New Year's Day
Monday, January 1
START WITH GOD
Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, "This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you."
Exodus 12:1–2 NKJV
The Lord instituted the Passover (a seven-day celebration of Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt) in March/April of every year, and it was to become Israel's New Year. In his commentary on these verses, Matthew Henry writes, "Note, it is good to begin the day, and begin the year, and especially to begin our lives, with God."
You probably head into this new year with a number of resolutions in mind. You want to lose weight or get in better shape, read helpful books, tame your tongue, get out of debt, volunteer for good causes, or become more organized.
All of these are worthy goals, but for the Christian, they should all flow from putting Christ first. You lose weight to honor God who dwells in the temple of your body. You read more to nourish your mind. You tame your tongue to be a better witness. You get out of debt so you can be free to invest in the kingdom. You volunteer because you want to show people the love of Christ.
As you consider the changes you want to make this year, ask yourself how putting God first in each change will glorify Him. Take time to listen to the Lord and ponder His Word.
Tuesday, January 2
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Matthew 28:19–20 NIV
Christians are called to make disciples, to baptize them, and then teach them to obey everything Christ commanded His disciples. While the American evangelical church places a high priority on making converts, discipleship is less of a priority.
In a study of 2,930 American Protestant churchgoers conducted by Lifeway, only 42% said they intentionally spend time with other believers in order to help them grow in their faith. The other 58% have a truncated view of the Great Commission, and ultimately, the Gospel. At the 2015 Turning America conference in Springfield, Missouri, David Barton, the president of WallBuilders, made the following observation, as reported by The Pathway newspaper.
"We've changed the way we looked at the Great Commission," Barton said. "Rather than teaching everything He taught us, which would change the culture, we're just going after 'fire insurance.'"
If you aren't already discipling somebody, you probably know men at work, school, or church who are baby Christians. Invite one of them out for coffee this week and ask to hear his story. Find out what he's struggling with and offer to disciple him, either formally or informally, by walking him through the scriptures.
Wednesday, January 3
LOVING OTHER BELIEVERS
We [Paul and Timothy] always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God's people.
Colossians 1:3–4 NLT
As God's people, you are called to exhibit love for everyone, including your enemies, but you have a certain affinity for other believers — an instant bond, no matter how long you've known them. You're united in Christ and that bond is thicker than blood.
Paul wrote to the Colossian church that he wanted them to know how thankful he was for their reputation of loving all of God's people. We can't be certain how Paul and Timothy heard this information, although some commentators speculate that it was passed on by Epaphras (vs. 7). We also don't know how they expressed this love, but it undoubtedly involved acts of kindness and mercy because love includes action, and you build a reputation for things you do consistently.
How is your church viewed by other Christians who have never stepped foot inside one of your worship services? Do other believers see your church at local events, praying and serving alongside fellow believers? Does your church reach out to other churches in your city during their time of need? Does your church celebrate with other Christians? If not, what simple steps can you take to change that?
Thursday, January 4
MORNING MEETINGS WITH GOD
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
Psalm 5:3 KJV
When David penned these words, he was probably surrounded by his enemies (see vs. 6, 8) — perhaps during the reign of King Saul. No matter what the circumstances, David made a point to meet with God every morning. He was intentional in turning his face toward heaven and directing his voice toward God, being confident that the Lord would hear him.
On this day, he reminded God about his character — how He didn't take pleasure in wickedness (vs. 4). He also reminded God that the foolish would not stand before him (vs. 5). But David knew he wasn't perfect either. David was resolute in communicating with God every morning, not because he was without blemish or fault, but because he knew God was merciful (vs. 7). So, he approached Him in the morning time with a healthy dose of fear, knowing he deserved judgment, but trusting in God's mercy.
What does your morning routine look like? Does it include approaching God, knowing He will hear you? Do you come before Him with a proper amount of reverent fear, no matter what the circumstances? Or do difficulties, business, or sloth keep you from meeting with Him? Even if you're surrounded by enemies, God will hear you. You're not alone.
Friday, January 5
Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
Proverbs 19:1 NKJV
The man who walks in his integrity is satisfied at the end of the day. He's done an honest day's worth of work, treated people well, and comes home to a meal that no king would necessarily desire, but it fills his stomach and he's thankful for it. He has nothing to be ashamed about. He's put forth his best effort and tomorrow is another day.
The man who is crooked, however, is foolish. He speaks lies and cuts corners to get ahead. He mistreats people for his own gain. He dines extravagantly and drives fancy vehicles. His conscience bothers him from time to time, but he rationalizes his actions, telling himself that everybody does wrong things. He covers up his sins and falls asleep scheming about the next day.
Not surprisingly, the Hebrew word for integrity in today's verse can be translated as prosperity. So, better is the poor who walks in his spiritual prosperity than the one who is perverse in his lips. That would seem to indicate a spiritual divide between the person who spends time tending to spiritual matters versus the person who spends time scheming to get ahead.
Proverbs 19:1 doesn't really speak about middle ground, nor about the middle class and its values. So ask yourself which side of the spectrum you're currently cultivating.
Saturday, January 6
GOD'S REVELATION TO MAN
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
Matthew 2:1–2 NKJV
Many Eastern Christians, as well as some Western believers, celebrate Epiphany today — a holiday which commemorates two events in the life of Jesus, both of which center around His divinity: the day the Wise Men visited the newborn king in Bethlehem and the day John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
According to timeanddate.com, "In some European countries, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, children dress as the three kings and visit houses. In their roles as the kings, or wise men, they sing about the [day of] Jesus' birth and pay homage to the 'king of kings.' They are rewarded with praise and cookies."
