Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Search Me, O God

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 15:1-18:7 
1 Peter 2:11-3:7
Psalm 139:17-24
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 139:23-24
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139 is a beautiful song that we hear quoted frequently. The phrases "I'm fearfully and wonderfully made" (v. 14) and "where can I go from your Spirit" (v.7) and "before a word is on my tongue" (v. 4) and "Search me, O God" (v.23) get mentioned quite often. I never, however, hear anybody quote verses 19-22. There, we read the phrases, "If only you would slay the wicked" or "I have nothing but hate for them," and struggle with what to do with them.

Response and Action:
I suggest that we do the same thing David did with them. We should be honest about our anger and hate, we should give them up and place them in God's hands, and then humbly consider his wisdom and grace.

David begins this song (vv. 1-18) with awe and wonder at the knowledge of God. God knows everything. God’s knowledge is before and after all things. God is our maker and he knows us better than we know ourselves. God's thoughts are amazing and precious.

Next, David is honest about his own thoughts--thoughts like "God, why do you tolerate evil?" or "God, why don't you just get rid of everyone who opposes you?" (vv. 19-22). When we, like David, find ourselves thinking in those ways, we might just want to take a step back and consider where we would be if that were the way God thought.

Finally, like David (vv. 23-24), we should ask God to search our hearts and show us the ways our thoughts and attitudes are hurtful, or shortsighted, or motivated by fear and anxiety. We can then ask God to lead our hearts and thoughts into better and everlasting ways.

O God, your thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and your ways are higher than my ways. Help me to think more like you think. Make my heart more like yours. Replace my hate and frustration with grace and hope. Help me extend to others the same love, forgiveness, and redemption you have shown to me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 5:43-45a
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

A Heart for God: Learning From David Through the Tough Choices of Life
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sing to the Lord

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 12:1-14:32

1 Peter 1:13-2:10
Psalm 139:11-16
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Isaiah 12:1-5
1 In that day you will say: "I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. 2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 In that day you will say: "Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.

Through faith, the prophet Isaiah could see beyond the coming oppression of Assyria. He could see that though they were few in number, there were people in Israel who were faithfully looking to God, heeding his commands, and clinging to his promises.

They would one day sing a song of praise as they experienced God's salvation and deliverance. Because of his faith in God's deliverance, Isaiah pauses in his prophecy to offer up a present-tense version of the song that he believed the remnant of Israel would one day sing as they looked back at their salvation.

Response and Action:
I want to be faithful to God. Even though there are so many who reject Christ, or turn away from God, or deny truth, or abandon faith, I intend to hold on to the deliverance and salvation promised to me in Scripture and given to me through Jesus. I will sing songs of praise to God today for the hope I have in Christ for tomorrow.

O Father, you are holy and you fill the heavens. I long to see your kingdom on earth, your will lived out here as it is in heaven. I ask you to provide the bread I need for today. Forgive me and give me the grace to forgive others in the same way. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. You alone are King. You reign in power and glory forever. Amen. 

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs: 12:28
"In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality."

Hope Has Its Reasons: The Search to Satisfy Our Deepest Longings
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Goal of Your Faith

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 10:1-11:16
1 Peter 1:1-12
Psalm 139:1-10
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Peter 1:8-9
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Though life is filled with grief and all kinds of trials, the resurrection of Jesus gives hope and and a new way to live. Through Christ, God has promised an eternal inheritance that cannot be taken away or spoiled. Faith in God's promise and power is a shield and strength that helps us face the troubles and challenges of life. Those who persevere through the trials become purer and surer as they press on in faith. True faith produces true joy and results in true praise as we find ourselves experiencing the meaning and wholeness of what it means to be saved.

Response & Action:
Though I have not seen Jesus, I love him. Though I do not see him now, I believe him. I will live by faith in Christ and persevere through trials. I will cling to God's promises and live in the blessed hope of all he has promised in Christ. I want to be filled with joy in every circumstance. I want to see beyond the struggles of today and press on toward an eternal inheritance. I believe that God will sustain me through anything. He will use the trials I face to purify me and make me whole and real. I want to live a life that results in praise to God.

