The One Year Devo

February 29, 2020

There is no reading today (it's leap year!). Take time to reflect on what God has taught you in 2020 and how you can respond to the love that he so freely gives. 

February 28, 2020

Leviticus 22:17-23:44; Mark 9:30-10:12; Psalm 44:1-8; Proverbs 10:19

The Bible begins with the reality that all people are immensely valuable and made in the image of God. This truth is not dependent on our IQ, contribution to society, health, or mental state but is based on our existence. Living in Naples it is easy to think that those who live in Port Royal, who drive a Lamborghini or have multiple homes are better than someone who is living at St.Matthew's house.

Yet in God's economy all people are equally valuable. Imagine the conversation that the disciples had prior to Mark 9:34. I don't think it is too hard for us to imagine the arguments that they were making for why each of them was greater than the others. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that on one level servants are the greatest. It is possibly that the team manager and not the quarterback is greatest. It is possibly that the stay at home mom rather than the CEO is the greatest. In Jesus' day children and women had very little value but in God's economy they are as valuable as anyone else. Jesus longs for us to recognize the value of all people and live in a way that respects and reflects this reality. Ultimately if we aren't valuing people then we cannot think that we are valuing God. Our love of people is intricately connected to our love of God.

Question of the day: What group of people do you find yourself not valuing and what can you do today to make a statement that they are valuable?

God, my Father, thank  you that I am made in your image. Thank you that I have dignity, value and worth as your creation. Help me to see that all of humanity is also made in your image and so help me to love and value all people. Help me not to think that I am better than others but simply a humble sinner continually in need of your grace. Help me to love everyone I come into contact with today and in doing so reflect your love to the world. Amen.                                                                                                                                                   

Derek Newbery

 

February 27, 2020

Leviticus 20:22-22:16; Mark 9:1-29; Psalm 43:1-5; Proverbs 10:18

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief." Imagine being in the position of this father who sought Jesus for his son's healing and was initially met by the failure of the disciples to heal him. Imagine how he feels as he is interacting with Jesus, he would probably be feeling disgruntled, hopeless, and defeated. In the midst of these feelings he still holds out hope that something can be done for his son's demonic possession. When Jesus essentially asks whether or not he believes , all he can come up with is a mixture of belief and unbelief, doubt and faith. Notice though, that is enough for Jesus.

Jesus is not looking for perfect, confident faith; he is looking for those who trust him. Even in the midst of his doubts the dad is still looking to Jesus as the only source of healing for his son. This same mixture of faith and doubt is expressed in Psalm 43. The psalmist feels rejected by God and thus surely has doubts about God but as we read through the rest of the psalm we see powerful expressions of faith. He acknowledges God as his stronghold, joy, delight, light, truth, and savior. These truths don't eradicate the confusion of his circumstances but they do allow him to persevere and have a solid foundation through them. Nearly 1/3 of the psalms express doubts and confusion but they always seem to find their way back to a sure confidence in God. Let us follow in the footsteps of the psalmist and the father in Mark 9 in feeling free to express our doubts but always coming back to who God is and why we need him.

Question of the day: What are you currently having spiritual doubts about and what do you think God is calling you to do with those?

God, my Father, I admit that I am often confused about what you are doing in my life. I can even doubt whether what you're doing or allowing into my life is for my good. I can feel rejected and isolated from you but I trust that you are working for my good. I trust that you are with me and through Christ am secure in you. Help me to give my fears, doubts and confusion to you knowing that you are big enough to handle them all. Thank you for being greater than me! Amen.

 

February 26, 2020

Leviticus 19:1-20:21; Mark 8:11-38; Psalm 42:1-11; Proverbs 10:17

What motivates you to obey God when you don’t feel like it? Notice in our reading today the reasons which God gives for Israel's obedience. Again and again, Leviticus says, “I am the Lord your God,” and “I am the Lord" for why Israel should heed God's instructions. The reason for Israel’s obedience is the identity and existence of God. Since God is God and Lord he commanded their obedience and deserves our obedience as well. At the core of our decision making process should be asking what God would want us to do. Is this true for us? Is God the one who motivates your actions? A second reason that should motivate our obedience is our neediness. Psalm 42 says that our souls are thirsty for God like a deer is thirsty for water. Others have described this as a God shaped hole in our hearts which only God can fill. If we acknowledge this desperate need for God then we will shape our lives around him. We should put God at the center of our lives and walk in obedience to him because he is God and we are people in need of a Savior.

Question of the day: How can you remember your neediness for God today?

God, my Father, thank you that you meet my deepest needs. Help me to continually live out of an acknowledgment of my need for you and the grace you supply to me. Also, I thank you that you are God. Thank you that all that is good comes from you and that you are the sovereign king of the universe. Help me to put you at the center of my life, actions, thoughts and desires. Help me to put you first in all things. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 25, 2020

Leviticus 16:29-18:30; Mark 7:24-8:10; Psalm 41:1-13; Proverbs 10:15-16

There is a growing acceptance of homosexuality throughout the Western world. Pressure is increasingly put on Christians to give full acceptance to this lifestyle and not view it as a sin any longer. 

What is interesting about Leviticus 18 is that almost all would disagree that it is wrong and unacceptable to do any of the other things mentioned in the chapter, except for verse 22 which speaks to homosexuality. Although we are not under the Old Testament law, this issue is addressed in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, as well as Jesus’ teaching about God’s design for marriage.  God has the right as God to call a sin anything He determines to be a sin. For us to question this is to put into question all of scripture. There is always a domino effect if we say anything in the Bible should not be there. Where then do we draw the lines as to what is God’s Word and what isn’t? Wouldn’t that put us over God, if we had the authority to determine what is His Truth and what isn’t?

