Day Two: The first step – God’s initiative

Genesis 12:1-4a (NIV)
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him…

“First there is the divine imperative, “Go!” (v. 1). Then comes the divine promise, “I will” (vv. 2-3). Then follows the human response, “so Abram went” (v. 4). The entire intent of the passage would have been changed radically had v. 4 preceded vv. 2-3. If it had, then the promises could only be read as a result of Abraham’s obedience. The divine word then would have been reduced from an initiating word to a responding word.” [Victor Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch, 85]

Abraham’s first step was initiated by God. God’s call and promise preceded Abraham’s response and not the other way around. For those who belong to Christ, we have already taken the first step in trusting God because he first loved and saved us. Sometimes in the busyness of life, we can get ahead of or behind God by getting easily distracted, but our trust and next step are to have its root in God’s direction.

Let’s worship to “Goodness of God” by Bethel Music (Click here).

Let’s pray: God, thank you for your goodness and blessings in Christ. Remind me how it all began with you and help me to pay attention to your promise and work in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

– CHH

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Day One: The first step and the last

Genesis 12:1, 4 (NIV)The LORD said to Abram, “Go… to the land I will show you.” … So Abram went, as the LORD had told him.
Genesis 22:2-3 (NIV)Then God said… “go… on a mountain I will show you.” … Early the next morning, Abraham got up… he set out for the place God had told him about.

“This close lexical link between 12:1 and 22:2 draws attention to a more general literary association between these passages that is deliberate. As the call of Abram in Gen 12 begins his journey of faith, so this passage [in Gen 22] concludes it, being the last divine speech to the great patriarch… In both, the patriarch receives a command: there to leave his father’s house and forsake his past, here to forsake his future. In both, Abraham responds in radical obedience (12:4 and 22:3).” [Bill Arnold, Genesis – New Cambridge Bible Commentary, 204]

Today, ask God to help you see what he desires of you. Pray for strength to take that next step God has in mind as you worship to “Sovereign” by Chris Tomlin (Click here).

Let’s pray: God, everything in life is held together by you, so I trust you with everything. Frame my life in this radical obedience to what you say and show. Help me to trust you more and more throughout this week and new year. In Jesus’ name, amen.

– CHH

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Day Five: Same Call, Different Stories

John 21:19-22 (NLT)Jesus said this to let [Peter] know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved… Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

“God does not issue his call for a season, but for a lifetime. Service for the kingdom begins at the moment we receive Jesus and continues until the Father calls us home. What does this look like? In detail, it is different for each person. Some are called to serve where they grew up; others are called to journey thousands of miles away. Some live in hardship and lose their life for the faith, like Peter who died for the faith, while others live a long life, like John who apparently died of old age. What is the same for all is the call that discipleship should have priority over everything else.” [D. Bock, NIVAC Luke, p. 289]

What are the priorities in your life that you are challenged to reorder?

Let’s worship to “More to Come” by Kristian Stanfill (Click here).

Let’s pray: God, we believe there is more to come for each one of us, more of our stories that are yet to be seen. We look forward to life in you and through you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

– AK

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Day Four: The Stories That Stayed With You, Pt. 3

Luke 14:26 (NIV/NLT)“If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, [love less] everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”

Keith Green passed away on July 28, 1982 at 28 with his 3-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter along with nine others in a plane crash. His wife Melody who was six weeks pregnant was at home with their one-year-old daughter. Though his life was short, his music, ministry and biography, “No Compromise,” has continued to challenge later generations to have a wholehearted, passionate love for Jesus.

Here are some verses from his song, “I Pledge My Head to Heaven.”

Well I pledge my wife to heaven, for the Gospel,
Though our love each passing day just seems to grow.
As I told her when we wed, I’d surely rather be found dead,
Than to love her more than the one who saved my soul.
I’m your child, and I want to be in your family forever.

Well I pledge my son to heaven for the gospel.
Though he’s kicked and beaten, ridiculed and scorn.
I will teach him to rejoice, and lift a thankful praising voice,
And to be like Him who bore the nails and crown of thorns.

No matter whatever the cost, I’m gonna count all things lost.

Listen here (Click here):

Let’s pray: God, we pledge ourselves to you. Whatever the cost, may we count it all a loss. In Jesus’ name, amen.

– AK

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Day Three: The Stories That Stayed With You, Pt. 2

Luke 14:27 (NIV)“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

It is said that when Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf came across the painting Ecce Homo “Behold the Man” by Domenico Feti, he was deeply stirred as the inscription read, “This have I done for thee; now what wilt thou do for me?” Zinzendorf went on to establish the village of Herrnhut in Germany and it became the refuge of the Moravians. It was there in 1727 they began a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week prayer vigil which lasted for a hundred years. They also sent out hundreds of missionaries and impacted men like William Carey and John Wesley who also carried their crosses.

As we consider what Jesus has done for us and what we will do for him, let’s read this over again from Sunday’s confession. Let’s read it prayerfully.

