Daily Devotion

Day 11

January 18

Mark Taft

Phillipians 3:13-14 NIV

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I am hoping, at 59, that I am not the “know-it-all” I was at 29. Don’t we all think we are so wise and knowledgeable at one point? Yet, here Paul, who knew more about Christ than most of us do in a lifetime, was not foolish to think he had attained what God designed. It is a lifelong journey to gain what he talks about in Philippians 3 – to fully know Christ and the power of His resurrection. I find this passage so encouraging. No matter when we start, or where we are in the journey, we all get to spend a lifetime understanding Him and His power. There are new things to learn and begin every day of every year.

As a new Christian, 47 years ago, I was told to put aside childish things. I thought this meant I was to ignore what I was taught and forget about the past. It was a poor understanding of what Paul meant here and elsewhere. Hebrews 6:1 describes this forgetting as leaving elementary doctrine and moving to maturity.

In our ministry with couples, Pam and I often find people weighed down trying to avoid their past instead of embracing it. If I do not take time to learn from my family of origin and upbringing, I miss a humongous part of who God made me. He gave us amazing brains that can create meaning from our past, while looking forward. It is not, “I move ahead, but avoid the past.”  It is “I move ahead AND I appreciate my past.”  As I hold onto the “good stuff,” I can let go of the things that are not helpful for me today.

In the past, when I considered what it was like to press on in ancient Greek times, I did not have an accurate picture. I assumed athletics were leisurely and athletes moderately engaged. But this was not so. Imagine, as a runner, going full speed ahead for half a mile in full armor weighing at least sixty pounds. And then running in loose sand for a few more miles. In other sports, there were no time limits, no rounds, no rest periods, and no respite from the midsummer sun. Obviously, the hearers of this passage knew something about pressing on. 

The task of beginning again and again and again to walk with the Lord and follow His ways is not for the faint of heart. Paul knew that it was work. So, let us not pretend we have arrived or even that we know what to do today to get there. As you and I begin today’s job of pressing on toward the prize – let us encourage each other, and all the more as we see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25). It is okay if it seems like more prep work than we can manage. It is okay if the past is a lot to hurdle over.

We can get bogged down in the sand with all the weight upon us. AND, yet, what a privilege to be in this race that is such a high calling. We run each step in the power of the Holy Spirit and when we read to the end of scripture, we know that we actually do win! So, come on, you can do this with me.

Prayer: Lord, help us. We have a lot of baggage, and plenty of wasted time. We have not always taken this race seriously. We have tried to run it all alone. And yet, You call us to begin again. Right now, today. You would not have challenged us to it if You did not also know that we could do it. In Christ, we have what we need before we even lace up the strings! We are so excited that we get to know You and obtain Your resurrection. Wow, what a race this is going to be! Amen.

Day 10

January 17

Sarah Yost

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Oftentimes we as humans feel the need to control our lives. What we eat, how we dress, who we associate with, worldly things in our surroundings. Many get lost in the idea, the more they control…the more they are in control. However…it’s the exact opposite.

Our verse today encourages us to relinquish our powerless control of our lives and rely on the wisdom of God. God knows every step and misstep of our lives. Our triumphs and struggles are laid out in God’s perfect plan. He is the master conductor.

God has made us perfectly imperfect here on Earth. Yet, has set eternity in our heavenly home. God knows the struggles presented to his earthly children every day. He is always by our side…always knowing exactly what we need. The righteous will never be forsaken. God will never abandon us. He will always guide the way.

Placing your trust in the Lord comes with comfort and relief. God has the reigns, not us. God’s timeline does not always fall into place the way we’d like. Many of us pray for quick resolution. What if instead we prayed for guidance and comfort in the good times and the bad? Trust that God has us from beginning to end.

With this New Year place your trust in God for new beginnings needed. Ask for comfort and guidance every day. Knowing our Heavenly Father holds the map of our lives and gives us eternity in heaven.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for guiding us in every step of our lives. Forgive us of our imperfect sinful nature. Guide us through the obstacles of life, comforting and encouraging us along the way. Thank You for where we stand today. Please help guide your sons and daughters to the understanding that Your perfect plan will unfold in Your time and not ours. Encourage us daily to take comfort in You and not worldly items. Help us find comfort in Your control and the perfect path You have laid out before us. Thank You for your never ending love. Amen.

