December 31

Primary reading: John 3:16

Background: As you read from the Bible, it is important not to take verses out of context, but to read them with an understanding of the original situation in which they were written. The words in this verse come from a back and forth conversation between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus who was searching for truth. Jesus was seeking to open Nicodemus’s eyes to deeper spiritual truth. It is in this context, that Jesus spoke these words of hope.

Things to think about: On this last day of the year, I invite you to take some time to focus in on one of the most well-known verses from the Bible—John 3:16. What does this verse say about God? Jesus? Us?

It’s been my joy to read the Bible daily “with” you. May our good God continue to lead you by his Spirit and by his word.

-Travis

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December 30

Primary reading: Revelation 21:1-12, 22-27

Things to think about: John here sees a vision of life after the second coming of Jesus. Satan has been completely defeated and God’s people live with him face to face in a new heaven and a new earth. This vision gives hint of the future for all who belong to God through Jesus. How might these words have given hope to those who were being persecuted by the powers of their day? What excites you about this vision? Christians are never promised an easy life, but they are promised a perfect future existence. Have you ever found yourself turning to your hope of heaven when going through a difficult experience here on earth? What part of this passage can give you hope no matter your current life situation?

2nd reading: Psalm 23:6 Rejoice!

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December 29

Primary reading: Revelation 1:1-19

Background:  Some people believe that the prophecies of Revelation primarily point to our present century. Over the past century, people have tried to use this book to explain current political and military world events. Often, over time, these predictions have been proved wrong.  When trying to understand Revelation, It is important to remember the time in which it was written and the world events of that day. It was written by John (same John as the writer of the Gospel of John) in the later years of his life during exile on the island of Patmos. He wrote to encourage Christians in churches around the Roman Empire. He encouraged them that God’s plans were being carried out and that the “end of the story” had already been determined. The prophecy and style of writing has much in common with some of the Old Testament prophets, and John’s original audience probably had a much easier time recognizing the themes and symbols spoken by John.

Things to think about: Read the description of Jesus that John wrote in verses 12-16. How does this line up with your own “mental image” of Jesus? Read the titles and descriptions of Jesus in verses 17-18. What do these reveal about Jesus? Do you have stereotypes of Jesus that need to be changed? Commit to let Scripture define for you who Jesus is.

2nd reading: Psalm 102:21-22

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December 28

Primary reading: Jude 1:17-25

Background: This is a small book tucked toward the back of the Bible. Like many books, we can’t know the identity of the author 100%, but the letter says he was a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James. Many believe this James is the same James who was the leader of the Jerusalem church—and the brother of Jesus! This means that the Jude of this letter may also be a brother of Jesus. That he did not claim this title could be because he found greater worth in being a servant of Jesus than a physical brother of Jesus.

Things to think about: Influences within and outside the church can harm the faith of those who follow Jesus Christ. Jude warned against “scoffers” who follow their own evil desires and can divide believers. What did he say we can to do resist this division and distraction? What can we do for ourselves? What can we do for others? What does God do for us?

Consider the role God may have for you right now to show mercy to those who doubt, and to save people from the fires of God’s rejection. Pray for someone you know who does not know God or who is struggling with his or her faith. Ask God for sensitivity to understand how you can be used to impact his or her life and ask for the boldness to do it.

2nd reading: Psalm 97:10: Thank God for guarding your life and delivering you from the hand of the wicked.

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December 27

Primary reading: 2 John 1:1-13

Background: Some books of the Bible are very short! You have the opportunity to read an entire letter written long, long ago by an elder of the church. We believe the writer of this book is the same John who wrote the Gospel of John and 1st John.  In his introduction John was not likely talking to an actual lady and her children but to a church and its people.

Things to think about: We only get glimpses of the circumstances that caused John to write. What did John seem to be concerned about or be warning the church about? How important is “truth” to John? How should followers of the truth live? If “loving one another” is a mark of those who follow the truth, how well are you following the truth? How about your church?

What is the falsehood that John wanted to protect his people against (see vs. 7)? In our culture, there is the tendency to say that truth is relative, that it depends on the sincere belief of the individual who is considering that truth. Is truth about Jesus relative? Does it depend on an individual’s belief, or are there important, unchanging, objective facts concerning Jesus? How should Christians respond to claims about Jesus that are different than what the Bible teaches?

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December 26

Primary reading: 1 John 5:1-15

Things to think about: This passage talks about what to believe and why to believe it. We are to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We are to believe by the testimony of the Spirit, the water and the blood. God’s Spirit is the one who brings truth to God’s people. The “water and the blood” may refer to the baptism and crucifixion of Jesus which points out the importance of knowing the historic story of Jesus’ life and ministry. With belief come promises. What promises do you find in verses 11-15?

2nd reading: Psalm 5:2: David (the psalmist) told God to listen to him. Have you ever felt that God wasn’t listening? What does 1 John 5:14 say? Is there a situation where you need to listen to the Bible’s promise rather than your feelings?

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December 25

Primary reading: 1 John 2:28 – 3:10

Things to think about: This is both a wonderful and a challenging passage. John emphasized that we are children of God who receive his love in an extravagant way. We are adopted, and he will not “un-adopt” us! In Jesus, he has taken away our sin. The passage is challenging in that John says God’s children will not keep on sinning. Does John believe that a Christian, once accepting Christ, will never sin again? [see also John 1:8 – 2:2 before answering this question.] So what does John mean? Some point to the fact that John’s choice of grammar and verb tense may emphasize that Christians should not be caught in continuing sin, or habitual sin. Others say John is responding to those who wrongly say a Christian is free to sin since Jesus paid the price for sin. In any case, John is making a strong statement about the call to holiness (living apart from sinful actions). How much do Christians you know talk about refraining from sin? How much do you strive to live a pure life? Do you think it is possible to try to avoid sin without being a hypocrite or coming across with a “holier than thou” attitude?

2nd reading: Mark 12:31: What realm of your life would you like to see more love in action (work, home, church)? How can you begin a change here?

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