“That I am not my own, but belong—
body and soul, in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly
willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
[Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1]

Let’s pray: Father, we belong to you. No one and nothing else can have a claim on us. Have your way Lord, in our lives, that we would do what you would have us to do. In Jesus’ name, amen.

– AK

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Day Two: The Stories That Stayed With You, Pt. 1

Luke 9:24-25 (NIV)For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?

Jim Elliott famously paraphrased these verses when he wrote, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” The journal entry was dated October 28, 1949. Seven years later, Jim Elliott along with four other missionaries were martyred by the very people they were evangelizing in Ecuador. Their stories made the news in the States with most containing headlines regarding the tragedy of these lost lives and the wasted effort. Yet, the response by Elizabeth Elliott, Jim’s wife, was the following, “There can be no greater joy than to know that the blood of our husbands has been the seed of the [Huaorani] church.”

“To follow Jesus and share his cross may mean that neighbors and friends do not always understand why we do what we do. Our understanding of what counting the cost means is only theoretical until we are put in such circumstances. But those who have contemplated counting the cost will be ready when the moment comes… when a time comes to choose God over family, self, or possessions.” [Darrell L. Bock, NIVAC Luke, p. 405]

Let’s pray: Father, may we be ready to say, “there is no greater joy,” when through our laying down of life, comes life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

– AK

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Day One: Everyday Carry

Luke 9:23 (NIV)Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

“When Jesus tells you to take up your cross daily, he is not telling you to find some way to suffer daily. He is simply forewarning of what happens to the person committed to following him. It is neither a call to seek suffering as an end in itself nor an invitation to undergo an inner experience of dying. ‘If you want to follow me,’ he is saying, ‘be prepared for what you will have to face. They put me on a cross–and they may do the same to you. You will do well, then, to arm yourself daily with a willingness to take whatever ever may come to you because of me.’” [John White, Cost of Commitment, Location 880]

We have been forewarned that following Jesus will come at a cost. We should not be caught off guard when sacrifices are required. There is a daily training program we are to commit ourselves to – the everyday carrying of our cross. It will get us in shape to face what comes our way.

Let’s worship to “Endless Alleluia” by Bethel Music (Click here).

Let’s pray: God, please give us this magnificent obsession of following Jesus. May no cost be too much for us. Train us in willingness, in commitment, through the daily carrying of our cross. In Jesus’ name, amen.

– AK

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Day Five: Led by His Outlook

Psalm 25:12-13 (NIV)
12 Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.

“By sharing God’s outlook I mean that you must adopt God’s priorities. In doing so you will become more concerned about making an upright decision rather than a right decision; you will be more concerned about righteousness than about geography and about sanctity more than salary.” [John White, The Fight, p159]

There is a direct correlation between the “fear of the LORD” and how well we navigate decision making in life. When we adopt God’s priorities, our agendas become less about prospering ourselves and more about glorifying God. This change in focus does not mean that we are shortchanged in any way. On the contrary, God’s blessing is released, for those who live this way “will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land.” May we delight in God’s ways more than anything.

Let’s worship to “No One But You” (click here) by Hillsong.

Let’s pray: Father in heaven, let me adopt your priorities over my own. As I yield my agendas for yours, may I be led into decisions that give life to my family and those around me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

-ES

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Day Four: Time for the Mountainside

Luke 6:12-13 (NIV)
12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:

“Take courage, then, when you have a tough decision to make. Someone who cares deeply for you already knows what he wants you to do. He takes delight in having fellowship with you and wants the very circumstances you face to draw you closer to him.” [John White, The Fight, p162]

All of us face tough decisions to make in life. How do we handle those times? We read in the Scriptures that Jesus often separated himself at night to pray during those occasions. Our difficult decisions are not meant to be times of paralyzing fear and anxiety. Rather, they can be opportunities to draw near to God in a unique way. May we powerfully experience God’s love and care for us as we surrender every difficult decision in prayer before him.

Let’s worship to “One Thing” (click here) by Hillsong.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, you know the tough decisions for me ahead. Let me not fear such times. Instead, let me be drawn into your love and care like never before as I surrender to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

-ES

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Day Three: In Step

Galatians 5:25 (NLT)
25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

“As you mature, both the kind of relationship you have with God and the type of guidance you will require of him will change. You will grow more loving and trusting. You will more often know, without needing to ask, what he would have you do, because you will know him and the manner of his thoughts.” [John White, The Fight, p. 143]

Life is a constant stream of decision making. Of course, there are the big decisions we make that require weeks or months of prayerful consideration. But there are also many small decisions that demand an immediate response. We may not have the luxury of hours of prayer. Living by the Spirit is essential to guiding us at every decision point, big and small. As we grow in relationship with God, the more aligned we are in our immediate decision making. Let’s grow deeper in God that we may live well.

Let’s worship to “Holy Spirit” (click here) by Jesus Culture.

Let’s pray: Father, let me grow in relationship with you. May I know your thoughts and follow the leading of your Spirit in every area of my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

-ES

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