December 24, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Connecting with God)

Submitted by Sunny K. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Which of the following areas have I grown in this year?  What are the circumstances or what acts of obedience led to growth in this area?

  • The Bible as God’s word and as our highest authority
  • Personally experiencing and testifying to God’s saving grace
  • Depending on God through prayer
  • Doing all that we do as acts of worship unto God

As I think back on this year, I am so thankful for the ways I’ve experienced the Word of God as my highest authority and as the lamp unto my path. As I’ve encountered some esp. tough ministry scenarios this year, I’ve experienced the Word of God giving me clarity and direction in the most crucial moments. I had a front row seat as I saw the tender, yet piercing ways God’s word would cut through some deep cynicism and hopelessness in people and patiently lead them back to a place of trust, hope and finding their purpose in God again. Many a times I felt so helpless as I helped someone through their struggles, but as I lifted them up in prayer, God literally would show me what to say or how to process something through that next day’s DT passage. And as I brought His words to others, I saw God literally breathe life/hope/trust back into His people. The net effect has been that those same people gained just enough desire and strength to remain on this path of discipleship and recommit to trust in His promises again, that He will redeem all things. When I look back, I think the net effect these experiences have had on me – of having experienced the total authority of God’s word over all situations in mine/other’s lives reminds me of something I heard in a recent bible study which was that “those of us who are in Christ and have the bible no longer need to guess through life.” How true that is as I have the Word of God at my complete disposal to be used, to be shared, to be preached, to hold onto in times of fear, uncertainty, in need of comfort, to receive insight as I look out onto the world and understand people, etc. I want this to increase with greater zeal in this coming year.

I think had I not had daily devotions this past year, I would’ve literally missed out on an abundance of wisdom and actual words to share with others, which God made available for me on a daily basis. Truly, God is always at work and is always speaking to lead and guide us. And it is my job  as His servant to listen and be attentive. I shudder to think if I had neglected this basic spiritual discipline, how much I and those I minister to would’ve really missed out on hearing God’s words of hope and forgiveness that were crucially needed.

Another area of growth that I’ve experienced is testifying to myself and to others “God’s saving grace”. There were several people who I ministered to who could cognitively understand the love and grace of God and at some point could testify to it, but through recent struggles, were now in a difficult place and unable to claim this powerful truth as before.  But through the bible studies in Romans and DT passages in 2 Corinthians, God not only reminded me of His saving power and grace, but also, gave me ample opportunities to proclaim this message multiple times throughout the year and the net effect it’s had upon me is a greater appreciation for the Gospel, upon seeing how the message of God’s saving grace could resuscitate the most callous of hearts and I have been left in frequent awe at the scandal of the cross in response to my sin.  The significance of Christmas cannot come at a more appropriate time as I pause in the midst of much preparation for the year-end and stand amazed at my Savior’s birth knowing that the cross was what His future held and yet, He still came. I pray that God’s saving grace would be what gets testified most of all through my life in 2013.

Submitted by Jessica C. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Which of the following areas have I grown in this year?  What are the circumstances or what acts of obedience led to growth in this area?

§  The Bible as God’s word and as our highest authority

§  Personally experiencing and testifying to God’s saving grace

§  Depending on God through prayer

§  Doing all that we do as acts of worship unto God

I think I’ve grown in the area of doing all that we do as acts of worship unto God.  One circumstance that led to growth in this area would be moving into a duplex that is right next door to Pastor Manny and Sunny’s place.  People come in and out freely, our kitchen is used for cooking Sunday meals, and our downstairs and upstairs areas are used for babysitting during all weekly church meetings.  Opening up our home has been one way I’ve been able to surrender our home as an act of worship unto God.  Our church’s value of open homes has always been something that I believed and valued, but at the end of the day, I was able go back to my home and that was my personal space where I could have my privacy.  However, I do not hold such a view with our home in Austin, because our duplex home is essentially our church’s headquarters building.  Going into Austin, I knew that I really needed to have a shift of mindset to not see our home as “mine.”  I think one way in which I was better prepared for this was seeing how Pastor Daniel and Sarah’s house in San Diego was the church’s headquarters building there.  During our time in San Diego, I saw how they opened up their home for all and any church needs—food prep, various meetings, babysitting.  Unemployed people or those of us who didn’t work spent our days at their house.  I knew that it was a sacrifice on their part to open up every square foot of their home, but it was done as an act of personal worship onto God, to let go and surrender all.  Therefore, as we moved to Austin, I prepared myself for this and committed to doing the same, knowing that John and Kelly (who lived there before) also surrendered their homes in the same spirit.  It’s been 5 months now since we moved to Austin, and I have had multiple times throughout the week when I was able make that personal connection to God, as weekly I cleaned and set up our house for babysitting, and welcomed the kids as they walked through our doors.  These have been ways in which I’ve learned to take our home and surrender it to God as an act of worship to Him.

In which of the above areas do I want to experience growth in this coming year?

I want to experience growth in seeing the Bible as God’s word and as my highest authority.  It’s not that I had issues with the Bible and what it said.  But I recognize that there’s still a part of me that has a hard time really believing the truth of God’s words.  How I really am God’s beloved, and that nothing can separate me from His love.  Nothing can threaten my standing before Him as one forgiven and redeemed.  How I no longer have to operate under the old law, because through Christ, I was set free from the punishment of sin.  While I believe and know this to be true, I see how I need to grow in this area to not just cognitively believe this, but really consider this to be true and trust in God’s words to be the highest authority over other voices that I hear.  These voices tell me that if I do not perform well, if I’m not able to do much or show much results, then I will lose favor with God, that God will love me less and be disappointed with me.  These are the ways in which I still consider my thoughts and voices to have the final say and the ultimate authority, and reveal how I don’t really trust in God’s words.  Therefore, as I look to next year, one thing that I want to grow in is my understanding of God’s great love for me, and how this can happen as I really consider His words as my highest authority, instead of listening and believing other voices that challenge His words.

