GPS (12.8 - 12.14)
Devotions from NewSpring Church (newspring.cc)
KEY/MEMORY VERSE: Psalm 98:4, 6b
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!”
Sunday, December 8 — Read Luke 8
One day as Jesus was teaching to a large gathering of people, His mother and brothers tried to make their way through the crowd, but couldn't reach Him. When someone mentioned it, He simply responded, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice" (Luke 8:21). Jesus' words don't leave room for ambiguity. The family of God does what the Word of God says. His people know and follow Scripture.
Christ is making a direct, pointed distinction between our natural family and God's family. Jesus' listeners knew He had a mother who gave birth to Him and His brothers. But our identity in God's family isn't dependent on natural birth, it's dependent on supernatural rebirth through faith in Jesus. The apostle Paul says, "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God, through faith...” (Galatians 3:26). Christ's family is made of the people He's redeemed from sin and death, people who aren't just hearers of the word, but doers.
Apart from God's grace, we're fundamentally incapable of doing what He commands in the Bible. We don't have it in us. We're dead in our sins. Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright” (ESV). This theme is repeated throughout the Bible — the idea that our character is predominantly shaped by our consistent actions over time.
Without Jesus, we'll still be known by our acts, but our conduct won't be pure or upright because our sinful nature prevents it. Repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus enables us to hear and to do, to be sons and daughters of God, to be reconciled to our Creator, and to be able to, “…offer [ourselves] to God as those who have been brought from death to life…[instruments] for righteousness" (Romans 6:13).
Reflect: What is the best way for you to hear clearly from Jesus?Is there a sin in your life He is asking you to repent of? What is one truth Jesus has taught you recently that He wants you to put into practice?
Monday, December 9 — Read Luke 9
Jesus got alone with His disciples after a day full of ministering and serving. After Jesus spoke to His Father in prayer, He began to question His followers and prod their hearts, “Who do the crowds say that I am” (Luke 9:18)? If you were to poll a crowd today, you would get similar answers:
A healer of the sick and handicappedA wise teacher and theologianA “nice person”A good exampleA close friendA good luck charmA martyrA prophet foretold or a former prophet who'd come alive againJohn the Baptist (who was actually Jesus' cousin) “'But, what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?' Peter [without hesitancy] answered, 'God's Messiah'" (Luke 9:20).
Just like today, Jesus was known more often by things that He did. Above all, despite all, Peter saw Jesus as the promised Messiah and the Son of God. He was sure of Jesus' identity, as well as Jesus' place in his own life.
What about you? Who do you say that Jesus is? Is He merely one of those things in the list above, or a combination of several? Or is He the total, end-all, be-all in your life? Is He the risen Savior who has set you free from sin? Is He The King of your heart, and the reigning Ruler of your life? Romans 10:9-10 says, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Who do you profess that Jesus is?
Reflect: Who do you say that Jesus is?If you have confessed Jesus as Lord, does your life reflect your decision?What is a step you can take today to surrender to Jesus' will for your life?
Tuesday, December 10 — Read Luke 10
The Duck Dynasty picture of growing up in the South wasn’t far from the truth for a lot of us. Grandma thrived on cooking hearty meals for the family. Fried chicken was a favorite at Sunday dinner. The chicken was usually pecking around in the yard the day before, and there were two of just about everything, except the neck and gizzard.
Families gathered around the table as Mama doled out the fried chicken. The men got the big white-meat pieces, older kids got the choice thigh pieces and legs, and wings went to the little kids. Mothers ate the neck and sometimes the gizzard. They made sure everyone else got the best parts of the chicken.
In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 missionaries to prepare the cities for His visitation. Next, He tells a story about what it means to be a good neighbor. Then, during a visit in the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary, Jesus says something we can relate back to that chicken. As Martha scurried around and fretted over the details of His visit, Mary just sat at Jesus' feet and listened and learned. But rather than scolding Mary for not helping her sister, Jesus said Mary had chosen the best part (Luke 10:42). In our everyday spiritual choices, Jesus—like Mama—wants to be sure we get the best part.
Instead of worrying about your finances, trust the Lord to provide enough. Trust is the best part. Instead of being bothered by what people think or say, look to the Lord for your security. Identity in Him is the best part. Instead of fretting over the details of life, rest in the Lord, and He will give you peace. Rest in Jesus is the best part. If you spend time with Jesus and look to Him for all you need, you will always have the best part of life.
Reflect: Do you identify with Martha or Mary in this story?Are you are settling for less than Jesus' best in any area of your life?What is one way you can spend quality time listening and learning from Jesus?
Wednesday, December 11 — Read Luke 11
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. He responded by offering a simple model for our prayer time. "He said to them, 'When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation'” (Luke 11:2-4) This prayer is not meant to be recited. It's a model of how to pray. When we pray, we should acknowledge all that God has done, is doing, and will do in our life. We should be thankful to God for providing for our needs and we should ask God to forgive us of our sins.
