Day 1 Shared Faith. Knock-knock. Who’s There? Luke 11:9
“So I say to you, ‘Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.’” NRSV
Luke through the peep hole and find out.
Knock, knock jokes are a familiar part of childhood. Just say the words “Knock, knock” and we automatically know what we are supposed to say next, “Who’s there?” The thing that makes knock-knock jokes work is not the “punny” punch line. It’s the “Who’s there?” Without someone to ask the question “Who’s there?” there is no joke.
As a shy, overweight, and awkward child, I was obsessed with knock-knock jokes. It was the one way I was sure that people were listening. So when I prayed I would begin, “Knock-knock, God.” In my young heart I knew God was listening because I said, “Knock-knock, God,” and I imagined God answering, “Who’s there?” As an adult my prayers have changed, however, there are still times I say, “Knock-knock, God.” Whenever I feel that my prayers are only making it to the ceiling, or I need assurance that God is listening, I begin my prayer, “Knock-knock, God.” Instead of imagining God answering, “Who’s there?” I imagine God saying, “Come in.”
Jesus said in Luke 11:9 that if we knock the door will be opened. When we pray we can have assurance that God is listening and invites us in.
Reflection: Have there been times when you felt that God did not hear your prayers? What did you do? How do you experience God hearing your prayers? Is there a story here that you can share with someone else who might have had that same experience?
Prayer: Knock, knock, God. I know you are listening and that you invite me in. Help me to search for you and hear you when you say, “Come in.” Amen.
Day 2 Wrestle with the Word 2 Timothy 3:16-17
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” NRSV
As a seminary student I was challenged to “sift through Scripture.” Until going to seminary I thought I was supposed to read my Bible but not fret about the parts that were confusing to me. However, in seminary I had to wrestle with Scripture I did not understand. In wrestling with the Word I learned to read Scripture in context of who the first readers of Scripture were and through the lens of their cultural, economic, and geographical background. It was challenging, but prepared me as a pastor and a disciple of Christ.
In 2 Timothy, Paul tells us that all Scripture is inspired by God and useful for us. Even the parts we find confusing or challenging. The amazing thing about the Bible is that it is useful for every person in every country in whatever situation they are experiencing. Most of us have bought books that tell us how to diet, to invest our money, or succeed at something. I confess I have a stack of “How To Books” somewhere in my house. Although I own these books, they are useless unless I actually read them. Just like owning a diet book does not make a person skinny, owning a Bible does not equip us for every good work. We have to actually read, sift through, and wrestle with the Word because it is “useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
Reflection: What is the biggest challenge for you in reading the Bible? What can you do to overcome it? What would you say to someone who says, “I don’t understand the Bible and when I read it I don’t get anything out of it?
Prayer: God of Word and Wonder, thank you for speaking to me through Scripture. Help me with the Scripture I find challenging and open my ears to hear you when I read and meditate on your Holy Word. Amen.
Day 3 ”Where Have You Seen God?” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” NRSV
As someone who loves to preach, I sometimes forget that there are those who have a fear of public speaking. So, when we began having a time of praise and testimony in our worship service I was disappointed that more people did not speak up when asked the question, “Where have you seen God in your life this week?” I was thrilled that some people would share their praise and joys but still felt a sense of frustration that more people did not share. When I shared my frustrations with a member of the worship team she set me straight. She asked me if I liked to cook. I answered with a swift and loud, “No!” “Why not?” she asked. I explained that cooking was a chore for me and I dreaded planning daily meals, grocery shopping, and cooking…I would rather… “Give a speech?” she asked. She then reminded me that some of the folks who did not speak up during the praise and testimony time of worship are the same folks who serve the church and Kingdom of God in humility and grace. Point taken.
God gives all of us gifts, talents, and strengths. Some people can share their testimony and joys with their voices. Others answer the question, “Where have you seen God?” through their service to others. The important thing to remember is it is the same Spirit, the same Lord, who receives the praise!
Reflection: What gifts and talents do you have that help you answer the question “Where have you seen God?”
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for gifting me with everything I need to see you in my life. Help me to use the gifts that you have given me so that others might see you through me. I give you all the praise and glory for my life! In Christ’s name, Amen.
Day 4 I’m Just Sayin’ 1 Peter 4:11
“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” NRSV
There is a popular phrase that I hear or say oodles of times a day. I bet you have heard it or even said it, too. “I’m just sayin’.” It’s a funny little phrase that we use at the end of some sort of declaration. Sort of like, “That’s the way I see it, I’m just sayin’.” I started thinking about that pithy phrase a few days ago. It is easy to just say, but it is the doing that is a little more challenging. There is another phrase that I have heard, “All talk, no walk.”
In today’s Scripture passage, Peter lumps all the spiritual gifts into two categories: speaking and serving. These gifts are not to be used separately but together so people will know Jesus, and God will be glorified. In God’s infinite wisdom, God gifted some to speak and some to serve. What would the church look like if it was “all talk”? Whether we are speaking for God or serving God, the important thing to remember is that even though we provide the willingness to speak or serve, it is God who provides the strength. Peter also tells us that when we speak and serve, it should be for God’s glory, not ours. I’m just sayin’.
