Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January 31 - Not Just Words

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Kings 18 - 19
N.T. - 1 Thessalonians 1

Focus Verses: 1 Thes. 1:4-7
4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

The Thessalonian Christian's faith in Christ and commitment to him was very plain to see. Their faith was more than words; their lives were changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. They lived with deep conviction and followed the pattern for life the Apostle Paul had given to them. They were not deterred from following Jesus, even if it resulted in suffering. Their work produced by faith, their labor prompted by love, and their endurance inspired by hope in Christ (1:3), was a wonderful model for all Christians to follow.

Response and Action:
My faith in Christ must be more than words. Real faith in Christ results in my life being changed. I want to experience the power and grace of the Holy Spirit at work in my life. My convictions must be deep, and must be lived out. I must have a devotion to Christ that endures hardship and suffering. I want to follow the example of Christian leaders who model true faith as they are shaped and transformed by the Spirit, and as they are faithful to Christ through thick and thin.

Lord God, let my faith be more than words. Grant me a deep conviction to following Christ and transform me by the power of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for those Christian men and women who are good examples for me to follow. Help me, by faith, to do good works; give me endurance inspired by my hope in Jesus; and may my love for Christ prompt me to be his faithful servant. Amen.

Proverbs: 31:30
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene H. Peterson

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

January 30 - Praying with Open Eyes

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Kings 16 - 17
N.T. - Colossians 4:2 - 18

Focus Verses: Col. 4:2-6
2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Prayer is something that requires devotion. True devotion is demonstrated through intentional practices and committed routines in daily life. Faithfulness in prayer will help me be watchful and thankful. Praying for people will make me more thoughtful and aware of their needs, relationships, responsibilities, joys, and sorrows. Consistent times of prayer will also help me to see the many ways God is working, saving, sustaining, and blessing. This will result in an attitude of gratitude and a desire to give thanks and praise to God. A devoted prayer life includes a concern for the spreading of the gospel of Christ Jesus. It's important to pray for missionaries, churches, and evangelistic ministries. It's also important to pray about my own witness for Christ in everyday life and conversation.

Response and Action:
I must be committed to prayer and be intentional about how and when I will pray. I will exercise my commitment to prayer with a thoughtful approach to who and what I pray about. I will strive to develop consistent prayer routine. I will keep a prayer journal, noting the ways I see God responding to my prayers. I will ask God to open doors for missionaries and evangelists who are taking the message of Christ around the world. I will also pray for God's help to be a gracious and winsome witness for Christ in my everyday life and conversations.

Gracious God, thank you for hearing the prayers of your people. Open my eyes to needs and situations around me as I pray. Give me a heart of gratitude and lips that praise you as my time in prayer helps me to see the many ways you answer and bless. Guide and sustain your servants who are taking the good news of Jesus to those who do not yet know him. Give me a gracious and seasoned demeanor as I go about my life today, that I might be an effective and salty witness for the hope and life you freely give through Christ. In his name, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 30:4
"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!"

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

Monday, January 29, 2007

January 29 - Life Together

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Kings 14 - 15
N.T. - Colossians 3:1 - 4:1

Focus Verses: Col. 3:12-15
12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are all prominent characteristics of God's people. These qualities are essential if people who follow Christ are to become a "people" -- a community. Forbearance and forgiveness are also essential to community. Love is at the heart of all of this. Christ's love, peace, and forgiveness are what make it possible for his people to love each other and live together in unity.

Response and Action:
Are compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience prominent characteristics of my life? Are these the qualities I am known for by others? I need to think about Christ's great love and forgiveness for me. I need to consider how I can follow his example and exercise love, forbearance, grace, and mercy toward others. Paul says instructs Christians to "clothe themselves" with these virtues. This instruction makes it clear that action on my part is needed for this to happen. I will give effort to the things that will help me cultivate, learn, and live out these virtues.

O God, thank you for the love, mercy, and forgiveness you have for your people. Help me to clothe myself with the virtues of love, humility, gentleness, and patience, that I might experience true Christian community and make a positive contribution to it. Help me to graciously forgive and forbear others and live in peace with everyone as much as is possible. Help me and my circle of Christian friends to be a testimony of your truth and grace as we live in unity. Help our unity to be marked by love, gentleness, servanthood, and peace. Amen.

Proverbs: 29:22
"An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins."

Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, January 28, 2007

January 28 - Rooted in Christ

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Kings 12 - 13
N.T. - Colossians 2:6 - 23

Focus Verses: Col. 2:6-10
6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

Putting faith in Christ Jesus and surrendering to his authority is the beginning to a new life that must be continued and lived out. As our roots grow deep into Christ and our hearts are strengthened by faith in him, our lives are built up; we are able to do what we've been taught, and thankfulness flows out of us. We need to be careful to not let Christian faith become a powerless list of rules, beliefs, and traditions or be reduced to a philosophical system of principles. Christian faith is rooted in Christ. Christ is our hope because he embodies the fullness of Deity. As we receive Christ, his fullness becomes our fullness. He is greater than every power and authority. It is by his power and authority that our lives can be transformed.

Response and Action:
I want to live a transformed life in Christ. My faith and hope are in Christ and so I want to continually live out that faith. I want to be strongly rooted in Christ. I want my life to be built up with Christ as my foundation. Christ Jesus is the one who saves me; not religion, not a set of ideas, not traditions, not spiritual disciplines, and not rules for living. These all become distractions if they do not lead me to a deeper love and relationship with Jesus. They are valuable to me only as a means for connecting with Christ. Jesus is the hope of my life and the power for living.

O God, help me to know and experience Christ Jesus more each day. My faith and hope are in him. Strengthen and increase my faith as I put down deep roots in Christ through the study of scripture, prayer, service, obedience, and fellowship with other believers. O Christ, all authority and power belong to you. Lead me, teach me, and transform me into your likeness. May my life overflow with thanksgiving as I continue to build my life on you. Amen.

Proverbs: 28:26
"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

Saturday, January 27, 2007

January 27 - All Over the World

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Kings 10 - 11
N.T. - Colossians 1:1 - 2:5

Focus Verses: Col. 1:3-6
3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.

The truth of God and the good news of Jesus is bearing fruit all over the world. Christianity is not a private thing or a western culture thing. In fact, there are now more Christians in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. English is not the first language of most Christians. People all around the globe are putting their faith in Jesus, which is resulting in changed lives. Hope for life and love for others flows out of an understanding of God's grace in all its truth. Hearing about the worldwide response to Christ should make me thankful and move me to prayer.

Response and Action:
I want to be a world Christian who appreciates being part of global community of faith in Christ. I want to pray for Christians around the world. I want to grow in my own faith as I gain understanding and encouragement from Christians living in other cultures and circumstances. I want to understand and experience God's grace in all its truth.

Dear Lord, thank you for your grace and mercy to all people. Thank you for extending your love to the whole world and your salvation all who will receive your grace by putting their faith in Christ. Help me to understand and remember that my faith in Christ is not just a personal, individual affair, but is, rather, a reality to be experienced in a global community of believers. Help me to be faithful to pray for Christians around the world. Help all who follow Christ to be a light and witness, that the household of faith will extend to and include people from every tribe, language, ethnicity, and nation. Amen.

Proverbs: 27:17
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Window on the World: When We Pray God Works
by Daphne Spraggett and Jill Johnstone

Friday, January 26, 2007

January 26 - Upward Thinking

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Kings 8 - 9
N.T. - Philippians 4:2 - 23

Focus Verses: Phil. 4:8-9
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What we think about is important. What we take into our hearts and minds can edify and inspire us toward righteousness and wholeness; it can also corrupt and diminish us. Paul urges Christians to focus their thoughts and stimulate their minds with what is true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise. He also suggests that they look to and emulate his example of following Christ.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful and intentional about the focus of my thoughts. I need to stimulate my mind and heart with healthy and uplifting things. I must be intentional about seeking out what is beautiful and true. I need to take note of and imitate men and women who exemplify faith and life in Christ. I need to be discerning and discriminating about everything I take in through reading, listening, viewing, and experiencing.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Encourage me, by your Spirit, through your word, your people, and all that is beautiful and true. Give me the will and the wisdom to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Thank you that there is so much good in the world that inspires and motivates me toward truth and beauty. Show me what is best, and use it to bless, enrich, and improve me for your service and praise. Amen.

Proverbs: 26:27
"If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him."

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
by N.T. Wright

Thursday, January 25, 2007

January 25 - Pushing Forward

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Kings 5 - 7
N.T. - Philippians 3:1 - 4:1

Focus Verses: Phil. 3:12b-14
12bI press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

For the Christian who is growing and maturing, nothing comes before Christ. The center and priority of life is to know him and all he has for us -- experiencing the transformation and purpose he brings. This requires effort. Paul says he "presses on" and "strains toward what is ahead." Implicit in these words is the idea that Christians face pressures and resistance as they endeavor to move ahead in their pursuit of Christ. Paul also says that in order to move forward he "forgets what is behind." The habits and burdens from the past can also drag Christians down and hold them back.

