Devotional resources

We have posted some other devotional resources you can use after Growing in Discipleship stops publishing on October 25, 2014.

For our recommendations click here.

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Noticing little things

Please note: The last Growing in Discipleship daily devotion will be posted on Saturday, October 25. We have posted on our site some other places to find daily devotions online, or to have them delivered to your email. Click HERE for those recommendations

Date: Saturday, October 25

ScriptureMark 5:25-33

Verse: At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30)

TuesdayThoughts

Not my logo, but I wish it was.

Several years ago I started an email newsletter for the youth group called Tuesday Thoughts. To be honest, I chose the title because it sounded catchy, and it gave me the deadline of putting it out every Tuesday. Through the years I reflected on that title quite a bit, and began to think deeply about it. Tuesdays, when you think about it, are pretty boring days. They aren’t fun like a Saturdays, filled with church activities like Sundays and Wednesdays, anticipated like Thursdays and Fridays, or dreaded like Mondays. Tuesdays are all about ordinary. You can go through most Tuesdays without even thinking about it. Tuesdays are so routine. One of the signs of Christian maturity I have always tried to instill in youth, is integrating their faith/church life into the rest of their week. So I started to talk about Tuesday Thoughts as times when we become aware of God’s presence and our role as his children, in the ordinary, mundane stuff of life.

In today’s scripture lesson Jesus is traveling, walking from place to place. There is some urgency in his step, he is off to heal someone, but this is something he has done thousands of times. There is nothing of spiritual significance happening here. Crowds have gathered for the show. What will it be like when Jesus heals this little girl? Suddenly, while still surrounded by the crowd, Jesus stops and asks a silly question in the eyes of the disciples, “Who touched my clothes?” Lots of people were touching Jesus that day. The crowds were all around him. But there was something about this touch that was different, something he noticed. It was the touch of someone in need. Jesus always seemed to notice when someone was in need.

Jesus had noticed someone everyone else had missed. He was also aware of the movement of the Holy Spirit, even in something as mundane as a commute. Throughout his ministry, there never seemed to be a moment for Jesus that wasn’t ripe with God’s presence to be celebrated. The same ought to be true for us. We should be having those Tuesday Thoughts more regularly, because God is around us every day, calling us to follow him.

May you and I treat every day as special. There are no ordinary days, no ordinary moments. All are filled with the presence of God to be celebrated and the call of Jesus to follow him.

Prayer: Teach me, Lord Jesus, to find you even in the ordinary. Amen.

Action: Seek God’s presence and his call even in the mundane.

Respond: When has God broken through to you while you were just going about the ordinary business of your day?

Join the conversation! Click “Leave a comment” or type in the “Leave a reply” box below. Email subscribers, click the title of the devotion in the email to go to the webpage. Then follow the instructions above.

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Love one another

Please note: The last Growing in Discipleship daily devotion will be posted on Saturday, October 25. We have posted on our site some other places to find daily devotions online, or to have them delivered to your email. Click HERE for those recommendations

Date: Friday, October 24

ScriptureGalatians 5:13-15

Verse: All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5:14)

"There, but for the grace of God, go I."

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

In the very first church where I served as a pastor, I met a saint named Henrietta. Henrietta was one who always seemed to see the plight of those around her. Our church was suffering a difficult economic time. The biggest business in town was laying off employees regularly, and the community was beginning to feel the effect. Some of Henrietta’s family came to me one day, asking me to talk to her. She was giving away food, they told me, and she didn’t have all that much to begin with. The family wanted me to talk some “sense” into her. I understood. I would have wanted to do the same.

The day we chatted Henrietta taught me a phrase I have never forgotten: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” For Henrietta, this was what it meant to love your neighbor as yourself. She could put herself in the shoes of those who were in need, and she wanted to give what she had. When we chatted, I remember her telling me about when she and her husband were first starting out, and didn’t have much. They were helped by caring people, and she felt she was just returning the favor some 40 years later.

I have always admired the way Henrietta thought. She saw the other, and loved them the way she would have wanted to be loved. Through the years I have met many other saints who do those very same things. Most times when I have spoken with them about it, they don’t understand why I’m so impressed. They will say things like: “I just listen,” or “It’s just some extra food,” or “Anyone would do the same thing.” Maybe so, but when you see someone loving their neighbor as they love themselves, it makes quite an impression, as my memory of Henrietta testifies.

Prayer: Teach me, Lord Jesus, to see the needs of others, and to love them as I would like to be loved in the same situation. Amen.

Action: Identify a person or two in your life who needs some love, and how you could love them as you love yourself.

Respond: Do you have a memory of one who loved others well?

