Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Like a Tree Planted by the Water

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 16:16-18:23
Revelation 12:1-17
Proverbs 4:10-19
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 17:5-8
5 This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. 7 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8 He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Insight:
Looking to God and trusting in him is the path to blessing and stability. Trusting in our own strength and wisdom always results in coming up short in life. Strength and blessing come from the Lord. Instead of trusting in ourselves, we should commit all our strength, energy, and will to seeking and serving God.

Response and Action:
Blessing, prosperity, stability, and confidence sound good to me. I trust that God is more able to direct my life into those things than anyone else, including me. I will commit all my strength and abilities toward knowing, loving, and following God. My trust is in the Lord.

O God, give me the wisdom to know my own limitations. Save me from the delusion of self-confidence and help me to trust in you with my whole heart. I want to acknowledge and follow you in every way and in every day. Thank you for Jesus; help me to walk in his steps. Thank you for your Holy Spirit; help me to surrender fully to him that he might transform, strengthen, and lead me. Thank you for your Holy Scriptures: help me to know the truth and hide it in my heart. Encourage me as I walk with you, O God, and give me more confidence in you with each new day. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 6:31-34
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Resources:
Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace
Jan Johnson

Monday, June 18, 2018

Like the First Gleam of Dawn

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 14:11-16:15
Revelation 11:1-19
Proverbs 4:1-9
 
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Focus Verses: Proverbs 4:18-19
18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

Insight:
The more a person walks in the light of God's wisdom, the more he is able to see. As the light increases, the clearer things become. As the sun of wisdom rises higher into the sky of a person's life, the right paths to walk become easier to find and follow.

Darkness, on the other hand, leads to deeper darkness. The longer the sun of truth sinks below the horizon, the darker the night becomes, and the harder it becomes to see anything at all. The tighter people close their eyes, the more hopeless and futile their journey becomes.

Response and Action:
I am encouraged by the idea that knowledge leads to more knowledge. I'm inspired by the promise that living in the light of wisdom will result in greater light and wisdom. I want to grow in truth and understanding every day.

I will seek God's wisdom through study, knowing that as I learn and grow, I will get increasingly more out of the things I am studying. I will explore and consider things that stretch my mind. I will seek out meaningful conversations with others, trusting that deep questions and discussions will lead me to deeper understanding. I will humble myself before God through prayer, worship, and obedience, believing that the more I see the light of Christ, the more clearly I will see everything else by that light.

O God, guide my steps in the light of your truth. Help me to walk in the light as Christ is in the light. Make your wisdom to shine brighter and brighter each day I live. Help me to see the light and to see by the light. Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Be thou my best Thought, by day or by night--waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Luke 8:16-18
16 "No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

It Tasted Sweet as Honey

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 12:1-14:10
Revelation 10:1-11
Proverbs 3:21-35
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 10:9-11
So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey." 10 I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11 Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings."

Insight:
God is the righteous and the Mighty Lord of all the heavens and earth. He shines forth in perfect beauty and summons all the earth and all people of all times to stand before him—both those who have made a covenant with him, and those who have ignored and rejected him.

Judgment is a bitter thing to consider and take in, but the sweetness of a just and redeemed world is not possible without it. Thankfully, the Mighty Judge is also Mighty Savior, and has made a way—the Lamb of God—for everyone to find redemption and salvation.

Response and Action:
I must acknowledge my own sin and recognize my need for salvation. I will live in covenant with God by taking hold of the salvation he offers through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who has laid down his life in order to bring me safely through the fire of God's refining judgment.

While judgment is bitter to me, redemption and the hope of a purified and righteous world is sweet to me. I will celebrate and share God's love and power to save. I will shout out the promise of salvation and the hope of a restored and renewed world made possible through Christ Jesus.

