Archive for October, 2016

time alone with God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout of JAXNAZ Church

Deuteronomy 6:1-7
New International Version (NIV)

Love the Lord Your God
6 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ Church

Thursday, November 3

Read: Deuteronomy 6:1-7

Deuteronomy 6:1-7
New International Version (NIV)

Love the Lord Your God
6 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Start

Consider: This week we’ve been meditating on the family that the Lord gave us. In addition to the families in which we were born, we were adopted into God’s family—the household of faith. He is not simply my Father. He is our Father. We can only fully live in the reality of the Fatherhood of God when we live in relationship with one another.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Among the many responsibilities of a family is the vital task of passing our faith on to the next generation. In the Old Testament, God passionately calls us to this work.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

What are “these commandments” that we must impress on our children? We find the answer in the previous verse. The command is to…

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (6:5)

And, of course, Jesus affirmed this. He taught us that all of life hinges on loving God and loving God’s image-bearers (Matthew 22:36-40).

So what is it that we’re supposed to teach our children? Over time we’ll teach them many things, but the most essential thing we are supposed to teach them is how to love. In order to do that, we must learn how to love. We can’t teach love academically. We can’t teach it as a series of ideas. We can only teach it by the manner in which we live.

As you tuck them in and then wake them in the morning, as you drive them to school and pick them up from youth group, as you sit at home and gather at the dinner table, teach them how to love. How to love family. How to love friends. How to love enemies. How to love the household of faith. How to love God. Teach them by showing them.

Pray: “Lord, teach me how to love so that my life will lead others to love you more and to love all who are made in your image.”

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ Church

Wednesday, November 2

Read: Ephesians 2:11-22

Ephesians 2:11-22New International Version (NIV)

Jew and Gentile Reconciled Through Christ
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Start

Consider: Sometimes Paul stacks images upon images to take us to a deeper level of meaning. In writing to the Ephesians about how God has “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (2:14) between Jew and Gentile, he takes us beyond simple truce-making. He teaches us that we…

…are no longer separated from God’s people (2:13)

…are “one” with God’s people (2:15-16)

…are at peace with one another (2:15)

…“are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people” (2:19)

But he doesn’t stop there. There is one more image—one more vital relationship—he wants us to understand. He tells us that we are “also members of his household” (2:19). We are family!

It only makes sense. If God is our Father, if we have been adopted by him, if Jesus is our brother (see Romans 8:14-17), then you and I are siblings.

As is the case with the concepts of the “body of Christ” and the “bride of Christ,” the idea of the “family of God” brings understanding that calls us to live in a new way. Families must together take responsibility for the weakest members. Families must learn to forgive—to continually forgive—or the home will deteriorate into a battle field. Families must understand the worth of every individual regardless of that person’s ability to “contribute” in a manner that looks successful in our culture. Families must transcend differences in opinions and passions. And families should take pride in every member of the family.

Families eat at the same table. We—the household of faith—eat at the table of the Lord. We take the bread and the wine that reminds us of who we are in Christ and who we are in relationship to one another.

Pray: Ask the Lord how he wants you to adjust your attitudes and behaviors toward his family—the household of faith. Ask him to forgive you of the times you have forgotten to honor other family members above yourself. Ask him to give you a tender spirit toward members of his family, like the attitude you have toward small children in the household. For we are all children of the same Father.

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ Church

Tuesday, November 1

Read: Romans 8:12-17

Romans 8:12-17
New International Version (NIV)

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Start

Consider: The scriptures teach that every human being is a child of God. We were all created in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). All of us are his image-bearers. So what did Paul mean when he said that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14)?

We know that some people do not live as though they have a parent. Some people have rejected their parents. They have no communication with them and, therefore, no relationship with them. I’m not throwing stones here. For some, there may be good reasons they have had to cut off that relationship. Others have been given no choice. All I’m saying is that it is possible to have a parent without living as that parent’s child.

Paul is asking us to embrace our Heaven Father—to embrace his parenthood in our lives. And he tells us that as we allow the Father to lead us, we are led into greater intimacy with him. That’s why he uses the Aramaic term, Abba (8:15). It is a term of endearment that a child uses when talking to his or her father.

What is fascinating is Paul’s teaching that we are adopted into the family (8:15). In our self-ness and sinfulness, we rejected God’s fatherhood in our lives. We rejected our heritage. But we were welcomed back into the family. And since we so thoroughly rejected him, he adopted us to once again call us his children.

