Thursday, November 30, 2006
Deuteronomy 29 - 31
Focus Verses: Romans 4:18-25
18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Abraham recognized that the things God promised he could do for him and through him would only be possible by God's power. Abraham believed God had the power to keep his promises. This faith is essential for righteousness.
Response and Action:
Like Abraham, faith is essential for me to be righteous -- faith that Jesus died for my sins and was raised to life for my justification. I recognize my own weakness and inability to be what God has called me to be, but I also recognize God's power to keep his promises. I believe that God has begun a good work in me and that he will be faithful to complete what he has started.
O God, I believe that for my sake Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures. Because I believe in his resurrection, I believe you have the power to keep your promises to me. By the power of your Holy Spirit, O God, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.
"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him."
by Beth Moore
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 27 - 28
New Testament: Romans 3
Focus Verses: Romans 3:19-24
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
No one can stand before God and say, "I have not sinned." Everyone has sinned. All have fallen short of the glory of God. No one will be declared righteous in God's sight by perfectly obeying the law, because no can keep the law perfectly. Since no one completely obeys the law, the law serves to show us how sinful we really are and how much we need to be saved by Jesus. This salvation is possible by faith in Christ.
Response and Action:
I understand that I am a sinner. The more I understand God's righteous law, the more I understand my need to be saved. My faith is in Christ Jesus; my redemption is made possible by his grace.
Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner. Thank you for the hope of redemption that is mine through Christ. Help me to grow in my salvation -- to be transformed and more obedient to your will each day. Amen.
"An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad."
The Smell of Sin: And the Fresh Air of Grace
by Don Everts
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 23 - 26
New Testament: Romans 2
Focus Verses: Romans 2:13; 21-23
13For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 21you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?
It is not enough to hear God's law, or understand it, or teach it, or preach it. We must obey it, act upon it; we must do it.
Response and Action:
Morality and righteousness must be lived out. It is important to know the scriptures and grow in my understanding of all God calls me to be and do. I will need more than knowledge; I will need God's grace and the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit. Righteousness comes by faith in Christ Jesus who makes God's grace and Spirit available to me.
O God, teach me your ways and show me your path. Guide me in your truth and lead me. My hope is in you all day long. I want to be more than a hearer and a knower; I want to be a doer of the word. Help me, through faith and by your grace, to do the good things you have prepared for me to do. I ask this in the name of Jesus, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
"He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe."
Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
by Dallas Willard
Monday, November 27, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 20 - 22
New Testament: Romans 1
Focus Verses: Romans 1:8-12
8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. 11I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.
The first chapter of Romans is so loaded with important statements and huge theological concepts that Paul's relationship with the people he addresses and his pastoral affection for them might be overlooked. He thanked God for them; he constantly remembered them in prayer; he longed for an opportunity to see them face-to-face and spend time with them; he wanted to encourage them in their faith and impart a spiritual blessing upon them; he longed to be encouraged by them. He is very expressive and careful to communicate his affection for them.
Response and Action:
I want to have meaningful and precious relationships with my Christian brothers and sisters. I will cultivate my Christian friendships by following Paul's example. I will thank God for my Christian friends and be intentional about praying for them. I will seize opportunities to spend time with them. When we are together, I will consciously look for ways to be a spiritual blessing to them. I will make an effort to encourage them in their walk with Christ and look to them for encouragement. I will also communicate my affection for them in my words and actions.
Thank you, loving God, for the Christian people you have placed in my life. Bless them and help them to grow stronger in you with each passing day. Help me to be a true friend and blessing to them. Help me to encourage them and make the most of every opportunity I have to spend time with them. May our life in you and our walk with Christ Jesus be enriched by our times spent together. Amen.
"Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you— better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away."
