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Day 17: eXpress Joy

John 3:22-30
“The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)

John the Baptist was a great man. No less an authority than Jesus said so himself. John was the last of the prophets. When people heard him preach, they trembled. He attracted disciples, crowds, and the attention of the press. He even attracted the attention of kings and queens.

But when Jesus came, John never forgot his place. Despite being goaded by his disciples to be jealous of the early success of Jesus’ ministry, John remained steadfast in his sense of place within God’s plan. He rejoiced in the following that Jesus attracted. He even helped his own disciples to join with Jesus. John 3:22-30 is John’s explanation of his own role to his disciples. Now my joy is complete. He (Jesus) must increase, and I must decrease.

Have you discovered this truth yet? Most of us think that joy increases as we increase – as our wealth and our prestige, our influence and our power increase. But in fact, just the opposite is true. Lasting joy is not found at the top of the corporate mountain or at the pinnacle of power. Joy is not a reward of accomplishment. True joy is found where John the Baptist found it – by finding one’s place in relationship to Jesus Christ.

Are you ready to find joy complete? He (Jesus) must continue to increase in significance and Lordship of our lives while we (our plans and ambitions) must decrease.

Prayer Lord, lead me to find joy and abundant living as I give my life more fully to you.

Action item Make a list of the things that really bring joy to your life. You will find that the things that bring joy are not things at all, but rather gifts given to you (like family, health, a sunrise, a friend). Perhaps the way to discover more joy is to give those kinds of gifts more fully to others.


Day 9: No EXcuses

Luke 14: 15-24

“Come, for everything is ready now. But they all alike began to make excuses.” (Luke 14:17-18)

How many reasons are there for not participating in a capital program? The possibilities are endless! There are more than enough reasons to justify anyone.

A modern parable might begin like this:

The kingdom of God is like a capital program. God gave His people a vision. “Come!” said God, “Take your place prepared for you. Take up your part in My work. Everything is ready now. All of you are invited to make a difference. When you take your place and take up your part, all will be blessed to break bread in My kingdom.” But they all alike began to make excuses ….

The most important piece of a jigsaw puzzle is the piece that is missing. Every part is important to making the whole picture work. Synergy is a word best understood when divided. Ergo, is Greek for work, while the prefix syn means together. When merged, the words mean “working together.” However, there is more. Synergy is better defined to mean that the result accomplished is greater than the individual parts. Sports teams demonstrate the meaning of synergy. Playing together makes them better than playing as individuals. However, even one team member failing to do his or her part can make everyone lose. Just like one musician not in concert with the orchestra can ruin the music.

A fighter jet was damaged and barely made a safe landing. The same plane was needed for a critical mission the next morning. A maintenance crew worked all night to make repairs. At dawn the pilot asked the mechanic if the plane was good to go. "Sir," he replied, "if this plane does not complete its mission it will not be because of me."

Your participation in the mission of this church is unquestionably significant. No one can play your part but you. No one can give your part but you. Others can only do their part. No one can make up for your part if your gift is excused.

Prayer Lord, when Your call challenges me, it is easy for me to excuse myself. Reach me! Compel me to respond to Your call in whatever ways I can.

Action Item If you have already made up your list of excuses, then take that list and offer it up as a burnt sacrifice. Go back to the list you made on day two – reasons why these projects are important. Looking over that list, can you now find reasons to give?


Day 8: EXtra Effort

Romans 12:1-2
“Offer yourselves as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is.” (Romans 12:1)

“Love the Lord your God … with all of your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

What motto is on your T-shirt? What values do you conform to? Where do you re-shape yourself in order to “fit in.” What do you give yourself to as a kind of living sacrifice? Anything advertising to make us the greatest, the most successful, the most famous, can capture us and conform us to its own set of values.

A magazine ran a series of articles asking people "How has your mind changed?" Some people answered by telling how a relationship changed their racial prejudices, or by sharing how some tragedy or suffering made them more aware of and compassionate toward others.

What can change your mind? That is an interesting question. Changing one’s mind is a difficult and rare thing - especially if the transformation means changing our directions, our opinions, our goals, and our plans. Yet such change is exactly what Paul calls every Christian to. He calls us to be completely transformed by the renewing of our mind. And he calls us to give ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice.

Would anyone notice that your life is molded by the mind of Christ? Could anyone see your transformation? How has your life in faith changed your mind? How have your priorities changed? How has your life changed? Are you still conformed to this world, or are you being transformed? Could anyone notice the difference in you as you offer yourself more fully to God?

Prayer Lord, lead me to see things differently, to think differently, to live differently. Reset my priorities. Transform my mind … and my life!

Action Item Get in touch with the “mind-set” that you have entered this program with. What have you pre-determined? What are you stubborn about? What have you already decided? Be honest here – write those things down. Then make a commitment with yourself to be open-minded. Listen, look, reflect – and see what you learn. You may be surprised to find yourself transformed before this prayer journey is finished.


Day 4: EXperience Calling

1 Samuel 3:1-11
“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10)

In the time of Samuel, the bible says, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days, and visions were not widespread.” It is easy for people to feel the same way today. Who has heard God call their name? Who has heard God speak a word to them? And what great, Godly vision drives your life?