We were born as his children. Then we were adopted—born again.

Pray: Prayerfully meditate on what it means to be adopted into God’s family. Consider that adoption doesn’t happen accidentally. It is intentional and comes at a great price to the adoptive parents. Ask the Holy Spirit to translate the image of adoption for you so that today you live with a renewed sense that God is your Father.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional written by Pastor Phil Stout of JAXNAZ

Monday, October 31

Read: 1 John 3:1-3

1 John 3:1-3
New International Version (NIV)

3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Consider: In recent days we’ve looked at the images the New Testament uses to describe the people of God—the church of Jesus Christ. We are described as the “body” of Christ. Of course, that is more than an image. The Holy Spirit dwells in the church, so we literally are the physical manifestation—the hands and feet—of Christ in our world.

We are also called the “bride” of Christ. We are loved and cherished by him beyond what we can possibly imagine. We cannot fully understand his affection toward us, but we can live in the reality of that love.

There is another image that is ubiquitous throughout the Old and New Testament. It is so engrained in our God-concept that we rarely take it out and look at it. We are called the children of God.

From the outset we are taught that God is our Father. And it is vitally important for us to live in that reality and to constantly remind ourselves that we are his children. This helps us avoid the trap of trying to earn our standing with God. Fatherhood is not something that children earn. It is a gift to them—a gift to us—at birth.

Sometimes we find ourselves trying to convince ourselves that we are worthy to be called the children of God. For many, this is the result of a distant earthly father or a dad who seemed impossible to please. When we hear the word “Father,” we have only one reference point.

While the concept of God as our Father may be deeply engrained in us, we must constantly be on guard so that we do not embrace a distorted concept of the Father. We can only grow in our understanding of the Father as we learn to walk with him day-by-day and moment-by-moment. As he teaches us to love, we learn to trust in his love more and more. We’ll never understand God’s love apart from intimacy with him.

Pray: As you pray the Lord’s Prayer, linger on the first words—“Our Father in heaven…” Prayerfully meditate on your Father. If you have or had a good relationship with your earthly father, you may want to take hold of some things about him that are most dear to you. See how that translates to your concept of your Eternal Father. If your relationship with your earthly father was negative or nonexistent, you may want to consider the longings you have for a father and see how your Eternal Father wants to guide you to that relationship with him. However you approach him, thank God for being your Father.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout of JAXNAZ Church

Monday, October 17

Read: Matthew 3:1-17

Matthew 3
New International Version (NIV)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”[a]
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Start

Consider: As Matthew introduces us to John the Baptizer, he repeatedly makes it clear what John was preaching—repentance.

“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (3:1-2)

“…he said to them…‘Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’” (3:7-8)

“I baptize you with water for repentance.” (3:11)

Repentance is an often misunderstood concept. People tend to see repentance as synonymous with confession. Confession of our sins is certainly a part of repentance, but repentance is so much more. Simply put, to repent is to turn around. It is to change directions. It is not about living in the regrets of the past, but about hope for the future. It means stepping into the new life that God has for us and following a different path.

This brings a complete change in the way we think, in the way we prioritize, in what we value most, in how we determine our ethics, and in what comprises the center of our universe. That’s why Paul said…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

This repentance that John preached was such a radical thing that it was to be marked with a strange, but wonderful event—water baptism. This beautiful sacrament carries with it the image of cleansing. That’s why it is a celebration. We are washed, not by the water, but by the Spirit. This submission to the water is a sign of our repentance, his forgiveness and our cleansing from sin.

You can see John’s reticence to baptize Jesus. He knew that Jesus needed neither repentance nor forgiveness. But Jesus chose to become one of us and for that reason he said to John, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this…” (Matthew 3:15).

Later, the work of Christ would infuse even more meaning into this simple act of submitting to the water and submitting to the Holy Spirit.

Pray: Praise the Lord for forgiveness and cleansing. Ask him to help you today to walk in the joy of knowing that your sins are forgiven. Thank him that repentance is not about our regrets of the past. Instead it empowers us to live in joy today and in hope for tomorrow.

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout of JAXNAZ Church

Wednesday, October 19

Read: Galatians 3:26-29

Galatians 3:26-29

New International Version (NIV)

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Start

Consider: There is a third meaning to baptism that is so important for us to consider. We are baptized “into Christ” (3:27) and that means that we are baptized into his body. Baptism is not only a sign of forgiveness, cleansing and resurrection. It is also a sign of inclusion in the Body of Christ. To be baptized “into Christ” means that “you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). It means we are baptized into one another.

