Wednesday, February 28, 2007

February 28 - Always Able

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezra 7 - 8
N.T. - Hebrews 7

Focus Verses: Hebrews 7:23-25
23Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Insight:
Because Jesus has overcome death and lives forever, his priesthood is permanent and is therefore superior to any priesthood that preceded him. The salvation he makes possible is complete and eternal. He died for us, and now lives for us. He is always pleading on our behalf before God.

Response and Action:
It's incredible to think that Jesus is forever interceding and advocating for all who are coming to God through faith in him. I want to be responsive to Christ's saving work in my life. I will follow him with my whole heart and expect change and spiritual maturity, knowing that Jesus is able to save me completely.

King Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for interceding on my behalf. Thank you for saving me from the penalty of sin and the bondage to sin. 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: 28:13
"He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

February 27 - Things that Accompany Salvation

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezra 4 - 6
N.T. - Hebrews 6

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 6:4-9
4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. 9Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.

Insight:
It's very easy to miss the real point of this passage of scripture if we are sidetracked into a discussion about whether or not these verses say salvation can be lost. That's not an uninteresting subject or a bad conversation to have; it's just a distraction from the writer's main point -- the things that accompany salvation.

Like land that that produces a useful and blessed crop after it drinks in the falling rain, our lives should produce better things -- a harvest of righteousness -- once we have taken in the life-giving rain of salvation through Christ. If we are truly receiving the saving grace of God through faith in Christ, our lives will be transformed; we should expect better things, the things salvation produces. To be saved is to change and grow and produce a life that honors God, and is blessed by God.

Response and Action:
I want to experience transformation. With God's salvation and by his grace and power, I want to move toward better things. I want God's word and blessing in my life to produce fruit that gives witness to his salvation and power in my life. Through Christ, I will continually pursue righteousness and turn from sin. I will confidently expect change and growth in my life. I will not settle for a "taste" of heaven and the word; I will give every effort to experiencing the transformation salvation brings.

Thank you, God, for saving my soul. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making me whole. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving to me your great salvation, so rich and free. Amen.

Proverbs: 27:12
"The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it."

Resources:
Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ's Pattern for Spiritual Transformation
by Dallas Willard and Don Simpson

Monday, February 26, 2007

February 26 - Help and Understanding

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezra 1 - 3
N.T. - Hebrews 4:15 - 5:14

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 4:15-16
15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Insight:
Jesus is without sin, but he is not without sympathy for us when we face temptation. He did not give in to temptation, but he experienced it fully. In our times of need, we can have confidence that he understands what we are going through, and he has the grace and strength we need to help us overcome temptation and sin.

Response and Action:
I have confidence in God's grace. I take heart in the knowledge that Jesus has faced temptation, knows me needs, and understands what I am going through. I will look to Christ for the grace and guidance I need to face and overcome the temptations I face today.

Thank you, O God, for sending your son, Jesus, into the world. It is so good to know that he truly understands the struggle and challenge of temptation. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, help me to stand firm in the face of trials and temptation. Amen.

Proverbs: 26:12
"Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

Resources:
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
by John Owen, John Piper, Kelly M. Kapic, and Justin Taylor

Sunday, February 25, 2007

February 25 - Nothing Hidden

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 34 - 36
N.T. - Hebrews 4:1 - 14

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 4:12-13
12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Insight:
Nothing is hidden from God. God's word is alive and active; his truth is penetrating and able to cut to the heart of everything in creation. Even our thoughts and attitudes are an open book to God. God's truth must be heeded because we are all accountable to him.

Response and Action:
I recognize that God knows me better than I know myself. I will look to his word for guidance in my life. His word is able to help me see my own motives and attitudes. I will meditate on God's word and hide it in my heart. I will let the truth of God's word shape and direct me.

Almighty God, before you my heart is open, all my desires are known, and none of my secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the power of your Holy Spirit. Guide me and teach me through your word. Help me to love you with my whole heart, and to live in your truth, that I might bring you glory. Amen.

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

Resources:
Desiring God's Will: Aligning Our Hearts With The Heart Of God
by David Benner

Saturday, February 24, 2007

February 24 - Firm to the End

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 32 - 33
N.T. - Hebrews 3

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 3:1, 12-14
1Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. … 12See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

Insight:
The Hebrew writer encourages his Christian readers to fix their thoughts on Jesus, and to hold firmly to him in faith to the end. He warns them to not turn away from faith in the living God, and uses the story of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness to illustrate his point. Their bodies fell in the desert, and they never entered into the promise land because of their unbelief.