O God, shine forth in perfect beauty and righteousness. Make your salvation known to all peoples, nations, languages, and kings, that they might escape your righteous judgment by your gracious redemption. May the sweetness of your desire to save overpower the bitterness of judgment that comes only to those who refuse your grace. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 30:4-5
4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

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

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Reading Schedule for June 17-23

SUNDAY
Jeremiah 12:1--14:10
Revelation 10:1-11
Proverbs 3:21-35

MONDAY
Jeremiah 14:11--16:15
Revelation 11:1-19
Proverbs 4:1-9

TUESDAY
Jeremiah 16:16--18:23
Revelation 12:1-17
Proverbs 4:10-19

WEDNESDAY
Jeremiah 19:1--21:14
Revelation 13:1--13:18
Proverbs 4:20-27

THURSDAY
Jeremiah 22:1--23:20
Revelation 14:1-20
Proverbs 5:1-14

FRIDAY
Jeremiah 23:21--25:38
Revelation 15:1-8
Proverbs 5:15-23

SATURDAY 
Jeremiah 26:1--27:22
Revelation 16:1-21
Proverbs 6:1-11

Scarecrow in a Melon Patch

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 10:1-11:23
Revelation 9:1-21
Proverbs 3:11-20
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 10:1-5
1 Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel. 2 This is what the LORD says: "Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. 3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. 4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. 5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good."

Insight:
So much of what people honor, pursue, and trust are worthless idols. No matter how slick, beautiful, religious, philosophical, or attractive people make them, these idols are nothing more than something they've made. When we choose to love the gods of our own making, we are bound for disappointment as we discover that they are powerless to give joy, security, or fulfillment.

Response and Action:
I will reserve my love, honor, and worship for God. I will not chase after the worthless things that most people seem to value, love, and trust. I want to see God for who he is and see empty substitutes for what they are.

O God, show yourself to me. Help me to know you more and more each day as I follow Christ, listen to your word, and surrender myself to your 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. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 1:20-25
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Too Much Woe

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 8:8-9:26
Revelation 8:1-13
Proverbs 3:1-10
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 8:13 
13
 As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!"

Insight:
The world is filled with woe, woe, and more woe. Much of the pain and  suffering we experience results from sin—the sins we commit and the sins of others. Other hardship seems to be deeply rooted complexities and brokenness of an out-of-balance world spinning out of control. From viruses to volcanoes, nature itself seems to be reeling from one trauma to the next and we're along for the scary ride.

What can we do? How can we deal with the sorrows and tragedies? Some of us reject God because we can't make sense of the pain. Some even taunt those who hope and believe in God. And even those who do place their faith in God become downcast and find themselves crying out to God, "Where are you?" We hurt, we feel despair, and we can't understand why we are suffering.

In Revelation, the Apostle John writes as a pastor encouraging Christians (and perhaps even reminding himself) that though the times are often dark and difficult, Christ will reign at the end of the day. In Psalm 42, the psalmist does something very similar; he admits that he is disturbed and depressed, even to the point of wondering if God sees or cares. The psalmist's faith in God, however, triumphs as he sings the words, "Put your hope in God, your Savior, for suffering will give way to praise and victory in the end."

Response and Action:
There is nothing wrong with voicing my fears and my sorrows to God. Expressing my doubts and giving full voice to my questions are part of an honest relationship with him. My expressions of praise and hope and confidence in God are made even deeper and stronger when they stand up tall over my suffering, and overshadow my doubts. I will express my true feelings and concerns to God. I will cling to the hope I have in Christ Jesus and shout out my faith and confidence in him.

O God, as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you. My soul thirsts for you, Living God. When tears are my food, comfort me. When men say to me all day long, "Where is your God," speak to my soul, O Lord, and remind me that you are with me. When I become downcast, strengthen my heart to hope in you. Give me the faith to trust in you and praise you all my days. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me by your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 42:9-11
9
 I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?" 11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

Resources:
Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent
by Ben Patterson

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Worthless Words

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 6:16-8:7
Revelation 7:1-17
Proverbs 2:12-22
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 7:3-8
3 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!" 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

Insight:
Sometimes we deceive ourselves by thinking that we're right with God just because we say the right words, observe the right traditions, or attend the right church. None of these things has value apart from a life that is truly devoted to God. Our actions, our dealings with others, and our wholehearted devotion to God are more important than rituals, traditions, and religion.

