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Week Six: Mission | Appointed & Sent

Day One, Morning | The Call to Partner 

A study was done by a group called The Energy Project a few years ago to find out how people in the workplace find fulfillment in their roles. You might think having fun at work, personal comforts, or having “bring-your-pet-to-work days” would increase happiness and contentment. Funnily enough, while most of the employees of those kinds of companies and organizations reported higher feelings of happiness at word, their scores on fulfillment didn’t match. The reason given was that they still didn’t feel like they had purpose or meaning in what they were doing. 

We so often think if we just have good fun and comfortability, then life would be all good. However, we weren’t created for comfort, but rather to live lives filled with purpose and meaning.

Read Matthew 4:18-19. 

Earlier in this devotional series, we focused on a passage where Jesus called a group of young fishermen to follow Him. Reread it briefly and look at what He called them to do with Him

He called them to follow Him with the result that He would make them fishers of men. In that moment, they were receiving purpose! These men had lived, what we would probably call, ordinary lives—full of family, community, religion and a good trade. However, what Jesus was calling them into was a life of meaningful work and partnership with Him in those things and beyond! Their purpose was to take hope, freedom and light to a dark world in desperate need of a Savior. This is the same call for each of us to follow Jesus with purpose and, within this purpose, we will live lives full of meaning. We were created to work in partnership with God.

Scripture • What stands out to you about Jesus’ desire to give the men following Him purpose? 

Observation •  What observations can you make from this passage about how Jesus’ followers can partner with Him? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations about partnering with Jesus to your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about where you find fulfillment in your life. Focus on how purpose and meaning led to more fulfillment than fun or comfort. 

 

Day One, Evening | Image Bearers 

Why do we exist? This is one of the foundational questions of all cultures, religions and… well, life. In our modern American setting, we can be fairly quick to answer that for ourselves and label it “our truth.” This has led to a culture filled with self-focused individuals entitled to a self-declared life. This is not to say that our culture is so much worse or better than others, but it is a unique part of this cultural moment. Still, within all this, the search for meaning and identity seems to continue—possibly more desperately and personally-driven than ever. 

Read Genesis 1:26.

According to Scripture, and this verse in particular, we were created intentionally and for a purpose. We’re not the result of a cosmic accident or even a far-off god’s desire to stroke his or her own ego. We were created to be image bearers of the Creator of the Universe. 

What exactly it means to be an image bearer could fill libraries, but basically it means that each human being is crafted uniquely to represent God, wired beyond other animal species with relational, academic and philosophic pursuits. The fact that we ask the question “Why do we exist?” showcases that we are different from every other species. C.S. Lewis once wrote about how incredible it is that every single human being is a created image bearer:

“To remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.”

Every one of us is searching for identity, but the identity for which we have all been searching is something that we often take for granted. We are all image bearers—every single one of us, including that person we would call “the worst”. We are God’s artistry on display; each one of us crafted uniquely and intentionally to exist in relationship with our Creator. This truth makes all the difference, because once we know that a loving God created us, we begin to change the way we think of ourselves and others. 

Every single person is an image bearer. The trouble is that most just don’t know it yet.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God in this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about what it means to be an image bearer of God? 

Application • How can you apply your observations about being an image bearer to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how you most often think of your identity. Do you find it in what you can do, who you say you are, or who God says you are? 

 

Day Two, Morning | Purpose Given

A few days ago we read about how Jesus’ call to a few fishermen was an invitation to partner with Him in bringing hope to the world with good news. And this call, spoke to something in them—just like it does to us: a desire for purpose that matters. This desire for purpose can be used for beautiful causes like social justice, public service, and non-profit work, but it can also be twisted and corrupted in each of our hearts and lead us down dark paths.

According to Scripture, this desire is rooted deep within us and goes back to the moment of mankind’s creation.

Read Genesis 1:26.

We need to be careful when it comes to our search for purpose. Without recognizing our true identity as image bearers and our partnership with Jesus, we can accidentally repurpose the gift of purpose as an idol. Then we just jump on a religious treadmill of trying out new ministries, churches, bible studies, etc. trying to carve out our identity from church-like activities rather than finding it come to life in God’s identity and purpose (and with His guidance). 

God exists with intentional purpose. 

Since we represent Him, we were also created to live with the same purpose. 

From reading the passage above, we see mankind’s original purpose was meant to be as caretaker and protector over the Earth that God created. We were created to live with purpose because God has given humanity a mission in partnership with Him. 

That means that you have a purpose, and that’s ultimately to steward the gifts that God has given to you.

Scripture • What stands out to you in this verse about God’s desire for you to grow in self-awareness? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this verse about what it means to grow in self-awareness? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about the way family and cultural backgrounds, your personal worldview, how you view God, and other factors have contributed to some recent decisions you have made in your life. 

 

Day Two, Evening | Building the Kingdom 

You are only one person. What difference can you really make in the world? 

We all struggle with the question of how much we can actually accomplish in our world (maybe even just in our own local community or family)—especially when we think about mountainous issues facing humanity such as environmental issues, social justice struggles, poverty alleviation, and so much more. 

Can one person make a difference?

It’s hard to imagine this thought didn’t plague the mind of William Wilberforce, the eighteenth century British politician who threw away his political future to fight for the freedom of slaves around the world. What difference could one man make with a problem as large as human trafficking in the height of the slave trade and racial prejudice?

Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-14.

This passage is incredible news for any of us who struggle with finding purpose in life. When we see others who are doing incredible work, we can easily fall into the trap of comparison. However, when we read this passage, we see how each of us are called to be a part of building Jesus’ Kingdom here. 

For some will build with gold and silver, but others will build with wood and straw. In other words, we aren’t called to compare our work to the work of others and question its value or effectiveness because what really matters is not the stuff with which you build but upon, but for and with whom we are building. Jesus! When we are building on the firm foundation of Jesus, everything changes, including the work we do.  Such work, whether it seems boring or insignificant, has eternal significance. 

William Wilberforce used his political position to break through the difficult culture of his time and to bring freedom for millions. For you, it may be spending your car ride to work praying for God to reveal someone with whom you should have an intentional conversation. 

Whatever tool God has given you to use for building, build with it. What ultimately matters is building on the firm foundation of Jesus.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart for partnering with us in building His Kingdom in this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the foundation which we are called upon to build? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations about partnering with Jesus to your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about what God has given you to build His Kingdom through your life. 

 

Day Three, Morning | Living On Mission 

By this point, we are probably all on the same page that partnering with Jesus is a good thing. By partnering with Him, we get to live in our renewed identities, receive purpose, and we get to help build His Kingdom through our very lives. 

How do we live out this partnership and mission practically?

Read Matthew 28:18-20.

This passage is often called The Great Commission. As followers of Jesus, we should consider these words our personal and collective life mission.

These words come right before Jesus left the Earth and gave His followers the Holy Spirit to empower them to accomplish the impossible. Jesus wants the same for us as well.

Throughout the Gospels, we don’t see Jesus overly concerned about creating a mob of followers. He wasn’t entirely focused on getting as many people as possible into a space to hear His teachings. Instead, He focused the majority of His time with individuals or small groups of His followers teaching them and empowering them to live out and spread His words. In essence, the mission was to do what Jesus did.

So when we read the Great Commission, we shouldn’t see the word disciple just tossed in there. To be a disciple is to be a student of Jesus, and to be a disciple maker is to teach to others what Jesus has taught you, even though you don’t have all the answers or don’t always feel equipped. It is the heart of our mission to personally and intentionally invest in the lives of others, whether or not they are followers of Jesus. 

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Spirit of God in you, and you have learned a few things from Jesus along the way. This means you are already equipped to make disciples. All it takes to start is praying that God would give you a willing heart and open eyes to see the people God will put in your life for you to invest in and point to Jesus.

Scripture • What stands out to you about Jesus’ desire for you to invite people to follow Him? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage as to what it means to create disciples? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about what discipleship currently does and could look like in your life today. Spend some time praying about whom God has put in your life for you to reach out to in this kind of relationship. 

 

Day Three, Evening | The Shape of Discipleship 

A few times through this study, we have looked at the ways we are affected by the world and culture around us. It takes intentionality to be different. Both our hearts and the world encourages us towards putting self before others, to do whatever you can get away with, and to make sure you are just like everyone else.

Discipleship is the practical process of what it looks like to live more like Jesus and partner with Him. Discipleship is so much more than a Bible study or a small group, it is our decision to be more like Jesus and less like the world.

Read Romans 12:1-2. 

Have you ever found yourself caught in that nasty mental cycle of believing a lie that you know is a lie but you just cannot stop acting on it? It is those moments where being discipled by others can bring you freedom from that vicious cycle and be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

When we are being discipled, we have someone who we can trust to consistently point us toward Jesus and away from the dangerous conforming patterns of this world.

If you have any desire to live your life, as this verse suggests, as an act of spiritual worship, then discipleship is a must! If you want to see God do more in your life than ever before, you need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and enter into discipleship. More importantly, we should pursue discipleship because we are being obedient to our Lord, Savior, and Teacher Jesus. That is worth it all on its own.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s desire to truly transform you in this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make about how discipleship can help transform your mind to look more like the mind of Jesus? 

Application • How can you apply these observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how you are conforming to the world around you and how you are being transformed to look more like Jesus. 

 

Day Four, Morning | Following Jesus & Discipleship

Discipleship is more than a Bible Study—it’s a relationship. And just like all types of relationships, they can be scary because they are built on trust. Trust doesn’t come easy and can be quickly thrown on the ground because we humans are pretty imperfect.

You can be meeting with a small group or a mentor and realize that they shared information you told them privately or they never show up on time or a thousand other less than ideal scenarios. Why would you trust a person that you are just starting to know?

Read Luke 9:23-25.

Trusting in discipleship or mentorship relationship can be really tough as long as we are focusing on trying to trust another flawed human being who is bound to disappoint. But in this passage, Jesus makes clear that the one we are truly trusting and following, is Him. Through our discipleship with Jesus, we can Be With Jesus.

He was well aware that His words would last on Earth longer than He would because He would eventually leave the planet to be with His Father. He was also aware that not every one of His future followers would be able to physically follow Him because He’s no longer on Earth. Instead, we follow Jesus by following the discipleship and guidance of others who are committed to following Him as well as reading and following Scripture. So in reality, we don’t have to focus on trying to trust the person discipling us or our mentor, but instead we focus on trusting our true Lord, Savior, and Teacher Jesus who has equipped this flawed human being with discipling you. If you can trust Him then you can begin to trust others who love Jesus.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s desire for us to trust Him in this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the importance of trusting and following Jesus? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how you are currently trusting and following Jesus through the discipleship relationships in your life. 

 

Day Four, Evening | Abiding in Jesus & Discipleship

When we learned about what it looks like to become like Jesus, we discovered from Jesus’ own words about how we don’t have any hope of seeing any eternal lasting change in our lives apart from Him.

When we are talking about discipleship, we can start to have this feeling that if we just commit ourselves to being discipled and mentored, then we can will our way to become a “better person.” While that might be able to work for a little while, it is guaranteed plan that will eventually leave you exhausted. If we want to see lasting change in our lives, it must begin, end, and be carried out by Jesus. Let’s look back at that passage from a few weeks ago.

Read John 15:4-5.

