Friday, September 30, 2016

Good Things at the Proper Time

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 41:17-42:17
Luke 9:28-50
Psalm 16:1-11
 
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Focus Verses: Genesis 41:9-14
9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, "Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged."

14
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

Insight:
Though he had been released and restored as Joseph had foretold, Pharaoh's cupbearer had forgotten to help or say anything about Joseph. Now that Pharaoh was troubled by dreams, the cupbearer remembered his own encounter with Joseph.

I'm struck with how God used the forgetfulness of the cupbearer for good. If he had mentioned Joseph right away, what would have happened? Would Joseph have been at the right place at the right time?

The mistake of the cupbearer resulted in Joseph being remembered and found at just the moment Pharaoh would need him. This turned out to be just the moment he would be willing to elevate Joseph to a position of power, the very moment Jacob and his family were experiencing famine and would need to go to Egypt to buy food. God uses even the mistakes and hardship in our lives to accomplish greater purposes and greater good.

Response and Action: 
I will trust God to accomplish his purposes in his time and his way. I take heart in knowing that human mistakes and injustices do not stop God from working toward good for his people. I am encouraged to know that God can turn things meant for evil and work them for good. When I face hardship and failure, I will strive to be faithful and trust God to redeem my difficult circumstances for his good purposes in his good time.

O God, help me to live one day at a time in the confidence that you know my needs and you know my future. Help me to be faithful to you in the belief that you will be faithful to me. Help me to look to you and to wait on you in the hope that you are using everything I entrust to you to accomplish your good will. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Galatians 6:9
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 39:1-41:16
Luke 9:7-27
Psalm 15:1-5
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 9:23-25
23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

Insight:
The things that are best for me may not always appear to be so at first glance. What might seem to be good for me may actually be bad. Jesus says that putting myself first is the worst thing I can possibly do for me. Jesus says that while avoiding things that are difficult and sacrificial may seem to be a safe course, it will lead to my ruin. Jesus says that working to accumulate things is the way to lose what matters most. Jesus says that being obsessed with winning is the surest path to defeat.

Following Jesus—listening to him, obeying him, emulating him—may not make sense to those who do not recognize him as life and truth. It may appear to be loss, but in reality it is gain. It may appear to be hardship, but in reality it is blessing. It may appear to be a cross, but in reality it is a crown. It may appear to be a rejection of yourself, but in reality it is the only way to discover and become the person God has in mind for you to be.

Response and Action:
Experience is the only way to test Jesus' words. Taking action is the only way to prove his promises. He says that the way to save myself is to lose myself for him.

I believe that Jesus has more to offer me than the world does. I believe that his way is better than my way. I believe that his wisdom is greater than mine. I believe that following him is better than trying to find my own way. Because I believe Jesus Christ, I will follow, listen, and obey—even when his way seems like foolishness to others.

O God, you have sent your Son, Jesus, into the world to be a light and he has called me to walk in his ways. Because I love him, I will obey him. Because I trust him, I will follow him. Because I have followed Him for years, I believe him even more today. Because I have obeyed him, I trust him more. Because I find life and meaning and purpose in him, I desire to surrender to him more and more. Give me the wisdom and the will to lose myself in him. Amen.

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

Resources:
Who Switched the Price Tags
by Tony Campolo

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

They Laughed at Him, but Then...

Today's Reading:
Genesis 37:1-38:30
Luke 8:40-9:6
Psalms 14:1-7
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 8:53-56
53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Insight:
Jesus' ministry was a declaration that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Luke 10:9). In Jesus, the Kingdom was close enough to touch. When the power of the Kingdom encountered the pain of this broken world, it produced unexpected and astonishing results. The power of death was subordinate to the power of God. People who laughed at the suggestion that Jesus could do anything to overcome the cold reality of death found themselves dumbfounded at the life-giving power of the Kingdom.

Response and Action:
When facing the cold realities of my world and my life, I must be careful not to dismiss the possibilities of the Kingdom. Things as real and powerful as death can be overcome by the very real power of Christ Jesus. There are times when a dismissive scoff comes easier than a prayer. There are situations so overwhelming and terminal that it seems laughable to have hope. Yet Jesus may calmly suggest that reality is bigger than I think it is. The power of the Kingdom changes the reality of life on earth. Knowing Jesus opens the door to knowing a greater reality.

