The One Year Devo

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December 27, 2020

Zechariah 10:1-11:17; Revelation 18:1-24; Psalm 146:1-10; Proverbs 30:33

In Revelation 18 the sinful, opulent city of Babylon has been destroyed and the sight of its demise leads to two very different responses. The first response is mourning. Those who became rich from the city mourn over their own changed circumstances. They no longer have a quick path to wealth and, therefore, are filled with sorrow. They are not really concerned about Babylon itself but only how the loss affects them.

A second response is rejoicing (v.20). God's people recognize the destruction of Babylon as being the judgment of God. They rejoice over wickedness being destroyed and justice finally being dealt. The culture as a whole responds with sorrow, while the remnant responds with joy. 

Our emotional response to situations reveals a great deal about our values and hearts. What causes us to respond with joy and sorrow? Are they things which align with the values of God or not? The next time you have a strong emotional response, consider where it comes from and whether it flows from the heart of God or our own self-centeredness.

Question of the day: How can you more accurately align your emotions to God's?

Father God, help me to respond to situations in a way that honors you. Continue to transform my heart to become more like your Son's. Enable me to rejoice over the things which you rejoice over and to detest the things you detest. Help me to live in a way that glorifies you today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, December 26, 2020

December 26, 2020

Zechariah 9:1-17; Revelation 17:1-18; Psalm 145:1-21; Proverbs 30:32

Psalm 110:1 is the most quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament while the most quoted verse (in whole or in part) in the whole Bible is probably Exodus 34:6-7. It is a majestic description of God's character which is quoted in Psalm 145. Exodus 34:6-7 says, " The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

As we read the Bible, and especially sections like the prophets and Revelation, it is important for us to come back to the character of God. We must remember that God is compassionate and gracious. This aspect of God is what allows us to have a relationship with him. It is only because of his initiative and love that we can draw near to him and experience his unconditional love. Yet he is also a God who must judge those who refuse to repent. Every generation has an opportunity to respond to his love, but if they do not, then they will experience his just response. Therefore, it is critical that we keep a fresh vision of God in front of us and continually put who he is, in front of others.

Question of the day: How should knowing the character of God transform your own character?

Father God, thank you that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Thank you for who you are and that because of your grace I can draw near to you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, December 25, 2020

December 25, 2020

Zechariah 8:1-23; Revelation 16:1-21; Psalm 144:1-15; Proverbs 30:29-31

Merry Christmas to our Center Point Church family!  This is the day we celebrate God’s Son entering our world as a helpless infant—born to a peasant, virgin girl; his coming first prophesied in the early chapters of Genesis; a child who will bring salvation to all who in humility take hold of him in faith.    

Today’s readings speak about God’s judgment on sin and rebellion.  Zechariah addresses God’s judgment of the nation of Israel in the past; Revelation describes God’s unparalleled judgment of our planet in the future.  

But Zechariah is confident that God will restore Israel after its long winter of exile in Babylon.  And in that restoration Zechariah anticipates a new world of blessing and prosperity (see verses 7-8, 20-23).  It is a glimpse of the millennium when God will return to our world, Jesus will physically rule from Jerusalem, “and many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.”  

This same God who showed up 2,000 years ago will come again in all his glory, splendor and power. The good news that brings great joy is that we who know the Savior will not have to suffer judgment, but will be welcomed into the kingdom of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

In 1864 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.  The third and fourth verses are a good summary of our passages for today: 

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Question of the day: What specific behavior does God call for in Zechariah 8:16-17?  What would that look like for you?

Father, thank you that your Son visited our planet, showed us how to live, died for our sins, gives us salvation through faith, sends his Spirit into our hearts, and has promised to return.  It is only because of the great mercy you poured out onto us through Jesus your Son that we will join you in the new Jerusalem.

Tom Powidzki with Jim Nite

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, December 24, 2020

December 24, 2020

Zechariah 6:1-7:14; Revelation 15:1-8; Psalm 143:1-12; Proverbs 30:24-2

Zechariah is speaking to a people that, though they have returned from exile, are still discouraged and hopeless. Their location has changed, but, in many ways, their circumstances have not. Zechariah tries to bring hope to these people by communicating what will be. Zechariah attempts to take the eyes of the people and move them from their present realities to a future certainty. This is the same encouragement that we may need in our own lives. In the face of a discouraging present, we may need to look to the hopeful reality of what is to come.

Zechariah looks to the hope of a king-priest that will come. In this message, Joshua functions as a foretaste of Jesus who is the ultimate king-priest that leads the people of God. Jesus' past work and future return should give us hope regardless of our present circumstances. Christ's return will transform everything and, therefore, we can have hope.

The book of Revelation functions in much the same way as Zechariah as it points us to the realities of what is to come. It started with the seven struggling churches, but has taken us to the great victory that Christ will bring over world empires, evil, and Satan. If you are struggling with a sense of weakness or uncertainty, remember the reality of who Christ is and what he will accomplish for us.

Question of the day: What can you do to remember the hope of the future when you are discouraged about the present?

Father God, thank you that you can give me hope even in the most trying of times. Help me to find my hope in you and in the future return of Christ and help me to share my hope with others today. Amen.
Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, December 23, 2020

December 23, 2020

Zechariah 4:1-5:11; Revelation 14:1-20; Psalm 142:1-7; Proverbs 30:21-23

There is a cultural stereotype of God as someone who gleefully tortures people in hell. This view sees God as a monster who delights in the suffering and pain of others. The question we must wrestle with is whether this is an accurate view of God or not. 

