Saturday, March 31, 2007

March 31 - Uncovered

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 31 - 33
N.T. - Revelation 4

Focus Verses: Psalm 32:1-5
1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. (Selah) 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD "— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Insight:
Failure to acknowledge my sin before God will result in guilt and depression. How much better for me to admit my failures, uncover my sins, and confess my need for God's forgiveness and grace. The blessing of forgiveness and relief from guilt comes from being humble and honest before God. If I confess my sins, God is faithful and just and he will forgive me my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Response and Action:
I will be humble and honest before God and admit my sins and weaknesses. God knows all about them anyway, so covering them up is only self-deception. I want the peace and freedom from guilt that comes with confession and honesty to God. I will openly acknowledge my weakness and transgressions to God. I will look to God for the grace and guidance I need to overcome sin. I will give God my thanks and praise for his mercy and faithfulness to forgive and restore.

Thank you, Almighty God, for your mercy and grace. Thank you for your faithfulness and your forgiveness that blesses all who confess their sins and look to you for salvation. Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from evil. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give me a humble heart and a readiness to repent, and as I do, restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free Spirit. Amen.

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

Resources:
Reflection & Confession
by Janet L. Johnson

March 30 - Voice at the Door

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 27 - 30
N.T. - Revelation 3

Focus Verses: Revelation 3:17-20
17You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Insight:
It is so sad and so dangerous to be blind to one's own need. It is so easy to fall under the delusion of self-sufficiency that comes from comfort and possessions. Jesus is calling all lukewarm and half-hearted Christians to be earnest and repent. He stands at the door of our heart and knocks. If we will be responsive to him, he will come in and live with us. He will guide us to truth and refine us. He will give us the true riches of righteousness.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize my sin and need for Christ. I need to see the pitiful blindness and darkness of being deceived and lulled into half-heartedness by comfort and possessions. I need to hear Jesus' voice and open the door of my heart to receive his full counsel and the refining grace only he can give.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for any lukewarm and halfhearted attitudes you find in me. Give me a responsive heart and tune my ears to hear your voice. Thank you for the promise that you will live with me if I will open the door to you. Lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of God. Amen.

Proverbs: 30:5
"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him."

Resources:
The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit
by Gordon T. Smith

Thursday, March 29, 2007

March 29 - First: Love

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 23 - 26
N.T. - Revelation 2

Focus Verses: Revelation 2:1-4
1"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Insight:
In John's vision, the glorified Christ has words of commendation and warning for seven churches; the first was the church in Ephesus. He commends them for good deeds, hard work, perseverance, holiness, and discernment. He warns them that, despite all these good qualities, they have forsaken their first love. It seems that it is possible to do good, work hard, be committed, and exercise commitment, and yet somehow lose sight of a genuine love for Jesus himself. A true love for Christ will always produce the good qualities and actions the Ephesians displayed. Without a love for Christ, these commendable qualities deteriorate into religiosity and law that is eventually unsustainable and empty.

Response and Action:
I must cultivate my love for Jesus. My obedience and commitment to Christ must be rooted in my love and trust for him. I will nurture my love for Jesus through worship, expressions of thanks, and meditation upon the things he did and the words he said. I will remember that following Christ is more than belief, obedience, and perseverance; it is love.

Lord Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, I believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Help me to love you with my whole heart, so that my obedience and deeds and commitment might flow out of that love. Thank you for your great love for me. Forgive me for the times I lose sight of you and forget that you want more than my belief and my behavior -- you want my love. Amen.

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

Resources:
Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality
by David G. Benner

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

March 28 - Key Holder

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 19 - 22
N.T. - Revelation 1

Focus Verses: Revelation 1:17-18
17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Insight:
In the Apostle John's great vision he sees the resurrected Christ Jesus, the Son of Man, who "has freed us from our sins by his blood" (1:5), and will return again -- "coming with the clouds" (1:7). The sight and sound of the glorified Christ Jesus so overwhelm John that he falls to the ground as a dead man. But Jesus puts his right hand on John saying, "Don't be afraid." Jesus is the beginning and the end. He is the Living One and is alive forever; he has conquered death and holds the keys to death. Jesus holds the keys that open the doors from death to life for all humanity.