God is not trying to keep us from that which might bring fulfillment. He loves us, made us, and knows what is best for us. He is also anxious to pour his mercy into our lives and heal the brokenness within all of us.  

Question of the day: How do we hold up the integrity of Scripture and still show love and grace to people struggling with homosexuality?

God our Father, teach me how to engage our culture with love and grace when it comes to these difficult moral issues. Amen.

Tom Powidzki

February 24, 2020

Leviticus 15:1-16:28; Mark 7:1-23; Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 10:13-14 

It is easy when reading the Old Testament to feel like God is obsessed with external regulations. He provides specific details about how to deal with discharges, skin diseases, mold, etc. Yet Jesus shows us that all along God’s primary concern was with the hearts of his people. We can attempt to live in external conformity to God’s desire and yet still be far from the people he wants us to be.

Whenever I ask one of my kids to clean their room (I will keep the child anonymous for their sake) I get an instant whine, cry and grumble. Eventually they will clean their room but their heart is far from what I want it to be. I am looking for joy in obedience and a heart which desires to serve, and our Heavenly Father seeks this in our hearts to an even greater degree.

In Mark 7:1-23 we see how the Pharisees were consumed by a focus on the external. They elevated hand washing and tradition above God’s Word. They thought that they were loving God in doing so but God is never satisfied with mere external conformity, he seeks transformed hearts. Jesus ends this section by talking about how our hearts are what defile us. Therefore, holiness has to start at the level of our hearts. 

This begs the question of how do we change our hearts. Think about baseball since spring training is just starting. You may find the game slow, tedious and boring but if you decided one day that it was necessary to enjoy it, how would you start? You would probably start reading about it, watching it, spending time with other fans and generally investing yourself into the sport. I don’t think that loving God is too dissimilar. If you find yourself not enjoying God and you find this reading tedious, start taking steps towards enjoying him. Come to see that he is the greatest, most beautiful and most delightful being in the universe.

Question of the day: What can you do this week to move your heart a little more towards the heart which God wants for us?

God, my Father, thank you that you love us. Thank you that you initiate a relationship with us and that we can respond with love towards you. Help me to love you and seek to have my heart be soft toward you. Help me to have a transformed heart which the fruit of your Spirit pours out of. May everything within me be changed by you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 23, 2020

Leviticus 14:1-57; Mark 6:30-56; Psalm 40:1-10; Proverbs 10:11-12 

Jesus and the disciples had some scheduled alone time that was quickly interrupted by a crowd of people. We see in their response to the crowd the difference between the heart of Jesus and the heart of the disciples.

The disciples' see the crowd as an interruption and quickly try to send them away. Jesus in contrast shows us what compassion looks like. He cares deeply about all of humanity and regardless of how they respond to him treats them with dignity and respect. The crowd in Mark 6 was a disturbance to his schedule but they are not treated any differently than if Jesus had invited them over for dinner.

Do we express this same level of compassion for people or do we often see them as obstacles to accomplishing what we want? Jesus would encourage us to see people as opportunities and not obstacles. Our day should not consist of us pursuing our own agenda but seeking to participate in God's larger purposes. If we live only for ourselves we are living for something far too shallow.

Question of the day: How do you respond to people when you see them as obstacles rather than opportunities?

God, my Father, help me to have a heart of compassion. Help me to care deeply for people instead of just being concerned about myself. Enlarge my heart for the hurting and give me eyes to see those who I can reach out to today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

February 22, 2020

Leviticus 13:1-59; Mark 6:1-29; Psalm 39:1-13; Proverbs 10:10

We see God's gracious legislation in caring for his people in Leviticus. Imagine living among a million people in what is essentially a refugee camp. Living in such close proximity would have provided a great breeding ground for illness and infectious diseases but God provides a way of ensuring that his people stay healthy in the midst of their travels to the Promised Land.

What I want us to focus on comes out of our reading in Mark. Herod provides us with a great example of the trouble that comes when we seek to please people more than God. Herod is shown to respect John by protecting him from the vengeance of his wife. He probably had some concern that to mistreat or kill John may lead to negative outcomes in his own life. When he is asked to kill John we are told that "because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her." One of the reasons he kills John the Baptist is because he is more concerned about pleasing his dinner guests than God. He doesn't want to look like a fool or like a liar so he has John executed.

This theme of people seeking to please others more than God comes up again and again in the Bible. The question for us becomes whether we are going to value what God thinks of us more than the opinions of others. Our answer to these questions will cause very real and significant differences in our lives. Pleasing God means that we will be able to stand against cultural tides or peer pressure. Pleasing God means that we will shape our lives around his values rather than the world. In contrast to Herod's choice, we have the disciples. They are willing to be sent out to share the message of God's kingdom among people who may respond with hostility. Their focus is on obedience to Jesus rather than the discomfort or persecution that might await. The larger that God is to us, the greater freedom we will find in making the hard choices of obedience that he will ask from us.

Question of the day: How does seeking to please people more than God reveal itself in your life?

God, my Father, I thank you for the grace which I have received from you. As I recognize all of your gifts in my life may I respond by living for you. May I live to please you. May I be more concerned about how you view me than how my friends, family and acquaintances do. May my life be lived in devotion to you, since you are committed to me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

February 21, 2020

Leviticus 11:1-12:8; Mark 5:21-43; Psalm 38:1-22; Proverbs 10:8-9

Much of the Old Covenant deals with laws concerning the ordering of the nation of Israel. Today’s reading focuses on the dietary laws that the people were to follow. Notice the detailed regulation concerning which animals people were allowed to eat.

Under the New Covenant we no longer have such detailed regulations since in Acts 10 God declares all food clean. Yet this greater freedom in Christ doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think about the things we are eating. In the New Covenant we are told that everything we do should be done in Jesus’ name and for the glory of God.

