January 1, 2012 Devotion Sharing

Submitted By Esther K. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Looking back on this past week’s daily devotions, some teachings regarding time and how to see our times that I want to remember as I start another new year are as follows:

– The fact that my life will end.  My days of my life are numbered.  My life is fleeting.   My life here on this earth is like a breath, a moment to God.  That means I don’t need to invest in the things of the world (homes, accumulating possessions, etc.).

– Psalm 90:10 “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorry.”  Life is filled with sorrow and difficulty.  However, I don’t have to go through life alone.  God tends his flock like a shepherd.  I need to focus on God, cling to God.  God will not grow tired or weary, despite my sins and troubles/sorrows of sin. God will give strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak to help us put our foot forward to obey God.  I need to put my hope in God, put my hope in heaven to find strength to push through life’s difficulties.

– Need to live being watchful especially towards sin and greed.  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Fact is that I’m a sinner and I naturally am greedy.  I want more for myself.  I need to be deliberate and vigilant to deal with greed and sin by storing up things for God, being rich towards God.

– Life is filled with worries.  We worry because life is filled with trouble and sorrow, due to my sin and others sins.  We worry because of our greed; we fear what will happen to us, we think we need to provide for ourselves.  We forget that we have a heavenly father who is leading us and providing for us.  ”Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. “

– So how should I live?  Be dressed ready for service.  Need to be faithful to carry out the role God’s given to me.  Fact is that Jesus is coming back.  Judgment is real.  I need to be faithful until Jesus comes.  I want Jesus to find me being faithful to the responsibilities that He’s given me.

– The fact is that my life has been spared, as I’ve made it through another year.  God has granted me a new year. I’ve living by God’s grace.  As God continue to deal with me in 2012, I need to obey God so that my life will bear fruit in the coming year.

Ephesians 5:8–20

I can’t believe that somehow another year is over.  It’s by God’s grace that I’m standing here on January 1, 2012.  What a year it’s been.  It’s been a year where I went through the pains of starting the youth church and coming to understanding my own sins and inadequacies through that process.  2011 was a year of huge change as we moved up to Davis.  I can’t believe it’s been 6 months since we’ve been here.  I know that it is God who carried me.  Most of the time, I felt so weak and didn’t think I had the strength to get through.  However, God was the one who tended me and led me.  Who am I that God gives me another year to live?  All the more, I want to approach this year with care and wisdom, to make the most of this year.   Fact is that God spared my life, allowing me to be here today.  I need to live 2012 wisely to make the most of another year God is giving me.

I am making the following commitments for 2012:

To live as children of light & find out what pleases the Lord.  This means my life needs to consist in ALL goodness, righteousness and truth.  What would this look like?  When God shows me and convicts me of my sin or some problems in my life, I should confess the truth to and let it be known.  That means in my relationships whether with my husband, children, and others in my life, I need to be kind and generous.  The ALL stands out for me.  That means there must not be even a hint of a lie, anger, or any sin.  How can I do this in the coming year?  I commit to continue to do what I’ve been taught to be faithful with the basics of my morning daily devotions and prayer times.  Its during these times that I find out what pleases the Lord as God exposes my sins or reminds me of something that I said or did that I need to own up to.  I need to welcome and be humble towards feedback and correction so that I can be a better wife, mother, minister, and friend.  Fact is that I’m blind to myself or I turn a blind eye towards ugly truths about myself. So to find out what pleases the Lord, I need to pray to God to search my heart and show me if there is any offensive ways in me.  Why do all this?  My days are numbered.  Need to be on guard against all kinds of greed.  Don’t want to harm my relationships because of my greed.  I need to live deliberate as a child of light so that I can be a blessing.

I commit to be very careful how I live, making the most of every opportunity.  That means life is filled with different opportunities–to serve others, to obey God’s prompting, to find out what please God, to tell the truth, to be good to others, and to do what is right.  There will also be opportunities to save for myself, to store up my money for myself, to hide the truth, to remain silent, to ignore needs that I see because I don’t want to change my agenda, and to plan for the day as I want it.  I need to be very careful how I live.  Each choice I make matters because my choices set the trajectory of my life.  I don’t want to live like a fool.  I need to know God’s will, understand it and live it out.  Fact is that I’m living today by God’s grace.  It didn’t have to be that I’ve been given another year.  I need to live being filled with the Spirit, with God’s Word.  I can do this as I practice obeying these verses by not speaking to others with complaints, grumblings, bitterness, anger, and frustration.  This creates room in my heart for others as I find my joy in my relationship with God and as I am filled with awe and praise for who God is.  I want to commit to always give thanks to God for EVERYTHING.  To be thankful for each opportunity that I’m given to obey His will.  To be thankful for troubles and sorrows knowing that God will be there for me to lead me and o know that this trouble will be an opportunity for me to soar on eagle’s wings.

