Feb. 19 - Jesus changes me from selfish to selfless   by Danny Graves

 Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13

Pray: That you will understand and experience God’s love in such a way that it causes you to love others in the same way.

Devotional: Read: Mark 10:43-45

No doubt many of us have heard this statement that in our early years as children we were selfish.  We were born selfish, wanting to have our way, wanting what is ours, and most of the time wanting it when we want it. For example, have you ever watched a small child play with their toys?  Have you or another person (maybe another child) tried to play with that child’s toys?  What typically happens? The child sees you playing with their toy, runs up to you, snatches the toy out of your hand, and yells, “Mine!”  Typical behavior for young children. The challenge for many of us, however, is that as we get older, that selfishness doesn’t necessarily change.

There have been names or phrases coined to identify generations of people who demonstrate that selfish kind of attitude. The so-called Millennial Generation was dubbed the “Me! Me! Me! Generation”, the Baby Boomer Generation was known as the “Me Generation”, both largely due to their perceived selfishness and excessive interest in themselves.  I’ve even heard of something known as Individualistic Christianity the idea being it’s all about me!

I recently came across a devotional that challenges us to look at God’s creation as we really are - children of God.  The writer puts it this way. “The Bible says that we are created in the image of God. You! You are made to be like Him.  If you really embrace that, then you will realize you were made not to be selfish, or self-absorbed, you were made to serve, to help, and to be there for others.”

If you call yourself a Christian, that means you want to live like Jesus. And if you look at the life of Jesus, it was all about other people.  Jesus was always helping people, healing people, loving people, serving people, - the list goes on and on.

Remember the WWJD fad? (What Would Jesus Do) If you want to be like Jesus and truly live a Christian life, that means you do the same.  Live like you believe you were created in the image of God. Serve others like you are living out the life of Jesus.

Question: How intentional are you?  Do you look for ways that you can serve others?  Have you considered how you can serve in your community, your local schools, your church?

Prayer Challenge: Pray that you will learn to love people and to help people without expecting anything for yourself. 

Next Step : Challenge yourself every day to look for opportunities – big or small – to serve, help, love, and be there for others.  When you do this, you’ll be living the way God created you to live.

Feb. 20 - Jesus changes me from broken to whole   by Emily Vaas

 Morning and evening meditation: Read: “Behold, I am making all things new.” Rev. 21:5. “He has made everything beautiful in its time." Ecc. 3:11

Pray: Stop and be still for a moment. Ask the Lord to bring to your mind areas where you have been broken, hurt or wounded. These areas are most likely areas that you don’t need to look back too far to remember or recall. They may even be very present in your life at this very moment. Many of the memories are probably not places you want your mind to go, but they are necessary for healing. 

Devotional: Read: Psalms 31:14-24 

When we hear the word “broken,” we typically disassociate its meaning with happy thoughts, future dreams, or comfortable life experiences. Being broken is not often on our “to do” list. It's often painful and wearisome. We are joined by a large list of famous men, like David, Saul (later Paul), and even Abraham. These men had to go through a period of brokenness to be used by God. In the New Testament, the word “broken” is often associated with the broken body of Christ. Yes, even Christ was not exempt from brokenness.

So what is brokenness? What is its purpose? If Christ was not exempt from it, why do we believe we are? Brokenness led David to deep repentance and a reputation as a man after God’s own heart. He faced the death of his son, which brought him to a place where God could grow a king. God didn’t force David to be used by him, David had to become nothing so that the Lord could raise him as a vessel for His purposes. Brokenness led Saul down the road to Damascus, on his way to arrest disciples of the Lord. As Saul, he acted out of hatred against the followers of God, and with the authority of chief priests. But the Lord had a different plan. In Acts 9:15 the Lord tells Ananias that Saul, “is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” However, for Saul to be used, he had to be become blind and rely on Ananias, one of the very disciples that he hated. He was broken before God, and this brokenness allowed him to become an essential tool to spread the gospel. Lastly, brokenness led Abraham to be the father of many nations. Abraham was broken as he raised the blade in obedience to the Lord. Before his eyes flashed the loss of the promise of God, his future, his son. Only then could God build a nation from a man who was reduced only to his faith in the Lord and the emptying of his will.

The purpose of brokenness, then, is to rid ourselves of any identity, will, agenda, or purpose that is not fully immersed in the Lord. Brokenness; however, is only for a season. Healing comes with the relinquishment of anything that is not fully surrendered to the Lord. In this relinquishment comes a healing unlike anything we could have manifested in our human will.