I have baptized people in lakes, in ponds, in swimming pools, in hospital beds and in the church. But I have never baptized a person alone. It is always done with other members of the Body of Christ because it is a communal experience. Being baptized is a recognition of Christ’s work in your life and of his ongoing work in you and through you by means of the church—the Body of Christ.

Of course, underlying the whole concept of water baptism is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Going back to Monday’s reading we remember that John said…

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 3:11)

It is the infilling of Christ’s Spirit—the baptism of the Holy Spirit—that places the life of Christ in our bodies. But our individual bodies were never intended to live in spiritual, emotional or physical isolation. Our individual bodies are referred to as parts—or members—of one body.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Christ is in you. You are in Christ. But that is not the end of it. We share something so powerful that it can only be communicated by saying that we—together—are in Christ, for we together have been “baptized into Christ” and have “clothed” ourselves “with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

Pray: Praise the Lord for the gift that is the Body of Christ. Pray for your local body of believers. Pray that God blesses the church with his presence and with effectiveness in fulfilling our call to…

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19)

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout of JAXNAZ Church

Thursday, October 20

Read: Matthew 28:16-20

New International Version (NIV)

The Great Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Start

Consider: It is interesting that in his final directions to his disciples, Jesus included baptism in the strategy for changing the world. Why would it be important to dip people in water in order to bring about the redemption of God’s creation? Why is that part of our marching orders?

Let’s go back to yesterday’s discussion. When we submit ourselves to baptism, we’re attaching ourselves to the Body of Christ. To be baptized “into Christ” means that “you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

This body of believers is amazing. It is comprised of Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians and a wide variety of Protestants. We worship in huge cathedrals, small country churches, storefronts, coffee houses, in “underground” homes and among the trees in remote jungles. We come from every nation and every ethnicity. Our customs, liturgies, rituals and worship styles are as diverse as we are.

But we don’t only span geography and culture. We span time. We worship a God “who was, and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). And because we are made in his image, redeemed and resurrected by him, the same is true of us. The church is past, present and future.

The church is called to be the manifestation of Christ on earth. We are called to be the hands of Christ and we join hands with Christians across the ages. We are not only defined by what Christ has done in us as individuals. We are also defined by what Christ has done in his church and through his church.

Jesus told the Eleven to “go and make disciples” (28:19). We are those disciples that were “made” by the obedience of Jesus’ first disciples. So just as I am one with you and you are one with me, so we are one with Peter, James and John—and two millennia of faithful followers. We call that the “Communion of the Saints.”

Pray: Take some time to prayerfully meditate on the precious gift that has been given to you—the gift of being part of Christ’s church. Consider all that God has given you through the church and thank him for all of those blessings. Meditate on what it means to commune with the saints throughout the ages.

Time Alone With God daily devotional

Friday, October 21

Time Alone With God Daily Devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ Church

Read: Matthew 28:19-20

Matthew 28:19-20

New International Version (NIV)

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Start

Consider: “Go and make disciples” (28:19). We call this “The Great Commission.”

There are other expressions for it as well. We often talk about “evangelizing” others. The root word in the original language of the New Testament is euangel, which simply means “good news.” It is also translated as “gospel” in our English Bibles. So any time you read the word “gospel” in the New Testament, remember it really means good news.

But over the years evangelizing has come on hard times. I believe the reason is that the word has become too narrow. When some people think of evangelizing, they think of proselytizing or recruiting. They reduce The Great Commission to convincing someone to say a prayer or make a decision. But Jesus didn’t say, “Go and make decisions.” He said, “Go and make disciples.”

A disciple is more than a believer. A disciple is a follower and a learner. A disciple is one who emulates the life of the master. A disciple is one who does the work of the master with the master.

Jesus made disciples by calling them, teaching them, living with them, correcting them, ministering with them and, most of all, loving them. He didn’t simply ask them to repeat a prayer. He said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19).

And we are called to make disciples in the same way. We humbly follow the master. We allow him to conform us to his image (Romans 8:29) so that we can say to others…

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Pray: “Lord, use my life, my heart and my passion in such a way that others can see Christ in me. I pray that as I follow you, others will be drawn to the journey.”

Time Alone with God daily devotionals

Time Alone with God daily devotionals

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, of JAXNAZ church

Friday, October 7

Read: Matthew 5:14-16

Matthew 5:14-16
New International Version (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Consider: “Let your light shine…” (5:16). The church—the city on a hill—is called to be light to the world.

