Friday, January 20, 2017

The Spirit Who Raised Jesus

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 14:1-52
Romans 8:9-25
Psalm 78:9-16
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 8:6-11
6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Insight:

When we surrender our lives to Christ, the Spirit of God lives in us. Belonging to Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit go hand in hand. The Spirit who indwells the mortal bodies of believers is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. That same resurrection power of the Spirit is directed toward the believer's life.

Response and Action:
It's an amazing thought that the same Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead is living inside my mortal body. If the Spirit has power to raise the dead, he surely has the power to give new life to the living. My mouth, my mind, my habits, my choices, my weaknesses, my strengths can now be raised to new life by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

O God, raise me to newness of life through the resurrection power of your Spirit who lives in me. Help me to yield fully to the guidance and influence of your Holy Spirit in my life. Help me to understand your direction, and strengthen me to follow. Apply your resurrection power to every aspect of my life, that I might be raised to live as Christ. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of God

Today's Reading:
1Samuel 15:1-16:23
Romans 8:26-39
Psalm 78:17-31
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Insight:

Because we believe Jesus is the Christ, and because we trust him to keep his promises, we live with confidence. Paul was convinced that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ, and because of this he was able to face suffering, persecution, powers, mysteries, and opposition.

Response and Action:
I want to grow in my faith in Jesus Christ. I want to trust him so completely that I live with confidence. I want to heed his instruction, follow in his steps, and know his promises so well that I am convinced of his faithfulness and love toward me. I want my choices, routines, ambitions, and confidence to be a testimony of my experience and faith in Christ.

O God, help me to know Jesus for who he really is. Give me eyes that see and ears that hear. Help me to follow him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to experience his presence and his power so completely that I am totally convinced about his love and his promises for me. Thank you for the Scriptures that give me such a clear picture of Jesus--showing me his actions and recounting his words. I want to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the certainty of his love and provision. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Resources:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene Peterson

Who Will Rescue Me?

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 12:1-13:23
Romans 7:14-8:8
Psalm 78:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 7:21-24a
21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Insight:

The Law of Moses was very good at articulating what was right and wrong, but it was powerless to change people. It defined sin and served as an external restraint, but it could not transform sinners into saints. The Law even inspired people to acknowledge and desire what was right, but it could not renovate their hearts and minds, enabling them to do it.

Through Christ we now have access to the transforming grace of God. Instead of the weak and unredemptive Law, we now have the saving and renewing power of the Holy Spirit who indwells the mortal bodies of those who have placed their faith in Christ (Romans 8).

Response and Action:
I recognize that I need more than rules and more than an understanding of right and wrong. I need transformation. I need to be saved and renewed by Christ. I need the saving grace of God and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit. Whenever I see a contradiction between the things I want to do and things I find myself doing, I will look to God, take hold of the gracious strength he offers through Christ, and seek to do what is right by the power of his Spirit.

O God, thank you for the freedom from sin you make available to me through your grace in Christ. Thank you for the saving and transforming power of your Holy Spirit. Renovate my heart and mind. Help me to want what you want. Make me a person who delights in your will, and walks in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ezekiel 36:26-27 
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Resources:
Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
by Dallas Willard

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rejecting the God Who Saves

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 10:1-11:15
Romans 7:1-13
Psalm 77:10-20
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 10:17-19, 25
17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah 18 and said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.' 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, 'No, set a king over us.' So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans." - - - 25 Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the LORD. Then Samuel dismissed the people, each to his own home.

Insight:

Rather than seeking God or listening to Samuel, the people were sure they needed a king. They thought that would make them like other nations and fix everything. They imagined a king who would fight their battles and solve their problems. They were unwilling to heed any warning of how a king could actually make their life worse. And since they would not listen, God gave them what they wanted (see also 1 Samuel 8:19-22).

Response and Action:
How many times do I look to something or someone other than God to solve my problems? It is so tempting to imagine that going along with the ways of the world might make my life better, easier, or safer. But my faith is in the Lord, not in the ways of the world, and not in the delusions of my heart and mind!

While I clearly have the freedom to reject God and his guidance, such rejection is never the way faith in Christ will let me go. I want God's way. I understand that getting my own way may not be what is best for me. My way may actually lead me away from what I truly need and want. That's why I will be careful to seek God with my whole heart and look to him for the direction I need.

