Ephesians Reading Challenge

Ephesians Challenge Graphic

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians three times in three weeks.

The suggested pattern is one chapter per day, Monday through Saturday.
Rinse. Repeat.
Rinse. Repeat.

Here are some suggestions to help you with your reflection. Write or draw your answers on a piece of paper or in a journal.

1. Read the chapter for the day. Copy the word, phrase, or verse which catches your attention word for word.

2. What does this word, phrase, or verse reveal about God? Our world? Ourselves?

3. How will your life be different today because of what you have read?

4. What are your next steps in putting this into practice?

5. Speak with God about this. (a written or verbal prayer)

Or read the chapter and just sit with it. No striving for knowledge or answers. Being rather than doing. Listening. Resting. Jesus, I just want to be with you.

Feel free to share this challenge and/or leave a comment about what God reveals to you.
I look forward to hearing from you. – Lisa <><

PS- The Ephesians Challenge accompanies our new sermon series, Sit Walk Stand which beings Sunday, May 19th. You are most welcome to join us in person at 9am or 10:30am at Trinity Sarasota or online at 9am on our Facebook Page. I’ll also post the messages here.

What are you looking for (John 6, Psalm 63)

Bread of Life by Kennedy A Paizs

I am the Bread of Life by Kennedy A Paizs. “I want to desire Jesus as much as I desire to eat each day to sustain my physical life.”

John 6:25-27
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Why am I looking for Jesus?
Am I just looking for the goodies?

  • provision- the fill of the loaves
  • an entertaining story on the side of a mountain
  • comfort and blessing since so much of life is insecure
  • an escape to a better place beyond this life

There is a huge difference between using Jesus as a means to an end and desiring a relationship with Jesus for who he is. – Lisa <><

Jesus, forgive my false following
My misplaced priorities
For using you instead of loving you

Nurture true faith and trust in me
To love you first and always
To love you for you
as you love me

Reorder my consuming
Feasting on your presence
You are my bread, my drink, my life
I love you

Psalm 63:1-8
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings, I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

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What are you looking for? © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain (Psalm 148)

Song_of_the_Silent_Snow_by_Martina Carnesciali

Song of the Silent Snow by Martina Carnesciali

Psalm 148:7-8 NRSV
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

One winter, while we were living in North Carolina, it snowed. I sat for a long time in silence at our bedroom window watching the soft flakes float to the ground. It was fascinating to me. I grew up in Florida and had only seen snow a couple of times in my life. The perfect peace of that experience birthed the snow verse of this hymn. As I began to think about other natural experiences, the other verses came to be. – Lisa <><

God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Meter 77.77
Suggested tune: THE CALL (United Methodist Hymnal #164)

God who brings the cleansing rain
saturate our thirsty bones
with the milk of mercy sweet
with the blood that brings us home

God who rules the fiery sun
kindle now our brittle hearts
set ablaze our tender lives
forge our ways till sin departs

God who rides the winds of change
anchor us against its wrath
set our face toward holy ends
fix our walk upon your path

God who sends the silent snows
quiet us against your breast
cover us with hope-filled wings
whisper soft your word of rest

God who steps into our time
Take away this needless fear
Turn our lives to songs of praise
Play us for your world to hear

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God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form. Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to music.

Blessing the Women: A Prayer for Mother’s Day

Mother and Child by Howard Weingarden

Loving God,
You knit us together in our mother’s womb
and breathe us into being.
Thank you for the gift of life
and for bringing us into this world through our mothers.
We recognize the risk they took
to carry us, nourish us and protect us within their bodies.

Thank you for the women in our life,
for our mothers and for those who have been like mothers to us.
We are grateful for their tenderness when we were helpless or hurt,
We are grateful for their encouragement and wisdom when we were unsure,
We are grateful for their correction and perseverance so we would stay true,
We are grateful for the way they guided us into Your saving embrace.
Too often we took their love and sacrifice for granted. Forgive us.
Help us to live in such a way
that our words and actions bring honor to them and to You.

Merciful One, gather us all to the safety of your breast.
For many, this day is full of joy and celebration,
but for others, it is an especially painful day.
Pour out your healing, consolation, and peace
on those who are grieving the loss of their mother or the loss of their child,
on families separated by distance or disagreement,
on families plagued by disappointment, abandonment, addiction or abuse.

Compassionate One, shelter us all beneath Your outstretched arms.
Bring your healing, consolation, and peace
to women whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled,
to mothers and guardians who are exhausted
as they labor to balance work and raising children,
to mothers and guardians who are overwhelmed as they struggle
to bring up children in the midst of poverty, disease, or war.
The need is deep. Come quickly. Our hope is in You.

