Welcome to Daily Steps!
A weekly devotional message with daily scripture readings, prayer prompts, and action steps to help you spend time with Jesus and strengthen your relationship with Him.
Luke 4:18-19 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and He has anointed me to be hope for the poor, freedom for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.” (TPT)
A Kingdom Without Sides
Taking a side is human nature, and that tendency is reinforced in us from a very young age. Think back to your earliest memories of kindergarten, playing with other neighborhood kids, or even vacation Bible school. Whether it was dodgeball, stickball, or good guys versus bad guys, being on a team meant taking a side. We like being on teams. Being a part of a group makes us feel accepted, that we belong, gives us a cause to rally around, and generally spurs us to do more than we thought we could. Most importantly, we feel safer when we're surrounded by others who are all focused on the same goal... and that sense of security becomes even more addictive when it's bolstered by the pride that we feel when we've chosen the winning side.
When Jesus announced to His hometown crowd (in Luke 4:14-30) that He was the long-awaited Messiah, you would've thought He was speaking to His own team. It should've been a proud moment for the people of Nazareth, but instead, the scene quickly spiraled from one of overwhelming wonder into overwhelming hatred. Jesus stood in the temple and proclaimed that He was anointed by God to help people — to bring them freedom — and His hometown team reacted by changing sides almost immediately. They went from being supportive and curious to being riotous and murderous... all in the space of a few minutes. When we read this passage, we should be both alarmed and warned of how precariously easy it is to be absorbed into a team, a cause, a movement, a philosophy, or an ideology to the point of losing ourselves, our faith, and our surrender to the Holy Spirit.
In light of this week's events, many Americans are feeling very rattled, concerned, angered, saddened, and bewildered about the actions of the side they have chosen, what the opposite side is doing, or what side the people around them have chosen... or all of the above. Although we all previously knew this instinctively, the events of recent days have forced many of us to think about the fact that there are layers upon layers of sides that sometimes exist, each adherent to a side interpreting what it means in very different ways. We are reminded yet again — like it or not — that when humans are pushed, we often shove back rather than act with love as the members of Team Jesus should. Many of us have forgotten that on His team, earthly sides don't actually matter. Acting out of love while being united under the common cause of the Gospel is the only thing that does matter. This is the only motivation that could possibly cut through all of the confusion, clutter, and chaos that comes with a clashing of sides to give people a beacon of hope and a path to healing.
The religious leaders of Jesus' hometown wanted to shove Him right off a cliff. Imagine! They wanted to murder Him for saying that He had come to bring God's Kingdom to earth. At this point in His ministry, He hadn't even displayed His most amazing, yet very polarizing, miracles. Just His words ignited a firestorm and remind us of how powerful the Gospel really is. Pastor and author Tim Keller said, "The Gospel gives us the resources to love people who reject both our beliefs and us personally. Christians should think of how God rescued them. He did it not by taking power but by coming to earth, losing glory and power, serving, and dying on a cross. How did Jesus save? Not with a sword but with nails in his hands." This quote is Keller's closing paragraph from an OpEd he wrote for the NY Times back in 2018. In that piece, he implores us as believers to remember that being Kingdom-minded — the kind of Kingdom Jesus came to give us — doesn't mean that we are bound to only one side or one way of thinking when it comes to solving the world's problems. "If we are only offensive or only attractive to the world and not both, we can be sure we are failing to live as we ought," he said. In other words, we should only bind ourselves in allegiance to Jesus and how His Spirit leads us to love and serve others. It is only by striving together for that goal — no matter which side others around us may choose or think that we should choose — that we can possibly make the right choices and truly be servant-hearted instruments of God's kingdom.
Daily Bible Readings
This week, as you go through the daily readings below, ask God how He wants you to bring a little bit of His Kingdom to others... through being a source of hope, encouragement, love, help, or freedom. As you contemplate these passages, make time to pray before and after you read them. In each reading, ask God to show you what the verses mean specifically to you and then write down anything the Holy Spirit whispers to your heart. God’s Word is alive, so even if you’re familiar with these Scriptures, approach them with an expectant heart and an open mind.
Monday — Read Luke 10:25-37. Though most of us have heard the story of the Good Samaritan many times, it's worth meditating upon with fresh eyes and a softened heart. Using your imagination, put yourself in the shoes of the injured man. We usually prefer to see ourselves as the Good Samaritan, but imagine that you are the person in serious jeopardy and the one who comes to your rescue is someone who is the exact opposite of you in terms of culture, preferences, beliefs, and socioeconomic status. Now spend time sitting with Jesus, asking Him to reveal to you any sides you've chosen that have eclipsed the importance of His command to love others — all others — as yourself.
Tuesday —Read Galatians 2:11-13 and Acts 10:9-35. The story of Peter and Paul's disagreement about offering the Gospel to any person regardless of culture, ethnicity, or beliefs, gives us one of the most powerful glimpses into the Holy Spirit's transformative work and God's expectation that we love impartially, just as Jesus demonstrated. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter's ingrained bigotry and cowardice were transformed into unconditional love and courage. He no longer allowed the side he had been taught to uphold at all costs to dictate his faith or his calling. He was still Jewish, and always would be, but he realized his true identity was defined by Jesus, not a side... not an ideology... not a way of life.
Wednesday — Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. Some of the sides we feel compelled to choose or are taught to defend will, at some point, exact a price on our allegiance to Jesus. There is no human-made ideology that is worth that price. As you read this passage, ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern the difference between human-devised truth and His Truth. Spend time making a list of the things that you may be encroaching upon your faith and how God is leading you, despite being something that your upbringing, culture, or your friends strongly expect you to believe and defend. How should your decisions and actions change if you follow the Holy Spirit's leading versus others' expectations or creeds?
Thursday — Read Acts 9:10-19. Verse 13 says, "But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem." Recall the last time the Holy Spirit prompted you to be the Gospel in action with someone who offends you or offends everything you stand for. How did you react to the Lord's leading? Did you ignore it, act on it, or think about it until the opportunity passed by? As you spend time in prayer, ask God to give you the courage to love and respect even those who have a past that intimidates or repulses you.
Friday — Read Luke 23:32-56. As Jesus sacrificed Himself for all humankind, He looked down at His murderers and said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Spend some time thinking about this simple, but earth-shaking statement. Although the plan to kill Jesus was several years in the making and was clearly pre-meditated, Jesus offers His killers the unfathomable... forgiveness. Not only that, He's giving up His life for them too, not just the people who followed Him. There are times when God calls us to take a stand, but only if our intention is completely Spirit-led and Gospel-centered. As you close out this week, ask Jesus to help you see things as He does, extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness even in the midst of differing perspectives, opinions, and alliances.
TAKE YOUR NEXT STEP
Grow closer to God each day and explore what it means to be a part of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth.
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