Once again, that nagging word “nothing” has stuck around to remind us that we must be dependent on Jesus and not ourselves or our own agenda. So does this make discipleship useless? I’m sure your schedule is pretty busy, so do you really need another weekly meet up if it doesn’t matter? Far from it, instead discipleship is a vital part to being dependent on Jesus.

True and lasting discipleship provides a space where we can meet with others we trust and learn what it practically looks like to be dependent on Jesus from their experiences and wisdom. In discipleship, we find we have safety to be honest with our struggles, our scars, and our shadows. We can be honest knowing that the person on the other side of the table desires to love us and point us toward Jesus. 

As we do this, we will slowly become more like Jesus and find that through our discipleship relationships, we will be challenged toward greater dependence on Jesus.

Scripture • What stands out to you about Jesus’ heart for us to be dependent on Him from this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the importance of being dependent on Him? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how discipleship has and can make you more dependent on Jesus. 

 

Day Five, Morning | Discipleship & Making 

Could you imagine if a prequel came out for James Bond about how he received his first spy mission, except… he received zero training? Instead of going through classes on fighting, spy tactics, or how to drive really fast luxury vehicles, he was just told good luck and sent out to stop an evil organization from taking over the world. Sounds like a terrible idea, right?

Jesus ended His time here on Earth by providing all of us followers the biggest mission in the history of humanity.

Read Matthew 28:18-20. 

So… where is our training? How could we possibly be expected to partner with Jesus in a mission so epic without being taught how to accomplish it?

Once again, this is where discipleship comes in. In discipleship relationships, we learn not only what it looks like to Be With Jesus or Become Like Jesus but also what it looks like to Partner With Jesus.

When we are being discipled well, we are being trained, equipped, and resourced by a follower of Jesus who can encourage you in your mission to make disciples of all nations! The person(s) discipling you can help you learn what your spiritual gifts are and what your unique role is in fulfilling Jesus’ mission for His Church.

Believe it or not, you are a disciple maker. Jesus has called you, and by being discipled yourself, you will be trained and equipped to change the world.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart to equip followers of Jesus to partner with Him? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the importance of discipleship? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how discipleship can be a tool in your life to equip you to partner with Jesus. 

 

Day Five, Evening | Discipleship & Knowing

Like we went over earlier, Jesus’ mission for us is a big deal. In fact, it is way beyond what we could ever figure out on our own. Think about it. If all humanity was spiritually dead before God rescued us and the world is as dark and broken as Jesus said it is, then we have no hope of accomplishing our mission on our own.

Let’s look again at our mission and see what Jesus had planned to help us accomplish an impossible task.

Read Matthew 28:18-20.

If you ever feel like life is too much to deal with, that there are too many major problems in the world, or that you are all alone, just know you aren’t crazy. All of us can struggle, and the last thing Jesus desired to do by giving His followers this important mission was to make this Great Commission a joyless, overwhelming burden. 

Instead, when we look at this passage we discover Jesus had something special for each of us: Himself.

We can feel overwhelmed or isolated in the mission or in life, but Jesus promised in the midst of the chaos of life, He would remain with us always. What a definitive word choice. He didn’t say He would be with His followers in the easy times but abandon us in the difficult. Jesus the living Son of God promised He would remain with His followers in the victories and in pain.

Jesus alone can provide the strength we need to make disciples and to carry the Gospel into a world in desperate need of Good News. Even when the task is daunting and no one wants to listen, Jesus is enough. Just like that, all of a sudden the impossible mission just became a guarantee because our discipleship mission was never about us, but is completely dependent on Jesus.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart to inform us that we are not alone? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how having the confidence of Jesus’ presence in you life could impact how yo live? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to you life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how Jesus has continued to reveal His presence to you in your life. 

 

Look back to previous weeks’ studies below and check in again for more devotionals. 

 

Week Five: The Church | Biblical Community

Day One, Morning | Known By God & Others 

Not much is scarier in life more than the idea of being truly known and exposed. Maybe this is why TV shows and movies can’t help but recycle this plot line over and over again—whether it’s a lawyer who is afraid he will be discovered as a fraud or a Jedi knight afraid his fear and hatred will be uncovered.

So we hide. We put up barriers, doing whatever we can to make sure that we control the image that we want the world to see us as.

We all do this in different ways and in different seasons of life. Sadly, we will eventually find ourselves wondering if the fake image we have projected to the world is liked, respected or loved but the real person is not. Can the real you ever be known?

Read Genesis 2:18-19. 

Do you see the way man was originally created to be known by his Creator? The Creator knew his heart–nothing was hidden–and the Creator responded in compassion and love. It is also interesting that right after we see a glimpse into the depths of how the man was known, he also had a connection and knowledge of the rest of creation, which we see when the man named the animals. All this to say, we weren’t created to fear being known. In fact, all we see in this perfect picture is complete transparency. No shame. No guilt. No hiding. No putting on a show.

Each day we have the opportunity to return back to God’s perfect design for us to be known and to know both Himself and those He has placed around us. We don’t have to live in fear because we were created to not be afraid but to be known.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s design for humanity to be truly known in this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make about humanity from this passage? 

Application • How can you apply these observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what holds you back from being transparent and known by God and others. 

 

Day One, Evening | Hidden Shame 

We’ve recently looked at how it all began. How we were created to be known by God and by others. So what happened since then?

The disease of sin entered into the story and brought shame along as a sidekick. When the original man and woman rebelled against their perfect Creator there were unexpected ramifications they never expected.

Read Genesis 3:7-8. 

Remember for a moment how perfectly known and transparent these two were intended to live. They literally walked around naked and never felt ashamed about body image, provoked to lust, or considered using one another’s body for their selfish desires. These types of desires and thoughts that are common to us could not have been more foreign to these two. Then sin and shame entered into the world, and do you see what the immediate response was? To cover up and quick! 

Go ahead and reread this tragic passage from Scripture again. 

How sad is this reality? They were created for transparency and they would forever be known for hiding. 

We see them hide in two ways. First, they cover up their naked bodies, which symbolically means they no longer could trust one another with transparency. They were afraid of judgment from the other. Second, they attempt to hide from God (good luck). They now could no longer trust that God was for them. They questioned His goodness and greatness and were so ashamed that they hid in a bush rather than come to their Creator.

These verses showcase a moment that has had ramifications for every life since. 

We were created for transparency and instead we are now known for hiding. We find all kinds of ways to hide. All we have done is upgrade from hiding behind loincloths and fig leaves to trying to live incognito behind expensive clothes, smartphone screens, job titles, and just about anything else imaginable.

This doesn’t change God’s love though. Just like He pursued these two in the garden, He desires to do the same for all of us in our hidden shame.

 Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart to pursue humanity in this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about hiding? 

Application • How can your observations affect your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how you have ever hidden or are currently hiding from God and others. 

 

Day Two, Morning | Jesus Values Community 

Our hidden shame has not only affected us on a personal level, but on a communal one. We feel the weight of shame around others–in insecurity, in comparison, in conflict, and more. In fact, sometimes we use community to hide further.

In the crowds, it’s easy to disappear but still feel just-connected-enough. Leaders can even gather others around them to give the sense of control or having it all together. Or maybe we take too much pride in identifying ourselves with a particular group. At the end of the day, we can distort the purpose of what community is supposed to be about. So if all we have ever known is how to misuse community, then how can we start to figure out how to properly value community? 

Well… let’s look at how Jesus did it.

Read Mark 8:9-10.

Crowds clamored around Jesus. They wanted to hear from Him, they wanted to be impressed, and they wanted to feel good. If Jesus was like us, He could have used the crowds to hide. He could have hidden behind His incredible teaching gift, getting wealthy in the process. In our context, He could have signed a book or movie deal and have taken full advantage of His fame. In this passage, we see a common occurrence of Jesus where he sends away the crowd.

It isn’t that Jesus didn’t like big groups of people or that He was an introvert. Instead, we see Jesus choosing to never hide behind the crowd. Instead, He always chose to be intentional with the people right in front of Him. He didn’t require any strokes to His ego, which freed Him up to spend His time with the people who would one day be sent out by Him with the gospel to change the world.

We can learn much from Jesus. He has empowered us with His Spirit to not hide behind community, but instead value community as an opportunity to display intentional love to a fallen and broken world.

Scripture • What stands out to you in this verse about Jesus’ heart for not hiding behind large groups? 

Observation •  What observations can you make about how followers of Jesus can properly value community? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about how you value community and how God may be wanting to grow you in this area. 

 

Day Two, Evening | To Be Known Again 

When we looked at Genesis we saw the perfect version of being known and transparency that was meant for the human race, but those days are long since gone. But what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t just fire insurance. He didn’t just secure us a ticket to Heaven. On the cross Jesus established a radical, new reality that everything about us could be restored and made new.

After Jesus left the Earth, His followers had to figure out what it would look like to live this restored and renewed life without Jesus by their side. They were far from perfect and made a ton of mistakes along the way. However, we get a glimpse of a renewed view of community in the book of Acts.

Read Acts 2:42-47. 

They had “all things in common.” Does this mean there weren’t ever moments of drama or frustration? Did it mean that they agreed on every little topic or they all had the same interests? Of course not. They were still human, but they were humans who were empowered by the Spirit of God to be a part of something radical and different.

Imagine if we as the church of Jesus lived as empowered sons and daughters of the King, living and loving within community. The world would see that there is something different about followers of Jesus. Often times, non-believers see our dysfunction within the church and would prefer to not sign up for another dramatic social club. People already deal with that on a regular basis. But what if when they saw the church, they saw Jesus being made more beautiful through the love, kindness, and forgiveness we offer when we’ve wronged one another? This reality is ours for the taking.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart to redeem and restore community within the church? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about why they lived this renewed and restored life? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what it would look like for you to be a part of creating spaces for community to flourish.  

 

Day Three, Morning | God Wove Community into the Church 

Imagine for a moment watching a football game where a single player tries taking on the other team of eleven by himself. Or watching a rendition of Broadway’s The Lion King performed by a single player. While it would definitely be interesting to watch, a lot of the power of the performance would be missing. 

There is power in the team. 

We were created for community. It is something we naturally desire, but we keep at a distance because of the Fall. Especially in America, there is a mindset of individuality or figuring out our problems without getting help. This individualistic mentality is so counter-cultural to the way God desires for us to live and operate in our personal lives and in the life of the church.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. 

Isn’t it just like God to build within us a dependency for something besides ourselves? He formed us to have a deep need for Him and to have a need for one another. 

On a practical level, each of us have specific gifts and talents. None are more valuable than the next because all are gifts given to us by our Creator. Each of us are unique, but to even realize the potential in ourselves requires partnering in community. We are better together than apart. Will it be difficult? Absolutely. Will there be messiness and frustration? Totally. Will it be worth it? Without a doubt. 

So step deeper into community and see how God desires to use you alongside others.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart to have us partner together within the church? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how this can be practically lived out? 

Application • How can you apply your observations into your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what gifts and talents God has given you and how He might expand your impact in community. 

 

Day Three, Evening | Becoming Like Jesus 

“Incomplete” is a word with which we can all identify. It’s the feeling we have when we fall into the same broken mistakes time and time again; the feeling we have when we do the things we didn’t mean to do and don’t do the things we wish we would have done. How can we possibly hope for completion when so much of our lives feels broken beyond repair?

Read Romans 8:28-30. 

