Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 31 - Honor and Glory

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Matthew 1:18-25
1 Timothy 1:12-20

Old Testament -
Proverbs 2
Ezra 3
Click on Text Links to Read Online

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

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

Response & Action:
I will continually look to Christ for the salvation and the grace I need to become like him. I will live with the intention of making the hope and power of Christ visible to others. It is my hope that God's saving work in my life will be apparent to others. I will express my deepest thanks and highest praise to God for the resurrection life he is giving me through Jesus.

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

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 6:22-23
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 30 - Life Renewed

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
Matthew 1:1-17
1 Timothy 1:1-11

Old Testament -
Proverbs 1
Ezra 1-2
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Ezra 1:1-3
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2 "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.' "

Insight:
God had used foreign powers to humble, discipline, and purify his people. Seventy years later, just as he had promised through the prophet Jeremiah, he used the King of Persia to restore the Israelites to their homeland. During their years of exile, God had used prophets and leaders like Ezekiel and Daniel to preserve a remnant of Israel. These faithful Jews were now given the chance to return to their homeland.

The first thing those who returned to Jerusalem did was to build an altar to the Lord. They reestablished the priesthood, and restored the practices of worship, feast days, and sacrifices. Zerubbabel led the effort to rebuild the Temple.

Response & Action:
God is able to accomplish his purpose in my life. The very things that challenge, humble, and refine me today, God can use to restore and renew me tomorrow. The most important thing I can do is to seek and love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

If my eyes are fixed on Jesus, I will not need God's hand of discipline to turn me toward him. If I seek him with my whole heart, he will sustain me through times of challenge and hardship. When I experience times of favor and success, I will be careful to make worship my first priority and concern.

O God, you are sovereign. You are able to accomplish your purposes in the world and in my life. Give me the wisdom to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and my heart turned toward you. Help me to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness, trusting that everything else I need will be provided. Thank you for your great faithfulness and the hope of restoration you have given me in Christ. It's in his redeeming name that I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Jude 1:24-25
24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Resources:
40 Days Living the Jesus Creed
by Scot McKnight

Monday, March 29, 2010

March 29 - Loving Him the Most

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 21:15-25
2 Thessalonians 3:14-18

Old Testament -
Psalms 150
2 Chronicles 34-36
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 21:17-19
17
The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." 18 Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

Insight:
During the arrest and trial of Jesus, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Now the resurrected Jesus asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Each time Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, and Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

Following Jesus requires a love for him above all else, participation in his ministry, and a heart to bring glory to God in life and in death.

Response & Action:
How many times do I deny or fail Jesus in the trials and tasks of daily life? For each and every time I do, I need to hear his voice asking, "Do you love me?"

To love and follow Jesus, I must deny self. Jesus said, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt. 10:39) To love and follow Jesus, I must share in his ministry -- "Feed, care for, and shepherd his sheep."

To love and follow Jesus, I must share in his suffering ("when you are old you will stretch out your hands") and face things that are beyond my choice and control, and yet give glory to God. As the Apostle Paul said, "whether by life or by death, may Christ be exalted in my body" (Phil. 1:20).

This day, O God, help me to love you more than all else. Help me to serve and share in the saving work of Christ. In every circumstance, every choice, every action, every temptation, and every trial, may I hear Jesus voice asking, "Do you love me more than these?" In every case, give me the grace to say "Yes, Lord, you know I love you," so that in life and even death I give you praise. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Mark 12:29b-31
29b " 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Resources:
40 Days Living the Jesus Creed
by Scot McKnight

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reading Schedule for March 29 - April 3

Proverbs 4:18-23
18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. 20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body. 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

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

March 29 -
John 21:15-25 / 2 Thessalonians 3:14-18
Psalms 150 / 2 Chronicles 34-36

