The One Year Devo

November 28, 2020

Daniel 5:1-31; 2 Peter 2:1-22; Psalm 119:113-128; Proverbs 28:19-20

Nothing remains the same. This is true of everything in life, except God. The person you married years ago has changed, even if their name has remained the same. Your job has changed, your address has changed, you have changed...the only thing that remains the same is God.

We see this reality displayed throughout the book of Daniel. Daniel is exiled by the most powerful empire of its time, Babylon. We are introduced to Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar, who in our reading today has been replaced by Belshazzar and by the end of our reading has been replaced by Darius. In fact, by the end of chapter 5 the Babylonian Empire has been overthrown. What seemed to have such strength and power has been destroyed.

If we look to things other than God to provide strength and a foundation for our lives it will prove to be like quicksand. If Daniel had turned away from God to trust in the strength of Babylon or the strength of any individual king they would have failed him. Only God allows him the ability to persevere, endure and thrive through life.

Question of the day: How does knowing God's unchanging nature bring comfort to your life?

Father God, be the strength of my life. Give me the ability to persevere in following you and look to you to uphold me when I am weak. Thank you that you are king over the universe and king over me. Help me to live for you and be strengthened by your Spirit today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, November 27, 2020

November 27, 2020

Daniel 4:1-37; 2 Peter 1:1-21; Psalm 119:97-112; Proverbs 28:17-18

Every time I go for a run everything within me wants to stop. Running is hard and I always question why I am doing it. A similar sensation may happen to us when are following God. There may be moments when it seems difficult, when we wonder whether it is worth it or if we can even keep going. It is these people that 2 Peter is written to.

Peter wants people who are discouraged to first understand that they have the ability to follow God. This ability isn't from their own strength but has been given to them by God. "His divine power has given us everything we need." Since we have the ability through the Spirit to follow God we should persevere. Twice Peter encourages his readers to "make every effort" to keep going. He knows that we are prone to quit but he wants us to understand what is at stake. Peter is like a cheerleader reminding us that we should keep going. 

In contrast to the call to persevere is the continued example of Nebuchadnezzar who one moment is praising God and another is praising himself. He seems to sprint after God and then quickly falls away. His falling away as we see in the reading today has massive consequences.

Let us make sure that we are those who persevere in following God.

Question of the day: What can you do to ensure that you persevere in following God?

Father God, help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to always remember the life that is found in you and to remember the sacrifice of your Son. Give me the strength to finish life well, in following you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, November 26, 2020

November 26, 2020

Daniel 2:24-3:30; 1 Peter 4:7-5:14; Psalm 119:81-96; Proverbs 28:15-16

I know very few hymns but one of my favorites says, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it." This describes the fickle nature of our human condition. One second we are deeply committed to God and the next we are distancing ourselves from him.

This fickleness is exemplified in Nebuchadnezzar. After Daniel interprets his dream in chapter 2 he praises God. He acknowledges God as "God of gods and the Lord of kings." Yet in chapter 3 he has constructed a massive "image of gold" which he commands the whole nation to bow down to. He seemingly has moved from some level of worship of God to worship of idols in a short time. 

Our fickleness probably doesn't look exactly like this but we are 'prone to wander.' We can worship God on a Sunday morning and then a few moments later find ourselves angered at someone who cut us off or we meander back to a routine pattern of sin.

God's desire is that we would recognize his surpassing greatness over everything else and remain committed to Him. If we see him for who he is, then we will recognize that there is nowhere else we can go to experience life, peace or true joy.

Question of the day: What habits can you create in your life to become less of a wanderer?

Father God, I acknowledge your surpassing greatness. Help me to remain committed to you over everything else. I confess that I am prone to wander but help me through the power of your Spirit to remain in you and in your will. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, November 25, 2020

November 25, 2020

Daniel 1:1-2:23; 1 Peter 3:8-4:6; Psalm 119:65-80; Proverbs 28:14

In today’s reading from 1 Peter we are encouraged to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”. When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples into various towns he told them “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Being shrewd can be knowing what to say and what not to say.

Currently the greatest challenge in my life is how to engage my neighbors and non-christian friends in conversations about my Christian faith. To be prepared we may need to study issues and have responses for potential question which may come up in a conversation. You might need to think through how you would share your story of how and why you came to believe the gospel story. I have also found that the more I pray for opportunities to share the gospel the more I opportunities I receive. 

Question of the day: What can you do to be better prepared to talk to others about your faith?

Father, help me to be ready to speak to others about the great salvation which you have offered to everyone. Please provide opportunities for me to engage people in these kinds of conversations.

Tom Powidzki

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, November 24, 2020

November 24, 2020

Ezekiel 47:1-48:35; 1 Peter 2:11-3:7; Psalm 119:49-64; Proverbs 28:12-13

You may not see it, but there is a bad word in 1 Peter 2:11-3:7. In fact, it is there multiple times. It is the word 'submission.' This concept goes against everything we value in our individualistic, self-centered American culture. We may not like the concept, so we have to choose whether to side with God and what he is calling us to, or with our culture and its values.

If we want to understand what true life is like, we need to look to Jesus and to God's word. Jesus was submissive to the Father in going to the cross and suffering for us. He models for us that abundant life is not found in doing what I want but in conforming my desires and actions to God's will. Further, we see in 1 Peter 2 and 3 that submission touches nearly every relationship I have. It touches the way I interact with the government, with my employer/employees and in our family relationships. I can make these relationships about meeting my needs or about submitting my desires under what is best for someone else. I can choose the ‘me first’ mentality or the ‘God first’ mentality. The Bible makes it clear which option will lead us to true life.

Question of the day: How can you walk in a submissive attitude today?