In Poland, Christians celebrate "Three Kings Day" with parades across the country. Some liturgical traditions in the West use specific prayers you can find online that would be a great addition to your family's celebration this year.
However you choose to celebrate, do so heralding the revelation of God to man, who stooped to our level by appearing in the flesh to save us. Contemplate that marvelous truth today.
Sunday, January 7
A VALUABLE EMPLOYEE
Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.
Proverbs 27:23–24 NKJV
Shepherds need to be experts in the way their animals are bred, sheltered, fed, jugged (separated with their mother for a period after birth), mixed, weened, dewormed, and even how they play, if the shepherds want to make sure their animals thrive.
Just as shepherds need to be diligent about the state of their flocks, the scriptures call you to know the ins and outs of your occupation. You ought to know all of your industry terms and their nuances. As you grow and immerse yourself in your occupation, you should develop knowledge about what will work and what won't. This will make you a valuable asset to your employer, as well as give you some financial stability.
In so doing, you'll set yourself apart from other employees who are simply punching a clock to earn a living. A few of them might also follow your example of diligence. Your boss will certainly take note, at least. But most importantly, you'll be fulfilling your calling as set forth in Colossians 3:23–24(NKJV): "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ."
Monday, January 8
PRESERVED FOR THE KINGDOM
Love the LORD, all his faithful people! The LORD preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.
Psalm 31:23 NIV
In today's verse, the psalmist, King David, explains the benefit of faithfulness to the Lord: He preserves you.
But in what sense? Don't bad things happen to faithful believers? Certainly, you know believers who have died in car accidents, suffered from cancer, or been victims of violence. While God does sometimes intervene in certain cases but not in others, the psalmist isn't referring to the here and now as much as he is speaking of the eternal.
Bible commentator John Gill makes this observation in his Exposition of the Entire Bible: "[T]hese he not only preserves in a providential way, but he preserves them in a way of special grace; he keeps them ... from the evil of sin; from a total and final falling away by it; from the evil of the world, so as not to be drawn off from Christ and his ways, either by its frowns or flatteries; and from the evil one, Satan, from being destroyed by him and his temptations; and these are preserved safe to the kingdom and glory of Christ ..."
Spend some time this morning thanking God for preserving you, in spite of your unworthiness. And then set your mind and will on being faithful to Him.
Tuesday, January 9
WHO WILL TRUST YOU?
So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?
Luke 16:11–12 NIV
An NBC news report said federal inspector general agents caught at least 60 federal workers cheating on time sheets or skipping out of work without permission since 2012, costing taxpayers more than one million dollars over a three-year period.
You've probably worked with people who took extended breaks, stole items from the company, or fudged reports to make themselves look better. Maybe you've even done it yourself. In Luke 16, Jesus addresses the ramifications, and they go far beyond an employee putting himself in jeopardy of termination. Jesus wants to know, "Who will trust you with true riches" if you can't be trusted to faithfully perform worldly matters?
True riches is a reference to the Gospel, or as some commentators call it, "the riches of grace." A dishonest person, Christian or not, will never be trusted.
"If we make Christ our own, and the promises our own, and heaven our own, we have that which we may truly call our own," says Matthew Henry in his Commentary on the Whole Bible. But how can you expect God to trust you with these if you don't serve Him with your worldly possessions, of which you are but a steward?
Wednesday, January 10
OPEN YOUR HOME
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
1 Peter 4:10 NLT
When Peter penned these words, the destruction of the Jewish temple and nation were at hand (1 Peter 4:7 NLT). With persecution imminent, Peter wanted believers to maintain their focus. He wanted them to be earnest and disciplined in their prayers, while loving one another, and opening their homes to one another (verses 7–9). Finally, they were to serve one another by using the spiritual gifts that God had given them.
Are you concerned that the end of the American church and nation may be at hand? Are you angry about it — getting caught up in heated political exchanges, sometimes even with fellow believers? Is your bitterness poisoning your heart, affecting your attitude, and rendering you ineffective in your witness? Listen to Peter's advice. Open your home to fellow believers. Pray with them. Study with them. Laugh with them. Weep with them. Serve them using your spiritual gifts.
If you aren't sure about your spiritual gifting, talk to a leader at church to help you identify it. And then begin to exercise it. You'll notice a difference in your attitude as you minister to fellow saints. And you'll make a greater impact for the kingdom of God as unbelievers see your love for other believers in action.
Thursday, January 11
Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT
If you've ever glanced at the annual edition of Farmers' Almanac (not to be confused with Old Farmers' Almanac, which also predicts weather), then you know how specific it gets regarding a prospective planting schedule.
Based on predicted weather patterns, the almanac lists what it believes will be the best days for planting fall potatoes, turnips, onions, carrots, beets, leafy vegetables, peas, squash, corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, cantaloupes, and more. It also lists days it foresees as barren — days that are best left for killing plant pests or doing chores around the farm.
But do farmers actually use these almanacs to determine their planting schedule? A 2016 Country Living article about the topic cites a study that says "just 18 percent of farmers use a farmer's almanac when planning their crops." Apparently, many farmers believe the truth of today's verse. If they wait for perfect weather, they'll never plant.
In the next two verses (vv. 5–6), Solomon says a person can't understand the activity of God, and that it's best to "plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don't know if profit will come from one activity or another — or maybe both."
The Christian life is one of diligence. It leaves no room for procrastination. What do you need to plant today?