In our reading in Revelation today we read about "God's fury." We are told that those who oppose God "will be tormented with burning sulfur...and the smoke of torment will rise for ever and ever." Then, at the end of Revelation 14, an angel is described as taking a sickle which produces blood flowing to the height of a horses' bridle for a distance of 180 miles. That is the equivalent of a river of blood from Naples to Tampa. Can we understand this judgment in Revelation as anything other than God as a moral monster? We certainly can.

First, for God to be loving, he must remove all evil from the world. Otherwise, we would live on a sin filled earth for eternity. Without God removing evil in judgment, we would be living in hell. Therefore, God must judge in order to be loving, holy, and righteous. Though the language is provocative, it is ultimately a purifying act that God enacts in these passages.

Second, when we look at the text closely, we discover that God is not pictured as torturing people in hell forever. Notice verse 11 which speaks of the smoke going up for ever and ever. This smoke describes the consequence of the judgment and not the judgment itself. Consider the bombing of Germany during WWII. The act of judgment was the bombing, but the smoke and rubble would have lasted far longer. So it is with all who stand against God. They will be judged at God's throne, but they will be separated from him for all eternity. As in our own court system, people will be judged at one moment in time, but will then experience the results of their sentencing for eternity.

Question of the day: How do you reconcile God's love and his judgment?

Father God, thank you that you are the perfect judge of me and the world. Thank you that through the work of Christ, by grace through faith, I can experience forgiveness rather than judgment. Thank you that you will make all things right at Christ's return and help me to live in light of that reality today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, December 22, 2020

December 22, 2020

Zechariah 2:1-3:10; Revelation 13:1-18; Psalm 141:1-10; Proverbs 30:18-20

The opposition to God is described in many ways in the book of Revelation, but in our reading today it is focused on two beasts. The first beast comes out of the sea and becomes an object of worship for the world. This beast then uses its power to stand against God and his people. A second beast comes out of the earth, calls for worship of the first beast and uses "great signs" to deceive the world. Further, this second beast will control the economic system of the earth. These beasts will seem to hold all of the power and authority on the planet, but, ultimately, it is just a mirage.

The question we must answer is what should our response to the beasts be and, in general, how should we respond to opposition that we face for following God. We are told explicitly in verse 10 that we are to have "patient endurance and faithfulness." First, endurance means regardless of the opposition we face, we will continue to follow Christ. Even if it makes our lives more difficult (which happens in many ways in Revelation) we must keep following Christ. Maturity and the refining of our faith comes through endurance. Secondly, faithfulness means we remain committed to God. The world is described as worshiping the beast, but we cannot give in to this temptation. We must continually put Christ at the center of our lives and give our ultimate allegiance to him alone. Regardless of the difficulty or opposition we face, we must keep going in putting Christ first in our lives.
Question of the day: What can you do to grow your endurance or faithfulness to God today?

Father God, thank you for the life which you offer me. You are the only source of life, forgiveness, and salvation. Therefore, help me to remain committed to following you and putting you first in my life. Help me to flee from sin and run to you today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, December 21, 2020

December 21, 2020

Zechariah 1:1-21; Revelation 12:1-17; Psalm 140:1-13; Proverbs 30:17

If asked to summarize the Christmas story, we could probably do so and it would sound something like the stories that Matthew and Luke tell. Yet, today's reading in Revelation 12 gives us the story of Christmas from the perspective of heaven. A story that is just as critical to understanding Christmas and one we often ignore. As we prepare for Christmas, this is a helpful passage for us to meditate upon.

The focus of the chapter is initially on a woman (Israel; see Genesis 37:9) who, as she is about to give birth, is chased by "an enormous red dragon." Envision for a moment how lopsided this battle is. Imagine the betting odds on duel between a largely immobile, pregnant woman and a massive powerful dragon. The odds are completely stacked against the woman and her child, yet God's intervention means that nothing can stand against her.

God's intervention leads to the child (Jesus), the woman and her offspring (Christians; see v.17) being saved. Yet, despite the certainty of victory, the dragon (Satan) continues his work of seeking to destroy God's people. Satan is never satisfied but is continually seeking to thwart God's work and God's church. 

The cosmic Christmas story continues to play out in our lives today. Satan is coming after us, but we can depend on the power of God to overcome. For, no matter the turmoil, trouble, or temptation, we can rely on the greatness of God's power for us today.

Question of the day: How does Revelation 12 help to expand your view of Christmas?

Father God, thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus. Thank you that he has overcome Satan, sin, and death and through him I can find forgiveness, salvation, and life. Help me to rely on your strength to help me to live victorious over Satan and sin today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, December 20, 2020

December 20, 2020

Haggai 1:1-2:23; Revelation 11:1-19; Psalm 139:1-24; Proverbs 30:15-16

After 70-years of exile in Babylon, the Persian King Cyrus allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. But the project crawls: the foundation alone takes two years to complete, enthusiasm flags, construction further slows, the work grinds to a halt. The focus of the people shifts to their own homes and farms; funds that are to be used for the temple are spent in a futile effort to make the community self-sufficient; and there is opposition from the surrounding populations who don’t want to see a Jewish state re-established.  

Enter Haggai. In our reading today, this obscure prophet urges the people to finish the temple project. This new temple will not replicate the temple that Solomon built, a magnificent structure remembered by a few of the oldest citizens (Haggai 2:3; see also Ezra 3:12). Nevertheless, the glory of this second temple will be greater than the first. And the reason for this greater glory is that “what is desired by all nations will come” (Haggai 2:7). The fourth verse of the Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing picks up this line from Haggai’s prophecy: “Come, Desire of Nations, come; fix in us Thy humble home.” The interpretation of the ancient rabbis agrees with the carol: Haggai, with this language, is referring to the coming of the Messiah.

When you come to Haggai 2:9 read it thoughtfully: 

The glory of the present house [or temple] will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the Lord Almighty.  

And in this place I will grant peace, declares the Lord Almighty.   