Father God, help me to submit my life, desires and actions under you. Help me to conform my life to the likeness and pattern of Jesus. Help me not to put myself first but to live for your glory and the good of others. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, November 23, 2020

November 23, 2020

Ezekiel 45:13-46:24; 1 Peter 1:13-2:10; Psalm 119:33-48; Proverbs 28:11

The end of Ezekiel focuses on a still future temple and in our reading today (and yesterday) he spends quite a bit of time talking about the sacrifices that will be made in this temple. You may be wondering at this point (or not!) why are sacrifices still being offered during the millennium?

Jesus is the ultimate, final sacrifice for our sins, so what is the value of these animal sacrifices? We honestly don't fully know but since they can't in any way be for sin, they must be a memorial sacrifice. They are a way of looking back at Christ's sacrifice. Maybe in the millennium these sacrifices will function in a way that is akin to communion. We will do this (sacrifices) in remembrance of him. Whether these sacrifices function in exactly this way or not, what is critical for us is to continually remember what Christ has done for us. 

As we continually remember and appreciate what Christ has done for us, our lives will be transformed. This is what 1 Peter 1:3-2:10 describes. It pictures us as continually reflecting on what Christ has accomplished for us and living in a way that reflects his sacrifice. Peter describes our thinking (v.13), actions (v.13), love (v.22) and pursuits (2:2) being transformed because of what Christ has done for us.

Question of the day: Which one of your thoughts, actions, love, or pursuits needs to be most conformed to Christ, and how can you take a step in this transformation today?

Father God help me to always remember what Christ has done for me. His work is what grounds my identity, salvation, joy, and peace. Help me to always remember and be thankful for what You, your Son and your Spirit have done for me. Help me to live in a way that honors Christ's sacrifice and brings you praise. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, November 22, 2020

November 22, 2020

Ezekiel 44:1-45:12; 1 Peter 1:1-12; Psalm 119:17-32; Proverbs 28:8-10

The reality of the future should determine our actions today.

Ezekiel 40-46 describe a still future temple and the worship which will go on there. In our reading today, in chapters 44-45 the focus moves to the role that priests will play in this future millennial temple. The instructions and regulations are all for the future, but this reality is to be reflected in the life of Israel in Ezekiel's day.

As Ezekiel's listeners consider the millennium and eternity they are called to repent of their "detestable practices." These actions largely consisted of idolatry. Since eternity awaits and intimacy with God is promised they should flee from sin in order to begin living in light of their future life. Living for the pleasures of today, when the bliss of eternity awaits, is absolute foolishness.

1 Peter 1:1-12 similarly points us away from present suffering to the joy which we can find in reflecting on the future culmination of our salvation. As Peter looks away from our broken world today and fixes his attention on the joy that awaits in eternity, it brings joy to his life in the present. It has been said that “someone is so earthly minded they’re no earthly good,” but really it should be those who are the most heavenly minded are of the most earthly good!

Question of the day: How should the reality of eternity transform your life today?

Father God, thank you for the promise and guarantee of eternity with you. Help me not to be consumed by the brokenness of the world today but to be filled with the joy and peace which you provide. Help me to be fueled by your Spirit so that I can be about your work today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, November 21, 2020

November 21, 2020

Ezekiel 42:1-43:27; James 5:1-20; Psalm 119:1-16; Proverbs 28:6-7

What does a blessed life look like? Often when we think of blessings, we consider it in connection to material possessions. Rich people are blessed, and poor people are not. As we look at James 5 and Proverbs 28:6 we see that this connection is not always true.

Proverbs 28:6 says, "Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse." This proverb makes a stark contrast between two kinds of people. It helps us to see that the quality of life is not in the amount of wealth but in the level of righteousness. This verse pictures the blessed life as someone who is walking with God regardless of the size of their bank account. True blessedness is found in proximity to God (read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 to see this come to life), not in proximity to wealth.

James 5 gives us an even starker warning when he says that wealth may actually lead to greater judgment. If wealth was acquired in a way that doesn't bring honor to God, then it will only lead to a harsher judgment in the end.  Rather than wealth being a sign of blessedness it can actually function like a noose around our neck. In contrast, those who are truly blessed are those who will be rewarded in eternity. The "brother and sisters" in verse 7 and the "prophets" in verse 10 all faced difficulty and hardship on earth but for all eternity they will experience the bliss, joy and paradise that only God can offer. The reality of the future allows us to reinterpret our present hardship in a way that allows us to know that we are truly blessed.

Question of the day: How can we remember what true blessing looks like, in contrast to the ideas of our culture?

Father God, thank you that true blessing comes by your grace. Help me to remember the blessing of eternity and to find joy and peace in the midst of present difficulty. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, November 20, 2020

November 20, 2020

Ezekiel 40:28-41:26; James 4:1-17; Psalm 118:19-29; Proverbs 28:3-5

In the final paragraph of today’s reading from James, we can picture a businessman standing over a map—pointing out a spot to his associates:  

Here is where the Romans are developing a new community.  

We need to invest quickly in trade and land speculation.

We’ll make a fortune in the first year.  

But then James breaks in: 

There is a gaping hole in your plan.  

You can’t possibly know that this is going to happen.  

You have no control over the future.

Life is unpredictable.  Business plans are tentative.  Relationships can hold surprises.  Even our next heartbeat belongs to God.  When it comes to tomorrow we can only speculate—or fear.  But we simply don’t know what the next day will bring with a job offer, our health, a friend, a child, a marriage. 

C. S. Lewis, in his book God in the Dock, writes:

In Hamlet a branch breaks and Ophelia is drowned.  Did she die because the branch broke or because Shakespeare wanted her to die at that point in the play?  Either—both—whichever you please.  The alternative suggested by the question is not a real alternative at all—once you have grasped that Shakespeare is making the whole play.

