If you’re new around East Coast Christian Center and seeing this devotional for the first time, we’d like to introduce it to you.
The devotional is based on the idea that we take time at the beginning of the year to press in a little bit more to the things of God and the person of Jesus. We’ll get to know Him better and start the year with a focus on the Kingdom of God. There are a lot of things going on at the beginning of the year, and our focus can go many different directions. But we need our focus to go toward God and connect with Him.
The Christian life is just that, a lifetime of relationship with God and service for God. God is looking for marathoners who will run the race with endurance, not just sprint for a season. The Christian life is more than a season, just like a marriage is more than a ceremony or even a honeymoon. Flowers and candy turn into diapers and laundry, and kisses turn into dishes, but there still need to be seasons throughout the marriage that are intentionally set apart to be special and intimate. In the same way, the Christian life needs seasons that are set apart for greater intensity and focus on seeking God.
One of the truly great things about God and living the Christian life is that every day can be a fresh start. God’s grace and mercy are freshly prepared for us each and every day. There will always be enough— enough grace, enough joy, enough faith, enough hope, and enough love for what you are going to face today. New Year’s Day is one of those times when I think it would serve both God and us well to think about a fresh start. Whether it is a new year or a new day, God has good works foreordained that we should walk in them.
Our lives can be like a chalkboard or white board that has seen a lot of heavy use. It becomes cloudy, and the residue from previous use makes it look unattractive and dirty. But when we use that special solution to clean the white board or a wet rag to clean the chalkboard, it looks fresh and new. I knew nothing about who he was—only this: that my task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God. John 1:31 MSG
At the start of the New Year, we will be taking some time to be set apart— making time for cleansing. We will be getting into the Word, fasting, and preparing our hearts during this time of seeking the Lord. We will be doing devotions, praying, pressing into the services, and sharing the Gospel with our friends and family. Our focus will be on Christ, connecting with one another in His body, and moving with compassion for our neighbors.
We’ll start out our year with a Daniel Fast. You might have heard of Daniel and the lions’ den. Daniel was a guy in the Bible who had this lifestyle of seeking God. In one of the seasons of his life, he fasted sweets and meats, which means he didn’t eat desserts or meats for a period of time. God showed Himself mightily on Daniel’s behalf, both in the culture as well as in the Kingdom of God. It was a powerful thing.
This devotional accompanies our time of fasting. It is connected to the vision we believe God has given us at ECCC. If you have been here more than once, you have heard that we are “building a life giving church that lasts.” We want to build a church that’s going to last through the generations and be here when my generation is gone and my grandchildren are serving God. We want to build a church that’s not just here as a mausoleum, but is relevant, life-changing, and life-giving.
We also believe in a three-pronged mission statement that fits the vision God has given us. Here are the three prongs:
UP: our relationship with God, our worship, our love for Him, our fire, and our desire to be His children and to honor Him with our lives and our words.
IN: our relationship with the church as a part of the body of Christ. He wants us to be edified, which means to be built up. We have times of getting in the Word together, times we serve together and love one another, and times where we provide an atmosphere for people to come from the community and other parts of the world to be a part of this life-giving church that lasts.
OUT: our outreach. That’s reaching out to a lost and hurting world. We’ve said it this way, “We’re taking the gospel out of the four walls of the church house to reach Merritt Island, Brevard County, and the world for Jesus.”
We verbalize those three prongs this way: LOVE GOD, LOVE THE CHURCH, and LOVE PEOPLE. As we launch into 2018, seek God no matter what, read the devotions, and come to services whenever you can. Let’s press in and make this a year where the presence, the power, and the passion of God are evident in the world we live in.
Let’s all join together and press into His presence with a renewed sense of urgency and passion as we kick off the New Year right— with a fresh start. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:30 MSG
Thank you so much for Loving God, Loving the Church, and Loving People as we work together to Build a Life-giving Church that Lasts. -Pastor Dan
This devotional book has been prayerfully and thoughtfully assembled by the pastors, staff, and leadership of East Coast Christian Center to support you as you take your relationship with God to a deeper place. During this 28 days, we want to encourage you be intentional about setting aside time to draw near to God each day by laying aside or taking a break from things that normally consume your leisure time. Pray and ask God what this might look like for you. Some ideas or examples of things you might lay aside or take a break from include:
•Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.)
•Surfing the Web
We believe that 2018 will be a year of Transformation That Leads to Action. During each daily devotional, you will find a chapter and key verse from the Book of Acts. To help you understand the reading, you will also see a revelation, a prayer, and some introspective questions.
The 28 days of this devotional are broken down into four sections, and at the beginning of each new week, we will collectively participate in a specific call to action:
Week 1 // FASTING
Week 2 // PRAY TOGETHER
Week 3 // GET TOGETHER
Week 4 // ACTS OF GENEROSITY
There is power in coming together and seeking God, and we know that this will be a time of great transformation both individually and corporately! So buckle up. It is going to be an amazing ride with Jesus!
We are so excited that you have decided to join together with the East Coast family and push into the presence of God! This week we will focus on fasting. Fasting is the intentional decision to abstain from or reduce your consumption of food or drink (or both) for a period of time. The purpose of fasting is to draw closer to God; fasting helps us hit the reset button of our soul and renews us from the inside out.
Remember, your personal fast should present a level of challenge. It is important to know your body and your options. There are many things you can fast, and what you choose to fast or are able to fast will look different for each of you. We encourage you to pray and ask God what He would have you do. Whatever you choose is between you and God, and He will honor you for taking this step. If you have never fasted before, the following are some ideas of the ways you can fast:
•One meal a day
•Specific items (no sweets, no soda, no junk food, etc.)
•All drinks except water
For more information about what fasting is and how it was used in the Bible, here are some scriptures on fasting:
Scripture References for Fasting:
Relation to Prayer and Reading of the Word:
1 Samuel 1:6-8, 17-18
Daniel 9:3, 20,
1 Samuel 7:5-6
What is a Daniel Fast?
A Daniel Fast is based on the following scriptures:
• Daniel 1:3-8
• Daniel 1:11-13
• Daniel 10:3
Specifically, Daniel 1:12 (KJV) says: “Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.” The word “pulse” is translated as “vegetables”. Pulse comes from the Hebrew word “zero”, which is something sown, like seeds to grow vegetables for food.
Daniel ate only what grew from the ground. He avoided meat for two reasons:
It was dedicated to idols and would defile the person who ate it knowing it was dedicated to idols (Daniel 1:8), and he was abstaining from this food to seek the Lord.
Daniel avoided sweets, desserts, and sugar. He proposed in his heart to find his joy and fulfillment in God, not in food.
Daniel 10:3 (KJV) says: “I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” In Hebrew, “pleasant bread” translated comes from “chemdah lechem,” which is delightful food, food that one eats for pleasure rather than purpose of nourishment.
So what do we eat? Keep it simple and follow the leading of the Lord. The purpose of a fast is to seek God, not just go on a diet. If you would like to lose weight while doing this fast, you can cut out dairy as well.
A suggested meal plan:
• Breakfast - Eat fruit until noon
• Lunch - Eat a large salad with vegetables
• Dinner - Eat beans and rice, vegetables or salad
Here are some resources to help you plan meals according to the Daniel Fast:
Acts 1:4-5 NKJV
4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;
5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
This is a super interesting time—
• Jesus is giving final instructions
• Jesus ascends on high
• Angels appear
• The disciples gather together and pray
• They are in one accord
• They vote on someone taking Judas’ place
This book of the Bible is called Acts or The Acts of the Apostles. Long ago, it was called The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. Really it might best be described as the work of the Holy Spirit through the church body. It is a book about transformed people and their actions.
I believe the word the Lord gave us for 2017, calling it a “Year of Transition Leading to Transformation,” resonated with almost everyone in our church
community. If it was and still is true (and I believe it is), then we are living in historic times. All the changes that we went through, both as individuals
and as a church community, have a purpose – transformation. Changing us into the image that God has for us. The problem with historic times is that we rarely recognize them when we are in them! We are in the midst of truly becoming a life-giving church that lasts. We are transforming from being a church led by people born in the 50’s to being led by people born in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I could not be more excited and proud of what the Lord is doing.