March 30 -
Matthew 1:1-17 / 1 Timothy 1:1-11
Proverbs 1 / Ezra 1-2

March 31 -
Matthew 1:18-25 / 1 Timothy 1:12-20
Proverbs 2 / Ezra 3

April 1 -
Matthew 2:1-12 / 1 Timothy 2
Proverbs 3 / Ezra 4-5

April 2 -
Matthew 2:13-23 / 1 Timothy 3:1-10
Proverbs 4 / Ezra 6

April 3 -
Matthew 3:1-12 / 1 Timothy 3:11-16
Proverbs 5 / Ezra 7

Saturday, March 27, 2010

March 27 - Ready to Work

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 21:1-14
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Old Testament -
Psalms 149
2 Chronicles 30-33
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:

2 Thessalonians 3:11-13

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

Insight:
In such a short letter, it's amazing how Paul's instructions and topics range from the epic to mundane. One minute he's explaining apocalyptic mysteries, and the next he's talking about holding down a job and earning enough to buy your own groceries. It's amazing, but not surprising, because the big ideas of Christianity are all lived out in the little details of life.

Idleness, Paul says, is akin to laziness and a lack of self-control. Poor stewardship and poor motivation are inconsistent with the Christian way of life. Idleness is a sin of omission when good work is left undone. It can also lead to sins of commission as it provides the opportunity for doing wrong.

Idleness should not be confused with restfulness. The former is a failure to do your job or fulfill your responsibilities. The latter is the thoughtful setting aside of time for renewal and refreshment. Restfulness can actually be a deterrent to idleness because it keeps us healthy and ready to perform our duties.

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

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


Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 29:19
19 He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.

Resources:
The Monday Connection
by William E. Diehl

Friday, March 26, 2010

March 26 - Stop Doubting

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 20:24-31
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Old Testament -
Psalms 148
2 Chronicles 28-29
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 20:27-29
27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Insight:
When the disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus, he found it difficult to believe them. Maybe they had seen someone or something else. Thomas would have to see Jesus for himself. He would have to hear his voice, see his face, and see the evidence of his crucifixion. When he saw Jesus, he became so sure of the resurrection that he called Jesus, "his Lord and his God!"

Thomas' expression of praise and worship means more to me, just knowing that it comes from a person who found it difficult to believe. I also find it important to that Jesus accepts Thomas' worship and surrender. If Jesus were not Lord and God, why would he allow Thomas to say such a thing? Jesus' claim of deity and authority is clearly implicit in his acceptance of Thomas' confession.

Response & Action:
My doubts and concerns are not too much for Jesus. God will meet me in my honest doubts and help me come to the truth. Faith is not opposed to reason. Humble reasoning may even lead me to believe and strengthen my faith.

O God, I believe in Jesus. Increase my faith and help me to deal with honest doubts. Thank you for every testimony, every Scripture, and every experience you've provided to give me reasons to believe. Help me to see Jesus, and as my eyes are opened, make me quick to confess him as Lord and God. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Jude 1:21-22
21 Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt...

Resources:
Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith
by Alister McGrath

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25 - Teachers and Truth

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 20:19-23
2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Old Testament -
Psalms 147
2 Chronicles 25-27
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Thessalonians 2:15-17
15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Insight:
Of all the scripture written by Apostle Paul, this chapter contains some of the most difficult to understand and interpret. The passage must be approached with care because it is a clarification of teachings he had previously given Thessalonians when he was with them. The original teachings are not available to us.

While we might not be able to grasp all of what Paul is saying here, we can certainly profit from the principles he gives to help them avoid being deceived. He warns them that not every claim to Apostolic authority is true (v.2). They should be careful to remember the teachings they received directly from the Apostles (v.5), stand firm in them (v.15), and consider them to be authoritative over competing or conflicting teachings and ideas.

He tells them that false and deceptive teachers are marked by: a rebellious spirit (v.3), a disregard for law and morality (v.3), and an inflated view of self that has no reverence for God (v.4). Self-deception, he says, results from delighting wickedness, refusing to love truth, and believing lies (vv.10-12).

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

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

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 4:1
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Resources:
Enemies With Smiling Faces
by Donald C. Posterski

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24 - Faithful Forever

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 20:10-18
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Old Testament -
Psalms 146
2 Chronicles 22-24
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 146:3-6
3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. 4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. 5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, 6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the LORD, who remains faithful forever.

