Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July 31 - Dangerous Success

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 28 - 30
N.T. - Colossians 3

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 28:4-7
4 By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. 5 By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud. 6 " 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: " 'Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, 7 I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor.

Insight:
Success is a dangerous thing. According to Ezekiel's prophecy, the King of Tyre had accomplished great success through wisdom, understanding, and great skill in trading. His downfall, however, was that success went to his head, and because of his wealth his heart became proud. He went so far as to think of himself as a god.

Response and Action:
I want to be successful in my life and work, but I must guard against pride. I want to do good work and to accomplish much in my life, but I must do my work with my heart directed toward God's glory. Any success that turns me away from God is a success that God must oppose for my own good.

O God, help me in everything I do, whether in word or deed, to do it to your glory. Help me to pursue success and excellence with a heart for honoring you. Deny me any success or accomplishment that would turn my heart away from you. Give me a humble heart that gives you praise and thanks for every good thing I am able to do and every good thing I possess. Through Christ, Amen.

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

Resources:

Breaking the Idols of Your Heart
by Dan B. Allender

Monday, July 30, 2007

July 30 - Once Shining, Now Shattered

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 25 - 27
N.T. - Revelation 3:14-21

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 27:32-34
32 As they wail and mourn over you, they will take up a lament concerning you: "Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surrounded by the sea?" 33 When your merchandise went out on the seas, you satisfied many nations; with your great wealth and your wares you enriched the kings of the earth. 34 Now you are shattered by the sea in the depths of the waters; your wares and all your company have gone down with you.

Insight:
How many times in the course of human history has the world witnessed the fall of the mighty? Ezekiel prophesied against the port city of Tyre, saying, "This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Tyre: 'Will not the coastlands tremble at the sound of your fall, when the wounded groan and the slaughter takes place in you?'' Because Tyre gloated arrogantly over the destruction of Jerusalem, it would now suffer the same fate. Instead of being a shining gem of the coast, it would now become a shattered ruin where fishermen would mend their nets and shudder at the memory of the once might city.

Pride, arrogance, and trusting in self always end with disastrous results. As the saying goes, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall." Gloating over the failings of others is a deceptive and dangerous form of pride. God calls us to put our trust in him and to walk humbly before him.

Response and Action:
I must trust in the Lord with all my heart. I must never trust in my own strength. I must guard against pride and self-righteousness. I should always remember that every good and perfect gift I have comes from God. I will be thankful, and never let the gifts God has given distract me from the Giver.

O God, you have shown me what is good and what you require: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you. Help me to put my trust in you and to have the wisdom to acknowledge my weakness and dependence upon you. Help me to be a person who prays for others, and acts and hopes for their redemption. Give me a humble spirit that never takes joy in the fall of others, and never gloats when your hand of discipline is on others. Amen.

Proverbs: 30:32
"If you have played the fool and exalted yourself, or if you have planned evil, clap your hand over your mouth!

Resources:

Mere Christianity ("The Great Sin" - Chapter 8)
by C. S. Lewis

Sunday, July 29, 2007

July 29 - Unfaithful

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 22 - 24
N.T. - 2 Timothy 2

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 23:35-41
35 "Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you have forgotten me and thrust me behind your back, you must bear the consequences of your lewdness and prostitution." 36 The LORD said to me: "Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then confront them with their detestable practices 37 for they have committed adultery and blood is on their hands. They committed adultery with their idols; they even sacrificed their children, whom they bore to me, as food for them. 38 They have also done this to me: At that same time they defiled my sanctuary and desecrated my Sabbaths. 39 On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it. That is what they did in my house. 40 "They even sent messengers for men who came from far away, and when they arrived you bathed yourself for them, painted your eyes and put on your jewelry. 41 You sat on an elegant couch, with a table spread before it on which you had placed the incense and oil that belonged to me."

Insight:
Ezekiel uses the shocking and graphic metaphors of adultery and prostitution to describe the behavior of Samaria (the northern tribes of Israel) and Judah (the southern tribes). Even when they entered the Temple to "worship" God, they were coming from being fully engaged in pagan worship, sexuality, and idolatry. They acted as though God was just one of many gods, and that the Temple was just one of many religious sites.

