This week’s devotional guide is based on Paul’s assertion that “character produces hope” in Ephesians 5:1-11. By reading this guide, you will have spent time thinking about the love of God and it’s interaction in our lives.
Daily Bible Reading:
Monday, June 12. Read Romans 3:21-22. 1) What is the new way of being made right before God? 2) Who is eligible for this gift?
Tuesday, June 13. Read 2 Corinthians 4:8-10. 1) What experiences did Paul have as a “fragile clay jar? 2) Why did Paul regard this experience to be a good thing?
Wednesday, June 14. Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10. 1) How did Paul show that he was a faithful minister of God? 2) How was Paul resourced to do the work he did? 3) How was his life paradoxical?
Thursday, June 15. Read 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. 1) What did Paul ask the Lord to remove? 2) What was God’s response? 3) How was this different than the usual American “success” model of how God works?
Friday, June 16. Read Psalm 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:33. 1) Why do you think Psalm 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:33 warn against one’s companionships? 2) What effect does keeping companionship with the wrong crowd have?
Saturday, June 17. Read Romans 5:1-11. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Weekly Devotional Reading:
God of Gracious Love
Life without grace leaves us with a distorted understanding of God.
by Phil Ware
Life can be hard and challenging. Living can wear away our hope. Cynicism can settle into our hearts and find a home because of hurtful people, difficult circumstances, relational wounds, and unfortunate events. Religion can imprison us in a world of guilt and shame over our past sins, mistakes, and failures.
Where do we turn to find hope, joy, and peace, in a world that seems hell-bent on destruction? How do we look forward toward our future when we live in a world of people who choose selfishness and violence over compassion and love?
When we open the Bible, we find such a world in the first few chapters of Genesis. The goodness of creation and the intimacy of God’s loving care are wrecked by human selfishness and violence. How do we understand God in such a world? What hope is there for us and those who come after us?
The heart of God’s loving care finds its focus in one word: GRACE. Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor.” But, what does that mean? “Unmerited favor” can be described in this way:
God chooses to love us not because we deserve his love or because we’ve earned his love, but because God is gracious and merciful.
That might be a good definition, but how does this “unmerited favor” — God’s grace — actually work in our lives?
James Nored describes grace this way:
Grace covers over our sins and takes away the guilt and shame enabling us to go on and to live the kind of life that God always intended for us to live. Grace is that ever-present, ongoing, blessing in our lives that God gives us to empower us for daily living.
God demonstrates his grace in many ways. We can categorize these touches of grace into two different categories.
We find God’s common grace in the beauty and care of creation, the love and laughter of friends and family, as well as the everyday blessings of food, clothing, and shelter. We see touches of this common grace in the changing of the seasons as well as the predictability of sunrises and sunsets painted in their ever-changing beauty. They are evidence of ongoing God’s love in our lives and his care for his creation. They remind us that God created the universe to be a blessing to us. Even though our world may be broken, our heavenly Father is at work through his creation to bring us his blessings, his common grace shared with all humanity.
We find God’s sacrificial grace in the gift of Jesus who came to show us how to live and demonstrated God’s love to us (John 1:1-18). God’s sacrificial grace didn’t require us to be good enough to deserve his love (Romans 5:6-11). God loved us first (1 John 4:9-10) and extended an invitation to accept this love by believing in who Jesus is and what he has done for us (John 3:16-17). As we receive God’s love, we then have the blessing of passing that love along to others (1 John 3:16-18).
We not only find ourselves in the place of grace — the universe where God shares his “common grace” — but we also have received a purpose for our lives — God’s “sacrificial grace” has saved us and empowered us to share grace with others. We find God’s common grace in the beauty and care of creation…
The Bible talks about God’s grace this way:
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT — Underline added for emphasis.).
We can’t take credit for grace because it is God’s gift to us. It is not a reward for our work but is based in God’s creative work to make us anew, fresh and forgiven. This grace is not just to heal our hearts and bring us back into relationship with God; grace is also the gift of purpose. We are empowered to step back into our world as God’s masterpiece, each of us re-created as a person who can share God’s grace by doing good things to those around us. Grace means we are saved from sin and its consequences and saved for life as God created it to be.
So, what do you think about this grace?
Where have you seen God’s grace in your life?
How has God been gracious to you despite your mistakes, despite your flaws?
And, who can you show grace to in your life today, tomorrow, and going forward as you live a life of thanks for the grace you have received from God?
The Love of God by Frederick M. Lehman, 1971
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Prayer for the Week:
Dear Father, I come into your presence so aware of my human frailty and yet overwhelmed by your love for me. I thank you that there is no human experience that I might walk through where your love cannot reach me. If I climb the highest mountain you are there and yet if I find myself in the darkest valley of my life, you are there. Teach me today to love you more. Help me to rest in that love that asks nothing more than the simple trusting heart of a child. In Jesus’ name I pray this, Amen