The One Year Devo

September 24

MARK 1:1; LUKE 1:1-4; JOHN 1:1-18; MATTHEW 1:1-17; LUKE 3:23-38; LUKE 1:5-38

The bridge from the Old to New Testaments comes in the form of genealogies in Luke and Matthew. We may view the New Testament as somehow disconnected from the Old but this is not true, it is the fulfillment of all that we have read so far. And that fulfillment comes in Jesus. He is the distant descendant of Judah and David and is thus able to be the long awaited Messiah. Further, he is the eternal Son of God as John points out and is thus able to do what no human could. He is the Word, the creator of all, the source of life, and the light of the world. As we read about the life of Jesus and its effects for the world over the rest of the year I hope that you will come alive to the surpassing greatness of Jesus over everything else.

Father God, thank you for your Son. Thank you that he is the Messiah, the king and Lord of all. Help me to submit my life before him. Amen.

Question: How would you describe Jesus' greatness to someone who is not his follower?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 23

MALACHI 2:10-4:6; JOEL 1:1-3:21

We wrap up the Old Testament today with Malachi and Joel summarizing what the whole of the Bible is about; God’s desire for us to find life in him but our continual wandering and pursuit of things outside of him (idols).

True life is only found in God but we so often settle for inferior substitutes. Yet God is willing to do anything to get our attention to bring us to him. He sends prophets, locusts (book of Joel), suffering, and ultimately his Son that we might receive the life that he offers by grace through faith. All who come by faith can find this life while the alternative is to reject it and reap judgment. We can experience either the new wine and abundance of God’s kingdom, or experience the desolation and “desert waste” for those who live apart from him.

Father God, help me to seek life in you, and only you. Help me to turn from all other substitutes and in doing so experience all that you have for me. Amen.

Question: How would you summarize what the Old Testament is about in a sentence or two?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 22

NEHEMIAH 12:27-13:6; NEHEMIAH 5:14-19; NEHEMIAH 13:7-31; MALACHI 1:1-2:9

When the walls of Jerusalem were completed Israel had a massive celebration. The party wasn't to celebrate how great they were but to celebrate the greatness and faithfulness of God. The description of Nehemiah 12 describes two separate choirs that walked on top of the walls of the city as they praised God for all that they had seen him do. This day could have been a celebration of the hard work of the Israelites or the sacrifices they had made, but instead it was a time to remember all that God had done. When something great happens in our life, how do we celebrate? Do we point to our own greatness and success, or do we direct attention away from us to God? James tells us that every good gift comes from God and Paul in Colossians tells us that we are to overflow with thankfulness. Every celebration in our lives should point to God. A birthday is a time to celebrate God's faithfulness over the last year, an anniversary should point to God's greater love etc. As we celebrate let us always point to the greatest thing worth celebrating, God himself.

Father God, help me to celebrate and praise you. Thank you for your goodness, grace, mercy, faithfulness, and love. Help me to point others to you. Amen.

Question: How can you use your celebrations to point people to God?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 21

NEHEMIAH 11:1-12:26; 1 CHRONICLES 9:1-34

As the Jewish exiles slowly trickled back into Israel, there was a need for more people to live in Jerusalem. Naturally people would have returned to the cities their families had lived in previously but a certain number either volunteered or were chosen by lot to move into the capital city of Jerusalem. Today it is common to move from where you grew up to pursue education, a job, or even a relationship. This would have been nearly unheard of at this time in history when generation after generation remained in the same locale. Yet there are examples throughout Scripture of people who bravely left their homeland to obey God. Abraham left Ur to move to the Promised Land out of obedience to God. Ruth left her country in order to follow Naomi, and God. The ultimate example though is Jesus. He gave up his eternal place in heaven to take on a body and come to Earth. He did this out of love, grace, and obedience. God may lead us like these exiles, Abraham, Ruth, and Jesus into something new and we need to courageously move forward in a confident faith in what God has in store for us. 

Father God, help me to walk in obedience to you. Help me to trust you, obey you, and follow you wherever you take me. Amen.

