November 28, 2011 Devotion Sharing (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)

Submitted by Ahmi K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Reflect on the promise of Emmanuel that was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, and that stands as a continuing promise for all of Christ’s followers.

Having come from convalescent home visits and witnessing the bleakness of life at end, I see how true it is that we are captive and in exile – that is the true state of humanity, and only those who are rescued by Jesus can rejoice. There is no other source of rejoicing. Emmanuel – God with us. That is the only hope we have. Really, at the end of the day, there is utter loneliness and exile from where we belong to which we need to return.

Submitted by Susanna L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

The Bible describes Christians as aliens and strangers in the world. In what ways can you identify with this sense of not being quite at home in the world?

The ways that I can identify with the sense of not being quite at home in the world have to do with the values of this world.  This world is all about striving to be somebody, to make a name for oneself, and to leave a legacy behind.  There is no genuine love or compassion in the world.  It is all directed to the elevation and preservation of the self with the limited resources in this world.  It is all abut what is before our five physical senses.  Reality stops with our senses.  There is no greater cause or purpose.  But God’s kingdom is so radically different.  First, the reality of God’s kingdom doesn’t end with our physical senses.  It is a spiritual reality that is to last eternally.  God is love.  The oxygen of His kingdom is love, unconditional love.  We are valued not based on our appearance or performance but on our relationship to God—the fact that we have been created and we are adopted by God Himself as Our Heavenly Father.  The reality of our identification with God is the radical and eternal difference.  Because of God as He is the one and only Creator, there is abundance.  I no longer need to compete in this scarce world for attention and to be someone.  My daughtership with God is more than enough.  All that striving can now be channeled to do what I was designed to be:  to love God and to love others as God loves me and to bring the Good News of the Gospel to those who do not know their Maker.

Submitted by Sieun C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Reflect on the words “captive Israel,” and “until the Son of God appear.”  Describe how all humanity is captive, and cannot save itself, that we need to be “ransomed,” and that our only hope is that “the Son of God appear.”

We are captive in this world, even if the world blinds us and fools us into thinking all is good and we can have rest and peace in this world.  The reality is that ultimately there’s death and because of this we experience hopelessness, brokenness, lostness, a sense that something is missing and incomplete in this world. We seek after solutions in romance, ambition, and community, but apart from God, it’s temporal with no real answer. The phrase “captive Israel” describes all of humanity.  And God looked down and at all of history, and his heart grieved, became broken, He saw that there was no solution, no one who can solve the problem, and he rolled back his sleeves and entered history to ransom us from captivity.

Submitted by Jeannie L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Write a prayer in response to today’s passages.

Thank you God for answering the cry of my heart, of our hearts, that you CAME, O Emmanuel.  I was captive to my own sin. And indeed I moaned mournfully, and was groping along blindly trying to find my way in this world.  I stumbled and was falling, and though I seemed strong, I was dead, dead inside, dead spiritually.  I tried to find my way in people, finding friends who I thought would be there for me, but they were not Emmanuel, God WITH ME.  I tried to find my way in the world, trying this or that, trying to fit in, but even though I fit in, I was not at home.

Lord, the more I live life, the more I see the words of this hymn are so true.  We are all captive in some way, and cannot save ourselves.  Captive to the world’s values, captive to our own selfish desires, captive to expectations of others upon us, captive to people we want to please, captive to idols, captive to money.  We are hopeless indeed, and utterly sinful, groping about trying to find hope and meaning in a dark and unfriendly world.  Thank you for your deliverance!

Thank you Lord, that you were appalled by my sin and my darkness and that you yourself, came, robed in flesh, and came to intervene, that you worked salvation with your own mighty hand and compassion.  Thank you for seeing my plight, hearing my cries, and coming down to be with me.  I feel like a stranger and alien indeed here in this world, so thank you that you came to rescue me from my sin and to give me a new home and new purpose.

