Tuesday, July 07, 2020

The Glory of the Lord

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 1:1-3:15
Matthew 8:18-34
Proverbs 11:9-18
 
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Focus Verses:
 Ezekiel 1:26-28
26 Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Insight:
Ezekiel was among the first Jews driven away from Judah and taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 597 b.c. He was from a priestly family, and during his early days in exile he received a prophetic calling. His received his first vision and calling among the exiles by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians.

Though God's people were scattered and captive, and Jerusalem was under siege, and the Temple was  destroyed, God was still powerful and glorious upon his heavenly throne. The destruction of Jerusalem had not destroyed God!

God had allowed exile and destruction to purify his people and save them from the idolatry and paganism Jerusalem had become. God would dismantle everything and start over, if that's what it would take to turn the hearts of his people back to him and make them holy.

Response and Action:
Human traditions, practices, institutions, and power structures are vulnerable to corruption. Temples erected for worshiping God can become places of idolatry. Kings called to serve God can become tyrants who oppose and dishonor him. Systems and traditions, intended to help people understand and follow God, can become burdensome rules and empty ritual that become barriers to knowing God.

When these things fall apart and tumble down, God does not fall or tumble with them. When churches, traditions, and leaders fail, those who know and serve the One True God soon discover that God is still alive and well. God is faithful to reveal himself to those who seek him. Even in times of exile and destruction, God calls and gives purpose to those faithful to him.

O God, no matter where I am at, no matter what my circumstance, show yourself to me and give me a sense of calling and purpose. Give me a priestly heart that moves me to lift up the needs of others to you in prayer. Give me a prophetic spirit that causes me to speak your truth to my family, church, and neighbors. Help me to remember that though kingdoms rise and fall, your throne is forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 2:9
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Resources:
The Message of Ezekiel: A New Heart and a New Spirit (The Bible Speaks Today) 
by Christopher J.H. Wright

Monday, July 06, 2020

I Am Willing

Today's Reading:
Lamentations 4:1-5:22
Matthew 8:1-17
Proverbs 10:31-11:8
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
 Matthew 8:1-3 
1
 When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.

Insight:
The leper asked Jesus "if he was willing" to heal. He was! The overwhelming testimony of scripture is that God is both ready and willing to heal and save those who call out to him. The eighth chapter of Matthew demonstrates Jesus' authority over disease, sin, nature, mental illness, and evil spirits. He willingly spoke the word, and his word was powerful to save.

Response and Action:
I am thankful that God is both ready and willing to restore and save. By faith, I acknowledge that God's word is powerful to save me and truthful to guide me. I will look to God for his saving word. I delight in the words of scripture. I will turn to Jesus, the good shepherd, trusting him to seek and save me. I will seek him with all my heart and he will not let me stray from his commands (Ps. 119:10).

O God, thank you for your powerful, healing, and sustaining word. Thank you for your readiness and willingness to save all who cry out to you. Give me a heart that delights in your word and make me ready and willing to follow you. Help me to grow in faith and confidence as I walk in your ways. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Timothy 2:3-5
3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...
 
Resources:
The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
by Brennan Manning

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Asking, Seeking, Knocking

Today's Reading:
Lamentations 3:1-66
Matthew 7:15-29
Proverbs 10:21-30
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
 Matthew 7:7-8  
7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Insight:
Giving and receiving are central to meaningful and loving relationships. The bonds of love are both demonstrated and deepened when one has the freedom to make a request and another has the will to grant it. Just as neighbors open their doors for each other, and just as parents are ready to provide for their children, our Father in heaven is ready to give us good gifts. He also calls us to be ready to treat others with the same goodwill we would like to receive.

Response and Action:
God has invited me to a relationship with him through Christ Jesus. He wants me to seek him out, to knock on his door, and to ask him for help. He promises I will find, the door to be opened, and my needs provided. This is the way God demonstrates his love for me; it is also the way I can demonstrate love for others. In the same way that I receive grace and love in my relationship with God, I should extend grace and love in my relationships with others.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as myself. Thank you that I can come to you with my requests and needs--that you can be found, your door is open, and you are giving. Grant me a sensitivity toward the needs of others around me. Help me to be available, approachable, and generous. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 1:17-18
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

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

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Reading Schedule for July 5-11

