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 has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.” (Psalm 47:5-7)
Prayer of Confession
Creator God,garden my life—turn it over, cultivate it, and make it ready for gospel seeds to take root.
And in quiet darkness let the gospel do its work, slow but powerful, stirring up life in my heart, increasing joy, strengthening all your graces until shoots of new life rise and good fruit bursts forth on the branches of my life, a life beautiful for you and a blessing to others. Amen.(a prayer based on the Westminster Longer Catechism, Q75)
*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: ” Our main and central task is to live in responsive obedience to [the gospel]. But more often than not we become impatiently self-important along the way and decide to improve matters with our two cents’ worth.” We add on, we supplement, we embellish. Hebrews is written to “add on, Jesus-and” Christians such as ourselves. It wakes us up to the reality that Jesus is just plain better than all our add ons.” Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: “People who want God as an escape from reality, from the often hard conditions of this life, don’t find this much to their liking. But to the man or woman wanting more reality, not less—this continuation of the salvation story—Joshua’s fierce and devout determination to win land for his people and his extraordinary attention to getting all the tribes and their families name by name assigned to their own place, is good news indeed. Joshua lays a firm foundation for a life that is grounded.” Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
Marva Dawn’s asks at the beginning of her book on Romans 12 (The Hilarity of Community): “What would it be like if the Christian Church were truly a community that thoroughly enjoyed being itself?” She goes on to lay out some good evidence that the church often does not enjoy being itself because it lacks the gladness that grace initiates. We lack it because, for one, we have been too shaped by the individualistic nature of our culture. We try to go it alone spiritually. Sure we attend a church, maybe participate in a small group of some kind, but we don’t really enfold our lives into the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not really.
If we did, then we would have a much better idea of what ails our friends. Or put another way, we’d know what’s really wrong with them and they’d know what’s really wrong with us. But we are afraid of this kind of intimacy. We resist it not only with one another but with God himself. Our issues are both sociological and theological!
This is where Romans 12 aids us. Romans 12 is the hinge, the lynchpin, upon which Romans swings. It opens the door between all that Paul says about God’s love (Ch. 1-11) and all that Christian community is meant to be in expressing that love toward one another (Ch.12-16).
When Paul says, “Therefore…” he is helping us to connect the sort of love we crave and receive in the gospel with the people and places where our response to God’s love is lived out. The foundations for community are right there in 12:1: we are urged as brothers and sisters in Christ to offer our bodies (individually and together) as a sacrifice, as worship that lives and moves and breathes in a holy and pleasing way before God.
So what is Christian Community at its core? According to Romans 12 it is worship. Connected, sacrificial worship that causes us to respond to God’s mercy with our whole being and our being together. Together we resist the pressures to conform to our culture’s way of being. Together we are being transformed from what we were into who we are in Christ. It is an ongoing metamorphosis where our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are cultivated (Gal. 5:22-23).
And the church is where we experience together our growing pains in discerning the difference between genuinely Spirit-directed fruit, and the garden variety, conformed-to-this-age kind of fruit. It’s the difference between a dandelion and a daffodil. One falls apart in a moment and the other flowers year after year. A church is a gathering of God’s people who are learning to distinguish the difference. A collection of God’s holy, yet hypocritical, people who are figuring out God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will together. A people who are unlearning “conformed to this culture” community and finding themselves, hilariously, in dying to themselves and living together in Christ.
Reflect: How have you understood what Christian community is supposed to be? In what way does Romans 12 say that transformation should be a part of community?
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.
“Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)