Monday, October 14
Theme for the week:
Disciples Receive Forgiveness

Ephesians 1:11-22

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

• In Christ, I have been marked as God’s possession with a seal: the promised Holy Spirit. I now live to the praise of His glory.

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Pondering Point

When you become a disciple of Jesus, God puts a deposit in you – His Holy Spirit. With that Spirit, God guarantees your inheritance with Him. You can, as they say, “bank on it”. You now exist, not to live for sin or for self, but for the praise of His glory. Let me repeat that differently: As disciples of Jesus, we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who lives in us. And we don’t want to let sin co-mingle with Jesus in our bodies, but crucify sin. Apostle Paul says it this way:

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ
lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the
Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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Father God, help me to find my true identity by living for You – and by allowing Jesus Christ, who lives in me, to shine through in my daily life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, October 15
God’s Mission

Luke 13:1-8

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

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Pondering Point

According to Scripture, God is clearly One full of grace (see John 1:14)– AND in this passage we see that our gracious God expects fruit-bearing from His “vineyard” of people. Fruit in His vineyard is equivalent to His mission getting accomplished: Restored and active relationships with Him and each other (through Jesus). If you are part of God’s vineyard, then you are part of His mission as well, are you not?

So ask yourself this question: Does your sinfulness become a hindrance to being fruitful for God? This is not a general question about generally sinful people. God uses sinful people like you and me to accomplish His mission.

This is a question for you directly. Are your specific sins hindering God’s work in and through you? Is God’s mission work through you being side-tracked or derailed by your sinful choices? People often dismiss the impact of sinful choices because they do not see an immediate reaction from God. But it matters. One reason we lack fruit production is because we use our Vine-to-branch resources (John 15:5) toward what we want rather than towards what God wants. Confess this and ask for help to change.

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Gracious God, thank You for connecting me to Yourself through Jesus. As a branch connected to Jesus the Vine, enable me to produce fruit to Your glory. Show me where sinful choices are getting in the way of serving You and producing fruit for Your vineyard. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, October 16
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

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Pondering Point

A basic reading of the Bible will teach you that God takes sin seriously in at least three ways:

1. He had Jesus die on account of sin – that’s wages-of-sin-is-deadly serious!
2. He expects us to confess our sin – that means to acknowledge it, recognize it, own up to it.
3. In the name of Jesus, He promises to forgive sin. That goes for ALL who call on Him about that sin.

Think about this: God’s desire is for you to be pure, to have no ill effects of sin. In 2 Peter 1:4 Peter drills this home: 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. God does despise sinners, but loves them and wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Confession of sins is about being freed up so that we can totally experience the blessings God has for us through Jesus Christ – in this world and the next.

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Faithful and Just God, I come in the name of Jesus Christ as a “participant in your Divine Nature.” Forgive me, for I have sinned in these ways… (name them now) Remove all corruption caused by my evil desires so that I can serve you in true innocence, righteousness, and blessedness. Amen.

Thursday, October 17
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

Psalm 4:1

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. 

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Pondering Point

Times of distress are a common time for prayer, if probably the most common time to do so. Notice two key aspects in this particular prayer:
1. There is no blaming God for the situation (He is righteous), and
2. There is a call for mercy (undeserved blessing).

This call for help is not based on what the person is owed; rather it seeks a response based on mercy. It is the merciful heart of God that is being called on to gain a response. We can be fully confident that God wants to help us – but that confidence is drawn from coming in the name of Jesus. Jesus is God’s favored – hear “favorite” – and beloved Son. And we are granted favor (blessed) even as sinners because we are connected to Jesus. James 1:5 says that God gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. Let’s inventory whatever is distressing us, prayerfully approach God with confidence in Jesus’ name, and seek wisdom.

Review the week

What is distressing you? Think about personal life and health, family, work, finances, relationships, failures, etc…

Repent (if necessary)

Simply admit to God that you wish you had come to Him sooner with what you are sharing now. Ask Him to help you uproot any underlying lack of trust with Him.

Return (as necessary)

Adopt and adapt Proverbs 3:5-6 for yourself and tell God that you trust Him with your life and situations:

Proverbs 3:5-6

I trust You LORD with all of my heart and lean not on my own understanding; in all my ways I submit to You, knowing that You will make my paths straight.

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[Create your own prayer for recentering yourself in Jesus' eyes.]

Friday, October 18
Discipleship Point and Prayer

The humble man takes sin seriously. He realizes how it offends a holy God... if we would pursue humility we must first be honest about our sin and then broken and contrite over it. Those who think they have become too mature for such a response are completely deceived.
p.153, The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones
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Humility Prayer

Lord God, I don't like the idea of offending You; I want to take my sin seriously. But don’t let me get bogged down in a life of shame while facing my sin. Help me acknowledge my sin repentantly and then find authentic joy in the forgiveness of my sin and the release from its harmful effects. Let me seek peace not in hiding, but in confessing and being forgiven through Jesus my Lord, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Discipleship Point about Justification

How are the benefits of the cross transferred into our lives? It is by faith in Jesus Christ alone that we are declared right (justified) before God. God's gift of faith is the recognition of our utter moral bankruptcy and our inability to earn God's favor and that we must receive and rest on Jesus Christ, who has done it all.
(Discipleship Essentials, Ogden, p. 104)
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Discipleship Prayer

Father God, I delight in knowing that I get to go from utter moral bankruptcy to total moral righteousness through my faith in Jesus – a gift from You. Thank You for godly favor that I could not earn on my own but have received through my Lord Jesus Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.

Saturday, October 19
Scripture's Story for the Week

Christ’s New Covenant Sacrifice for us

Hebrews 10:1-10

1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”

8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

In working through Hebrews 10:1-10, it does not have the feel of a story being told. But notice in the middle section that Jesus is being given a voice as to why He came (as a man). That is our story. From Jesus’ perspective, the first (or old) covenant is giving way to the second (or new) covenant. In the old covenant, God’s people were the ones making the sacrifices, performed through the priests. God put many laws in place to manage this sacrificial system. In the new covenant, God Himself is making the sacrifice through the person of Jesus, God-in-the-flesh. He is both the sacrifice and the priest performing the sacrifice. God does ALL of the work to provide atonement (i.e. forgiveness).

Notice the language of Hebrews 10:5 and following. It wasn’t the sacrifices that God was interested in. It was way more about following God’s will. God’s will is that we are holy as He is holy. But we don’t become holy by our actions. Even our holy actions don’t make up for our other ‘unholy’ or sinful actions. The people of God are made holy through Jesus’ act of sacrifice.
This is the reality God wants His hearers to figure out.

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Prayer Prompt

Recognize before God that your ability to become holy and righteous required the sacrificial death of Jesus. Own the gravity of your sin and its impact. Confess any sins you can think of. Then, with a renewed appreciation for Jesus as your Savior, share a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s grace.

Sunday, October 20
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

Revelation 3:14-22

Blessed to be a blessing:
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 

The blessing people zero in on here may be the right to sit with Jesus in heaven – surely a blessing! But there is a prior blessing too: Having Jesus come in and eat with you now. Every rebuke of Jesus, discipline, or call to repent is oriented toward this blessing: A call to be with Jesus now, not just later! He wants to fellowship with you Reconcile my friend – reconcile. Hear His voice and open the door!

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