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.

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.

Praying the Scriptures: Ephesians 3

bible hold handsMany years ago someone introduced me to the idea of using a scripture reading as a jumping off point for prayer. I wish I could remember who to thank!

This practice changed the way I engage with scripture. Reading scripture became more alive as I paid more attention to the images and word choices and feelings being expressed. I could hear it more clearly as I used the words to pray.

Praying the scripture also deepened my prayer life. It stretched the content of my prayers. It gave my prayers more variety and color. Most importantly, it gave me permission to speak more honestly about situations and feelings. The scriptures gave me words when I had none to offer.

The easiest way to start this practice is by inserting names into a prayer found in the scriptures. So let’s try it with Ephesians 3:16-21. We’ll be using The Voice Translation because the wording is both beautiful and approachable.

Praying Ephesians 3:16-21
Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________.

Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart.

May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root.

May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced.

God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being.

Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

Try praying this prayer daily for several weeks. Each week include persons from a different group of people to bless. Here are some ideas.

  • those you love
  • your classmates or co-workers
  • those yet to believe
  • those with power, influence, or authority
  • those who feel desperate or hopeless
  • those who feel targeted or unfairly judged
  • those who are grieving or suffering

What group would you add? What would be another great scripture for inserting names?

I look forward to hearing from you! – Lisa <><

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Praying the Scripture: Ephesians 3 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

You Can Read the Bible: Three Approaches

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

I. You Can Read the Bible by Steve Harper
One of the biggest mistakes we have made with the Bible is leaving the impression that only scholars can correctly interpret it. Everything is made so layered, nuanced, and complex that many folks instantly feel they lack the “training” and “horsepower” to make it through all the mazes.

So, they either stop trying or they become passive and wait for the “experts” to tell them what’s “right.” But the fact is, the Bible is intended to be understandable! The original languages do contain levels of insight, but their essential meanings are accessible to us all.

Here is a way to make it so in your personal reading and in your conversations with others. Take a passage, read it, and ask:
(1) What is the big idea?
(2) Why is it important?
(3) Where does it presently connect with my life–or–why is it not a part of me?
(4) Should it be part of me? If so, how can I continue (or begin) to put it into practice?

Most Bible passages will “bear fruit” when these questions are applied to them, either in private or in a group. And when you add to your own inductive study the additional resources of concordances, dictionaries, maps, and commentaries, you will find the messages of scripture influencing your life day after day.

II. SOAP
The SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal is practiced by thousands of Christians. I first learned of it from Wayne Cordeiro, pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, click here for the video on their website.

Here’s a brief summary of the process.
S = Scripture
Read the Bible passage for the day. Copy the verse which catches your attention word for word in your journal.

O = Observation
Write a brief description of what is going on in the passage you read.

A = Application
Write about how your life will be different today because of what you have read.
• Lessons to be learned
• Examples to be followed or avoided
• Promises to be claimed and enjoyed
• A character trait of God revealed

P = Prayer
Write out a prayer for yourself and others based on what you read today.

III. Lectio Divina explained by Whitney R. Simpson in his book Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit
The words Lectio Divina are Latin for “holy reading.”

This ancient prayer practice includes the following steps:
lectio (“to read”)
meditatio (“to reflect”)
oratio (“to respond”)
and contemplatio (“to rest”).

Lectio Divina allows you to listen for God’s activity using scripture and to connect to God through the ancient Word while delving into a particular passage.

The practice of Lectio Divina focuses on formational reading of scripture, as opposed to informational reading. Formational reading invites the text to shape you, while informational reading invites you to understand the text. Though both types of reading can be useful on a spiritual journey, the art of Lectio Divina allows you to interact with God’s Word through meditating on a passage and listening for God’s leading.

My personal journey has been shaped by spending time in the Word using Lectio Divina. Through this practice, I have realized how scripture can speak to my life regardless of what I am facing. Lectio Divina has allowed me to see and hear God in new ways.