It is God who is in control.  It is God who is making the whole play.  And tomorrow belongs to him.   

That is a good thing.  We are to rest in him, acknowledge him in our speech—and take hold of him in our hearts.

Question of the day: What current work, family, or relationship plans do you need to consciously turn over to God?

Father, please help me remember that you are sovereign over tomorrow and will be with me regardless of what I face.

Jim Nite

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, November 19, 2020

November 19, 2020

Ezekiel 39:1-40:27; James 2:18-3:18; Psalm 118:1-18; Proverbs 28:2

A critical skill in reading the Bible is that of correlation. Correlation is what allows us to take the pieces of the Bible and put them together into one seamless puzzle. Since all of the Bible is true and God breathed, it never ultimately contradicts itself. So, when we have two verses or passages that seem to differ, we have to do the hard work of putting the pieces together.

In Ezekiel today, we read about the destruction of the armies of Gog and Magog. The complete destruction of these armies overlays with the battle of Armageddon described in the book of Revelation. In fact, a quick search of the word “Gog” reveals its use in the Bible 10 times, with 8 of those in Ezekiel and one each in 1 Chronicles and Revelation. Ezekiel describes the return of Israel from exile to the ultimate restoration of all things in the future. The work of correlation helps us to put these pieces together and brings light to a passage that may seem superbly confusing or irrelevant.

Also, in our reading today is the latter part of James 2. Many people find this passage on faith that works to contradict passages like Ephesians 2:8-9. So, the question becomes how do we correlate these two passages? There are many ways of doing it, but one is to see Paul in Ephesians focusing on what brings about salvation (faith) and James focusing on what that faith looks like (something that produces works). They are not contradicting each other but describing two different sides of the same coin. Faith alone saves, but faith that is alone and does not result in producing a better life is not the kind of faith that saves.

I would encourage you as you continue to read the Bible to be willing to stop and correlate when you don't understand what a passage means or how it fits into the Bible as a whole.

Question of the day: What is a topic that you would like to study and see what the Bible as a whole says about it? 

Father God, thank you that your whole Bible is true and fits together. May your Spirit enlighten me to how the Bible fits together and enable me to do the hard work of studying it. Thank you for your Spirit that guides me into truth and help me to not only discover it but live it. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, November 18, 2020

November 18, 2020

Ezekiel 37:1-38:23; James 1:19-2:17; Psalm 117:1-2; Proverbs 28:1

Arguably the most recognizable images in all of Ezekiel comes in chapter 37. Ezekiel is taken to a valley filled with dry bones and told to prophesy over them. The bones come together, and bodies are re-formed. Second, Ezekiel prophesies over them again and the bodies come to life, and they form a vast army.

After seeing these images, we are told what they mean. The army is Israel. God will reunite exiled and separated Israel into a united nation. They will be united as a country and united under God. For an exiled people, this vision is one of great hope and anticipation.

What is true for Israel as a nation is also true for us as believers. The hope God offers us is an eternity on a new earth with him and other believers forever. The dry bones are talking about Israel and not the church, but God equally breathes hope into our lives as we look to him. He makes us born again and gives us hope for today and eternity.

Question of the day: What things take your hope away?

Father God, thank you for the hope you give me. Thank you for the hope I have because of what Christ has done and the hope you give as I look into an uncertain future. Thank you that eternity is secured through the work of your Son and help me to rest hopefully in that reality. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, November 17, 2020

November 17, 2020

Ezekiel 35:1-36:38; James 1:1-18; Psalm 116:1-19; Proverbs 27:23-27

There are some passages in the Bible which cause us to scratch our heads; they are difficult to understand. And other verses, while clear in meaning, can be even much more difficult to act on. For example, James 1:2 tells us to "consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds." The meaning of the command is clear, but what James calls for is exceptionally difficult to live out. Our typical reaction to suffering is to grumble, complain, whine, or even respond in bitterness. But the right, God-honoring action is to consider it … pure joy. Huh? How can James say that? 

The key is perspective. We are to look beyond the moment and consider the future. Suffering—where we take hold of God in our weakness—produces perseverance. And the end product of perseverance is spiritual maturity and completeness. Further, hard times direct our attention to God’s wisdom, as well as the crown of life that waits for those who follow after the Savior through today’s light and momentary troubles (see 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Question of the day: How can you learn to look beyond the difficulty to what awaits you in the future?

Father God, thank you that never leave me nor forsake me, even in the difficulties of life. Help me to see what you are doing in and through me, so that I can find joy in the midst of hardship. Help me to look beyond today, into the hope of eternity which is secured through the completed work of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, November 16, 2020

November 16, 2020

Ezekiel 33:1-34:31; Hebrews 13:1-25; Psalm 115:1-18; Proverbs 27:21-22

What do you love? We may say that we love God, our friends and family, ice cream, pizza or a wide variety of different things and Hebrews 13 challenges us to consider our different loves.

In verse 1, we are challenged to love those in the church. Do you look around on a Sunday morning and consider everyone there your family? People worthy of sacrificing for?

In verse 2, we are called to love strangers. The author of Hebrews reminds us that people have actually unknowingly loved angels in doing so. It may be easier for us to love those we know, but what about those we don't know; the person on the street corner, the cashier at the grocery store or someone who cuts us off in traffic?

Verse 3 wants us to consider those in prison. This is probably a group of people that we rarely consider loving. In fact, they may be people that we disdain or potentially feel are unworthy of our love but that is not what God sees. He wants us to consider even those in prison as worthy of our love, empathy, and concern.

Verse 4 moves us to marriage. If you are married, it is easy to take the love of your spouse for granted but God challenges us to be intentional about prioritizing them and ensuring that we remain sexually pure for them alone.

