Day One: The Restful Yoke

Matthew 11:27-30 (NIV) – All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

“Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’” [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.45]

A yoke is a wooden crosspiece over two animals pulling a cart or plow so that the animals are forced to move in the same direction. True rest and true freedom is not freedom from a yoke, but rather to be yoked to Jesus – and Jesus’s invitation is for us to choose to take his yoke upon us.

Prayer: Lord, help us hear your invitation to come to you and find rest. It is your grace that calls us to take your yoke upon us and to learn from you and that is something to be guarded and treasured. We willingly submit ourselves and the direction of our lives to you once again today!

Let’s worship to the song, “Jesus, Only Jesus”(Click here) by Martin Smith.

– BW

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Day Five: Examine My Heart

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-17, 23-24 (NLT)
O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
They cannot be numbered!
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Prayer: “Father, thank you for the ways you have shown the depths of your love and care over my life. ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me! Search my heart and point out anything in me that offends you.’ Help me to stay walking closely in your love. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

Let’s close in worship with this song, “At the Cross,” (Click here) by Hillsong.

– EK

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Day Four: A Changed Heart

Romans 2:28-29 (NLT) – For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT) – And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

“The answer comes through the biblical echoes in verses 28 and 29. Paul is referring, not to any Gentile who happens to make a special moral effort, but to those who have God’s law written on their hearts by the Spirit…In line with the prophecies of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, and for that matter with the explosive spiritual experience of all the early Christians, Paul believed that through Jesus the Messiah Israel’s God had renewed the covenant, and was now welcoming into that new family all those, irrespective of ethnic background and hence of outward badges like circumcision, who believed the gospel. He is here sketching in, very briefly, the much fuller picture of the Christian life, of the renewal of the heart by God’s Spirit.” [N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 1, pp. 40-41]

Prayer: “Father, thank you that you have taken out the stony, stubborn heart and have given me a new, tender and responsive heart. Would you fill me with your Spirit that I bear fruit for your praise and your glory! In Jesus’ Name. Amen”

Let’s worship with this song, “Dry Bones,” (Click here) by Worship Central.

– EK

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Day Three: Riches of His Kindness

Romans 2:21-22 (NIV) – You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples?

Matthew 5:27-28 (NLT) – “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Romans 3:23 (NIV) – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 2:4 (NIV) – Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Like our Lord Jesus said, even if we look with lust, then the sin has already been committed. Whether it is the obvious/external sins or the “not so obvious”/internal sins, we need to see that sin is sin before the Lord, because “all have sinned.” It is when we recognize the old sinful ways for what they are, we can be rightly broken and really humble about our need for God and his forgiveness and know the riches of his kindness that leads us to repentance.

Let’s ask for the Spirit’s leading to humble brokenness about the old sinful ways and patterns that we need to confess before the Lord and for the riches of God’s kindness to lead us to repentance.

Let’s close in worship to this song, “Kindness,” (Click here) by Chris Tomlin.

– EK

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Day Two: No More Smoke Screens

Romans 2:1-3 (MSG) – Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.
You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard?

Here is an example of how we can pridefully try to avoid or deflect God’s truth from piercing our hearts when it needs to. It doesn’t take much for us to relate to this. When specific areas of our lives is graciously being pointed out or when correction comes our way – what is often our first response – “why me?”, “but, ‘so and so’ does this and that”, “why aren’t they being corrected?”
When I get a speeding ticket, one of the first responses I have is to ask – “why didn’t the cop catch the other car that was going faster than me?” I avoid admitting, that of course, I was speeding too.
God sees right through our “smoke screens.”

Let’s pray for the humility to see what we need to see that is hindering in our lives before the Lord and to welcome God’s truth to pierce through in our hearts for greater transformation.
Let’s close in prayer with the song, “Inside Out” (Click here) by Hillsong.

– EK

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Day One: Off with the Old, On with the New!

Ephesians 4:20-24 (NLT) – But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

“So what Paul is urging the young Christians is that they allow this teaching of Jesus to have its full effect in their lives. Now that they are ‘in Christ,’ they have the responsibility, in the power of the Spirit, to take off the old lifestyle, the old way of being human, like someone stripping off a shabby and worn suit of clothing. It may have become comfortable. You may be used to it, and even quite like it. Familiar old clothes are often like that, and brand new ones often feel a bit strange. But if you want to live as a new person in and for the King, the old suit of clothes has to come off, and the new one has to go on.” [N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters, p. 52]

Let’s pray and ask for the Spirit’s help to see the old prideful ways that need to be taken off, to be renewed in our thoughts and attitudes and to put on the new in Christ.
Let’s close in worship to the song, “All Things New” (Click here) by Elevation Worship.

