Monday, January 7
Theme for the week:
Disciples Internalize their Relationship with Jesus

Proverbs 4:20-21

My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 

2 Peter 1:19

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 

• In Christ, I have the Word of God made flesh, and I would do well to pay attention to Him, as a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in my heart.

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Pondering Point

God’s desire is more than for us to hear is Word; He desires us to know his Word, to learn it, to absorb it and to internalize so that it permeates our thoughts, emotions, attitudes and actions. All this is embodied in Jesus. How are you bringing God’s Word (Jesus) into your heart? Is that Word (Jesus) taking root in you? Is that Word affecting your lifestyle? Are you planting this seed of God’s Word (Jesus) in others’ lives?

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Prayer

Lord Jesus, Word in the flesh, come take root in my heart and soul. Permeate all that I think and feel, say and do. Enlighten all dark places with your light. Amen.


Tuesday, January 8
God’s Mission

John 14:25-27

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
~Jesus, 

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Pondering Point

These words above are shared with Jesus’ disciples in the Upper Room near the end of his training with them. They might not know this fact, but Jesus does. Their training won’t end, but it will change, being handed over to Holy Spirit. His role would be to remind them of all that Jesus taught.

As Jesus’ disciples of today, our primary teacher – and encourager – in the faith is still God’s Holy Spirit, bringing enlightenment to disciples old and new through the teachings of Jesus.

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Prayer

Holy Spirit, Jesus said “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Although I have not literally walked with Jesus like the first disciples, I can walk with him like the Apostle Paul – in spirit. Teach me of Jesus, of His ways, His life and his ministry – of His teachings.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, January 9
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

1 Corinthians 14:13-17

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,[d] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
~ The Apostle Paul

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Pondering Point

The Apostle Paul is speaking about the gift of tongues specifically in this place, but he reflects a helpful truth about prayer and praise in general: When praying aloud, it is helpful to keep others’ listening ears in mind. This is not about US being judged on the quality of our prayer, but about THEM being edified by the content of our prayer.

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Prayer

Father God, help me get comfortable praying with and in front of others, whether we are two or three gathered in Your name, a Small Group coming before You in prayer, or larger groups seeking Your face. Let me always be focused on praying to you and still be able to enable others to be edified by my prayers and praises. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, January 10
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

1 Thessalonians 2:13

We also thank God continually because, when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
~ Apostle Paul

2 Peter 1:21

Prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
~ Apostle Peter

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Pondering Point

The first quote is a prayer of thanksgiving from the Apostle Paul because the people of Thessalonica accepted Paul’s message as being from God rather than merely his personal view on God. He was also thankful that God’s Word was continually at work in those who believed that Word. The second quote is Peter’s testimony that, although God uses human messengers to get his point across, it is still His Word and His work.

Review the week

Do you accept the Apostles’ testimonies that God’s Word is really the work of God and not merely that of men? Do you believe that God inspired the writers who penned the books in the bible? Do you know and obey the teachings that God shares there?

Repent (if necessary)

Repent (if necessary) of treating God’s Word is “a way” rather than “the way”, as optional or suggestive rather than normative for your life. Repent of limiting its work in your life through a lack of belief, lack of interest, or lack of use.

Return (as necessary)

Return (as necessary) by acknowledging to God directly that you view the Bible as His Word. If this is not a truth for you at this point, have a conversation with God about this. If you have doubts about it, consider sitting with a pastor to review this teaching of Scripture.

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Prayer

Lord God, let Your Word be inspired by the Holy Spirit both in its giving and its receiving, that it may be at work in us individually and collectively. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Friday, January 11
Discipleship Point and Prayer

“Many a soul has come to God and humbly accepted his message only to later grow proud again. We are a fickle people. Our hearts wax and wane. The warning given to the Israelites is still needed today: be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and His decree that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

(The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones, p.31)

Humility Prayer

Father God, keep my heart from becoming proud. Let me not forget you – not as I eat or work, not as I travel by car or other means. May you be central to my (our) home and your Word central to my (our) thought-processes and decision-making. Amen.

