These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ. But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of a sewer trash, so I might gain Christ and be found in him. In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead.
Oct. 12 – 17
Click on the day to expand the guide.
Read – Luke 24:1-12
Notice – The loyal women who’d seen where Jesus’ body was laid (Luke 23:55) went back “very early in the morning on the first day of the week.” They didn’t go to worship, but to finish getting his dead body ready for permanent burial. The body wasn’t there. But even when the women reported that two men in gleaming clothing had asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” their report “struck the apostles as nonsense.” None of them expected what happened on Easter. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, mourners had wrapped the body in typical grave cloths. “Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him’” (John 11:44). When Peter peered into Jesus’ empty tomb, “he saw only the linen cloth.” Grave robbers would never have taken time to unwrap the body and leave the cloth. One sign that Jesus’ resurrection was qualitatively unique was that no one had to untie him. That resurrection changed everything for Peter. What effect has it had on you?
Pray – Jesus, there was nothing ordinary or predictable about the stunning, world-changing day when, against all odds, you rose from the dead. Help me take in, and live out, all the ways that day changed everything about how I see the world. Amen.
Read – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, John 13:34-35
Notice – In many ways, Jesus lived a normal, human life. He traveled on foot with the people closest to him. He ate with them and talked with them. He was a part of their everyday life. He attended the Jewish festivals and at least one wedding. He celebrated his friends’ joys and he cared for them when they were afraid or sad. In his time with his disciples, he taught them (and us) about the reality of God’s Kingdom, where love, peace, and serving each other with humility defines life and true joy. While our life together has not been ‘normal’ for the past few months, God has still been with us in normal and everyday ways. How have you seen and participated in the goodness of God’s Kingdom in the last few months? If you can’t easily think of an example, how can you strive to live into the resurrection this week?
Pray – God, we thank you for giving us the capacity for joy, the blessing of being able to enjoy the parts of our life that provide entertainment, fellowship, and fun. Help us remember that in Your Kingdom it is the hearts full of love for you, and for each other, that win every time. Today and every day, help us serve one another, love one another, and look to you for the fullness of joy.
Read – Matthew 13:44-46
Notice – Jesus made a sweeping claim in these stories. “The gospel of the kingdom isn’t a pleasant religious idea that you might like to explore some time when you’ve got an hour or two to spare…. It’s like a fabulous hoard of treasure, yours for the taking—if you’ll sell everything else to buy the field where it’s hidden. It’s like the biggest, finest, purest pearl that any jeweler ever imagined, and it’s yours for the taking—if you’ll sell everything else, including all the other pearls you’ve ever owned, in order to purchase it.”* Have you ever had to give up anything you thought was valuable to go “all in” for Jesus’ kingdom? If not, what might you need to give up at some point? If so, has it been worth it?
Pray – Jesus, you once asked, “What will people give in exchange for their lives?” (Matthew 16:26) Make me willing to give up anything else to receive your gift of eternal life. Amen
Read – Ephesians 4:14-16, 21-25
Notice – To fail to tell someone else the truth is not loving, and yet, to tell someone the truth in angry or belittling ways is also not loving. Ephesians said one key to helping each other grow is “speaking the truth in love.” Which do you find harder most of the time: speaking the truth at all, or doing so in love? What can help you grow toward maturity in both of those dimensions? Ephesians used radical language: “clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.” Those words described putting on new, clean clothes in place of ragged, dirty ones. Can you see parts of your “old self” that you and God have taken off or are in the process of taking off? In what ways is your “new person” growing more lovingly truthful? How do you want to ask God to keep you growing more honestly loving in the coming months?
Pray – Jesus, you honestly challenge me to grow more like you. You give me a climate of love and grace in which to do so. Help me become more like you in the ways I speak the truth in love. Amen.
Read – Ephesians 5:15-21
Notice – In the Roman Empire, as today, too many people tried to numb themselves against life’s hurts with alcohol and other addictions. The letter to the Ephesians said psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and always giving thanks to God were a much better alternative, with better life results. “The church is to live out the Lord’s will, which is that people trapped in destructive behaviors will turn and join communities of goodness and justice.”* The Message paraphrased verses 18-19 this way: “Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs!”** Can gratitude to God not just numb life’s hurts, but move you beyond them? Might gratitude even be habit-forming? Have you ever experienced gratitude’s life-enriching power? What are some benefits of replacing destructive behaviors with a “gratitude habit”?
Pray – Jesus, I choose to live wisely, not foolishly. Help me set aside any hurtful behaviors that I might live into the fullness of your Spirit. Amen.
* Timothy G. Gombis, study note on Ephesians 5:17 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 370 NT.
** Peterson, Eugene H. The Message Numbered Edition Hardback. Navpress. Kindle Edition
Read – Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:16-21
Notice – Jesus went home to the village synagogue where he had grown up. He read from Isaiah 61, in which God’s servant said he had a mission to “preach good news to the poor…to liberate the oppressed.” Then Jesus said, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled,” claiming that mission as his own. Jesus quoted from (and adapted) Isaiah 61:1-3 in Nazareth to define his mission. “To preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor” has a nice poetic ring. What can you do each day to live into the meaning of those words in life’s gritty, unpoetic, day-to-day realities?
Pray – Jesus grow me into the hope and promise of liberation, not for my own sake but for the freedom of all whom are oppressed. Amen,