The One Year Devo

May 30, 2020

2 Samuel 15:23-16:23; John 18:25-19:22; Psalm 119:113-128; Proverbs 16:10-11

A friend’s rejection or betrayal stings to the core. Absalom’s charisma won! King David was weeping; the whole country wept as he passed by barefoot, head covered, leaving Jerusalem for the wilderness. The Ark of the Covenant was returned to the center of worship in Jerusalem because David was fleeing, not the presence of the Lord that the art represented. As David ordered the ark returned, he was leaving his fate in God’s hands and possibly recalling his adulterous sin with Bathsheba and hideous murder of her husband. As David ascended the Mount of Olives, “where people used to worship God” (II Samuel 15:32) he prayed God would turn Ahithophel’s counsel to foolishness. David and Absalom regarded Ahithophel’s advice as “one who inquires of God” (II Samuel 16:23). 

When David met Hushai, he asked him to return to Jerusalem and be his mole in Absalom’s camp. David met two other men on his journey from Jerusalem; Ziba who provided food, wine, and donkeys for the journey and Shimei who cursed David and threw stones and dust at him because he had usurped Saul’s throne. What a contrast in David’s support by these two men.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Absalom asked Ahithophel what he should do next. Ahithophel advised Absalom to have sex with his father’s concubines on the palace roof. Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather. The roof where Absalom laid with David’s concubines was the roof from which David had lusted after Bathsheba. Ahithophel’s advice may have been rooted in anger at David, but it fulfilled Nathan’s prophecy against David, “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel” (II Samuel 12:11b). 

In John 18 and 19 of today’s reading, we see the rejection of Christ by Peter, the Jewish people, and the Roman leaders. He endured this rejection and took on himself our sins; the abuse of others, fraudulent deals, selfish actions, bitter resentment, gossip and hatefully spoken words. Need I go on with this list? Rejection was heaped upon Christ and it continues today. We can either accept him as our Savior or reject him. 

In life we often fulfill one of two roles: the rejected or the rejecter. The solution for the pain of those rejected and the sin of those rejecting others is found in Psalms 119:114, “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” By trusting in our Refuge and seeking his will in the Word, we can find peace for feelings of rejection and conviction for rejecting others.

Question of the day: Are you rejecting someone? Have you been rejected by someone? What can you do to release of these feelings?

Father, I have been the rejected and a rejecter. Thank you for your refuge and comfort when I am rejected. Convict me when I reject others. Help me to comfort those who are stinging from the pain of rejection. Amen.

Gena Duncan

May 29, 2020

2 Samuel 14:1-15:22; John 18:1-24; Psalm 119:97-112; Proverbs 16:8-9

Jesus responds in shocking ways during His final days on earth. One of the characteristics that allows Him to respond this way is meekness.

I participated in a funeral a few months ago that celebrated the deceased man's meekness. This was defined as strength under control. Jesus' surrender and arrest would have made him appear weak but ultimately it was a sign of his meekness. He could have called down angels to whisk him away, he could have killed the mob with a simple word but instead he exhibited meekness. He didn't feel the need to present himself as strong but could instead rest in God's plan.

Oftentimes we may feel the pressure to exert our power, ability or dominance over others but God's desire may be instead for us to show a little meekness. This is part of walking in the path of Jesus. We don't always have to show how much we know, speak our mind or take control. Sometimes we can just sit back and let God and others take center stage.

Question of the day: What can meekness look like in your life today?

God, my Father, thank you for the meekness of your son. Thank you that He went to the cross for me. He ultimately gained nothing but was willing to sacrifice himself for me. Help me to remember what Christ has done so that I can live like he did. May your Spirit enable me to embrace meekness rather than the world's perception of greatness. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 28, 2020

2 Samuel 13:1-39; John 17:1-26; Psalm 119:81-96; Proverbs 16:6-7

David's actions from chapter 11 are now repeated by his children. He has modeled for them the perceived acceptability of rape and murder, so Amnon rationalizes the same behavior in his life.

This is such a tragic chapter in Israel's history as the sin of the father is repeated by his kids. We can potentially see the same thing at work in our lives. Whether it is in our families or in our workplace, the behavior we participate in can be easily absorbed and repeated in the lives of others.

The failure of David as the leader in this chapter is his unwillingness to speak out against the sin of his kids and discipline them. We will see this same failure repeated again and again in David's lives as his kids continue in rampant sin and he does nothing about it.

Instead of passive leadership, we need to play the role of Nathan in the lives of those we are close to. We need to lovingly remind them of the life that God has made available to them and if we are in a position of leadership over them potentially discipline them as a means of encouraging righteousness in their lives. Otherwise, we are all prone like Proverbs 26:11 says, to repeat our sin and folly again and again.

We must address sin in our own lives and then lovingly encourage others to live out the abundant life which Christ's life, death and resurrection has made available to us (Matthew 7:1-6 provides instruction on this).

Question of the day: How have you seen your sin repeated by others and how can you stop this pattern?

God, my Father, help me to follow you. Help me to pursue you and in doing so lead others to follow you as well. Give me eyes to see those who need encouragement and to be spurred on to love and good deeds today. Give me wisdom to love/discipline my kids/friends/employees and point them to you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 27, 2020

2 Samuel 12:1-31; John 16:1-33; Psalm 119:65-80; Proverbs 16:4-5

After David's actions yesterday it would be natural to wonder if he could ever course correct spiritually. Would he ever return back to God or would he continue in his sinful actions and waywardness?

