Tuesday, October 31, 2006

October 31 - My Response of Faith

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Leviticus 16 - 18
New Testament: Acts 2

Focus Verses:
Acts 2:38-41
38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Those who believed the message Peter was delivering about Jesus responded by being baptized. The believers devoted themselves to: 1) the teaching of the apostles, 2) fellowship with each other, 3) breaking bread, and 4) prayer.

Response and Action:
If I accept the testimony of the scripture about Jesus, I should respond and give witness to my faith through baptism. As a believer I should devote myself to the scriptures, live in fellowship with other believers, celebrate and remember Christ through the breaking of bread (holy communion), and pray.

I believe in you, Christ Jesus. My baptism was a testimony of that faith. Help me as I devote myself to the study of your written word, as I follow you in the company of believing friends, as I worship and break bread in Christian community, and as I take time for prayer. Amen.

Proverbs: 31:8
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute."

The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends
by Richard Lamb

Monday, October 30, 2006

October 30 - Living Inspiration

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Leviticus 14 - 15
New Testament: Acts 1

Focus Verses:
Acts 1:1-5
1In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

In just a few words of introduction, Luke says some very big things as he begins his account of the early church. 1) This book begins where his first book (The Gospel of Luke) ends. Presumably, it is written with the same care and values as his first book (see Luke 1:1-4). 2) Jesus' instruction to the apostles was inspired by God. 3) The apostles were chosen by Jesus. 4) Jesus spent significant time with these apostles after his resurrection -- 40 days of proofs and teaching. 5) Jesus told the apostles to remain in Jerusalem because their ministry would begin there as the Holy Spirit was given to them by the Father.

Response and Action:
Luke's account of these events is carefully assembled and is written with eyewitness perspective. The scriptures and practices of the early church are founded on the teachings of the apostles, through Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. The authority of scripture and of the apostles is from the risen Christ.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. He has spoken through the prophets. I accept the authority of Jesus the Christ, the teaching of his apostles, and the scriptures. I seek you, Lord, with all my heart. Don't let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Amen.

Proverbs: 30:4 - 5
"Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!

"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him."

The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God
by N.T. Wright

Sunday, October 29, 2006

October 29 - Loving and Following

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Leviticus 12 - 13
New Testament: John 21

Focus Verses:
John 21:17-19
The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." 18Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

During the arrest and trial of Jesus, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Now the resurrected Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Each time Peter affirms his love for Jesus, and Jesus says, "Take care of my sheep." Following Jesus requires a love for him above all else, participation in his ministry, and a heart to bring glory to God in life and in death.

Response and Action:
How many times do I deny or fail Jesus in the trials and tasks of daily life? For each and every time I do, I need to hear his voice asking, "Do you love me?" To love and follow Jesus, I must deny self. Jesus said, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt. 10:39) To love and follow Jesus, I must share in his ministry -- "Feed, care for, and shepherd his sheep." To love and follow Jesus, I must share in his suffering ("when you are old you will stretch out your hands") and face things that are beyond my choice and control, and yet give glory to God. As the Apostle Paul said, "whether by life or by death, may Christ be exalted in my body." (Phil. 1:20)

This day, O God, help me to love you more than all else. Help me to serve and share in the saving work of Christ. In every circumstance, every choice, every action, every temptation, and every trial, may I hear Jesus voice asking, "Do you love me more than these?" In every case, give me the grace to say "Yes, Lord, you know I love you," so that in life and even death I give you praise. Amen.

Proverbs: 29:25
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.


The Cost of Discipleship
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Saturday, October 28, 2006

October 28 - Beyond My Doubt

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Leviticus 9 - 11
New Testament: John 20

Focus Verses:
John 19:24-28
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

When the disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus, he found it difficult to be. Maybe they had seen someone or something else. He would have to see it for himself. He would have to hear his voice, see his face, and see the evidence of his crucifixion. When he sees Jesus, he is so sure it is true he says, "My Lord and My God!" This expression of praise and worship is even more meaningful to me knowing that it came from someone who found it difficult to believe. It's also worth noting that Jesus accepts Thomas's acclamation. If Jesus were not Lord and God, why would he allow Thomas to say such a thing? Jesus claim of deity and authority is implicit in his acceptance of Thomas's confession.