It’s interesting to me that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus instructed us to “let your light shine before others,” but also warned us to “be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others…” (5:16 & 6:1). He is making an important distinction—one that liberates us and the people around us.

We are encouraged to let our lights shine—to freely allow the Spirit of Christ to flow through us—so “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (5:16). We are warned against engaging in practices “in front of others to be seen by them” (6:1). Motivation is everything.

The anonymous acts of compassion we do are seen in such a way that God is glorified and we don’t get the credit. That’s good stuff!

Of course, we can’t always do God’s work in anonymity. But we can always ask God to help us be so transparent that others see him in us and through us.

This is true of individuals and of the church. My wish for the church is that we never use our acts of compassion as marketing tools—we never say, “Look at what we’re doing!” Rather, we want light to emanate from our hearts, our actions—our love—in such a manner that people see Jesus and understand his love for them in ways they could never have comprehended without being loved by his body.

Pray: “Lord, make us that beautiful city on a hill. Help each one of us to love with abandon—with no thought of how we are perceived. Help us to glorify you by being your hands and feet—your body.”

Time Alone with God daily devotionals

Time Alone with God daily devotionals

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, Lead Pastor of JAXNAZ CHURCH

Monday, October 10

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

1 Corinthians 12:12-14
New International Version (NIV)

Unity and Diversity in the Body
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Start:

Consider: The Corinthian church was a deeply troubled church. They were a divided and quarreling people. There was gross sexual immorality in their leadership. It was the kind of church you and I would run from. We’d be out of there as quickly as possible to go and find another church across town. But, of course, in that day there weren’t various churches around town. If you were a believer, you had access to only one Christian community. So I’m sure when people left the Corinthian church, they left the faith. In many ways the church at Corinth was doing more harm than good.

So when Paul wrote to the church, he did so with a mixture of sadness, frustration, anger and discipline. But at the root of his two Corinthian letters was his desire for them to understand. He wanted them to understand the gospel and the church—to understand with their lives and not simply with their minds.

To deal with their divisions, Paul reminded them that theologically, organically and spiritually they were one. They certainly weren’t living as one. But they were one. They were a body that was tearing itself apart.

Self-destruction is not a natural state for a physical body. Our bodies were created in such a manner that the health of the parts gives health to the whole and the health of the whole gives health to the parts. The parts cannot stand independent of the whole. Christ didn’t send his Spirit to fill my arm. He sent his Spirit to fill my body. He didn’t breathe life into my leg. He breathed life into my body.

But it goes further. This organic, spiritual body is not a description of any one of us. It is the description of all of us.

“Now you (plural) are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (12:27)

Pray: “Lord, you have not called me to independence. You called me to inter-dependence. You called the church to strengthen me and you called me—as a part of your body—to strengthen the church. Show me how—through my prayers, my words, my actions, my love and my passion—I can strengthen your body.”

Time Alone with God daily devotionals

Time Alone with God daily devotionals

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ church lead pastor

Tuesday, October 11

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:14-27

1 Corinthians 12:14-27New International Version (NIV)

14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Start

Consider: The metaphor of the physical body is incredibly powerful for communicating the realities of the church—the body of Christ. As you read Paul’s words, your mind drifts between insight about the physical body and understanding the spiritual body. The realities of both are clear to see.

I think the reason this is such a powerful metaphor is the fact that it really isn’t a metaphor. I think Paul and the early church believed that they were literally the body of Christ.

When Christ—who existed before creation (John 1:1-3)—came to us, he put on a physical body (John 1:14). The cosmic Christ came to us in Jesus of Nazareth. I always say that what happened in the manger of Bethlehem was not Jesus coming into existence, it was Jesus coming to our neighborhood.

As he left us in the flesh, he promised us that his Spirit would live with us and in us. In the second chapter of Acts we read where this same Spirit—the Spirit of Christ—was poured into the physical bodies of the church. You and I are literally the body of Christ. We are his actual hands and feet. We are the manifestation of Christ in this world.

Take some time to reflect on the ramifications of that truth. If we really are the body of Christ, what does that mean about how we treat one another? What does it mean when it comes to serving the body? What does it mean about our affection and love for the church?

It is life-changing and life-transforming to understand—with our whole being—the New Testament vision of the church.

Pray: “Lord, help me to see the church as you see it. Thank you for making me part of your body.”

