Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 30 - Here I Am!

Today's Reading:
Exodus 2:11-3:22
Luke 12:8-34
Psalm 18:16-24
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Exodus 3:1-4
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."

Insight:
It's interesting that God did not save the Israelites by giving Moses favor in the eyes of Pharaoh as he had done with Joseph many years before. I wonder why he didn’t. The Pharaoh's daughter had taken him into her care when he was just a small child. Why not make Moses a great leader in Egypt like Joseph had been?

Instead, God used the disfavor of Pharaoh to get Moses out of Egypt. As an exile in the land of Midian, Moses became a shepherd, started a family, and gained perspective about who he was. Eventually he was called by God to go back to Egypt to save his people from their oppression.

God got Moses' attention with the strange sight of a burning bush. God's presence filled the bush with flames but the bush was not consumed, it just kept burning and burning. In a way, God was calling Moses to become like that bush—completely aflame with God's presence and used for God's purpose. Moses must have thought that such a calling would utterly consume him. But in surrendering his life to God's call, rather than being consumed, Moses was lifted to the most glorious, meaningful, and productive days of his life.

Response & Action:
The ways God plans to use me may not be the ways I would expect to be used. Regardless of my circumstances, whether favorable or unfavorable, God is at work to accomplish his good will. I want to fulfill God's calling and purpose for my life. I will keep my heart and mind open to his leading.

When the direction God is leading seems to be to big and overwhelming for me, I will remember Moses and the burning bush. Just as the bush was not consumed, but rather was transformed into a glorious testimony of God's presence and purpose. I believe my life will not be consumed or burned up by answering God's call, but instead will be transformed with the light and purpose of Christ.

O God, thank you for saving and reaching out to me. Thank you for being a God of deliverance. Help me to embrace the calling I have in Christ and to find my purpose and fulfillment in him. Help me, like Moses, to say, "Here I am." Give me the faith to find my life by losing it. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 2:9
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 29 - Outside and Inside

Today's Reading:
Genesis 50:1 - Exodus 2:10
Luke 11:37-12:7
Psalm 18:7-15
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Luke 11:37-41
37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised.

39 Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

Insight:
The Pharisees were very concerned about holiness, but it had become an external type of holiness. It had also become an end in itself, rather than the means toward participating in the redemptive mission of God. True holiness, the holiness Jesus taught and demonstrated, was not about external appearances and practices, but rather a matter of the inner person.

True holiness is not about physically clean hands as much as about spiritually clean hearts. Holiness begins deep inside a person--our humility, our repentance, our reverence for God, our desire to serve and be used for God's purpose, our reason to live, and our compassion and love for others.

Response & Action:
I must not allow my faith and my religious practice get lost in a heap of externals. I desire true holiness--to be set apart for a holy purpose. I want more than a religion of behavior modification; I seek the genuine renovation of my heart and the renewal of my mind. I want more than an external Christianity; I seek the transformation of my deepest self.

Practices and disciplines (Bible reading, study, prayer, learning, giving, lifestyle choices, priorities) are not ends in and of themselves. They are the means, the pathways, to the end I seek—my goal to glorify God, to live in truth, and to participate in God's redemptive mission in the world. I will not settle for an external distortion of Christianity. Instead, I will make every effort to pursue the authentic and transforming holiness of the heart. The holiness I seek begins deep within me and works its way out into the externals of my everyday life.

Change my heart, O God. I worship you by offering myself to you as a living sacrifice. Save me from conformity to the world. Transform me, by the power of your Holy Spirit. Renew my mind and renovate my heart. Because I thirst for truth and life, I come to Christ, in faith, to drink in all he has to offer. May Jesus so deeply satisfy and transform me that streams of his living water well up and flow out of my inner being. Make me holy on the inside so that holy words, actions, and attitudes might shape and define my outside. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 14:17-18
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Resources:
Renovation of the Heart
by Dallas Willard

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 28 - Who Is Blessed?

Today's Reading:
Genesis 48:1-49:33
Luke 11:14-36
Psalm 18:1-6
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Genesis 48:13-14
13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel's left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel's right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim's head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh's head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

Insight:
Jacob who was younger than his brother, Esau, had schemed and tricked his father, Isaac, into blessing him. Through his long and dramatic life he learned that blessing was something that came from God. When all was said and done, blessing was something only God could give, not the automatic right of birth order, and not the laying on of hands by a father or grandfather.