Response and Action:
My doubts and concerns are not too much for Jesus. God will meet me in my honest doubts and help me come to the truth. Faith is not opposed to reason. Humble reason may even lead me to faith.

O God, I believe in Jesus. Increase my faith and help me to deal with honest doubts. Help me to see Jesus and, as my eyes are opened, make me quick to confess him as Lord and God. Amen.

Proverbs: 28:26
He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.


God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt
by Os Guinness

Friday, October 27, 2006

October 27 - Jesus the King

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Leviticus 7 - 8
New Testament: John 19

Focus Verses:
John 19:16-22
16Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read:|JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." 22Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

Jesus was very straightforward in his claim to authority. In response to Pilate's questions and assertions, Jesus said, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world" (John 18:37). When Pilate, irritated at Jesus' silence, warns Jesus that he (Pilate) is a man of great authority, Jesus says, "You wouldn't have any authority if I didn't allow you to have it." The soldiers who mocked Jesus showed their understanding of Jesus' claim by turning symbols of kingship (crown, robe, scepter) into symbols of contempt. The Jews who handed Jesus over to Pilate said, "He claimed to be the Son of God." Pilate purposefully uses the word "King" to provoke and annoy them.

The "King" claims of Jesus seem to annoy people today too. How many people today would raise their voices in objection to Pilate and say, "Don't write King Jesus. Instead, write Teacher Jesus, or Prophet Jesus, or Philosopher Jesus, or maybe even Savior Jesus."

Response and Action:
Belief in Jesus requires the acceptance of his authority. He must be recognized as King.

I want Jesus to be the King of my life. I will commit myself to yielding to him in every choice, action, circumstance, opportunity, goal, direction, and relationship. In all my ways I need to acknowledge his authority over me -- his rightful place of leadership.

O God, help me to follow Jesus in thought, word, and deed. Help me to live in complete surrender to Christ. Help me to submit to his authority and to trust his loving and gracious reign as my king. Amen.

Proverbs: 27:10
As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man.


The Man Born to Be King
by Dorothy L. Sayers

Thursday, October 26, 2006

October 26 - Surrendering for Others

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Leviticus 4 - 6
New Testament: John 18
Focus Verses:
John 18:1 - 8
1When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.
Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. 4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?"
"Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.
Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." 8"I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go."

John's account of Jesus' arrest includes a very important detail missing from the other gospels. It also seems to be missing from most retellings of the story. I've never seen this detail depicted in any passion play, movie, or painting. I've rarely heard it talked about in sermons. I've actually had many Christians react with surprise when I point out this detail in John's eyewitness account.

When Judas leads a detachment of soldiers and officials from the chief priests and Pharisees (temple guard) to the garden to arrest Jesus, an amazing thing happens. Jesus asks, "Who are you looking for?" They reply, "Jesus the Nazarene." Jesus says, "I am he," and when he says those words, Judas and all the soldiers and officials, with their swords and lanterns and torches, fall to the ground.

This is an incredible display of Jesus' authority and the power of his word. He clearly would not have had to submit to arrest. No wonder Peter was so emboldened to strike out at a guard. Jesus made his point and asked for the release of his disciples (which was granted) and then submitted to arrest.

Response and Action:
Jesus clearly did not have to submit to arrest. This demonstrates his free and selfless choice to suffer the path to the cross and the cross itself for our sake and for our salvation. I will offer up my thanks to Christ Jesus today for the gift of salvation. As a follower of Jesus, I will surrender my life to God in service to others.

Help me, O God, to have the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus. He emptied himself and was obedient to death. Help me to empty myself and make choices to live for you, O Lord, and to serve others in the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs: 26:2
"Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest."