Insight:
Though some people have political power and authority, they are bound by human limitations. They may have great strategies, and resources, but they cannot save. They may do wonderful things and be a force for great good, but they do not live forever, and when they die their plans often die with them. That is why the psalmist puts his trust in God—the maker of all things, the one whose plans cannot be thwarted, and the one who remains forever.

Blessing and security are not in the hands of mere mortals, but rather in the hands of the eternal God who created and sustains all things. Ultimate power is not to be found in princes or presidents or politicians, but in the person of Christ Jesus. The hope for salvation, renewal, and redemption rests in God alone.

Response & Action:
I will put my trust and hope in God. I will not depend on human strength to save me, my family, my country, or the world. I will not depend on those with political power to make things right. Neither will I trust in my own strength and abilities. Real hope and direction and transformation are to be found in God. While we must all do our best to live and act for the good of our world, we must also recognize that only God has the wisdom and power to renew and save. My faith, my hope, and my devotion are firmly fixed upon Christ Jesus.

O God, my faith and hope are in youthe Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father—God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. I believe in the Holy Spirit—the Lord, the Giver of Life—who proceeds from the Father and the Son. I trust you to guide, to save, and to renew. By your wisdom and power, bring your salvation to mortal humanity, and teach us to walk in your ways to the glory of your name. I ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit—one God now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Colossians 1:13-14
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Resources:
40 Days Living the Jesus Creed
by Scot McKnight

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23 - Every Good Purpose

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 20:1-9
2 Thessalonians 1:8-12

Old Testament -
Psalms 145
2 Chronicles 20-21
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

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

Insight:
Paul was confident that God would one day act in justice and put the world to rights. He was sure that destruction would come upon all who rebelled against God, rejected the gospel of Christ, and persecuted the church. He was just as convinced that blessing would be poured out upon all who had put their faith in Christ and followed him through thick and thin.

With that in mind, Paul prayed for his Christian friends in Thessalonica. He prayed that God would fulfill every good intention and every righteous act prompted by their faith. He wanted Jesus to be lifted up and glorified in their lives.

Response & Action:
My faith should help me persevere in times of trial. It should move me toward good purposes and spur me on toward good deeds. God's grace and power help me to become the person he has in mind for me to be, and to accomplish the good work he has in mind for me to do.

Help me, O Lord, transform my life, shape my desires, and prompt me toward the righteous acts you have prepared for me to do. I am your workmanship. May my faith in Jesus prompt me to delight in your will, to want what you want, and to walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

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

Monday, March 22, 2010

March 22 - War Zone

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 19:38-42
2 Thessalonians 1:1-7

Old Testament -
Psalms 144
2 Chronicles 17-19
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 144:7-8
7 Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and rescue me from the mighty waters, from the hands of foreigners 8 whose mouths are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful.

Insight:
I wince at the first words of Psalm 144: "Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle." It's appropriate to praise God because he trains your hands and fingers for war? Really?

The words "stronghold, shield, fortress, and deliverer" are also terms of battle, but they're a little easier to take because they are words of defense. But praising God because he "subdues people under me" seems a little odd. The language of dominance, power, and victory seem strange and difficult to me as a follower of Jesus.

On the other hand, Jesus was fighting a battle and committed to winning a war. It was not a battle for self, or control, or wealth, or nation, or earthly power, but rather a battle for redemption, salvation, and reconciliation of all things to God. Jesus conquered death by dying on the cross. He battled against materialism, exploitation, and injustice through the weapons of self-denial and generosity. He battled against the dehumanizing evils of hate, murder, and violent conflict through the aggressive acts of forgiveness, mercy, patience, sacrifice, and love for enemy.

The follower of Christ needs more than deliverance from evil, he needs to be trained to fight against it.

Response & Action:
I live in a world of conflict and war. I need God to open my eyes that I might recognize the battle He is waging. I need God to train my hands so that I might fight in his way and according to his will in order to accomplish his righteous and redemptive will. I must realize that the battle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers and systems. I must seek first his kingdom purposes and his righteous will. I need to be trained to carry the cross as a soldier in God's campaign to redeem and reconcile and save.