I believe 2018 is going to be a year of transformation! It will be a transformation that comes into the church to help us continue to be a life-giving church that lasts!
I also believe God wants 2018 to be a year of action! Remember the Book of Acts? The Book of Acts is simply a compilation of stories about people changed by the power of God and the things that they do with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the gospel according to the Church—the Church Jesus came here to build and the Church He bled and died for!
So buckle up, hang on, and get ready to make 2018 a year of transformation as the church rises to action.
In our key verses, you might notice the church is told to wait before it acts. If we truly want to be transformed and used for God in action this year, it is going to start with looking up to Him. Not the aimless look of the daydreamers waiting on angels as
Jesus ascended to heaven, but the intentionally set gaze of believers looking to Jesus, our Savior, who loves us and died for us. So we start the year with this prayer:
Father, in Jesus’ name, I want to grow in my love for You. I repent from where I have fallen, and I ask you to help me to do the first works— the things I did not out of duty, but out of my love for You! The first action of my New Year is
a step toward You.
Father, help me to be one with Your Church and to love her well. I want to walk in one accord with the family of God. Help me grow up to become the believer you want me to be and the part of the body of Christ I am supposed to
fulfill. May the church grow stronger this year as I love and serve the church well.
Father, I want to see the people around me as You see them. I want to love them as You love them and serve them as You serve them. Lord, I want to be part of Your call to action for this
lost and hurting world. Show me today who needs to be introduced to You and who needs to be saved and delivered.
In Jesus' name, Amen
What has changed in my relationship with God throughout my life with Him?
Where am I supposed to strengthen the
church this year?
Who is someone I can begin to pray for and then eventually lead to Christ?
Acts 2:28 NKJV
You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.
Surely you’ve heard “God is love,” but God is also life and He gives life. When God reveals Himself to us, He is making known to us His ways of life. Additionally, God has designed us to live in the joy of His presence and to experience His deepest affection and power. When we receive Jesus into our hearts, God’s presence is forever with us; His Spirit is living (alive) and dwelling (eternal habitation) in us. Thus begins the most important process of our lives: learning who God is and what He is to us, and becoming who God created us to be!
King David knew the importance of being in God's presence. He knew who he was and his purpose, as the above verse notes. God was with him in battle. David was a true worshipper. He understood the power of praise and he understood that a warrior lives in joy, loves to rejoice, and that worship is the key to defeating the enemy (vs25,26). Joy leads us into God’s presence, then releases power in our circumstances to destroy the enemy. Joy is a weapon!
Did you know the enemy hates joy? He robs us of our joy because he fears it, but he also wants us to fear so we can be like him. He can’t stay in the presence of a rejoicing heart of genuine praise. True worship is God’s language of intimidation, and joy is our greatest source of strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Have you considered that the enemy is fearful? God says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (I John 4:18). The enemy has not been made perfect in love, therefore, he fears! He can’t live in love. There is, however, a holy fear. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
God’s love is the enemy of fear and joy is the weapon! We are born warriors with God’s DNA. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God has given us His Spirit, our greatest ally and friend, to develop who we are in Jesus. The Spirit is there to be our connection between heaven and earth. God welcomes us to dwell in His presence, as partners with Jesus, experiencing His power, goodness and joy. Why would we choose any other life? God has given us His all!
Abba Father, how glorious are Your ways; Your loving kindness is immeasurable. I so desire to forever live in the majesty of Your affections for me...to dwell in Your presence continually, and to bring You joy as Your joy overwhelms me; to see Your beauty and be of beauty in Your heart; to live as a warrior, fearless in Your power and free in Your love; to be merciful and tender hearted, yet bold in spirit. Fill me with Your joy, and make Your ways my ways. May I be a life that loves Your Light. Make me a reflection of Your glory to the world.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Are you living in love or fear?
Do you feel God’s love, joy and power?
What area of your life needs more of God?
Acts 3:2-6 NLT
2 As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple.
3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.
4 Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”
5 The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money.
6 But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up
This story is one that we can all relate to. Here we see a person that the world had labeled a certain way. He had learned to accept the way he had been identified as a cripple and beggar. People in this man’s position only had one option for survival, and that was to beg for their basic needs. Every day this man came to the temple with the hope that people would provide a little bit of sustenance for him. Can you imagine the hopelessness he felt? Or how many days he went hungry? But still, he showed up day after day! Little did this man know that Jesus had come! His arrival on earth and His subsequent death and resurrection had cleared the way for the Holy Spirit to work through His followers!
On this particular day, God had something different in mind than what the beggar had come to accept. He was hoping for some money or a handout, but Peter boldly told him, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” The scripture goes on to tell us that immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength, and he was healed!
I see a challenge here to be full of boldness so that when we see people in our lives who have been labeled, like the beggar who showed up each day, we should push through the discomfort we might initially feel and pray for an encounter with God! We are challenged as believers to be as bold as Peter to pray for healing and see a breakthrough in this man’s life! Let’s walk through the Beautiful Gate today and experience what God has in store for, not only us, but for the community around us as well!
Let’s be a church of action that leads to transformation.
Father, help us to be bold today! We want to pursue You with expectation and excitement every day. We repent for not coming to church in faith and believing for miracles and encounters with You. Help us also to be courageous in sharing our faith and praying for others. We know that signs and wonders will follow those who believe. Help us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world and to our fellow believers at East Coast!
In Jesus name, Amen
Who is someone that I have walked past today that I can pray and believe for breakthrough or healing?
Am I coming to church with expectations for an encounter with God?
Do I help others to do the same?
Acts 4:29-31 NLT
29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.
30 Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.
The presence of the Holy Spirit empowers us to preach the Word with confidence and authority. It encourages us and compels us to share the good news even when it seems impossible. If we are going to truly love one another, we must also be willing to re-gift the very thing that saved us. Our whole world is dying from lack of relationship with Jesus, yet He’s given us the power and tools to connect those people to Him.
Verse 13 says, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” Training in or knowledge of Scripture is certainly beneficial, but it is in no way a prerequisite to sharing the gospel. If we have Jesus in us, then He can surely speak through us, as ordinary as we may be. When we spend time with Jesus, others will begin to recognize Him alongside us.
The chapter shows that news of this miracle could not be contained. It spread like wildfire. This widespread testimony even worked to protect Peter and John. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter was perfectly clear and unashamed in sharing that this crippled man was healed by the power of Jesus Christ and no one else! John and Peter recognized that the command and judgment from man was nothing compared to their higher orders. What they had seen and heard was more powerful than any earthly experience, and nothing would stop them from sharing what they had found.
Thank you, Lord, that You have already qualified me to increase Your Name on this earth. I choose to turn from timidity so that I can fight with the fullness of the power You’ve given me. I pray that You take every threat, worry, or hesitation and replace it with Your great boldness. Help me impact my environment with the same excitement and certainty as John and Peter! I know that even the simplest testimony can ignite Your love in the hearts of the lost. As I step out in faith, You will meet me with Your miraculous signs and wonders. Where I lack, Your miracles will speak on my behalf.
I ask all these things in and for the glory of Your name, Jesus. Amen.
When is the last time you stood up for Jesus?
What everyday actions or skills do you already do with confidence or boldness?
How can you start treating God’s Word with the same authority or determination?
Acts 5:29 NIV
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”
This verse is such a good reminder of who we should look to in our lives and who we should obey. I believe this goes for far more than human authorities. There are beliefs and concepts that we allow to dictate our lives, and in the process, we submit to their authority. This could be a relationship, addiction, or maybe your own selfish ambition. We allow things to rule our hearts and lives. The Word of God is the perfect instruction manual for life, and this passage shows just how much the apostles understood that. It isn’t just their reputations and pride that they were laying down. They had been thrown in jail and told to never again speak in the name of Jesus, but God freed them.
Once they were free, what would have been the easy option for Peter and the apostles? To flee in fear and hide their faces and never speak of Jesus ever again. Instead, Peter and the other apostles didn’t waste a single moment. Immediately after their release, they went right back to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter and the apostles had their eyes set on Jesus. No one could deter them from accomplishing His work. Jesus reigned on the throne of their hearts, and the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) flowed from them.
