Saturday, March 25, 2017

Live a Life Worthy of the Calling

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 22:1-23:32
Ephesians 4:1-16
Psalm 108:6-13
 
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Focus Verses: Ephesians 4:1-6
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Insight:
Paul urged the Ephesian Christians to live up to their calling in Christ. He reminded them that God was not only over all, but through all, and in all. The life of the person who answers Christ's call is a life empowered and filled by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, love, and unity are all the fruit of God's transforming work in the believer's life—his authority (over), his power (through), and his indwelling presence (in).

Response and Action:
To live a life worthy of the calling I have received, I must live out my salvation as fully as possible. Paul urged the Ephesians to take hold of God's grace and power for all its worth. I want to take hold of all God has in store for me. Half-heartedness and apathy are opposed to living a life worthy of the call of Christ.

Jesus calls me to more than belief and more than forgiveness. He calls me to transformation and the fullness of God. By the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit who indwells my mortal body, I can and must grow into likeness of Christ. When I am taking hold of all God offers to me (taking hold for all its worth), I will grow in humility, patience, endurance, tolerance, love, and concern for others.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. 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 to love my neighbor as myself. 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. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Colossians 1:9b-13
9b We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Resources:
The Life You've Always Wanted
by John Ortberg

Friday, March 24, 2017

Filled to the Measure of God's Fullness

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 19:1-21:30
Ephesians 3:1-21
Psalm 108:1-5
 
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Focus Verses: Ephesians 3:14-19
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
 
Insight:
With great passion, the Apostle Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians to be strengthened by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He prays for them to be rooted in love. He prays that they will be able to grasp, know, experience all God has for them. He prays that they be filled with the fullness of Christ's love.

Response and Action:
I want to live and pray with an intensity and vision like that of the Apostle Paul. I want to be passionate in my devotion to Christ. I want to know the love of Christ and experience the fullest measure of the life he gives. I want to be strengthened, guided, and shaped by the Holy Spirit. This must be my highest priority, the foundation for all my life, and the object of all my intentions. This is also my prayer for others in Christ—my family, my friends, my neighbors, and my colleagues.

O God. I believe that knowing you and growing in you must be the passion of my life. I believe that living life to the fullest can only happen by knowing and experiencing the love of Christ to the fullest. Help me as I desire to seek him first—his kingdom and his righteousness. Strengthen me and guide me by your Spirit. Help me, by your grace, to stretch and to focus my energies and intentions on every good thing that draws me closer to you—further, deeper, higher, and wider into Christ. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 6:33
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Resources:
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us
by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Thursday, March 23, 2017

We Are God's Workmanship

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 16:37-18:17
Ephesians 2:1-22
Psalm 107:33-43
 
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Focus Verses: Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Insight:
By his grace, God is saving all of us who are being made alive in Christ. His great power—the same great power he demonstrated in raising Jesus from the dead—is at work in our lives. Our lives are a demonstration of God's grace and power as he creates, shapes and forms us in Christ to do the good things he has in mind for us to do.

Response and Action:
I want to be transformed by God's grace—to know and experience the power and truth of Christ more each day. I want to do the good things God has planned for me, and I want God to prepare me to do them. I will study and meditate up on the Scriptures. I will pray and yield my heart and will to God. I will give thought and care to my choices, actions, and attitudes. I will in all things seek to follow Christ, honor God, and walk in truth.

O God. Thank you for saving me by your grace. Do not let the world squeeze me into it's mold, instead, transform me by the renewing of my mind. Show me your good, perfect, and pleasing will and strengthen me to live in it. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given me. Grant me the will and wisdom to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, care for my body, and diligently do the good work you have laid before me. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 3:12b-14 
12b Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Resources:
Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential
by Gordon T. Smith

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Eyes of Your Heart

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36
Ephesians 1:1-23
Psalm 107:23-32
 
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Focus Verses: Ephesians 1:18-20
18 I pray 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 his people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms...

Insight:
Paul prayed for the Christians in Ephesus to be wide-eyed, receptive, open-hearted, and fully aware of all that God had for them—the hope, inheritance, and power for all who believe. Implicit in his prayer is the possibility that people can be believers, yet still be blind to much of what God has for them through Jesus. Christians must live, pray, and act in ways that open them up to see and take hold of God's power and blessing in their lives.

Response and Action:I want my heart to be wide-eyed! I want my life to be transformed by God's grace. I want to know and experience the power and truth of Christ more each day. I want to do the good things God has planned for me, and is preparing me to do.

I will seek times of solitude in order to focus upon God. I will study and meditate up on the Scriptures. I will pray and yield my heart and will to God. I will give thought and care to my choices, actions, and attitudes. In all things, I will seek to follow Christ, honor God, and walk in truth.

