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
Jesus’ nickname for two of his closest disciples, James and John, was “sons of thunder.” They were actually the sons of Zebedee, a name that means “gift of God,” but something must have led Jesus to playfully point out their thundering tendencies. Luke 9:54 is likely a good example of what he saw that led to him to give them the name. When a village of Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus, James and John asked Jesus if he wanted them to “command fire to come down from heaven and consume them.”
Thunder and lightning, indeed! These two followers of Jesus certainly weren’t wall flowers. They pursued what they wanted. They went after what they thought was right. In Mark 10:35-45, they, along with their mother according to Matthew, asked Jesus if they could sit with him in his coming kingdom, one at his right hand and one at his left. But Jesus’ answer indicates they are pursuing the wrong goals. Their means and their ends are out of sync with what Jesus is doing and what is important in God’s coming kingdom.
It took years of walking with Jesus and of him continuing to teach and redirect them. It took Jesus modeling a different path for them, and of showing them a glory, revealed on a cross, that was completely different than any they’d imagined. It took a change of heart, perspective, and ambition, indeed, a new birth to new life with very different goals than before.
In response to his disciples’ misdirected request, Jesus gathered all his disciples and said, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
We’ve all heard this before. Most people who aren’t a part of the Church and don’t read much of the Bible know this about Jesus. He taught that we are to follow his example of living as a servant to others. “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you,” Jesus said after washing his disciples’ feet. Then, he said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:15, 17)
Blessed if we do them. From one vantage point, that might not seem the case for James, at least in this life, as he became the first of Jesus’ initial group of disciples to be martyred. But from the vantage point of heaven, the long view, the God’s kingdom is surely coming perspective, blessed is precisely the right word. Our worldly views, worldly-wise as they may be, are short-sighted, our ambitions inadequate, our goals only getting us so far and no farther. Believe me, from an eternal point of view, our perspectives are incredibly limited. Jesus calls us to faith in the God who sees far beyond the limits of our view, who can turn death into new life, and who can use even the smallest, seemingly insignificant, acts of loving-kindness and faithful service to accomplish abundantly far more than we know to ask or imagine.
So, let’s keep at it, believing in this great God revealed in Jesus. And because we believe, let us follow his example, trust his providence, and do for others as he has done for us.
Almighty God, who revealed yourself and the ways of your kingdom through Jesus Christ, thank you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for calling me to follow Jesus and for giving me your Holy Spirit to empower me to do so. Grant me the grace to love as I have been loved, to serve as you have served me, and to thereby be a part of your wonderful, redemptive work in the lives of people around me. This week, even today, make me a blessing to others that they may come to rejoice in your love, now and forever. Amen.
Verse to Memorize:
“You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42b-45)
Some Things to Try:
- Read/recite this week’s suggested verses out loud and notice what catches your attention. Repeat this process, taking time to be still and listen. Talk with God about the verses, asking God to shape your attitudes and guide your actions.
- Read one or both of this week’s passages (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 through again, then sit still and ask God what his word is for you.
- Pray, asking God:
- Where are you already at work?
- Where do you want me to join you in the work you are doing in my family, friends, and others you are seeking to draw toward yourself?
- How do you want me to bless the people in the places you are sending me today/this week? How do you want me to serve others today?
- Lord, make me a blessing to someone today.
- Create a prayer list of people in your circles of influence who you would like to be encouraged to grow closer to God. List three to five people and pray for them daily. Ask God to give you opportunities to serve and bless them.
- Brainstorm some questions you can ask those you are praying for, as well as others as God gives you opportunity, that can help you begin conversations about spiritual topics.
Further Suggested Readings:
- Malachi 4:1-2a
- Psalm 98
- 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
- Luke 21:5-19
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