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A cup of water

Please note: The last Growing in Discipleship daily devotion will be posted on Saturday, October 25. We have posted on our site some other places to find daily devotions online, or to have them delivered to your email. Click HERE for those recommendations

Date: Thursday, October 23

ScriptureMatthew 10:40-42

Verse: I assure you that everybody who gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because they are my disciples will certainly be rewarded. (Matthew 10:42)

1000509261001_1553982855001_Bio-Radio-Mother-Theresa-SFMother Teresa, the woman who dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India through her movement called the Missionaries of Charity, is quoted as saying, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” From someone who did great things on a regular basis, so many that she won a Nobel Peace Prize, these are comforting words. Too often we become paralyzed with the enormity of the problems surrounding us. We may not be able to solve world hunger or poverty in our own community, but we can serve the hungry and poor with the love of Jesus Christ. Our call, as someone has said, is not to be successful, but to be faithful.

As Jesus sends out the disciples to do his work, he tells them that sometimes they will be received, and other times they will be rejected. He doesn’t want them to become discouraged, but to keep going. He then goes on to tell them that those who receive them, are doing something to be celebrated and should be rewarded. He then follows that up with today’s verse about giving a cup of cold water. Even that minimal effort will be rewarded greatly by God.

While Mother Teresa was widely recognized for her work, her focus never seemed to waiver from serving the people in front of her, the needy people of Calcutta, those whom she called “Jesus in disguise” (see Matthew 25:37-40). She wasn’t always doing great things for the world to see. Often, she was just holding someone’s hand when they were frightened, or washing the wounds of someone in desperate need. We cannot allow the enormity of the problems move us to inaction. We may not be able to do great things every day, but “we can do small things with great love.”

Prayer: Give me wisdom, Lord Jesus, to show your love through what I do. Amen.

Action: Google Mother Teresa, and learn a little about what she did. A good place to start might be motherteresa.org.

Respond: To whom could you give “a cup of cold water”? What would that look like?

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Shake it off

Please note: The last Growing in Discipleship daily devotion will be posted on Saturday, October 25. We have posted on our site some other places to find daily devotions online, or to have them delivered to your email. Click HERE for those recommendations

Date: Wednesday, October 22

ScriptureMatthew 10:5-15

Verse: As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

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Last weekend about a dozen of our youth, and their four youth leaders, spent Saturday and Sunday working for people in our congregation. It was called Mission@Home. The idea came from this year’s mission trip to New Jersey. One night, while sitting around discussing where to go next year, a conversation began about why we go so far away sometimes. The travel is expensive, and there is just as much to do right in our own backyard. We toyed with the idea of helping people in our community, and in our church. When we got back, one of our youth leaders ran with this idea and Mission@Home was born. This past weekend, our youth were out working, sharing a small piece of the kingdom of heaven with neighbors and friends.

In today’s passage Jesus is sending the disciples out ahead of him. He tells them to go to people who are in need to offer healing, life, and to meet their every need. I love today’s verse, “As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” There is a sense in the way Jesus says this that their mission is something that is simply to be part of their everyday living. He doesn’t give them instructions about how to build a church or even set up 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. Notice he isn’t asking them to do a bunch of programming, but rather to meet people in their needs wherever they find them. Following the way of Jesus, hearing his call, means announcing the kingdom of heaven is near, not only in what we say, but also in what we do.

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The Mission@Home reminded me of a quote I once heard from another pastor. He said, “Every day can be a mission trip.” Far too often we set aside special time to help others — a weekend in October, a week in June, a day at Tri-Lakes Cares or Marion House soup kitchen. Those are great things, but what about the other days? Jesus says we can serve him as we go — to work, to school, running errands, whatever — and announce in what we say and what we do that “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Prayer: Open my eyes, Lord, that I might see the needs of others, and announce your kingdom has come near through what I say and what I do. Amen.

Action: Make an effort to spend the day ahead, with your eyes focused as though you are on a mission trip.

Respond: If you have been on a mission trip, or serve people in other ways, how do you view things differently when you are serving that you do at other times?

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Serve others

Please note: The last Growing in Discipleship daily devotion will be posted on Saturday, October 25. We have posted on our site some other places to find daily devotions online, or to have them delivered to your email. Click HERE for those recommendations

Date: Tuesday, October 21

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:8-11

Verse: And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts. (1 Peter 4:10)

MichaelScottWhen I think of managers, I think of Michael Scott, the fictional manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company’s Scranton branch, from the television series The Office. Steve Carell played the part wonderfully, giving us a steady stream of examples of what NOT to do when managing people. Most often, Michael made decisions selfishly — considering how the decision might affect his popularity, or which choice would be the easiest to execute. Unfortunately, he seldom considered what might be best for the efficiency of the office, or best for the people whom he managed.

