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Day 1 Renew the Mind (Romans 12:2)

Introduction   A personal journey as disciples is completely dependent on something the Bible calls, “abiding.” Jesus said, John 15:5-6 (NIV) I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers …   Friend, Jesus desires that you really thrive! In this, you’re presented with a clear and intriguing choice – to bear much fruit or to be thrown away and wither.   Abiding in Jesus is the best way to get necessary “spiritual nutrients.” Do you want to be healthy inside, at peace and tasting joy? Though bodies will still break down at some point, getting healthy on the inside can also have benefits for one’s physical health.   What is the impact of abiding with Jesus?  

Impact of Abiding in Jesus   First: we have a growing, close relationship with Jesus   Did you know that a central theme of the Bible is that God made you to be in a close, lively relationship with Jesus? Listen to this promise! 1 Corinthians 1:9 (NIV) God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.   Have you ever noticed that followers of Jesus use the word “fellowship?” This means to be in a profound relationship with Jesus. Sadly, many followers limit their fellowship to one another! Why not fellowship with Jesus, who is perfect in love, justice, mercy, etc.? Why not indeed! God didn’t simply make people, place them in the universe he had just created, and then wind it up to spin on its own. No! That’s something called “deism.”

Instead, here’s what happened:  

• God was in fellowship with Adam and Eve, the first people (Genesis 3:8)

• Something called, “sin” (e.g. lying, disobedience, greed, sex outside of God’s boundaries) broke that fellowship, separating people from God (Genesis 3:9; Isaiah 59:2). Everyone can feel the impact today! For example, many never feel fully at rest! • God then lovingly initiated a plan (Jesus!) by which people, including you, could once again come near for fellowship   Consider this verse: Ephesians 2:13 (NIV) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. You can be near God! You can have fellowship with him! How? Like any relationship (i.e. marriage, parenting) - by means of communicating (prayer and listening prayer), while you’re reading your Bibles, and while you go about the activities of your day!   This is what you’ll learn to do from lesson to lesson, either for the first time, or to deepen what you already have.  

Second: we won’t wither

The Bible says: Psalm 19:7 (NIV) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. It has always been God’s goal for you to have life and to be revived regularly. Wow! When you’re revived, you can endure under the most trying circumstances. On the other hand, if you don’t feed on the Word you’ll find yourself consumed by overwhelming stresses. You can be sustained by Jesus’ words to you: both his written Word (the Bible) as well as his ongoing words to you, often whispered to your soul. Here is a weighty verse – think about it carefully! Hebrews 1:3 (NIV) The Son (Jesus) is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining ALL THINGS by his powerful WORD. Did you catch it? “All things” include you and I!

FOR YOUR REFLECTING AND REVIEWING  (2 Timothy 2:7) 1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading. 2. What are 2 ways that you can be impacted from abiding in Jesus?

LIFE APPLICATION (James 1:22) 1. God invites you to fellowship with him! Take some time to reflect on this question – is your fellowship with Jesus increasing or decreasing? In your journal write down why or why not. 2. Can you think of a time in your life when you withered under pressure? Write it down.

BIBLE READING 1. Please read Matthew 1. 2. Normally you will be asked to write down 1 or 2 verses from the passage that stuck out to you. This can be difficult to do with Matthew 1!

Please also read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in preparation for the Bible reading that you will be doing each day.

3. According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 what is the Bible useful for?


DAY TWO - RENEW THE MIND (Romans 12:2)

On Day 1 you considered two exciting impacts of abiding in Jesus:

FIRST -  a growing, close relationship with him

SECOND - you won’t wither. Today, you’ll look at three more impacts! God is so rich in blessings. He is good to those who follow his Way! In fact, some of the deepest longings that you’ve had in your life are “echoes” of your longings for what God offers.

THIRD: we have victory over temptation to sin Wouldn’t it be great to get victory over the habitual sins that you struggle with, day after day, month after month, and year after year? The Bible vividly describes what happens in your life, James 1:14-15 (NIV) … but each one is tempted when, by his own evil DESIRE, he is dragged away and enticed. It is your desires that cause you to get dragged away. That is, the devil didn’t make you do it! So how do you counter this? You abide in Jesus! When you abide in Jesus, his Spirit starts taking control. It may sound mysterious, but this is how it happens. It’s one of the ways that God proves his existence. Listen to how Paul describes it: Galatians 5:16 (NIV) So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Wow! You do not have to be angry, impatient, addicted, in slavery to anxiety, greedy, etc. Therefore, Paul could say, 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) … but when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. A way out because you abide in the Way! Praise God!

