Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30 - Astonished

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 6:17-26 / Acts 12
Old Testament -
Psalms 20 / Genesis 44-45
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 12:12-15
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" 15 "You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel." 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

Insight:
I'm always encouraged, in a backwards sort of way, by how surprised the believers praying for Peter were when he showed up at their door. When the servant girl went to answer the door during the prayer time and returned with news that Peter was standing at the door, they practically told her to stop bothering them. They were too busy praying for Peter to expect an answer to their prayers. They told her, “You’re crazy.” They told her she had probably seen an angel. It’s almost funny to see a group of people praying so fervently to God for Peter's release, and yet so unprepared for their prayer to be answered.

Response & Action:
The amount of my faith is not as important as the object of my faith. It's good for me to pray for all my concerns, even though I may not be able to grasp or expect the way God will answer my prayers. God can and may do more than I am able to ask or imagine. Prayers are not dependent upon the mind of those praying, but rather upon the will of the God to whom they pray. I will lift up my requests and petitions to God, knowing that he may answer my prayers in ways I am not expecting.

O God, thank you for your power to answer prayer. Give me the faith and boldness to come to you with every need and concern. Thank you that your answers to my prayers are not dependent upon my ability to anticipate what they will be. Give me eyes that are ready to recognize your answers to my prayers, and give me a mouth that is ready to give you praise for them. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Ephesians 3:20-21
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Resources:
The God Who Hears
by W. Bingham Hunter

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 29 - Shine

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 6:1-16 / Acts 11:19-30
Old Testament -
Psalms 19 / Genesis 42-43
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 19:1, 9, 14
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. - - - 9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. - - - 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Insight:
It's hard to imagine how bright the stars blazed during the time of David. Our 21st century atmosphere is flooded with man-made light that diminishes our experience of the night sky. Sometimes when I get away from the lights of the city, like on a trip to northern woods and lakes of Minnesota, I'm reminded of just how breathtaking the heavens can be.

As a shepherd, and then later as a soldier, David spent many a night under the stars. He looked up and heard them "declare God's glory." The sun, moon, and stars were all giving glory to God by being exactly what he had made them to be. God had brought them into being by his word, and by God's word they were a glory to God.

Like the stars in the heavens, David wanted to be exactly who God had made him to be. He realized that God was his maker and he wanted to live by God's word in order to bring glory to God.

Response & Action:
I recognize that I exist by God's creative word. I want to live according to God's word. I will seek to know God's word as he has revealed it through creation, through the Scriptures, and through his Son Jesus--the Word made flesh. I will treasure, heed, and keep God's Word. God's Word will guide and inform all I am and think and do. I will pray that the words of my mouth, the attitudes of my heart, and the works of my hands will be pleasing and honoring to God.

O God, give me wisdom and insight. Help me to seek you first and lead many to righteousness. Help me to delight in your word, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Help me to shine like a star as I hold out the word of life. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Philippians 2:14-16a
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16a as you hold out the word of life..."

Resources:
How to Read the Psalms
by Tremper Longman

Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28 - Good Timing

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 5:33-39 / Acts 11:1-18
Old Testament -
Psalms 18:25-50 / Genesis 41
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Genesis 41:9-14
9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, "Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged." 14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

Insight:
Though he had been released and restored as Joseph had foretold, Pharaoh's cupbearer had forgotten to help or say anything about Joseph. Now that Pharaoh was troubled by dreams, the cupbearer remembered his own encounter with Joseph.

I'm struck with how God used the forgetfulness of the cupbearer for good. If he had mentioned Joseph right away, what would have happened? Would Joseph have been at the right place at the right time? The mistake of the cupbearer resulted in Joseph being remembered and found at just the moment Pharaoh would need him, at just the moment he would be willing to elevate Joseph to a position of power, at just the moment Jacob and his family were experiencing famine and would need to go to Egypt to buy food.

God uses even the mistakes and hardship in our lives to accomplish greater purposes and greater good.

Response & Action:
I will trust God to accomplish his purposes in his time and his way. I take heart in knowing that human mistakes and injustices do not stop God from working toward good for his people. I am encouraged to know that God can turn things meant for evil and work them for good. When I face hardship and failure, I will strive to be faithful and trust God to redeem my difficult circumstances for his good purposes in his good time.