– EK

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Day Five: Glad Self-Offering

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) – And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

“For Paul, having ones’ mind renewed and offering God one’s body are all part of the same complete event. Here Paul uses a vivid, indeed shocking, idea: one’s whole self must be laid on the altar like a sacrifice in the Temple. The big difference is that, whereas the sacrifice is there to be killed, the Christian’s self-offering is actually all about coming alive with the new life that bursts out in unexpected ways once the evil deeds of the self are put to death. Christian living never begins with a set of rules, though it contains them as it goes forward. It begins in the glad self-offering of one’s whole self to the God whose mercy has come all the way to meet us in our rebellion, sin and death.” [N.T. Wright’s Paul for Everyone, Romans Part Two, p. 69-70]

Let’s follow the teaching of our Lord in Romans 12:1-2 today. Let’s also pray for the children, youth, and campus ministries of our churches, that each one will experience this glad self-offering way of life. Let’s worship and sing with the song, “More to Come” (click here) by Passion.

– BR

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Day Four: Eternal Life

Romans 6:19-23 (NIV/NLT) – I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom.
22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Have you memorized Romans 6:23? I have, as a “back-pocket” passage to have ready to share the gospel. But when I memorized it, I didn’t pay attention to what is going on here in Romans. This “eternal life” through Jesus Christ our Lord is not merely a promise of eternity; it is actually a way of living here and now.

If we have received this promise, then today, here and now, we are under one obligation alone: We are slaves of God. So our lives, every day, aren’t about merely waiting for “eternal life,” but about doing “those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.”

Let’s pray for ourselves and our churches, that we will live fully in this free gift of eternal life as taught in Romans 6:19-23. Let’s worship with the song, “Here and Now” (click here) by Eddie Kirkland.

– BR

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Day Three: Handed Over to a New Master

Romans 6:17 –But thanks be to God because you were slaves of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching to which you were handed over. [Douglas J. Moo’s translation]

“Paul now dispels any idea that Christians stand in a situation of neutrality with respect to the master they are to serve… They have already made the decision to follow a new master. For Paul give ‘thanks to God’ for the transfer of spiritual allegiance that they have manifested. Once, Paul says, ‘you were slaves of sin’; but now ‘you have obeyed that pattern of teaching to which you were handed over.’

“… Paul uses ‘obey’ because he wants to underscore the aspect of submission to Christ as Lord of life that is part of becoming a Christian. It is probably for this same reason that Paul chooses so unusual a way of describing the object of their obedience.  Paul uses ‘hand over’ to refer to the transmission of the early Christian teaching. In this verse, however, it is not the teaching that is handed down to believers but the believers who are handed over to the teaching. Paul wants to make clear that becoming a Christian means being placed under the authority of Christian teaching. The new convert’s ‘obedience’ to this teaching is the outgrowth of God’s action in ‘handing us over’ when we were converted.” [Douglas J Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), p. 400-401]

Let’s thank God that we have been handed over in this way by our rescuing God. Let’s be filled with the Spirit afresh for obedience and love. Let’s worship with the song, “No Longer Slaves” (click here) by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser.

– BR

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Day Two: “Today you will be with Me…”

In the book, Death by Love: Letters from the Cross, Pastor Mark Driscoll shares of Thomas, who came to him enslaved by sexual sin. Thomas was not yet in Christ, and so the following counsel is given:

“During all of your foolish sin, you have been deceived into thinking that you are free to do as you please. However, the truth is that you have lived as a slave…you are helpless before your lusts. There’s nothing you can do to get free, so you just give up.  The good news is that God is more powerful than anything, including your sinful desires.  If you turn from sin and trust in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit will indwell you. As a result, you will receive a new power by which to say no to your sinful desires and yes to the holy Desires of God” (p. 63).

Luke 23:32, 39-43 (NIV) – One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at [Jesus]: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him… 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Here we see one man’s day to leave his life of sin and trust in Jesus. Have you had such a day? If not, may it be today. If you have called upon Him, let us remember and receive afresh this life of intimacy with our Master promised in Luke 23. Let’s worship with the song, “Belong” (click here) by Aaron Shust.

– BR

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