Day One: How we begin…

Ephesian 4:17-24 – “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.” 
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Read through verses 20-24 again. This new reality in Christ is where we begin each day.

Recite/declare out loud all the new attitudes of the mind, and the new ways of Christ-likeness that God has created in your life!

Prayer: Father in Heaven, thank you that the old is gone and the new has come. May I honor your name today and put on the new self, living righteous and holy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

– TR

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Day Five: The Talk of the Nations

Psalm 126:3 (Message)

We were the talk of the nations –
  “God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
  we are one happy people.

“We cannot make ourselves joyful. Joy cannot be commanded, purchased or arranged. But there is something we can do. We can decide to live in response to the abundance of God and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs. We can decide to live in the environment of a living God…We can decide to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab.” [E. Peterson]

“The joy that develops in the Christian way of discipleship is an overflow…that comes from feeling good not about yourself but about God. We find that his ways are dependable, his promises sure.” [E. Peterson]

Therefore… “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in him! Make it clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” (Phil 4:4 MSG)

Is there a “responsive-joy-in-Jesus” overflowing from you and into your church, missional group, or campus ministry? Are you helping them see the Master? What holds you back?

“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in him!” How can we ‘practically’ do this celebrating and reveling more in our lives together? What will it look like?

Let’s pray that we will celebrate and make much of Jesus in our churches, missional groups and campus ministries. Let’s ask for Jesus’ contagious joy for one another.

– TR

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Day Four: Armloads of Blessing

Psalm 126:4-6 (Message)

And now, God, do it again –
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
Will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
Will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

“The hard work of sowing seed in what looks like perfectly empty earth has, as every farmer knows, a time of harvest. All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it. It is clear in Psalm 126 that the one who wrote it and those who sang it were no strangers to the dark side of things. They carried the painful memory of exile in their bones and the scars of oppression on their backs. They knew the deserts of the heart and the nights of weeping. They knew what it meant to sow in tears.

“One of the most interesting and remarkable things Christians learn is that laughter does not exclude weeping. Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow. Pain and hardship still come, but they are unable to drive out the happiness of the redeemed…Christian joy is actual in the midst of pain, suffering, loneliness and misfortune.” [E. Peterson]

What are your ‘killjoys’ in life? What are the things that seem to kill your happiness and discourage you? Why?

Take a moment and evaluate these killjoys in light of who God is and what he provides. Are they true joyous pursuits or momentary pleasantries and escapes?

Spend some time praying for the ‘desert’ moments we may be going through. Let’s ask God for hearts that will trust him and seek him for the ‘rain’ – the resolutions and help we need.

– TR

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Day Three: Do It Again!

Psalm 126:3-4 (Message)

God was wonderful to us;
  we are one happy people.=
And now, God, do it again…

“The other side of ‘we are one happy people’ — verses 4-6 — is in the future tense. Joy is nurtured by anticipation. If the joy-producing acts of God are characteristic of our past as God’s people, they will also be characteristic of our future as his people. There is no reason to suppose that God will arbitrarily change his way of working with us. What we have known of him, we will know of him. Just as joy builds on the past, it borrows from the future. It expects certain things to happen.” [E. Peterson]

Psalm 126 “announces the existence of a people who assemble to worship God and disperse to live to God’s glory, whose lives are bordered on one side by a memory of God’s acts and the other by hope in God’s promises, and who along with whatever else is happening are able to say, at the center, ‘We are one happy people.’” [E. Peterson]

How does joy become a powerful witness to the greatness of God?

In what ways can, “And now, God, do it again!” change the way we pray? How can Psalm 126 reframe our passion and hope in prayer? Describe.

This joyful and ‘wonder-filled’ life is our testimony to others. Let’s ask God to empower us this way so we will love and care for those who need God’s impossible miracles. Let’s ask Him to, “do it again,” now in their lives like he did in ours.

– TR

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Day Two: We Laughed, We Sang

Psalm 126:1-3 (Message)

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
  when God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
  we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations –
  “God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
  we are one happy people.

“We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune.” The word ‘fortune’ here is about God’s favor, his restoration and transformation. “That is the authentic Christian note, a sign of those who are on the way of salvation…Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence. It is not what we have to acquire in order to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience. We come to God (and to the revelation of God’s ways) because none of us have it within ourselves, except momentarily, to be joyous. Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality…It is exuberance.” [E. Peterson]

How do faith and obedience relate to joy in our daily lives?

Ephesians 1:3 (NIRV) – “Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Those blessings come from the heavenly world. They belong to us because we belong to Christ.”

What are the spiritual blessings we have received? How does this spiritual ‘exuberance’ change the way we live and interact with one another?

Let’s take some time to give thanks to the Lord for his blessings. Let’s pray for joyful obedience in our lives and deeper faith that is expressed in love.

– TR

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Day One: Too Good To Be True

Psalm 126:1-2 (Message)

“It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
when God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn’t believe our good fortune.