Response and Action:
Jesus is alive; forever! He is the Living One who has conquered death. Every thought I have of Jesus will be shaped and celebrated with the amazing truth that he is alive today. He is coming again. He is the beginning and the end. He holds the keys and he will deliver me from death.

O God, help me to walk and live in the truth that Jesus is alive. Fill my heart with hope, and give me peace and confidence as embrace this truth by faith. Give me courage in the face of suffering and hope in the face of death, as I trust in Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Proverbs: 28:14
"Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble."

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

March 27 - Life Saving Mercy

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 15 - 18
N.T. - Jude 1

I will be speaking about this text and topic at Evensong Worship, on Sunday evening, April 1.

Focus Verses: Jude 1:20-25
20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

24
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Insight:
Most of this short little book is filled with warning against immorality. Jude concludes with some admonitions to that will serve his Christian readers as they turn away from immorality and pursue righteousness. They should build each other up in faith; pray; be responsive to God's love; and cling to God with a sense of his mercy and hope of Christ's return. They should be merciful with those who are having doubts, and they should take bold action to pull each other out of the sins that are corrupting them; this should be done with mercy toward the sinner and reverence for God. Jude's concluding declaration of praise suggests that Christians should ultimately look to God as the one who is able to sustain them and keep them from falling. If they will cling to God, God will not fail to present them faultless and complete before him on the final day.

Response and Action:
I will love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I will live with faith in God's mercy and hope in Christ's return. When I see doubt in my Christian friends, I will show them mercy and patience and encourage faith. When I see sin and weakness in my Christian friends, I will do whatever I can to wake them up and turn them around. In all things, I will cultivate reverence for God and mercy toward others. I believe that God is able to keep me from falling and able to save me; because of this confidence, I will praise him with my whole heart.

O God, help me to lead a righteous life that honors you. As you are merciful to me, help me to be merciful to others. As you are patient and encouraging to me in times of doubt, help me to be patient and encouraging to others who are struggling with doubt. Mercifully show me my hidden faults and save me from my sinful ways. Help me to help my Christian friends to turn away from what is wrong and draw near to you. You are worthy of all my praise, O God, because you are able to keep me and save me. My hope and trust are in you. Amen.

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

Resources:
Hope Has Its Reasons
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Monday, March 26, 2007

March 26 - Who's Steering?

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 10 - 14
N.T. - 3 John

Focus Verses: 3 John 1:9-12
9I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. 10So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. 11Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 12Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.

Insight:
The Apostle John speaks more about God's love and the command for Christians to love each other than any other New Testament writer, but here he has some pretty stark words about someone named Diotrephes. Diotrephes "loved to be first" and "wanted nothing to do with" the Apostle John and his associates. In fact, he was spreading malicious gossip about them and putting people out of the church if they disagreed with him. From the earliest days of the church, there have been teachers and leaders who wanted to steer the church toward their own views and agendas, even over the teachings of the Apostles. This selfish desire to control undermines the church and the Gospel and must be confronted. John urges his readers to follow Demetrius, instead of Diotrephes, because Demetrius lived by the truth, was well known for doing good, and had the commendation of the Apostles.

Response and Action:
It's a very serious matter for a teacher/leader to contradict the teachings of the Apostles. I should be very careful to watch out for ways the church has been co-opted by individuals, personal agendas, political causes, commercial ventures, and the like. I must be a person of the word and study the scriptures closely so I can distinguish between the message of Jesus and the Apostles from the selfish schemes and motives of the world.

O God, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, universal, and apostolic church. Thank you for your written word and the guidance of your Spirit. Give me wisdom and understanding and help me to know the truth as I read the scriptures and meditate on them. Help me to turn away from what is evil and false, lead me into truth and righteousness. Through Christ, I pray. 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:
True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World
by Art Lindsley

Sunday, March 25, 2007

March 25 - Love and Love

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 6 - 9
N.T. - 2 John

Focus Verses: 2 John 1:5b-6
5bI ask that we love one another. 6And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Insight:
Love for God moves us to draw near to him and to obey his commands. Drawing near to God and obeying his commands moves us to love others. Love for God, and love for others -- each one feeds the other. The more we love God, the more ready and able we are to love others. The more we love others, the more we recognize our need to know and love and obey God.