So when Joseph brought his sons, Ephraim and Mannaseh to Jacob for a blessing, Jacob crossed his arms and place his right hand (the hand representing greater blessing) on the younger, and his left (the hand indicating lesser blessing) on the first-born. Jacob seems to be giving testimony the truth he had found so difficult to learn. God's blessing is not just for the first, the best, the strongest, or the greatest. God's blessing reaches to the lowest, and God is able to bless and use anyone.

Response & Action:
I will seek God with all my heart because I believe he is able to bless and sustain me. I am not too low or weak for God to use and bless. No matter where I stand in terms of the world's opinion, God is able to bless and provide for me.

Instead of scraping and scratching for status and success from a human and worldly point of view, I will commit my effort and energy toward knowing and honoring God. I will give myself fully to following Christ and trusting him to bless and guide my life. I will also endeavor to see others through the eyes of Jesus. I will not look at others from a worldly point of view, but rather look to bless and serve the lowly, humble, and weak people around me.

O God, help me to trust your promise that the first shall be last. Help me to humble myself before you, believing that you will lift me up in the right ways at the right time. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Help me to be a blessing to my family, friends, and neighbors. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

Resources:
Wrestling with God: Loving the God We Don't Understand
by James Emery White

Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27 - One Thing Is Needed

Today's Reading:
Genesis 46:1-47:31
Luke 10:38-11:13
Psalm 17:13-15
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Luke 10:41-42
41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Insight:
It's possible to be so busy and concerned about doing what is good that we fail to recognize what is best. This particular encounter between Jesus, Mary, and Martha is a good reminder of this truth. The disciples—chosen, sent, and taught by Jesus—learned something very important from Mary.

Martha was commendably serving Jesus and the others. Unfortunately, it seems that the demands of doing so made it difficult for her to enjoy and savor the time with her guests.

Mary, on the other hand, was so focused on simply being with Jesus and listening to what he had to say that she left some things unattended. It was a choice and she chose what was best. Jesus commended her for this.


Response & Action:
I do not want to be so busy with the business of life—even Christian service—that I have no time to enjoy Jesus. I must take time to simply be with him, to pray, and to delight in the word. The most necessary thing is to know Jesus, to delight in his presence, and to abide in him.

I also want to cultivate my ability to truly be with family and Christian friends. I must be intentional about being with them and enjoying them, not simply serving them. I want to choose what is best.

O God, help me to glorify you and enjoy you all my days. Thank you for Jesus, my Messiah, my Lord, my Savior, and my God. Grant me the blessing of knowing him as my friend, my brother, and my faithful companion.
Help me to sense his presence and delight in it. Give me a heart to serve Christ, O God, but first give me a heart to love him. Give me a hunger and affection for the scriptures. Give me a desire to pray. Give me a fullness of the Spirit of Christ and a deep awareness of his indwelling every minute of my life. I ask all this in his name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Colossians 3:1-3
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Resources:
The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life
by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26 - Go and Do LIkewise

Today's Reading:
Genesis 44:1-45:28
Luke 10:13-37
Psalm 17:6-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Luke 10:36-37
36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" 37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Insight:
When the expert in the Law of Moses asked Jesus the way to eternal life, Jesus pointed to the Law and asked the expert for his opinion on what it said. The expert was right on track when he quoted from Deuteronomy ("love the Lord your God") and from Leviticus ("love your neighbor"). But when he began to get philosophical and ambiguous about the meaning of the word "neighbor," Jesus told a down to earth story that put the application of the Law into a real life situation.

The story included a priest and a Levite who, like the expert, would surely have known the "love the Lord your God" and "love your neighbor" passages from the Law, but did not live them out. Jesus was essentially telling the expert, "It's not enough for you to know and discuss the Law. You have to live it."


Response & Action:
It's one thing to know what I should do and another to do it. I want my love for God and my love for my neighbor to be more than words. I will strive to put my beliefs and knowledge into action. If I truly love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, I will respond to his admonition to extend grace and love others. When it is within my power to help someone, I will take action. I will keep my eyes open to the needs of people around me in order to be an instrument of God's love and care to them.