Therefore, though we have freedom to eat anything, we should always, with all of life, be asking God whether this is what he wants us to do. We can glorify God by eating at Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Food and Thought or Jimmy P’s but we should invite God into all of our decisions and actions. God is concerned about the minutiae of life so we should be as well.

Everything we do should be done through the power of the Spirit and for the glory of God. This is part of the reason that a pattern of praying before a meal is such a great practice. It reminds us that something as simple as eating a meal is still connected to the grace of God and his work in our lives. So let us do everything with intentionality and consider how God speaks into every aspect of our lives, even the food we eat.

Question of the day: What is one step you can take today to bring God into the minute details of your life?

God, my Father, help me to do everything for your glory. I thank you for the freedom I have in Christ but help me not to use this freedom to excuse laziness or lack of intentionality. Help me to bring you into every part of my life and seek to honor you in everything I do today. May I not pursue my own pleasure, entertainment or gain, but your glory. Amen.

Derek Newbery

February 20, 2020

Leviticus 9:7-10:20; Mark 4:26-5:20; Psalm 37:30-40; Proverbs 10:6-7

Someone has defined anxiety as a small trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. At times the trickle becomes a tidal wave that leaves our minds muddled and confused--and far from God.

In our reading today the disciples find themselves on the Sea of Galilee in a furious squall. In the darkness of night water is sweeping over their boat.  

This body of water is wrapped with low mountains that can funnel wind into sudden, unpredictable, violent turbulence--creating waves as high as 20 feet. Sailors lost their lives there with a grim regularity.  

There are now two gales raging. One is on the lake. The other in the hearts of the disciples.  

But in the boat with them is the One who created the lake, and the planet that holds the lake, and the universe that holds the planet. The answer to the disciples’ question “Don’t you care if we drown?” is an absolute Yes. The God of infinite power knows us and loves us--and calls us to trust him. Even in the most frightening of storms.

Question of the day: What would it mean to trust God with your greatest area of anxiety and stress?

Father, help me to consciously give you my anxiety today and rest in your ability to fully meet my need. I pray in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.

Jim Nite

February 19, 2020

Leviticus 7:28-9:6; Mark 3:31-4:25; Psalm 37:12-29; Proverbs 10:5 

What would you be willing to sacrifice for a family member in need? Would you be willing to hop on a plane, stay up all night, take off a day of work, or drive through the night to assist a family member? If you are willing to do that for a family member, would you be willing to do that for someone at the church?

Jesus redefines the concept of family in Mark 3:31-35. He points to his disciples and declares them to be “my mother and my brothers!” Family is a powerful foundation of civilization and culture. We have all been shaped by the families that raised us, whether for positive or negative. Further, we have a plethora of commands for the way we are to treat our family throughout Scripture.

Yet here Jesus wants us to think of the church as our family. We are to sacrifice, love, know, and invest in those in the church. Further, we are to make a commitment to the church. This is the power of church membership. It is making a commitment to the church as our family and the place where we are going to grow spiritually alongside of others. Have you made this commitment at Center Point? Have you gone through Starting Point, have you joined a connection group and have you become a member?

It is an oxymoron to consider yourself a Christian and not be committed to a church. Let us consider the church our family and in doing so love those who are in it well. It doesn’t mean the relationships will always be easy, natural, or without strains or conflict but it does mean that if the church is our family we won’t give up on it.

Question of the day: Who can you reach out to today at the church and show your love as family?

God, my Father, I thank you that I am part of your family, the church. Help me to see the church as my family and in doing so love those who are in it with intentionality and effort. Help me to not give up on strained relationships but instead be willing to work through conflict. Help me to value relationships and constantly seek to know and love those who you have placed in my life. Thank you, that you are my Father and that you will never leave, abandon, or forsake me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

February 18, 2020

Leviticus 6:1-7:27; Mark 3:7-30; Psalm 37:1-11; Proverbs 1:3-4

Envy. It is like a poison that can infect the way we view everything we have and all of our experiences. Living in Naples it will always seem like someone has better stuff, more exciting vacations or significantly more money stocked away for retirement. How should we respond to the envy which we all have?

Psalm 37 provides us with a great template for how to respond. The first step in this psalm is to trust God. We have to trust him rather than complaining about our circumstances. The fuel for trusting God is learning to delight in him and recognizing that in him is something greater than anything this world can offer. If we have God, we have enough.

We also need to take an eternal perspective. Verses 5-6 challenge us to look beyond the immediate and into eternity. Taking this view of life allows us to have patience. We can know that even if our present circumstances are not what we would hope them to be, we have eternity waiting for us. Therefore, let us learn to trust God in the midst of difficulty and look to eternity, for in these habits we will find fuel to not give in to envy but rather learn to embrace a radical contentment in God.

Question of the day: What causes envy to rise in your heart?

God, my Father, I thank you that every good thing I have comes from you. Help me to praise you for what I have instead of being envious of what others have. Help me to trust you and know that you are always working in the midst of my life. May I trust you with today, tomorrow and eternity. Help to me to see not what is seen but what is unseen and in doing so see what is eternal and not temporary. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 17, 2020

Leviticus 4:1-5:19; Mark 2:13-3:6; Psalm 36:1-12; Proverbs 10:1-2

For those of you that are doing a 1 Year Bible reading plan for the first time this is about the time that most people sputter in their commitment. We have reached the book of Leviticus, and with it, a myriad of God’s commands for the nation of Israel. These commands often seem so remote and disconnected from our lives that we may question why we are even reading it.

However, when we look deeper, what on the surface may seem completely irrelevant to us can become a powerful shadow that points us to the clearer reality that is Christ. Notice the language that is found in Leviticus 4-5: sins, guilt, atonement, offering, blood and sacrifice. All of these same words are used of the work of Jesus in the New Testament. The Israelites participated in a sacrificial system that was always meant to point them to a greater sacrifice and greater atonement that was to come.