Response and Action:
If knowing Christ and taking hold of his plan for me is my greatest desire and priority, I must fix my eyes on Jesus and direct my energies toward him and the purposes he has for me. I must let go of the past and be prepared to face challenges in the future. I do this in the confidence that his grace and power will sustain me.

Dear Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you and to desire you more than anything else in life. You are my life. I want to know you and the power of your resurrection. Lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me. Help me to let go of the past, to break free from old patterns and habits, and to shake off the sin that so easily entangles. Help me to press forward through the challenges and pressures that would hinder me from knowing and serving you. Help me to mature in Christ and give me confidence in your grace and power to help me win the prize of my upward calling. Amen.

Proverbs: 25:28
"Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control."

The Life You've Always Wanted
by John Ortberg

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

January 24 - My Attitude

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Kings 3 - 4
N.T. - Philippians 2

Focus Verses: Phil. 2:3-7
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Paul urges his Christian friends in Philippi to do all they can to promote unity among themselves. Their relationships with each other should reflect the unity and fellowship they have with Christ -- the same love, like-mindedness, unity in purpose, and oneness in spirit. To do this, they will have to set aside selfish ambitions, pride, and conceit. They will have to see past their own needs and interests to the needs and interests of others. That is what Christ has done for them; he emptied himself, considered their needs and interests, and exercised humility and unselfishness. This, then, is what Paul says is the same thing they need to do for each other. If they want Christ-like unity, they will need to be Christ-like toward each other.

Response and Action:
Unity among Christians does not ultimately result from shared ideas, projects, dogma, or mission. Instead, it results from Christians being Christ-like toward each other. If I want to experience unity with others, I should follow the example of love Jesus has demonstrated toward me. My relationship with him came about not because I was already like him (far from it), but rather because he was humble, unselfish, and committed to my best interests. How many rich relationships would be available to me if I would humble myself, live generously, and truly care about the best interests of others?

O Jesus, thank you for your selfless love and generosity toward me. Thank you for removing barriers and making it possible for me to experience peace and unity with God. Help me, by your Spirit, to live with humility and care for others. Help me to experience true oneness, like-mindedness, unity of purpose, and a kindred spirit with all who follow you. And may our unity and love be a light and a blessing to the whole world. Amen.

Proverbs: 24:3-4
"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures."

Becoming Real: Christ's Call to Authentic Living
by Steven James

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

January 23 - Real Friends

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Kings 1 - 2
N.T. - Philippians 1

Focus Verses: Phil. 1:3-8
3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. 8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

The early part of Paul's letter to the Christians in Philippi reveals the great heart he has for them. They are not just fellow believers; they are partners and friends. As partners, they share in the experience of being shaped by Christ and the work of spreading the gospel to others. As friends, they pray for each other, enjoy being together, and have real affection for each other.

Response and Action:
Following Jesus is not a solitary pursuit; it is something shared with a wonderful company of friends. Following and serving Christ is something I get to and want to experience with others. I need to find specific ways to partner with Christian friends in service for God. I need to invest myself into the lives of Christian friends -- sharing experiences, praying for them, and working with them. I should have genuine affection for my Christian friends and truly enjoy time spent with them.

Thank you, O God, for the friendship and love you have shown to me through Christ. Thank you that he calls me his friend and laid down his life for me. Help me to be a true friend for those who follow Jesus. Help me to be faithful in prayer for them, to be diligent in work with them, and to be joyful and thankful for experiences and time shared with them. Amen.

Proverbs: 23:23
"Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding."

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

Monday, January 22, 2007

January 22 - Fighting Evil

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 20 - 22
N.T. - Ephesians 6

Focus Verses: Eph. 6:11-12
11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

The struggle for good and evil has a spiritual, cosmic dimension. Paul reminds us that the struggles of humanity are part of a much larger picture. There is a spiritual dimension to the problems we face. To address difficult life issues effectively, we must recognize the spiritual roots and principles at work: hate, greed, malice, dehumanization, fear, rage, envy, pride, lust for power and possesions, self-gratification, godlessness, rebellion, blasphemy. To be truly concerned about spiritual issues in our world, we must also recognize and counter the problems and systems that grow out of spiritual depravity: social injustice, war, pornography, poverty, starvation, disease, political corruption, abuse, discrimination, human trafficking, and, sadly, so much more. Our struggle is not merely with flesh and blood; it is against spiritual forces. Neither is our struggle merely spiritual; it is against the systems and evils brought on by dark powers at work in our world.