Day 9

January 16

Allen O’Neal 

Nehemiah 9:5-6 NIV

5 The Levites Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah said, “Arise, bless the Lord, your God, from eternity to eternity!” The Israelites answered with the blessing, “Blessed is your glorious name and exalted above all blessing and praise.”  6 Then Ezra said: “It is you, O Lord, you are the only one; you made the heavens, the highest heavens and all their host, the earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you gave life, and the heavenly hosts bow down before you.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have needed a “new beginning.” At least for me, my desire for a new beginning did not always arise when I was facing difficult times. On the contrary, more often than not, it was because I realized that something is “off” or missing. That something was God. I had stopped focusing on God and His will for my life. I let secular concerns and interest distract me from my daily devotions. I sought loopholes for why missing church was okay. You know the story.

That is exactly what Ezra and Nehemiah faced in 587 BC – the Jewish community had fallen away from the teachings of Moses to the extent that they routinely ignored the Sabbath and looked for “loopholes” in the law to justify their actions. Sound familiar? And just like today, it was easy to find like-minded followers to say these actions were justified.

Ezra and Nehemiah blessed us with the roadmap for how to create our new beginnings and Jesus is always there to welcome us. The roadmap begins with acknowledging our thirst for God and taking action to quench that thirst by reading the bible and praying. In Nehemiah 9:1-3 the faithful fasted and wore sackcloth and spent hours reading the scriptures and confessing their sins. In verses 5-6 the leaders praise God.  

Jesus told us to love God above all things. What I find incredible, humbling, and exciting is how God is so patient and each day is a “new beginning” – one where we can rededicate our lives to following Jesus and His teachings. A new day, where you let your love for God shine like a beacon for others.

Prayer: Dear Father, thank You for sending Your Son to redeem us. Please give us strength to overcome the temptations that await us each day and to focus our eyes on You. Help us to embrace each new day as a “new beginning” to faithfully bring the Gospel to our community. Amen. 

Day 8

January 15

Kaitlyn Whisnant

Isaiah 40:31 NIV

31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 

Today’s scripture is out of the book of Isaiah. The book of Isaiah unveils the full dimensions of God’s judgment and salvation. This is revealed to us in the scripture leading up to today’s verse. The nation of Israel was preparing for its coming judgment and knew that it was not going to end well. This is because the nation as a whole had been unfaithful and failed to keep God’s promises, which later led to the Israelite’s exile to Babylon, an event that shook the nation of Israel to the core. This could have easily been the end for the Israelites, but instead we step into a new world of hope for Israel and the coming Messiah in today’s scripture. 

The scripture says that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength”. Even though Israel did not keep God’s promises and were unfaithful, the Lord showed grace. He offered them a new beginning, forgiving them of all their previous sins and granting them peace in a season of many unknowns. He does the same for us and through this passage, we are reminded of how He washes our sins clean. 

Christ reveals to us a number of different truths and provides us comfort in our new beginning. First, no matter what you have done in your past or been through, you can still find a new beginning. The Israelites had done a number of unfaithful and unworthy things, but still were given comfort. We are not hopeless, unworthy or too far gone for God to still give us a new beginning. We are reminded here that no matter what happens, our new beginning is represented by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for each one of our sins. If we believe in the resurrection of life and the coming of the Messiah, we will be granted a new beginning. We can follow Christ and return to connection with Him through the laying down of our own sin, regret and guilt at the cross. 

The next truth that is revealed to me through this passage is through the word “hope”. The word hope means a feeling of expectation or desire for something to happen. Through the first truth we were able to find comfort in knowing that God forgives us for our sins and that we are never too far gone for a new beginning in Him. The Lord is a God of comfort and grace. Now we are able to find hope in our new beginning and hope in what lies ahead. Keeping this in mind, today we need to reflect on areas in our lives that we need both comfort and grace. While turning to Jesus through prayer and scripture, we are able to rest assured in our new found beginning. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for paying the ultimate price on the cross for us and making us new each morning. Help us to continue to follow in your footsteps and renew our strength each day so we can bring glory to your Kingdom. With your help, no matter how big or small we mess up, you will still love us and give us boundless grace. Give us the strength to be able to admit when we mess up and start fresh in a new beginning. And give us your generous heart to be able to offer a new beginning to others, just like you do for us. Amen. 

Day 7

January 14

Jane Ann Simon

Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Have you ever been to a large sporting event or a music concert? The crowd cheers like crazy when the players come onto the field or stage. I imagine that must be what it is like in heaven when we come to a place of accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  …And the crowd (of the heavenly host) goes wild!

This heavenly crowd is on our side and rooting us on, from the moment we surrender our old lives for the new one that Christ offers. These witnesses know that beginning the new life, Jesus offers, has a learning curve!  

For someone new to a relationship with Jesus, that might mean stopping old habits, perhaps changing the company we keep, or discovering a new way to “be” in the world. For maturing believers, God never stops searching our hearts and bringing us new understanding. Often, He digs deeper into our hearts than He did in our early days, purging deeply layered thoughts and patterns.  