More than just a warning, the Hebrew writer suggests two things we can do to cultivate enduring faith. 1) We must focus on Jesus. We should immerse ourselves in everything the scriptures tell us about Jesus -- his words, his actions, his promises, his mission, his teaching, his commands, his example, and his call to us. 2) We must be part of a Christian community that encourages and admonishes us in faith. We should seize every opportunity to stimulate and inspire each other toward a deeper knowledge and experience of Christ. We should also be able to help each other identify and turn away from the deceitfulness of sin.

Response and Action:
I will fix my thoughts on Jesus. I will seek him in the company of faithful friends. I will study and meditate on the Scriptures. I will look to other followers of Jesus to encourage me in my faith. I will be on guard against the deceitfulness of sin, and listen to the wise warnings and rebukes of my Christian friends. I will do all I can to encourage others to know and follow Jesus. I will look for opportunities to encourage others in their faith.

O God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you. I will seek you in the morning. I will learn to walk in your ways. Lead me step by step that I might follow you all of my days. Amen.

Proverbs: 24:14
"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."

Resources:
Following Jesus in the "Real World": Discipleship for the Post-College Years
by Richard Lamb

Friday, February 23, 2007

February 23 - Flesh and Blood

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 30 - 31
N.T. - Hebrews 2

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 2:14-15
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Insight:
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent; I attended a worship service in the morning. At one point in the service, I went forward where a minister put ashes on my forehead, looked me in the eye, and said, "Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return." At the same time, I remembered Jesus' words, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25,26).

In Jesus, through the incarnation, God shares our humanity. Jesus suffered death, in order to destroy the power of death. Jesus, the one human being who is not guilty of sin or bound by death, willingly laid down his life in our place in order to free us from the bondage to death and the fear of death.

Response and Action:
I will put my trust and hope in Jesus. I will praise and thank God for the great deliverance Christ Jesus has made possible by sharing my humanity and through his sinless death destroyed death's power and grip on me. I will live with hope and purpose and joy, believing that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. I will live today in the confidence that I have eternal life in Jesus. I will encourage others to take hold of eternal life through faith in Jesus.

I will rejoice in you, O God. You are my salvation and my strength. I bless and thank you, Lord, because you are a God of deliverance -- the escape from death belongs to you. Even when walking in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. You are worthy of my praise, my life, my all. Because you have freed me from death, I will live for you. Amen.

Proverbs: 23:17,18
"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

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

Thursday, February 22, 2007

February 22 - God's Son

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 28 - 29
N.T. - Hebrews 1

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 1:1-4
1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Insight:
Hebrews begins with a glorious description of the Son of God. He is the prophetic voice of God. He is "the radiance of God's glory." He is the "exact representation of God's being." He is the one who is "sustaining all things by his powerful word." He is the one who provides "purification for sins." He is seated "at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven" and is "superior to the angels."

The deity and supremacy of Jesus the Christ are not the wishful ideas and inventions of Christians three or four centuries down the line. No, the earliest Christians were totally convinced that Jesus was the divine Son of God. The book of Hebrews was written in the last half of the first century (probably around 80 A.D.).

Response and Action:
I will look to Jesus to understand the truth of God. Jesus is the embodiment of God's divine radiance. My faith is in Jesus. He is the one who is able to make purification for my sin. He is the one who is able to sustain me.

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ; the only begotten of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God; begotten, not made; through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death, and was buried. On the third day he rose again, in accordance with the Scripture. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end. Amen.

Proverbs: 22:2
"Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all."

Resources:
Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels
by Darrell L. Bock

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

February 21 - Faith Shared

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 25 - 27
N.T. - Philemon

Focus Verses:
Philemon 1:4-6
4I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

Insight:
Two little words in verse six always catch my eye: "so that." It's not at all surprising the Apostle Paul would be praying that Philemon would be active in sharing his faith. Paul’s prayer for Philemon to have "a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ" is also very typical. Both of these prayers are common in Paul’s pastoral letters. The way he connects the prayers for “sharing faith” and “full understanding” with the words "so that," in this case, is unique, and brings with it a special insight: sharing our faith is essential to gaining a fuller understanding of Christ's blessing and call on our lives.