Response and Action:
God calls his people to be faithful to him. No amount of going to church, saying religious words, singing worship songs, or making claims of belief can make up for unfaithfulness. I need to be faithful to God and be on guard against duplicity. I must not allow myself to be comfortable with disconnects between my behavior and my belief--saying one thing but do another, claiming to follow God while going my own way and chasing after other things. God will not settle for being part of my life, he demands all of me.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to honor you and to allow nothing else to rival my reverence and faithfulness to you. Save me from hypocrisy and duplicity. Give me a single-minded allegiance to you. Forgive me for my sins and failures, and save me by your grace. Lift me up, show me your ways, and give me the wisdom and the will to walk in them. Give me a mind that is quick to obey, and a heart that delights in you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 29:6
"An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad."

Resources:

Breaking the Idols of Your Heart
by Dan B. Allender

Saturday, July 28, 2007

July 28 - Inquiring of God

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 19 - 21
N.T. - Hebrews 4:1-13

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 20:1-3, 11-13
1 In the seventh year, in the fifth month on the tenth day, some of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and they sat down in front of me. 2 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 3 "Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Have you come to inquire of me? As surely as I live, I will not let you inquire of me, declares the Sovereign LORD.' --- 11 'I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. 12 Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy. 13 Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws—although the man who obeys them will live by them—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the desert.' "

Insight:
Some elders of Israel came to inquire of the Lord, and they sat down in front of Ezekiel. God had a surprising message for them. He said something to this effect: "No, I won't let you inquire of me. What makes you think you can ignore me, as you have for so long, and then expect me to speak now? You've ignored all that I've done for Israel in the past; you've ignored all that I said and commanded through Moses; and you've abandoned the Sabbaths I asked you to keep as a sign of my provision to you and your trust in me." It's dangerous to ignore God. If you stop listening, he may stop talking.

Response and Action:
If I abuse God's grace and ignore all he has revealed to me through the prophets, Scripture, Jesus, and the Apostles, I may find him unwilling to speak (or myself unable to hear) when I finally do ask for direction.

I should give God my complete attention right now. I should read and heed the Bible. I should be completely familiar with the words and actions of Jesus. Taking the time to seek God's direction should be a part of everyday, normal life, not something done in times of emergency. Even taking the time to rest and trust God to provide can be a sign--a testimony--of my reverence and faith.

O God, help me to seek you and love you with my whole heart. Reveal yourself to me in clear and profound ways through Jesus, the Bible, your Spirit, your people, creation, and all that is beautiful and true. Remind me that taking time for rest and renewal is an act of trust and worship. Amen.


Proverbs: 28:9
"If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable."

Resources:

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence
by Ruth Haley Barton

Friday, July 27, 2007

July 27 - Turn and Live

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 16 - 18
N.T. - Ephesians 1

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 18:30-32
30 "Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!

Insight:
Each person is accountable to God for his own sin. God does not condemn children because of the sins of their parents, and God does not condemn parents for the sins of their children. God judges "each one according to his ways." The whole of chapter 18 makes it clear that God is just; he looks at each person as an individual; he calls everyone to turn away from sin; he promises a new heart and a new spirit to those who repent; he takes no pleasure in condemning people, but would rather redeem and forgive.

Response and Action:
God deals with me as an individual. The sin I need to be most concerned about is my own. I do not need to worry about God condemning me because of the sins of others. The way I deal with my own sin is the chief concern in my relationship with God and my hope in his promises. God does not take pleasure in condemning and punishing sinners; he would rather save and redeem them. Because of this, my first thought of God will be as a redeemer and savior. When I think of God as a judge, it will be as a reluctant judge who grieves over those he is judging.

O God, thank you for looking on me as an individual and for offering me hope and life. Save and redeem me. Help me to see my sins for what they are and to turn away from them. Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from evil. Help me to walk in faithfulness to you. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help my life to be a praise to your glorious grace. Amen.


