The One Year Devo

Jan 27

Matthew 18:1-20

Greatness in our culture is often marked by celebrity status. The number of people who watch your video or retweet your thoughts becomes a signal of greatness. Jesus’ view is very different. He assigns greatness to the humility of a child; if you want to be great, you must humble yourself. True greatness is in making others great, not in elevating yourself. The specific ways this is evidenced in our reading today is through not looking down on others, confronting sin in ourselves and others, and being willing to forgive. All these attributes were perfectly lived out by Jesus in the way He responded to people. He was always willing to forgive – so much so that he cried, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) as a plea of forgiveness for those who were actively murdering and mocking Him as he laid dying upon the cross. This path of humility is immensely difficult, but it is one of the markers of a renewed spirit in Christ. Let us learn to humble ourselves as Christ did when the King of the Universe put on flesh and was born in a stable for our good. 

Father God, help me to be humble. As I stand before you in prayer, I recognize your greatness and my insufficiency. Help me to be humbled by you and to remain humble before others today. Amen.

Question: How can you take a step towards humility today?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 26

Matthew 17:10-27

What are you willing to do to follow Jesus? After Peter’s misguided attempt to keep Jesus from being crucified, Jesus described what a life of discipleship should look like. A good disciple must: 1) follow Jesus, 2) deny themselves, and 3) take up their cross. If we are going to embark on this path, we must first make the choice to dedicate our lives to following Jesus. To follow means that we will receive and obey the marching orders of our new commander – Jesus Christ. If we follow, we are making the choice to imitate our Lord. Secondly, we must deny ourselves – which means rejecting the impulses and desires of our flesh. We can only have one master, and we don’t make a very good one. Therefore, “denying our flesh” means rejecting our sinful human impulses, and instead following God's commands – which, as we know of God’s goodness, only exist for our good. Finally, we must be willing to embark on the path of self-death, sacrifice, and surrender. To take up our cross becomes the culmination of the first two ideas, since we are willing to go anywhere, even to death, to follow Jesus. This is demonstrated in the Bible, as ten of the twelve disciples were killed for their allegiance to Jesus and their commitment to spreading the Gospel. This path is in complete contradiction to general American values of self-preservation and “me first” attitudes, but bold, fearless faith requires us to develop the  values which Jesus wants to impart in us – His children.

Father God, help me to follow where you lead. Help me to follow you, deny myself, and take up my cross daily. Help me to believe and live out of the fact that life is given by you and not in anything this world can offer.

Question: What will it look like for you to take up your cross this week?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 25

Matthew 16:13-17:9

Curled up on the couch in my college apartment, I was faced with one of the most difficult questions of all: one of my roommates, a nonbeliever, asked “Why does God let bad things happen to good people? If He has a plan, why does He let bad things happen to his ‘beloved’ children?” As a Christian, I have heard this question many times before, and it has been addressed in many sermons over the years. Somehow, this didn’t make answering the question much easier. I closed my eyes and silently prayed – Lord, give me the right words. Before I realized what I was saying, I said, “There is no such thing as a good person aside from Jesus. Jesus was perfect and He was killed in the most brutal way imaginable. Every person, no matter how ‘good’ they may seem, is sinful. Life on Earth is just a blip on the screen of eternity, and no matter how terrible and monumental life can feel now, God’s plan is perfect and more intricate than we can imagine.” As I continued to explain the complex issue of God’s plan for our lives, I was reminded of a passage from today’s reading (Matthew 16:21-23) which reads as follows: 

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Peter, in his concern for Jesus’s wellbeing, spoke against the plan Jesus had laid forth that would lead to His crucifixion. The first time I read this passage, I anticipated that Jesus would respond with something like “Take heart, child. This is the plan that must be done. I will be raised to life again and all will be well.” The reality of the passage was a lot harsher; Jesus sternly replied “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Wasn’t Peter merely concerned for Jesus’s safety? Upon analyzing the sentiment of Jesus’s words, a deeper issue is revealed; as humans, we are unable to fully grasp the will of God. As such, it is arrogant and foolish to assume that we know better. Like Peter, we often rebuke situations that seem as if “bad things are happening to good people.” In reality, it was God’s will that His own perfect and blameless son would be brutally sacrificed for our sins. If that was Jesus’s fate, how can we then speak out against God’s will when it appears unfavorable to us – sinful humans? As followers of Jesus, we need to readjust our attitudes and humble ourselves in the face of God’s perfect will. Let us not question His will, but instead submit in reverence of His goodness. 

