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!


October 10, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Psalm 40)

From Gracepoint Austin Church member

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
Lord, you have indeed lifted me out of the slimy pit of my sin.  And oh how slimy my sins have been in the past.  Down in the pit of my sins of lust, selfishness, arrogance, I tried to climb out. I tried to somehow make my situation better as a result of my own efforts, but it was all to no avail.  The slime was real.  It made me  fall back down, such that I couldn’t draw myself out.  Lord, this is the nature of my sin and this is how powerless I am against it. It keeps me down in the unwanted places of life.  It taints me with mud and mire, and tarnishes the picture of cleanness and beauty that You have desired for me

I thank you God, that you have recognized my situation and taken action to rescue me! I thank you that you have taken the initiative to lift me out of my helpless situation. Lord, you have indeed drawn me out of the pit I burrowed and trapped myself in, and you have established me on the firm rock of my salvation, your son Jesus Christ.  You have placed me in an entirely new context, where I’m not helplessly succumbing to the powers and principalities of my sin, but where I can actually be in a position of security.  And not only for myself, but You have set me in a place where I can now in turn help others out of their slimy pits, out of their mud and mire.  Who am I that you would choose to use me? Thank you Lord for setting my feet upon the firm rock of Jesus Christ.  May I never forget the very ground upon which I find myself standing.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.
Lord, you have indeed filled my mouth with news words and songs.  Before, I used to be filled with words of discontentment and disdain for others.  I used to have much to say against others and their supposed inferiority.  But Lord, you have revealed my groundless claims about myself, and shamed me to silence because of my sin.  And now, you have filled my mouth with words that sing of your praise, that proclaim your mercy and grace.  You have revealed your loving kindness to me over the years.  You are patient, compassionate, gracious and kind to me.  You do not treat me as my sins deserve.  And because of this good news, I now have a new song of praise in my heart.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.
Lord, you have done many wonders here in your Austin church, and across our churches over time.  You have done many miraculous works in peoples’ lives bringing countless people to the saving knowledge of you.   And looking back just on this past fall semester and all the people you brought to our various welcome nights and the subsequent number who have sought you through lifegroups and course 101s, it is your work O Lord, your zeal that you have accomplished this. I have been blessed to be a part of your amazing work here in Austin, getting a front row seat to the lives of those changing right before my very eyes.  Who would’ve thought that after only three short years in Austin, that upperclassmen, our very own home grown juniors and seniors would be co-laboring with us in the ministry, helping minister to freshmen.  This is indeed just one of the many things you planned for us, that we didn’t necessarily draw up.  You are worthy of praise O Lord for the work you are doing.

From Gracepoint Berkeley Church member

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
You lifted me out by giving me hope when I was overrun by sin and by the consequences of sin.  You have given me a hope and a future by giving me a place to belong, a place to call my home, a people with whom I can share the same sentiment with, and giving me good work to do, so I can reverse the cycle of sin’s destruction.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.
You have given me a new thing to praise about.  It’s no longer about my own life, but it’s about you, what you do , what you are like.  Because I always remember that you are a merciful God and I can never stop singing about this mercy that saved me from death.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.
Thank you that I can experience so many wonders.  I see it every day and every week, as I get to hear stories of the work you are doing in our midst.  What kind of blessing this is that I can see and recount what you are doing.   They are all wonders.

I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
I desire to do your will. Please help me and give me the strength to carry it out.  I need your help.  My flesh and my evil desires are too strong for me.  I need you to help me have the right desires and to be on that path of carrying it through.

For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.
When I focus on sin, I cannot help but feel hopeless and sad, overwhelmed by my state.  However, there is hope in you.

Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.
You are my God.  There is no one else that I can turn to.  What can I do?  I need you every hour and every moment.  You are my deliverer… save me..