FOURTH: we can grow in godly character You are also invited in the Bible to not only avoid sin, but to become a totally new kind of person! Imagine being everything that God planned for you!

In Colossians you can read, Colossians 3:9-10 (NIV) Do not lie to each other, since you have put off your old self with its practice and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. It refers to an “old self,” which is full of brokenness/problems. You’re likely aware of this major issue inside of you. But it doesn’t stop there! You’re called boldly forward to develop a, “new self.” You’re to be more like Jesus, or as Colossians puts it, in the image of your Creator. What a vision for your life! You’re to be like the greatest person who has ever lived! No one is like Jesus yet; so this applies to everyone.

Here is an important question – will even those who are “experts” as followers of the Way humbly admit this? As you abide, you too grow in character. Paul was also able to say this, 1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV) Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. It really helps to have people in your life who can show you what this looks like. This is why isolation from a church family can be so damaging!

FIFTH: we become successful in our lives The book of Proverbs is a part of what people often call the “wisdom literature” of the Bible. And do you ever need wisdom! It helps you be successful and isn’t it amazing that God wants you to succeed? Listen to what one of its verses states, Proverbs 16:3 (NIV) Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

At least ten times in Ecclesiastes, another book of wisdom, the author Solomon introduced his thoughts with, “I saw (observed) such and such, and this is how it works.”

He made observations about: • laziness vs. diligence; adultery vs. faithfulness; generosity vs. greed; integrity vs. dishonesty; harsh vs. gentle words; pride vs. humility; good vs. bad leaders; enemies vs. friends. What a list! Again, a person who abides in Jesus and his words will be very wise and successful! Or as Proverbs also notes, Proverbs 2:11-12 (NIV) Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. 12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse … You’re encouraged to be people desperate for wisdom and INTENTIONAL in gaining it. You’re not to drift through life, hoping for good outcomes. Drifting will never lead you there.

Never. Drifting ALWAYS takes you in the opposite direction. And you cannot depend solely on one Sunday sermon per week to do all this for you! You must also train yourself to abide.

FOR YOUR JOURNAL REFLECTING AND REVEIWING (2 Timothy 2:7) 1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading. 2. Write down 3 additional ways that a person is impacted by abiding in Jesus?

LIFE APPLICATION (James 1:22) 1. When you abide with Christ your character will grow. Write in your journal where you have grown in the past couple years. 2. Record 1 or 2 specific temptations and sins that you struggle with regularly. Write out a prayer, confessing to God your struggle, while also asking him to help you walk with him in victory! 3. Memorize John 15:5-6. Memorizing can really impact your heart! You can do it!

BIBLE READING 1. Please read Matthew 2:1-12. 2. Write down 1 or 2 verses from the passage that stuck out to you. 3. Take time to quiet yourself before Jesus and meditate on the verses. Write down any thoughts that come to mind.


DAY 3 RENEW THE MIND  (Romans 12:2)

Followers of Jesus & Devotions There’s a word that many followers of Jesus use – devotions. Devotions is giving time to Jesus, doing exactly what Days 1 and 2 encouraged – abiding in him. This is an actual relationship! And remember the five impacts of abiding in him. This will benefit you greatly! How often should you spend time in devotions? Should you be focused during that time? Well, think of a marriage relationship! Should you talk and listen to each other daily? Would focus be important? Of course! It’s no different when you abide in Jesus. If you read the biographies of ordinary people who accomplished the significant things that God had in mind for them, they had this daily practice. Even some of them did so in prison! (often drawing on their memory)

Daily Devotions Joshua 1:8 (ESV)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. To “meditate” means to chew on. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the Hebrew word behind it is, “ruminate.” It’s what cows do when they chew their food. They actually swallow it, “bring it back up,” and then chew it some more – multiple times! This may sound gross, but it ensures they get maximum nutrients out of their food. May you be a spiritual cow!

Okay, maybe not the best image – but why not maximize your spiritual nutrients with daily devotions? Joshua said, “day and night.” If you read Psalm 1:2 it says the same thing. The Jewish people of the Old Testament were encouraged to engage in this activity as they went about their days, Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up …

Notice that it says, “talk about them” – as it encouraged memorizing, rather than reading. Do you need daily food for your body? For sure! You need it for you spirit and soul too! While physical fasting comes with benefits for your body, spiritual fasting DOES NOT bring benefits for your soul. You’ll notice (or should I say, those around you will notice!) that if you fast spiritually you will become irritable and cranky. And you’ll feel dull and empty.