What is trying to steal your peace, love, or kindness? Throughout your day, be aware of when something or someone is trying to rob you of your ability to operate in the Spirit’s gifts. In the moments when you feel that you are losing patience or self-control, just talk to God.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for who You are. I am so grateful that You never stop changing me to look more like You. Lord, I thank You for Your Spirit that covers me. God, thank You for giving me peace that goes beyond my understanding. Thank You for Your joy, Lord. Give me a new song today. God, I am so grateful that You see every move I make, yet You love me through it all. Help me love the way You do. Let Your kindness and gentleness flow from within me. God, help me to be steadfast and unwavering as I reflect Your goodness. Fill me with self-control so that my actions are motivated by love. God, I pray that today someone might experience Your love through me. Help me love You more and more every day.
In Jesus' name, Amen
What am I allowing to govern my heart and life?
Are there any areas that I need to completely surrender to Jesus?
Is Jesus sitting on the throne of my heart?
Acts 6:1 NKJV
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
Let’s think about the first people we notice when we walk into church. Typically we notice the greeters first, then maybe we need to use the restroom or grab a cup of coffee. Maybe we are the no-nonsense types who need to find our seat in church before anything else happens. We may notice someone we know and stop to chat for a bit. If we came to church to serve, perhaps we go straight to our post and commence our duties. Anything else? This is how most people typically “do church,” and there is nothing wrong with any of it. However, there is more to be seen than where our eyes typically gravitate.
The above verse says the Hebrews were neglecting some of their widows’ needs. Think about it. There are needy people in our church, whether widows or otherwise, who need us to notice them. They may be needy socially, financially, or going through a difficult time with their families. They may be in desperate straits or just feeling a little down. It’s a guarantee that not one person has an absence of problems in life. Everyone can use some encouragement.
Recently my son told me he didn’t want to attend a specific church function simply because his friends were not going to be there. I reminded him that we named him Tytus after Titus in the Bible who was a young man who refreshed the hearts of many people. I told him that God gave him an amazing smile for a reason. I inspired in him a purpose greater than himself for going to this event. It wasn’t about his social life; it was about who he needed to reach out to in love. He ended up going with a purpose and no complaints!
So as we head into church to meet the greeters, talk to our friends, grab our coffee, and find a seat, remember that someone needs you. God will show them to you if you ask Him. Look around, smile with intentionality, and take a moment to care. As the body of Christ, our church people do an amazing job of loving and reaching out to people, but we must never stop searching them out. It is so easy to settle in and get comfortable. The heart of God never stops pursuing, so let’s take our cues from Him. Let’s lead our hearts to follow hard after His love for people. Never get comfortable and cease to look around.
Father, we pray that You would give us eyes to see and ears to hear what You see and hear regarding those around us. We repent for sometimes being in a rut or in a hurry and not always taking the time to notice what is of eternal value. We choose to take our cues from You and invite You into the details of our daily routines.
In Jesus' name, Amen
In your mind, go through your routine when you first walk into church or into your place of work. Are you in a rut of only talking to the same people?
Make it different this week as the Holy Spirit leads you to love people who need encouragement.
Acts 7:60 NKJV
Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Loving people at your own expense, and for their own good, takes courage and devotion. It is not always easy to love someone and grant them forgiveness in the darkest hour, but God’s perfect love and grace is more than enough. In the above scripture, Stephen paid the ultimate price because of his love for God and His people.
Each day we offer up our lives for several reasons. Some spend their entire lives accumulating possessions and gathering wealth, while others give up their lives on a quest for knowledge and justice. Submitting our lives to forgiving and loving others brings a life of fulfillment and abundance that cannot be received any other way. I know what you’re thinking: I have been wronged and cannot bring myself to forgive them; I only feel revenge. We often spend too much time holding a grudge and seeking vengeance, while we rationalize and justify our own lack of forgiveness.
Stephen’s love enabled him to give up his revenge. He challenges us to forgive the most unforgiveable words and actions. Being stoned to his last breath is no light deed. This type of forgiveness is the price of love. Affixing your gaze on Jesus keeps your heart and your mind in the right place. Forgiveness has tremendous power and is transformational in our lives; it takes us a step closer from where we are, to where we want to be. It is essential to our relationships; it restores brokenness and is a healing agent for our soul. Forgiveness, just like the word love, is an action word producing fruit that is life-giving, not only for the person we are forgiving, but also for ourselves.
Father God, I thank You for the power of forgiveness, and today I choose to forgive all who have hurt me. Help me to set them free and release them to You. Help me to bless those who have hurt me, and to walk in righteousness, peace and joy only demonstrating Your life here on earth. Today I choose to walk in love, compassion, and forgiveness just as You have forgiven me.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Who in your life do you need to forgive?
How could extending forgiveness heal a relationship today?
What characteristics in your life might indicate that you haven’t fully forgiven past hurts?
How will you rectify this and move forward to see transformations in your life?
This week we are going to get together and spend time in prayer. Gather with your kids, your spouse, your best friend, or your neighbors. The Bible says that God is in the midst of those who are gathered in prayer, so no matter who you choose to join with, we know your prayer will be powerful.
Why pray together?
- Prayer acknowledges our dependence on God.
- Corporate prayer brings us closer to God.
- Corporate prayer brings us closer to each other.
- Prayer makes things happen.
As you get together, you can pray for each other, for our church, and for our community, and that God would transform those around us. We believe that He will help us reach the hopeless in our community with a message of hope in Jesus, and see lives changed during this time.
Visit our website at eccc.us for opportunities to join together corporately. Also, mark your calendar for January 10th, when we will gather our community and invite other local churches to pray together. We will be praying for each other, for hope and revival in our city, and for our community to be transformed.
During this devotional, you will be challenged to pray and seek God as an individual and as a body of believers. Here are some prayer guidelines to help guide your heart in prayer:
Sunday // SURRENDER
- Pray that we will be completely yielded to God.
- Pray that we will be whole-hearted in our devotion to God.
- Pray that we be persistent and persevering on the journey.
Monday // CHARACTER & INTEGRITY
- Pray for character development.
- Pray for purity.
- Pray that character always outpaces gifts.
Tuesday // MARRIAGE & RELATIONSHIPS
- Pray that we maintain/grow a loving relationship.
- Pray that we maintain oneness/intimacy.
- Pray that we communicate well.
Wednesday // PARENTING
- Pray for God’s wisdom.
- Pray that homes will be a place of peace.
- Pray that we will “train up” our child(ren) well.
Thursday // GROWTH
- Pray for spiritual growth.
- Pray that we remain committed to being lifelong learners.
- Pray for one another’s gift development.
Friday // HEALTH & WELL-BEING
- Pray for health and well-being.
- Pray that we consistently exercise and eat well.
- Pray that we consistently take time off each day, days off each week, and vacation time.
Saturday // LEGACY & IMPACT
- Pray that our lives impact others.
- Pray that we remain good stewards.
- Pray that we make a difference for eternity.
Acts 8:17 NIV
Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
At the moment of salvation, we receive the Holy Spirit and are born again of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us, and His Spirit is joined with ours. So why would we need anything more? We need God’s power! The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a pouring out of the Spirit, and it empowers us for service. With this baptism, our body and soul are immersed and saturated in the life and the power of the Spirit. As followers of Christ, we need this power to be able to perform services beyond ourselves for God’s purposes. Just as Jesus instructed His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, God wants us to have the same power.
Receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit is easy. Since Jesus is the one that does the baptism, you can receive the Holy Spirit any time and any place. All you have to do is ask, believe, and receive! The only requirement needed is that you must be saved. The Holy Spirit cannot fill an unbeliever. What can you expect once you receive the Holy Spirit? You can expect to see the fruit of the Spirit in your life which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
Dear Father, I come to You and thank You that Jesus saved me. I pray that the Holy Spirit might come upon me and baptize me now. I receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit by faith in Your Word. May the power of God come upon me and into my life, giving me the empowerment needed for service from this day forward. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for baptizing me in Your Holy Spirit.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Am I doing God’s work through my own power, or am I allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me?
Is my life a reflection of the fruit of the Spirit?
