The One Year Devo

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September 30, 2020

Isaiah 60:1-62:5; Philippians 1:27-2:18; Psalm 72:1-20; Proverbs 24:11-12

Fast forward from Isaiah 61:1-2a to a Sabbath morning in the small village of Nazareth. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to the son of Joseph, the village carpenter. He unrolled it and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The Messiah stopped midsentence, sat down, and declared, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The Trinity was proclaimed in the first eight words of verse 1, the Spirit, Sovereign Lord, and me (the Messiah). Christ was anointed for his first earthly ministry to provide salvation, freedom, and healing. 

For those who have accepted Christ’s “garments of salvation,” He wrapped us in a “robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Imagine that! We wear a robe of righteous! We say things we should not say, we go places we should not go, and we act in unsightly manners, yet, He still wraps a robe of righteousness around us. 

And to the Philippians, who Christ wrapped in a robe of righteousness, Paul passionately pleads: “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (Philippians 2:1-4, MSG). 

And why were the Philippians to live like this? So they would have the attitude of Christ who “made himself nothing”; literally translated “He emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7). Humbly emptied himself of the advantages of his equal status with God to become an obedient human servant who died a cruel, contemptible death—“even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

How do we measure up to Him? The only way is by God “working in (us) to make (us) willing and able to obey him” (Philippians 2:13, CEV). God is working in us and desires that we willingly allow Him to form us into Christlikeness. 

Question of the day: From the list of Christlike characteristics in Philippians 2:3-4, (see above starting with “Agree with each other…”), what characteristic(s) is/are lacking in your life? How about asking God to help you obey Him more fully?

Father, thank you for wrapping me in your robe of righteousness. May I rely on You to produce a self-sacrificing love in me, making me more agreeable with others, putting my desires aside to honor others, and helping me to take time to cheerfully serve others.

Gena Duncan

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September 29, 2020

Isaiah 57:15-59:21; Philippians 1:1-26; Psalm 71:1-24; Proverbs 24:9-10

Today we begin the book of Philippians, a book centered around joy. This initially seems like a shocking central idea for a letter written by a man who is suffering in prison. Of all the circumstances that would seem to drain joy, being arrested, and placed in chains would seem to be one that would kill joy.

Yet Paul maintains throughout this letter that his joy remains. This can only be true if joy is derived from our relationship with God not our immediate physical circumstances.  A helpful definition of joy is delighting in God and his good gifts. No matter the hardships we face, we can remain committed to delighting in God and his love and faithfulness to us despite our trials. 

As Paul reflects on joy, he describes a life completely saturated by it. He prays with joy (v.4). He is filled with joy as he thinks about the gospel going out throughout the world (v.18). He has joy because he knows that God is faithful to his promises (v.19). Having Christ centered relationships fuel his joy (v.26). He takes all the good things that God has done in his life and around the world and uses them to fill up his joy.

As we continue through the rest of Philippians, I would encourage you to notice all the reasons that Paul finds to rejoice and learn to rejoice in your present circumstances.

Question of the day: What can you do today to experience greater joy?

God my Father, thank you for the joy which you make available to me today. Thank you that through your Spirit and the work of your Son I can experience joy in all situations. Help me to experience that reality today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, September 28, 2020

September 28, 2020

Isaiah 54:1-57:14; Ephesians 6:1-24; Psalm 70:1-5; Proverbs 24:8
As we drive down the freeway we encounter highway distance signs that tell us how far we are from our destination. These signs are meant to point us to our destination and not to the signs themselves. No one stops and takes pictures at the distance sign, they wait and take them at their destination.
 
Similarly, our lives are meant to point people to God. Our purpose is not to draw attention to ourselves but to our glorious God. This is also true of our relationships.
 

One of the most powerful ways we can point poeple to God is through our marriages (for those who are married). Our marriages are not meant to be an end in themselves but to draw people to the greater, eternal reality of being joined/married to God.

This language of marriage is used in Isaiah 54:5 and throughout the Bible. Our earthly marriages will never last more than 50 or so years (if we are fortunate), while our marriage to Christ is eternal. We are the bride and Christ is the groom. Therefore, our marriages must point to the greater reality of our eternal marriage with Christ. Our marriages should point to the greater love that Christ has for us, his greater service on our behalf and the greater sacrifice that he has made for us.

As we love our spouses, we should remind ourselves and the world that this is just a shadow of the ultimate marriage which will culminate in the future. For those who are not married, remember, though you may not have chosen your current situation, you are not missing out on the ultimate marriage to come.

[If you would like to explore this idea more, John Piper wrote an excellent book on this called This Momentary Marriage.]

Question of the day: For those who are married, how can you use your marriage as a signpost to God? For those who are single, how can you remember the ultimate marriage that awaits you?

God my Father, thank you for uniting me to you through the work of your Son. Help me to remember that all my ultimate longings are fulfilled in you and not in the things of this world. Help me to remember the union I have with Christ now and the culmination of that in the future. I am your Son's bride and thank you that I am loved by him. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, September 27, 2020

September 27, 2020

Isaiah 51:1-53:12; Ephesians 5:1-33; Psalm 69:19-36; Proverbs 24:7

As we consider the character of God, one of his attributes is that of being omnipotent (all-powerful). This power is described throughout the prophets and today in Isaiah 48-50. God is the one who created the world, who provided miraculously for the Israelites during the Exodus, who made Israel into a nation,  who is able to bring about his purposes on Earth and will ultimately bring about a new earth that will be the garden paradise that God had originally designed.

