Monday, February 11
Theme for the week:
Growing Together

Ephesians 4:1-16

Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

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Pondering Point

In the early weeks of reflecting on fostering relationships with people, we focused on introducing people to God and encouraging people to grow in Him.

This week’s theme has potential to pave the way to some of the deepest relationships people form in the Christian faith: Growing together. Disciples intentionally immerse themselves in relationship with others – to grow together with them. It’s a friendship thing.

Who are you growing together with, learning together with, praying together with, and worshipping together with? God does request that we live lives worthy of the calling we have received – and that calling always include others – even to the point of bearing with one another in love. We are not called to be humble, gentle and patient with ourselves, but with others.

• In Christ, I am empowered to live a life worthy of the calling I have received God, to be completely humble, gentle, and patient, and to bear with others in love.

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Prayer Prompt

Pray about your calling from God, followed by a prayer for humility, gentleness, and patience with others.

Tuesday, February 12
God’s Mission

Luke 8:4-15

4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

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Pondering Point

Read Luke 8:4-15.

There are four types of soil in this parable. Which one(s) are you right now? How might these different soils apply to your past? And how would like to see the soil of your heart register as you move into the future?

Don’t rush this meditation with God. Let Him open your eyes to these answers. Pray about your soil – and for the soil of others to be good. There is a fairly long prayer I’ve grown to love called the Good Soil Prayer from Ransomed Heart Ministries. This is one part I particularly love to pray:

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Prayer for the day

Father God, I confess that I need to live more deeply in a habitat that allows my soul to thrive. To cultivate that acquaintance, I know there’s unfinished business here, and so I give you the habitat of my life, and I ask that you would bring it into alignment with the habitat that’s right for my soul. Unforced rhythms of grace… I ask for a wise and discerning heart. I unite my heart with your heart. I choose to listen to your voice. I receive your peace that passes understanding. I receive your courage, I receive your strength, I receive your joy. I love you. I trust you. I choose to become good soil. You have my yes. Amen.

Wednesday, February 13
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

2 Thessalonians 3:1

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.
~ Apostle Paul

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Pondering Point

The above passage is taken from the King James version: the NIV says it this way:

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.

This is a reminder to pray for the freedom to express the Gospel and its basis for proclamation: Sin’s forgiveness through Jesus. It is a reminder to pray for its rapid spread and acceptance. Pray for this.

Once a given in the USA, this has now changed, not to mention in so many other parts of the world. Far from glorified, the Word of the Lord is mocked and ridiculed.

But as Psalm 2:1 iterates with a question: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

They take their stand against the Lord and His anointed (Jesus), but The One who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them 2:4.

And one final question before moving into the prayer for today: In the verse above, the Apostle Paul was seeking prayers: Would you be the one doing the praying or the one seeking to be prayed for?
There are two options below – which is/are appropriate for you?

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Prayer 1

Father God, I pray that Your Word may have free course in our country – and throughout the world, and that your Gospel message is received and accepted by many to the glory of your holy name. In Jesus I pray. Amen.

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Prayer 2

Father God, I pray that Your Word finds free course to move through me into our country and world, and I pray that others would pray with me that the Gospel message I share in word and deed is received and accepted by many to the glory of your holy name. In Jesus I pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 14
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

Acts 26:29

Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.
~ Apostle Paul, spoken to King Agrippa

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Pondering Point

What does Paul mean when he prays for others to “become what I am”? He means to become a believer in Jesus as Lord: To believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, that he died for sins and rose from the dead to save not just the Jews but all people of the world – including the Gentile King Agrippa. Part of becoming what Paul was included letting one’s beliefs inform one actions and building one’s life around Jesus. In light of Paul’s prayer, let’s prayerfully re-center around God:

Review the week

What are you hoping or even striving to become? How does this connect to God and His place in your life?