Too often we forget that we are to pray simply, as a child speaks to his father. Humans are good at overcomplicating things. Prayer is no exception. Sometimes we will beat ourselves up for not adequately impressing people with our public prayer; as if prayer is a show piece of our spirituality. Or, we will often recite words and go through the motions of prayer without engaging in meaningful dialogue with God. God is our Father. We should simply speak to Him.
Not only should we pray simply, we should pray boldly. Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock (Luke 11:9-10) These are not waiting words. These are words of action. Even though He doesn't need our help, Jesus wants us to participate in His activity by boldly and persistently making requests to our Father. God works through people. He always has. We can approach God with confidence knowing that a good Father wants good things for His children. Prayer is an opportunity for us to speak to our awesome, incredible Creator. What are we waiting on?
Reflect: How would you describe your prayer life?What is one way you can better engage God in a simple, but meaningful dialogue?What time can you set aside today to spend in prayer with God?
Thursday, December 12 — Read Luke 12
In Luke 12, Jesus speaks to His disciples about anxiety and fear. Four times, Jesus specifically tells them not to be afraid. His message is made more significant because His life is in danger. A group of religious leaders called the Pharisees are plotting to take His life. Naturally, Jesus' disciples are concerned for their own safety. Jesus understands their concerns. He knows our fears and needs, too. He knows when we're worried about our children, jobs, health, and finances.
Jesus puts everything in perspective for the disciples. God is in control of our eternity. He doesn't forget the sparrows, and He won't forget us either. God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers, and He'll take far better care of us than He does of ravens and lilies. Twice, Jesus speaks of our value. We are much more valuable to God than birds, so valuable, in fact, that He's coming back from heaven to get us, and He wants us to be ready.
God, our Father, values us and has “chosen gladly” to give us His eternal kingdom. When we understand God's love and our unearned worth to Him, we'll stop worrying and start being faithful. Earthly cares will lose their grip on us. We'll be set free to seek God's kingdom first, store up treasure in heaven, start ministering to others, and become faithful stewards of all He's given us until He comes again.
Reflect: What is one thing you are worried about?What is one thing that hinders you from trusting God with your future?What is one step you can take today to give your worries to Jesus and start living in faith?
u — Read Luke 13
Have you ever visited the home of someone who had a thing for decorative plants? Walk in and it's hard not be impressed by their green thumb. At first glance, you'll be amazed at the number and variety of their plants. You'll marvel that each of them is at the peak of their glory, with leaves lush and flowers blooming. Until, of course, you realize the homeowner is no gardener at all. What you thought was a captivating botanical wonder suddenly becomes a plastic deception.
As Christians, we must always remember that God isn't into decorative plants; fake “Christians” that just sit there and look pretty. In Luke 13, Jesus tells us plainly that only plants that produce fruit belong in the house of God. In Mark 11, Jesus curses a fig tree. The plant gives off the appearance of having fruit, but he is rightly disappointed when he finds it cannot feed his hunger.
So it is with everyone in our schools, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces. If those in our lives who are spiritually hungry cannot find the fruit of eternal life on our branches who can blame them if they curse us?
Our infinitely good, infinitely loving God designed everything for His kingdom to have maximum glory. If we aren't fruitful “grace givers,” we should ask ourselves whether we're truly planted in God's garden, or whether we're only fake decoration.
Reflect: What is one area in your life where you have recently seen growth and fruitfulness?What is one change you can make in your day-to-day life that will help you to become more like Jesus?Part of healthy growth includes pruning. Is there an area in your life that needs to be cut away to prepare for future seasons of growth?
Saturday, December 14 — Read Luke 14
In Luke 14, the Pharisees’ priorities stand in sharp contrast to Jesus’ transparency and compassion. First, they seat Jesus across from a man in need of healing. Jesus is compelled to heal this man on the Sabbath, in spite of the Pharisees’ objections. Jesus asks the Pharisees if their sons needed healing, would they bend their own man-made rules to help? Their silence was telling.
Next, Jesus watches as guests posture and position for seats of honor at the table. While everyone else worries about where they were sitting, Jesus is worried about their hearts. He gently corrects their attitude by explaining why pushing ourselves forward is never the best way to gain attention. “...take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:10-11). Jesus’ patience and restraint in dealing with the Pharisees is amazing. Instead of destroying them, He instructs them. Instead of belittling them, He corrects their faulty thinking as a loving Father would a wayward child.
We are quick to condemn the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. But if we’re honest, we would probably behave in the same manner given similar circumstances. If Jesus came over for supper, what changes would He make to the guest list or the seating chart? Is Jesus seated at the head of our spiritual table? Do we care about the things that Jesus cares about? Or, are we more interested in our status and the perception of others?
It must have been embarrassing for the host of the dinner party to hear Jesus talk about his guest list and seating arrangements. I wonder if we would be embarrassed as well if Jesus came for supper. We would do well to begin the process of placing Him at the head of the table before He comes to set things straight.
Reflect: Does Jesus sit at the "head" of your life?What is one thing hindering you from taking your next step in your relationship with Jesus?What do you need to start doing or stop doing to take that next step?