At this point in the prayer, all the girls and women in the room are invited to stand as they are able. Those who are seated are asked to place a hand of blessing upon those who are standing.

Gracious God, thank You for every woman and girl here today
and for every one we have brought with us in our hearts.
Reveal Your purpose and plan for their life.
Bless them and protect them.
Deepen their love and trust of You.
Strengthen them, empower them, and anoint them with Your Holy Spirit
that their faith, influence, and achievement would bring You honor and glory.
Receive our thanks and praise again for these women and women in the making
for they are precious to us and to You.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

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© 2011 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Recommended Resource- Pray As You Go

Followers of Jesus nurture their relationship with God by “doing devotions.” We head to the bookstore, or maybe even our local church, to pick up a guide to read on a daily basis. It’s a great way to build a habit of spending time with God and very helpful for stretching us in our understanding of God’s character and Word.

Here’s where it can be problematic:

  • We’re always reading about someone else’s encounter with God in place of having encounters ourselves. We stay at a distance from God.
  • Our devotions become knowledge-driven or emotion-driven rather than Scripture-driven and encounter-driven. We may find what we read interesting, we may be stirred by the story, but are we receiving it as a call to apply spiritual truth to our life?
  • Our prayer life stays shallow if we only use the prayers of others and never practice praying ourselves.
  • We can become forever dependent on an “expert” rather than trusting God wants to speak to us right now, at whatever point we are in our journey of faith.

So do we dump the devotional books/guides and just read the Scripture? Well… Reading Scripture can be a powerful daily devotion option, especially when you use one of these approaches to give you some structure. “Just me and my Bible” can also be intimidating, confusing, and lonely.

It’s no wonder we struggle.

For many of us, we need something in between. We want to encounter God in a transforming way through the Scriptures, but we also need some guidance. I found this in between, this sweet spot of devotional practice, through a resource called Pray as You Go. 

pray as you goPray As You Go is an audio and written prayer practice offered six days per week via a free website and app by Jesuit Media Initiatives. It is helpful for both Catholics and Protestants because it’s so Scripture driven.

  • Each session begins with a bell or chime followed by music to help you settle into a prayerful frame of mind
  • A Scripture is read
  • Reflection questions based on the Scripture are offered with time for you to respond by simply talking or listening to God
  • The Scripture is read again followed by a closing blessing

The aim of Pray as You Go is to help you to:

  • become more aware of God’s presence in your life
  • listen to and reflect on God’s Word
  • grow in your relationship with God

How I find Pray as You Go helpful 

  • Its peaceful meditative tone is a very different tone than my loud, full, rushed day. I need this time of stillness and contemplation.
  • The questions appeal to my imagination. They open me to explore the Scripture, to listen deeply, to engage it for myself. It is an experience. The questions can also challenge me to look at a passage in a new or deeper way.
  • The open-ended questions help me apply what I’m hearing
  • I feel connected to a community of believers rather than by myself. I especially like the music selections from around the world.
  • It uses texts throughout the Bible so I don’t just read my favorite passages
  • I like to settle into a comfortable chair when I use Pray as You Go. Others use it during their morning commute, on a break during the work day, while out for a walk, etc.
  • After the 10-13 minute devotion, I’m motivated to continue praying or journaling

I’d love to hear from you! 

  • Give Pray as You Go a try. How was the experience?
  • What is your current devotional practice? How is it helpful to you?
  • How have your devotional practices changed as you’ve matured in faith?

May the Lord bless you and bring strength and transformation into your life through your devotional practices. – Lisa <><

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Recommendation- Pray As You Go © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Heavenly Worship (Revelation 5)

worthy is the lamb

Heavenly Worship
Scripture: Revelation 5
Notes from a message offered, 5/5/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Do you have a book of the Bible you avoid?

  • Leviticus – What happened to the story in Genesis and Exodus? It’s law and how to build the tabernacle.
  • Numbers- It’s a census
  • Joshua- Full of blood and genocide
  • Job- Very hard to read. Doesn’t seem fair.

How many of us avoid Revelation? It’s weird, mysterious, hard to understand.

All Scripture is God-breathed. We need all of it. We don’t have to avoid any of it. We can hear from God there.