O God, help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to not envy the wicked or put my faith in the ways of man. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God, my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 25:4-5
4 Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Resources:
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God
by Dallas Willard

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Eternal Life: The Gift of God

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 8:1-9:27
Romans 6:1-23
Psalm 77:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 6:19b-23
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Insight:

Salvation is more than forgiveness; it is the transformation of our lives. Through faith in Christ Jesus, I am not just saved from the penalty of sin; I am saved from bondage to sin. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. This eternal life in Christ is a life of righteousness. Instead of being shaped by sin, I can be shaped by the grace of God, which results in ever-increasing holiness.

Response and Action:
As a Christian, I must recognize and remember that I am not a slave to sin. Through faith in Christ and by God's grace, I can say no to sin. I can offer my body to God and be shaped and refined by him.

I must always bear in mind that true salvation from sin is more than escaping a penalty; it is breaking free from the control of sin. To be truly saved is to be truly changed—transformed to live a holy life. I can realize new possibilities and live a new life in Jesus.

O God, my Savior. Thank you for your saving grace. Thank you for Jesus has done to free me from sin. Help me surrender to you fully so that I might not only be saved from destruction, but transformed to live a righteous life that honors you, blesses others, and gives me joy and fulfillment. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, change, and shape me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 2:6-8
6 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Resources:
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
Dallas Willard

Monday, January 16, 2017

God's Abundant Provision

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 5:1-7:17
Romans 5:6-21
Psalm 76:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 5:17-19  
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Insight:

Sin and the death it causes entered the world through the disobedience of our earliest ancestors. As we followed in their sinful steps, death came to all humankind. All of us sin, so all of us die. But Christ Jesus has broken this chain of disobedience and sin. He was faithful to obey God, even to the point of death. Just as walking in Adam's sinful steps leads to death, walking in the steps of Jesus brings life for all who follow him in faith.

Response and Action:
Jesus has broken the cycle of sin and death. Instead of being trapped in a downward spiral of disobedience and human weakness, through Christ I can take hold of righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has changed the possibilities for all of humankind. He has brought new life and the hope of transformation for all who trust in him. He has broken the chain of human failure and rebellion. Sin and death are no longer inevitable for me. Righteousness and obedience are possible for me with Jesus. He calls me to renewal, hope, and transformation.

O God, thank you for your son, Jesus, who has brought life into the world. Thank you that the life he brings is for everyone. Help me to recognize the possibilities Jesus brings. Give me the faith and the perseverance to take hold of the renewal and transformation he offers. Give me the wisdom and the will to turn away from the destructive path of sin and death. Give me the desire and diligence to follow in the life-giving and obedient steps of Jesus, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Peter 1:2-4
2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hope Does Not Disappoint Us

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 2:22-4:22
Romans 4:13-5:5
Psalm 75:1-10
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 5:1-5
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Insight:

By grace, Jesus' death and resurrection make it possible for us to have peace with God. We take hold of this possibility through faith in Christ Jesus. The hope we have, though faith in Christ, gives us joy and hope. More than just a hope for some distant future, this is a hope for today. Faith in Jesus makes it possible for me to rejoice even in times of suffering. Suffering can produce perseverance, character, and hope. God's love, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, fills our hearts.

Response and Action:
How can I press through suffering and hardship? I can look to Christ Jesus in faith, and rejoice because of what he has done. He can give strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. If I press on in faith, trouble and hardship will only serve to make me a deeper, stronger, and more committed follower of Christ. I must learn to persevere and grow in Christ-like character.

O God, by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, help me to persevere through the hardships of life. Grant me the strength and hope to press on through difficulties and burdens. Use them to refine me and bring me to maturity in Christ. I ask this in the name of Jesus, the One and Only, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and evermore. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 1:2-4
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Resources:
Perseverance: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene Peterson

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Reading Schedule for January 15-22


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017


Sunday, January 15 -
1Samuel 2:22-4:22 / Romans 4:13-5:5
/ Psalm 75:1-10

Monday, January 16 -
1Samuel 5:1-7:17
/ Romans 5:6-21 / Psalm 76:1-12

Tuesday, January 17  -
1Samuel 8:1-9:27
/ Romans 6:1-23 / Psalm 77:1-9

Wednesday, January 18  -
1Samuel 10:1-11:15
/ Romans 7:1-13 / Psalm 77:10-20

Thursday, January 19 -
1Samuel 12:1-13:23
/ Romans 7:14-8:8 / Psalm 78:1-8

Friday, January 20 -
1Samuel 14:1-52
/ Romans 8:9-25 / Psalm 78:9-16

Saturday, January 21 -
1Samuel 15:1-16:23
/ Romans 8:26-39 / Psalm 78:17-31

Raising the Poor from the Dust

Today's Reading:
1Samuel 1:1-2:21
Romans 4:1-12
Psalms 74:18-23
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 2:7-8
7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world.