The more we share Jesus with others, the more we will understand just how much he gives us! To fully understand what it means to live in Christ, we must share our lives and our faith. God's grace toward us in Christ has a deeper and richer meaning for those who live out and share that grace with the world around them.

Response and Action:
I want to grow in my understanding and my experience of every good thing God offers me through Christ. I will look for every opportunity to share my faith with others. The good things I have in Christ are intended by God to be shared.

O God, help me to live out my faith and share my life with others. Help me to share my faith: as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, neighbor, and colleague. Thank you for every good thing you have given to me. Give me a generous heart and a readiness to share with others the blessings I have received. Amen.

Proverbs: 21:25-26
"The sluggard's craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing."

Resources:
Living the Story: Biblical Spirituality for Everyday Christians
by R. Paul Stevens and Michael Green

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

February 20 - Arguably Wrong

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 22 - 24
N.T. - Titus 3

I will be speaking about this text and topic at Evensong Worship, on Sunday evening, February 25.

Focus Verses: Titus 3:9-11
9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Insight:
Being argumentative is dangerous and divisive. It’s one thing to ask hard questions, to reason through disagreements, and to work through important issues that require critical thinking. It is another thing altogether to be quarrelsome and nitpicky about things that are of questionable value. An unhealthy interest in controversy is usually indicative of a rebellious and divisive spirit. It is sinful and distorted to value your own opinions (and the sound of your own voice) over the people with whom you disagree. People who are contrary and divisive over unimportant and unknowable things are hurting themselves. It is wrong to live that way, and it's dangerous to be associated with such a person.

Response and Action:
I will avoid foolish and stupid arguments. I will not value my opinions over people. When there is an issue or controversy that is important to me, I will strive to discuss it and process it in humble and respectful ways. As much as it is up to me, I will not let disagreements divide me from others. I will exercise restraint in areas of opinion. I will recognize and remember that some things are not important enough to argue about. I will not discuss difficult issues with people who are unable to do so without being threatened and upset. I will not let unimportant things become quarrels that hurt and divide.

O God, show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me. Give me a humble spirit so that I can be teachable. Give me sensitivity and care for others that I might be able to discuss important and difficult things in constructive and loving ways. Amen.

Proverbs: 20:3
"It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel."

Resources:
Talking About Good And Bad Without Getting Ugly
by Paul Chamberlain

Monday, February 19, 2007

February 19 - Learning to Say "No"

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 20 - 21
N.T. - Titus 2

Focus Verses:
Titus 2:11-14
11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Insight:
God desires a people for himself -- people who are purified by his grace, and eager to do what is good. God's grace is more than forgiveness; it is our teacher. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passion. It teaches us to live self-controlled lives that honor God.

Response and Action:
I want to be taught by God's grace. I want and need to learn how to say "No" to ungodliness. I want to say "No" to worldly passion. I want to honor God and learn how to live a self-controlled life by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. I will prayerfully identify areas of my life where I need to say "No" in order to live a godly life.

O God, help me to live for you and through this day in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong, and to do what is right. Teach me to say "No" to ungodliness, and teach me to say "Yes" to all that is righteous and true. Make me yours and help me to honor you. Change my heart and help me to live a self-controlled life by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs: 19:16
"He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die."

Resources:
Who You Are When No One's Looking
by William Hybels

Sunday, February 18, 2007

February 18 - Maturity that Shows

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 17 - 19
N.T. - Titus 1

Focus Verses:
Titus 1:7-9
7Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Insight:
Before being given a leadership role in a community of believers, it was essential that spiritual maturity be evident in a person's life. Many people claim to know God, but their actions deny this claim (v.16). It's not enough for Christians to say what they believe and know; they must live it.

Spiritual maturity isn't just for leaders; it is for everyone who follows Jesus. The marks of maturity listed in these verses are appropriate for anyone who is growing in Christ. A mature Christian is not overly controlling, slow to get upset, not prone to excess, not rough or abusive, and not interested in dishonest gain. Christians should be ready to share and quick to welcome others into their home. They should love what is good, be self-controlled, and lead lives that are upright and holy. Because they hold firmly to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, a mature Christian is able to identify and refute anything contrary to the way of Christ.

Response and Action:
I want to grow in Christ. I want my faith to be more than words and empty claims. I want my life to demonstrate that Jesus' Spirit is really at work in my life. I will hold firmly to the trustworthy message of the Scriptures. I will surrender fully to God and take hold of his grace and power to make me a person who is self-controlled, disciplined, and wise. I will commit myself to growing in Christ so that I can discern between what is false and true. I will try to be a person who encourages others.