Verse 5 moves us from a love of people to a love of money. In contrast to the call to love all people, comes something we are not to love. We are not to love money! The opposite of love of money/greed is contentment. We are to recognize that in Christ we have all that we truly need and therefore don't have to run after the things of the world. Instead, we can be thankful for what God has provided, continue to be wise stewards of what he has given and not believe the lie that money will bring abundant life.

Finally, we are to love God above all else. This chapter in many ways is an exposition of the greatest command which is to love God and love our neighbor. Our love is to be focused on people and God, not the various things which this world tries to lure us with.

Question of the day: What group of people do you need to most focus on loving intentionally?

Father God help me to love because you have loved me. May your love pour out of my life back to you and into the lives of others. Help me to never think that anyone is unworthy of my love but to see all people as made in your image and thus worthy of my love. Help me to love well today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, November 15, 2020

November 15, 2020

Ezekiel 31:1-32:32; Hebrews 12:14-29; Psalm 113:1-114:8; Proverbs 27:18-20

Water, like a mirror, reflects our physical image.  And, in the second proverb at the end of our reading, we’re told that our life—our behavior—also reflects our hearts (27:19).  The simplicity of this proverb could take us in one of two directions.  It could be that my behavior reveals my heart to myself.  When we take an honest look at how we arrange our schedules; spend our money; speak to others; make decisions in keeping with, or counter to, God’s Word; we get a good sense of our true thoughts, feelings, priorities, dreams.  Our behavior is a check on reality.  It gives us an honest read on our inner life.  

This proverb may also be telling us that our behavior reveals our hearts to others.  Regardless of what we might say about ourselves, what I do outwardly gives others a window into my soul.  The encouraging word spoken, a need quietly met, the celebration of another, a willingness to listen and pray becomes a spiritual echocardiogram that others read.  And the sullen response, the arrows aimed inward, a jostling for power and control do the same.      

It is a humbling thought.  Others can look at our lives and see our hearts. They can know what we value by how we spend our time and resources.  They can glimpse a heart that is now closed—little more than a vault for God’s work in the past—or a spirit that continues to grow and be renewed and is filled with the Spirit’s love and joy and peace. 

Question: What do those around you see as they view your heart through your life?  That you value the gospel above all?  That your soul is in pursuit of God?

Heavenly Father, help me to value the gospel above all else and have a heart that reflects the wonder of who you are!

Jim Nite

Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, November 14, 2020

November 14, 2020

Ezekiel 29:1-30:26l; Hebrews 11:32-12:13; Psalm 112:1-10; Proverbs 27:17

One of the critical themes throughout the Bible is our need for community. Hebrews 11 has described the community of faith that we are a part of, and chapter 12 describes what difference this community should make in our life. Notice even those who have followed God thousands of years before us, should still impact the way we live.

We are first called to throw off sin and hindrances to following God. The beautiful lives of those who have lived by faith should be examples to us of the greater life that comes for those who choose obedience rather than sin. We need to throw off sin and run hard after God. Like a runner shedding excess clothing in order to run faster, so we should peel off any sin that keeps us from following after Jesus.

Second, we are to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is to be the one we are looking to as we run. When I began driving, I was continually reminded that what you are looking at is what you are heading toward. Therefore, in driving you are to keep your eyes straight ahead to avoid calamity. Similarly, in living we are to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus to help us successfully navigate the difficulties of life.

Finally, we are not to quit when things become difficult. The example of those in chapter 11 shows us that true life is found in walking with God even when it leads to suffering, difficulty, or death. Therefore, we should be concerned about pursuing holiness, not happiness. If we feel like throwing in the towel, remember those who have gone before and be encouraged by their perseverance.

Question of the day: Whose example in Hebrews 11 can you remember to pursue holiness in the face of difficulty?

Father God, thank you that true life is found in you. Thank you that joy and peace are gifts from you even in the face of difficulty or suffering. Help me to cling to you, keep my eyes on your Son and live empowered by your Spirit today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, November 13, 2020

November 13, 2020

Ezekiel 27:1-28:26; Hebrews 11:17-31; Psalm 111:1-10; Proverbs 27:15-16

Ezekiel continues to announce judgment upon the nations, with a specific focus on Tyre. His judgments are specifically a condemnation upon the objects of Tyre's faith. They relied upon their wealth, wisdom, and position, and all these things proved to be useless when God's judgment came. As we reflect on it, we may possibly find ourselves following in the footsteps of Tyre.

Tyre is pictured as a powerful ship that creates massive wealth and yet in one instant it is destroyed. Many of us may look to our bank accounts and stock portfolios as the source of peace and comfort. We think if we have the right number of zeroes everything will be fine. Yet in one instant that can all disappear.  No amount of wealth makes us righteous before God.

Ezekiel speaks against the king of Tyre, showing that his perceived wealth and wisdom will not save the king from judgment. Regardless of our level of intellect or acumen, nothing we do against God will ultimately last. The king thought his position and power were unmatched and yet God promises to bring a nation against him that will bring him to swift destruction. No amount of credentials, degrees or IQ points brings about true prosperity, it is ultimately only a gift from God.

Ezekiel ends by moving from the king to the "ruler" whose description seems to be of Satan, the true power behind the throne of Tyre. Yet even Satan with his length of life, position, beauty, and wisdom can't stand against God. As is repeated multiple times in this section, he will "come to a horrible end and will be no more."

The only hope we have not to end up like Tyre and the powers behind it is faith in what Christ has accomplished (see Hebrews 11). As we will see in Revelation, all world powers and leaders will be tossed aside but those who stand with Christ will stand forever.

