Devotions for Discernment

As we move through a season of discernment in considering the future direction for Bartlett Chapel, the first and foremost challenge for us is to be in prayer. Prayer is essential as we wrestle with the question “At the end of this season of change, who will I become and who will Bartlett Chapel become?“. Each week, we will have a Scripture focus for our prayer.

WEEK SIX (August 14-20) — Psalm 51:1-4, 7-12, 15-17

This week’s prayer is a prayer seeking God’s forgiveness. It is a prayer of confession, repentance, and commitment to God. It was a prayer of King David, after he had been confronted by the prophet Nathan for his affair with Bathsheba and his crimes to hide the affair. David thought he could do whatever he wanted. After all, he was the king, and the rules do not apply to him. But God knew what David had done. He sent Nathan to confront David and challenge him to admit his guilt and own up to what he had done. David wrote this beautiful and heartfelt prayer of forgiveness in response as he came face-to-face with his own heart of sin and evil.

I turn to this prayer often at times in my own heart. For I too am a sinner. While I have not done what King David did, I have committed sin in my own heart. I can be very jealous, envious, bitter, selfish, arrogant, proud, unkind, hurtful with my words and actions, judgmental—well, you get my point. I too, am a sinner and in need of God’s mercy and grace. 

How about you? Are you a sinner? Do you care that you are a sinner? Do you, like David, ever take a good look at your own heart and life and realize how you too betray Christ by your words and actions? Do you spend time in reflecting on your own heart and life, finding yourself confessing your sin and realizing how great a sinner you are? And that you too stand in need of God’s grace and love? Do you repent of your sin—seek God’s help in turning away from your sin—and then seek to follow Christ more and more in your life? 

David teaches us in this prayer that God does not want our religious words, songs, and actions—if we think that somehow those things will make us right with God. What God wants from us—and from the church—is an honest and broken spirit—willing to admit our own sin and be honest about our own hearts. God wants our hearts—for God knows that when God has our hearts—the rest of our lives will follow. 

I offer this prayer to you and to me as a good word for us as we seek to be faithful to God and to live out God’s will and way in our lives. Peace be with you.

WEEK FIVE (August 7-13) — 2 Timothy 3:10-17

As hopefully you know by now, as we have been going through this time of discernment, seeking God’s guidance, way, and will as a congregation in challenging and changing times, we have been encouraging each other to be in prayer as well. Unless we seek God’s grace, guidance, and wisdom, then what we decide really does not matter. We must be faithful to God and to who God calls us to be and be committed to sharing Christ with others as we make God’s love real in our everyday lives. 

This week, we are looking at Paul’s encouragement to a young person he had mentored in Christ. The letters of First and Second Timothy are words of challenge and encouragement to a growing disciple of Jesus Christ. In this section, Paul reminds young Timothy to remember what he had seen in Paul himself—his teaching, his conduct, his purpose in life, his faith and patience, and his love and faithfulness even in times of persecution and troubles for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

That’s a good word for us. Are our lives reflecting Christ in who we are and how we live? Is Jesus our example when it comes to our daily lives as to how we should speak to and of one another and how we treat one another? Does God’s word—the Holy Scriptures—shape who we are and how we live? Are we faithful, loving, and steadfast even in times of trouble and persecution? 

Paul challenges Timothy and us to stand strong in Christ—on the sacred word we have learned and believed, on the very word of Christ which has brought us salvation. Paul also reminds us of the purpose of the Sacred Scriptures: To teach us, to correct us, to challenge us, to guide us, and to strengthen us in the faith so that we can be faithful in living out the good news of Jesus Christ by our actions and by our lives.  Paul also reminds us to be careful of false teachers for they can deceive us with their flowery words and “enlightened” wisdom they claim to have from God. I can’t help but think of those who get caught up in cults or new religions that change God’s word to what they want it to say and be so that they can live the way they want to live. Or they become fanatics like those who hijacked and crashed planes into buildings on September 11, 2001.

We need to be good students of the Bible and make sure that those who teach us, who lead us or who we give credence to are being faithful to the Word and are seeking to live out what they teach in their own lives. Even those of us who have good intentions and hearts can get led astray or lead others astray, so we need to stick close to the Bible and to Jesus in life.

I invite you to join in reading and reflecting on this passage of Scripture as well as to be in prayer as you read and study these words. To ask God for wisdom, guidance, courage, and faithfulness to the good news of Jesus. To be a witness for Christ by your life as well as in the life and ministry of Bartlett Chapel. After all, that really is what we are all about as followers of Jesus Christ. Amen.

WEEK FOUR (July 31-August 6) — Philippians 1:3-11

This week’s Scripture focus is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul begins by giving thanks to God for the believers at the church in Philippi for they have worked so faithfully and graciously alongside Paul in sharing the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Paul is grateful for their faithfulness and witness. Our prayer can be that we too would be faithful and generous witnesses of Jesus Christ in the life and ministry of Bartlett Chapel.