As we read about these bloody sacrifices in Leviticus it reminds us of the extent of our sin and the extent of God’s grace in atoning (i.e. covering our sin). Notice the contrast between humanity and God that is described in Psalm 36. It is only through the grace and work of God that the bridge between a righteous God and sinful humanity can occur. So as we read through the Old Testament let it illuminate the work of Jesus. What may seem dry and distant can become something powerful and personal. Take the time to meditate on all of God’s word and ask God how he wants to use all of the text in your life.

Question of the day: How does the Old Testament sacrificial system show how grievous our sin is and how great God's grace is?

God, my Father, thank you for all of Scripture since all of it points to you. Thank you for your grace and the beautiful work of Christ which makes me righteous and allows me to approach you. May you make your word come to life in me and change me. Help me not to be just a hearer of the word but a doer also. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 16, 2020

Leviticus 1:1-3:17; Mark 1:29-2:12; Psalm 35:17-28; Proverbs 9: 13-18

We have been introduced to a number of characters in our reading through the Proverbs which makes the book come alive. These caricatures show us what certain traits, if taken to the nth degree, would lead to. The main examples of these are the wise, the fool, and the simple.

In our reading today we are introduced to another character which is the woman folly. This individual shows us what a continual rejection of God's word and work will lead to. This woman lives an undisciplined life (not conformed to the character of God) and also seeks others to join her. She tries to make sin look enticing so that people will join her in her deeds. Yet all that is at the end of her life is death. Further, those who accept her invitation and join her in folly will also find themselves on the road to death.

In contrast to woman folly is woman wisdom who is mentioned throughout Proverbs. She is the epitome of those who hear God's word, embrace it, and apply it to their lives. These people will experience life now and forever. In between folly and wisdom are those who Proverbs calls the simple. These are the undecided who have not given themselves to one path or the other, and thus are easily misled.

Which type of person are you? Are there parts of your life where you represent folly or simple mindedness rather than wisdom? Choose to embrace the path of wisdom and the life which that path will lead you down.

Question of the day: What area of your life is marked by folly or the attitude of the simple rather than wisdom?

God, my Father, thank you that you have made your wisdom available to me through your Word and through your Spirit. Help me to walk in wisdom, to acknowledge my folly and to turn from simple mindedness. Help me to live out of the life that is available through Jesus and your Spirit. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 15, 2020

Exodus 39:1-40:38; Mark 1:1-28; Psalm 35:1-16; Proverbs 9:11-12

“The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses (39:32).” It has been a rocky road, but the Israelites are finally obeying the Lord in every tiny detail. The phrase “as the Lord commanded” is repeated over and over again. We see it 17 times in our passage! God requires obedience from Israel, and He requires obedience from us.

In our New Testament passage, John was sent to prepare the way for the Lord, and he responds in obedience. Jesus was obedient to the Spirit when he was sent out into the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus calls his disciples to “come, follow me” (vs 17) and “at once they left their nets and followed him” (vs 18). These are all encouraging examples of obedience!

I was on the team that recently returned from Taiwan, where we met with missionaries to Asia. We heard story after story of people who have responded in obedience to what God has called them to do (live out the Great Commission), oftentimes in very difficult situations. They obey God when they don’t see great results. They obey God when they are discouraged. They obey God as they live in fear for their family and friends who could be kicked out of the country at any point. It is very challenging to see their obedience in the midst of such difficult circumstances. They are truly modeling their faith after the ultimate example of obedience, Jesus Christ.

Question of the day: God speaks to us through Scripture. Are you obedient to follow His Word? What things keep you from obedience?

God, our Father, thank you for your Word. Help me to know it and obey it. Grant me courage and strength to obey your commands when it is difficult. Thank you for the example of Jesus, whose obedience has granted me eternal life. Amen.

Sarah Naples

February 14, 2020

Exodus 37:1-38:31; Matthew 28:1-20; Psalm 34:11-22; Proverbs 9:9-10

Jesus died and rose from the dead to provide us with redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness among many other things but these things are not meant to just transform us but to be a message that we share with others. This message of proclaiming Jesus to others is something that Jesus repeats again and again during his post resurrection appearances. We see the message here in Matthew 28 (along with the other Gospels) and also in Acts 1. This message is given by Jesus in Galilee (northern Israel) and in Jerusalem.

The command in this great commission is to "go". The disciples must go and we also need to heed the command. We cannot stay to ourselves and fulfill who Jesus has called us to be. No, we must go out into our neighborhoods, work places, cities, states, countries, and the world proclaiming who Christ is and what he has done. Jesus’ concern is not just for us to proclaim Christ but to make disciples. Jesus describes this process as baptizing people, and teaching them to be obedient to God’s commands. This work of discipleship is one of the primary reasons that Jesus doesn’t just save us and immediately take us to Him. He has chosen to use us to make him known to the world so it is up to us to “go.”

Question of the day: What are the fears which are keeping you from going and proclaiming Christ?

God, my Father, thank you that I have found salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Help me not to keep this message to myself but to share it with others. Today, open my eyes to those who need to hear of Christ and what he has done for them. As I see these people, help me to boldly and lovingly share Christ with them. Give me the courage to “go” and be faithful to what you have called me to do. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 13, 2020

Exodus 35:10-36:38; Matthew 27:32-66; Psalm 34:1-10; Proverbs 9:7-8

Our reading out of Matthew today focuses on the death of Jesus. Notice all that he suffered for us. He endured mocking by the soldiers, crowds, those next to him on the cross and the religious leaders. He endured physical pain as the nails pierced his skin and every breath became more and more painful. He endured relational pain as he felt forsaken by his Father. He cried out as he felt the sensation of being forsaken by the Father. This is a part of the crucifixion which we may overlook because it is the part that is most foreign to us. Jesus is a distinct person from the Father but they, together with the Holy Spirit, are one God. They are still one in the midst of the crucifixion and yet somehow as Jesus is taking our sins upon himself he suffers the sensation of being forsaken. This phrase comes out of Psalm 22 which speaks of suffering but also victory. Jesus is using the words of the psalmist to express the relational pain that he is experiencing but maybe also with one eye on the future victory that was going to come. Finally, he endured death. The eternal one died. He did all of this for us so that through his death we could find life and that through being forsaken by the Father we could be reconciled to Him.