“It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when GOD returned Israel’s exiles.” Each act of God was an impossible miracle. There was no way it could have happened, and it did happen. “It seemed like a dream, too good to be true.” We nurture these memories of laughter, these shouts of joy. We fill our minds with the stories of God’s acts. Joy has a history. Joy is the verified, repeated experience of those involved in what God is doing. It is as real as a date in history, as solid as a stratum of rock in Palestine. Joy is nurtured by living in such a history, building on such a foundation.” [E. Peterson]

“It seemed like a dream, too good to be true…”In Jesus the ultimate ‘dream’ of life has come true and is continuing to come true. Christian life is joy-filled because the dreams and visions that God reveals to us do become reality. We live in the ‘impossible miracle’ of knowing God and experiencing His presence. Our stories are now wrapped up in God’s stories past, God’s story present, and God’s story unfolding.

What do you dream about? What do we sense will make our lives better?

What has God done in your life that felt like an impossible miracle? Can you trace his miracles and rescue?

Spend some time thanking the Lord for each impossible moment he made possible. Let’s ask the Lord to expand our vision of what he can do in and through us for his glory.

– TR

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Day Five: “Everything…Do Everything in Love!”

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.” – Galatians 5:6b (NIV)

Everything we do, we do it in love. That has been the ‘one thing,’ the ‘main thing’ of the whole letter. Everything we do must take place in the reality of putting others above ourselves. It’s this love that continues to shape our calling, it’s this love in Christ that gives us the strength and ability to do what needs to be done so that the gospel is proclaimed in love and Christ is glorified in our churches.

Love will be victorious. Love will overcome. Love will win despite what the outcome may look like, the seemingly futility of the means, or how great the conflict feels.

We rely on the Holy Spirit’s empowering and gifting to express this love more. We do this together. We guard one another in love. In love we stand firm in the gospel for one another. We are courageous for one another. We stay strong, persistent until the very end, building up one another in love. That’s the ‘basics’ providing a prime of place for love in the church.

Today in prayer, let’s commit to loving our churches and campuses ministries again. Let’s ask for the Spirit’s empowering, gifting, and resolve to express this love together even more. Let’s sing to, “I Turn to Christ” (click here) by Matt Redman.

– TR

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Day Four: CS = “Be Courageous; Be Strong” (B.S.C.S.)

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV) – “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong14 Do everything in love.”

With these last two ‘basics’ (BSCS) many commentators believe that these two imperatives, “Be courageous; be strong” echo the language of Psalm 31:24, where precisely the same two verbs are used.

Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
 So be strong and courageous,
all you who put your hope in the Lord!

“Of course, Paul’s simple and straightforward exhortations make perfect sense to a reader who does not hear the Psalm echo, but those who do hear will understand that strength and courage are rooted in love for God and set in opposition to boasting and arrogance. Authentic strength is grounded in trustful waiting for the Lord…” [R. Hays]

Perhaps the hardest part of love is seeing that it completes the transforming work that it was expressed to do. No matter what, carrying it through to its beautiful outcome. This kind of enduring strength and courage cannot be derived from self, but only from God. We can be strong in love for one another to the very end because we know that God is and will always work victoriously in love.

Let’s use Psalm 31:23-24 as a framework for how we pray today for our churches, campuses, families, and friends. Pray for God’s ‘outcome’ in our lives. And let’s worship to, “Cornerstone” (click here) led by Hillsong.

– TR

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Day Three: S = “Stand Firm in the Faith” (B.S.C.S.)

1 Corinthians 15:1–2 (NIV) – “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.”

 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) – “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

“‘Stand firm in the faith’…echoes the words with which Paul opened and closed his chapter on the resurrection (15:1–2, 58). The Corinthians are reminded here to ground their identity in the gospel by holding fast to the message that he proclaimed to them…we stand in the proclaimed word, not in our own subjectivity.” [R. Hays]

“The use of ‘in the faith’ in place of ‘the gospel’ is clear evidence that in Paul from the very beginning this noun can refer to the content of what is believed as well as to the activity of trusting itself.” [G. Fee]

We stand in the proclaimed word, not in our own feelings or ideas about how best to live. We stand in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is our starting point, our identity, our ending point…In Christ! In Christ! In Christ!

What a glorious calling, to be in Christ and love like Christ. Let’s thank the Lord for saving us and ‘placing’ us securely in Jesus. Let’s worship to, “Forever” (click here) by Kari Jobe

– TR

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Day Two: B = “Be on Your Guard” (B.S.C.S.)

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV) –Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.”

These four imperatives are the ‘basics’ (BSCS) of taking responsibility for faithfully growing together in Christ and proclaiming the gospel in His love. You never grow out of these as the church loving each other in Christ in this broken world.

The first ‘basic’ is to “be watchful” or “alert.” This imperative occurs elsewhere in the NT, including Paul, in eschatological contexts, urging watchfulness in light of the Lord’s return. Live ready for Jesus! But it can also be a call to watchfulness with regard to sin in general, to sinful or divisive influences (Acts 20:31), or the enemy (1 Pet. 5:8).

Paul is urging us to ‘be watchful and alert’ to the things that are not of Christ in our lives and together as His people. Help each other see and be aware of the things we may not see…the blind spots in our faith. Make a pattern in your life to seek God’s kingdom first, eagerly desiring and expecting His coming in moments with power and love. Make the most of the opportunities He gives us as His church. And be diligent knowing what is building your life and our lives together.

Let’s pray that we will be an ‘alert’ church, praying and loving each other out of the ‘blind spots’ of sin and into His kingdom and love first. And let’s once again sing/pray this worship song, “One Thing” (click here) by Hillsong.

– TR

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