Friday, August 31, 2007

August 31 - One King, One Lord, One Name

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Zechariah 13 - 14
N.T. - Philippians 2:1-11

Focus Verses: Zechariah 14:9

9 The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.

Insight:
When all is said and done, the truth of God will be known to all people. Everyone will know there is one Lord; his name will be exalted, and all people will acknowledge his authority over all things.

Response and Action:
I do not want to wait until the final day to recognize the Lordship of Jesus. I want to look to him in faith today and every day. I want to submit to his authority and serve him with my whole heart.

O God, I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father -- God from God, light from light, true God from true God. I believe he will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. Help me to acknowledge him in faith, surrender to him in love, and worship him in spirit and in truth. Amen.

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

Resources:
Why I Am a Christian
by John Stott

Thursday, August 30, 2007

August 30 - Dreams that are False

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

Focus Verses: Zechariah 10:1,2

1 Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone. 2 The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.

Insight:
We are so prone to look to the wrong places to find the blessing and help we need for life. God is the one who can truly bless and provide. Everything else that promises life and blessing is deceitful. We should ask the Lord for what we need.

Response and Action:
Where do I turn for comfort, purpose, hope, happiness, and fulfillment? Only God can truly provide these for me. Money, food, friends, sex, entertainment, possessions, prestige, power, ambition, and privilege are all deceitful idols when they promise to give what they cannot deliver.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give me the wisdom to look to you for life, truth, and joy. Help me to turn away from worthless things that cannot satisfy. Help me to seek you and turn to you first. Amen.

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

Resources:
Why I Am a Christian
by John Stott

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

August 29 - Real or Religious

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Zechariah 7 - 9
N.T. - James 1:19-27; 2:14-18

Focus Verses: Zechariah 7:4-8

4 Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: 5 "Ask all the people of the land and the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? 7 Are these not the words the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?' "8 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: 9 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.' "

Insight:
We humans have an incredible capacity for self-contradiction. We can praise God with our mouths one minute and in the next breath deride our neighbor. We can look to God for grace and forgiveness, and yet withhold them from someone who needs us to be merciful. We can fast and think ourselves to be very spiritual, and fail to see the spiritual failure of ignoring those who are hungry and poor.

True religion and spirituality are more than ritual; they are to be lived out by administering justice, showing compassion, sharing with those in need, and thinking of others with good will.


Response and Action:
God is honored in my life through actions more than in my words and ritual. Spiritual exercises like fasting are not an end in themselves, but are rather a means toward becoming a person who extends mercy, meets needs, and treats others with righteousness. I need to be sure that the acts of worship and religion I offer to God are proven to be real through tangible acts of compassion and justice.

O God, may my praise and worship be more than empty religion. Help me to truly love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, make me a person who honors you in loving action and righteous deeds. Give me a heart of compassion toward others, and make me ready to do good works that bless them. Amen.

Proverbs: 29:7
"The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

August 28 - The Day of Small Things

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Zechariah 4 - 6
N.T. - 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Focus Verses: Zechariah 4:6-10a

6 So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. 7 "What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!' " 8 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 9 "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. 10 "Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

Insight:

Zerubbabel was rebuilding the Temple. This was a monumental undertaking and he must have looked small as he stood on the temple site with his plumb line in hand.

The destruction of the first temple was so much more than the loss of a building; it represented the loss of God's favor and blessing. Israel had fallen, Jerusalem had been destroyed, its people had been killed, scattered and taken as prisoners and slaves. And now, nearly a century later, a man was standing on a hill with plans to rebuild the Temple. How could Zerubbabel possibly succeed? Not by might or power, but by the Spirit of God.

Little becomes much when God is in it. Small things in the hands of small people are cause for wonder and great respect when they are devoted to the will of God and empowered by his Spirit.

Response and Action:
God can do great things through small people. Though my strengths and abilities are small, God can use them to accomplish wonderful things. When I am weak, God is strong. I must be careful to not limit, by failing to remember God's Spirit, what I or others can do. I should not despise the day of small things; instead I should live by faith in a big God.

O God, give me eyes to see beyond human limitations. Give me the faith to recognize the great things weak people can do when they are empowered by your Spirit. Give me the courage to trust in you and depend on you, that I might pursue great things and great causes. I want to do something bigger than me. By your Spirit, give me the will, give me the strength, give me the faith, and give me a vision. Amen.

Proverbs: 28:26
"He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe."