Response and Action:
I want to love God with my whole being. I want to know his word and obey his commands. I need God to work in my life and make me able to love others. I will put my love for God into action by making every effort to obey him and live by his word. I will follow Christ's example and yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit as I make every effort to love others.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength. Help me to love my neighbor as myself. Make me more able to love others as I follow Christ and the example he has given. By your word and 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: 25:13
"Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters."

Resources:
Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality
by David G. Benner

Saturday, March 24, 2007

March 24 - The Testimony

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Psalm 1 - 5
N.T. - 1 John 5

Focus Verses: 1 John 5:9-12
9We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Insight:
God has spoken; his testimony is that life is in his Son, and only in his Son. Those, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, have this testimony in their hearts. To reject faith in Jesus and this promise of life, John says, is to reject the Christian view of God and the Christian hope of life in Christ.

Response and Action:
I believe that the testimony and teaching of the apostles is true and reliable. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I believe that God has given abundant testimony -- through scripture, prophecy, miracles, incarnation, history, apostolic revelation, the present work of the Holy Spirit, and my personal experience in following Christ -- that Jesus is His Son and that life is found in him. This testimony rings true in my own heart.

O Lord, confirm your testimony and the truth of Christ Jesus in my heart more and more with each new day. Help me to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Help me to mature in my faith, that my life might also become a testimony of your grace and the truth of Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs: 24:26
"An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips."

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John R. W. Stott

This is the Testimony (Music CD)
CSF Scripture Songs

Friday, March 23, 2007

March 23 - Testing before Believing

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 40 - 42
N.T. - 1 John 4

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

Focus Verses: 1 John 4:1-3a
1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3abut every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

Insight:
There are so many ideas and teachings about Jesus and what it means to know and follow him; how can we discern what is authentic from what is false? John tells Christians to not believe just anything, but instead to "test the spirits" to determine whether or not their claims are truly from God.

Here are some tests he suggests: 1. Does the teaching acknowledge the incarnation -- the flesh and blood reality of Jesus' humanity? (4:3) 2. Does the teaching come from a worldly viewpoint based on human reasoning, or an apostolic viewpoint based on revelation from God? (4:4-6) 3. Does the teaching stress the loving others as Christ Jesus has sacrificially loved us? (4:7-11) 4. Does the teaching acknowledge God's indwelling of believers through the Holy Spirit? (4:13-16) 5. Does the teaching stir up guilt and fear, or does it cast out fear and guilt as it reveals God's love and grace? (4:17-18) 6. Does the teaching hold up sincere and self-initiated love as the true hallmark of a person who knows God? (4:19-21)

Response and Action:
I need to be discerning about teaching. I will keep John's "tests" in mind as I consider what people teach, write, and say about Jesus. I will use these "tests" as guiding principles for forming my own ideas and conclusions about Jesus.

O Lord, I pray that this day you would help me to see you clearly, to love you dearly, and to follow you nearly. Show me your ways, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Amen.

Proverbs: 23:19
"Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path."

Resources:
Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?
by James W. Sire

Thursday, March 22, 2007

March 22 - Love in Action

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 38 - 39
N.T. - 1 John 2:28 - 3:24

Focus Verses: 1 John 3:16-20
16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Insight:
Jesus' love was more than words and feelings; he demonstrates God's love through the selfless act of laying down his life for us. We are called to follow his example through selflessly laying down our lives for others. Love must be demonstrated through actions that respond to the practical needs of people around us. Meeting real needs not only proves to others the sincerity of our love, it also confirms it to us. We begin to know that we belong the truth once we see we are living out the truth -- not just talking about it.

Response and Action:
I need to be quick to see the needs of others. I need to be willing to take selfless action to help and address the needs of others. To see needs but do nothing, is a contradiction to following Jesus. The call to love is a call to action.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love my neighbor as myself. Help me to follow Christ's selfless example, watching for the needs of others and doing what I can to meet those needs. Help me to use every good gift you have given me to bless and encourage others. Through Christ, Amen.

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

Resources:
The Mark of Jesus
by Timothy George and John Woodbridge

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

March 21 - Blinded by Darkness

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 35 - 37
N.T. - 1 John 2:1-27

Focus Verses: 1 John 2:9-11
9Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

Insight:
Hate and darkness go together. Hate and light are contradictory. A hate or disregard for others is inconsistent with a claim to love God. You cannot hate others and embrace the light of Christ. Blindness toward the needs and concerns of others indicates blindness toward God. True love for God will always result in love and compassion for others.