O God, help me to live one day at a time in the confidence that you know my needs and you know my future. Help me to be faithful to you in the belief that you will be faithful to me. Help me to look to you and to wait on you in the hope that you are using everything I entrust to you to accomplish your good will. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Galatians 6:9
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Resources:
Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent
by Ben Patterson

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reading Schedule for Sept. 28 - Oct. 3

Psalm 119:32-34
"I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart."

Schedule and Tips
2009-10 Reading Schedule
Tips for Daily Bible Readers

September 28 -
Luke 5:33-39 / Acts 11:1-18
Psalms
18:25-50 / Genesis 41

September 29 -
Luke
6:1-16 / Acts 11:19-30
Psalms 19 / Genesis
42-43

September 30 -
Luke
6:17-26 / Acts 12
Psalms
20 / Genesis 44-45

October 1 -
Luke 6:27-36 / Acts 13:1-25
Psalms 21 / Genesis 46-47

October 2 -
Luke 6:37-42 / Acts 13:26-52
Psalms 22:1-11 / Genesis 48

October 3 -
Luke 6:43-49 / Acts 14
Psalms 22:12-31 / Genesis 49

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September 26 - No Favoritism

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 5:27-32 / Acts 10:24-48
Old Testament -
Psalms 18:1-24 / Genesis 39-40
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 10:30-35
30 Cornelius answered: "Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.' 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us. 34 Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

Insight:
God accepts anyone who has faith in him and reverence for him. Faith and reverence are lived out by honoring God and doing what is right. The testimony of all the prophets, Peter said, is that "everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name." Through this amazing God-ordained encounter, God was not only showing himself to Cornelius and his household, he was also helping Peter to know and understand him in fuller way.

Response & Action:
I am so glad that God's mercy and love are available to everyone regardless of ethnicity, language, nationality, or religious background. Those who believe in God and humbly seek him will find him.

My faith in God and reverence for him must be lived out in my daily life. I will seek God with my whole heart. I will continue to expect God to help me know him more completely and deeply. I will be ready and willing to help others know and respond to God. I will also be ready to learn new things about God. The more I know Christ the more I will be able to share him with others. The more I share Christ with others, the more I will know him.

O God, thank you for loving us and for making a way for us to have forgiveness and life through Jesus. You have promised that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. May all who seek you find you, O God. May all who know you freely and boldly share your love with everyone around them. Help me to know you more and more each day. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
1 John 5:11-12
11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Resources:
One Body, One Spirit: Principles of Successful Multiracial Churches
by George A. Yancey

Friday, September 25, 2009

September 25 - Dreaming

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 5:17-26 / Acts 10:1-23
Old Testament -
Psalms 17 / Genesis 37-38
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Genesis 37:9-11
9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Insight:
When Joseph told his family about his dreams, his brothers took it as an offense. They all knew Joseph was his daddy's favorite and they were jealous of him. They just assumed his dreams were the crazy ideas of a spoiled kid with an inflated sense of importance.

Even Jacob rebuked Joseph, but he must have wondered what the dreams were about. He remembered that he too had some important dreams as a young man, so he "kept the matter in mind." Was there something to these dreams? What could they be about? Was God up to something new? Did God have some special plan in mind for Joseph?

Response & Action:
Life is full of mysteries and God's work and purpose for our lives isn't always clear to us. I need to be careful to not dismiss the possibilities of big things and important opportunities in my life or the lives of others close to me. God is at work in my life and the lives of my family and friends in ways I cannot begin to know or imagine. I will be open to possibilities, have an open mind, and keep my eyes open to the ways God is leading and moving.

O God, open my eyes to the ways you are leading me. Help me to recognize the ways you are at work in my life. Guide me by your written word, by your Holy Spirit, and by the godly counsel of others who are listening and responding to you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Resources:
Following After God
by Daniel Hill

Thursday, September 24, 2009

September 24 - Encouragement

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 5:12-16 / Acts 9:20-43
Old Testament -
Psalms 16 / Genesis 36
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 9:26-27
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

Insight:
It's difficult for people to change. Saul's encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus was a traumatic point of change. He was confronted with the truth of Christ and was radically turned from a zealous opponent to fearless believer. This change was not easy for others to deal with.