Question: What are some of the things that keep you from fully obeying God?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 20

NEHEMIAH 8:13-10:39

It was time to celebrate. A Jewish remnant had returned from Babylonian captivity and the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. Ezra read the Book of the Law to them and they realized it was time to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. They prepared their tents with appropriate branches to recall how their ancestors lived in tents when God brought them from Egypt to the fruitful land he promised. Nehemiah 9:15 says God promised them the land “with uplifted hand” or a formal vow as when one raises a hand to declare the truth. God used this phrase when he promised to bring the Jews into the land (Ex. 6:8). 

Nehemiah 8:17 might lead us to think that the Jews had not celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles since the time of Joshua. Most commentators believe the Feast was regularly observed, but probably not during captivity. The peoples’ “joy was great” at this celebration because the remnant returning from captivity could relate to the excitement of the first Jews coming into the land. 

Their prayer of praise and confession on the last day reviewed the history from the Egyptian exile to their present times. They praised the one Lord, creator of heaven and earth for choosing them and becoming their covenant God. They thanked him for protecting them from the Egyptians at the Red Sea and for his constant visible presence with them in the pillar of cloud and fire. They thanked him for providing “houses filled with all kinds of good things,” wells filled with water, and vineyards abounding with fruit (9:25). They acknowledged their ancestors were stiff-necked, disobedient, and rebellious. Stiff-necked implied a rebellious child resisting the lead of a parent’s hand. They also admitted they put God’s law “behind their backs” which describes an act of brazen disobedience. Yet, through all this, God was “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love” (9:17). Their prayer was full of God’s protection and provisions and their confessions. 

This past week I have tried praying like the remnant prayed: praising him for his character and his bountiful provisions to me and, when contrasting my life to God’s character, confessing how I fall short. I encourage you to try praying like the remnant prayed. 

God, creator of this magnificent and gorgeous earth, massive galaxies of sparkling stars, the endless waves of the sea, how minute I feel. Yet, your compassion and love swallow me up in your abiding peace. Forgive me when my ego takes control of your position in my life. Amen. 

 Join me in praising and confessing like the Jewish remnant. 

Gena Duncan

Posted by Derek Newbery at Tuesday, September 20, 2022

September 19

NEHEMIAH 7:4-8:12

Ezra read the law to the people but it needed to be explained. We are told that the Levites "instructed the people in the Law." They explained and madeclear what was read. This is what we attempt to do at Center Point on Sunday mornings. We are trying to follow in the footsteps of Ezra and the Levites who both read the Scriptures and then helped people to understand it.

This isn't just a role that I am called to as a pastor, it is what all believers as priests are to fulfill. We are all called to communicate clearly the meaning of the Bible. To do this we have to first study and understand it for ourselves, in order that we can share it with others.

Father God, help me to understand your Scriptures and share it with others. Help me to never keep what  you have done in my life to myself but share your glory and goodness with those you place in my life today. Amen.

Question: What are the obstacles for you to understand the Bible and share it with others?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 18

NEHEMIAH 3:1-5:13; NEHEMIAH 6:1-7:3

We often divide our lives into the secular and sacred. We think that certain parts of our lives don't matter to God (leisure, work, etc.) while others are important to him (Bible reading, prayer, evangelism, etc.). As we read about the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem it may seem on the surface that this work is far less significant than the work of Ezra who was teaching the law to the people. We may similarly think that the work of pastors and missionaries are critical but your job as a plumber, teacher, lawyer, fill in the blank, doesn't have quite the same level of significance in God's eyes. The reality is that every job is eternally significant if it is done for God's glory. No matter what our job title or description entails, " whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." God cares about every aspect of our lives, including our work, and we should do it with joy knowing that we are pleasing our Heavenly Father.

Father God, help me to do all things for your glory. Help me to do my work to please you. Amen.

Question: Are there any areas of life that you consider 'secular' and thus not of concern to God? How can you better understand God's heart for every part of your life?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 17

EZRA 9:1-10:44; NEHEMIAH 1:1-2:20

There is no place for racism in the church or in our hearts. This is clear from Scripture, and from God's heart for all nations, and yet at times Christians have tried to find rationalization for racism and prejudice in the Bible. You can especially see this heartbreaking reality in supposed Biblical arguments that were made by the South during the American Civil War.

I would guess that one of the passages that may have been offered up as support for prejudice is the end of Ezra. Ezra condemns the Israelites for intermarrying with neighboring peoples. Is this somehow a command against interracial marriage? The answer is clearly no.