 Question: In your times of brokenness, what has God strengthened? Is it your faith? Your devotional time? Your love for your spouse? Your love for your family, friends, or parents?

Prayer Challenge : Thank the Lord for His guidance in your life. Thank Him for brokenness that leads to a better understanding of who you are in Him. Thank Him for taking away anything from your life that is not rooted in Him.

Next Step: Write down areas where you have felt broken--broken as a result of others, or as a result of your own choices. What has the Lord showed you during these times to strengthen your relationship with Him? Where has He made you more whole? Use these as a reminder that brokenness leads to vessels that can be built back up in the Lord. 

Feb. 21 - Jesus sends me as sheep among wolves   by Jeremy Gligora

Morning and evening meditation: Read: Matthew 10:16-20

Pray: Ask the Lord today to give you insight as you interact with people to see what is really going on in their hearts and minds.

Ask the Lord for the courage to speak His truth and His good news in any opportunity that will come up without regard to the possible consequences.

Devotional: Read: Matthew 10:16-20

Today’s passage could be titled, “there’s good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad news”.

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves”. Not the most comforting of verses. This word picture was not coined by Jesus, this was a common phrase used in Israel at that time to describe the Roman occupation. Jesus borrows this metaphor and applies it to His disciples as they go out to their own people to spread the gospel. He was telling them up front that sharing the good news isn’t “good news” to everyone, and to some, it will cause to lash out like wolves attacking a sheep.

Sometimes we refuse to share our story or talk about Jesus with others, because we are afraid that we will be rejected, or that we won’t “be good enough” at it and will not be effective. The reality is, that according to Jesus, rejection and retaliation is a common response. Personally, I find this oddly reassuring because it means that I am not responsible for a “positive outcome”, but that’s not the encouragement Jesus offers in this passage. In the end of the passage, Jesus promises that if we will initiate a conversation about Him, He will join us and speak through us! Think about that. There is nothing more satisfying or exciting than experiencing the privilege of being used and empowered by God! If you will step out in faith, by taking advantage of an opportunity to talk about the Lord, Jesus promises that the Spirit of the living God will work through you.

Talking about the Lord can look like many things. You can share with a friend a story about something God did in your life. Offer to pray with someone who is struggling with something. Stand up for what’s right, and explain why, based on your faith, it’s wrong. Meet a need, and then explain how Jesus meets your needs and asks you to pay it forward.

Question: Look back over your last week. What is one situation that you could have turned into an opportunity to share Jesus with someone?

Prayer Challenge: Thank the Lord for the privilege of being used by Him for such an important mission, and then ask the Lord for boldness and vision to be a witness.

Next Step: Write down a plan of how tomorrow you can do something to create an opportunity to tell someone that Jesus loves them.

 Feb. 22 - Jesus sends me to forgive   by Samson Wasao 

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: Genesis 45:4-8

Pray: Ask the Lord to reveal to you one person that you need to forgive.

Ask for the graciousness and humility to focus on what God is doing in your own life in this area of forgiveness.

Devotional: Read Genesis 45:4-8

 This is one of the most powerful passages in the Bible on how to truly forgive those who have wronged us. Joseph’s brothers had sold him off, made up a story about his disappearance or faked death to their father, and essentially forgot about him. In this passage, they appear before him to buy grain to take back home to their famine-ravaged country. To their shock, he reveals himself to them and surprisingly forgives and embraces them!

I have nursed unforgiveness against a member of my own family for what they said about my wife and me. I have held  a grudge against this person until the Lord clearly revealed to me that I had failed to love the person the way Christ loved me and totally forgave all my sin (1Cor.13:5; Col.3:13). Joseph, in this passage, did not hold any bitterness or a grudge against his brothers (although he had reasons to do so) but fully forgave and embraced them.

 Question: Are you harboring bitterness, a grudge, unforgiveness, or anger against anybody that you can think of-dead or alive? Like Joseph, God is sending you to that person to not count their sin against them but to fully forgive them. 

 Prayer Challenge: Ask God to show you that specific person that you need to go to and forgive this morning. Begin by thanking God for having forgiven you in Christ, and similarly thank God for the other person. Ask God to direct you on how you are going to let the person know that you have fully forgiven them.

 Next Step: Write down a specific action point on how you are going to go to this person and let them know that, although they hurt you, you have totally forgiven them in Christ.