As I enter this New Year, I thank God for the opportunities that God gives me to serve at Davis.  Who am I that God entrusts his people to me and includes me in his redemptive work, and that I’m alive and have my health today so that I can be apart of his work in this way.

Submitted by Wilson F. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:8–20

“Live as children of light” (v. 8).  In “light” of our church’s key verse for the new year which is  John 8:32 (“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”), one application of this biblical exhortation is to live a confessional life, to cultivate the discipline of daily confession of my sins.  As with most spiritual commitments, this is easier said than done, but I often find the practice of daily confession particularly difficult because as a sinner, I am so accustomed to darkness.  “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).  This is my testimony: I was once darkness, but now I am light in the Lord.  I was darkness, not only in terms of my demeanor and countenance, devoid of joy and contentment, with sense of restless and empty, and with no purpose in life, but also in terms of my prideful refusal to acknowledge my sin.  I would stuff them in the closet and try so hard to present a respectable and impressive image of myself.

It was only when I took the risk and became brutally honest with my sins, disclosing secret and shameful things that I had thought I would take with me to the grave that I experienced freedom and relief, as if a heavy burden had been lifted off of my back.  In that moment, I found God’s grace to be amazing.  It was a spiritual breakthrough for me, but it did not stop there.  I quickly realized that I need to regularly engage in confession of my sins because my pride is so relentless, and so on a regular basis, I had to empty my heart of all the junk and filth and impurity that had accumulated.  And that is what I need to more in 2012.  It is going to involve lingering a little bit longer during daily devotion time, allowing God’s Word to sift through my heart and through the previous day’s events.  It is going to require the hard work of digging up ugly truths about myself and what I had done, and not being satisfied with throwing up general and vague descriptions.  It is going to have to be daily in order to revive a conscience that has been deadened by years of practicing self-deception and denial, in order to cultivate the ability to confess right away and repent immediately.  Each time I do so, I re-affirm God’s unconditional love–a reality I have embraced more closely this past year, going through Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son (“God is light” [1 John 1:5], and I am his child–noting that Apostle Paul refers to “children of light” as opposed to people of light).

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (v. 11).  Not only would association and involvement with “the fruitless deeds of darkness” discredit my witness of Christ and undermine my effectiveness in doing God’s work, but it would also lure me back to the path of living in darkness.  Giving into sin, feeling shame, choosing to hide rather than to confess, feeding self-rationalizations and self-justifications to myself, withdrawing from the community, and before I know it, I am back in the dungeon of my own making, the prison of my pride and ego, feeling isolated and worthless, believing I will never change and wondering what is the use in trying, and wasting God’s precious time in self-pitying and self-loathing.  Apostle Paul is saying, “Don’t even go there!”  Yes, I am going to sin, but God’s invitation to me again and again is to step out into the light, so there always remains the option of confession.  As I engage in daily confession, I become more mindful of my own thoughts and actions.  I am also called to expose these fruitless deeds of darkness, and I am reminded of the responsibility I hold toward others.  As a minister, I am to be a watchman over the people God has entrusted to me, and my duty is to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness, calling sin what it is so that they can be struck with the horror and shame over their sins and also engage in confession and repentance and experience the sweetness of contrition and freedom from being forgiven.  While it is much easier to stay silent or to proffer advice and counsel, I am tasked with properly instructing the college students on how to embrace truth and how to grow in their relationship with God, knowing that genuine transformation comes through honest confession and consistent repentance.

“…find out what pleases the Lord” (v. 10).  This verse always brings me back to the fact that God is a personal God who desires a personal relationship with me.  I am always amazed that as a rotten sinner, I am able to please God as his child; and I am always amazed that I can actually find out what pleases him because he is knowable through his Word and approachable in prayer.  Just as I am able to find out what pleases my wife or my friends, I am able to learn what I can do to please God.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (vv. 15-16).  During last week’s daily devotions, I had the chance to reflect upon the temporariness of my existence, the finiteness of my life, and the need for urgency and intentionality as I approach the rest of my days.  The fact is that I do not know how many opportunities I have left, so each one needs to be used to the fullest.  I cannot simply live any way I want.  Folly is falsely assuming that tomorrow is guaranteed, whereas wisdom recognizes the uncertainty of the future and therefore the importance of taking advantage of the time God has graciously afforded.  In this new year, I want to make the most of every opportunity to love more people, to love more deeply, to invest more of myself into relationships–because, in the end, that is all that matters.  I think about the college students under my care, and how most of them are new in the faith, and I want to raise them up so that they can live as children of light, making the most of every opportunity, understanding what the Lord’s will is, and always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.  I also think about the new people we will be meeting during the upcoming winter mission trip, new friends we will be meeting this upcoming semester, seekers or Christians coming back to faith after growing weary and tired of today’s culture, and a whole new class of freshmen arriving in less than nine short months on every campus.  I am excited and look forward to what God has in store, and I want to maintain this posture of urgency and intentionality in 2012.