God is all powerful, but he is paradoxically also a humble servant. This is most clearly seen in the life of Jesus who is described in Isaiah 49:6-7 and 50:4-7. Jesus, the omnipotent second person of the Trinity, came to serve, to suffer and to die. As Philippians 2 describes it, "he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant." We come to God who has all power and yet humbly seeks the good of his beloved people.

Question of the day: How does knowing God is both all-powerful and a servant affect the way you draw near to him?

God my Father, thank you that you have all power in your hands. Thank you that use this power for your glory and for the good of your people. Help me to draw near to you when I need your power, comfort, love, and encouragement; knowing that you will draw near to me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

September 26, 2020

Isaiah 48:12-50:11; Ephesians 4:17-32; Psalm 69:1-18; Proverbs 24:5-6

Salvation. When the Bible speaks of God saving his people it can sometimes focus on immediate physical salvation from enemies like Babylon or Egypt and other times is focused on spiritual salvation from sin and judgment.

In looking at salvation from sin the Bible often zeroes in on the salvation which we have already experienced (justification), the salvation we are currently living out (sanctification) or the fulfillment of salvation which we await (glorification).

Ephesians 4:17-32 focuses on sanctification. Paul wants us to see how our lives should be different today because we have been made right with God. He wants us to see that being made new means that everything should be changed in our lives.

God longs for us today to have new desires (v.22), thoughts (v.23) and behavior (v.24). He wants to change our desires so that we yearn for things of God. He wants to change what makes us tick. He wants to change the way we think, so that our thought patterns and the way we process life are transformed by God. He also wants to change the way we live, especially the way we relate to people through our words (v.25-32).

God's grace is not meant to leave us where we are but to help us experience today the new life that God has made available to us.

Question of the day: How can you ask God to change your desires, thoughts, behavior today?

God my Father, thank you for making me new in Christ. Help me to live in light of who I am, as a new creation. Transform my desires, transform my thoughts, and transform my actions. Help me to live in a way that follows the ways of Jesus, rather than the ways of the world and my old self. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, September 25, 2020

September 25, 2020

Isaiah 45:11-48:11; Ephesians 4:1-16; Psalm 68:19-35; Proverbs 24:3-4

In Jeremiah 45 we are introduced to a person who will not live for another 100 years yet the Bible calls him by name. King Cyrus will overthrow the Babylonian Empire then allow some of the Jews in captivity to go back to Israel and rebuild Jerusalem. I tell our students that there are over 3,000 prophecies in the Bible, many of which have already come true. Specific prophecies like this are one of the reasons we can have faith in the Bible as God’s inerrant word.

Since the Bible is true we should do more than believe, we need to live it out. One of the ways we do this is described in Ephesians 4. It is a call to oneness. Why do we call the Trinity one God? It is because God is one God who exists in three persons and God invites us into their relationship. This will be lived out in a unity with God and hopefully in a unity with others. 

This relational unity is described in Philippians 2:2 as being "like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” As believers, we are called to be united with God in our thoughts, attitudes, actions, character, purpose, and mission. 

Question of the day: In what ways do you need to align yourself in unity with God? 

Father, I rejoice that I can trust your word because it is true and I pray that I will bring you glory by becoming more and more united with you.

Tom Powidzki

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

Isaiah 43:14-45:10; Ephesians 3:1-21;Psalm 68:1-18; Proverbs 24:1-2

Half of the uses of the word "redeemer" in the Bible are found in the book of Isaiah, with lots of other variants of this word like redeem and redemption scattered throughout the Bible. Isaiah clearly wants us to see that God is the redeemer of Israel and as seen through the rest of Scripture, he is also our redeemer.

God is shown to redeem his people from the oppression of Babylon (earthly powers) and spiritual apathy and idolatry (spiritual powers). The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology defines redemption as "the means by which salvation is achieved, namely, by the payment of a ransom." God is pictured again and again as the one who brings this about on behalf of his people.

God redeems his people from Egypt, Babylon and other earthly powers and especially frees his people from the dominion, reign, and power of sin. He frees us from being slaves to sin and releases us to live for him.

The description of the sins of Israel are very stark in Isaiah 43-45. They have stopped talking to God, stopped worshipping him and have replaced God with gods made by their own hands. Despite this behavior, God still is seeking to woo his people back to him. He is a redeemer and thus no matter how far we may drift from him, he still remains the only means of salvation, the only means of life and the only place for true fulfillment in the universe.

Question of the day: Why does God continue to pursue his people even when they resist him?

God my Father, thank you that you are my redeemer. Thank you that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus you have secured salvation for me. Help me to remember the staggering cost of my salvation and respond with gratitude, worship, and service for all that you have accomplished for me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, September 23, 2020

September 23, 2020

Isaiah 41:17-43:13; Ephesians 2:1-22; Psalm 67:1-7; Proverbs 23:29-35

Isaiah takes us into a courtroom where we are witnesses to the case which God presents before his people. God as the prosecuting attorney desires Israel to understand their guilt so they might turn to him and receive the life which he offers. He begins his case in 41:21-24 by showing the futility of the idols for which they had abandoned God and turned to. These gods were unable to accomplish anything, in contrast to God's servant, who is ultimately fulfilled in the person of Jesus.