As we understand what Christ has done for us it calls for us to live transformed. One way this transformation reveals itself is through service. As we read through Exodus 35-36 we see the people of God responding with radical service. They all give generously toward the construction of the Tabernacle to the point where Moses has to tell them to stop giving. They serve through giving material things but also in giving their skills. Those with skills in construction helped to construct the tabernacle, those with skills to spin spun yarn and others designed, embroidered etc. As we think about this reading we must ask whether we have acknowledged the death of Jesus for us? Then we must ask ourselves whether we are serving in a way that reflects what Christ has done. If you are not serving, where can you start? Can you start serving your neighborhood, the church, our community? Start somewhere!

Question of the day: What is the connection between Jesus' death and our service?

God, my Father, thank you for the sacrifice of your Son. Thank you that his death means that I don't have to face eternal death and thank you that in him taking my sin I can be declared righteous. Help me to live in a way that reflects what he has done for me. Help me to live a life of service, making life about you and others, and not about me. Help me to know where to serve regularly so I can get in the habit of serving. Amen.

Derek Newbery

February 12, 2020

Exodus 34:1-35:9; Matthew 27:15-31; Psalm 33:12-22; Proverbs 9:1-6 

Our faith and confidence is ultimately grounded in the character of God. Our trust is not based in our ability to be faithful but rather on the fact that God is never changing, always present, and always faithful. God is described as "the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness..." What a powerful revelation that God gave to Moses and through him to us. We can always rely on God's compassion because it is never ending. We can rely on his grace because it never runs out. We can rely on his love because it is abounding and his faithfulness because it is overflowing. These are the aspects of God's character that we need to stop and praise him for. These attributes of God remind us that we never have to worry about God failing us because he cannot.

We also see in this section of Exodus that God is described as "slow to anger" and "he does not leave the guilty unpunished." Also, in Exodus 34:14, he is described as a "jealous God." These attributes, like all of them, are also worthy of giving praise to God. God's heart is always responding to injustice and because of this he will make the world right. Everything will be healed when Christ returns because this is God's character. We may be prone to only focus on a few attributes of God that we find comforting but it is ultimately all of them that makes God who he is and every facet of his character is worthy of praise.

Question of the day: How does God's unchanging nature give you encouragement today?

God, my Father, help me to see you for who you are. I am prone to see you for only who I want to see you as and not who you truly are. Help me to see you clearly and respond appropriately to you. I thank you that you love me and at that same time thank you that you hate the sin and brokenness in me and in the world. Help me to have a heart that reflects your character and makes you known to the world. Amen.

Derek Newbery

February 11, 2020

Exodus 32:1-33:23; Matthew 26:69-27:14;Psalm 33:1-11; Proberbs 8:33-36

How quickly we can turn away from God. We may be tempted to turn away from God for intellectual, emotional, moral reasons, or even apathy. Our turning away can look like the Israelites who chose to value something else over God. Or our turning away can look like Peter who denied even knowing Jesus. Or our turning away can look like living as practical atheists who would acknowledge Christ as savior and Lord but live in our own strength and as if we were in charge. As we consider what might cause us to drift away from God or what is currently causing us to worship something else, we can learn some principles from Israel and Paul. Israel seemed to look to Moses more than God. Notice Exodus 32:1 makes a contrast between the people asking for Moses and new gods that Aaron might make for them. The contrast is not between God who delivered them from Egypt but rather Moses. They focused too much on earthly spiritual leaders rather than God. Then when those religious leaders failed them they felt like God had failed them as well. It is crucial that we learn to put our trust in God who is always faithful, never failing, always seeking our best rather than people who are sinful and finite. People will fail us but God never will.

As we look at Peter we see the value of community in helping us remain in Christ. Peter was all alone surrounded by a hostile or at least what he perceived to be a hostile group of people. He quickly denied Christ and like the Israelites distanced himself from God. Though people will fail us and make poor idols, we desperately need them to encourage us, sharpen us, and point us to Jesus. This is why Hebrews 10:25 tells us to not give up meeting together and to encourage each other daily. We must make prayer, meditation, Scripture and daily time with God a priority so that we can remind ourselves who is God and that we, others and anything else is not. This is the great value of working through the 1 Year Bible, in that it provides us with a daily opportunity to remind ourselves of God, his greatness and our need for him. Keep it up. Your future self, your friends and family will thank you.

Question of the day: Are there any areas of life that you see yourself turning away from God?

God, my Father, help me to continue to prioritize and worship you over everything else. Nothing can satisfy me like you. I am constantly tempted to turn to other things and put them where only you should be. Help me to daily remind myself that you are God and nothing else takes your place. Help me further to live for you and your glory today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

February 10, 2020

Exodus 30:11-31:18; Matthew 26:47-68; Psalm 32:1-11; Proverbs 8:27-32

One of our past sermon series was entitled “The Gift of Work.”  If work is a gift, you may hope that someone saved the receipt. This is a gift you’d like to return.

And yet in our reading today God has Moses appoint Bezalel to head up the team that will construct the Tabernacle (the elaborate tent used for worship), as well as the furniture, implements, and clothing that would be used by the priests. God explained that he had “filled [Bezalel] with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge, and with all kinds of skills.”