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2019-2020

SUNDAY
Lamentations 3:1-66
Matthew 7:15-29
Proverbs 10:21-30

MONDAY
Lamentations 4:1-5:22
Matthew 8:1-17
Proverbs 10:31-11:8


BIBLE PROJECT OVERVIEW: EZEKIEL 1-33

TUESDAY
Ezekiel 1:1-3:15
Matthew 8:18-34
Proverbs 11:9-18

WEDNESDAY
Ezekiel 3:16-6:14
Matthew 9:1-17
Proverbs 11:19-28

THURSDAY
Ezekiel 7:1-9:11
Matthew 9:18-38
Proverbs 11:29-12:7

FRIDAY
Ezekiel 10:1-11:25
Matthew 10:1-23
Proverbs 12:8-17

SATURDAY
Ezekiel 12:1-14:11
Matthew 10:24-11:6
Proverbs 12:18-27

Righteous God, Rebellious Me

Today's Reading:
Lamentations 1:1-2:22
Matthew 6:25-7:14
Proverbs 10:11-20
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
 Lamentations 1:18-20
18 "The LORD is righteous, yet I rebelled against his command. Listen,   all you peoples; look upon my suffering. My young men and maidens have gone into exile. 19 "I called to my allies but they betrayed me. My priests and my elders perished in the city while they searched for food to keep themselves alive. 20 "See, O LORD, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious. Outside, the sword bereaves; inside, there is only death."

Insight:
Lamentations is the song of mourning and repentance the prophet Jeremiah offers up to God in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of its people into captivity. The prophets didn't just point a finger and deliver words of judgment, they identified with the sin of their people—the very sin they spoke against. Notice how Jeremiah says, "I have rebelled. I am distressed. I am in torment within. I have been most rebellious."

No person, even the person who is declaring God's righteousness and warning of God's judgment, has the right to judge or condemn. Jeremiah was wise enough and humble enough to see that even he was guilty before God. Even though he was in the position of preaching against sin, he was able to identify with his people and recognize the sin in himself.

Response and Action:
I want to recognize sin, take it seriously, and turn away from it. I want to speak out against sin and encourage others to turn away from it. I must be careful to always see my own sin. I must never speak out against sin or condemn others as though I am without sin or above them.

I will always give my attention to the plank in my own eye before I worry about the speck in someone else's eye. I will identify with other sinners and come alongside them in their struggles to overcome sin. In every thought and conversation about sin, I will examine my own life first and then consider how I and others can turn toward God for forgiveness and redemption.

Have mercy on me, O God. I am a sinner. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Lead me away from temptation. Deliver me from evil. Create in me a clean heart. Renew a right spirit within me. Restore and redeem me. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs: 20:9
Who can say, "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin"?

Resources:
Never Beyond Hope: How God Touches and Uses Imperfect People
by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom

Friday, July 03, 2020

BIBLE PROJECT OVERVIEW: LAMENTATIONS

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Right Thing, Wrong Reason

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 51:54-52:34
Matthew 6:1-24
Proverbs 10:1-10
 
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Focus Verses:
 Matthew 6:1 
1"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Insight:
Even righteous deeds can be done with unrighteous motives. Self-sacrifice can be self-centered. In order to guard against self-centered motives, Jesus taught that we should be secretive about our devotion and spiritual practices. True devotion toward God does not seek to draw attention to self. Private piety is less likely to be pretentious.

When we give to the poor, we should do so quietly. When we pray, we should seek out a place where we can be alone. When we fast, we should avoid any appearance or behavior that attracts special notice or concern. The same is true of nearly everything we do for God and for others.

The problem, of course, is not that others know or notice acts of righteousness (of course they will because"a city on a hill is not easily hid"). The real problem Jesus is getting at is the motives of our hearts. In order to be truly righteous, we must acknowledge our potential for selfishness and false motives. We must realize that true righteousness is directed toward God, not centered in self. We must not let righteous deeds become a way to achieve self-gain, self-esteem, self-aggrandizement, or self-gratification. The way of true righteousness is self-denial.

Response and Action:
I will do all I can to practice righteous deeds in quiet and unassuming ways. I will guard against drawing attention to myself. And if something I do for God does draw undue attention to me, I will be careful to give God the glory. I will seek God's blessing, not the praise of people.

O God, give me a heart to do what is right, and to do it for you. It is your glory and your approval that I desire, not the notice or applause of others. Help me, by faith, to do the good things you have prepared in advance for me to do. Help me to be faithful, fruitful, and effective as your servant: as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, neighbor, pastor, and colleague. Through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Isaiah 29:13
13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.

