Living Faith Devotional 68

6/9 – 6/15
Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness” (John 12:46 NRSV). Saul of Tarsus was a devout Pharisee who tried to stop Jesus’ church from spreading in the years shortly after the resurrected Savior’s ascension. It was as if Saul was trying to extinguish Jesus’ light in the world. His efforts included approving of those who killed the first Christian martyr named Stephen (Acts 8:1). Yet Saul’s life was transformed when he encountered the blinding light of Jesus while traveling to Damascus to arrest disciples of Christ. As he and his companions were engulfed by “a light from heaven, brighter than the sun,” Jesus’ voice came from within the light and told Saul, “I am sending you to open…eyes so that they (Jews and Gentiles) may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:13, 17-18 NRSV). A few days after his conversion a devout man of faith in Damascus named Ananias shared this message with Saul on behalf of the Lord, “the God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15 NRSV). In response to his encounter with Jesus and the Lord’s message shared through Ananias, Saul was baptized and became an apostle of Christ.

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Living Faith Devotional 67

6/2 – 6/8
“I choose joy” is a statement in the song “Joy” by the Christian group For King and Country. What about you? Are you choosing to rejoice and give thanks even when circumstances are not what you had planned or hoped they would be? Through the Spirit of the Lord we have God’s JOY in us. We can choose to cultivate that joy within us, in our families, in the church, in the community, and beyond. Will you help us to cultivate joy?
 
This week clergy and laity representing more than 600 United Methodist congregations throughout the state of Indiana, including pastors and two lay delegates from AUMC, will meet in Indianapolis to worship the Triune God and pray together, reconnect and enjoy fellowship, learn, encourage one another, celebrate Bishop Trimble’s decades of ministry and retirement, while focusing on organizational tasks and responsibilities of the denomination within this state and conference. Throughout the week, please pray for safe travels, humble Christ-like attitudes and collaboration among attendees, and the work of the Indiana Annual Conference. The theme this year is “Cultivate Joy” based on Romans 15:13. Because of the Annual Conference theme, the focus for the Living Faith Devotional this week will be “JOY.”

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Living Faith Devotional 66

5/26 – 6/1
If you had to describe God to someone who knew nothing about the Lord, what would you say? Would you talk about God as creator, or that he is our heavenly Father? Would you describe Jesus as God’s Son, our Savior, and the image of the invisible God (John 3:18; 4:42; Colossians 1:15)? Would you tell them about the ongoing presence, empowerment, and work of the Holy Spirit? John the Elder, the author of 1, 2, and 3 John in the New Testament, describes the Lord as “light” and “love” (1 John 1:5, 4:8). When Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Who do you say I am,” the apostle answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16 NIV). After Jesus’ ascension, on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came as God’s presence among the believers gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem in the form of a mighty wind, tongues of fire, and the Lord’s power within them (Acts 2:1-4). Jesus had told them during his ministry that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26 NRSV). Jesus assured them that the Holy Spirit would be with them forever (John 14:16). That assurance applies to us, today, as well. The Father, Son, and Spirit are among and with us now, and will be forever. God’s ultimate plan is to have his home with us, and for us to be with the Lord throughout eternity (John 14:23; Revelation 21:3).

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Living Faith Devotional 65

5/19 – 5/25
In 2022 this Living Faith Devotional guided us to begin our journey through the entire Bible. By reading the final chapters from Revelation this past week, we have finished our journey through God’s epic narrative of hope, the story of God. Congratulations to those who read Genesis through Revelation! This week we are turning our focus to the Day of Pentecost, the birth of the Church, and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. For the earliest Christians celebrating Easter and the Day of Pentecost were the two most significant celebrations of the year. How will you celebrate the Day of Pentecost so that it is set apart from other days?

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Living Faith Devotional 64

5/12 – 5/18
This week we will finish reading the last book of the Bible, The Revelation to John. The unveiling John received from the Lord on the island of Patmos reminds us that the most powerful and wealthy kingdoms and nations of the earth can eventually become like Babylon, turning away from the will and purposes of God. Churches and individual Christians can also be led astray, or simply drift away from the Lord. Much like the deception of the serpent in Genesis 3, the Satan and evil forces aligned in opposition to God can lead people astray towards a path of destruction, devastation, and death. Yet the Lord will ultimately conquer the evil and brokenness of the world, making all things new (Rev. 21:5). John describes the newness of everything as “a new heaven and a new earth” where God will be among people forever (John 21:1 NRSV). The problems plaguing humanity and creation because of evil and sin will be no more. God “will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Rev. 21:4-5 NRSV). Hallelujah!

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Living Faith Devotional 63

5/5 – 5/11
In the portions of The Revelation to John that we will read this week, chapters 15 and 16 include plagues being poured out upon the Roman Empire like those the Egyptians experienced during Moses’ campaign on behalf of God to free the Hebrews from slavery (Exodus 5:1). Chapter 17 describes the Roman Empire as a version of Babylon, a nation living in rebellion against God. The message of chapter 18 is of the fall of the kingdoms and ways of the world that Rome represented at the time of John’s prophecy. Chapter 19 describes Jesus and his army conquering evil and those living in opposition to the Lord. With the fall of Babylon, “a great multitude in heaven” proclaim “our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory” (Rev. 19:1-7a NIV). Their response should also be our response to the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16 NIV). Our God has reigned in the past, He is the ultimate ruler now, and the Lord will reign forever. Through Jesus God will defeat the powers of evil and those who make themselves foes of the Lord. Let us rejoice in the victory that was accomplished on the cross at Calvary in the past, as well as the victory that will come in the future with Jesus’ return.