Time Alone With God daily devotionals

Time Alone With God daily devotionals

for the week of October 2 to October 8

written by Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ church.

Monday, October 3

Read: Genesis 12:1-4

Genesis 12:1-4New International Version (NIV)

The Call of Abram
12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.[a]
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”[b]
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

Start:

Consider: In the first book of the Bible—the book of beginnings—we read about God calling Abram to a new life. It is amazing to see how Abram responded. The call was so unexpected and so demanding. In the New Testament, Abram (later known as Abraham) is lauded for his amazing obedience.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country…for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)

It is important for us to see that the call given to Abraham was more than a call to a person. It was a call to a people.

I love to read about the heroes of our faith. I am always challenged by the eleventh chapter of Hebrews and books on the history of Christianity. I’m amazed and humbled when I learn about the martyrs who went before us. But it is important for me to understand that the story of God’s work on earth is not simply a story of stand-alone saints. It is not the story of persons as much as it is the story of a people. And we see this from the very beginning. God said to Abraham…

“I will make you into a great nation…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

In our highly individualized culture, it can be difficult to remember that God’s call on my life is also a call to a people. I am so accustomed to making sure that I am right with God, that I have my needs met, that I have plans for my future. But God never intended for my faith to be mine and mine alone.

When we rediscover that peoplehood is more important than personhood, all of God’s ways take on a new perspective. We think differently about prosperity, joy, success, suffering, peace and love. We pray “Give us today our daily bread” rather than “give me today my daily bread.” We pray “Forgive us our sins” rather than simply saying “forgive me my sins” (Matthew 6:11-12). We bear the burdens of others, and in the process, discover our burdens to be much lighter than they were before.

Pray: Ask the Lord to help you see your call in the perspective of his will for his people. Pray the Lord’s Prayer with a strong consciousness of the “our,” “us” and “we” manner in which he called us to pray.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

Tuesday, October 4

Read: Romans 9:22-26

Romans 9:22-26
New International Version (NIV)

22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:

“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”[a]
26 and,

“In the very place where it was said to them,
‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”[b]

Start:

Consider: We saw yesterday how God chose a person in order to create a people. The call of Abram was part of God’s plan for his entire creation. It was not an isolated blessing that was promised to one individual. God told Abram that “all peoples on earth” would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3).

This thing that began in Genesis continues throughout the Old Testament. God didn’t only create a people, he entered into a covenantal relationship with them. And though they broke the covenant again and again, God continued to love his people and call them back to him.

As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” (Romans 9:25-26)

Sometimes we miss the joy of being the people of God by focusing solely on being a person of God. At times my ego wants to stand apart from the rest. I want to accomplish things that make me feel special. I want to be used mightily by God instead of wanting his people to be Christ on this earth.

The irony is that if I’m using my relationship with God to shore up my weak ego, I’m missing my real worth in Christ. My worth is not in standing apart, making a name for myself or leaving a personal legacy. My worth is experienced as I understand that Christ is in me and I am in Christ (John 14:20). And to be in Christ is to be in his body—his people.

Pray: “Lord, I don’t have to earn your favor. I already have it. I don’t have to prove my worth. You gave it to me. I don’t have to stand apart and prove to myself that I am significant. I am in Christ and Christ is in me. You are in your people and your people are in you. Thank you!”

Wednesday, October 5

Read: Ephesians 3:20-21

Ephesians 3:20-21
New International Version (NIV)

20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Start:

Consider: For the past two days we’ve looked at God’s creation and call of a “people” in the Old Testament. But the people of God—the people of the covenant—are not simply the subject of the Old Testament. The New Testament continues their story and gives them a new name—the church. Paul tells us that now we are children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7).

So the same reverence we give to the nation of Israel that God created, we also give to the church of Jesus Christ. We have been invited and accepted into the “people” that God created to bless all of creation.

I fear that sometimes we miss the significance of the church. I know our culture doesn’t understand the church. But sometimes I’m afraid that nominal Christians view the church as simply a gathering of people who have common religious convictions, opinions and preferences. And since our culture honors individual accomplishment, the church is seen as optional. The concept of a “personal” relationship with Christ has been convoluted into a “private” relationship with Christ. This individualized idea of Christianity easily endorses the values of this world. Without a powerful concept of the “people of God”—the body of Christ—there is no power in our Christian lives. We simply become agents of the values of our surrounding culture while claiming we’re agents of the new kingdom.