Lord, please help me to be more in tune with your will for my life. Help me to submit to your will and humble myself in light of my finite knowledge and your infinite faithfulness. Please remind me that your ways are not my ways, and that your ways are infinitely better. Lord give me your eyes to see your will, and the patience and peace to accept your will when it is not mine to comprehend. I love you, I praise you, and I thank you for your unending provision. Amen. 

Question: Do you struggle with arrogance? Are you placing your own plans above God’s will and/or questioning His motives? How can you practice humility in the face of God’s perfect will? How can you focus yourself on “the concerns of God” rather than human concerns?

Faith Hundley

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 24

Matthew 15:29-16:12

When you are a parent of young children it can feel like you live life on a hamster wheel. You are changing a diaper for the 10,000th time, making lunches for the 5,000th, and going back into their room after they have already been put to bed for the 100th time. In contrast to our grumbling spirit, Jesus responds to the hunger of the crowds a second time with compassion. He doesn't tell them that they should have learned their lesson, He doesn't command them to go away like the disciples wanted Him to, but instead responded in love and by meeting their needs. Why do we get exhausted serving people, especially those who are closest to us? Sometimes it is because we rely on our finite abilities, and other times it is because we flat out love ourselves more than others. We need to believe that true fulfillment comes by pouring out our lives rather than holding on to it. The abundant life is in service and in continually taking this posture in all areas of our life.

Father God, give me a heart to serve. Thank you for sending Jesus to humble Himself and serve on Earth; please help me to follow in his footsteps. May your Spirit empower me, convict me, and lead me into how to serve you and others today. Amen.

Question: When do you find yourself making life about you, and how can you remember that true life comes through serving others?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 23

Matthew 15:1-28

Jesus continuously draws people's attention to their heart attitudes rather than simply focusing on externals. We have seen this in the Sermon the Mount, discussions on Sabbath adherence, and now in Matthew 15. Jesus points out that the Pharisees claimed to follow God's commands but had mostly built their own rules to make themselves feel “spiritual”. Jesus in quoting Isaiah says, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." The Pharisees were viewed as the spiritually elite when they were actually far from God. Religious people aren't necessarily closer to God than immoral people. In contrast to the heart of the Pharisees is the Canaanite woman who begs for Jesus to heal her daughter. She reveals a heart that is desperate for Jesus and Jesus calls her a woman of "great faith." Our own rules, our own initiative, and self reliance can wall us off from God, whereas coming to him with our prayers, needs, and concerns shows our need for Him. An open, humble heart is one that is close to God, and it is the heart we should seek to cultivate.

Father God, I need you. Help me to understand how much I truly need you in every part of my life. There is nothing I can do apart from you. Amen.

Question: How can you cultivate a heart that is close to God?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 22

Matthew 14:13-36

Jesus’ response to people was very different from those of His disciples. When Jesus encountered the 5,000+ people, we are told that His response was “compassion”, whereas the disciples wanted them to go away. Jesus recognized the value and dignity of the crowds that surrounded Him, while the disciples were only thinking about themselves. Jesus’ compassion motivated Him to respond to their needs. He ultimately provided food for the crowds and did so out of His love for them. Compassion is the idea of deeply felt love or affection for someone. The Hebrew word for compassion references the idea of “womb feelings”, in that it describes a woman’s love for her unborn child. This parental love is what Jesus has for people. He cares deeply, and His love leads to a compassionate response. If we are going to be like Jesus, we should consider how our heart reflects this attitude. Do we have compassion like Jesus or do we just want to be done with people like the disciples? Let us seek to cultivate the heart of Jesus for others.

Father God, give me your heart for people. Help me to have compassion which moves me to service and love. Amen.

Question: How much compassion do you exhibit? How can you make this a higher priority in your life?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 21

Matthew 13:47-14:12

Familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t know if this statement is true in all of life, but it was definitely true of the crowds in Nazareth. They knew Jesus’ family and would have known Him since childhood and because of this they responded to His claims with “offense.” They couldn’t imagine that the carpenter’s son could be the Messiah. Rather than acknowledging the evidence of His miracles and works, they simply pushed Him to the side. Many of the people we interact with on a daily basis may have grown up going to church, attended a religious school, or know some Bible stories, and because of this they often feel like they are spiritually good and don’t really need Jesus; this is foolishness. As we have seen again and again in Matthew, what we do with Jesus is the most important question of life. We need to help people see who Jesus really is and call them to respond in faith. Additionally, we need to make sure that we are continually seeking Jesus and making Him Lord over every part of our lives.

Father God, help me to make you the center of my life. Help me to do all things for you and help me to share Christ with people who may know His name but don’t know Him as Lord and Savior. Amen.

Question: How can “familiarity” with Jesus keep us from continually growing in our relationship with Him?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 20

Matthew 13:24-46

The kingdom of heaven is…. Encyclopedia Britannica defines the kingdom of heaven/God as a “spiritual realm over which god reigns as king.” Another definition is “God’s rule on earth” (www.theology of work.org.).