The servant/Jesus is pictured as the victorious ruler over all other kings. He is the one who brings "good news." He will bring perfect justice to the nations and will treat people with compassion and humility. In contrast to our faithlessness, he will be faithful to his calling and mission. He will bring healing to those who are in need and will bring about what God's creation was always intended to be. Israel was perpetually turning to other gods and in doing so would never receive the blessings and peace they longed for. 

What they never seemed able to grasp is that all we need is in God, and both now and for eternity.  As Christians, Christ is the one who makes life available to us. He is the one who can render the verdict over us of innocence/righteousness rather than guilt/shame.

Question of the day: Where in the New Testament are the statements in Isaiah applied to Jesus?

God my Father, thank you for the life you make available in Christ. Thank you that he has brought your kingdom to earth and thank you that at his return he will bring about its ultimate coming. Until then, help me to live for your glory and live out of the life which you have given me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, September 22, 2020

September 22, 2020

Isaiah 39:1-41:16; Ephesians 1:1-23; Psalm 66:1-20; Proverbs 23:25-28

As with the vast majority of his letters Paul begins Ephesians with a cacophony of praise. No matter what you may be feeling today Ephesians 1:1-23 will provide you with some rocket fuel for praise. As you read over these verses again (or for the first time) I would encourage you to stop and praise God for all the things which he has done for you.

He has: - blessed us with "every spiritual blessing in Christ"

             - chosen us, predestined us

             - adopted us

             - given us grace

             - provided redemption

             - revealed to us the mystery of his will

             - sealed us through the Holy Spirit

Those are just a sampling of the ways which God has already worked in the lives of those who have placed their trust in Jesus. No matter what our performance may have been over the last few days, God's work remains, and he promises to finish the work that he has begun in us. Praise God!

Question of the day: Which of the works of God do you need to make a regular practice of praising God for?

God my Father, thank you for all the ways you have worked in my life. Thank you that all these works reflect your grace and love. Help me to always remember what you have accomplished for me and give you the praise you deserve. Praise to you God. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

Isaiah 37:1-38:22; Galatians 6:1-18; Psalm 65:1-13; Proverbs 23:24

We all have too small a view of God. Our finite minds, our sin, and God's infinitude make it impossible for us to understand God completely. As we draw closer to God and pursue him our view of him should grow over time. Just as our knowledge and appreciation of a friend grows the longer the friendship continues, the same is true of our relationship with God.

The prayer of Hezekiah in Isaiah 37:14-20 may help us expand our view of God. Hezekiah first recognizes the power of God. He acknowledges God as the one who can deliver them from any circumstance. Second, he acknowledges God as king. His position as king of the universe places him in a position of superiority over everyone on earth. Third, he is the creator of everything. As creator he ultimately made and sustains every molecule in the universe. Everyone is thus dependent upon God for every breath they take. Fourth, God can hear and respond to the needs of his people. He is not distant or aloof but is near and is ready to respond to prayers. Fifth and finally, he is real. He is not a figment of our imagination, some type of wish fulfillment or some evolutionary survival mechanism, he is instead the real, true God.

As we consider this prayer, we should consider our own interactions with God and consider whether we have the large, all-encompassing view of God which Hezekiah expresses.

Question of the day: How can you expand your view of God today?

Father God, thank you for hearing my cries. Thank you that you are real and true, and I can always rely on you. Help me not to place you in a box or have a tiny view of you but give me grace to see you for who you truly are. Thank you that you are the creator God of the universe and have granted me life today. Amen.

 

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, September 20, 2020

September 20, 2020

Isaiah 33:10-36:22; Galatians 5:13-26; Psalm 64:1-10; Proverbs 23:23

On October 31, 1999 EgyptAir Flight 990 left from New York City on a routine flight to Cairo.  A short time after take-off, the pilot left the cockpit.  The first officer then disengaged the autopilot, and pushed the control column forward.  Seconds later, the airplane began to pitch nose-downward.  The horrified pilot rushed back to his seat and battled the co-pilot for control of the plane.  The pilot pulled back on the yoke, desperate to bring the nose of the plunging Boeing 767 up, while the suicidal first officer pushed his own controls forward to keep the jet in a lethal dive.

These two combatants in the cockpit gives us a glimpse of the inner life of a believer (Galatians 5:13-26).  There are two realities engaged in a death-and-life struggle within us.  We are born with what the Bible calls the flesh or our sin nature.  And when we come to faith in the Savior, we are given the Spirit.  

One of the two will dominate.  Our flesh constantly attempts to hijack our lives—damaging and, if possible, destroying us.  And all the while the Spirit is willing to take control and keep us locked on real freedom and truth.

The acts of our fallen natures are obvious, humiliating, easy to recognize; Paul spells them out in verses 19-21a.  But the fruit of the Spirit, the evidence of the Spirit at work within us, is also on full display—in our homes, in larger family gatherings, at work, in church.  It is his love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (verses 22-23a).  

