s the greatest. After all, if you don’t want to talk about what is really important and will actually make a difference in your lives, arguing about something else that seems important, but that demands nothing of you, requires no changes from you, is a great way to go.
“He asked them, ’What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent.” They have no interest in talking with Jesus about this. Just his asking the question probably woke them up to how far from what was really important the topic of their conversation had been. This is so often true of us. We argue about all manner of issues while avoiding those that might actually demand something of us and lead to change in our lives and world. We allow certain issues to serve as our “identified patients,” like a family that focuses all their attention on a particular child as the one with all the problems, so the parents don’t have to deal with their own dysfunctional relationship.
Jesus, as is often the case, doesn’t hit the dysfunction head-on. With stories, parables, and in this case, a child, Jesus opens avenues of communication that have the potential to circumvent the formidable defenses of his listeners. He speaks to the issue they’ve been arguing about, but takes them beyond it, back to the real issue they need to wrestle with. “’Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a child and put it among them, and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcome me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me, but the one who sent me.’”
You want to be great? Here’s the way. You want to impress me and my Father in heaven? This is how. Do you want to know the way to the heart of God? Care about, care for, God’s children. The verse, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all,” might be a better overarching verse to memorize this week, but I love the way Jesus gets so very practical and specific when he takes this child into his arms. Ultimately, following Jesus does not come down to good sentiments, pithy sentences, and wonderful abstract thoughts, but to practical, loving, caring actions.
I know this doesn’t flesh out all the answers. But when we find ourselves swimming amidst the competing currents, values, and demands of our lives and world, this passage provides grounding and helps us regain our sense of direction. When the disciples get caught focusing on and arguing about secondary matters or worse, Jesus calls them back to the heart, God’s heart, of the matter.
The prophet Micah put it this way, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” Jesus communicates it through a little show and tell, “’Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them…” Whatever our situation, whatever the choices and challenges, know that love and kindness, especially for the least and littlest, will be, at least in part, the basis for the answers you seek.
God, whose heart is always compassion, teach us your way. Forgive my preoccupation with trying to make sure I am enough, good enough, loved enough, productive enough, great enough. Forgive me for not believing the truth of your love made so completely clear on the cross. Forgive me for not always being confident that I am precious in your sight. By your grace, enable me to believe it, to trust you and your love, and so to be freed to focus my attention on being an ambassador of your love to others. Whatever I do and say, may I do it all in the name of Jesus, and therefore in the name of love, giving thanks to you, God our Father, through him. Amen.
Something(s) to try:
- Go out of your way to smile and say hi to a child.
- If a child gets distracting in a worship service, pray for loving patience for yourself, pray for God’s rich blessing and welcome for the child and parents, and go say hello with a smile afterward.
- Sponsor a child with Covenant Kids Congo, World Vision, or another relief agency helping children.
- Sign up to mentor a child at a nearby school.
- Start helping with Sunday School or another children’s program at church.
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcome not me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:37
Other recommended readings for this week:
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
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.
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.