Most people seem to want to think that the word of the Lord is rare, that the word of the Lord only comes to people like the pastors who are somehow “specially” called. Most people seem to want to think that God has no word, no calling, no vision for them.

Maybe, like the boy Samuel, we simply are not listening well. We hear something calling our name and tugging at our heart, and assume that something is just Pastor Eli making a fuss again. Perhaps we need to learn to listen better for a word from God. Perhaps it is not a word from God that is rare, but faithful listening from those who would serve God that is so rare.

Every Christian has a calling. In fact, every Christian has several callings -- as well as the God-given gifts, graces, and blessings to respond to those callings.

Every Christian is called to be a faithful steward of the talents and time and resources God has blessed them with. Being a faithful steward is a personal calling – a word from the Lord. It is a calling that comes with your name attached to it. It is a calling that only you can make a decision about. You can ignore that calling completely. You can brush off that calling by responding only in minimal ways. Or, recognizing God’s claim over your life, you can wake up and listen for God’s own voice. There is a word from the Lord for you in this program. There is a God-given vision for your church in this program. “Speak to me Lord. I am your servant. I am listening to hear from You.”

Prayer Lord, teach me not only to say Samuel’s prayer, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” but to actually listen for Your word, Lord, and to do Your word.

Action Item Are you listening for God’s word? List where you hear God’s word (in scripture, in worship, in prayer, in other faithful people, etc). In your daily prayer time and your journaling, make note of the ways that God is speaking to you.


Day 2 EXplore Promise

Luke 11:9-11

“And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Most of us are good at the first baby step of prayer. It is easy to ask God to do something! Unfortunately, after the asking, we think that we are finished; we think that since we have already asked, we are expected to do nothing more.

The first step in any journey is critical. We do need to ask in order to receive. But asking is just the first step. It takes many more steps to continue a real journey of prayer.

Jesus offers his disciples a model for such a prayer journey. Ask - yes, of course! But then seek. And finally, knock on the doors that you find.

Seeking God's will is much more work than simply asking; seeking takes time, attention, listening, looking, searching. That journey of prayer will lead us far past asking, deep into new paths of seeking God's way for our lives. Along those paths we will discover doorways - places where choices and decisions must be made. Do we have the courage and commitment to knock on those doors? And when those new doorways are opened, will we step into a new way of life?

Simply asking demands little of us. Seeking means searching for God's will in our lives; and such seeking will undoubtedly change us -- redirecting us in God's way. Knocking on the doors that God would open to us may well lead us down paths that we never imagined! We do not know what God has in store for us when we begin such a journey, but one thing is certain – such a journey of prayer will change our lives. After all, changing us has always been the real power of prayer.

Prayer Lord, I seek Your will and Your way in my life. Lead me down Your paths for Your name's sake. Open new doors that I might find a new way of life!

Action Item Capture this journey of prayer that you are committing yourself to by journaling your adventure. During your prayer time over the next several weeks, write down what you are asking and what you are given, what you are seeking and what you are finding, what doors you knock upon and what is opened to you.


Day 1 EXercise Faith

Good day Parishioners.
Here's is your Daily Devotion for you to read and pray about.

Colossians 4:12-13
“Epaphras is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, and be mature.” (Colossians 4:12)

Wrestling is an ancient sport. In the first century, wrestlers struggled for their lives, not for TV ratings. In the language of the day, the wrestling ring was called the agony, and the wrestlers were called antagonists.

Such is this word-image that Paul uses to describe the work of prayer from a spiritual leader of the Colossian church, Epaphras. Paul tells the church that Epaphras wrestles in prayer for them. We would catch Paul's wordplay if we say that Epaphras agonizes in prayer for them. What a powerful image - and a biblical image too - like Jacob wrestling with the angel all night for a blessing (Genesis 32:24-31) - and like Jesus praying so fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane that his sweat became like drops of blood (Luke 22:41-44).

What is so important that Epaphras would pray so fervently? That the Colossian church would grow in their knowledge of God's will and in their maturity of faith.

This capital program is a call to prayer for you and for your congregation. You and your congregation will be encouraged to reflect on a simple question -- What would You do through me Lord to make Your will happen in this church? Genuinely reflecting on that question will mean prayerfully wrestling with God’s will in your life and with God’s will in your church. This challenge is a time to exercise your faith. The struggle to respond faithfully will not be – nor should it be – easy. As Paul would later say of Epaphras, "I vouch for him that he is working hard for you." The process of making a decision will not be – nor should it be – short-lived. Like Jacob, you may spend more than one restless night wrestling for an answer and a blessing.

Your church needs an Epaphras or two just now. Your church needs people who will pray earnestly to seek God’s will. Would you be willing to pray, to wrestle hard, for the future of this church?

Prayer Lord, lead me in prayer to wrestle hard with Your will. I will hold fast to You until I find Your blessing.

Action Item Decide now to make a prayerful decision about your participation in this program. Set aside specific time (at least 15 minutes) every day for the next three weeks to spend in prayer and reflection using this devotional guide. Make an appointment with yourself (and with God) right now. Write down when and where you will spend your prayer time each day for the next three weeks.