2 Samuel 12 answers that question for us. David is confronted by Nathan. David can no longer try to hide his sins or pretend that it never happened, he is confronted. David responds by acknowledging his sin.

In our reading today it is a brief response but the more extended response is found in Psalm 51. David cries out to God begging for mercy. He asks that God might forgive him. He describes his sin with words like transgressions, iniquity and guilt. He doesn't sugarcoat anything that he has done. God responds through Nathan by stating that his sins are taken away. This is the same way that God responds to us.

As 1 John 1:9 tells us, if we confess our sins God is faithful to forgive us. He is faithful to forgive us the first time, the second time, the thousandth time; God is always faithful to forgive those who ask him for it. Let us acknowledge our sin, ask God for forgiveness and receive the mercy, grace and forgiveness which He offers to us.

Question of the day: What sin can you confess to God and receive forgiveness for today?

God, my Father, thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you that when I continually come to you, that you make forgiveness available to me. Thank you that Jesus through His life, death and resurrection makes this possible. Help me to know the depth of my sin and in turn know the unfathomable extent of your grace and forgiveness to me. Thank you for your faithfulness to forgive a sinner like me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 26, 2020

2 Samuel 9:1-11:27; John 15:1-27; Psalm 119:49-64; Proverbs 16:1-3

David is now king over all of Israel and it seems that he may have grown complacent in his position. Rather than going out to war with his army he has stayed behind. In his general complacency we see that spiritual apathy has set in. He finds himself walking around his palace and notices a woman bathing.

If David was spiritually healthy that is where the story would have ended. Instead we see this temptation grow into David committing adultery. David's response to his sin is to try to cover it up and when that can't be done easily he orders the murder of Uriah. There is no remorse mentioned in our text, no confession immediately following his behavior and no mention of any interaction with God. David has become spiritually apathetic.

A contrast with David's attitude is that described in John 15. To become spiritually healthy we have to be people who “remain” in Jesus. Count the number of times Jesus uses the word “remain.” This is one of the central tips which Jesus gives his disciples concerning their spiritual maturity. They must learn to remain in Jesus. They are to picture themselves as in Christ and from within that posture they are to live their lives. They should not see themselves as separated from Jesus or living life with Jesus on the sidelines but instead living every aspect of their lives within the sphere of Christ's dominion and companionship. If we “remain” in Jesus then we will always live with the spiritual vitality which David was lacking in today's reading.

Question of the day: What does it look like for you to “remain” in Jesus?

God, my Father, thank you for the life that is available in your Son. Help me to remain in him. Help me to remember that life, satisfaction and fulfillment are only available in him. Help me to rest in my relationship with your Son and to live always connected to him. Help me not to live for my own wants or desires but always to live with you, in you and for you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

May 25, 2020

2 Samuel 7:1-8:18; John 14:15-31; Psalm 119:33-48; Proverbs 15:33

In John 14, Jesus expands our understanding of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit has been a challenge for the church to understand, as some have downplayed the role of the Spirit, some fail to see the Spirit as a person, and others allow their supposed perceptions of the Spirit to lead them to contradict Scripture.

As Jesus describes the ministry of the Spirit, he mentions in verse 20 that , "I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." The Trinity is one God existing in three person and we are invited in to their unity and relationships. To experience this unity we set aside our wants and desires and make it all about what God wants.  Jesus speaks about keeping His commands by obeying them. A true Christian desires to love God back for what He has done to save them. We do this by saying, “not my will but yours will be done.”

Question of the day: Ask the Spirit of God to reveal areas of disobedience. What are those areas of disobedience?

Father, I desire to love you back for all you have done through your son Jesus to bring me into your family. Show me through your spirit how I am to obey you in all things.

Tom Powidzki

May 24, 2020

2 Samuel 4:1-6:23; John 13:31-14:14; Psalm 119:17-32; Proverbs 15:31-32

David had to wait over a decade for God's promise that he would be king to be fulfilled. He had to wait patiently with only God's promise to cling to. His circumstances would have clearly cast doubt on whether God would ever do what he said. As he was being chased through the desert, in hiding in Philistine territory and struggling to eat it would have been natural to wonder whether God would be faithful to his promise.

Yet now in 2 Samuel 4, we are reminded that God is always faithful. After so many tumultuous years, David is finally enthroned as king over all Israel. We may face similar situations in our lives which cause us to doubt whether God's promises will come to fruition in our lives. Notice, the promise which Jesus makes to His followers in John 14. He promises that He will return and that we will be with Him forever.

In the face of sin, difficulty, trials or persecution we may wonder whether this is actually going to happen. Heaven may seem too fanciful or we may not seem good enough but Jesus' promise is based not on our faithfulness but on His. Therefore, at all times we can cling to Him and His word, knowing that all God's promises will be fulfilled. We may have to wait and the fulfillment may come after our death but, God is always faithful to His promises.

Question of the day: What causes you to doubt whether God's promises will be fulfilled?

God, my Father, thank you that I can trust you. Thank you that you are always faithful to do what you have said. Help me to lean on your promises and your word. Thank you for the hope of eternity with you and help this promise to bring me joy and peace in the midst of the hardships I will face today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

May 23, 2020

2 Samuel 2:12-3:39; John 13:1-30; Psalm 119:1-16; Proverbs 15:29-30

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. In its 176 verses it largely focuses on the value and transforming power of God's word.

As we read through the One Year Bible it is a powerful reminder of why we are committing to reading a portion of Scripture each day. It challenges us to move beyond simply reading the words on the page to applying it to our lives. We are told that those who live out God's instructions will be blameless and blessed.

