Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.” (Ps. 119:103-104)
Prayer of Confession
“Lord, Lord,” I often say—but I’m easily fooled to take comfort in my moral performance, trusting it to be the source of my salvation. But may the fruit of your grace in my life be a deep humility for your undeserved choice, a sustained adoration of your fathomless mercy, a lively resolve to resist sin, and a heart of love for you who first so greatly loved me. In Jesus I pray, amen. (Prayer based on the Canons of Dort, Question 1.13)
*Prayer borrowed from Philip Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Pray Psalm 15 | Read Romans 5
- Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
- NT Context:The letter to the Romans is a piece of exuberant and passionate thinking. This is the glorious life of the mind enlisted in the service of God. Paul takes the well-witnessed and devoutly believed fact of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and thinks through its implications. How does it happen that in the death and resurrection of Jesus, world history took a new direction, and at the same moment the life of every man, woman, and child on the planet was eternally affected? What is God up to? What does it mean that Jesus “saves”? What’s behind all this, and where is it going?Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
Pray Psalm 16 | Read 2 Chronicles 11
- OT Context: “Sovereignty, God’s sovereignty, is one of the most difficult things for people of faith to live out in everyday routines…This story makes it clear that it was not God’s idea that the Hebrews have a king, but since they insisted, he let them have their way. But God never abdicated his sovereignty to any of the Hebrew kings; the idea was that they would represent his sovereignty, not that he would delegate his sovereignty to them. Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
Our Winter series in the Book of James begins this week. Each day we will dig into a different aspect of this New Testament wisdom book which will, by the end of the week, help to give you a fuller portrait of the kind of lives we are called to live as Christians. passage that will be preached on Sunday.
Read: James 1:13-18
Yesterday we concluded with the question of how. How do we begin to desire God above all else? We’re asking this because James has shown us how disordered desire proves disastrous (that’s all the alteration you’ll get) for us. Our good desires become misshapen and turn idolatrous seemingly in the blink of an eye. What hope is there for us? Fortunately James has one more metaphor up his sleeve for us, and it’s a good one!
If disordered desires seduce us and plants a seed that will give birth to sin, then God is the One who plants in us the seeds that will grow into rightly ordered desires for God. If you’re having trouble seeing this in the passage, then look a little closer with me at verse 18.
James says that all good and perfect gifts come from God who does not change (v.16-17). But what does he mean when he says that God “chose to give us birth through the word of truth”? Dan Dorani helps us out explaining the phrase as meaning that,
“God took counsel with himself and resolved [purposed/decreed] that he would not leave sinners in their plight. He decided to grant them spiritual life by ‘the word of truth.’ This rebirth keeps sin from giving birth to death. It makes God’s children the firstfruits of his creation.”
Sin always gives birth to death. It is only when God gifts us with new hearts (Jer. 31:31-34) that we receive spiritual birth as new creations who are born from above and regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:22–24; John 3:1-8; Titus 3:8). James calls this being born through the word (1:18).
So far we have witnessed two births in our passage. One is described using a sexual metaphor (sin seduces us, conceives, and gives birth) but the other is agrarian, and so to round out our picture of what James is telling us about sin and temptation we need to head out into the field.
“Firstfruits” refers to the first and best “produce” that a farmer’s field produces whether from the soil or from the flock. In the ancient Jewish culture these would then be offered to God for use in the place of gathered worship (the temple). Dorani again helpfully notes that, “The firstfruits were an annual confession that God supplied the year’s bounty, that he was faithful to his covenant people yet another year.”
So what does James mean that we are the firstfruits of God’s field and flock? Simply this: God is at work caring for us day by day and year by year. He’s the one who is cultivating us, re-ordering our desires, and growing us into what he desires for us to become. So we need to trust that, as the faithful and true Farmer, he knows his business of allowing trials to make us into steadfast and blessedly whole people (v.12) who receive the crown of life which he has promised to those who love him.
It can feel a bit unflattering, at first, to hear ourselves described as “firstfruits.” We’re more than mere turnips or tups in a field, aren’t we? But to focus on the literal aspects of the metaphor is to miss the point entirely! God is our Father who has good, loving, and perfect intentions for us.
What we should focus on instead is that God is telling us that he is like a kindhearted farmer who lovingly dotes on his fields because, in the strangest of fairytale ways, he’s growing his children out of soil that has been perfectly prepared for their flourishing!
REFLECT: When you experience trials, do you think of them as the soil in which God is growing you as his beloved child, or do you begrudge them as just another hard thing to walk through? What might change in your life if you began seeing them in this new light?
Evening Prayer of Examen
- Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
- Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
- Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
“Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Ps. 25:4-5)