FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

Written by Jessica Ebert

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.  James 5:13

 

As disciples of Christ, we aren’t promised an easy journey. We all face periods of trials and walk through what seem to be dark valleys. James 5:13 tells us that during these times we need to be reliant on God and pray. During these difficult, and at times confusing, points in our lives, we need to be reliant on God, knowing that he has good intentions for his children….his disciples.

 

What is the first thing we do when experience a personal crisis? Do we call a loved one for encouragement or support? Do we let whatever this crisis is shake us to our core and worry ourselves sick? What would happen if we immediately took a minute to stop and pray to our Heavenly Father for help?

 

Being a disciple of Christ means that we are living out our daily lives with Him…not just experiencing his presence on Sunday mornings or in a small group. Discipleship is personal…it is real. I challenge you to be intentional about living daily with God…to take our cares and concerns, but also our victories, and be prayerful about them. Instead of facing our trials alone or approaching them like we do every other day…let’s face them as disciples of Christ. We can claim victory over these in the name of our Lord…so why aren’t we living as though we have already won the battle?!

 

Father, we ask that You help us walk more closely with You. Give us confidence during our trials Lord, knowing that You have already fought our battles and conquered them on our behalf. Remind us during times when we feel overwhelmed or even helpless, that You are always by our side. Help us to bring all of our burdens to Your feet Lord…knowing that You willingly carry these for us. We love You, Lord, and are so thankful for all that You have blessed us with…in Jesus’ name…Amen.

 

FOCUS ON FAMILY

FOCUS ON FAMILY

Written by Anthony and Lindsey Noles

 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5

 

James was known as “camel knees” because his knees were so tough from kneeling in prayer. #PrayerGoals. We should take advice from James in how we pray, and in many of our situations, how we pray for our families.

 

The first thing that James addresses here is humility, but in a funny way. “IF any of you lacks wisdom”? Ha! If marriage and parenthood has taught us anything so far, it’s that we most definitely lack wisdom. We do stupid things, say hurtful things, and prioritize unimportant things, so this part seems like a heart check. “You know you don’t know everything, right? Ok good.”

 

Then, “you should ask God.” Seems simple enough, but in how many OTHER places do we first try to find wisdom, love, security, etc.? You should ask God.

 

“Who gives to all without finding fault.” This is not credit-based giving. Stop trying to earn it. He doesn’t wait for you to _____ or to stop _____ before He’s willing to shower gifts on you. Our proof of this is Jesus!

 

“AND IT WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU.” You guys, we have a God who follows through. We are broken and terrible at follow through, but that’s not God. No prayer goes unheard, no desire is simply ignored. We need to trust that God is who He says He is, and that He loves us as much as He says He does.

 

In any family relationship, (in our season, marriage and parenting are the biggies, but this applies to any relationship) our supply of patience, forgiveness, strength, and frankly, love, runs out quickly when we try to do it on our own. God invites us to lean into Him in prayer so that He can be our Source of all of those things. We need to pray for His wisdom to be firm in knowing who we are in Christ even when our families see us at our weakest and worst, and we need to pray for His wisdom to serve and love them even when they are at their weakest and worst. We need to pray for His wisdom to give up control to Him, whatever that might mean at the moment. We need to pray for wisdom to be able and willing to show our spouses and kids what following Jesus looks like.

 

In what relationship do I need to ask God for His wisdom?

 

How do I pray? Do I pray as if I believe I am a beloved child of the King? Do I pray as if I actually believe He will answer?

 

Father, we pray for Your wisdom in our families. Please give us wisdom in how to spend time with them, in our words and actions toward them, to forgive and to ask forgiveness, in finances, in the everyday grind. Please give us wisdom on how to be Your people, not just at church but at home.

 

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

Written by Kay Hungate

 

The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him. 