O God, the God of my Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, grant me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know you better. Open the eyes of my heart and enlighten me in order that I may know the hope to which you have called me. Show me the riches of your glorious inheritance for all the saints, and transform me by your incomparably great power for all who believe. Make my life a demonstration of your power and workmanship. Help me to do the good things you would have me do. Through Christ, Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 12:1b-3 
1b Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sharing and Bearing Burdens

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 12:19-14:17
Galatians 6:1-18
Psalm 107:10-22
 
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Focus Verses: Galatians 6:2-5
2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.

Insight:
To live into the character of Christ and follow his example, we must share each other's burdens. This requires humility and selflessness. As followers of Christ we should be quick to help others carry their burdens. We should also make every effort to carry our own load, and not be an unnecessary burden to others.

When our burden is more than we can bear, we should gladly accept the love and help others extend to us. When we see someone else struggling under a burden, we should do what we can to help.

Response and Action:I need to be sensitive to the needs of those around me. How can I help? What can I do to share or lighten the load? A humble spirit will stimulate this kind of awareness toward others. This kind of awareness will also contribute to a humble spirit. I want to do my best to carry my own load, and yet be ready to accept help when I need it. I don't want pride to get in the way of giving or receiving help.

O God. Thank you for the love and support you give me through fellowship with other Christians. Give me a humble heart and a readiness to help others bear their burdens. Thank you for Christ Jesus who has given his all to bear my burdens. Help me to have a Christ-like heart for others. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 68:19-20 
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. 20 Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.

Resources:
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Fruit of the Spirit

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 11:1-12:18
Galatians 5:13-26
Psalm 107:1-9
 
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Focus Verses: Galatians 5:19-25
19
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Insight:
To belong to Christ is to be committed to being transformed by Christ. Faith in Christ is lived out by putting off the sinful nature and by bearing the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot do this apart from the grace and power of God. It's crucial that we keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

We must surrender our will to the Spirit's will. We must be careful to not grieve the Spirit by ignoring or rejecting his help and guidance. The life of those who belong to Christ is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Response and Action:I want to live out my faith and keep in step with the Spirit. With the Spirit's help and guidance, I must put off those attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that are rooted in sinfulness. I must open my heart and life to the Spirit's work in my life. I want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to be present and in my life in ever-increasing measure.

O God. Thank you for the free gift of the Holy Spirit to all who belong to you through Christ. Help me to open my heart and mind to the Spirit's work in my life. Help me to put off the sinful nature and to live by the Spirit. Help me to discern the Spirit's leading and that I might follow in his steps. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 8:5
5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Resources:
Life on the Vine: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit in Christian Community
by Philip D. Kenneson

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Save Us, O Lord!

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 9:1 - 10:14
Galatians 5:1-12
Psalm 106:40-48
 
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Focus Verses: Psalm 106:47-48
47 Save us, LORD our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. 48 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD.

Insight:
The psalmist cries out to God for deliverance. He asks God to gather in and restore the people of Israel who, because of their unfaithfulness, have been scattered and taken captive by the surrounding nations. He asks God to do this for the glory of his holy name. The psalmist appeals to God with the pledge that the salvation of his people will result in their songs of praise.

Response and Action:I cry out to God for help every day. My prayers for family, friends, church, neighbors, community, and world are too many to count. But when I ask for salvation, is it for me alone or for God's glory? When I pray for deliverance, do I expect the deliverance to result in thanks to God? When I cry out for relief and provision, am I concerned only with temporal needs, or do I want God's name to be praised from everlasting to everlasting?

Instead of my prayers being focused on me, I want them to be rooted in a genuine desire to bring reverence and devotion to God!

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the "Amen" sound from His people again,
Gladly for YES we adore Him.


Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 1:3-4a
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4a and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

Resources:
Learning to Pray Through the Psalms
by James Sire

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Reading Schedule for March 19-25


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017


Sunday, March 19 -
1Chronicles 9:1-10:14 / Galatians 5:1-12
/ Psalm 106:40-48

Monday, March 20 -
1Chronicles 11:1-12:18
/ Galatians 5:13-26 / Psalm 107:1-9

Tuesday, March 21  -
1Chronicles 12:19-14:17
/ Galatians 6:1-18 / Psalm 107:10-22

Wednesday, March 22  -
1Chronicles 15:1-16:36
/ Ephesians 1:1-23 / Psalm 107:23-32

Thursday, March 23 -
1Chronicles 16:37-18:17
/ Ephesians 2:1-22 / Psalm 107:33-43

Friday, March 24 -
1Chronicles 19:1-21:30
/ Ephesians 3:1-21 / Psalm 108:1-5

Saturday, March 25 -
1Chronicles 22:1-23:32
/ Ephesians 4:1-16 / Psalm 108:6-13

All One in Christ Jesus

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 7:1-8:40
Galatians 3:23-4:31
Psalm 106:32-39
 
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Focus Verses: Galatians 3:26-28
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Insight:
Through faith in Christ, we are God's children. Regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, education, or socioeconomic standing. In the history and patterns we see in the world, these distinctions are the basis of much division, conflict, and human rights issues. In Christ, these distinctions are swept away. Those who are in Christ are called to look at the world in this new and redemptive way.