O God, forgive me for the times I am blind to your power and grace. Save me from scornful skepticism and give me a Kingdom confidence. Make the power of your Kingdom a present reality in my life and in this world. And may the seeds of your Kingdom in my life produce a firm faith and a future hope. Remind me of the promised day when your Kingdom comes and your will is done on earth as it is in Heaven! Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 11:1, 6
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. - - - 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Resources:
Kingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World
by Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Purify Yourselves

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 35:1-36:43
Luke 8:22-39
Psalm 13:1-6

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Focus Verses: Genesis 35:1-3
1 Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau." 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone."

Insight:
Jacob took his family to Bethel to settle there. When he fled his home as a young man, this was the place he first discovered God was with him, reaching down, and ready to bless and lead. This new home for his family would be centered around worshiping the true God. They would be living in "Bethel" -- the "house of God."

In preparation for their new lives, they cast aside the idols and earrings of their past, and buried them in Shechem. Before setting out for Bethel, they put on new clothes as a symbol of their new commitment to a new way of life. They approached their new start in their new home with a new attitude. They would even have a new name. Instead of being the children of Jacob, they would now be the children of Israel.

The first thing Jacob did when they arrived was to set up an altar and offer worship to the one true God who had been with him every step of the way. He understood that obedience, purification, and worship were the foundation stones of his family's new life.

Response and Action:
God has given me the opportunity to live a new life through Christ. Just as Jacob's family had to get rid of false gods and attachments to their pagan past, I need to cast off and leave behind my sinful habits and desires. Worship and devotion to God are central to living a new life. I will commit myself to a new life. I will examine my ways and my choices in the light of God's word. I will turn away from sin. I will seek God's guidance through prayer. I will be faithful to worship God in my daily life, and faithful to gather with other Christians for worship every week.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape and strengthen me. Help me to delight in your will and walk in your ways. Make me a new creation and teach me to live a new life. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Colossians 3:12
12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Resources:
Following After God
by Daniel Hill

Monday, September 26, 2016

Wrestling with God

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 32:13-34:31
Luke 8:4-21
Psalms 12:1-8
 
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Focus Verses: Genesis 32:24-28
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

Insight:
Jacob was afraid to face his brother, Esau, because he had stolen his blessing by deceiving their father, Isaac. Many years earlier, when Jacob had gone to his father to steal the blessing, his father, Isaac, asked him, "Who is it?"

Jacob lied to his father and said, "It's your son, Esau." That lie and the bitterness it caused made it necessary for Jacob to run for his life. Esau wanted to kill him and probably would have if Jacob had not fled.

In today's reading, we see an older and wiser Jacob returning to his homeland and preparing himself for the awful necessity of facing Esau once again. In his dread, Jacob spends a sleepless night wrestling with God—a struggle to submit to God and to trust God's promise to bless him.

As Jacob wrestled with the man (some sort of vision or representation of God), he said, "I won't let go unless you bless me." The man said, "What is your name?"

Remember, that years ago when his aged and failing father had asked the same question, Jacob lied to him. This time, when the angel of the Lord asked the same question, he answered, "Jacob." In so doing, Jacob owned his true identity. He admitted that he was indeed a "schemer" and a "heel grabber" who had pushed and pulled with God and men his whole life.

God knocked Jacob's hip out of joint and gave him a new name, Israel, which means "one who struggles with God." This is the great struggle we all face – faith in God vs. faith in self. Jacob discovered that walking with a limp actually made it easier for him to walk by faith.

Response and Action:
I need to be honest about who I am. What are the ways I struggle with God? What am I trying to do in my own strength and my own wisdom? How is that struggle keeping me from truly living by faith in God? What strengths are getting in the way of trust? I need to earnestly seek and believe he rewards those who seek him. I need to recognize my need for God and surrender my life to his care and guidance.

O God, help me to be honest with you and with myself. Help me to trust you with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. Help me to acknowledge you in all my ways. If my strengths get in the way of my faith, O God, by your grace and mercy I ask you to turn them to weakness. Better still, give me the humility to see every strength as a gift from you to be used for your purposes and for your glory. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

 Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 12:11-12
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

Resources:
Wrestling with God: Loving the God We Don't Understand
by James Emery White

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Rocky Relationships

Today's Reading:
Genesis 31:17-32:12
Luke 7:36-8:3
Psalm 11:1-7
 
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Focus Verses: Genesis 31:45-49
45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, "Gather some stones." So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me today." That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah, because he said, "May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other." 

Insight:
It's difficult to navigate through the changes in life. Laban and Jacob had both cheated and benefited each other. They needed each other, but they both wanted to be free from each other too. Now they were at a decisive point of separation.

Neither one of them fully trusted each other (with good reason), but they promised each other, before God, that neither of them would harm the other. Jacob would take care of Laban's daughters and grandchildren. Laban would release, pursue them no further, and do them no wrong. As a sign and a reminder of their promises to each other, Jacob and Laban made a pile of stones.

