About our ALL-CHURCH FOCUS 2018 DEVOTIONAL

The “thriving” life sounds a lot like abundant life, doesn’t it? That is the life God intends for all of us.

 

Let’s be clear. We do not think that means everyone’s life will look the same or that we all will be wealthy. Or healthy. Or even wise. Much like a game – whether it be board games, cards, video games, or sports – there may be different routes to victory, but there is still a clear vision for victory at the end.

 

For the Jesus follower, this is the abundant life, a thriving life. But the thriving life from God’s perspective is not a matter of accumulating a big house or investment portfolio. It is about being transformed from someone who is born separated from God to someone who looks more and more like Jesus each and every day. Here’s how one of the biblical authors, Paul, puts it:

 

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18

 

When we read the gospels – the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life – this idea of transformation is captured by terms like “discipleship” or “following Jesus.” Two thousand years ago, Jesus gathered an eclectic group of Jewish men and took them on a journey, a spiritual journey, that touched every aspect of their lives. They learned to put Christ as the central influence in their lives, to follow Him. They became disciples. It was a three year process during which they experienced the ups and downs of being born separated from God, but, by God’s grace, they grew to look more and more like Jesus – and nobody reveals God’s abundant life more than Jesus. 


Make no mistake. This transformation was a journey. It did not happen overnight. And it was not necessarily linear. But they continued to move from being faces in the crowd to people sent to the ends of the earth to point people to the hope of a thriving life Jesus offers.

 

We believe God has a process He leads us through as we grow to look more and more like Jesus in our lives, too. During this all-church focus, we are going to walk through these stages of growth as we progress through the Gospel of John in our Bibles.

 

The Gospel of John is full of stories in which Jesus encounters the nameless crowds, the curious seeker, the cautiously convinced believer, the committed follower, and then commissions His disciples to help others follow Him.

 

This Jesus movement did not stay the secret knowledge of twelve Jewish men. It spread. This thriving life that Jesus offered was infectious. It spoke to men and women all throughout Israel – and then it exploded into a worldwide movement. And it is more global today than ever!

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This calling is challenging, but at the same time, it is thrilling. God is calling us to life on a whole other level!

 

We know life is not a game, but we are using games – all kinds of games – as an image to help us better grasp this journey God has called us to. There is sequence. There is a starting point. There are steps. There is progress, and there are interruptions in game play. Still, we need to engage and do our part to make progress and win,  which is to experience that abundant life that is offered in Jesus by His grace.

 

Our game board is life. The tutorial has been lived by Jesus Himself and the Holy Spirit is ready to coach us. All that is left is for us to take up the challenge. Are you ready?

 

Game on! 

How to use this devotional

This year’s all-church focus uses the imagery of games to help us walk through the life transformation process God has for each one of us. This devotional in your hands is just one part of the process. Like a game piece or a set of dice or a controller is only part of the game experience, so this devotional is only one part of the life transformation process, but it is an important one. Our prayer is that this devotional will facilitate your daily time with God.

 

Game On! will take us through the Gospel of John. We will see our master, Jesus, engage people at all different levels of spiritual maturity, and He is always challenging them to take that next step forward to grow to the next level as they trust Him. We want you to experience this journey through John and draw closer to Jesus in the process.

 

As a team, we have written this devotional to help you encounter our Heavenly Father through His Word and the Holy Spirit each day as we walk through the Gospel of John together on Sunday mornings and in our Life Groups throughout the week. John is fairly long, so we’re going to have some large portions of Scripture on some days, but it is also one of the most beloved gospels for a reason. This is going to be an amazing journey!

 

If we give Him the space, God is going to work in us and shape us. It is our prayer that God will use the time you give this each day to draw you nearer to Himself and experience the transforming power of His grace. If you are a veteran of our all-church focuses, you know the drill. You can hit the ground running each day. If you are new to this, keep reading for some step-by-step directions on how to get the most out of this devotional. 

Before you Begin...