God has a different plan. Paul said…

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known…” (Ephesians 3:10)

I often say that I want God to be glorified in my life. I mean that with all my heart. And while we constantly see God honored in the lives of individuals, we know that work is made possible because God is gloried in a people.

“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.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Pray: Thank God for inviting you—inviting us—into his family to be the people of God. Ask the Lord how you today, by your prayers and by your actions, can honor God by honoring his people.

Thursday, October 6

Read: Matthew 5:14

Matthew 5:14

New International Version (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Start:

Consider: A city on a hill. What a powerful symbol of hope. Imagine yourself as a wanderer who is lost in the wilderness. You have been journeying through desert lands and your supplies and strength are almost gone. Far ahead you see a light. And you know what it is. It’s a city. It’s a people. It’s hope.

It’s also a sign of protection. In times past, cities were built on hills so they could be defended. The high walls of a city on a hill were a guarantee against surprise attacks.

It’s also a symbol of strength. Jesus didn’t talk about a hut on a hill, an encampment on a hill or even a village on a hill. He talked about the lights that shone from the houses, buildings and streets of a city on a hill.

So who was Jesus talking to when he said, “You are the light of the world”—you are that city on a hill? Those words of Jesus came immediately after the blessings, as he was addressing…

the poor in spirit

those who mourn

the meek

those who hunger for righteousness and justice

the merciful

the pure in heart

the peacemakers

the persecuted (5:3-12).

The hope, protection and strength—the light of the world—was again being defined by our Lord in ways that the world could not understand. This city on a hill—the church of Jesus Christ—will have to be understood in a manner consistent with God’s intent for his people.

When we look at Jesus, we see light. When the world looks at us, they should see light. For God has formed his church to be a city on a hill.

Pray: “Lord, I pray for your church—your body. We are weak and frail. And yet, you said that your strength would be perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Give us your strength as we embrace the meekness of Christ. Help us to allow you to define hope and strength rather than embracing the values of the kingdoms around us.”

Friday, October 7

Read: Matthew 5:14-16

Matthew 5:14-16
New International Version (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Start:

Consider: “Let your light shine…” (5:16). The church—the city on a hill—is called to be light to the world.

It’s interesting to me that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus instructed us to “let your light shine before others,” but also warned us to “be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others…” (5:16 & 6:1). He is making an important distinction—one that liberates us and the people around us.

We are encouraged to let our lights shine—to freely allow the Spirit of Christ to flow through us—so “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (5:16). We are warned against engaging in practices “in front of others to be seen by them” (6:1). Motivation is everything.

The anonymous acts of compassion we do are seen in such a way that God is glorified and we don’t get the credit. That’s good stuff!

Of course, we can’t always do God’s work in anonymity. But we can always ask God to help us be so transparent that others see him in us and through us.

This is true of individuals and of the church. My wish for the church is that we never use our acts of compassion as marketing tools—we never say, “Look at what we’re doing!” Rather, we want light to emanate from our hearts, our actions—our love—in such a manner that people see Jesus and understand his love for them in ways they could never have comprehended without being loved by his body.

Pray: “Lord, make us that beautiful city on a hill. Help each one of us to love with abandon—with no thought of how we are perceived. Help us to glorify you by being your hands and feet—your body.”

Saturday, October 8

Read: Matthew 5:13-16

Matthew 5:13-16

New International Version (NIV)

Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Start:

Consider: Salt and light. One is almost invisible. (You know, when you’re in a dark restaurant and you put too much salt on your potatoes because you couldn’t see how fast it came out of the shaker.) The other is highly visible. It is the light of a city on a hill that can be seen miles away.

We are both. The church of Jesus Christ is salt and light. We are visible while being highly invisible.

From my vantage point as a pastor, many times I get to see what is done in relative silence. Every day members of the body take the love of Christ to hospitals and homes. People anonymously supply material needs to those who are struggling. Members of the body weep together and rejoice together. Some spend hours in intercessory prayer for others. Lives are saved, futures are altered and hope is restored without fanfare. Servants love to serve. And they love to serve Christ by serving others, not by calling attention to themselves.

So it’s amazing when the things that are done in silence and anonymity shine out like a city on a hill. When that happens it truly is the light of Christ. Then, as Jesus said, God is praised (5:16) and the kingdom has come.

Pray: Thank God for the salt that becomes light—the sincere works done in the dark and difficult places that shine forth God’s love. Thank him that your work is part of his great plan. Ask him to help you find incredible joy in serving, even and especially when no one is looking.

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