Proverbs 15:8

 

Detest and wicked – such strong words to find in the Bible!  Yet – when Solomon wrote these words, he did have a very clear message for us.  Solomon wanted us to think about our everyday life and he offers us guidance on how to navigate what is a path filled with choices.  God asks that we confess our sins and He promises to take them away.  Even those that are in the deep recesses of our soul that we share with no one – God sees and knows them.  God is asking us to have a clean heart before Him, bring our cares, anxieties and sins before Him so He may wash them clean.  Then, through the Holy Spirit, He asks that we be ‘fishers of men’ and pursue discipleship.

 

God wins when we bring one more person into His family.  We accomplish this through trying to live in accordance with the word of God, fellowship and prayer.  This thing called ‘discipleship’ sounds a bit intimidating to me.  However, if we think about it as trying to live like Jesus, understanding God accepts our failures and faults, it becomes very real. Remember, even the 12 disciples disappointed Jesus and had sin and yet, He kept walking beside them.   Being a disciple means spreading the love of Jesus and helping others to understand how much they are loved by the Lord and that He gave His only Son to take away our sins.  If we attempt to live like Jesus, letting His joy spring from our hearts, demonstrating the compassion, gentleness and kindness of Christ, others will want what we have, a life in the Lord!  That opens the door for us to share the love of Christ and all He is done for us. 

 

Discipleship and being ‘fishers of men’ is about taking one step at a time, moving beyond what may be our comfort zone in the name of Jesus.  It is being Jesus with skin on.  Once you take the first step, the next one gets a bit easier.  When covered in prayer, it is amazing how the power of the Holy Spirit will provide you with the right words at the right time to share the love of Jesus.  May you choose to be the light of Jesus in someone’s darkness.

 

Prayer Starter

Lord, I know I am called to be your hands and feet for others, but it isn’t always easy.  You know what is in my heart.  I pray that Your Spirit may work within me and help me to take that next step.  I pray that…..

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

Written by Jessica Seelye

I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.  Psalm 116:1-2

 

Time and time again I can list instances where I have prayed to God, and He has heard my cry. I haven’t always received the answers to my prayers the way that I had planned, but God has been faithful every single time.

 

When I read these two verses I hear hope. A hope that when we pray to God that He will be faithful. God hears my prayers. God hears my voice. The greatest part in all of this is that He hears you too. The writer of this Psalm is getting ready to share a testimony of how God was faithful. He isn’t just remembering a past experience when praying to God, but he is remembering a deep assurance from it that God will hear him next time as well. These verses help us see the past, the present, and the future promises of God.  It’s a promise that we can pray to God because he HAS proven himself faithful in prayer. Can you hear the love of the Psalmist for God in these verses? The writer not only knows that he loves God, but he knows why he loves God so much. “When love can justify itself with a reason, it is deep, strong, and abiding.” (The Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon)

 

As we continue to pray for our community, families, and the discipleship direction of our church we can rest in the promise that God is hearing our prayers. God HAS heard our prayers, and He will continue to do that moving forward. In what areas has God proven himself faithful to you? You might be in a season right now where it is really hard to see God’s faithfulness. When we pray for sick loved ones, and the answer doesn’t come out right. When we pray for a new job, and it still hasn’t happened yet. When we pray for someone with an addiction, and they are still struggling.

 

My challenge to you today is to look deeper. Remind yourself of where God has been faithful to you. Ask him in prayer to remind you of those areas where he has listened, and you watched him work in your life.  

 

Prayer: Father, I love You. I love how You hear my voice. You hear my cries out to You. I love that You hear me when I don’t have the words to say. I love how You turn your ear to me. I love that I can come to You with my questions, my hurts, my praises, my sadness, my happiness, and my thoughts. Help me to see that through prayer my love for You can grow deeper, and that my thoughts and words matter to You.

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

Written by Tammy Crenshaw

 

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  Matthew 7:11

 

Ask, seek, knock are all ACTION words.  How active is your prayer life?  Do you ask selfishly?  When you seek, is it to find selfish answers?  Are you knocking on a door in hopes that God will open it for your own selfish gain?