Christ fulfills the prophet’s words by sharing five parables that give a better understanding of the kingdom of heaven (v.35). These parables are of the weeds, the mustard seed, the yeast, the hidden treasure, and the pearl. 

The weeds sown in the wheat field were probably zizanion or darnel/tares which are poisonous seeds that resemble wheat in the early stages of growth. However, as the plant matures it is easy to see it is a weed. The land owner told the servants to let the weeds grow with the wheat until harvest because the roots of the wheat and darnel were intertwined. If the weeds were pulled, the wheat would be destroyed.  The Christian and non-Christian inhabit the earth and our lives intermingle so we can share Christ with nonbelievers. 

The kingdom of heaven was small when Christ was on earth (about the size of a mustard seed), but the kingdom grew immensely as the disciples shared Christ with others. God continues to work according to His plans within the Church and the world. Even though the mustard seed and the yeast are similar parables, the mustard seed may refer to extensive growth while the yeast may mean the internal maturing and becoming more Christ-like growth of the kingdom of heaven. 

The hidden treasure and the pearl portray two men finding valuable treasures; one a treasure hidden a field and the other a priceless pearl. In Biblical times banks did not exist as we know them today. Instead, individuals would bury their valuables in a field for safe keeping. If something happened to the one who buried the treasure, years later another person may find the treasure. When both of these men found their treasure, they sold everything and purchased the treasure. These two parables do not imply that one can purchase salvation, instead it shows the matchless value of being in the kingdom of heaven. 

The kingdom of heaven is now and the curtain of history will fall with Christ’s return. When Christ returns the angels will “weed out” all that causes sin and the evildoers. The unbelievers will be cast into “the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (v.42). Gnashing of teeth implies “agony of spirit” (Archeological Study Bible footnote, p. 827).

What is our role in this kingdom of heaven? Are we mingling with nonbelievers and sharing Christ; thus making the kingdom grow? Are we maturing and becoming more Christ-like? Have we taken the time to comprehend the supreme value of being part of this kingdom?

Father, thank you I am a part of your kingdom of heaven. I pray I fulfill my kingdom role of sharing you with others, maturing in you, and truly comprehending and valuing what being a part of this kingdom means. Thank you for loving me so much that you died for me so I can be a part of your kingdom. Amen.

Question: How are you fulfilling your role in the kingdom of heaven?

Gena Duncan

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 19

Matthew 12:46-13:23

The Bible is meant to be meditation literature; this means that we are meant to read it over and over again, and think deeply about its meaning and application to our lives. This kind of reflection is one of the values of walking slowly through the New Testament this year.  Jesus describes the purpose of the parables as being built for inward application; He told stories so that listeners would be forced to think deeply about them or walk away without understanding. As we think deeply about the parable of the soils, we need to consider what is inhibiting us from bearing fruit. Are we hearing the word? Are we resisting the work of the evil one? Are we valuing comfort or obedience? Are we worrying more about life and money, or things of God? Let us seek God, prioritize Him above everything else, and bear fruit for His glory.

Father God, help me to meditate upon your Scriptures. May your Spirit enable me to both understand and live out your word. Help me to bear fruit for your glory today. Amen.

Question: How can you slow down and meditate more intentionally on the Scriptures each day?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 18

Matthew 12:22-45

One of the most critical questions everyone must answer is, who do you think Jesus is? As Jesus went about His life, there were many different answers to this question; the crowds thought He might be the Son of David (which is a Messianic title), while the Pharisees considered Him to be a tool of Satan. This opposition to Jesus and the claim that He was working with the spirit of Satan rather than the Holy Spirit places the Pharisees in a position to "not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." As people considered His identity, Jesus pointed them to look at the fruit which came out of His life – eternal life, generosity, goodness, truth, justice, and righteousness. In the same way as His followers, this fruit should pour out of our lives – especially with the emphasis of this passage being on the words we speak. There’s an old quote that says “If the words you spoke appeared on your skin, would you still be beautiful?” Similarly, we must ask ourselves the question: If the words you spoke appeared on your skin, would it be obvious that you are a child of God? Do your words point others to the love of Jesus? The things we say and the things we do should reflect God's character and his love for us.

Father God, thank you for your perfection. Thank you for sending Jesus to be a fully human and fully God representation of you as Lord and King. Help me to reflect your life in my life and share Christ with those you have placed in my path. Amen.