Further, to walk with God is to experience freedom from shame. To live without shame would be to have confidence that we will be honored by God. In order to live this way we have to learn to value God above all else. We have to learn to seek Him, praise Him, rejoice in Him and meditate on Him and His truths. If we value His truth above everything else then we will certainly make time for it, apply it and experience its transforming power. Before you continue, take a moment to delight in God.

Question of the day: What would it look like for you to delight in God and his word?

God, thank you that you have made yourself known to me. Thank you that you have sent your Son to reveal yourself and thank you for your word which you have communicated through your messengers. I thank you that I can know you and walk with you. Help me to prioritize you with my time and with my passions. Help me to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 22, 2020

2 Samuel 1:1-2:11; John 12:20-50; Psalm 118:19-29; Proverbs 15:27-28

Today's reading begins the book of 2 Samuel. Although Samuel dies in the first book that bears his name, 2 Samuel continues the story of the transition of leadership over the nation of Israel. The kingship now moves from Saul to David. 

The book begins with an Amalekite bragging that he is the one who killed Saul. This non-Israelite identifies himself as a foreigner attached to Saul’s camp (2 Samuel 1:2).  From the end of 1 Samuel 31:3-4 the Amalekite’s story is apparently fiction.  He may have been a battlefield scavenger who discovered Saul’s body, and took the crown and arm band from the dead king before the Philistines arrived. 

Regardless, the Amalekite assumed that he was going to be rewarded for his testimony. Instead his boast cost him his life. Pride is something that the Bible continually warns us against. In this case, it is not based in reality. But even when it is, it does not honor God. Pride turns the spotlight away from God and onto ourselves. 

Notice the contrast between the Amalekite’s boasting and Jesus’ description of his own life, as well as the life that God honors, in John 12:23-26. We should see ourselves as servants of Christ and follow him in the path of self-sacrifice.  “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

Question of the day: In what areas of life do you steal the spotlight from God?

God, I confess my pride and selfishness. I confess that far too often I take the attention from you and put it on myself. Help me to live as a servant and to bring you glory. Help me to honor you and put you at the center of my life. Help me to continually put the spotlight on you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

May 21, 2020

1 Samuel 29:1-31:13; John 11:55-12:19; Psalm 118:1-18; Proverbs 15:24-26

One of the key indicators of a main point in a passage of the Bible is what is repeated. Psalm 118 begins with a four-fold repetition of "His love endures forever." This needs to be the foundational reality of our lives. When everything else is in turmoil, God's love endures through it all. Imagine David in our passage today. God had revealed to David that he would become king of Israel, and yet he spends well over a decade waiting for the fulfillment of that promise. It would have been easy for David to doubt God's love, and yet God’s love is a theme that echoes through many of David’s psalms. 

No matter how difficult David’s circumstances, tumultuous his emotions, or devastating his failures, David comes back again and again to the truth of God's love. We need to do the same. You are loved by God more than you can fathom. Christ gave his life to show the extent of his love and all of God's promises to you await their future fulfillment. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the love of God because "his love endures forever."

Question of the day: How should God's enduring love impact you today?

God, my Father, thank you for your love. Thank you that despite my shortcomings, disobedience and sin, your love remains. Thank you that I can rest in it and cling to it through all of life. Thank you that your love endures forever towards me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

May 20, 2020

1 Samuel 26:1-28:25; John 11:1-54; Psalm 117:1-2; Proverbs 15:22-23

Not long after we moved to Naples, Don Campbell, the then president of the seminary I attended, visited our community and stayed in our home.  (Sue reminded me that we even drove him to Miami in our un-air-conditioned, weirdly-named Gremlin for dinner.)  At one point I asked him about one of the graduates who had been an exceptional Bible teacher and author.  Don replied: He finished well.  But added: Not many do.    

In our reading today we see the last chapter in the life of Saul prior to his death.  Saul begins his career as Israel’s first king with great promise.  He is physically impressive, humble, gracious (even with those who are resistant to him).  He has strong leadership skills.  Most significant, God had chosen him and his Spirit was at work within him (“God changed Saul’s heart, and … the Spirit of God came upon him in power”; 1 Samuel 10:9-10).

But Saul will twice be confronted by Israel’s prophet Samuel for his devastating failure to follow God’s clear instructions.  Further, Saul spends the final decade of his rule paranoid, bitter, and in pursuit of David, God’s selection for his successor.

When the Philistines, Israel’s perpetual enemy, again invade the nation, Saul is terrified and uncertain.  When God turns away from Saul, Saul turns to the occult--a medium, a witch from Endor (a small city in Israel with a long pagan history)--in an attempt to contact the now-dead Samuel for direction.  God intervenes and--overriding and overwhelming the medium--will send Samuel back to Saul with a final message of his coming judgment.  

Spiritual drift--spiritual slippage--is part of the human condition, part of our fallenness.  For some--like Saul--it is catastrophic.  We are called to something very different: 

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1).

We are to finish well.  Not many do.

Question of the Day: What would finishing well spiritually look like for you?

I confess that I am prone to wander, Lord.  I am prone to leave you, the God I love.  I again give you my heart.  Please keep my eyes focused on you.  Let me run through the tape and finish well.  In Jesus’ name. 