Making Friends & Making Them Count
by D. Mason Rutledge
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 17 - 19
New Testament: Acts 28
Focus Verses: Deuteronomy 17:18-20
18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
The law of Moses anticipated the day when Israel would have a king. The king was expected to revere God and to study and follow the law of Moses. As a tool toward this end, the king was expected to write out a copy of the entire law with his own hand. This not only assured that the king would read and think about every word of the law, it also removed any excuse of ignorance. The king could not claim to be ignorant of something he had written out with his own hand.
Response and Action:
Familiarity with written scripture is an important help toward living with reverence for God and living according his commands. Taking time to memorize and write out verses of scripture can help me know what God is like, what he has commanded, and what he has promised. I will read, study, memorize, sing, and copy scripture as ways to hide God's word in my heart.
O God, how can a person keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I will make every effort to hide your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Amen.
"Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."
by D. Mason Rutledge
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 14 - 16
New Testament: Acts 27
Focus Verses: Deuteronomy 15:7-11
7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
One of the truly astounding aspects of the Mosaic law is the concern for the welfare of the widow, orphan, slave, and alien. God expected his people to live with compassion, concern, and generosity toward those who were in need. Those who were doing well were to see their wellbeing as a blessing from God. They were expected to give "without a grudging heart" and to be "openhanded" to the poor. There will always be someone in need, so those who are in a position to help must always be ready and willing to do so. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).
Response and Action:
Do I have concern for those who are in need? Do I have compassion for those who are in circumstances that lead to poverty? If so, how do I demonstrate this compassion and concern? I must be ready to pitch in and give when someone around me is in need. I should also encourage my church family to be ready to meet practical needs within our fellowship and in the community around us. I can also be an advocate for social programs on the local, state, and federal level, that are directed toward meeting the needs of the poor and the alien. I must be realistic about poverty; it is persistent and ongoing. My concern for those in poverty must likewise be persistent and ongoing.
O God, you have been so gracious and generous to me. Give me a heart like you -- compassionate toward the poor and generous to the needy. Give me the attitude of Christ Jesus, who emptied himself for my sake. Help me to be cheerful and openhanded as I share the blessings you've given me with those who are in need. Amen.
"If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit."
Practical Justice: Living Off-center in a Self-centered World
by Kevin Blue
Friday, November 24, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 11 - 13
New Testament: Acts 25:23 - 26:32
Focus Verses: Acts 26:22-27
22But I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles." 24At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. "You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane." 25"I am not insane, most excellent Festus," Paul replied. "What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do."
When Paul testifies before King Agrippa, he explains that belief in the possibility of resurrection does not contradict his own Jewish beliefs or background. Even as a Pharisee Paul would have accepted that possibility. He admits that early on, he too opposed the Christians, in fact he was obsessed with opposing them, until one day he came face to face with the resurrected Jesus himself. Paul tells Agrippa that he is now convinced that the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection are exactly what Moses and prophets said would happen. What's more, Paul says that he is sure Agrippa is already familiar with the accounts of Jesus' resurrection, because none of the things he was describing were "done in a corner."
Response and Action:
What could turn a Pharisee who opposed the followers of Jesus to become an ambassador for Jesus? 1) The realization that Jesus' resurrection was consistent with his faith in God; 2) seeing that the suffering and resurrection of Jesus were consistent with Jewish prophecy; 3) a face-to-face personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus; and, 4) the wide-spread testimony of many others who had also seen and encountered the resurrected Christ.
O God, I believe that you have the power of life and death. Resurrection is not too difficult for you. I see from reading scripture that Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection are perfectly consistent with prophecy. My own walk with Jesus has confirmed and strengthened my faith. The countless testimonies of people throughout history and around the world serve to increase my belief. May the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead raise and transform my life. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.
"Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. "
Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics
by William Lane Craig
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 8 - 10
New Testament: Acts 25:1-22
Focus Verses: Acts 25:18-21
18When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar."