Response and Action:
I will not settle for forms and practices of religion or tradition that are disconnected with a true relationship with God. My worship and my traditions must flow out of a true devotion to God. I will do all I can to cultivate a deep and meaningful walk with God.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Let my praise be more than words, for I know it's more than words that you desire. Let my life proclaim honor and reverence for you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Galatians 6:7-8
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Resources:
The Spirit of the Disciplines
by Dallas Willard

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Knowing How to Blush

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 4:19-6:15
Revelation 6:1-17
Proverbs 2:1-11
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 6:15-16
15 Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the LORD. 16 This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." But you said, "We will not walk in it."

Insight:
"Shame on you!" is not a phrase I hear very often anymore. No one ever wants to feel ashamed, and so the whole idea of shame is not generally valued. We hear about shame-based or guilt-based methods of manipulation: "He was shamed into that." In fact, these days you should probably feel ashamed if you do or say anything that makes someone else feel guilt or shame.

While shame and guilt can be unhealthy and used for wrong or selfish reasons, we shouldn't forget that there are times when shame and guilt are appropriate. To forget how to blush, or be blind to personal guilt, is to be oblivious to our sin and our need for forgiveness and direction.

Response and Action:
I will humble myself before God and honestly acknowledge my wrongs. I want to cultivate a soft heart that is able to feel shame when I do the wrong thing. I will turn to God's word to find the ancient path of truth and righteousness. I will commit myself to walk in it.

O Lord, show me your ways. Guide me in your paths and teach me. Thank you for forgiving me when I am guilty. Thank you for taking away my shame and for giving me hope. Thank you for giving me the capacity to feel shame and guilt. Use them to draw me to you for the redemption and healing I need. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 25:4-9
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. 6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good. 8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Every People and Nation

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 2:31-4:18
Revelation 5:1-14
Proverbs 1:20-33
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 5:9
9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Insight:
In John’s vision he sees the Lamb who was slain surrounded by the elders and the four living creatures as they worship him. The Lamb, they  sing, is worthy of praise and worship because he laid down his life to save people from every people group. God's intention and plan is to save people from every people group. Jesus’ sacrifice was made for people of every race, ethnicity, nation, and language. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him might have eternal life.

Response and Action:
I need to be mindful that Christ’s love and sacrifice are for all people. If God's heart is benevolent toward all people regardless of ethnicity and culture, my heart, as I am being led and shaped by the Spirit, should be the same. I will raise my voice in praise to God for the salvation and hope he offers to all humanity through Christ. I will join God's redemptive intention and work for the blessing and salvation of all people whatever their race or nationality.

Thank you, O God, for Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Thank you for your grace and mercy to all people. Help your people to love and save and extend grace to all people. Help me to reach past every barrier of race, language, and culture in order to share the love of and redemption of Jesus with all people. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Acts 10:34-35
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Resources:
From Every People and Nation
by J. Daniel Hays and Donald A. Carson

Monday, June 11, 2018

Broken Cisterns

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 1:1-2:30
Revelation 4:1-11
Proverbs 1:8-19

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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 2:5,13
5 This is what the LORD says: "What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. - - - 13 "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Insight:
Jeremiah lamented Israel's unfaithfulness to God. He used the bitter language and graphic imagery of adultery to get his point across. Though God had been faithful to his people, they had turned from him to worthless things. In doing so, they became as worthless as the things they pursued. Though God was like a spring of fresh and life-giving water to them, they turned away from him. Instead of trusting him, they put their trust in the stale and leaking cisterns they had built for themselves. As a result, their hearts were empty and they were dying of thirst.

Response and Action:
The things I turn to in life are the things that will shape me. If I pursue empty things, I will become empty. If I seek the true and faithful God, I will become faithful and live in truth. I will turn away from worthless things and set my heart on things above. In following Jesus, I will experience meaning, purpose, and fullness in my life. If I honor God and hold fast to him, I will experience the streams of living water that flow from him alone.

