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.

September 11 — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

As we continue through these days praying for God’s guidance and wisdom as to the direction for Bartlett Chapel, I share today not a prayer, but a prayer focus, based on some guiding words from the Apostle Paul to the church he had started at Thessalonica. This church had become so focused on trying to figure out when Jesus was going to return that they needed to be reminded to focus on even more important matters in how they were living out the faith here and now.

Paul encourages them to “rejoice always” and to “give thanks in all circumstances.” That can be rather hard to do if life is not going so well or we are in the midst of very difficult and heartbreaking times. But Paul is not telling us to be thankful FOR all things—for problems or heartaches or tragedies—but to rejoice because God is always with us no matter what happens in or to our lives. We are always in the love and goodness of God. So even when our hearts are struggling to understand or are broken by life, we can give thanks and rejoice because God is with us. As we trust God, He will guide us through that time in our lives.

Paul reminds us to “pray continually.” We can pray at anytime and anyplace. We don’t have to be in church, be in a particular position, or have all the right words to pray. We don’t have to pray long-winded prayers. Prayer is simply telling God what is on our heart and lifting up our hopes for others, for courage and strength to face the moment or situation. Prayer is learning to listen for God’s often quiet voice—and sometimes LOUD voice—that speaks to our hearts, that gives us guidance, wisdom, and strength for the day.

Paul encourages us to be careful of what we believe. We have to remember that there are folks out there who deceive us even in the Christian faith. So, we need to read God’s word and seek to make sure that our beliefs about God and life align with Jesus and the pages of Holy Scripture. A person’s title, power, or background does not mean they are correct. We have to be careful of slick-talking preachers and leaders who somehow claim to know more than God, who say it is okay to change the Bible, or who say who Jesus is and is not. Paul calls us to hold onto the truth and not be shaken by false teachings and doctrines.

Paul closes his letter by reminding us that God is faithful and will see us through not only these days, but any and all days that come our way. Regardless of the circumstances of our lives—and sometimes, we face pretty tough circumstances—God is faithful, God will be with us, and will bring us through. So, trust God to hang onto you and keep the faith! Let us pray for one another and for Bartlett Chapel, that we too will keep the faith and trust God to lead us through whatever moment or day comes our way. Peace be with you. Amen.

WEEK NINE (September 4-10) — 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

As we continue through our time of prayer and seeking God’s guidance and wisdom for our lives as well as for the life and ministry of Bartlett Chapel, I offer this word from Paul found in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5. Paul calls us all to be in prayer for one another and the church that the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ would be shared faithfully and joyfully, always and everywhere.

People all around us are still in need of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that is our responsibility, both individually and as a church community. Our first and most important calling as Christians and the church is to share the love of Christ with others through our lives—our words, actions, prayers, and lifestyle. I don’t remember when I first heard it, but the words have stayed with me: Someone, somewhere, is counting on you and me to make God’s love real to them. We have an awesome responsibility, and we must first and foremost be in prayer that God would guide us, empower us, and use us to share the Gospel with others.

Paul also reminds us of another good word for us today. We live in very troubled and challenging times. The people of Paul’s day did so as well and even more so. They feared for their very lives as their government was hostile to Christians, persecuting them. Many of them were put in prison, isolated from family and friends, and even put to death for their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul reminds them, and now us, that God is with us and that He will give us the strength and courage to not yield to evil or the power and way of Satan or darkness.

We are called to persevere in the faith. To trust that God is indeed with us, that He will strengthen us as we live out and share the good news of Jesus Christ in our daily lives. That does not mean that life will always be easy and that choices will not have to be made. But we have confidence in God and because of that confidence, we can do our very best and trust God for the rest. What a privilege and honor it is for us to be witnesses of what has God has given to all the world in Jesus Christ. What a privilege and blessing to share that good news with others. Let us all pray that we would, as Bartlett Chapel, be faithful to our calling. Peace be with you.