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

Monday, August 27, 2007

August 27 - Becoming His People

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Zechariah 1 - 3
N.T. - Romans 12:1-8

Focus Verses: Zechariah 2:10-13

10 "Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD. 11 "Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. 12 The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. 13 Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling."

Insight:

The restoration of Israel and its release from captivity are prophesied by Zechariah. God's presence among the people of Israel and their reverence for him were at the heart of everything. Renewal is rooted in relationship with God.

Response and Action:
I want to be a person of God who is being renewed and transformed by his grace. I must be responsive to all God is doing to save and redeem people. I will praise God and cultivate an awareness of his presence.

Be near me, O God, and give me a strong and true sense of your presence. Help me to live for you and to love you with all my heart and soul. Open my mouth and my lips will declare your praise. Amen.

Proverbs: 27:1
"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth."

Resources:
Practicing God's Presence: Brother Lawrence For Today's reader
by Robert Elmer & Brother Lawrence

Sunday, August 26, 2007

August 26 - Someday I'll Put God First

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Haggai 1 - 2
N.T. - Philippians 2:1-13

Focus Verses: Haggai 1:2-9

2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.' "3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it." 7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the LORD. 9 "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house."

Insight:
When Israel returned from exile and captivity, their first priority seems to have been to rebuild their own homes and lives. Evidently, they got very use to thinking about rebuilding the Temple as something they would get around to someday. Haggai confronted them with their self-centered procrastination. He warned them that it was time to put God first. They could no longer put their own comfort and gain before worship and reverence for God, and expect God to bless them.

Response and Action:
I need to put first things first. I need to be sure worship and service for God are a higher priority to me than personal gain and comfort. What am I not giving to God because I am spending it on myself? What am I not able to do for God because I am too busy doing things for me? How can I expect to be blessed by God if I put worship and service for him behind what I do for myself?

O God, help me to seek you and serve you with true reverence and devotion. Forgive me for the times I am guided by my own selfish ambition rather than selfless worship for you. Help me to seek your kingdom and your righteousness above all else. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

Resources:
The Life You've Always Wanted
by John Ortberg

Saturday, August 25, 2007

August 25 - The Meek and Humble

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Zephaniah 1 - 3
N.T. - Luke 14:15-35

Focus Verses: Zephaniah 3:11-13

11 On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. 12 But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the LORD. 13 The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid."

Insight:
Pride and self-reliance had led many in Israel to be rebellious and sinful. Meekness and humility go hand in hand with trust in God. The remnant of Israel who trusted in God were those who were righteous and honest. Ultimately, Zephaniah prophesied, they would be the ones who would find rest and have nothing to fear.

Response and Action:
I need to be on guard against pride and the deception of self-reliance. Meekness and humility are essential to holiness and honesty. I will put my trust in God and find my rest in his promises.

O God, help me to live for you and through you this day in thought, word, and deed. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Give me a humble heart that hopes and trusts in you. Amen.

Proverbs: 25:6-7a
"Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here," than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman."

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

Friday, August 24, 2007

August 24 - Trouble and Trust

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Habakkuk 1 - 3
N.T. - Hebrews 10:32-39

Focus Verses: Habakkuk 3:16-18

16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Insight:
Habakkuk questions God about the devastation Israel is experiencing at the hands of Babylon. He asks, "Why is this happening, God? How can you stand by and watch this happen?" God replies that he was raising up Babylon as a means of judgment, but this is not because they are more righteous than Israel. In fact, Babylon was destined to experience judgment too. God was using a dirty broom to sweep Israel away, but that broom would one day be destroyed.

Though he was trembling under the violence and oppression of Babylon, he waited patiently in faith for God to judge Babylon for its brutality. His faith in God made it possible for him to rejoice in the Lord. The promise of deliverance sustained him, and he resolved ("I will rejoice") to be joyful in God his Savior.

Response and Action:
Faith in God makes joy possible in worrying times of defeat and uncertainty. It's okay to cry out to God with questions of why something is happening. Hope looks beyond the painful present to a promise of something better.

O God, give me the faith to hold on to you during tough times. When you feel far away and I wonder where you are and why you're not doing something to help me now, give me the resolve to trust and hope in you. Help me to be joyful in all circumstances as I look to you for strength and provision. Amen.

Proverbs: 24:10
"If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!"

Resources:
Letters From a Skeptic: Questions about Christianity
by Greg Boyd

Thursday, August 23, 2007

August 23 - God's Friend or Foe?

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Nahum 1 - 3
N.T. - Philippians 3:7-21

Focus Verses: Nahum 1:7-9

7 The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, 8 but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh ; he will pursue his foes into darkness. 9 Whatever they plot against the LORD he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time.