Question of the day: What do you look to, when you aren't looking to Christ, for something to rely on?

Father God help me to look to you as the foundation of my life. Help me to look to you as that which lasts and the means of my joy and salvation. Help me not to turn to the things of this world for that which only you can provide. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, November 12, 2020

November 12, 2020

Ezekiel 24:1-26:21; Hebrews 11:1-16; Psalm 110:1-7; Proverbs 27:14

What is the most quoted psalm in the New Testament? We may think it is a psalm that we cherish like Psalm 23 or maybe the longest psalm, Psalm 119. Yet both of these guesses are wrong. The most quoted psalm is Psalm 110. It is a short psalm at only seven verses, but powerful in that it points to Jesus. Verse 1 is used by Jesus to show David's understanding that the Messiah would be both his son as well as his lord. This verse helps us to understand Jesus as both truly God and truly man.

Psalm 110 also helps us to understand the character of Christ especially as displayed at his second coming. He will come as a warrior king who will put everything under his dominion. He will rule over all creation as earth and heaven are reunited as one. Finally, the answer to the prayer of millions concerning God's will occurring on earth as it is in heaven will be revealed.

Jesus isn't just pictured as a warrior king but also a priest. Hebrews highlights and quotes verse 4 in helping us to see the unique role that Jesus plays for believers. Though not coming from the line of Levi, he is able to function eternally as our high priest in making intercession for us and allowing us to draw near to our heavenly Father.

Finally, Jesus is pictured as judge. He will come in perfect justice to make everything right. As Pastor Jim mentioned in a sermon a few months ago, what is truly scary is not a God who judges but a God who is unconcerned and apathetic about evil. When Jesus comes, He will make everything right, which should encourage us to live for Him and make Him known.

Question of the day: Which attribute of Jesus (warrior, king, priest, judge) do you reflect least on? Most?  How does this full picture of Jesus beckon us Him?

Father God, thank you for your Son. Thank you that when he returns, he will make everything right. Thank you that he is my king, my warrior, my priest, and my judge. Thank you that in him I find perfect peace. Help me to live for His glory today and make him known to those you put in my path. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, November 11, 2020

November 11, 2020

Ezekiel 23:1-49; Hebrews 10:18-39; Psalm 109:1-31; Proverbs 27:13

"What do you want"? When our kids were younger and they were unable to fully verbalize what they wanted, Courtney and I would find ourselves continually asking them this question. The kids would often respond by pointing, with grunts and sometimes with screams and tears. Even at a young age, when someone wants something and is motivated to acquire it, there is little you can do to draw their attention away.

In some of the most graphic language in the Bible, Ezekiel 23 describes what Israel and Judah want. They want to participate in idolatry with foreign nations and all of the excess which is a part of the worship. Despite God's love and affection for them, they want nothing to do with Him.

In contrast, Hebrews 10:19-39, describes how Jesus should motivate us to want to draw near to Him. We should be people who "draw near," "hold unswervingly" and "spur one another on.” All that Jesus has done for us should make us want him over everything else which this world can offer. If we are truly motivated by God's grace then we will pursue him regardless of the difficulty, cost or suffering that it may cost us. Rather than reaching for the things of this world, we should continually be reaching out for Christ.

Question of the day: How do you stay motivated to pursue Christ, when you don't feel like it?

God my Father, thank you for the life you make available to me. Help me to respond to your love and grace by pursuing you and making you known. Help me not to pursue anything with more passion and intensity than I pursue you. Help me to make you my first love. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, November 10, 2020

November 10, 2020

Ezekiel 21:1-22:31; Hebrews 10:1-17; Psalm 108:1-13; Proverbs 27:12

“That’s mean!” declared one of our little boys in a roar of indignation as his beloved stuffed animal was temporarily taken away in punishment for wrongdoing.

“Whose choice was it?” my husband and I asked, so wanting our little one to understand.

After a moment, he murmurs, “Mine,” voice meeker, eyes downcast, realizing his own actions led to the undesired consequence.  

It’s because we love him that we punish him. We want for him to love what is right and good and flee from that which is not. 

Oftentimes we hear an agnostic or atheist explaining that they read some Old Testament passage and couldn’t believe that a loving God would allow or enable such terrible retributions. Yet, this passage in Ezekiel explains who  actually chose these punishments. The charges God tells Ezekiel to “confront” Israel with are plentiful and deplorable, and by these she “brings on herself doom” (22:3). The people of Israel sinned in many ways (and had been lovingly warned by God about these since Exodus!), not the least of which is “shedding blood”, a charge mentioned at least 7 times (22:3,4,6,9,12,13,27). To make matters worse, the people who are supposed to be godly,  (i.e. prophets) “whitewash the deeds for them by false visions…” (22:28). Even the “good” have gone bad. Which is why God says that He looked for someone to “stand…in the gap” (22:30)—but there was no one. Punishment was inevitable, and it was Israel’s choice.

But God knew, from the beginning of time, that there was a better way. He planned for it. He sent One who could stand in the gap for all. One who said, “Here I am. I have come to do your will” (Hebrews 10:9).That One “…offered for all time one sacrifice for sins…for by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (12, 14). 

Now we can, in full assurance, say with David. “Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered” (6). Yes, He is taking care of us in our current situations, but Christ, standing in the gap, has delivered us for all eternity.

In light of this, can we not say with Christ, “Here I am. I have come to do your will” and stand in the gap in the here and now? Our world is dying; like the Israelites, people are choosing death over life at every turn. Do we love God enough to willingly, boldly stand in the gap for Him? 

Question of the day: Do I love God more than myself and my ease? Am I willing to stand in the gap for Him?

Dearest Lord God, Thank You for making a better way. Thank You that Christ’s sacrifice was once for all and that you remember our sins no more. Help me to lovingly stand in the gap for You.

