Suit Up - # 1

Opening Prayer

Lord, show me what I need to do to follow you more closely.

 

Read:  Matthew 3:16-17New International Version (NIV)

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.”

 

Reflect

After we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the greatest call we have is for our lives to look like His life.  We learn that His thoughts should be our thoughts.  His actions and attitudes should be our actions and attitudes.  We can’t be considered His follower if we refuse to walk the path He showed us in the Bible.  Even though John the Baptist didn’t understand why he was to baptize the sinless son of God, Jesus’ three year ministry to the cross followed that public act of baptism.  What is God challenging you to do in your life right now?  All of our Christian life will be a readjustment to God’s plans and purposes for us.  Are you faithfully seeking to walk the path of Jesus?

 

 Apply

Baptism is the first step for a believer in Jesus.  Have you taken that first step in your life?

 

 Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus I want to be your follower.   Show me your plan for today and give me the strength to walk in your ways.

Taking a chance?

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, thank You for walking with me. Help me to seek You and to go where You lead.

 

Read: ACTS 25:1-12

[1] Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, [2] where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. [3] They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. [4]Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. [5] Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.” [6] After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. [7] When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them. [8] Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” [9]Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” [10] Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. [11] If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” [12] After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!” 

 

Reflect: WHY DO YOU BELIEVE PAUL ACTED AS HE DID?

It’s been two years since Paul’s trial before Felix, and the Jewish leaders present their case against Paul again, presumably hoping that a new governor will respond to their requests in a different way. If he had done so, then the plot that was afoot to kill Paul may have succeeded (3), but Festus suggests an alternative venue for Paul’s new trial (4,5). Even though for a second time nothing can be proven against Paul, Festus offers him a trial in Jerusalem; but Paul, continuing to declare his innocence, appeals as a Roman citizen to Caesar. Why? If Paul was innocent, why the appeal to Caesar? Maybe, with his own background in the law, and his citizenship in mind, and knowing himself to be innocent, it seemed the logical thing to do. Or perhaps the reason for this is found in Acts 23:11. After a previous trial before the Sanhedrin, the Lord spoke to Paul about testifying in Rome. Maybe Paul had that in mind, and saw an opportunity to bring about what he believed God wanted him to do. Either way, he’s now heading–eventually–for Rome

 

APPLY

Trust God with any difficult circumstances you know of and ask him to be at work in them.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Jesus, I know that if I commit myself to Your ways, You will bring good, even when others work against me.

 

Syndicated via Scripture Union
www.scriptureunion.org

Expectant worship

OPENING PRAYER

God, let us remember that, though You extend forgiveness through Jesus, justice is coming.

 

Read: PSALM 5:1-12

[1] For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David. Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. [2] Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. [3] In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. [4] For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. [5] The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; [6] you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, LORD, detest. [7] But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. [8] Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies- make your way straight before me. [9] Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. [10] Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. [11] But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. [12] Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. 

 

Reflect: WITH WHICH PART OF THIS PSALM DO YOU IDENTIFY?

As David comes into the Lord’s presence, he does so with an apparent heaviness of heart (1), but also with an awareness of the majesty and power of the God he is worshipping (2). He recognizes the continuing struggle with his enemies who demonstrate arrogance, falsehood and deceit (9), but he is also aware of the ability of God to overcome such attitudes and actions (10).  Yet it is important to realize that, although bearing this burden, David does not come to the house of the Lord in a negative frame of mind, but with a real sense of expectation and hope. David assumes that he will not only meet the Lord in worship, but also that he will discover afresh the joy which the Lord brings, know the right paths that he should walk and, above all, experience anew the protection and favor which the Lord promises to all who seek him (8,11). Today there will be opportunity for us to meet the same Lord and to come to him with the same sense of anticipation (3). Whatever situations we are struggling with, we can be sure of the Lord’s blessing and protection (12).

 

APPLY

Pray that as you meet the Lord today you will discover his protection in a new way.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Spirit of God, breathe in me and give me the perspective of heaven.

 

Syndicated via Scripture Union
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Join the Team - #5

Opening Prayer

Father, help me to see your truth and hear your voice through your word.

 

Read: John 3:16-21

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

Reflect

John 3:16 is probably the best known verse in the entire Bible seen everywhere from stadium end zones to great cathedrals to airplane signs overhead.  These verses come at the end of a great conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  Nicodemus wanted to understand who Jesus was that night and Jesus responded with the need everyone has to be “born again.”  Understandably, this was pretty overwhelming and mystifying to Nicodemus and we don’t know for sure if he ever truly understood Jesus or not.  Verses 16-21 certainly go a long way to explain what Jesus meant in “born again.”  The love of God caused God to send Jesus into the world to provide eternal life for all of humanity—salvation not condemnation.  From the beginning of Genesis people loved evil more than God and now Light has returned into the world.  John says with The Light comes the choice—love the darkness or love the light.  If our lives are full of evil deeds then that is a sure sign we hate the light and love the darkness.  On the other hand, loving the light means living and staying in the light in order that our lives, love and deeds of kindness are seen by God and everyone else around.  Being “born again” is receiving and walking in Jesus’ light so that the brand new life that only God could create becomes visible and viable.