The temple project will be completed. And it is to this temple, five-hundred years later, that Jesus—God in the flesh, Glory personified—comes to preach his good news of salvation and peace.  

Whatever project God has put in front of you—teaching three and four-year-olds in a Sunday school class, serving as a Stephen Minister, hosting a Connection Group, sharing in the work of a missionary through financial and emotional support—press on. Allow God to do that which matters, that which is eternal, through you.  

Let him touch your work with his presence. His glory.  

Question of the day: What ministry or service area has God put in front of you that you need to act on?

Father, please use my gifts for your Son’s kingdom, and demonstrate your glory in my work—and in me. In Jesus’ name.   

Jim Nite

Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, December 19, 2020

December 19, 2020

Zephaniah 1:1-3:20; Revelation 10:1-11; Psalm 138:1-8; Proverbs 30:11-14

The prophets spend the vast majority of their time confronting idolatry. Idolatry is ultimately giving allegiance to people, powers, and things in the attempt to ensure security, freedom, and salvation. Zephaniah speaks against three idolatrous paths which Judah had been journeying down, and, by extension, challenges us to consider whether God is the only one to whom we are giving our ultimate allegiance.

First, Zephaniah speaks against the idol of false gods. Judah had turned to Molek, Baal, and the gods of foreign nations. Since God was standing in opposition to their sin, they wanted to find a god that would affirm their behavior while also guaranteeing a future of peace and prosperity. They wanted to give their allegiance to something they could control and did not demand any life transformation. Yet, in doing so, all they really did was increase God's judgment against them.

Second, Zephaniah speaks out against wealth. This is a far more common idol in America. People look to money as the ultimate form of salvation. We think enough money in the bank, solid stock investments, or a pension will lead to freedom from anxiety, worry or doubt. Yet money is a fickle god. It can do nothing to provide the security and life that we ultimately need. We can give our allegiance to it, but it gives nothing back.

Finally, Zephaniah speaks against the individual as an idol. In chapter 3, we are told that Judah had made themselves the final authority and power. They looked to themselves as the ultimate reality of life. If they did enough, accomplished enough, lived the right way, and did the right things; then everything would be fine. Though this is what the people thought; Judah, like us, make very poor gods. Our allegiance should not be given to ourselves, to material prosperity, or false gods, but to the one true God who gives life, salvation, and eternity.

Question of the day: Out of false gods, money, and yourself, which are you most prone to give your allegiance to over God? Why?

Father God, you alone are God. Help me to turn to you, trust in you, and look to you for life. Open my eyes to see things that I turn to as a substitute for you. Help me to repent of these actions and make you God over my life and longings. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, December 18, 2020

December 18, 2020

Habakkuk 1:1-3:19; Revelation 9:1-21; Psalm 137:1-9; Proverbs 30:10

Habakkuk complains to God about the injustice, sin and violence in his country. He wants to know why God isn't doing anything about it. We may look at the world, our country or our own life, and find ourselves expressing the same question.

God first responds by stating that he is going to do something about it. He will judge the wickedness and sin in the world, and evil will not win. This gives us a sense of hope knowing that God is going to stand against evil. Those who are aligned with God will ultimately be victorious regardless of what the circumstances of today may appear to be.

Second, God speaks to the wicked regarding the judgment that awaits. Habakkuk speaks against those who are perpetrating evil with the repeated word, "woe”. There is always time for those who are in sin to repent and experience God's mercy rather than wrath. Those who repent can experience hope, forgiveness and life, while those who refuse will experience judgment.

Habakkuk ends his conversation with God with an attitude of joy. He has moved from confusion and frustration at God, to rejoicing in his character. As we similarly face confusing circumstances in life we must learn to embrace God, knowing that he is the savior of the world, and our ultimate source of joy.

Question of the day: How can you turn from uncertainty and confusion about life, to  joy?

Father God, thank you that you are in the process of making the world right. I thank you that this work will be completed at Christ's return. Help me to trust you in difficulty and confusion, and embrace the joy that you provide today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, December 17, 2020

December 17, 2020

Nahum 1:1-3:19; Revelation 8:1-13; Psalm 136:1-26; Proverbs 30:7-9

100 years after Jonah preached against Nineveh, another prophet came. The response to Jonah was repentance but the response to Nahum is opposition or apathy. Despite a previous generation's repentance, this new generation will not follow in their footsteps and will instead be judged.

God's message is always one of hope for those who respond and despair for those who do not. Nahum describes God as jealous and avenging (v.2) while at the same time being "slow to anger" (v.3). The difference in God's response is always how people respond to him and his message.

As we consider this principle, we must quickly look at ourselves. Do we heed the words of God like Nineveh did when Jonah spoke or are we more like Nineveh under Nahum? Are we quick to listen and obey, or quick to ignore or think of people that need the message more than us? God is patient in that since the flood he has not completely judged the planet but as Revelation describes, the day of the Lord is coming.

Question of the day: How can you do better at allowing God's word to change you?

Father God, help me to become more like your Son Jesus. Help me to hear your words and apply them to my life. Keep me humble and repentant, knowing that this is the place of intimacy with you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, December 16, 2020

December 16, 2020

Micah 5:1-7:20; Revelation 7:1-17; Psalm 135:1-21; Proverbs 30:5-6

Habits form who you are. Physically the habits of exercise, eating healthy and sleeping well are critical. Similarly, spiritual habits are vital to our health. The habit that is highlighted today in Revelation 7 and Psalm 135 is that of praise.

The people in heaven in Revelation 7 are all praising God. As they stand in the presence of God they can't help but worship him. Even those who have been murdered because of their commitment to Jesus, can't help but praise him. Often we may find ourselves praising God when circumstances are going as we desire but the habit we need to cultivate is that of praising God in all times. Since he is always worthy of praise we should be praising him all the time.