The veracity of the resurrection story has always been at the heart of the Christian message. To accept that message is to accept the resurrection of Jesus. Luke's frank account of Paul's testimony before Festus and Agrippa illustrates this. Festus understood that Paul's entire message and worldview hinged on his claim that "a dead man named Jesus" was now alive. Such a claim was seen as a threat by the Jews of his day, and superstitious by the Romans. Paul did not make this claim and expect people to make a blind leap of faith. He reasoned with them, gave testimony, and made a case for why he believed accepting the resurrection of Jesus was perfectly sensible.
Response and Action:
I must grapple with the claims of Jesus' resurrection. Everyone who encounters the message of Jesus must deal with this incredible claim. It may seem threatening, unreasonable, or anti-intellectual to believe such a thing, but it must be faced head on. If Jesus is dead, then Christianity is also dead. If he is alive, then Christianity is alive. The hope of transformation and new life offered by Christianity is dependent on the resurrection of Jesus being factual and historical. I must give serious and careful consideration to the resurrection claims of Christianity. I will not dismiss it out of hand. Is it reasonable to believe such an amazing thing? Is there enough evidence and/or substantive testimony to make faith in the resurrection an honest and reasonable choice? I believe there is. Even as a believer, I will continue to scrutinize and think about this central claim of Christianity. I will encourage others, both Christians and non-Christians alike, to do the same.
O God, I believe that, for my sake, Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. I believe that he suffered death, was buried, and rose again, in accordance with the scriptures. Help me, like Paul, to think clearly about the resurrection and to have reasons for what I believe. Help me to be able to discuss the resurrection in clear and reasonable ways with others who are wrestling with whether or not to believe. Amen.
"My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right."
Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?: The Resurrection Debate
by Gary R. Habermas, Antony G. N. Flew, and Terry L. Miethe
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 5 - 7
New Testament: Acts 24
Focus Verses: Deut. 6:10-13
10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
Moses reminds the Israelites that the abundance and blessing they are going to experience, as they enter the land he has promised, do not result from their own efforts or strength. God is the one who has delivered them from Egypt, sustained them in their journey, and brought them into the land he promised. God is to be thanked, worshipped, served, and honored.
Response and Action:
Blessings may be a snare to me if I lose sight of the source of those blessings. When things are going well and I am experiencing abundance, I must be diligent to remember that it is the Lord who is blessing me. I must be careful to not let blessings be a source of pride or a false sense of self-security. God is the one who blesses and provides. I will give him my thanks, worship, service, praise, and love.
O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. May I always remember to give you thanks. Help me to never allow the blessing and provision you provide to become a distraction from you. I am powerless apart from your blessing and provision. O God, you are my God, I will seek you earnestly. Amen.
"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all."
The Good of Affluence: Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth
by John R. Schneider
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 3 - 4
New Testament: Acts 22:30 - 23:35
Focus Verses: Deuteronomy 4:5-9
5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? 9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Moses instructs the Israelites to observe carefully all the laws and commands God had revealed to them. Their obedience would serve as a witness to the nations around them. He also told them to keep a close watch on themselves, to remember all they had seen, to keep these experiences in the hearts, and to teach all the commands and experiences to their children.
Response and Action:
I need to know God's laws and commands; I will study the Scriptures. I need to keep a close eye on myself; I will practice self-examination. I need to be a testimony to the people around me and carefully teach my children in the ways of the Lord.
O God, help me to know and understand your written word and hide it in my heart. Help me to grow in Christ as I continue to examine my ways and follow you more closely each day. Make my life a testimony of your goodness to people around me. Help me to be effective as I teach your ways to my children. Amen.
"There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD."
Character Witness: How Our Lives Can Make a Difference in Evangelism
by Christine Wood
Monday, November 20, 2006
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 1 - 2
New Testament: Acts 21:37 - 22:29
Focus Verses: Deuteronomy 2:7
"7 The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything."
God took care of the Israelites during all their travels in the wilderness, even though their wandering in the wilderness was a punishment for lack of faith and obedience. God did not abandon his children or fail to meet their needs.
