New Birth — January 21, 2014 (Tuesday)

Today’s Verses:

1 Peter 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

The book of 1 Peter is a letter the Apostle Peter wrote to Jewish and Gentile Christians throughout Asia Minor. During the time he wrote it, Christians were experiencing intense persecution and suffering under the Roman Empire. In his letter, Peter emphasizes the promise of hope in the midst of suffering.

Today’s Questions:

According to this passage, what is the hope we have as a result of our new birth?

Think of a time you were suffering in some way. What occupied your mind and heart during that time?

Identify a time in your life when praising God and seeing his mercy was difficult. Identify a time when doing so was easy. What was the difference?

Is there someone in your life who is suffering and with whom you could share Peter’s message of hope? How might you share it?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Father, let these words of Peter be my morning song and my evening refrain! Lord, forgive me that my first thoughts in suffering are not of you. How easily I forget the source of my hope and the promised inheritance for the reborn. My heart focuses on the near, the temporary, and the fading light. Help me, Father, to fix my heart on heavenly things, the everlasting, the light that never dims. Let me be someone who brings words of hope and encouragement to those I know who are suffering. Give me courage, patience, and peace to be present in the midst of another’s pain. Work through me, Lord, to touch a life with love and comfort today.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review John 3:1-21 for Jesus’ description of what it means to be born again.

New Life — January 20, 2014 (Monday)

Today’s Verses:

Acts 5:17-20

Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

Today’s Questions:

What do you think the reaction of the apostles was when the angel told them to go stand in the temple courts to tell people about life in Christ given that they had just been imprisoned as a result of their healing and teaching?

How do you describe your life in Christ? How is it different than your life before you knew Christ?

What do you say to someone who asks you what it means to have new life in Christ?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, there was a day I never could have imagined this new life. Thank you for interrupting my old life and blessing me with the new life of now and the new life to come. I want to be different, Lord. I want to look at the world and what it cares about and worries over, and see that I am different. I am concerned about what your eyes see, what your heart desires, and whom you love. As I walk through my day, show me, Father, those things I hold onto like the world does and help me to release them. Remind me, Father, that you have unlimited goodness and are just waiting to pour out your blessing on me.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Romans 6:1-4 for another description of new life in Christ.

New Self — January 19, 2014 (Sunday)

Today’s Verses:

Ephesians 4:20-24

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 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; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Today’s Questions:

What are the three things Paul instructs the believer to do in this passage?

Put _____ your _______ self.

Be made ______ in the attitude of your __________.

Put ______ the _________ self.

What is meant by “deceitful desires” based on the transformation you have seen in your own life?

In this season of your life, what are you doing to put off your old self, be made new in the attitude of your mind, and put on the new self?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, I am so grateful for the opportunity to be made new. As I look back on my old self, I cringe at what I thought would satisfy and fulfill me. I was so deceived for so long. Thank you for continuing to pursue me and place people around me who showed me who you are. You know my heart and know I can still easily slide back into my old self and am still deceived at times. I am seduced away from you. Forgive me these lapses and don’t stop whispering your love, encouraging my growth, and satisfying my longing.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Philippians 4:8 for the kinds of thoughts that renew the mind.

New Creation — January 18, 2014 (Saturday)

Today’s Verses:

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (NASB)

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

The word “new” in this passage, each time it appears is the Greek word “kainos,” meaning “unprecedented,” “unheard of,” or “of a new kind.”

Today’s Questions:

What does it mean to live not for yourself, but for Christ?

What old things have passed away in your life since you have been following Jesus?

What new, or unprecedented, things have come into your life now that you are following Jesus?

What do you think it means to know someone else as a new creation instead of according to the flesh?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Father, I pray that these words from Paul’s letter would sink deeply into my soul, that they would be my anthem, my reason, my way of being. I pray for your eyes as I come to know those around me. How often I look at others with judgment and irritation, or without compassion. I pray that you would draw me close so that I live in you, through you, out of my connection to you. I pray, Lord, that I look different than the world, that Christ is manifest in me as I move through my days. Whatever looks different than Christ, Lord, change it, I surrender to your shaping, healing hands.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Revelation 21:1-5 to see the parallels with this 2 Corinthians passage.

New Way — January 17, 2014 (Friday)

Today’s Verses:

Hebrews 10:19-23

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

The Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies, was behind a curtain in the innermost part of the tabernacle. (Exodus 26:31-34) God himself was present in the Most Holy Place, and it could only be entered by the Jewish High Priest one day a year, the Day of Atonement. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would make reparations for his and the Israelites’ sins by sacrificing a bull and a goat. Thereafter, the High Priest would lay his hands on a live goat, confess over it the sins of the Israelites, and send it away into the desert. (Leviticus 16:1-34)

Today’s Questions:

Compare the duties of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement with what this passage says Jesus did when he died.

What is “the new and living way” that allowed us access into the Most Holy Place, or, into the presence of God?

What two things happen to us as we enter into the presence of God through Christ?

How do you see the last sentence of this passage relating to the prior sentences?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for making a way. Thank you for this once-and-for-all sacrifice. Thank you for providing the scapegoat. I don’t pretend to understand it all Lord, I’m still learning. But I think I forget some days that my sin has been placed fully on Jesus and carried away forever. Why do I live so many days with such doubt or like one whose hope rests on empty promises? I know who you are: You are a promise-keeper. I know what you’ve done: You have fulfilled your promises. God, let my gratefulness and assurance be reflected in the thoughts I think, the way I speak, the work of my hands, and the expanse of my love.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Exodus 33:7-23 to read about Moses’ experience in the presence of the Lord.

New Way — January 16, 2014 (Thursday)

Today’s Verses:

Isaiah 43:19

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.