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So, let’s get reading. Here are three simple reading plans to get you started. Each will take you through the New Testament in one year. It’s especially helpful to start with the New Testament if you are new to Bible reading.

1. New Testament Reading Plan- Bible order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which it is printed in the Bible. Easy. Just read straight through.

2. New Testament Reading Plan- event order
This plan will take you through the New Testament in the order in which the events most likely happened. You’ll jump from chapter to chapter in different books in this plan. Is it scholarly perfect, no, but it is helpful for those of us who want a chronological approach to Jesus’ life and the lives of the first believers. (We aren’t getting caught in the perfectionism trap. If this sounds interesting, go for it.)

3. New Testament Reading Plan- mixed
This plan spreads the Gospel readings throughout the year with the other books mixed in between. Even though you skip around the New Testament in this plan, you will read a book at a time.

Click Here for more information on today’s featured image, South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans

2015 Lenten Reading Plan: Gospel of John

2015 Lenten Reading Plan- gospel of john
It is a common practice during the 40 days of Lent to be especially intentional about setting aside time for daily Scripture reading and reflection. This post provides a plan to read through the Gospel of John in 40 days. You will notice Sundays are reserved for worship and rest. You will also notice the reading plan starts on the first Sunday of Lent, February 22, rather than Ash Wednesday. This decision was made so that the post resurrection passages in the Gospel of John are read following Easter.

The plan includes the SOAP method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here

The reading plan is presented in two formats: a checklist/bookmark and an extended version. The extended version includes an action for bringing each day’s scripture reading to life. While this action is appropriate for persons of all ages, it might be especially helpful for children.

To download a Microsoft Word Document of the bookmark, click below
2015 Gospel of John Lenten Reading Plan

To download a Microsoft Word Document of the extended version of the reading plan, click below
2015 Gospel of John Lenten Reading Plan, extended version

Additional Suggestions:
1. Print the bookmark on cardstock. You will get two bookmarks per page when printing front and back.
2. Add your church name, contact information and/or logo
3. Add special events as a reminder and invitation to attend
4. Use either plan at other times during the year by adjusting the dates

A huge thank you to Nicole Sallee and the Community UMC Worship Design Team for their creative help in designing the extended reading plan. – Lisa <><

You Can Read the Bible: Two Approaches

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

I. You Can Read the Bible by Steve Harper
One of the biggest mistakes we have made with the Bible is leaving the impression that only scholars can correctly interpret it. Everything is made so layered, nuanced, and complex that many folks instantly feel they lack the “training” and “horsepower” to make it through all the mazes.

So, they either stop trying or they become passive and wait for the “experts” to tell them what’s “right.” But the fact is, the Bible is intended to be understandable! The original languages do contain levels of insight, but their essential meanings are accessible to us all.

Here is a way to make it so in your personal reading and in your conversations with others. Take a passage, read it, and ask:
(1) What is the big idea?
(2) Why is it important?
(3) Where does it presently connect with my life–or–why is it not a part of me?
(4) Should it be part of me? If so, how can I continue (or begin) to put it into practice?

Most Bible passages will “bear fruit” when these questions are applied to them, either in private or in a group. And when you add to your own inductive study the additional resources of concordances, dictionaries, maps, and commentaries, you will find the messages of scripture influencing your life day after day.

II. SOAP
The SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal is practiced by thousands of Christians. I first learned of it from Wayne Cordeiro, pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, click here for the video on their website.

Here’s a brief summary of the process.
S = Scripture
Read the Bible passage for the day. Copy the verse which catches your attention word for word into your journal.

O = Observation
Write a brief description of what is going on in the passage you read.

A = Application
Write about how your life will be different today because of what you have read.
• Lessons to be learned
• Examples to be followed or avoided
• Promises to be claimed and enjoyed
• A character trait of God revealed

P = Prayer
Write out a prayer for yourself and others based on what you read today.

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Click Here for more information on today’s featured image, South Sudan Bible Reading by Steve Evans