Prayer for March 11th

Let the lyrics of this song be a prayer you lift before the Lord today.

Alabaster Heart - Bethel Music 
So here it is, my alabaster heart
I'm keeping nothing back from who You are
No hidden treasure veiled by key or lock
You're a lifetime worth of worship
And that's only just the start
Here it is, my every waking day
The minutes, hours,
the years of endless praise
For You're worthy far beyond all I could say
There's a lifetime worth of worship
In the nuance of Your names
Let it rise like incense
My whole life a fragrance
Every ounce here broken at Your feet
Every breath an offering
My heart cries these lungs sing
Over You, my worthy King of Kings
There it is, Your alabaster cross
Giving all You are for all I'm not
I can't believe that's the kind of
King You are
How could I not bring a lifetime worth
of worship to You God
Let it rise like incense
My whole life a fragrance
Every ounce here broken at Your feet
Every breath an offering
My heart cries these lungs sing
Over You, my worthy King of Kings
All my love
All my love
All my love
You can have it all
All my heart
All my soul
All I own
You can have it all
Let it rise like incense
My whole life a fragrance
Every ounce here broken at Your feet
Every breath an offering
My heart cries these lungs sing
Over You, my worthy King of Kings
 
 

Reading for March 12th – Luke 7

Rev. Dr. Don Frazure

Today’s chapter contains an account of Jesus giving new life to a widow’s only son, and of Jesus giving new life to a sinful woman. In both instances, new life is given, but that new life is different in each case. 
First, the widow’s son had passed away. The man was dead and they were taking him to be buried when Jesus stepped in to give him new life. Even so, the text is more about Jesus’ compassion for the widow rather than the miracle of Jesus raising the son back to life. While Jesus was certainly moved by the widow’s grief, he also knew that her son’s death had greater consequences. The death of the widow’s adult son was not only the loss of a child to her, but it was also an economic catastrophe. 
With her son gone, she would not be entitled to any legal inheritance and would have to rely upon charity for everything from food, to clothing, and to lodging. Not only was she grieving her son, she was having to grieve in a state of complete hopelessness. Jesus knew her need, and out of his abundant grace, he restored her to hope and new life by restoring the life of her son.
In the case of the sinful woman, she was also dead.  Not physically, but she was spiritually dead.  She was at rock bottom. She had no doubt heard about this man Jesus, and how he was healing people from diseases and bringing the dead to life again. Whatever she heard, it convicted her of her fallen state and prompted her to seek out Jesus. 
When she found him eating dinner at the home of a Pharisee, she brought the most expensive thing she had – an alabaster jar of perfume – and poured it out on Jesus. She washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Jesus knew her sins were many, but he saw the faith she had to come to him, and he forgave her. The woman came to Jesus seeking new life from the death she had been living. Just like the widow, she was living life in hopelessness, until Jesus had compassion on her to forgive her sins and bring her into new life.
What strikes me about both of these stories is that sometimes Jesus seeks out those he helps, and at other times he waits for them to come to him. I know there have been times in my life where things seemed pretty bad. I also know some of those times, Jesus comforted me before I even asked, and at other times, it was not until I went to him.  Come to think about it, when the pain was caused by circumstances beyond my control, Jesus came to me – just like the widow.  Likewise, when the pain was caused by my sin and the stupid stuff I did, Jesus waited for me to come to him – just like the sinful woman.  In either case, Jesus brought new life to me each and every time.  After all - He is the resurrection and the life!
 

Jesus and Elijah
There are many similarities, and a few differences, between the story of Jesus raising the widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17) and Elijah raising the son of a widow (1 Kings 17:8-24). Both Elijah and Jesus were met as they entered town. Both Elijah and Jesus raised the son of a widow. Both women responded that the boy was ‘given back’ to their mother. Both Elijah and Jesus were recognized as being extraordinary men of God. Study the two and see how God worked in similar ways.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for March 13th – Luke 8