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

Resources:

Grace: The Power to Change
by James B. Richards

Thursday, July 26, 2007

July 26 - Something Useful

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 13 - 15
N.T. - John 15:1-17

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 15:1-6
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, how is the wood of a vine better than that of a branch on any of the trees in the forest? 3 Is wood ever taken from it to make anything useful? Do they make pegs from it to hang things on? 4 And after it is thrown on the fire as fuel and the fire burns both ends and chars the middle, is it then useful for anything? 5 If it was not useful for anything when it was whole, how much less can it be made into something useful when the fire has burned it and it is charred? 6 "Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so will I treat the people living in Jerusalem."

Insight:
Though the nations surrounding Israel were strong, wealthy, skilled, and capable of great accomplishment, God had not spared them from judgment. Compared to the nations around them, Israel had become weak and useless. Any tree in the forest is stronger than a vine. God was Israel's strength, but they had rejected God. If the trees (the strong nations who had rejected God) could not survive the fire, how much less could a dried up vine (Israel) survive?

Response and Action:
We were not meant to live without God. No one, regardless of how strong they are, can reject God and still expect to live life to the fullest. I must recognize my weakness and my need for God. I must live with reverence toward God and be sure my life is rooted in Him. Living in connection with God is the only way to have a fruitful, fulfilling, and useful life.

O God, I am nothing on my own. I consider all my strengths to be nothing compared to the surpassing value of knowing you. Help me to draw near to you, to mature in my relationship with you, and to find my strength and purpose in you. Encourage me by your Spirit, through your Word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. 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:

Life on the Vine
by Philip D. Kenneson

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

July 25 - New Heart, New Spirit

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 10 - 12
N.T. - Hebrews 8

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 11:17-20
17 "Therefore say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.' 18 "They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God."

Insight:
Because of the sin and rebellion of his people, God withdrew his glorious presence from their temple and handed them over to captivity and exile. Even as this was happening, God gave Ezekiel a vision of restoration and a new and better relationship with his people.

God says he will gather up his people and give them a new spirit. Their heart of stone would one day be replaced with a heart of flesh. Instead of a hardhearted nation that needed the law to restrain them, they would become a softhearted people with a genuine love for God. Righteousness would be not the result of external rule keeping, but instead be the natural outflow of hearts shaped by God.

Response and Action:
God is drawing people to relationship with him. To those who seek him and yield themselves to him, he will give new hearts and the gift of his Spirit.

O God, give me a heart of flesh. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead me, shape me, and transform me. Help me to delight in your will and walk in your ways. Turn my heart toward you that my actions are the natural result of your shaping and renewing work in my life. Help me to be so renewed and rooted in you that I do what is right without being reminded of rules and regulations. Amen.


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

Resources:

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
by Dallas Willard

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

July 24 - Faithful among the Faithless

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 7 - 9
N.T. - Hebrews 10

Focus Verses:

Ezekiel 8:12-13
12 He said to me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, 'The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land.' " 13 Again, he said, "You will see them doing things that are even more detestable."
Ezekiel 9:3-4 3 Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4 and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it."

Insight:
The corruption and idolatry of God’s people was pervasive and deep. Even the elders who were to be the spiritual leaders of Israel had turned away from God. They had even brought idols into the temple and offered up prayer and worship to them. As their nation was falling apart, they lost faith in God and turned to superstition and pagan Gods. [Ez. 8:12-13]

Yet, in the midst of all this apostasy and unfaithfulness, there were people who remained faithful to God. Their faithfulness was demonstrated by the grief and sorrow they had about the sins of their nation. When judgment was poured out on Israel, God took special note of those who trusted in him. They were spared from death and survived the storm of destruction that left Israel in ruins. [Ez. 9:3-4]

Response and Action:
God holds people accountable for their actions. God recognizes those who are seeking him and trusting in him. God delivers those who look to him in faith. I must seek God with my whole heart. I must remain faithful to God and turn away from the sin and corruption that pervades my world. The things that grieve God's heart should grieve my heart too.

O God, help me to be faithful to you. Give me the wisdom to recognize sin and corruption and to turn away from it. Give me a heart that grieves over the things that grieve you. Show me your ways, and by your grace, give me the strength and will to walk in them. Though all around me should turn away from you, help me to remain true to you and to follow you with my whole heart. Amen.


Proverbs: 24:1-2
"Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble."