 

As a Christian we are called to follow Jesus' actions. What does that mean when you read a verse like Matthew 7:11?  Praying unselfish prayers takes an intentional mindset.  When we pray using action words like ask, seek and knock, we need to be ready to act when we feel God prompting us into action. Today's verse clearly tells us that when we ask, it will be given.  (Ask Him with a loving heart).  If we seek, we will find. (Seek with eyes on Him). If we knock, it will be opened to us. (Knock with the expectation that His answer will be revealed).

 

Matthew’s words seem simplistic.  You mean, all I have to do is ask and “it” will be given?  Wait, what is “it”?  What if the “it” I ask for isn’t the “it” I’m given? There may be some fear associated with asking, seeking and knocking.  We must have the intentional mindset of, “I’m going to ask God for ‘it’ and believe the ’it’ He gives, is His will for me.”  The belief in God hearing our prayerful action words and showing us His will when we ask, seek or knock should not cause us to be fearful, but instead, should bring us peace.  There is peace in knowing that God knows which “it” will allow His glory to be seen even if “it” was not the “it” we asked for.

 

When we pray, we are having an active conversation with God. You do not need to speak any fancy words when you are having a conversation with God. He doesn’t expect our conversations to always be warm and fuzzy. He wants to hear you Ask, Seek and Knock in the belief and expectation that you will be Given, Found and Opened to His great love and glory.

 

My prayer for us today:

Hey God, I come to You today with my heart and eyes actively fixed on You. I ask, seek and knock expecting Your will for my life. Help me to be intentional in my prayer life and in my walk with You.  Help me believe in Your will for my life.  May others see You through my actions today.  In Your name I pray. Amen.

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

Written by Julie Johnson


Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  Pray for us too, that God may open a door for a message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ,  for which I am in chains.  

Epaphras Who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings.  He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.  Colossians 4:2-3, 12



Have you ever grown tired of praying for something or someone?  Paul says we should "devote" ourselves to prayer and be "watchful" in prayer.  Our persistence is an expression of our faith that God answers our prayers.  Faith shouldn't die if the answer comes slowly, for the delay may be God's way of working HIS will in our lives.  When you feel tired of praying, know that God is present, always listening, always answering—maybe not in ways you had hoped, but in ways that HE knows are best.


The "mystery of Christ" is Christ's good news of salvation, the gospel.  The whole focus of Paul's life was to tell others about Christ, explaining and preaching this wonderful mystery.
 

Epaphras was a hero of the Colossian church, one of the believers to help keep the church together despite growing troubles.  His earnest prayer for the believers shows his deep love and concern for them.
 

Devote yourself in prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.  Pray that God will open up to us a door for the Word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ.

 

One thing is crystal clear, it is God's will that we pray to Him.   Sometimes we struggle to know the will of God for our lives.  There are some things that you do not have to struggle to know.  One of them is that God's will is that you pray to Him, He commands it.

 

Pray to God your heart's desires or needs and, of course, what your heart needs most is God—to know Him, to trust Him, to love Him and obey Him.  Remember to come to God with more than asking, we should come confessing sins and giving thanks and praise.  In Colossians 4:2 it says, "devote yourselves to prayer with (or in) thanksgiving."  Thanking God should always be part of what we do in prayer.   Be sure to notice the main thing:  Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God."  That is the meaning of prayer.  "With confession of sins" and "with thanks for and acknowledgment of His mercies."  Express your desires but remember the essence of prayer is the expression of our dependence on God through request.
 

So pray often,  pray regularly and take the steps to see that prayer is a part of your regular life the same way as eating and sleeping are.

 

Lord God please help us put the focus of prayer for our community outreach that you have BLESSED US WITH.   Help us to feel those heart desires and put them into action.  We pray for our leaders, our church, ourselves and each other.  Help us to pray often, pray regulatory and take the steps to see that prayer is a part of our regular life the same way as eating and sleeping.
God help us keep your presence in our day through prayer, help us make a dramatic difference in our community.   Lord God HELP US change OUR life now !!