 

Apply

Have you been born again through the new life only Jesus offers?  If you have, are you walking in the light and does your life reflect Jesus’ new creation?  Who in your life (family, neighbor, coworker, friend), needs to see Jesus in your life more clearly and is waiting for you tell them about Him?

 

Closing Prayer

Be born again in my life today, Jesus, may my words and deeds reflect your love and goodness.

Join the Team - #4

Opening Prayer

God, may my life be open to following you at all times.

 

Read: Matthew 4:18-22

 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.  21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Reflect

This passage of scripture is one we tend to skip right past but is astonishing.  Jesus’ ministry has barely started.  Matthew begins with an extended genealogy, then Jesus’ birth, John the Baptist, testing by Satan and Jesus starts to preach as He calls these 4 men to follow Him and they respond quickly.  Certainly these four were around but they’re not mentioned in Matthew by name prior to these verses.  Don’t you wonder how this could happen?  They certainly didn’t understand what “fish for people” meant or would involve.  And these 4 had no idea what the future would hold.  But “immediately” they left their jobs, homes and families to follow Jesus toward an unknown future.  What’s up with that, right?  Have you ever seen anyone do something like this to this extent?  There was something different about Jesus wasn’t there?  The way that He spoke and Jesus’ personality and charisma were a part but there was much more.  These first 4 disciples would listen to Him teach time and time again and they would watch one miraculous healing after another and even grow weary of the large crowds.  They traveled with Jesus after this for the better part of 3 years and they easily could have decided at any point along the way that Jesus was a fake and simply wasn’t worth following any more.   Yet not one of these four ever stopped following Jesus.  God’s Son and His Gospel were simply irresistible!

 

Apply

What did you leave behind when you first followed Jesus?  What have you left behind recently to continue following Jesus more closely?  What is God asking you to lay down (family, career, security, etc.) in order to fully follow Jesus?  When was the last time you listened to Jesus’ voice and started following Him toward an unknown and uncertain future?  For Peter, Andrew, James and John nothing was more certain than following Jesus!

 

Closing Prayer

Open my eyes, ears, and hands, God, that I may follow Jesus without restraint when He calls.

Join the Team - #3

Opening Prayer

Dear Father, help me to see with your eyes and hear with your ears today.

 

Read: Hebrews 10:19-25

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

Reflect

The book of Hebrews is all about Jesus’ supremacy over everything and everyone.  In the Old Testament only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year to offer a sacrifice for the sins of God’s people.  And in the temple there was a heavy curtain stretching from ceiling to floor separating the Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple.  These verses explain that Jesus changes everything!  Instead of being left out of the Holy of Holies, the blood sacrifice of Jesus has made a permanent way to God.  Through Jesus we now have confidence to enter in – His body was torn in two much like the curtain in the temple was torn in two after Jesus’ death on the cross.  In contrast to the ordinary high priests, Jesus becomes the final and ultimate Great High Priest ruling over the house of God forever!  And His blood now brings new life – forgiveness from sin and newly found life and purity through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection!  So, Hebrews says, in view of all of that we stand firm because God never goes back on a promise.  We help and encourage one another to live lives of good works and love so that Jesus keeps reaching the whole world.  And, verse 25 says, we keep meeting together regularly as Jesus’ followers because we are going to need each other more and more as the days draw closer to Jesus’ return!  Persevere, don’t give up, and together, keep helping each other live for Jesus until He comes back again!  God never fails!

 

Apply

How often do you ask God for His forgiveness and receive it because Jesus’ blood paid the price for you sins?  Confess your sins to Him today and receive His forgiveness.  Then LIVE for Jesus through love and good deeds and regularly encourage others to follow His example too.  How frequently do you attend weekend worship services?  Meeting together regularly is critical in living for Jesus!

 

Closing Prayer

May my life, God, become a new and living temple so other see the life, love, purity and forgiveness of Jesus in me.

Join the Team - #2

Opening Prayer

Father, help me never to doubt and to look forward to a new home with you.

 

Read: John 14:1-7

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

 

Reflect

Jesus’ disciples were struggling mightily to understand what He was telling them.  Jesus explains that He will be betrayed, denied and suffer greatly.  Of course Jesus speaks the truth always but in these verses He brings comforting words through several miraculous and astonishing promises.  God is preparing a huge house in heaven with many rooms for everyone who will come to the Father through His Son.  Jesus will come back to take us to heaven where He will also be with us.  Jesus promises that He IS and WILL BE the way, the truth and the life.  He’s the only true path to finding the Father and knowing the Father—to see Jesus is to see God!  When our hearts are troubled, how should Jesus’ promises give us hope, peace and comfort?  Every day we should look forward to heaven’s many rooms knowing Jesus is making preparations for us even now.  We must continually rejoice in knowing Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life—He’s like no one else!

