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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