Rev. Dr. Don Frazure

During my early years growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, tropical storms and hurricanes were (and still are) just a part of life. Tropical Cyclones were going to come and there was nothing we could do about it. We prayed that they would stay out in the Gulf and dissipate, but eventually some of those storms came ashore. Not all of them were major storms. Many that became hurricanes were usually Category 1 or 2, and we never got too concerned about those. They usually brought lots of rain, some wind, and weakened quickly once they came on shore, but we never boarded up and left town for them. However, when a storm strengthened to a Cat 3, we started to get concerned.
I lived through three major hurricanes during the years I was growing up and living in southern Mississippi. The earliest I remember was Frederic (1979 Cat 4) – I was 5 years old and my sister was only 6 days old when it hit. Then there was Elena (1985 Cat 3) just before I entered into 6th grade. Both of those storms hit when I was living in my hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi. The last one I experienced was Katrina (2005 Cat 5) when I was on faculty at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
While Katrina is the closest one in my memory, each storm and the aftermath of each share many similarities. Each hurricane had its “storms” that caused worry and stress: Boarding up and preparing our house for the worst; evacuating and moving inland, watching the forecast and waiting for landfall; worrying about what would be left, making our way back home; having no electricity, finding and storing food, finding gasoline, cleaning up the mess left behind, and wondering when things would get back to normal – while in the meantime living by candlelight. 
And yet, even in the midst of the storm and aftermath, there were also the memories of Jesus bringing calm to the “storms” through the actions of others: family and friends opening their homes to us when we evacuated; people helping one another, and neighbors sharing what they had with each other; neighbors taking turns filling up the gas generators so several homes could keep their refrigerators running; a neighbor flagging down the power company when the power was back on for the rest of the street but our transformer had blown – while in the meantime living by candlelight.
In Luke 8, two passages jump out to me personally. The first is the parable of the lamp. The second is the account of Jesus calming the storm. When a candle (a lamp in this case) is lit it is placed high in the room so it can benefit everyone with its light. Even though it may be a single flame, once it is placed high and people’s eyes have adjusted to it, that flame chases away  the darkness. When Jesus calms the storm he is the light in the darkness. He brings peace to chaos by his steady hand. Even when all the disciples thought they were going to drown, Jesus’ calm presence chased away the storm, the fear, and the darkness. How often do we panic in the storms of our life without remembering the calm presence of Jesus that can still that storm and bring to light our fears and doubts and turn them in to faith in him? We can get consumed with all the storm brings, but fail to focus on the one who can make the storm cease. Storms are going to come, but the light of Christ held high will bring light to even the darkest of storms.
 

The Women Who Followed Jesus
Luke 8 begins with story of many women who followed Jesus. The book of Luke records five instances involving women that are not mentioned in the other Gospels. This is significant because in Jesus’ time, women were second class citizens. Women had few rights compared to men, and Jesus ignored the societal implications of interacting with women. Jesus respects, loves, and cares for all people, regardless of background, race, or gender.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for March 14th – Luke 9

Rev. Dr. Don Frazure

Luke 9:23-24 “Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.’”
I have been a believer and follower of Jesus Christ since I was 12 years old. Believing in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, that he died for me, and that God raised him from the dead is as easy for me as breathing. The hard part is exactly what Jesus says in these verses. Dying to self is hard. It is not a once and forever sort of deal. I still struggle with taking up my cross daily and giving over my own self in every way to Christ. I am a new creation, and I know that through Christ I can do all things, but I also know that Christ asks all of me. 
The gift of salvation is free. It cost me nothing. Jesus paid it all on my account. But to follow Christ as his disciple, that will cost me everything. People may think that I’m doing a good job at this – WRONG! I often delude myself into thinking that I doing better at dying to self that I really am. It is my daily struggle to bear my cross and crucify the self in me that is tempted each and every day to do his own thing. Some days I succeed. Some days...not even close. 
Even so, Christ tells me in the verses above that this is the cost of discipleship. Salvation is free, but following Christ is not a sign up, get a membership card and that’s all there is to it deal. Being a disciple of Christ is not easy, but then again, nothing of true worth ever is. He gave his all, so I must give my all to him and for him.
O Come To The Altar
Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin, Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well, Jesus is calling
O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ
Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today, there’s no reason to wait, Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born, Jesus is calling
Oh what a Savior, isn’t he wonderful
Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him, for He is Lord of all
Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen
Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found
2015 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

Who do you say I am?
This is the question that Jesus presents to Peter in Luke 9:20, but it is also a question we need to ask ourselves. What do you believe about Jesus? Do you believe that he performed the miracles in the Bible? Do you believe that he was born from a virgin or that he was raised from the dead? Do you believe that Jesus can forgive your sins and that He is our savior? Who do you say that Jesus is?

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Leader Questions for Week 2

Questions for Luke 5 – 9

Feel free to add your own questions to your Connect Group conversations! 

