Week of August 18 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: John 3:19-20

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 

Reflect: What does it mean to “believe” in Jesus? Take a minute to read James 2:19. What kind of action does this believing require? According to Jesus’ words in verses 19-21, how will belief show itself?

Consider:  By means of references to the theme of light and darkness previously introduced in the Prologue (1:4–8), the concluding three verses of this section expand our understanding of both those who are condemned and those who are accepted. Here the idea is expanded by the clear indication that what one does reflects who one is. Darkness, hating, and doing evil together are set against light, living by the truth, and the works done through God. The contrast between light and darkness is somewhat akin to the ethical dualism in the Dead Sea Scrolls, where a distinction is made between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. Here those who side with the way of darkness were for John children of the devil, the prince (archōn) of the world.2

Respond: Take a minute to read Ephesians 2:10. What does Paul say we are saved for? What is the evidence of the change God’s power makes in our lives?


2 Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 186.

Week of August 18 - Day 1

Day 1 Read: Genesis 1:2-5

 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Reflect: What was God’s solution to the darkness? How did his creation of light compare to the darkness?

Consider: God’s first creative word produced light. The elegance and majesty of Creation by decree is a refreshing contrast with the bizarre creation stories of the pagans. Here is demonstrated the power of God’s word. It was this word that motivated Israel to trust and obey Him. The light was natural, physical light. Its creation was an immediate victory because it dispelled darkness. Light and darkness in the Bible are also symbolic of good and evil. Here began God’s work which will culminate in the age to come when there will be no darkness (Rev. 22:5).1

Respond: Where have you seen the light of God invade the darkness of your world? How does this understanding of dark and light shape your understanding of the Gospel?


1 Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 28–29.

Week of August 11 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,

Reflect: What occurred for three hours at the time of Jesus’ death?

Consider: Greek for “darkness” is skotos--The whole range of meaning may be understood in terms of the basic sense: darkness, not in connection with its optical effect,9 but experienced as an enveloping sphere and described in its significance for existence, i.e., as a hindrance to movement and action, to foresight, as the sphere of objective peril and subjective anxiety5

Respond: Of all the miracles God could have done to draw attention to the cross, why do you think He utilized darkness? Read the following passages: Genesis 1:2; Exodus 10:21-22; Amos 8:9-10; and John 1:5. What does darkness signify in each of these passages?


5 Hans Conzelmann, “Σκότος, Σκοτία, Σκοτόω, Σκοτίζω, Σκοτεινός,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 424.

 

Week of August 11 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Job 24:13-17

“There are those who rebel against the light,
who are not acquainted with its ways,
and do not stay in its paths.
14 The murderer rises before it is light,
that he may kill the poor and needy,
and in the night he is like a thief.
15 The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight,
saying, ‘No eye will see me’;
and he veils his face.
16 In the dark they dig through houses;
by day they shut themselves up;
they do not know the light.
17 For deep darkness is morning to all of them;
for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness. 

Reflect: How does Job characterize those who dwell in the dark?

Consider: For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death. They hate the morning light. It is associated in their minds with the idea of detection; for when it breaks in upon them unexpectedly in the midst of their ill deeds, detection commonly follows; and detection is a true “shadow of death,” for it commonly means the gallows. If one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death; rather, for they know the terrors of the shadow of death (see the Revised Version). It is a familiar experience to them; as, whenever crime is severely punished, it is to the criminal class generally.[1]

Respond: In what areas of your life are you dwelling in the dark? This is an area that needs to be exposed to light through the truth of God’s word and the loving correction and encouragement of your discipleship group. Prayerfully consider how .


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Job, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 409.

 

Week of August 11 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Isaiah 5:20

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Reflect: What are the three trade-offs Isaiah delivers to those who practice wicked behavior?

Consider: Some people lead others astray by their perverted values. Evil-for example, adultery, idolatry, materialism, murder, and many other sins forbidden in the Scriptures-is often held up as being good. Those who say such things are under the threat (woe) of God’s judgment.[1]

Respond: What examples in our current culture can you think of for putting darkness for light? What do you tend to run to for your light? Music? Favorite author? A hobby? 24-hour news? A habit? Ask God to help you identify those things you tend to go to in order to satisfy a need BEFORE you go to God.