WEEK EIGHT (August 28-September 3) — Ephesians 1:15-20

As we continue through this season of praying and reflecting on the future of Bartlett Chapel, who we will be and how we will live out our calling to share the love of God in Jesus Christ, I offer this word from the Apostle Paul for our times of prayer. Paul had been absent from the Ephesian believers for many years and longed to visit this church he had played a role in starting. So, he pens a letter to the folks there. In it, he is praying for them and asking God to bless them with spiritual wisdom and to grow in faith.

The greatest desire of Paul, and of any pastor, is that people would come to know God not only better, but deeper. To know the depth of God’s love, mercy, and goodness so that as they face life’s challenges, they will have the courage, strength, and inner resources (that come from God) to face those challenges and endure them with hope and peace. We do not always get the life we hoped, planned, or expected. Paul reminds us that in Christ we always have hope, because in the end—and we all come to an end here in this life—we have hope that extends beyond what we can see and know in this life. We have the hope that Jesus gives us here and now, and beyond this life—because our hope is not in and only of ourselves, but in God.

The world we live in today is in near constant turmoil. Everywhere we turn, we see heartache, brokenness, pain, and suffering. Kids are shot at a bus stop and in classrooms, there is violence in our homes and cities, and people are almost constantly at odds with one another over politics, social issues, or just the stresses of life. Where do we turn for hope? Or in whom is our hope? That’s what Paul wants us to think about and reflect on as we pray this week. In whom is your hope? To whom do you look, beyond the headlines, the news and all the noise and turmoil of the world and of your own life?

For Paul, the answer is only Jesus. Who is the answer for you? Peace be with you.  Amen.

WEEK SEVEN (August 21-27) — 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Our focus prayer for this week comes from Paul’s letter to the believers at the church in Thessalonica. Paul had founded many of the churches he wrote his letters to and he loved them deeply and wanted to see them thrive with the good news of Jesus Christ in the midst of turbulent and changing times. We too can benefit from reflecting and using these words in our own times of prayer as we live in the midst of times that are certainly challenging and changing. 

Paul gives thanks to God for the faithfulness and commitment of the believers there as they serve Christ through their loving and caring actions to others. He reminds them that they had received the message from Paul about God’s salvation in Jesus Christ with joy and with open hearts. Even though it caused suffering among them because of their faith in Jesus Christ (as the Roman government was adamantly opposed to this idea of Jesus being “Lord”), they were faithful anyway. 

They became an example throughout the whole region because of their faithfulness to Christ and their enduring hope in Christ. They refused to water down or compromise their beliefs, commitment, and love for others in the name of cultural pressure (even some of their own religious leaders were calling for compromise!). Because of their faithful witness, the good news of Jesus Christ was “ringing” out from them to people everywhere, even beyond their own territory. 

Paul reminds them, and now us, that our witness matters. That our faithfulness to Christ, when lived out by our words, actions, and caring love, makes a difference. We are called to make God’s love real, and we can only do so if our lives match our beliefs. We can only be genuine witnesses for Christ when who we claim we are in Christ is how we live our everyday lives. They turned away from that which was false and did not honor God. We too must turn away from our own false “idols” and serve the one and only living God. What “idols” do you need to turn away from in order to more faithfully follow Christ? “Idols” can take many shapes and forms from focus on power, money, success, sports, leisure, self, and on and on. We all have those things that get in the way of our own faithfulness to Christ. What are yours?

As you pray this week, lift up your gratitude for those who brought you the faith and taught you the love and way of Jesus. Give thanks for this church and pray that we too would be known throughout the area and even beyond by our own faithfulness to Christ, by our loving compassion, and by our ministry in the name of Jesus. Pray that God would show you and lead you in how you can help Bartlett Chapel be faithful to that witness and live out the love of Jesus. Give thanks for the love of God in Jesus Christ that has embraced your life and pray that God’s love would shape your heart and life and our church day after day after day. Peace be with you in Jesus Christ. 

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