Response and Action:
Hate is a strong word. Do I hate others? Who have I written off, or judged, or given up on? I need to be on guard for the subtle ways hate may be at work in my heart. To detest, disrespect, disregard, or dislike others may be subtle forms of hate. I need to hold up my motives, feelings, and actions to the light of Christ's love so hate can be exposed for what it is. I need to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength; this will help me to love my neighbor as myself. By God's grace and the power of his Spirit, I need to cultivate compassion, understanding, sympathy, and love for others.

O God, help me to truly love you. Don’t let me be blinded or deceived by hatred. Teach me to love others as I follow the example and the commands of Christ Jesus. Forgive me for the times I claim to know and love you, but harbor hate toward others. Help me to walk in the light and to walk in fellowship with others. Give me a heart of compassion and concern for the interests of others. Help me to be patient and forgiving with others, as you are patient and forgiving to me. Amen.

Proverbs: 21:10
"The wicked man craves evil; his neighbor gets no mercy from him."

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

March 20 - Eyewitness

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 32 - 34
N.T. - 1 John 1

Focus Verses: 1 John 1:1-4
1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4We write this to make our joy complete.

Insight:
The Apostle John begins this letter with words that clearly bring to mind the introduction to his gospel account (John 1:1-14) -- "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God." In 1 John 1:1-4, several important ideas are presented: 1. John and the other apostles are eyewitnesses to Jesus; they saw him, heard him, and touched him. Their testimony grows out of their first-hand experience with him. 2. John affirms the physical reality of Jesus' humanity; he touched him, saw him, and lived with him. Jesus wasn't an invention, an idea, or a spirit; he was a real flesh and blood person. 3. John and the others who had been with Jesus were convinced that he was "the Word of Life;" he was sent from God "the Father;" he was the "Son" and the "Christ" of God; and he was the source of "eternal life" and "joy."

Response and Action:
When I read the words of the Apostle John, I am reading the words of an eyewitness. I will take John's testimony seriously as I consider and form my own conclusions about who Jesus is and what that means for me. The world is filled with many voices, opinions, claims, and theories about Jesus; I will give priority to the voices of eyewitnesses.

O God, thank you for the reliable words of eyewitnesses recorded in the New Testament. Give me the wisdom, understanding, and resources I need to form accurate conclusions about who Jesus is. Help me to be honest and responsive as I learn more and grow in my understanding. Help me to be a reliable witness of the things you are doing in my life. Give me grace and humility as I discuss Jesus with others who, like me, are trying to discover who he is and respond to him. Amen.

Proverbs: 20:12
"Ears that hear and eyes that see— the LORD has made them both.

Resources:
Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony
by Richard Bauckham

Monday, March 19, 2007

March 19 - God Wants Everyone

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 26 - 31
N.T. - 2 Peter 3

Focus Verses: 2 Peter 3:8-9
8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Insight:
At the beginning of this chapter, Peter says that he wants to stimulate his readers' minds toward wholesome thinking. He goes on to remind them that God will keep all his promises and that a final day of salvation and judgement will come. Even though that day may be far away the future (so far that doubters mock and question it), Peter urges Christians to hold fast to God's promises and to live as though it could come at any moment. He reminds them that God is more concerned with saving people than he is with time. In fact, what seems like slowness to us may in reality be a testimony of God's patience and grace, since God desires everyone to come to repentance and salvation.

Response and Action:
I need to remember and believe God's promises. I need to feed my spirit and stimulate my mind with wholesome thoughts. Believing that a final day of salvation and judgment is going to come, I will do all I can to live for God and share the truth of Christ with others. I will see each new day as a testimony of God's patience and grace and embrace God's desire to see everyone come to repentance and salvation.

O God, because of your love for the world, you gave your son Jesus that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Thank you for your grace and mercy toward all people. Thank you for your patience and your desire to give life and salvation to everyone. Show yourself to all people, O God, that all who see and believe in Jesus would find the way, the truth, and the life. Forgive me when I doubt you or forget your promises. Help me to live each day for your praise and as a witness of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs: 19:11
"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."

