Monday, February 18
Theme for the week:
Growing Together

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

The Believer’s Freedom

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

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Pondering Point

Envision this in your world: Everything you do has its intended effect to bring glory to God. What an image – and what an example for others to see – and follow! Isn’t this who we want to be in Christ Jesus? I hope so! Well, before you become a godly example to follow, it is helpful that you have a godly example to follow. As you work through God’s word this week, you will see biblical people challenged this way. You will see it in the lives of unlikely partners like Gentile soldiers and Jewish believers. You will hear it called for in a broken relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. It means that this is a good time for you to consider who you are being called to partner with and come alongside for the sake of God’s Gospel-oriented living. Celebrate who you are in Christ, and practice it daily.

• In Christ, I exist for God’s glory. In imitation of Christ, I will seek the good of others and, as an example, seek to do all things – including eating and drinking – for the glory of God.

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Prayer for the Day

Father God,
I want to live for your glory
In Jesus’ name I pray for it. Amen.

Tuesday, February 19
God’s Mission

John 15:18-16:4

The World Hates the Disciples

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

The Work of the Holy Spirit

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

16:1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you...

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Pondering Point

Jesus was known to go off alone at times to be in prayer or spend time with his Father, but in general he was invested in people and committed to working with people. He had intimate-level partners in Peter, James, and John. He had heavily committed partners in the others apostles, all who gave their lives to the cause (See Matthew 10). He had financial partners who made sure that his needs were met (see Luke 8).

We should invest in people and partnerships as well. While we are to enjoy partnerships in the church, we should also expect to face rejection too – from those outside the church and maybe more so from those inside it. Don’t let such knowledge discourage you, but rather steel you to stand strong under the Lord Jesus who faced similar circumstances and stayed the course.

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Prayer for the day

Lord Jesus, as the Hebrew writer suggests, I am thinking about you and all of the opposition you experienced from sinful men. Help me to not lose heart in the face of such adversity, but rather to stand strong and let you train me up. Through such struggle, enable me to produce a harvest of peace and righteousness to God’s glory. In your name I pray.
Amen.

Wednesday, February 20
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

Acts 10:9-20

Peter’s Vision

9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

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Pondering Point

Today’s teaching on prayer shows God using visions from Him with two separate people to establish a divine encounter between those people. Do you wonder if this still happens? Is this something only occurring in the past? Does God still produce visions and divinely-ordained encounters between people? The Apostle Peter would later write to other Christians about their getting to experience this God of the Bible:

2 Peter 1:3-8

Confirming One’s Calling and Election

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Experiencing God may not always come through dreams and visions, but everything that we need is already at our disposal. Pray that God continues to reveal himself you in multiple ways.

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Prayer

Father, Your divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness through my knowledge of You who called me by Your own glory and goodness. Through these You have given me Your very great and precious promises, so that through them I can participate in the divine nature (awesome!) and escape the corruption in this world caused by evil desires.

As 2 Peter 1:5-8 directs, bless my efforts to now grow under these promises with the help of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 21
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

Philemon 1:6

The Apostle Paul writing to his friend Philemon: I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.

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Pondering Point

Two weeks ago, we asked you to think about whom you partner with in Gospel living and sharing. This week we hear a prayer about the impact of such a partnership. The connection between Paul and Philemon has produced beautiful ministry in the past. Now Paul leans into his partner again while addressing a sensitive issue with Philemon. Read the letter and see what Paul is doing. Sacrifice is being asked for; bridges are hoping to be built; forgiveness is being sought. Such actions are often needed in partnerships. How is your partnership in faith (at church, small group, etc.) serving to deepen your view of life under God?

Review the week

Whom do you partner with? For whom do you make sacrifices? With whom are you looking to build bridges?

Repent (if necessary)

Do you need to repent of being too independent? Do you need to repent of not investing in others for their growth? Have you refused to partner with certain people because they have hurt you? Do you need to forgive in order to be a better partner?

Return (as necessary)

Come to God with a commitment to be more dependent on others to aid in your spiritual journey of discipleship. Commit also to forgive and invest in others for their sake. And for God’s glory.

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Prayer

Borrowing from The Apostle Paul’s prayer for his friend Philemon, here is our prayer: Lord God, like Paul, we also seek such partnerships to deepen our walk with You and each other in faith, in grace, in understanding, in service, and in glory to you; In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Friday, February 22
Discipleship Point and Prayer

“We will all need discipling as long as we live. I will never get so mature that I will not need the help of others. We can keep receiving that help only if we are humble. When those helping others and those being helped are completely humble with one another, the results are relationships in which people are being changed into the image of Christ.”

p.91, The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones

Discipleship Point about Trusting God

We all need regular God-time with other Christians through which we are discipled. This is still the work of the Holy Spirit, just through others. This could be in groups of 2-4, 5-15, or still more people. These become times to discuss and potentially pray about the impact of God (and His Word) on various areas of our lives including relationships at home, church, work, and community. as well as with God directly. Church is a great place to draw from for such relationships, but Christians from beyond your local church are also a great source of discipling relationships.
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Prayer

Spirit of God, you are the primary discipler of all Christians. Remind me regularly of my need to meet habitually with other Christians for that discipling. Encourage me to take the step of humbling myself to be taught by others around me regardless of how many years I have walked with you. I pray also that you encourage me – with humility – to disciple others in my world. Work in me and through as my primary teacher, realizing that you desire to use me to be a blessing to others in their journey of discipleship as well. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Saturday, February 23
Scripture's Story for the Week

Acts 10:1-48

Cornelius Calls for Peter

1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

Peter’s Vision

9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

Peter at Cornelius’s House

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

When it comes to this story of Peter and Cornelius, people often focus on the Apostle Peter, looking at the story through his lens. Today as you take in this story, listen through the lens of this Roman centurion Cornelius, a gentile whom God reaches out to bless. On a similar note, think about who God might be sending into your life to help you learn more about him, to challenge you to grow in your knowledge and service to him, and to deepen your commitment to him. In these ways, God can use you to extend his blessings to your family and your community – and your church. That is what he did with Cornelius.

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Prayer for the Day

Father God, whether through dreams or visions, prayer time, journaling or reading your word, open my eyes to the people and situations you want to use in my life. Disciple me and prepare me to walk as your child, being a blessing to others in your kingdom. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

Sunday, February 24
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 

To God be the glory, great things He hath done proclaims the hymn by that same name. His is glorified by His work in Christ, in the church, and in you – in those of us living for Him! We are blessed in unimaginable ways (by his power at work in us) in order to be a blessing to HIM – by bringing him glory through our lives. To God be the glory in our blessings.

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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Prayer Prompt

Dear Lord,

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

Amen.

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