7-Day Bible Challenge

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1 7-Day Bible Challenge What does it mean to live faithfully as a follower of Jesus Christ? The following reflections will walk you through some foundational biblical steps as you start or continue your journey of discipleship. The journey begins with the reminder that God loves you, moves to developing character traits of God s Spirit, and leaves us pondering what our lives can look like. Each step will help you grow in faithfulness as Christ s disciple.

2 7-Day Bible Challenge Day 1 Rest Securely, God Loves You Dear God, thank you for loving me first. Thank you that nothing can separate me from your love. Help me rest securely in you. Amen. The Lord your God is with you; his power gives you victory. The Lord will take delight in you, and in his love he will give you new life. He will sing and be joyful over you, as joyful as people at a festival. Zephaniah 3:17 For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 Our lives begin and end in God (Romans 11:36). Through God we come into the world (Colossians 1:16). Through God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Through God we pass from this life to the next (John 5:24). As children we understand our inherent dependence, but as adults we often lose this perspective. We start to think everything is up to us! We have to work hard and do our best. Fears start creeping in, because running our own universe is a lot of work. So many things can go wrong and so little is really in our control. Scripture reminds us that we are secure in God s love. God loved us first and we cannot lose our Father s love, now secured for us in Jesus. Nothing can come between us and God: life or death, angels or heavenly rulers or powers, the present or the future, the world above or the world below, or anything in all creation. As we learn to rest securely in God s love, we can trust God to be in charge of the world. It isn t all up to us. Instead, we do our best not out of fear, but in response to the love God has shown us. We are assured that even when we make mistakes or things don t go as planned, the faithful love of God is with us, giving us new life. We can be faithful because he is faithful, just as we love because God loved us first (1 John 4:19). God delights over us with singing, as joyfully as people singing at a festival. Pay attention to your fears today. What provokes your anxiety? What indicators of fear do you sense in your body tight muscles, uneasy stomach, racing heart? As a fear arises, say to yourself, God is with me. Nothing can separate me from God s love.

3 7-Day Bible Challenge Day 2 Put God Above All Else Dear God, help me love you with my whole heart, my whole being, and my whole strength. Help me love my neighbor as myself. Let these two commands order my life. Amen. Israel, remember this! The Lord and the Lord alone is our God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [Jesus said:] Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second most important commandment is this: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. There is no other commandment more important than these two. Mark 12:30-31 The Israelites suffered for hundreds of years, oppressed as slaves in Egypt. God heard their cries and raised up Moses to lead them to their own land. But first, God led them into the desert and formed them as a people. God gave them a series of laws to teach them to live faithfully as people in relationship with a holy God and with one another. The law helped them live in purity, set apart as a light to other nations (Isaiah 49:6). Jesus later summed up the laws of Moses in two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with your whole being, your whole strength, and Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Jesus reminds them that the laws were not just to form their identity as a nation. Israel isn t meant to worship God in isolation, their obedience becomes a light that invites other people into God s love! All people are to be invited into relationship with God through the new covenant that Jesus brings (Jeremiah 31:31-34). These two commands continue to form us as God s people. They encapsulate the heart of living as Christians. As we make Jesus and his teachings the center of our lives, everything else falls into place. These commands guide our lives and help us order our relationships and decisions. They let us shine brightly, inviting others into God s faithful love. Moses urged the Israelites to remember these commands to recite them, write them on their doorposts, and teach them to their children. Write out Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Place it somewhere you can see often. This could be your bathroom mirror, bedroom door, or computer screensaver. Whenever you see these verses, recite the words to yourself. Let them be a reminder to keep love of God and love of neighbor at the center of your life.