Jim Nite

May 19, 2020

1 Samuel 24:1-25:44; John 10:22-42; Psalm 116:1-19; Proverbs 15:20-21

How can we properly acknowledge God's salvation and the grace that we continually receive? In one sense, there is nothing that we can do to respond in an appropriate way to the immense gifts we have received from God. How could you properly say thank you to someone who gives you their winning lottery ticket? Though we can never fully respond to God's grace, Psalm 116 describes two ways of reacting to God's grace. These two responses are found in verses 13 and 14. After contemplating the immensity of God's work in his life, the psalmist first says that he will "lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord." This is the response of priority.  We lift up or take hold of what God has given us in salvation. 

One way we acknowledge our salvation is by elevating God above everything else in our lives.  We allow God to make important in our lives what is important to him.  We put him first and allow him to shape and define our marriages, our families, our work, our resources, our recreation. 

The second (and related) way we respond is by obeying the commands of God, especially in front of others. Obeying God when it is difficult or goes against the stream of our culture proclaims that God is superior to all else. Since we have received the greatest gift from God we are to live in a way that reflects his greatness.

Question of the day: How can you show God’s importance to you in the way you live in front of your neighbors, friends, co-workers etc.?

God, thank you for my salvation. Thank you that you have saved me from my sins and brought me into your family. Thank you that you have allowed me to experience your superiority over everything else I could give my life to. Help me to elevate you as great in my life. Help me to trust you, call upon you and rely on you in the midst of life's hardship. Help me to obey you and follow you and in doing so show your greatness to those who are watching me. In all things may you be glorified. Amen.

Derek Newbery

May 18, 2020

1 Samuel 22:1-23:29; John 10:1-21; Psalm 115:1-18; Proverbs 15:18-19

That God is our shepherd is a theme repeated throughout the Bible. We see this in the well-known Psalm 23, but also in the imagery of the prophets. And in today's reading we see Jesus use this language of himself. He is the good shepherd (John 10:11). The writer of Hebrews refers to him as the great shepherd (13:20). Peter calls him the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). I believe in the fullest sense the shepherd of the Old Testament is God revealed in his Son in the New Testament.

If we want to know something of who Jesus is we can consider a good shepherd. Jesus has a flock that he cares for, he offers protection and salvation, he allows his sheep to experience life to the full, he is willing to sacrifice his life for his sheep, and knows his sheep intimately. All of these activities of Jesus speak to his initiative and love for each of his followers.

As sheep, in contrast to the shepherd, we are called to do very little. We are commanded to enter salvation through him, listen for his voice, then know and follow him. One of the key roles for us is to be good listeners. We are called to listen to God's Word and respond accordingly. To listen well means that we have heard and understood our shepherd, and then acted on what he has asked us to do. As James 1 tells us, "do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says." A good shepherd calls for good listeners and obedient followers.

Question of the day: What keeps you from listening well?

God, my Father, thank you that you, your Son and your Spirit lead me so well. Thank you that you love me and provide for me. Help me to respond as your follower by listening to what you say, and obeying it. Help me to follow your voice alone and run from all other voices that may draw me away from you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 17, 2020

1 Samuel 20:1-21:15; John 9:1-41; Psalm 113:1-114:8; Proverbs 15:15-17

Fear may be one of the main culprits that keeps us from sharing Jesus with others. Notice the situation that the man in John 9 finds himself in. His parents are too afraid to speak of Jesus but the young man is not. He is willing in the face of hostility to share everything that he knows about Jesus. Although his knowledge of Jesus is limited at this point, he shares what he has. This is a great principle for us. 

Our fear often takes one of two forms. We may be afraid of someone asking us difficulty questions that we feel we can't answer. And yet this man is more than willing to admit he doesn't have the answers. What he does have is the truth that Jesus healed him. Recognizing that we don't know something can actually be a great opportunity for us. It allows us to investigate and learn, and then continue the conversation at a later time. 

We may also be afraid of how people will respond. Anxiety that we will be rejected can cause us to remain silent.  But again, that is not a concern for the young man. Despite ridicule by the religious authorities and even dismissal from the synagogue, he feels compelled to share what he knows to be true. May the reality of how God has transformed our lives motivate us more than the fear of ignorance or the opinion of others.

Question of the day: What fears keep you from sharing Christ with others?

God, help me to always remember what you have done for me. May the salvation I have received from you compel me to share that message with others. I admit that I am often scared to share you with others but help me to overcome that fear with the reality that you are the greatest need that all people have. May I have opportunities to share you with others today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

May 16, 2020

1 Samuel 18:5-19:24, John 8:31-59, Psalm 112:1-10, Proverbs 15:12-14

God is love. This is one of the central claims of Christianity (see 1 John 4:8). The fact that God is love and does all things in love is something that we must cling to in the midst of confusing circumstances. Yet in our passage today we are confronted by something that may cause us to question that.  We are told that "an evil [or harmful] spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul" and then later that "an evil [or harmful] spirit from the Lord came upon Saul." Is it possible to reconcile these verses with the idea of God's love since it sounds like God is sending evil upon Saul? 

Norman Geisler in his book When Critics Ask answers the question this way. "It was according to God’s permission that the spirit was allowed to come upon Saul to bring him distress...The sending of the evil spirit upon Saul is similar to God’s allowing Satan to afflict Job. God allows evil, but always uses it to accomplish His own good purposes." God is not the author of evil but in our evil world he can use and redeem it for his own ends. 

Another point from the text, and possible way of understanding this passage, is that the spirit is not necessarily bringing moral evil upon Saul but rather is bringing physical (or emotional) pain. It may be helpful to view this as not dissimilar to a parent spanking their child for disobedience. God's ultimate desire for Saul is that he would come to a place of repentance. But he continues to resist God's discipline, instead allowing his emotions to rule over him. 