Luke 5: 
In regard to the Scripture passage, do you think you would have been convinced that there was Divine Presence in Jesus, or would you have been skeptical?
How have you experienced the Divine Presence of Christ personally? If yes, explain.
How have you experienced the Divine Presence of Christ in your church? If yes, explain.
In either case from question 2 or 3, what was your response or action to this experience? 
Luke 6: 
Is there someone you consider to be a personal enemy? Is there any reason that an enemy should not be forgiven?
Has someone considered you an enemy (by your fault, or no fault of your own) and was the feeling mutual? If so, were you able to move them from your enemy column to your love column?
How does the call to praying for an enemy effect your understanding of forgiveness beyond mere lip service? 
Luke 7: 
In both instances, Jesus helped these women when they were at their lowest points in life. Why do you think he chooses to act when he does?
Have you experienced new life out of a dark or low point in your life or witnessed it in someone else?
Looking at the passage about Jesus forgiving the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50), what can we learn about who is acceptable in the Kingdom of God?
Since we are all sinners saved by grace - just like this woman - do we come anywhere near the outpouring of love and thanksgiving in our worship of Jesus that she exemplifies? Are we too reserved? Ashamed? Worried what others may think? 
Luke 8: 
Have you experienced a storm within a storm? How did you cope with it?
Why do we react to the storms in our lives in ways that often make those storms intensify?
Do you know someone experiencing a storm right now? What can you do to bring the light of Christ to them?
Do you have a testimony of how some brought the light of Christ to you during your storm? 
Luke 9:
What part of “self” do you need to crucify in order to be a disciple of Christ?
How does one balance the understanding that our sins are forgiven, but that does not give us a license to sin?
What spiritual disciplines do you have in place, or need to put in place in order to die to self each day? 

Worship and Rest for March 15th

Psalm 95

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God, 
a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
His hands formed the dry land, too.
Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
the flock under his care.
If only you would listen to his voice today!
The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah,
as they did at Massah in the wilderness.
For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
even though they saw everything I did.
For forty years I was angry with them, and I said,
‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me.
They refuse to do what I tell them.’
So in my anger I took an oath:
‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
 

Reading for March 16th – Luke 10

Shane L. Bishop

In Luke’s version of the sending of the 72, we get an unexpected gift. Jesus gives us a direct command to pray for “laborers for the harvest.” It is something I seldom hear prayed. Churches complain about a lack of volunteers all the time but do we pray them in?

Are you willing to pray regularly for laborers for the harvest?
Are you willing to be a laborer for Christ?
Dare we envision ourselves as those who proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom of God?
How might that change our witness?
Our self image?

We visited the cursed city of Chorazin in the summer one year. It was over 100 degrees and the ruins were crawling with huge rodents. Barbed wire was visible from past wars. Cursed indeed. I wrote in my journal, “Never return to Chorazin.” And we have not.

The seventy evangelists return with good news. They are effective! Jesus reminds them to rejoice that God chose them, not that God uses them.

The thoughts on rejoicing about what you have seen strikes me. Christ Church has been a two decade revival in which almost 2,000 people have been saved and over 1,500 baptized. We have grown from 200 to 2500. How many churches desire to see such things? We HAVE seen them! Praise be to God! If God is moving in your life or church, never take it for granted!

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho descended about 3500 feet and was thirteen miles long. It was isolated and dangerous. Thieves stalked victims and not even the Romans could keep it safe. Jesus later travels this same road the opposite direction to enter Jerusalem the week before his resurrection.

The hero of the story is a despised Samaritan. Samaria was a part of the Galilee that as a hybrid of Jew and Gentile. The villains are the religious establishment. No surprise there.

The discourse on prayer is similar to the earlier ones. The promises of the ask, seek and knock segment are most bold until we discover the prayer is about wanting more of God, not more of what can do for us. Drawing us closer to Him is a prayer God always wants to answer!

The Mary/Martha encounter juxtaposes “doing” for Christ and “being” with Christ. The former is Service and the latter is worship. Being with Christ is the greater thing.

Are you more inclined to “be” or to “do” when it comes to your faith?

Distractions

How often do we rob ourselves of time with Jesus because we are too busy? Martha is distracted by the preparations of tending to her guests and Mary is focused on Jesus. We need to be careful to not let the hustle and bustle of our lives keep us from prayer, worship, and fellowship with Him. We need to prioritize what is most important first.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for March 17th – Luke 11

Shane L. Bishop

What do you do when Jesus’ teachings elude you?
You read it but you don’t get it?