O God, by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape and strengthen me that I might delight in your will, and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me by your Spirit, through your word, your promises, your people, and all that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in an Everyday Life
by Eugene Peterson

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Prayer of the Righteous

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 8:1-9:21
James 5:1-20
Psalm 138:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: James 5:16-18
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Just as we humans are agents of change as we interact with the world, God is ready, willing, and able to act within the world. He is involved and participating in the story of our lives. He hears our prayers, considers them, and answers them.

The Scriptures are filled with examples of God's active response to everyday people who called out to him for help. God is not impersonal, distant, or uninvolved with his creation. He is working to save, lead, guide, help, and provide.

Response and Action:
I will pray because I believe God is present, powerful, persuadable, and personal. I believe that God is engaged and interested in his creation. I believe that God cares about what is happening in the world and in my life. I will call out to God and ask him for help, guidance, relief, strength, deliverance, and provision. I will make prayer a priority in my life. I will cultivate a regular and thoughtful pattern for daily prayer.

O God, thank you for hearing our prayers. Thank you for your grace and provision in our lives. We call out to you, Holy Father, believing that yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

The Prayer God Longs For
by James Emery White

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reading Schedule for May 21-27

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

Sunday, May 14 -
Isaiah 8:1-9:21 / James 5:1-20 / Psalm 138:1-8

Monday, May 15 - 

Isaiah 10:1-11:16 / 1Peter 1:1-12 / Psalm 139:1-10

Tuesday, May 16  - 

Isaiah 12:1-14:32 / 1Peter 1:13-2:10 / Psalm 139:11-16

Wednesday, May 17  - 

Isaiah 15:1-18:7 / 1Peter 2:11-3:7 / Psalm 139:17-24

Thursday, May 18 - 

Isaiah 19:1-21:17 / 1Peter 3:8-4:6 / Psalm 140:1-5

Friday, May 19 - 

Isaiah 22:1-24:23 / 1Peter 4:7-5:14 / Psalm 140:6-13

Saturday, May 20 - 

Isaiah 25:1-28:13 / 2Peter 1:1-21 / Psalm 141:1-10

Here I Am, Send Me

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 6:1-7:25
James 4:1-17
Psalm 137:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Isaiah 6:8-9
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" 9 He said, "Go and tell this people: 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' "

Isaiah was overcome by a vision of God's power and holiness. He realized how sinful he was, how sinful the people of Israel had become, and how desperately they needed God's forgiveness and restoration.

God sent him to preach repentance and judgment to his people, even though God knew the people would not listen to Isaiah. They would hear, but not understand; they would see, but not perceive. Because the people would ignore Isaiah, his preaching would, in fact, harden their hearts and dull their understanding.

Isaiah asked, "How long should I preach?" God said, essentially, "Until there is no one left to preach to." Even when people fail to listen or respond, God is faithful to reach out to them and give them opportunity to wake up and turn back. Their destruction was self-imposed. They were without excuse.

Response and Action:
I want to live with a sense of God's beauty, holiness, and majesty. I will grow in my reverence for God as I humble myself in worship, prayer, and the reading of Scripture. I will acknowledge my sin and the sins of my people (my family, my church, my nation), asking God for forgiveness and restoration. I will be faithful to speak and live the truth of God even if no one listens or responds. I want to be sensitive to God's leading and have a willingness to answer his call--to do what he calls me to do, to say what he calls me to say, and to be what he calls me to be.

O God, have mercy on me. I am a person of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips. You have shown your glory to us through Jesus, your Son. Help me--help us all--to find forgiveness, restoration, renewal, and purpose in Him. It's in His Name, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 1:18-19a
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day
by James Emery White

Friday, May 19, 2017

Watch Your Mouth

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 3:1-5:30
James 2:18-3:18
Psalm 136:13-26
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: James 3:9-12
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

The words we choose and the things we say are very important. Having an undisciplined tongue is inconsistent with following Christ and honoring God. If hurtful and careless things flow from our mouths unchecked, it contradicts the praise we offer God, and reduces it to nothing more than lip service. A mouth that says sweet things to God should not say bitter things to those God has created and loved. Being careful to say helpful, loving, and constructive words to others is one of the best ways to praise God with our mouths.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize the importance of my words and I understand the need to choose them wisely. I must always be mindful of the connection between my words to people and my words to God. I must avoid a mental disconnect that allows me to offer words of praise to God, but then be careless or hurtful in my words to people. I will ask God for the grace and guidance I need as I make every effort to be disciplined and helpful in my speech. I will strive to honor God in the way I speak to others, not just in the words I say to God.