Flight 990 ended in tragedy—crashing into the Atlantic Ocean south of Nantucket, Massachusetts.  Our struggle need not; our Pilot is greater than our fallen natures.  We have this promise: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (v. 16).

Question of the day: Which act(s) of the flesh do you need to nail to the cross?  Which fruit of the Spirit still needs to blossom in your life?

Father, help me to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires, and live by your Spirit.  For your sake, my sake, and the sake of those you’ve put in my life. 

Jim Nite

Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, September 19, 2020

September 19, 2020

Isaiah 30:12-33:9; Galatians 5:1-12; Psalm 63:1-11; Proverbs 23:22

Help! Kids are generally much better at asking for help than adults. Somehow the older we get the more competent we feel we are at navigating life on our own. The Gospel runs contrary to this attitude. It tells us that we are so helpless in the face of sin that Christ came to die for us to reconcile us to God. This battle between wanting to pretend we don't need help and our actual hopeless condition is played out in Scripture.

The Israelites in Isaiah 30-33 think their own strength will provide deliverance rather than calling out to God for help and deliverance. The Galatians in chapter 5 think that their own conformity to the Old Testament law and thus their own performance somehow makes them more righteous and pleasing to God. In contrast, Psalm 63 proclaims that God is "my help." David knows that God alone can meet the deepest needs of his life and that the first step to healing is to ask for help. This is the same skill we need to cultivate, calling out to God and asking for help in every aspect of our lives.

Question of the day: What things keep you from quickly calling out to God for help?

God my Father, thank you that you help those who call out to you. Help me not to rely on myself but to trust in you. I am more needy than I can even comprehend so help me to continually cry out to you for the help which I so desperately need. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

September 18, 2020

Isaiah 28:14-30:11; Galatians 3:23-4:31; Psalm 62:1-12; Proverbs 23:19-21

Everyone seeks security and a firm foundation for our lives. Typically, this is pursued through wealth, job, relationships, God, or something else, but as we see today, this pursuit is a part of being human.

Israel thought they had found security in a "covenant with death", but it was shown to be futile. In contrast, God offered them a "tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation." This verse is applied to Jesus throughout the New Testament and speaks to the efficacy of what he accomplished for us. There is ultimately no other foundation that we can lay for our lives, no other person we can turn to for security, nowhere else we can look to for fulfillment except him. Everything else will fail us but Jesus never will.

The church in Galatians looked to the law, those described in Proverbs looked to food and wine, but the Bible always points them and us to God. He alone can provide a secure, firm foundation upon which to live.

Question of the day: When God is not the foundation of your life, what else do you turn to for security?

Father God, thank you that you will never fail me. Thank you that you provide a firm foundation for my life. Help me to build my life upon you rather than any of the things of this world. Thank you that you are my rock when all else is sinking sand. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

Isaiah 25:1-28:13; Galatians 3:10-22; Psalm 61:1-8; Proverbs 23:17-18

Sprinkled throughout Isaiah are beautiful passages of hope. One of these is Isaiah 25:8 which says, "...he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people's disgrace from all the earth." What a wonderful reminder of the ultimate hope that awaits us at Christ's return.

As we read through Isaiah and the prophets it is important for us to consider what the various prophecies are referring to. Sometimes the prophets refer to promises which God fulfilled in the days of the prophet , some were fulfilled at Christ's first coming, and others await his second. It is important that we understand what applies to when, otherwise we may incorrectly understand what God is doing.

One example of this is described in 2 Timothy 2 when a group of false teachers proclaimed that the general resurrection had already happened. They seemed to think that Isaiah 25:8 or something similar had already been fulfilled. Imagine their panic that somehow they had missed the resurrection!

If we understand this prophecy accurately then we know that death still awaits us unless Christ returns first. Death has not been swallowed up forever (yet) and all tears have not been wiped away (yet), but we can rest on the ultimate hope that Jesus is victorious over death, the grave, tears, and disgrace. What great assurance that should bring to our lives today!

Question of the day: What are helpful tools to use when you don't understand a passage of Scripture?

Father God, thank you that your Son is victorious over the grave. Thank you that in him I have eternal life. Thank you that I don't have to fear death but can have confidence that eternity with you awaits me.

Amen.

Derek Newbery

September 16, 2020

Isaiah 22:1-24:23; Galatians 2:17-3:9; Psalm 60:1-12; Proverbs 23:15-16

Everyone loves to celebrate and have a party. The joy, emotions, food and people make for such a festive, happy environment. Yet in our passage in Isaiah we see that celebration is not always the appropriate response to life's circumstances. We like being happy all the time but God tells us there are moments when we need to grieve and lament.

The Israelites find themselves on the verge of judgment for their sins in Isaiah 22 and yet they continue to celebrate, eat, and drink. They have refused God's loving exhortation to weep, wail, and put on sackcloth. They are ignoring their sin and God's work, in order that they can continue in a level of ignorant bliss.

This failed response will only lead to increased judgment, destruction and pain. Rather than thinking that life is about the pursuit of happiness, we must recognize it is about the pursuit of God. God is the one who can satisfy, forgive, and lead us in a life of wisdom (Prov 23:15-16).

Question of the day: Why do we find it hard to lament and grieve well?

