Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
The kingdom is first and foremost a statement about God. God is king, and he is coming as king to set right what our sins made wrong. The phrase “kingdom of God” could just as easily be translated “reign of God” or “kingship of God.” The message of the kingdom is about God’s royal power directed by his self-giving love. (Treat, Jeremy. Seek First)
The kingdom of God is about the gospel affecting and transforming and conquering lives all over the world, where lives are to be marked by the Holy Spirit’s presence and power—forming and transforming individuals who are now called to form communities whose identities and purposes are formed by the gospel.
For our devotional response, let’s declare this confession from the Capetown Commitment: As disciples of Jesus, we are gospel people. The core of our identity is our passion for the biblical good news of the saving work of God through Jesus Christ. We are united by our experience of the grace of God in the gospel and by our motivation to make that gospel of grace known to the ends of the earth by every possible means.
Prayer: Lord, we thank you that we are the gospel people. May your gospel conquer every area of our lives, and also of those to whom we are currently ministering. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Judges 7:17, 20-21
“Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do.” The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.
When the battle finally comes we find Gideon transformed by the peace of God. He is resolute and trusts God with wholehearted devotion. But was Gideon the only one? No, there were 300 that night who obeyed. The book of Judges tells us that in the battle these men “held their positions.” This is the Lord’s people – whole and complete – living and operating in peace.
Today the Lord invites each one of us to take our place in the “300.” As those who have been transformed by the Lord’s peace, may we be his peacemakers on our campuses and in our cities. Together may we resolutely and boldly proclaim “peace!” with our words and actions, inviting those around us to experience genuine peace and relationship with the Lord.
Prayer: “Lord, together as your church may we proclaim your peace to our campuses and to our cities. Through our lives may you bring your order and wholeness to those around us. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
Isaiah 9:6b-7 He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
“God’s answer to everything that has ever terrorized us is a child. His answer to the bullies swaggering through history is not to become an even bigger bully. His answer is Jesus. Look at Jesus. As the Wonderful Counselor, he has the best ideas and strategies. Let’s follow him. As the Mighty God, he defeats his enemies easily. Let’s hide behind him. As the Everlasting Father, he loves us endlessly. Let’s enjoy him. As the Prince of Peace, he reconciles us while we are still his enemies. Let’s welcome his dominion.” (Ortlund, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners)
During the time of Judges, the people lived in chaos because they had no king – “everyone did as they saw fit.” It was through God’s loving initiative that Gideon came to know “The Lord is Peace.” Today, the peace experienced by Gideon comes to us in greater measure through Jesus Christ, our “Prince of Peace.” Jesus’ victory on the cross means we have victory over any fear or chaos in our lives. Let’s welcome his rule even more!
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your victory on the cross which made a way for us to have genuine lasting peace. Today, we declare that your rule is greater than any present fears. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
Judges 7:2-3 (NIV) The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
How is peace possible when the Lord takes away, how is peace possible when we lose the very things that seemingly give us security? But true peace is about wholeness and completeness, and in this case it’s about wholeheartedness in Gideon’s life. This is the Lord revealing any last vestige of self-sufficiency and division in our hearts. Our preference is to have both “strengths” – my own strength and the Lord’s strength, but God knows division in our hearts breeds turmoil. Genuine peace is not possible when there are areas of our hearts, however small, that are reserved for ourselves, untouched and unaligned to him.
Today, if the Lord is putting us in a position where there is nothing and no one to trust except God himself, his heart is not to harm or trick us. It is an invitation to be wholehearted before the Lord where we find genuine peace in the Lord alone, where I AM is your peace.
Prayer: “Lord, may you establish wholeheartedness in us. May there be no division, no double-mindedness, no “stone” in our hearts unaligned to you. I find strength and peace in you alone. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
Judges 6:25-26 (NIV) That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height.
“Without any further delay, the program begins. Before the battle with Midian there has to be a battle with Baal. The altar that exists in Gideon’s own backyard has to come down. You cannot have an altar to Yahweh-Shalom and an altar to a false god on the same property. The Lord is a jealous God. He will not share His territory or His glory with any other.”(David Jackman, Judges & Ruth)
Biblical peace is about wholeness, completeness, and order. As Christians, we experience peace as God brings a total reordering and realignment of our lives. It begins with worship.
There’s something very concrete and hands-on in what Gideon does to the idols. His actions are intentional and decisive. In the same way, the Lord invites us today to know his peace in concrete ways as he establishes a new order of worship in our lives – new schedule, new commitments, new priorities, new habits, and new ways of living – all of who we are in worship to him.