Submitted by Sunny K. from Gracepoint Austin Church

As we just said good-bye to 2011, I am very grateful that God has given me another year in 2012 to live more carefully, more wisely for Him. From v.8 Paul exhorts me in how to approach this new year–that while I may have lived 2011 in some darkness, in some shame over my sinfulness, disappointments in myself and others—by remembering that I am a child of light, a child of the Lord and that I can live this new year 2012 with that truth in mind and place all my strength, energy, creativity, thoughts, wholeheartedness on actively finding out what pleases the Lord rather than in regretting over how 2011 was. In many ways, I already know what pleases the Lord in a general sense (salvation of souls, repentance from His people, authentic connection with God, genuine love for others as I’ve been loved, etc.) and if I am able to live 2012 in these ways at minimum, then, I would’ve lived this new year more carefully and wisely.

From v.11-12, I have seen in more ways than I’ve wanted to the fruitless deeds of darkness people in the world immerse themselves in, esp. ministering on a college campus. Every time I drive home after a TFN and see the streets of Austin filled with people aimlessly wandering around, going to places where I know they will regret, to drink away their lives, I remember this verse and why God has exhorted me to make the most of every opportunity. I want to heed these words “Wake up, sleeper…” – the world is only growing increasingly darker and I cannot be foolish or be naive to think the enemy is sedate or has become irrelevant with the passing of time. No, in fact, the opposite is happening. And yet, I see Christians succumbing to their own fruitless deeds of darkness (i.e. insecurity, competitiveness, envious feelings towards others in the church, jealousies, slander, narcissism), and it’s distracting us from doing our part in fulfilling God’s will in our generation. I don’t want to waste 2012 in engaging in any fruitless deeds of darkness personally, as well as, commit to help others to do the same.

From v.18 I see how this can happen by being filled with the Spirit. I have experienced the difference when I am filled not with my ego, my desires, my sense of entitlement, but with God’s heart for others, God’s insight of humanity, God’s burden over the lost, God’s hatred towards sin and it’s ravages–I know the difference. And that difference is what I commit to making more of a reality, more often in my life in this new year.

Submitted By Richard L. from Gracepoint Davis Church
The passage today starts with this imagery of darkness and light.  Verse 8 says I was once darkness, but now am “light in the Lord.”  How can this be?  How can Apostle Paul so definitely declare that this applies to his audience then (Christians in Ephesus) and Christians to this day?  When I look inside myself and my heart, I don’t see that I’m light in the Lord, but I see my sins, my struggles, my past, etc.  It’s hardly what you could call “light.”

Did Apostle Paul have it wrong?  No, in light of the message I heard yesterday on John 8:32 and from prayer meeting, I see it is very possible to say that we “are light in the Lord.”  It’s because I can confess and repent, in other words bring out into the light my darkness—my actions, my thoughts, my twisted motives, etc.  In light of the cross, I can confess and repent knowing that God is waiting to forgive me.  In that repentance, in coming clean before God, he turns me into light.  I’ve experienced this, as I become a little bit brighter when I repent and am reconciled with God or the person(s) I’ve wronged.  There’s also that burden lifted and I feel a greater sense of “lightness” in terms of weight.  In confessing and repenting, those toxins causing that darkness get flushed out and there’s cleansing from God and freedom in the truth, hence “goodness, righteousness and truth” as fruits of the light (v.9).

So, what is one commitment I can make this year?  It’s to engage in daily repentance, and to confess and repent quickly without making it a prolonged drama.  In light of the recent DT passages on time, there just isn’t enough time to get bogged down in self-focused drama about my sins.  I need to confess and repent genuinely, and then move on.  This would be one way I can live as a child of light.  For me, I know I can go for some time without thinking about my life and reflecting on what I’ve done, who I am, and what my actions and thoughts say about me.  By default I’m pretty shallow.  So, I need daily time with God’s Word so I can reflect on my life and allow the word to expose me.  This year I commit to daily coming before God’s Word, journaling and reflecting on recent actions and events in my life.  And instead of prolonging and trying to explain away or even hide my sins, I commit to being honest before God, confessing and repenting quickly, apologizing to people I wrong, and to share honestly with those who are close to me and ask for help and accountability so I don’t waste time in darkness and sin.

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