From Gracepoint Davis Church member

In what ways have you experienced v.2, v.3, v.5, v.8, v.12, v.17 to be true in your life?
V2: God lifted me out of the slimy pit – the depth of pit that I was in was in my first semester in college. It was the first time my experience that much freedom – all was within my ability and possibility to explore and try new things that I never did. I hit rock bottom when I found myself doing things I never had wanted to do, being in places I had never intended to be, becoming someone I could barely recognize and not knowing who I am anymore. It was a slimy pit because no matter how hard I try to climb out, I couldn’t – I kept on falling deeper and deeper. God lifted me out of the slimy pit when I finally paid attention to his words given at the Bible studies and Sunday services. His words became relevant and convicting that I knew I needed help to get out of this pit. Another pit that I was in was my own pit of sins and self-delusion. I couldn’t see my sinfulness clearly and I couldn’t see my need for Jesus – I felt a more lost and frustrated as I tried to figure God out on my own effort but couldn’t. God gave me his word that convicted my heart, He placed me in the family of God, in the context of covenantal relationship, through which I was able to see the depth of my own sinfulness and selfishness. He pulled me out of some of the strongholds in my life – sins of competitive spirits, selfishness or approval seeking, and He provided just timely words, messages, people, circumstances to allow me to grab hold of it and He pulled me out as I experienced spiritual breakthroughs. After He pulled me out of the slimy pit, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand in my salvation through Jesus, and through his words and this church. A rock and a firm place to stand was my faith in Jesus. Even though I am a sinner through and through and God still have so much work to be done in my life, I can stand firm because I know that my righteousness comes from Jesus alone and there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Even though at times life’s difficulties and trials come, I can stand firm because I know that God is sovereign, He is ultimately in control and He is able to work through all things for the good of those who love him. He gives me a firm place to stand through time spent in his word and prayers, which brings renewal and refocus. He gives me this family of God, people whom I know and have known me for many years, through whom I can go through life together and spur one another on.

V3: He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to my God when I came to realize that I have a Creator, a loving heavenly Father who loves me so deeply. I am not an orphan who needs to provide for myself or strive hard to clutch onto temporal things in life. I sing praises to God when I see that my sins do not have the final word, that God is able to forgive through Jesus Christ and give me a brand new start each time I repent, that God still welcomes me home no matter how many times I stray away from him. I praise God as I learned that my life was created to be engaged in meaningful work – that God could use a sinner like me to be a blessing to others – this moves me to tears and fills my heart with much joy and praise. He gives me a new song in my heart as my life takes on new meaning, purpose and relationships. And many will see my transformed life and what God is able to do and hear my testimonies of His faithfulness, and they will put their trust in him. Many will hear about how God can convicts my heart or how truth prevails, and many will fear Him because He cannot be mocked.

V5: many are to wonders God has done – I see this truth, not only in creation and the work of His hand, but also in the lives of many people I have witnessed. Starting with the team sisters, some of whom I know since they were freshmen, but seeing how they’re co-laboring with me now, I am amazed and thankful. To see their hearts changed, becoming more interested in sharing the Gospel, reaching out to the students, running around for sports even though they hated sport, doing things that they normally wouldn’t do, seeing them dying to themselves, going out of their ways, stretching beyond the capacity, interceding earnestly for others in order to embrace the calling God has called them. This is a wonderful work that God has created in their lives this is a testimony of what God is able to do. And to look outward – to see all the churches in Gracepoint, all that God has been doing since the start of the new church plants or even this past semester/quarter, not only with a good turnout for our events but also hearing stories about how God has been preparing the hearts of those who have been coming out or how God has worked in the hearts of our current members. And not only in our churches, God has been at work since the beginning of history, working in and through the lives of those who listen and obey, and in other churches or through godly people. So many of the good works God has been doing, and I share the same sentiment as the Psalmist that if I were to count them, speak and tell of all that happens, even just within my life time, they would be too many to declare.