 

Julie Gerber

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, November 9, 2020

November 9, 2020

Ezekiel 20:1-49; Hebrews 9:11-28; Psalm 107:1-43; Proverbs 27:11

Ezekiel, the author of Hebrews, and the author of Psalm 107 all look back to what God has done and challenge their readers to respond to what God has first done for them. As Ezekiel has consistently done in his book, he describes a people who experienced God's grace and blessing yet wandered from him. This example should warn us not to follow in the footsteps of Israel who so quickly forgot God's grace and turned to other things to satisfy them.

Hebrews 9:11-28 reminds us of the unsurpassed sacrifice of Christ for us. His death provided something which no amount of animal sacrifices could provide. He cleanses our consciences, gives us an eternal inheritance, forgives and takes away sins and brings salvation. This reality should call us to service as we see in verse 14.

Finally, in Psalm 107 we enter into a series of desperate situations. In each plight the people call upon God and he delivers them. Once they experience His hand at work they all respond with thanks (v.8, 15, 21, 31). As they reflect and remember what he has done the only appropriate response is lips and lives filled with thanks and praise. The crucial piece to all of these responses is remembering. Only as we have eyes to see what God has done and is doing, will we reflect his work with lives committed to Him.

Question of the day: Why do we so quickly forget what God has done?

Father God, thank you for all of your acts of grace. Thank you most for your Son and the sacrifice He made for me. Help me to live in a way that reflects His sacrifice and your grace. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, November 8, 2020

November 8, 2020

Ezekiel 18:1-19:14; Hebrews 9:1-10; Psalm 106:32-48; Proverbs 27:10

Each person is responsible for their eternal destiny. Ezekiel is prophesying to the people that judgment is coming but that each person's response will determine their eternal destiny. Ezekiel 18 describes a man who followed God and reflected this in the way he lived, and his destiny was life. In contrast, his son is described as someone who did not follow God and lived for himself. His destiny was death. Then, a third generation is described, who followed God like the grandfather. The outcome for this person is life.

The key message for us is this: are you individually going to place your faith in Christ or do you think you can ride the faith coattails of someone else? Secondly, are you calling people to place their faith in Christ, knowing this is their only hope for salvation? No matter how strong your faith is, if your kids or grandkids do not place their faith in Christ they are headed for an eternity apart from God. Therefore, we must do everything we can to 'be disciples who make disciples’.

Question of the day: How can you more intentionally make Christ known to the next generation?

Father God, thank you that I am saved by grace through faith. Thank you that through your Son I can have eternal life. Help me to live by faith and make you known to others today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

 
Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, November 7, 2020

November 7, 2020

Ezekiel 16:42-17:24; Hebrews 8:1-13; Psalm 106:13-31; Proverbs 27:7-9

Jesus is better. This is the theme of the book of Hebrews and in chapters 4-8 much discussion occurs regarding how Jesus is better than all other priests. Jesus is a better priest because he is eternal, he is sinless, and he is able to completely save. Further, his sacrifice is greater since he offered himself once for all sins rather than a continual parade of animal sacrifices.

Chapter 8 highlights not only that his priesthood is better but the covenant which he brings is greater. Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection ushered in the new covenant which God had promised his people. This new covenant is superior to the old because it is internalized, relational and provides forgiveness (see 8:10-12). This new covenant provides for greater maturity and intimacy with God and therefore the old is now "obsolete”.  We can still learn principles from the old but are no longer bound by its rules and regulations because Jesus has ushered in a whole new way.

Question of the day: What should our relationship with the Old Testament and old covenant be now that Jesus has brought a new covenant?

Father God, thank you for the new covenant which Jesus brought. Thank you that through Him I can draw near to You and experience full forgiveness. Help me to rest in this reality and live out of what Christ has done for me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, November 6, 2020

November 6, 2020

Ezekiel 14:12-16:41; Hebrews 7:18-28; Psalm 106:1-12; Proverbs 27:4-6

One of the themes throughout the Bible is the fact that we take God's love for granted. That is the story of Ezekiel 16. Ezekiel is called to confront Jerusalem regarding their failure to remember and live out of God's love. God describes his love for the people like an adoptive parent. He took Israel in like an abandoned child and raised her up. She blossomed under God's love and leadership. This same reality is true for all people. God provides love, life and in his common grace provides good things to all people on the planet.

Despite God's provision we far too often neglect him by trusting in ourselves (v.15). We think that all that we have is due to our own abilities and thus we deserve the credit, rather than God.  If we do this then we will inevitably drift away from God. For Israel this manifested itself in both a failure to worship and a failure to live morally, and corporately led to judgment.

David in Psalm 106 provides great practices to keep us walking with, rather than away from God. He tells us to: 1) praise God and 2) remember what He has done. If we are praising God then we are recognizing that he is the source of all good things. Second, when we remember the individual acts God has performed it sends us back to praise and thus back to God. Let us make our lives about the praise of God rather than the praise of ourselves.

Question of the day: How can you better integrate the practice of praise into your life?

Father God, you are worthy of praise. Every good and perfect thing in my life comes from you, so thank you. Thank you for the life which you provide and help me to live for your glory. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, November 5, 2020

November 5, 2020

Ezekiel 12:1-14:11; Hebrews 7:1-17; Psalm 105:37-45; Proverbs 27:3

Prophets and priests held important positions in the Old Testament world.  Prophets were God’s method of communicating to His people and priests ministered to the Jews, drawing them to worship the one true God.  Priests were chosen because they came from the tribe of Levi, but prophets had no such lineage.  Therefore, anyone could declare themselves a prophet bringing messages from God about future events.  The only catch was that if their prophecies proved false, they faced the death penalty from the Jews and punishment from the hand of God.  Nevertheless, false prophets regularly appeared on the scene, often confusing God’s people and leading them astray.