Even as we practice praising God we should recognize that God's ultimate desire is never the external habit but the heart transformation which accompanies this. Micah 6 describes the Israelites as continuing the external practices of worship but missing the point. Therefore, Micah challenges them to move beyond sacrifices and instead live in the path of justice, mercy and humility.

We must learn to regularly praise God but make sure that we are allowing God to transform our lives in the process.

Question of the day: How can you use worship as a tool for God to transform you?

Father God, you are worthy of my worship and praise. I praise you for your goodness, grace, beauty and love. Help me to praise you today with my lips and with my life. Continue to conform me to the likeness of your Son and transform my character to become more like Him. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, December 15, 2020

December 15, 2020

Micah 1:1-4:13; Revelation 6:1-17; Psalm 134:1-3; Proverbs 30:1-4

Hope.  It’s more than a feeling.  It is a perspective.  A confidence about the future.  And the prophet Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, sandwiches it into his somber analysis of Israel’s spiritual condition.  

Sin has consequences and ultimately leads to judgment.  And the nation has given itself to sin.  Sleep is interrupted as people plot and scheme to steal from their fellow citizens (2:1-2), false prophets tailor their reports to whatever their audience wantsto hear (2:11; 3:5), leaders despise true justice (3:9), priests distort their messages for money (3:11).  

But God sees and will act.  The near future will bring the destruction of Jerusalem by the brutal Babylonian army, to be followed by long decades of exile (4:10-11).  

Thankfully, we are not left with only a word of impending judgment.  Micah also looks into the far future and sees a very different world.  God will one day rule from Jerusalem—and the nations of the world will stream to Israel to learn from him (4:1-3a, 7b).  It will be a world of true peace (4:3b), genuine prosperity and security (4:4-5), and protection for the vulnerable (4:6-7a).  This new world will also bring a restoration of Israel’s past glory as a nation (4:8).  

And God is going to accomplish this through the One referred to in the last lines in the reading from Proverbs.  The rabbis before Christ didn’t know what to do with the question in verse 4: What is the name of God’s son?  What can this possibly mean?  And then God breaks into our world a first time: a baby is born in Bethlehem.  And we know the name of his son.  His name is Jesus.  And God will one day—a second time—break into our world through his son and establish the world that Micah sees and writes about.  

This is our hope when we see injustice flourishing, false teachers popularized, and sin normalized and embraced by our culture. We, on our tiptoes, look with Micah into the future—and to a God who will one day make all things right and rule forever.

Question of the day: The Christmas season can keep us distracted with busyness, how can you make time to focus on the hope we have in Christ’s return?

Father God, thank you for the hope of eternity and that you will bring about final justice and make all things right. 

Sarah Naples and Jim Nite

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, December 14, 2020

December 14, 2020

Jonah 1:1-4-11; Revelation 5:1-14; Psalm 133:1-3; Proverbs 29:26-27

Out of all of the prophets in the Old Testament, Jonah is arguably the most well known. We may know his story of getting swallowed by a fish but we may not actually know the purpose for its inclusion in the Bible. When you make it through all four chapters of Jonah, you discover that the main point is about God's love for all people. God desires all people to trust in him and Jonah challenges us to consider whether we share that heart with God.

The surprise in the book is that God's judgment is not sent upon the Ninevites but upon Jonah. God causes a storm that gets Jonah thrown overboard and kills a plant that provided shade while the Ninevites (and pagan sailors) are saved. The Ninevites were a wicked people but despite their sin, God responds to their repentance. God desires that all people regardless of past or present misdeeds would hear of his love and respond in faith. God will serve as judge, and we are to serve as ambassadors who make Christ known to all people.

God is in the saving business and the question we must wrestle with, is whether we have joined him in this work. Are we making him known to others? Do we share God's heart of grace and inclusion? Do we take God's grace for granted or allow it to overflow out of our lives on to others?

Question of the day: What is one way you can make God's grace known to others today?

Father God, thank you for your grace. Thank you that in you I have life, salvation and forgiveness. Help me not to take your grace and forgiveness for granted, but to share You with others. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, December 13, 2020

December 13, 2020

Obadiah 1:1-21; Revelation 4:1-11; Psalm 132:1-18; Proverbs 29:24-25

"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." -Proverbs 29:25

Many of us may struggle with being people pleasers. We want others to like us to a point where we find our identity in pleasing others rather than in ultimately pleasing God. The proverb describes this mentality as a trap. Like an animal that is enticed by bait to only find itself entrapped and wounded, so is people pleasing. If we ground our identity and purpose in pleasing others then we will never be satisfied.  We may find ourselves compromising God's clear commands because we care more about the opinions of others rather than God.

Proverbs 29:25 tells us that people pleasing is a snare but pleasing/trusting  God is a place of safety. Since God loves us unconditionally we can rest in the security that through Christ, God has made us his children. Therefore, we should seek to obey God and please him, but knowing God is already pleased in us because when he sees us he sees the sacrifice of his Son. Pleasing God flows from the position that we are already accepted by him while pleasing people is an endless pursuit of trying to get people to like us. It is critical that we ground our identity in how God sees us rather than the myriad of ways that people view us.

Question of the day: What are ways that you fall into the trap of being a people pleaser?

Father God, help me to seek to please you today. Help me to live for you and your glory. Thank you that I am your child and I am secure in you. Help me to love people as an overflow of how you have loved me and not so that they will love me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, December 12, 2020

December 12, 2020

Amos 7:1-9:15; Revelation 3:7-22; Psalm 131:1-3; Proverbs 29:23

Hope is a powerful fuel to keep us going. When people lose hope they typically lose the will to persevere, to endure and even to live. One of the key indicators for people who survived something as horrendous as the Holocaust was their ability to sustain hope. No matter what you are enduring, it is most likely nothing like those people but it is critical for us to find a sustained hope.