V8: I desire to do God’s will – this desire was not always there but the more I come to know God, the more I grow in my relationship with him, the more I desire to do things that are in line with His will. And there are still many more areas of my life that I don’t desire God’s will because I want to be the god of my own life, but this is my prayer and this is where I am striving forward to desire to do God’s will. I have truly experienced this in my life – before I became a Christian, I only desired to please myself and do whatever I wanted to do. I had no interest to find out what God wants, what God is like, what his heart is like or who He is. I only desired for personal gains – what blessings can I get from this church, what can God do for me, how can these friends be there for me, who can give me the recognition or approval that I wanted – many were my desires, and my life was dictated to do what I desired. But God gave me new purpose and meaning for life, and he has given me a new heart and put His law, His words, in my heart so that I can recognize and respond to what is true and good. Now I see that when I obey and do what God wants me to do, I am living the way I am meant to live, and that what God says good is good. I’ve experienced my desires have slowly changed to become more aligned with God’s.

V12: troubles without numbers around me and my sins overtake me – there were many times I felt like this when one sin after another, on-going strongholds, circumstances that did not go my way, difficulties and trials that keep dragging on and do not seem to get any better, storms of life that don’t seem to ever calm down, or when is hard to find bright spots in my life and troubles without number surround around me and the overwhelming sense of my sins overtake me. Times like this, when my heart fails within me, when I feel like I don’t know if I can take on another difficulty or another trial or another time of surrender, or another test of patience, or another leap of faith to take, or another dying of myself and letting go again. These are times of troubles that I can think of throughout my journey with God in personal life as well as in ministry. But this verse is surrounded by verses 11 and 13: “do not withhold your mercy from me”, “always protect me”, “be pleased to save me”, and “come quickly to help me”. It is God who has pulled me through those times. And it is this kind of prayers that I need to go back to again and again, esp. when trouble seems overwhelming and my heart begins to fails within me.

V17: I am poor and needy – this is the true condition that describes me even though a lot of times I desire for competence, security, self sufficiency, having everything that I need and my life being well provided for and protected, that I don’t feel needy and lacking. I experienced that I was poor and needy when I first began to recognize the empty void in my heart because of my broken relationship with God despite all that I had, experienced and enjoyed in life thus far. And this led me to seeking God that even though I was physically enriched, I was spiritually poor. I am poor and needy even as a Christian as I daily need God’s mercy and grace to live the kind of life that pleases God each day. I am bankrupt inside: even though I know what is good and true, many times I fail to do the good that I ought to do. I am poor because without God daily nourishment, I cannot survive spiritually – my own strength, competence, realization, experience or sheer will power cannot sustain me. I am poor spiritually because I did not know how to properly relate to God and others, and I need constant reminder and guidance to riches in relationships. I am needy and helpless as I see more and more of my limitation, inadequacies, and weaknesses as I get older, as I see God’s holiness more clearly and as I strive to daily obey God. God is my help and my deliver, esp. from my own self and my sins. Even though circumstances may not change, believing that God is my help and my deliver gives me strength to push forward. And I echo the same sentiment as the Psalmist that when I see my poverty and neediness clearly, my prayer and plea is “God please help me, come quickly and do not delay” and each time I experienced helped through His words, messages, peace that transcends understanding and regardless of circumstances and the people God placed in my life. And I experienced His deliverance as I am reminded again and again why I need a Savior and who Jesus is to me personally.

Devotion Time October 3 – 8, 2011

Here are the DT Packets for October 3 -8, 2011 on Prayers in the Bible:

1. Prayer-DT-Oct3-Oct8

2. Prayer-DT-Oct3-Oct8_questions-only

3. Prayer-DT-Oct3-Oct8-Chinese

4. Prayer-DT-Oct3-Oct8-Chinese-Questions

October 7, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Psalm 51)

Submitted by William S. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

What characteristics of God give David the confidence to appeal to Him for mercy?
David has committed sin because he has committed adultery with Bathsheba. Nathan has confronted him about not just Bathsheba, but also with the blood of Uriah the Hittite. David is sharply aware that he is covered in sin and yet he appeals to God for mercy.

In David’s appeal, David first turns to God’s unfailing love. David appeals to God’s love – His care, his ability to watch over him, the kindness and protection that God has shown David over the years. David is appealing to God’s decision to love and bless David.