These are sure signs of fasting from Jesus! Everyone needs a daily time when they get quiet to hear from Jesus – his words are life for a soul and spirit! They’ll strengthen you for the day much more than any protein drink or energy bar!

How long should you spend? If you’re starting at 15 minutes a day, a snack is better than nothing! But soon it will be time to move it on to 30 minutes, and so on. Some may reject this daily habit as “legalistic” or “too structured.” You will hear the word “legalism” used a lot to make excuses to avoid good things.

So, what is the definition of legalism? Legalism is when you rely on moral commands or wise guidelines to be made right with God, to be saved and go to heaven. That is, daily devotions do not save a person! Instead, they help intentionally develop believers into the kind of follower of Jesus that the Bible calls one to become. Put another way, is it legalism when a doctor says that his patient needs to change their lifestyle; or to take certain medications; or take some tests? Of course not! It’s to help you be as healthy and well as possible. It is the same with daily devotions.

FOR YOUR JOURNAL REFLECTING AND REVIEWING (2 Timothy 2:7) 1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading. 2. Why do you need devotions every day (time abiding with Jesus)? Is this encouraged in the Bible? 3. Is having a daily devotional time legalistic? Write in your journal why or why not.

LIFE APPLICATION (James 1:22) 1. If you do not already have a plan for daily devotions, please write one out: a. Set a regular time to have your devotions b. Set the amount of time to have your devotions c. Set the location for your devotions 2. You looked at 5 ways that abiding in Christ impacts people. Find someone that you can share this with this week (they are found in Day 1 and 2). Put it in your schedule. It is important that you disciple others as you are being discipled. 3. Review your memory verse from yesterday – John 15:5-6.

BIBLE READING 1. Please read Matthew 2:13-18. 2. Write down 1 or 2 verses from the passage that stuck out to you. 3. Take time to quiet yourself before Jesus and meditate on the verses. Write down any thoughts that come to mind.


DAY 4 RENEW YOUR MIND (Romans 12:2)

Wisdom for Developing Daily Devotions

If you were to create a great and tasty meal, you would need to have good ingredients, effective preparation, the right mindset, and proper kitchen appliances and utensils. Isn’t it true that those who rush through meal preparation and creation usually make a mess of it? Great devotional times are no different. They require preparation, the right mindset, and some useful tools. Yes, it can take time to develop proper habits, but it is worth all of the effort. 2 Peter 1:5 (NIV)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to your goodness, knowledge … The Bible talks about all kinds of effort! Some have called such habits “doorways to transformation.” They are not powerful by themselves, but create room for you to encounter the powerful one! What are some requirements for establishing a DAILY devotional life?

• A good Bible for reading and memorization. Find something that is readable for you! You can ask someone who is discipling you for ideas

• A notebook or journal to jot things down. This can be on paper or through using electronic devices (be cautious about using devices that distract you)

• A personal prayer list – this is a record of things that you can pray for

• A quiet place somewhere in your home or elsewhere if needed (i.e. a local prayer room, or church)

• A specific time during the day

• An expectant spirit. You can even ask at the beginning of your time with Jesus – is my heart open to tell him all that is on my heart? Is my heart open to hear what he wants to say?

A Suggested Tool: SMORP What is SMORP? It is an acronym that can give you guidance on what to do in your daily devotional time. Many have found it helpful, including experienced followers of Jesus such as pastors and seniors!

Here’s what it stands for: Scripture – Refers to reading and memorizing The Bible (this word literally means “writings.” It is another word for the Bible)

Message – Refers to anything the Lord may be saying to you – the Message for the day (you will learn more about hearing God’s voice)

Obedience – Refers to Obeying what God instructs you to do Repentance – Refers to any sin that the Spirit prompts you to confess and Repent of (to repent means to turn from)

Prayer – Refers to your Prayers to God. This should always include praise!

FOR YOUR JOURNAL REFLECTING AND REVIEWING (2 Timothy 2:7) 1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading. 2. What does SMORP stand for?

LIFE APPLICATION (James 1:22) 1. What is the best meal that you have ever made? (or if not a cook – something else you created) Write down the preparation required, the “tools” you needed, and the steps you needed to take.