There is no denying our incompleteness. The beauty of this passage, though, is not only that completion is possible, but also that God has been working completion into our story since before we ever entered into incompletion! Read that again. What is most beautiful though is this means we do not have to complete or fix ourselves (nor can we do so), because God has been working on that whole “completion project” also known as the gospel since before time began. Do you know God wants you to be complete, whole, and lacking nothing even more than even do? He is a good Father who wants the absolute best for His kids and He will not stop completing us as long as we have breath in our lungs.

Today, rest in His love and power.

Scripture • What stands out to you about what God desires in this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about what it means to become more like Jesus? 

Application • How can you apply your observations about becoming more like Jesus to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how you have struggled to complete or fix yourself and how this passage can correct your understanding of God’s desire for your life. 

 

Day Four, Morning | Our Part 

Earlier, we saw God’s incredible love on full display in our passage from Romans 8 as we saw God’s desire to bring about completion in our lives before the world even began. But does this mean we have no participation in our own stories? Do we simply sit back, relax, and see what God is up to without any personal involvement? Also, does this mean we don’t have to take any personal responsibility for our own lives? Whenever we struggle, should we simply dismiss it or blame it on God? Check out today’s passage and see what the Scriptures say to us about our role in God’s ultimate work of redemption . 

Read Philippians 2:12-13.

This passage starts out sounding like the exact opposite of what we read earlier. Like in Romans, we see the gospel as God doing an awesome work, but here it looks like it is all on us! Verse 12 says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” That kind of sounds like it is all up to you now! But in verse 13, we see once again “for it is God who works in you”. 

This is a beautiful tension. 

God is always on the move in your life. He is the true Champion. Jesus is still Savior. But we are invited in as an active participant. We get to discover more and more about God each and every day as we seek Him. As we seek Him more and more through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, and Bible study, we will discover ourselves becoming more and more like Jesus. Every morning when we wake up and look in the mirror, we should desire to see less of us and more of Jesus. 

The heavy lifting is ultimately of God, only He can carry the weight of our rescue and truly help us see more of Jesus and less of ourselves in our lives. However, we have a role in the story, which is to follow in the steps of Jesus and marvel at what He does through us.

Scripture • What stands out. to you about God in this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the tension between God’s role and your role in your life in becoming more like Jesus? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how you have seen yourself grow to be more like Jesus in the past. Think through what role you had in the process and how you saw God move in the process. 

 

Day Four, Evening | Step One: Awareness 

Becoming more and more like Jesus does not come with a cookie cutter approach, as if every single person should do the exact same methods to be all good. We are just too complicated for that. We come with different family backgrounds, cultural values, worldview biases, personal struggles and temptations, and much more. Still, when looking at how we can live and love more like Jesus, we can learn to live out a few simple steps in the journey. Just know, though, that these steps are simple, but they will be lived out differently in each of our stories. The first step is to grow in an awareness of self.

Read Romans 12:2. 

In this verse, Paul gives a sign of hope that Christ followers can indeed look more like Jesus, but He makes clear that it will take a level of intentionality not common to most of our past experiences. He writes about “the renewal of your mind” and “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God”. Both of these phrases sound intimidating, and the reason is that the concept of investigating our motivations behind our thoughts and actions is so foreign to us naturally. We have to be aware about the things we are not naturally aware about ourselves. But if we begin to think and pray through our motivations, we will begin to grow in an awareness of ourselves and see the broken motivations we can have even when we are doing the “right thing” in a situation. 

If this sounds like way too much pressure, don’t worry, but instead keep your mind focused on the truth that God ultimately is the one doing the real work, even to help you become more self-aware. Best of all, this means there is hope for each of us to grow. Paul writes that to live out the will of God, we must do “what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

Scripture • What stands out to you in this verse about God’s desire for you to grow in self-awareness? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this verse about what it means to grow in self-awareness? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about the way your own family, cultural background, worldview, view of God, and other major factors have contributed to some recent decisions you have made in your life. 

 

Day Five, Morning | Step Two: Self-Denial

Crosses have been fairly fashionable for the past few hundred years. Today, whether someone follows Jesus or someone else, it is not uncommon to see a version of a cross on a necklace or on a wall in the home. But around the time of Jesus’ death, a cross was not so much décor as it was a device of death. Death by crucifixion was reserved for the worst of the worst. It was so bad that no Roman citizen could be sentenced to such a humiliating death. Only the enslaved and foreigners could be nailed and hung on two pieces of wood until dead. For some reason though, Jesus used the cross as an example of what it would look like to follow after Him.

Read Luke 9:23-24. 

Could you imagine being one of His early disciples hearing this? It would be like Jesus saying pick up your electric chair every day, or pick up the instrument of your own death each and every day. He was speaking of a truth of the heart that we all need to grasp. To follow Jesus and become more like Him does not guarantee comfort, ease, or whatever else we prize. In fact, it is going to rub up against all of those things! Ultimately, it means death to self.

Like we read earlier, becoming more self-aware is an important first step. To realize the unique beliefs, backgrounds, and influences contributing to who you are and are becoming is crucial. However, self-awareness is meant to lead us into self-denial as we see our broken heart motivations, and we allow the broken influences to instill lies into our hearts and minds. Then we reject those broken influences, both within us and in the culture around us. 

Sounds a lot like death, huh? This is what Jesus was pointing to as He said His followers would take up our crosses daily. This death, however, is not meant to be divine torture from God, but rather a way to set us free. We forget so easily how the broken influences in our hearts and lives have shaped and warped us, but Jesus has come to set us free from them. He came to restore and reshape us into His image and help us live and love more like Jesus. In the end, dying to self isn’t really dying at all; rather, it is laying down a broken toy and picking one up that is shiny and new.

Scripture • What stands out to you about Jesus’ motivations in this passage? 

Observation •  What observations can you make from this passage about self-denial? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations about self-denial to your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about what self-denial looks like in your life. Think through whether you view it as a positive or negative action. 

 

Day Five, Evening| Step Three: Shaping Our Loves 

Do you know what happens if you use diesel fuel in a car that requires regular gasoline? Nothing good happens. Sure it will run for a little bit, but as the unwanted fuel makes its way through the engine, the car will stop working properly and the engine will die.

We need to know what is fueling our motivations as we journey and desire to become like Jesus. We can become self-aware and live in self-denial. If we are fueled by any motivation that points to how great we are, we will completely miss out on truly becoming like Jesus.

Read John 15:4-5. 

To abide is to remain stable and constant in receiving our fuel from our relationship with Jesus. This means we don’t just try to go and figure life out on our own. As Jesus says, we can’t do it. Jesus proclaimed that “apart from me you can do nothing”. This sounds extreme, doesn’t it? Yet, it’s not so extreme when you realize that branches cannot survive without being connected to the vine. Jesus is our strength and He is the one who should fuel everything we do. 

As we learn to become more self-aware and live in self-denial we will be tempted to figure out life on our own and for our own reasons. Why would we want to do that, though? We have the opportunity to live, love, and become more like Jesus. All we must do is continually come back to Him and ask Him to continue the work He has already begun.

Scripture • What stands out to you about Jesus’ desires for His followers in this passage? 

Observations •  What observations can you make from this passage about what it means to abide in Jesus? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations about what it looks like to abide in Jesus to your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about what abiding in Jesus can look like in your life and within community. 

 

Week Four: Christianity | Following Jesus in Intimacy

Day One, Morning | The Call to Follow 

Have you ever felt excluded or ostracized? Have you ever been rejected because you weren’t popular enough, attractive enough, smart enough, or something enough? Would it shock you to know that Jesus sought out people who felt just like this to be his prize students? He did! These are exactly the people Jesus sought out.

Read Matthew 4:18-22.

This is the first time Jesus calls anyone to come and follow Him. Who does He pick? He picks two young guys who couldn’t cut it in the Jewish school system. We know this because while all young boys and girls would have gone into the religious school system, you were sent home back to the family business if you weren’t the top of the class. For these two, that family business was fishing. After getting sent home from school, they would have adjusted their expectations for a smelly existence, fishing in the same sea, living in the same houses, and doing the same things each and every day.

Yet everything changes with one question. Actually, Jesus doesn’t even phrase it as a question. He issues out a simple promise: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In an instant, all of their expectations are blown away! All of a sudden, these two who were rejected were now invited.  They were given the opportunity to follow the steps and mission of a Rabbi. Curiously enough, they don’t respond with a prayer or a raised hand or shunning themselves from the world’s culture while continuing to fish. Instead, we see that “immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Scripture • What stands out to you about the way in which Jesus calls Simon and Andrew to follow Him? 

Observation • What observation can you make from this passage about their realization that following Jesus would radically change the way they would live the rest of their lives? 

Application • How can you apply your observations about what it looks like to follow Jesus into your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what it looks like to answer the call to follow Jesus each day. Write down and pray about any fears, hopes, dreams or insecurities you might feel as you think about following him. 

 

Day One, Evening | Follow the Leader 

Whoever says that sin cannot be fun probably isn’t doing it right. Sin and brokenness are often, at least at times, enjoyable… for at least a while. However, as we all have probably experienced, it quickly loses its allure and we eventually come to the point where we realize we are in bondage and it feels like there is no escape. Read this quick story about how one man who was in bondage and found rescue in following Jesus.

Read Matthew 9:9.

Something helpful to know is that back in ancient Israel, tax collectors were the bad guys. They worked for the enemy, the Romans, collecting taxes on their behalf and often overcharged their fellow citizens and pocketed the extra money. That’s pretty low. So we assume that this man Matthew probably took the job with the promise of fortune, but also regularly felt the weight—the social blacklisting, the double-crossing, etc.—for which he had signed up. And at this point in his career he must have felt like there was no way out. Everyone in the town probably hated him, his family most likely felt shame, and nothing he could do was going to correct the trajectory on which he had put himself.

This is where Jesus walks onto the scene. When he looked at Matthew, you know what He saw? Not a slimy, shady, or irredeemable guy, but a follower who needed to be seen and called by the Leader. So he says, “Follow me.” This is the same offer to each of us. It is no guarantee of riches, fame or power, but simply an offer to be brought out of whatever darkness in which we find ourselves in and into the marvelous light following the Leader. 

Scripture • What stands out to you about the way in which Jesus calls Matthew to follow him? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about what it must have been like for Matthew to receive this call out of his brokenness from Jesus? 

Application • How can you apply your observations about what it looks like to follow Jesus into your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about areas of brokenness and darkness which Jesus is calling you out of—remembering that there is not always a quick fix, but that when we follow the Leader, we begin to walk in the light. 

 

Day Two, Morning | Stepping into the Boat

How can you know if you are truly following Jesus? The truth is that you never really know how much you believe in something until it’s tested. Whether it is believing in the brakes of your car or the goodness of God, all things you believe in will be eventually put to the test. Following Jesus is no exception. The question is how will you respond to the test?

Read Matthew 8:18-27.

Within this story, we have a few different individuals who were being tested in different ways about whether they desired to truly follow Jesus. The first guy says he will follow Jesus anywhere and Jesus responds to him by testing his desire for comfort. The second says he will follow Jesus right after he takes care of some other stuff and Jesus responds by testing his priorities. Matthew doesn’t record what happened to either of these individuals. Maybe that is the point. The same tests are left open for us. 

Do we realize how beautiful and worthwhile Jesus is? Do you see Jesus as someone to follow when convenient, or do you see that He is worth stepping into the boat with Him knowing that you are following the one who can calm storms?