Resources:

Walking Away from Faith: Unraveling the Mystery of Belief and Unbelief
by Ruth Tucker

Monday, July 23, 2007

July 23 - Remembering God

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 4 - 6
N.T. - 2 Peter 2

Focus Verses:
Ez. 6:6-9
6 Wherever you live, the towns will be laid waste and the high places demolished, so that your altars will be laid waste and devastated, your idols smashed and ruined, your incense altars broken down, and what you have made wiped out. 7 Your people will fall slain among you, and you will know that I am the LORD. 8 " 'But I will spare some, for some of you will escape the sword when you are scattered among the lands and nations. 9 Then in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me—how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices.

Insight:
Once the people of Israel experienced the devastating consequences of their sin and rejection of God, they would, says Ezekiel, remember God and turn away from their worthless idols and detestable practices. They would recognize their sin, their spiritual adultery, the futility of idolatry, and the worthlessness of pagan worship. Ezekiel foretold the scattering and captivity of God's people. He also prophesied God's plan to save a redeem the remnant of people who would remain faithful or turn back to him.

Response and Action:
I must turn from anything that would lead me away from God. I will not commit spiritual adultery. I will worship God with all my heart. I do not want to grieve God by being unfaithful to him.

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. 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: 23:1-3
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. "

Resources:

Never Beyond Hope: How God Touches & Uses Imperfect People
by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom

Sunday, July 22, 2007

July 22 - Listen and Speak

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ezekiel 1 - 3
N.T. - Titus 2

Focus Verses:
Ez. 2:3-8
3
He said: "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, "This is what the Sovereign LORD says." 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you."

Insight:
Ezekiel was called by God to speak out to his people, who were obstinate, stubborn, and rebellious. God told Ezekiel to take in and digest the message he had for the people--a message that was sweet because it was truth from God, but bitter because it was judgment toward Israel. The success of his message was not as important as his faithfulness to deliver God's message. He was to speak out whether people listened to him or not. And though many would respond to his words with threats and violence, Ezekiel was to not be afraid.

Response and Action:
How am I like Israel? What are the ways that I am rebellious and obstinate before God? And how responsive am I to rebuke and correction? Who are the people God has put in my life to admonish and confront me? Being open to correction and confrontation are essential to growing in righteousness.

How am I like Ezekiel? Are there things I should speak out about? Are there people or issues I need to confront? Do threats and fears ever stop me from saying what I know is right? Being a faithful witness requires a commitment to take in the sweetness of God's word, and the trust to speak that truth with courage.

O God, give me a heart that is soft and responsive to you. Give me the wisdom to delight in the sweetness of your word. And as you shape and guide me by your word, give me a boldness to live and speak according to your word. May the words of my mouth, the works of my hands, and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 22:5
"In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them."

Resources:

Making Judgments Without Being Judgmental: Nurturing a Clear Mind and a Generous Heart
by Terry D. Cooper

Saturday, July 21, 2007

July 21 - New Every Morning

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Lamentations 3 - 5
N.T. - Ephesians 2:1-10

Focus Verses:

Lamentations 3:19-26

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Insight:
Remembering sins and failures can be a bitter. Looking back and realizing the time wasted pursuing the wrong things down the wrong paths can be depressing. In those moments of recognition and evaluation, Jeremiah called to mind God's love. Even though he was facing a terrible situation, he realized that things could be worse. He brought to mind God's compassion and mercy. He was able to hope in the Lord and his great faithfulness. He recognized his need for God's salvation, and trust in God’s goodness to those who seek and wait on him.

Response and Action:
When I am depressed or overwhelmed, I will hope in the Lord. I will acknowledge my sin and my need for God's salvation. I will wait on God, believing that he is good and able to save and renew me. I trust that God can use sad and bitter times to refine me, strengthen me, and lead me to maturity. Every day is a new day with new possibilities and new mercies from God's hand.

O God,
Every morning mercies new fall as fresh as morning dew.
Every morning I will pay tribute with the early day.
For your promises are sure; your compassions still endure.

Still the greatness of your love daily does my sins remove.
Daily, far as east from west, lifts the burden from the breast.
Gives unbought to those who pray, strength to stand in every day.

