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
“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)
Prayer of Confession
Sending God, thank you for not allowing your church to get stuck in Jerusalem, limited to one location or bound to one era.
Instead, your church fits and functions in any and every context, spread across the world and yet joined in heart and will, united in one and the same Spirit.
Thank you that I am part of this amazing community of faith. Amen. (a prayer based on the Belgic Confession, Q27)
*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).
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 two letters Peter wrote exhibit the qualities of Jesus that the Holy Spirit shaped in him: a readiness to embrace suffering rather than prestige, a wisdom developed from experience and not imposed from a book, a humility that lacked nothing in vigor or imagination.” Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: “Twice in Judges (17:6 and 21:25) there is the telling refrain: “At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing.” But we readers know that there was a king in Israel: God was king. And so, while the lack of an earthly king accounts for the moral and political anarchy, the presence of the sovereign God, however obscurely realized, means that the reality of the kingdom is never in doubt.” Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
This week our devotional is focused on Neighbor Day.
Read: Matthew 5:1-16
Christians through the ages have turned to The Sermon on the Mount as a guide for living as neighbors, friends, parents, lovers, and most of all citizens of God’s Kingdom in a fallen world. If you’re wondering what it means to “Go,” then Matthew 5-7 describes almost every facet of how God calls his people to go into his world with the hope of his kingdom in tow.
Now this is not to say that everyone has fully understood the message of Jesus’ words in this sermon. Many find themselves excusing them away some of what Jesus’ teaching by saying, “Well, he couldn’t possibly have meant that…He surely doesn’t mean me! The busybody down the street, yes, Lord, yes! But not little old me!” But what you will find if you read the Sermon is that Christ indeed does mean you! And me! And he’s not very interested in only part of you but rather the whole you. He desires that everything that you are would enter into and be reworked in being part of his kingdom.
So what does The Sermon on the Mount (as Augustine coined it) have to do with our Neighbor Day? Well, perhaps, it’s best that we acquaint (and reacquaint) ourselves with what this sermon is all about. The wonderfully Scottish pastor/theologian Sinclair Ferguson has said, “The message of the Sermon on the Mount is, ‘This is what it means to repent and belong to the kingdom of heaven.’ The sermon is a description of the lifestyle of those who belong to that kingdom…To belong to the kingdom of God, then, is to belong to the people among whom the reign of God has already begun.”
God’s people are the place where glimpses of the world Christ promises in the sermon begin to come to life. The seeds of resurrection life have been planted and they are just now sprouting forth in lives characterized by Resurrection-righteousness and mercy (and resurrection-hungering-for-righteousness); resurrection-mourning over sin and poverty of spirit; resurrection-humility and peacemaking.
This Resurrection lifestyle on its own might not seem like much but when gathered into a community, suddenly a light breaks out across the horizon. A city, the city, is seen on the hillside. It’s light is an undeniable reality. It is the place where God’s kingdom is coming and is foreshadowing that future bride-of-a-city in Revelation 21 where it is revealed that the light coming from the city was Christ all along! We will be revealed as mere actors, mirroring and reflecting the True Light.
Okay that’s a lot of imagery (but to be fair the Bible is primarily made up of images and themes and metaphors). How does the kingdom of God coming through his church look on a day like Neighbor Day? It looks like a gutter being reattached. A flyer being handed out to come for a free meal. A story told to a new friend about the ways God is transforming your life by grace. A garden bed freed of debris in anticipation of new life both plant and spiritual.
Reflect: How are you planning to serve on Neighbor Day? Take some time today and ask God to help his kingdom to come through whatever work you will be doing.
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.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)