[1] John A. Martin, “Isaiah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1043.

 

Week of August 11 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: Exodus 10:21-23

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. 

Reflect: What was the ninth plague that God sent to the Egyptians? Was everyone affected?

Consider:  Properly translated, then, into natural English, 10:21 should read, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that darkness will be upon Egypt—a darkness that will require groping around.”[1]

Respond: From the passage, what do you think the consensus was among the Egyptians during this time of darkness? What emotions might you experience if you could not see anyone or anything for a three day period? What does this teach you about darkness?


[1] Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 257.

Week of August 11 - Day 1

Day 1 Read: Genesis 1:2-5

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Reflect: What words are used to describe the earth in the beginning?

Consider: the earth was without form and void—or in “confusion and emptiness,” as the words are rendered in Is 34:11. This globe, at some undescribed period, having been convulsed and broken up, was a dark and watery waste for ages perhaps, till out of this chaotic state, the present fabric of the world was made to arise.[1]

Respond: What can we imply about God’s feelings towards the darkness when we see the result of His creation? In what circumstances does life feel empty and formless, like the earth was in the beginning? What does this say to you about darkness?


[1] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 17.

Week of August 4 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

Reflect: What assignment does every believer have from God? How is it possible? What qualifications are given?

Consider: A new creature; rather, a new creation (Gal. 6:15). The phrase is borrowed from the rabbis who used it to express the condition of a proselyte. But the meaning is not mere Jewish arrogance and exclusiveness, but the deep truth of spiritual regeneration and the new birth (John 3:3; Eph. 2:10; 4:23, 24; Col. 3:3, etc.).5

Respond: What happens when we are compelled to be on mission by something other than love? In what ways does your life reflect the priorities of ambassadorship for the kingdom of God? Does your heart match Paul’s heart in pleading with people to be saved?


5 H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., 2 Corinthians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 122.

Week of August 4 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Mark 2:1-12

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” 

Reflect: Why did Jesus heal the man’s paralysis, even though He had already treated the more important problem of his spiritual health?

What do we learn about Jesus from this miracle?

Consider: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” In the Greek, the word here is literally “child.” Jesus claimed first a special relationship with the man—a relationship of love and care. The second thing Jesus claimed was the ability to forgive his sins. While not all physical infirmity is the result of personal sin (John 9:3), it seems in this case that it was. Jesus looked past the physical disability and saw the man’s deeper need.[1]

Respond: What special contexts has God placed you in to make an investment for eternity? What are some practical ways you could take Jesus to the lost people around you? What things most commonly distract you from making eternal investments? What is one step you could take this week toward limiting these distractions?


[1] Rodney L. Cooper, Mark, vol. 2, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 32.

Week of August 4 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Mark 2:6-12

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” 

Reflect: How do you think the paralytic and his friends expected Jesus to respond to them? How did Jesus respond to the paralytic coming down from the roof (v. 5)? What do Jesus’ unexpected words in verse 5 tell us about His mission? About our mission?

Consider: Ironically, the scribes evidently thought it was easier to affirm the forgiveness of sins than to heal because the former could not be verified and the latter could. For Jesus and Mark, however, the granting of healing and forgiveness are equally the work of God.[1]

Respond: Why were the teachers of the law upset when Jesus offered the paralytic forgiveness? Why are our eternal investments often met with skepticism by the people around us? How should we respond when this happens? What can we learn from Jesus’ response to His critics?


[1] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 59.

Week of August 4 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: John 16:23-33

 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” 29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 

Reflect: Jesus nearly completed His teaching in the upper room. With what hope did He leave His followers in verse 33?

Consider:  Every believer is either overcome or an overcomer. “And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). The world wants to overcome us; this is why Satan uses the world to persecute and pressure believers. The world wants us to conform; it does not want us to be different. When we yield ourselves to Christ and trust Him, He enables us to be overcomers. We must claim our spiritual position in Christ and believe Him for victory.[1]

Respond: What is one circumstance in your life in which you are longing for Jesus to overcome? What would it look like for you to claim the truth of John 16:33 as you confront that situation with trust and hope in Him?


[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 366.