Father God, I confess my sin before you. I confess that I pursue things other than you to bring me life. Help me to grieve over my sin and turn to you. Help me to believe that in you is life and submit all of me to you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, September 15, 2020

September 15, 2020

Isaiah 19:1-21:17; Galatians 2:1-16; Psalm 59:1-17; Proverbs 23:13-14

When I was barely a teenager a friend came over and negatively influenced me to prank someone through AOL instant messenger. I was soon caught. And since this broke a family rule with regards to appropriate internet usage, my mom took away my internet privileges for an entire week. I was outraged.  How dare my mother infringe on my access to not-so-speedy dial up and AOL instant messenger? In the moment it felt unfair and unreasonable, but looking back I can see how helpful that correction was. I can also see that my mom truly acted out of love and concern for me. 

Proverbs talks about punishing a child to save his or her soul from death. As his children, God, our Father, does the same with us. He disciplines us to get our attention, to protect us from self-destroying choices, to teach us obedience, to mature us. Discipline is not fun, but it is absolutely necessary. The irritation of not getting our own way; the bitterness that can come with on-going pain; or the anger of having something we desperately want taken from us will ultimately be diminished in light of the greater picture of salvation through Christ. 

The next time you find yourself turning away from the Savior, and experiencing God’s discipline, remember this: It is for your good, and only for your good, and because of God’s great love.

How have you responded to God’s discipline in the past? How can you recognize his love through discipline to change the way you respond in the future?

Heavenly Father, my heart is slow to recognize your goodness and love through discipline. Help me to respond well to your correction and see past the moment of frustration to the greater reality of your love.

Sarah Naples

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, September 14, 2020

September 14, 2020

Isaiah 15:1-18:7; Galatians 1:1-24; Psalm 58:1-11; Proverbs 23:12

Proverbs 23:12 says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” This verse speaks to the fact that we are prone to just listen to God's word when what he is truly calling for is application. God is seeking people who are changed by his truth and not merely listening to it.

As we continue to read through the Bible this year it is important for us to consider whether we are truly accomplishing what God desires for us. Are we just reading to read and ending most days without the slightest recollection of what we have read? Do we read and understand but don't do anything with what we have learned? God's desire is that his truth would change us in powerful ways. As Jesus said, when you know the truth it will set you free.

A great way of participating in this process is to ask these questions of the portion of the Bible we read. What is happening in the text (observation)? What does it mean (interpretation)? What else does the Bible say about this (correlation)? What do I need to do with this (application)? This ensures that we apply our heart and ears to God's word and are living out the wisdom of Proverbs 23:12.

Question of the day: Which step of observation, interpretation, correlation or application do you most frequently miss?

Father God, thank you for your truth which you have revealed to me. Help me to know your truth and walk in it. Help me not to be merely a hearer of your truth but a doer also. Help me to live out your love, grace and truth today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

September 13, 2020

Isaiah 12:1-14:32; 2 Corinthians 13:1-14; Psalm 57:1-11; Proverbs 23:9-11

Isaiah's description of judgment uses the term "day of the Lord" (13:9). This is a technical term for a specific day of judgment which is used 30 times in the Bible. In Isaiah 13 it speaks of the day God would bring judgment upon the nation of Babylon. He would come upon them for their sin and horrific treatment of Israel. This judgment and overthrow of Babylon occurred in 539 BC. This day of the Lord is a past event but the New Testament uses "day of the Lord" to speak of the future return of Christ and the judgment he will bring.

God's past judgments/days of the Lord become a glimpse of what is ultimately going to happen in the future. As one of my seminary professors said, "What God has done in the past is a promise and a model for the future, but he is too creative to do it the same way twice."

When we read the stark account of judgment in Isaiah and the rest of the prophets it should take our imagination to the future and cause us to live in light of this reality.

Question of the day: How should God's past and future "day(s) of the Lord" cause us to live differently today?

Father God, thank you that you will come in judgment and vanquish all evil and sin. Thank you that everything that opposes you will be destroyed and the sin in my own life will be finally dealt with. Help me to live today in light of the future and share the hope that you offer to others. Thank you that through Jesus I have been redeemed and don't have to be afraid of a future judgment that will lead to separation from you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

September 12, 2020

Isaiah 10:1-11:16; 2 Corinthians 12:11-21; Psalm 56:1-13; Proverbs 23:6-8

Difficulty is a perpetual reality of life. Yesterday we saw the difficulties of Israel and Paul while today we see the difficulties of David in Psalm 56 and the Israelites in Isaiah 10-11. The Israelites are reaping judgment because of their waywardness while David is experiencing difficulty despite his faithfulness.

What God is trying to work in both of these situations is the same. God's desire is that his people would learn to rely on Him (Isaiah 10:20) and trust Him (Psalm 56:3-4). 

Think about what reliance means. To rely on something means that you find it dependable and are entrusting yourself to its capabilities. When it comes to God it means that we are entrusting ourselves to him and depending on him to come through.

God is ultimately the only one we can fully rely on. We will fail and others will fail but God is always faithful. His dependability ensures that he is worthy of our trust. He will always come through, not always in the way we might want, but always in a way for our good and for his glory.

Question of the day: How do you think God wants to use your current difficulties to learn to trust and rely on him?

