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 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.

Life This Week

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Last week was a little strange because my daughter was in London all week; I was in Louisiana.  She returns home today.  I’ve missed her so much, but I have cherished her text messages with multiple exclamation points following all the things she has experienced while traveling.  I can’t wait to hug and kiss her, listen to her stories, and be in her presence again.  I have been thinking about what I reflect to her through my behavior and practices.  And in that vein, here is my plan for the week:

I’m forgoing the need to be right.  Right before my daughter left for London, she and I were having a debate about whether one of her cousins lived in Paris or New Orleans.  I believed Paris, she said it was New Orleans.  I knew I was right and when we were able to verify it, I was.  And, it was important to me.  Later, I reflected on this and wondered why I wanted to be right so badly.  What difference did it make?  In me, the need to be right comes from an unhealthy, unloving place.  Usually, it stems from wanting to be in control, to exert power over someone else, or to prove my value.  So much better to be wise and loving.  I’m praying for wisdom and the strength to be loving instead of right.

I’m paying attention to what I’m feeding myself. “A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about the tragedy on September 11.  He said, ‘I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart.  One wolf is vengeful, angry, and violent.  The other one is loving and compassionate.’  The grandson asked, ‘Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?’  The grandfather answered, ‘The one I feed.’”  (Contemplation in Action, Richard Rohr and friends)  This story deeply resonated in me.  Have you noticed how so many news events turn into vitriolic polarizing screaming matches?  There is so little room for love and grace.  We prefer retribution to restoration.  And there is so much food for that wolf.  I want to bring love and compassion only, always.  So, I’m praying God increases my ability to love and show compassion, and I’m reading books, listening to music, and watching shows or movies that feed love and increase my compassion.

I’m noticing where I seek praise from people.  In Romans 2, Paul says, “a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”  (Romans 2:29b)  I mostly seek praise from other people.  I’m praying God will continue to change my heart and my desires so that I seek his praise alone.

I’m reading a Psalm before bed instead of email and Facebook.  I fall asleep in prayer, sleep peacefully, and wake up more refreshed when I read Scripture right before bed.  When I read Facebook or emails before bed, I am anxious and worried about the next day’s tasks.  Reading any Scripture is good, but I find Psalms best because they are self-contained, whereas a passage from Samuel or Hebrews is hard to just jump into in the middle.

What does your week look like?

What are you reflecting to those around you?

From whom are you seeking praise most?