The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

October 25 - What Unity Can Say

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Leviticus 1-3
New Testament: John 17

Focus Verses:
John 17:25-26
20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

Jesus prayed for his followers to be united. Not just his disciples, but everyone who would believe their message. Unity among Jesus' followers will flow out of their unity with Jesus and the Father. When Christians live in unity, God is glorified, the world believes that Jesus is truly sent from God, and God's love for the world becomes known. If believers do not draw near to God and embrace Jesus' desire for his followers, unity will not be possible. Disunity dishonors God and diminishes any testimony of who Jesus is. God's love cannot be understood by the world if it is not displayed by those who claim to follow Christ.

Response and Action:
I want to experience unity with God and with other believers through Jesus. I will worship, study scripture, serve, pray, and obey God with the intention of knowing God and drawing near. I want to have unity with all Christ-followers through friendship, shared mission, shared worship, and mutual care and concern.

O God, give me, along with all true followers of Jesus, a heart and a will toward unity, so that you would be praised, that Jesus would be believed, and that your saving love would be received in all the world. Amen.

Proverbs: 25:25
Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.

Church: Why Bother?
by Philip Yancey

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

October 24 - Taking Heart in a Troubled World

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 39 - 40
New Testament: John 16:5 - 33

Focus Verses: John 16:33
33"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Jesus says these words in the context of imminent suffering and trouble. Jesus speaks of his arrest and crucifixion and the scattering of his disciples. Jesus would be abandoned by them, and they would be seized with fear. But Jesus also tells them that there will be joy on the other side of the grief, suffering, and fear (16:20-22). He tells them that trouble is a given in this world, but He is greater than the world. He can give peace and He has overcome.

Response and Action:
There is so much trouble in the world. Conflict, misunderstanding, hate, greed, fear, violence, disease, poverty, and the struggle for power are on display every day. You can see it in every newspaper, every place, and in every life. Jesus claims that he has overcome the world. He claims that he can give me peace even in this trouble world. He calls me to put my hope in him because in him I can persevere through the trouble and grief to a place of joy.

Dear Jesus, you I believe you came from the Father, that you lived among us full of grace and truth, that you died on the cross in order to open the way to life, that you rose from dead just as the scriptures promised, that you ascended into heaven, and that you are now seated at the right hand of the Father. I believe you have overcome the world. I will take heart as I live in this troubled world because my hope is in you. Help me to persevere and stand firm in you. By your grace, help me to overcome and be an instrument of joy and peace. Amen.

Proverbs: 24:10
"If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!"

Cries of The Heart
by Ravi Zacharias

Monday, October 23, 2006

October 23 - Fruitful Living

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 37 - 38
New Testament: John 15:1 - 16:4

Focus Verses: John 15:1-5
1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Jesus gives a metaphor for understanding life: God is the gardener, Jesus is the vine, and his followers are branches. A fruitful life is one that glorifies God by producing good deeds through a relationship with Jesus and adherence to his words. A healthy connection with Jesus produces much fruit. God, the gardener, tends the vine and prunes the branches to increase fruitfulness.

Response and Action:
I want my life to honor God and produce good fruit. I want to lead a righteous life and do the good things that result from following Jesus. I will make every effort to know and understand Jesus' teaching and follow his example. I will order my life in ways that connect to Jesus -- making him the center, the source, and the root for all I do. Because this is something that I want and God wants, I can expect God to be at work in my life, pruning and shaping me so that I can bear more fruit.

O Jesus, help me to have a strong and healthy connection with you. Help my life to grow out of yours. Help me to bear the fruit of righteousness in my marriage, my family, my work, my community, and my world. O Father, help me to trust you as you prune and shape my life toward fruitfulness that truly honors you. Amen.

Proverbs: 23:12
Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.

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

Sunday, October 22, 2006

October 22 - Provision and Peace

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 35-36
New Testament: John 14

Focus Verses: John 14:25-28
25"All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jesus promises his followers that God will send the Holy Spirit to them. The Holy Spirit, Jesus says, will teach them all things and remind them of all Jesus has spoken. The gift of the Holy Spirit is so much greater than anything the world has to offer or give. Christ's promises and the gift of his Spirit are a source of lasting and real peace. The Spirit is able to put the mind and heart at peace -- calming fears and dispelling anxiety.