    Ezekiel was called by God to bring the truth to his fellow Jewish exiles.  In today’s passage God uses Ezekiel to denounce false prophets who “prophecy out of their own imaginations,” deceiving the people and causing havoc and death for many.  God’s wrath was great for such “prophets.”

    Today we have psychics who claim to be able to tell the future but are quite incapable of telling us who will win the Presidential election.  False prophesies are replaced by many voices telling us what the future will hold for us if we vote for the right candidate, buy the right shoes, or attend the right church.  

As believers, we don’t need a prophet to bring us the truth.  We have the Holy Spirit’s help within us to give us discernment to sort out the true messages, the ones that are in line with God’s Word.  Much falsehood is put forth in today’s society and believers need to listen carefully and prayerfully to sort out what is the truth about finding peace with God.  Faithful church attendance where God’s Word is accurately taught, personal Bible study and prayer, and fellowship with other believers help us stay grounded in God’s truth.

We also have a great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who lovingly ministers to us in every way.  Hebrews 7 teaches that Jesus is in “the order of Melchizedek,” who was “without beginning of days or end of life” and “a priest forever.”  This unique Old Testament priest is introduced to us before the tribe of Levi was even thought of.  Melchizedek blessed Abraham, two generations before Levi was born.  His life and ministry were extraordinary and appear eternal – a foreshadowing of Christ.

Our great High Priest is holy and perfect and offered the ultimate sacrifice – Himself – for our sins.  He is simultaneously priest and sacrifice, and ministers to us in powerful and compassionate ways.  With God’s Word to guide us and our great High Priest Jesus interceding for us, we can boldly confront and defeat the false prophecies and ideas of our fallen world.

Question of the day:  What popular, but false, prophecy or idea have you found that does not match the truths of scripture?

We praise You, our great High Priest, for all that You do on our behalf – for loving us, dying for us, and living again to make intercession for us.  Thank You that truth about You can be known and applied in our lives as we carefully study and learn Your Word.  Teach us to live lives worthy of You.  Amen.

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, November 4, 2020

November 4, 2020

Ezekiel 10:1-11:25; Hebrews 6:1-20; Psalm 105:16-36; Proverbs 27:1-2

Hebrews has been continually teaching us about the surpassing greatness of Jesus. Yet the author wants to make sure that we are not just hearing the message of Christ but applying it. If we fail to entrust ourselves to Jesus and surrender our lives to him then we are lost in our sins. It is not hearing the message that makes the difference but faith. 

Verses 7-8 pick up one of Jesus' famous parables to describe the necessity of applying God's truth to our lives. If we receive God's truth, apply it, and produce "a crop" we will be blessed but if we hear and then continually produce "thorns and thistles" we will be cursed and burned. Failure to apply and ultimately failure to have faith leaves us apart from God and separated from him not only on earth but for all eternity. Therefore, it is critical that we live by faith.

Question of the day: What practices can you implement into your life to make sure that you apply God's truth?

Father God, help me not to be just a hearer of your word but a doer also. May your truth transform my life through the power of your Spirit and help me to grow to become more like Christ. Help me to live it out and make you known to others. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, November 3, 2020

November 3, 2020

Ezekiel 7:1-9:11; Hebrews 5:1-14; Psalm 105:1-15; Proverbs 26:28

One of the themes in the book of Ezekiel is God removing his presence from Jerusalem. We may miss this in the midst of Ezekiel's proclamations of judgment, apocalyptic imagery and visions, but it is a continual thread through the book. In Ezekiel 7-9 we see God's glory move from above the cherubim within the holy of holies to the edge of the temple. In chapter 11 it will move further away to the mountain east of Jerusalem. God is removing his presence from the people prior to the judgment that is coming. This may seem like a strange image but it is consistent with the character of God.

In Romans 1, we see the very same reality at work. As people remove themselves from God he allows them to do so. Three times in Romans 1 we see God giving people over to their sin. Life is found in Christ but as people turn away from him he allows them to run. We can see this at work in God hardening Pharaoh's heart as he hardens his own heart.

Though God is willing to allow people to reap the consequences of their behavior and remove his blessings and common grace from people's lives, he is never going to abandon those who are truly his. This is one of the great promises of the Bible, that God will never leave or forsake his children. Those who have placed their faith in Christ, never need worry that they will be left behind or abandoned by their Savior.

Question of the day: What does God's refusal to abandon his children and yet his willingness to give people over to their sins teach you about God's character?

Father God, thank you that as your child you will never leave me. Thank you that I am found in you through the work of your Son. Help me to walk with you, live for you and honor you in all I do. Help me also to share what your Son has done for me with others since judgment awaits all those outside of you. Amen.

 Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, November 2, 2020

November 2, 2020

Ezekiel 3:16-6:14; Hebrews 4:1-16; Psalm 104:24-35; Proverbs 26:27

I continually tell my kids that they cannot be responsible for the actions of others but they are responsible for themselves. They can't control what others choose to do but they can always choose how they are going to respond. The same is true for us.

God calls Ezekiel to be a "watchman" for the nation of Israel. He is responsible for the truth which God reveals and for communicating that to others. Yet Ezekiel is not responsible for how others respond to it.

 A similar call is placed on every believer's life. We are all called to be ambassadors of the gospel. Each of us is responsible to make the gospel known to those whom God has placed in our spheres of influence but we cannot control how they will respond. Some people will come to place their faith in Christ while others may reject it, but we are only responsible to be the mouthpieces of God. Hopefully, this frees us to be more bold, courageous, gracious and gentle in communicating God's truth. He has placed us where we are with a purpose and a calling 'to be disciples who make disciples’.

