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 Reading: 1 Peter 1:1-12
I remember looking out over the vast Kansas farmland that seemed to extend forever into the distance. “This is going to be a long, boring summer,” I said to myself. I had just turned sixteen and was far from home and my high school friends. Going there had seemed like a good idea back in January when I’d agreed to work on my cousin’s farm. Now that I was there, I couldn’t imagine how anything good could come out of it. I couldn’t see into the future and know that just two days later I’d meet a couple of high school students who lived in the nearby small town and be invited to a youth gathering at their church where my life would change forever.
On Friday night of that first week in Kansas, I recommitted my life to Christ and began moving on a trajectory of spiritual growth and ministry on which I continue today. I couldn’t have seen it coming nor a lot of what has happened since, but I have experienced God’s faithfulness and goodness again and again. I’ve learned that whatever my experience may be in the present, there is always more—more to the situation, more to reality, more to the story, and more to the future than meets the eye. Neither the best things nor the worst things that happen are the end of the story with God. God is the Alpha and the Omega, and God always has good, more good, more good than you have yet imagined, up his sleeve.
This confidence, this faith, in God’s faithfulness is at the heart of what the Scriptures teach and of what the text we will be focusing on in our upcoming seven-week sermon series is all about. The First Letter of Peter that we will be examining is written to Christians living in difficult times. Persecution was increasing, the wait for Christ’s return was growing long, and many were tempted to turn from their faith. In the face of such challenges, Peter reminded them that though they were a long way from their eternal home in heaven and that life in this world is full of challenges, they could trust God’s goodness, protection, and promise of salvation.
Midway through this Sunday’s passage in 1 Peter 1:1-12, Peter talks about how precious their faith is. It will be tested, he says, like gold is tested. Yet unlike gold which is perishable, the value of faith is eternal since it will result “in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Faith in the grace of God is the thing we need in order to begin our life in Christ. And Peter makes it clear, faith is the thing we continue to need in our ongoing life in Christ, including when the going gets tough. Our faith is precious, and we need to treasure, nurture, encourage, and remain steadfast in it.
Peter urges us to let the hope of salvation, the fulfillment of all God’s promises, to serve as a bright light encouraging us forward through the darkness of our world and the dark times in our lives. This world as it is will not be our ultimate home. We are exiles living in this world awaiting the Day that John writes of in Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” But for now, we are exiles, citizens of another kingdom. We are people who have faith in and who serve a King who is above every king, who sees around every corner and beyond every barrier, who can be counted on to work everything for good in the lives of those called by his name, who can be trusted with our past, our present, our tomorrow, and our forever.
Lord Jesus Christ, because of your resurrection from the dead, we have hope even in the face of life’s greatest troubles, even as we face death itself. Yet I confess that when faced with challenges, I am often tempted to put my hope and faith in things and people who are far less than you. Forgive me, I pray. Help me to trust you. Help me to believe in the good future you have promised so that I may venture forward with confidence and courage to love and serve you. Amen.
Suggested Verses for Meditation and Memorization:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance. 1 Peter 1:2c
Some Thing(s) to Try:
- As you meditate on this week’s suggested verse, receive it as a prayer from the Apostle Peter for you. Receive it also as a prayer from me. Know that as I write this, I am praying for God’s grace and peace to be yours in abundance, you who are deeply loved by God.
- Think about and thank God for a time in your life when God “turned the tables” for good in your life, turning a dead end into a positive pathway forward for you.
- Look for an opportunity and share with another person a story of God turning a challenging situation into something good for you.
- Practice sitting still with God away from distractions for five minutes or more each day. Slowly breath in and out, repeating one of the lines in 1 Peter 1:1-12 that caught your attention. It might be the one suggested above or one of the many others worthy of contemplation in the passage.
- Practice praying as the Apostle Paul urges us in Philippians 4:6-7. Talk with the God who sees you as his beloved child about the things that trouble you. Give thanks for God’s faithfulness and look with anticipation to how God will work for good in the situation.
- Pass on the encouragement Peter offers us in this week’s text by speaking words of hope and faith to, or simply being a person of hope and faith with, someone going through a difficult time.
Further Suggested Readings:
- Romans 8:28-39
- Isaiah 62:1-5
- Psalm 36:5-10
- 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
- John 2:1-11
Copyright © 2019 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.
Week of December 24
Week of December 17
Week of December 10
Week of December 3
Week of November 26
Week of November 19
Week of November 12
Week of November 5
Week of October 29
Week of October 22
Week of October 15
Week of October 8
Week of October 1
Week of September 24
Week of September 17
Week of September 10
Week of September 3
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.