Response and Action:
My relationship with Christ Jesus has a profound impact upon the way I see the world. If he is my Lord, I must see others as God sees them. I must not show favoritism, but should instead love and respect all who follow Christ. They are all equal heirs of his blessing and calling.

O God. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to love my neighbor as myself. Help me to see others with the love of Christ. Give me a humble attitude that looks to the best interests of others. Help me to honor others above myself. Give me a readiness to treat all who love and follow you with equal respect and care. Make me thankful for the goodness and acceptance I have been shown by others. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 2:1
1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism.

Resources:
One Body, One Spirit
by George A. Yancey

Friday, March 17, 2017

Prisoners before Faith Came

Today's Reading:
1Chronicles 5:18-6:81
Galatians 3:10-22
Psalm 106:16-31
 
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Focus Verses: Galatians 3:21-24
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

Insight:
The declaration of Scripture and the testimony of our own experience is that "the whole world is a prisoner of sin." Having laws and moral codes doesn't change our hearts nor our actions. In fact, having the law serves to convict us all, as we are all shown to have broken it. It's great to have the moral guidance of the law, but what we need even more is the transformed heart that helps us live up to it.

We need more than knowledge; we need freedom. We need to be saved from our bondage to sin. Christ's sacrifice opens the door for us to be justified by faith in him. The power of his Spirit can transform us into people whose lives are guided not by the constraint of laws, but by our Christ-like hearts.

Response and Action:
I will take hold of freedom through Christ, remembering that salvation is not earned by human effort, but rather by faith. In order to live a righteous life, I need to be transformed by God's Spirit. With my faith firmly rooted in Christ, I can then make every effort to pursue righteousness as I am led and empowered by the Spirit.

God's grace in my life is freedom from sin and the power of salvation. By grace, the Holy Spirit in me is the source of strength for leading a righteous life, serving Jesus, and honoring God.

O God, work in my life. Change me as I follow Jesus in complete trust. Make me a person who does what is right out of a heart and mind that has been made right by you. Open every door and show me every path that leads to a closer walk with you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: John 8:36
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Resources:
Galatians: Experiencing the Grace of Christ
by John Stott

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Christ Lives in Me

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 4:5-5:17
Galatians 2:17-3:9
Psalm 106:1-15
 
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Focus Verses: Galatians 2:19-21
19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Insight:
Like so much of the New Testament, Galatians is a letter. Reading Galatians 2 really feels like reading someone else's mail because of the references to very specific people and events that only the writer and recipients can fully appreciate. We can, however, pick up on the main gist of what was going on.

The early Christians, their leaders, and even the apostles, were struggling with the issue of how the freedom and grace of Christ related to the observance of Mosaic law. Was observance of the law something Christians needed to do? Were Gentile's who followed Jesus supposed to observe Jewish laws and customs? Paul says, "No." He says that no one is justified by observing the law (vv. 15,16). Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, are justified through Christ Jesus, not by obeying laws.

Paul insists that the observance of laws or traditions cannot be used as a test to determine who is or who is not a Christian. Paul says he has died to the law so that he might live for God (v.19). The essence of being a Christian is living for God through faith in Christ, dying to self and everything else—even the law. Paul's point is that devotion to observing laws is not what brings us to God or produces righteousness; instead, it is complete surrender to God and living in faith and devotion to Christ that saves and results in righteous living.

Response and Action:
I need to live in full surrender to God. Doing the right things is not what makes me right with God; being right with God is what makes me do the right things. Jesus must be the focus of my devotion to God: loving him, following him, hearing him, and pleasing him. I must surrender the ownership of my life to Christ. He must be Lord and master. I must let Christ live his life through me. The choices and actions of my life must be guided not by rules but, rather, by the Spirit of Christ. I want my life to be guided by how he would choose and act if he were living my life.

Thank you, O God, for salvation and life through Christ. Help me to surrender fully to you and to follow Jesus with my whole heart. Help me to know him, to love him, to understand him, to honor him, and to draw near to him so that my life is completely shaped and guided by him. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Mark 8:34-35
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 

Resources:
Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians
by N. T. Wright

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

He Remembered His Holy Promise

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4
Galatians 2:1-16
Psalm 105:37-45
 
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Focus Verses: Psalm 105:39-42
39 He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. 40 They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven. 41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed like a river in the desert. 42 For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham.