Have I thanked God for the gift of the Holy Spirit?
Acts 9:31 NKJV
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
In today’s Scripture, we see that the church had a respite from the persecution that had been occurring under Saul, now Paul. It was a season of “walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit,” and the church multiplied as a result.
I find it interesting that often when discussions of attendance numbers come up, there is a concern that “the church is all about numbers.” In the Book of Acts, we see several mentions of church growth and multiplication, often accompanied by specific numbers. The simple answer to the question of whether the church is about numbers is yes; the church is about numbers of people coming to Jesus. The Bible is clear that every person who turns to Jesus for salvation is celebrated in Heaven. Church growth matters because people coming into the Kingdom is what the Church is all about!
Twice in Acts 9, Paul was sought for death. Both times he escaped because of the help of the brethren. I’ll bet Paul was thankful for Church growth! How many brothers does it take to lower a man over a wall in a basket? I don’t know how heavy Paul was, but it probably took a few guys. Maybe even enough to form a small group. Men’s Basket Lowering Group: meeting at the wall after dark.
When we were having babies, I was thankful for the numbers of people who gathered to bring us food while my wife recovered. I ate like a king! It is so rewarding to be part of a team serving families and communities when we are operating together in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Trials seem a little less difficult, sadness a little less heavy, and joy all the more wonderful when surrounded by a church family.
Jesus said the fields are white with harvest, but the laborers are few. Then he encouraged His disciples to pray for laborers. When the church grows, we are seeing laborers added to the harvest workforce. The harvest is huge. Let’s pray that the multiplication like they saw in Acts will continue this year.
Lord, thank You for the Church. Show me by Your Spirit how I can connect on a deeper level to love Your people and rest in Your comfort. Thank You for growing Your Church to include me and for enabling me to be a part of multiplied growth as we labor for Your harvest.
In Jesus' name, Amen
What is the Holy Spirit showing me about my role in building the Church this year?
Is there a creative idea that I could bring to my sphere of influence to help take things to the next level of effectiveness or excellence?
Acts 10:34-35 NLT
34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation, He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.”
My dad was born color blind. No one ever noticed that his crayon choices were a bit eclectic on his kindergarten coloring pages. “Why did little Danny color the dog green, the grass red and the sun purple?” said no one ever. In my grandmother’s defense, she most definitely had her hands full with seven kids. She probably didn’t have much time to notice that her second oldest child’s clothes didn’t always quite match. Amazingly, he didn’t discover his color vision deficiency until he was twenty-five years old during a routine test he had to take to acquire his commercial driver’s license!
My kids were born color blind too. No, not clinically color blind, but racially color blind. They were never taught that there was any difference between white and black. Still at ages twelve, nine and five, they call black people “brown” and white people “light tan” because kids are literal, and they call it how they see it. In July of 2016, when we were watching some coverage on the tragic Dallas shootings, I looked over to see my then 11-year-old overcome with emotion with silent tears streaming down his face. I realized that he had no frame of reference whatsoever for this violence. He couldn’t process such hatred because it’s inconceivable. He didn’t understand racism because he’d never been taught to hate. He has only ever known this truth from the Bible: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
In that moment, we turned off the TV and prayed together for all the families involved in the tragedy in Dallas. We talked about how as this world gets darker, our light gets even brighter and how Jesus is the only answer. It was a heartbreaking conversation because I realized that a little bit of my son’s innocence was lost that day, but it was powerful because I knew the foundation of the way in which he would process racial “issues” would be based on the Word of God.
Lord Jesus, help me today to see people through Your eyes and to remember that while You show no favoritism, we are all Your favorites. Help me to treat people with love and care despite what I may have been taught in my childhood. Help me to bring peace into every situation I find myself in because You reside within me, the Prince of Peace. Thank You for loving me and setting me free so that I can help point others to You.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Spend a moment to pray for someone different than you. Whether they’re a different nationality, are in a different tax bracket, or adopt a different political viewpoint, ask God to bring someone to your mind and then pray for them today.
Listen to this song called “Build My Life” by Housefires. I love the line that says, “Show me who You are and fill me with Your heart and lead me in Your love to those around me.”
Acts 11:23 NKJV
When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
Here, Barnabas is excited because he has seen the grace of God redeeming lives. Verse 21 says, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.”
God’s infinite, unconditional, redeeming love for us is just as strong now as it ever was. It’s this astounding love and grace that is bringing joy to the heart of Barnabas as he sees the great number of people who have turned to the Lord.
The forgiveness and grace of God are things that we can never earn. Can you remember a time when someone unexpectedly gave you a Christmas gift and you had no gift to give in return? It can be difficult to freely receive the gift with joy and thankfulness when you are busy feeling awkward because you didn’t think to get that person a gift. Maybe you consoled yourself by deciding to get them something later.
Because our culture naturally thinks this way, it seems counter-intuitive to gladly receive a gift that we don’t deserve or expect when we have nothing even close to equal value to give in return. Sometimes we try to relate to God in the same way that people relate to each other.
God’s forgiveness and the gift of eternal life in exchange for our sin just wasn’t a fair trade. We will never be able to pay God back for this incredible gift. But sometimes, after experiencing the initial joy and freedom in salvation, we can slip into thinking that it’s our good behavior that keeps us in good standing with God, and that if we sin, God is angry with us. If we see our relationship with God as being good or bad based on our behavior, this perspective is a deceptive thief of joy. It’s the fruit of the beautiful, free grace of God that is making Barnabas glad in verse 23, and His grace should be a source of joy for us as well.
Barnabas encouraged those who were converting to Christianity to continue with the Lord with purpose of heart. The grace of God is not a gift we receive and take advantage of, living however we want. Rather, it’s a gift that propels us in unspeakable joy, to continue with the Lord with purpose of heart. When enjoying our relationship with Jesus is our heart’s purpose, we can experience the intense gladness that comes from knowing that we are redeemed by His grace and not our own works.
Father, thank You for Your love and grace that have redeemed us from destruction! We choose to be God-conscious rather than sin-conscious as we press in to know You more deeply. We celebrate Your free gift of salvation, holding it closely as most precious. Let us never lose sight of the immense, perfect love that You shed in our hearts, and the joy that we have from the transforming grace You have extended to us. Thank You that no sin or bondage is bigger than the cross of Christ! And thank You for the price You paid to have relationship with us.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Remember the first time you realized that God’s forgiveness was bigger than your worst sin. What words can describe that moment?
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you areas where you need to trust His empowering grace in your life, rather than your own strength.
Acts 12:11 NIV
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
Do you ever wonder if your prayers make a difference? In this story, Peter was in prison, and the church was earnestly praying to God for him. I’m not sure what they were expecting to happen, but I think they got more than they could ask or imagine! An angel came to Peter’s prison cell, the chains fell off, and he was rescued! That’s a huge miracle, and it all started with church prayer. It wasn’t just the apostles and disciples or Jesus who prayed and saw miracles. You don’t have to be a pastor or evangelist or even on the church staff.
As Christians, we have the power of Christ within us, and He said we would do even greater things than He did, in His name! That’s amazing! The name of Jesus is above every name and has the power to set people free! So when you see someone bound in chains, whether it’s addiction, sickness, depression, fear, or literally prison, remember to pray earnestly! When you even think of someone or tell someone you’ll be praying for them, take action and do it right away! God is putting them on your heart for a reason. They need the breakthrough, and you are waging spiritual warfare to win it! You are the Church, the body of Christ, and your prayers do make a difference!
God, I ask You to strengthen my prayer life. Help me to realize the power in prayer, that it really does break chains and set people free! I want to pray Your Word like Jesus did because Your Word is my sword. Give me a passion to pray earnestly for my loved ones and those You put in my path who need You. Use me to bring the breakthrough in their lives, and I give You the glory for the great things You will do as I pray and believe Your Word!
In Jesus' name, Amen
Who do I know that needs chains to fall off?
Who do I keep thinking about that God is putting on my heart and I should pray for?
Acts 13:47 NLT
For the Lord gave us this command when He said, “I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.”