We can’t live in the world without it hindering our walk with Christ, from time to time. Sin is ever present, and temptations never go away. The good news is that we have a Savior who did the impossible! He lived a life free of sin!  

Hebrews 12:2 says that “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross”. Our Savior loves us enough to have had joy in going to the cross– just so that He could have a relationship with us. Amazing! 

Did you know that we get a new beginning every day? Every single morning, we have the opportunity to sit at the feet of our Lord and receive renewal. In fact, if we do stumble in sin, we can offer a prayer of confession and He offers an instant new start. We can do this whenever we have need, and God welcomes us. He does this because of the righteousness that we now have due to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. What a mighty God we serve!  

I hear the heavenly cloud of witnesses cheering for us… do you?

Prayer: Father, thank You for my new life in Christ! Thank You for offering me daily renewal as I seek to walk with You. Thank You that You offer me forgiveness when I slip, and after confession, my relationship with You is restored immediately!  Thank You, Jesus for enduring the cross so that I could have access to Heaven one day. Until then, I am comforted and guided by Your Holy Spirit. I praise You and Thank You for that. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Day 6

January 13

Michelle Hollingsworth

Romans 6:4 NIV

4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

What in the world does it mean to be buried with Christ through baptism? I would say it is making a choice to follow Jesus by giving Him full control of your life. You make a conscious effort to let the past go, with all its failures, regrets, guilt, and the icky stuff of life. You bury it. It’s like taking all the scraps from your produce and putting it into the compost bin. You have to leave it all behind so that it can be made into rich fertilizer.

The next step is to follow Christ and let Him transform your heart. God‘s unlimited love is a gift that requires your simple acceptance of Him. It is a lifelong process, trusting God every day. His power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me. It is the supernatural Holy Spirit that helps me to stay Christ centered. When I make a mistake, I know God’s grace is waiting for me so that I can learn from my failures and experiences.  

My new life is one of freedom and purpose. I am free from my limited thinking, selfishness, and the lies that the enemy tells me. I am free to worship and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me to understand Scripture and give me hope. Because I have hope, I can share it with other people. My purpose is to serve the Lord by telling people that they can have this new life in Christ.  

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank You for Your gift of Life. I choose to die to my old self and live for Christ. Please help me to see and understand this new life today as I trust God with all my heart. I praise You for all the blessings You have given me and continue to give me so that I may love other people. Amen.

Day 5

January 12

Kai Hollingsworth

Matthew 26:27-29 NIV

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

For context, this passage takes place during the Last Supper. Jesus had just announced that he knows one of his disciples is going to betray him and another will denounce him. This whole chapter ends as a very grim scene, even though this moment is supposed to be about hope and celebration. But Jesus knows what’s coming next, he reassures his disciples that they will all be anew with him, they will have a fresh start and be together again.

In the end they will have a new life with him in heaven. But you don’t have to wait that long to experience a “new beginning”. In fact, it can start tomorrow, or right now! God knows all your faults and mistakes before they happen, yet constantly offers you a new life with him. Like the twelve, you are going to be in denial at first, “I would never do that”, “I’m not going to regret this”, “Of course I know what I’m doing”. Then in the end, feel overcome with grief and guilt once the deed has been done. 

A new beginning doesn’t mean forgetting the past. It means acknowledging our transgressions and making peace with them. Dealing with the past hurt emotions and working through them with God. So that way we can start a new chapter with him because he wants to forgive you. Just as long as you want to start walking with him again. This scene acts as a promise that we will always have a new life with Jesus.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for today and for offering me a new beginning. I pray that as we continue to walk together,  I’m able to cherish what you have done, not just for me but for all of us, as we continue or start this new life with you. Thank you that I’m not alone in this journey, or the only one who is walking with you. Amen.

Day 4

January 11

Paneen Froneberger

Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations is an Old Testament book most likely written by the prophet, Jeremiah. It’s a book that speaks of the grief and sorrow at the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. The interesting thing is that while the five chapters mourn the loss of Jerusalem and its people, it’s not all doom and gloom! There is a single message of God’s goodness, hope, and faithfulness in the passage. We are reminded in this Word that God has made us a promise, a promise that His love and mercies never end, but rather are new every morning. The interesting thing is that God gives us exactly the mercies we need for one day; they don’t roll over from one day to the next. 

When tomorrow comes we have new mercies, a new dose of His love. We also have a choice as we begin each new day. We can choose to trust that God is going to do what He promised and provide us with new love and mercies for the day or we can go through the day doubting His Word. We can be on the lookout for His faithfulness or blind to His provisions. 