Resources:
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: Christian Counter-Culture
by John Stott

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Love Your Enemies

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 51:1-53
Matthew 5:27-48
Proverbs 9:13-18
 
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Focus Verses:
 Matthew 5:43-48
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. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Insight:
Love is imperfect and incomplete if it is only given to those who respond with love. Love is made complete when it is given to those who are undeserving, unresponsive, and perhaps even unrighteous. That is the way God loves.

Response and Action:
Jesus calls me to love my enemies and to pray for those who persecute me. The reason for doing this is not necessarily because they will be responsive to me, but rather because I am being responsive to God. I am guided by the example of Christ's love. If I am a child of God, I must love as the Father loves.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And help me to love my neighbor as myself. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Provide for my needs today. Protect me from discouragement and encourage me by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Help me to do the good things you've prepared in advance for me to do. Help me to be faithful, fruitful, and effective as your servant, as a spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, neighbor, co-worker, stranger, and enemy. Through Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Mark 12:28-31
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

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

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

A City on a Hill

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 49:23-50:46
Matthew 5:1-26
Proverbs 9:1-12
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
 Matthew 5:14-16
14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Insight:
A life lived in worship to God is a light to the world. Good deeds shine with the truth and beauty of God when they are done out of reverence for God. The testimony of a person who wholeheartedly loves and serves God is like a city on a hill that can't be hidden in the dark of night.

Response and Action:
My life can be a light. I will follow Christ with my whole heart. I will commit my energy and efforts to living out my faith through good works and acts of love. I will immerse myself in the study and application of Scripture so that it can teach, rebuke, correct, and train me—making me ready to do the good things God would have me do. My life can point others to the truth and hope of Christ.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Give me the wisdom and the direction I need to live in your ways. Help me to walk with integrity and to do good for others. Let my love and devotion to you result in goodness and grace to everyone around me. Help me to walk so closely with you that my life is a beam of light giving praise to you and witness to the world. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 5:8-10
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.

Resources:
Living the Story: Biblical Spirituality for Everyday Christians
by R. Paul Stevens

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Restoration in the Days to Come

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 48:1-49:22
Matthew 4:12-25
Proverbs 8:32-36
 
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Focus Verses:
 Jeremiah 48:7-8, 47
7 Since you trust in your deeds and riches, you too will be taken captive, and Chemosh will go into exile, together with his priests and officials. 8The destroyer will come against every town, and not a town will escape. The valley will be ruined and the plateau destroyed, because the LORD has spoken. - - - 47 "Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come," declares the LORD. Here ends the judgment on Moab.

Insight:
Terrible judgment was poured out on the Egyptians, Philistines, and Moabites because of their pride, idolatry, and defiance. God, however, expresses more than anger and judgment through his prophet, Jeremiah. Jeremiah weeps as a testimony to God's sorrow over the sins of these people— "My heart laments like a flute." He also declares God's promise and intent to restore and renew those who are under judgment—"Yet I will restore in days to come!"

Response and Action:
I need to guard against pride and idolatry in my life. I must be honest about the ways I am defiant against God. My trust should be in God, not in myself. Jesus must be first in my life, and I must not let anything or anyone come before him. I must humbly yield my life to God, and look to him for the direction and strength I need. When I am experiencing God's discipline upon me, I must remember that God disciplines out of love, and promises to renew and restore.

O God, you have called me to trust in you, to put you first, and to offer myself to you in reverence for who you are. Deliver me from pride and teach me to put my confidence in you. Give me the discernment to know what is false and to worship you in spirit and truth. Forgive me for the times I resist or, worse yet, defy you. Help me to surrender myself to you and to be sensitive and responsive to your will and the guiding of your Spirit. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 5:20-21
20
 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Resources:
Breaking the Idols of Your Heart
by Dan B. Allender

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Fruit of Repentance

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 44:24-47:7
Matthew 3:7-4:11
Proverbs 8:22-31

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Focus Verses: Matthew 3:8, 11-12
8
 "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." - - -  
11 "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Insight:
John the Baptist was a forerunner to Jesus. He preached a message of repentance and was preparing the hearts and minds of people to recognize and receive Christ.

Repentance and humility before God are essential preparation for recognizing and receiving the blessing and transformation that are Christ's to give. Those who truly repent and believe are transformed by the Spirit, and are able to produce fruit. Those who reject Jesus or give him mere lip service end up with unchanged and fruitless lives. The difference is clear and judgment is sure.