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

Sunday, March 18, 2007

March 18 - False Voices

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 21 - 25
N.T. - 2 Peter 2

Focus Verses: 2 Peter 2:1-3
1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Insight:
In chapter 1, Peter says the testimony of the prophets and the apostles is trustworthy and inspired by God. Now in chapter 2 he warns of false teachers who make up their stories and their teachings. These false teachers are marked by: 1) their denial of God's sovereignty; 2) their shameful ways; and 3) their greed and exploitation of others. The whole of 1 Peter 2 is a warning and a call for Christians to exercise discernment. Not everyone who claims to be teaching the truth of God is doing so; followers of Jesus must be careful that they are not lead astray by so-called prophets and teachers.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful about whom I listen to and whom I follow. I want to follow Jesus, so I will study the Scriptures carefully everyday. I will hold every teaching and story I hear up to the light of Christ's teaching and example. I will be on guard against every teaching that diminishes God or questions the lordship of Jesus. I will evaluate teachers and leaders with a critical mindset and watch out for any indicators of greed, exploitation, or other selfish motives.

O God, your word is sharper than a two edged sword -- able to cut through the attitudes and motives of the heart. Give me a growing love for your written word and the discipline to study and meditate upon it each day. Thank you for Jesus, the Living Word. Help me to follow him closely and to become so familiar with his words, his actions, and his life that I am able to clearly recognize and reject anything that runs contrary to his way. Amen.

Proverbs: 18:15
"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out."

Resources:
The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit
by Gordon T. Smith

Saturday, March 17, 2007

March 17 - God's Voice

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 18 - 20
N.T. - 2 Peter 1

Focus Verses: 2 Peter 1:19-21
19And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Insight:
Peter stresses to his readers that the testimony of the Apostles was based on eyewitness experience, not clever stories they invented (v.16). They were with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration and heard God's voice commend him (v.17-18). What the prophets of old had spoken was now made certain through Christ Jesus. Prophecy and scripture, Peter says, are not merely ideas and interpretations that originate in the minds of men; rather, Scripture is the result of men speaking from God, being moved and carried along by God's Spirit.

Response and Action:
I need to consider the claims of Scripture carefully. The idea that Scripture is nothing more than the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of humans runs contrary to what the Apostle Peter says here. I believe the Bible is reliable and inspired by God. I will read it and apply it to my life in the faith that it is from God, useful, and truthful.

O God, thank you for your written word. I will pay attention to it, as a light shining in the darkness. You word is a light for my path and a lamp to my feet. I seek you, Lord, with all my heart; don't let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Help me to receive your word so completely that my life becomes a reflection of your word and a testimony to your truth. Amen.

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

Resources:
Can I Trust the Bible?
by Darrell Bock
RZIM Original Edition of this Book

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March 16 - Burden God

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 15 - 17
N.T. - 1 Peter 5

Focus Verses: 1 Peter 5:5b-7
5bAll of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 6Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Insight:
Seeing God for who he is and seeing ourselves for who we are requires humility. God opposes the proud because pride makes it impossible to recognize truth. The person who acknowledges weakness and the need for God's grace will not be disappointed. God gives grace to the humble. Peter encourages us to place faith in God's might and care. The word translated "to cast" could also be translated "to saddle" or "to burden." Instead of carrying our stress and worries by ourselves in our own strength, Peter tells us to saddle/burden God with our anxieties. If we believe God truly cares for us, we should let him carry our burdens, believing that he will sustain us and lift us up.

Response and Action:
I must humble myself and recognize my need for God's grace. I must remember that God cares for me and is ready to help me. What am I stressed out about and what are the burdens I'm carrying today? Relationships, responsibilities, fears, failures, hopes, conflicts, problems, needs -- whatever the anxiety, I will humbly look to God for the guidance and strength and peace I need. I will trust God to help me and to lift me.

O God, I will rejoice in you. You are the God of my salvation; you are my strength. You make my feet stable and you help me walk in difficult places. Give me your peace, O God -- the peace that the world cannot give. Still and quiet my soul; let your peace guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Thank you for your grace and care. Teach me to lean on you and trust you. Help me to acknowledge you in all my ways. Make my paths straight and level. Amen.

Proverbs: 16:17
"The highway of the upright avoids evil; he who guards his way guards his life."