O God, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where their is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light. Where there is hunger, food. Where there is homelessness, shelter. Where there is brokenness, restoration. Where there is sickness, healing. Grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that I receive; it is in pardoning that I receive pardon; it is in dying that I am born to eternal life. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses:
1 John 4:20-21
20 If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Resources:
The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us?
by Richard Stearns

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reading Schedule for Sept. 26 - Oct. 2

Proverbs 4:20-23
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:
2010-11 Reading Schedule
Tips for Daily Bible Readers

September 26 -
Genesis 44:1-45:28
/ Luke 10:13-37 / Psalm 17:6-12

September 27 -
Genesis 46:1-47:31
/ Luke 10:38-11:13 / Psalm 17:13-15

September 28 -
Genesis 48:1-49:33
/ Luke 11:14-36 / Psalm 18:1-6

September 29 -
Genesis 50:1 - Exodus 2:10
/ Luke 11:37-12:7 / Psalm 18:7-15

September 30 -
Exodus 2:11-3:22
/ Luke 12:8-34 / Psalm 18:16-24

October 1 -
Exodus 4:1-5:21
/ Luke 12:35-59 / Psalm 18:25-36

October 2 -
Exodus 5:22-7:25 / Luke 13:1-21
/ Psalm 18:37-42

September 25 - Harvest Call

Today's Reading:
Genesis 42:18-43:34
Luke 9:51-10:12
Psalm 17:1-5
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Luke 10:1-2
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

Insight:
The farmer has an priority for his crops at harvest time. It's a critical moment for the ripened grain and every hand is needed to bring the ripened grain into the safety of the storage barn. In the same way, Jesus had an urgency to take the good news of peace, healing, hope, and redemption to the world.

Jesus sends those who follow him to take his message of hope and life into the world. Though his messenger will not always welcomed, and his message is sometimes rejected, Jesus compels his disciples to go.

Response & Action:
I want to be receptive to the saving work of Christ in my life. I welcome his message and I trust in his promises. I will also heed his call to live and speak the good news of the Kingdom to the world around me. I need to have a sense of urgency for the people in my life—family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. I need to recognize and seize opportunities when the time is right. I will pray that many would put their faith in Christ and, in turn, call others to do the same.

O God, thank you for those who obeyed your command to go into the world. Thank you that I have had an opportunity to hear the message and call of Christ Jesus. Give me the faith, compassion, and obedience I need to take and live Christ's message of hope and renewal. Strengthen me by your Spirit that I might be a faithful, fruitful, and effective witness of your power to renew and redeem all who put their trust in you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Matthew 29:19-20
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Resources:
Kingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World
by Allen M. Wakabayashi

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24 - The Right Moment

Today's Reading:
Genesis 41:17-42:17
Luke 9:28-50
Psalm 16:1-11
Click on Text Link 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. This turned out to be just the moment he would be willing to elevate Joseph to a position of power, the very 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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23 - Losing to Gain

Today's Reading:
Genesis 39:1-41:16
Luke 9:7-27
Psalm 15:1-5
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Luke 9:23-25
23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

Insight:
The things that are best for me may not always appear to be so at first glance. What might seem to be good for me may actually be bad. Jesus says that putting myself first is the worst thing I can possibly do for me. Jesus says that while avoiding things that are difficult and sacrificial may seem to be a safe course, it will lead to my ruin. Jesus says that working to accumulate things is the way to lose what matters most. Jesus says that being obsessed with winning is the surest path to defeat.

Following Jesus—listening to him, obeying him, emulating him—may not make sense to those who do not recognize him as life and truth. It may appear to be loss, but in reality it is gain. It may appear to be hardship, but in reality it is blessing. It may appear to be a cross, but in reality it is a crown. It may appear to be a rejection of yourself, but in reality it is the only way to discover and become the person God has in mind for you to be.

Response & Action:
Experience is the only way to test Jesus' words. Taking action is the only way to prove his promises. He says that the way to save myself is to lose myself for him.

I believe that Jesus has more to offer me than the world does. I believe that his way is better than my way. I believe that his wisdom is greater than mine. I believe that following him is better than trying to find my own way. Because I believe Jesus Christ, I will follow, listen, and obey—even when his way seems like foolishness to others.

O God, you have sent your Son, Jesus, into the world to be a light and he has called me to walk in his ways. Because I love him, I will obey him. Because I trust him, I will follow him. Because I have followed Him for years, I believe him even more today. Because I have obeyed him, I trust him more. Because I find life and meaning and purpose in him, I desire to surrender to him more and more. Give me the wisdom and the will to lose myself in him. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 3:7-9
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Resources:
Who Switched the Price Tags
by Tony Campolo

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 22 - Not Even One

Today's Reading:
Genesis 37:1-38:30
Luke 8:40-9:6
Psalm 14:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 14:2-3
2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

Insight:
Contrasting the wicked and the righteous is a major consideration throughout the Old Testament Psalter. In Psalm 11, David says that "He takes refuge in the Lord" who "is righteous and loves justice," believing that "upright men will see his face."