Peter gives a completely different way of managing resources. He tells us as good managers of God’s diverse gifts given to us, we should use them, not in service to ourselves, but in service others. The gifts he talks about are not necessarily big ones. He mentions loving other people, opening our homes to others, and the way we speak to one another. Being a good manager is about being able to see the other people around you. We are not to become so enamored with our own wants, that we neglect to see the needs of the people around us.

When many people talk about “gifts,” they are talking about the things that serve them. A gifted athlete might earn a college scholarship, a gifted musician wants to be offered a recording contract, a person with gifts in math looks for a good job in something like engineering. There is nothing wrong with those things, but we must also remain aware of the needs of those around us. Then we can use our gifts unselfishly in service to others. This is  the mission to which we have been called as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, direct me to not only use my gifts for what I might receive through them, but also for the benefit of others. Amen.

Action: Look for ways you might love those around you.

Respond: Do you know a particularly good or bad manager?

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Tell the nations

Please note: The last Growing in Discipleship daily devotion will be posted on Saturday, October 25. We have posted on our site some other places to find daily devotions online, or to have them delivered to your email. Click HERE for those recommendations

Date: Monday, October 20

ScripturePsalm 96

Verse: Sing to the Lord! Bless his name! Share the news of his saving work every single day! (Psalm 96:2)

thumbs upI have recently seen a movie, tried and restaurant, and started reading a book, all due to recommendations of friends. One who told me they had seen a movie they thought I might like. They were right. I did. Another told me about a restaurant that I hadn’t tried before, which they thought I might like. Again, they were right. Another recommended a book saying they thought it was something I might like. Unfortunately, that friend was wrong. After an hour or so of slogging through a couple of chapters, I put it aside. Oddly, the book recommendation came from the one I would consider the best friend. They just missed the mark on that one, but it didn’t change my opinion of the friend. He is still the one I would say knows me best of the three.

While we are quick to talk to others about trivial things like food and entertainment we have enjoyed, we are often reluctant to offer the same people our experience with Christ. Psalm 96 encourages us to do just the opposite. Not only should we be telling our friends about our relationship to God, we should be sharing it with the nations (Psalm 96:3) every single day (Psalm 96:2). This is our call as people of faith, the mission to which we have been called.

I know there are times when I’m afraid to share my faith because I am concerned people will think differently of me. Maybe I could do it the same way I offer a recommendation: “I went to church on Sunday and I was moved by the sermon about…” or “Today in my devotions I read about…” That is so non-threatening. Simply a way of talking the way I would about trivial things. While they may not like the movie/book/restaurant as much as I do, or may find faith a cold practice because they are not receptive to the moving of the spirit around them, I can still make the recommendation. May I be so bold with the thing that matters most in my life, my life’s journey with Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Encourage me, O God, to “share the news of [your] saving work every single day. Amen.

Action: Consider how you might talk about your faith this week, the same way you might make a recommendation about entertainment.

Respond: When have you seen a movie, read a book, tried a restaurant on the recommendation of a friend, and just hated what they thought was so good?

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Being a witness

Please note: The last Growing in Discipleship daily devotion will be posted on Saturday, October 25. We will be posting some other places to find daily devotions online, or to have them delivered to email in the days ahead.

Date: Saturday, October 18

Scripture1 John 1:1-4

VerseWe announce to you what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have seen and our hands handled, about the word of life. (1 John 1:1)

lebron-witnesses-tight-focusThis offseason, Lebron James returned to the basketball team with whom he started, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lebron grew up in Cleveland and was drafted by the Cavaliers right out of high school. He was a standout, and it was fairly obvious from the beginning that he would be a very special NBA star. Getting in early on the success they knew he would have, the marketing team at Nike began a campaign in and around Cleveland using the tagline: We are all witnesses. The people of Cleveland were getting to see the beginning of the career of one who is in the conversation of the best ever.

Sometimes when it comes to our sharing of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we forget that we have been called to be witnesses. We are not called to be teachers, professors, experts, or anything of the sort. We are simply called to be witnesses, telling others what we have seen and experienced in Jesus. That’s the way John introduced himself and his team in the letter of first John, “We announce to you…what we have heard, what we have seen…about the word of life.” They aren’t there to argue, they have come to share this amazing experience that has changed their lives.

Part of Nike’s marketing campaign was a T-shirt with one word on it: Witness. It was a way fans of Lebron James identified themselves. They were eager to tell everyone just what great basketball they were watching. As Christians, we need those same shirts. We too are witnesses of something far more valuable. Jesus has given meaning to our lives, peace in our struggles, and hope for the future. We need not necessarily convince anyone of that. We are instead called to share what we have seen, heard, and felt. We are all witnesses.

Prayer: Grant me courage, Lord Jesus, to tell the world what you have done for me. Amen.

Action: In the course of a conversation in the next few days, tell someone what Jesus has done for you.

Respond: Have you ever followed a star from the beginning, convinced they were fantastic before the rest of the world knew?

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