February 17 – People of the Earth – Local Event, International Tragedy

Read Genesis 3:1-24

Although this passage may be familiar, the idea of reading it through the lenses of our current devotional theme is likely foreign.  At this point we see little in terms of “the peoples of the earth.”  After all, Adam and Eve are its only inhabitants.  And, as to “the praise of His name”…well, this is certainly a low point in human history.  People seem to be thumbing their noses at God rather than seeking to honor His name.

The link to our theme, however, is found in the far-reaching repercussions of the decision made there in the garden.  There would be global fallout from the eating of the fruit.  Let’s examine three ways in which the nations yet to come would be impacted.

  1. Every person from every nation would be born in sin. (Christ is the noted exception here. 2 Cor. 5:21)  Just as genes are passed from one generation to a next, so too, all descendants of Adam are inheritors of a sin nature (Rom. 5:18, 19).  It matters not whether they are European, African, North American, South American, Australian, Asian, or even if they were born in the cold, icy tundra of the Arctic, all people have experienced the shock waves of this historic event.
  2. Every person from every nation would be placed in Satan’s crosshairs (Gen. 3:15). The devil is the one who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy (Jn. 10:10).  He seeks to distract people from God’s desires and plans for them.  He is the tempter (Matt. 4:3), the roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8).  His efforts know no national boundaries.  He makes no exception among the people groups of the world.
  3. The only hope of the peoples and nations is found in the One Who crushes Satan’s head (Gen. 3:15). Of course, God is here looking ahead through the corridors of time to the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of His one and only Son.  Jesus is the only hope for people born in sin and caught in the crosshairs of Satan.

He is your only hope.  Will you praise Him and honor Him today?

Steve Kern

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February 16 – People of the Earth – Praise His Name

Read Genesis 1:1-2:25

This is one of those passages that I have read countless times.  Perhaps you have too.  I have heard and personally proclaimed many valuable truths from these chapters.  I have used these words to point people to God as Creator.  He is the omnipotent One who can call things into existence.  I have been instructed about the progression of creation.  I have taught others about the sense of worth derived from the fact that God made man in His image.  This passage reminds us of the value of rest and the sacred nature of marriage.

But I haven’t paused often enough to consider the fact that this beginning was a foreshadowing of the end.  The beautiful edenic setting will one day be restored.   And God’s purpose, in telling man to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it,” will one day be realized.   You see, God’s purpose from the outset has been that the peoples of the earth would live to the praise of His name.

That is the biblical motif that we want to trace over the next several days.  From the beginning of time, God wanted, you see, to have the whole earth inhabited, not just small portions of it.  But mere habitation of the earth was not all.  He wanted people who would honor Him as the very One, whose image they bore.  He wanted the peoples of the earth to live to the praise of his name.

Over the course of the next several days, then, we will see how that divine passion is expressed.  In order to accomplish that task, we will…

  • See that God seeks to rescue people from the ravages of sin.
  • Observe man’s reluctance to occupy the earth and honor the creator.
  • Understand that God chose a man to become a nation in order to bring blessing to all people.
  • Witness the fact that God is a missionary God who sends His Son and His Spirit to draw people to Himself.
  • Recognize the role that the church is to play in seeing God’s mission accomplished.

Would you begin to pray now that God would soften your heart and open your eyes to His plan of praise for the people of the earth?

Steve Kern

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February 15 – Letters of John : 3 John

Read 3 John

As 2 John was about truth, identifying and living by it, 3 John is all about relationships. Throughout the 15 verses that comprise this book, John describes three different relationships and how they can make or break the growth of a local church and someone’s personal faith.

Gaius (v. 1-8)

  • From these verses how would you describe Gaius?
  • Ultimately, what does John say about supporting Gaius?
  • What can you take away from Gaius and apply to your life?

Gaius was described as a servant who impacted others. John uses his words to describe the inner growth that is taking place in Gaius’ life. He has a good reputation among all people and warmly welcomes people in hospitality. Paul spoke very highly of Gaius and encourages people to emulate his life.

Diotrephes (v. 9-11)

  • What are some of the words or phrases that John uses to describe Diotrephes?
  • In what way would a person like this be detrimental to the local church?
  • In what ways are you going to avoid being like Diotrephes?

When you become defensive, you become unusable to God.

Diotrephes had the corner on truth and put out anyone that spoke against him. He didn’t allow anyone to speak into his life and refused to implement any of the things that John, an apostle, had suggested he do. John is so clear as to, in verse 11, call such people evil. People who “know it all” and don’t open themselves up to direction have no place in the local church.

Demetrius (v. 12)

  • What was one thing that was evident from the influence of Demetrius? What’s the key word that points to the range of influence that he had?
  • In what way do you think it is important for a follower of Christ to have good influence in the lives on people?

Before you say to yourself that you don’t have influence, the truth is that everyone does. If you have relationships with people, you have influence. As you think on the influence that you have on people, what kind of image are you portraying to them? Are you influencing them for good? Are you being Jesus to them? Do they see your life and your walk with Christ and want what you have?

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February 14 – Letters of John : 2 John

Read 2 John

As you will find out, the book of 2 John is all about truth. Circle “truth” in the first few verses and see just how many times it is used! As with any word in the Bible, if it’s repeated, it’s important. John is writing to a body of believers that are struggling with endorsement. How do they know what’s true? Who can they trust? In our 21st century world today, there are many 2 John principles that we can pull from this book!

First off, verse 1 speaks to the objectivity of truth.

  • In what way does the Bible speak to how truth is something that can be known?
  • What does 1 John have to say about this topic? (check out 1 John 5:13)

Secondly, truth is what unites us as a church!