Week of August 4 - Day 1

Day 1 Read: Mark 2:1-5

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Reflect: How did the paralytic’s friends demonstrate a desire to invest in eternity? What can we learn about faith from these men?

Consider: A few days later when Jesus returned to Capernaum (cf. 1:21), it was reported that He was at home (probably Peter’s house; cf. 1:29). In the freedom of Jewish custom many uninvited people crowded into the house and around the door, thus preventing access. Jesus was speaking (imperf., elalei) the Word (cf. 1:14–15; 4:14, 33) to them.[1]

Respond: Investing in eternity often requires overcoming unexpected obstacles. What heavy things are standing in between you and investing in eternity? What might you learn from the example of the paralytic’s friends?

How do the obstacles confronting the friends compare and contrast with obstacles that hinder believers today from taking others to Jesus?


[1] John D. Grassmick, “Mark,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 112.

 

Week of July 28 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Matthew 6:16-18

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

Reflect: What has been the biggest lesson you have learned about prayer this summer? What have you learned about prayer this week? The point of prayer or fasting isn’t to let others know or to check a spiritual box in an attempt to please God. The point of these two gifts is to experience closer communion with God.

 Pray: Spend time today, throughout the day, thanking God for the wonderful gift of prayer. As situations arise, you might ask the question, “God, how can you be so good?”

Week of July 28 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Acts 14:23

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 

Reflect: What was transpiring in this verse? What was the point of prayer and fasting?

Pray: Consider the ministry God has given you. It might have a name or title at church or it may just be the ministry of being an ambassador of the gospel given to every believer (2 Cor. 5). How can prayer and fasting be incorporated into what you do on a daily basis? Make time to give God your ministries and allow them to be His work through you.

Week of July 28 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Luke 4:2; Acts 9:9; Daniel 10:3

for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.

And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. 

Reflect: What similarities do you see in these examples of fasting? What differences? What was the point of all three?

Pray: Ask God to prepare for you a time for fasting. Start small and use the time to read scripture, pray, spend time in silence before God, or even worship through song or art.   

Week of July 28 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: Ezra 8:21-23

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. 

Reflect: What major decisions do you see on the horizon for your family? For our church? How would a season of fasting help in determining God’s will moving forward? How might it help you in your own frame of mind for making decisions?

Pray:  Look at the next week of your life. The next month. 6 months. 1 year. Consider the major events and take time to pray over these. Allow God to reveal His plan moving forward. Commit to seasons of fasting along the way.

Week of July 28 - Day 1

Our Devos format will change for the summer. As we study prayer, you will be encouraged to read and pray daily. You are also encouraged to take notes of thoughts God brings to mind as you pray, or to write out prayers to Him.

Day 1 Read: Joel 2:12

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

Reflect: What was the Lord’s instruction for the people? What actions was He calling for? Why do you think fasting, weeping and mourning are associated with repentance?

Pray: Spend time considering where you fall short of where God wants you to be. What sin continues to show up regularly? What relationship continues to cause grief? What attitude towards others reveals actions that are ungodly? Lay those out before God today. Express sorrow. Thank Him for his grace and goodness.

Week of July 21 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Acts 12:1-17

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place. 

Reflect: As you re-read the passage from this week, take note of the mentions of prayer as well as the answers to prayer. Pay close attention to the number of times a group was praying together. Commit to be more earnest in praying with your fellow believers.

Pray: Thank God for listening and answering prayer. Thank Him for the people in your life you can pray with.

Week of July 21 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Acts 12:11-17

When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place. 

Reflect: What was going on when Peter arrived at Mary’s house? What was the response when Rhoda told the crowd who was at the door? What does this incident teach us about our expectations when we pray? About how God answers prayer?

Pray: In Summer Study, we discussed praying with EXPECTANCY for God’s POWER to move as He sees fit. Re-visit conversations from earlier this week and pray again with expectancy.

Week of July 21 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Acts 6:11

When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Reflect: What do you learn from Peter’s response? Has there been a circumstance where you have known people were praying for you? How did that impact your own prayer life? What does that teach you about being vulnerable with those closest to you?

Pray: Ask 2-3 people today how you can pray for them. Spend time praying with them and for them.