Resources:
Living Peacefully in a Stressful World: A Stategy for Replacing Stress With Peace
by Ronald Hutchcraft and Ray C. Stedman

March 15 - If You Suffer

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 12 - 14
N.T. - 1 Peter 4

Focus Verses: 1 Peter 4:12-16
12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Insight:
Christians are not exempt from suffering. We live in a sin-sick world where suffering is the norm, so we should not be surprised when we experience it. A Christ-centered, biblical faith is very realistic about the reality of sin and suffering. We can bring suffering onto ourselves by our participation in sinful actions. We can also suffer for participating in Christ's call to oppose and resist sin in ourselves and in the world. Peter encourages followers of Jesus to remember that Christ himself suffered, and that God will bless and sustain us when we suffer with Him.

Response and Action:
I will be realistic about suffering and accept the fact that I am more likely to experience suffering than escape it. Because I understand that suffering is the result of sin in the world, I will avoid sinful choices and actions. I don't want to bring suffering upon myself, or others. I will follow Jesus' example and consider how he remained faithful to God while enduring suffering. I will try to resist, oppose, and undo sin in the world as an act of worship to God, and if I suffer for doing so, I will consider it a blessing.

O God, give me the grace and strength to face suffering. Help me to throw off the sins that entangle me, that I might not cause suffering for others, and that I might avoid needless suffering in my own life. Help all those who believe and follow Christ to stand firm against sin in the world, even if when they suffer for doing so. Sustain us and encourage us by your grace and Holy Spirit. Thank you for Jesus, who suffered for my sake and for my salvation. Thank you that one day you will set all things to rights and wipe away all tears from our eyes. Amen.

Proverbs: 15:11
"Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD — how much more the hearts of men!"

Resources:
The Cross of Christ
by John Stott

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

March 14 - Harmony

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 9 - 11
N.T. - 1 Peter 3

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

Focus Verses: 1 Peter 3:8-9
8Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Insight:
Growing in our relationship with God enables us to have better relationships with each other. Christ calls us and empowers us to live in harmony. Healthy and loving relationships result as with God's grace and help we learn to: 1) be sympathetic -- able to understand and feel for others; 2) be compassionate -- having real concern for the hardships and difficulties of others; 3) be humble -- behaving with modesty and treating others with respect; 4) be gracious - not responding in kind to evil or insult, but instead with blessing.

Response and Action:
I want my relationships with others to be healthy, harmonious, and life-giving. Looking to God for wisdom and grace, I will do my best to cultivate sympathy, compassion, humility, and graciousness. I will do all I can to build strong and loving relationships.

O God, make me a person who is able to live in harmony with others. Where there is hatred, let me respond in love. When I am injured, help me to respond with pardon. Where there is despair and darkness, give me sympathy and compassion that brings hope and light. When others fail, give me compassion. When others are wrong or weak, give me humility and patience. When others are in need and fall short, give me generosity and grace. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 14:29-31
"A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."

Resources:
Making Friends & Making Them Count
by Emory A. Griffin

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March 13 - Living Light

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 6 - 8
N.T. - 1 Peter 2:4 - 24

Focus Verses: 1 Peter 2:9-10
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Insight:
Christians believe Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer, God's living stone upon which we are to build our lives. We belong to God and are part of a people that exists by God's choice. Just as the nation of Israel existed by God's choice for God's purposes, we have been called to a holy purpose: "to declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light." Our lives are to be living declarations of praise and truth and light as we turn away from sin, live with integrity, and do good deeds (v. 9-10). In every arena of life, from dealing with civil authorities (v.13-14) to oppressive socio-economic realities (v.18-21), Christ Jesus must be the model and foundation for all our actions and reactions.

Response and Action:
I must remember that as a believer and follower of Jesus, I am called to declare the praises of God in my daily life. I will strive to live with integrity, to put away sinful desires, and to do good deeds. In every situation and circumstance, I need to live out my faith in Jesus. I need to follow Christ's example. I want to walk in his steps with complete trust in God, no deceit or insults in my mouth, and responding to injustice without retaliation or threats.

O God, help me to put absolute faith in Jesus and to build my life upon him. Help me, by your Spirit, to follow his example and to live a life that declares your praises. Give me the wisdom to navigate my way in this world as I face injustice, political and civic issues, and the social issues of race, economics, language, and religious beliefs. Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus and base all my words and deeds upon the example he has given me. Help me to keep my way pure as I make every effort to know your word and live accordingly. Amen.