Thank you for your promise to be with me to the very end of the age.  That comforts me more than anything in the world, that I am safe with you, that I have come home and can find peace and contentment in you, that I can find rest from the burden of my own sins and others’ sins.  I know that whatever comes, whatever happens, it will be okay because of your Emmanuel presence.  Please give me that small mustard seed of faith to trust that truth and cling to it for the rest of my days.

 

Devotion Time November 21-26, 2011

Here at the DT Packets for November 21-26, 2011: Thanksgiving Week 3

1. ThanksgivingWk3_DT_Nov21-Nov26

2. ThanksgivingWk3_DT_Nov21-Nov26_QuestionsOnly

3. ThanksgivingWk3_DT_Nov21-Nov26-Chinese

4. ThanksgivingWk3_DT_Nov21-Nov26-Chinese-QuestionsOnly

Devotion Time November 14-19, 2011

Here are the DT Packets for November 14-20, 2011 on Thanksgiving Week 2

1. ThanksgivingWk2_DT_Nov14-Nov19

2. ThanksgivingWk2_DT_Nov14-Nov19_QuestionsOnly

3. ThanksgivingWk2_DT_Nov14-Nov19-Chinese

4. ThanksgivingWk2_DT_Nov14-Nov19-Chinese-Questions

Devotion Time November 7th – 12th, 2011

Here are the DT Packets for November 7th-12th, 2011  Thanksgiving Week 1

1. ThanksgivingWk1_DT_Nov7-Nov12

2. ThanksgivingWk1_DT_Nov7-Nov12_QuestionsOnly

3.ThanksgivingWk1_DT_Nov7-Nov12-Chinese

4. ThanksgivingWk1_DT_Nov7-Nov12-Chinese-Questions

Devotion Time October 24th – November 5th, 2011

Here is the DT Packet for October 24th – November 5th, 2011: Sermon on the mount.

1. SermonOnTheMount-DT-Oct24-Nov5

2. SermonOnTheMount-DT-Oct24-Nov5_questions-only

3. SermonOnTheMount-DT-Oct24-Oct29-Chinese

Devotion Time October 10 – 22, 2011

Here are the DT Packets for October 10 – 22, 2011 on Prayers of the Bible.

1. Prayers-of-the-Bible-DT-Oct10-Oct22

2. Prayers-of-the-Bible-DT-Oct10-Oct22_questions-only

3. Prayers-of-the-Bible-DT-Oct17-Oct22-Chinese

4. Prayers-of-the-Bible-DT-Oct17-Oct22-Chinese-Questions

October 17, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Matthew 6)

Write a personal prayer in response to the verses in the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to see that if your name is to be honored and your will done throughout the world, it starts with my life. I recommit my life to honoring your name and doing your will, surrendering my time, energy, and resources to you so that your kingdom may be furthered here on earth. Thank you for the privilege of being part of your kingdom and being able to share it with others. There is nothing else in this world that I could give my life to; you provide my life with eternal meaning and purpose, but I need to be reminded of this fact each day in the face of numerous demands on my time and focus. Thank you for this reminder of what my life should be about and the privilege I have been given.

Give us today our daily bread.
I am dependent on you each day for life itself. I often forget that basic fact, and I think I can achieve some sort of security on my own, through my hard work and efforts. I forget how frail I am, how easily everything can be taken away by an accident or some illness. I cannot secure my own life, much less the lives of those I love. So please give me my daily bread for today – sustain me and protect me for another day of life, so that I may live out my commitments to you.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
You know my sins, oh God, the ways my heart wanders away from you and seeks security in my own accomplishments; the ways I am caught up in myself and furthering my own ambitions rather than loving the people you have placed around me; the ways I resist your call to deny myself, take up my cross daily and follow you. Please have mercy on me, and forgive me for these debts to you. Please give me another chance, another day to live out your commands, not because I deserve it, but because you are a God who is gracious and compassionate. Likewise, help me to be merciful towards those I feel have wronged me. I know that my feelings are sometimes unjustified, so please forgive me for those feelings as well. But as I have been forgiven so much, do not let me sin against you by holding onto grudges against anyone else.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Guard me from temptation, oh God, because you know my weaknesses. You know exactly what I can handle and you always provide a way out, so help me to be humble and to flee from temptation. Deliver me from all of Satan’s attacks, because I know the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour me. Even though I am weak, but that your strength is made perfect in weakness and that you are greater than our enemy. So please deliver me, help me to be vigilant, and to flee from temptations I will face today.