Those who wanted Saul to persecute the church now saw him as a threat that needed to be eliminated. Those who had experienced persecution now found it difficult to believe that Saul had truly become a follower of Christ. Barnabas accepted Saul, supportively came alongside him, and helped the Christian community recognize the huge change Saul was experiencing.

Response & Action:
I need to remember how hard it is for people to change. People who put their faith in Christ often experience pressure and animosity from people who don't want them to change. Sadly, they may also feel a lack of support or acceptance from Christians who are skeptical about them. I want to be a Barnabas.

I want to be welcoming, accepting, and supportive of new believers. I want to come alongside them, encourage them in their faith, help them form relationships with other believers, and help them overcome the pressures and threats they feel from those who do not want them to follow Christ.

O God, thank you for the men and women who have supported me and helped me follow Christ. Thank you for the changes you have brought to my life. Thank you for the transformation and renewal I am experiencing by the grace and power of your Holy Spirit. Help me to be an encouragement and friend to new believers as they begin their new life in Christ. Help my church to be a welcoming community that believes in your power to change and renew lives. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Resources:
Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction
by David G. Benner

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

September 23 - Chosen Instrument

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 5:1-11 / Acts 9:1-19
Old Testament -
Psalms 15 / Genesis 34-35
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 9:13-15
13 "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.

Insight:
Saul not only rejected Christianity, he vigorously opposed it. He was doing everything within his power to wipe it out. From his perspective the claims of Jesus and his followers were lies and blasphemy. His hostility toward Christianity was rooted in his faith and devotion to God. Only through his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus did he come to recognize Jesus as the very God he was trying to serve and honor.

After he put his faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior, the energy and passion Saul/Paul had formerly directed toward persecuting Christians was redirected toward helping others become Christians. The man who was once the most feared opponent of Christianity became the greatest evangelist, ambassador, and teacher of the early church.

Great adversaries have the capacity to become great advocates. Those who are zealous in their opposition to God, may be chosen instruments he intends to use to reach others. When those who thoughtfully and honestly oppose the gospel come to recognize Jesus for who he truly is, they can become the most believable, passionate, and effective witnesses for Christ in the world.

Response & Action:
When God directed Ananias to go to Saul, he was hesitant and perhaps a little fearful. He had heard about Saul's hostility toward Christian faith and the harm he had inflicted upon followers of Jesus. Ananias saw a threatening enemy, but God saw a passionate servant.

I want to be faithful and obedient to God as I relate to people who reject Jesus and are hostile to Christianity. I want to be a loving and thoughtful witness to those who are struggling with honest questions, those who oppose faith for good reasons, and even those who strenuously oppose Christianity because they think it's a lie.

I need to remember that these opponents have the potential to reach and influence more people than I ever could. Their opposition to Christ might be the very thing that will lead them to one day recognize Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. They may be God's chosen instruments for helping others come to faith in Christ.

O God, make me ready to minister to others, and obedient to your call. Help me to see the promise and potential people have in Christ. Give me a love and generosity for those who deny and oppose you. Give me the wisdom and understanding to answer the questions of honest skeptics. Remind me that you are at work in the world to help seekers find you. Give me the grace and integrity to live a Jesus-shaped life that bears witness to the truth of the gospel. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
2 Corinthians 5:20
20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Resources:
Speaking of Jesus: How to Tell Your Friends the Best News They Will Ever Hear
by J. Mack Stile

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September 22 - Limping toward Blessing

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 4:38-44 / Acts 8:26-40
Old Testament -
Psalms 14 / Genesis 32-33
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Genesis 32:30-31
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.

Insight:
When Jacob sent messengers ahead to give Esau the news of his return, Esau responded with force. He and a small army of his men (400) came out to confront Jacob, the devious brother he despised. Jacob had tricked and cheated Esau in the past, and Esau was not about to welcome him back only to be deceived and swindled again in the future. A rich and powerful Jacob was a threat to Esau's security and an insult to his ego.

Jacob was alarmed and shaken by the news of Esau's vehement response. He feared losing everything. He spent the whole night tossing and turning and wrestling with God. He struggled with his fears, his guilt, his hopes, and his anguish over the impending menacing confrontation with Esau. In that mysterious all-night interaction with God, Jacob's hip was thrown out of joint.