4 7-Day Bible Challenge Day 3 Following God Faithfully Dear God, let my life reflect the characteristics of your Spirit. Give me patience as I wait for what is still unseen. Set my hope on what I am ultimately waiting for: life lived fully with you. Amen. But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. Galatians 5:22-23 Be patient, then, my friends, until the Lord comes. See how patient farmers are as they wait for their land to produce precious crops. They wait patiently for the autumn and spring rains. You also must be patient. Keep your hopes high, for the day of the Lord s coming is near. Do not complain against one another, my friends, so that God will not judge you. The Judge is near, ready to appear. My friends, remember the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Take them as examples of patient endurance under suffering. We call them happy because they endured. You have heard of Job s patience, and you know how the Lord provided for him in the end. For the Lord is full of mercy and compassion. James 5:7-11 In Paul s letter to the church in Galatia, he describes the characteristics of living in God s Spirit. He says the Spirit produces, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. These attributes are evidence of God at work in us and the ways we carry out God s love in the world. Rather than living under the detailed regulations of the Law of Moses, now the Spirit is evidence of our life in God through Christ. One of the markers of following Christ faithfully is patience. This is not an easy trait to develop. It requires maintaining hope in what is still unseen. It involves putting off gratification or quick results. The author of James compares patience to farming. A farmer sows seed but has to wait for the autumn and spring rains to water the crops. The farmer cannot rush the process; growth happens in due season. We also wait for what is still unseen. We look forward to fullness of life with God in God s eternal kingdom. Until then we patiently endure. We practice patience in any number of ways, from waiting in line at the grocery store, to waiting on deferred plans, to waiting for our suffering to pass. But we become truly patient people when we come to know that what we are ultimately waiting for is found in God. Try growing a plant from a seed. Plant your seed outside or in a pot indoors. As you tend to your seed, ask God to develop the character trait of patience in you. about the things you are waiting on. Then focus your hope on your heart s true longing: fullness of life with the God who loves you.

5 Day 4 The Defining Marker of Our Life 7-Day Bible Challenge Dear God, help me love both my friends and my enemies. Broaden my understanding of neighbor. Embolden me to show love to everyone I encounter. Let me see each person as a recipient of your grace. Amen. And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. John 13:34-35 You have heard that it was said, Love your friends, hate your enemies. But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 What does it look like to be a follower of Christ? Jesus says, If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. The measure of our lives is love. And this love does not have limitations it starts with other followers of Christ and is extended to all, even our enemies. This love stands in stark contrast to how the people of Israel interpreted the Law of Moses. They had been saying, Love your friends, hate your enemies. But the Law actually says, Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus shows the people a more complete way to live out this command. He redefines who their friends and neighbors are. Jesus says, don t take revenge on others they are also your neighbors! Love your enemies! Choose a different way, one characterized by and made possible through Christ. Love continues to be the defining marker of our life in Christ. This love is challenging. It moves us from only loving our friends to also loving our enemies. It broadens our understanding of neighbor to include enemies and outsiders. It levels the playing field the same sun and rain fall on us each. We are all in need of God s provision. We are all under God s care. We are all accountable to God s just rule. We are all recipients of God s grace. Loving our neighbors begins with forgiveness. It is difficult to extend love when we harbor hatred or resentment in our hearts. Take a moment to identify someone you need to forgive. This could be a specific person, a people group, or even an organization. It could be your next-door neighbor or someone across the country. Then write them a letter, knowing you don t have to send it. Identify the issue, confess your resentments, and ask forgiveness for your resentment. Extend forgiveness to them release any anger, hatred, and desire for them to suffer, and leave judgment and revenge to God. Ask God to help you choose love moving forward.