FOCUS ON FAMILY

FOCUS ON FAMILY

Written by Austin Barngrover

 

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:2-3 NIV

 

In these verses we see James writing to servants of God who were being persecuted for their faith, and he was reminding them how to live out their Christian faith. 

 

We, as disciples of God, communicate with our Father through the power of prayer. But sometimes we tend to ask God for our wants and needs instead of the needs of God. So, when we don't get the answer we want we get frustrated and mad at God. Instead of praying in such a selfish way, we need to pray for whatever advances God's kingdom and Christ's Glory. Too many times our prayers involve the word, "me," but you can never say the Lord's Prayer and only use the words I, My, or Me. 

 

We need to realize, as children of God, that our entire purpose here on Earth is to serve God for His plan.  One way we can do that is by praying for our loved ones, whether your friends or family. If they need something it's your job to pray for them. If someone is sick or in a bad situation, pray about it and ask God to put His hand on that situation.  Again, "You do not have because you do not ask God." Friends and family are extremely important in our lives as we depend on each other.

 

God is the source of all our blessings. We have a great Father who listens to our prayers. God hears the cry of His people. Whenever we call on Him and from whatever situation, we know He is listening and He will answer. We know there is everlasting love and forgiveness. We have a good Father who has a plan and who guides us. 

 

Dear Lord, we are so grateful for Your love and Grace each and every day. Lord, forgive us when we are selfish and we don't put Your glory first. Lord, be with us when we are praying for friends and family. Let us be more like You and be with us as we continue our journey and the plan You have for us. 

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

Written by Laurie Brooks

 

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  Luke 6:12

 

Luke is a physician, an associate and traveling companion of Paul.  It is thought that Luke wrote his gospel for an influential man named Theophilus, from whom Luke may have received funding for his writing endeavor.  Theophilus may have been a new convert and was financially able to affront the funds and materials necessary to Luke.  Luke, himself, could have been a man of great means as well. 

 

I tend to be very scientific when I ponder the Word of God.  I like to know and understand the black and white facts - which means I think WAY too hard about verses and tend to question things I should just chalk up to faith. 

 

So, while I was researching this verse (there goes that black and white thing again), I found it very interesting that a man of obvious means should leave his home and travel with Paul.  He became a disciple – he accepted and assisted in spreading God’s word.  And Luke had never met Jesus! 

 

So, before I could even pray about this verse, I was completely impressed that Luke would follow Paul, believe and have faith in Jesus, when he could have stayed at home in his comfortable “doctor’s house”. 

 

Luke tells me that Jesus went to a mountainside and prayed.  He also spent the night praying to God.  What was so important to Jesus that He felt he needed to pray all night?  The next verse gives my scientific brain a hint (well, a slap up-side the head, actually):  “in the morning, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them as His apostles."  It was the very beginning of THE disciple creating disciples! 

 

As we have all heard a lot lately “SCC wins when we make a disciple who makes another disciple."  This is where it all started!  Jesus prayed all night about this very thing. 

 

But what do you suppose He asked of God?  I don’t know about you, but my mind would have wandered after about five minutes, and I would have fallen asleep in less than thirty minutes.  It has nothing to do with the importance of this – it has everything to do with being human. 

 

We heard a sermon (here at SCC) about this, and I have talked about it with my small group.  How in the world do you pray all night long?  You talk.  You just talk to God.  Have a conversation with Him.  Much as Jesus probably prayed:

            Please help me be a disciple of Christ and fulfill His mission!

            Help my church become disciples in our community!

            Pray that I (and SCC) trust, learn, and have a bigger faith in Him!

            Guide me in Your path that I might lead others to You.

 

Just talk to God.  He is always listening. 