David ends Psalm 131 with a reminder about where our hope is placed. Our hope is grounded "in the Lord”.  The object of our hope is the reality of God's existence, his love for us and his unchanging character. God allows us to have a hope that lasts "both now and forevermore

This sustaining, permanent reality of hope is commented on by both Amos and John in Revelation 3. Amos spends most of his time on the judgment that is coming upon Israel but ends his book with the hope of the God's kingdom. The people (if they had faith) could look beyond their momentary struggles and see the future that God would bring about. Amos describes this new reality as fertile fields and rebuilt cities. John similarly points the churches of Philadelphia and Laodicea beyond their present sufferings, struggles and persecutions to what will come. John describes the church becoming  "a pillar in the temple of my God" that will be in the new Jerusalem. Further, the church is described as sitting on God's throne in victory.

Our present difficulties may overwhelm our attention and vision, but God wants us to look beyond today, into eternity and find the hope which that reality brings.

Question of the day: How can you be hopeful today?

Father God, thank you that you give me hope. Thank you that you will vanquish all sin and make all things right when your Son returns. Help me to always remember this and be filled with the hope of that reality. Help me not to be overwhelmed by troubles or sorrows but to be  overwhelmed by the hope that comes from you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, December 11, 2020

December 11, 2020

Amos 4:1-6:14; Revelation 2:18-3:6; Psalm 130:1-8; Proverbs 29:21-22

 God continually longs for people to live in relationship with him. Probably the most well known passage on this idea is Luke 15 with the parables of the lost coin, lost sheep and lost son (prodigal son). God is willing to go to extravagant means to pursue his people. We see this same theme emphasized in our reading today.

In Amos 4-6, God is willing to allow his people to go through difficulty in order that they might turn to him. He withholds rain and sends plagues in order to get the attention of the people and create a need for him. Though the drought, famine and plagues would have not been enjoyable to experience, God is trying to save people from an eternity separated from him. He is trying to awaken them spiritually so they can experience a life with him.

Similarly, in the letters to Thyatira and Sardis in Revelation, God is trying to get the attention of the churches. He wants them to reawaken themselves spiritually to experience abundant life. For some they need to persevere in doing good, for others they need to repent of their sins and draw near to God. Many of the churches are in a spiritual slumber and God wants their eyes to be opened to God's love, the life available in Christ and to come back to him. His love is more than we can fathom and he longs to embrace all people in his salvation love.

Question of the day: What would it look like to be more spiritually awake?

Father God, awaken me to the reality of your love and the life you have made available to me today. Help me not to be lethargic towards you or things of you but to pursue you, as a response to the way you pursue me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, December 10, 2020

December 10, 2020

Amos 1:1-3:15; Revelation 2:1-17; Psalm 129:1-8; Proverbs 29:19-20

As God speaks through Amos, presenting His judgments against nations, several familiar “bad guys” show up. We read that the Philistines will be wiped out and the Edomites’ fortresses “consumed.” These judgments for continued wrongdoing seem, at first, only against enemies of God.

And then, suddenly, we see Judah’s name. Following the exact same format as His declarations against His enemies, God pronounces that “He will not relent” (2:4) against His very own. She has “rejected the law of the LORD”, and so her fortresses, too, will be consumed. 

Next God gets to Israel. Up until now, when God has said, “For three sins…even four…” He only names two sins. For His dearly loved children, He shares all four. It’s painful to read. God’s grief is evident as He lists their sins, and then the deliverances with which He has provided them—destroying the Amorites, bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, raising up people for their help ( 6-11). But, He says, Israel even took those prophets set apart for His work, and kept them from speaking (12). Enough is enough. So, God says, “I will crush [Israel]…” (13). “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins” (3:2). The judgment is bleak. 

Which is why God’s declarations to the churches in Revelation should be a point of critical reflection for us. To the church of Ephesus, God lists wonderful commendations—they’ve “persevered” and “endured” (3).  However, they have “forsaken the love [they] had at first” (4). They still do what is right, but is their passion still there? He later acknowledges that the Pergamum church “remain[s] true to [His] name” (13), BUT they have let the ways of the world to creep in. They’ve accepted false teaching that allows for ungodly behavior and thought. Their heresies seem so clear to us today (because Scripture spells it out for us), BUT are we filtering all the subtle, inculcating teachings of our own world through the Bible—so that all that informs our heart and minds is His Truth? “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (17). This is most definitely for us as well.

Question of the day: How am I like the Church of Ephesus or Pergamum? What does the Spirit want me to hear?

Father God, Please help me to hear the Spirit’s voice in my life, that I might not continue in sin against You as the Israelites or the others. I want to walk only in Your way.

Julie Gerber

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, December 9, 2020

December 9, 2020

Joel 1:1-3:21; Revelation 1:1-20; Psalm 128:1-6; Proverbs 29:18

As we begin reading Revelation today and continue through the prophets, it is easy to focus on the various judgments that are described; but to only see judgment is to miss the point. All of the Bible and especially the prophets and apocalyptic literature is a focus on God. To only see the details or to only focus on how our world today compares to the events in Revelation is to miss much of the point. We are called to see God.

As we read through Joel we see a description of a locust army (similar imagery is found in Revelation 9) but we also see a powerful description of a God who desires a relationship with his people. Chapters 2&3 describe God as gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Further, he is a God who blesses his people with material provision and spiritual blessings such as his Spirit.

Then as we come to Revelation, it starts in 1:1 with Jesus. We read that it is a book which comes from Jesus and in fact it could be translated as the revelation about Jesus. Most translations say "the revelation of Jesus" which reflects the ambiguity of the Greek meaning. As we continue through Revelation over the next few weeks we should constantly be asking the question, what did I learn about Jesus, and what difference should this understanding make in my life.