Scripture • What stands out to you about the way in which Jesus tests these individuals who seem to be pretty faithful? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the way Jesus desires to challenge our comfort and priorities? 

Application • How van you apply your observations about these tests to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how following Jesus has impacted and is currently impacting the comforts and priorities you have in your life.

 

Day Two, Evening| Life in the Boat

Earlier, we unpacked what it means to follow Jesus and the craziness of following Him into the boat without knowing all the details. In the case of Jesus’ earliest followers, they had no clue for what they were signing up. However, when they entered into the boat with Jesus, they began to find out.

Read Matthew 8:23-27. 

It’s easy to read this brief story and picture some small waves coming onto the deck of a rickety fishing boat. Keep in mind, though, that many of these disciples were professional fishermen before receiving the call to follow Jesus. They had lived their lives on the waters and had seen every prior scenario. However, something about this storm left them terrified and fearing for their lives. It is safe to say that when they got in the boat, they had no idea this was what they signed up for. In our lives, the same can happen. We start following Jesus and colors look brighter, tastes are tastier, and it seems like every moment is filled with worship. We cannot imagine anything going wrong until it goes wrong. Whether it is a break up, a job loss, marital strife, an injury or a death in the family, life still comes at you. 

The question is: How will you respond?

These disciples were in the boat with Jesus and they quickly realized they only had one response: “GO GET JESUS, NOW!” There is no way of telling what they honestly thought Jesus could do about the forces of nature. However, when He calmed the storm, they “marveled”. They couldn’t believe the Go Get Jesus Plan actually worked! And their eyes were opened like never before. Of course, the GGJ Plan is no guarantee that Jesus will automatically calm the storm and fix whatever the struggle is. Maybe He will, but maybe He won’t. The point in all this is trusting Him with the outcome. 

So if you are a Jesus follower, you are in the boat. If life hasn’t come at you yet, it will. When it does, will you turn to Jesus and keep turning to Him through every victory and difficulty life throws your way? 

Scripture • What stands out to you in this story about Jesus? 

Observation •  What observations can you make from this passage about what it looks like to turn to him in trust when life comes at you? 

Application •  How ca. you apply your observations to your life today to be better prepared for when life comes at you next time? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about what you are currently dealing with in your life and how you can practically execute a “Go get Jesus” plan today. 

 

Day Three, Morning | The Bible’s Authority 

We live in a culture that distrusts most versions of authority. We don’t want to be told what to do by politicians, parents, teachers, managers at work, and especially a “removed” all-powerful authority like God. For some of these sources there are some valid reasons for distrust. It can be hard to trust when we see scandal or personally experience our trust being compromised.

But when we turn this distrust of authority toward God and the Scriptures, we miss out on so much of what He desires to reveal to us through His Word.

Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17. 

This passage is a part of Paul’s final letter to Timothy, his younger disciple. Timothy was raised by his mother in the ways of Jesus. At a young age, he recognized Jesus as his Lord, Savior, and Teacher. Eventually he began to go on ventures with Paul and learned from him much of what he knew about following in the footsteps of Jesus.

In this passage, we see Paul’s encouragement to stay connected to Jesus by continually submitting himself under the authority of His teachings and the rest of the Scriptures. Timothy needed to be reminded of this! Just like any of us, he could be tempted to want to call the shots in his own life or take a road that seemed easier than the one God was directing him to take. The path God laid out for Timothy wasn’t an easy one, but it was filled with incredible adventures. To continue on this journey, however, would mean he would need to continually trust God’s ability to tell an incredible story through his life.

God has so much good ahead for us. His ability to tell a story is unrivaled. However, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. In fact, the only guarantee we have is that it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it! With that in mind, we need to continually remind ourselves who the Author of both the Bible and our lives is, continuing to seek His voice and surrender to it.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart for us to stay connected to Him through the Scriptures? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how you can continually surrender yourself to the authority of the Scriptures? 

Application • How can you apply your observations about surrendering yourself to the authority of the Scriptures to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what fears and hopes you have about continually surrendering yourself to the authority of the Scriptures. 

 

Day Three, Evening | Is the Bible Helpful Though?

Picking up from where we left off, we saw in 2 Timothy how Paul encourages his younger disciple and friend (and, in turn, us) to hold onto the truths of the Bible, continuing to remember them in each season of our lives. But when we start to think of the Bible on a practical level, it can often be hard to know what difference it truly makes in daily life. Let’s reread that passage and focus in on verse 17.

Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

Don’t we desire to read that will be profitable, helpful and encouraging? Within the Bible we find words that we can speak into the lives of friends when they are hurting and need comfort, words that are help form us to become more like Jesus, and words that will ultimately equip and inspire us to change the world for the better!

Looking from afar, the Bible can appear boring or irrelevant, but the truth is this collection of writings has been a catalyst for some of the most incredible changes throughout the history of humanity.  These are not dry and dusty old words, but living ones that actively reveal to us the voice of God…and He brings us to life through them! These are words that will challenge, heal, and free us as we allow them to point us nearer to Jesus.

Best of all, the Bible is accessible. There is so much about it that is practical and easy to understand and yet so much depth within it that you’ll never run out of discoveries in its pages!

Scripture • What stands out to you in this verse about God’s desire for us to become more like Jesus through the Bible? 

Observation •  What observations can you make from this passage about how the Bible can be helpful in your daily life? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about how you have thought of the Bible in the past. Has it been helpful, frustrating, or confusing? Do you know where you can find resources to better help you learn and grow with the Bible? 

 

Day Four, Morning| Taking a Step Back

Stephen Covey, a leadership expert, once remarked, “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” If following Jesus is anywhere near as important as He said it was,, then asking if the ladder I am climbing in my life is leading me closer to Jesus or further away from Him should be a question each of us ask from time to time. But this kind of question can easily make us more focused on proving or earning out of fear rather than living a life of fullness out of God’s incredible love for us. 

We so easily fall into one of two extremes:

  1. God and I are good so I can do whatever I want. 

OR 

  1. God and I are not good so I better do whatever I can so that I am acceptable.

In God’s Word, we are reminded that Jesus is the one doing all the heavy lifting.

Read Philippians 1:6. 

Did you catch the beauty of what is written in this verse? If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, acknowledging His authority in your life, then Jesus is the one who has begun a good work in you. And He is a master craftsman. 

Will you stumble often? Totally. Will you be immune from pain, brokenness, darkness, depression, or any struggle you have ever had or will ever have? Not at all. But the beauty is found in Jesus’ promise to work in your life and through your life. When you go through what feels like a dark night that will never let up, He will sit with you until you see the sunrise. Trust this—you can never do anything to be more or less loved by God the Father than you are right now, and He will continue to work in you and through you until you draw your last breath.

Scripture • What stands out to you about how this verse presents God’s work in the lives of Jesus followers? 

Observation •  What observations can you make from this passage about how this verse can be both a challenge and words of freedom in your life? 

Application • How can you apply your observations from this passage into your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how you have seen God work in your life in the past and present and how He may work in your life in the future. 

 

Day Four, Evening | We Are Free to Struggle 

The gospel makes it clear that we are being made by Jesus into new creations. However, what are we supposed to do between now and the day we are fully with Jesus (ie. the day we die or when he returns)? Should we all of a sudden never struggle with anxiety, guilt or anger? If only it was that simple, it would be great.

Read James 4:1. 

Just as James wrote in this verse, we have passions warring within us. There is the new person being formed who desires all things good and pure, but there is yet the old person who desires to still be in the darkness. Thus, what should we do?

Remember we are no longer enslaved to the darkness. The voice of darkness tries to draw us back by saying we haven’t changed or grown and so we might as well give up. However, there is another voice that we must hear: the voice of the Spirit, who desires to speak truth over each of us.

We will—absolutely—still struggle. However, the beautiful part is that for the first time, we are free to struggle. Before Jesus began a work in us, we didn’t have the ability to even fight against the chains that bind us. Now we are capable of fighting against our own flesh because of Jesus!

When you feel yourself struggling with the passions warring inside you, remember that the war you are feeling is a sign that you are on the right path.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart to give you freedom? 

Observation •  What observations can you make from this passage about how the war happening within you is a good sign of God’s freedom? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations into your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about how you have been empowered by the Spirit to be free to struggle. 

 

Day Five, Morning | Uniquely Crafted for Relationship 

Imagine if you bought one of the newer iPhones with the Face ID technology to unlock your phone, but you decided you wanted to unlock your phone by trying to fit a key you bought at the hardware store into it. That key is more likely to scratch your new phone before you ever get to send a text or make a call. 

Why is that?

Because your phone was created to work a certain way. The Face ID was crafted to work a certain way and nothing you can do (short of rigging an ingenious new system into it) is going to make that key work better than the intended design. The same goes for all created things. Created things exist to do what they were created to do and work best when living within that purpose. As human beings, we are a creation of our Creator God. Just like iPhones or any other item, we were created for a purpose.

Read Genesis 1:26. 

Within this verse, we find the answer to the question of the universe: Why do we exist?

We exist simply because… God wanted us to. And He created us specifically, as humans, to be in relationship with Him and bring Him glory. According to this verse, we were the only creations made in God’s image in the whole universe. We are unique because we were created for relationship. At some level, we all know it. We need relationship with Him and others. The only trouble is that we try to live outside of our design in isolation for every reason imaginable. But when we realize our purpose, to exist in relationship with God and others, we begin to live life to the fullest. 

Scripture • What stands out to you about this account for our creation? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the purpose for our existence? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what struggles keep you out of relationship with God and others and how realizing your created purpose can lead you to deeper relationships. 

 

Day Five, Evening | Created to be Known

Physical touch is such a powerful version of non-verbal communication. Obviously, not everyone loves being surprised with a big hug, but even that displays the power touch has (just in a negative way). When you are greeted with a hug from an old friend, it means something. When you get a high five after winning a game, it means something. Now imagine if the physical touch is coming from God; imagine the embrace of father who knows you better than anyone else.

Read Genesis 2:7. 

We were created for relationship and in this verse we see God’s intimate first touch on mankind. Earlier in Genesis, we read about animals, plants and planets God created with the power of His voice. Here we see how God crafted man like an artist, breathing life into him. Don’t miss the intimacy of the moment where mankind’s creation came from physical touch. This puts on display how personally and uniquely our Creator knows us. He knows you. God is not some passive creator who made some cool stuff and then walked away. He cares about you. We are often afraid of being known and cared for because we have been hurt many times in the past. However, God is not like us. His love never fails, and His grace far outweighs our brokenness. We spend most of our lives afraid of being truly known because we may be rejected, but God knows us already and desires to call us adopted sons and daughters. 

Scripture • What stands out to you about this account for our creation? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how deeply God knows us? 

Application • How can you apply your observation to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what is intimidating and/or incredible about God’s deep knowledge and care for you. 

 

Week Three: The Gospel | Good News

Day One, Morning | The Hero

In most stories, the main character is the one that remains in the front and center of the majority of the scenes. The story of the Bible is different though. Instead, there is a revolving cast of human characters, including Adam and Eve, Abraham, King David, Esther, Daniel, Peter, Paul, John, and many more. 

However, within all the chaos of characters, there is still a central hero who anchors each book and ties all of the Bible together—often quietly. 

Jesus.

Read Acts 4:8-12. 