 

Apply

Take specific steps this week to keep these promises of Jesus in front of you (memorize or write them out) to live purposefully here knowing heaven is ahead!  Who do you know that needs to know this hope, comfort and purpose only found through Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life?  Tell them about Jesus today and show them with your life who He is!

 

Closing Prayer

Jesus, make your way, truth life apparent and attractive through me.

Join the Team - #1

Opening Prayer

Father, help open my heart today to what it means to follow Jesus.

 

Read: Matthew 16:24-27

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

 

Reflect

Earlier in Matthew 16, Jesus warns against the influence of the Jewish leaders and then Peter boldly declares that Jesus is the Messiah, The Son of God.  Then verses 24-27 follow immediately as Jesus describes what it means to be a true disciple—a follower.  Following Jesus mean denying ourselves and dying daily.  Truly following Jesus means losing our own lives through the cross of Jesus Christ in order to gain the one life that is truly life.  Verse 25 is one of those verses referred to as a “paradox” – true statements that seem to contradict each other yet within their opposition reveal a deeper truth altogether.  When it comes to following Jesus, saving our lives means losing our lives and losing our lives means ultimately being found in Jesus.  Life means death and death means life.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, before his martyrdom near the end of World War II said, “Grace is costly because it cost God the life of His Only Son.”  He went on to say, “What was costly for God will not be cheap for us.” 

 

Apply

In what ways has Christianity become too easy?  In America how is following Jesus easier than in other parts of the world?  What difficult steps does God want me to take in following Jesus?  In what areas of life is God calling me to die to myself?

 

Closing Prayer

God, may my life become a living sacrifice to you.  May I lose my life in Jesus’ cross so His life lives through me.

 

 

Too Great a Miracle

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, help me to have faith that anticipates Your promise not as less than I can imagine, but more.

 

Read: LUKE 24:8-12

[8] Then they remembered his words. [9] When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. [10] It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. [11] But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. [12] Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. 

 

Reflect: WHAT WAS THE REACTION OF THE DISCIPLES TO THE WOMEN?

The disciples had spent three years walking with Jesus. They had left everything to follow him. So, we might ask, why did they not believe him when he said he would come back from the dead? Jesus told the disciples many times that he was going to be handed over and crucified, and that he would be resurrected on the third day.The disciples were accustomed to Jesus speaking in parables and they mistook many spiritual analogies for physical ones (John 4:32), so perhaps we can understand that they originally thought the talk about crucifixion, and the subsequent resurrection, were non-literal words as well. But now, the crucifixion had happened, and Jesus had told them what to expect next. But, when the women told them what had happened, “their words seemed like nonsense.” Let us keep the childlike faith that believes that God is going to do all that he has said, even when it would seem like nonsense to us.

 

APPLY

Find and write down some outrageous promises from the Bible. Tell God you believe he will bring them to pass.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

God, You are not limited by my conceptions of what You can do. Help me to imagine and believe for even more!

 

Syndicated via Scripture Union
www.scriptureunion.org

The Arrival of the King

OPENING PRAYER

Humble King, thank You that You came into my broken world, took on my shame and opened the way to life.

 

Read: LUKE 19:28-40

[28] After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. [29] As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, [30] “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. [31] If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.'” [32] Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. [33] As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” [34] They replied, “The Lord needs it.” [35] They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. [36] As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. [37] When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: [38] “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [39] Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” [40] “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 

 

Reflect: WHY DOES JESUS ENTER THE CITY ON A COLT?

Jesus normally travels on foot, so why does he now choose a different form of transport? Jesus rides into the city of the kings, Jerusalem, on the back of a young colt. This is a symbolic act, a declaration of his identity and destiny. Zechariah 9:9 promises that Jerusalem’s king will arrive on the back of a foal. Quite a few verses in this passage (29-35) are devoted to explaining how this foal is obtained, showing the importance of the animal to the story. The ancient kings of Israel rode into Jerusalem as part of their coronation ceremony, not to conquer the city, but in order to be crowned. Jesus does not enter Jerusalem on the back of a trained military horse; instead, he journeys to his enthronement on an untried animal. He takes the path of peace.Jesus is followed by a multitude of disciples, who cry out: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord,” applying to Jesus the adulation found in Psalm 118:26. Their proclamation, “peace in heaven and glory in the highest,” echoes that of the angels in Luke 2:14. Both the angels and the disciples were overjoyed at the prospect of Jesus’ coming reign.

 

APPLY

Today, on Palm Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the King of Peace. Make a list of some of the attributes of a good king.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Lord, in a world overrun with power hunger and oppression, You came to turn it all around while taking the lowest place.

 

Syndicated via Scripture Union
www.scriptureunion.org