This was essentially the problem of his original audience when Jesus used parables.

Remember that 2000 years have passed and Jesus’ Israel had a very different culture and a different understanding than we do today. Sometimes a little history lesson helps but other times the teachings, like those in our reading today, are just difficult.

Do you struggle to link the culture and context of the Bible to today?

Solution? Pray for God to reveal his truth to you as you read…and if you don’t get much out of it, read it again. Nothing yet? Then perhaps it will be illuminated to you in the future.

Regardless, don’t worry about it or get stuck, there is always more great stuff ahead!

You are doing great! Let’s keep pressing onward and upward!

My trouble with the Bible is never with what I don’t fully understand; it is with the parts I understand perfectly but have such trouble living into.

Personal Prayer

Prayer should be simple, right? It’s a conversation with our Lord. We have to remember, though, that even the disciples needed to be taught how to pray. This is where we can take the advice of Jesus – keep on asking and keep on seeking. If you want to learn how to pray, or you want to learn how to have a deeper relationship with God, keep on asking and keep on seeking. “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” – Luke 11:11 A simple ‘guide’ to pray is the ACTS method of prayer.

  • Adoration – Tell God how awesome He is. 
  • Confession – Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness.
  • Thanksgiving – Tell God what you are thankful for. 
  • Supplication – Ask God for your needs.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Prayer for March 18th

Dear Lord, thank you for everything you have taught us through your word. We ask that you reveal the mysteries of scripture to us as we continue to seek you! 
Teach us how to remove the distractions of this world and to draw closer to you. Teach us how to pray, how to seek you out, and how to pursue a deeper relationship with you.
Lord, we also pray that we could be filled with your light! Put us in a place where your light could shine brightly in this world! Don’t allow us to hide our gifts and blessings, instead bless us with opportunities to share your glory and give us the strength to boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ. It is in his glorious name we pray. 
Amen. 

Reading for March 19th – Luke 12

Shane L. Bishop

It appears Jesus would intentionally ignore Jewish religious protocol to get a rise out of the establishment and then rebuke them.

This set of rebukes involved being godly and giving on the outside and selfish and stingy on the inside. Jesus’ argument is that we should be godly in appearance, action and heart! All in!

He criticizes leaders for both failing to be authentic disciples and keeping others from being authentic disciples.

Note strong words like marvel, woe, reproach, assail and hypocrite. These arguments are both public and emotional!

The reading ends with a plea to not fear (respect) people in high places but to fear God alone…who incidentally loves us more than we can imagine!

Jesus’ teachings continue today and bring up many questions.

Clearly Jesus calls for us not to be ashamed of him…lest he be ashamed of us.
Can you recall a time you were ashamed of Jesus?

What do you think is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

Has the Holy Spirit ever put “just the right words in your mouth?” When or where?
Jesus next warns against greed and seeking security in places other than God. Jesus tells us not to worry because that is what unbelievers do. Worry is a sin caused by a lack of faith that God can/will provide for us.

Do you struggle with worry? Why or why not?

We are told in 6:33 that if we put God first, all our other needs will be cared for. In fact, we are challenged to test God’s provision for us! For a heart free from greed and worry reflects a heart right with God.

A girded waist was not something men did at leisure; it was to tie up your garment to work or fight. Oil lamps required much attention to keep them burning. Those the master found vigilant would be served by the master himself and given greater responsibility and honor!

Main themes include:
1) Keep watch
2) You are responsible for what you know
3) Punishment awaits those not ready

The comments on division are descriptions of reality; not of ideals. Certainly the Christian message has caused much division; even among its adherents.

Finally, Jesus condemns the hypocrisy of those who pay attention to minor things like the weather but ignore major things like the master’s return.

Big idea: Jesus will return. Be ready. Live ready. Leave nothing undone for you do not know the hour!

If Jesus would return tomorrow evening, how might you spend your morning and afternoon?

What’s the use of worrying?

Luke 12: 25-26
“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?” Worry has its place. It can help us to prepare appropriately, or even protect us against danger. However, worry can also be a dangerous tool of the enemy. Jesus Christ offers us freedom from worry of this world. If you are struggling with worry, you can take these steps:

  • Pray to God to increase your trust in Him.
  • Have wise believers pray over you for strength and discernment.
  • Get a plan. Worry often comes from having no plan or direction.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke