Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reading Schedule for January 1-7

Psalm 119:127-128, 133-136
127 Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, 128 and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path. - - - 133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. 134 Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts. 135 Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees. 136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

Schedule and Tips:

2011-12 Reading Schedule
Tips for Daily Bible Readers

Sunday, January 1 -
Judges 13:1-14:20 / Acts 28:1-31
/ Psalms 71:19-24

Monday, January 2 -
Judges 15:1-16:31
/ Romans 1:1-17 / Psalms 72:1-20

Tuesday, January 3 -
Judges 17:1-18:31
/ Romans 1:18-32 / Psalms 73:1-14

Wednesday, January 4 -
Judges 19:1-20:48
/ Romans 2:1-24 / Psalms 73:15-28

Thursday, January 5 -
Judges 21:1-25
/ Romans 2:25-3:8 / Psalms 74:1-9

Friday, January 6 -
Ruth 1:1-4:22
/ Romans 3:9-31 / Psalms 74:10-17

Saturday, January 7 -
1 Samuel 1:1-2:21
/ Romans 4:1-12 / Psalms 74:18-23

December 31 - Keep Up Your Courage

Today's Reading:
Judges 11:1-12:15
Acts 27:21-44
Psalm 71:9-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 27:22-25

22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

Insight:

Though he was a prisoner, Paul made himself useful to the crew and passengers during the harrowing storm and shipwreck experience Luke describes. Even in difficult and unusual situations, Paul sought and received God's guidance. Wherever he found himself, and whatever his circumstance, he looked to God for guidance, purpose, and promise.

Response & Action:
In every situation, I will look for ways to serve others and honor God. My faith and hope in Christ make it possible for me to be helpful and find purpose regardless of the circumstances. As a follower of Jesus, I want to honor God and be used by the Spirit to do what is beneficial and redemptive for others.

O God, prepare me for every circumstance. Give me peace in my heart. Give me wisdom and clarity of thought. Make me ready to serve and encourage others in difficult situations. Give me a strength and hope that stands strong through storms and hardship. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15
14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Resources:
The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love
by James Bryan Smith

Friday, December 30, 2011

December 30 - My Hope and My Confidence

Today's Reading:
Judges 9:22-10:18

Acts 27:1-20
Psalm 71:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 71:5:-7, 14-16

5 For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. 6 From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. 7 I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge. - - - 14 But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 15 My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. 16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.

Insight:

Hope and worship go together; they reinforce each other. God is to be praised for his righteousness, mighty acts, justice, truth, and power to save. When these words of praise are the firm conviction of our hearts, we have reason to hope, and our lives become a sign to many of God's faithfulness.

Response & Action:
I will worship God for his righteousness and mighty acts. I will praise him for his justice and truth. I will thank him for his promise to save through Christ Jesus. I will persevere in hope.

O God, help me to see you for who you really are, and fill me with a sense of hope as I worship you. Show yourself to me in new ways today. Encourage me, by your Spirit, through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Save me and grant me the confidence to persevere in life because my hope is in you. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Resources:
Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts
by Harold M. Best

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 29 - True and Reasonable

Today's Reading:
Judges 8:18-9:21
Acts 26:1-32
Psalm 70:1-5
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 26:25-27
25 "I am not insane, most excellent Festus," Paul replied. "What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do."

Insight:

When Paul testified before King Agrippa, he explained that his belief in the possibility of resurrection did not contradict his Jewish beliefs or background. Even as a Pharisee Paul would have accepted the possibility of resurrection. He admitted that early on, he too opposed the Christians, and was, in fact, obsessed with opposing them. One day, however, he came face to face with the resurrected Jesus himself.

Paul told Agrippa that he had become convinced that the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection were exactly what Moses and prophets said would happen. What's more, Paul said, he was sure Agrippa was already familiar with the accounts of Jesus' resurrection, since none of the things he was describing were "done in a corner."

Response & Action:
What could turn a Pharisee who opposed the followers of Jesus into a believer and bold ambassador for Jesus? 1) his realization that Jesus' resurrection was consistent with his faith in God; 2) his discovery that the suffering and resurrection of Jesus were actually consistent with Jewish prophecy; 3) his face-to-face encounter with the resurrected Jesus; and, 4) the wide-spread testimony of so many others who had also seen and encountered the resurrected Christ.

My faith and confidence in the resurrected Jesus grows stronger: 1) as I am discovering that it is reasonable and not inconsistent with other forms of knowledge; 2) as I am testing and proving my faith through my practice and daily life; 3) as I am finding the claims of Jesus and the Apostles to be consistent with the hopes and promises of the Hebrew Scriptures; 4) as I consider the experiential and historical testimony of so many others who have considered the claims of Christ.

O God, I believe that you have the power of life and death. Resurrection is not too difficult for you. I see from reading scripture that Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection are perfectly consistent with prophecy. My own walk with Jesus has confirmed and strengthened my faith. The countless testimonies of people throughout history and around the world serve to increase my belief. May the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead raise and transform my life. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 12:2
2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Resources:
Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics
by William Lane Craig

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 28 - A Dispute about a Dead Man

Today's Reading:
Judges 7:1-8:17
Acts 25:1-27
Psalm 69:29-36
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 25:18-21

18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar."

Insight:
The veracity of the resurrection story has always been at the heart of the Christian message. To accept that message is to accept the resurrection of Jesus. Luke's frank account of Paul's testimony before Festus and Agrippa illustrates this. Festus understood that Paul's entire message and worldview hinged on his claim that "a dead man named Jesus" was now alive. Such a claim was seen to be a threat by the Jews of his day, and as superstitious by the Romans.

Paul did not make this claim and expect people to make a blind leap of faith. He reasoned with them, gave testimony, and made a case for why he believed that accepting the resurrection of Jesus was perfectly sensible.

Response & Action:
I must grapple with the claims of Jesus' resurrection. Everyone who encounters the message of Jesus must deal with this incredible claim. It may seem threatening, unreasonable, or anti-intellectual to believe such a thing, but it must be faced head on. If Jesus is dead, then Christianity is also dead. If he is alive, then Christianity is alive.

The hope of transformation and new life offered by Christianity is dependent on the resurrection of Jesus being factual and historical. I must give serious and careful consideration to the resurrection claims of Christianity. I will not dismiss it out of hand. Is it reasonable to believe such an amazing thing? Is there enough evidence and/or substantive testimony to make faith in the resurrection an honest and reasonable choice? I believe there is. Even as a believer, I will continue to scrutinize and think about this central claim of Christianity. I will encourage others, both Christians and non-Christians alike, to do the same.

O God, I believe that, for my sake, Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. I believe that he suffered death, was buried, and rose again, in accordance with the scriptures. Help me, like Paul, to think clearly about the resurrection and to have reasons for what I believe. Help me to be able to discuss the resurrection in clear and reasonable ways with others who are wrestling with whether or not to believe. And most of all, O Lord, transform me and teach me to live through the resurrection power of Christ. It's in his name that I pray, Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 8:10-11
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Resources:
Resurrection
by N.T. Wright

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December 27 - Cutting Down Idols

Today's Reading:
Judges 6:1-40
Acts 24:1-27
Psalm 69:13-28
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Judges 6:25-26
25 That same night the LORD said to him, "Take the second bull from your father's herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering."

Insight:
Gideon wondered, "If God is with Israel, then why has he let us be overpowered by the Midianites." The reason was Israel's unfaithfulness to God. Instead of worshiping God alone, they had worshiped the gods of the Amorites.

The first step toward deliverance for Israel was to destroy the pagan Baal altar and Ashtoreth pole that had been set up in his town. The road to restoration and deliverance begins with tearing down what is false and instead offering up worship and devotion to the One True God.

Response & Action:
When I face difficult situations in life, I find myself asking a question similar to Gideon's-- "If God is with me, why is this happening?" Before questioning God's faithfulness, I should examine my own faithfulness to God. I need to recognize the ways my family, my church, my town, my state, my country have failed to acknowledge God.

Honest reflection is needed if I am to recognize the idols we have erected and the ways we have let them distort and diminish our devotion for God. There is no God but the One True God. Any rivals for wholehearted commitment to and reverence for God must be torn down.

O God, free me from everything that oppresses and diminishes. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Provide for my needs today. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me, by your Spirit, through your Word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Give me the honesty to recognize the false ideas and idols in my heart, and give me the courage to tear them down and cast them aside in order that I might worship and follow you with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs4:23-23
"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips."

Resources:
Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters
by Timothy Keller

Monday, December 26, 2011

December 26 - The Floods Engulf Me

Today's Reading:
Judges 4:1-5:31
Acts 23:11-35
Psalm 69:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 69:1-3

1 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. 3 I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.

Insight:
David begins this psalm with a crisis cry for rescue. He's up to his neck in flood water, sinking in the mud, tired to the bone, his throat dry from shouting for help, his eyes strained and weary from constantly scanning the horizon for some sign of deliverance. Fears and enemies threaten to drive him to despair and defeat.

Response & Action:
This psalm is more than just a page from David’s private journal; it’s a page from Israel’s official book of worship. Songs of faith and worship can and should include expressions of doubt and fear. Honestly wrestling with doubt is essential if my faith is to be genuine. Voicing fear is a necessary part of growing in confidence.

Because I want my faith to have integrity, I will be honest about my doubts, questions, and fears. True faith doesn't ignore doubts; it reaches beyond them. Genuine worship doesn't internalize fears; it voices them along with a hope that God is able to calm them. Real trust doesn't avoid asking the hard questions; it asks them in the firm belief that God is faithful and able to answer.

O God, I believe you want me to have a real faith in you. And if my faith is going to be real, then I too must be real in my prayers and worship. I cannot be real if I pretend to have no doubts. I cannot be real if I never voice frustration and fear. I cannot be real if I do not voice the questions that wear down my spirit and threaten my faith. Thank you, Father, for your readiness to hear my cries. By your grace and mercy, help me to ask every question with reverence, to voice every complaint with faith in your goodness, and to confess every fear with a confidence in your faithfulness to save me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 15:4
4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

Resources:
When God Lets You Down: Trusting Again after Pain and Loss
by Alex Gee

Sunday, December 25, 2011

December 25 - Resurrection Hope

Today's Reading:
Judges 2:10-3:31
Acts 22:17-23:10
Psalm 68:28-35
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 23:6-8

6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead." 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.)

Insight:
Is resurrection possible? Is the resurrection of Jesus true? Is it provable? Is it reasonable to believe? If Jesus is the Christ and he did indeed rise from the dead, what does it mean for the way we live, and the way we view the world? For the Apostle Paul, it meant being attacked and imprisoned. His belief in the resurrection challenged the beliefs and power structures of the Jewish community. It created all sorts of social, religious, civic, and political controversy.

Faith and hope in the resurrection of Jesus was seen by many as threatening and divisive. It was also transformational, fulfilling, life-giving, and motivational to those who believed.

Response & Action:
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I believe he is the Christ, the son of the living God. I believe he is alive and that he is at the right hand of the Father. I believe he will come again to judge the living and the dead and that his Kingdom will have no end.

My faith in Jesus is central to the way I see the world, the way I live my life--my values, my hopes, my motivation, my actions, my ethics, and my beliefs. My view of the resurrection is a dividing line. It makes me different socially, politically, and religiously from most people in the world. It also makes me more hopeful, more alive, and more motivated.

Faith in the resurrection of Jesus is outrageous and seismic in its implications. I should not be surprised when it causes division, friction, strain, or controversy.

O God, thank you for Jesus who, although he existed in the very form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, but instead emptied himself. He took the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of humanity. He was humble and obedient to the point of death--even death on the cross. You raised him and exalted him and have given him a name above all names. I bow my knee to you, O Resurrected Christ, and my tongue confesses that you are Lord. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Corinthians 15:14-15
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Resources:
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N. T. Wright

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reading Schedule for December 25-31

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:
2011-12 Reading Schedule
Tips for Daily Bible Readers

Sunday, December 25 -
Judges 2:10-3:31
/ Acts 22:17-23:10 / Psalms 68:28-35

Monday, December 26 -
Judges 4:1-5:31
/ Acts 23:11-35 / Psalms 69:1-12

Tuesday, December 27 -
Judges 6:1-40
/ Acts 24:1-27 / Psalms 69:13-28

Wednesday, December 28 -
Judges 7:1-8:17
/ Acts 25:1-27 / Psalms 69:29-36

Thursday, December 29 -
Judges 8:18-9:21
/ Acts 26:1-32 / Psalms 70:1-5

Friday, December 30 -
Judges 9:22-10:18
/ Acts 27:1-20 / Psalms 71:1-8

Saturday, December 31 -
Judges 11:1-12:15 / Acts 27:21-44
/ Psalms 71:9-18

December 24 - Generation to Generation

Today's Reading:
Judges 1:1--2:9
Acts 21:37--22:16
Psalm 68:21-27
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Judges 2:10-14

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

Insight:
The new generation of Israelites born in the Promised Land, did not remember or appreciate their history. Did their parents fail to teach them? Did they simply not listen to their parents? Somehow they forgot their heritage and turned away from God to worship the idols and false gods of the people around them. This resulted in conflict, war, and bloodshed.

They were caught in a tragic cycle. They would forget and forsake God. Then, they would fall prey to their enemies. Next, they would cry out to God for help. Then, God would deliver them and restore them through chosen leaders (the judges) and they would prosper. But then, once again, they would plunge into error—forgetting and forsaking God.

Response & Action:
I intend to face each new day with a fresh resolve to choose God and follow Christ Jesus. Every morning I will renew my commitment to Christ, turn to the Scriptures for guidance, and set my heart on walking in the ways of Jesus. I will make an effort to know and remember the works and ways of the Lord. I will do my best to pass on my knowledge and faith to my children and grandchildren.

O God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to tell the stories and speak the truth of your faithfulness in meaningful and convincing ways so that my children and their peers might know you and find their hope and purpose in you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 1:22-25
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

December 23 - Choose for Yourselves

Today's Reading:
Joshua 24:1-33
Acts 21:18-36
Psalm 68:15-20
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Joshua 24:14-15

14 "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Insight:

There are many alternatives to being faithful to God and serving him. Living for God requires choice and commitment. Joshua knew that many people would be unfaithful—that serving the Lord would not be desirable to everyone. He knew that many would choose the false gods of their father's or the new gods of the land they were entering. But as for Joshua, his choice was made. He and his family would serve and seek the Lord.

Response & Action:
I choose faith in God over everything else. I want to faithfully seek and serve the one true God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I will not choose the false gods and failed pursuits of the world around me. I will seek first the Kingdom of Christ and his righteousness.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to love you with all of my being, and to love my neighbor as my self. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Help me, by faith, to do the good things you've prepared in advance for me to do--to be faithful, fruitful, and effective as your servant, through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you ad the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 10:37-39
37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Resources:
Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters
by Timothy Keller

Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 22 - The Lord's Will Be Done

Today's Reading:
Joshua 22:21-23:16
Acts 21:1-17
Psalm 68:7-14
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 21:10-14

10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”


Insight:
Acts chapter seven is where we find the first mention of Paul (Saul) in the New Testament. There, he was so opposed to the Jesus followers that he approved of killing them. By Acts 21, the Apostle Paul had himself become such a committed follower of the Lord Jesus that he was ready to face imprisonment or even death for him. As a committed follower of Jesus, Paul's primary concern was not his own freedom or safety, but rather God's will. If doing the things he believed God wanted him to do resulted in hardship, he was willing to do them. Jesus had suffered and died in order to accomplish God's will, and Paul was willing to follow that same path if necessary.

Response & Action:
Am I willing to follow Jesus into hardship? If following Jesus means loss, am I willing to lose? If loving as he loves means suffering, am I willing to suffer? If living out the grace and generosity of Jesus means giving up possessions and living with less, am I willing to let go of things? If forgiving as he forgives requires sacrifice, am I willing to suffer loss? If obedience to God requires the faith to face death, am I willing to die?