In this passage, Peter is standing in front of a council of religious leaders. Many of them were the same guys who just a few months earlier had helped usher along the death of Jesus. What is unbelievable is that, in this space, Peter has the audacity to claim that the long-awaited hero of the story of Israel, the Messiah, had already come and was literally rejected… by Israel (including these very men)!

Jesus was not the hero that they had expected. Israel wanted a triumphant conqueror. Instead, Jesus came as a servant who would suffer for our brokenness. If the people involved would have looked at the way God demonstrated His love throughout Scripture, they would have seen that it was always God who, time and time again, gave mercy and grace in the face of humanity’s wickedness.

In this passage, Peter is saying, “Jesus is exactly who we should have been expecting.” He is the perfect image of God and He is the ultimate Hero.

In each story within the Bible, it appears to be about whichever humans are mentioned; but, in reality, each story demonstrates that humans typically mess things up. Nevertheless, God still pursues the hearts of humanity and Jesus is simply the physical manifestation of that incredible love and passion culminated into an ultimate rescue. 

As you continue your journey throughout the Bible, hopefully you can see with fresh eyes how each page points back to a Great Rescuer; one unlike the world has ever seen who knows you through and through. 

ScriptureWhat stands out to you about Jesus’ heart to save and rescue in this passage? 

Observation •  What observations can you make from this passage about the uniqueness of Jesus as a hero? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations about Jesus as the ultimate hero to your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about how you can see Jesus as the center of the story of the Bible in a few different stories where He might not appear to be present 

 

Day One, Evening | The Messiah 

In 1959, Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was released, telling the story of the beautiful Princess Aurora and her eventual rescue by the heroic Prince Philip. He vanquishes the evil Maleficent dragon and wakes up Aurora with a kiss. You may have noticed some changes when the live-action Maleficent was released in 2014. In this retelling, Prince Philip is a good guy, but definitely not the hero. In fact, Aurora and Maleficent are able to partner together to save the kingdom—no heroic prince required.

It totally makes sense in the retelling to display the good and true idea that heroics aren’t reserved only for men. One of the subtle side effects of this plot shift, though, is that it highlights the idea that we can be our own savior, the master of our own destinies. 

And at first glance, it’s an attractive proposition. 

However, within the gospel, we find a very different truth. Scripture reveals that we cannot save ourselves. The theologian Jonathan Edwards once remarked, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” This isn’t actually bad news. It’s just humbling; not to mention wildly freeing. Think about it. If we’re honest, we often make pretty terrible masters of our own lives. Which means it’s destiny-altering good news that Jesus, the only One in history to every master death, offers Himself as our Savior and invites us to come along with Him.

Read Matthew 26:63-64.

In this passage, Jesus is being questioned as to whether He is truly the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus answers with sincerity and authority that this is exactly who He is! But how can we possibly know this to be true?

Hs resurrection. He was dead, then alive forevermore, and experienced by hundreds of eyewitnesses after his death and resurrection. In other words, just when it looked like he was just a man—conquered by death like the rest of us—the hero Messiah arrived with scars on his hands and feet and our sins forever taken care of by His sacrifice. 

We desire so desperately to be our own savior and lord, but we find true freedom when we realize that role is already taken by Jesus and was proven by an empty tomb.

Scripture What stands out to you in this verse about Jesus’ desire for us to recognize who He truly is as a Savior and Lord? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how the reality of who Jesus is should change the way we view ourselves? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling on how the resurrection proves Jesus’ true identity as Savior and Lord. 

 

Day Two, Morning | First Importance 

So far we’ve spent a lot of time exploring who Jesus is and what our relationship with Him can look like. We’ve seen that followers of Jesus recognize Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. But we have to ask: How can we place such faith in a guy we’ve never even met?

It gets even crazier because we aren’t just placing our faith in some great moral teacher of the past, but are hedging all our bets on one literal, wild moment in human history: the Resurrection. 

Read 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. 

How insane is it to believe that a guy two thousand years ago was decaying in a tomb and then all of a sudden began to breathe again? Yet, this is the crux of the Christian faith. It is not about Jesus’ good moral teachings or about living our best life now. The entirety of the Christian faith hinges on Jesus’ resurrection. Without it, as this passage points out, everything we do and believe as followers of Jesus is irrelevant. We are called to recognize Jesus as Savior, but salvation wasn’t completed on the cross when Jesus died. It was completed when He rose from the grave, defeating death that we could truly be assured that we could live. 

If He wasn’t truly our Savior, then all the stuff He taught were the words of a liar because He spoke often about His resurrection. If He lied about the most important moment in human history, then how could we possibly trust His other teachings? And if He wasn’t Savior or Teacher, then why would we possibly submit our lives to Him as Lord?

It may seem strange to think of our faith being rooted in one historical moment, but this is exactly what the Christian faith is about.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s desire for us to believe in the resurrection? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the importances of the resurrection?

Application • How can your observations be applied to your life as you follow Jesus? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what you believe about Jesus. 

 

Day Two, Evening | Death Defeated

If you have ever had someone close to you die, you know the sting of death and how much it just doesn’t feel… right. It’s like something is broken.

In Genesis, we see the implications of sinful rebellion. The moment humanity rebelled against God’s desire, death entered into the cosmos and the universe has not been the same since. The question is then, is there anything that could possibly repair the damage that has been done?

Read 1 Corinthians 15:54-57. 

The first and most obvious implication of the resurrection of Jesus is found in this passage. When Jesus rose from the grave He revealed Himself to have authority over death and His followers no longer destined to the pain of final death!

Obviously, this doesn’t mean we will not have to eventually die in our current forms. Unless Jesus returns in our lifetime, we will all eventually die at some point. But what it does mean is that when He rose from the grave, He revealed a glimpse into eternity. He foreshadowed a moment to come in the future when death would be completely done away with. No more cancer, no more car wrecks, no more shootings… no more tragedy. 

This is a moment we, as followers of Jesus, to which we can look forward; a future secured for us when Jesus stepped out of His tomb and left death behind.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart for us to live with the hope of victory and death? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about what difference Jesus’ victory over death could, or does, make in your life? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what you think and feel about death and about what you think and feel about Jesus’ victory over death. 

 

Day Three, Morning | A New Kingdom

Doesn’t it seem like, so often, Christians are known more for what they are against rather than what they are for? Whether it’s against certain people groups, political agendas, or social issues, there seems to be some truth behind the thought that Christians can be more anti-whatever than pro-something. 

But was this the message of Jesus? What did Jesus say the message of Christianity would be?

Read Matthew 4:17 & 23.

Up until this point in Jesus’ story, He has done very little teaching. However, after fully stepping into this season of life that would be filled with both adventure and frustration, He begins to teach a simple message and places it on repeat: Turn from your current life trajectory, embrace God’s King (Jesus) and join God’s movement. 

Of course, this new trajectory was counter to the way the rest of the world operated. He was talking about living lives radically abandoned to a new home, a new mission, a new family, and a new hope! So of course this message was not—and will continue to not be—well-received by everyone because it goes against the grain of our world. The beauty, though, is found in Jesus; not in Him being anti-all-things-fun, but in Jesus being pro-all-things-restored-to-life!

Scripture • What stands out to you about the simple message that Jesus proclaims in these verses? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how Jesus’ message of the Kingdom is a promise of hope and life? 

Application • How can you apply your observations about the message of the Kingdom to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what it looks like to live out the message of the Kingdom in your life and to daily turn your life’s trajectory toward Jesus. 

Day Three, Evening | We Have Hope

If you ever have had a season where you struggled with depression, you would probably agree the worst moments in life are not necessarily when you feel hopelessness.

Hope is more powerful than we could ever imagine. Ray Johnston, author of The Hope Quotient wrote, “When a struggling individual gets just a 10 percent boost in hope, almost anything becomes possible.” We can have everything we want or hardly what we need, but what ultimately draws us toward victory is not circumstance or resources, but hope.

When Jesus stepped out of the tomb, He ushered hope beyond belief into the world.

Read Revelation 21:1-5.

When we think of the book of Revelation we often think of really bizarre prophecies and dark days ahead, but this passage perfectly captures the true message of hope found not only in Revelation but in all of Scripture.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He gave us hope for both ourselves but also for all of creation. As we have already discussed, without Jesus’ resurrection, we wouldn’t have any hope for our eternity, instead we would all be separated from God’s goodness. But when Jesus rose from the grave He declared once and for all that all those who would become followers of Jesus will dwell with God for all eternity! Not just us, though, but all of creation will be redeemed, restored, and made new.

This means everything from mental illness to natural disasters will one day be finished for good, We will have our tears wiped away and be in the presence of our loving Father for all of eternity! This is the good news waiting for all those who follow Jesus and the only reason it is available to us is because somewhere on the outskirts of Jerusalem sits an empty tomb.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart to give us hope? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how hope for eternity can change the way we live and view life today? 

Application • How can you apply your observations about eternal hope to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what you believe about eternity. Is your view filled with hope or not? How has your view impacted the way you live?

 

Day Four, Morning | God With Us

Do you ever think it would be so much easier to follow Jesus if He was physically with you like He was with the disciples? It definitely would make it a whole lot easier to become more like Jesus if we could ask Him specific questions about things like what He thinks about social media usage, driving two miles over the speed limit, or if there’s a difference between venting and gossiping.

Perhaps not though. After all, when we look at the disciples they were real screw-ups before Jesus’ death and resurrection. He would give them assignments and they constantly questioned Him and came up short on completing the task. Some betrayed Him, many abandoned Him, and all of them lost faith at some point for a moment. We can’t assume to be  a whole lot better than Jesus’ disciples. So how did they possibly grow to be the ones the early church was built on?

Read Matthew 28:18-20. 

We have looked at this passage a few times, but let’s focus on the last part:

I am with you always, until the end of the age. 

Of course Jesus didn’t mean He would be physically with them because right after this, He ascended into Heaven. So what did He mean? In Acts and in the Gospel according to Luke, we get a glimpse into how Jesus intended on maintaining His presence with the church: the Holy Spirit. In Acts chapters 1 and 2, we see the disciples who had failed Jesus consistently before, grow in power and boldness under threat of prison and death. The only thing that changed was that Jesus was no longer with them, but the Holy Spirit had entered into the hearts of every one of His followers. 

Since then, the Spirit of God has dwelt within all of Jesus’ followers and desires to give counsel, comfort, and boldness to all those who desire to tap into His power. If you ever feel alone, abandoned by God, or hurting, just know that God has not forgotten you. He has sent you the Holy Spirit, who will not leave you.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart to provide us His Spirit? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how the Spirit of God desires to empower you? 

Application • How can you apply your observations about the presence of the Spirit into your life? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how you have been empowered, encouraged, and comforted by the Holy Spirit and how you desire His presence more. 

Day Four, Evening | United with Jesus

So often we hear about “finding the one”—as in finding the one person on planet earth who was created to complete and fulfill you. This means that if you never find “the one”, then you will live a lonely and incomplete existence. Talk about pressure! For you in the choosing and for your significant other living up to the choice! Rather, we find that while we were created to connect with other human beings in deep and intimate ways, our connection with God is the only one that can fulfill the longings of our spirit.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:15-17.

In this passage, Paul unpacks the incredible connection we have with Jesus. We search constantly for completion in other human beings just to be disappointed when they don’t turn out to be whatever version of a “soulmate” of which we have dreamt. However, in Jesus, we find a connection beyond our wildest dreams. We become one Spirit with Jesus, which means that even in the times you don’t “feel” close to Jesus or do “feel” like He isn’t enough, He never leaves your side and pursues you regardless. This union goes beyond emotion and can empower you to love God and love people in new and compelling ways as you discover you have already found the One for which your soul has longed.