As the morning light returns, as the sun with splendor burns,
I will turn my eyes to Thee, Everblessed Trinity,
With my heart and hands to raise in unfailing prayer and praise.
Amen.


Proverbs: 21:2
"All a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart."

Resources:

The Smell of Sin: And the Fresh Air of Grace
by Don Everts

Friday, July 20, 2007

July 20 - Seeing My Own Sin

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Lamentations 1-2
N.T. - 1 John 1

Focus Verses:

Lamentations 1:18-20

18 "The LORD is righteous, yet I rebelled against his command. Listen, all you peoples; look upon my suffering. My young men and maidens have gone into exile. 19 "I called to my allies but they betrayed me. My priests and my elders perished in the city while they searched for food to keep themselves alive. 20 "See, O LORD, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious. Outside, the sword bereaves; inside, there is only death."

Insight:
Lamentations is the song of mourning and repentance the prophet Jeremiah offers up to God in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of its people into captivity. The prophets didn't just point a finger and deliver words of judgment, they identified with the sin of their people -- the very sin they spoke out against. Notice how Jeremiah says, "I have rebelled. I am distressed. I am in torment within. I have been most rebellious."

No person, even the person who is declaring God's righteousness and warning of God's judgment, has the right to judge or condemn. Jeremiah was wise enough and humble enough to see that even he was guilty before God. Even though he was in the position of preaching against sin, he was able to identify with his people and recognize the sin in himself.

Response and Action:
I want to recognize sin, take it seriously, and turn away from it. I want to speak out against sin and encourage others to turn away from it. I must be careful to always see my own sin. I must never speak out against sin or condemn others as though I am without sin or above them.

I will always give my attention to the plank in my own eye before I worry about the speck in someone else's eye. I will identify with other sinners and come alongside them in their struggles to overcome sin. In every thought and conversation about sin, I will examine my own life first and then consider how I and others can turn toward God for forgiveness and redemption.

Have mercy on me, O God. I am a sinner. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Lead me away from temptation. Deliver me from evil. Create in me a clean heart. Renew a right spirit within me. Restore and redeem me. Amen.


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

Resources:

Never Beyond Hope: How God Touches & Uses Imperfect People
by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom

Thursday, July 19, 2007

July 19 - From Straying to Seeking

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Jeremiah 49 - 52
N.T. - Revelation 7

Focus Verses:
Jeremiah 50:4-6
4 "In those days, at that time," declares the LORD, "the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the LORD their God. 5 They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten. 6 My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place."

Insight:
Once again, God's plan for redemption is the deeper theme that runs below and beyond all the words of judgment. God's desire is to move people from straying to seeking, from rejection to relationship, from corruption to covenant, and from roaming to resting.

Response and Action:
God is the source of life and blessing. Those who wander away from Him are bound to suffer loss and hardship. I need to be careful about who I follow, because some "shepherds" and "leaders" are going the wrong way. I must also be careful to not let pride or self-confidence cause me to lose sight of my need for God. I need to seek God with my whole heart, and turn my face toward Him.

O Great Shepherd, show me your ways and draw me to yourself. Don't let me stray from you, but instead, help me to find my path, my hope, my stability, and my rest in you. Lead me into truth and life through your Word, your Spirit, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Amen.

Proverbs: 19:2
"It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way."

Resources:

Following After God
by Daniel Hill

The Bible in the News

Tiny tablet provides proof for Old Testament
The Telegraph reports a new archaeological find that relates to the book of Jeremiah.

Museum’s tablet lends new weight to Biblical truth
Another article appears in the London Times


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

July 18 - Ruin and Renewal

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Jeremiah 46 - 48
N.T. - Hebrews 12

Focus Verses:
Jeremiah 48:7-8, 47
7 Since you trust in your deeds and riches, you too will be taken captive, and Chemosh will go into exile, together with his priests and officials. 8 The destroyer will come against every town, and not a town will escape. The valley will be ruined and the plateau destroyed, because the LORD has spoken. - - - 47 "Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come," declares the LORD. Here ends the judgment on Moab.

Insight:
Terrible judgment was poured out on the Egyptians, Philistines, and Moabites because of their pride, idolatry, and defiance. God, however, expresses more than anger and judgment through his prophet, Jeremiah. Jeremiah weeps as a testimony to God's sorrow over the sins of these people -- "My heart laments like a flute." He also declares God's promise and intent to restore and renew those who are under judgment -- "Yet I will restore in days to come!"