The Lord gives us commands that He expects us to follow, and He won’t give us commands that He isn’t willing to walk us through. The world around us can often seem overwhelming. The darkness in the world, if we let it, can hold us down. America is in upheaval politically, economically, and racially. People fight on every side imaginable, and it becomes more and more impossible to remain “politically correct” or conscientious of everyone around us.
When we look around, it seems the large-mob-mentality has angrily worked hard to push God out of its systems. Over the last 75 years, He has been worked out of schools, politics, gender, and marriage. All the while, the Church is blamed for the world’s problems. What can we do to share God’s love when the world is so content to live in darkness?
God has called us “a light.” We are the light of the world, sent to be a city on a hill. Because no matter how dark or seemingly powerful the darkness becomes, it will never stand a fight against the light.
Imagine for a moment, walking into a dark room and turning on a light switch. Did you see a battle between light and dark before your eyes? Or did all the darkness in the room flee in an instant?
You are the light of the world. No matter how hard the world may not seem to want it, your mission is to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth. As the world gets darker and darker, the individual heart will crave the light all the more. That is when the Church is shining brightest.
It's usually futile to debate or argue with a mass group. But when we can meet someone on an individual level, sharing our heart and hearing theirs, God’s light shows up, and the darkness flees. Become a light to someone’s darkness.
Help me, Lord, to be a light in this world. Teach me to see the world as You see it, and to love the people around me the way You do. Father, thank You for showing me people today who need Your light. Thank You for helping me slow down and listen to Your voice when You speak. Thank You for the light You have given me. Thank You for the hope You have placed in my heart. Thank You for the peace and love that have changed my life. Show me how to give as You have given. Show me how to shine as You shine.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Is the answer for our economical, political, and racial issues found in a new “policy” or in the Church?
Whose day can you change by showing them the love of God today?
What are 3 things that you are grateful the Lord has given you today?
How can you share that joy with others around you?
Acts 14:23 NIV
Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in who they had put their trust.
Both Paul and Barnabas were asked to plant churches, and when they planted the churches, they had to appoint elders to lead their church. Imagine trying to start a business and having to select a random elder to run the business for you. Scary, right? Who knows what would happen if you had to choose a random stranger to lead a business for you. That’s why Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church by praying, fasting, and committing it to the Lord. They both had full trust in the Lord that He would provide them with the perfect leaders for the church.
I know that sometimes it is really hard to put my full trust in somebody and not know whether they will meet my expectations or not. I know that it can be really scary putting that very thing you have believed for in God’s hands and trust that it will all work. It can feel a lot like jumping out of an airplane and putting all of your trust in that parachute. If there is one thing that remains true, it is that God is faithful. He will exceed your expectations. He won’t ever let you down, and you can count on that! Every time I have given everything to God and completely trusted in Him, I have seen just how beautiful His plan is for me and how He really does work everything out for our greater good.
Father, I thank You for all that You have done for me. I thank You that in the midst of trial and confusion, I can turn to You and trust that You are working every detail out for me. You know the plans You have for me, and they are plans of hope and a future. So, Lord, I just pray that we all get to encounter Your goodness and Your faithfulness. You are a good, good Father.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Who are you putting your full trust in?
What are some ways you can fully put your trust in the Lord? For Paul and Barnabas, they prayed and fasted.
Have you ever put your trust in God and He exceeded your expectations?
This week we are going to get together! God created us to live in relationship with others; only then can we live the full life He intends for us. Sharing life through community is part of God' design for us. Here are some ideas for getting together:
- Join some friends for dinner.
- Invite your neighbors over.
- Go out in the community and spend time with people.
- Do something fun with your small group or freedom group.
- Make a play date with other moms.
- Have a game day for a group of guys.
- Check out the bulletin for church events.
Our prayer is that we draw closer as a body and build relationships that will build a life-giving church that lasts.
Acts 15:2-3 NKJV
2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
3 So being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.
There is a lot going on in Paul and Barnabas’ lives in this chapter. There is a lot that could cause them tremendous stress and a lot that could bring them tremendous joy. Notice the incredible dissension in verse 2 and the incredible joy in verse 3.
Is this not the case in most of our lives? We have so many reasons to be thankful, and at the same time, there is always something that can bring stress too, if not multiple things! What if the dissensions of Paul and Barnabas had become so large in their minds that they had forgotten the things that God was doing that caused them great joy? The Gentiles were getting saved! The gospel was being preached! The Holy Spirit was moving mightily among them! I love that they kept their perspective on the good that was happening around them. Later on in the chapter, they ended up getting breakthrough resolution to the problem, which in turn brought even more joy to the Gentiles!
Similarly, in the church, we will always have reasons to get our undies in a bundle. We will never all agree on every point at the end of the day, but our perspective is everything. What if Paul and Barnabas had thrown up their hands after the great dissension and given up on the church? Imagine the blessings that they and so many others would have missed!
So take a step back and think about your perspective of the Church. God is doing incredible things in us and through us. Have we allowed any dissensions to cloud our minds and callous our hearts to the incredible mission to which God has called us? A critical spirit can profoundly block the voice of God in our lives and change our perspective. Conversely, it is amazing how much peace and clarity come when we resist the spirit of criticism and focus on the blessings.
Father, we pray for Your perspective on the Church. You love her dearly, despite her issues. We lay those burdens that we were never meant to carry in Your hands. We trust You to speak and bring resolution to areas where we need it. We thank You for the incredible freedom that we have to worship You in our country. Thank You for the opportunity to be a part of a beautiful, diverse church family that is changing the world with the love of God!
In Jesus' name, Amen
Is there something that you have been holding onto (stress, criticism, or problem) that you need to give over to God?
Surrender those things to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to empower you with His perspective and His joy.
Find something to be grateful for in the local church today and even in your previous church.
Acts 16:6 NLT
Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time.
Have you ever tried to do something you knew was good, only to have your plans completely derailed by God? That’s exactly what happened to Paul and Silas. They knew they were called to preach the gospel, but they couldn’t figure out where exactly to go. In fact, the Word says they tried to travel to Asia to preach but the Spirit of God simply would not let them. What gives?
It’s easy to get so caught up in our own plans and good ideas that we forget what our purpose is every day. I worked as a flight attendant for many years. Before taking that job, I found it difficult to be flexible in my day-to-day. I loved schedules; I thrived on clearly-set plans. I actually thought being a flight attendant would complement that because the expectations of where, when, and how you should get places were very clear. I didn’t realize how often I would be detoured and end up in places I didn’t expect to be. The reality is, that job is often a flurry of 3 AM wakeup calls, grabbing airport food on the run, delays, missed connections, schedule changes and sheer exhaustion. I once ended up in windy Chicago in the dead of winter without a coat, and a bag packed for Miami. Talk about disappointed! That trip did not turn out the way I had expected. In the beginning, the constant detours sent me into an emotional tailspin. I was too busy being disappointed about the changes in my plans to be fully engaged right where I was.
In the scriptures, we see that the Lord got Paul’s attention in a dream and showed him where to go. Instead of copping an attitude, Paul and Silas were quick to respond to the Lord’s leading. As they obeyed, they watched the Lord partner with them to see hearts wrecked with the love of Jesus for the sake of the Kingdom. You see, they knew that even when their plans changed, their purpose always remained the same. Eventually they even landed in jail, but they would not be deterred. They recognized that they were ministers of the sweet gospel of Christ wherever they went.
You have that same opportunity every day. When the traffic gets backed up making you miss your meeting, or for what seems like the millionth time, your kids don’t have matching socks or packed lunches, remember that your purpose in each day is to love people with the love of Christ right where you are. Choose to be fully present in your moments and ask the Lord who He is setting you up with to encounter His love.
Thank You, God, for lavishing Your love on me every day. Realign my heart with Yours. Open my eyes today to Your purposes amidst my plans. Help me not to be so caught up in meeting deadlines and completing tasks that I miss opportunities to love people for Your sake. Show me how to be fully engaged in the moments that You have orchestrated.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Are there any situations in your life that tend to get you flustered and distracted from what’s most important?
Who do you have right in front of you today that needs to experience the love of God in a tangible way?
Acts 17:24 NKVJ
God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.
