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?
John Stott, in reflecting on Galatians 5:26, writes
“This verse shows that our conduct to others is determined by our opinion of ourselves. It is when we have “vain-glory” that we…adopt one of these two attitudes. If we regard ourselves as superior we “provoke” (the Greek word means ‘to challenge’)…but if we regard ourselves as inferior we “envy.” In both cases our attitude is due to “vainglory” or “conceit,” to our having such a fantasy opinion of ourselves…Very different is that love which is the fruit of the Spirit…The Holy Spirit has opened their eyes to see both their own sin and unworthiness and also the importance and value of…people in the sight of God.”
Many Christians are familiar with the verses which come right before this one: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” We are to grow in these as grace grows and expands the inner country of the soul. Effort is required, yes, but there is no such thing as self-empowered fruit of the Spirit. So can you tell the difference between the Spirit-empowered and self-empowered varieties of spiritual fruit?
One answer is found in the next verses: (vv.25-26) If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Notice the pronouns: we, us, one another. We so often read these verses as being about me, myself, and I. But what they are really describing are fruit that are lived out and experienced in community. You cannot love fully unless you are loving another person. You cannot have peace without that peace being in relationship to the other “ones” that make up “one another.”
That’s Paul’s point in v.26. Our natural condition is to revel in vainglory (lit. “empty of glory/significance”). It leaves us starved for significance, honor, and a sense of worth. Think of all of the people in your life who are glory-starved and look for worth in their work, relationships, and vacation experiences. Do you have that person in mind? Good. Now stop it! Paul isn’t talking about them. He’s speaking to Christians, to the church.
Now, instead,think of all the glory-starved moments you’ve had this week. All the moments when you were bold and filled with bravado as you set out to prove yourself superior to another parent, coworker, frenemy. Every time you felt shame and used self-deprecating humor to cover your deep self-loathing and insecurity. Do you have those moments in mind? Good! Now you’ve nailed exactly what Paul is talking about.
Keeping in step with the Spirit means that we are letting the reality of God’s grace to us sink deep inside of us to create a whole new self-image which is not based on comparisons with others. Christians who understand this are neither “self-confident” nor “self-disdaining,” but both bold and humble at once. This heals our superiority and inferiority complexes.They are no longer over-dependent on others’ approval, nor afraid of forming deep friendships with others. Christian community is meant to be the place where we discover together and extend to one another Christ’s merciful acceptance of us. Christian friendship is a radical new form of friendship based on grace. Grace recognizes everything that is sinful about the other person and moves out in love for the sake of that friend anyway. That’s the beauty of the church. It’s why we hope you will make life-long friends at Oak Pointe Milford.
Reflect: Have you experienced God’s grace like this in community? What was unique about it?
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)