Response and Action:
I need to guard against pride and idolatry in my life. I must be honest about the ways I am defiant against God. My trust should be in God, not in myself. Jesus must be first in my life, and I must not let anything or anyone come before him. I must humbly yield my life to God, and look to him for the direction and strength I need. When I am experiencing God's discipline upon me, I must remember that God disciplines out of love, and promises to renew and restore.

O God, you have called me to trust in you, to put you first, and to offer myself to you in reverence for who you are. Deliver me from pride and teach me to put my confidence in you. Give me the discernment to know what is false and to worship you in spirit and truth. Forgive me for the times I resist or, worse yet, defy you. Help me to surrender myself to you and to be sensitive and responsive to your will and the guiding of your Spirit. Amen.

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

Resources:

Breaking the Idols of Your Heart
by Dan B. Allender

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

July 17 - Rejecting God

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Jeremiah 43 - 45
N.T. - 1 John 5

Focus Verses:
Jeremiah 44:15-18
15 Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present—a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, 16 "We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD! 17 We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. 18 But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine."

Insight:
This passage of scripture gives a startling view of just how boldly and flagrantly the people rejected Jeremiah's message and God himself. "We were better off when we were worshiping idols," they say. They were not just unfaithful to God, they were boldly rejecting God and choosing what they thought was better than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Response and Action:
I choose God. I believe that only the Almighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, the Father who sent his son Jesus into the world, is worthy of my life and my worship. I will look to God for the guidance, hope, and strength I need for life. I will guard against unfaithfulness. I will be careful to acknowledge God and put my trust in him alone. I will be sensitive and receptive to his message, given to me through the prophets and the apostles recorded in the pages of Scripture.

O God, give me a heart that is faithful to you. Give me the wisdom to recognize what is true and what is false. Help me to guard my heart and mind from anything that would turn me from you. I want to trust in you with all my heart. I will not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways, I want to acknowledge you. Only you, O God, know the straight path that leads to blessing, fulfillment, and life. Amen.

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

Resources:

Breaking the Idols of Your Heart
by Dan B. Allender

Monday, July 16, 2007

July 16 - Hear and Obey

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Jeremiah 40 - 42
N.T. - Matthew 7:13-29

Focus Verses:

Jeremiah 42:19-21

19 "O remnant of Judah, the LORD has told you, 'Do not go to Egypt.' Be sure of this: I warn you today 20 that you made a fatal mistake when you sent me to the LORD your God and said, 'Pray to the LORD our God for us; tell us everything he says and we will do it.' 21 I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the LORD your God in all he sent me to tell you."

Insight:
It is a mistake to ask God for direction and guidance if you don't plan to listen to him. To know what the Lord tells us to do, and yet fail to obey it, is sin.

Response and Action:
If I want to know what God wants, I must be ready to live that way. If I am asking God for direction and guidance, I must be careful to obey and follow him.

O God, 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. Give me ears that are quick to listen, a soft heart that is ready to receive your word, and a readiness to obey and follow you. Amen.

Proverbs: 16:2
"All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD."

Resources:

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

Sunday, July 15, 2007

July 15 - Confronted by Truth

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Jeremiah 37 - 39
N.T. - 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Focus Verses:

Jeremiah 38:1-5

1 Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2 "This is what the LORD says: 'Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. He will escape with his life; he will live.' 3 And this is what the LORD says: 'This city will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.' " 4 Then the officials said to the king, "This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin." 5 "He is in your hands," King Zedekiah answered. "The king can do nothing to oppose you."

Insight:
Getting encouragement and affirmation is always more pleasant than being rebuked and confronted. King Zedekiah didn't want bad news from Jeremiah, even if it was the truth. There were plenty of other "prophets" willing to tell him the things he wanted to hear (Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah).

People who think that the role of pastors and prophets is only to comfort and encourage them are dangerously mistaken. To be truly open to hearing from God, we must be willing to be confronted, challenged, rebuked, and corrected.