Response and Action:
Our lives are bound up and interwoven with the lives of others, but there are times when we must face and accept changes in those relationships. Our children grow up and leave home and start making their own choices and living by their own values. Our friendships go through changes because our life circumstances change (jobs, health, location, responsibilities).

Ultimately, we have to live our own lives before God. We all need to commit ourselves to be good to each other and trust God to keep watch over us. I need to yield myself to God and trust him with the changes in my life instead of trying to control things beyond my control.

Rather than allowing the changes of life to destroy relationships, I want to accept changes, to trust others, and to trust God. When I reach decisive milestones in my relationships with others, it might be helpful for me to do something special to mark those changes in order to help me remember them before God.


O God, teach me to trust you with every change in life. Give me a heart that desires what is best for others. Stop me from taking any action or saying any word that would destroy a friendship or hurt a relationship. Help me to treat others with the same grace and freedom I would want them to treat me. Remind me of your faithfulness and increase my faith. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 12:17-19
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

Resources:
Relational Masks: Removing the Barriers that Keep Us Apart
by Russell Willingham

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Reading Schedule for Sept. 25 - Oct. 1


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

Sunday, September 25 -
Genesis 31:17-32:12 / Luke 7:36-8:3 / Psalm 11:1-7

Monday, September 26 -
Genesis 32:13-34:31 / Luke 8:4-21 / Psalm 12:1-8

Tuesday, September 27  -
Genesis 35:1-36:43 / Luke 8:22-39 / Psalm 13:1-6

Wednesday, September 28  -
Genesis 37:1-38:30 / Luke 8:40-9:6 / Psalm 14:1-7

Thursday, September 29 -
Genesis 39:1-41:16 / Luke 9:7-27 / Psalm 15:1-5

Friday, September 30 -
Genesis 41:17-42:17 / Luke 9:28-50 / Psalm 16:1-11

Saturday, October 1-
Genesis 42:18-43:34 /
Luke 9:51-10:12 / Psalm 17:1-5

Perspective Problems with Prosperity

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 30:1-31:16
Luke 7:11-35
Psalms 10:12-18

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Focus Verses: Genesis 30:43
43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

Insight:
So how did we get the twelve tribes of Israel? Did Jacob's family increase because of the rivalry of wives? And how did Jacob become a prosperous man? Was it by bickering and bargaining with his father-in-law? Was it by experimenting with breeding tricks to manipulate the condition and coloring of flocks? Was Jacob prospering because of his maneuvering and machinations, or was it because of God?

Jacob had had an experience at Bethel where God said, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give the land on which you are lying…Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth…I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." And now God was keeping his promise, but none of the people involved seem to be aware of God's part in any of what was going on.

It's hard to notice what God is giving when you're too busing scrambling and scraping for yourself. It's easy to forget God when you’re busy being a self-made person.

Response and Action:
Do I trust God's promises to me? Am I so busy scrambling for myself that I forget God is at work in my life? I hope not.

I want to lean into God every day. I want to remember his promise and presence in every aspect of my life. I will fix my eyes on Jesus, cling to God's promises, and cultivate an ongoing awareness of his presence. In all my ways, I will acknowledge him, and trust him to make my path straight.


O God, give me the wisdom to look to you for guidance, strength, and provision in all things. In every blessing, may I give you thanks. In every hardship, may I persevere by the power of your Spirit. In every pain, may I find your peace. In every ambition, may I seek to honor you. Through Christ, I pray. 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:
How To Read Genesis
by Tremper Longman

Friday, September 23, 2016

Such Great Faith!

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 28:1-29:35
Luke 6:39-7:10
Psalms 10:1-11
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 7:9-10 
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Insight:
I love the story of the centurion and his amazing faith. His faith was so complete that even Jesus "was amazed at him." He wanted Jesus to heal his servant, but didn't need Jesus to come to his house. He didn't even need to see Jesus face to face, but instead sent friends to make his request.

He had such faith in the authority of Jesus that he only needed Jesus to "say the word." If Jesus declared his servant healed, that would be enough. He would simply take that word as true and expect his servant to be healed.

Response and Action:
I would like to amaze Jesus with my faith. I would like to have such confidence in his power and authority that I am satisfied to make my needs known to him. No matter what my circumstances or needs are, I will ask Jesus to simply say the word and trust in his power. I will also trust in God's goodness and purposes, believing that he also has the authority to deny my requests.

