Day Three – Encounters with alienation

10/1/14

Read Ephesians 2: 13-18

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this 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.

Sunday's Sermon

Today's Devotional

When you hear the word “alien,” maybe the first thing that pops into your mind is some sort of creature that arrived in a UFO, has laser blasters, and is the most out of this world thing that you have ever seen. We’ve all heard enough stories that we can picture something that is extraterrestrial.

In Colossians 1:21, we were told that once we were “alienated” from God – and you can see the same root word that we would use to describe a Martian. It’s the idea that we were once far away from God, we were once separated from God, we were once so alienated from God – because of our sin – that it was like we were aliens. But, Paul tells us in Ephesians 2, it’s the blood of Jesus that brought us back into a relationship with God.

Sometimes – even when we’re following Jesus – we might feel alienated from God. We might still feel far away from God. Sometimes it’s from sinful choices we make. Sometimes it’s a season of lament or sorrow. Sometimes we can’t quite put our finger on why.

Today's Challenge

Challenge: Think deeply about times when you’ve felt far from God. Were there certain spiritual practices – prayer, service, worship, Scripture reading, for example – that brought you close to God again? Were there other choices that may have prolonged the alienation?

Pray that God would draw you closer to Him, even if your relationship is already flourishing. Pray that He would give you discernment how to “draw near to him” during the times when you feel alienated.

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Day Two – The Supremacy of Christ

9/30/14

Read Psalm 24

1     The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

2     for he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the waters.

3     Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?

Who may stand in his holy place?

4     He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to an idol

or swear by what is false.

5     He will receive blessing from the Lord

and vindication from God his Savior.

6     Such is the generation of those who seek him,

who seek your face, O God of Jacob.         Selah

7     Lift up your heads, O you gates;

be lifted up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

8     Who is this King of glory?

The Lord strong and mighty,

the Lord mighty in battle.

9     Lift up your heads, O you gates;

lift them up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

10    Who is he, this King of glory?

The Lord Almighty—

he is the King of glory.

Sunday's Sermon

Today's Devotional

In Colossians 1:18, Paul arrives at a dramatic conclusion after seeing how Christ is both the cosmic creator and the head of the church; he says that in everything Christ has the supremacy.

What does “supremacy” mean? One dictionary defines it as “the state or condition of being superior to all others in authority, power, or status.” As Christians, we know that Christ is superior in all three of those areas: authority, power, and status! Isn’t it amazing to know that He who is supreme in all those areas actually laid down his life for us? That He laid aside that superiority for you and me?

Psalm 24 is a kingly psalm, recognizing the authority, power, and status of God. It mentions that we need “clean hands and a pure heart” to stand before God. The way that we’re cleaned and purified is by believing that Jesus died on the cross for all our sins. It’s then that the King of glory reigns in our lives, causing us to live for him, causing us to show that He has the supremacy in our lives on a very personal level.

Today's Challenge

Challenge: Probably the biggest enemy to Christ’s rule and reign in our lives is… ourselves. Is there an area of your life today where you’re trying to be in control, where you’re holding onto it rather than giving Christ rule over it?

Pray that God would help you answer that question with honesty. If you’re convicted of a specific area, give that area back over to Jesus today. All to Jesus, I surrender; all to Him, I freely give.

 

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Day One – The Unforgettable Image”

9/29/14

Read Mark 6:34 & John 10:11-18

34“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Sunday's Sermon

Today's Devotional

People who have been through an extremely difficult situation – a major trauma in their life – tend to have one thing in common: they often can’t get the really scary image out of their minds. This is true whether someone has a crime committed against them, whether they’ve been in a violent wartime situation, or even if they witnessed something they wish they could un-see. The image stays with them.

On Sunday we heard from Colossians 1 that Christ “is the image of the invisible God” (v15). And I think it’s fair to say that Paul would want this image to stay with us. For all the years that people have wondered what God looks like, Paul says, “Look at Jesus. Then you see God.”

Our two passages today give us a glimpse of what God (as revealed in Jesus) looks like. We see a God who has compassion for His people, who recognizes many needs we have, who takes care of us like a shepherd cares for sheep. Jesus’ love is SO great for us, that He’s even willing to lay down His life for us!

Today's Challenge

Challenge: How have you seen Christ’s compassion for you? Where have you seen – recently or in the past – when Jesus has guided and protected you because He’s the Good Shepherd?

Pray that God would give you a deeper sense of trust for our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Ask for the assurance that God will never leave you and that He will always be there for you.

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Day Five – What a wonderful world!

9/26/14

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1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Sunday's Sermon

Today's Devotional

One benefit of these devotionals is not only looking back to last Sunday, but also looking forward to this coming Sunday. Today we’ll begin to shift gears so that we can prepare our hearts to be ready to hear what God will be saying to us.

In Genesis 1, we hear an absolutely marvelous account of how God created the world. He displayed His power in creating all things from nothing. He displayed His sense of order by creating space in the first three days, and then filling that space in days four through six. He shows us how mighty He is by simply speaking creation into existence – we hear the repeated refrain of “And God said…”

This coming Sunday, we’ll study Colossians 1:15-23 – if possible, read it as a way to prepare for Sunday. One of the things that we find there is that Christ created all the world; that is, the account of Genesis 1 isn’t just of God the Father creating everything but also that Christ the Son created. As we hear in John 1, “through him all things were made.”

As you consider Christ’s work in creation, take time to think about how wonderful this world is. Maybe that means taking a slow stroll through your neighborhood to enjoy creation. Or watching an episode of the BBC’s excellent series on “Planet Earth.” Or paging through a copy of National Geographic you might have at home. The Father and Son together created this wonderful world!

 

Today's Challenge

Challenge: Spend some time enjoying the marvels of God’s good world. If possible, do so with a friend who can help you spot something you might not see otherwise.

Pray with thanksgiving for the good world that God created for us. Ask that God would help you fully appreciate how wonderful His world is!

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Day Four – Forgiveness

9/25/14

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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 has no place in our lives.

 

s us from all sin.

Sunday's Sermon

Today's Devotional

Along with the verses from 1 John, I’d like for you to re-read Colossians 1:1-14 (the passage we heard last Sunday). What we heard last Sunday – and what we’ll hear again today – is that GRACE is the resounding theme that comes through again and again. And grace is commonly defined as the unmerited favor of God – goodness that God shows to us even though we don’t deserve it.

If you took the previous devotional seriously (and I hope you did!), then you may have felt a bit down afterward. Perhaps – like me – you were convicted of some sin that you brought before God, some darkness where the light needed to shine, an area of your life that can be improved with Christ’s presence.

But maybe you’re still struggling with those sins today; major changes don’t always simply happen at the snap of our fingers. What the apostle John calls for us to do in verses 8-10 is to be honest. If you’re struggling, tell the truth to God about it. If you’ve broken God’s law, ask for forgiveness. If the darkness persists, confess and ask God to take it away. And the good news is this: when we do, God is faithful and just, and He will forgive and purify us!

Today's Challenge

Challenge: Rejoice in the truth of forgiveness; though our sins are deep, God’s grace is deeper. Though we fall in our Christian walk, God picks us up without fail. Keep coming back to Him for that grace!

Pray that God will (continue to) pull you into the truth of your sin AND your Savior!

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