Reflect on one verse that particularly hit you.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

This verse reminded me that my salvation was something that was totally and completely done by God.  My salvation wasn’t dependent on my works or performance.  There wasn’t anything that I did that earned or merited my salvation.  Rather, it is by God’s grace that I’ve been saved, and the faith to believe this—that God was pleased to give me this priceless gift.  As I think about how I want to grow in the area of really believing God’s words and living out the truth of His words as my highest authority, I was reminded through this verse that I really have to fight against turning Christian life into a works-based faith.  My salvation came not as a result of works, but it was given to me as a gift from God.  I didn’t deserve it nor did I do anything in order to earn it.  But it was freely given to me, because I desperately needed it.  This was how my Christian life started—it started with grace, and even now after 12 years after becoming Christian, the story needs to remain the same.  That 12 years since becoming Christian, I am still a product of God’s grace, and I must not boast of any “works” of mine that I could use in order to deem myself as deserving of His grace.

Submitted by Judge H. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Which of the following areas have I grown in this year?  What are the circumstances or what acts of obedience led to growth in this area?

  • The Bible as God’s word and as our highest authority

Looking back on the past year, it’s amazing to see how God has challenged my heart to see His word in a new way and used it to connect my heart with Him in a fresh relationship. In the midst of growing in responsibilities as part of our staff group and transitioning to working life from school, I experienced anew the power of God’s word to shape me with truth and conviction.  I had to struggle with my desire for comfort and my convictions about how I was going to use my time, energy and money, whether for myself or for others, and many times in the midst of those experiences I would come face to face with truths from God’s Word that pointed me down the proper way. And often, it was only after the fact that I saw how right and true the Word was, how God’s way provided the best possible outcome and having gone down the other way would have just led to more power for sin in my life and a colder, darker, more shriveled heart. These were not comfortable moments, being confronted by God’s Word, but in the times when I submitted and followed I found it to be the path to life and a deeper relationship with God.

  • Personally experiencing and testifying to God’s saving grace

This past year has been one where I’ve had a lot of opportunity to minister to guys in a much more direct and personal way than ever before. I used to think I could develop the skills and knowledge I needed to be a good minister and competent in sharing the Gospel and that as long as I was practiced enough and competent, they would always respond. That was a pretty brash and arrogant assessment, because it relied on my skills alone and assumed I could be everything on my own. But this past year has shattered that picture and I’ve come to see that ministry is, in one way, sharing about what God has done in my life and taught me, and passing that on to people. So much of how God has worked in me this past year is just sharing what He’s done in my life, testifying to His grace and mercy in my life and passing on a little bit of wisdom from how He’s led me. I want to look ahead to this next year and pass it on more, because this is how He is going to be able to use me to touch peoples’ lives.

  • Depending on God through prayer

This past year has also given me much opportunity to reflect on my prayer life. I never had much of a consistent prayer life, and when I did pray mostly it was for my own needs, my own struggles. I think a large part of my lack of prayer life was my own confidence and prayer in my own ability. I would pray, but in the back of my mind I usually just trusted myself to be able to accomplish whatever I needed. But this past year God has allowed situation to arise where I had absolutely no control. There were family issues I had to deal with which I could not solve as well as issues in students’ lives that seemed so desperate and impossible for me to do anything. God broke my proud heart this past year and showed me how much I really need to rely on Him in prayer, both this past year and how I should have been every year past. I’ve come to know some of the peace God promises, a peace I didn’t have before and my faith and trust in God has grown as I’ve learned to rely more deeply on Him in prayer. He’s shown me my weakness but His power at the same time, and it gives me greater reason to press on and follow Him.

In which of the above areas do I want to experience growth in this coming year?

  • Doing all that we do as acts of worship unto God

As I look ahead to what God is going to bring in 2013, I can already see many chances to apply this truth. Our church is growing and this means many new opportunities to serve, in starting new areas of outreach, spreading out around to various elements and people in the campus that we haven’t reached, and expanding into new areas of service. There are so many people left to reach on UT campus alone, let alone everywhere else God will lead us, and much of the work in the year ahead may be the sort that isn’t very glamorous, doesn’t get noticed much, or doesn’t seem to bear fruit right away. On top of that, we are starting our Longhorn Lodge project, and this will be a lot of work. I want to tackle everything God brings with this kind of attitude, with a  vision for how He can use it and for the ways that laying the foundation, of a ministry or of a house, or the Gospel in someone’s heart, can one day be built up to God’s glory. This is my hope and for 2013, that I can respond to whatever God brings and give it my all, knowing His name will be glorified.

Reflect on one verse that particularly hit you.

1 Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

On my own, I can often be pretty pessimistic or cynical, and when this attitude gets transferred to ministry and serving people, it can be deadly. It would mean giving up on loving someone because they aren’t too responsive or interested, or not wanting to try something new because it doesn’t seem likely to succeed or will be a lot of work. This attitude can really stifle God’s work, and I’ve painfully seen how it’s hobbled me in the past. I don’t want it to have a foothold in 2013. I want to take hold of God’s promise in this verse, that He is faithful and sovereign and will not let my work for Him go on in vain. It will produce fruit, in me and in people, no matter what. And in light of this truth, I want to abound in every way, giving myself fully to whatever and whoever God brings into my life. He is faithful and trustworthy and can use any challenge He brings for His glory and to bring life to a dying people. I want to grab hold and take Him up on this promise in 2013!

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