“You cast me into the deep…I am driven from your sight” Jonah’s prayer show fear about the possibility his physical demise and an end to life. Even so, he does not simply acknowledge a physical threat; he also speaks of a deep spiritual threat. It is not just the “deep” that disturbs him, being “driven from God’s sight” would be much worse. How are physical and spiritual struggles, threats, and challenges connected in your life these days? How does God offer a “full” deliverance that touches us body, mind, and spirit? Thank you for full redemption in Christ. Amen.
“Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” In a world of “tolerance” and “diversity,” God’s word still challenges and warns us. What does it mean to abide in Christ’s teaching? What does it mean to “go beyond it?” Why is this scripture still important for us to hear and apply? Father, it is always easy for us to make faith comfortable and agreeable to our personal desires and whims. Keep us focused on Your truth that endures.
“In His great mercy he has given us…” 1 Peter begins with good news as we begin a new year. Many look back at the year past and look ahead to the opportunities ahead. As Christians, this exercise always finds meaning, not in our own efforts, intentions, and desires, but in the great mercy God has given, in the new birth we have in Christ, and the living hope with have through his resurrection. What is your prayer as you begin a new year? – Your mercy O God, your birthing O Christ, your hope O Spirit. Amen.
“Each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable…” Sometimes it is easy to talk about godly character in some theoretical way, disconnected from what we live in our body. “Self-control” is the embodiment of bringing the body under the discipline of heart and mind. Why is it tempting to have an intellectual faith separated from the body? Why is our body and what we do with it important to our faith and ministry? Spirit of God, only through your power may I live a holy and honorable life. Empower me.
“As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now!” Paul’s speaking about “faith in Jesus Christ (vs 24), included talk about “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment.” Are these themes part of our preaching/teaching of faith in Jesus Christ today? What do you think Paul said about these? Why was Felix afraid? In our Christian leadership, preaching, and teaching are we afraid to preach that which causes fear in the hearts of those not surrendered to God. Give us courage to preach the full Christian faith, O God. Amen.
|“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” The most amazing thing in the entire world is that God wants to be with us. Despite all the mess we’ve made, despite all our sin, despite our continued failings and moves away from his grace, he still wants to be with us. Do I want to be with people like God does? What moves me toward and away from God and people? Thank you for loving us, thank you for being with us Lord Jesus.|
|“in whose spirit is no deceit…” Our temptation after sin, like Adam and Eve, is to hide, to be silent, to cover up, to blame others, to lie. Blessing comes not to the one with a sinless image, but rather to the honest, the humble, the truthful who confess their sins to the Lord and thus receive his forgiveness. Why do I keep going back to hiding? What can I do to help myself and others learn to be honest with God? I have sinned against heaven and earth O Father, but I throw myself upon your gracious love that is beyond all I know.|
“Forgive us our debts…” Prayer for forgiveness reveals our understanding that relationships are central to life. It also recognizes our human condition in which we fall
short in our faithfulness to the obligations of our relationships toward God, others and all of creation as well. When I fall short or sin, do I deny my sin, blame others or flee in fear of God’s judgments? Jesus gives us another way; trust God’s mercy and love. Forgive me for my sins and shortcoming Lord, both the wrongs I commit and the things I leave undone.
|“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place…All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…” God chooses the time. His people come together in one place for His purposes. God’s Spirit empowers. It is so easy for us to want the power of the Spirit for our purposes like Simon (Acts 8:8ff); without a thought for God’s timing and the unity of the body of Christ. How is this a temptation for me? Why is the time and common gathered place essential and prerequisite? Forgive us, Fill us O Lord.|
“Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Jesus does not scold Thomas. Instead he gives him the evidence he needs and gently invites him to believe. In response, Thomas speaks one of the greatest affirmations in Jesus ever recorded. How do we as leaders deal with those who doubt our plans and strategies for ministry and for change? What might Jesus’ dealing with Thomas teach us? It is easy to grow discouraged with those who don’t agree with me Lord. Teach me, by Your Spirit, to respond with patience and grace.