Monday, April 29
Theme for the week:
Disciples in the Local Community

What is a servant disciple? A disciple is a follower – and in the Christian faith almost always means a follower of Jesus. A servant-disciple is a follower of Jesus in name and action. Jesus said that he came “not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). As servant-disciples, regardless of the environment we find ourselves in, we look for opportunities to be of help and service to others. With that, it’s time to IMMERSE in Monday’s devotion.

Colossians 3:22 - 4:6

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Colossians 4
1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Further Instructions
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

• In Christ I am a true worshiper and whatever I do, I will work at it with all my heart, as working for the Lord.

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Pondering Point

Read Colossians 3:22-4:6. "I hate my boss!" are not words we want to hear coming out of a disciple’s mouth. Why? Because our real boss is the Lord God Himself.

Even if your human boss leaves much to be desired, let your work – and your work ethic -- go beyond the paycheck and respect-meter. Let your work be a service to the Lord, for the pleasure of your True Father, the Lord, our King – our Boss.

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Prayer for the Day

Father God, I know that You are the Boss of my bosses – whether they know it or not. And, to borrow a phrase, You are indeed “the boss of me” too. Even if I am my own earthly boss, working on my terms, let me never lose sight of this truth. Like everyone else, I too will answer to You for the way I live my life, serving not only You but the world around me as well. Amen.

Tuesday, April 30
God’s Mission

John 4:1-54

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many Samaritans Believe

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Jesus Heals an Official’s Son

43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.

46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”

53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.

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Pondering Point

Read John 4. Even when Jesus asks for someone to serve him (in this case a Samaritan woman), his focus becomes to serve her – and later her local community too. Both Jesus and the woman, a newly-found disciple of sorts, reach into her community. God calls us as missionaries into our local communities. While his 12 disciples were focused on food from the community, Jesus was focused on a woman – in all the right ways.

Jesus came and served so as to give life. When we serve like Jesus, we do so to give something rather than to gain something. If you did try to determine what Jesus gained from his serving, you might say that he gained the pleasure of his Father in Heaven – and yet the Father was already pleased with Him before He ever did any- thing in ministry (see Matthew 3:17). Jesus did gain relationships with people through serving. But those relationships became places where he poured himself into others rather than trying to get something out of them for his benefit.

It can be a wonderful thought to serve in order to bring pleasure to God, but realize that he's already pleased with you before you bring Him pleasure by your service. That's the joy of being in relationship with God the Father through God the Son Jesus. God is already pleased with you. And it's wonderful to build relationships with people. Look to have a mentality that your role in the relationship is to be a blessing. You'll get plenty of blessings too, but make sure that your mindset continues to be that a server, not one to be served. If you're among other Christians, you'll have plenty of time to be on the receiving end of much love and service.

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Prayer

Father God, teach me how to become a servant-disciple in my local community. In Jesus’ name I ask this. Amen.

Wednesday, May 1
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

Acts 10:1-6

Cornelius (a centurion in the Italian Regiment) and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.

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Pondering Point

Don’t settle for merely reading this verse; go and check out the rest of the section – even the whole chapter (and try to make this a habit!). We find here that God honors the lifestyle of this centurion Cornelius. This doesn't make God like a vending machine, but it does reveal another facet of God's personality and the impact that a devoted prayer for life can have. Ask yourself this question: Is it my desire to be or become a service-oriented person? Is it my desire to serve other people in the various environments that I find myself in? Am I looking to, as Jesus says, serve or be served?

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Prayer

Father God, help me develop into the kind of person whose life becomes a memorial offering before You day and night – in words, in action, in thought and in attitude. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, May 2
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

1 Chronicles 4:10

Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your
hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free
from pain.
~Jabez

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Pondering Point

This prayer got a lot of run a few years back, with an entire book written about it. Maybe you have prayed part of it yourself. It is a great thought to ask God to guide and expand your sphere of influence. Think about where your spheres of influence are. How could God use them for his glory?
It is interesting to note that the meaning of Jabez’ name is “pain.” He seems to be praying that his name does not become his destiny. Names in Old Testament times were often connected to family history, personal struggles, or life situations of the time. Jabez appears to be asking that God be the One to shape his destiny rather than someone or something else, especially the idea that he is linked with the notion of pain. We can often let people and situations shape our view or outlook on life. In light of that idea, let’s re-center around God.

Review the week

Have I let other people's views of me shape my identity or determine my attitude toward my life and its direction? Am I letting God be the primary determiner of who I am and how I am going to live and serve?

Repent (if necessary)

What might repentance look like here? It could be admitting that we have let someone other than God define us and set the direction of our lives. We also may need to forgive others for pushing agendas on us that are not aligned with what God desires for us as His children. Consider repenting of not forgiving others who have hurt you over the years, talked poorly to you, and/or left you injured in some way.

Return (as necessary)

Our Return comes in the form of a prayer:  Father God, you have restored me from unholy to holy, from unrighteous to righteous, from imperfect to perfect in Your eyes. You also restore me from broken to unbroken; You make me whole. Help me accept your gift of wholeness and live under your vision of me as holy, righteous –‘whole’ through Jesus my Lord.

We now close with a prayer specifically built from that from Jabez, whose request was granted by God:

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Prayer

Lord God of all, oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory of influence! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” Amen.

Friday, May 3
Discipleship Point and Prayer

“If you are a disciple of Jesus, you will not be afraid of humble service. You will see in his life the glory of service, and you will be ready to take the towel and the basin and wash feet.”

p.34, The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones
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Humility Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, as a follower (or disciple) of yours, teach me to love and embrace humble service even to the point of taking up a towel and washing feet as you desire. In your name I pray. Amen.

Discipleship Point on Justice

How is sacrificial love expressed among those broken by the world? When love intersects broken lives, Christ's disciples are called to stand for justice. Biblical justice means lifting the bonds of oppression, identifying with the cause of the poor and meeting the needs of the downtrodden.
(Discipleship Essentials, Ogden, p. 155)
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Discipleship Prayer

Father God, teach me as a disciple (and us as a church) where and when and how to intersect lives that are broken and in need. Help us to stand for your version of justice, to bless the poor, needy and downtrodden as an extension of your grace and mercy and love. Show us how to let them know we are disciples of Jesus by our service-oriented love. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Saturday, May 4
Scripture's Story for the Week

Luke 7:1-10

The Faith of the Centurion

7 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Earlier this week we read about the kindness of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius in Acts 10. Today our story includes a different Centurion mentioned in Luke 7:1-10. Clearly the message of Jesus was reaching beyond the Jews and being noticed by “outsiders” like the Romans. This particular centurion amazed Jesus! What does a person do to amaze Jesus? Find out in the narrative. Make this story from God's Word part of your own story by learning it well.

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Prayer for the Day

Lord Jesus, I love the image of you getting amazed, the idea of you smiling and appreciating someone’s faith and perspective. Thank you for enabling my sins to be forgiven, and bringing me into the family of the Heavenly Father who smiles to see me coming also. I love you Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 5
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 

There are words to be said and deeds to be done. Pray that God blesses your words to be good and deeds to be blameless. Mentally walk through your day today (or tomorrow) seeking strength and encouragement to do good in all that you will say and do.

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