Father God, thank you that you are faithful. Help me to trust and rely on you in the midst of life's difficulties. Others have hurt me and let me down, but help me to believe that you never will. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

September 11, 2020

Isaiah 8:1-9:21; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Psalm 55:1-23; Proverbs 23:4-5

Isaiah calls out to northern Israel that judgment is coming upon them because of their sin. Assyria is going to invade and plunder their wealth. They have failed to look to God so God will come against them in judgment but with the hope that they might see and turn to him. God is hoping that this warning and their exile will be fuel to bring them back to him.

Paul, like Isaiah's audience, is an example of God using difficult things to bring about maturity and humility. Paul experienced a "thorn in my flesh," which he begged God to take away. God allowed the thorn to remain because it taught Paul that God's grace is sufficient, humility is essential, and God's power is the strength that counts.

God can use hard things in our lives for our good and his glory. Don't just run from difficulty but instead ask God what he might be trying to do in the midst of it. When Paul had this conversation with God it radically changed his perspective.

Question of the day: When have you seen God use difficulty to mature you?

Father God, thank you that you can use and redeem all things. Thank you that even in the midst of difficulty and hardship, you are at work. Help me to gain your perspective and use all things for your glory. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

September 10, 2020

Isaiah 6:1-7:25; 2 Corinthians 11:16-33; Psalm 54:1-7; Proverbs 23:1-3

Today’s passage in Isaiah destroys the popular notion that there is a god in heaven who wants us to be happy and feel good about ourselves.

Isaiah’s encounter with God utterly overwhelms him; entering the presence of the most holy God shatters his understanding of self. The only physical feature of the Lord Isaiah describes is the train of His robe, and yet that is enough to overcome him. Even the seraphim, who are always there with God, cannot help but ceaselessly call out His glory in the presence of His holiness. In His midst, the ground literally shakes.

Isaiah’s response to this scene is not to feel happy. He doesn’t think he’s “good enough” to be there. No. Faced with the reality of the glory of God, Isaiah grasps the depths of his depravity. “Woe to me! I am ruined!” (6:5) he declares. Isaiah realizes he is deserving only of condemnation. It’s not a general feeling of shame—this is a deep understanding that even his very best is but “filthy rags” (as Isaiah says later in 64:6).

The seraphim touches Isaiah’s lips with a “live coal”, and declares, “Your guilt is taken away…” (v. 7). Instead of the death that was deserved, Isaiah is completely cleansed.  God then questions, “Who will go for Us?” (the “Us” giving evidence of the Trinity), and is met with Isaiah’s immediate reply: “Here I am! Send me!” (v. 8) God’s forgiveness compels him to serve the Lord. It’s the natural response, flowing out of gratitude and love.

We, too, have a point at which we face the depth of our sinfulness. But, thank the Lord, rather than condemnation, God offers us complete cleansing and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Our response? To gladly, lovingly serve Him with that same full and open heart as Isaiah.

Question: Do I understand that God is truly this majestic and awesome?  Am I aware of how much I’ve been given, that I cannot help but be fully, willingly, available to Him?

Oh, Holy Lord, thank You so much for cleansing me, in spite of me. There is nothing in me that is righteous or good apart from You. I want to respond to You as Isaiah did—“Here I am. Send me!” Please help me to mean it.

Julie Gerber

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, September 9, 2020

September 9, 2020

Isaiah 3:1-5:30; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15; Psalm 53:1-6; Proverbs 22:28-29

Can jealousy ever be a good thing? In 2 Corinthians 11:2 Paul speaks of the "godly jealousy" which he has for the church. This jealousy he compares to that of a marriage. As a wife should expect her husband to remain committed to her, so Paul says the church should remain committed to God.

This language of jealousy is actually used for God toward his people a number of times in the Bible. Exodus 20:5 says, "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God." Deuteronomy 4:24 says, "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." James 4:4 says, "Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?"

We can rejoice in the fact that God is jealous concerning us because it means he longs for us to be completely given over to him. He doesn't want a piece of us, just some of our devotion or a little commitment; he longs for all of us to be surrendered to him. When we are jealous it often flows out of pettiness, selfishness, envy or pride, but for God it flows out of love.

Question of the day: Why is it a good thing that God is jealous toward us?

Father God, thank you that you are jealous. Thank you that you desire all of me to be lived in communion with you. Help me to know that life is found in you alone and to live through you, with you and for you. Help me to honor you in all I do today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

September 8, 2020

Isaiah 1:1-2:22; 2 Corinthians 10:1-18; Psalm 52:1-9; Proverbs 22:26-27

Our reading in Isaiah starts us on the portion of the Bible called the prophets. The prophets are typically divided into major and minor prophets.  This has nothing to do with their significance but rather the length of their books. The major prophets consist of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel; the minor are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. One of the primary functions of a prophet was to call a wayward people back to God through their words and example.

We can see this call to the wayward in Isaiah's audience. He is speaking to the externally religious, spiritually apathetic and those in opposition to God. Yet regardless of how religious they appear they all have wandered from God.

These people are found throughout the pages of the Bible (look especially at the description in Psalm 52), throughout the streets of Naples and potentially even the rows of Center Point. God's longing is that all of these people would come to him and experience his forgiveness and restoration power. He longed for Israel in Isaiah's day to experience this and has the same heart for our church and city. God's longing is that all would come to repentance and experience him as their good father. He called Isaiah to communicate his love and he calls us to do the same in our world today.