Question of the day: How can you be a more effective ambassador of God?

Father God, give me eyes to see those you have placed in my life who need to hear the message of Christ. You are the source of all life and without you there is only death. Give me the courage to lovingly and boldly make you known to others today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, November 1, 2020

November 1, 2020

Ezekiel 1:1-3:15; Hebrews 3:1-19; Psalm 104:1-23; Proverbs 26:24-26

When we think of the word 'apocalypse' we typically think of something referring to the end of time. Actually, the word simply means the revelation of something which was previously hidden. Whenever we don't know something and then we are taught it, it is an apocalypse for us.

In today's reading, especially in Ezekiel, we are privy to a series of apocalypses. Ezekiel first has a revelation concerning the spiritual world. He sees "living creatures" which are bizarre angelic beings and sees Jesus on his heavenly throne. These powerful revelations increase Ezekiel's understanding of God's power, glory, and grandeur. Similarly, the author of Hebrews continues to bring to light the greatness of Christ over everything else and Psalm 104 is a majestic song of God's power and intricate work in creation.

These apocalypses of God's greatness are not meant to just give us a greater understanding but are meant to mobilize us to action. Ezekiel was to share his revelation with others, the readers of Hebrews are to ensure that they respond with faith and encourage others to pursue God. We are called to be his ambassadors to the world.

Question of the day: How can you share one of the truths you discovered from today's reading with someone else?

Father God, I submit myself before you. You are my God, my king and my Lord and I acknowledge your greatness above all else. Use me today for your glory, not because I am worthy of being your ambassador on my own but because you have made me worthy through the work of your Son Jesus and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, October 31, 2020

October 31, 2020

Lamentations 4:1-5:22; Hebrews 2:1-18; Psalm 103:1-22; Proverbs 26:23

As a kid I would scour the Where's Waldo books for hours trying to find Waldo, his friends and all the various objects I was challenged to find. If I wasn't systematic or super careful, I would easily miss what I was looking for. The author of Hebrews has a similar challenge for us. He wants us to "pay the most careful attention" to God's truth since if we stop paying attention, we are prone to drift away from this truth.

We should pay attention because in Christ alone comes salvation. There is nothing and no one else who can provide salvation for us, so we must continually remember and celebrate what Christ has achieved for us. There are many skeptics, obviously Satan and our own flesh that want to trick us into believing that we can be our own saviors, but this is absolute foolishness. Therefore, we must keep our eyes on Jesus.

Second, we should keep our eyes fixed on God and His word because of eternity. The quote from Psalm 8 points to the fact that God's people will reign with Him forever. If we stay fixated on the here and now this idea seems like a fairytale. Only when we stay focused on God's reversal in history, will we remember what true life is and how it comes about.

Third, we are reminded of our identity. We are "sons and daughters" of God, holy, and "brothers and sisters" of Jesus. We can attempt to find our identity in successes, earthly relationships but these will all fail. God alone gives us a firm foundation for our lives.

Question of the day: What can you do to "pay the most careful attention?"

Father God, help me to pay attention to you. Help me not to be distracted by the pursuit of momentary pleasures or by the things of this world, but to keep my eyes fixed on you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, October 30, 2020

October 30, 2020

Lamentations 3:1-66; Hebrews 1:1-14; Psalm 102:1-28; Proverbs 26:21-22

Irma hit Naples in 2017! “Oh my,” I whispered as we turned into our association and surveyed the destroyed homes and scattered debris lying about us. In a minuscule way I could empathize with Jeremiah’s feelings as he surveyed the dead bodies, flattened temple, and crumbled walls that left Jerusalem in shambles after the Babylonian invasion. 

The first Hebrew word of Lamentations is êkâh meaning “Alas!” or “How” and was a cry of lament. The book of Lamentations is the funeral dirge of Judah. As we read Lamentations 3 we feel as if all Judah’s sins are weighing on Jeremiah as he speaks of affliction, broken physical and mental health, darkness, blocked paths, teeth broken from his face being slammed in the gravel, gall or bitterness, and finally lost hope (v.18). Then Jeremiah has “one ray of hope,” he was not consumed because of God’s loyal love, His compassions that never fail, and His great faithfulness every morning (vs.21-13, TLB). God was the same every morning regardless of what happened. He was definitely punishing Israel for their sins, but He remembered His covenant with the nation. 

Lamentations 3:24 is Jeremiah’s response to his hope: “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” According to the NKJV Study Bible, “portion” refers to Numbers 18:20 when Aaron is denied land in the Promised Land, but is given the Lord Himself as his portion and inheritance. Jeremiah will be satisfied with God and wait for Him to act. Hope is a sure-footed expectation suggesting a “waiting attitude” (NKJV Study Bible).

We also find hope in the book of Hebrews where the writer presents Christ as better. Hebrews 1 states Christ is better than angels and the following chapters will show Christ as better than leaders, priests, the old covenant, and the best sacrifice for our sins. The writer explains this is the reason new Jewish Christians need to cling to Christ instead of returning to the old Jewish rituals. Choose the best and do not settle on second best because Christ is the stamped image of God’s very nature. 

The writer of Hebrews uses the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 102:25-27) to rephrase the same hope of Jeremiah: “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will wear out like a garment…But you remain the same and your years will never end.” 

So, since He remains the same and His loyal love and tender mercies are fresh every morning, why choose second best?

Question of the day: What makes it so hard to keep our focus on Christ as first choice and final hope?

Dear Father, I am so finite in my thinking and the problems multiply. May I wait on you and be renewed every morning by Your love, mercy, and faithfulness. Amen.

Gena Duncan

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, October 29, 2020