Monday, August 12
Theme for the week:
Disciples Show Love to
Themselves Without Becoming
Unhealthy Lovers of Self

Are we supposed to love ourselves? You won’t find a bible quote for it. The bible denounces self-love (2 Tim 3:2) and self-importance (Philippians 2:3).

But God does advocate a sense of worth (you are worth more than many sparrows – Matthew 10:31).

Let’s dig into loving ourselves without becoming unhealthy, ungodly lovers of self Paul that describes to his protégé Timothy.

Galatians 5:13-26

Life by the Spirit

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

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Pondering Point

It is good to love ourselves, but not above others; it is good to love ourselves, but not in the manner of putting sinful desires (ours or others) above God’s holy desires – or even putting sinful desires into play at all.

Any unholy desire runs counter to the will of God and therefore conflicts with God’s ways of love. Since I am a lover of God, I want to love myself in ways that honor God and to stand against self-defined or world-defined ways of supposed “love” that conflict with God’s will for me or others.

So our identity in Christ for the week will reflect this godly desire:

• In Christ, I am fearfully and wonderfully made and will praise God for it!

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Prayer

Father God, help me to identify when my “traitor” or sinful flesh is trying to rise up and control my life. Let your Word of Truth – the belt of Your armor – reveal the lies I’m being fed. Help me to quell, to suppress – even to crucify the flesh rather than indulge it. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, August 13
God’s Mission

Luke 15:1-7

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

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Pondering Point

The sheep is lost but then is found. Throughout the story its value remains the same. The shepherd’s joy that shows in finding the lost sheep is matched by the love exhibited in seeking it.

“I once was lost, but now am found” cries the thankful songwriter and the countless others who have sung the lyric over the years. Though people end up in places they never intend to be, their value to the Good Shepherd remains the same.

That goes for all of us: You; me; every person we see – and the ones we so easily overlook. The Lord’s loves all people – and the Lord rejoices over his people, particularly those who, having been previously lost, are once again found. The Lord rejoices over you as one of His own – precious to Him.

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Prayer

Go along with the language of Jesus’ parable. Whether as a sheep or a child or even as an adult, picture yourself being picked up by Jesus and carried on His shoulders. In your mind’s eye, where is He coming to find you? What is Jesus’ facial expression? What might His eyes convey to you? Explore how it feels to be picked up and made safe. What are you thinking? Consider journaling your experience for later reading and sharing if desired.

Wednesday, August 14
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

James 5:17-18

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 

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Pondering Point

In tomorrow’s devotion you will find a tired, dejected and disheartened Elijah, but today we read of a confident, awe-inspiring Elijah. Having been hidden by God for three and a half years, Elijah re-emerges at the Lord’s request and flashes unmatched power and authority in God’s name. Among people blatantly disregarding God, Elijah stands out by speaking for God, commanding even rain to fall for His glory.

What does James say about this Elijah: He is just like us! We too can be used by God to bring Him glory, even among people who disregard God. Elijah operated under God’s authority. But he wasn’t unique in this manner. It comes with God’s calling. Just like Jesus’ first disciples, we too have been called to make disciples and can do so operating under Jesus’ authority over heaven and earth.

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Prayer

Lord Jesus, all authority has been given to You. I believe it and know that You sit at the right hand of God even as I pray. I also believe that I am subject to that authority and that I am empowered by that authority to bless those around me with peace, with the Gospel of forgiveness and grace, and with Your Holy Spirit. You are the Way. Lead the way. Amen.

Thursday, August 15
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

1 Kings 19:3-4

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

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Pondering Point

This is hardly a model prayer, but its still one we can learn from. The bible says that Elijah was a man like us and points to God using him to first withhold rain and later bring it back through prayer. God utilized him in powerful ways.

Apparently Elijah is like us in other ways too, like undergoing some tough stretches in life. At least he took his issues to the right person: Our God. By the way, notice that God rebuffs this prayer request. He does not let him die. In fact Elijah never died (see 2 Kings 2). Whoa! That’s him; back to us. Let’s review where we go when we experience tough spots in life:

Review the week

When things get difficult, do I play a blame game? Do I blame myself, others, or God? What are my escape habits and coping mechanisms? Do I seek God? Do I get stuck in a ‘victim’ mentality? Do I retreat into despair, depression, or self-loathing?

Repent (if necessary)

Areas to repent of can relate to unhealthy escapes/coping mechanisms (healthy coping skills that displace God can become unhealthy for you), to ungodly mental or emotional agreements (“it’ll never change,” I’ll always be this way”, etc.).

Return (as necessary)

If time permits, visit 1 Samuel 7 up to verse 12, where it reads “thus far has the Lord helped us.” Thank God for preserving you to this point and ask for direction regarding any critical change of heart, mind, soul, or spirit.

1 Samuel 7:1-12

1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.

Samuel Subdues the Philistines at Mizpah
Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. 3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.

5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.

7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

Friday, August  16
Discipleship Point and Prayer

Proud leaders and humble leaders have something special in common: neither of them knows it. For the proud believe them-selves sufficiently humbled to get on with their "great things", while the humble (not falsely humble, i.e. self-disparagement, but genuinely humble of heart) believe themselves to be sufficiently proud to mandate more listening and learning. Both leaders are deceived, but which would you rather be?

p. 111, 112, Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones
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Humility Prayer

Father God, only you know me fully. Don’t let my self-deception lead to ungodly perspectives and attitudes. I pray to avoid pride and false humility. I pray to exhibit godliness and true humility. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Discipleship Point about Sin

What severed the relationship between God and humanity? And what were the consequences? Though we were created in the image of God and therefore in perfect harmony with him, we willfully disobeyed God's authority and distrusted his goodness. As a consequence our relationship with God was broken, resulting in spiritual death, which in turn tarnished our relationship with ourselves, others and creation

~ Discipleship Essentials, Ogden, p. 81
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Discipleship Prayer

Lord Jesus, thanks again for restoring me and all believers to our Heavenly Father. You are a life-saver by being a life-giver. Yes, sin is real and so is death, but you have won the victory over sin and death. I relish the truth that God shares Your victory with us through faith in You our Lord. Your goodness cannot be fathomed. Thank You Jesus, thank You.

Saturday, August 17
Scripture's Story for the Week

Luke 15:1-7

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Often when we listen in on or read through the story of the lost sheep that Jesus shares, we relate it back to ourselves as sheep that the Shepherd loves and is willing to go find.

Today when you read the story, think not of yourself but of a loved one, be it friend or family. Imagine this loved one ending up lost. Some of you might not have to imagine at all – it may already be way too real of a story. Jesus point of the story is that in His kingdom, His kind of shepherd goes after the loved ones. Others may consider our loved ones disposable, but Jesus shows that God values every sheep, those safely in the fold and those who have strayed from it.

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Prayer for the Day

Father God, thanks for loving my loved ones. Keep them safe. I specifically pray for… (list both “the lost” and “the found”) …In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, August 18
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

Psalm 84:11-12

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. 

To the one who trusts in Him, God is a sun and shield; to the one who doesn’t resort to wickedness for the sake of prosperity, God bestows favor and honor, withholding no good thing. This is the blessing of Psalm 84, a call to dwell in and seek out the Lord.

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