Question of the day: How can you share God's love with someone far from him today?

Father God, thank you that you drew me to yourself. Thank you that you desire all to come into relationship with you and experience the love and forgiveness that you offer. Help me not to wander from you and instead call all people to trust in you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

September 7, 2020

Song of Solomon 5:1-8:14; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15; Psalm 51:1-19; Proverbs 22:24-25

Giving can often be seen as a dirty word…maybe something we know that we are called to do but at best something we grudgingly participate in. Also, many people have a bad taste in their mouths when churches talk about money. In contrast to these attitudes, 2 Corinthians 9 describes why we should see giving as a beautiful act that God allows us to participate in.

Giving is seen as beautiful because it allows us to bless others. It brings God praise and brings blessing to us. 

First, as we give, it allows us to bless others by responding to their needs. The offering which Paul describes was meant to meet the tangible needs of other Christians. Giving is one of the clearest ways for us to love others. Whether this giving is money or our time, it allows us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. 

Second, our giving brings praise to God. Verses 11 and 12 speak of the thanks and thanksgiving which flows to God when we participate in giving. People cannot see God but they can see us as his ambassadors and through our giving can tangibly see God at work. 

Finally, giving allows us to be blessed. Many false teachers will claim that if you give money, it guarantees that God will give even more money back to you as his blessing. A simple look at our passage shows that God will bless us for our giving but that it is not necessarily financial. In verse 8 the blessing is to “abound in every good work” and in verse 10 it is to “enlarge the harvest of your righteousness”. God in his grace allows us to participate in his work in the world, so we should generously give out of all that God has blessed us with.

Question of the day: What aspect of this passage motivates you to begin or continue generous giving?

Father God, thank you for the opportunity I have to join you in your work in the world. Help me to have eyes to see needs that I can respond to and help me to be generous. Help me not to hoard the blessings you have given to me but share them with others, for your glory and the good of others. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

September 6, 2020

Song of Solomon 1:1-4:16; 2 Corinthians 8:16-24; Psalm 50:1-23; Proverbs 22:22-23

We begin Song of Songs today. It is a book focused on the beauty of marital/romantic love. 

We have a tendency as individuals and a culture to do one of two things with this type of love. The first view is the Disney way of romantic love. It is to conceive of romance as the pinnacle of love. It is to think that only in a romantic relationship can we find fulfillment and when we enter into this relationship we will live 'happily ever after'. The second is to reject this type of love. Usually due to past heartbreak or abuse, we may reject the value or beauty of marriage.

God wants our perspective to be a middle ground between these two extremes. He wants us to see the beauty of romance and marriage, and celebrate and enjoy it while also understanding that fulfillment only comes in Christ. No one outside of Jesus can complete us. This is why the image is often used of Jesus as the groom of the church. He is the one who makes us whole and he is the one we ultimately need union with.

Question of the day: Which of the two cultural views of romance do you take? What has shaped this perspective?

Father God, thank you that you make me complete. Help me not to look to anyone else including my spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or others to do that which only you can do in my life. Thank you that in you is joy, peace and contentment. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

September 5, 2020

Ecclesiastes 10:1-12:14; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; Psalm 49:1-20; Proverbs 22:20-21

What gives our lives meaning and value? Is it the number of accomplishments we can point to, our many possessions, or the size of our bank account? Today’s scriptures challenge us to examine what gives our lives true meaning and significance.

    The writer of Ecclesiastes comes to the end of his quest to find true meaning and value in life and seems to conclude with the words he began with: “Meaningless!  Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” But he goes on to the better final conclusion that fearing God and being obedient to Him are the best ways to find joy and peace in a world that often makes no sense.

    Psalm 49 points to much the same conclusion but emphasizes that all people die, whether they are rich or poor – no one escapes death despite their status in life. He then encourages us not to envy the wealthy or to trust in our wealth if we have it, but to trust God for our eternal destiny. No matter what we have accumulated in life, we leave it all behind us when we leave this world.

    I’m not sure when I realized that every material thing we ever own will eventually be owned by someone else, or be in a trash or ash heap somewhere, but it was a sobering thought. That concept is emphasized in Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to be generous in their giving to the Lord’s work. This sort of giving is making an eternal investment since the only things that continue on after this world are people and God’s Word.

    How do we find value and meaning in our lives? These three writers all agree that God alone holds the answers and that obedience and generosity towards Him will enable us to live meaningful and joyful lives. Holding our wealth and material possessions loosely and being generous to God’s work yields peace and fulfillment in life.

Question of the Day: What are we investing our time and money in to give our lives significance and meaning? How can we feel we are making an eternal difference in this confusing and mixed-up world?

Dear Lord help us to see what has true value in our lives and to spend our time and money involving ourselves in those things. Thank You that in You we find joy and significance in our lives so that they are not meaningless, but meaningful for Your glory. Amen

Jan Lee

September 4, 2020

Ecclesiastes 7:1-9:18; 2 Corinthians 7:8-16; Psalm 48:1-14; Proverbs 22:17-19

 As we have seen the last couple days, Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes challenges us to look at life in ways that we normally wouldn't. One of the ways he does this is by challenging us to view life through the lens of death. Since we are all going to die (unless Christ returns first) we should allow our mortality to affect our behavior.