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

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

Monday, March 12, 2007

March 12 - A Good Craving

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 4 - 5
N.T. - 1 Peter 1:1 - 2:3

Focus Verses: 1 Peter 2:2-3
2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Insight:
Peter begins his letter with an exclamation of praise to God who "in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." This living hope comes with the possibility and responsibility of living a new life. He urges them to "grow up in their salvation" by craving the “pure spiritual milk” that comes through the "living and enduring word of God."

Response and Action:
Salvation is more than forgiveness for sin; it is the hope of living in the grace and resurrection power God offers through Jesus. I want to "grow up" in my salvation -- to mature in Christ, and to throw off the old habits and deeds of sin. I will crave and seek out every opportunity to learn and follow God's word. I will strive to know Christ and surrender to him. I will read the Scriptures and pray each day for God's wisdom and grace. In faith, I will expect my life to change and mature as God blesses my wholehearted efforts to live for him.

Dear Father, I ask that by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, you would 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. Stir up my desire for the pure spiritual milk of your word that I might become transformed and mature in Christ. Amen.

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

Resources:
Savoring God's Word: Cultivating the Soul-Transforming Practice of Scripture Meditation
by Jan Johnson

Sunday, March 11, 2007

March 11 - Cart Disease

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Job 1 - 3
N.T. - James 5

Focus Verses: James 5:3-6
3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

Insight:
Hoarding and self-indulgence are wrong. Our possessions and the blessings God gives to us should be used to honor God. We cannot honor God if we consume resources and money at the expense of workers who do not receive a fair wage. We are self-condemned if we turn a deaf ear toward the needs and cries of developing countries and economies. God hears their cries and we will face his judgment if we consume without regard to the ways our consumption is impacting the innocent and vulnerable lives of others.

Response and Action:
As a Christian in the USA, I need to recognize the ethical responsibility that accompanies the wealth and blessing I enjoy. I need to be a careful consumer -- giving thought to what I purchase, how much I purchase, why I purchase, and what impact these purchases have on others. I should be willing to pay more for goods and services if it results in better circumstances for needy people who produce them. I should avoid investments and purchases that profit from exploiting people in need or adversely affect their economies or living situations. I should make consumer choices that are good for the environment and developing economies. I must be generous and give to causes and efforts that are lifting people and countries out of poverty.

O God, I thank you for the abundant provision and blessings you have poured out on me. Help me to be a good and faithful steward of all you have given. Give me a caring heart, a discerning mind, and a watchful eye that I might avoid selfish consumption and hoarding habits. Help me to be careful in purchases, wise in investments, and generous in contributions. Make me quick see ways to use what you have given me to serve others. Make me slow to desire or buy the things I really don't need. Give me a compassionate and generous heart for those who are in need. Amen.

Proverbs: 11:25
"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."

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

Saturday, March 10, 2007

March 10 - God Owns My Tomorrow

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Esther 6 - 10
N.T. - James 4

Focus Verses: James 4:13-17
13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

Insight:
People of faith must prayerfully and humbly look to God when they look toward the future and make plans. Since we don't know what tomorrow brings (we don't even know how many tomorrows we will have), we should look to God for guidance and wisdom about our plans. Every thought about our next steps should be tempered with a consideration of whether or not we believe those steps are consistent with what we know of God's will. To plan without God, and without thoughtful regard for His will, is a form of pride and selfishness. Leaving God out of our thoughts and plans for tomorrow is sin.

Response and Action:
I will hold every plan I make up to the light of God's word and God's will. Every idea, goal, and intention should be informed and shaped by my desire to honor and serve God. I will seek godly counsel and guidance from Scripture, Christian friends, and through prayer. I will remember that life is short and ask God for the wisdom and humility to be a good steward of each day He has given me.

O God, teach me to number my days, that I might present a heart of wisdom. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that quickly passes, but I'm like grass that springs up and quickly fades away. Help me to live each day for you. Help me to hold up every plan and dream and goal to you for guidance and direction that I might serve and honor you in every tomorrow you graciously give me. Amen.

Proverbs: 10:27-28
"The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing."

Resources:
Knowing God's Will: Finding Guidance for Personal Decisions
by M. Blaine Smith