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.
The following are some resources to assist you in your spiritual growth.
Word for the Week
Scripture Reading: Psalm 23
As those who’ve been at Salem know, our sermon series this Lent is Peace Offering: exploring the shalom Jesus offers. Remarkably, the title at the top of this devotional is the one we picked months ago as our sermon title for this upcoming Sunday. It certainly seems appropriate for the times we are living through. Shalom Amid The Chaos, indeed.
These are unprecedented days. The flu, plague, drought, war, and other calamities have devastated societies before, but not this society, not our entire incredibly interconnected world, not in our lifetimes. We aren’t certain what we are in for, but chaos or, at least, significant changes and challenges lay ahead.
Amid such uncertain times, it is worth remembering that just a few weeks ago at our Ash Wednesday Service, we affirmed a couple of things all of us can be sure of. One is that we are mortal. “From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return,” we reminded each other as we imposed ashes on one another’s foreheads and wrists. Yet, at the very same time, even as we acknowledged our weakness, we affirmed another far greater truth that we can be sure of. As the ashes were a sign of our mortality, so we imposed them in the shape of the Cross, the sign of God’s extravagant, invincible love and victory over sin, evil, and death. “Repent (turn to God) and believe the Good News!” we exhorted each other.
What a word for us in this Church season of Lent and this world’s season of a pandemic. Death and evil have been wreaking havoc in our world long before this virus appeared. We’ve always been mortal. We’ve always been just a calamity away from chaos. Many in our world, even in our own neighborhoods, have long been struggling with overwhelming challenges. But this is one of those moments in time, when all of us are forced to recognize our weakness, frailty, and interdependence—both for good, including the good we can do for one another, and for ill, in every sense of the word.
In the face of all this, we proclaim the abiding reality of God’s love represented in the Cross, inviting each other and our neighbors to turn, to keep turning, to God and to believe this Good News.
One way we can do this, a way in which people through the ages have turned and kept turning to God, is by meditating on Scripture, especially the Psalms. Whether through Psalms of lament or praise, these prayers have opened people’s hearts and minds to the shalom—the peace and promises and abiding presence—of God amid the ever-threatening chaos of our world, even if the details of that threat keep changing. Of course, chief among these Psalms that have brought such perspective is Psalm 23, the one assigned for this upcoming Fourth Sunday in Lent. You know the one: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”
Amid the chaos of these days, even if that chaos is faced in the seclusion of wherever you happen to be hanging out these days, this is a great Psalm to meditate on. If you haven’t already memorized it or if it’s been a while since you’ve recited it, I encourage you to take it to heart, let it settle into your mind, let it become an ongoing reminder and prayer of thanksgiving for you in these days.
God bless you as you adjust to this new normal, at least for a while. And, by God’s grace, may it be a time in which you connect in fresh ways with God and others around you, even if those connections will necessarily take place in different ways than you are used to.
Good Shepherd, I praise you that you are with me and with us all in these difficult days. Help me to trust you even as my circumstances change. Help me to believe in your love even when new challenges arise. Help me to trust your love made so completely clear on the Cross and in these days learn to love you more fully than ever, and to love those around me in practical, authentic ways – including by “social distancing”, by making phone calls and encouraging those who are lonely, by supporting those in need, and in whatever ways you lead. You are my Shepherd, and I praise you and follow you, for you are good. Amen.
Verses for Memorization and Meditation:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1
Consider memorizing and meditating on Psalm 23 in its entirety this week.
Some Things to Try:
Read/recite this week’s memory verse or another verse in the psalm several times through emphasizing a different word each time. Reflect each time on how emphasizing that word makes a difference in how you hear God’s Word for you.
Read/recite this week’s suggested memory verse or psalm out loud and notice what catches your attention. Repeat this process, taking time to be still and listen. Talk with God about the Scripture, asking God to shape your attitudes and guide your actions.
Read one of the passages suggested below (preferably out loud). Be silent for a few moments and talk with God about what stands out to you, what ideas or questions come to mind. Read it through again, then sit still and ask God what his word is for you.
Look at Salem’s web page for further resources and devotional guidelines that will be available increasingly over the coming days. Try them out.
Choose a spiritual discipline to practice this Lent (see Salem’s Resource page on our web site for ideas under “Cross Walk”). Tell someone about what you are doing and talk with him or her afterward about the experience. (If you do this as a partnership with someone else, it will be even more rewarding.)
Further Suggested Readings:
1 Samuel 16:1-14
Copyright © 2020 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 ____ minutes in solitude and prayer each day.
- Memorize and meditate on a Bible verse(s) each week.
- 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 ________________________________.
- Share my intentions for Lent with at least one other person and then 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:
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.
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 …).
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 …).
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