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 Text: 1 Kings 18:20-40
Two weeks after Pentecost, it is remarkable to think not only about the fire that God sent down upon Elijah’s offering in the text we will be looking at Sunday but also the Fire that God sent down upon Jesus’ first disciples as they offered themselves to God after Jesus’ ascension. The fire we need comes from heaven above.
“But put no fire to it!” Elijah instructed the prophets of Baal after telling them to prepare a sacrifice. Elijah did the same in preparing a sacrifice for Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. He prepared the offering, but “put no fire to it.” In fact, he had water poured over the sacrifice to make the possibility of fire taking hold even more unlikely. “You call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers with fire is indeed God.”
There was no answer, of course, to the cries and self-flagellation of the prophets of Baal. No fire was forthcoming. Then Elijah prayed that the Lord would answer him, “so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” And the fire came down so that the people responded, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”
Hannah Hawkinson, who will be preaching on this text Sunday, and I laughed together about what an imperfect offering Elijah presented to the Lord. It’s questionable whether the bull was of a proper age. There’s no way you should be putting water all over an altar built to the Lord. Elijah, himself, doesn’t seem like the kindest, humblest, most considerate person in how he treats others. It’s a questionable sacrifice; he’s a questionable prophet. But none of that is at issue here. Perfect offering, perfect prophet, or not, either God will reveal his glory and turn his people’s hearts back to himself or not. That’s the kind of work only God can do.
This, of course, is the point Elijah and God are making together in 1 Kings 18. And this is the point God makes through Jesus’ disciples in Acts 2. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” The Fire of God, the Holy Spirit, will come down and empower you to do what you could never do on your own. And that group of disciples, and Jesus’s disciples ever since, empowered by the Holy Spirit, have been a part of revealing that the Lord is God and of turning the people’s hearts back to God in ways none of us could have imagined.
Too often, we fall into thinking that our offerings are what is most important, that we’ve got to get the offerings just right, or we’ve got to dance and sing and do everything just right as we make our offerings to God for God to be pleased, take action, and reveal his glory. But that kind of thinking leads to us to become the same kind of frenetic, anxious, self-flagellating or at least self-destructive religious nuts the prophets of Baal turned out to be. Elijah, like Jesus’ first disciples, understood that all we can do is set the table, present what we have to offer whether it seems adequate or not, pray, wait, and hang on to your hat as we see what God alone can do.
God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel, Elijah, and the disciples gathered in that Upper Room, forgive me for putting my hope and faith in powers and promises that are so much less than you. I present myself, O Lord, to you today and pray that you would send forth the Fire of your Holy Spirit to cleanse me of my sin, fill me with your wisdom and power, and enable me to serve your good purposes in this world. By your grace, make me an offering acceptable to you and useful by you that all may know that you are God and that all of our hearts may be turned back to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Suggested Verses for Memorization and Meditation:
“When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.’” 1 Kings 18:39
Some Things to Try:
- Read this week’s passage out loud and notice what words or phrases catch your attention. Think and pray about what that word or phrase means to you, how it encourages or challenges you.
- Read this week’s suggested verse out loud and notice what catches your attention. Repeat this process, taking time to listen and be still, asking God to speak to you, shape your attitudes, and guide your actions.
- Consider in what ways you may “be limping with two different opinions” about who is God (verse 21), about who you will worship, trust, and follow? Declare your allegiance to God clearly in prayer and by considering a step of action, a sacrificial offering of your time, energy, abilities, and/or finances, to offer yourself more fully to God.
- Prayerfully consider if there is something that God is calling you to do or offer that you feel is not adequate. Whether it is to be a presence to someone in need, to reach out with a word or act of kindness, to get involved or offer your voice or ideas, is there something God is calling you to do that you need to just do, praying that the Holy Spirit will make it acceptable and useful for God’s good purposes? Make the offering and trust God.
- As Elijah spoke, set up the altar, and prayed, he reminded the people that God was the faithful Covenant God of their ancestors. As you face the challenges of today, take time to remember who God is and of God’s faithfulness through the ages to those who came before you. Then thank God for his faithfulness today as you venture forward in his name.
Further Suggested Readings:
- Isaiah 65:1-9
- Psalm 22:19-28
- Galatians 3:23-29
- Luke 8:26-39
- Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-4
Copyright © 2019 Word for the Week a devotional resource of Salem Covenant Church
This devotional offering 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.
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.
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)
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)
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