In Psalm 14, he attaches wickedness with the denial of God, saying those who say 'there is no God' are corrupt. He acknowledges, however, that "all have turned aside" from God, and "there is no one who does good, not even one."

In Psalm 15, he extols the virtues of integrity and applauds the one who "is righteous, speaking the truth from his heart." David says that these are the people who will dwell with God and cannot be shaken.

Response & Action:
I will give careful thought to my ways. I want to live a righteous life that honors God. Though I want to speak the truth, I humbly recognize the ways I have turned from God and become corrupt. I am thankful that, through faith in Christ Jesus, God has reached past my sin and is at work to redeem and renew me. I’m glad that by God’s grace and redemptive power I can turn away from misdeeds and, instead, live by the Spirit.

O God, by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me. Forgive me of my sin and help me to turn away from it. Create in me a clean heart. By your Spirit, make me a person of integrity. I cannot be righteous on my own. Thank you for the grace you've extended to me through Jesus. Help me to abide in Him and in doing so become able to walk in his ways. Amen

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 3:20-24
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Resources:
Becoming Good
by David W. Gill

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21 - Dirty Clothes

Today's Reading:
Genesis 35:1-36:43
Luke 8:22-39
Psalm 13:1-6
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Genesis 35:1-3
1 Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau." 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone."

Insight:
Jacob took his family to Bethel to settle there. When he fled his home as a young man, this was the place he first discovered God was with him, reaching down, and ready to bless and lead. This new home for his family would be centered around worshiping the true God. They would be living in "Bethel" -- the "house of God."

In preparation for their new lives, they cast aside the idols and earrings of their past, and buried them in Shechem. Before setting out for Bethel, they put on new clothes as a symbol of their new commitment to a new way of life. They approached their new start in their new home with a new attitude. They would even have a new name. Instead of being the children of Jacob, they would now be the children of Israel.

The first thing Jacob did when they arrived was to set up an altar and offer worship to the one true God who had been with him every step of the way. He understood that obedience, purification, and worship were the foundation stones of his family's new life.

Response & Action:
God has given me the opportunity to live a new life through Christ. Just as Jacob's family had to get rid of false gods and attachments to their pagan past, I need to cast off and leave behind my sinful habits and desires. Worship and devotion to God are central to living a new life. I will commit myself to a new life. I will examine my ways and my choices in the light of God's word. I will turn away from sin. I will seek God's guidance through prayer. I will be faithful to worship God in my daily life, and faithful to gather with other Christians for worship every week.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape and strengthen me. Help me to delight in your will and walk in your ways. Make me a new creation and teach me to live a new life. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Colossians 3:12
12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Resources:
Following After God
by Daniel Hill

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20 - Struggling with God

Today's Reading:
Genesis 32:13-34:31
Luke 8:4-21
Psalm 12:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Genesis 32:24-28
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

Insight:
Jacob was afraid to face his brother, Esau, because he had stolen his blessing by deceiving their father, Isaac. Many years earlier, when Jacob gone to his father to steal the blessing, Isaac asked, "Who is it?" Jacob lied to his father and said, "It's your son, Esau." That lie and the bitterness it caused made it necessary for Jacob to run for his life. Esau wanted to kill him.

In today's reading, an older and wiser Jacob returns to his homeland and prepares himself to face Esau. He spends a sleepless night wrestling with God--a struggle to submit to God and to trust God's promise to bless him.

As Jacob wrestled with the man (some sort of vision or representation of God), he said, "I won't let go unless you bless me." The man said, "What is your name?" Years ago when his aged father had asked the same question, he lied. This time he answered, "Jacob." He admitted that he was a "schemer," a "heel grabber" who had pushed and pulled with God and men his whole life.

God knocked Jacob's hip out of joint and gave him a new name, Israel, which means "one who struggles with God." This is the great struggle we all face--faith in God vs. faith in self. Jacob discovered that walking with a limp actually made it easier for him to walk by faith.

Response & Action:
I need to be honest about who I am. What are the ways I struggle with God? What am I trying to do in my own strength and my own wisdom? How is that struggle keeping me from truly living by faith in God? What strengths are getting in the way of trust? I need to earnestly seek and believe he rewards those who seek him. I need to recognize my need for God and surrender my life to his care and guidance.