Insight:
God is good, and gives refuge to those who trust in him. But where does that leave the trouble makers? How can God defend those who are oppressed without taking action against those who are oppressing?

Ninevah had inflicted so much pain and trouble on others that they had become an enemy of God. Their plots against others, Nahum says, were really plots against God as they were contrary to God's ways. To act with injustice, brutality, hate, or indifference toward others is to oppose God's good will and in so doing become his foe. And being a foe of God is not a very wise thing to be!

Response and Action:
I need to put my trust in God in times of trouble. I need to give and value justice, dignity, love, and concern for others. I need to work with God in his acts to protect, save, and deliver those who are in trouble. If I am indifferent to the needs, troubles, and hardships of others (or worse yet profiting from them), I should expect to be opposed by the God who delivers and saves.

O God, help me to walk with you and commit myself to work with you in your acts to save and redeem. Give me a heart for the concerns and interests of others. Search me and try me. If there is any hurtful way in me, help me to see it and change it. Lead me in the way of your eternal goodness and grace. Thank you for being a refuge and strength in troubled times. Amen.

Proverbs: 23:10-11
"Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you."

Resources:
Practical Justice: Living Off-Center in a Self-Centered World
by Kevin Blue

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

August 22 - What is Good

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Micah 4 - 7
N.T. - 1 John 1

Focus Verses: Micah 6:8

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Insight:
God wants his people to live their lives in justice, mercy, and humility.

Response and Action:
To live out justice we must treat others and their interests with fairness, empathy, and dignity. To live out mercy we must extend forgiveness and grace when we are mistreated. To walk humbly requires a faith in God's presence and promise and to understand that his blessing toward us is rooted in his goodness, grace, and mercy.

O God, you are just and good in all your ways. Thank you for your mercy toward me. Help me to delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Help me to be just, merciful, and humble as I walk with you in the footsteps of Jesus by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs: 22:4
"Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life."

Resources:
Practical Justice: Living Off-Center in a Self-Centered World
by Kevin Blue

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

August 21 - Prophets Corrupted by Profits

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Micah 1 - 3
N.T. - 2 Timothy 3:10 - 4:5

Focus Verses: Micah 2:11 & 3:5

2:11 If a liar and deceiver comes and says, 'I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,' he would be just the prophet for this people! 3:5 This is what the LORD says: "As for the prophets who lead my people astray, if one feeds them, they proclaim 'peace'; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him.

Insight:
Anytime someone is being paid to teach or preach or prophesy, the listener should beware. This is true in all spheres of life, including religion, politics, business, media, and academics. When a person's livelihood is likely to be impacted adversely by what she/he says, it stands to reason that there will be a strong temptation to adjust the message for self-serving purposes. When truth-telling results in hardship or loss for the teller, strong character, courage, and integrity are necessary.

The "prophets" Judah would listen to were the ones who said exactly what they wanted to hear. If you're willing to pay, there is always someone willing to say what you want to hear. Micah declared God's condemnation of both the false prophets corrupted by money, and those who were paying them off.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful about who I listen to and who I believe. When a preacher or politician or celebrity make truth claims, I need to consider how personal gain figures into their motives for their message. I must be a person of integrity and be a truth teller. I must not allow my personal interests or opportunities for gain allow me to compromise my motives or my message.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to love truth and walk in truth. Give me the courage and integrity to speak the truth. Give me the heart and spiritual maturity to speak the truth in love. Give me the honesty to consider my motives for who I listen to, and who I believe. Give me the wisdom and discernment to recognize self-serving lies when I hear them. I ask all this in the name of Christ Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.

Proverbs: 21:6
"A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare."

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

Monday, August 20, 2007

August 20 - Grace that Could Be Theirs

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Jonah 1 - 4
N.T. - John 1:1-18

Focus Verses: Jonah 2:8

8 "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."

Insight:
This insight came to Jonah as he prayed inside the great fish God sent to swallow him. Sadly, he had been running from God's call to go and preach that grace to the people of Ninevah. Jonah wanted God's grace, but he didn't want God's to be gracious and merciful toward the Ninevites.

Jonah realized the truth of grace, but he was not eager to see God’s grace given to his enemies. God, on the other hand, had such great grace for Ninevah that he even expresses a concern for their cattle (4:11).

Response and Action:
I need God's grace and mercy for life. I should want to see that grace given to everyone, including my enemies. I should be faithful and ready to share God's grace with all people.