Question: Who has God placed in your life that you can help to have a better understanding of who Jesus is?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 17

Matthew 12:1-21

One of the greatest conflicts between the Pharisees and Jesus concerned Sabbath adherence. The Sabbath was given as a sign of the Mosaic covenant around 1400 years before Jesus. This law, which was provided by God as an opportunity to rest and worship, had been transformed into a maze of commands with more commands built upon them and even more built upon those by the Pharisees. They had restricted the Sabbath to the point that they wanted to kill Jesus rather than allow Him to heal on that day. Jesus points out the flaw in their thinking by quoting Hosea 6:6, which speaks to the fact that God desires mercy, not sacrifice. This Hosea passage rebuked people who thought that regardless of their heart attitudes and actions, God would approve of them through animal sacrifices. In the same way, the Pharisees were far from God but thought they were right with Him because of their Sabbath keeping. Once again, Jesus reminds His listeners (and us by extension) that God is concerned about our hearts. He wants us to love God and love others – not simply keep a series of rules without relationship. Our relationship with God comes first, and then obedience flows as an extension of that.

Father God, help me to love you in the form of  a relationship rather than just obedience. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent Jesus to Earth to die for my sins. Help me to respond to this love with love for you, for others, and obedience to your ways. Amen.

Question: Where in your life do you see rule- following superseding your relationship with God?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 16

Matthew 11:7-30

 

Throughout the course of our lives, unmet expectations are unavoidable. The dreams we have for our marriage, family, jobs etc. will often fail to come to fruition. Similarly, our expectations for what we want God to do will often not be met. Jesus confronts this idea by addressing how His ministry, and that of John the Baptist, refused to conform to others’ expectations. What is critical is not what we want to see, but what God is actually doing. Jesus came and the crowds failed to repent (v.20) because He didn't come as they expected. They missed out on what God was actually doing because they didn't have eyes to see the truth of God’s plan. Jesus concludes this section by describing where rest can be found. We often believe that rest will come through a vacation, the weekend, mindless perusing of social media, or through some other means, but Jesus is crystal clear that He is the one who gives rest. Jesus says, "Come to me...and I will give you rest." Does this match your expectations of where rest is found? If it doesn't, we need to stop imposing our desires upon God and conform our expectations to His truth – the one and only truth. Life is found in submitting to God – not trying to get him to submit to us.

Father God, help me to submit all of my desires and expectations to your will. Give me the ability to conform all of my life to you and turn to you for all that I need. Give me eyes to see what you are doing so that I can join your work. Amen.

Questions: Where in life do you find your expectations and desires failing to conform to God?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 15

Matthew 10:24-11:6

Matthew 9-10 describe the call of all believers to participate in God’s kingdom work. The beginning of chapter 10 describes what the disciples were to do and today’s reading describes how we are to do it. As we serve God we are to do so without fear. We will face opposition, difficulty, and persecution but we should not be afraid of what comes against us. The reason we should not be afraid is because since God is on our side we have the greatest power in the universe standing with us. Jesus acknowledges that death could come because of our allegiance to him, but, since he is the one who determines eternity, we should not be afraid of those who can simply end our lives on earth. This mentality may seem extremely foreign to us but is what we are commanded to embrace. We need to constantly have our eyes on Jesus and his power, instead of becoming overwhelmed by anything of this world. Along with this eradication of fear, we are also called to prioritize Jesus over everything. We are called to lose our lives for his sake (v.39). We should be willing to surrender everything to gain him. As we go about our day today, we should consider two questions: 1) am I living out of fear or trust in Christ and 2) am I prioritizing him or things of this world? The abundant life is found in embracing Christ over everything else and doing this in all we do.

Father God, help me to live out of faith and not fear. Help me to trust you with my life and walk confidently with you today. Amen.

Question: What is one step you can take to eradicate unhealthy fear from your life?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 14

Matthew 10:1-23

Matthew 9 ended with a call to pray for God to send out people to do his work. Matthew 10 begins by Jesus sending out the disciples to do this very work. Their prayers turn into action. This paradigm is often the way that God works in our lives as well. As we pray for something, our heart will inevitably change and we will be compelled to be the change for which we have been praying. As we see in Matthew 10:1, God will also empower us to do what he has called us to do. It may not be easy and we may not even see the transformation we have been requesting, but God will enable us through his Spirit to do his work. The work of the disciples was to cast out demons, heal disease and sickness, and preach the message of the kingdom. Some of this was unique for that moment in history and some of it is exactly what we should be doing as well. Yet what is clear is as we pray we should also be prepared to go and do. Praying may seem safe until we realize that prayer never leaves us the same. Pray and go!

Father God, send me out today to do your work. May I represent you through my words and actions, and make you known. Amen.