Insight:
Earlier in this psalm, the psalmist says: "Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength. Seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done." Remembering is helpful thing to do for those who are seeking the joy and strength of the Lord. Looking back at the things God has done is a great way to reinforce hope for God's blessing in the future. Recounting the ways God has kept his word in the past is an encouraging thing to do for those who are leaning into God's promises for the future.

Response and Action:
I will take time to consider the things God has done in my past. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, I will recount the many ways God has provided, delivered, led, and sustained me. My life has its share of challenges, but I've also had more than my share of blessings. My hope, my joy, and my confidence in God are all strengthened as I consider the wonderful things he has done in my life, and in the lives of others who are seeking him.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is your health and salvation!
All you who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who has prospered my work and defends me;
Surely His goodness and mercy will always attend me.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
Since with His love He befriends me.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly, for yes we adore Him!


Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 4:19
19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Resources:
Praying the Psalms of Jesus
by James Sire

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Received by Revelation

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17
Galatians 1:1-24
Psalm 105:23-36
 
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Focus Verses: Galatians 1:11-12
11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Insight:
Paul makes a bold claim about his preaching. He says he received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. He asserts that his message is not a religion or philosophy he has learned from others or invented himself. Rather, it is truth he has received directly from the living Christ—from Jesus, who rose from the dead and has chosen Paul to be his messenger to the Gentiles (vv.15-16).

The claims of Jesus—"I am the way, the Christ, the Son of God”—put me in a position where I have to decide whether or not to accept them. Is he confused, or misunderstood, or lying, or telling the truth? The claims are so straightforward that they require a response. In the same way, I have to decide whether or not to accept Paul's claims—"my message is not man-made, not invented, not learned, but rather revealed to me directly from Jesus Christ." Is he confused, misunderstood, or lying, or telling the truth?

Response and Action:
I have decided to accept Paul's claims and therefore regard his teaching as true and authoritative. His claim is so straightforward I'm forced to make a choice. His life and the hardships he faced for preaching his message don't support a motive for lying. His reasoning, relationships, and results don't indicate any mental instability. I think it's reasonable to accept that he is telling the truth.

I trust the authority of the Bible and consider it to be revealed by God. As the Apostle Paul says to Timothy, "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuke, correction, and training in righteousness."

O God, thank you for the inspired truth of the New Testament scriptures that have been given to us through the apostles. Help me to understand and apply what I read. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Peter 1:20-21
20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Resources:
Can I Trust the Bible?
by Darrell Bock

Monday, March 13, 2017

Aim for Perfection

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 23:31-25:30
2 Corinthians 13:1-14
Psalm 105:12-22
 
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Focus Verses: 2 Corinthians 13:11-14
11 Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints send their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Insight:
Paul concludes this difficult letter with very straightforward instruction and blessing. He tells the Corinthians to aim for perfection, be of one mind, and to live in peace. He assures them that as they do this the God of peace will be with them. He reminds them of the kinship believers should have with each other. He prays that the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives will strengthen them toward holiness and unity.

Response and Action:
I want to aim for perfection—wholeness and completeness through Christ. I want to live in fellowship and unity with all followers of Christ. These desires are consistent with God's desires for his people; he will be with me as I pursue them. As I do, I need to look to the grace of Jesus, the love of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

O God, thank you for your love, your grace, and your power. Help me to grow in Christ—make me holy, mature, deep, and complete in him. Help me to do all this in the company of Christian friends. Help us to encourage and help each other; give us oneness and peace as we follow Jesus 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:
The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends
by Richard Lamb

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Words Written in This Book

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 22:3-23:30
2 Corinthians 12:11-21
Psalm 105:1-11
 
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Focus Verses: 2 Kings 23:1-3
1 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 2 He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. 3 The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD -to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.

Insight:
In the declining years of Judah, the Temple's ruin and disrepair had become a metaphor for the nation's spiritual condition. The nation had become so careless in their spiritual apathy that they had lost the Book of the Law of Moses in the mess and clutter of the Temple.

When King Josiah ordered that efforts be made to restore the Temple and make worship a priority, they found the Book of Law. As Josiah heard what it had to say, he was thunderstruck by how far his people had wandered from the truth of God. He understood that a knowledge of God's word would be essential to any spiritual renewal he hoped to bring to Israel, so he made sure everyone had an opportunity to hear it.

Response and Action:
Losing God's written word is a sure way to lose my spiritual health. I must guard against the deterioration of my spiritual health. I must not let the truth of Scripture get lost in the messy distractions and clutter of life. Like Josiah, I want to be responsive to God's word and be ready to live by it. I must direct my efforts to know and understand the Bible. I will commit myself to reading and applying God's word.

O God, how can I keep my way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I will hide your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Peter 1:19
19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Resources:
The IVP Introduction to the Bible
by Philip S. Johnston