Scripture • What stands out to you about the connection between Jesus and His followers within this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the difference this connection can make in the life of someone following Jesus? 

Application • How can you apply your observation to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about your desire for completion and Jesus’ ability to fulfill that desire.

 

Day Five, Morning | Before “In the Beginning”

It is hard to get past ourselves. Can we just admit for a second that most of our waking moments have to do with what’s in it for us? We are focused on our needs (like food and sleep), obligations (like work and family), desires (like hobbies and lifestyle), and then all our hopes and dreams. We flow in and out of these various arenas throughout our day.

Frankly, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are largely self-focused.

So for us to understand the beauty of the gospel story, we need to begin with understanding who this story is ultimately about. 

Read Psalm 90:2. 

It’s fascinating that the Bible spends little time proving God’s existence or even explaining how He existed before matter and substance did.

Before the beginning, God was. That is powerful. He already existed; He was already sufficient and complete. Unlike fake gods—like Odin or Zeus—God didn’t need humanity to be created to worship Him. He was already in community in Himself through the Trinity (I know, that concept can give us a mind cramp!)

The reason this matters is because it should remind us that the story is not about us, even though we are involved in the narrative. In The Chronicles of Narnia none of the Pevensie children are the main characters. Neither is Prince Caspian or even Reepicheep. The main character is Aslan. Aslan, the representation of Jesus within the story, is ultimately the character within each book that progresses the story. He even created Narnia with a song of life!

So what place do we have in the story? As the Westminster Shorter Catechism suggested long ago, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Short and simple. 

We are meant to find ultimate satisfaction in Him, but this can only begin with the realization that the story is all about Him.

Scripture • What thoughts come to your mind when you envision God’s existence before Creation? 

Observation • What observations can you make about God’s character from this passage? 

Application • How might it shape the way you think about your life if you were to think of yourself as a character in God’s story rather than your own? 

Prayer • Spend time journaling and praying about the significance of God’s sufficiency and how we are designed to glorify and enjoy Him forever. 

 

Day Five, Evening | Recognizing Jesus

Mind if we take a quick trip to Disney? Remember in Aladdin when Princess Jasmine escaped the palace, making her way into the city of Agrabah disguised as a beggar? She meets Aladdin and their relationship quickly starts to build until they’re interrupted by the royal guard arriving to arrest the young “street rat”. All of a sudden, the beautiful beggar is revealed as the princess and Aladdin is stunned! Of course, Jasmine is not more of a princess after the big reveal. She has the same authority, position and identity whether dressed in rags or as a royal.

Jesus came into this world as a baby, born amidst scandal in the backwoods of a country about which few cared. Hardly the place for the God of the Universe to be revealed, wouldn’t you say?

Read Mark 8:27-29.

Understandably, Jesus is not recognizable to everyone as God up until this point in the story of the Gospel. Just like today, everyone has an opinion of who they say Jesus is. Some say Jesus is a good teacher, a prophet, an “enlightened one,” or even a liar, but definitely not God. 

But in this passage, Jesus asks His followers who they say He is and Peter’s eyes are opened when he recognizes Jesus as “The Christ.” 

This is the big reveal. At this moment, His disciples see that the King is with them! Just like Jasmine, Jesus was not more royal because of the reveal. He has been and always will be Lord, Savior, and Teacher— regardless of what we believe about Him. 

The question is: Who do you say Jesus is? 

Scripture • What stands out to you about the simplicity of the questions Jesus asks in this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about Peter’s response to Jesus’ question? 

Application • How can you apply your observation about Jesus’ question and Peter’s response to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling simply answering the question: Who do you say Jesus is in your life today

 

Week Two: The Bible | God’s Story

Day One, Morning | The Author 

Picture being given the most compelling and thought-provoking book imaginable about how to manage your personal finances. You read it and it’s filled with insights that feel groundbreaking, each one backed with mountains of research and statistics. Later, you find out that the author of the book is a bankrupt fraud with no background in finance who made up all of the statistics and plagiarized sayings from fortune cookies for all its meaningful insights. Knowing this, it would probably seem foolish to trust the book.

The Bible can often be difficult for many of us to trust. How can we believe that this book is 100% accurate about humanity, life, and the world around us? To know whether a book is worth trusting, knowing the author’s trustworthiness is a good place to start.

Read 2 Peter 1:21.

If you are a skeptic, then citing why the Bible is trustworthy by citing the Bible probably isn’t especially helpful. In this case, there are some other great resources for you. 

But if you can walk on a journey of informed faith, then what we read in this passage is remarkable. You see that the Bible was penned by forty individuals, but these men were just the pens God was using to record His unfolding story. This becomes even more evident when we see the continuity and singular storyline that threads through each of the sixty-six books that are bound together by a single voice.

This voice is that of the Author of not only the Bible, but also the entire Universe! That is a voice we can trust.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s desire to reveal Himself to us through the Bible in this verse? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this verse about why we can trust the voice of God found within the Bible? 

Application • How can you apply your observations about trusting God’s voice into your life today? 

Prayer Spend time praying and journaling about doubts or struggles you have in trusting the Bible and ask God to reveal Himself to you through the Scriptures. 

 

Day One, Evening | Trusting the Bible 

Imagine you’re reading a blog on the Disney Parks blog where the author behind it seems to have all the answers about what attractions are opening up and what the latest details are for special events and more. The only problem is that this blogger lives somewhere in Nebraska and has, in fact, never been to Walt Disney World. Would you begin to question whether you could trust his insight?

Earlier, we explored how one of the reasons we can trust the Bible is because we can trust the Author and, therefore, trust what He wrote in the pages of Scripture. But He didn’t do it by Himself. He used forty different human beings to pen it. While human involvement can often be seen as a cause for questioning whether the Scriptures can be trusted, it also offers a compelling reason for why the Bible can be trusted even more.

Read 1 Peter 1:16-21.

God can sometimes feel distant and difficult to relate to because of the distance between His experience as Holy Creator and our experience as broken creation. But as this passage from 2 Peter points out, God desired to use a relatable source to bring His words to us as human beings. 

The human authors throughout the Bible struggle, fail, hurt and grieve just like all of us. Most of the text doesn’t appear flattering towards their human co-authors—including the author of the passage we just read, Peter. At different points he denied knowing Jesus, gave up hope,  and returned back to his old profession. He often found himself more afraid of what others would think about him more than what God felt and said. Peter and the other authors are like us! 

Think about it. If you were writing a book, and you and your friends were a part of it, wouldn’t you be tempted to paint yourself in a compelling light? Instead, we see real and flawed humans like us being rescued and restored by God! The Bible is not written to cover up humanity’s faults, but rather to expose them to God’s holiness and love. This is exactly what reveals the Bible to be trustworthy.

ScriptureWhat stands out to you about God’s desire for us to trust His Word? 

Observation What observations can you make from this verse about how human authors can help us trust the Bible? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life? 

PrayerSpend time praying and journaling about doubts or struggles you have in trusting the Bible and ask God to reveal Himself to you through the Scriptures. 

 

Day Two, Morning | Eyewitness Testimony 

Did you have one of those family members growing up who always had a story to tell, but was never actually there when the story took place?  It’s a bit hard to believe those stories. This is often the way many people approach faith—especially the Bible. We can be afraid that the Bible is essentially just stories of hearsay or legend that nobody ever actually saw happen. It’s a bit hard to put faith in those. 

Read 1 John 1:1-3. 

In each verse in this passage, a simple phrase is repeated: “which we have seen”. 

This phrase makes all the difference because it lets us know that what we’re reading was not only written by individuals who heard about the events from some other human or even the Holy Spirit, but oftentimes (as is the case for this passage written by one of Jesus’ early followers named John) they were recorded by eyewitnesses. You see how, for John, believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection was not a matter of blind faith. He physically saw Jesus risen from the grave, touched Him, and ate dinner with Him. 

Of course, it is possible that he and the others were lying. However, consider that John almost died for his claim that Jesus had risen from the grave (he was put in a vat of boiling oil, but miraculously survived) and all the rest of the early followers were murdered for the same claim! We know people die all the time for what they believe and that doesn’t make what they believed to be true. How often do people die, though, for something they know to be a lie? Isn’t that less common?

Trusting in the validity of the Bible isn’t blind faith and the Scriptures are not void of reason. It is a text informed faith that is supported by eyewitness accounts and it’s filled with truth even when we don’t understand the full story just yet.

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart for us to have informed faith and trust in the Bible? 

Observation •  What observations can you make from this passage about why trusting in the words of the Bible matters? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer •  Spend time praying and journaling about what informed faith looks like in your life. 

 

Day Two, Evening | Consistent Testimonies

Do you know that moment in every crime or legal TV show where there are two eyewitnesses and they are telling two very different stories about what they say happened? While eyewitnesses are important, what is more important is that they are telling the truth. A great way to figure that out is to check out the stories from each of them and see if they are consistent.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. 

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to laying out a case of facts to help others understand the gospel and its implications. In this passage, he expands the scope to prove his point. He literally gives his audience a witness list to go and interview. He first suggests that Jesus returned from the dead and revealed Himself to Cephas (another name for Peter), which makes sense, because he was one of Jesus’ best friends. Can you trust that guy, though? He then suggests Jesus revealed Himself to the twelve (referring to Jesus’ earliest followers)— which makes sense once again—but they could have gotten together and came up with a collaborated cover story. Then he claims Jesus revealed Himself to over 500 people. Manipulating that many stories together would be quite tricky.

Remember that 500 people were real individuals, living at that time. Any of them could be approached at any time and asked not just what they believed, but also exactly what they saw.

Their eyewitness accounts remained consistent because they had all experienced a risen Jesus, as unbelievable as it sounds. This unbelievable truth not only proves the content of the Bible true, but it makes it good transforming news to all who would believe it today.

If you let them, the words of Scripture will encourage you, correct you, and ultimately draw you nearer to the risen Lord, Savior and Teacher Jesus!

Scripture • What stands out to you in this verse about God’s desire to ensure we had evidence to inform our faith? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about the importance of informed faith versus blind faith? 

Application • How can you apply your observation to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what difference Jesus being risen from the grave makes in your life. 

 

Day Three, Morning | Word of God or Deception? 

It isn’t enough to just believe in the Bible. Just because we believe in God or believe the Bible is His word doesn’t guarantee that we actively trust those words. In James 2, we see that even the spiritual enemy of God believes in His existence and shudders at the mere thought of His power. He believes in God, but posits He is a deceptive and arrogant God, holding out “the good stuff” for Himself alone. 

If we aren’t careful, we can believe the same stuff in our hearts. We can recognize the Bible is something special, but believe God is just trying to manipulate us into submission, wanting to ruin our good time by insisting all the focus be on Him.

Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. 

As humans, there is something deep in our hearts that longs to feel complete and be equipped to make a positive impact in the world.  Often, whether we realize it, we can default to a place where we treat the Bible like a rule book, thinking of it as something that gets in the way of what we really want in life. But that is so far from the truth!

Rather, the Bible has the capacity to instruct, train, and equip us to love God and others, to help us leave behind the chains of sin and brokenness, and to lead us to more and more freedom. Isn’t this the core of what we want? You must start, though, not just with a trust that the Bible is the Word of God, but also that the Bible is trustworthy and can give authority over your life.

