Tonight in our Bible reading group we talked about finishing what we start — as in resolutions and plans for the year. From Ecc 7.8 we went to 2 Cor 8.1-12 and especially verse 11, where Paul told the saints in that city to finish the task. Planning is good — God does it. And he finishes his plans. (Remember Jesus: “It is finished!”)

Focus question: How can we make our resolutions and plans so as to guarantee, as far as lies within us, their success?

One suggestion is to write them down. Another is to set down as many details as possible.

What suggestion do you have to answer the question above?

I read the devotional yesterday, even though I didn’t get anything posted. And today’s.

In the cause of Christ, profession and practice must go hand in hand. If the mind is twisted and the conscience numbed, nothing worthwhile can be accomplished. The world turns away from the Good News when a believer is no better than an unbeliever.

Ed’s emphasis today is on practicing what we profess to believe, using Tt 1.16 as the leading verse.

A good reminder on my spiritual birthday.

Focus question: Where is the fine line between accepting ourselves with our foibles and weakness and justifying sin in our lives?

Using Ecclesiastes 7.10 as the lead-off Bible verse, Ed M. shares a powerful devotional today. His first paragraph tells you where he’s headed:

To dwell on the past is to neglect the present. Pining for the “good ole days” reflects a misunderstanding of the ways of God. Servants of the Most High will accept things as they are. They will learn “to be content whatever the circumstances,” Philippians 4:11.

Focus question: How can we be mindful of the present? What do you do to cultivate contentment now?

Today’s devotional comes from the heart of one who has God’s mission in the forefront. Here’s a small paragraph from the powerful page:

Converts are a refreshing joy, III John 4. The unexpected should be expected in the Christian life. Sinners repent. The afflicted find peace. The cold embers of past faith are rekindled. Moments of success are times of festive celebration.

Are many full-time workers frustrated because they’re not evangelizing, but instead speaking to people unmoved by the gospel?

Focus question: How can a Christian cultivate the great expectation of seeing people convert to Christ?

Maybe a lot of us are more like Saul than we’d like to admit:

The will of God. The king was charged with “arrogance” and “rebellion,” I Samuel 15:23. It was a very serious indictment. He turned the mission of God into the mission of Saul. In effect, he obeyed himself. Though Saul pled innocence, I Samuel 15:20, the facts made quick work of his sophistry, I Samuel 15:24. We, too, are invited to be part of the mission of God. Our call is clear. We are to “declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His wonderful light,” I Peter 2:9.

In today’s devotional for Jan. 6, the main text in 1 Sam 15 is apparently from the ESV, quite an interesting way to translate it.

Focus question: How to avoid turning God’s mission into one of our own? In what areas do we tend to distort or pervert God’s mission?

Today’s devotional (Jan. 5) is about zeal, a favorite topic of mine:

Zeal is devotion to and the pursuit of a cause, ideal, or goal. It is the backbone of faithfulness, I Kings 19:10. When God does what He promises to do, it is called “the zeal of the Lord,” II Kings 19:31; Isaiah 9:6,7; Ezekiel 5:13. It was “zeal” for the house of God that moved Jesus to cleanse the temple, John 2:17. We are to have that same commitment to the Lord—determined, focused, and dedicated to the purposes of heaven, Titus 2:14; Revelation 3:19. Obviously, it is good to be zealous for what is good. —Ed Mathews

Good read, good reminder. Still time to start with us on this yearly, meaty devotional.

Focus question: How intense is my zeal for the Lord? Are there times when it flags? What causes zeal to diminish? What feeds positive zeal?

Character of the Church. The Lord wants His people to be “gentle,” I Thessalonians 2:6b,7, and “considerate,” James 3:17. Like His Son, we should not break a bruised reed, Matthew 12:20. Instead we are asked to “speak the truth in love,” Ephesians 4:15, to refrain from quarreling, to “be kind to everyone” and to “gently instruct those who oppose” us, II Timothy 2:24,25. —Ed Mathews

Good reminder in today’s devotional!

Focus question: How do people react to the tone of my words? Does my non-verbal communication reinforce or undermine the verbal content?

Ed’s devotional for Jan. 3 focuses on words as the overflow of the heart.

O that my heart might possess
The accents of His graciousness;
That every word I breathe may bless.

For those who mourn, a note of cheer;
A word of hope for those in fear;
And love for all—both far and near.

May it be said of me
Your speech betrays Thee.
You are like the One from Galilee.

I assume this poetry is his.

Let our speech “betray” us as belonging to the Lord Jesus.

Focus question: As I listen today to my words, what do they reveal about my heart? How to fill my heart with God?

In his devotional for Jan. 2, Ed Mathews reminds us of how things work in God’s kingdom:

An uncommon control. Delays, setbacks, and detours are routine in the affairs of the kingdom. Yet His cause will succeed, His Church will endure, Matthew 16:18. God knows our struggles. He cares for our situation. His plan will not fail, Joshua 21:45; 23:14; Nehemiah 9:7,8. There will always be troubling developments. Our faith will be tested. Our souls will be tried. But God is “faithful,” I Corinthians 1:9. He did not leave His Son in the grave. Neither will He abandon His people, Psalms 16:7-11.

Let’s ask God to help us be faithful in the midst of testing and troubles.

Focus question: What false hopes or unrealistic expectations cause me to be discouraged? What biblical truths will carry us through these?

Jan 1 devotional has been read. This paragraph stood out:

Accept the challenge. It is difficult to break up unplowed ground. For many folks weaknesses have hardened into strong habits. Old actions must give way to new behavior. Vice cannot be sown if virtue is to be harvested. The law of reaping what is sown has not been repealed, Galatians 6:7, 8.

Let’s ask forgiveness for our vices and strength to build the virtues of Christ.

Focus question: What weaknesses of mine have hardened into bad, strong habits? What old actions must be replaced with new behavior?