Discipleship Point on “Storying” in Small Group settings and beyond:

Telling Bible stories, also known as storying, is one of the simplest ways to share God's Word -- and we can all tell stories. Most people remember stories better than mere details -- both in speaking and listening. AND storying does not require you to remember all of the particulars to be effective. The Holy Spirit is quite capable of using us and his Word without direct quotes or a perfect reciting of all details.

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Prayer

Father God, plant your stories deep in my heart, but also keep them available for sharing while I live among others as a story-teller – your story-teller. May the Holy Spirit expand my capacity to internalize and share your story. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 12
Scripture's Story for the Week

Ezra 7:8-26, 8:15-36

8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. 9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

King Artaxerxes’ Letter to Ezra

11 This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the Lord for Israel:

12 Artaxerxes, king of kings,

To Ezra the priest, teacher of the Law of the God of heaven:

Greetings.

13 Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who volunteer to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. 14 You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand. 15 Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17 With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.

18 You and your fellow Israelites may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God. 19 Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God. 20 And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you are responsible to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.

21 Now I, King Artaxerxes, decree that all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates are to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you— 22 up to a hundred talents[a] of silver, a hundred cors[b] of wheat, a hundred baths[c] of wine, a hundred baths[d] of olive oil, and salt without limit. 23 Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should his wrath fall on the realm of the king and of his sons? 24 You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.

25 And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. 26 Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.

The Return to Jerusalem

15 I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. 16 So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, 17 and I ordered them to go to Iddo, the leader in Kasiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his fellow Levites, the temple servants in Kasiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God. 18 Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah’s sons and brothers, 18 in all; 19 and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 in all. 20 They also brought 220 of the temple servants—a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.

21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

24 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, namely, Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, 25 and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God. 26 I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 27 20 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold.

28 I said to them, “You as well as these articles are consecrated to the Lord. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your ancestors. 29 Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.” 30 Then the priests and Levites received the silver and gold and sacred articles that had been weighed out to be taken to the house of our God in Jerusalem.

31 On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. 32 So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days.

33 On the fourth day, in the house of our God, we weighed out the silver and gold and the sacred articles into the hands of Meremoth son of Uriah, the priest. Eleazar son of Phinehas was with him, and so were the Levites Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. 34 Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the entire weight was recorded at that time.

35 Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord. 36 They also delivered the king’s orders to the royal satraps and to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, who then gave assistance to the people and to the house of God.

Today’s story is a lesson in what can happen when a person commits himself to the Lord and His ways. Chapter seven contains a letter drafted by Persian King Artaxerxes himself on Ezra’s behalf and chapter eight illustrates the favor displayed by both God and men. (Five year later, King Artaxerxes will offer a similar blessing to Nehemiah, who will serve as governor of Jerusalem) Take time to learn and appreciate this story from God’s Word.

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Prayer Prompt

Father God, I want to grasp the value and benefit of devoting myself to the study and observance of your Word, your ways, your teachings, and your will. May I honor you as your servant Ezra did in his day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, January 13
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

Acts 20:32

Blessed to be a Blessing

Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
~ Apostle Paul

What would this blessing look like fulfilled in your life? Write that down. Seek this blessing for yourself and others in prayer and life.

Prayer for the Month

Father God, as we seek to be more intentional about immersing ourselves in a relationship with You and Your Word, help us to remove any impediments and barriers, both those we see and those we are unaware of.

Enable us to overcome our rebellious flesh through the power of your Holy Spirit working with our spirit. We want to learn more about you; we want to internalize your Word in our souls, guard it in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.

Knowing that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from your mouth O God, feed our spirits daily. Show us how to orient our lives not around physical meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner, but around spiritual meals throughout the day.

We desire to gain wisdom and practice good spiritual disciplines, but ultimately Lord we want to encounter You through Your Word. Bless us to this end. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Prayer for Vision

Father God, as we begin a vision process called “Hope for the Future”, we ask that you bless the individuals called to serve you, both in your church and outside of the church. Bless the teams and individuals and grant them both time and inspired ideas as they work collectively on your behalf. May they be good listeners and sharers within the group and your church, for the sake of the church, for the communities we live in, and for your kingdom overall. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Prayer Prompt

Dear Lord,

I am providing these comments about the website and devotion to increase your greater glory.

Amen.

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