I want to love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want love Jesus and follow in his steps. I will press on to know Christ more and more—to be so committed that I not only believe in his promise to bless, but also find myself able and willing to share in his suffering. I want to embrace the Christ life so fully that I am willing and able to die to myself.

O God, help me to find my life in you. Give me a faith that makes me able to commit all things to you. Give me a heart for your will and your purposes. Shape and strengthen me to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Whether by life or death, may Christ be exalted in me. Help me to press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me. It's in his name that I pray these things. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 1:20-21
20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Resources:
The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling
by John Stott

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 21 - Every Promise Fulfilled

Today's Reading:
Joshua 21:1-22:20
Acts 20:1-38
Psalm 68:1-6
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Joshua 21:43-45
43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. 45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

Insight:
God keeps his promises. Israel's obedience and faith brought them to a place where they experienced God's promise and provision.

Response & Action:
I need to trust God and obey him. I will commit myself to knowing his word, understanding his will, and following his commands. The testimony of Scripture is that those who trust in the Lord will never find that trust to be misplaced. I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I will acknowledge him in all my ways, trusting that he will make my path straight.

O God, you have promised to deliver and sustain me. You have promised that I will find life and hope in you. If I will surrender to you, you promise to protect, provide, forgive, renew, empower, transform, lead, strengthen, and deliver me. Help me to trust in you completely and to live out that trust in every day and in every way. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 16:24-25
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Resources:
Praying
by J. I. Packer

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 20 - Man-Made Gods

Today's Reading:
Joshua 19:1-20:9
Acts 19:13-41
Psalm 67:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 19:23-27

23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25 He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."

Insight:
Luke gives an account of Paul's efforts to take the message of Jesus to the people of Ephesus. There he encounters a wide variety of opportunities and opposition. In the short span of chapter nineteen we see him in the synagogue (religious Jews), in the lecture hall (academics and philosophers), confronting those who practiced sorcery (superstitious), opposed by those who were followers of Artemis (pagan worship), and by those who profited from the followers of Artemis (commercialism). The message of Jesus was dangerous, according to Demetrius the silversmith, because it would subvert their world.

Response & Action:
Demetrius worded his opposition as a defense of the goddess Artemis, but it seems pretty clear that his greatest concern was the lost profits he would suffer if Artemis worship were to stop. I need to remember that opposition to the message of Jesus might be worded in one way, but actually be rooted in something altogether different.

The message of Jesus is dangerous. To accept the truth of Christ may indeed require the loss of profits, the change of career (Demetrius), the burning of a book (sorcery), the risk of seeming less than intellectual (lecture hall), and the rejection of long-held traditions (synagogue).

Almighty God, help me to recognize the false and selfish "reasons" I may be using to justify half-hearted discipleship. And as I share the message of Jesus with those around me, help me to remember that it may not sound like good news—in fact, it may sound dangerous and threatening as it challenges lifestyles, beliefs, and practices. Help me to respond to the real reasons people oppose the message of Jesus, not necessarily the spoken reasons. In all conversations, give me grace and charity. Give me the humility and integrity to be honest about the ways Jesus challenges and threatens me as well. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 16:24-25
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Resources:
Six Dangerous Questions to Transform Your View of the World
by Paul Borthwick

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19 - Knowing the Scriptures

Today's Reading:
Joshua 16:1-18:28
Acts 18:23-19:12
Psalm 66:13-20
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 18:27-28

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Insight:
Apollos was from Alexandria, Egypt, the second most important city in the Roman Empire, a center of academic excellence, and home to a large Jewish population. He was very educated (v.24), a passionate speaker (v.25), and a skillful debater (v.28). He would have certainly been conversant in Western thought, Hebrew Scriptures, and dominant world-views of his day. His education and ability to communicate effectively and persuasively made him a "great help" to believers.

Response & Action:
Christians who are well-educated, critical thinkers, strong communicators, knowledgeable of scripture, and instructed in the way of the Lord Jesus, can be a great help to other believers. I am very thankful for the wonderful help I have received from intelligent and articulate people—teachers, authors, pastors, artists, philosophers, theologians, historians, and scientists.