Insight:
Hannah was downhearted about being childless and she prayed that God would bless her with a son. When her prayer was answered, she raised her voice in a song of praise. Her experience was a clear testimony of God's ability to raise up the poor and to lift up the needy. Her son, Samuel, would become the last and greatest of the Israelite judges. He functioned as a leader, priest, and prophet. He ushered in the era of Israel's kings.

Response and Action:
God is able to bring about great things and great leaders from humble, weak, and unexpected places. I must always remember that God can bless and use me. Though I often think of myself as weak and inadequate, I will remember that God is not limited by my weakness and inadequacy. I will be careful to ask for God's blessing, strive to be faithful to use those blessings to serve Him, and be quick to praise God for the things he is able to do.

O God, bless me in ways that help me to serve and honor you. Remind me of your power and provision. Give me the courage to ask for the things I long for. Give me a heart that longs for your will. Teach me to walk in your ways and to give you thanks in all things. Forgive me for the times when I forget that my weaknesses do not limit you. Help me walk in your strength and grace. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

Resources:
Small Faith – Great God
by N. T. Wright

Friday, January 13, 2017

Taking Refuge Under God's Wings

Today's Reading:
Ruth 1:1-4:22
Romans 3:9-31
Psalm 74:10-17
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Ruth 2:10-12
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?" 11 Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

Insight:

In the Law of Moses, one of the provisions made for the poor was for landowners to leave grain unharvested along the edges and corners of their fields. If while harvesting they dropped some of the grain, they were to leave it there and just move on. This seeming inefficiency was actually a provision to those who had nothing. People who were suffering loss and poverty could go out and work to harvest what these God-honoring landowners had left in the fields.

Ruth was very thankful to Boaz for allowing her to glean in his fields. Boaz was a righteous man who followed both the spirit and the letter of the Mosaic Law. He described his kindness to her as something God was doing for her. He blessed her for the selfless and righteous care she had given her mother-in-law, and explained that as she worked in his field, she was actually being "rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel" and finding "refuge under His wings."

Response and Action:
Like Boaz, I want my attitude, conduct, and kindness to be the result of my reverence and love for God. I want to be an instrument of God's grace and mercy to those who are in need. If I truly know, love, and worship God, my life should be an extension of his care and goodness to the world around me. If people ask me why I am being good to them, I should be sure to give God glory and explain my actions as a blessing from God.

O God, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury pardon; where there is discord, unity; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light. I have come to you thirsty, and you have satisfied me with your living water. May streams of living water flow out of me as a blessing to those around me who thirst for your care, your truth, and your grace. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 3:17-18
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? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Resources:
Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions
by Craig Blomberg

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kindness, Forebearance, and Patience

Today's Reading:
Judges 21:1-25
Romans 2:25-3:8
Psalm 74:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 2:1-4
1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
 
Insight:

Every human being has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, except for Jesus. Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, but did not sin. Though Jesus suffered the pain and hardship of sin in the world, he did not contribute to it in any way. He suffered the injustice and pain of sin, but did not perpetrate it. That is why God's righteous judgment has given Jesus the sole authority to redeem sinners and give new life.

Through his sinless death, Jesus has subverted the downward spiral of sin that held all humanity in its grip. All who put faith in Christ Jesus are justified freely by his grace. He has been given all authority for life and redemption, and offers it freely to all who believe.

Response and Action:
I understand that I am a sinner. The more I understand God's righteous law, the more I understand my need to be saved. My faith is in Christ Jesus. My redemption is made possible by his grace.

I want the redemption Christ brings to reach into every aspect of my life. My faith in Jesus must be a faith that follows, obeys, seeks, shares, and serves so that redemption and salvation can redeem all of me—my purpose, my attitudes, my goals, my relationships, my work, and my priorities.

Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner. Thank you for the hope of redemption that is mine through Christ. Help me to grow in my salvation—to be transformed and more obedient to your will each day. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 3:21-2421 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Resources:
Paul for Everyone: Romans - Part 1
by N. T. Wright

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Do You Dishonor God?

Today's Reading:
Judges 19:1-20:48
Romans 2:1-24
Psalm 73:15-28
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 2:13; 21-23
13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. - - - 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?

Insight:

It is not enough for me to hear God's law, or understand it, or teach it, or proclaim it. It is a path to walk and a life to be lived. This obedient life is not possible, however, without God's grace. The Christian life is not one of trying to earn God's love or winning approval through obedience to laws. Rather, it is looking to Christ for the forgiveness, healing, and resurrection power I need to live a life that honors God.

Righteousness cannot be achieved through human strength or resolve, so those who do become righteous have nothing to brag about. The Law exposes my failure and the futility of trying to be righteous in my own strength. The grace of God reaches out to me in my weakness and makes it possible for me to be renewed, empowered, and transformed by his Spirit into the Christ-shaped person he wants me to be.

Response and Action:
I will not put my hope in a moral code, in knowledge, or in my own strength. While I recognize God's call to live in truth and righteousness, I also recognize that I cannot live that way without God's help. I need God's grace, his guidance, and the strength of the Holy Spirit. Righteousness comes by faith in Christ Jesus who makes God's grace and Spirit available to me.

I will seek God with my whole heart. I will be attentive to God's presence and learn to live by faith--relying on the strength and guidance of the Spirit. I will press on to take hold of the life that comes through faith in Christ. I will pursue every means to be shaped and led by God.

O God, teach me your ways and show me your path. I want to be more than a hearer and a knower; I want to be a doer of the word. Help me, through faith, to do the good things you have prepared for me to do. I ask this in the name of Jesus, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 3:7-9
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Resources:
Why Sin Matters: The Surprising Relationship between Our Sin and God's Grace
by Mark R. McMinn

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Nearly Losing My Foothold

Today's Reading:
Judges 17:1-18:31
Romans 1:18-32
Psalm 73:1-14
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Focus Verses:Psalm 73:1-3; 16-17
1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. - - - 16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Insight:

I truly appreciate how the songwriter, Asaph, was so honest about his feelings and doubts. He believed that God is good and does good for his people. He believed that those who are pure in heart can count on God's goodness. He admitted, however, that his faith was on slippery ground. His foothold was shaken when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. He found himself beginning to envy them. "What good does it do me to have faith in you God?" he asked. "I don't understand what's going on!"

It became oppressive to him as he tried to reason through the whole philosophical and theological problem of how God can be good while the world is so evil. It was only when Asaph began to worship God that he began to see and understand. Worshiping the eternal God gave him an eternal perspective. Temporal prosperity lost its shine and allure in the light of eternal destiny.

Response and Action:Like the Psalmist, I am tempted at times to feel like faith in God isn't getting me anywhere. I can envy the wicked. The sight of people prospering and succeeding with no regard for God can cause me to lose sight of God's faithfulness and eternal promises.

Worship is the way to hold on to perspective and faith. Worship gives me focus and reminds me of what is eternal and what is temporal. I will worship God, believing he is good and faithful to his people–to those who seek him with pure hearts.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. In your faithfulness to me, do not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Thank you for your goodness to those who seek you. Give me humility and the wisdom to not envy the arrogant. Give me the perspective and discernment to know what is true and what is real. Deepen my understanding of life and meaning as I worship you and praise 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.

Resources:
Learning to Pray Through the Psalms
by James Sire

Monday, January 09, 2017

Together for Mutual Encouragement

Today's Reading:
Judges 15:1-16:31
Romans 1:1-17
Psalm 72:1-20
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 1:8-12
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. 11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.

Insight:

The first chapter of Romans is so loaded with important statements and profound theological concepts that we might overlook Paul's relationship with the people he is addressing. He had a deep pastoral affection for them, he thanked God for them, he constantly remembered them in prayer, and he longed to be encouraged by them. He was eager for an opportunity to see them face-to-face and to spend time with them. He wanted to encourage them in their faith and impart a spiritual blessing to them.