Thank you for your word, O God. Help me to get a firm grip on the trustworthy message of Christ so that it might direct and support me. 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. Make my life a praise to you and an encouragement to others. Amen.

Proverbs: 18:12
"Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor."

Resources:
Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ
by Greg Ogden

Saturday, February 17, 2007

February 17 - Inconvenient Truth

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 13 - 16
N.T. - 2 Timothy 4

Focus Verses:
2 Tim. 4:3-5
3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Insight:
There is always someone ready to people whatever it is they want to hear. What is actually true is often inconvenient and, therefore, not what people want to hear. Truth is swept aside in favor of something less demanding and easier to accept. Truth is frequently rejected and replaced with comfortable myths and self-serving lies.

Response and Action:
I need to commit myself to seeking out truth. The truth may be more difficult and demanding than I want it to be. I need to look beyond myself to find truth. I must be prepared to make changes and get out of my comfort zone if I really want to know and live the truth. I need to be careful about surrounding myself with people who tell me what I want to hear. I need to be discerning and think critically about the things I read and hear. I need to examine my motives and my desires to ensure my beliefs are not being distorted by my own selfish perspectives. I need to fill my heart and mind with the truth of Scripture so it will guide me in my thinking and discerning.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and lead me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Help me to seek the truth and surrender to it, that it might shape me and guide me. Save me from the self-deception that distorts and diminishes truth to make it fit personal comfort and convenience. Help me to know the truth, and grant me the freedom it gives. Amen.

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

Resources:
True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World
by Art Lindsley

Friday, February 16, 2007

February 16 - Wisdom for Life

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 10 - 12
N.T. - 2 Timothy 3
Focus Verses: 2 Tim. 3:12-17
12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Insight:
Some of the promises of Scripture don't get quoted as often as others. Verse 12 is one of those: "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Doing the right thing is likely to lead to difficult circumstances. Jesus faced persecution, so it stands to reason we should not be surprised to encounter persecution as we follow in his steps. The Scriptures are able to give us wisdom for life and salvation. The Scriptures are useful to us because they are alive with the very breath of God's truth and wisdom. The teaching, rebuke, correction, and training we receive from Scripture equips us for every good work and every circumstance.

Response and Action:
I need to expect some measure of hardship and suffering as I follow Jesus. I need God's wisdom and truth to live a righteous life. I will look to the Scriptures as a source of God's wisdom and truth. I will approach the Scriptures with diligence and a desire to be taught, rebuked, corrected, and trained.

O God, how can I keep my way pure? By living according to your Word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. Help me to hide your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Give me wisdom and understanding as I commit myself to the study of Scripture. Use the Scriptures to shape and guide me, O Lord, that I might honor and serve you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen.

Proverbs: 16:16
"How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!"

Resources:
Transforming Bible Study: Understanding Scripture Like You've Never Read It Before
by Bob Grahmann

Thursday, February 15, 2007

February 15 - Special Use

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 7 - 9
N.T. - 2 Timothy 2

Focus Verses: 2 Tim. 2:20-22
20In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 22Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Insight:
The many objects in my house serve as a good illustration of what it means to be "set apart for a noble purpose." Some objects, like the couch in my living room, are for anybody to use. Others, like the scouring brush in the kitchen sink are for specifically dirty purposes. Others, like my pillow or my toothbrush, are set aside for me, and for me alone. In the same way, God is calling us to his noble purposes. We can't be used by just anybody for anything and still be set apart for him.

Response and Action:
I want to be used by God for noble purposes. I need to flee from evil desires and unrighteousness. I need to pursue purity, faith, love, and peace in the company of others who are trying to do the same.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Forgive, cleanse, and renew me so that I might serve your holy purposes. Make me an instrument of your love and peace. Amen.

Proverbs: 15:6
"The house of the righteous contains great treasure, but the income of the wicked brings them trouble."

Resources:
Gifts
by John Ortberg, Laurie Pederson, and Judson Poling

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

February 14 - Death Destroyed

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 4 - 6
N.T. - 2 Timothy 1

Focus Verses: 2 Tim. 1:8-10
8So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Insight:
God's purpose to save and give life has been put on display in the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Christ has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality. This is good news for all of us. Even though death and suffering are so pervasive in our world, God has a will and a way to save us! He calls us to believe and follow Christ, and live holy lives by his grace and power.