You will, of course, run into some correction you don’t want to hear. Just know that you truly believe the Bible when you are willing to submit your thoughts and wants to the authority of the Scriptures. Will you do more than believe and truly trust?

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart for us to trust His intentions with the Bible? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how God wants to use His Word to grow and equip you? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how the Bible has helped equip you in the past and how you can learn to trust it more in the future. 

 

Day Three, Evening | One Story

One of the major criticisms of the Bible is that it appears to be inconsistent, especially with its image of God. The character of God can appear so mean and wrathful in the Old Testament, but then within the New Testament we see God as perfect love and the ultimate hope for peace in Jesus. So what gives?

Let’s be honest. It can be hard to see how all of the Bible could possibly be telling one overarching story when the main character seems to be two totally different persons going by the same name. 

But then this guy named Stephen came on the scene. He was an early follower of Jesus who was being put on trial for spreading the news that Jesus had indeed risen from the grave and was the Lord, Savior, and Teacher everyone had been waiting for. The group of people who were putting him on trial were experts of the law and Scripture. However, they couldn’t reconcile how the God in which they believed was the same as that about which Stephen testified. Today’s reading is a bit long, but stick with it and check out the story Stephen told.

Read Acts 7:2-53. 

In just a few minutes of speaking, Stephen summarizes the entire Old Testament and reveals an important truth. It all points to Jesus. Stephen shares so much in pointing out that God is holy and cannot stand sin, but is also patient, kind, loving, and filled with grace for all those who will return back to Him. From the beginning of time until the end of it, God has been telling a beautiful story by using broken characters just like us and pointing to who the story is ultimately about: Jesus. 

Scripture • What stands out to you about God’s heart for telling one consistent story through this passage? 

Observation • What observations can you make from this passage about how God is never changing throughout the Bible? 

Application •  How can you apply your observations about God’s never changing character to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about what you believe about the Bible, where you struggle with it, and how this passage can help you better understand God’s character. 

 

Day Four, Morning | Creation 

According to the dictionary, harmony is the “quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.”

Nothing is sweeter than when multiple instruments and voices come together to create the pleasing sound of harmony in your favorite song. Sounds and sights of harmony probably stand out so much to us because our world could hardly be described as harmonious. But could you imagine a one filled with nothing but pleasing and consistent wholeness?

Read Genesis 1. 

Today’s devotional is short. Reread Genesis 1—this time focusing on the harmony, structure, intentionality, and care God clearly orchestrates into each day of Creation.

Scripture • What do you notice about God’s heart for Creation within this passage? 

Observation • As you read this passage, what observations can you make about God’s ideal plan for creation? How different is this original harmony from the world we live in? 

Application • What would having greater harmony in your relationships and life as a whole look like? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about God’s desire for Creation to be filled with harmony, intentionality, and care. 

 

Day Four, Evening | Fall

We’ve recently looked at God’s ideal for the Kingdom of Earth to be filled with harmony. But as we look around us, we know this is far from the world we live in. Our world is a shadow of its created purpose; it’s filled with distrust, disunity, disobedience, and darkness. If you have been around the church for any length of time, you know the answer for this in the Bible: sin. 

But before you check out, what do you think sin actually is?

Usually we think of sin as doing bad stuff. You may have even tried in your life to be better by trying to avoid the bad and be a good person… but is it possible that our understanding of sin is far more shallow than we know? 

Read Genesis 3. 

Within this passage, we witness the origins of the world’s disharmony. We see the moment when relationships began to fracture and distrust first arrived. But when was the moment that sin appeared? If we think that sin entered into humanity when woman and man first took a bite of the fruit forbidden by God then we’ll think that the problem of sin is behavioral, but in fact it is motivational.

God’s incredible love was on display to His creation by his Kingdom setup of allowing man and woman the freedom to listen to and obey His ideal for them or not—all of their own will. Ultimately, they chose not to when they ate the fruit. Their disobedience, however, started before that moment; it started in their hearts when they started to believe the lie that God was holding out on them. They listed to the wrong voice; which led to them to act out dissatisfaction and distrust, although they were surrounded by perfection. And so we see that their act—or behavior—of disobedience was a symptom of a heart already postured away from God.

So this Fall is the same for us. Like them, we often listen to the wrong voice. It almost seems our default operating mode. We all disobey God’s ideal regularly out of a heart bent on living life our way moment to moment rather than God’s way. 

Scripture • As you read this chapter, who do you discover about God’s heart toward mankind when they rebel? 

Observation • What do you observe about the hearts of the woman and man? 

Application • How can (or how has) having an understanding of sin as more than behavior help you understand your need for a savior? 

Prayer • Spend time praying that God would continue to give you awareness into the motivations of your heart. 

 

Day Five, Morning | Rescue

Our world is in desperate need of rescuing. However, since we often identify the problems as behavioral, we can pour all of our hope and energy into practical solutions for its symptoms of brokenness. We wage “culture wars” in the name of healthy living, environmentalism, racial unity, and more. While many of these solutions are well-intentioned and even lovely, they never get to the root of the darkness.

We aren’t the first to seek band-aids when God is at work on a cure for the whole body. Even in Jesus’ day, His disciples expected Him to be their savior from their political and cultural oppression; the one who would free them from the chains of Roman oppression and usher in a Kingdom of Jewish dominance. But Jesus was not looking to simply correct a single era of social suffering for a specific people; He was looking to bring life and redemption to all people, ending suffering for all time. Rather than coming to treat a symptom, He came to rescue creation from the disease lurking underneath.

Read 1 Peter 2:22-25. 

The US military often helps with relief aid, securing supply and food packages to arrive to those in need. Jesus’ original disciples desired this kind of service. They wanted Jesus to simply make life—their experience of it—more bearable. But for Jesus that was not enough. He didn’t come to disperse some relief and leave us in a kingdom of darkness and disharmony. Instead, Jesus came on a full rescue and redemption operation; gathering the strayed, healing the hurt, and returning us spiritual orphans back home. He came to do more than we could have ever asked.

The cost of the rescue was His own life. A cost way to great to fathom, yet He considered it worth it. He knew that the only way to rescue humanity from the darkness was to enter it and take it on Himself. His life and righteousness for our death and brokenness—the most epic exchange for all time. 

Scripture • When you read this passage, what stands out to you about the extravagant measures Jesus went through to rescue us?

Observation • What observations can you make about the severity of sin in light of the cost Jesus paid?

Application • Meditate on this passage and remind yourself of the Gospel daily.

Prayer • Spend time in prayer, expressing your gratitude for Jesus’ rescue.

 

Day Five, Evening | Restoration

So if Jesus rescued humanity 2,000 years ago, why is the world not much better off than it was back then? Did something go wrong in the rescue? We currently live in the most odd period of human history. Many call this timeframe the “already and the not yet.”

Jesus has already come to bring life, light, and freedom into this world. He has rescued us from the bondage of sin and the fear of death, giving us hope beyond this life. Yet, God has not yet brought complete restoration on this planet. Hence, death, pain, fear, war, famine, and suffering have not yet been done away with.

This moment in time, though, will not last forever and when it ends it will be glorious.

Read Revelation 21:1-8. 

Just as Genesis 1 began with God’s desire of a universe defined by harmony and love, this will one day be restored and re-instituted.

Reread the passage and focus on the harmony, freedom, and beauty that has been restored into this world.

If you are a Follower of Jesus, this is your future: a world without death, tears, anxiety. This is what the Gospel promises us for our future.

Scripture • How do you see God’s heart for restoration within this passage?

Observation • How does this passage remind you of Creation in Genesis 1?

Application • How can you discover hope in this passage despite your current circumstances?

Prayer • Spend time praying for those you know who are not Followers of Jesus, that they would follow Him and be a part of this eternal restoration with you.

 

Week One: Beginnings | Who Is God and Who Am I?

Day One, Morning | Jesus Is God

It kind of makes sense why early cultures worshipped hand-carved Tiki figures, idols made of gold, and other forged statues. Worshiping a god that we cannot literally experience with our senses can be challenging for us. So, it makes sense that ancient people groups desired to worship a physical version of the gods.

Of course, when we look at Scripture we see pretty clearly that worshipping these man-made gods is not a good thing. In fact, the second of the Ten Commandments is literally to not worship any graven images of the true Creator God. Part of this is simply because we are not the true Creator, so to create something from human hands to worship is to worship the creation over Creator.

But how can we possibly worship God when we can’t see or touch Him physically?

Read Hebrews 1:3. 

If you want to know what God is like; to see Him laugh, grieve, eat, and teach—all you have to do is look at Jesus through the Gospels. 

This may seem like a repeat message…and that is because we are so prone to forgetting this wild truth. Jesus is God with us. He is the one our hearts long for and He is the physical image of the God who is so far beyond our comprehension. He is God completely. So, whenever you worry about God’s character, wondering how He responds to tragedy, look at Jesus weeping over the death of His friend Lazarus. Whenever you wonder about how God handles friendships, look at how Jesus cared for, joked with, and actively forgave His disciples.

God is much more personal than we may think sometimes—just look at Jesus.

ScriptureWhat stands out to you about God’s heart for us to experience Him through Jesus?

ObservationWhat observations can you make from this passage about how you can better understand God through Jesus? 

Application • How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • Spend time praying and journaling about how Jesus is worthy of our worship. 

 

Day One, Evening | Jesus Reveals the Fullness of God

We live in a world where proof is increasingly demanded. Just a decade ago, advertising wizards (think Mad Men) did an incredible job of telling the American public what they should buy… and it’s seemed to work. But now we are so exhausted by (sometimes incredible) marketing telling us what is healthy, cool, efficient, or socially conscious. We’re inundated and so, to filter the noise out, we look for proof. We want to see facts, stats, reports, and reviews when we hear something is good

This desire is in a lot of ways good. However, it’s not entirely new. We aren’t the first people to desire proof before we fully believe. In fact, one of Jesus’ early followers, Philip, asked Jesus flat out for proof of what God is like.

Read John 14:8-11. 

Jesus is God in the flesh. He is proof of God’s existence because He is God. But do we just take Jesus at His word to believe that? Fortunately for us, we don’t have to. When Jesus rose from the grave, He did something we humans are not capable of doing: resurrecting ourselves. So when Jesus left behind the grave and appeared in the flesh to hundreds of witnesses, He revealed Himself to be the living proof we all needed to see. 

What makes this even better is that since He is God, we also know what God is like! Jesus said, “The Father who dwells in me does his works.” So if you want to know what the Father is like, look at Jesus. Kind, patient, love, just, holy, and filled with grace are just some of the attributes we see in Jesus and these are exactly the qualities we can then know about the Father.

Searching for proof is not rebellious and asking questions doesn’t mean you don’t believe. If you are searching, seeking, and asking questions, keep going! The best encouragement that we can offer to you is that, in seeking be sure to explore the living proof of God: His Son Jesus.

Scripture •

What stand out to you about Jesus’ heart for us to know about God the Father?

Observation •

What observations can you make from this passage about how God the Father is different than what you have commonly believed about Him? 

Application •

How can you apply your observations to your life today?

Prayer • 

Spend time praying and journaling about what you believe about God and how the resurrection of Jesus can be proof of His existence and character.

 

Day Two, Morning | Jesus: Word of God in the Flesh

Stop for just a few moments and consider this: Not only does God want everything to do with us, but He also desires deeply to communicate with us.