Prayer: “Lord, establish your new order of worship in our lives. Realign every part of us so that we can more fully worship you today on our campuses and workplaces. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
Judges 6:23-24 (NIV) But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
“And on that altar, he praised God for His peace—not because his situation had changed, but because God had showed up in the midst of the situation. With God, you can experience peace in any situation. Without Him, you can spend whatever you want, go wherever you want, do whatever you want…but you won’t have peace. The best you’ll get is a deflection of life’s anxieties or a diversion or distraction from them. If you want to know true well-being and wholeness despite life’s circumstances, you must be in God’s presence. In His presence, all odds change. All expectations change. All outcomes become dependent on Him and are not limited to what you can rationalize.” (Tony Evans, The Power of God’s Names)
Where does genuine peace begin? It begins in the presence of the LORD and nowhere else. As we face today’s challenges are we gripped with doubt or fear? God invites us today to be in his presence where we are assured that he is with us and working for our ultimate good in each of our circumstances.
Prayer: “Lord, we seek your presence today. We find true peace in you alone. We trust that all outcomes today are dependent on you as we follow and obey you. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
John 15:8,10 (NIV) This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples…If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
Remaining in the love of God…is an active response of obedience. Jesus said almost the same thing earlier, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15), though there, obedience was the manner in which the disciples showed love for Jesus. …This pericope has been intentional to make God the cause and the disciple the effect; God is the source and the disciples are passive recipients but also active respondents…just as “love” is not defined in abstraction but by the person and work of God through Jesus, so also is “obedience.” Our obedience is enabled by our participation in God (by the Spirit) and is guided by his person (the example of Christ). [E. Klink III, John, Zondervan ECNT]
Jesus illustrates the true life of love for his disciples where the Spirit renews, guides and enables us to live each day “doing” the ways of Jesus. There is no separation between remaining in Christ and doing the ways of Christ.
Prayer: Lord, I offer my life again to be your disciple. Empower me with your Spirit to obey your commands and walk the very steps and ways of Jesus that bear greater fruitfulness for your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.
John 15:9,12(NIV) As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
Think of what Christ says: “As the Father has loved me”—what a divine, everlasting, wonderful love—“so have I loved you.” It was the same love with which He loved the Father and that He always bore in His heart that He now gave into the hearts of His disciples. He yearns that this everlasting love should rest upon us and work within us that we may abide in it day by day. What a blessed life! Christ desires every disciple to live in the power of the self-same love of God that He himself experienced…The Christ with whom you desire fellowship longs unspeakably to fill you with His love. [Andrew Murray, 365 Timeless Devotions from Classic Writers]
This is the nature of God’s love:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31)
“His love endures forever” (Ps. 118)
“How priceless your unfailing love” (Ps. 36)
How did Jesus demonstrate God’s love for us?
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5)
Meditate on these words. Believe these words. God holds us and keeps us in his love.
Prayer: Lord, fill me with your everlasting love. Help me believe and trust in your unfailing love. Keep me close to your heart. May my heart be captivated and shaped by your redeeming love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
John 15:7 (NIV) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
This prayer is not asked in isolation but in the intimate, mutually indwelling relationship between Jesus and the disciples… the prayer, like the relationship, has Christ as the primary cause. This is because it is created in and guided from the entirety of Jesus’s message—his person and work. In light of our union with Christ, “whatever you wish” is not a blank-check prayer but participation in the life and mission of God. [E. Klink III, John, Zondervan ECNT]
Souls abiding in Jesus open the day with prayer; prayer surrounds them as an atmosphere all day long… Consistent asking comes out of abiding in Christ. Some believers pray by the yard, but true prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length. [Charles Spurgeon, 365 Timeless Devotions from Classic Writers]
Has it been a struggle to pray? Is your heart cold? Do you feel you don’t know how to pray? Prayer flows forth from a living relationship with Jesus, the very presence of him in us.
Prayer: Lord, may your Spirit and words deepen my relationship with you. May your words become the prayers that I pray. May your will and glory be the answers I desire and wait for. In Jesus’ name, amen.
John 15:1-2 (NIV) I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
“On a Sunday soon after, the church plant team received from John 15 that as branches that remain in the true vine, being pruned is a matter of fact – so we can’t and don’t need to avoid it. I felt relief as I received God’s perspective – he will always deal with the unfruitful areas in my life, not to crush me, but rather because he is determined to bring forth a greater fruitfulness than I think is possible. These were grace-filled, life-giving moments that began a new process of transformation in me. I began to notice the Spirit’s help and conviction in moments where I would have usually gotten stuck in my own opinions and understanding, and the Lord gave me desire and power to be taught and to agree with his ways.” [excerpt from Jennie Lin’s testimony]
Are you experiencing the Father’s sharp but loving pruning process to bring your life in line with his heart and ways? How are we to respond?
Prayer: Father, help me not to resist your grace-filled work in my life. Humble my heart to yield to the transforming power of your Spirit in me. Your ways truly lead to real life and greater blessing. In Jesus’ name, amen.