October 14, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Nehemiah 1)

Submitted by David W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Nehemiah 1:1-4
“In 586 B.C. Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians. Besieged, attacked and burned, Jerusalem was left in ruins. … When the Persian Empire succeeded the Babylonians, the exiled Jews were allowed to return home to resettle their homeland. Nehemiah is one of the children of the exile and most likely grew up entirely in exile.”[1]
Notice that Nehemiah’s questions about Jerusalem end up fundamentally disrupting his life. Do I want to know the truth about needy people, troubled situations, or other potentially “messy” situations, or do I try to limit the range of my concerns so that I can preserve a sense of personal tranquility?
Nehemiah’s seemingly innocent question ended up drastically changing his life. The answer to his question became something that consumed him and became the purpose for his life. But it all started with his question and his interest and concern about Jerusalem and the remnant that survived the exile. I think I have been growing in my capacity to want to know the truth about needy people, troubled situations, or other potentially “messy” situations as I have grown older over the years and hopefully a little more mature, a little more selfless, and a little more other-centered. Especially serving in college ministry, this is something that I am challenged with constantly. I do want to know the truth about needy people, troubled situations and other potentially messy situations, to try and help them, to do something about it, as God has called me to do. However, I do also recognize the temptations to limit the range of my concerns to that I can preserve a sense of personal tranquility. I do recognize the times where I know if I dig deeper or get more involved, it’s going to take up a lot of time, emotional energy, difficult conversations, and the like, and I hesitate. I start to analyze and see if I can estimate how long this might take and if I can work that around what I want to do, my agenda, and if I have enough “resources” to handle it. It becomes very calculating and cold, not loving and embracing of the person and the situation. I think I still do this at times, and I do need to continue to grow in sacrificing myself and embracing that person and situation to find out the truth and to involve myself, no matter what the cost.

Notice Nehemiah’s reaction to the news he received. What is my typical reaction when I am confronted with facts that cause me concern, or burden my heart?
Nehemiah’s reaction to the news he received was to sit down and weep. Bu it wasn’t just a momentary thing. It affected him for days, where he would mourn, fast and pray to God. It encompassed him completely. He could not do other things. My typical reaction when I am confronted with facts that cause me concern, or burden my heart, is one of two different possibilities. I either start to get anxious and want to be very active, to get to work and make a checklist of tasks, of things that need to get done, to try and address or solve whatever it is that is causing me concern or burden. Or, if nothing can be done directly about the situation that is causing me burden, I try to distract myself with being busy with other things, other tasks, so that I don’t have to think about it. I don’t often really let the facts sink in and stay with me, to ruminate and stew in me, to meditate, mourn, fast and pray about them. I can try to move on very quickly to the next thing, the next thing I need to take care of. This is an area that I need to grow in, to not just be a person who wants to always be active and just do things, but to connect my heart, my mind and my spirit with what I am doing, with what I am taking in, with the things that I hear about and cause concern and burden. I need to be more intentional about slowing down, reflecting, and connecting more with my emotional side, as that is something that I’m not very good at. I need to allow myself to mourn for what God would mourn about, to personally connect with and engage and tackle the issue not through action first, but through fasting and prayer as demonstrated by Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 1:5-11
What are some notable elements of Nehemiah’s prayer?