            

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

FOCUS ON COMMUNITY

Written by Tim Hampton

 

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.  The power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised him from the dead and sealed him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  Ephesians 1:18-21

 

The past few years have been challenging for our family.  My wife was diagnosed with cancer on two separate occasions and I had to go on disability due to a serious chronic illness.  During this season of our lives it has been the faithful prayers of God's people that have sustained us.  As I write this devotional I am doing so with a heavy heart as I grieve the loss of my father who passed away a week ago.  During that same week I spent four days in the hospital due to poor kidney functioning.  On my cell phone are texts and voice mails from the people of SCC offering prayers of love and support to me.  These prayers have given me the strength to carry on with faith and hope.               

 

As the apostle Paul sat down to pen his letter to these young believers in Ephesus he knew that prayer, more than anything else, would be the necessary ingredient to aid in their continued growth and maturity.  This is perhaps why such a large portion of Ephesians is actually a prayer.  The verses that we are considering in this devotional are part of his prayer that includes verses 15-23.  Verses 15-17 were considered in a separate devotional.

 

In verse 18, Paul uses an interesting expression, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened."  that phrase "eyes of your heart" is speaking of an inner awareness provided by the Holy Spirit.  "Heart" speaks of our whole  inner self, including our mind, will, and emotions.  In verse 19, Paul reveals to his fellow believers what he wanted the Holy Spirit to reveal to them deep in their heart.  The one that I want to consider is the last one that he mentions, "His incomparably great power for us who believe."  I love the Phillips translation of this, "how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God."  The Christians of Paul's day as well as all of us today, need to have the eyes of our heart opened to the fact that God has empowered us mightily and equipped us wonderfully as we seek to serve, love and care for our community.  Acts 1:8 is Jesus's promise to us, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Samaria, and the ends of the earth".

 

This verse makes it clear that there is a vital relationship between the ministry of the Spirit in our lives and the working of spiritual power.  While it is true that this verse is the Great Commission, it also states a fact:  when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, we will indeed receive power and will be witnesses to the ends of the earth.  That is the Spirit's function - to empower us for witness about Christ among nations.  I want to encourage you to pray for one another that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit, and that we would all trust and believe that as God opens the door for new opportunities for ministry, He will also empower and equip us.

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank you that you love us.  I thank you that you have saved us and filled us with your precious Holy Spirit.  I thank you for opening the eyes of my heart to see....................

 

 

 

 

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

Written by Tom Hoehner

 

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  Matthew 6:5-8

 

Jesus cautions us here not to display our piety before men.    Why?.........because we are all sinners so making such a display is  hypocritical.  The closet place of prayer is a special place. Over the years I have discovered that if I am faithful to the discipline of prayer, that I come to the place where God calls me to pray for specific people and specific situations.

 

My parents' generation called it a "burden" to pray.   Mom would say, "God has put a burden on my heart to pray for thus and such."  When this happens, stop whatever you are doing and pray.......  if you don't the burden will lift, and you will have missed an opportunity to intercede for something  really important. Sometimes you will find yourself overcome with emotion and you are not sure why, but you know it is a call from God to pray.

 

Scripture also tells us that wherever two or three of us agree as touching any one thing it shall come to pass.  This is corporate prayer........ agreement that brings power and God's intervention in a situation. Both closet prayer and corporate prayer are vital cogs in our prayer life.

 

Be sensitive today to the voice of God and if He impresses you to pray for a person or situation follow through on that. 

 

When it happens to me it is sort of "out of the blue" and sometimes it is someone that I have not had contact with for a very long time.    I still pray for my government and Spanish teachers from high school because God puts them on my heart.

 

If God impresses you to pray for a certain person and you are able to contact them, sometimes I will get in touch and just say something like........" I'm not sure why but for some reason you are on my heart today."  Be prepared to do some counseling............nothing opens up a person to ministry like the knowledge that God is putting them on someone's heart.