Response and Action:
My failures to believe in God or obey God can result in missed blessings and a more difficult journey. Even when God's hand of discipline or punishment is on me, he will not abandon me or fail to provide for me.
O God, make me quick to obey you and strong in faith toward you. Thank you for being faithful to take care of me even when I fail you. Be my guide, my strength, and my provider, by the power grace of your Spirit, through Christ Jesus. Amen.
"Do not say, 'I'll pay you back for this wrong!' Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you."
Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts
by Jerry Bridges
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 33 - 35
New Testament: Acts 21:1 - 36
Focus Verses: Acts 21:1-6
1After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. 2We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 3After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 6After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.
In the last verses of Acts 20 we see Paul, his companions, and the Ephesian elders near the ship he was about to board. We see them kneeling to pray, weeping, and embracing. Then, in chapter 21, we see something similar when the ship stops to unload cargo in Tyre. Paul and his entourage, having stayed with Christians for seven days, kneel down on the beach to pray with the disciples and their wives and their children.
Response and Action:
I am struck with how natural and matter-of-fact Luke is in his recounting of these open displays of Christian love and prayer in what must have been decidedly public places. It does not seem like Paul and his companions and disciples were making any special effort to be noticed in public. They seem to be genuine displays of fellowship and affection that just happen to be in public -- not unlike many affectionate good-byes I have seen in airports. What impresses me today, as I read this passage, is how there was also no special effort by Paul and the disciples to protect the public from seeing not only their open affection for each other, but also their faith in God, as demonstrated through kneeling in prayer. When I am with my family and friends in public, I am going to feel free to be open about my affection for them and our shared faith in God. I don't need to protect the public from genuine displays of faith such as a prayer with a friend or grace before a meal.
O God, help me to live out my love and faith in everyday ways. Help me to be as open about my love for you in public places as I would be about giving a loved one a good-bye hug in an airport. My love for Jesus and for family and for fellow Christians is not something I need to protect people from seeing. Amen.
"The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble."
Living the Story: Biblical Spirituality for Everyday Christians
by R. Paul Stevens and Michael Green
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 30 - 32
New Testament: Acts 20
Focus Verses: Acts 20:23-27
25"Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. 34You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.
Paul reminds the leadership of the Ephesus church of how he led when he was with them. His ministry was selfless, Christ-centered, and motivated by his heart to work for their best interest. He did not diminish the message (v.27), distort the truth (v.30), seek followers for himself (v.30), or work for his own financial gain (v.33). He warns them that they must guard even themselves, because it is leaders like them ("from your own number" v. 30) who are potentially the biggest threat to their church.
Response and Action:
Leaders need to be held to high standards. Paul's warning to the Ephesian elders gives me some practical guidance for evaluating leadership and discerning whether or not a leader should be followed. 1) Self-examination is a trait of a good leader. A good leader is humble and open to questions and concerns about his/her leadership. 2) A good leader will not diminish or distort the truth of scripture in order to gain followers. 3) A good leader will point followers to Christ, not collect followers for him/herself. 4) A good leader puts more confidence in the grace of God (v.32) than his/her ability to lead. 5) A good leader is not motivated by personal gain or status.
O God, you are the True Shepherd. Help me to be discerning of leaders. Help me to only follow those who help me follow you. Protect me, and your church, from those who position themselves as shepherds but are actually hurting the flock for personal gain. Help me to be humble, selfless, and full of integrity so that I may honor you and serve the best interests of others in every opportunity I have to lead. Help me to approach all leadership opportunities as a sacred trust. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.
"An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment. A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions."
Basic Christian Leadership: Biblical Models of Church, Gospel And Ministry
by John Stott
Friday, November 17, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 27 - 29
New Testament: Acts 19
Focus Verses: Acts 19:23-27
23About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."