O Lord, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to turn away from all that is worthless, to seek all that is true, and to do what is good. Give me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Teach me faithfulness and draw me to the living water that only you can give. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 1:21-25
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Resources:
Who Switched the Price Tags?
by Tony Campolo

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Humble and Contrite

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 66:1-24
Revelation 3:7-22
Proverbs 1:1-7
 
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Focus Verses: Isaiah 66:1-2
1 This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.

Insight:
Most of us spend too much time thinking about how we appear to other people. We also hear a lot about the importance of self-esteem, having a good feeling about ourselves. The really important questions we should be asking ourselves are: "What kind of qualities does God look for in his people?" and, "Who is it that God esteems?"

According to the prophet Isaiah, God esteems those who are humble, those who are contrite, and those who tremble at his word.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful to humble myself before God and before other people. I want to be contrite, recognizing my weaknesses, my sins, and my need for God. I need to have great reverence and love for God's word. I will commit myself to reading, considering, obeying, memorizing, and living the truth of God given to me in the pages of Scripture.

O Lord, I humble myself before you. Show me your ways and guide me by your holy word. Give me a heart that is honest and ready to follow you. 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, help me to be a person you esteem. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 23:11-12
11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Resources:
Humility: True Greatness
by C. J. Mahaney

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Reading Schedule for June 10-16

SUNDAY
Isaiah 66:1-24
Revelation 3:7-22
Proverbs 1:1-7

MONDAY
Jeremiah 1:1-2:30
Revelation 4:1-11
Proverbs 1:8-19

TUESDAY
Jeremiah 2:31-4:18
Revelation 5:1-14
Proverbs 1:20-33

WEDNESDAY
Jeremiah 4:19-6:15
Revelation 6:1-17
Proverbs 2:1-11

THURSDAY
Jeremiah 6:16-8:7
Revelation 7:1-17
Proverbs 2:12-22

FRIDAY
Jeremiah 8:8-9:26
Revelation 8:1-13
Proverbs 3:1-10

SATURDAY 
Jeremiah 10:1-11:23
Revelation 9:1-21
Proverbs 3:11-20

Wake Up!

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 62:6-65:25
Revelation 2:18-3:6
Psalm 150:1-6
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 3:1-3
1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Insight:
The glorified Christ of John's vision warns the church in Sardis that they need to wake up. They had a reputation for being alive, but they were really dead. Somehow they had let their reputation and the good things they had done in the past lull them into apathy. There were many other good things God intended them to do, but they were leaving these things undone. If they failed to wake up and take their calling seriously, they would continue to die and eventually suffer the consequences of their unfaithfulness.

Response and Action:
What is God calling me to do that I am leaving undone? I need to be careful to not become idle and rest upon past accomplishments and deeds. Idleness and apathy lead to spiritual death. The Christian life is about today! I must follow Jesus today and seek God's will today. There are so many things I can do to honor God and serve the cause of Christ. I will push forward to take hold of all that Christ Jesus has in mind for me to be and do.

Lord Jesus, help me to be faithful to seek and do your will until the end. Write my name in the book of life and purify me. Give me eyes to see the good things you have prepared in advance for me to do. Give me a heart that delights in your will, feet that walk in your ways, and a spirit that longs to honor you in all I do. Help me to wake up and get honest about any disobedience, apathy, or distractions that are keeping me from faithfulness to you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 5:14-17
14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

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

Friday, June 08, 2018

Forsaking Your First Love

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 60:1-62:5
Revelation 2:1-17
Psalm 149:1-9
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Revelation 2:1-4
1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your  perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have  tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Insight:
In John's vision, the glorified Christ has words of commendation and warning for seven churches. The first was the church in Ephesus. He commended them for good deeds, hard work, perseverance, holiness, and discernment. He warned them that, despite all these good qualities, they had forsaken their first love—their love for him.