Response and Action:
I must soften my heart and have a readiness to acknowledge my faults.

O God, give me a humble heart and the wisdom to receive correction and rebuke. Help me to learn from my mistakes and to accept advice and counsel. Create in me a clean heart. Show me your ways. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.

Proverbs: 15:5
"A fool spurns his father's discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence."

Resources:

The Truth About Tolerance: Pluralism, Diversity And The Culture Wars
by Brad Stetson and Joseph

Saturday, July 14, 2007

July 14 - Words from God

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Jeremiah 34 - 36
N.T. - 2 Timothy 3

Focus Verses:

Jeremiah 36:27-28

27 After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah's dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 28 "Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up.

Insight:
Truth won't go away. When Jehoiakim's father, King Josiah, had discovered scrolls of Scripture that had been lost and unknown to him, he humbled himself before God and did all he could to honor and obey the Word. Jehoiakim, however, did not want to hear what Jeremiah had to say. He cut up the scroll he received from Jeremiah into tiny pieces and burned them. Jehoiakim not only refused to accept the message he received from Jeremiah, he showed contempt and disregard for it. Jeremiah just wrote it all down again.

Response and Action:
I need to pay attention to Scripture. Truth won't go away; it can't go away. Rather than turning away from the message of the Bible, I will embrace it and allow it to instruct me as I seek to know and follow Jesus.

O God, I love your word. I seek you with all my heart; don't let me stray from your commands. Show me your ways, guide me in your truth, and lead me, because you are God, my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Amen.

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

Resources:

The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine
by Alister E. McGrath and Joanna Collicutt Mcgrath

Friday, July 13, 2007

July 13 - New Hearts

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Jeremiah 31 - 33
N.T. - Hebrews 10

Focus Verses:

Jeremiah 31:33-34

33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Insight:
Jeremiah's message of restoration and renewal includes God's promise to make a new covenant with his people. This new covenant includes transformation of the heart. God promises he will not only forgive the sins of his people, but will also renovate their hearts in such a way that their desires and wills are in line with his desires and will. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy (Hebrews 10). Forgiveness and transformation of the heart are found in Jesus.

Response and Action:
I want to take hold of God's promise and experience the new covenant by surrendering my heart to Christ and putting my faith for life in him. God has given me more than a list of rules and expectations; he has given me the gift of his Holy Spirit. The Spirit will guide me into truth and strengthen me to live according to God's will and purpose for me life. I will draw near to God through prayer, reading and meditating upon the Scriptures, and fellowship with Christian friends who encourage me and spur me on toward love and good deeds.

O God, I have confidence in you and your promises to forgive, renew, and transform me. Thank you for the new and living way I have found in Christ. 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: 13:12
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

Resources:

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
by Dallas Willard

Thursday, July 12, 2007

July 12 - Beyond the Pain

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Jeremiah 28 - 30
N.T. - Hebrews 12

Focus Verses:

Jeremiah 30:15, 18-19

15 Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure? Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you. - - - 18 "This is what the LORD says: " 'I will restore the fortunes of Jacob's tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place. 19 From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained.

Insight:
The consequences of Israel's guilt and sin were painful and inevitable. Their wound could not be cured apart from the correction and discipline God was bringing upon them. God's intentions, however, were not merely punitive, but rather redemptive. God's promise was that they would come through the correction and suffering to a place of restoration and renewal. The mourning and sorrow of discipline would eventually be replaced with songs of thanksgiving and sounds of rejoicing.

Response and Action:
I must always remember that God's love and good will toward me does not mean that he will spare me from every consequence of sin. In fact, the consequences of sin are sometimes a necessary part of being refined and purified. Distress is often a part of being disciplined. The pain of correction is often a prerequisite to the blessing of renewal.

I will trust God to discipline and renew me, just as a loving father disciplines and blesses his children. When I face consequences for my sins and mistakes, I will humble myself before God, turn away from sin, and gain wisdom from lessons learned. I will also look forward with confidence in God to restore and renew me.

O God, have mercy upon me, a sinner. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of salvation and uphold me by your liberating Spirit. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.

Proverbs: 12:1
"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid."

Resources:

The Smell of Sin: And the Fresh Air of Grace
by Don Everts