Question of the day: As you go about your day today, how can you keep your attention on Jesus?

Father God, I am far too easily distracted from you. I can be so focused on my daily tasks that I fail to see you at work in the midst of them. Give me eyes to see what you are doing today in and through me. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, December 8, 2020

December 8, 2020

Hosea 10:1-14:9; Jude 1:1-25; Psalm 127:1-5; Proverbs 29:15-17

God has placed proper authority structures in the world to lead and guide people. The most significant of these are government, family and the church, with God the ultimate authority over all of these. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve humanity is prone to rebel against these authorities. Rather than submitting to a leader, we want to be God. Yet this way of life only leads to death and destruction. Notice the attitude described by Hosea in 10:3, "We have no king because we did not revere the Lord."

In a recent study of people who have walked away from Christ, the desire to throw off authority structures was the most common reason for this abandonment. Therefore, we must continue to remember our need for God and leaders over us. We cannot experience life if we think that we are running the show. Instead we need to surrender control over to God rather than rebelling against him.

Question of the day: What can you do to place yourself in submission before God today?

Father God, you are my God. You have the right to speak to every area of my life.  Help me, as you speak, to surrender to you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, December 7, 2020

December 7, 2020

Hosea 6:1-9:17; 3 John 1:1-14; Psalm 126:1-6; Proverbs 29:12-14

Hosea describes a people who have continued religious externals but their hearts are far from God. This is much of the focus of the prophets. Israel, and by extension us, can easily think that participation in religious activities makes one spiritually OK. For Israel this was giving sacrifices and participating in various feasts. For us it may be church attendance, connection group involvement or various acts of service. God is not satisfied with externals but with hearts committed to him.

One verse that jumps out with this idea is Hosea 6:4 which says, "Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears”.  Their love is there for a moment and gone the next.

Our love may be similarly fleeting. When life gets hard we may wander from God. When we have a longstanding unanswered prayer our love may dissipate. Or when life just seems mundane and unexciting we may drift in our commitment. In doing so we are like adulterous Israel. We are giving our life and commitment to something other than God. We are forgetting his grace, faithfulness and love for us. We are like a morning mist that vanishes.

Instead we must remember all that God has done and is doing for us and remain committed to him.

Question of the day: How would you determine whether your love for God is like "morning mist" or not?

Father God, help me to love you with a steadfast love. For you love me in an unending way. Your love is permanent and unconditional. Help me to keep my eyes on you, on the sacrifice of your Son and the gift of your Spirit and in doing so, love you. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, December 6, 2020

December 6, 2020

Hosea 4:1-5:15; 2 John 1:1-13; Psalm 125:1-5; Proverbs 29:9-11

2 John is a short letter (13 verses) that helps us to understand the connection between truth and love. In our culture, truth and love tend to be viewed as polar opposites. To do anything less than to affirm the totality of someone's choices is often seen as hateful. Yet John gives us a different perspective.

First, count how many times John uses the word "truth." Second, count how many times John uses the word "obedience," "teaching" and "command(s)." As you list those out, we quickly realize how saturated this letter is in the concepts of truth.

Yet John also sees the Christian life as one centered on love. Verse 6 makes clear that love must be centered on obedience to the truth. Love is not an abstract, warm and fuzzy affirmation but true love is one that is lived in the truth and encourages others to follow the truth. When our culture, or our flesh, pushes back against a love connected to the truth we must point them or ourselves to where true life is. A life lived in connection to the person of Jesus and the truth of his commands.

Question of the day: In what ways are you tempted to disconnect love from the truth?

Father God, help me to love you and love others. In that, help me to stand on your truth and allow your Spirit to enable me to love people in the right way, at the right time and with the right words. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, December 5, 2020

December 5, 2020

Hosea 1:1-3:5; 1 John 5:1-21; Psalm 124:1-8; Proverbs 29:5-8

Throughout the Old Testament prophetic books, we see God instructing His prophets to take specific actions to illustrate how He feels about His children and what will happen to them if they fail to be faithful to Him.  However, God’s call to Hosea to marry an adulterous woman is probably the most poignant of all the illustrations of God’s enduring love for His people despite their continuing unfaithfulness to Him.

    Hosea’s entire life was turned upside down because of his wife Gomer’s persistent unfaithfulness.  Even the names God tells Hosea to give his children illustrate God’s continuing disappointment with His beloved people.  These names suggest the judgment God would bring on the Jews and His desire to disavow His love for them.  Yet even as God is telling Hosea to name a daughter Lo-Ruhamah (“not loved”), He almost immediately declares He will show love to them and save them.

    Gomer’s continuing unfaithfulness and bad choices cause her to end up for sale in a slave market. But God instructs Hosea to love her and redeem her from slavery, showing that God’s love for His people is faithful and forgiving despite their sin.

    Love is one of the strongest attributes of God’s character, which is why He desires a relationship with us.  In I John 5 we see that the relationship to God we can have is a parent-child family relationship.  As we believe in Jesus, we are born into God’s family and as His children are given the amazing ability to “overcome the world.”  We receive eternal life, the promise that God will answer our prayers, and the Holy Spirit’s help in recognizing and turning from sin.  Our part is to believe and obey and ask God to teach us truth.  God can redeem us from the slave market of sin, teach us obedience, and give us brand new lives that will endure for eternity.

Question of the day:  What person or situation in your life is challenging you to love more persistently?  How can Hosea’s dedication to his wife help you understand the depths of God’s love?