O God, my faith and my hope are in you, your son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I believe that you are powerful and able to meet my needs. I believe that you are personal and that you care about my burdens and my circumstances. I believe you are persuadable—that you hear my prayers and that you are responsive to the cries of my heart. I believe that you are present with me, that you are closer than the air I breathe, that you are good and just and gracious and merciful. Help me to live with confidence that comes from recognizing and embracing your authority. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 11:6
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Resources:
Faith and Doubt
by John Ortberg

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Decision and Destiny

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 26:17-27:46
Luke 6:12-38
Psalm 9:13-20
 
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Focus Verses: Genesis 25:23
23 The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."

Insight:
God promised Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation. God didn't choose a nation, he chose to make a nation. He started with an old man, Abraham, and his old barren wife, Sarah. Eventually they had a son, Isaac, who's wife, Rebekah, was also unable to have children. It's as if God were making it absolutely clear that the promised nation would only exist by his provision.

God answered Isaac's prayers, and Rebekah became pregnant with twin sons. With the birth of Esau and Jacob, the story then turns to the push and pull of which son would become the heir to God's promise Abraham. Jacob was a scrambler and a schemer who wanted more than his birthright. Esau was a outdoorsman who didn't really care or value his birthright.

The story of God's promise and God's people begins in the story of two little boys who become two very different men with very different futures. Who they become and what results in their lives is very much rooted in the attitudes they have toward God, toward God's promises, and toward each other.

Response and Action:
The future of two nations began in the nursery of twin brothers. I need the wisdom to see how my future is rooted in the small things in my life today. How will my attitudes and actions today impact the future of God's promise and plan for me? How will the beliefs and choices I have right now impact my family, my church, my community, and my world. A faith and awareness of God's promises, and a commitment to pursue and value those promises, will make all the difference.

O Lord, help me to see the potential and promise you have for me. Help me to value and treasure the birthright you have given to me in Christ. Help me to trust you and follow you with all my heart. Give me a strong faith and grant me the wisdom to choose and act in accordance with my faith. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 3:12-14
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, 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, September 21, 2016

Why Do You Eat with Sinners?

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 24:52-26:16
Luke 5:29-6:11
Psalm 9:7-12
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 5:29-32
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Insight:
Jesus was on a mission to restore and renew sinners. He spent time in the company of people who needed hope and recovery. Relationship is at the heart of redemption. A doctor cannot administer healing care without getting close to the patient. The way of Christ is not to pull away from sinners, but rather to pull sinners away from sin.

Response and Action:
I am so thankful for Jesus' saving mission toward me. I will take hold of the renewal and restoration he came to give. I will respond to Christ's call by repenting of my sin and pursuing righteousness. I will join Jesus in his redemptive mission toward sinners. I will reach out and build relationships with others in order to help them find healing and hope in Christ.

O Lord, thank you for your mercy toward me--a sinner. Thank you for coming to me as I was and as I am, because you have a vision for what I can be. Your love and mercy are life to me. In the saving name of Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Timothy 1:14-16
14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

Resources:
Eats with Sinners: Reaching Hungry People Like Jesus Did
by Aaron Chambers

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Praise to the Kind and Faithful Lord

Today's Reading:
Genesis 23:1-24:51
Luke 5:12-28
Psalms 9:1-6
 
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Focus Verses: Genesis 24:26-27
26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD, 27 saying, "Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master's relatives."

Insight:
When the time came for Isaac to have a wife, Abraham sent his most trusted servant to find a wife from among the kinsmen Abraham had left behind. The servant was extremely faithful to Abraham. On his journey, he displayed responsibility, focus, honesty, and faith, and he was continually in prayer. God blessed his way and gave him success.

Response and Action:
I want to be a faithful servant—faithful to God and to others. I want to approach the tasks and responsibilities God has given me with a whole heart. I need to avoid distractions, pray continually, and be faithful and honest. I want to approach my days, my tasks, and my challenges with a prayerful attitude and with eyes ready to see how God is providing.

O Lord, help me to be a good steward of all you have given me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me, by faith, to do the good things you've prepared in advance for me to do. To be fruitful, faithful, and effective as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, neighbor, and co-worker. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 25:23
23 "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

Resources:
How To Read Genesis
by Tremper Longman

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Lord Will Provide

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 20:1-22:24
Luke 4:31-5:11
Psalm 8:1-9

Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Genesis 22:13-14
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

Insight:
Abraham and Isaac believed that the God they followed and worshiped was the only true God. The devotion they had for their God was no less than the devotion the pagans around them had for their false Gods. If those worshiping pagan deities were willing to sacrifice their children to demonstrate complete devotion, Abraham was willing to do the same.