O God, you have promised to be my help and strength. You are a shield about me. You are a very present help in times of trouble. You are my hiding place. Your eyes are always upon me and you are always ready and able to rescue. Forgive me for the times I put my trust in something other than you. Remind me of your faithfulness. As I give you thanks and call for help, may your peace guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. It's in his name that I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 6:10-12
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Resources:
Evil and the Justice of God
by N. T. Wright

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reading Schedule for March 22-27

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

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

March 22 - John 19:38-42 / 2 Thessalonians 1:1-7
Psalms 144 / 2 Chronicles 17-19

March 23 - John 20:1-9 / 2 Thessalonians 1:8-12
Psalms 145 / 2 Chronicles 20-21

March 24 - John 20:10-18 / 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Psalms 146 / 2 Chronicles 22-24

March 25 - John 20:19-23 / 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
Psalms 147 / 2 Chronicles 25-27

March 26 - John 20:24-31 / 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Psalms 148 / 2 Chronicles 28-29

March 27 - John 21:1-14 / 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Psalms 149 / 2 Chronicles 30-33

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 20 - Praying First

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 19:28-37
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Old Testament -
Psalms 143
2 Chronicles 13-16
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:

2 Chronicles 16:9-12

9 "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war." 10 Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people. 11 The events of Asa's reign, from beginning to end, are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians.

Insight:
When Asa faced problems he knew were too big for him to handle, he turned to the Lord for help. When there was nothing to do but cry out to God, he prayed with the best of them. But when the problem seemed like something he could handle on his own, he failed to ask God for help. He cried out to God for deliverance from an overwhelming army he had no chance of defeating (2Chr. 14:11), and was delivered. But when he faced lesser enemies, he formed alliances with other kings and failed to pray. When he got disease in his feet, he turned to physicians and failed to pray.

Asa's problem was not that he formed alliances or sought physicians, but rather that he did those things and failed to turn to God at all. There's nothing wrong with seeking help or taking action, but it's a mistake to seek help from everyone but God, or to depend entirely on your own strength.

The eyes of the Lord are upon those who hearts are committed to him. God is ready and able to strengthen his people. God's people should always look to him first for help and support.

Response & Action:
Whether the problem I face is big or small, I will look first to God for the strength and guidance I need. Prayer is not the last thing I can do; it's the first and best thing I can do. What is it that I've been failing to talk about with God? What worry, challenge, or problem am I facing in my own strength? Who or what am I turning to instead of turning to God?

O God, you have promised to be my help and strength. You are a shield about me. You are a very present help in times of trouble. You are my hiding place. Your eyes are always upon me and you are always ready and able to rescue. Forgive me for the times I put my trust in something other than you. Remind me of your faithfulness. As I give you thanks and call for help, may your peace guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. It's in his name that I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 40:11-13
11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. 12 For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. 13 Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.

Resources:
Living the Lord's Prayer: The Way of the Disciple
by Albert Haase O.F.M.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 19 - King Jesus

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 19:17-27
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Old Testament -
Psalms 142
2 Chronicles 10-12
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 19:19-22
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read:|JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

Insight:
Jesus was very straightforward in his claim to authority. In response to Pilate's questions, Jesus said, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world" (John 18:37). When Pilate, irritated at Jesus' silence, spoke about his authority over Jesus, Jesus replied, "You wouldn't have any authority if I didn't allow you to have it."

By turning symbols of kingship (crown, robe, scepter) into symbols of contempt, the soldiers who mocked Jesus demonstrated their understanding of his claim. The Jews who handed Jesus over to Pilate said, "He claimed to be the Son of God." Pilate purposefully threw the word "King" back in their faces to provoke and annoy them.

The "King" claims of Jesus seem to annoy people today too. How many people today would raise their voices in objection to Pilate and say, "Don't write King Jesus. Instead, write Teacher Jesus, or Prophet Jesus, or Philosopher Jesus, or maybe even Savior Jesus."