O God, forgive me for the times I am selfish with your goodness. Give me a heart that rejoices in seeing your grace extended toward all people. Help me to be a faithful witness and channel of that grace to everyone around me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 20:6
"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?"

Resources:
What's So Amazing about Grace
by Philip Yancey

Sunday, August 19, 2007

August 19 - The Sin of Looking Down

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Obadiah 1
N.T. - Galatians 5:13-6:10

Focus Verses:
Obadiah 1:12-13
12 You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. 13 You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor look down on them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster.

Insight:
Obadiah prophesied against Edom because they gloated over the destruction of Israel and saw it as an opportunity for their own gain. The people of Edom were descendants of Esau and so Obadiah talks about the relationship of Edom and Israel as an extension of that of Esau and Jacob. Selfishness, gloating, deception, and opportunism are all unacceptable to God.

Response and Action:
I should never take pleasure in the suffering of others, even those who are suffering the consequences of their own sin or foolishness. I should not think of ways to profit from the misfortunes of others. Both of these flow out of pride and selfishness and are contrary to the humility and graciousness God has called me to pursue.

O God, give me a humble spirit toward you and a generous compassion toward others. Help me to weep with those who weep. Make me a person who is interested in helping and redeeming those who are doing wrong, and ready to redeem and restore when they fall. Thank you for your love and mercy toward me, and your readiness to save and restore. Amen.

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

Resources:
Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace
by Miroslav Volf

Saturday, August 18, 2007

August 18 - Rebuilt to Last

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Amos 7 - 9
N.T. - Colossians 3:1-17

Focus Verses:

Amos 7:7-9
7 This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the LORD asked me, "What do you see, Amos?" "A plumb line," I replied. Then the Lord said, "Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. 9 "The high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam."
Amos 9:14-15
14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them," says the LORD your God.

Insight:
God could no longer spare Israel from the consequences of their sinfulness, self-deception, inhumanity, and disregard for justice. If a builder discovers the entire foundation of a building site is not level, he may be forced to destroy what is there in order to start over. In the same way, God held a plumb line up to the nation of Israel and saw no way to fix the problems without taking everything down and starting over.

The good news was that God's intent in the destruction and judgment of Israel was to start over. His ultimate purpose wasn't to tear them down, but rather to rebuild, to plant vineyards and gardens, and to do this all so well they would never again be uprooted.

Response and Action:
What things in my life need to be dismantled and thrown out in order for God to help me rebuild something good and lasting? I need to realize that there are some things in my life that must be put to death before I can experience true life. God doesn't want to merely reform me, he wants to tear down the old self and make me new.

O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I realize there are so many ways I fall short of what I can be in you. I know that I have so far to go, but I also know you love me where I am. Help me to put to death every sin and evil desire that would turn me away from you. Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus who has begun a good work in me. By your grace and power, build me into the person you want me to be. Amen.

Proverbs: 18:5
"It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the innocent of justice."

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

Friday, August 17, 2007

August 17 - Worship or Noise?

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Amos 4 - 6
N.T. - 1 John 4:7-21

Focus Verses: Amos 5:11, 21-24

11 You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. - - - 21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Insight:
Religious traditions, praise songs, offerings, and worship assemblies are repulsive to God when they are disconnected from the lives of those who practice them. You cannot please God with the worship you offer if it is not consistent with the life you live. God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth.

If we do not live with a desire for and commitment to integrity, justice, mercy, care, and compassion, our praise songs are just noise that annoys God. You cannot claim to love God, who is unseen, and ignore the needs and hardships of the people right in front of you.

Response and Action:
My worship and religion must flow out of a true heart for God, and true faith that is lived out in deeds of love and compassion.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. May the words of praise on my lips flow out of a true heart of devotion for you and a true love and concern for the world around me. Wake me up and help me see the ways self-centeredness and self-gratification are contrary to genuine worship and true religion. Help me to worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.

Proverbs: 17:5
"He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished."

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

Thursday, August 16, 2007

August 16 - For Three Sins, Even Four

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

Focus Verses: Amos 2:6

6 This is what the LORD says: "For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back {my wrath}. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals.

Insight:
The prophet Amos enumerated the sins of Damascus, Gaza, Ashdod, Tyre, Edom, Moab, Israel, and Judah. Their sins included brutality, war, torture, inhumanity, rejection of God's Law, idol worship, oppression of the poor, social injustice, sexual immorality, decadence, materialism, greed, and more.

Amos used the poetic device "for three sins, even four" to make the point that no list of sins was ever complete. No matter how many sins he listed, he could always find and add another.