Response and Action:
My hope and faith are in Jesus. I will follow him and look to God for the power and grace to live a holy life. In a world filled with death and suffering, I will remember that Christ has destroyed death; life and immortality are found in him. He is alive and he is giving life to me; I can face today with hope and purpose.

O God, you have saved me from death, not because of anything I have done, but because your purpose has always been to save and restore. Thank you for Jesus, who has shared my humanity, has faced death, and has destroyed it. Thank you for giving me the gift of life through Jesus. Make me more alive each day. Help me to remember that I have eternal life right now. Help me live in the hope of light of your eternal love today. Amen.

Proverbs: 14:27
"The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."

Resources:
Things Unseen: Living in Light of Forever
by Mark Buchanan

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

February 13 - My Rich Life

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 2 Chronicles 1 - 3
N.T. - 1 Timothy 6:3 - 21

I will be speaking about this text and topic at Evensong Worship, on Sunday evening, February 18.

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 6:17-19
17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Insight:
Am I rich? According to the Global Policy Forum's Statistics on Poverty and Inequality, in 1999, 3 billion of the world's people were living on less than $2 per day while 1.3 billion were getting by on less than $1 per day. Chances are that if you're able to read this blog, you, like me, are rich in comparison to most people in the world.

In today's scripture passage, Paul has some very practical instructions for rich people like us. We need to avoid arrogance. We should not put our hope in what we possess. We should remember that wealth is uncertain. We should trust in God and acknowledge him as the source of blessing and provision. We should be rich in good deeds -- generous and willing to share with others.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize how much I have. I need to be thankful to God who has so generously blessed and provided so much for my needs and enjoyment. I need to be careful to always remember that God is my hope and provider, and to never put my trust in things. Instead of trying to be rich in possessions, I will strive to be rich in doing good deeds. I need to be generous and open-handed with all God has given me. I need to be a faithful steward of all God has given and to be ready to share with others. I will generously give to the church, to efforts to help the poor, to ministries that are taking the Good News of Jesus to the world, and to practical causes that contribute to the health and betterment of my community and my world.

O God, you have blessed me in so many ways. Help me, in reverence and thanksgiving to share all you have given me. Help me to be a source of blessing. Give me the wisdom I need to be a good steward and generous heart that is ready to give and share. Let me to live with a generosity that boldly demonstrates my confidence in you -- my hope, my security, and my provider. Amen.

Proverbs: 13:8
"A man's riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat."

Resources:
Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions
by Craig L. Blomberg

Sunday, February 11, 2007

February 12 - No Favoritism

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Chronicles 28 - 29
N.T. - 1 Timothy 5:1 - 6:2

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 5:21
21I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

Insight:
Impartiality is essential to the administration and oversight of community needs and values. If leaders give preference to some members of the community over others, it will undermine unity and destroy all trust and confidence in the leaders. This is true in all communities, including the church. Christian leaders must be careful to give respect, care, and guidance without favoritism.

Response and Action:
I will do all I can to make sure that everyone is afforded equal opportunity, respect, and resources in the communities of my life. I will guard against favoritism and/or discrimination in my life at home, at work, at church, and in my community.

O Lord, your love and grace extend to all people. Thank you for your goodness and provision given without favoritism. Help me to follow your gracious example, and treat others as I would want to be treated. Amen.

Proverbs: 12:5
"The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful."

Resources:
Subverting the Power of Prejudice
by Sandra L. Barnes

February 11 - Exemplary Living

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Chronicles 25 - 27
N.T. - 1 Timothy 4

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 4:12-16
12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Insight:
Even though Timothy is a young Christian leader, Paul says that he can avoid being dismissed for his youth by being a shining example for all believers in the way he lives out his faith. No one will look down on him if he is living up to Christ's call for his life. The way he talks, loves, and demonstrates holiness will earn the respect of everyone -- even those who are older than him. Paul reminds Timothy that the church elders had publicly recognized his gift for leadership and ministry by laying their hands on him; Timothy should take their endorsement and support very seriously and diligently give himself to progress in his spiritual growth and the exercise of his gifts. This diligence should include the study of scripture, careful self-examination of his lifestyle, and careful attention to sound doctrine. His perseverance in these matters would result in blessing in his own life and in the lives of those to whom he ministered.