God is seeking to use all things in our lives and especially suffering and hardship, to draw us closer to him. Therefore, as the sovereign, loving God of the universe we can fully trust him even when circumstances or logic are confusing.

Question of the day: How have you seen God use difficulty in your life to bring him closer to Him?

Father, I thank you that you always operate in love. I thank you that I can trust you and draw near to you because you are always seeking my ultimate good. Help me to trust you and walk with you through hardship, difficulty and confusion. Help me to lean in to you, knowing that you are always present and always loving me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 15, 2020

1 Samuel 17:1-18:4, John 8:21-30, Psalm 111:1-10, Proverbs 15:11

The epic battle between David and Goliath is one of those stand out stories in the Bible. Even among secular audiences people understand and cheer for the idea of the small guy defeating the giant. 

However, this is so much more than a good underdog story. David recognizes that Goliath has stood against God, not just Israel, and in response David stands boldly for God and trusts that He will fight this battle.  

Goliath, that behemoth of a man, has issued a challenge that has gone unanswered for 40 days before David enters the scene. David, unknown and too young, stands ready to fight against the defiant Philistine even as his unsupportive brother challenges his motives, the Israelite army cowers, and Saul offers up man made protection. Armed with 5 stones and a sling David boldly says, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head” (17:45-46).

David’s amazing defeat of Goliath reflects his faith in and heart for Yahweh, the living God. How often we stand in fear like Saul and the Israelite army rather than taking hold of God’s promises and acting boldly like David.  

Question of the day: What is one way you can stand boldly for God this week?

Father, thank you that I can trust in your promises. Help me to live my life boldly for you and not for the praise of man or fear of the world.

Sarah Naples

May 14, 2020

1 Samuel 15:1-16:23; John 8:1-20; Psalm 110:1-7; Proverbs 15:8-10

Kids have the most amazing ways of rationalizing their disobedience. Things like, my sister made me do it, I thought that is what you said, or I did not know that was wrong. The reality is, even as adults, we can rationalize our behavior.

That is the very thing we find Saul doing. He has been clearly told by God to kill everything he encounters among the Ammonites, but ends up keeping all of the best stuff. When he is confronted by Samuel, he twice blames his men before eventually acknowledging his disobedience.

Saul's tale provides an opportunity for us to look at ourselves. What are the ways that we rationalize our sin? Do we pretend our sin is not that big of a deal? Do we pass the blame for our sin on someone else or our past? In excusing his sin, Saul loses his kingship, the kingdom, and his relationship with Samuel.

Even in our sin, God will not leave us, but we will reap "stern discipline" as Proverbs 15:10 describes. Therefore, let us acknowledge our sin and repent from it, so we might reap intimacy with God rather than His correction.

Question of the day: What are the ways you rationalize your sin? 

Father, I acknowledge my sin before you. I confess that I often live as my own lord and push you to the side. Help me to receive your forgiveness and, in response, turn from my sin. Help me not to rationalize, excuse, or sugarcoat it, but rather turn from it. Help me to put you and your ways first in my life. Amen.

Derek Newbery

May 13, 2020

1 Samuel 14:1-52; John 7:31-53; Psalm 109:1-31; Proverbs 15:5-7

Imagine being so desperately thirsty you are forced to drink the stale, nasty water floating through one of the canals in town. It might initially quench your thirst, but I am quite confident that there would be serious repercussions down the road.

In John 7, Jesus uses the phrase "living water" to describe that which he produces in the life of people who come to him. The phrase speaks to pure, life giving water as can be seen in its usage in Jeremiah, Zechariah, and John 4. Jesus offers fulfillment to all who come to Him. We can look to things other than Him for satisfaction, but in the end they are like drinking canal water. They may seem to satisfy for a moment, but they can never provide what we truly need.

Only in Jesus can we find fulfillment, purpose, identity, joy, and peace. Jesus offers us the same water that he offered those in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. He offers us life that satisfies and the Spirit who enables us to daily experience His satisfying gifts. As CS Lewis stated, we all have a God shaped hole that only He can fill. We can shove all sorts of things in the hole, but only God can give us what we are seeking.

 

Question of the day: How would you describe the fulfillment God provides to someone who does not know Him?

God, my Father, thank you that you satisfy my deepest longings. I confess that I chase after fulfillment in so many things other than you, but they never satisfy. Help me to look to you alone for that which only you can provide. I thank you for the life you have made available to me through your Son.  By your Spirit help me walk in it today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 12, 2020

1 Samuel 12:1-13:23; John 7:1-30; Psalm 108:1-13; Proverbs 15:4

When we are scared we do really silly things. As kids we may have been afraid of the Boogeyman under our bed, so we ran as fast as possible through our room to launch ourselves onto our bed. Or, we may have demanded that every drawer and closet be closed prior to sleep because something might jump out of them.

The fear of the Israelites was grounded in something far more real, but their emotions caused them to act foolishly. By the time the events in chapter 13 occurred, Saul had been king for multiple years and yet, when faced with overwhelming circumstances, he acted out of fear rather than faith.

He was supposed to wait for Samuel to come to the battle to make a sacrifice. But, rather than waiting, he performed the sacrifice himself despite this being an act of rebellion against God's commands. He failed to remember God's faithfulness as recounted in chapter 12. When Samuel arrived, he rebuked Saul and announced that acting in fear has ultimately cost him his kingship.

Acting in fear will also have consequences in our lives. We will lose confidence in God, our intimacy with Him, and over time be ruled by anxiety. Instead, we should respond by calling out to God and recognizing his power and presence. Hebrews 13:6 says, "So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?'"