God's concern was always for the spiritual condition of who someone marries and not their ethnicity. This passage condemns the Israelites for marrying people who committed "detestable practices." In the Old Testament God included people in Israel who were not ethnically Jews like Rahab and Ruth (both women in the line of Jesus). So it was never about ethnicity but about hearts for God.

We see this same position in the New Testament when we are told not to be unequally yoked to someone.The person we marry has a powerful influence on us, so we need to make sure that they are someone with a heart for God. If they're not, then we need to continue to pray for them, and remain married to them (see 1 Corinthians 7), but if we're not married then we should not pursue marriage with them. God's heart is for his church to be made up of people from all ethnicities and nations, and for us to speak out against racism in all its forms.

Father God, help me to love all people. Give me your heart for those who look and think differently than me, and use me to communicate your love and hope to everyone. Amen.

Question: How can you ensure that you are intentionally loving all people?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 16

EZRA 4:7-23; EZRA 7:1-8:36

What do you pay attention to more in life, the good stuff or the bad stuff? The fun stuff or the hard stuff? Most of life is filled with a mixture of all these things. The Israelites had been opposed at every moment by those already in the land and were commanded to stop rebuilding the city. This would have been a disappointing series of events to say the least. Yet, at the same time Ezra was coming to Jerusalem. He was coming with money, resources, and most importantly God’s Word. The people could have mourned the commands against the rebuilding or celebrated Ezra and the return of more exiles. If they chose to focus on what God was doing then they would be able to experience joy and hope. In the same way, we need to focus on what God is doing in our lives. We need to be able to see his hand at work and live filled with an attitude of thanksgiving. I encourage my kids all the time to have grateful, thankful hearts-- and we all should be encouraged to have this same mindset.

Father God, help me to rejoice in all that you are doing in and through me. Help me to have eyes to see you at work, and give you the praise that you deserve. Give me a heart to rejoice in your goodness. Amen.

Question: What keeps you from seeing God at work?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 15

ESTHER 5:1-10:3

My daughters love the story of Esther. In their minds Esther is in the pantheon of Disney princesses of the likes of Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, and others. Yet, the story of Esther is about far more than a princess, and in fact is ultimately a story that points us to Jesus. There was a death sentence over the heads of the Jews and only when Esther stepped forward as a righteous mediator/petitioner were the people able to live. Esther risked her life so that her people might be free. In the same way Jesus not only risked his life but gave it up so that he could be the ultimate righteous mediator for his people. Only through his sacrifice could the death sentence which hung over all our heads be removed. As we read the story of Esther, and as we read the whole of the Old Testament, it reminds us of the greatness of Jesus, and that he was able to do for us what no one else could.

Father God, thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus. Thank you that in his death I can find life. Help me to surrender my life to your purposes and be willing to sacrifice myself for others. Amen.

Question: What are all of the ways that the story of Esther points you to the greater story of Jesus?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 14

EZRA 6:14-22; EZRA 4:6; ESTHER 1:1-4:17

Some of us may feel like our lives are just one trial after another. We may feel like we're playing whack-a-mole or trying to plug holes in a dam with our fingers, as we experience hardship after hardship. If you feel like this then you are right at home in the Bible. The Israelites have experienced exile and now face what seems like certain genocide. Haman was given permission by King Xerxes to "destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews." The response of Mordecai to this news is instructive for us. Mordecai mourns and weeps over this and yet is still filled with hope. When he communicates to Esther he tells her, "relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise." He knows that some people may die but that God will not allow all of his people to be destroyed. There are still unfulfilled promises of God, including that of the Messiah, so complete destruction is not a possibility. So Mordecai weeps but he weeps as someone with hope. As we face disturbing news or circumstances in life we also need to cling to the hope that is available in God, and like Esther consider how we need to respond.

Father God, the world is filled with hatred, evil, and sin. As I mourn my brokenness and that in the world, help me to remain hopeful. Help me to find the hope that is available in you regardless of the circumstances of my life. Amen.