In examining this aspect of God’s character, one thing that strikes me is the fact that David calls God’s love unfailing. This is a very interesting word that is used to describe love. Growing up in our culture, love is one of those words that gets tossed around and used so often, and so often incorrectly, that it has, in many ways, lost the true power of its meaning. Love can now mean something that is fickle, dependent on circumstances and performance. Love can fade, disappear and change directions as quickly as it first arrives. But David is referencing another love – the love of God. David is establishing that God’s love is different; it is unfailing. God’s love is sure, God’s love is consistent, and God’s love wins out.

God’s love for David can handle the sins that David has committed. It’s not a love that is blind to the fact, but it is a love that remains in spite of the reality of David’s sin.

David also appeals to God’s great compassion. David is here recognizing that he deserves a penalty for his actions. David is recognizing that what he has done deserves punishment of some sort; wherein he should not get off without paying some sort of price. But despite the fact that David has done such a wrong, He is appealing to God’s compassion – the ability to suffer on behalf of. David understands fully that he has sinned against God first and foremost (v.4). Therefore, the wronged party, in order for there to be forgiveness, needs to absorb the blow of the wrong. David is asking God to suffer his wrong on his behalf. David is saying – Lord, I’ve sinned against you, but now I’m asking you to take that sin against yourself and look past it, for my sake.

Truly, as David understands his sin, as he understands why the thing he has done is such a great offense to God; the only way he can ask for mercy is to appeal to God’s unfailing love and His great compassion. It is only through love, and the willingness to suffer the offense on behalf of David could there be mercy in this situation.

How does my sense of the centrality of my sinfulness compare with the psalmist’s? What might account for the difference?
David’s understanding of the centrality of his sinfulness stands in quite stark contrast with mine. There are certainly times when I feel utterly defeated by my sin, by my offenses before God, and I certainly feel the weight of the transgression. There are times when these things are abundantly clear to me, and thus, I am able to come to God, appealing to His unfailing love and great compassion. But I’m not sure that I can honestly say that in those situation, that things are crystal clear in terms of my sense of the centrality of my sinfulness before God.

I believe there are two main reasons why there is this difference. The first and foremost reason would have to be the psalmist’s clear understanding of the Holiness of God. David is very clear to show that the Lord is pure and holy. Our sins, therefore, are wretchedly dark and obscene to the Lord. When we come before God in our sin, it is a blight before God’s holiness, and thus, the contrast between sinner and God is highlighted and that sense of sinfulness for David is highlighted. As we understand God’s holiness that much more, our understanding of our sinfulness increases.

The second reason, as related to the first, would also have to be the clear understanding of our sin. For David, there is no sugar coating going on. David understands and labels things correctly – his sin is evil and it is enough for God to be justified completely as he judges. David does not argue the fact that God has every right to remove him from his presence and take his Holy Spirit from David. David understands that sin has dire consequences that are real.

In this way, I find that these two areas are the key reasons why there is that difference in the sense of centrality of my sinfulness. I find that I do not often dwell upon the reality of God’s holiness. I sing the songs of praise, I understand and recognize God’s holiness, but do I actually live out my life as if God’s holiness were truly central to my understanding of life? I don’t think I do as much as I need to.

Additionally, I don’t think that I treat my sinfulness as seriously as David does; adding to the sense of difference in the centrality of sinfulness as compared against David. I find that I often will try to give a reason why things were how they were. “Yeah, I got mad, I lost my temper, but there was a reason why I got mad, have you taken that into account yet?” “Sure, I should not have done that, but I was feeling tired, it’s not right, but you understand what I’m getting at right?”

As I think about it, I am too well-versed in explaining my own sin away. But David here does not even attempt to do such a thing. He calls it as it really is – wicked, evil, needing to be washed. And there is that power in that understanding of sin. As he understands his sin and the true nature of that evil; as David understands the holiness of God, then the centrality of sin becomes far more deeply rooted. It is to this kind of degree of understanding that I am called to go back to, daily, as I confess my sin before the Lord.