Reflecting on our death may seem morbid, especially in a culture that tries to hide death away, but Solomon says it is actually wisdom.

As we reflect on death it helps to shape our values and gives us a clear understanding of what matters. Are we living in light of what will matter one minute after our death or just living in light of this moment? Hopefully as we continue through Solomon's wisdom over the next few days it will challenge and convict us about ways that we are not fully living in light of death, and beyond that, eternity.

Question of day: How would reflecting on your mortality change the way you live?

Our Father, I confess that I so often give my time, energy and passion to things which really don't matter. I live for fleeting pleasures rather than the reality of eternity. Reshape my heart to love the things you love and live for things which are meaningful, rather than meaningless. Amen.

Derek Newbery

September 3, 2020

Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7; Psalm 47:1-9; Proverbs 22:16

We discussed briefly yesterday the idea of meaning out of Ecclesiastes. It is especially important as we read that we understand what Solomon means by the word "meaningless”. This word is found 33 times in Ecclesiastes and only four other times in the whole rest of the Bible. It is clearly the central purpose of the book.

As we meander through the 33 usages of "meaningless" it may seem difficult to find one concise definition but one of the clearest synonyms is temporal. When we don't include God in our decisions we inevitably only live for the moment. We become like the man in 4:7-8 who collected a massive amount of wealth but as death approaches realizes that it won't help him. Or the people in 4:13-16 who look to various politicians to rescue them when in light of eternity they are just distant memories.

If our actions, decisions and emotions don't make sense in light of eternity than why are we doing them in the first place? They are just meaningless!

Question of the day: In what ways does your life reflect temporal pursuits rather than eternal?

Father God, help me to live for things which matter. Help me to be consumed by things which matter in light of eternity. I confess that I far too often make life about me and my desires, rather than you and your glory. Help me to remain focused on you and your glory today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

September 2, 2020

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Psalm 46:1-11; Proverbs 22:15

Ecclesiastes is a great book for our time. One of the main issues that it addresses is finding meaning in life. We will join Solomon as he tries to discover meaning and purpose. In our reading today he will look in the very same places that we as a culture look and will learn that without God life is "meaningless".

One of the places Solomon looks to for meaning is education. This is the equivalent of someone thinking that if only they can graduate from an Ivy League school then they will have a sense of purpose, meaning and value in their life. He also looks to pleasure (i.e. sex, entertainment, alcohol etc.) and accomplishments for meaning. It is not hard for us to see that our world is filled with people just like Solomon. We may think that if only I can fill my life with happiness, if only I get a promotion, if only...then I will feel satisfied and have a sense of meaning. There will always be a sense of -if only- in our lives. It is easy to think that changed circumstances will lead to a changed sense of meaning in our lives. Yet Solomon was able to try every pursuit to the nth degree and still found them wanting. As we will see at the end of the book, only God can give meaning and purpose to our lives.

Question of the day: What pursuits (other than God) do you use to try to provide meaning in life?

Father God, thank you that you give me purpose. Thank you that I am your child and have value and dignity apart from what I accomplish. Help me to look to you to for life and meaning, rather than the shallow things the world offers. Amen.

Derek Newbery

September 1, 2020

Job 40:1-42:17; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Psalm 45:1-17; Proverbs 22:14

Despicable! My cousin disgustingly utters “des-pi-ca-ble” emphasizing every syllable when a game move places her at a disadvantage. 

This is where we find Job when God, after demonstrating His power and omnipotence as Creator, pauses and lets Job humbly whisper, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth” (40:4). The Hebrew for “unworthy” means to “lightly esteem” or in this sense “contemptible;” otherwise “despicable.” Probably Job wished for a big eraser so he could wipe away his previous statement: “Then I could explain everything I have done. I could come to God with my head held high like a prince” (31:37, ERV). 

God spoke to Job out of the storm (40:6) where one who is suffering is often found; in the storm. He challenged Job, “Would you discredit my justice?” God was not running Job’s world in Job’s desired way. Therefore, God mockingly said, “Unleash (your) fury… crush the wicked… Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you” (40:11-12, 14, NIV). Come on, Job, step aside; let God be your Savior. Let God be God, performing His justice to do right. 

Leviathan and Behemoth (perhaps powers of evil) showed God was in control and Job was helpless in his own power. Therefore Job penitently states, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted….My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (40:2 & 5) The Hebrew word nāham for “repent” extends past “to be sorry, repent” to “to console oneself” or “be comforted.” Perhaps Job was comforted by his Creator and Savior because he repented.

In these chapters we see a humbled, repentant Job, perhaps even while he was still suffering, All this happened without God revealing the reason to Job for his suffering. Could this be so we who presently suffer in silence without answers can proclaim with Job, “I heard about you from others; now I have seen you with my own eyes” (Job 42:5)?

Question of the day: What needs to occur in our lives so we can see God with our own eyes? 

Father, in the words of Paul Joseph Baloche’s song:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord

Open the eyes of my heart

I want to see You

I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up

Shinin' in the light of Your glory

Pour out Your power and love

As we sing holy, holy, holy

Gena Duncan