Some notable elements of Nehemiah’s prayer include Nehemiah praising God for who He is, a great and awesome God who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands, Nehemiah taking responsibility and confession not just for his own sin, but for the sins of the Israelites as a whole, himself and his father’s house, Nehemiah recalling the promises of God to Moses, and Nehemiah’s request of God to listen to his prayer and the prayer of His servants and for favor and success in his endeavors. Even though Nehemiah was so greatly affected by the sad news and the sad state of Jerusalem and his people, he is able to praise God for who He is. That is pretty amazing. He doesn’t let events or current circumstances color or change his view or understanding of God. Nehemiah also accepts responsibility for and repents on behalf of his people for all of their sins and their wickedness. That is definitely very notable, as it seems nowadays people have trouble accepting responsibility and repenting for their own sins, much less the sins of other people. Nehemiah knew God’s promises that He had made to Moses and claimed them for himself and this situation, and he depended on God for the current circumstance. In all of these things, Nehemiah demonstrates how to pray to God and some amazing attitudes on his part. I don’t think that my prayers always look like this, especially in the face of very large, disheartening, difficult situations. Often, my prayers just go straight to supplication, asking for help, asking for success from God. I don’t often praise God for who He is in difficult circumstances. I try to accept and repent for my own sins, but I don’t always take on the burden of others’ sins as my own. I hope that I can see and emulate Nehemiah’s prayer and just the intricacy and many levels of relating with God through prayer, instead of just focusing on one aspect and missing out on the rest.

Nehemiah refers to God as the great and awesome God. How can Nehemiah view God this way given what has happened to Jerusalem? Can I affirm that God is great and awesome regardless of the shifting fortunes of my life?
Nehemiah does refer to God as the great and awesome God. He can view God in this way given what has happened to Jerusalem because his view of God is not changed by circumstances, even if they are bad or difficult. He is aware of the rebelliousness, wickedness and sin of the Israelites before God, how they did not obey His decrees, commands and laws, and thus were bearing the consequences for their own actions and their own sins. But he knows God’s character, who God is, and faithfully clings to that. It is often hard for me to do the same, to affirm that God is great and awesome regardless of the shifting fortunes of my life. Especially when things are difficult and not going well, when I’m facing a lot of challenges, hardships or things not going my way, it’s hard for me to praise God for who He is. But mentally I know the truth, and I know that God is constant and faithful, and that my view of Him and how I relate to Him should not be so fickle or dependent upon circumstances, especially when the difficulties and challenges I am facing are not all that big in the grand scheme of things. I have been learning over the years to not be so easily swayed by circumstances and to be able to praise God even in the difficulties, but I think this is definitely an area that I can continue to grow in a lot, through prayer, reflection, recounting and remembering God’s faithfulness and His many blessings in my life that I don’t deserve, that I didn’t earn.

October 13, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Daniel 9)

Submitted by Anonymous
Daniel 9:1–19

Write your personal Daniel 9:4-5 and 17-19 that you can start your prayer with when you are in some desperate situation where you are asking God for his mercy and intervention.

Lord, you are great and awesome. You are the ruler of the universe. You never change and you are always faithful, which is why we can always trust in you. We are all such wretched sinners, who sin deliberately against you again and again. Yet somehow whenever we turn to you, when we repent and show the slightest inclination to try to love and obey you, you run to us like a father waiting for his prodigal son to come home. I don’t understand it, Lord, but thank you so much for your incredible love and mercy! I’ve sinned today against you, rebelled against you, in tons of ways I’m not even aware of, so please have mercy on me. Thank you for letting me come into your presence. Because you are good, because you are faithful to your own character, please hear my cries today. It’s totally not because of any righteousness in me, not because of any shred of good in me at all that you hear me out. But because you need to act on your own behalf, you need to accomplish your will for your own glory, you need work mightily to show people who you are, I have the confidence that you will hear my cries.

Write a prayer of intercession for someone who needs to be delivered from some sin, modeling after Daniel’s prayer.