O God, help me to be honest with you and with myself. Help me to trust you with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. Help me to acknowledge you in all my ways. If my strengths get in the way of my faith, O God, by your grace and mercy I ask you to turn them to weakness. Better still, give me the humility to see every strength as a gift from you to be used for your purposes and for your glory. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 12:11-12
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

Resources:
Following After God
by Daniel Hill

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19 - Rocky Relationships

Today's Reading:
Genesis 31:17-32:12
Luke 7:36-8:3
Psalm 11:1-7
Click on Text Link 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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reading Schedule for September 19-25

Psalm 119:105-108
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. 106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. 107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word. 108 Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.

Schedule and Tips:
2010-11 Reading Schedule
Tips for Daily Bible Readers

September 19 -
Genesis 31:17-32:12 / Luke 7:36-8:3
/ Psalm 11:1-7

September 20 -
Genesis 32:13-34:31
/ Luke 8:4-21 / Psalm 12:1-8

September 21 -
Genesis 35:1-36:43
/ Luke 8:22-39 / Psalm 13:1-6

September 22 -
Genesis 37:1-38:30
/ Luke 8:40-9:6 / Psalm 14:1-7

September 23 -
Genesis 39:1-41:16
/ Luke 9:7-27 / Psalm 15:1-5

September 24 -
Genesis 41:17-42:17
/ Luke 9:28-50 / Psalm 16:1-11

September 25 -
Genesis 42:18-43:34
/ Luke 9:51-10:12 / Psalm 17:1-5

September 18 - In What Way?

Today's Reading:
Genesis 30:1-31:16
Luke 7:11-35
Psalm 10:12-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Genesis 30:43
43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.


Insight:
So how did we get the twelve tribes of Israel? Did Jacob's family increase because of the rivalry of wives? And how did Jacob become a prosperous man? Was it by bickering and bargaining with his father-in-law? Was it by experimenting with breeding tricks to manipulate the condition and coloring of flocks? Was Jacob was increasing and prospering because of his maneuvering and machinations, or was it because of God?

Jacob had had an experience at Bethel where God said, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give the land on which you are lying…Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth…I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." And now God was keeping his promise, but none of the people involved seem to be aware of God's part in any of what was going on.

It's hard to notice what God is giving, when you're too busing scrambling and scraping for yourself. It's easy to forget God when you’re busy being a self-made person.

Response & Action:
Do I trust God's promises to me? Am I so busy scrambling for myself that I forget God is at work in my life? I hope not.

I want to lean into God every day. I want to remember his promise and presence in every aspect of my life. I will fix my eyes on Jesus, cling to God's promises, and cultivate an ongoing awareness of his presence. In all my ways, I will acknowledge him, and trust him to make my path straight.

O God, give me the wisdom to look to you for guidance, strength, and provision in all things. In every blessing, may I give you thanks. In every hardship, may I persevere by the power of your Spirit. In every pain, may I find your peace. In every ambition, may I seek to honor you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 6:31-34
31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Resources:
How To Read Genesis
by Tremper Longman

Friday, September 17, 2010

September 17 - Such Great Faith

Today's Reading:
Genesis 28:1-29:35
Luke 6:39-7:10
Psalm 10:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Luke 7:9-10
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Insight:
I love the story of the centurion and his amazing faith. His faith in Christ was so complete that even Jesus "was amazed at him." He wanted Jesus to heal his servant, but didn't need Jesus to come to his house. He didn't even need to see Jesus face to face, but instead sent friends to make his request.

He had such faith in the authority of Jesus that he only needed Jesus to "say the word." If Jesus declared his servant healed, that would be enough. He would simply take that word as true and expect his servant to be healed.

Response & Action:
I would like to amaze Jesus with my faith. I would like to have such confidence in his power and authority that I am satisfied to make my needs known to him. No matter what my circumstances or needs are, I will ask Jesus to simply say the word and trust in his power. I will also trust in God's goodness and purposes, believing that he also has the authority to deny my requests.

O God, my faith and my hope are in you, your son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I believe that you are powerful and able meet my needs. I believe that you are personal and that you care about my burdens and my circumstances. I believe you are persuadable--that you hear my prayers and that you are responsive to the cries of my heart. I believe that you are present with me, that you are closer than the air I breathe, that you are good and just and gracious and merciful. Help me to live with confidence that comes from recognizing and embracing your authority. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 11:6
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Resources:
Faith & Doubt
by John Ortberg

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16 - Two Futures

Today's Reading:
Genesis 26:17-27:46
Luke 6:12-38
Psalm 9:13-20
Click on Text Link 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