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.

FOCUS ON FAMILY

FOCUS ON FAMILY

Written by Rod and Dee Mohr

 

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Seek your happiness in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire.  Psalm 37:4 (GNB)

 

As parents, we get great joy in seeing our kids become happy and successful in all they do.  As they grow up, we spend a lot of our own personal time and money on things we think will make them happy.  It doesn’t matter how hard we try to help them find happiness because sometimes being happy is still a major struggle for them.  And when they struggle to find happiness, so do we.  Part of the struggle could be that we just need to find a different currency to measure happiness with.

 

When we read a verse like Psalm 37:4, we might be tempted to mentally substitute the word “happiness” for the words “delight” and “desire”, which are key words in the verse, but what if that’s not exactly what David meant here?  What if instead, he meant to direct our thoughts to the action word “love” when we study the verse?  Consider this:  to delight in someone is to “experience great pleasure and joy” whenever we are with them.  To experience these emotions with people, we obviously have to know them very well, and they in turn have to know us just the same.  We have to know their heart before we can find comfort in them.  To be able to do this, we must spend a lot of time with someone before we can get to the point where we can “take delight” in them. 

 

To “Take delight in the Lord” means we are going to have to make a commitment to Him.  First and foremost, we have to fully trust Jesus with our salvation.  To be close to our Heavenly Father, we have to know first just how much He loves us and to what lengths He’s willing to go to have a relationship with us.  We delight in God by knowing Him more intimately so that we have a better understanding of His love for us.  This is the only way to be sure that our desires are in line with God’s.  So, in essence, David is telling us that if we know God’s love well, our hearts will be in line with His and in turn, so will our heart’s desire.  Delight can certainly relate to happiness if we are seeking happiness in the right place.

 

Here are some things to think about as you pray for your kids, keeping in mind how your own personal relationship with God might affect theirs:

1.     Do I fully trust that Jesus died for me?

2.     Do I know God well and spend time with him regularly?

3.     Do I consistently display God’s love and grace for my kids in all circumstances?

4.     Do I feed my child’s personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, or do I spend more time feeding their earthly desires because it’s much easier to do?

5.     Do I ask for God’s guidance as I lead my children?

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

FOCUS ON DISCIPLESHIP

Written by Stephanie Munger

 

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

 

You can Google or research the best practices of living a Christian life and find thousands of perspectives. At SCC, we have small groups, we have Sunday morning worship, we have a large intentional community who thrive on supporting one another, but sometimes that is not enough. Going to the Bible as a resource in the book of James, James explores the “how-to” disciplines of a Christian life. James wrote his letter originally to the persecuted Christians of the first-century in hopes to expose hypocritical practices and encourage healthy and genuine Christian faith. The setting and experiences of being a 21st century Christian may seem day and night compared to the lives of James’ original audience, but that is not to say his letter is outdated or unusable.

 

Looking specifically at this verse in James, we are drawn to the practice of prayer in relation to those around us. Anytime a verse begins with therefore we must backtrack to understand the cause for this verse. In v. 15, James wrote, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” Our faith must produce action. Active and fervent prayer is the life source of a healthy Christian life. It is our bridge to our Heavenly Father. We are not only called to pray for ourselves, but also for our Christian brothers and sisters—that is when authentic healing occurs in the Church.

 

In my own life, those who I feel closest and at times the most vulnerable with are those who intercede on my behalf through prayer. The second part of v. 16 speaks on the fervent or earnest prayer that “produces wonderful results”. This is to say James is not speaking on five second prayers that quickly cross our minds and just as quick leave. The prayer James refers to is the type that occurs often, that goes deeper than a quick request, that is directed to the heart of God and avoids empty intentions. To be a disciple is to bring others to Christ, and what better way than to speak directly to God himself?

 

The scary nature of vulnerability is not immune to even the most mature Christian. In this sense, we must respond appropriately to those who come to us with their confessions. Confession of sin should not imitate gossip nor be in the boundaries of unwholesome talk. “Those who hear the confession should have the proper response: loving, intercessory prayer, and not human wisdom, gossiping, or “sharing” the need with others.” (Enduring Word Commentary) The easiest yet subtle way interceding prayer becomes gossip is when the focus of the request is solely on the action or sin instead of bringing healing and reconciliation to the person in need.

 

Prayer: “Lord, I am not meant to do this life alone. You bring people into my life to encourage, to walk alongside, and to challenge me. Allow me to see when the need arises to confess my sins, whether personal or directed toward another, in hopes that healing may be achieved and my relationship to You preserved. Additionally, work in me to be a person who my brothers and sisters may come to in need and know I will fervently pray on their behalf.”

 

FOCUS ON FAMILY

FOCUS ON FAMILY

Written by Jackie Davis

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-8

 

I come from a long line of strong West Virginia women who are competent and faith-filled, who see all of life as a grand story that God is weaving. You will never meet women with more courage, strength, and inner determination to face what life gives them. But, they are also classic worriers. They can literally make up things to worry about. That is my legacy.

 

These verses mean the world to me, not because I am always filled with the peace of Christ and never worry, but because I have struggled countless times. With His continued patience and grace, however, He is breaking the cycle of worry in my life and I am leaving a new legacy for my family. What have I learned?

 

First, in EVERY situation and with every reason to worry, I need to bring it to Him. He promises HIS peace only AFTER I come to Him in prayer. And, here's the hardest part: I need to do it with thanksgiving. Why be thankful? Because, every situation I find myself in can help me grow in my walk with Christ...every single one. And, boy, has that ever been true. I could write a book about His faithfulness in growing me! Besides, thankfulness trains me away from worry.

 

Second, one of the best ways I can love my family is to let them SEE me take my worries to God in prayer. Personally, I need the fresh inspiration of God's Spirit to fill my mind and heart and lift me to new places of grace instead of wallowing in my own troubled thoughts. My family is a sacred trust; they have been given to me for eternal purposes. Being an example of prayer and trust instead of worry is one way I can point them to Christ.

 

Finally, I have come to expect the peace that He promises if I go to Him first. Sometimes, God gives me peace about a situation that is unexplainable. This summer, I had a significant health scare with many medical tests, several procedures, two hospitalizations, and a surgery. Throughout the whole ordeal, God's peace surrounded me like a warm blanket. I didn't worry one time! God's grace was present in a way that defied explanation. He promised that peace and He delivered.

 

Have I graduated from the School of Worry? Probably not. But, the older I get, the more that hindsight allows me to see His presence, His comfort, and His provision through all of the worries of my life. He shows up every time! I pass on this legacy of faith by talking about these stories of provision and care. I believe my prayers will outlive me. They may find their answers years after my own life on earth is done. In the meantime, I will keep walking in the promise of Phil. 4:6-8.

 

PRAYER: Dear Lord, in Matthew 14, I read about how Peter took his eyes off of You while walking on the water and started to sink because he was worried and distracted. I have walked in his footsteps, but not on water. Even though You tell me not to worry about tomorrow and what it brings, sometimes that is very difficult for me to do—as a parent. But, You were right there for Peter and You are right there for me, too. Thank You that I can come to You with my worries. You have everything my family and I need in Your hands. But we need You most of all. I pray with all my heart that my children see this, that they will learn to bring it all to You and know the peace that You give, Lord Jesus. You are my peace, dear Lord, and I pray that You will be my children's as well. In Your holy and precious name I pray, Amen."