Monday, September 9
Theme for the week:
Disciples Love Through
Family and Friends

1 John 1:1-10

The Incarnation of the Word of Life

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.

Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

• I am in fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and will seek to complete that joyous fellowship by sharing it with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

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Pondering Point

This Christian “discipleship” thing of following Jesus is not some sports fantasy league or country club; it not a financial partnership or theatre troupe; it is a joyful fellowship with God the Father and His family, with Jesus Christ and His children. And that fellowship with God is heightened by the presence of others who share this same relationship. John puts his finger on this reality when writing to his fellow Christians in the first century. God’s joyous fellowship with you is incomplete without brothers and sisters in Christ.

How often people (maybe you) tout a relationship with God but devalue the role – even the need – of relationships with other God-followers, other disciples of Jesus. Don’t be “that guy” or lady. Make your fellowship complete by connecting with other followers.

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Father God, help me see the value of connecting with other followers of Yours. Lead me into relationships with people in a Holy Spirit-led local church with Christ-centered smaller groups. Push me to be authentic and open with these disciples as we all lead God-centered lives to Your glory – and do so together. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, September 10
God’s Mission

John 1:1-18

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

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Pondering Point

The devotional theme this week is fellowshipping together as a form of loving our neighbors. Fellow Christians are, of course, our neighbors also. In John 1 we see Jesus coming to fellowship with us on earth, “full of grace and truth” (verse 17); He came to dispense that grace and testify to the truth. He came so that we, through his sacrificial death for sin, could enjoy heavenly fellowship with Him – in His glory.

Jesus’ purpose, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:15, was to create in himself one new humanity in one body. He came to reconcile all people to God, Jew and Gentile, through the cross. He sought peace not just between us and God the Father, but between each other as well. Through Him we all have access to the Father – as fellow citizens and
members of God’s household.

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Father God, I thank You for the grace and truth that comes to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. I celebrate my place in the Body of Christ along with my fellow brothers and sisters. By Your Holy Spirit, lead me to be at peace with them, in fellowship with them, and of service to them as You desire. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, September 11
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

1 Thessalonians 1:2

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.

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Pondering Point

Fellowship with God and with His people is a hallmark of Christian life. Paul’s ‘attitude of gratitude’ in life gets revealed by his prayers. Thankfulness for others abounds in his recorded prayers throughout the New Testament. It is evident he values Godly relationships with others. To emulate Paul and pray in appreciation for others is a beautiful way to express love for others –AND – sharing this attitude of gratitude with them is especially beautiful as they get to hear of your fondness for them.

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Father God, may my words – as the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:29 – be helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Help me learn to be grateful for people and let it show. Today I thank you for these people: (list them to God… )

You can then conclude with…  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, September 12
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

Ephesians 1:15-16

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
~ Apostle Paul

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Pondering Point

Yesterday’s devotion focused on a lesson about being thankful for people in prayer. We had a short prayer of thankfulness to conclude that day’s devotion. Today we expand that ‘attitude of gratitude’ for people by mirroring one the Apostle Paul’s recorded prayers from Ephesians 1:15-16. In preparation to do so, we engage our Thursday theme of prayerfully Re-centering around God:

Review the week

Whose faith has influenced you positively, recently and in the not-so-recent past? Who makes a positive impression on you about how they love others regardless of their current situation? Do you express gratitude to other people? How do you do this?

Repent (if necessary)

Have you been overlooking others? Have you ignored or belittled others’ contributions, devalued or disparaged others’ actions? Have you simply failed to be thankful for, failed to enjoy, or failed to celebrate people – especially fellow Christians?

Return (as necessary)

Thank God for the reminder to be thankful, then armed with new thoughts of those who have been a blessing to you or those you love, share this adaptation of Paul’s prayer:

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Thank you Lord for (name) and (name) ! I so appreciate their faith in You and their love for people. They are such a blessing to others in Your name – including me. Strengthen them for continued service in this capacity – and strengthen me too! In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Friday, September 13
Discipleship Point and Prayer

Paul tells the Colossian Christians: Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12) To walk out of our rooms or homes without first clothing ourselves with humility is to walk out spiritually naked. A leader who walks into a meeting without humility is spiritually naked. The disciple who tries to share his faith without humility is spiritually naked. As in the fairytale, everyone sees it as it is, and someone inevitably will shout out, "the emperor has no clothes!"

p. 151, The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones
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Humility Prayer

Lord God, when I pick out clothes for the day, remind me to include the attractive ensemble of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Discipleship Point about Small Groups

We hope that fellowship occurs every time a small group gets together in part or in whole. But fellowship as a stand-alone event is intended as a low-key entry point for friends from outside a group to meet members of your group (hopefully also your friends!). These friends can be members of church or not, churched or not, Christian or not. This is a major, intentional pathway for nurturing potential disciple-oriented relationships.

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Discipleship Prayer

Father God, bless me and my friends-in- the-faith with a Small Group that functions as a safe place for anyone interested in experiencing Your love and grace. May our fellowship be inviting and intentional, invitational and inspirational. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Saturday, September 14
Scripture's Story for the Week

John 12:1-11

Jesus Annointed by Mary at Bethany

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

Since we are focusing on fellowship as a theme, see how many different “fellowships” you can identify in this story as you read through John 12:1-11. You can revisit John 11:1-3 and 32-36 for a greater awareness of Jesus’ connection with this family. Take note that others have been invited as well, likely the disciples as well as friends of the host family.

Consider visualizing this story as a participant. See yourself as one who has been invited as a friend of the family, but has not yet gotten to know Jesus. This concept is what we have in mind with inviting people into our Small Groups through Hope – to ultimately experience Jesus Himself as a compassionate and loving friend, as Lord and Savior, as part of the family – and us as part of His family.

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Prayer for the Day

Lord Jesus, thank You for being a compassionate and loving friend, my Lord and Savior, and leader of my family. Thanks more so for making me a part of Your family. I hope all of my friends become Your friends. Amen.

Sunday, September 15
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

Psalm 67:1-7

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

3 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.
5 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.

6 The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.
7 May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

According to Psalm 67, God’s grace leads people to rejoice in Him, which in turn leads to greater blessings from God. Sharing life with other people (fellowship) allows them to see God’s grace in You. Shine upon us God – and those around us! Amen

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