So whether the upcoming election, our job situation, health status, or any number of other things brings fear, we must keep our eyes fixed on the goodness and power of God and walk by faith rather than fear.

Question of the day: What thoughts or situations cause you to be fearful and how can you confront these with a greater trust in God?

God, my Father, I thank you that you are greater than anything else I will face in life. No matter what I face, you are with me. Help my trust in you to be greater than my fears. Thank you that you have always been faithful; help me to remember you always will. Help me to live by a faith today that overwhelms the fear in my life. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 11, 2020

1 Samuel 10:1-11:15; John 6:43-71; Psalm 107:1-43; Proverbs 15:1-3

I can remember one Christmas when I received a gift that I wasn't happy with. It was an NFL team mug of a team that I was no longer a fan of. I was a fickle fan as a kid and I would bounce from team to team depending on who was winning that year and the mug was not of my current favorite team. Yet rather than kindly saying "thank you" and acknowledging the gift I blurted out something like, "I don't like this team. Why would you get me this?" It was rude and a complete failure to acknowledge the thoughtfulness of the gift giver.

Psalm 107 in our reading today has a repeated refrain. "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind." The psalm shows us how thanks is the appropriate response for the hungry who are fed, the homeless who are housed, the imprisoned who are released, the dying who are healed, the chaotic who are given peace, the suffering who are blessed, and the needy who are provided for. We may see ourselves in this list, or not, but we need to learn to respond to the circumstances of life with thanks.

We must learn to train ourselves to quickly say thank you to the abundant grace and blessings of God in our lives. Thanks is the appropriate response for all the good things which God gives us every minute of every day.

Question of the day: How would quickly saying "thanks" to God throughout your day, change you?

God, my Father, thank you. Thank you for the way you meet my needs and provide far more than I need. Thank you for your continual grace and presence in my life. I confess that I am quick to take the credit for all I have, rather than giving you the praise. Help me today to respond with gratitude for the abundant blessings you will bring into my life. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 10, 2020

1 Samuel 8:1-9:27; John 6:22-42; Psalm 106:32-48; Proverbs 14:34-35

In I Samuel 8, John 6, and Psalm 106, we read about people who don’t heed the Lord. Interestingly, God reacts differently in each situation.

In I Samuel, the Israelites are upset for good reason. Samuel’s children are not godly leaders (v. 3). However, the Israelite conclusion is clearly not God’s best. They demand a king in order to be like those around them. Although this upsets Samuel, God, seemingly not bothered, urges Samuel to “warn” them of the drawbacks of a king (v. 9). The Israelites “refuse” to listen (v. 19), so God instructs Samuel to give them a king (v. 22). He gives what they want, knowing it’s not best.

In John, a crowd peppers Jesus with ostensibly legitimate questions. But Christ knows their hearts, and, while answering, He explains “You have seen me, and still you do not believe” (v. 16). They prove Jesus right by “grumbling” at the passage’s end (v. 41-42). Jesus’ responds to their unbelief by continuing in His Father’s will, undeterred. He’s declared the truth—those that listen to Him will have eternal life; those that don’t, won’t.

In Psalm 106, God strongly answers the Israelites’ abject disobedience. They “angered” Him (v. 32) because they “mingled” with the world, taking on their ways, rather than God’s (v. 35). So, God gives them to their enemies (v. 41).

We react to the Lord with the very same indifference to His guidance, disbelief to His teaching, and disobedience to His boundaries. Our default position is to look to the world like the Israelites did when they decided they wanted a king or “mingled” with the world, or we grumble at teaching that doesn’t fit our finite understanding.  We must  consider the Israelites and God’s response to them before we (even unthinkingly) disregard Him. 

How much better to receive His very best by looking to Him and His Word for guidance, teaching, and boundaries. Then, rather than being like the world, we can be like the nation or servant in Proverbs 14, one whom the Lord exalts and in whom He delights.

Question: In what ways am I “mingling” the ways/thinking of the world with my faith? 

Dear Lord, please show me how I am chasing after the world instead of following You. Give me a heart that loves Your ways instead of the world’s.

Julie Gerber

May 9, 2020

1 Samuel 5:1-7:17; John 6:1-21; Psalm 106:13-31; Proverbs 14:32-33

1 Samuel 5 is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. When the Ark of the Covenant is placed before Dagon, he falls on his face. This massive statue, which represented the god of the Philistines, can do nothing but bow down when placed before YHWH.

Further, his face and hands are disconnected from his body to show that he cannot see, think, or act. Dagon is impotent when faced before the true God of the Universe. The hope of the Philistines has proven to be a failure. The one to whom they prayed, sacrificed, and looked as a source of healing was shown to be nothing. 

This picture of an idol bowing before God is a preview of what all creation will ultimately do before God. All we view as great will be eclipsed by the glory of God.

Therefore, this ultimate picture of reality should be how we view life today. We can enjoy all the good gifts of God, but know the best of this world is just a shadow of our enjoyment of God in eternity.

Question of the day: How can you remind yourself that God is greater than everything else in life?

Father God, you are glorious. Everything in the universe pales in comparison to you. Help me to have this perspective today and to respond to your glorious grace. Amen.

Derek Newbery

May 8, 2020

1 Samuel 2:22-4:22; John 5:24-47; Psalm 106:1-12; Proverbs 14:30-31

I was recently talking to a man in my neighborhood who is skeptical of religious claims. He does not see any reasons to believe in God, the afterlife, and, admittedly, in anything with certainty. In talking with this individual, it made me think about whether we have reasons for why we believe in God, Christ's resurrection, salvation by grace through faith, and other essential beliefs. 