Lord, I’m crying out for —-, who desperately needs you to show him what a sinner he is. Please convict him of his sins, and burst his bubble about himself as he’s proud and stubborn. I’m a loss about what to do, so please move in his heart, Lord! Lord, you are merciful, you are powerful, you indeed are the only one who can shake him out of his delusion about himself and humble him. God, I too am a wretched sinner – proud and stubborn, not wanting anyone telling me what to do, always affirming my own thoughts and trying to believe the best picture about myself, and making one excuse after another for why I’m the way I am. I’m just like him, and yet you have had great mercy on me, you have convicted me of my great sinfulness and rescued me from my delusions about myself. Lord, have mercy on us. Just as you have rescued me and shown great mercy to me, please have mercy on him and save him from his pride. In keeping with your pattern of mercy, please forgive us our sins, mine as well as his, and please hear my desperate cries for him. Please do something and don’t delay, Lord. He cannot keep going on like this, thinking himself to be a fine Christian, and yet damaging relationships left and right. For the sake of your great name, please work mightily to save him.

October 11, 2011 Devotion Sharing (1 Chronicles 29)

From Gracepoint Berkeley Church member

Praise be to you, O LORD…
The God who is true, in whom there is no falsehood.

You bring hope to a hopeless world that is deceived, discouraged and defeated by its lies and false promises.

You pluck people out of our endless cycles of striving or our delusional bubbles and bring us into reality and provide strength and hope to live in the real world with the hope of heaven.

You provide real purpose for our lives because the gospel is true and good and full of hope.

You are the giver of all talent and abilities so that we can give generously to bring honor to your name.

You give our church the calling to engage in so many different kinds of good works that there is never a shortage of good work to be done.

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

But who are we that we should be able to serve and have such opportunities to impact so many lives? We were all lost, damaged, broken people who did not know right from wrong, who did only what we pleased. But you have given us youth, health, talent, creativity and many people who are willing to give their evenings after work, every night of the week if need be. This is an incredible level of commitment and willingness. We give because you are worthy of our entire being. May all our younger ones give their time, talents and resources willingly and wholeheartedly. I am so thankful for their commitment and attitudes to give to me, to us the authority to speak into their lives. But all of this is only because of you. Please help us to always give with willingness.

From Gracepoint Berkeley Church member

Praise be to you, O LORD…

Yours is the wonderful plan to reconcile sinners like me back to you.  Yours is the compassion and mercy, looking upon my need and rescuing me from my sin even when I was hostile to you, when I did not know what was good for me.

Yours is the wonderful plan to involve me in your great work.  I am full of sins.  Yet you call me to represent you to the rest of the world that does not know who You are.  You call me to be your hands, your feet, your voice.  You know my sins get in the way all the time, you know I am full of folly, you know that I stumble every step of the way.  Yet, you choose to work through me, and I am amazed that I get to take part in your work.  I would have never imagined that at this point in my life I would be ministering to the elderly in nursing homes.  I could not have come to this point even if I tried.  You have given me work that renews me each week.  As I see the residents, I am reminded that the only thing that we truly need is salvation.  I am reminded that I have been given health, time, the ability to think, speak, and that I need to use these for proclaiming the gospel.

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

Who am I?  I am thoroughly self-centered, I am petty.  I am broken in many ways.  Yet, you rescued me and let me experience your generosity.  You’ve provided for all of my physical needs.  You have surrounded me with people who are committed to you – people who take your words seriously, who give themselves endlessly without asking for recognition, who are willing to give themselves in any way that will accomplish what you desire.  They inspire me, push me, work alongside me, helping me to be faithful to you.

Who are we that as a church we get to minister to so many different groups of people, from children to middle school and high school, to college students, grad student, to visiting scholars, to the elderly?  Who are we that we get to introduce Christianity to people from different parts of the world because they come to where we are?

I have no noble thoughts or desires, I do not know how to live a fruitful or meaningful life, but you have filled my life with meaningful work throughout each week.  You nourish me through the discipleship time, you give me a chance to connect with you through devotion time and prayer meeting, and through ministry, you give me opportunities to be a blessing to others, to build them up so that together as your people we can declare clearly to the world that there is God who is waiting to receive them back and love them.  You have generously provided me so many teachings and training over the years, and through ministry, you give me opportunities to be delivered from my self-focused ways, and to learn to do what is good for others.  What a blessed life!