Question: Where do you feel God is sending you to do his work?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 13

Matthew 9:18-38

Jesus’ power is once again displayed in our reading today through the healing of a woman, bringing a child back to life, and casting out demons. These displays continue to amaze people wherever he goes. Jesus’ ministry is not a solo act as he calls others to join him in his work. This concept of God doing his work through others is seen throughout the Scriptures. God created the world but then placed Adam and Eve in the garden to cultivate and work it. In the same way, even while Jesus was on Earth he called others to do his kingdom work alongside him. You can see this clearly in verse 37 which says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus describes the Earth in similar terms to the Garden of Eden and then reminds his disciples it is humanity’s role to be working it. We are to be harvesting lives for God’s glory, but specifically, as we see in this verse, praying that God would raise up others. Just looking at Naples the work is more than we can do as a church, so we need to call on God to raise up other churches, individuals, and ministries to work in his creation both here and around the world.

Father God, I ask you to send out workers into your harvest field. Raise up a fresh generation of workers who will go out to do your work and use me to share Christ in the field you have placed me in today. Amen.

Question: Are you regularly asking God to raise up workers to do his work? How can you make this a regular practice?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 12

Matthew 9:1-17

Jesus did not fit into anyone's preexisting box when he came to Earth. The Pharisees could not make sense of the fact that he claimed to forgive sins, while at the same time he was eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus took morality even more seriously than the Pharisees as seen in his preaching in Matthew 5-7, while at the same time taking forgiveness even more seriously. All who came to Jesus, regardless of their immorality, were offered forgiveness and relationship with him. This included people like Matthew who would have been seen as a traitor to Israel as a tax collector for Rome, people like the Pharisees, and others like tax collectors and sinners. This paradox of calling people to righteousness while also spending time with all people is a hard balance, but one which Jesus perfectly lived out. He was filled with grace and truth. Do we reflect these attributes of Jesus in our lives? Are we willing to speak the hard truth that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone? Are we also willing to be with those who are far from Christ and involved in behaviors that we would not approve? Learning this balance is part of what it means to walk in the way of Jesus.

Father God, help me to love others well. Help me to do this by sharing your salvation with people while also spending time and loving those who are far from you. Use me to make you known through my words and life today. Amen.

Question: Who in your life is far from Christ? How can you intentionally spend time with them and share Christ with them?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 11

Matthew 8:18-34

Jesus is still very early in his ministry and people, including his disciples, are just beginning to discover the extent of his power. Jesus calms a storm revealing his power over creation. The one who created all things is shown to be able to control and manipulate it at his will. When Jesus speaks, creation submits. The disciples are beginning to have their eyes opened to the true identity of Jesus as they respond by asking, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and waves obey him!” Then Jesus reveals his power over all spiritual opposition when he encounters two demon possessed men. The violence which the demons caused was subdued by the words of Jesus. As he spoke to the storm, so Jesus spoke to the demons and submission was the response. In the same way, the words of Jesus should cause submission in our lives. The storm submits, the demons flee, the disciples respond in amazement, but the crowds pleaded with Jesus to leave. Instead of submission they respond by wanting nothing to do with their creator and king. Such sorrow! When we are confronted by God’s word, we need to make sure we respond with humility and obedience rather than apathy or keeping it at arm’s length. Jesus is Lord over the material and spiritual; therefore, he is Lord of all. We must therefore submit to the king who alone reigns over everything.

Father God, you are the one true God and your Son is the one true Lord. Help me to respond to his power and greatness with humility and submission. Help me to draw near to you and trust in you through all circumstances of life. Amen.

Question: How can you remind yourself of Jesus’ power as you go about your day today?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 10

Matthew 8:1-17

How often do we just “go through the motions”? It is challenging to admit but I go through the motions more often than I should. I go to church every Sunday, I give money away and back to God, I’m mostly nice to my wife, I have a crazy long streak of reading the Bible, I haven’t killed anyone (and very rarely do I even want to). These are all good things but they are also things I can take too much pride in -- not one of those things buys me salvation. Being raised in a Christian home with parents who pray over you and take you to church every week is an amazing blessing but that doesn’t get the job done either. There are thousands of examples of things that are great on the surface but they all fall short. I had a friend/teammate in high school who shared the need for Christ to his dad often. Lee’s dad had the same response; "I haven’t murdered, I’ve never cheated on your mother and I give to United Way, why would I need Jesus?" 

In verses 11 and 12 Jesus says that many will come to the feast from all over and all walks of life but some people that think they’re in, are actually out-- and way out! Those that get tossed out rely on their family ties, religious discipline, or even just think they’re just nice enough people. I want to have faith like the Roman centurion -- he knew Jesus’s Lordship and the power he yields without any biblical training or religious schooling. The Roman KNEW Jesus. The only salvation is knowing Jesus and submitting to him. 