If you opened your Facebook Messenger and Taylor Swift, Tom Brady or some other crazy famous person had a message for you, it would probably be all you talked about for a while (whether you enjoy them or not).  

The Creator of the universe—of matter itself—actively desires to communicate with you through His Word.

Wild, isn’t it?

Here is something potentially even crazier: Not only does He desire to share words with us through the pages of the Bible, but He also communicated His Word to us through a human being.

Read John 1:1-4, 14. 

Jesus existed before creation did, but He didn’t spend His time on earth bragging about it. Jesus is fully God, yet He volunteers Himself to exit Paradise and enter our reality (something He never gave a guilt trip to His disciples about it as they fought over who was “the greatest”). In Jesus, we get to hear the Word of God not just out of the pages of a book, but from the physical mouth of God made flesh.

The historical reality probably affects our daily lives much more than we can imagine. It should also inspire each us regularly with gratitude.  

How often do you thank God for allowing Jesus to be present in your life and giving humanity the greatest gift, even though we were destined to rebel against Him? For God made His Word not so far beyond our ability to comprehend, but literally wrapped the Word of God in flesh like ours, so that He would be relatable and approachable but still able to save us.

The Word doesn’t desire to bring us guilt or shame, but freedom and life like we’ve never known it before! 

Scripture •

What stands out to you about God’s heart to communicate with us through the Bible and Jesus?

Observation •

What observations can you make from this passage about what it means that Jesus is the Word of God?

Application • 

How can you apply your observations about Jesus as God communicating truth to your life today?

Prayer • 

Spend time praying and journaling about the different reasons you can be grateful to God for sending Jesus to communicate with you. 

 

Day Two, Evening | Jesus: Characteristics of God with Flesh

Author Donald Miller tells a story of a high-intensity situation in a far off country where Navy Seals were sent in to rescue the hostages. When the first Navy Seal arrived in the hut, he couldn’t get the hostages to stand up and look at him because they were afraid the Seal was an enemy looking to kill them as soon as they responded to him. The Seal gets a brilliant thought though. He removes his helmet and sits down next to the hostages. As soon as he does, they look over at him, and he is able to communicate that he is safe, he is for them, and and he will take them all to safety if they will follow him.

Read John 1:14.

How do you trust a god that you cannot see? How do you know that the god you follow is the one true God if you can’t experience Him in the flesh? These questions lead to one of the most incredible characteristics of Jesus. He became  flesh. The Navy Seal removed his helmet of protection and came down to the same level of the hostages to display to them that he could be trusted. When Jesus put on flesh, He displayed that we could finally experience God in the flesh. Jesus is the unseen God finally within vision! He made His dwelling among us and revealed He could be trusted and was worth following by coming near to us. One of the greatest miracles of Christianity is Jesus’ arrival on our turf in human flesh. Consider that, to come to earth, Jesus had to leave the perfection of Heaven and take up temporary residence on the brokenness of planet Earth. This is the passion and love of Jesus on display—that He sits next to us on the muddy floor letting us know that He is safe and that He will take us all to safety if we will follow Him.

Scripture • 

What stands out to you about Jesus in this verse?

Observation • 

What observations can you make from this verse about how Jesus dwelling with us can change our perspective on life’s struggles?

Application •  

How van you apply your observations about Jesus dwelling with you to your life today?

Prayer •  

Spend time praying and journaling about areas of brokenness and darkness out of which Jesus is calling you, remembering that there is no quick fix, but that when we follow Him, we begin to walk in the light. 

 

Day Three, Morning | The Love of the Father

If you made it this far through these devotionals, chances are you are a pretty hard worker—which is awesome! However, so easily as followers of Jesus, it is easy to be a hard worker who carries around a checklist but forgets the simple beauty of being in relationship with God. When we look at Jesus’ relationship with God the Father, we don’t see a lifeless relationship between the two, but an intimate communion between a loving Father and His beloved Son. .

Read Luke 3:22.

This moment happened right at the conclusion of Jesus’ baptism. This is one of the clearest pictures of God’s unending love for Jesus and, by association, God’s unending love for us.

Notice what Jesus did to earn the love of the Father. Nothing. Instead, by simply being the Son of the Father, Jesus is called the Beloved. When we read the word beloved, we should think “uniquely and unconditionally loved.”

Jesus is the living example of God’s unique and unconditional love for humanity and all of creation and it stemmed from the way He was uniquely loved by the Father. Out of that love, Jesus would find time to be alone with the Father in prayer and loved to brag about His Father and His Father’s Kingdom to anyone who desired to listen. What is crazy is that the way the Father loves Jesus is the same way the Father loves any of His adopted sons and daughters. Because we are united with Jesus, we receive this unique and unconditional love from the Father because Jesus made a path for our adoption on the cross. 

You are the beloved of God. 

Uniquely and unconditionally loved. 

Scripture •

What stands out to you about the way the Father speaks about Jesus?

Observation •

What observations can you make from this passage about the heart of God? 

Application •

How can you apply your observations about what it looks like to live in light of God’s love in your life today? 

Prayer •

Spend time praying and journaling about what beliefs you have held about God’s love and whether that lines up with the Biblical picture of you as a beloved child of God. 

 

Day Three, Evening | God Is Holy

If we are called to live lives oriented toward a new Kingdom, we need to know what makes this new Kingdom of Jesus different from the kingdom of the world.

The difference could be summed up in one thought: holiness

The word holy isn’t really talked about much in our culture and, if it is mentioned, it’s not usually in a great way. Because those of us who represent Jesus can often think we are somehow better than others, there is this thought that to be holy is somehow the same as being judgmental.

Thinking of God as holy doesn’t get much better. We can project our thoughts of judgmental Christians onto a perfect God and all of a sudden God is holy is the same thing as “God is kind of a jerk.”

How can we recapture a Biblical picture of God’s holiness?

Read Isaiah 6:1-6. 

This glimpse into the Kingdom of God is filled with incredible imagery, but the best image of all is the one sitting on the throne: the Holy God. His messengers are singing how excellent and holy He is. We can get so caught up on God as judge that we forget that the truth is that He truly is the only one who has the right (and it’s a good right) to judge anything because He is completely holy. 

To be holy means to be set apart, to be other than.

God is so far beyond us. He is perfect in everything He does. He is so incredible that passages like the one we just read cannot begin to truly capture His beauty. When we read about God’s holiness we are not meant to be drawn towards His wrath, but His beauty and how He is so far beyond what we have ever experienced.

Think about this: everything we have ever touched, seen, tasted, or felt has had the stain of sin on it. That’s just the reality of our world which is fallen. The best of anything we’ve ever experienced wasn’t full in its goodness and perfection… but God is. His holiness makes Him so far beyond us that all we can do when we realize His beauty is be overwhelmed and worship.

Scripture • 

What stands out to you about God’s desire for us to know His holiness in this passage? 

Observation •  

What observations can you make from this passage about how we should approach God’s holiness? 

Application •  

How can your observation be applied to the way you relate to God? 

Prayer •  

Spend time praying and journaling about God’s holiness and worship. 

 

Day Four, Morning | Who God Says I Am Vs. Who I Say I Am

Who do you say you are? 

That’s a loaded question, but the truth is that what we believe about ourselves is usually not based only on our thoughts but is also heavily influenced by our families, childhood friends, the rumors someone may have spread about you, what you read on social media, etc. 

We can claim that we’re self-defined and decide our own identity, but we aren’t blank slates. We naturally allow both good and bad influences to define us. But what if there was someone who knew you better than you know yourself—someone who knows you perfectly and has the power to define you as more than your past, present or future?

Read Psalm 139:1-12. 

Is this passage comforting to you or a little bit intimidating? To know that the Creator of the Universe knows you personally is kind of a big deal. If we truly spent time attempting to grasp this truth, we would probably be blown away. Thankfully, God is not uncaring or a jerk. 

We are known by a Creator who desires to adopt us as His children and inform us of who and how loved we are.

We are defined everyday by culture, other people, and even ourselves. But the truth is that none of these sources know us nearly as deeply as God does. He desires to inform us of who we are, beyond our past mistakes and the scars that we have.

Scripture • 

What stands out to you about God’s ability to truly know you from this passage? 

Observation • 

What observations can you make about who God says you are? 

Application •  

How can the reality that God truly knows you transform your thinking? 

Prayer •  

Spend time praying and writing about who God says you are. 

 

Day Four, Evening | Good Creations of God

The only version of life we have ever experienced has been a world tainted with brokenness and sin. All we have ever known are reasons to distrust others and ourselves. This was for good reason because we know that each person is broken.

We weren’t created for this kind of life though. Remember, that we were created in God’s image, which is good, loving and complete. Unfortunately, our brokenness has put a stain over the imprint of God on our souls. So how do we reconcile these two thoughts?

Read Psalm 139:13-14. 

Do you believe these verses about yourself? Do you see God’s fingerprint on your soul?

It can be difficult to see that fingerprint because of the darkness that shadows our lives. However, according to God’s Word, it is there! So begin praying and keep seeking.

Scripture • 

What stands out to you about God’s goodness in this passage? 

Observation •

What observations can you make from this passage about who God says you are? 

Application • 

How can you apply your observations to your life today?

Prayer • 

Spend time praying about these verses over your life and that you would believe them to be true and live out their truth. 

 

Day Five, Morning | We Are Broken

We all struggle with guilt and the thought that we are never enough. These are, in fact, exactly the thoughts on which our spiritual enemy desires for us to dwell. 

The truth is, though, that this thought is kind of right.

Read Psalm 51:5. 

We all are broken, we all have the stain of sin on us, and we are all in pain. 

But the phrase on which we should all focus when we hear things that are true and difficult about us is: “Yes, but…”.

For example, when we hear the enemy say, “You are sinful and broken…”, we can respond with, “Yes, but God’s love has given me a new identity!”

We are a broken creation, but God is in the restoration business.

Scripture • 

What stands out to you in this verse about our sinfulness? 

Observation •  

What observations can you make about how God has brought redemption into the brokenness of your life? 

Application •  

How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer •  

Spend time praying and journaling about how you have seen redemption in your life. 

 

Day Five, Evening | We Are Made New 

We all have a past.

Within each of our stories, we have experienced pain inflicted on us by others and ourselves. We’ve also wounded others. All of us have scars, though they may look different from person to person. 

Are you struggling with any shame and guilt from your past?

The good news is that you are not the only one who struggles. The best news is that in Jesus, you have hope of putting your past in the past, actively being made new.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-19. 

This is our new identity now! It’s is more than therapy to get over your past hurts or shame. It is all about being fully whom you were created to be and watching God turn the ugliness of the past into something simultaneously new and beautiful!

Whatever baggage you carry around, whatever it is you think is too messed up to share with your community, and whatever feels too shameful and out of bounds to share with Jesus— it doesn’t matter, because you have arrived at safety.

Hand your hurt over to Jesus and invite community into your pain and brokenness. As you continue to do so, watch as Jesus makes all things new!

Scripture •

What stands out to you about God’s heart to turn followers of Jesus into new creations from this passage? 

Observation • 

What observations can you make from this passage about how God desires to bring redemption to your past? 

Application • 

How can you apply your observations to your life today? 

Prayer • 

Spend time praying and journaling about what you have been struggling to share with your community and Jesus. Spend time considering how Jesus can bring redemption into those struggles.