Paul also reminds the believers there that it was God who began this work among them, and it will be God who will continue that work and complete that work. If we will seek to be faithful to God in who we are, then God will bring us through whatever challenges or obstacles or even threats that we may face in these days. No matter how it may seem to us or what we may think about what is going in our lives or in our church, God is always at work—even quietly and behind the scenes—for God’s purposes and way will not be thwarted or stopped by anyone or any force.

Paul also tells them that they have a special place in his heart for the relationship they have shared with him through good times and difficult times. This is true today. I give thanks for each congregation I have been blessed and privileged to serve. Even in disagreements, turmoil, uncertainty, and changing and challenging times, we have found ways to walk together and serve Christ together. Look at all we have faced in the past couple of years with a pandemic as well as tremendous turmoil and upheaval in our nation and world. Through it all, Bartlett Chapel has continued to shine with the good news of Jesus Christ into the world. Look at all that God has already brought us through. Like Paul, I am confident that God will continue to be at work among us and in us and bring us through these days.

Paul prays that they and we will grow in love and that our lives and our church will flow generously and graciously with the love of God. He prays that we will grow in wisdom and faithfulness to Christ so that our lives and our church will continue to be a light of Christ so that others can know and follow Jesus. Let us pray that we will bring honor and glory to God as we move through these days and into the future as Bartlett Chapel.

WEEK THREE (July 24-30) — Ephesians 1:15-23

As we continue on our journey of prayer through this season of discernment in the life of Bartlett Chapel, I remembered another favorite prayer of mine from the Scriptures. Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus, wants the followers of Jesus there to remember and understand the centrality of Christ in the life of the church. After all, the church belongs to Christ. He created it and called it into life. He is the “head” of the church, as the church is, in reality, the Body of Christ. 

Paul begins his prayer by expressing his gratitude for their faithful witness, ministry, and faith in Jesus Christ. He is grateful for them and the impact they have had for Jesus. There are people in our lives and in our church for whom we too are thankful, for the impact they have had for Jesus, and on us as living examples of what it means to follow Jesus. We need to thank God for them, and if possible, let them know of what they mean to us and how grateful we are for their witness and impact upon our life. 

Paul also prays that they would grow in “spiritual wisdom,” so that they will understand more and more the hope they have in Christ and live their lives out of that hope. No matter what comes our way or what changes we may face—good, bad, really good, or really difficult—we have a hope that cannot be taken from us because that hope is rooted in God. 

Paul goes on to pray that we would understand how deep and strong the power of God is—a power greater than any earthly power and a power greater even than death! Paul also prays we would understand that nothing is happening in our lives, in our church, or in our world that is beyond God’s power, presence, and authority. So let us pray that we would grow in wisdom and in a deeper realization of the power and greatness of God over all of life—even our church, and even our lives. 

My prayer is that my life would have an impact for Christ on someone else’s life here and now, in our church and in our community. What would happen, I wonder, if all of us made that an honest prayer of our hearts for our own lives and our church—to be an impact for Christ on someone’s life in our church and in our community? Imagine that with me. However, instead of only imagining that, let’s pray and ask God to help us have that impact. Then, by the power and presence of God, let us go and live out that impact, to the honor and glory of Christ, who is the head of all things—even the church.

WEEK TWO (July 17-23) — 1 Kings 3:1-12

King Solomon prays for a discerning heart to help him understand, so that he can lead God’s people. He is seeking to follow God and to do what is right, but he knows that he can’t do it alone, that he needs God’s wisdom to make the right choices. King Solomon could have asked for anything, such as long life, good health, riches, or power, but instead, he humbled himself and asked for what he needed instead of what he wanted. 

Whenever I have a big decision to make, my prayer is always that God would give me wisdom to help me make the decision. That God would help me to see all the pros and cons of what each decision will bring. We, like Solomon, should be in prayer for understanding, asking for wisdom so that we can follow God’s heart. We can’t and shouldn’t do this alone. We need God’s guidance, strength, and wisdom to make the right choice for where God is leading Bartlett Chapel.

WEEK ONE (July 10-16) — Colossians 3:12-17

To get us started, I am sharing one of my favorite prayers of Paul as recorded in his letter of Colossians. Colossians 3:12-17 challenges us to be a gracious-hearted people toward each other, including those with whom we disagree for whatever reason. We are called to be patient, kind, and forgiving toward one another just as Christ is toward us. We are also called to be a thankful people. 

Paul continues on by calling us to dwell upon God’s word and let it sink into our lives, that the very presence of Christ saturates our hearts and minds. Paul calls us to gather together in worship to praise, to pray, and to rejoice in God’s goodness and salvation. But it is verse 17 that gives us a great word of challenge: Paul calls us, in whatever we say or do, to do so in a way that honors God and brings glory to God. What a challenge! What a prayer for all of us! I hope you will join us in spending time reflecting on this Scripture and in prayer as together we seek to honor God as a church.

4396 E Main St
Avon, IN 46123