Jacob, ever the shrewd player, orchestrated the way Esau would encounter him. Before Esau got to Jacob, he would first be met by droves of livestock in the care of humble servants declaring themselves and their flocks to be gifts from their master. Jacob's plan was to wear down Esau's hostility with bold generosity.

I'm sure this scheme went a long way toward defusing Esau's rage, but wouldn't years of pent up rage and thirst for revenge come rushing back once he locked eyes with a strong, healthy, happy, and prosperous Jacob? Imagine what he must have thought when he encountered, instead, a haggard, stressed out, and red-eyed Jacob who came limping out to meet him. Surely the sense of threat must have melted away. Jacob might have even seemed pitiful and weak.

Response & Action:
God can use my weakness and brokenness to help me. The things God does to limit me or slow me down might be the very things necessary to preserve my life. My efforts to manipulate and orchestrate my success from a position of strength might be of no real value in the end.

When the shame and consequences of my past sins and mistakes come back to threaten and defeat me, I must remember that God is faithful and he can save me. My weakness may be my greatest strength as I rely on God. Ultimately, my life is in God's hands, and God is able to use my powerless to accomplish his perfect will. What seems to be a liability from my point of view, might in fact be an instrument of blessing from God's.

O God, teach me to rely on your strength instead of my own. Help me to trust in you with all my heart instead of leaning on my own understanding. Give me confidence that comes by faith in your unfailing love. Give me hope that springs from surrender to your will. Help me to follow you in obedience because I have assurance in your promises. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

Resources:
Following After God: What Difference Does God Make
by Daniel Hill

Monday, September 21, 2009

September 21 - Rocky Relationships

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 4:31-37 / Acts 8:1-25
Old Testament -
Psalms 13 / Genesis 31
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Genesis 31:45-49
45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, "Gather some stones." So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me today." That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah, because he said, "May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other."

Insight:
It's difficult to navigate through the changes in life. Laban and Jacob had both cheated and benefited each other. They needed each other, but they both wanted to be free from each other too. Now they were at a decisive point of separation.

Neither one of them fully trusted each other (with good reason), but they promised each other, before God, that neither of them would harm the other. Jacob would take care of Laban's daughters and grandchildren. Laban would release, pursue them no further, and do them no wrong. As a sign and a reminder of their promises to each other, Jacob and Laban made a pile of stones.

Response & Action:
Our lives are bound up and interwoven with the lives of others, but there are times when we must face and accept changes in those relationships. Our children grow up and leave home and start making their own choices and living by their own values. Our friendships go through changes because our life circumstances change (jobs, health, location, responsibilities).

Ultimately, we have to live our own lives before God. We all need to commit ourselves to be good to each other and trust God to keep watch over us. I need to yield myself to God and trust him with the changes in my life instead of trying to control things beyond my control. Rather than allowing the changes of life to destroy relationships, I want to accept changes, to trust others, and to trust God. When I reach decisive milestones in my relationships with others, it might be helpful for me to do something special to mark those changes in order to help me remember them before God.

O God, teach me to trust you with every change in life. Give me a heart that desires what is best for others. Stop me from taking any action or saying any word that would destroy a friendship or hurt a relationship. Help me to treat others with the same grace and freedom I would want them to treat me. Remind me of your faithfulness and increase my faith. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Romans 12:17-19
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

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

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reading Schedule for September 21 - 26

Hebrews 4:12
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

Schedule and Tips
2009-10 Reading Schedule
Tips for Daily Bible Readers

September 21 -
Luke 4:31-37 / Acts 8:1-25
Psalms 13 / Genesis 31


September 22 -
Luke
4:38-44 / Acts 8:26-40
Psalms 14 / Genesis 32-33


September 23 -
Luke
5:1-11 / Acts 9:1-19
Psalms 15 / Genesis 34-35


September 24 -
Luke
5:12-16 / Acts 9:20-43
Psalms 16 / Genesis 36

September 25 -
Luke
5:17-26 / Acts 10:1-23
Psalms 17 / Genesis 37-38

September 26 -
Luke
5:27-32 / Acts 10:24-48
Psalms 18:1-24 / Genesis 39-40

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September 19 - Resistance

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 4:13-30 / Acts 7:39-60
Old Testament -
Psalms 12 / Genesis 29-30
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 7:51-53
51 "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."