In Acts 19, Luke gives an account of Paul's efforts to take the message of Jesus to the people of Ephesus. There he encounters a wide variety of opportunities and opposition. In one short chapter we see him in the synagogue (religious Jews), in the lecture hall (academics and philosophers), confronting those who practiced sorcery (superstitious), and opposed by those who were followers of Artemis (pagan worship) and by those who profited from the followers of Artemis. The message of Jesus was dangerous, according to Demetrius the silversmith, because it would subvert their world.
Response and Action:
Demetrius worded his opposition as a defense of the goddess Artemis, but it seems pretty clear that his greatest concern was the profits he would lose if Artemis worship was to stop. I need to remember that opposition to the message of Jesus might be worded in one way, but actually be rooted in something altogether different. The message of Jesus is dangerous. To accept the truth of Christ may indeed require the loss of profits, the change of career (Demetrius), the burning of a book (sorcery), the risk of seeming less than intellectual (lecture hall), and the turning away from centuries of tradition (synagogue).
Almighty God, help me to recognize the false and selfish "reasons" I may be using to justify half-hearted discipleship. And as I share the message of Jesus with those around me, help me to remember that it may not sound like good news -- in fact, it may sound dangerous and threatening as it challenges lifestyles, beliefs, and practices. Help me to respond to the real reasons people oppose the message of Jesus, not necessarily the spoken reasons. In all conversations, give me grace and charity. Give me the humility and integrity to be honest about the ways Jesus challenges me too. Amen.
"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart."
Six Dangerous Questions to Transform Your View of the World
by Paul Borthwick
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 25 - 26
New Testament: Acts 18
Focus Verses: Acts 18:27-28
27When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
Apollos was from Alexandria, Egypt, the second most important city in the Roman Empire, a center of academic excellence, and home to a large Jewish population. He was very educated (v.24), a passionate speaker (v.25), and a skillful debater (v.28). He would have certainly been conversant in Western thought, Hebrew Scriptures, and dominant world-views of his day. His education and ability to communicate effectively and persuasively made him a "great help" to believers.
Response and Action:
Christians who are well-educated, critical thinkers, strong communicators, knowledgeable of scripture, and instructed in the way of the Lord Jesus, can be a great help to other believers. I am very thankful for the wonderful help I have received from intelligent and articulate people like C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Darrell Bock, Ravi Zacharias, John Stott, James Sire, and many others. I want to grow in my understanding of the world, the scriptures, religion, philosophy, history, and theology.
Lord Jesus, help me to love you with all my mind. Strengthen my faith through learning, and help me to be an encouragement and source of insight to others. Amen.
"Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD. The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction."
Discipleship of the Mind: Learning to Love God in the Ways We Think
by James W. Sire
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 22 - 24
New Testament: Acts 17
Focus Verses: Acts 17:2-3
2As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said.
The apostle Paul reasoned with people. He reasoned with Jews and Gentiles, idol worshippers and philosophers, educated and illiterate. He reasoned in many places, from the synagogues to the public square. He reasoned from the Hebrew scriptures (17:2); his listeners' reading and examination of the scriptures (17:11); inscriptions on pagan altars that indicate a sense of God's presence and direction (17:23); the beauty and order of creation (17:24); the human desire to seek out God (17:27-28); the allusions to God that are present even in pagan poetry (17:28); the flawed logic of worshipping man made things and ideas (17:29); and the resurrection of Jesus (17:31).
Response and Action:
Faith is not opposed to reason. In fact, it is doubtful that anyone can truly believe in anything that does not appeal to reason in some way. Reasonable people believe all kinds of things that are not provable in a a strictly scientific way. Are there reasons to believe in Jesus? Yes. I believe that Jesus is the Christ because it is reasonable to do so. The scriptures, the witness of many people through the ages, the counsel of others, and even my own personal experiences give me reasons to believe.
Dear Lord, strengthen my faith by helping me to thoughtfully and critically examine my own reasons for believing in Jesus. Help me to always be ready to give answers and reasons for why I believe Jesus is the Christ. Help me to reason honestly, humbly, and thoughtfully with others who are exploring life's big questions and the claims of Jesus. Amen.