Lord, teach me to love as you do – with persistence, grace, and forgiveness. Thank You that You love me and want the best for me.  Help me live in obedience to You so that Your blessings will fall on my life, even in the midst of difficulty.  Amen    

Jan Lee

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, December 4, 2020

December 4, 2020

Daniel 11:36-12:13; 1 John 4:1-21; Psalm 123:1-4; Proverbs 29:2-4

What do we focus on? Just think about all of the different images that your eyes take in. One of the most common things that our eyes take in are advertisements. It is thought that the average person takes in roughly 5,000 advertisements a day. That is 5,000 attempts to sell you something that you need in order to make your life better. 5,000 whispers that if only you had this item then joy, happiness or peace would come.

Notice in Psalm 123 where the psalmist —and by extension those who were ascending to Jerusalem at the time of a feast — were to focus their eyes. They were to fix their eyes on the heavenly king. They were to put their eyes on the only one who could truly bring satisfaction into their lives. The only one who offers the mercy that our sin needs. The only one who can bring peace, vindication and justice into the brokenness of our lives. He is the one we have to put our attention on. Yet God rarely functions like an advertisement, screaming at us or grabbing our attention. He works in typically silent, subtle ways but he is the only one who can give us life.

Question of the day: With all of the voices that we hear, how do we clear away the noise to hear from God?

Father God, help me to draw near to you. Help me to pursue you, meet with you and hear from you. Help me to not to be allured by the things of the world but to trust that life is found in you. Help me to lift my eyes to you, the king of the universe. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Thursday, December 3, 2020

December 3, 2020

Daniel 11:2-35; 1 John 3:7-24; Psalm 122:1-9; Proverbs 29:1

What is the evidence that someone is a Christian? This is the one of the questions that John addresses in his letter. He wants his readers to examine themselves to make sure that they have been truly born again.

The first evidence which John points to are holy lives. People generally act like their parents. Therefore, if someone is a child of God this should be reflected in obedience and holiness. In contrast, those who are children of Satan will reveal this in a continued bondage to sin.

A second proof is love. Verse 14 says, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love one another." Love becomes the evidence that someone is part of the family of God. If we have experienced the unconditional love of God then this love should pour out of our lives onto others. We see this idea further expanded in our reading out of 1 John tomorrow.

The final two proofs are hearts that do not condemn us, and the indwelling reality of the Spirit. Those who have experienced God's grace should be set free from guilt. We can rest in the full assurance of grace and forgiveness which Christ offers. Further, the Spirit confirms in our hearts and minds that we belong to the Father.

Question of the day: Which one of the above proofs provides the greatest assurance for you?

Father God, thank you that through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior you give me assurance that I am your child. Help me to rest in you and not to listen to Satan when he plants doubts and condemns me. Thank you for the full forgiveness that I have in your Son. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Wednesday, December 2, 2020

December 2, 2020

Daniel 9:1-11:1; 1 John 2:18-3:6; Psalm 121:1-8; Proverbs 28:27-28

Sports would be infinitely easier with no opposition. Imagine a soccer game with no defenders; even I could score a goal. Or a football game with no defense; again, even I could score a touchdown. But that is not how sporting events work and, as we see from our reading today, neither does life.

As we seek to live for God we will encounter great opposition. Daniel 10 pulls back the curtain on the spiritual world and describes cosmic opposition against God's work. We are given a glimpse of demonic powers: “the prince of the Persian kingdom" and “the prince of Greece." Behind the world empires of Daniel’s day there are powerful, evil spirits at work.  And behind those demonic forces is Satan himself.

Satan’s strategy has not changed. He continues to resist and attack God's work in our world, country, state, city, and in our own lives. He seeks to do all he can to keep God's will from being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Further opposition is described in 1 John from "antichrists." These are humans—false teachers—who, like Satan, stand against the work of Jesus. These individuals will be followed by an ultimate single antichrist. But in our world today there are people who continually try to dissuade others—and us—from following Jesus.

Finally, this opposition to God is not only external, but also internal, as described in 1 John 3. We not only have Satan and antichrists, but we also have sin (and our flesh) pulling us away from the Savior. Yet comfort is found in Psalm 121 when we remember the great resource that we’ve been given. God himself is with us. Therefore, no matter what opposition or difficulty we find, we can rest in the power and presence of God.

Question of the day: How can you remember God's greater power when you face opposition in life?

Father God, thank you that you are with me. Thank you that you are always watching over me and have given me your indwelling Spirit to empower me. Help me to stand against the evil powers in this world and to make you known both through the words I say and the way I live. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Tuesday, December 1, 2020

December 1, 2020

Daniel 8:1-27; 1 John 2:1-17; Psalm 120:1-7; Proverbs 28:25-26

As we read through 1 John we can err on the extreme side of "I'm not good enough" and doubt our salvation. Instead 1 John should teach us to have great confidence in the completed work of Jesus. Where we land is largely determined by where we place our gaze.

Whenever we fix our eyes on Jesus we should be filled with peace, joy, and assurance because his salvation work is complete. Notice the descriptions in verses 1-2 and 12-14, Jesus is the "atoning sacrifice for our sins" and because of this our "sins have been forgiven." Twice we are reminded that because of Jesus' work we have "overcome the evil one." 

All of this language speaks of what was accomplished by Jesus. It is not about what we can achieve but about what Jesus has done for us. It is critical that we start with the work of Jesus and our identity in Christ (the indicatives) before we start looking at how our lives should be changed (the imperatives).

The remainder of 1 John 2:1-17 speaks to how Jesus' work should impact the way we live. It should change why we obey and how we love. We will never fully walk in obedience or fully love God or our neighbors here on earth but Jesus' accomplishments become the propulsion system towards ever increasing maturity rather than leaving us with a pervasive sense of guilt that we are never good enough. We never will be good enough, but praise God, Jesus was!

