Monday, July 22
Theme for the week:
Disciples Show Love to
Themselves Because They Are
New Creations in Christ

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).

If you agree with God, the end result will be a sense of self-worth. But what about having love for oneself? As followers of Jesus, we’re taught to care for others as we care for ourselves—this is clearly a form of love.

Jesus even uses the word love to express such actions when he quotes the Old Testament Command to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). We spend the next month exploring how to love ourselves as God loves us – a foundational piece to loving our neighbors. Come along. Let’s love and learn.

Ephesians 2:1-10

Made Alive in Christ

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

In Christ, I am the Lord’s handiwork – Godly art – prepared to do good works in His name.

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Pondering Point

The NIV calls you God’s handiwork. Other versions translate this as “God’s Masterpieces”. Stop and consider that view. You are a work of art – Godly art! As a work of art, you also have a function, having been created in Christ Jesus to do good. How are you functioning?

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Father God, help me to see myself – and others – as your handiwork; as pieces of art. Inspire me by Your Holy Spirit to do the good works You have prepared me to do in and through Jesus my Lord. In His name I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, July 23
God’s Mission

Luke 12:7

So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
~ Jesus

Hebrews 12:1-11

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

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Pondering Point

What is hindering your walk with God? What is slowing you running the race marked out for you? While sin easily entangles us, other things hinder us as well. One hindrance can be attitudes we hold toward ourselves. They might need adjusting in order to align with God’s word about us.

Today is a good day to introduce a list gleaned from author Mark DeJesus’ book, God Loves Me and I Love Myself.

8 Practical Ways to Love Yourself as God Loves You
1 Ask: How would I approach someone else I love who is going through the same battles? What would my mindset be? Apply that to yourself.
2 Create New Self-Talk. Build a new narrative about yourself, Rid yourself of harsh language and discouragement. Build self-affirmations and encouragement based in God’s Word.
3 Practice Self-Acceptance: Though you don’t plan to stay where you are, it’s okay to accept and start where you are at.
4 Practice Patience: Be patient with yourself (“this will take as long as it takes”). Let go of the pressure and negativity.
5 Practice kindness for yourself over your life. What does God’s love and kindness say to you about your situation?
6 Get clarity. Get clear on what it is that you want.
7 What is the one next step? (maybe that you are avoiding)
8 Take care of your temple (heart, soul, mind, strength)
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Father God, help me to identify and reject any unhealthy attitudes toward myself. Show me how to build a new biblical narrative of myself. I want to love You, my neighbors and myself well. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, July 24
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. 

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Pondering Point

The confidence to approach God described in this passage relates directly to Jesus. Come to God in Jesus’ name and you are guaranteed mercy and grace. Come to God without his name and you are asking for trouble. Acts 4:12 acknowledges that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. But pause for a second. We don’t just approach God to be saved, as wonderful as that it. It is also about what comes with the salvation that Jesus brings us. It’s about connection; it’s about relationship with God and our neighbor.

We can come to God through Jesus for more than salvation. We can come for guidance, insight, strength, hope, peace – and the list goes on. We can come for God to help us in our time of need as we seek to live out our calling as His workmanship. That won’t go well with help from His Son and His Spirit. This gives us reason every day to approach the throne of God – and do so with confidence that we will be heard for Jesus’ sake.

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Father God, I approach Your throne with confidence that You hear me in the name and under the ministry of Jesus my Lord. Thanks for forgiving me all of my sins. Lead me in all of my ways as I return from your ‘throne of grace’. I desire to be an agent of grace in a world truly needing Your grace and mercy. Amen.

Thursday, July 25
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

Jeremiah 12:1,5

A distraught prophet Jeremiah asks God:
You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before you.
Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?

And the God of Israel responds to him:

If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

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Pondering Point

This answer is not necessarily what one might expect from God in handling His distraught prophet. Yet here it is: in the midst of struggle for Jeremiah, God warns him: If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? In other words, its going to get tougher than this. While this is not God’s answer to everyone, it is reason to pause and ask if you’re ready for whatever life is going to throw at you. Are you ready to face it with God?

Review the week

Do you expect God to remove you from difficult circumstances? Do you resent God for leaving you in difficult situations? Do you compare yourself with others?

Repent (if necessary)

Is there a need to repent of complaining, of envy, or of resentment? Is there a need to repent of seeking comfort or ease rather than commitment and strength to endure?

Return (as necessary)

As Jeremiah did, bring yourself to God. And as Jeremiah did, lay out your heart. Then as Jeremiah did, listen to God’s response and accept it. There is more going on than meets the eye. Jeremiah proved faithful. Let us do so as well.

Friday, July 26
Discipleship Point and Prayer

…not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant - not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6.) Paul knew he was in the kingdom because of God. He knew he had succeeded in the kingdom because of God. He was a multi-talented man, but his confidence was not in his talent. He knew that only God could make his ministry flourish.

p. 48, The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones
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Humility Prayer

Father God, thank You for making me a competent minister of the Gospel through Your Holy Spirit. May Your ministry – or said another way – may my ministry flourish in Jesus’ name.

Discipleship Point:
Loving God with Your Strength Through Fasting

As disciples who invest in God-centered micro-groups, you can expect to see positive behavioral change in yourself (Ecclesiastes 4:8-12; Hebrews 10:24; James 5:16).

Ecclesiastes 4:8-12

There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”  This too is meaningless— a miserable business!

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Hebrews 10:23-25

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

James 5:16

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

In a word, this creates accountability, a mutual agreement to spur one another on toward more godly lives. It depends on active listening, non-judgmental attitudes, and care for each other.

Knowing that such relationships take time to build between people, Hope Lutheran provides a booklet to facilitate a deepening rapport or connection over the first few sessions. Pray that in God’s timing, a relationship of accountability blossoms with mutual benefit.

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Discipleship Prayer

Father God, I pray that you build up micro-groups of 3-4 people centered around You. Bless me as an individual, Hope as a church, and all of us as disciples to benefit from such relationships. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Saturday, July 27
Scripture's Story for the Week

1 Timothy 1:12-20

Paul's Testimony to Timothy

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.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The Charge to Timothy Renewed

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

After introductory remarks, the Apostle Paul reminds Timothy of how God’s grace was poured out over Paul’s life. Paul had much to be ashamed about in his pre-conversion days, but agreed with God to change his life. He let God use him as a masterful piece of art in the ancient world. God is still looking for people who will agree with Him to change their lives and let God use them as masterful pieces of art in our modern world. Are you the Master’s piece?

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Prayer for the Day

Father God, like the Apostle Paul, let my life become a testimony of your work in me, where faith and love in Jesus Christ are life-altering realities. So I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sunday, July 28
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The source of this blessing is the God of hope; the conduit for this blessing is the power of the Holy Spirit. The producers of the blessing within us are joy and peace, and the result is HOPE.

God of Hope --> Spirit’s Power --> Joy & Peace --> Our Hope

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Prayer for the Day

[Pray about how God can put joy and peace into your world, which will in turn cause you to overflow with hope.]

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