Response and Action:
I must recognize the spiritual root of all the evil and human suffering in my world. I must recognize the very practical and physical ways that spiritual evil is corrupting human affairs in my world. I must put on the full armor of God -- his truth, his counsel, his word, his righteousness, his peace, and his Spirit -- if I am to stand firm in the fight against evil. As a follower of Jesus, in the strength of the Lord, I need to oppose evil and stand up for what is right.

Our Father, who fills the heavens, holy is your name. I long to see your Kingdom come to earth -- your will lived out on earth as it is in heaven. Strengthen me, protect me, and help me to stand firm in the face of evil. Help me to raise my voice, give my energy, and exercise my abilities as a force for truth and good against those powers of evil that are destroying the lives of so many in our world. Amen.

Proverbs: 22:9
"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor."

Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World
by Gary A. Haugen

Sunday, January 21, 2007

January 21 - Shine

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 18 - 19
N.T. - Ephesians 5

Focus Verses: Eph. 5:8-14
8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

The light of life and truth is in Christ. To surrender to Christ and follow him is to embrace the light and come out of the darkness of sin, corruption, and shame. In Christ, we not only follow the light, we become light -- "now you are light in the Lord." We are to live as "children of the light." Rather than participating in the fruitless acts of the darkness, we expose them for what they are. We see sin for the empty thing it is and the death it brings. We wake up and rise from the dead when we come out of the darkness of sin into the bright light of Christ.

Response and Action:
I see darkness and sin for what they are. I see the shame, destruction, and death they bring. I see Christ Jesus for who he is. I see the light and truth and life he gives. My faith is in Jesus. He is my Lord and my savior. He is my light. I will love and follow him with all my heart. I want to walk in his light. I want to break free from the darkness and become light in Him. I want to have nothing to do with the darkness. With faith in Christ's grace and power, I will put aside the fruitless acts of darkness and, instead, live in truth, goodness, and righteousness.

O God. Show me your ways; guide me in your truth and lead me. Be the light that guides my way. Raise me from the darkness. Help me to follow Christ so wholeheartedly that I am changed so completely that I too become light. Help me to be honest about the darkness in my life and in the world around me. Expose it for the emptiness and death it is, O God, so that it would have no attraction for me. Fill my heart with a desire to know and experience the true light of Christ and to live in it all my days. Amen.

Proverbs: 21:4
"Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!"

Reflecting the Glory: Meditations for Living Christ's Life in the World
by N.T. Wright

Saturday, January 20, 2007

January 20 - Hello New, Goodbye Old

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 16 - 17
N.T. - Ephesians 4

Focus Verses: Ephesians 4:22-24
22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Paul reminds the Ephesians that Christians are to experience a transformation in their lives. They are to put of the old self and their former ways and to put on the new self, becoming like God in righteousness and holiness. It's very important and interesting to note the Christian's part in this transformation. While God's grace guides and empowers the transformation, the believer's understanding and action are essential to it. Paul's words, "You were taught," remind us that learning is a vital part of spiritual transformation. His admonitions to "put off" and to "put on" remind us that our action and obedience is critical to spiritual transformation. We have been taught to make every effort to yield our lives to Christ, who by his grace "creates" and "makes us new in the attitude of our minds."

Response and Action:
I want to experience spiritual transformation. I want to be made new in the attitude of my mind and to live in true righteousness and holiness. God will help me do this as I take action. My faith must be active -- lived out. I believe God will help and empower my effort and my acts of obedience. I will take intentional and energetic steps to put off my old self and to turn away from sin. I will diligently apply myself to becoming an obedient and righteous follower of Jesus. My faith and the clear teaching of Scripture make it clear that with God's help, my efforts will not be in vain. My efforts will be graciously empowered by God.

O God. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Proverbs: 20:8
"A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing."

Renovation of the Heart
by Dallas Willard

Friday, January 19, 2007

January 19 - Filled to the Fullest

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 14 - 15
N.T. - Ephesians 3

Focus Verses: Ephesians 3:14-19
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

With great passion, the Apostle Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians to be strengthened by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; to be rooted in love; and to grasp, know, experience, and be filled with the fullness of Christ's love.