Response and Action:
I will do my best to lead an exemplary life of faith in my speech, in my commitment to holiness, in my study of scripture, and in the exercise of my gifts. I believe that diligence in these things will result in blessing to me and to people around me.

By the power and grace 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. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to do the good things you've prepared for me to do. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

Resources:
Spiritual Gifts: 8 Studies for Individuals or Groups
by R. Paul Stevens

Saturday, February 10, 2007

February 10 - Ready to Serve

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Chronicles 22- 24
N.T. - 1 Timothy 3

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 3:8-9
8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.

Insight:
Those who aspire to leadership and service roles in the church are desiring something good. But in order to lead and serve effectively, as Paul points out, it is essential for those who desire to lead and serve to first demonstrate their faith and integrity in their everyday lives. They should be respected, self-controlled, sincere, honest, and selfless. They should also be people with depth who cherish and chew on the deep truths of the faith. In other words, the sincerity of their walk with Christ should be nourished by deep roots, and be evidenced in fruitful lives.

Response and Action:
A whole-hearted desire to be taught and guided by Christ must precede my desire to have a role of leadership/service in the life of the Church. I will give myself fully to knowing and following Christ. I will meditate on the deep truths of the Scriptures and apply them to my life in practical and specific ways. I will make every effort to live out my faith by God's grace; then I will be prepared for ministry to others as a leader and a servant.

O God, give me a sincere heart that seeks you. Help me to follow and emulate Christ in the actions and conduct of my daily life. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear the deep truths of faith. Prepare me for acts of service, and help me to approach every opportunity to lead with selfless integrity. Amen.

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

Resources:
Basic Christian Leadership: Biblical Models
by John R. W. Stott

Friday, February 09, 2007

February 9 - Praying for Everyone

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Chronicles 20 - 21
N.T. - 1 Timothy 2

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 2:1-6
1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.

Insight:
Paul urges Christians to be people of prayer. He suggests that our prayers should include prayers for world and civic affairs; prayers for peace and stability for daily life; and prayers for God's people to lead holy lives. We can pray for all of these things in the confidence that they are good and pleasing to God. As we pray, we should also remember that God wants ALL people to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved. Jesus, who gave his life as a ransom for ALL, is the only one who can bring humankind to God. Truth and salvation are found in him alone.

Response and Action:
My daily prayers will include prayers for the men and women who are in positions of authority and leadership in the world - internationally, nationally, and locally. I will pray for a peaceful and stable world that gives Christians the opportunity to lead meaningful, quiet, and holy lives that are a testimony to the truth and salvation they have found in Christ. I will pray that ALL people would come to know the truth and be saved.

O God, you have made salvation available to all people. Thank you for helping me to know the truth of Christ and to find salvation in him. Bring peace and light into our world, through your people, your Word, your Spirit, and all that is beautiful and true. Move in the lives and the events of our world in ways that make peace, truth, and salvation available to everyone. Amen.

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

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

Thursday, February 08, 2007

February 8 - Giving God Glory

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Chronicles 17 - 19
N.T. - 1 Timothy 1

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 1:14-17
14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Insight:
God's grace, love, mercy, and eternal life are available to everyone through Christ. There is no one too sinful to be beyond hope. His grace is greater than our sin. Our faith in Christ and surrender to him make us living demonstrations of the hope and transformation God gives to all who believe. Those who are experiencing changed and renewed lives through Christ are moved to exclamations of praise, and quick to give thanks to God.

Response and Action:
I will continually look to Christ for the salvation and the grace to become like him. I will remember that the hope and power of Christ should be visible to others as they see his work in my life. I want to express my deepest thanks and highest praise to God for the life he gives through Jesus.

O God, help me to live in full surrender to you. Make me more like Jesus each day. Open my mouth, and my lips will praise you. Make my life a testimony of your saving grace. Help me to bring glory to Christ in all that I say and do. Amen.

Proverbs: 8:35
"For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD."

Resources:
Lump (DVD)
A very moving story from Rob Bell that illustrates God's love and mercy.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

February 7 - On the Job

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Chronicles 13 - 16
N.T. - 2 Thessalonians 3

Focus Verses: 2 Thes. 3:11-13
11We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.