Question: What gives you hope regardless of your present circumstances?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 13

ZECHARIAH 9:1-14:21

There are a number of Messianic prophecies in our reading today. Statements that speak to the character and actions of Jesus over five hundred years before he came. First, we are told that he would be a gentle and lowly king coming on the back of a donkey. Second, we are told that he would be pierced by the people. He is both royal and lowly, and both powerful and weak. In Jesus this powerful mystery is made clear when the eternal Son of God took on flesh and came as a servant. Despite his ability to have called down angels to end his crucifixion, he endured suffering and pain for our benefit. Finally, we see a future Messianic prophecy in Zechariah 14 of Christ coming to the Mount of Olives to radically change all of creation and human history. This is who our Jesus is. God himself, come to serve his creation and one day is coming to transform everything.

Father God, thank you for your Son. Thank you that he came to serve me through his perfect life, death, and resurrection. Thank you that he will come back one day to make all things right. While I wait for his return, help me to be about his work. Amen.

Question: How can you reflect Jesus’ character more clearly? 

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 12

ZECHARIAH 6:1-15; EZRA 5:3-6:14; ZECHARIAH 7:1-8:23

We often expect that when we follow God he will lead us down a smooth, straight path without complications or difficulty. The reality is that God often works in surprising ways and uses what we conceive of as distractions and difficulties to accomplish his will. The Israelites began rebuilding the temple but faced consistent opposition for years with the local politicians, eventually petitioning the king to stop their work. Yet this attempt backfired since rather than the work stopping the king ordered these gentile governors to assist in the rebuilding. What seemed like opposition to God's plan was used by him to bring about an easier path to the completion of the temple. God used the sinful plans of the governors to accomplish his will. We may wonder why God allows certain things to happen in our lives and in our world, but we can rest in the comfort that "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." We may not understand the why of what God allows but we can trust his ultimate aims and purposes. 

Father God, may I trust you in the confusion of life, and seek your glory. May your will be done today on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Question: How have you seen God use unexpected events to accomplish his will in your life?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 11

HAGGAI 2:1-9; ZECHARIAH 1:1-6; HAGGAI 2:10-19; EZRA 5:2; HAGGAI 2:20-23; ZECHARIAH 1:7-5:11

How do you respond to something new? Are you filled with excitement, anxiety, concern, joy, or a mix of all those things? Many of the Israelites have returned back to the Promised Land and are resettling. In the midst of this new journey, God speaks. He speaks through Haggai, Zechariah, and others. God's command for his people is to "be strong." He wants them to have confidence and peace in their current situation. They are able to respond this way because: 1) God is with them, 2) God has made a covenant with them, and 3) God's Spirit is with them. God's presence and God's word was to bring them comfort, and should do the same for us. No matter how out of control we may feel like our circumstances or culture is, the same God who was with the Israelites is with us. The same truths that he spoke then, he is speaking today. Therefore, we can approach 'new' things with strength and fearlessness. Everything may seem to be in upheaval, but with God nothing is uncertain or unsure.

Father God, help me to have confidence in you and in what you are doing in my life and the world. Help me to approach each day with the peace and joy that your presence and truth gives. Amen.

Question: How can you better trust God in the face of new things?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 10

DANIEL 10:1-12:13; EZRA 4:24-5:1; HAGGAI 1:1-15

What an incredible passage today.  Daniel is so packed that it can be a challenge to pull out one central idea from each verse let alone a couple of chapters.  

I think it is clear Daniel’s interaction with God in these verses are referring to the ultimate final judgement. You can read 20 different commentaries and get 20 different answers about what much of Daniel is talking about but there are some things we can very clearly take away.

One thing is that people who know God are people of love. The folks that really want to know God resist evil and evil leaders.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a great example of a man who knew God and firmly resisted evil.  He prayed “Give me such love for God and men, as will blot out all hatred and bitterness”. 

Second, ‘the people who know their God will firmly resist [the evil one].  (Daniel 11:32). It continues with “those who keep their heads straight will teach the crowds right from wrong by their example…The testing will refine, cleanse, and purify those who keep their heads on straight and stay true.  (Daniel 11:33,32 msg).  We may find much of Daniel confusing but the call to stay committed to God is absolutely, crystal clear.

Today, thank God for his love, live in His love, overcome fear, stand firm and resist evil.  

Lord, help us to be a people of love who know their God and stand firm, overcome our fears, resist evil, and take action.  

Question: How, in your daily life, have you stood up to evil? 