It is unsettling to realize how it is possible to do good, work hard, be committed, and exercise commitment, and yet somehow lose sight of a genuine love for Jesus himself. While a sincere love for Christ will always produce the good qualities and actions the Ephesians displayed, these commendable qualities, without love for Christ, are bound to deteriorate into religiosity and law. What results is a churchianity that is both unsustainable and empty.

Response and Action:
I must cultivate my love for Jesus. My obedience and commitment to Christ must be rooted in my love and trust for him. I will nurture my love for Jesus through worship, expressions of thanks, and meditation upon the things he did and the words he said. I will remember that following Christ is more than belief, obedience, and perseverance; it is love.

Lord Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, I believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Help me to love you with my whole heart, so that my obedience and deeds and commitment might flow out of that love. Thank you for your great love for me. Forgive me for the times I lose sight of you and forget that you want more than my belief and my behavior -- you want my love. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Deuteronomy 6:4-5
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 

Resources:
Mere Churchianity
by Michael Spencer

Thursday, June 07, 2018

He Holds the Keys

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 57:15-59:21
Revelation 1:1-20
Psalm 148:7-14
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 1:17-18
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Insight:
In the Apostle John's great vision he sees the resurrected Christ Jesus, the Son of Man, who "has freed us from our sins by his blood" (1:5), and will return again—"coming with the clouds" (1:7). The sight and sound of the glorified Christ Jesus so overwhelmed John that he fell to the ground as a dead man. But Jesus put his right hand on John saying, "Don't be afraid."

Jesus is the beginning and the end. He is the Living One and is alive forever. He has conquered death and holds the keys to death. Jesus holds the keys that open the doors from death to life for all humanity.

Response and Action:
Jesus is alive forever! He is the Living One who has conquered death. Every thought I have of Jesus will be shaped and celebrated with the amazing truth that he is alive today. He is coming again. He is the beginning and the end. He holds the keys and he will deliver me from death.

O God, help me to walk and live in the truth that Jesus is alive. Fill my heart with hope, and give me peace and confidence as I embrace this truth by faith. Give me courage in the face of suffering and hope in the face of death, as I trust in Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: John 11:25-26a
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26a and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Build Yourselves Up in Faith

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 54:1-57:14
Jude 1:1-25
Psalm 148:1-6
 
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Focus Verses: Jude 1:17-21
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." 19 These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 

Insight:
The Apostle Peter warned his readers to be discerning about false teachers and heresy; Jude does the same. In fact, Peter may have been drawing upon Jude in his second letter (compare 2 Peter 2 with Jude 4–18).

Jude gives a number of markers for discerning heretical teachers and leaders. These include: a twisting of God's grace that leads to disregard for holy living (v. 4); a refusal to acknowledge Jesus as the only sovereign Lord (v. 4); a selfish pattern of putting themselves first (v. 12); boastful arrogance (v. 16); and being divisive and opposing the unity of the Spirit (v. 19).

Response and Action:
I need to recognize godly teaching and leadership. It is essential for the life and mission of my church family that our leaders follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who is able to keep us from falling.

In order to live by the truth, I will build myself up in Christian faith. I will pray and look to the Holy Spirit for guidance and integrity. I will look to the Scriptures and the teachings of the Apostles for direction and doctrine. In my Christian community, I will oppose teaching and leadership that ignores Scripture or fails to follow in the way of Christ. In all circumstances, I must be merciful and redemptive toward others as I endeavor to be a voice for the pursuit of truth and sound doctrine.

O God, help me to know and live by the truth. Help me to be a student of the Scriptures. Help me to follow Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, give me the honesty and integrity to recognize your will and your ways. Deliver me from pride, selfishness, and unholiness. Grant me the faith and the perseverance of Christ Jesus, who is able to keep me from falling and present me without fault before your throne with great joy. To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Peter 1:19-21
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. 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:
Basic Christian Leadership: Biblical Models of Church, Gospel And Ministry
by John Stott