Lord, help us not to become trapped in our religious rituals. Convict us of our reliance on ourselves. Turn our lack of faith into an abundance of faith as we bow down to worship your greatness. Thank you for your incredible love. Amen

Question: How often do you rely on yourself instead of turning to Jesus?

Billy Weed

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 9

Matthew 7:15-29

Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) by warning us to "watch out." We are to externally watch out for those who are propagating lies and trying to entice us away from Jesus. Not only should we judge the content of their teaching but also the content of their lives in order to see whether they are someone who is worthy of following. Alongside of watching for external threats, we need to look inside to guard against our flesh. In some ways the internal threat is an even more insidious danger than the external because it is not as easy to spot. Jesus warns us that some people will think they will enter God's kingdom through their works, but discover in the end that they never knew him. Their lives were never surrendered to Jesus and thus they will be cast away from him. Others will hear Jesus' words but will never build their lives upon the foundation that is Jesus. In doing so they will end their life with "a great crash." As we choose to follow Jesus, we must always be on guard against external threats and ourselves.

Father God, help me to commit my life to you. Help me to be on guard against those things that would entice me away from a pure devotion to you. Also, help me to stand strong against temptation and my flesh. Help me to see you as greater and more beautiful than anything to whom I can give my life. Amen.

Question: What are the external and internal threats in your life which keep you from a pure devotion to Jesus?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 8

Matthew 6:25-7:14

Worry is a chronic issue in most of our lives. We find ourselves filled with anxiety that does not seem to dissipate. Jesus calls us to a radically different way of life at the end of Matthew 6. He tells us we are not to worry, then gives us a number of reasons why this should be. First, he tells us we should not worry because the things we are anxious about are not the most important things in life. We are wasting our time when we are worrying about insignificant things. Second, we are not to worry because God provides. As he provides for animals and plants, all the more he will provide for his children who he loves. We need to embrace this mentality of believing that God will take care of our needs and, because this is so, we do not need to worry. Third, we are to throw away worry because it does not help anything/"add a single hour to your life." As the final verse of chapter 6 says, "Do not worry about tomorrow...each day has enough trouble of its own." Our worry about the future does not change anything. Instead, we should focus on trusting God today and seeing how he is going to work in our lives.

Father God, help me to trust you instead of worrying. Give me faith to know that you will provide for my needs and help me to surrender the future to you. Amen.

Question: What verse on worry can you write down on a 3x5 card and place where you will see it multiple times today?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 7

Matthew 6:1-24

From whom do you want to receive praise? Jesus says we are ultimately living to please God or someone/something else. In his sermon he calls out “hypocrites” who are doing religious things but doing it for the wrong reasons. We might be able to impress people with our giving, prayers or fasting, but if we are living to get praise from them, then we are forfeiting praise from God. We can live for momentary rewards or for things that are eternal. Just consider for a moment your motivations. Would you rather hear well done from a spouse/friend/family member or from God? It is possible to obviously get both, but what should compel us to obedience and following God is the desire to please him. Let us obey God and pursue him whether anyone is watching or not, knowing that God always is.

Father God, help me to pursue you whether there is any recognition from others or not. Help me to know the joy, pleasure, and peace which comes from walking with you. Amen.

Question: Where in life do you find yourself doing things to be noticed by others rather than God?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 6

Matthew 5:27-48

God’s desire is that his people would reflect his character. The Mosaic Law was conceived by many as purely external regulations that were meant to be followed, but the prophets repeatedly scoff at this idea and call the people of Israel back to hearts that are devoted to God. The internal purpose of the law is brought to light by Jesus in Matthew 5. He speaks first to this fact by looking at adultery. He shows that the hseventh commandment  is not just God speaking against physical adultery, but is about lust being eradicated from our hearts. Further, we are to speak truth in all of our relationships rather than using language to manipulate, and pursue integrity rather than half-truths. We are also to pursue radical love for all people rather than a heart of vengeance and retribution. The only way to live these out is to receive a new heart from God. On our own we are prone to act in ways that puts us first rather than the needs of others. Therefore, let us ask God to help us have his heart in the way we look at, speak to, and treat others today.

Father God, I need your heart to treat people like you want me to treat them. Renew my heart today, so I can love people like you love them. Help me to walk in obedience to your ways. Amen.