Insight:
Stephen's ministry in the early church had attracted the attention and opposition of the Sanhedrin -- the ruling council and highest authority in ancient Jerusalem. His preaching and his persuasive arguments about Jesus were especially unacceptable to them. When Stephen is called to stand before them and defend himself, he gives a brief review of Hebrew history with an emphasis on the many occasions when the Israelites have been slow to obey God or recognize God's leading. He challenges them to consider their rejection of Jesus as the latest misstep in a long history of disobedience and disbelief.

Response & Action:
In the face of abuse and opposition, Stephen stood firm in his faith. Instead of defending himself or arguing for his own release, Stephen boldly challenged the Sanhedrin to consider their own history and give careful consideration to the claims of Jesus. They were cold and cruel to him, yet he was gracious and forgiving toward them.

O God, give me eyes to see the work of Jesus in my world today. Help me to experience and understand your work and presence in my life. Help me to stand firm in my faith and be a bold and effective witness for Jesus in my world and in my time. If I face disapproval from others, help me to be gracious to those who oppose me. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses:
1 Peter 3:14-16
14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Resources:
Living Gently in a Violent World
by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier

Friday, September 18, 2009

September 18 - Fraud and Faith

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 4:1-12 / Acts 7:1-38
Old Testament -
Psalms 11 / Genesis 27-28
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Genesis 27:18-19
18 He went to his father and said, "My father." "Yes, my son," he answered. "Who is it?" 19 Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing."

Insight:
The name, Jacob, could be translated "heel grabber." It's an appropriate name for him because he, like his mother, was a schemer and a scrambler. He wanted to be blessed by God, but seems to have thought he needed to scrape and trick his way into blessing. He couldn't just be who he was; he needed to pretend to be something he wasn't.

It seems like most people need to wrestle with this problem. It's hard to learn that cheating, manipulation, and pretense are absolutely inferior to trusting God and being honest about ourselves. Fraud and faith are opposed to each other.

Response & Action:
Who am I? Am I honest about who I am before God and others? Am I someone who humbles myself before God, who trusts God to lead and bless, or someone who thinks I need to scheme and scratch my way to get ahead. I want to live a life of integrity and humility. I want to be honest and humble before God and before others. I want to know God and to trust him for direction and blessing. Then I will be able to be honest with myself and with others.

O God, you are my God. I will seek you earnestly. I want to know you and trust you with all my heart. Help me to look to you for blessing and provision, instead of looking to myself. Help me to turn away from cheating and pretense, and instead live with faith and honesty. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 17 - What Will Be

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Luke 3:21-38 / Acts 6
Old Testament -
Psalms 10 / Genesis 25-26
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Genesis 26:23
23 The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."

Insight:
God promised Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation. God didn't choose a nation, he chose to make a nation. He started with an old man, Abraham, and his old barren wife, Sarah. Eventually they had a son, Isaac, who's wife, Rebekah, was also unable to have children. It's as if God were making it absolutely clear that the promised nation would only exist by his provision.

God answered Isaac's prayers, and Rebekah became pregnant with twin sons. With the birth of Esau and Jacob, the story then turns to the push and pull of which son would become the heir to God's promise Abraham. Jacob was a scrambler and a schemer who wanted more than his birthright. Esau was a outdoorsman who didn't really care or value his birthright.

The story of God's promise and God's people begins in the story of two little boys who become two very different men with very different futures. Who they become and what results in their lives is very much rooted in the attitudes they have toward God, toward God's promises, and toward each other.

Response & Action:
The future of two nations began in the nursery of twin brothers. I need the wisdom to see how my future is rooted in the small things in my life today. How will my attitudes and actions today impact the future of God's promise and plan for me? How will the beliefs and choices I have right now going to impact my family, my church, my community, and my world. A faith and awareness of God's promises, and a commitment to pursue and value those promises, will make all the difference.

O Lord, help me to see the potential and promise you have for me. Help me to value and treasure the birthright you have given to me in Christ. Help me to trust you and follow you with all my heart. Give me a strong faith and grant me the wisdom to choose and act in accordance with my faith. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Philippians 3:12-14
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Resources:
Courage & Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential
by Gordon T. Smith