We will have many opportunities in 2023 to see God living out the promises of Lamentations 3:22-23.  Because God is the same yesterday, today and forever, we will receive the same new mercies and love as did the Israelites of so long ago. I pray that before our feet even hit the floor as we wake up each morning, we take time to thank God in advance for the mercies of the day that God has already planned for us!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are such a gracious and generous God. You have known us since before we were born and You have prepared mercies for each of our days. Help us to look for those mercies and to appreciate how much You love us. Help us to trust that when the new day begins, the mercies You have promised will be there waiting for us. We love You, Lord. Amen.

Day 3

January 10

Ben Armstrong

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

18 “Remember not of the former things, nor consider the things of old. 

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

For these 21 days, our main theme is ‘new beginnings’. Isaiah is saying that we need to forget the things of the past because God is doing a new thing. He will make a way in the hardships and pain, and we just need to be willing to look for that path and start that new beginning. 

This verse is one of my favorites and actually reminds me of a worship song by NewSpring called, ‘Ways in the Wasteland’. The chorus is as follows:

Behold, You are doing a new thing

Yes, we will believe

Making ways in the wasteland

Turning deserts into streams 

Breathing light into darkness 

for all the world to see 

You are doing a new thing

Yes we will believe

This chorus reminds us that God is constantly working in our lives, even though we may not see it. Isaiah uses the active verb ‘doing’ which means God is STILL working in our lives. He is not just about what He has done but what He is doing now and going to do in the future. 

Our response to this is demonstrated in the bridge of the same song. It goes:

God, you are worthy. God, you are holy. 

We give you honor. We give you glory. 

In all of your goodness, you go before me.

God, you are worthy. God, you are holy. 

All we need to do is: believe that God can and is actively doing new things in our lives and praise him for what He is doing. 

When was the last time you sat down and praised God for being active in your life? He deserves all of our praise. I challenge you today to look this song up on the internet, listen to it while praising God for the things he has done and is going to do in your life.

Prayer: God, you are worthy. God, you are holy. We give you honor. We give you glory. Thank you for all of the new beginnings. Thank you for helping us look forward, and not into the past. We lift up our prayers to you God that we can experience your glory and power in our lives. 

In your worthy and holy name, AMEN. 

Day 2

January 9

Nick Deahl

Revelation 21:4-5 NIV

4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 

“No more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away”. Talk about a wonderful new beginning. Do you notice how the words used in verse 4 are all similar and often mentioned in life’s negative moments? It’s because every negative life throws at us does not matter anymore in the end if Christ is at the center of everything we do. The hard part is keeping Christ in the center of everything we do because we are human and we are sinners. 

Throughout our lives Christ offers us New Beginnings, whether through baptism, trials, people we meet, etc. Sometimes we can see what Christ is wanting us to do in situations and other times we don’t but if we keep Christ at the center, we have the greatest New Beginning of all coming our way. Now the thing I have always heard from people thinking of this is “Well, if I do this I’ll get to Heaven” or “Well, I can’t be perfect so why should I even try”. The great news is only Christ is perfect, and we aren’t expected to be. Heaven isn’t just about checking off boxes, we need to have true faith and a relationship with Christ. We need to be digging into his word daily. Congratulations, you are doing that today! We should be living it though!  If we read His word this morning, we shouldn’t just check it off, but instead we should ask God what you should be getting from what you’ve read and find a way to live it out in your day.

The last piece I want to touch on is verse 5. These “words are trustworthy and true”. The hard part for me with this sentence is I can think of numerous times in my life I’ve heard someone, or I’ve told someone, “Trust me” or “It’s true”. Many times I’ve found out I couldn’t trust what was said or I made something up myself. In school we were always told to write something down when its important. The greatest teacher of them all does the same here. Through our trials we are going to tell ourselves maybe that verse is not true, but God wants to remind us of what he says is true. If we tend to read the same writer or the same column week after week, whether we like it or not, we start to believe that person for who he is. Maybe take that into your daily routine. Write down “Gods words are trustworthy and true”. After a while you just might find yourself having a little more faith. Know that you can trust in God! Nothing he has ever said has been untrue.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the day you’ve made. I thank you for always having your Word for me to turn back to. I thank you for speaking truth in my life, especially in the times I don’t want to hear it. I thank you for forgiving my sins and making me new. I thank you for taking away “death, mourning, crying, and pain”. Help me trust that you will make me new. You will continue to work in me to make me better. Help me to reach my community. Help me to reach outside my community. Help me to share this good news of a new beginning with the world. It’s in your name I pray.  Amen.