Question of the day: How does a sense of guilt impact your life? How should remaining focused on the finished work of Jesus change this?

Father God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that while I was still a sinner Christ died for me. Thank you that he is my atoning sacrifice, perfect high priest and eternal Lord. Help me out of gratitude to love you and others, and seek to obey you in everything you call me to today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Monday, November 30, 2020

November 30, 2020

Daniel 7:1-28; 1 John 1:1-10; Psalm 119:153-176; Proverbs 28:23-24

Daniel relates the vision that caused him to turn “pale with fear” and keep it all to himself (Daniel 7:28, CEV). Four winds (indicating uncontrollable forces) each from the four compass directions were stirring up the great sea (signifying chaos and rebellion against God). Four great beasts (symbolizing four great kings or kingdoms) came up out of the churned sea. The lion represents Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar whose wings were torn off representing his humiliation and restoration (Daniel 4:28-37). Many scholars believe the bear is the Medo-Persian Empire and the three ribs are the three countries they conquered (Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt). The leopard’s four wings and four heads imply he could move swiftly and see in all four directions. Alexander the Great, the ruler of Greece, was the leopard who conquered the known world by the time he was 32. Verse 6 states the beast was “given authority to rule,” implying God was controlling this beast. The fourth beast was a monster described as terrifying, frightening, and very powerful with iron teeth whocrushed, devoured, and trampled its victims. This beast had ten horns with a little horn uprooting three of the other horns. This horn spoke arrogantly and is thought to be the Roman Empire that lasted longer than the previous empires and ruled ruthlessly.The little horn may also be the Antichrist.

At the center of Daniel’s vision are thrones with the Ancient of Days (God) taking his seat. His white clothing designating purity and white hair implying wisdom suggest His ability to distinguish right from wrong and to judge. The fiery flames, burning fire, and stream of fire show his ability to destroy his enemies. The “ten thousand times ten thousand that stood before him” represent all the individuals and kingdoms of the earth that will stand before God. 

In verses 13-14 we see the “son of man,” the term Christ used to refer to himself more than any other, and the one to whom we are introduced in I John 1. “We saw him with our very own eyes. We gazed upon him and heard him speak. Our hands actually touched him, the one who was from the beginning, and Living Expression of God. The Life-Giver was made visible and we have seen him” (I John 1:1-2a, TPT). John experienced Christ with his own eyes in his physical life and resurrection life. 

I John 1:1 refers to an ancient Hebrew prayer called the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one.” John heard the One Israel was commanded to hear. 

The word “touched” is a poetic word meaning “to pluck the strings of an instrument.” This could be interpreted as, “We have plucked the chords of his being and felt what motivated him, his melody within” (The Passion Translation Footnotes). 

By experiencing Christ, John knew he was the Life-Giver, the One who was presented to the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:13. He is the One who will also return in the “clouds of heaven.” At his trial, Christ referred to Daniel 7:13, “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 14:62).

The Godhead is not only in control of the nations in Daniel’s dream, but Christ will return, destroy the evil one, and rule us for eternity. This is worthy of pondering as Daniel did.

Question of the day: What in your life indicates your anticipation of Christ’s return?

Father, I am amazed at how your Word pulls all concepts together. Thank you that we can know the “chords of your being” and anticipate your return in the clouds. Amen

Gena Duncan

Posted by Sarah Naples at Sunday, November 29, 2020

November 29, 2020

Daniel 6:1-28; 2 Peter 3:1-18; Psalm 119:129-152; Proverbs 28:21-22

God has created authority on earth. He ultimately put legitimate authorities like government, family, and the church on earth to represent him but often they do not serve their intended purpose. In our reading today in Daniel 6, we see what happens when an earthly authority seeks to overstep its proper authority.

The government, in this case, the Medo-Persian Empire, seeks to take the position of God and demand that worship be given to the king. The question for Daniel (and for us in similar situations) is how will we respond when authorities overstep their lane.

Daniel's response is to participate in 'civil disobedience' by refusing to give worship and prayer to Darius. He understands that no authority can undermine God's proper place as sovereign ruler of the universe. We will see this same battle play out in the Book of Revelation, and therefore it is something that God's people must be prepared for.

Question of the day: How can you keep God as the ultimate authority in your life?

Father God, help me to make you king over every part of my life. Help me not to allow any authority, including me, to take the position that is rightfully yours. Help me to submit my life under you today and always. Amen.

Derek Newbery

Posted by Sarah Naples at Saturday, November 28, 2020

November 28, 2020

Daniel 5:1-31; 2 Peter 2:1-22; Psalm 119:113-128; Proverbs 28:19-20

Nothing remains the same. This is true of everything in life, except God. The person you married years ago has changed, even if their name has remained the same. Your job has changed, your address has changed, you have changed...the only thing that remains the same is God.

We see this reality displayed throughout the book of Daniel. Daniel is exiled by the most powerful empire of its time, Babylon. We are introduced to Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar, who in our reading today has been replaced by Belshazzar and by the end of our reading has been replaced by Darius. In fact, by the end of chapter 5 the Babylonian Empire has been overthrown. What seemed to have such strength and power has been destroyed.

If we look to things other than God to provide strength and a foundation for our lives it will prove to be like quicksand. If Daniel had turned away from God to trust in the strength of Babylon or the strength of any individual king they would have failed him. Only God allows him the ability to persevere, endure and thrive through life.

Question of the day: How does knowing God's unchanging nature bring comfort to your life?

Father God, be the strength of my life. Give me the ability to persevere in following you and look to you to uphold me when I am weak. Thank you that you are king over the universe and king over me. Help me to live for you and be strengthened by your Spirit today. Amen.

Derek Newbery

 

Posted by Sarah Naples at Friday, November 27, 2020