2. Have you ever prepared to really dig into the Bible? If yes, please explain what you did. If not, write out a prayer asking Jesus to help you on this journey.

BIBLE READING 1. Please read Matthew 2:19-23. 2. In your journal, practice using SMORP with this passage. Don’t rush it! If you can, invite someone (or multiple people) to do this with you – then compare what you received.


DAY 5 RENEW YOUR MIND (Romans 12:2)

Setting Aside Other Times to Abide in Christ First: establish daily time-outs A disciple of Jesus is ready at all times to be LOVED by him, ENCOURAGED by him, RECEIVE HIS POWER, and to HEAR HIS VOICE. Again, all exciting relationships are like this!

Daily devotions provide an incredible foundation for each and every day. However, as you seek to abide, it can be essential to stop in the middle of a day, moving into a time of prayer. Jesus will be ready! It can become almost automatic. You might not even realize that you’re doing it – like breathing. Of course, it can take years to develop this “beautiful rhythm.” You’re learning to “pray continually,” as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. But it starts by trying, even this very week.

As many have discovered, when you stop to listen, God may not say anything to you immediately. However, you’ll experience his presence! And that’s just as good! Sometimes these daily time-outs are for thanking Jesus or praising him. Even “baby” followers of Jesus can do this well!

SECOND: establish a weekly sabbath Did you know that God established the Sabbath (Saturday) for the nation of Israel, as a one day per week “holiday?” In Deuteronomy you see, Deuteronomy 5:12-14 (NIV) Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work … Sabbath keeping was one of the ten commandments and the Bible has much to say about it.

Particularly, it had two key parts:

• First, stopping from all labor – even for animals. It was a time of physical rest

• Second, it was a time to remember what God had done for them. It was a spiritual rest The spirits of the Israelites and all current followers of the Way require “food” such as joy, peace, hope, and love from their Creator. The Sabbath was to be something that would benefit people; this was a gift to all. Jesus emphasized this: Mark 2:27 (NIV) The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Of course, it is important to know that the Sabbath (Saturday) law is not a requirement for believers today. Here’s what Paul stated, Colossians 2:16 (NIV) Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. Of course, this doesn’t suddenly mean that God has changed his mind about how human beings function. It is still very wise! What can you do when you take a Sabbath?

A. Physical rest for a day • Be careful not to become overly strict about this – there will be times when you face big challenges that require attention. There are seasons in life!

• Remember that recreation implies activity that: i) refreshes your body, ii) restores your mental state, and iii) renews your spiritual liveliness. Whatever drains these three would not be considered re-creational

• You need to be aware that much of today’s modern entertainment/leisure does not re-create body, mind, or soul

• Even a simple change in pace or visiting someone or blessing someone can all be regarded as refreshing and good. Jesus demonstrated this by healing the sick and so on, during the Sabbath B. Spiritual rest

• This is where you connect with Jesus, spending EXTRA time with him

• For couples it can be a great time to listen in prayer together about something and discuss it. If you simply cannot have a Sabbath together, then find another time when you can share what God has been showing each of you

• Can you pray about your job on a Sabbath? It’s a personal choice, but the extended times can be very refreshing times. God can use these times to take job-related burdens from one’s shoulders

• Caution: it’s possible for you to draw boundaries so tightly around your Sabbaths that you ignore the genuine need of those in your circles of influence. Jesus counters this … Matthew 12:12 (NIV) Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath

FOR YOUR JOURNAL REFLECTING AND REVEIWING (2 Timothy 2:7) 1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading. 2. What are 2 other times that you can abide with Jesus – other than daily devotions in the morning? Write down what you can do during these times.

LIFE APPLICATION (James 1:22) 1. Take a look at your normal schedule and routines. Can you see opportunities to take daily time outs? Perhaps schedule one during a workday to try it out.

2. Either alone, or with your spouse if married, reflect on this question in prayer – do you get enough physical rest and spiritual rest? Journal and pray about any adjustments that need to be made.

3. Review John 15:5-6.

BIBLE READING 1. Please read Matthew 3. 2. Write down 1 or 2 verses from the passage that stuck out to you. 3. Take time to quiet yourself before Jesus and meditate on the verses. Write down any thoughts that come to mind.

DAY 6 FINAL STEPS 1. You may be very experienced with prayer or brand new. It can be very powerful to write out a prayer! Write out a prayer to Jesus, expressing your heart to him – any problems, things you’re grateful for, dreams, struggles, etc. 2. Try SMORP again using the well-known Psalm 23.

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