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
We were in the back of a conference hall when someone’s watch started beeping. My immediate reaction was to be bugged that someone would be so inconsiderate. A friend next to me, who’d been through an organ transplant, had a much different response. “Maybe it is time for him to take his medication,” he suggested.
It is remarkable how two people can experience the same thing and have such different reactions. Irritation, understanding, judgment, the benefit of the doubt. That day’s experience helped me to slow down in making assumptions and to be more open to different possibilities and perspectives.
In the Gospel Lesson for Sunday from Luke 13:10-17, we see two very different responses to Jesus curing a crippled woman. The synagogue leader, “indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath,” is furious. The woman, as you might expect, begins praising God and “the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he [Jesus] was doing.”
How can people have such contrasting reactions to the very same thing? How is it possible that the synagogue leader cannot even glimpse the possibility that Jesus’ healing of this woman might be a good thing? Is it possible to be so blind, so caught up in whatever your preconceived ideas are, so anxious and fearful of losing power and control that you can’t find it in yourself to rejoice when something good happens?
One look at our current situation in society and even in the Christian Church makes it clear that the synagogue leader isn’t the only one who struggles with this. We often seem so caught up in pointing fingers at one another, at seeing the faults of others, in looking for reasons to judge each other, that we hardly seem able to celebrate the good so many are doing. What is it that you see when you look at the world? What is it you see when you look at other churches, other Christians, other people? Do you see the good? Do you celebrate and join in with the good?
So much of it comes down to what we are looking for. After all, that’s what we tend to see. The synagogue leader expected to see Jesus as a trouble maker, one who was challenging the status quo, and that was what he saw. The crowds following Jesus, on the other hand, were looking to Jesus for good news, healing, and hope, and that is what they found. The scene looks much like what we are experiencing in our country today. People are seeing what they want to see in their preferred candidates. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we are ignoring, not believing, or simply not seeing what we don’t want to see.
I could write much more than a short devotional on this subject, but for the purposes of this week’s word, here are three takeaways that stick with me from this story:
- Practice being aware that your first reaction is not likely based on a full picture of the situation. What you see and how you think are undoubtedly shaped by what you’ve seen and experienced in the past, as well as by what you are looking for and expect to see. Think twice. Listen more. Ask God to help you see and respond better.
- Practice looking for and rejoicing in the good Jesus is doing in your life and world.
- When you see someone doing or saying something good, take note of it, rejoice, and say thank you both to God and to those doing the good, if possible.
Gracious God, give me eyes to see you and the good you are doing in our world. Forgive me for jumping to negative assumptions and too often expecting and seeing only the worst in people. Set me free from the crippling spirit of judgmentalism and enable me to stand up straight, to trust in and rejoice in you, and to be an ambassador of your love and healing in our world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Suggested Verses for Memorization and Meditation:
When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. Luke 13:12-13
Some Things to Try:
- Read this week’s passage out loud and notice what words or phrases catch your attention. Then think and pray about what that word or phrase means to you, how it encourages or challenges you.
- Read this week’s suggested verses 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.
- Reflect on the woman’s and the crowd’s response to what Jesus does. Compare that to the response of the synagogue leader. Prayerfully consider how you can practice being “wired” to look for the good that Jesus is doing in every situation, to rejoice in it, and to join in with it as an agent for God’s good in every circumstance.
Further Suggested Readings:
- Isaiah 55:1-9
- Psalm 63:1-8
- 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
- Luke 13:1-9
- Luke 13:18-21
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