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

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

Proverbs: 19:8
"He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers."

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

Thursday, January 18, 2007

January 18 - God's Workmanship

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 12 - 13
N.T. - Ephesians 2

Focus Verses: Ephesians 2:4-10
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God's good will toward humanity springs from his own great love, not from our merit, effort, or accomplishment. It's a good thing, because our effort and accomplishment would not get us very far. God's grace and mercy lift us out of the death-grip our sins and transgressions have on us. Instead of being trapped in a downward spiral of self-gratification and the disobedient ways of a fallen world, we are raised to live new lives in the grace and kindness of Christ. With my faith in Christ and my wholehearted surrender to him, I place myself in God's creative and all-wise hands, in order to be shaped by him. I am God's workmanship, created in Christ to fulfill a good purpose. God has plans for me.

Response and Action:
I praise God for his great love and mercy toward me, a person who was trapped in sin. I need to remember that I am no longer trapped! By the grace of Christ, I have freedom from sin and the promise of a new and purposeful life. I need to fully embrace God's good work for me. I need to be sensitive to his leading and guided by his word. I must yield to God's shaping hands and become his workmanship, being attentive to his leading, devoted to him in worship, faithful in the study of his word, and committed to walking in his ways.

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

Proverbs: 18:9
"One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys."

The Life You've Always Wanted
by John Ortberg

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January 17 - Seeing More Each Day

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 10 -11
N.T. - Ephesians 1

Focus Verses: Ephesians 1:18-20
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms...

Paul prays for the Christians in Ephesus to be receptive to, and fully aware of all that God has for them -- the hope, inheritance, and power for all who believe. Implicit in his prayer is the idea that it is possible to be a believer and yet be blind to much of what God has for you. Christians must live, pray, and act in ways that open them up to see and take hold of God's power and blessing in their lives.

Response and Action:
I want to be aware of all that God has for me. I want to take hold of the resurrection power he offers for the transformation of my life. I want to experience of the hope and the depth of life available to those who answer God's call through faith in Christ. I need to prayerfully and intentionally do all I can to be receptive to all God has for me.

O God. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in you will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Open the eyes of my heart and make me fully aware and receptive to you. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given me. Give me the will and the wiseom to guard my heart, to feed my spirit, to stimulate my mind, and to care for my body. Help me to establish routines and practices that contribute to my spiritual growth and maturity. Amen.

Proverbs: 17:24
"A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth."

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

January 16 - Sharing the Load

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 8 - 9
N.T. - Galatians 6

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

To live out the principle and example of Christ, we must share each other's burdens. This requires humility and selflessness. While followers of Christ should be quick to help others carry their burdens, we should also make every effort to carry our own load and not be an unnecessary burden to others. When our burden is more than we can bear, we should gladly accept the love and help others extend to us.

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

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

Proverbs: 16:19
"Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud."

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

Monday, January 15, 2007

January 15 - Keeping in Step

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 5 - 7
N.T. - Galatians 5

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

To belong to Christ is to be committed to being transformed by Christ. Faith in Christ is lived out by putting off the sinful nature and, instead, bearing the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot do this apart from the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. We must, however, keep in step with the Spirit. We must surrender our will to the Spirit's will. We must be careful to not grieve the Spirit by ignoring or rejecting his help and guidance. The life of those who belong to Christ is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

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

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

Proverbs: 15:24
"The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave."

Fruit of the Spirit: 9 Studies for Individuals or Groups
by Hazel Offner

January 14 - No Distinction

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 3 - 4
N.T. - Galatians 3:26 - 4:31

Focus Verses: Galatians 3:26-28
26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Through faith in Christ, we are God's children. Regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, education, or socioeconomic standing. In the history and patterns we see in the world, these distinctions are the basis of much division, conflict, and human rights issues. In Christ, these distinctions are swept away. Those who are in Christ must no longer look at the world in this way.

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

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

Proverbs: 14:21
"He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy."

One Body, One Spirit
by George A. Yancey

Saturday, January 13, 2007

January 13 - No Longer Locked In

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Kings 1 - 2
N.T. - Galatians 3:1 - 25

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

The declaration of Scripture and the testimony of our own experience is that "the whole world is a prisoner of sin." Having laws and moral codes doesn't change our hearts nor our actions. In fact, having the law serves to convict us all, as we are all shown to have broken it. It's great to have the moral guidance of the law, but what we need even more is the transformed heart that helps us live up to it. We need more than knowledge; we need to be saved from our bondage to sin. Christ's sacrifice opens the door for us to be justified by faith in him. The power of his Spirit can transform us into people whose lives are guided not by the constraint of laws, but by our Christ-like hearts.