Question: Why do we so often make God’s commands only about externals rather than heart transformation?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 5

Matthew 5:1-26

What does the blessed life look like? We all want to be blessed and experience God's work in our lives. The beginning of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount shows us that blessing comes in surprising places. We are told that blessing comes to: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted. Some of these are things we recognize as valuable, while others we would probably resist. Do we want to be poor in spirit, do we want to mourn, do we want to be persecuted? The answer is probably a resounding no, but Jesus tells us these are the very characteristics that we need to cultivate. We need to embrace being poor in spirit by recognizing that we are people who are in need of God. We need God's work every moment of our lives. We need to mourn, because it is an acknowledgement that the world and us are not as God originally designed. We need to embrace obedience to God, even when the world rejects, persecutes, and curses us. We need to lean in to all that God has for us in order to experience his blessings, even when that makes us uncomfortable in the short term.

Father God, thank you that you hold out blessing to your people. Help me not to define blessing by materialism or money, but by intimacy with you. Help me to follow you wherever you take me. Amen.

Question: How can you choose to be poor in spirit and mournful today?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 4

Matthew 4:12-25

At the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus’ public ministry began. The primary message which he communicated was about “the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God.” The way into the kingdom is to repent of our allegiance to alternative kingdoms and embrace him. Jesus comes as the king who is bringing an alternative kingdom to earth. His kingdom message is matched by kingdom work in Matthew 4. We see Jesus teaching, preaching, and healing diseases, pain, paralysis, and demon possession. His kingdom is marked by giving life, showing love, and being light to those in darkness. 

Jesus calls us to acknowledge him as king and savior (to follow him) and then to live as citizens of his kingdom. As we embrace this way of life, it means sharing the message of light, love, and life with those who are not yet citizens of this kingdom. Let us walk the walk and talk the talk of the kingdom of heaven/God today.

Father God, thank you that I am a citizen of your kingdom. Help me to live in a way that is appropriate for a citizen of your kingdom today. Amen.

Question: What things should be true of someone who is a citizen of God’s kingdom?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 3

Matthew 3:7-4:11

Jesus’ life in the Gospel of Matthew is filled with conflict. At birth he faced the opposition and murder attempt of Herod, and then he faced the tempting of the devil. If we are going to follow Jesus with our life, we should expect that similar opposition, difficulty, and temptation will come to us. Yet in the face of temptation, there is always a way out. 

The model of Jesus in overcoming is to speak Scripture in the face of the lies which temptation brings. Satan begins by tempting Jesus to transform stone into bread, but Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 to say that reliance on God rather than reliance on bread is what is needed. Then when Satan tempts him to jump off the temple, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 to show that he should not put God to the test. Finally, Satan tempts Jesus to bow down to him and Jesus stands firm by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13. Three temptations met with three passages of Scripture that enable Jesus to overcome. 

In the same way we need to stand firm on God’s truth in the face of the lies and temptations that the world, our flesh, and Satan will throw at us. Let us believe that God’s word and God’s way will lead us in the true path of life.

Father God, thank you for your Scripture that is all breathed out of you and is all profitable. Help me to know it, walk in it, and trust it. Help me to know that true life is only found in you. Help me to experience that life today. Amen.

Question: What is one verse that you can memorize this week to help you overcome temptation?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 2

Matthew 2:13-3:6

The Exodus which occurred a little over 1400 years prior to Jesus' coming becomes a template for the way which God works throughout the Bible. Jesus' early life is intentionally mapped onto the Exodus narrative by Matthew. As Israel went down into Egypt, so does Jesus. As Israel faced oppression and death of young baby boys, so Bethlehem faced the death of all the young boys under the age of two years. As Israel was finally delivered out of Egypt, so was Jesus. God is a God who saves his people and does so in often miraculous ways. Again and again the Gospels show us Jesus fulfilling explicit prophecies from the Old Testament. At other times he is shown to be the ultimate embodiment and reality of what God was previously doing. 

As we read through the New Testament this year, we will see again and again that Jesus is greater than all that has formerly come. Therefore, he is worthy of our greatest devotion, worship, and praise.

Father God, thank you that you are the God who saves. Thank you that you are greater than our sin and that Jesus' death provides a way to a relationship with you. Amen.

Question: How does your own story of salvation map onto the imagery of the Exodus?

Posted by Derek Newbery

Jan 1

Matthew 1:1-2:12

A new year provides new opportunities. A new chance to prioritize God, to overcome sinful tendencies in your life, and a chance to daily meet with God. If you stay committed to reading through the New Testament this year you will have 365 chances to meet with God. You can draw right in to the presence of God and pour out your heart before him. 

You can do this because the Messiah Jesus came. First, he came to “save people from their sins.” The whole Old Testament spoke of sacrifices that could not fully cleanse people from their sins but were meant to point people forward to the Savior to come, Jesus. Second, in Jesus we have “God with us.” In the Old Testament there was a barrier to God’s presence. The tabernacle and later the temple only allowed the high priest to enter into God’s presence and then only once a year. But in Jesus, God has come down to us. Third, Jesus came to be the leader we need. He is both our ruler/king and our shepherd. Even the best of leaders fail their followers, but Jesus never does. He perfectly leads us to the Father and therefore, is the one we are to steadfastly follow with our lives. As we spend time this year reading, may our understanding of God grow, our love for him and others expand, and our desire to follow Jesus increase.