Response and Action:
Sin must be taken seriously. The sins Amos listed are all too common in our world. When I think of the oppression, social injustice, greed, sexual immorality, brutality, false worship, and war my country is involved in, I am humbled before God and moved to pray in repentance. I will ask God to forgive us and lead us into the life and truth of his will and his ways.

O God, save us from the sins of indifference and selfishness. Forgive us for the oppression and suffering we ignore. Help us to be aware of the ways our wealth and privilege is a burden on the backs of so many who are suffering under corruption, greed, and poverty. Show me ways that I can resist and subvert the powers and the principalities of this world that destroy and oppress people you created and love. Amen.

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

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

August 15 - Hope in the End

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Joel 1 - 3
N.T. - Acts 2 and Romans 10

Focus Verses: Joel 2:28-32

28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

Insight:
The prophet Joel compares the destructive invasion of Israel by its enemies to a devouring plague of locusts. They utterly consume and destroy everything in their path and God allows it as judgment against Israel for rejecting him.

Joel also has a message of hope and restoration for the remnant of repentant people who would hold on in faith. They were promised restoration of their land and their lives. They were also promised a new outpouring of God's Spirit and salvation on the final day of judgment.

Jesus' disciples appropriated the promises of Joel's prophecy. They saw the Day of Pentecost as the beginning of fulfillment of his promise to all who would "call on the name of the Lord." They believed they were seeing the long-awaited outpouring of the Holy Spirit and salvation given to all who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Response and Action:
I want to experience salvation and to live in the hope and power of the Holy Spirit. I will call on the name of the Lord. I will hold on to faith through every circumstance, believing that God will sustain and save me.

O God, protect me from the things that threaten to consume and destroy me. Help me to look to you in faith in all circumstances. Thank you for Jesus, my Lord, who for my sake and my salvation came down from heaven. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life who has spoken through the prophets. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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

Resources:
Hope Has Its Reasons
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

August 14 - Break Up the Ground

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Hosea 10 - 14
N.T. - Matthew 13:1-23

Focus Verses: Hosea 10:12

12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

Insight:
The call to righteousness is a call to soften and open your heart. Like soil that needs to be tilled and broken up to receive seed and produce a crop, our hearts must be made ready to receive God's word and to produce righteousness as God nurtures that seed by the showers of his grace and provision.

Response and Action:
I need to be softhearted toward God. I need to break up the soil of my life and receive the word of God's truth.

O God, by your grace and mercy, help me to soften my heart. I seek you with all my heart. Make the field of my life ready to receive your truth and your guidance. Nurture and sustain me that I might grow strong in faith and be productive in life. Help me to honor you in all things. Amen.

Proverbs: 14:26
"He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge."

Resources:
The Garden of the Soul: Cultivating Your Spiritual Life
by Keri Wyatt Kent

Monday, August 13, 2007

August 13 - Reaping Wind

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Hosea 7 - 9
N.T. - Matthew 6:19-34

Focus Verses: Hosea 8:7-8

7 "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up. 8 Israel is swallowed up; now she is among the nations like a worthless thing.

Insight:
Instead of seeking God and things of eternal value, Israel had short-sightedly pursued worthless things. In the process, Israel lost its direction and its values. We become empty and our lives become worthless when we lose sight of the things that have true worth.

Response and Action:
I will make Jesus my number one pursuit. I will seek his kingdom and his righteousness. I want to find out what pleases God and commit myself to the things that have true and eternal value. And because I want my life to be full and meaningful, I will put first the things that last.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Give me the wisdom to know what is true and valuable and give me the heart and the will to pursue them above all else. Help me to live a productive life that honors you, blesses others, and satisfies me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 13:18
"He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored."

Resources:
Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day
by James Emery White

Sunday, August 12, 2007

August 12 - Sure as the Sun

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Hosea 4 - 6
N.T. - Ephesians 5:1-20

Focus Verses: Hosea 6:3

3 "Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."

Insight:
In today's reading, Hosea describes the ways Israel's unfaithfulness to God mirrors the unfaithfulness he has experienced from his own wife. Israel had turned to false Gods, borne illegitimate children, and prostituted itself. Its religion had become empty, its priests corrupt, and its leaders unjust. They had ignored God, rejected knowledge, and exchanged what was beautiful for something disgraceful.

Hosea calls out to them, "Come, let us return to the Lord." He pleads with them to "acknowledge the Lord." If they would turn to God, blessing and forgiveness would come "as surely as the sun rises." Tragically, like Hosea's wife, the people were unresponsive. And as Gomer left Hosea, Israel rejected God.