God, who made the world, and everything else in it, is the Lord of heaven and earth. God is the creator and maker of all living things. Not one of these can be created by human works. The world did not come into existence by chance, but by His spoken word and design, the same way He created you and me in His image. We don’t serve God because He needs anything, rather we serve FOR God because He gave everything. But this is not a service that actually benefits Him, because He is perfect and is in no need of anything which we can supply Him.
“Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: ‘the heavens are my throne, the earth is my footstool. What kind of house can you build for me? says the Lord, or what is to be my resting place? Did not my hand make all these things?’” Acts 7:48-50 (NAB).
Your identity and worship should be in Christ Jesus, not in idols or earthly things. God has revealed Himself to humanity in the form of His only son, Jesus, who will come and judge the earth. This is the gospel: that God created us, that sin separates us from Him, that only through the completed work of Jesus can we be in right relationship with God, and that unless we come to know Him we will face an inevitable judgement.
Heavenly Father, we come to You today in awe of who You are and what You have done for us. Lord God, help me to worship only You, Creator of heaven and earth. Help me to grow into a relationship with You. You have done everything needed by Your works, not mine. Help me to know You more.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Am I looking at God like a religion or a relationship?
What are some things that I need to let go of in order to worship God, the Creator of heaven and earth?
Take time today to praise God for all that He has done.
Acts 18:24-27 NLT
24 Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well,
25 had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism.
26 When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.
27 Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the brothers and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him to go. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed.
It is so important that we believe in the people around us. Being part of a life-giving church requires us to see potential in those we have been given the privilege of doing life with. Loving the church means helping others reach that God-intended potential, much like what we see happening throughout the Book of Acts.
During a season in our lives when my husband and I were feeling very vulnerable, we felt that God was calling us to leave our home and move to another state. We believed this was for the purpose of growing in God and a move toward something new He was doing in us. During that time, we plugged in to a local church where the pastor and other believers spent time encouraging us and mentoring us. We came to love that church and started serving regularly, teaching and encouraging others in a relationship with God. After some time, and a few life challenges, we started thinking we needed to move back home. The friends we had made amongst those believers encouraged our hearts to return, knowing we would be a great benefit to our family and the church. All along, they saw the potential in us, empowered us to walk in that potential, and then released us to move forward in God’s plan.
Reading Acts 18 reminded me of the importance of loving the church. We do not love the church because it is a fun place to go or a country club to rub shoulders with the elite. It is a place to provide encouragement and mentorship to others so they may become believers, and to assist them in walking out the life God intended for them to walk out. Earlier in the chapter, Paul met Aquilla and his wife Priscilla as they worked side-by-side as tentmakers. Paul saw the potential in the two of them through their occupation and also as co-laborers for the gospel. Eventually, Priscilla and Aquilla would see the good in Apollos and recognize that he had an enthusiasm for teaching and preaching the Good News of Jesus. Their concern and nurture for his excitement would eventually cause him to reach out to Achaia, allowing the Church to grow.
Thank You, Jesus, that we have the privilege of growing with the Church. Thank You for the people we get to do life with every day. Help us to see the good and the potential in every person we meet in order to encourage them toward the things that will build Your Kingdom.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Have you ever considered how impactful your encouragement can be to someone seeking to walk out their potential?
How can you make more of an effort to see the worth in others in order to see the Church grow?
Ask God to show you someone in your small group or at church whom you can encourage this week.
Acts 19:15 NKJV
And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”
Acts chapter 19 is about Paul’s journey in Ephesus and throughout almost all of Asia. During his ministry, the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. God worked through Paul’s hands to bring healing to the sick and cast out evil spirits.
Paul endured beatings. He was small and unimposing. His name actually means “little one.” He was highly educated, cultured, and skillful in the political arena before he came to Christ. Think about what is holding you back. Consider just a few notable men and women in the Bible.
Paul was small in stature: God can use you no matter how you look.
Moses was slow in speech: God can use you no matter how you sound.
Hannah was thought to be drunk (I Samuel 1: 12-18): God can use you no matter how others perceive you. David was a shepherd boy and Abraham became the father of many nations. God can use you regardless of your age.
No matter who you are, God can and will use you to reach out to the lost souls in our world if you make yourself available to Him.
Paul knew his weapons were not in his physical strength or his intelligence. His greatest weapon to fight against the devil was to fight in the Spirit (II Cor. 10: 3-5). The seven sons of a man named Sceva and a group of exorcists commanded the evil spirit to come out of a demon-possessed man and the evil spirit answered them and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).
I need to depend on God’s Holy Spirit and the weapons He has given me, to fight for the lost souls who need a savior. With God’s help, I can get the focus off of myself and look at others whose souls hang in the balance between life and death, and are in desperate need to know Him.
Say this out loud:
“GOD IS FOR ME AND NO DEVIL IN HELL HAS POWER OVER ME!”
Lord, help me to depend on You and not on me. I want to be kind and humble, but strong and mighty by the power of Your Spirit. I want to go about my days not always thinking about myself, but loving others and looking for ways to help them see that You are a good and loving Father. The only way I can do this is through the power of Your Holy Spirit. No matter what or who I encounter, I know You will help me.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Am I spending enough time reading the Bible?
How do I look at the people around me? Am I critical? Judgemental? Do I look away and pretend not to see? Do I just not care about them?
What are 3 things I can do to love others?
Acts 20:9-12 NKJV
9 And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutycus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep, and as Paul continued speaking he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.
10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.”
11 Now when he had come up, broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed.
12 And they brought the young man in alive and they were not a little comforted.
Did you know that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you if you’re a believer? Our heavenly Father loves us so much that He has given us complete access to love Him through Jesus Christ and experience walking in the power of God here in the earth. We were separated from God by our sin before we knew Christ, but now if you’re a believer, Jesus has changed the game in your life. You have the ability to possess and use the power of God.
As we read this chapter, we see that Paul was preaching and a young man fell from a balcony at his meeting and was killed. Paul (being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of God) raised this young man from the dead. That’s really an exciting story from the Bible, but did you know the same power in Paul is in every believer. There’s no difference between any of us if we will only believe that God desires to work miracles through believers. The power to raise the dead lives in every believer. Jesus said the work He did we will do, and even greater works will we do! I believe it’s time for us as followers of Christ to take the power that Jesus purchased for us and continue to stretch our faith in believing for more miracles to keep happening as we step out and pray for those who are lost. This is the day for you to step out with the love of God and see amazing miracles happen all around you. Take a chance and pray for someone today; it could change their life for eternity.
Lord Jesus, I come to You right now and ask You to fill me with boldness to step out in faith and pray for others. I believe the same power that was in Jesus is in me, so I can do miracles and see people’s lives changed. Open opportunities for me to pray for people today.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Do you believe that when you pray for someone, God will be behind you to see that prayer answered?
He will, so take a risk and see it happen!
Acts 21:13 NKJV
Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? When we accept Jesus into our lives there are things we must learn to do, such as die to ourselves and our own desires. We should learn how to react to the desires of our body, release our own will, and take control of our emotions. This is a choice that must be made every day. We are tri-dimensional beings, which means that we have a spirit, soul, and body. Each part is simultaneously wanting to take over, but we are called to be Spirit-led and allow God to help us gain control of them all. As we die to our own will, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and lead us. One of the greatest desires of God is for us to be one body of believers moving in the power He has given us. That is the purpose of the Church! It’s all of us laying down our lives every day to see the desire of God released in the earth. When we are part of a body that builds up the Kingdom of God together, we experience the fullness of God even more. As we lose our lives, we find life in being part of something bigger in God as a church member.
In Acts 21, Paul was not only ready to be imprisoned, but also to die for the sake of the gospel. This willingness was not a burden for him; it was something he was eager to do. To be in that mindset, Paul had to set aside everything that wasn’t of the will of God. This was a choice he made every single day. He not only gave up the desires of his heart, he laid down his life physically. This is still relevant to our lives now. We must choose to give up our desires, our will, and our emotions in order to see the Kingdom of God advance through the Church. As we lower ourselves and our own selfish desires, the heart of God is magnified.
Lord Jesus, search my heart and highlight anything in my life that needs to be crucified so that Your love may become greater in my life and to the body of Your Church. Show me areas where I can get involved in the church and my community around me to help spread Your love.