Dear Lord, help me to be careful about my words. Grant me the grace to be disciplined in my speech. Forgive me for the times I am thoughtless or hurtful with my mouth. Teach me to be wise in my speech, that my words would honor you as they help and bless others. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ecclesiastes 10:12-14
12 Words from a wise man's mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. 13 At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness- 14 and the fool multiplies words. No one knows what is coming—who can tell him what will happen after him?

The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
by Scot McKnight

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Slow to Speak, Quick to Listen

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 1:1-2:22
James 1:19-2:17
Psalm 136:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: James 1:19-21
19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

I've heard it said that God gave us two ears and one mouth, and we should use them proportionately. That advice seems to go along pretty well with James' instruction. James suggests that being quick to listen and slow to speak would help us be slower to get angry. Anger––at least the kind of anger we have when we shoot off our mouths before listening––is contrary to the righteous life God desires for us and from us. We need to be serious about turning away from sin and, instead, being humble and receptive toward God's word.

Response and Action:
I want to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I need to become a better listener. I need to listen to God's leading through his word. I need to listen to what others are saying and be careful to keep my responses and my attitudes in check. Careless anger is inconsistent with seeking God and trying to please him. I will guard against it.

O God, make me an instrument of your peace. Help me to become a good listener and to use words with careful measure. Give me the grace to relate to others in loving and healthy ways. Give me a mouth that blesses and encourages. Teach me to delight in your will and to walk in your ways to the glory of your name. I pray through Christ Jesus my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  Psalm 34:11-14
11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, 13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. 14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project
by Dave Isay

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Let's Get Away with Each Other

Today's Reading:
Song of Songs 5:1-8:14
James 1:1-18
Psalm 135:13-21
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Song of Songs 7:10-12
10 I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me. 11 Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages. 12 Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded, if their blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates are in bloom— there I will give you my love.

Jesus teaches us that in marriage "A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. What God has joined together, let no one separate" (Mark 10:7-8). In Song of Songs, this oneness is described by the voice of the beloved as "I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me."

Getting away for some time alone together is an important way couples can nurture this oneness. A weekend in the countryside, a walk in the park, a few days away at a bed and breakfast, or a day trip and picnic can do a lot to rekindle intimacy. Time alone celebrates the friendship and fans the flames of desire.

Husbands and wives need to make sure the demands of work and the daily grind of ongoing responsibilities (family, parenting, work, and home) do not reduce their relationship to a task sharing arrangement. They need to be more than committed partners in life, they need to be lovers who enjoy and desire one another.

Response and Action:
Time alone with my wife is a priority I must keep. A short time together each morning for conversation, coffee, and prayer has proven to be a real benefit to our relationship. Planning days and evenings to get away and just enjoy each other is critical to our friendship and marriage. These things don't just happen, so I will be intentional about getting ideas on the calendar. We will also be careful to choose to do things that give us the most opportunity to talk and interact with each other.

O God, thank you for my wife. Give us the wisdom to take time for each other. Thanks for days every now and then that afford us the opportunity to put the rest of life on hold. Give us hearts for each other, and give us the contentment and satisfaction that come from knowing we belong to each other, and that together we belong to you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 13:4 
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Your Time-Starved Marriage: How to Stay Connected at the Speed of Life
by Dr. Les Parrott III

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Keep On Loving Each Other

Today's Reading:
Song of Songs 1:1-4:16
Hebrews 13:1-25
Psalm 135:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Hebrews 13:1-3
1 Keep on loving each other as brothers. 2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Love, benevolence, social justice, and empathy are all essential to living out our faith in God. We can't truly follow the way of Jesus without being loving, hospitable, and caring. Followers of Christ must have soft hearts toward those who are suffering—the marginalized, the mistreated, the foreign, the forgotten, the overlooked, and the abandoned.