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Living Faith Devotional 62

4/28 – 5/4
As we continue our journey reading and studying the final book of The Bible, The Revelation to John, the symbolism this week within John’s prophetic and apocalyptic message includes the Church as witnesses in chapter 11, a woman in chapter 12 who represents Mary, Israel, and the people of God, with a description of a “dragon” that represents the forces of evil and Satan. In Revelation 13 John describes beasts using imagery that seems to point towards the Roman Empire, Emperor Nero, and those who worshipped the ways of the empire and its’ emperor during the time of the prophet’s ministry in the first century. Biblical scholars note that the languages of the first century Roman Empire — Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrew—had numeric equivalents for the letters. Regarding “the number of a person” described as “the beast” in Revelation 13:18, biblical scholars believe that it is highly likely to be “Nero Caesar,” the ruler of the empire who persecuted Christians, including having the apostles Peter and Paul executed for their faith in Christ Jesus. According to the study notes in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, “John uses Old Testament imagery to represent the church as God’s victorious army” in chapter 14. And the Christian prophet utilizes exodus motifs most thoroughly in chapters 15 and 16, including the Church singing “the song of Moses…and the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3 NRSV).

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Living Faith Devotional 61

Earlier this month, this devotional began guiding us to read and study the final book of The Bible, The Revelation to John. In Revelation, a Christian prophet named John shares a God-given unveiling that he experienced while worshiping on the island of Patmos. The revelation John received from the Lord and wrote in a letter to seven churches in Asia Minor includes three themes according to Judith L. Kovacs, the author of The Revelation to John commentary in The New Interpreter’s Bible One Volume Commentary. Those themes are:
 
1) In…the divine throne room in heaven John glimpses the sure reality of God’s kingship over all…but hidden on earth—where it is obscured by the activity of Satan and the weakness of God’s earthly witnesses. The letter to the churches concludes with the earth becoming like heaven after the Lord creates a “new heaven and a new earth” (21:1), where God’s kingship is universally recognized.
 
2) The powers of evil are involved in a life-or-death struggle with the Lamb (Jesus).
The challenge addressed to the seven churches is to take sides…as part of the army of the Lamb.
 
3) John’s apocalypse is an invitation to worship the only true God and a strong warning against false worship.

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Living Faith Devotional 60

4/14 – 4/20
Last week this devotional guided us to begin reading and studying the final book of The Bible,
The Revelation to John. If you watched the Bible Project videos you were informed that this book of The Bible does not provide a secret predictive code about the end of the world, but it does use meaningful images from the Old Testament within the apocalyptic portions of it. In Revelation a first century Christian prophet named John, who was probably not one of the twelve apostles of Christ, shared symbolic God-given visions about heaven, earth, the church, the Roman Empire, Jesus’ return, and the redemption of the world, that was given to him while worshiping on the island of Patmos where he was imprisoned for his testimony about Jesus and the gospel of Christ (Revelation 1:9-11). Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Lord guided John to “write in a book what” he saw, “and send it to…seven churches” in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:11 NRSV). At the beginning of John’s letter to the churches he explained that God gave him a “revelation {unveiling}…to show Jesus’ servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1 NRSV). The letters within the book were addressed to Christians during a season of suffering and persecution, with a desire to motivate the hearers and readers of it to be faithful and continue worshiping Jesus Christ during greater hardships that were soon to come. Although portions of the book do not sound or seem hopeful, it ends with the Lord “making all things new,” including “a new heaven and a new earth” where he will dwell with us like he intended from the time of the Garden of Eden (Revelation 21:5, 21:1 NRSV). Although it was written to churches of the first century, parts of John’s message within the book apply to us as well. When we face hardships or persecution, will we remain faithful as disciples of Christ and continue worshiping the Lord, or compromise?

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Living Faith Devotional 59

4/7 – 4/13
During the past few years, the Living Faith Devotional has taken us on a journey through reading and studying most of the books of The Bible. Our trek has included the Old Testament, all four of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the book of Acts, the New Testament letters attributed to the apostle Paul, and the other New Testament letters up through Jude. This week we will begin reading and studying the final book of The Bible, Revelation.
 
The book of Revelation, also known as The Revelation of John, is a combination of being a letter written to churches in seven different locations in Asia Minor, prophetic messages from God shared through a first century Christian prophet named John, and apocalyptic literature. Although it may seem strange and unfamiliar to us, apocalyptic literature was popular during the first century. The Greek word apokalypses in Revelation 1:1 means “unveiling,” and is translated as the English word “revelation.” Apocalyptic literature uses symbolism to help unveil truth about the world. John’s Revelation was addressed to Christians experiencing persecution and suffering, with a desire to motivate the hearers and readers of it to be faithful during their season of crisis. John’s message revealed that things were going to progress from bad to worse for the churches before Christ’s return. The end of Revelation reveals that with Jesus’ return there will be redemption for the world as all things are made new.

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