In Jesus' name, Amen
What are some areas of my life that I need to lay down?
In what way am I being called to get involved in my church?
It’s the final week of devotionals! This week we want to put into action everything we have learned and received these past three weeks. The Bible says that love is kind, so this week we want to encourage you to perform an intentional act of generosity and kindness for a stranger or friend. Some ideas could be:
- Paying for someone’s groceries or gas
- Mowing your neighbor’s lawn
- Buying a homeless person lunch
- Buying someone a cup of coffee
- Volunteering your time at a local outreach (ie, a local food pantry, nursing home, child’s school)
We want to encourage you to do it while no one is watching. Doing it in secret will push aside your pride and keep you from parading your good works around for all to see. Just rest in the fact that God sees you, and He knows your heart. Let’s put forth action so we can step into the transformation God is calling us to!
Acts 22:15-16 NLT
15 For you are to be His witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. 16 What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.
What are you waiting for?!
I’m reminded of how my 3 and 5-year olds act sometimes when we are preparing to leave for somewhere fun like Brevard Zoo or Sea World. The bags are packed, the lunch is prepared, and the car is loaded. My wife and I will let them know that we are almost ready to get in the car. All that needs to be done is getting everyone’s shoes on and going potty.
Suddenly, we hear this agonizing whine come bellowing out of two little girls lying prostrate and face down on the living room floor. “I hate putting on my shoes!” “I don’t need to go potty!”
Really?! You are going to throw a fit about this? Right before we leave for all the fun we have prepared? If my girls could only see in that moment all the joy ahead of us, it would be easy to do the simple tasks before us. “What are you waiting for?! We are going to Sea World!”
God has commissioned us to go on an incredible adventure with Him. We can be part of Heaven’s history, declaring God’s goodness, Jesus’ salvation, and the changing of the world. But sometimes, we lie down on the ground and whine about the things right in front of us.
“It’s too hard to trust You, God!”
“I don’t want to talk to that person about You!” “Why do I have to do this?”
Because it is our duty, pleasure, and privilege to hold the name of Jesus in our hearts, and declare all that He has done for us. And it is our joy to experience salvation everyday. He has delivered us from rags to riches. He has pulled us from sin into glory. And He promises to move us from glory to glory.
Isn’t that enough reason to get up and tell every one of His goodness? What we have is to be shared with all those around us. What are you waiting for? Get up and do the thing He has commissioned you to do. Receive His salvation and tell everyone what you have seen and heard. I promise (and He promises), that we will experience incredible adventures on the other side.
Put on your shoes and experience the fullness of God.
Lord, help me keep my focus on what You have done and are continuing to do, both in my life and in the lives of those around me. Use me to speak life into others. Teach me how to proclaim Your name boldly and share it with those in need of it. Thank You for all that You have done in my life. Thank You for the joy of salvation and the hope of a better future. Thank You for bringing me people to share the goodness of God with.
In Jesus' name, Amen
What is God doing in your life that you can share with others?
What to you need to stop whining about?
What are some ways to keep your perspective aligned with what God has commissioned you to do?
Acts 23:11 MSG
That night the Master appeared to Paul: “It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best. You’ve been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you’re going to be my witness in Rome!”
Every one of us is called to share the gospel, and we all do that in many different ways. What do we do when we face resistance and hardship when we’re standing up for Jesus? Maybe you’re trying to make a difference at your work, but the environment is extremely challenging. Perhaps you’re attempting to love a difficult family member, and it keeps backfiring. Whatever the circumstance, many of us have faced some level of resistance and persecution and can learn from Paul the Apostle.
In this chapter, Paul was dealing with some serious persecution from the religious council. As he stood up for Jesus and the truth of the resurrection, it became clear that Paul’s life was in danger, and he narrowly escaped. That night, the Lord came to him and comforted him, reminding him that everything was going to work out for good, despite the resistance he was facing. God then reminded Paul of what he was called to do—preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter what persecution Paul encountered in Jerusalem, God was with him and directed him to keep preaching the gospel in Rome.
Not many of us can say that we’ve nearly lost our lives because of our faith. As we boldly step out for Jesus in our various walks of life, we’ll often encounter resistance because the enemy doesn’t want people to give their hearts to Jesus. We don’t have to be afraid of persecution or disapproval of man! God is with us every step of the way. He keeps reminding us that all things will work out for good, that He is pleased with us, and that He has called us to make a difference. It is our job to boldly preach the gospel and focus our attention on loving people well— no matter the risk! When we do that, we change the environment that we’re in. No matter what you’re facing, be God’s witness!
Father, give me boldness today to share Your goodness and to love people the way You love them. Help me to not be afraid of what anyone might think of or do to me. I’m not moved by fear; I’m moved by love. Thank You for being with me and for comforting me. Holy Spirit, I ask for divine connections today with people who need You. I’m going to be a witness for You and share Your love.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Where has God called you to make a difference? (Job, family, community, government, etc.)
Are you afraid or cautious to step out for Jesus in those environments? Why?
What is one way that you can share the gospel and make a difference in those areas?
Acts 24:16 NKJV
This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.
It’s easy to fall prey to offense because it has become socially acceptable to say that someone offended us. This verse is probing into the fact that Paul had to strive to remain clear of offense toward his fellow man. It didn’t just happen by accident. We have opportunities regularly to take on offenses from people. We can walk into Walmart and get offended by someone who dashes their cart into the line where we were headed. Then, we are tempted to offend them with “the look.” We can be sure of this: offenses will definitely come, but we definitely do not have to receive them.
Some of us have a list of certain people that we avoid. If we pull up next to them at a stop light, we don’t look. We run into a little store in the mall so we don’t have to walk by or make eye contact with them. Maybe there was an offense given or received in the past, and it was swept under the rug, unresolved.
James 3:16 (KJV) says, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” That’s a sobering thought. When we are in strife with someone, we are literally opening the door to our whole life, to confusion and every evil work because of that relationship.
What is the opposite of confusion? Clarity. What is the opposite of every evil work? The work of the Holy Spirit. We get to choose. Do we want confusion and evil in our relationships or do we want clarity and the work of the Holy Spirit? The choice is ours to take offense, or to believe the best, forgive, and resist the offense. There is no way around these choices. Offenses will come and we will have to choose.
Right now is the best time to assess our habits in relationships and start fresh, but we need Jesus to show us how. We cannot love people unconditionally without the love of God working in us and through us.
Jesus, we thank You that Your love has been shed abroad in our hearts, and now we can love others the way that You have loved us. We ask that You would show us areas that we have taken on offenses so that we can release them to You by faith. We welcome the work of the Holy Spirit to bring clarity where there has been confusion, and to bring love where there has been offense.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Did God show you anyone that you have been offended by that you have yet to release?
Will you pray today that God blesses them?
What is one thing you can do today to remain free of offense?
Acts 25:7 NLT
When Paul arrived, the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem gathered around and made many serious accusations they couldn’t prove.
In this chapter, we find the Apostle Paul on trial, wrongfully accused of crimes he did not commit. A man named Festus is in charge of the trial, and he knew that according to Jewish law, Paul was not guilty of the crimes of which he was accused. Instead of clearing Paul of all charges, he continued with the trial in an attempt to protect his reputation in front of the priests and Jewish elders.
Paul had a choice in how he responded to Festus and others who were wrongfully accusing him. He could have chosen hatred. In the natural, it seemed he had every right to lash out, ridicule, and verbally tear down Festus. Paul was innocent. But Paul chose to stand firm in the truth of his innocence and continued to speak about the message of the resurrection of Jesus. He even calls Festus a ‘noble man’ in the following chapter. He was certainly operating in the love of Christ.
Loving our enemies is never an easy thing to do. Sometimes even loving those who we consider friends is difficult. I once had a co-worker who was hard to get along with. No one wanted to work with her. She had an abrasive personality and often gave unsolicited advice that wasn’t in the best interest of the recipient. One day the Lord spoke to my heart about how much He loved her. The following day at work, I went out of my way to be nice to her. I offered to help her with her tasks and asked about her family. Amazingly, her demeanor changed almost instantly. She was grateful, nice, and helpful in return.