I want to grow in my understanding of the world, the scriptures, religion, philosophy, history, and theology. I will make learning a priority in my life and make sure I keep reading, listening, thinking, and searching.

O God, you know all things. All truth and understanding belong to you. Reverence for you is the beginning of wisdom. Help me to love you with all my mind. Strengthen my faith through learning, and give me wisdom and insight that I might be a great help and encouragement to others. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Timothy 2:15
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Resources:
Discipleship of the Mind: Learning to Love God in the Ways We Think
by James W. Sire

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 18 - What God Has Done

Today's Reading:
Joshua 15:1-63
Acts 18:1-22
Psalm 66:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 66:1-5, 16

1 Shout with joy to God, all the earth! 2 Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! 3 Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. 4 All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name." 5 Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf! - - - 16 Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.

Insight:
The psalmist is absolutely exuberant with praise at the thought of all God is and all God has done. So many of the psalms are filled with appeals for God to do something, but this psalm is simply a celebration of all God has done.

Response & Action:
I spend a lot of time asking God to do things for me. I want to spend more time reflecting on all God has done and the many blessings he has provided. I will lift up my needs to the Lord, but I will also lift up enthusiastic shouts of praise for the awesome deeds he has done on behalf of humankind—the awesome works that have blessed me in so many ways.

Not only will I praise God, I will make that praise glorious and unrestrained. I will tell anyone who will listen of the great things God has done for me. I will celebrate and tell others about the things God is doing in my life. I will delight in the great things God has promised to do.

O God, thank you for hearing my prayers. Thank you for the love you have not withheld from me. Give me a mind to recount my blessings. Give me a heart to offer up thanks. Give me a mouth that is quick to sing praise. Give me an eagerness to tell others of all you have done for me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 5:18-20
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Resources:
Reflections on the Psalms
by C. S. Lewis

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reading Schedule for December 18-24

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:
NEW - 2011-12 Reading Schedule
Tips for Daily Bible Readers

Sunday, December 18 -
Joshua 15:1-63 / Acts 18:1-22
/ Psalms 66:1-12

Monday, December 19 -
Joshua 16:1-18:28
/ Acts 18:23-19:12 / Psalms 66:13-20

Tuesday, December 20 -
Joshua 19:1-20:9
/ Acts 19:13-41 / Psalms 67:1-7

Wednesday, December 21 -
Joshua 21:1-22:20
/ Acts 20:1-38 / Psalms 68:1-6

Thursday, December 22 -
Joshua 22:21-23:16
/ Acts 21:1-17 / Psalms 68:7-14

Friday, December 23 -
Joshua 24:1-33
/ Acts 21:18-36 / Psalms 68:15-20

Saturday, December 24 -
Judges 1:1-2:9
/ Acts 21:37-22:16 / Psalms 68:21-27

December 17 - Communicating the Good News

Today's Reading:
Joshua 13:1-14:15
Acts 17:1-34
Psalm 65:1-13
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 17:16-18

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

Insight:
In order to share the Good News with others, I must be a disciple of Jesus and a student of the Scriptures. I also need to know and understand the people around me. I need to be a student of my world—its cultures, beliefs, questions, religions, philosophies, literature, and arts. True faith in Jesus, coupled with a commitment to study, think, and learn, makes it possible to engage the world in the marketplace of ideas. I want a vibrant faith that does not retreat from the world, but, rather, interacts with it in thoughtful and challenging ways.

Response & Action:
I will make every effort to be a person of the Word. I will commit myself to reading, studying, memorizing, and applying the Scriptures. I want to grow deeper and deeper in my understanding of God's Word and be able to help others understand it too. I will keep my eyes open for people who are seeking to know and understand the Bible. I will come alongside them to study, discuss, and apply the truth of the written Word.

O God, thank you for Jesus, the Christ, who came into the world and suffered for my sake. Thank you for his resurrection and victory over death--the validation of his claims and promises. Give me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to grow in my understanding and experience of the salvation and hope Christ brings. Give me the wisdom and the skill to share and communicate my faith with others in thoughtful and meaningful ways. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 1:16-17
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Resources:
True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In
by James Choung