Insight:
In such a short letter, it's amazing how Paul's instructions and topics range from the epic to mundane. One minute he's explaining apocalyptic mysteries, and the next he's talking about holding down a job and earning enough to buy your own groceries. It's amazing, but not surprising, because the big ideas of Christianity are all lived out in the little details of life. Idleness is akin to laziness, a lack of self-control and motivation, and poor stewardship, and is, therefore, inconsistent with the Christian way of life.

Not only is idleness a sin of omission, as good work is left undone, it can also become of sin of commission, as it provides the opportunity to do wrong. Idleness should not be confused with restfulness. The former is a failure to do your job or fulfill your responsibilities. The latter is the thoughtful setting aside of time for renewal and refreshment; it keeps us healthy and ready to perform our duties.

Response and Action:
I will set about doing what is right. I will cultivate good work habits and do my work with care and integrity. I will approach my work with a desire to serve and honor God through it. I will fill my days with good work, so that I will be less tempted to do what is wrong. I will work hard when it is time for work. I will not put off responsibilities for frivolous or lazy reasons. I will also be sure to make times for rest and renewal so that I am healthy and ready to do my work.

O God, help me to live for you and through you. Help me to be a good steward of my life, and to live it with purpose. Help me to cultivate strong work habits and the ability to do good work. Give me the wisdom to work when it is time to work, and to rest when it is time to rest. Amen.

Proverbs: 7:4
"Say to wisdom, 'You are my sister,' and call understanding your kinsman..."

Resources:
The Monday Connection
by William E. Diehl

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

February 6 - Discerning Lies

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Chronicles 10 - 12
N.T. - 2 Thessalonians 2

Focus Verses: 2 Thes. 2:15
15So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

Insight:
This chapter contains some of the most difficult to understand words of all the Apostle Paul’s writings. The passage must be approached with care because it is a clarification of teachings he had previously given Thessalonians when he was with them. The original teachings are not available to us.

While we might not be able to grasp all of what Paul is saying here, we can certainly profit from the principles he gives to help them avoid being deceived. He warns them that not every claim to Apostolic authority is true (v.2). They should be careful to remember the teachings they received directly from the Apostles (v.5), stand firm in them (v.15), and consider them to be authoritative over competing or conflicting teachings and ideas. He tells them that false and deceptive teachers are marked by: a rebellious spirit (v.3), a disregard for law and morality (v.3), and an inflated view of self that has no reverence for God (v.4). Self-deception, he says, results from delighting wickedness, refusing to love truth, and believing lies (vv.10-12).

Response and Action:
I need to love and seek out the truth. Delighting in wickedness makes me vulnerable to being deceived by lies; it leads to an inability to ever see or want truth. I need to immerse myself in scripture in order to know the words of Jesus and the teaching of the Apostles. I should be extremely guarded against teachers who have an inflated view of self, even if they claim to be teaching what the Bible says. I should watch out for teachers who have a haughty spirit, a disregard for the way they treat others, and are motivated by personal gain.

God of Truth, I believe that Jesus, your son, is the way, the truth, and the life. Help me to know him and follow him closely that I might walk in your truth. Help me to hide your word in my heart, to read and memorize the Scriptures, and to meditate upon them day and night. Help me to discern lies and to delight in the truth. Help me to love and use your word that I might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Amen.

Proverbs: 6:23
"For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life..."

Resources:
Enemies With Smiling Faces
by Donald C. Posterski

Monday, February 05, 2007

February 5 - Prompted by Faith

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Chronicles 5 - 9
N.T. - 2 Thessalonians 1

Focus Verses: 2 Thes. 1:11-12
11With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Insight:
Paul was confident that God would one day put the world to rights. He was sure that judgment would be passed on all who rebelled against God and rejected Christ; he was just as convinced that blessing would be poured out upon all who had put their faith in Christ and followed him through thick and thin. With that in mind, he prayed for his Christian friends in Thessalonica -- that God would fulfill every good intention and every righteous act prompted by their faith. They wanted Jesus to be lifted up and glorified in their lives.

Response and Action:
My faith should help me persevere in times of trial, and prompt me toward good purposes and good deeds. As I act upon my faith, God's grace and power help me to accomplish this.

Help me, O Lord, to do the good things you've prepared in advance for me to do. I am your workmanship. May my faith in Jesus prompt me to delight in your will, to want what you want, and to do what you would be pleased and honored for me to do. Amen.

Proverbs: 5:22-23
"The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly."

Resources:
The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives
by Dallas Willard