Response and Action:
I will take hold of this promise Jesus has made to his followers. Jesus has made provision for me through the gift of the Holy Spirit -- the Spirit of Christ, sent from the Father. I will live with assurance, believing this promise, and look to the Holy Spirit for peace, understanding, wisdom, and hope. The Holy Spirit is able to help me remember all Jesus has said.

Thank you, Jesus, for this promise. Thank you, Father, for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, teach me, lead me, calm me, and direct me. Remind me of all Jesus has said and, by your power and grace, transform and strengthen me that I may walk in the way of Christ Jesus to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Proverbs: 22:11
He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend.

Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today
by John Stott

Saturday, October 21, 2006

October 21 - Loving Like Jesus

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 33-34
New Testament: John 13

Focus Verses: John 13:34-35
34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Jesus calls his followers to love each other. The love he commands is the same love he has exemplified. Following Jesus means loving like Jesus. This type of love is the true mark of the true disciple. 1 John 2:5-6 5 "But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."

Response and Action:
If I am to love others as Jesus loves, I will need to know and understand Jesus' love. I must read, study, and contimplate all that the scriptures reveal about his example of what love should be. I cannot emulate something I do not know. Since mature followers of Jesus should be loving as he loves, there is much to be gained from following their example too. I will pay attention to the lives and actions of those who have been following Christ for a long time. Those who are mature and committed and growing in their walk with Jesus are a tangible example of what Jesus' love looks like in my world. I will copy them as they copy Christ.

O Lord, help me to know and understand the love of Jesus. Help me to experience it. Help me to share it. Help me live out love in such a way that it is clear to all around me that I am following Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs: 21:3
To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

This is the Testimony: CSF Scripture Songs Vol. 1
John 13:34-35 Scripture Song

Friday, October 20, 2006

October 20 - Praying for Others

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 31-32
New Testament: John 12
Focus Verses: Exodus 32:31-32
31 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written."

In the midst of their idolatry and careless treachery against God, Moses calls the people of Israel to repentance. He boldly interceded for them and identified with them by asking God to forgive them of their sins, and, if that was not possible, to judge him (blot him out of God's book) right along with them.

Response and Action:
I need to humbly recognize that I am a sinner and to pray for others.

Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner. Help me to call people to truth and repentance. Help all who seek you to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil. When I see the sin of others, help me to be an intercessor for them -- not a judge, and not an observer. When I sin, raise up those who will pray for me and restore me. Help me to gently and prayerfully help others turn away from sin. Have mercy on us all, O God, and save us by your grace through Jesus. Amen.

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

Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight
by J. I. Packer

Thursday, October 19, 2006

October 19 - Here and Now

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 29-30
New Testament: John 11

Focus Verses:
John 11:21-27; 39-40
21"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." 39"Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." 40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

Martha believed in Jesus (v.27), and believed in the resurrection that would take place "at the last day." But what did her faith mean for her present? When Jesus asks them to remove the stone from Lazarus' tomb, Martha says, "No, wait!" Her first thought was not the possibility of her brother rising to life that day, but rather the grim reality of his death and the odor of his corpse. Martha believed in Jesus. She believed in the resurrection. But did she believe that power and possibility were for her present or only for "the last day" -- a hope for the distant future? Would she have said what she said if the possibility of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus had been foremost in her mind?

Response and Action:
I believe in Jesus. I believe in God's power to save and restore. Yet, my faith is a lot like Martha's. I believe in the resurrection God has promised for the "last day," but do I believe in resurrection power for my here and now? Romans 8 tells me that the same Spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead now indwells my mortal body. That means there are stones to be rolled away in my life today, and God's power to restore is available for me today. Do I believe in God's resurrection power for my here and now? Yes, I do!