Repent (if necessary)

Is there a need to repent of striving for the wrong things. If so this would put you in good company with the Apostle Paul’s early life (see 1 Timothy 1:12-14)

1 Timothy 1:12-14

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Return (as necessary)

Staying with parallels to the Apostle Paul, let God correct your vision like he did with Paul (Acts 9:17-18). Submit to the Holy Spirit and ask God to help you become what Paul was – except maybe for the chains.

Acts 9:17-18

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized...

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Prayer

Staying with parallels to the Apostle Paul, let God correct your vision like he did with Paul (Acts 9:17-18). Submit to the Holy Spirit and ask God to help you become what Paul was – except maybe for the chains.

Friday, February 15
Discipleship Point and Prayer

Discipling relationships, then, are relationships in which we are helping each other to be disciples of Jesus - relationships in which we encourage, correct, inspire and challenge each other to take all our gifts and abilities and fully use them to advance the mission of Jesus in this world. In a discipling relationship one person allows another person to help him or her to become more and more like Jesus Christ. Such relationships have no chance of working without humility.

p.86, Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones

Reflection

Ask yourself (and answer) these questions, read the discipleship point about trusting God and then offer up the prayer that follows.

1. Who is helping you to be a disciple of Jesus?

2. Who are you helping to be a disciple of Jesus?

3. How are you letting God himself disciple you?

Discipleship Point about Trusting God

How are we to grow in the knowledge of Christ? Paul exhorts the Colossians, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him" (Colossians 2:6). By faith in God, who is absolutely good, we plug into the power of the Holy Spirit and set off on a risky adventure to follow wherever Jesus Christ leads.
(Discipleship Essentials, Ogden, p. 138)
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Prayer

Lord Jesus, the original discipler: Give insight to those disciples helping me in my walk with You. Give me insight regarding how to help those for whom I am afforded opportunity to disciple. Let us all trust that ultimately you are the one discipling us, whether it be directly or through others who influence us. In your name Jesus we pray. Amen.

Saturday, February 16
Scripture's Story for the Week

Acts 19:1-10

Paul in Ephesus

1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[b] and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

Ephesus is a city in the region of Asia Minor (now Turkey) and likely played a major role in Paul’s life. He visited more than once and spent about three years with the Ephesians during the stint that involves Acts 19. Later Paul asked elders from the city to visit him in a town nearly fifty miles away. This indicates a deep relationship between them, one further strengthened through Paul’s letter to encourage them in the faith. Paul had likely done exactly what Immersion’s theme describes: Growing together in the faith.

As for our story, it starts with an odd baptism experience and then moves into the Jewish synagogue. After being treated poorly there, Paul moves on to a local philosophy hall and teaches God’s Word to both Jews and Gentiles for the next two years. It catches on powerfully. Though initially on fire for the Lord, by the time of the Apostle John’s vision of Revelation, Ephesus is chastised by Jesus for forsaking her first love, one brought originally by Paul himself.

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Prayer for the Day

Father God, it’s good to dive deeper into the life of the Apostle Paul. He seemed deeply connected to the Christians of Ephesus. Let this serve as a reminder in my life to value Christian friendship and take time to invest in such opportunities. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, February 17
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

2 John 3

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

What does it mean for grace, mercy and peace to be with you, each founded in truth and love? This blessing is actually a statement; not a wish or a hope, but a statement of truth for those in Christ. Sometimes blessings elude us simply because don’t recognize them as already given. Take time to recognize it for you.

Prayer for the Month

Father God, Your worldwide church exists to celebrate your love and grace in Jesus Christ as well as introduce people to that love and grace.

Let it be first that we drink deeply of these blessings and second that we share the blessings abundantly and freely as you’ve shared with us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Ministry Prayer

Lord God, as Father, Son and Spirit, you have a fellowship beyond our understanding. Nonetheless, we pray to experience a similar fellowship among us. Jesus, you prayed that we would know such unity. Bless the fellowship of this congregation at small group and micro-group levels, in our worship experiences, and in our day-to-day interactions. Bless us with godly fellowship among all Christians, and bless even our fellowship among non-Christians, so that such opportunities enable your light to shine in all of our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Dear Lord,

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

Amen.

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