Response & Action:
I want to have meaningful and precious relationships with my Christian brothers and sisters. I will cultivate my Christian friendships by following Paul's example. I will thank God for my Christian friends and be intentional about praying for them. I will seize opportunities to spend time with them. When we are together, I will consciously look for ways to be a spiritual blessing to them. I will make an effort to encourage them in their walk with Christ and look to them for encouragement. I will also communicate my affection for them in my words and actions.

Thank you, loving God, for the Christian people you have placed in my life. Bless them and help them to grow stronger in you with each passing day. Help me to be a true friend and blessing to them. Help me to encourage them and make the most of every opportunity I have to spend time with them. May our life in you and our walk with Christ Jesus be enriched by our times spent together. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Resources:
Making Friends and Making Them Count
by D. Mason Rutledge

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Declaring the Kingdom of God

Today's Reading:
Judges 13:1-14:20
Acts 28:1-31
Psalm 71:19-24
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 28:23-24; 30-31
23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. - - - 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Insight:

When Paul arrived in Rome, just as God had promised he would, he was encouraged and thankful. He was enthused and invigorated with his sense of mission. He believed God had brought him safely to Rome for the purpose of proclaiming Christ. He believed that his chains and his imprisonment in Rome were being used by God to advance the Gospel. He saw purpose in his circumstances because he saw them as part of God’s plan and the "hope of Israel."

Paul evaluated every bit of his life and circumstances in the light of God's work in the world. Whatever his situation, Paul considered how God might use it to advance the hope and truth of the Gospel. His faith was intense; his life was focused; his testimony was genuine; and his preaching was bold.

Response and Action:
It is dangerous and easy to think of my life in self-centered terms, and then try to fit God into my plans and wants. Paul thought of his life in Christ-centered terms, and then tried to see how his life and circumstances fit into God's plans and purposes. This is what made it possible for Paul to be thankful, and to have hope, purpose, and boldness in any situation.

I want to live like that. I want to see my life in the context of Christ's Kingdom. I want my perspective about what I do, what I have, where I go, what I suffer, what I need, and what I want to be centered and framed by God's will and purposes in the world.

O God, I want to find my life in you. Help me to lose my life and self-centeredness for the sake of Christ, and find myself in you. Help me to live a life that is motivated, focused, and guided by your purposes and ways. Help me to see every circumstance and blessing in the light of your will. Help me, by faith, to do the good things you've prepared in advance for me to do. Help me to be bold, alive, faithful, and fruitful as your child and servant. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 1:16
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Resources:
Growing Your Faith By Giving It Away: Telling the Gospel Story With Grace and Passionby R. York Moore

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Reading Schedule for January 8-14


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017


Sunday, January 8 -
Judges 13:1-14:20 / Acts 28:1-31 / Psalm 71:19-24

Monday, January 9 -
Judges 15:1-16:31
/ Romans 1:1-17 / Psalm 72:1-20

Tuesday, January 10  -
Judges 17:1-18:31
/ Romans 1:18-32 / Psalm 73:1-14

Wednesday, January 11  -
Judges 19:1-20:48
/ Romans 2:1-24 / Psalm 73:15-28

Thursday, January 12 -
Judges 21:1-25
/ Romans 2:25-3:8 / Psalm 74:1-9

Friday, January 13 -
Ruth 1:1-4:22
/ Romans 3:9-31 / Psalm 74:10-17

Saturday, January 14 -
1Samuel 1:1-2:21
/ Romans 4:1-12 / Psalm 74:18-23

Keep Up Your Courage!

Today's Reading:
Judges 11:1-12:15
Acts 27:21-44
Psalm 71:9-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 27:22-25
22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

Insight:

Though he was a prisoner, Paul made himself useful to the crew and passengers during the harrowing storm and shipwreck experience Luke describes. Even in difficult and unusual situations, Paul sought and received God's guidance. Wherever he found himself, and whatever his circumstance, he looked to God for guidance, purpose, and promise.

Response and Action:In every situation, I will look for ways to serve others and honor God. My faith and hope in Christ make it possible for me to be helpful and find purpose regardless of the circumstances. As a follower of Jesus, I want to honor God and be used by the Spirit to do what is beneficial and redemptive for others.

O God, prepare me for every circumstance. Give me peace in my heart. Give me wisdom and clarity of thought. Make me ready to serve and encourage others in difficult situations. Give me a strength and hope that stands strong through storms and hardship. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15
14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Resources:
The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love
by James Bryan Smith