October 31 | An Invitation

Text: Ephesians 2.1-10

We’re often eager to see God’s compassion extend to those who (we believe) deserve something good rather than to those who are undeserving. But we often forget we are all undeserving. “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of God’s wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ. . .” (Ephesians 2.3b-5).

One thing gives us courage to admit we are lost, to step out of our hiding place, to realize our arrogance, and walk in faith: it’s an invitation to receive mercy. Mercy is not that we invite God into our life, but God invites us into his: “God made him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5.21). This is God’s extraordinary invitation!

Paul speaks of this invitation as he urges the Corinthians to embrace God’s desire for true reconciliation and not take God’s mercy for granted. “We urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain… [but to embrace] now [as] the time for God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6.1-2).

Today, receive and reflect on God’s mercy as you consider the lyrics of “Mercy” by Matt Redman.

October 30 | An Unexpected Rescue

Text: 2 Kings 5.1-14

During the ministry of Elisha the prophet, Naaman was commander of the Syrian army. Suffering from leprosy, he learned of Israel’s prophet who had the power to heal. However, as we read in 2 Kings, instead of obeying Elisha’s instructions for healing, he lashes out in anger because he expected something different.

Like Naaman, many people expect Jesus to fix their situation in a predictable and simple way. They think, “I can no longer do my program alone so I’ll enlist God for help.” Naaman thought his rescue from leprosy would involve a prayer and an instantaneous miracle. Instead, he was asked to step out in faith and do something which, to him, appeared ridiculous.

You may have reached the point where you’re ready to ask God for help but, like Naaman, you’re unwilling to do what God is asking. Unfortunately, we don’t determine the methods or means by which God will bring rescue. But we must be willing to obey no matter the discomforts we feel along the way.

This week’s One Big Question is. . . Has there been a time in your life when you allowed yourself to be “found” by God? Discuss your experience with your small group, including those “ridiculous” things God asked you to do.

October 29 | An Unexpected Barrier

Text: Luke 4.14-30

Anticipating a time when Old Testament prophecies would be fulfilled, the Jews in Nazareth faithfully read Scripture in the synagogue which spoke of God’s promise to send a Rescuer. But when Jesus stood up to read from Isaiah, everyone looked around in shock and amazement:  to think Jesus, the boy they watched grow as a normal kid, could be the Messiah must have sounded absurd!

Instead of humbly learning from Jesus, those in the synagogue thought they knew better. Being well educated, they thought they knew what to look for in a Rescuer. But their ideas actually blinded them, leaving them angry and confused and unable to discern their pride from the truth.

Jesus continued to push their false expectations as he boldly spoke about grace extending beyond the boundaries of Israel to THEM: to the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the widow from Sidon, and the leper from Syria. In their arrogance, they led Jesus to the cliff.

Be careful: your ideas about God may be blinding you! The God you’re looking for might not be the God you’ll find. You may be growing too familiar with the Jesus you think you already know. Like the Jews in Nazareth, you can’t create or define the Rescuer who comes to you. You must simply accept him as he is.

As you welcome God into your day, reread Luke 4.14-30 and praise Jesus for who he is and not for who you want him to be.

October 28 | Hiding

Text: Genesis 3.1-19

As God’s voice echoes through the Garden of Eden, Adam first hides and then approaches God with excuses. He blames his fear and his newfound insecurity on his nakedness as he truly believes he wasn’t at fault. Eve follows in suit, blaming the serpent for tricking her with evil deception. However, Adam’s fear was not responsible for his hiding; neither was his nakedness, his wife, or the serpent. Adam did wrong and he chose to run and hide.

We, like Adam and Eve, may hear God’s voice, but we hide. Looking down at ourselves and realizing our “nakedness,” we feel shame. We experience fear and run toward anything that will cover our shame and veil the terror we feel within. While we blame our fears, our insecurities, and the other people around us, we alone are responsible for our hiding.

It’s our choice. We can either run and hide or allow ourselves to be found by God and receive his free gift of grace. Nevertheless, admitting our wrongs and feeling exposed before God isn’t easy. Truthfully, while it feels humiliating, it’s ultimately freeing to approach a God who extends grace. When we submit ourselves unto God, James 4.6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Today, step out of hiding and submit yourself to God by humbly admitting your wrongs to him.

October 27 | Lost

Text: Luke 15.1-32

In Luke 15, we find Jesus telling three stories of lost things being found: a sheep, a coin, and a son. Jesus compares the sheep with an aimless wanderer not knowing his way home; and he compares the coin with a person who can’t be found until someone goes searching for him.

Jeff Manion, senior teaching pastor, reminded us Jesus’ words are less about losing livestock or money and more about the infinite capacity we all have to lose our way.

We all find ourselves lost at times, but no one likes to admit it. Even after admitting we’re lost, we—like the son—fear the return home. Many times we’d rather keep up appearances and act as if we’re bravely handling our confusing journey. But by failing to admit we’re lost, we keep wandering: exploring whatever looks interesting, pleasing, and comforting rather than evaluating what’s really going on inside.

This is precisely why Jesus asks, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world and [lose] their soul” (Mark 8.36)?