Response and Action:
I want to live with Christ-like love for my Christian brothers and sisters. I want my actions and attitudes to be guided by a genuine concern and love for all people. I must open my eyes to the needs of people around me. I need to cultivate a compassion and empathy for those who are suffering or in need, and take action to help them. As I follow Christ, I want to learn how to be a helper and friend for those who are in difficult circumstances.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is darkness, light. Grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving we receive; it is in pardoning, we receive pardon; it is in giving that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 3:16-17 
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

Practical Justice: Living Off-Center in a Self-Centered World
by Kevin Blue

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Conclusion of the Matter

Today's Reading:
Ecclesiastes 10:1-12:14
Hebrews 12:14-29
Psalm 134:1-3
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Ecclesiastes 12:12b-14
12b Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. 13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

The "Teacher" of Ecclesiastes (Solomon, perhaps?) does his best to assess and illuminate the human experience. He honestly and humbly acknowledges that from his human point of view he is only able to study within the observable limitations of what is "under the sun" and what happens between birth and death.

No matter how hard he tries to make sense of life, and reduce it to simple and predictable equations, he cannot. Ultimately, the only wise conclusion he can reach is: the meaning of life is beyond human understanding. He concludes that living within God's commands, with reverence and humility before God, is the only wise course for life. Purpose, hope, and meaning are not to be found in human activity or analysis, but rather through faith in God.

Response and Action:
The meaning and purpose of life are beyond my understanding. Attempts to find an explanation of life small enough to fit within the limits of human knowledge and experience are sure to fail. I will put my faith in God. My faith and humility for God will guide me and sustain me as I ask questions, seek wisdom, work hard, and do my best to enjoy life. My limited understanding of life does not diminish my faith in God; it reinforces my need for God.

O God, help me to trust in you with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways—in every aspect of my life—teach me to acknowledge you. Direct my path and make my way straight. Cause my faith to grow stronger each day that I might enjoy the life you have given me, and live with contentment, purpose, and hope. Through Christ, who has become my wisdom, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  1 Corinthians 1:20-21
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

Can Man Live without God?
by Ravi Zacharias

Sunday, May 14, 2017

When People Live Together in Unity

Today's Reading:
Ecclesiastes 7:1-9:18
Hebrews 11:32-12:13
Psalm 133:1-3
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 133:1-3
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

We all know what it's like to experience high traffic and increased delays on trips to very popular destinations or public events. In the same way, the Israelites making their feast day pilgrimage must have dealt with busier roads and larger crowds the closer they got to Jerusalem. By singing Psalm 133, they were reminded that the long lines and crowded conditions (which I assume were at least as challenging and wearisome for them as they are for us) were actually reasons for thanks and celebration.

Why? Because these crowds were the result of God's people coming together in obedience and reverence for God. The gathering throngs of Israelites were giving witness to their need and love for God. They were declaring God to be the center of their lives, the basis of their community, and the center of their national identity.

Unity was a joy and a blessing from God. It was being poured out upon them--just as the oil of blessing had been poured upon Aaron so abundantly that it flowed down to the edge of his robes. Unity was a life-giving gift, just as the streams melting from Mount Hermon's snowcapped peaks flowed down to bless and enrich the green valleys below.

Response and Action:
I want to know the joy of living in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to look past the hassles and demands of community life, and celebrate the blessing God has intended it to be. I want to recognize that the shared relationships, activities, and responsibilities I experience in my church are a gift from God, a blessing to my life, and a testimony to the world. I want to be a community builder in my church family. I want to sing out the joys and the goodness of God's people living together in unity.

O God, you have made me for community. You have said that it is not good for me to be alone, and you have given me so many ways to experience the blessing of togetherness. I thank you for my wife, for my children, for my parents and siblings, for my church, for my friends, for my colleagues, and my neighbors. Help me to be a faithful source of blessing to others. Give me a readiness to serve, a heart to forebear, a word to cheer, a discipline to pray, and a maturity to enrich others, through Christ Jesus my Lord and Savior, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 2:1-4 
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 34 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Reading Schedule for May 14-20