Billy Weed

Posted by Derek Newbery at Saturday, September 10, 2022

September 9

EZRA 2:1-4:5; 1 CHRONICLES 3:19-24

First things first. This proverbial statement speaks to the issue of priorities. The first thing that we do generally shows what is important to us. Do we check social media accounts first thing in the morning, scan the news, check our emails, read our Bible, or something else? As the Israelites returned from exile one of the first things they did was build an altar and then began work on the temple. This decision wouldn’t have been logical from a military or political standpoint, but spiritually it was essential. The Israelites had to make a new commitment to God since their exile was due to idolatry. They made this rebuilding “despite their fear” of the people around them. Fears have a way of overriding our decision making process but rather than fear of people it was fear and love of God that drove Israel's actions. As we think about the start of our day we may feel like it is essential to check our emails, to plan our business decisions, or see what is happening in the world, but it is far more essential that we prioritize God. If he is not first, then he is not where he needs to be.

Father God, help me to put you first in my life. May you be what I prioritize today, and throughout my life. Amen.

Question: What is the first thing you do each day, and how does this reveal your priorities?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 8

DANIEL 6:1-28; DANIEL 9:1-27; 2 CHRONICLES 36:22-23; EZRA 1:1-11; 1 CHRONICLES 3:17-19

There is a cost to every decision we make. If we decide to do one thing, we are giving up the opportunity to do all of the other things that we might have done. Further, sometimes there is a real cost in making a decision to follow God. Daniel chose to remain obedient in praying to God alone, rather than the king, and the result was being thrown into the lion's den. At the moment the edict went out it may have seemed easier to not pray but the consequences of that disobedience would have been even more severe. Daniel 9 describes the consequence of disobedience for Israel which were exile, shame, disaster, and God's wrath being poured out on them. There may be moments when we feel like the cost of obedience might be too high, but know that the cost of sin is always greater. For, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul? Let us always choose to obey God no matter the immediate consequences because the results of disobedience are always greater.

Father God, help me to choose to remain faithful to you regardless of the consequences or perception of others. Help me to follow you in the easy and difficult times, and thank you that my light and momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. Amen.

Question: Where do you experience the temptation to obey the ways of the world rather than the commands of God?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 7

DANIEL 7:1-8:27; DANIEL 5:1-31

God reveals the future in three ways in our reading today. First, Daniel sees four beasts and it takes the "son of man" (Jesus) to explain that these are four kingdoms and the fourth will include a king that will oppose God and his people but will be overthrown. The second vision is of a ram and a goat. Daniel is told by Gabriel that the vision is of multiple kingdoms that will be overthrown by one "fierce-looking king" who will then oppose the people of God but will ultimately "be destroyed, but not by human power." We will see similar imagery in Revelation. The third event is that of a hand writing four words on the wall of the palace in Babylon. Daniel, through God, interprets the writing as speaking of the end of Babylon's kingdom and its overthrow by the Medes and Persians. All these events required supernatural intervention to understand what they meant. God had to reveal their meaning. The same is true of our own study of the Scriptures. We need God's Spirit to help us understand. He is our guide and counselor, so we need to seek him. As we read, we need to ask God to help us understand, apply, and live out his truths; we can't do this on our own. It is never enough to simply understand a passage, we need the Spirit to give us the power and wisdom to live it out.

Father God, may your Spirit help me to understand and live out your truths today. Whenever I read the Bible may I seek you, and not just the words on a page, and help what I read not just be words, sentences, and paragraphs, but an opportunity to encounter you. Amen.

Question: How consistently do you invite the Holy Spirit to work through your time in the Bible?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 6

EZEKIEL 47:1-48:35; EZEKIEL 29:17-30:19; 2 KINGS 25:27-30; JEREMIAH 52:31-34

The final image of Ezekiel's temple is that of a massive river flowing from the threshold of the temple. The river begins as a trickle but soon becomes so massive that it purifies the Dead Sea. That which was formerly dead becomes alive through the power of this river. This river is meant to remind us that all life ultimately comes from God. When God pours his life into something it doesn't matter how dead it is-- God's power transforms. As this river will transform the Dead Sea, so God's grace and presence transforms our lives. No matter the degree of sin, evil, or wickedness in our lives, God's grace is greater.  Jesus says that he will give living water to all who ask for it. If you have come to faith in Jesus then this water is within you through the Spirit and  you have the type of life giving reality that is described by Ezekiel. Since we have this water we are to walk in holiness and be a life-giving, purifying influence in our world.