Work is a good thing. Although sin introduced pain and sweat into our workday, work was part of life before the Fall. Work gives credibility to our witness, is an expression of our gifts and creativity, allows us to show love for others in tangible ways, and is an extension of what God is doing in the world. For example, God answers the request for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer through farmers, bakers, truck drivers, and supermarket employees. 

Of the 52 parables Jesus told, one count puts 45 of them in a workplace context. God is very much concerned with our work. Work is a present to be opened … handled wisely … appreciated … celebrated. It is a good gift.  

Question: How could your work today demonstrate your love for the Savior?

Lord Jesus, thank you for my job.  Help me to be fully engaged in the workplace where you have called me to serve You as I serve others.  Help me to do my work with excellence, integrity, and contentment.  In your name I pray. Amen

Jim Nite

February 9, 2020

Exodus 29:1-30:10; Matthew 26:14-46; Psalm 31:19-24; Proverbs 8:14-26

When I read about the Old Covenant practices I inevitably start to feel tired. Before Jesus enacted the New Covenant the work was never done. Notice what Exodus 29:38 says, “This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old.” Every day, spring, summer, fall, winter, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday two sacrifices had to be made. Every single day prior to Jesus the law demanded two lambs being offered. Two lambs were the minimum and on various feast days the amount was even higher. The work was never done because sin was never covered over and ultimately dealt with. This is radically different than what Jesus did. When Jesus was on the cross he declared that it was finished. There was no need for future sacrifices because Jesus had covered over our sins (i.e. provided atonement).

The Book of Hebrews spends the vast majority of its time arguing for this very thing. It wants us to understand the superiority of Jesus over everything and everyone who came before him. The Old Covenant was simply a shadow of the ultimate reality which is found in Jesus. The two covenants are similar since they involved sacrifices with blood and death. Yet they are vastly dissimilar because the new covenant involves the death, not of animals, but of the eternal Son of God. It involves not a minimum of a twice daily sacrifice, but rather a once for all sacrifice of Jesus. As we reflect on the greatness and grandeur of the New Covenant and the work of Jesus we should be drawn to gratitude and awe for the finished work of Jesus. Therefore, let us respond by living with generosity and grace towards others as a picture of the grace and generosity which we have received.

Question of the day: What is one way you can respond to the finished work of Jesus today?

God, my Father, I thank you that the work of Jesus is complete. I thank you that I don’t have to earn my salvation but can be declared acceptable in your eyes through the finished work of Jesus. May I rest in the peace, freedom and salvation which I have received in Jesus. Help me to respond today by mirroring your grace towards others. May I not keep this gift of salvation to myself but share it with others that I interact with today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 8, 2020

Exodus 28:1-43; Matthew 25:31-26:13; Psalm 31:9-18; Proverbs 8:12-13

When we think of priests we may think of distant practices in the Old Testament or the Catholic Church but the reality is that if you are a Christian you are a priest. This is made clear by Peter in 1 Peter 2:9 when he says that the church is a “royal priesthood.” So the question becomes what does it mean for us to be priests. In the Old Testament, a priest offered sacrifices for the nation, entering into the Holy of Holies once a year (if you were the High Priest) and generally functioning as an intermediary between God and the nation. Though we don’t fulfill the first of these two roles under Jesus, we are still called to function in some sense as an intermediary between God and people.

One of the most critical ways we can fulfill this role is through prayer. As priests we can be praying both for those within the church and those who are far from God. I currently have a list of members at the church that I try to pray through. This is a simple way to take people to God. Another way is through encouragement or evangelism. By verbally reminding people of God or sharing the good news of Jesus with them, we function as priests. The question is not whether we are priests (if you are a Christian) but whether your life reflects that reality. Are you sharing your faith, are you encouraging believers, are you praying for others? In all of these ways we can be the people who God has saved us to be.

Question of the day: Who has God placed in your life that you can share Christ with?

God, my Father, thank you for who you have made me. I thank you that part of being a new creation is serving as your priest. Help me to remember who I am in you and to live in accordance with my identity. Give me eyes to see those today who I can encourage through action or words. Also, give me eyes to see those who don’t know you who need the hope and life you offer. Also, thank you for Jesus who is my High Priest and makes a relationship with you possible. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 7, 2020

Exodus 26:1-27:21; Matthew 25:1-30: Psalm 31:1-8; Proverbs 8:1-11 

One of the primary messages that Jesus spoke of during his earthly ministry was that of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus came to bring about God’s rule on earth. At minimum a kingdom involves a people, a land, and a ruler. Jesus came to declare himself as the ruler over all. He is the king over the earth, its people, and all creation. The land is the earth and the people are ultimately the church. Yet the kingdom Jesus enacted in his first coming is only partial--it is already here but not yet fully. Many of Jesus’ parables like those we read today describe when the kingdom will come in its fullness. This will happen at Jesus’ second coming. This second coming is an absolute certainty but something that we still wait for.

Jesus’ parables in Matthew 25 describe two ways we should live in light of this full enactment of the kingdom. The first is that we are to be those who are waiting expectantly and ready for his return. We should not live with his return in doubt or as something without significance but rather as those who are ready to enter the kingdom at his return. Secondly, we are to be those who are good stewards in light of his return. We all have been given gifts, talents, grace and possessions that we are called to use now for God’s glory. The way that we steward what we have now will be directly connected to our positions in the kingdom in eternity. Therefore, we must have a faith that changes the way to live today. It is not enough to just know that Jesus is coming but we are to be those who live in light of that coming.

Question of the day: How would living in light of Jesus' return transform your day?