Proverbs: 15:2, 23
"The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly."
"A man finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!"
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
by N.T. Wright
Old Testament: Numbers 20 - 21
New Testament: Acts 16
Focus Verses: Acts 16:29-34
29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.
What would make this jailor ask, "What must I do to be saved?" Was it the hymns he heard Paul and Silas singing? Was it the way they conducted themselves as prisoners? Was it a the fact that they stopped him from killing himself? And was it a miracle that none of the prisoners had escaped when an earthquake shook the prison doors open and the prisoners chains were loosed? When the question was asked, Paul and Silas instructed him to "Believe in the Lord Jesus." The Philippian jailor probably had absolutely no idea who Jesus was, so Paul and Silas "spoke the word of the Lord" to him.
Response and Action:
What brings people to a place where they sense their spiritual need and cry out for salvation? There are so many influences. It could be something as simple as the lyrics of a song. It could be the difference they see Jesus making in someone's life. It could be a sense of wonder. It could be a kindness. When they ask, I need to be ready to point them to Jesus. They may not have a clue about who he is or what it means to believe in him. I need to be ready to "speak the word of the Lord" to them.
O God, may the words of my mouth and the actions of life be a testimony of the difference you make in the lives of those who believe in Jesus. When people around me become aware of their need for your salvation and love, help me to point them to Jesus and speak words of life. Amen.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
Speaking of Jesus: How to Tell Your Friends the Best News They Will Ever Hear
by J. Mack Stiles
Monday, November 13, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 17 - 19New Testament: Acts 15
Focus Verses: Acts 15:36-41
36Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." 37Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement about John Mark. Paul was disappointed with John Mark, because of his failure with them in Pamphylia, and didn't want to risk the same thing happening again. Barnabas, however, wanted to give John Mark another chance. This should not have surprised Paul, since it was Barnabas who had stood up for him in the early days of his own Christian faith when none of the disciples wanted to give him a chance. They disagreed and parted company, because it seemed like the only way they could both do what they believed needed to be done. Paul needed to pursue his apostolic priority and Barnabas needed to pursue his pastoral priority.
Response and Action:
Christians can disagree with each other. People who work well together in one season may need to part ways in the next. Priorities and perspectives can change. It is important to be gracious and humble about such disagreements. Each of us needs to seek God's guidance and follow it with integrity. We must also grant others the freedom and respect they need to do the same.
O God, help me to live in peace and harmony with others. Help me to be gracious when disagreements arise. Help me to graciously stand my ground and live within my convictions even if it means a parting of the ways with others. As I seek to draw near to you, help me to grow closer to others who seek to draw near to you. Amen.
"Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice."
The Mark of the Christian
by Francis Schaeffer
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 15 - 16
New Testament: Acts 14
Focus Verses: Acts 14:14-18
14But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15"Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." 18Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
The good news Paul and Barnabas proclaimed to the people of Lystra was that the true God who made heaven and earth was showing himself to them. The living God was calling them to come to him and to turn away from worthless things. Paul explained that the worship of false Gods resulted from a long history of nations ignoring the witness God had given them and going their own way instead. Paul pointed to creation and God's abundant provision as witnesses of his kindness to them.
Response and Action:
The good news is that God is calling people to himself. In proclaiming this good news, it is important to help people see evidence of the true and living God who is already at work among them with love and kindness. It is also necessary to help them recognize what is false and worthless.
O Living and True God, I want to be responsive to your invitation. Help me to turn away from all that is worthless and false. Help me to recognize the evidences of your truth and kindness toward me. As I respond and surrender to you, help me to share this good news with others. Help me be a witness of your truth and kindness. Help me to humbly and gently expose falsehoods and point others to you. Amen.
"A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies."