Father God, help me to live out of the life I have in Jesus. Help me to walk in freedom, holiness and joy. Amen.

Question: How can you experience more of the life giving reality that Jesus has given to you?

Posted by Derek Newbery

September 5

EZEKIEL 44:1-46:24

We discussed yesterday that the temple which Ezekiel is describing seems to be a still future temple. So the natural question we might ask is why all of the sacrifices? If Christ is the once-for-all sacrifice then why would there still be sacrifices offered in Ezekiel's temple? It may help to consider the chronology of sacrifices throughout the Old Testament. Initially all people could offer sacrifices at all places to God. Then once the Mosaic Covenant was put in place only priests could offer sacrifices and only at the tabernacle, and then the temple. Yet, these sacrifices did not offer atonement by themselves but rather did so looking forward to Christ's sacrifice. Then once Jesus died there was no need for further animal sacrifices since Christ paid it all. If these sacrifices in Ezekiel are still future sacrifices then they must function as remembrance or memorial sacrifices looking back to the sacrifice of Jesus. As Old Testament sacrifices looked forward to Jesus' death on the cross, so these sacrifices may be offered to look back on the sacrifice of Jesus. It seems like a strange idea but, sometimes the Bible is honestly strange. Regardless of what is pictured in these chapters we can trust that Jesus' death completely atones for our sins and there is nothing else we need to do.

Father God, thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus. Help me to remember the price he paid for my sins and respond by living for your glory. Amen.

Question: What habits do you have or can you start to better remember Christ's sacrifice?

Posted by Derek Newbery at Monday, September 5, 2022

September 4

EZEKIEL 40:38-43:27

Unless you are really into architecture you may have found today's reading a tad dry. Since this vision comes immediately after Israel's exile it would be natural to assume this temple must have been that which was built upon Israel's return, but it is not. The size of this temple is described as 875 feet by 875 feet. This is a temple that would dwarf the second temple that was built, so a natural question is to wonder what temple it is. Many people (including me) believe this temple to be a still future one. The book of Revelation speaks of a still future temple which maps perfectly onto this idea of Ezekiel's temple. If these chapters are a promise by God then it is something that will happen. God never fails in his promises and is always faithful to his word, so we should learn to grow in our trust of him.

Father God, thank you that you are faithful to your word. Sometimes I may have to wait awhile but I know that you will come through in the end. Help me to trust you more and more. Amen.

Question: What promises of God do you find hardest to believe? How can you learn to trust him in these areas? 

Posted by Derek Newbery at Sunday, September 4, 2022

September 3

1 CHRONICLES 8:29-9:1; DANIEL 4:1-37; EZEKIEL 40:1-37

Humility. This crucial quality is often missing from our lives and seems to be completely devoid from Nebuchadnezzar's. In order for us to have a relationship with God it demands humility. So God is often willing to work in powerful ways to draw us to him. For Nebuchadnezzar this meant God lowering him to almost animal status so that he might acknowledge God. It took seven years for Nebuchadnezzar to finally acknowledge God's superior greatness over his own. In Daniel 4 he finally sees that God's kingdom is superior and his power is greater. Kings in the ancient near east were almost always deified and after a lifetime of hearing how great, divine, and superior you were it would be hard to acknowledge a greater power. Yet despite not being called a god from birth we might feel this same struggle. We may focus on our own glory, greatness, and purposes, rather than surrendering all to God. Therefore, let us embrace humility so that we might draw near to God rather than being resisted by him (James 4:6). If you want to explore a great resource on humility (besides the Bible) consider reading Humilitas by John Dickson.

Father God,  you are greater than me. Help me to surrender all of my plans and desires before you, so that I might seek your glory rather than my own. May I pursue you and your greatness in all I do. Amen.

Question: What causes pride to well up in your heart? How can you better embrace humility?

September 2

1 CHRONICLES 5:18-26; 1 CHRONICLES 6:3; 1 CHRONICLES 6:49; 1 CHRONICLES 6:4-15; 1 CHRONICLES 7:1-8:28

Unless you are my grandmother, genealogies tend to be tedious especially when it is not your family. Today we read a series of genealogies included because some of them extend to the exile. As we read these I think it teaches us a few important lessons. First, every person matters to God. People like Ibsam, Iri, Aniam, Suah and others are only included here in the Bible. We know nothing about their lives but they are people made in the image of God who matter to him. This is true of every person we walk past that we know nothing about. They matter to God.