Response & Action:
Belief in Jesus requires the acceptance of his authority. He must be recognized as King—he is Lord, he is master, and he is the highest authority.

I want Jesus to be the King of my life. I will commit myself to yielding to him in every choice, action, circumstance, opportunity, goal, direction, and relationship. In all my ways I need to acknowledge his authority over me.

O God, help me to follow Jesus in thought, word, and deed. Help me to live in complete surrender to Christ. Help me to submit to his authority and to trust his loving and gracious reign as my king. 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:
The Man Born to Be King
by Dorothy L. Sayers

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18 - Quiet Ambition

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 19:1-16
1 Thessalonians 4:11-18

Old Testament -
Psalms 141
2 Chronicles 8-9
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Insight:
The ambition of Christians, Paul says, is to be directed toward a quiet life. In their everyday lives they should avoid being a burden on others, mind their own affairs, hold down a job, and do honest work. Christians should live in a way that wins the respect of those who do not yet know or follow Christ.

Most people in the world are ambitious for possessions, achievement, success, happiness, and status. Christians just seem to add more ambitious projects to the mix (family, mission, worship, study, evangelism, family, social justice). If asked, I don't think most people, Christian or not, would say that a quiet life describes the life they are living. Even fewer would describe a quiet life as their ambition.

Response & Action:
What does ambition mean to me? What are my ambitions? As a follower of Jesus, I will be ambitious toward the regular activities of my everyday life. I will do an honest day's work. I will mind my own business. I will try not to be a burden on others. And I will do my best to live in a way that earns the respect of my neighbors and friends.

Living for Jesus begins with ordinary details of life: my routine, my responsibilities, and my relationships. I will not let other ambitions (even noble and good ones) distract me from the most basic of ambitions--to be quiet, content, rooted, and satisfied in Christ.

Dear Lord, make me ambitious about a quiet life in Jesus. Help me to be hardworking and responsible in my daily life. Help me to pay my bills, to be a good worker, to take care of my home, to be a good steward of all you have entrusted to me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to live a contented and praiseworthy life that bears witness to your grace and power at work in me. Through Christ, Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 6:33
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March 17 - Holy and Honorable

Today's Readings:
New Testament -
John 18:28-40
1 Thessalonians 4:1-10

Old Testament -
Psalms 140
2 Chronicles 6-7
Click on Text Links to Read Online

Focus Verses:

1 Thessalonians 4:3-7

3 It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

Insight:
Christian faith and life involves the body. True spirituality involves the whole person--body, mind, spirit, thoughts, emotions, feelings, knowledge, reason, and relationships. The body is our point of connection with the world around us. It is the place from which we act, relate, and move in the world.

Sexuality is a very important part of our humanity, and it is far more than physical. It involves and relates to our whole person
body, mind, spirit, thoughts, emotions, feelings, and relationships. Little wonder, then, that it is God's will that we should avoid sexual immorality—that we should govern our bodies with care and reverence before God.

Sexual immorality is self-destructive to our personhood, it destroys relationships, it distorts our view of self, it denigrates our view of others, it sabotages our understanding of God, and undermines our desire for truth.

Response & Action:
I reject the lies of sexual objectification. I reject the cheapening of sexuality that comes through exploitation, violence, and selfishness. I reject the devaluation of human dignity that results from the pervasive deception that says the body is nothing more than flesh. In a world filled with broken relationships, empty promises, disrespect, hopelessness, self-gratification, and crude perversion, I choose to value a whole and holy life. I believe that salvation and redemption are for the whole person, and therefore believe it is God's will to treat sexuality as important, beautiful, and holy. I will pursue honor and purity, and turn away from sexual immorality.

O Lord, help me to be a good steward of all you have given me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, to feed my spirit, to stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to honor you with my whole self. Help me to see and value the connections between body, mind, heart, spirit, and relationships. Thank you for the hope and promise that are mine in Christ Jesus. It's in his name that I pray. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 6:12-14
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

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

Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain
by William M. Struthers