Excerpt on Prayer from Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink

As we go through our DT’s on the topic of prayers, here is an excerpt that was read during our prayer meeting last night from the book, Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink:  EngagingThePowers_WalterWink_Excerpt_20111004

October 5, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Numbers 11)

Submitted by Timothy R. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Numbers 11:4-17

What can I learn about Moses’ relationship with the Israelites from this incident?

Moses deeply cared about the Israelites as evident in this prayer to God. He wasn’t simply carrying out some job. He didn’t have the mindset that this was just something he was “supposed” to do. As he expressed, he felt the burden for caring for them that a parent feels about the burden for caring their child. It was a burden that he felt very heavily. It was so heavy that he said it was getting too heavy for him and that he would rather die.

It says so much about Moses’ character that he chose to accept this burden in this way. He fully embraced his role. As Moses cries out in frustration, he “didn’t give birth to them.” Yet he finds himself thrust into this role of leading these obstinate, complaining rabble. He never asked to be appointed as their leader in the first place. For all these reasons, he could have very well detached himself from them and had the attitude “What’s wrong with them?! What ingrates they are after all I did for them. I am going to walk away from them!” And he very well could have walked away from the responsibility of caring for them and could have washed his hands clean of them. To his credit, even though he cries out to God how heavy the burden is, he doesn’t cease being their leader. He remains and continues to embrace his role that God assigned to him. That’s why he feels so burdened because he accepts it and doesn’t abdicate his role.

I am really challenged and inspired by Moses. Many times I feel sense of burden that feels quite heavy for me to bear but of course it’s nothing compared to what he’s going through. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to be in his shoes. Yet just as Moses full embraced the role that God assigned to him, I must bear whatever burdens and responsibilities that God assigns me. This was true of Moses, this was true of Paul, this is true of my spiritual leaders who bore that burden when I was a source of burden to them, and most of all this was true of Jesus. Jesus bore the full burden and weight of my sins and the world’s sins.

What can I learn from Moses’ prayer?

Similar to with Abraham, similar to Moses’ prayer in Exodus 32, Moses is not afraid to completely honest before God. He is so genuine and authentic in his prayer. He’s not some robot, super-leader. In his prayer, he is so honest before God. He doesn’t try to sound more spiritual than he is actually feeling. He doesn’t fake being more gracious, more patient, more stronger than he really is. He doesn’t say “After all these years, by now I should be ____.” At this point, Moses feels quite overwhelmed and understandably so. And he freely pours out his heart before God. Tying this back to the first question, to fully embrace the burdens God gives me doesn’t mean that I can’t be honest before God about how I feel. God invites me to come before Him with whatever is burdening me and weighing me down.

What can I learn about God from the way God responds to Moses’ prayer?

God doesn’t get angry at Moses. God doesn’t answer “What about me? The people are complaining and now you are complaining too!” God is actually very sympathetic towards what Moses is going through. There is no reproof, no anger, no condemnation in what God says. Instead God validates how Moses must be feeling by coming up with solution to help Moses from being overwhelmed. And God’s solution shows that He fully understood what Moses was going through. From God’s response to Moses, I am reminded that even though He is God almighty, Creator the universe, He is not distant and unsympathetic to my cries of weakness, to my needs. As incredible as it seems, God really understands what it’s like being in my shoes. And when I think about it, it shouldn’t be surprising that God would be like this. For Jesus came to earth, and incarnated among us to experience all that we go through e.g. our temptations, our weaknesses, our limitations, etc. What an amazing God I serve!

September 22, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Colossians 2)

Submitted by James K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Colossians 2:1-5
What can I learn about Apostle Paul’s heart for the church at Colosse and Laodicea from this passage?
Apostle Paul’s heart for the church at Colosse and Laodicea was all about them knowing Christ fully. He struggled for them, and even for those people he had not met in person.  But simply because of the fact that they were at that church, he would struggle for them to be encouraged and united as a church, ultimately so that they would know Christ.  Apostle Paul was “gospel-centric”, which was demonstrated in his hopes and heart for the Colossian church, so much so that he would actually struggle for them.