Second, we see God's faithfulness. Generation after generation God has been faithful to these families despite their near constant rebellion against him. He withheld his judgment against them for nearly a thousand years because of his grace and mercy. He provided for their needs whether they acknowledged his hand in their lives or not. As we go about our day may we learn to value people like God and acknowledge his faithfulness to us, knowing that every good thing has come from him.

Father God, thank you that you are a faithful God. Help me to rely on you and share your goodness with others today. Amen.

Question: Where do you struggle to value people like God?

Posted by Derek Newbery at Friday, September 2, 2022

September 1

EZEKIEL 32:17-33:20; JEREMIAH 52:28-30; PSALM 137:1-9; 1 CHRONICLES 4:24-5:17

Our world is filled with brokenness. As we look inside our own hearts we discover the same condition. One of the appropriate responses to this is sadness. We find this mentality expressed in Psalm 137. Judah had been exiled to Babylon and the psalmist can only respond with tears. Yet strangely, in the midst of the wailing is joy. The joy may seem like a drop in a bucket but it is still there. The psalmist remembers Jerusalem and has confidence in a God who remembers everything so, even in the midst of the hurting and pain, he clings to the joy of the Lord. Joy doesn't mean absence from sorrow but it does mean the ability to delight and hope in the presence, goodness, and power of our God. That joy may only seem like a single grain of sand but it is worth fighting for.

Father God, I acknowledge the hurt, pain, and sorrow that I experience, but in the midst of it help me to cling to joy. Help me to hold on to your promises, your truth, and most of all you. Amen.

Question: How can you cling to joy through hardship?

Posted by Derek Newbery at Thursday, September 1, 2022

August 31

EZEKIEL 37:1-39:29; EZEKIEL 32:1-16

As we read the Bible it is important that we understand the difference between the meaning of a passage and its application. If you were familiar with anything from the book of Ezekiel, before we started reading it this time, it is possibly you would recognize the image in chapter thirty-seven of dry bones coming to life. This image has found its way into many songs, some that we have even sung at Center Point. Yet, true of any passage, it is important is for us to understand the original meaning and context. Ezekiel's original prophecy spoke of the fact that the dead nation of Israel would be brought back to life. This is clear from verse 11 which says, "these bones are the people of Israel." The passage means nothing more or less than the certainty that God would bring his chosen people back to their land and back to life. Though this passage speaks of Israel, it can have application to us. We can consider how in the same way God brought life to Israel, God can bring life to all people. He can bring us from a state of being dead in our transgressions to people who are alive in Christ. As he did with Israel, so he can do with us, with our neighbors, and with the world. Let's get busy experiencing this life and sharing Christ with those who are still in a state of death.

Father God, thank you for your faithfulness to bring life to Israel and to me. Help me to rest in the eternal life I have and to share the hope I have with others. Amen.

Question: What are possible issues we might have if we seek to apply a passage before understanding its original meaning?

Posted by Derek Newbery at Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August 30

EZEKIEL 34:1-36:38

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

This is probably one of the most memorized verses in the Bible but the theme of God's shepherding extends well beyond that passage. Ezekiel speaks of God as loving, caring, and a concerned shepherd in chapter 34. God meticulously provides for his people and therefore each and every one of us.

This same image is used of Jesus who is our good shepherd. The slot that YHWH fills in the Old Testament as our shepherd is filled by Jesus in the New Testament. One of the reasons we know that Jesus is divine is due to the fact that he does that which only God can do. God the Father and Jesus guide, care for, and shepherd us, and therefore we should seek to follow him into the flourishing where he longs to lead us. We can also be thankful for the earthly shepherds that God has given to us. For our church we can be especially thankful for the faithful, compassionate, shepherding that Jim and Sue have provided for decades. What a gift from God they are.

Father God, thank you that you and your Son are my shepherds. Help me to listen to your voice and follow you. Amen.

Question: How can you be a more attentive sheep to the leading of your Good Shepherd?