Response and Action:
I want to turn away from darkness and be responsive to God. I do not want to exchange the truth of God for lies. I will acknowledge God in all my ways and be wise. I will commit myself to seeking God's will and living by it. I do not want to be lost in the sleep of sin and weakness; I want to wake up from the things that lead to death and let the light of Christ shine on me and fill me.

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. Thank you for the light and hope I have in Christ. Thank you that your forgiveness is as sure--even more sure--as the rising of the sun. Forgive me of my sins and raise me up to walk in your truth by your grace. Help me to press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me. And as I press on, teach me to acknowledge you in all my ways. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

Resources:
Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
by Henri Nouwen

Saturday, August 11, 2007

August 11 - Bought by Love

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Hosea 1 - 3
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

Focus Verses: Hosea 3:1-2

1 The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes." 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley."

Insight:
God instructed the prophet Hosea to illustrate God's great love and faithfulness to his people by taking a wife who would be unfaithful to him. Hosea's actions and responses to his wife's unfaithfulness would be a real-life picture of God's actions and responses to the nation of Israel.

Hosea's wife was unfaithful to him, she prostituted herself and had children by other men. Eventually left Hosea for another man, but he finds her abandoned, destitute, and being sold as a slave. God tells him, "Show your love to her again," and so Hosea pays the price to buy her back. But he doesn't bring her home as a slave; he brings her home to be his wife! He says, "You are to live with me in faithfulness, and I will live with you."

Response and Action:
God loves, redeems, and restores his people. God wants to save me from unfaithfulness and restore me to a right relationship with him. I need to turn away from sin and turn to God. I need to identify the ways I am unfaithful to God and, with God's love and restoring help, put those ways aside. I want to be responsive to God, to honor him with my life, and to learn how to be faithful to him.

O God, thank you for your love. Look upon me in mercy and redeem me from my unfaithfulness. Thank you for Jesus, who has purchased me in by laying down his life, and for your Spirit who is renewing and restoring me. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Proverbs: 11:21
"Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free."

Resources:
Redemption
by Alister McGrath

Friday, August 10, 2007

August 10 - Shine Like Stars

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Daniel 10 - 12
N.T. - Phil. 2:12-18

Focus Verses: Daniel 12:3

3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

Insight:
Wisdom and righteousness are light for the world. People who live righteous lives lead others to righteousness.

Response and Action:
I need to walk with God in wisdom and integrity. Knowing the Scriptures, leading a holy life marked by integrity, and doing good will all serve as light and help lead others to God.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Help me lead others to a deeper relationship with you and a holy life. Amen.

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

Resources:
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology
by Eugene Peterson

Thursday, August 09, 2007

August 9 - We Have Sinned

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Daniel 7 - 9
N.T. - Luke 18:9 - 14

Focus Verses: Daniel 9:7-10

7 "Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets.

Insight:

The details of Daniel's prophetic vision are difficult to unpack and understand. Even Daniel didn't know what they meant apart from God's explanation. Daniel did understand, however, that the exile God's people were experiencing was the result of their unfaithfulness to God. Daniel recognized their sin, rebellion, disobedience, and failure to listen to the prophets. He knew this was why they were now in ruin and captivity. He appeals to God's mercy and forgiveness and asks God to save them as a testimony to the world of God's goodness.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize and guard against unfaithfulness and sin. I need to read and heed the words of Scripture. When I disobey and sin, I need to look to God for mercy and forgiveness.

O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Help me to live for you and through you this day in thought word and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what right. Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from evil. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Amen.

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

Resources:
Reflection & Confession
by Janet L. Johnson

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

August 8 - Living for the Living God

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Daniel 4 - 6
N.T. - 1 Peter 2:9-12

Focus Verses: Daniel 6:25-28

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: "May you prosper greatly! 26 "I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. "For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions." 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Insight:
Daniel's faithfulness to God resulted in prosperity and blessing. Even King Darius was moved to offer praise and worship to "the God of Daniel," because he had witnessed God's mighty power to sustain and help Daniel.

Response and Action:
My faithfulness to God will result in blessing to me and others. I want to live with faithfulness and boldness like Daniel. I pray that my life would be a testimony of God's power to protect and bless.

O God, pour out your mercy and blessing on me. Give me a heart that is faithful toward you, and give me the wisdom and will to walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

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

Resources:
Living the God Life
by John Ortberg