  • Why do you think it is so important for the basis of what we do as a church to be rooted in truth?
  • What are some possible consequences of non-truth in the context of a local church?

In verses 5-6, John reverts back to the command to love one another.

  • What would you say is the relationship between truth and love?
  • When was a time where, through love, you experienced truth? Was there a time that someone tried to share truth with you without love?

Next, verse 7 speaks to the standard by which we can measure truth. When something you hear or read doesn’t square up with what God’s Word says, it doesn’t matter how many experts believe it…it’s still false.

  • Describe a time you had to determine something’s validity by checking the Bible.

Lastly, John concludes his second book/letter by describing that truth separates us from supporting everyone. He is actually quite blunt in how he says to deal with false teachers and those who compromise truth.

  • How do these final verses increase your urgency to be on the alert for false teaching?

It’s very important to look back to verse 2 and John’s use of the word “forever”. At the end of the day, regardless of what happens, what’s said, what anybody thinks, truth will be victorious. Philippians 2 tells us that, no matter what, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord!

How are you going to hold fast to truth? In what way are you going to allow truth to saturate the way you talk to and influence people?

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February 13 – Letters of John : 1 John 4:1-5:21

Read 1 John 4:1-5:21

To best interpret this chapter, pay attention to the pronouns, even circle them!

In this world, there is a mixture of truth and error. How do we know what is true?

4:1 Don’t believe everybody. Test what you hear using the Bible.

  • How do verses 2 and 3 describe the standard for testing what is true?
  • In verse 4, how are we able to overcome the spirit of the world?
  • What does verse 5 say about the popularity of “them” versus “you”?

Notice how many times John uses the word “love” in verses 7-21! John is telling us this so that we may know what it looks like to be a follower of Christ! If love is deliberately meeting a need because there’s a need and expecting nothing in return, you know someone is “of Christ” if they fulfill this within the parameters of God’s word…because who else would do that?

  • With John putting such an emphasis on love, and with what verses 7-21 tell us about the topic, would you say that you are a loving person?
  • What do you need to do to improve the love in your life?

One of John’s biggest themes throughout the book is distinguishing between the light and dark, believer and unbeliever. John concludes 1 John by explaining the purpose of the book.

  • What does verse 13 have to say about the theme of the book?
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February 12 – Letters of John : 1 John 3:1-24

Read 1 John 3:1-24

When John was writing this letter, he was writing to people who were struggling with the difference between “them” (unbelievers) and “us” (believers). As we found out in 1:1-2:14, there was a lot of grey area in the Christian faith during this time. What is very important as John goes into detail in this chapter, is self-defining terms. When you look at these terms in a way that John did not intend, that opens the door for confusion and miscommunication.

Self-defining terms:

  • Sin (v.4) – living by your own rules
  • Believer (v.9) – someone who is born of God and refuses to live in rebellion
  • Love (v.16-17) – deliberately meeting a need simply because there’s a need, expecting nothing in return
  • Abiding in Jesus (v.24) – being obedient to Jesus

Unbeliever – denies Jesus as the Son of God and makes up his own rules, in contrast to God’s rules, and then abides in those rules

Contrast between believers (“us”) and unbelievers (“them”)

THEM (v.1,4,8,11-14)

  • They see believers, not as one of them, but as different from them (v.1)
  • When was a time an unbeliever pointed out a “flaw” in your Christian beliefs?
  • An unbeliever lives by their own rules
  • With sin being specifically defined as making up your own rules, what does verse 8 say about Satan and his plans?
  • In what way does this put sin in a different perspective for you?

If you haven’t seen it yet, the world isn’t super loving towards believers. In our world today, unbelievers (living by their own rules) don’t treat believers kindly. An unbeliever demonstrates their unbelief by their hatred of those who follow the Word of Christ.

While tolerant of other things or people, they may not be tolerant of you and your beliefs. They may plead with you to be tolerant of wrong while they are intolerant of what is right and true.

US (v. 1,2,3,5,7,9)

  • What does verse 1 say is a characteristic of a Christ follower?
  • What does verse 2 say about the hope that we have as a believer?
  • In what way does verse 5 speak against the “on the fence”, “not in or out” type of faith?
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February 11 – Letters of John : 1 John 2:15-29

Read 1 John 2:15-29

Unfortunately we see it all the time. People who were once on fire with God suddenly seem to drop off the face of the earth and even revert to their past ways of life. If you’re anything like me, the question pops up in your head of, “Were they even saved in the first place? How could someone walk away from something so beautiful?” John was writing this letter during a persecution when they were seeing many people fall away from following Christ out of fear. What does the Bible say about “once saved always saved”? How do we not get discouraged when family and friends walk away from Jesus?

  • In what way does verse 15 describe the two directions someone can go who have encountered the gospel?

If we place the fulfillment of needs in this life as more important, that will ultimately determine their path.

  • How do verses 16-18 describe the consequences of putting too much merit in worldly things?

One of the symptoms of people who think this world is more important is they think there’s time to deal with eternal things later. The person who has eternal things as their most important thing thinks we’re running out of time!

  • In what way have you seen and/or experienced this to be true in our world today?
  • What sense of urgency is communicated in verse 18 and how does it relate to living our spiritual lives “on the fence”?
  • In what way does verse 19 address the theme of “once saved always saved”?

“If you will not grow in your faith (2 Peter 1), you have forgotten that you are saved from your sins, not that you weren’t, but you won’t remember it, and you will struggle with the assurance of your faith if you will not walk with Him.”

  • What do verses 20-21 say about what our commitment should be like even in the face of defectors? What hope do we have?

A question to ask yourself is this: If Jesus were to come back today, would you need a little more time to get things together or would you eagerly anticipate His return and be confident and unashamed for the inspection on your life?

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