O God, make your glory visible by raising me to life through Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life. In you I have hope for my future and for eternity. May I also have hope and faith for today. May my first thought in every need and situation be a hopeful thought because I believe in your power to save, restore, and transform all things today. Amen.

Proverbs: 19:23
The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

October 18 - My Good Shepherd

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 27-28
New Testament: John 10

Focus Verses: John 10:14-18
14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

Jesus says that he is the good shepherd. The reason he is good (and what the Father loves about his shepherding) is that he willingly lays down his life for his sheep. The account of Jesus' arrest in the garden, found later in the Gospel of John, clearly shows how Jesus' arrest and crucifixion would not have been possible apart from his willingness to lay down his life. Jesus was not a helpless victim of circumstance or overpowered by religious or polictical leaders. Jesus is the good shepherd. He willingly laid down his life for his followers. He also had the authority, by God's declaration, to raise it up again, which he did on the third day.

Response and Action:
Jesus is the good shepherd. I will follow him and yield to him. I will seek him with my whole heart and train my ear to hear and recognize his voice. I need his guidance in my life every day, as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, neighbor, pastor, and colleague. Guide me

Guide me, Good Shepherd, through your word, your people, your spirit, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Amen.

Proverbs: 18:24
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship
by N. T. Wright

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

October 17 - Cause and Effect

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 25-26
New Testament: John 9

Focus Verses: John 9:1-5
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

When the disciples see a man dealing with blindness, they ask Jesus a question that betrays their incredibly simplistic view of God and suffering. The man was blind so they assumed it was a punishment from God. They just wondered who exactly God was punishing, the man himself or his parents? Jesus answer indicates that the man's blindness has nothing whatsoever to do with sin. It wasn't something God had done to judge, but it WAS something God could undo as a display of his redemptive power and will to save.

Response and Action:
When things go wrong do I jump to the simplistic conclusion that it is somehow a judgement from God? While it is always good to consider how problems I face may be consequences from sin or errors on my part, it doesn't make sense to interpret every problem or hardship as some punishment from God. Sometimes hardships are just part of living in an imperfect world. Every hardship and weakness is an opportunity for God to display his redemptive and saving power in my life.

O God, you know the hardships and weaknesses I'm dealing with today. Help me to discern the difference between the consequences of sin and the ordinary hardships of life. In every weakness and need, I turn to you, O Lord, asking you to display your saving power to redeem and transform. Amen.

Proverbs: 17:3
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

Glorious Intruder: God's Presence in Life's Chaos
by Joni Eareckson Tada

Monday, October 16, 2006

October 16 - Claims to Reject or Accept

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 23-24
New Testament: John 8

Focus Verses:
John 8:12-13, 23-25
12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."13The Pharisees challenged him, "Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid."
23But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." 25"Who are you?" they asked. "Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied.

Jesus makes astounding claims and promises. He claims to be the light of life, to be from above, and to be the one who saves from sin. These claims must be dealt with -- they must be rejected or accepted. Is Jesus lying? Is he crazy? Is he misunderstood or misrpresented? Or is he telling the truth? Faith in Jesus means believing his claims.

Response and Action:
So many people argue that Jesus never claimed to be God, or the Son of God, or the Messiah, or the only way to be saved. These people have either never read the Gospel of John or doubt the reliability of the Gospel of John. John was clearly writing to present Jesus' claims and to convince people to believe them. I trust the reliability of scripture and accept Jesus' astounding claims. Now I have the opportunity to live by these claims and see if they prove to be true in my own experience.

I believe your claims, Jesus. I will keep you claims and promises clearly before me as I read and study scripture and apply it to my life. Help me to experience the truth of your claims in my life and I follow you in faith. Fill me with life and light. Confirm the truth of your claims as I walk with you each day. I will keep my eyes and ears open for everything that validates your claims. Show yourself to be true in my daily life, O God. Amen.

Proverbs: 16:6
6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.

Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message
by Ravi Zacharias

Sunday, October 15, 2006

October 15 - Flowing from Within

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 21-22
New Testament: John 7

Focus Verses: John 7:37-39
37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Jesus stands up on the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles and offers "living water" for all who are thirsty. He says, "Come to me and drink." He promises that belief in him will result in a stream of living water flowing from within the believer. "From" and "within!" The Spirit that Jesus was offering would well up within the innermost part of the believer's being and flow outward.

Response and Action:
Faith in Jesus is the solution for my thirsty heart. How can I come to Jesus and drink? I can come to before him in worship and surrender. I can read and take in his teachings recorded in scripture. I can reflect on his many interactions with people recorded in the gospels. I can call out to him in prayer. I can obey him, heed his warnings, cling to his promises, and follow his example. For years and years I have coming to Jesus in these ways and I have indeed found cool water for my soul.

Oh God, thank you for Jesus. Keep the cool and living water of the Spirit he gives flowing in my being. May that stream not only satisfy my thirst, may it also flow out of me and be a source of life and hope to everyone around me. Help me to be a blessing to my family, friends, and neighbors through the living stream of your Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs: 15:30
30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

Streams of Living Water
by Richard Foster

Saturday, October 14, 2006

October 14 - Words of Life

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 19-20
New Testament: John 6

Focus Verses: John 6:63-69
63"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." 66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

Many people stopped following and believing Jesus when his words were difficult to understand or accept. Peter's statement of faith is both profound and pragmatic. "Lord, where else can we go?"

Response and Action:
Jesus' words are spirit and life. Where else can I go for life and hope? Who else is offering me anything remotely as rich and meaningful and compelling as Jesus? I will take in and absorb and delight in Jesus' words. I will abide in them. I will not stop listening to him or turn away from him when his words are hard to understand or accept.

"Where else can I go? Why would I follow the blind? Who else would I listen to? How else can I find the way and the truth? Where else can I turn? What other place would I go? How else can I ever learn? Who else do I know with the words of life? So many voices are calling and so many hands point the way, but only one hand can raise me on the final day. I'm looking to you and believing all you have said is true. I know you were sent from the Father; I know he has drawn me to you."
(From "Words of Life" on the CD "So Far to Go" © 2002 by Sonoluma)

Proverbs: 14:15
15 A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.

So Far to Go (Music CD)
by Dave Burkum

Friday, October 13, 2006

October 13 - Crossing Over

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 17-18
New Testament: John 5

Focus Verses: John 5:24-27
24"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man."

Faith in Jesus is the escape from death and the way to eternal life. Jesus, the Son of God, can raise the dead with the sound of his voice. He has been given the authority to give life and the authority to judge.

Response and Action:
I want life and hope. The scriptures tell me that belief in Jesus is the way to cross over from death to life. Real belief is more than thoughts and more than words, it is committing my life to Christ. If he is the bridge, I must do more than look at the bridge and say I believe in it. I must leave the ledge and start walking, surrendering to my faith in that bridge to hold me as I walk. What ledges am I holding on to? Do I really trust Jesus? Do I trust his way to be the sure way? Will I cross over to life in new ways today?
O God, you have given your Son the power and authority to save and change lives. Help me to hear your voice; raise me from my deadness and give me life through Christ. I have faith in Jesus. Increase my faith! Search me, try me, and know my anxious thoughts. Lead me in the everlasting way. Amen.

Proverbs: 13:14
14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.

Can Man Live without God
by Ravi Zacharias

Thursday, October 12, 2006

October 12 - Real Satisfaction

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 15-16
New Testament: John 4

Focus Verses: John 4:13-14
13Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Jesus is the Messiah. He saves and shows us the Father. He is the source of real satisfaction. Earthly and temporal things may satisfy for a moment or a day, but Jesus satisfies forever. He not only quenches the soul's thirst, he plants a spring of living water that wells up from within the soul and lasts for eternity.

Response and Action:
I want contentment, peace, and satisfaction. Doesn't everyone? Very few things in this world satisfy, and those that do only seem to satisfy for a moment. Where am I looking for soul satisfaction? What things am I turning to? None of them will satisfy like Jesus.