God, my Father, I thank you that Jesus is coming one day to fully enact your kingdom. I confess that it is sometimes hard to believe this and even harder to allow this reality to change my life on a daily basis. Help me to live for eternity rather than for the temporal, and help me to live for you rather than myself. I pray that today I would remember your kingdom and live in a way that reflects the values of your kingdom and your rule over everything including me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

February 6, 2020

Exodus 23:14-25:40; Matthew 24:29-51; Psalm 30:1-12; Proverbs 7:24-27

As we have seen again and again through our reading, worship is a primary theme in the Bible. Our reading out of Exodus today is concerned with God setting up a worship structure for the nation of Israel. Prior to the Mosaic Law, Israel could offer sacrifices anywhere and it was acceptable to God. As God sets up this new law, they will be offering sacrifices at the tabernacle and eventually at the temple. Through Jesus we are no longer commanded to offer animal sacrifices but rather can worship God everywhere through our lips and lives. The English word worship is thought to come from the old English term worth ship. It comes from the idea of declaring the worth of an object above everything else.

The question we must answer is what do we believe to be of greatest worth? One of the things our culture, along with probably every other culture in human history, thinks may be of greatest worth is sex. Proverbs 7 is an extended warning about the consequences of valuing sex above obedience to God, i.e. worshiping sex and pleasure over God. In yesterday's reading, sex outside of marriage was compared to an animal wandering into a trap. Today it is described as walking down a "highway to the grave." If we value something above God, and thus worship it, there will always be consequences. In worshiping God, we will find peace, hope and freedom; if we worship something else it will always lead to chaos, bondage and ultimately death. Therefore, let us seek hearts, minds and lives that continually choose to worship God, and him alone.

Question of the day: What would an observer of your life determine is of greatest worth to you?

God, my Father, help me to value you above all else. Help me to recognize and live out of the fact that you alone can provide life. May I be able to see the futility of all that the world offers in comparison to what you have. I confess that I am drawn to the petty pleasures of this world and tempted to value things above you, but help me to overcome the world, my flesh and sin in order to worship you alone. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 5, 2020

Exodus 21:22-23:13; Matthew 24:1-28; Psalm 29:1-11; Proverbs 7:6-23

Most of us will choose the path of least resistance when given options. If given the option between riding a gondola to the top of the mountain or hiking, sign me up for the gondola. If I can choose to run or bike a mile, I will definitely choose the bike. I normally want the path that is easiest. 

Notice as Jesus describes the future in Matthew 24, that it is not the easy path. Jesus describes wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution and death. None of these fit into our ideal life. Yet Jesus says that those who persevere through these obstacles "will be saved." 

We must decide whether our perception of an ideal life is worth more than following Jesus. If we give our lives to Jesus, then we are called to follow him wherever that takes us. On the other hand, if we want to be in control of our own lives, we need to be honest that we are not ready to give control over to God. We can only serve one master, either Jesus or ourselves. Let us decide today who we will choose.

Question of the day: Why is Jesus worth following even if it makes life harder?

God, my Father, thank you for saving me. Thank you for the life you offer now and the eternal life which is made available through your Son. Thank you that I can rest in what Christ has done even in the face of hardship, sin and suffering. Help me to hold on to you and never let go no matter what I face. Amen.

Derek Newbery

February 4, 2020

Exodus 19:16-21:21; Matthew 23:13-39; Psalm 28:1-9; Proverbs 7:1-5

Often when we read the Old Testament, we see it as a system of rules and regulations in contrast to the New Testament which is about grace and faith. The reality is this caricature is totally wrong. Salvation has always been by grace through faith. No one has ever been able to merit a relationship with God through religious activity (whether church attendance or animal sacrifices). Notice how the 10 commandments begin in our reading today. They start with an acknowledgement of what God has done on behalf of Israel. They start with God’s initiation of a relationship with Israel (i.e. grace). Since Israel has experienced this grace, they are called to respond to God’s initiative with lives lived in accord with his character. This is the same thing that should be true in our lives as well. We first need to acknowledge what God has already done for us in sending his Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. When we acknowledge this through confessing our sin and proclaiming Christ as our Savior and Lord, then we enter into God’s family, and as a response to God's transforming work in our lives we should live differently. The new way that Israel was to live was marked first by a new relationship with God and secondly by a new relationship with others. This is the way that the Ten Commandments are often broken down. There is a vertical component toward God and a horizontal component toward other people. If we have experienced God’s grace, had our sins forgiven, been adopted into God’s family and received his Spirit, then all our relationships should be changed. We live differently because God in his grace has made us different people not to merit his love or grace.

Question of the day: Why do we often think we have to earn God's love rather than having already received it?

God, my Father, I thank you for your grace. I could never earn your love or attain perfection, so I thank you that through Jesus you freely give me your grace and adopt me into your family. Having experienced this grace help me to then respond with a new way of living. Help me to love you and love others and live in a way that is a blessing. May I live for your glory and the good of others. Empower me through your Spirit to live differently today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

 

February 3, 2020

Exodus 17:8-19:15; Matthew 22:34-23:12; Psalm 27:7-14; Proverbs 6:27-35

We once again see the need for community in the lives of God’s people. In Exodus 17 the result of the battle is strangely dependent on Moses being able to keep his arms in the air. Despite the lives of Israel being dependent on his arm strength, he quickly runs out of stamina. If you want to experience what Moses felt, feel free to grab a mop or a broom and see how long you can hold it over your head with your arms outstretched. It is not easy. Yet the war is not a defeat because Moses has surrounded himself with others who can help him in times of need. These ‘friends’ are able to come alongside him in his weakness and provide the strength he does not have on his own. This is what community does. Do you have those types of people in your life? If not, sign up for a Connection Group. If you are going through difficulty and need someone to talk to, then sign up for a Stephen Minister. Whatever you choose to do, God’s plan does not involve us trying to live on our own.