Response and Action:
I need to submit to, and take hold of, the guidance of the Holy Spirit in my life. I want to follow Christ with a whole heart and be changed by him. I want God to change my heart and mind so that I am a person for whom rules and laws are unnecessary. I want to be doing what is right because I am becoming a person who is in a right relationship with God. I will do all I can to seek God, to understand his desire for my life, and to take hold of his grace and promise to help me become that person.

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

Proverbs: 13:20
"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."

Galatians: Experiencing the Grace of Christ
by John Stott

Friday, January 12, 2007

January 12 - The Life I Live

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Samuel 22 - 24
N.T. - Galatians 2

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

Like so much of the New Testament, Galatians is a letter. Reading Galatians 2 really feels like reading someone else's mail because of the references to very specific people and events that only the writer and recipients can fully appreciate. We can, however, pick up on the main gist of what was going on. The early Christians, their leaders, and even the apostles, were struggling with the issue of how the freedom and grace of Christ related to the observance of Mosaic law. Was observance of the law something Christians needed to do? Were Gentile's who followed Jesus supposed to observe Jewish laws and customs? Paul says, "No." He says that no one is justified by observing the law (vv. 15,16). Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, are justified through Christ Jesus, not by obeying laws. Paul insists that the observance of laws or traditions cannot be used as a test to determine who is or who is not a Christian. Paul says he has died to the law so that he might live for God (v.19). The essence of being a Christian is living for God through faith in Christ -- dying to self and everything else, even the law. Paul's point is that devotion to observing laws is not what brings us to God or produces righteousness; instead, it is complete surrender to God and living in faith and devotion to Christ that saves and results in righteous living.

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

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

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

Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians
by Tom Wright

Thursday, January 11, 2007

January 11 - Directly from Jesus

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Samuel 20 - 21
N.T. - Galatians 1

Focus Verses: Galatians 1:11-12
11I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Paul makes a boldfaced claim about his preaching. He says he received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. It's not a religion or philosphy he has learned from others or invented himself. It is truth he has received directly from the living Christ -- from Jesus, who has raised from the dead and has chosen Paul to be his messenger to the Gentiles (vv.15-16).

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

Response and Action:
I have decided to accept Paul's claims and therefore regard his teaching as true and authoritative. His claim is so straightforward I cannot see room for misunderstanding. His life and the hardships he faced for preaching his message don't support any motive for lying. His reasoning, relationships, and results don't indicate any mental instability. The most logical conclusion is that he is telling the truth. I accept authority of the Bible because I believe it to be revealed by God, just as the Apostle Paul says to Timothy, "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuke, correction, and training in righteousness."

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

Proverbs: 11:3
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity."

Can I Trust the Bible?: Defending the Bible's Reliability
by Darrell Bock

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

January 10 - Taking Aim

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Samuel 18 - 19
N.T. - 2 Corinthians 13

Focus Verses: 2 Cor. 13:11-14
11Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13All the saints send their greetings. 14May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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

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

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

Proverbs: 10:23
"A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom."

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

January 9 - Strength in Weakness

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Samuel 15 - 17
N.T. - 2 Corinthians 12

Focus Verses: 2 Cor. 12:10
10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Most of us find it difficult to admit weaknesses, let alone delight in them. Paul wasn't even really happy about hardships and weaknesses. He cried out to God asking him to remove them. Paul had learned, however, that his weaknesses and hardships revealed the evidence of God's grace and strength in his life. Paul's had come to see that his problems and difficulties were windows for God's grace and God's strength to shine through. This gave him a new perspective. He could delight in weaknesses because God was clearly displayed through them. He could see the his own limitations as a strength because they give witness to God's strength and provision.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize my weaknesses and limitations. I need to rely on God's strength. Reliance on God and openness about my weaknesses and problems can be a testimony that leads others to trust and praise God.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to lean on you and look to you for strength. May my reliance upon your strength, and my humble acknowledgement of my own weakness, be a testimony and praise to you. Amen.

Proverbs: 9:9
"Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning."

2 Corinthians: Finding Strength in Weakness
by Paul Stevens