Over the next weeks, we’ll explore Jesus’ pursuit of the lost through the sermon series, Found. We’ll see how Jesus is on a search and rescue mission in all of his encounters, including as he seeks us. In Luke 19.10 Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Today, as we begin this new series, write this verse down and memorize it. Then put it in a prominent place where you can return to it throughout this series.

October 24 | Finish Well

Text: Hebrews 12.1-2

As we look back over the life of Samuel, we see a man who finished well. He lived his life with integrity, continuity, and faithfulness (1 Samuel 12.1-5). When those around him faltered, he stayed the course.

In fact, as we look at many of the leaders in the Bible, few stayed the course through the beginning, middle, and end as Samuel did. David started and ended well, but had a period of faithlessness in the middle. Solomon started well, but ended poorly. Paul started poorly but ended well.

“Holy redundancy” is the phrase Pastor Manion used to describe Samuel’s life. He went through the circuit of his responsibilities day after day, year after year. His pattern of faithfulness not only served others well, but served him well. When he faced countless crises as the last “judge” of Israel, he knew how to trust God out of habit.

May it one day be said that you lived a life of “holy redundancy.”

Today, read Hebrews 12.1-2 and memorize 12.1.

May we all, like Paul as he faced execution, be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4.7).

October 23 | Your Legacy

Text: Ephesians 4.1-5

Once David is anointed as king, Samuel takes more of a “back seat” in the remainder of 1 Samuel. But in 1 Samuel 28.3 some important information is slipped in, “Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah.” Samuel left behind an amazing legacy of service and faithfulness.

From the day he was dedicated to the temple by his mother, until the day he died, he modeled consistent and steadfast faith toward the call of God’s purpose in his life. He lived in such a way that the whole country mourned his passing and felt his absence.

As believers and followers of Christ we also have a calling and purpose. Read Ephesians 4.1-5 today and consider the calling and purpose God has given you. Consider how your absence would be received if you were removed from your family, job, and church. Take some time to write your own legacy, how you want to be remembered. Then consider how you need to live in order to fulfill what you’ve written.

October 22 | Daily Cleansing

Text: 1 John 1.8-9

Sadly, King Saul has become an example to us of a man who took action motivated by fear rather than faith in God’s Word. Full of self-deception, lies, and excuses, he blatantly disobeyed God and said, “I have carried out the Lord’s instructions” (1 Samuel 15.13).

But when God looked into his heart, he saw fear that led to disobedience. God tells Samuel he is looking for “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13.14); a man who has a heart that beats with God’s heart.

In reality we’re no different than Saul. We have thoughts and fears that stray far from the heart of God. If we aren’t careful we, too, can become self-deceived and full of excuses. Keeping a short account with God opens us to experience the cleansing forgiveness offered to us by the blood of Jesus shed for our sins.

We can experience the inner growth that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit working within us (Ephesians 3.16-19).

Today, begin the habit of daily cleansing, called “confession.” Ask God to show you even the sins you may not be aware of (Psalm 139.23-24), and then trust him to cleanse you as you sincerely confess them (1 John 1.8-9). Doing this is an act of obedience that shows God how much you love him and releases his power into your life.

October 21 | Heart Matters

Text : 1 Samuel 16.2-13

God removed Saul as King of Israel because “he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions” (1 Samuel 15.11). By rejecting the “word of the Lord” (15.23), Saul revealed a heart of fear and a lack of love and obedience for the God who made him king.

So God sends Samuel to anoint a new king from one of Jesse’s seven sons. When Samuel sees the oldest son he assumes, based on his appearance, he is the new king. But after seeing this son and six more, God lets Samuel know, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (16.7b).

We often tend to be like Samuel: evaluating by physical appearance, skills, and intelligence. We tend to look at the immediate and external and are so easily fooled we can even fool ourselves! But God sees our heart. The impressions we leave may be an unreliable criteria of our spiritual health.

While we may exhibit pure motives, devotion to him, and a humility of spirit, God may actually be seeing resentment, competition, envy, pride, and a heart turned inward toward “self.”

Today, take some time to consider this week’s One Big Question. . .What areas of growth or change would move you closer to reflecting the heart of God? Then read Psalm 139 and pray for God to “search me and know my heart….and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139.23-24).

October 20 | Beyond Grief

Text: 1 Samuel 16.1

Grief knocks the wind out of you. Devastated by Saul’s failure to obey God’s instructions, (whose failure was evidence of a heart that didn’t love God and resulted in God rejecting Saul as king) Samuel spiraled into a deep period of mourning. So much so God eventually asks him, “How long will you mourn for Saul. . . ? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way…” (1 Samuel 16.1). God was calling Samuel to a hope beyond his grief.

God created us to grieve. It’s important for our emotional health. There should be a period of mourning when we experience the loss of a family member, career, or even a dream. But there will come a day when we need to say “enough,” put the Kleenex box aside, and move forward.

Senior Teaching Pastor Jeff Manion tells us God doesn’t just want us to move on, but forward. God wants us to give him our broken heart in such a way that we’re drawn deeper and closer into his presence as he uses our grief for his good. Imagine the good God can bring from your grief (remember Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.1-20).

There may be something you are grieving. As you welcome God into your week and day, listen to “Oceans” by Hillsong United and soak in these words: “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior.”  As you do, trust God for the hope that comes from him through your grief.