Revelation 1-5

  • Revelation 1 is a vision of the powerful, victorious Christ
  • Revelation 2-3 are 7 letters to the 7 churches which were located in what is modern-day Turkey. All 7 letters were read by all 7 churches even though they are addressed to specific churches. They traveled together as a bundle. They are also letters to us, the current church, on how to be faith-full.
    • Jesus Christ is to be your first and only love
    • Following Jesus comes at a price. Discipleship is costly. You will suffer for your faith.
    • Choose truth over error/falsehood
    • Choose right relationship (righteousness) with God and others over evil
    • Don’t be a hypocrite. Your inner life should match your outer words and actions.
    • Jesus opens a door of opportunity to share the Good News in every time, place, and circumstance, no matter how hard the times seem
    • Stay awake, alive, afire, wholehearted in following and sharing Christ (not lukewarm)
  • Chapters 4-5 describe the heavenly throne room and worship in heaven
    • The One, True, Living God is seated on the throne surrounded by 4 powerful, divine creatures. On both sides of the throne is seated 12 elders- 12 to represent the 12 tribes of Israel (Old Testament) and 12 to represent the 12 apostles (New Testament).
    • There’s light, singing, and worship. It’s glorious!

Revelation 5

  • Scrolls of the ancient world were folded accordion-style (like a map) with seals on each fold. 7 seals meant the document was important, like a will. The scroll represents the will of God. It is in the right hand of God- the hand of power and authority.
  • Who is worthy to fully release the will of God into the world? Only Jesus Christ!
    • The Lion of the Tribe of Judah
    • The Root of David (covenant with David fulfilled)
    • The One who Conquers
    • The Lamb of God (who takes away the sins of the world)
    • The Slaughtered, Wounded One (by his stripes we are healed)
    • The One Who Is Worthy
    • The Resurrected One
  • The number 7 is used over in over and over in the book of Revelation to represent fulfillment, completion.

Heavenly Worship

  • The first response to the releasing of God’s will in the world is worship
  • Go to Revelation as a Word of hope for a persecuted people and you will find God
    • When, O Lord, will your will of peace, justice, goodness be released in the world?
    • When, O Lord, will your will of no more sin, no more pain, no more night, no more death be released in the world?
    • It will be released because the Lamb has conquered!
  • Worship 1- the 24 elders and 4 living creatures making music, bowing down, holding the prayers of all the faithful.
    • The fulfillment of the Great Commission (proclaim to all the world)
  • Worship 2- the elders and living creatures are joined by too many angels to count. All are singing with full voice.
    • Their song includes a list of 7 things the Lamb is worthy to receive: power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, blessing. You are worthy to receive it all.
  • Worship 3- The worship of all creation echoes the words of the angels.

We get a chance to experience a taste of heavenly worship in the here and now. We’re practicing. What do we do in heaven for all eternity after we die? We worship, we sing, we pray, we fellowship (every tribe, every language), we feast. No more separation between us and God and us and each other.

Come to worship. Come and gather. Come and hear the story. Come and sing. Come and pray. Come be together. Get a little taste of heaven. We need it.

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Heavenly Worship © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

What I Need (John 20)

Jesus appears to disciples

by Ed de Guzman

In John 20:19-29, Jesus appears to the disciples twice following his resurrection from the dead. The first time, Thomas isn’t there. Maybe he’s out getting supplies. Maybe he’s seeing other disciples who are hiding in another location. Maybe he’s gathering information or caring for someone or the only one brave enough to head out into the streets knowing the danger. We simply don’t know Thomas’ reasons or motivation.

When he returns, there’s great excitement about Jesus’ appearance. That’s understandable. Thomas’ response is also understandable. He wants what the other disciples now have. He wants to see Jesus, too.

Imagine what Thomas is thinking that long week between appearances. I imagine Thomas doubting himself far more than Jesus.

  • Why didn’t Jesus wait till we were all here?
  • Is Jesus mad at me or disappointed in me?
  • Did he abandon me as I abandoned him?
  • Was I not worthy of seeing him?
  • Will he come again?

Jesus does come again and gives Thomas what he needs. Jesus does the same for us as well. – Lisa <><

Jesus, you give me what I need
What I need to believe
What I need to live

Like my brother Thomas,
I lay the doubting down
You come for me
You want me as well
You want us all

The gift of your presence is for me
The gift of your peace is for me
So too the power of your Spirit
The very Breath of Life
Abundant Life in your name

Jesus, you give me what I need
Seeing
Signs
Spirit
Wounds
Words
Wonder
Peace
Power
Sending
Oh My Jesus
My Lord and My God

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What I need © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.