Day Five: The Great Rewarder

“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15.6)

“Genesis 15.6 became a foundational verse in the theology of the early church, especially in Paul’s writings… James uses it too, but for a different reason: to point out that Abraham’s righteousness, which came by faith alone, also resulted in works of faith (James 2.23). This kind of faith—the faith that justifies us but also produces righteousness in us—is the kind that, according to James, makes someone a friend of God.

“The assurance of the old promise comes after the announcement… ‘I am your shield, your very great reward’ (15.1)… the literal implication here is that God is the reward. It’s a personal commitment; God isn’t just giving Abram a son, many descendants, and land. He’s giving Abram himself. Abram’s focus at this point is clearly on the gifts rather than the Giver… Over time, Abram will learn that knowing God as a great Reward is better than experiencing him as a great Rewarder.” (A Walk Thru the Life of Abraham: Faith in God’s Promises, Baker Books)

Let’s pray: Lord, sometimes I get obsessed with the things that I want, things that I want to see happen in my life. May those things never get in the way of me becoming a friend of God. More than any reward, I desire you, the Great Rewarder…

Let’s worship and remain in the presence of our Great Rewarder. Let’s sing “To the One” (Upperroom) –

—JP

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Day Four: Do You Feel Small Yet?

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars —if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15.5)

“[T]he Lord ‘took’ Abram outside. The verb is active, almost forceful, as though He bodily picked up the man and set him in a clearing under the night sky… How many stars can a person in a rural area…see? Too many to count. That’s the point. The Lord used the night sky to illustrate the vastness of the nation that will bear Abram’s DNA… If he felt small surveying thousands of balls of fire spanning the heavens from horizon to horizon, then he grasped the Lord’s point: ‘I am God; you’re just a tiny speck compared to My universe. Trust Me; I’ve got your back.’ …Why did God’s words settle the matter for Abram? Because no one can argue with the One who made the stars. God’s omnipotence makes anything possible…” (C. Swindoll, Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith)

If we’re being honest, many times our demands of God are so selfish, petty and short-sighted. God created the stars, planets and galaxies to illustrate his desire and competence to care for us. His plans for us are that awe-inspiring, vast and glorious.

Let’s pray: Father, as we live out our faith, may we “shine like stars” (Phil 2.15) in the midst of this dark and hopeless generation…

Let’s sing “So Wil I” (Upperroom) –

—JP

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Day Three: Freedom from Fear

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15.1)

“God frees the heart of Abram from fear. God exhorts Abram to be of a tranquil mind; but what foundation is there for such security, unless by faith we understand that God cares for us, and learn to rest in his providence? …Moreover, by the use of the word ‘shield,’ he signifies that Abram would always be safe under his protection. In calling himself his ‘reward,’ He teaches Abram to be satisfied with Himself alone.” (J. Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, vol 1)

Abram was not known to be a fearful person. In Genesis 14, he hunts down the armies of four powerful kings with a small militia in order to rescue his nephew and their families. We have fears that God alone can see. These fears stop us from fully trusting God and from fully living the abundant life. Fear of failure, of being alone, of losing a loved one, of not having control, of not being liked, of not having enough to be happy, etc. What is your greatest fear?

Let’s pray: Lord, may I hear your words today, “Stop being afraid.” You are the only one who can truly protect us from all harm. May I put my trust in you right now…

Let’s be assured of God’s protection over our lives. Let’s sing “Defender” (Upperroom) –

—JP

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Day Two: Be in Awe of the Extent of His Love for You”

Read the following quotes from the Psalms that speak of the Lord as our shield: “You are a shield around me” (3.3), “You surround them with your favor as with a shield” (5.12), “my shield and the horn of my salvation” (18.2), “You make your saving help my shield” (18.35), “my strength and shield” (28.7), “our help and shield” (33.20), “a sun and shield” (84.11), “their help and shield” (115.9, 10, 11), “my refuge and my shield” (119.114), “my shield, in whom I take refuge” (144.2).

Take a look at this painting by Jonathan Shaw, “Jesus: Our Shield & Refuge”—

In the caption the artist writes, “Be in awe of the extent of His love for you.”

Take a moment to consider how much the Lord has been a shield to you and your loved ones. Think of moments in your life where the Lord was your shield… moments when he protected your family, spared you from pain, preserved your health, guarded your well-being. Many times we are not aware of the lengths God goes to protect us. May the Spirit reveal to you “the extent of His love for you.” Write them down and give thanks to the Lord.

Let’s sing “Peace Be Still” (Lauren Daigle):

Let’s pray: Lord, you surround us with your favor like a shield. You protect us even when we are not aware of the dangers around us. So many things could have happened to us… but you protected us. Thank you, Lord… my shield in whom I take refuge… thank you, Lord…

-JP

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Day One: May the Lord cause you to flourish!

“God is our shield” comes from one of the earliest revelations of who God says he is to his believers, and therefore foundational to our faith. God is our shield against things that can threaten our well-being. To place our trust in Him is to place ourselves solely under His protection when our well-being is at risk.

Take this moment to declare the truth of God’s word over your life, over your loved ones. As you proclaim that the Lord is your help and shield, may your trust in the Lord deepen.

“All you Israelites, trust in the Lord—

he is their help and shield.

House of Aaron, trust in the Lord—

      he is their help and shield.

You who fear him, trust in the Lord—

      he is their help and shield.

The Lord remembers us and will bless us…

      he will bless those who fear the Lord—

May the Lord cause you to flourish…

May you be blessed by the Lord,

      the Maker of heaven and earth.

It is not the dead who praise the Lord,

      those who go down to the place of silence;

it is we who extol the Lord,

      both now and forevermore.

Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 115.9-18)

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rm 8.16). This is flourishing! Let’s pray: Father, thank you for your protection, thank you for walking with us. Lord, think of us, and bless us today…

Let’s sing “Full Revelation” together:

-JP

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Day Five: You’re Going to Need the Spirit’s Filling for This…

In Eph 5 we get a glimpse of four characteristics of being filled with the Spirit. The fourth is a lifestyle of submission out of respect for Christ. See below for this section in outline form (cf. Eph 5.19ff):

Be filled with the Spirit,

(1) speaking to one another…

(2) singing to the Lord…

(3) giving thanks to God the Father…

and (4) submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Then what follows are examples of how this fourth characteristic plays out in real-life scenarios: between husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves. These examples and ideas of submission seem antiquated and overly conservative to us today. But it helps to understand how the Ephesians probably reacted to first hearing these words.

“Paul’s words would have shocked his ancient readers, for he was speaking both to master and to slave, to husband and to wife, to parents and to children. Paul requires that those who occupy dominant positions in the social order be subject to their subordinates; they are to order their lives under the very people over whom they exercise authority.” [G. Sittser]

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5.21)

When we submit to others, we strive to benefit them, valuing them because Christ died for them.

Let’s pray: Lord, empower me that I may joyfully submit my life to You, striving to serve the best interests of others…

Let’s surrender ourselves to the Lord in worship as we sing, “Come Rest On Us” (click here) by Upperroom.

— JP

 

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Day Four: Very Personal Space

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ [Gen 2.24] This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Eph 5.31-32)

What does “one flesh” mean to you?

For married couples, this is how conjoined, indivisible, consolidated you are. But that’s not the main point here. Apostle Paul wants us to think about Christ and the church, the love that He has for His bride and the oneness that is shared.

If you could experience more of this oneness, ie. “one flesh” union, with Christ, in what ways do you think your life would change?

Let’s pray: Lord, take us deeper into this profound mystery… the union between Christ and the church. I want to know this intense love and the vital oneness You have with Your people. Ground me, embed me in this love and oneness. I am Yours and Yours alone. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Let us be pulled deeper into this profound mystery as we sing and worship the Lord to, “New Every Morning” (click here) by Audrey Assad.

– JP

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Day Three: You (all) are… Gomer! Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Watch this video of a modern adaptation of Hosea (Best with headphones!).

What are we supposed to learn about God’s love through this story?

“I wonder whom you have identified yourself with while we looked through this little book. Hosea, perhaps? Have you sympathized with him? After all… we all know how hard it can be to love sinners. But you realize who you really are, don’t you? I am here to tell you, you are Gomer. You are Gomer… You and I are the unfaithful objects of God’s ever-faithful love. Only when we understand this do we begin to understand what love is… Gomer’s only hope was in a love that she never deserved. And this is your only hope as well. That’s the message of Hosea.” [M. Dever]

“This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Eph 5.32)

What qualities do people look for in a future spouse?

Jesus gave up His life for us when we were most unlovely, unlovable and unloving. We were never fit to be His bride. Jesus takes it upon Himself to make her holy, glorious, unblemished, faultless… by rescuing, forgiving, washing, feeding, caring (Eph 5.21ff). His self-sacrificial love transforms her to become lovely, lovable and loving.

Let’s pray: Lord, heal us of our waywardness. We run into Your arms of grace and love…

— JP

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Day Two: Beloved Be Loved

The Bible portrays the relationship between God and His people as a marriage (cf. Hosea, Revelation, etc.). As Christians, we are united with Christ. As His church, we are His bride. This is the most important marriage a Christian will be a part of.

If a married person asked you for advice because they felt distant from their spouse, what would you say to them?

“My beloved is mine, and I am his.” (Song of Songs 2:16)

“In this Song of Songs we see the love of Christ and his church running towards each other in a full torrent. The text contains three general parts:

1. A symbol of affection: ‘My beloved’.

2. A term of appropriation: ‘is mine’.

3. A holy resignation: ‘I am his’.

“There is a conjugal union between Christ and believers… [But] before this union with Christ there must be a separation. The heart must be separated from all other lovers, as in marriage there is a leaving of father and mother: ‘Forget your own people, and your father’s house’ (Ps 45.10). So there must be a leaving of our former sins, a breaking off the old league with hell before we can be united to Christ. ‘Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?’ (Hos 14.8), or as it is in the Hebrew, ‘with sorrows.’ Those sins which were looked on before as lovers, are now sorrows.” [T. Watson, “Mystic Union between Christ and the Saints”]

Let’s pray: Lord, may we leave our old lovers in order to cleave to You…

Let’s sing to Him with the song, “Even When It Hurts (Praise Song)” (click here) by Hillsong United.

— JP

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Day One: Married? Married. Married? Married! Jeez.

As His church, we are married to Christ. We are not meant to live like “singles” and we will not find happiness in being unfaithful. Our greatest joy and satisfaction are found in “this great mystery,” our union with Christ.

What are some of the lifestyle differences between someone who is single versus someone who is married?

“Praise the LORD!
For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice,
and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
and his bride has prepared herself.
She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.’
For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.”

Revelation 19:7-8

“Ancient Jewish couples were betrothed to one another for one or more years before they had a wedding ceremony and consummated their marriage. Yet, this betrothal period was not anything like modern ‘engagements’ that can be easily called of. The betrothal period was a time when the bride and groom were supposed to prepare themselves for the life they were going to soon share together. The husband often went away and prepared a home for the future family while the woman would engage in practices that prepared her for her future life as a wife and mother.” [G. Boyd]

As Christians, how should we live during this “betrothal period”

How well do you know your bridegroom? Let’s sing and know Him.

“To the One” by Upperroom (click here)

Prayer: Lord we praise You and rejoice in You. Thank you for our union with Christ. In Jesus name, Amen.

— JP

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