Reflection: Do you feel more comfortable speaking or serving? If you are more comfortable speaking, how can you use it in unison with serving? If you are more comfortable with serving, how can you use it in unison with speaking? Examining where we lead best can empower us to share our stories in new ways.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for a voice to speak and hands and feet to serve and I pray that you give me opportunities to glorify you. May everything I say and everything I do praise you! In the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen.
Day 5 Selective Hearing Romans 10:14-18
“But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth and their words to the ends of the world.’” NRSV
A few years ago my husband and I noticed that we were having a communication problem. We were always saying, “You didn’t say that” or “You didn’t ask me to do that.” After a few weeks of this we realized that it was not what was being said, but what was being heard. This is a common condition in marriages that you may have also experienced; Selective Hearing. It can be extremely frustrating to tell someone something and realize that they have not heard a word you said. A friend of mine deals with this condition by beginning every important conversation with the word “football” because she knows that will get her husband’s attention. How many of us as youngsters acted like we did not hear our parents calling us because we wanted to avoid a punishment or some chore?
Sometimes this is our response to God. We hear only what we want to hear. Jesus used the phrase, “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear” eight times in Scripture to get people’s attention. We use selective hearing with God because we do not want to do what God’s Word tells us to do. After all, God’s Word may tell us to change the way we are doing something, forgive someone we don’t think should be forgiven, or go somewhere we don’t want to go. Selective hearing is a chancy thing when it comes to hearing God’s voice. If we are not listening to God’s voice when God asks us to do something difficult, we may not hear God speak love and grace to us, either. What would it look like when we pray to keep our hearts and ears tuned in to what God may say? Faith comes from hearing. As we listen for God’s voice in our lives, we should be ready to do what God calls us to do, even if it means speaking love and grace to someone who has selective hearing.
Reflection: Do you think you have selective hearing with God? Has there been a time that you felt God telling you do something uncomfortable (such as sharing your testimony, feeding the hungry, or giving to the poor) and you ignored God? What was the source of your selective hearing?
Prayer: God, there are times I want to hear you and times I ignore you when you call. Please help me to listen with my heart and my ears when you speak, and give me the strength to do what you say. Amen.
Day 6 The Golden Rule Matthew 7:12
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” NRSV
This little Bible verse, the Golden Rule, is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. It’s a simple concept; treat others the way you want to be treated. Many of us try to keep the Golden Rule, but at times it is difficult. If you have ever driven on the beltway into Washington D.C. during rush hour, you know what I mean! We think of the Golden Rule as a way of showing kindness to our fellow human beings. But is that all there is to it? A dear friend showed me another way to live the Golden Rule as a follower of Christ. “What is the best thing anyone has ever done for you?” she asked. “The best thing anyone ever did for me was to tell me about Jesus” I answered. I continued, “It’s the best thing Christians can do for others.” “Then as disciples of Christ who obey the Golden Rule and do to others as we would have them do to us, why aren’t more Christians sharing the Good News?” Her understanding of the Golden Rule humbled me.
If you have experienced God’s forgiveness and saving grace, you understand what an amazing gift it is. I am so grateful to the woman who cared enough to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with me. As Christians obeying and living the Golden Rule, we have a motivation to share the Good News with others. One of the best things we can do to others, as we would have them do to us, is share the saving grace of Jesus Christ and proclaim the Good News!
Reflection: Who told you about Jesus? How are you going to live the Golden Rule and in everything do to others as you would have them do unto you?
Prayer: God, sometimes it is difficult to treat others the way I want to be treated. Help me live the Golden Rule and tell others about Jesus, just as someone shared the Good News with me. In Christ Jesus, Amen.
Day 7 All Things to All People 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
“For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people; that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” NRSV
In my life before becoming a United Methodist pastor, I was a preschool teacher and I loved teaching the children in my care. One of the main things I learned as a preschool teacher is that I had to speak on their level. Most of the time that meant getting on my knees so I could also be on their eye level. My voice and language changed when I spoke to the children. I adapted myself to the children’s world. I used words like “doggie” or “poopie.” I also learned about the things that the children liked. To this day I can still sing most of the Barney and Sesame Street songs! Using child-like words and learning to sing silly songs did not change who I was, but it did help me identify with the children and it helped them to trust me.
I think this is what Paul was telling us in today’s Scripture. When witnessing, Paul adapted himself to the situation in order to share the Gospel in a way that could be understood by those listening to the message. Paul crossed cultural, religious, political, and economic barriers to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Although Paul was flexible in his methods, he never compromised his faith. When we share the Good News of Christ we must remember the lesson from Paul. The way we present the message may change in order to speak to a particular group of people, but the message does not change. In order to reach every person everywhere, we need to learn how to become all things to all people without compromising the message so that people will be saved. As we do this for the sake of the Gospel, we will share in the blessings of God’s grace!
Reflection: How do you identify with people who are different than you? What can you do to help you identify with others for the sake of the sharing the Good News of Christ?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your saving work on the cross. When Paul walked the earth, he became all things to all people in order that “some might be saved” by sharing the good news of Jesus. Help me to be like Paul so I can be all things to all people in order to save some. In Christ’s name. Amen.
 Mark 4:23, NIV.
 1 Corinthians 9:22, NIV.