But the one true God proved himself to be nothing like the false Gods of the pagans. Those false God's were takers who demanded satisfaction. But the true God, the God of Abraham and Isaac, was and is a provider. He doesn't hurt and take away; he gives and protects.

God demands my all and asks me to lay down my life, but it is actually God who has given his Son, Jesus, to save me and give me life. Even as I surrender my all, God provides more than I have to give.

Response and Action:
Like Abraham, I want to be willing to give up anything for God. I want to demonstrate that my devotion to God is as whole-hearted as anyone else's devotion to anything else. I want to seek God above all else. I do not want anything or anyone to be a rival for my commitment to God. I am grateful that God is a giver. I rejoice that God is a giver and a provider, not a taker who diminishes me. Instead, as I offer him my all, he provides and blesses me and makes me more than I could ever be on my own.

O Lord, you are good and gracious to me. Thank you for Jesus who emptied himself for me and for all humanity. Help me to become like him in my attitudes and actions toward others. Help me to give grace more than I seek it; to love others more than I seek to be loved; to forgive others more than I ask for forgiveness; to understand others more than I seek to be understood. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 4:9-10
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Resources:
How To Read Genesis
by Tremper Longman

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Annointed to Preach Good News!

Today's Reading:
Genesis 18:16-19:38
Luke 4:1-30
Psalms 7:10-17
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Luke 4:18-21 
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Insight:
Jesus came preaching the good news, which had been promised and foretold by the prophet Isaiah. It was good news of healing, freedom, justice, and restoration. More than merely spiritual, philosophical, or religious, Jesus came to bring truth and deliverance that would bring about real change, recovery, and hope in the real world.

This good news was not just for Israel, but for all people everywhere. When the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, he reminded them that they were not the first to reject someone sent by God. In fact, the abuse and rejection of the prophets was typical in their history. They became outraged when he pointed out scriptural examples of non-Jews who, unlike them, were quicker to recognize God's power and truth.

Response and Action:
I recognize Jesus as good news. He is the hope of salvation. He brings forgiveness and restoration. He offers freedom from oppression and bondage. He is the proof of God's love and favor toward humanity. I will embrace the good news that Jesus embodies. My faith and hope are in him.

Not only will I receive the good news, I will commit myself to joining Jesus in preaching and living the good news of God. As a follower of Jesus, I must commit myself to bring peace, deliverance, health, justice, life, truth, and freedom to the world around me. To embrace Christ Jesus is to embrace his agenda for the world.

O God, you are holy and loving. Your love and holiness have been gloriously lived out on earth through Christ Jesus. Thank you for the good news Jesus has brought to the whole world. Help me to follow in his steps and to walk in the power of his Spirit, that I might live and preach the same good news. Help me to be an active agent and living witness of the freedom, restoration, and hope that are in Christ Jesus. May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 10:14-15
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Resources:
Kingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World
by Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Reading Schedule for September 18-24


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

Sunday, September 18 -
Genesis 18:16-19:38 / Luke 4:1-30
/ Psalm 7:10-17

Monday, September 19 -
Genesis 20:1-22:24
/ Luke 4:31-5:11 / Psalm 8:1-9

Tuesday, September 20  -
Genesis 23:1-24:51
/ Luke 5:12-28 / Psalm 9:1-6

Wednesday, September 21  -
Genesis 24:52-26:16
/ Luke 5:29-6:11 / Psalm 9:7-12

Thursday, September 22 -
Genesis 26:17-27:46
/ Luke 6:12-38 / Psalm 9:13-20

Friday, September 23 -
Genesis 28:1-29:35
/ Luke 6:39-7:10 / Psalm 10:1-11

Saturday, September 24-
Genesis 30:1-31:16
/ Luke 7:11-35 / Psalm 10:12-18

Is Anythig Too Hard for the Lord?

Today's Reading:
Genesis 16:1-18:15
Luke 3:23-38
Psalms 7:1-9
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Genesis 18:10-14
10 Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?" 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."
 

Insight:
Though Abraham and Sarah were very old and long past the age of having children. God promised them that Sarah would give birth to a son within the year. The thought was so outrageous to Sarah that she laughed out loud at the thought of it. From her limited human point of view, God's promise seemed laughable, but from God's point of view, nothing is too hard.

Response and Action:
I will trust God to keep his promises no matter how unimaginable they seem to be from my limited point of view. God can do more than I ask or imagine. I will put my complete trust in him.

O Lord, help me to believe your promises. Give me a heart that fully trusts in you. Strengthen me with power through your Spirit in me. Help me to trust you with all my heart and to not lean on my own understanding. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 3:20-21
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Resources:
The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative
by Christopher J. H. Wright