Response and Action:
I want to find life, fulfillment, and transformation in Christ Jesus. My faith must be more than words; it must be lived out with surrender, obedience, hope, and expectation. I want a humble heart, open eyes, and a receptive attitude toward Christ. I will earnestly seek him, listen to him, and follow his leading. I cultivate my awareness of his presence, my knowledge of his words, and my submission to his Spirit. I want to be prepared and ready for his transforming and fruitful work in my life.

O God, forgive and save me from hardness of heart. Deliver me from the pride that would close my heart to your power and purpose. Rescue me from the lip service of fruitless religiosity. Liberate me from the lies of self-importance that dull my ears to your voice. Free me from the illusions of self-reliance that squelch the Spirit's work in my life. Make me ready to recognize, receive, and rejoice in the Good News of Jesus. Strengthen my faith, change my heart, and make me fruitful as I abide in you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Acts 3:19-20
19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.

Resources:
After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
by N. T. Wright

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Fatal Mistake

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 42:1-44:23
Matthew 2:13-3:6
Proverbs 8:12-21
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 42:19-21
19 "O remnant of Judah, the LORD has told you, 'Do not go to Egypt.' Be sure of this: I warn you today 20 that you made a fatal mistake when you sent me to the LORD your God and said, 'Pray to the LORD our God for us; tell us everything he says and we will do it.' 21 I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the LORD your God in all he sent me to tell you."

Insight:
It is a mistake to ask God for direction and guidance if you don't plan to listen to him. To know what the Lord tells us to do, and yet fail to obey it, is sin.

Response and Action:
If I want to know what God wants, I must be ready to live that way. If I am asking God for direction and guidance, I must be careful to obey and follow him.

O God, show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Give me ears that are quick to listen, a soft heart that is ready to receive your word, and a readiness to obey and follow you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 4:13-17
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Resources:
Jesus: Lord and Savior
by F. F. Bruce

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Reading Schedule for June 28 - July 4

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2019-2020

SUNDAY
Jeremiah 42:1-44:23
Matthew 2:13-3:6
Proverbs 8:12-21

MONDAY
Jeremiah 44:24-47:7
Matthew 3:7-4:11
Proverbs 8:22-31

TUESDAY
Jeremiah 48:1-49:22
Matthew 4:12-25
Proverbs 8:32-36

WEDNESDAY
Jeremiah 49:23-50:46
Matthew 5:1-26
Proverbs 9:1-12

THURSDAY
Jeremiah 51:1-53
Matthew 5:27-48
Proverbs 9:13-18

FRIDAY
Jeremiah 51:54-52:34
Matthew 6:1-24
Proverbs 10:1-10


BIBLE PROJECT OVERVIEW: LAMENTATIONS

SATURDAY
Lamentations 1:1-2:22
Matthew 6:25-7:14
Proverbs 10:11-20

Immanuel, God with Us

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 39:1-41:18
Matthew 1:1-2:12
Proverbs 8:1-11
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Matthew 1:20-23
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take  Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

Insight:
Throughout history, God has done so much to save his people. The fullest expression of his salvation is revealed through Jesus (whose very name means "the Lord saves"). Jesus saves us from our sins. He saves us from death. He saves us from the results of our sin and from bondage to our sin. This is the greatest salvation imaginable—to be saved from sin's domination and from sin's destruction. Loud songs of praise and fresh expressions of thanksgiving should spring from the hearts and mouths of all who come to know this salvation.

Response and Action:
I will celebrate the marvelous ways God has shown me salvation. I will praise him for the promise of eternal life. Today, I will sing out my thanks for the ways he saves me from hopelessness and emptiness. Right now, I will lift up my voice in worship for the freedom he gives from bondage to sin. I will rejoice because he has taken away the guilt of my sin. I will shout praise to Jesus, because he saves!

Salvation is so much more than a theological concept or religious precept; it is the reality of my life. It's more than a belief; it is my standing in Christ Jesus. It's not just for someday; it is for now. Sing a new song to the Lord! He has saved, he is saving, and he will always save!

O God, O Christ Jesus, O Holy Spirit, I want to sing a new song of praise to you today! Show your righteousness and salvation to the ends of the earth. Open the eyes of all people, that they might see Jesus in all his redeeming work and saving power. O God, give me a heart of gratitude and a mouth quick to sing your praise. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 97:1-2
1 Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
Resources:
Jesus: Lord and Savior
by F. F. Bruce

Friday, June 26, 2020

BIBLE PROJECT OVERVIEW: MATTHEW 1-13

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The Water of Life

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 37:1-38:28
Revelation 22:1-21
Proverbs 7:21-27
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 22:1, 17
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb..." - - - 17 The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. 