Feb. 23 - Jesus sends me to stand in the gap in prayer   by Samson Wasao

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: 2 Cor. 1:9-11

Pray: Ask God to reveal to you a specific situation or challenge that you should pray for on behalf of the person or persons that are going through a specific situation or challenge.

 Devotional: Read 2 Cor. 1:9-11

Paul had the spiritual habit of engaging other believers in prayers for him, his companions, his ministry, and for other Christians. Ezekiel calls this “standing in the gap” for others (Ezek. 22:30). Paul expresses confidence in the ability of the Corinthian Christians to pray for him and his companions about the hardships that he and his companions were experiencing while spreading the Gospel in the Province of Asia. He was sure that God works through the prayers of believers. His hope for victory is that as the Corinthian church “helps us by your prayers” this would lead to deliverance by the God who “raises people from the dead”!

When we decided to relocate to the USA to be missionaries among international students and scholars, I personally did not fully understand how much prayer support and encouragement we would need to go on with the ministry. We have been bombarded by many challenges from multiple fronts; health, family relations, finances, as well as obstacles in ministry.  I have been tempted to give up if it weren’t for the prayerful support of my wife and a small team of brothers and sisters, some here in the US, and others in Kenya. They have truly stood in the gap for us and our ministry!

 Question: Whom can you pray for today? Think about individual(s), a group, or an organization that is going through challenges or difficulties.

 Prayer Challenge: Thank God for the privilege of partnership with others in prayer, and ask God to put in your heart a desire to pray regularly for the person(s) or entity.

 Next Step: Ask God to put in your heart a desire to take action in prayer on behalf of the specific person(s) or entity today.

Feb. 24 - Jesus sends me to stand in the gap in actions   by Rye D’Orazio

 Morning and evening meditation: Read Eph 2:8-10

Pray: Ask the Lord today to reveal to you the totality of His handiwork and the call of a life of standing in the gap and “good works.”

Devotional: Read: Eph 2:8-10

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 reveals that we have been "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." This raises an obvious question: What are the good works God has prepared for me?

Many of us would be inclined to answer this question by pointing to specific things Christians tend to do as an expression of their faith. Good works would include: attending worship services, praying regularly, studying Scripture, giving generously from our financial resources, joining a small group, going on mission trips, caring for the poor, working for justice for the oppressed, loving our neighbors, and so forth. These are surely among the good works God has prepared for us. We rightly engage in these activities as people who have been transformed by God's grace through Christ.

But, if we think of good works only in these terms, we miss the extent to which God's plan for our good works is much broader and deeper. Our translation explains that we are created for good works, "which God prepared in advance for us to do." The Greek original reads more literally, "which God prepared in advance, so that we might walk in them." The language of walking was used by teachers in the time of Paul in the way we might talk of living or engaging in a certain lifestyle. In other words, the good works of verse 10 are not obviously religious activities scattered throughout an otherwise secular life. Rather, the good works encompass the whole of the Christian, all that we do by God's grace for God's purposes.

Ephesians 2:10 is similar to other passages of the Pauline letters that envision all of life as lived through and for God. Romans 12:1, for example, says, "I urge you ... to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." This offering takes place, not in identified temples, but in everyday life. Similarly, Colossians 3:17 proclaims, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus."

Therefore, though it's certainly right for you to invest yourself in the life of your church and to engage in works of outreach for the sake of the poor, the oppressed, and those who don't know God's grace in Christ, Ephesians 2:10 would encourage you to learn to see your whole life as an interconnected series of good works offered to God. This means that your good works can include that which you do at work, in the classroom, on the football field, in your neighborhood, and in your community associations. If you're a boss, part of your good works involve the way you manage your employees. If you're a parent, your good works include making dinner for your children as well as praying with them as you tuck them into bed. The more we grow in our faith, the more we see ourselves as God's masterpieces, the more we will indeed do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, by his strength, under his authority, and for his purposes.

 Questions: Do you tend to think of your whole life as an offering of good works to God, or do you tend to think of your good works mainly as activities that are obviously religious? How might your life be different if you began to see your whole life as an offering to God?

Prayer Challenge: Thank the Lord for His handiwork and reflect on thinking more truly and inclusively to see your whole life as an offering to the Lord.

Next Step: See how today you can make every moment of the day an occasion to live good works for the Lord.

Feb. 25  - We have just finished 3 weeks of prayer and fasting.  What has the Lord shown you in this time?  How much of what He has shown you are you putting into daily practice?  As you contemplate what you have learned and how you are applying it, share it with others...share it with us!