6 Day 5 Continuing His Work 7-Day Bible Challenge Dear God, let me know you as my true master. Help me follow Jesus example in serving the people who are considered the least important around me. May this be my joy! After Jesus had washed their feet, he put his outer garment back on and returned to his place at the table. Do you understand what I have just done to you? he asked. You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you. I am telling you the truth: no slaves are greater than their master, and no messengers are greater than the one who sent them. Now that you know this truth, how happy you will be if you put it into practice! John 13:12-17 The righteous will then answer him, When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you? The King will reply, I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me! Matthew 25:37-40 In Jesus time feet were the dustiest, dirtiest part of the body. Servants would keep a bowl of water by the door and wash people s feet as they entered a house. Yet the night before Jesus died he did something out of the ordinary. He took the role of a servant and washed each of his disciples feet! This model of service would be surprising to people in Jesus culture, but the gesture wasn t out of the ordinary for him. Jesus whole life embodied humble service. He spent time with people who were outcast, poor, and known as sinners. He healed the sick and lame and brought the dead back to life. Jesus did not stay away from people s suffering. He entered into it and got involved in the mess. He came to serve, not be served. And he told his followers to do the same. He sends us into the world to continue his work. We do this through serving the people who are considered the least important among us. As we feed the hungry, give the thirsty a drink, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned, we are serving Jesus. This is our joy! Our acts of service let us worship and encounter Christ, our true master. Who around you is on the margins? The homeless? Sick? Elderly? Children? Find a way to serve one of these people today. This could be financially partnering with a service organization, offering someone on the street a sandwich, or visiting an older member of your church. Ask God to meet you through this act of service.

7 7-Day Bible Challenge Day 6 Hearts Full of Devotion Dear God, help me develop the character trait of kindness. Help me show kindness even if I am not fully ready. Let me rely on your Spirit to give me strength. Through this process, continually transform me into a truly kind person. Amen. But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. Galatians 5:22-23 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. Romans 12:9-13 Have you ever met a truly kind person? They often emulate the characteristics of love Paul describes in his letter to the church in Rome. Kind people are usually sincere, warm, respectful, and generous. They put other s needs before their own. Their kindness is expressed through acts of service, sharing belongings, or hospitality to strangers. True kindness is not something we can achieve on our own. It is a product of God s Spirit at work within us. But even if we aren t fully ready, we can ask God to give us hearts full of devotion. God s Spirit can embolden us to show kindness in tangible ways. We become kind people as we rely on God s Spirit and put God s own kindness to us into practice. Practice kindness today. Consider an act of service, share a belonging, or show hospitality to a stranger. Ask God to give you the opportunity to carry out this kindness and continue purposefully and faithfully developing this character trait.

8 Day 7 Lights in the World 7-Day Bible Challenge Dear God, help me be faithful in claiming my true identity as your beloved child. Let your love transform me, expressing itself in actions that build up the whole church. Let me shine brightly, inviting everyone into your love. Amen. You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it. You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16 What does it mean to shine brightly as followers of Christ? It means that we claim our true identity as beloved children of God and draw on Christ s strength to share this love with the world around us. We do this through living out the greatest commandments love God and love your neighbor. We care for others, serving them as Christ modeled for us. We continue to develop fruits of the Spirit character traits like patience and kindness. And we share the abundance of our spiritual fruits with others, offering our unique talents and gifts for the greater good of the church and the world. We let God s love transform our hearts and minds, expressing itself through our actions. This love speaks loudly in a world of violence, evil, and suffering. It invites others to partake and receive God s love for themselves. As we live as God s beloved children, we can shine like stars lighting up the sky. What is one way you can let your light shine brightly? Try starting in your church or community. Consider a way you can share God s love through your talents and skills. This could be teaching a class or cooking a meal for a family in need. Maybe you will even want to join a committee or invite your church to partner with American Bible Society. Let your unique strengths be an offering to strengthen the whole body! Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Philippians 2:14-16

9 Congratulations! You ve Completed the 7-Day Bible Challenge! To keep you growing, here are some Next Step Resources Keep It Real: Enjoy 3 Bible Studies on Life Issues Dig Deeper: Engage One Year with the Bible Explore the Bible Resources available now on American Bible Society s website: Help Provide a First Bible to people who have never had a Bible of their own in their language: First.AmericanBible.org

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