Luke 6:27-28 (NLT) says, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” No matter who they are or how tough they appear to be, people crave love. Those who are the hardest to love are often the ones who need it most. As crazy as this world may seem, it can truly be changed by loving one person at a time. Your kind words and time can be just what someone needs to turn a corner in their life. And don’t worry— you were not created to love people by your own strength. What God has called us to, He has also equipped us for by His Spirit. He will never leave us and wants to partner with us to bring His kids home. It’s His job to change hearts; we need only to be obedient.
Jesus, help me love people like You do. Help me see every person like the treasure they are to You. Empower me to be quick to call out the gold in them. Help me to always remember the sweet way You love me, even on my worst days, and may that be a testimony to others around me. I want to change the world with You, one person at a time. My heart and time are Yours, Lord.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Is there anyone in your life who is difficult to love?
What can you do this week to partner with Jesus and show them how much they are loved?
Acts 26:18 NASB
To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.
Have your eyes ever been closed? Been blinded by something? The funny thing is we are the ones in control when this happens; we’ve allowed our own heart to blind our eyes. Whether it’s by our thoughts or through our actions, the bottom line is that we’re the one controlling what we do. Do some of us refuse to open our eyes? Yes. But, thank God, there are also those who will have their eyes opened when they hear God’s truth! When they do, they will be saved. It is not a forcing but a turning. That’s the power of the Gospel; it changes people’s thinking, actions, and eternal destiny!
In the Bible, “darkness” is often used as a symbol of evil while “light” is used to represent that which is good and wholesome. Through the Gospel, the Lord calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We proclaim the Gospel in order to help people see their way out of darkness and find Jesus as the Light of the World. Some may not like the sound of the idea that they are under the rule of the devil, but the facts are the facts. One is either with Jesus or against Him. There is no middle ground. One is either a child of light or a child of darkness. Another way you can look at it is to say either you’re a child of God or a child of the devil. What about those who are already believers? They can continue to have their sins cleansed by walking in the light, confessing, and repenting of their sins. “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away” Acts 3:19 (NLT).
Lord, I ask that You remove the blinders from my eyes so I may see the light. Soften my heart so I am teachable to learn the truth and to know that I am a child of God. Thank You, God, that I can have a relationship with You and that I’m able to come to You at any time to repent and receive my inheritance.
In Jesus' name, Amen
What is blinding my eyes?
Am I walking like a child of light?
Do I have anything that I need to repent of today?
Acts 27:23-24 NKJV
23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve,
24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
As I read this chapter, two thoughts went through my mind. The first is that I’m glad I wasn’t traveling with Paul, because that guy got into all kinds of problems. The second was a bit more profound, and was based on the key verses: Our destinies are tied to each other.
Paul was traveling with a team, and was also numbered on the ship among other prisoners as well as the soldiers and ship’s crew. We learn later in the chapter that there were 276 people on the ship, none really there by choice. The soldiers and crew were doing a job, and the rest were prisoners. Only a few were intentionally following God and working to advance His kingdom.
Yet God’s word to Paul was that not only would he survive this ordeal, but so also would everyone sailing with him. The destinies of 275 other people were linked to what God was accomplishing through Paul. But it wasn’t just those 275. How many kids would have been orphaned, or wives have been widowed, if all of those lives were lost? What God is doing in your life and in the lives of everyone in the local church is all connected.
When we give God our “yes” in loving the church, there is a ripple effect that goes far beyond what we can imagine. Giving God our “yes” can open doors to the kingdom for people we don’t even know. How will my “yes” to Him impact my great-grandchildren? How will my “yes” impact your great-grandchildren? We can only begin to wonder.
The people on this ship with Paul didn’t know him. They were just there doing a job, or being shipped off to another prison, yet God had His man show up on a doomed ship to save all of those lives. It wasn’t an easy assignment, and Paul probably would have preferred something less exciting, but his “yes” to God was the escape vehicle for hundreds of strangers.
The impact of this one event is incalculable. It might even be related to your and my salvation. As we consider opportunities to love the church, be encouraged to think bigger and imagine the exponential impact of a seemingly inconsequential choice. Then give God your “yes.” The whole church is anticipating the outcome.
Lord, I thank You that my eye has not seen, my ear has not heard, neither has entered into my heart what You have prepared for me, yet Your heart is to reveal it to me by Your Spirit. Help me to set fear or doubt aside today and give You my “yes.” Thank You for the opportunity to love Your church.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Is there one area in my life in which I can say “yes” to God today?
Acts 28:30-31 AMP
30 And Paul lived there for two full years [at his own expense] in his own rented lodging and welcomed all who came to him,
31 preaching and proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness and boldness, unhindered and unrestrained.
During a recent storm, we received a tornado warning on our phones right after we had just laid our children down to bed. As we quietly and calmly told each child to please get up and go into the safest part of our home, our daughter jumped out of bed with a gleam in her eye and excitement in her voice and exclaimed, “GRAB the iPads!!!” Hilarious! We all love quotable phrases, and my daughter is never short of them. But there is something about a quote that especially fascinates our culture when it’s the last thing someone says.
It’s perhaps someone’s last words that exemplify what the person really and truly stood for, or possibly, what they finally realized in the end was most important. The last words of Bob Marley were “Money can’t buy happiness.” The last words of Jesus on the cross were “It is finished.”
Re-read acts 28:30-31 with the knowledge that they are the last words of this book. I love the last words of the book of Acts because they define what it means to be a Christian. They clarify the calling God has given every follower of Christ.
We can all get distracted by what is truly important in following Jesus. For instance, Christianity is not a book of self-help, although your self is helped when the principles are followed. Christianity is not a set of rules on how to be a good person, although you will be better for it. Christianity is not a means to inner peace, although peace with God and man is involved. Christianity is not a way to feel less fear about your own future when you die, although assurance of where you’re going to spend your eternity means all the difference the world. So then, what is it?
Christianity is denying yourself to follow Jesus and bringing the love of Jesus to the world.
The last words of the book of Acts speaks of a man willing to sacrifice his own wealth to teach “about the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness and boldness, unhindered and unrestrained.”
Let me remind you of the last words of Jesus before He ascended to heaven; the same words that we read 28 days ago when we started these devotions:
“But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The Book of Acts starts with Jesus and ends with Jesus. Shouldn’t our lives do the same?
One day we will all die, and those that follow Christ will go to heaven and we will spend all eternity in praise, honor, and worship of a God who’s worthy of all it. Our lives will be united with Him, and at any moment we can revel in the full glory of God and pure fellowship with Him. But, there is one thing we cannot do with Jesus in heaven that we can do here on earth: introduce Him to those who do not know Him. We have one opportunity in this world to make an eternal difference for all of those around us
God, give me eyes to see those in need of You. God, give me the boldness to speak the message of Jesus Christ. Send people to me today that I can welcome with love and acceptance. Empower me to be a witness for You.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Who do you know that needs a word from you about Jesus?
Will you welcome all who come to you and teach them about Jesus Christ with all openness and boldness?
Don’t let this be your last devotion of the year. Try reading one chapter a day from our Morning Breath devotional guide. Pick one scripture out of the chapter, write your observations, and then pray about them.
Use the momentum from this devotion to change your habits for the rest of your life...
YOU’VE COMPLETED THE 28 DAY DEVOTIONAL.
We are proud of you for finishing, and we believe that you were encouraged and challenged by the devotionals and the Word of God. You might say; “This has been great! I have really enjoyed it, but what should I do next?” You have several options. Here are a few:
- Morning Breath radio broadcast on WMIE 91.5 fm at 5:00 am, 7:30 am and 4:00 pm. A drive-time devotional sure to jumpstart your day.
- YouVersion – this is an app you can download on your phone. There are hundreds of devotionals and Bible reading programs you can start.
- Pick another book in the Bible to read. You had a great start by reading the book of Acts – keep on going!
- Attend a Connect Class or Freedom Group at church
- Start Serving
- Join a Small Group
It’s said that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. You have formed a good habit and we would encourage you to stay with it and see your life changed by the Word of God!