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

Sunday, May 14 -  
Ecclesiastes 7:1-9:18 / Hebrews 11:32-12:13 / Psalm 133:1-3

Monday, May 15 - 

Ecclesiastes 10:1-12:14 / Hebrews 12:14-29 / Psalm 134:1-3

Tuesday, May 16  -

 Song of Songs 1:1-4:16 / Hebrews 13:1-25 / Psalm 135:1-12

Wednesday, May 17  - 

Song of Songs 5:1-8:14 / James 1:1-18 / Psalm 135:13-21

Thursday, May 18 - 

Isaiah 1:1-2:22 / James 1:19-2:17 / Psalm 136:1-12

Friday, May 19 -

 Isaiah 3:1-5:30 / James 2:18-3:18 / Psalm 136:13-26

Saturday, May 20 - 

Isaiah 6:1-7:25 / James 4:1-17 / Psalm 137:1-9

Never Having Enough

Today's Reading:
Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12
Hebrews 11:17-31
Psalm 132:1-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Ecclesiastes 4:10-12
10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. 11 As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? 12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.

One by one, the writer of Ecclesiastes methodically dismantles the idols and false hopes of life. Money and possessions are among the meaningless things to love. Why love something that cannot satisfy? Why accumulate when there is never enough? Why make more to spend more? Don't treasures become junk once you realize they are nothing more than things to store or stare at? Who benefits? Who gets a better night's sleep—the person with nothing to lose or the person with an abundance of things to lose? What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?

Response and Action:
I want to love and value the things that matter most. I want to put first the things that last. I want to live in a way that all I need is all I want. I will strive to be a good steward, I will not seek fulfillment in possessions. I will strive to be hard worker, but I will not put my trust in wealth. I will do all I can to be a fruitful servant, but I will not expect things to give me joy. I will endeavor to be responsible in my financial affairs, but I will not waste time worrying about loss. I will give thanks for the many blessings and provision I enjoy, but I will not be deceived into thinking that life is about having an abundance of things.

O God, help me to be a good steward of all you have given me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, to feed my spirit, to stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness. Help me to value and love the things worthy of value and love. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Timothy 6:9-10
 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Breaking the Idols of Your Heart
by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman

Friday, May 12, 2017

Being Sure of Our Hope

Today's Reading:
Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22
Hebrews 11:1-16
Psalm 131:1-3
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Hebrews 11:1-2
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith, it is possible to have a certainty about how I see the world and where I place my hope. The story of faith recorded in the Scriptures includes many men and women who lived by faith. What they believed about God guided their choices and actions. Real faith looks beyond circumstances and the limitations of self.

Hebrews 11:39-40
- "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."

People who have faith in God look beyond what they have received and what they are experiencing today. They believe that God has something better planned for humankind, and that he will be faithful to his promises.

Response and Action:
I will put my faith in God. I believe that God has something better planned for his people, something better for me, and something better for the world. I will follow the example of the long train of believers throughout history who have exemplified faith in God.

My faith in God, and confidence in his promises, will guide my actions and choices each day. I will live each day with a certainty about God's love and faithfulness.

O God, increase my faith. Help me to live out my faith in thought, word, and deed. Help me to gain insight, inspiration, and encouragement from examples of faith recorded in Scripture and throughout Christian history. Help me to look beyond what is seen and to grasp what is unseen and yet so real. May I, like the ancients of the faith, be commended one day for my steadfast confidence in you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Living Faith: A Guide to the Christian Life
by John Schwarz

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Let's Encourage One Another

Today's Reading:
Job 40:1-42:17
Hebrews 10:18-39
Psalm 130:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

God is faithful and he will keep his promises made to us in Christ. Because I have professed faith in Christ, I will hold on tightly to the hope I have in him. Christian community should be a source of encouragement to all believers. It should also prompt us to grow in love and to do good deeds.

Response and Action:
I must hold on tightly to the hope I have in Jesus. I must live out my faith in the company of friends who also follow Jesus. Christian community is necessary for me. I will be actively involved in the fellowship of the Church. Christian friends can encourage me in my faith and spur me on to do good deeds. I, too, can be a source of godly encouragement and prompting for others.

O God, you are faithful to your promises. Help me to remember your promises and cling to the hope I have in you. Surround me with Christian friends who can encourage me and push me toward righteousness. Help me to be a source of encouragement and prompting for my Christian friends. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 15:4-6
4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Recommended Reading:
Encouragement: The Key to Caring
by Dr. Larry Crabb and Dr. Dan B. Allender