Growing Your Faith By Giving It Away: Telling The Gospel Story With Grace And Passion
by R. York Moore
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 13 - 14
New Testament: Acts 13
Focus Verses: Numbers 13:26-33
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan."
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."Insight:
All of the spies Moses had sent to scout out Canaan agreed that the land was good -- flowing with milk and honey. All of the spies saw that the inhabitants of the land were powerful and that conquering them would be very difficult. Because Caleb and Joshua saw themselves in the light of God's promises and power, they believed the land could be taken. The other ten could only see their own weaknesses and fears and therefore became "like grasshoppers" in their own eyes.
Response and Action:
Life is filled with challenges and opportunities that I am unable to face in my own strength. If I fail to remember God's promises and strength, I become a grasshopper in my own eyes. To forget God is to diminish my life and to miss great opportunity and blessing. I must hold every possibility, choice, and potential up to the light of God's promise and call for my life. With God, all things are possible.
Almighty God, I am painfully aware of my weaknesses and limitations. Make me even more aware of your strength and boundless grace. Help me to lean on you in every circumstance and believe in your power to sustain and support me. Guide me and give me courage to do whatever is necessary to follow your leading. Amen.
"The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires."
Strength for the Journey: Day-by-Day with Jesus
by Joseph Stowell
Friday, November 10, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 11 - 12
New Testament: Acts 12
Acts 12:3-5; 8-9; 13-15a
3When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
------- 8Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. ------- 13Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" 15"You're out of your mind," they told her.
Herod began persecuting Christians and arrested Peter. The church was praying earnestly for Peter. Peter was undoubtedly praying earnestly about his own situation too. So why are these people, engaged earnest prayer, so surprised when Peter is rescued? Peter thought he was having a dream. When he knocked on the door of the place where all the disciples were praying, no one seemed to anticipate the possibility that it could be Peter.
Response and Action:
When I cry out to God in times of need, I should be fully prepared for him to answer my prayer and grant my request. No one is more prepared to face trials and hardships of life than a follower of Christ. No one has more reason to expect help and intervention in difficult times than a follower of Christ. I will make my requests known to God. I will be fully open to the prospect of his answer to my prayer to be more than I can ask or imagine. I will pray expectantly.
O Father, thank you that I can pour out my heart and lift up my needs and concerns to you. I cast all my cares upon you, knowing that you care for me. I have confidence in you. Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cries for help, my King and my God. In the morning, you hear my prayer. In the morning, I lay my requests before you. In the morning, I wait in expectation. Amen.
"The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked."
Praying to the God You Can Trust
by Leith Anderson
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Old Testament: Numbers 9 - 10
New Testament: Acts 11
Focus Verses: Numbers 9:17-23
17 Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. 18 At the LORD's command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19 When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the LORD's order and did not set out. 20 Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the LORD's command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. 21 Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. 22 Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23 At the LORD's command they encamped, and at the LORD's command they set out. They obeyed the LORD's order, in accordance with his command through Moses.
Where the Israelites went and how long they stayed in each place was up to the leading of the Lord. They would set up camp not knowing if they would be there for just a day or two or even a year. However God led, they would follow.
Response and Action:
This account of the Israelite sojourn has always been a good reminder to me about letting God lead. Where I am, how long I'm there, and when I move on to the next thing must all be informed by God' will and directive. I wish it was simply a matter of looking out my window in the morning to see if the pillar of fire or cloud had lifted. Hearing God and following him may not be quite like that, but it is still quite possible. I have written scriptures, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the counsel of brothers and sisters in the church, a heart that is being transformed by God, and God's promise to meet me and guide me through prayer.
Lead me, O God, in the ways I should go. Make my path straight as I acknowledge you in all my ways. Give me ears to hear you, and a readiness to obey and follow you. Help me to delight in your Word. Help me be devoted to prayer. Give me a heart that discerns your leading each and every day of my life's journey with you. Amen.
"Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding."
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God
by Dallas Willard