In our reading today, we see a number of evidences for God. Samuel hears an audible voice of God. We may not have experienced God speaking audibly, but, if we are a Christian, we will have personal experiences with God. Personal experience is one valid reason for believing in God. In John 5 we are given various reasons for why Jesus is the Son of God. His work (miracles, teaching, etc.) is one reason, another is prophecy (Jesus points people to the Scriptures which speak of him), and the ultimate is the resurrection. The life of which Jesus speaks is ultimately available to us because he rose from the dead. As we engage in spiritual conversations with people, it is important that we ask good questions (the book "Tactics" by Greg Koukl is helpful) and also have answers for our beliefs. We will never have all the answers, but we need to have a solid foundation for our beliefs.

Question of the day: How would you answer someone who sees no reason to believe in God?

God, my Father, thank you for revealing yourself and your truth to me. Thank you that your Son is the truth and thank you that your Spirit guides me into truth. Help me to   believe your truth, live out your truth, and to make your truth known to others. Help me to stand on the foundation of your truth and walk with you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 7, 2020

1 Samuel 1:1-2:21; John 5:1-23; Psalm 105:37-45; Proverbs 14:28-29

As we start the book of 1 Samuel, we embark on a new period of Israel's history. We will witness the nation’s transition from being ruled by judges to being ruled by kings. The book is named after Samuel, to whom we are introduced in the first chapter. Samuel was a gift from God, born to a mother who had experienced years of childlessness. Only when God intervened in the midst of her predicament and provided her with a child did things changed.

Hannah recognizes the gift not as something to be used for her own benefit but for a larger purpose. She shows amazing humility and gratitude by giving up the son she had been waiting for so he might be used by God.

This would be like my child receiving a much-desired birthday present and then, despite being grateful for it, giving it to someone else. Hannah hands her gift (Samuel) back to God.

Everything good we have in life is a gift from God: our children, money, possessions, relationships, health etc. When we recognize these things as gifts, we realize we are not called to use them purely for our own benefit but for the greater purpose of God's glory.

God calls us to be good stewards of what He has given to us. As stewards, we can use all He has given to participate in the grander story that God is writing across the landscape of eternity.

Question of the day: What gifts in your life do you need to start recognizing as God's? How can you use them for His purpose rather than your own?

God, my Father, thank you for all of the good things in my life. Help me to acknowledge them as gifts from You and use them to bless others and contribute to Your work in the world. Help me not to keep them for my own purposes but use them well in light of eternity. Amen.

Derek Newbery

May 6, 2020

Ruth 2:1-4:22; John 4:43-54; Psalm 105:16-36; Proverbs 14:26-27

Everyone loves a surprise ending. I can remember the first time I watched the movie, The Sixth Sense, and my shock at the ending’s surprise twist. I felt the same when I watched the original Star Wars trilogy and discovered Luke Skywalker was Darth Vader's son. In each film, I thought the plot was moving in one direction when it was actually doing something else.

The story of Ruth mimics this. We assume it is a story of God's faithfulness in providing for two women, Ruth and Naomi, who find themselves in a desperate situation  without family, food or protection. We wonder whether they will even survive. While God does provide for all of their needs through Boaz's generosity, in the last few verses we discover their story is not just about one family. It is about all of Israel.

We learn Boaz and Ruth's great grandson will become the famous King David. Ultimately, through David would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God used His work in the life of one family to bring salvation to the whole world.

No matter how desperate our situation, we can find hope in God's faithfulness to Ruth and, even more pertinently, through Jesus. Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer who provides for our needs, now and through all eternity. May he bring us hope for all that we face in life.

Question of the day: How have you seen God use his work in your life to bring hope to others?

God, my Father, thank you that You respond to my needs. Thank you that You gave Jesus to meet my deepest needs. Thank you that You give me hope, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, and inclusion into Your family and life. Help me to respond to Your grace with a grateful heart and allow this attitude to permeate my outlook towards all of life. Thank you for Your gifts. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 5, 2020

Judges 21:1-Ruth 1:22; John 4:4-42; Psalm 105:1-15; Proverbs 14:25

As we move from the book of Judges to Ruth, we encounter an ordinary woman in the midst of distressing circumstances. 10 years after her father-in-law’s death, Ruth’s husband and brother-in-law also die. Ruth, her mother-in-law (Naomi) and her sister-in-law (Orpah) experience great loss and immediate poverty. The three women set out to travel to Judah in hopes of experiencing the Lord’s provision of aid and food in the midst of a famine (Ruth 1:6).

Naomi encourages the two women to go back to their homes in Moab. Orpah decides to return home to her people, and Ruth decides to stay with Naomi. Appropriately, Ruth connects this physical decision regarding true homeland and loyalty to her mother-in-law with Naomi’s faith in the one true God. “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you,” Ruth declares decidedly in verse 16. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” These words continue to echo in our hearts today – they are words of decision and emotion; spirit and truth; faith and action. Ruth trusts in God to provide for her physical needs and her familial future as she declares her loyalty to Naomi and concurrently, Naomi’s God – the God of Israel. 

And, in God’s sovereign purpose, He uses Ruth to bring us a Savior; she’s in the royal line of Christ and mentioned in His genealogy in Matthew 1. Ruth – the mother of Obed – is King David’s great grandmother; she’s an ordinary woman who made a decision to follow God in faith, and her decision results in an extraordinary outcome. 