As the story of the nation of Israel continues, we see Moses trying to do it alone. He thinks that he has to hear every issue that comes up among the people but his father-in-law quickly realizes that he is only going to burn out. In his position of leadership (like his position of ‘upholding arms’) he needs to find other people to help him. Moses is able to recognize his need for community and sets up a chain of command so that others can function as judges.  From Genesis 1 to Exodus 17 to Revelation (eventually we’ll get there) we continue to see God’s design for community in our lives. We desperately need Christ centered relationships to help us mature, thrive, and be the people God called us to be.  I hope you are taking steps to make that happen in your life.

Question of the day: When have you experienced someone 'holding up your arms' in a difficult time?

God, my Father, I thank you that I am in community with you through the work of your Son and the ministry of your Spirit. I also thank you for the people you have placed in my life to encourage me. Help me not to think that I can live the abundant life without those relationships. Give me humility to acknowledge my need for others and also to serve them. May your Spirit also convict me of others who I need to reach out to that are not yet in your family. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 2, 2020

Exodus 15:19-17:7; Matthew 22:1-33; Psalm 27:1-6; Proverbs 6:20-26

The previous two days we have looked at the need to make praise a scheduled and spontaneous part of our lives. In our reading today we see what happens when we fail to do this. The Israelites have just come from experiencing God’s deliverance through the parting of the Red Sea but soon find themselves grumbling against God. Grumbling seems to be the antithesis of praise. It is a fixation on the things which we don’t have or the things we want removed from our lives rather than an attitude of thanks/praise for the good things we have. The Israelites function as a warning against us that grumbling can easily become a toxin that penetrates to the depth of our souls. I can see this in my kids. If one of them starts to complain about what we are having for dinner it is as if this complaining becomes a contagious virus that soon infects all the kids. In the same way, if we find ourselves walking down the path of grumbling it will become more and more a part of our lives and also be picked up by those around us. In contrast, we can focus on God’s continual grace in our lives and live in the path of hope, joy and peace.

Jesus speaks to this same idea in Matthew 22. In this parable about the wedding banquet we see most of the guests becoming consumed by the regular tasks of life and thus unable to see the grandeur of the wedding feast. Therefore, they excuse themselves from participating. Their behavior culminates in mistreating and killing the messengers of the king. Their ‘grumbling’ reaches a point where they not only want to have nothing to do with the king but rather want him completely removed from their lives. This can easily be the path that we find ourselves on if grumbling rather than praise becomes the norm of our lives. Therefore, let us stop and praise God for the myriad of ways which he is worthy of being praised.

Question of the day: What area of your life do you need to transform from grumbling to praise?

God, my Father, I praise you. I acknowledge that you are greater than anything else I could live for or praise. I praise you for salvation, grace, a roof over my head, food on my table, family, and friends. I acknowledge that all the good things in my life are a gift from you, so I praise you for them all. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

February 1, 2020

Exodus 13:17-15:18;Matthew 21:23-46; Psalm 26:1-12; Proverbs 6:16-19 

Yesterday we read about God's command that Israel stop and recognize his power, greatness and salvation once a year. This was an ordinance for the nation of Israel to remember what God had done. It was a regularly scheduled opportunity of remembrance and praise. In today's reading in Exodus we see not mandated praise but spontaneous praise. When God delivered his people from the army of Egypt, Moses and the Israelites stopped to sing a song of praise. If we, like the Israelites, have eyes to see God's continual grace in our lives, we should have hearts which overflow in gratitude and praise. Notice the various things Moses and Israel praise God for in Exodus 15. They praise him for being highly exalted, his strength, salvation, justice, holiness, glory, love, leadership, and kingship. They praise God for all the different ways he has intervened in their lives. The Psalms provide a great songbook to teach us many of the things we can praise God for. In today's psalm (Psalm 26) David praises God for his love, glory, redemption, and mercy. We should find never ending reasons to praise God if we are aware of all the ways that he is at work in and around us. So let us follow the pattern of Israel by having regularly scheduled times of praise (Sunday mornings, individual times of prayer and Scripture reading) but also continual praise which 'interrupts' our mundane lives to take us to the throne of God.

Question of the day: What have you seen God do recently that you can stop now and praise Him for?

God, my Father, I praise you. Words cannot do justice to all the ways that you are at work in me. I thank you for one more day to live, one more breath to take, and one more opportunity to enjoy your beauty. Help me to acknowledge your constant grace in my life and give you the praise, thanks, and gratitude that you deserve. Amen.

Derek Newbery

January 31, 2020

Exodus 12:14-13:16; Matthew 20:29-21:22; Psalm 25:16-22; Proverbs 6:12-15

God commanded Israel to remember. He didn’t want them to forget what he was going to do at the Passover so he commanded them to make this a continual celebration for the nation. Israel then celebrated annually for over a thousand years what God had done in delivering them from bondage in Egypt. It was only when Jesus revealed that the fulfillment of the Passover came through his death that the people of God stopped celebrating this Passover and instead celebrated the new ‘Passover’ through communion. Participating in communion now becomes the church’s act of remembering God's release of us from spiritual bondage.

It is far too easy to take for granted all of the ways we have experienced God's grace. With this in mind I would encourage you to write down some of the major things which God has done in your life and remember them today. Tell what God has done to friends and family and remember it in your own life so that you can know that God is gracious, powerful and loving. Let us never forget that God is the one who gives us all good things.

Question of the day: What has God done in your life that you can remember and celebrate?

God, my Father, I thank you that you are the source of all good things. I thank you for the salvation that you have given me through Christ. I thank you for a roof over my head and food on my table. May I never stop thanking you because you never stop pouring out your grace upon me. Help me today to remember, to celebrate and to tell others of what you have done. Amen.

Derek Newbery