Father God, help me to recognize your surpassing greatness over everything else. Thank you for your Son through whom I have forgiveness, your presence through the Spirit, and a faithful leader. Amen.

Question: What will it look like to allow Jesus to be your shepherd this year?

Posted by Derek Newbery

December 31

REVELATION 19:1-22:21

The Bible ends where it began. We began in Genesis with a good creation and humanity enjoying relationship with God. We end with something similar. All who have placed their faith in Christ will forever enjoy God on a new earth that is untainted by sin or evil. We will enjoy God for all eternity on this new earth. When we picture eternity our culture envisions people who look like angels floating on clouds, but that is nothing like what it will be. It will be like an infinitely more beautiful version of what we have now. It will be what the world was always intended to look like, we will be who we were always intended to be, and we will be with God forever. This is what awaits us and motivates us to keep walking with God today.

[ We will be kicking off our new reading plan tomorrow where we will be slowly walking through the New Testament in 2023. Hope you will join us!]

Father God, thank you for the gift of eternal life that awaits me through Jesus. Help me through the trials of today to rest in the beauty of an eternity with you. Amen.

Question: How does the idea of living on a new earth for eternity compare with your view of eternity?

Posted by Derek Newbery

December 30

REVELATION 15:1-18:24

God’s judgment is coming to an end. He is about to deal in a final sense with all of the sin and evil in the world. The final outpouring of his wrath comes as seven bowls are poured out. We have seen this image of a cup or bowl as a receptacle for God’s judgment throughout the Bible. Now we see its full display. It is as if all previous acts of judgment were like teaspoons and now the whole bowl is dumped out. As with the other judgments in Revelation, they picture and amplify the type of work that God did against Egypt. Just like Egypt, the response of the people is not to repent, but to double down on their opposition to God. They curse God and refuse to repent or glorify him. Even to the end God would long for all people to trust in him and enter his family, but, regardless of his actions, people harden their hearts against him. When Babylon had abundance it sensed no need for God and when life becomes difficult it simply curses God. Many times people will say that they would believe in God if only he would audibly speak to them, or answer a prayer in a specific way, or… Yet as we see from the example of Babylon, it is not true. Tomorrow we will see the final conclusion of human history. But as we meditate on today’s reading, we are led to pray for those who stand against God and be a part of his work of reconciling a wayward people into a relationship with him.

Father God, use me to be a part of your work of making disciples. There are so many hard hearted people in the world. Yet out of those who are opposed to you, some will come to place their faith in you. Help me to persevere in sharing the hope I have in you with others. Amen.

Question: How does the knowledge of God’s judgment spur us to share our faith?

Posted by Derek Newbery

December 29

REVELATION 11:1-14:20

Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me." The contrast between those who are aligned with Jesus and against him is arguably never starker than in Revelation. Today's reading introduces us to two witnesses who are prophets and are given power to send down fire from heaven. Yet they will die and their enemies will rejoice to the point it becomes almost a worldwide holiday. The hearts of these prophets was for God, while the general population wanted nothing to do with him. Yet as this section of Revelation continues, the opposition to God only ramps up. On the sideline across from God's people are a powerful threesome of a dragon, a beast out of the sea, and a beast out of the earth. The dragon is Satan. The beast out of the sea is a world power which is largely represented by one king who will demand and receive worship from all people on earth, except those who have given allegiance to Christ. The beast out of the earth is a false prophet who will serve the demonic king by demanding all worship him through praise and economics. After these three beings 14:1-5 takes us to heaven where we see the lamb and 144,000 of God's people. The comparison seems stark between a dragon and two beasts and a lamb. Though the three beings seem powerful next to the ragtag remnant of God's people left on earth and those gathered in heaven, they are nothing next to God. No matter what places itself in opposition to God, they will not last and they will not win. This is the perspective we need to keep so we do not fall into fear and despair. As Revelation 13:10 says, "This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God's people," which is then echoed in Revelation 14:12. No matter how terrible the odds seem to be, if we are with God, we will be victorious.

Father God, I am often overwhelmed by opposition to you. Help me to stay focused on you and the certainty that comes from knowing you will win in the end. May this knowledge give me the ability to persevere in love, hope, and joy today. Amen.

Question: How can you retain endurance, faithfulness, joy, and peace when you consider everything that is opposed to God in the world?

Posted by Derek Newbery