Do I know what it takes to “struggle” for other Christians, in order that they be “encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ?”  What does this struggle look like?
Struggling for other Christians, I think, can take several different forms.  But all under that umbrella of being “gospel-centric” as Apostle Paul was.  It means getting into people’s lives, knowing what’s going on in their hearts and how they are living. It means praying for them, struggling in prayer over them, to receive wisdom on how to guide them, or that they would be led to repent or struggle with their sin or take steps of faith so that they could grow.  It could mean providing for them avenues through which they could take such steps of faith, or provide them contexts in which they can learn how to love other people or how to take themselves seriously as Christ followers.  It could mean being creative in trying to help them to see themselves or to align their worldview and values with the word of God, with God’s values and view.  And of course it means bringing them to the word of God, for the word to teach, correct, rebuke and train them in righteousness.  All of these things birthed out of being “gospel-centric,” myself being filled with the word and engaging in spiritual battle over myself and over them.


Are there ways that I may be trying to avoid this struggle in my life?
The ways that I could be trying to avoid this struggle in my life is by withholding myself from the people that I’m ministering to, but not wanting to get the details of information because I know that I’ll need to deal with those things.  Or perhaps by withholding myself emotionally, so that if I’m rejected by this person either leaving the church or rejecting me personally that I won’t feel the pain. The more I care about somebody, the more it hurts when that rejection happens.  I haven’t taken these avenues of avoiding this struggle, but I know that those are the ways that Satan tries to offer me.


Colossians 2:6-7
What does it mean to “just as you received Christ as Lord, continue to live in him?”
Continuing to live in Christ as I did when I first received him as Lord means to keep my relationship and love for him fresh, the place of “first love” as the song says.  It means to live out my commitment as clear as it was when I first came to him 17 years ago when I saw that I was a church-attendee, but my life was utterly indistinguishable from the rest of the world and I surrendered my life as a soldier who wants to please his commanding officer.  It means going to the word and prayer with the same zeal and expectation and hunger from my commitment when I first made it. It means to engage the world and the people God brings in my life to love them and bring the gospel to them, raising them up to be more faithful and devoted Christ followers with the same excitement as when I first made that decision.


It means for me to be faithful with that which I’ve been given with the same energy as I started out running with.  That translates into leading the seniors and staff in Kairos to greater faith, greater commitment, teaching them how to love God, love others by bringing them the gospel, by embodying the gospel, and by loving one another within the church as well, the corporate embodying of the gospel.  It means to provide for them opportunities to grow, avenues through which to experience a greater prayer life, a heightened sense of ownership over the people of their generation and in their contexts.
And of course, it means bringing the gospel to all the new people that God has led to our group, as so many of them are just finding out about Christianity through Kairos, or just simply enjoy being with us.  That’s such an opportunity to bring them the life-saving, life-changing good news of the gospel.

Reflect on the words “rooted and built up in him,” “strengthened in the faith as you were taught,” “overflowing with thankfulness.”  What do each of these look like? Assess how I am doing in each of these areas.
Being rooted and built up in him means going to the word and allowing for it to work its way through me and out into how I live my life, the decisions that I make, the reactions and responses I have to different situations in my life.  Being strengthened in the faith as I was taught means to put into practice the ways of love that have been poured out for me.  As my leaders spent time with me, got into my life, guided me, answered my questions, exhorted me, encouraged me, demonstrated Godly values and choices to me through their lives… likewise I am to strengthen my own faith in these ways by living likewise.  And overflowing with thankfulness is to reflect, remember, realize all the ways that God has loved me through my life and continues to do so on an ongoing basis.


I think with regard to overflowing with thankfulness, that’s something that isn’t so strong in me.  I go through my days, my weeks needing to get things done, or at least have that mentality.  A lot of times my heart and mind doesn’t take the opportunity to marvel at what God has done and is doing.  I take time weekly to reflect over all that I have to be thankful for, which is something that I greatly benefit from.  That’s something that I need to discipline myself to do on a daily basis, so that I’m overflowing with thankfulness.