Insight:
Jesus offers an invitation to everyone, "Come and quench your thirst—take the free gift of the water of life." The Spirit of God says, "Come!" The church, Christ's bride, says, "Come!" Everyone who comes to the water and drinks will in turn say, "Come!" Come to Jesus. Come to the only hope for life in a world that is dying.

Compare this passage to the invitation Jesus gave on one occasion during the Feast of Tabernacles, recorded in John 7:37-38: "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

Response and Action:
I have accepted Jesus' invitation to come to him for life, hope, guidance, and purpose. I will pass the invitation along to others. I will drink deeply of all Jesus offers through his word, his people, his promises, and all that is beautiful and true. I will pray and seek God's guidance every day. I will read Scripture and meditate upon it. I will share my heart, my life, and my faith through friendship and service to others.

O God, thank you for your invitation to life. Help me respond fully to you that I might live life to the fullest to your glory. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And help me to love my neighbor as myself. Satisfy my needs and quench my thirst, and make a stream of living water flow out of me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 63:1-4
1 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.

Resources:
The Throne, the Lamb & the Dragon: A Reader's Guide to the Book of Revelation 
by Paul Spilsbury

Come Thirsty: No Heart Too Dry for His Touch
by Max Lucado

Thursday, June 25, 2020

God Himself Will Be with Them

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 35:1-36:32
Revelation 21:1-27
Proverbs 7:6-20
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 21:2-5a
2
 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5a He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"

Insight:
The thought of living in God's presence in a world God has saved and perfected is the hope every Christian expresses when praying, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This hope is more than a promise for someday in the distant future, it is the present reality for Christians who will recognize the indwelling of God's Spirit in their lives today. "Surely I am with you, always, to the very end of the age" was Jesus' assurance to his disciples before his ascension into heaven.

Response and Action:
I must take hold of Jesus' promise to be with me today. I want to cultivate a tangible and continual awareness of his Spirit in my life. I want to acknowledge present reality that Christ Jesus is living with me today. I want to persevere with a hope rooted in the future reality God has promised -- the day when the world will be made right, all evil swept away, and every tear wiped away.

O God, help me to trust in you with all my heart and to acknowledge you in all my ways. Help me to cultivate my awareness of your presence with me today. Fill me with hope and encouragement as I cling to your promise of a day when I will live in the very light of your glorious presence. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who indwells my mortal body right now. Help me to be sensitive to your Spirit as you lead and shape me today. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 24:9-10
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  10 Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty—he is the King of glory.

Resources:
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N. T. Wright

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Like a Bird in a Snare

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 33:1-34:22
Revelation 20:1-15
Proverbs 7:1-5
 
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Focus Verses: Proverbs 7:21-23
21 With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. 22 All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose 23 till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.

Insight:
In Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a virtuous woman who offers instruction, truth, and knowledge. Folly is also personified as a woman, but in contrast to wisdom she is a lying temptress who persuades with empty promises of pleasure and instant gratification. Wisdom calls out, "Let all who are feeble minded come in here and find understanding. Leave your foolish ways behind and live!" Folly calls out, "Stolen water is sweet. Let's have a good time. If it feels good, do it." Wisdom offers life. Folly offers death.

No one has to try to be foolish. It doesn't take any effort at all. In fact, the best way to become a fool is to just put aside the whole idea of effort and intention. Just go with your feelings. Just do whatever is easy and within reach.

Becoming wise, however, requires effort. It is necessary to heed warnings and seek out truth. It requires discipline, intention, the drive to shake off laziness, and the ability to rise above feelings. Most of all, it requires the grace and truth of God. Without God's help and guidance, wisdom is beyond our reach. Thankfully, God is reaching out to us and has made wisdom available to us through the Scriptures, his Son, his Spirit, and his people—the Church.

Response and Action:
I am thankful that Wisdom is calling out to me. I am thankful that God in his grace and mercy has revealed himself through Christ Jesus. I want to be responsive to the gift of wisdom and truth God has extended to me. I will listen to his Word, and I will heed the warnings he gives. I will cling to the promises he has made, and I will walk in the ways he has instructed me to go. I will be on guard against temptations and lies--within and without--that would turn me away from wisdom.

O God, help me to live for you and through you. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, to feed my spirit, to stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Be faithful to me and do not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear, and when I am tempted, give me strength to stand and show me the ways of escape. Help me to leave my foolish ways and to walk in the truth. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Resources:
How to Read Proverbs
by Tremper Longman