O Lord Jesus, be my vision. Be the object of my deepest desires. Draw me nearer to you. help me to know you more. Help me to remember that only you can truly satisfy. Help me to find peace and fullness in you. May your presence in my life be a spring of satisfaction in my heart and soul.

Proverbs: 12:28
28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

The Satisfied Heart
by Ruth Myers

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

October 11 - The Light

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 13-14
New Testament: John 3

Focus Verses: John 3:16-19
16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."

Jesus' words to Nicodemus are very straightforward. "The Son" is God's plan for saving the world. Salvation comes through believing in the Son. Condemnation is not the penalty for rejecting the Son. Rather, condemnation is where we are until we are saved by the Son. Jesus, God's Son, is the one who rescues us from darkness and condemnation.

Response and Action:
I want to take hold of God's gift of salvation. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. My faith in Jesus draws me into his light. I want to turn away from evil and do what is right. I want to reflect the light of Christ in my world so that others can believe in Him too. O Lord, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Help me to walk in the light and Jesus is in the light. Help my life to be a light and witness of Jesus' power to save and transform. Amen.

Proverbs: 11:30
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.

Becoming a Christian
by John Stott

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

October 10 - Reasonable Faith

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 10-12
New Testament: John 2

Focus Verses: John 2:11, 23
11This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
23Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.

The miracles of Jesus were very important to his earliest followers and believers. The miracles were taken as powerful evidence for his claims of deity and messiahship. The power seen in his miracles gave credibility to his claims of authority.

Response and Action:
The testimony of scripture gives evidence to the experiences and beliefs of the earliest followers of Jesus. These eyewitnesses accepted Jesus' claim of authority because of the miracles they saw him perform. The widespread response of faith in Jesus as the Christ demonstrates that the miracles were not the illusions of a few misled wishful thinkers. By the time of his resurrection from the dead, the testimony of his power and authority were so great that thousands upon thousands placed their faith in him. This overwhelming response and testimony of the earlist believers is a source of credibility for me. I cannot imagine how Jesus could elicit such a response of faith from so many if his miraculous power was not real.
Lord Jesus, my faith is in you. Help me to experience your power and see your authority as I follow you. Strenthen my faith and give me reasons to believe. Amen.

Proverbs: 10:17
17 He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Letters from a Skeptic
by Greg Boyd

Monday, October 09, 2006

October 9 - Know Jesus, Know God

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 8-9
New Testament: John 1

Focus Verses: John 1:18
18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

Jesus is God and is with God. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (Jn. 1:14) Jesus' revealing God and truth is a major theme in the Gospel of John.

Response and Action:
Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). The more I know Jesus, the more I will know God. I must do everything possible to know Jesus. Jesus is the best and most reliable source for knowing God. Dear God, help me to know Jesus through your Spirit, your word, your church, and your people. I want to know you God. Thank you for Jesus who shows me who you are and makes it possible for me to have a relationship with you.

Proverbs: 9:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Who Is this Jesus?
by Michael Green

Sunday, October 08, 2006

October 8 - Turning to the Scriptures

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Exodus 5-7
New Testament: Luke 24

Focus Verses: Luke 24:25-27
25He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ[b] have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

When the disciples failed to recognize Jesus, he did not immediately tell them who he was. Instead, he asked them what they were thinking and feeling. He then turned them to the testimony of scripture. He wanted them to see how the scriptures accurately explained who he was and what would happen to him. He helped them see the reliability scripture and demonstrated the importance scripture for all who want to understand and recognize him.

Response and Action:
I must make time in God's word and priority in my daily life. O God, thank you for your written word. Thank you that your Spirit has spoken through the prophets. Help me to be a person of the Word. I want to read, study, memorize, and know the scriptures. As I hide your word in my heart, please help me to better recognize and know Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs: 8:33-34
33 Listen to my (wisdom's) instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. 34 Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

Can I Trust the Bible?
by Darrell Bock