Question of the Day: What are some ways that you can put your faith in God in action? What would it look like for you to step out in faith and apply the Bible to your life in a measurable way this week? 

Lord, I thank you that you use ordinary people to accomplish your purposes on earth. Please show me how I might step out in faith, follow hard after you, and apply your Word to my life in measurable ways. Please show me how I might be able to comfort and encourage those people closest to me in the midst of difficult and distressing times, as Ruth did for Naomi.

Anna Snyder

May 4, 2020

Judges 19:1-20:48; John 3:22-4:3; Psalm 104:24-35; Proverbs 14:22-24 

"He must become greater; I must become less." These words of John the Baptist should be the attitude of our hearts.

John 3 gives us the reason we should make Jesus great: he truly is great. John 3:31 tells us that Jesus "is above all." He is superior to us and everything else in the universe. He is the ultimate king over everything, including us. We can show we recognize his greatness through the way we live.

As we have consistently seen throughout our readings, the most basic response to Jesus' greatness is humility. We must make our lives "become less" about us and more about his greatness. The things we say, the actions we do, and the emotions we feel should all be about making Jesus great.

Question of the day: What is a habit/discipline you can commit to that would help you to remember to make Jesus great?

God, my Father, You are great and Your Son is above all. So often I place myself above all instead of Your Son. Help me to become less and in turn make Your Son greater. May I live and acknowledge His greatness today in all I do. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 3, 2020

Judges 17:1-18:31; John 3:1-21; Psalm 104:1-23; Proverbs 14:20-21 

In Judges, we encounter a Hebrew culture experiencing a downward slide away from God. Verse 17:6 provides a perfect description of this when it says "…everyone did as they saw fit." The Isrealites no longer looked to God as their source of morality, direction, or wisdom, but did whatever felt natural or pleasurable. The story of Micah (not to be confused with the prophet Micah who has a book named after him) epitomizes this.

Micah steals money from his own mother. When he simply returns it, she praises him for his actions. What?!?! Then she asks a silversmith to melt the silver down into an idol. Micah's family worships this idol and even creates their own priestly structure around this handmade god. This idolatry, this foolishness of Michah, soon spreads through a whole tribe of Ephraim, and eventually the nation.

Notice the contrast between this attitude and that which Jesus describes in John 3. Jesus tells Nicodemus that those who have been born again by the grace of God are to live in the light and truth found in Jesus. We need to take our cues from Jesus. If we have acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior and thus been born again, that faith should reveal itself externally through a new way of life.

We should no longer be content doing whatever we see fit. Instead we should live in accordance with what Jesus sees fit.

Question of the day: How do you see the attitude of "everyone did as they saw fit" playing out in our culture and in your life?

God, my Father, thank you that You can provide me with all the direction I need for life. Thank you that You are my shepherd, guide and teacher. Help me to look to You and follow you in all of life. Thank you for Your Son who allows me to be born again and Your Spirit who empowers me to follow You. Help me to walk in the way that You want and experience the life which You have for me.

Derek Newbery

 

May 2, 2020

Judges 15:1-16:31; John 2:1-25; Psalm 103:1-22; Proverbs 14:17-19

The last few weeks have felt like the movie Groundhog Day  where one day repeats over and over. So often our prayers simply repeat what we prayed the day before and our praise focuses on the same three or four things.

One of the beautiful things the Psalms does is provide us with added variety for our praise. Look at Psalm 103. This psalm is filled with reasons to praise God. Sometimes we may not feel like praising God or feel as though we have reasons to do so but after reading Psalm 103 you will have a plethora. You can praise Him for His forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, compassion or satisfaction, and those are just reasons to praise God listed in verses 2-4.

Take time to slowly work your way through this psalm. Stop at every reason to praise God and personalize it. David uses this psalm to remind himself that a life of praise is a natural response when we remember who God is and all He has done for us. May we like David, praise His holy name.

Question of the day: Which reason for praising God in Psalm 103 stands out to you?

God, my Father, I praise you. I praise you for your love for me and the never ending ways that you show this love. I praise you for your grace because only through this can I draw near to you. I praise you that you are king and in control over the whole universe. Help me to live a life of unceasing praise to you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

May 1, 2020

Judges 13:1-14:20; John 1:29-51; Psalm 102:1-28; Proverbs 14:15-16

Samson is a man fueled by his emotions. He would fit right in to our culture, resonating with many sayings of our day such as, "You do you," "Be true to yourself," and "Love is love." Our society wants to elevate our feelings from simple emotions to truth. If you feel it, we think, then you should act on it.

While emotions are a gift from God, they can lead us into foolishness and ultimately destruction, as they did Samson. Samson sees a beautiful woman and becomes infatuated with her. He is unconcerned that she is not a believer in God because he only cares about how she makes him feel.

When she betrays him, he becomes enraged and allows his anger to lead his actions. He never stops and considers what God might want him to do in such a situation. Instead he follows his emotions’ leading. This behavior embodies the rest of Samson's life, as we will see in tomorrow's reading.

Our two proverbs discuss this exact behavior as well. Prudence is shown in considering one's ways before acting while a "fool" responds without thought and in a purely emotional way. God wants us to allow his word, his Spirit, and his truth to lead our steps instead of running wherever our emotions lead us. 

Question of the day: How do your emotions lead you rather than God's truth?

God, my Father, thank you for Your truth. Help me to be led by Your truth rather than my feelings. Help me to follow Your leading rather than my sinful yearnings. Help me to see the far greater beauty and pleasure that is found in You than anything else. Amen.

Derek Newbery