  • Find a quiet place. Somewhere you are less likely to be distracted. Ideally, you want to have an unhurried time with the Lord, but you should plan to spend at least 15-30 minutes.
  •  Pray. Even before you open your devotional, spend some time praying. Praise God in prayer – by reading a Psalm such as 104 or 116. Confess to God any sin you may be holding on to (see 1 John 1:9), and ask God what He wants to show you.

Four Opportunities to Engage

Start Here

Every game has a starting point. We recognize in our frantic-paced lives that sometimes we need a small piece of Scripture to chew on throughout the day when we cannot engage the whole passage for the day. Each day this section will quote a verse or two and ask some contemplative questions. These will also be posted each day on online if you are unable to get to your devotional. Go to cypress.church on Instagram.

 

Skip this if you have time to get into the next section, but on the days where this is all you can do, jump into it early and think on it often.

 

Game On

After you read the Scripture passage, it can be helpful to have some thoughts to help frame our thinking. This year we’re trimming down our “Introductory Thoughts” to help us get right into the Scripture passage for the day. However, it might be difficult for some of us to just jump right into the Scriptures without a little framing of the day’s issues. So, each day one of the authors (even several of your missionaries) will help get us pointed in the right direction and then get out of the way and let you get to the Bible so the Holy Spirit can instruct you!

 

Your Move

While God will certainly speak through our authors, He speaks most clearly and powerfully through the Bible. We want each of us to engage the Scriptures ourselves. Some of us have been reading the Bible for years. Others are new and need help. We’re here to help! We have adopted a simple Bible reading plan that will bear fruit in your life if you are willing to submit yourself to it. It’s called the SOAP method. This is the central feature of this devotional. SOAP provides you with a necessary structure to make the most of your devotional time with God. SOAP is an acronym:


S is for Scripture

Reflectively read the day’s passage. Read it carefully, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what He would like you to learn from the reading. Write down any parts of the text that you think God wants you to focus on. It could be a sentence or two; it could be a word or two. Write it down. Writing out God’s Word is a good habit that helps us remember and consider the meaning of God’s Word. Second …

 

O is for Observation

What do you think is happening in this passage? What is the basic meaning of the passage? How does it fit with what’s gone before in John’s Gospel? The better our understanding of context, the better we’ll grasp what God is trying to say to us. Look for repeated words or themes. What does the passage teach us about God? Humanity? Write down your thoughts. We will also have a leading question to help for those who want to use it. Next …

 

A is for Application

Now that we have a grasp of what God is trying to say, we need to wrestle with what He wants us to do with it in our lives. Consider what God is saying to you personally. Since you’ve been praying as you have been reading, what might God be saying to you? If He has shown another facet of His character to you, what is your proper response? If He challenges you with an attitude or action, how will you now make it so or change it? If God challenged you with building a godly character trait, how can you cooperate with the Holy Spirit to see that trait developed in your life? If God gave you a directive, what is your plan to fulfill what He has asked you to do? And finally …

 

P is for Prayer

Talk to God about what He has just led you to discover. Our goal is not some exhausting works-driven relationship. If God has given you a task, He’s going to empower you to follow through, but He did not create you to do it in your own strength. Ask Him for strength to follow up on what He is leading you to do.

 

If you are unsure what He is asking you to do, ask Him for insight. But do not worry. Not every day will hold a life-changing moment. Sometimes God is slowly turning us and shaping us. Our task is to engage Him and keep listening. It is possible you will have a decisive spiritual turning point during one of these devotional times. We hope you do! But for most of us it is going to be a slow process that builds momentum over time. We want to set ourselves before God and see Him work; we will let Him choose how He does it!

 

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Bonus Round

We have worked hard this year to make sure this devotional is user friendly and not overwhelming to engage on a daily basis. We also realize that some want to go a little deeper into the theology or historical background that John’s Gospel is built around. For you we have the Bonus Round. The Bonus Round is hosted here on the Cypress campus website and it has great resources and links to help you get that little extra you are looking for. Here you will find a menu with an opportunity to go deeper each day of this all-church focus.


 

It’s almost Game On!, but before we get started, we have one more important pre-game event to take care of. You may not be confident that God is your Heavenly Father, that you are actually on His team. If you are not, please click here and take a couple minutes to make sure.

 

May God bless you on this journey!