The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls
because I provide water in the desert
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

In this passage, the word “new” in Hebrew is “chadash,” which means repair, renew, or restore, and refers to something never before done.

Today’s Questions:

What is the new thing God says he is doing?

Have you been through a season of life that you might describe as a desert or a wasteland? When? What was happening?

As you look back on that season, can you identify a way that was made that led you out of the situation or experience?

Are you in what feels like the desert or a wasteland now? What is your prayer? What is your expectation about finding your way out?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Lord, there are days I feel totally hopeless and directionless, like I have lost my way. I don’t know what happens but I wander off and the next thing I know, I can’t find the path back. Father, help me to stay on course. Bring to mind your promises of restoration and repair. Redeem my waywardness and destructive choices. Remind me of the things that pull me away from you and divert my attention from your purposes so that I choose the way you have set before me that leads to life, truth, and wholeness. Remind me, Lord, of the way, the truth, and the life.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Jesus’ words in John 14:5-7 about “the way” God made for us.

New Teaching — January 15, 2014 (Wednesday)

Today’s Verses:

Acts 17:18-20

A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with [Paul]. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.”

The setting of this passage is Athens, which had been, hundreds of years before Paul’s arrival, the center of the world for art, philosophy, and literature. Athens was still a leading city for philosophy and university during Paul’s day. Epicureans believed that pursuing happiness was the greatest good and Stoics believed in self-sufficiency, independence, and the suppression of desire. The Areopagus was a council that governed religion and morals, and particularly the introduction of new religions or foreign gods, in Athens.

Today’s Questions:

Imagine what it must have been like for Paul to preach about Jesus and the resurrection in Athens given its history, belief systems, and prominently displayed idols. Can you draw any comparisons to sharing the good news in the United States today?

What do you think seemed so “new” about Paul’s teaching?

Do you recall the first time you heard the good news about Jesus and the resurrection? Did it any of it sound strange to your ears? What parts?

How do you describe the good news about Jesus and the resurrection to others?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, make me bold, like Paul, in telling others about Jesus and the good news of forgiveness and reconciliation. Embolden me to speak about the resurrection and the availability of your grace to anyone who crosses my path whatever their circumstances. Forgive me for the times I have been timid and failed to take an opportunity you gave me to share. I pray, Lord, for the courage and words to explain why I believe the good news and that I can do so with patience and respect. I pray for opportunities to share your grace and love with my family, friends, and strangers.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review 1 Peter 3:15-22 for some direction on sharing your faith.

New Teaching — January 14, 2014 (Tuesday)

Today’s Verses:

Mark 1:27

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

In the verses preceding these, we are told that Jesus was teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum, a city on the Sea of Galilee about 120 miles north of Jerusalem. He is said by Mark to have taught “as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” Then, a man possessed by an evil spirit cried out during Jesus’ teaching and upon Jesus’ command to “be quiet” and “come out of him,” the evil spirit left.

Today’s Questions:

What do you imagine the teaching of the “teachers of the law” was like in the synagogues during this period of time?

We are not told what Jesus was teaching, but based on what you know of his teaching elsewhere, what do you imagine he said and what was “new” or “unprecedented” about it?

Identify a teaching of Jesus that amazes you and explain why.

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for the unprecedented message, authority, and person of Jesus. I don’t ever want to take what you did through Christ for granted, consider it ordinary, or forget his power. Help me to remember where I was without Jesus, what my life looked like before I knew you, so that I am reminded of the miracle of your grace and forgiveness. Forgive me for the times I have denied the power or authority of Christ whether in word or action, conscious or not. I want to live in a state of amazement. Awaken me! Let the unprecedented message of Christ pour out of me, Lord.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Matthew 7:28-29 and then the teaching that precedes this passage, Matthew 5:1-7:27 (the Sermon on the Mount), to see the teaching that amazed the crowds who heard it.

New Command — January 13, 2014 (Monday)

Today’s Verses:

John 13:34-35

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” was a command God gave Moses, as recorded in Leviticus. (Leviticus 19:18). The word “new” in this passage is the Greek word “kainos,” meaning “unprecedented,” “unheard of,” or “of a new kind.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think Jesus refers to his command to “love one another” as new (“unheard of”) given God’s similar command in Leviticus?

Is there anyone in your life who you love as Jesus loves you? What does that love look like?

What do you think Jesus meant by “love”?

Would someone you don’t know guess that you are a follower of Jesus based on the way you love?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Lord, how you have loved us! It is hard for me to totally comprehend. Even when I don’t feel loved, Father, because I don’t feel lovable, I know what you did. You left the riches of heaven, entered into a human, fallible, breaking body, suffered physical and emotional agony beyond my grasp, and then took nails drilled through your wrists so that I could be made new. And all this, because you are love and act love. Continue showing me, Lord, what it means to love in this way here in my life. I want to love like you.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review 1 John 4:16-21 to understand what loving like Jesus looks like in this world.

New Covenant — January 12, 2014 (Sunday)

Today’s Verses:

Luke 22:14-20

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Today’s Questions:

What would it have been like to recline at a table with Jesus and hear him speak the words recorded in this passage?

What would your reaction have been to hear Jesus say his body is “given for you” and that his blood is “poured out for you”?

What do you feel as you read these words today, knowing about Jesus’ death by crucifixion?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Lord, I read these words and place myself at the table with Jesus and my heart breaks and soars at the same time. Thank you for the reminder in your Word, Lord, that you were here with us, sitting at a table, eating bread, drinking wine. Thank you for the reminder that you gave your body and your blood so that I could come to know you, your love, and your grace. I don’t want to forget or become insensitive to the sacrifice you made and the extent to which you intervened in this world to restore us. I don’t want to forget that you keep your promises. I am relying on them, Lord.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Hebrews 8:1-10:18 to understand the difference between the “old covenant” and the “new covenant.”