Posted by Derek Newbery at Tuesday, August 30, 2022

August 29

JEREMIAH 42:1-44:30; EZEKIEL 33:21-33

How many times have you asked for someone's opinion when you really didn't care what they said because you already had your mind made up? The remnant in Jerusalem claimed that they were willing to do what God told them but when the answer wasn't what they expected they refused to listen. It seems dishonest when we ask for someone's advice and then ignore it, and the height of foolishness when we do that toward God. God always seeks to lead us into the fullness of life-- to decide on our own path is to wander into disaster. That is exactly what happens to the remnant as they flee to Egypt since it seems safer in their mind, when it will only lead them to another defeat. God's plan may seem to not make sense but obedience is always the path of wisdom and life. Therefore, let us have ears to hear what God is saying and respond by doing what he tells us to do.

Father God, help me to obey your word. Help me to hear what you ask of me and to do what you say. Thank you for your truth, wisdom, and insight, and help me to walk in it today. Amen.

Question: How can you better hear what God is saying and gain a greater heart for obedience?

Posted by Derek Newbery at Monday, August 29, 2022

August 28

LAMENTATIONS 5:1-22; OBADIAH 1:1-21; 2 KINGS 25:22-26; JEREMIAH 40:7-41:18

As we saw yesterday, the book of Lamentations is filled with great sorrow and also substantial hope. The exile has happened, the remnant has no leader, and the land is no longer theirs. Yet, in the midst of it all, God is still enthroned and Obadiah speaks of a future return to the land. Hopelessness and despair is never the end of the story with God in control. There is always hope, always joy, and always peace available to his people. These realities are not based on circumstances or our location, but are a gift from the eternal king of the universe. Therefore, we need to remember when things seem out of control that God is still king and still in control.

Father God, thank you that you are king. Thank you that you are in control over me, and over the world. Help me to find the hope and peace that you offer. Amen.

Question: How does God being king provide hope in all situations? 

Posted by Derek Newbery at Sunday, August 28, 2022

August 27

LAMENTATIONS 2:1-4:22

Last school year, my wife shared with my daughter's kindergarten class a feelings chart. It was a series of pictures that could help the kids identify their emotions. The book of Lamentations is Jeremiah giving full vent to his emotions. As he says in 2:11, "My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed." Jeremiah is being honest before God with how he is feeling at the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah. One of the lessons from this book is that we need to take our emotions to God. Jeremiah doesn't keep them to himself or even find people to validate them, he instead goes to the throne of God which gives him a necessary perspective in the midst of the sorrow. "This I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-23)." God handled Jeremiah's emotions and can deal with ours as well, while also helping us to see the hope, joy, and peace which he offers. Be honest with how you are feeling and go to the God who can provide the perspective to see beyond the circumstances of the day.

Father God, help me to run to you in all situations. Help me to not hide from you but instead be completely honest with how I am feeling and what I am thinking. Thank you that you are always with me to comfort and give me hope. Amen.

Question: How well are you in touch with your emotions and how often do you invite God into how you are feeling?

Posted by Derek Newbery at Saturday, August 27, 2022

August 26

JEREMIAH 39:11-18; JEREMIAH 40:1-6; 2 KINGS 25:8-21; JEREMIAH 52:12-27; 2 CHRONICLES 36:15-21; LAMENTATIONS 1:1-22

The destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of nearly the whole nation occurred in 586 BC. For nearly a millennia God had warned his people what would happen if they abandoned him and now the fullness of these consequences has come. A clear, tragic description of what happened is found in 2 Chronicles 36. We are told that God sent word to his people "again and again...but they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord aroused." We see God's perseverance in pursuing his people but their equal perseverance in mocking, despising, and scoffing at him. God calls us to a different response than Judah. Rather than mocking we need to take seriously the whole counsel of God, rather than despising we need to love God's truth, and rather than scoffing we need to delight in his revelation. The exile of Judah is a powerful example of what it looks like when a people rejects and turns from God. May that not be us.

Father God, help me to hear and respond to your word. Help me to walk in humility and obedience to all that you have commanded me. Amen.

Question: Do you see any traces of mocking, despising, and scoffing at God or his word in your life? How can we respond with grace and truth to people who respond to God with mocking, despising and scoffing of God? 

Posted by Derek Newbery at Friday, August 26, 2022