Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31 - The Light of Life

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 51:1-53:12
3 John 1:1-14
Psalm 147:12-20
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Isaiah 53:11-12
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Insight:
God's righteous servant, as foretold by Isaiah, "would pour out his life unto death" as he "bore the sins of many." He would also, after his suffering, "see the light of life and be satisfied." He would receive from God "a portion among the great." He would "divide the spoils with the strong." Jesus, the suffering Savior who died on the cross, has risen, and now reigns as Christ the Victor. As victor over sin and death, he gives life and grace to all who place faith in him.

Response & Action:
Jesus is more than my Savior; he is my Lord. He not only redeems, he reigns! I will look to him not only for forgiveness and salvation, but also for his guidance and command. I will trust him for victory in the battles of my life. I will do more than merely call him "Lord;" I will strive to prove his lordship by walking in his ways and doing what he commands. I will do this by the power and grace of his resurrection Spirit.

O God, thank you that Christ Jesus has conquered death. Give me the faith and surrender to embrace him as Savior. Grant me the wisdom and the will to obey him as Lord. Help me to not only hear his words, but also to put them into practice. I pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Luke 6:46-48
46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47 I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30 - Walk in Love

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 48:12-50:11
2 John 1:1-13
Psalm 147:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 John 1:5b-6
5b I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Insight:
Love for God moves us to draw near to him and to obey his commands. Drawing near to God and obeying his commands moves us to love others. Love for God, and love for others—each one feeds the other. The more we love God, the more ready and able we are to love others. The more we love others, the more we recognize our need to know and love and obey God.

Response and Action:
I want to love God with my whole being. I want to know his word and obey his commands. I need God to work in my life and make me able to love others. I will put my love for God into action by making every effort to obey him and live by his word. I will follow Christ's example and yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit as I make every effort to love others.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength. Help me to love my neighbor as myself. Make me more able to love others as I follow Christ and the example he has given. By your word and the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
John 15:9-13
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Recommended Reading:

The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
by Scot McKnight

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29 - God's Testimony about His Son

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 45:11-48:11
1 John 5:1-21
Psalm 146:1-10
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 John 5:9-12
9 We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Insight:
God has spoken. His testimony is that life is in his Son, and only in his Son. Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God have this testimony in their hearts. To reject faith in Jesus and this promise of life, John says, is to reject the Christian view of God and the Christian hope of life in Christ.

Response and Action:
I believe that the testimony and teaching of the apostles is true and reliable. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I believe that God has given abundant testimony—through scripture, prophecy, miracles, incarnation, history, apostolic revelation, the present work of the Holy Spirit, and my personal experience in following Christ—that Jesus is His Son and that life is found in him. This testimony rings true in my own heart.

O Lord, confirm your testimony and the truth of Christ Jesus in my heart more and more with each new day. Help me to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Help me to mature in my faith, that my life might also become a testimony of your grace and the truth of Jesus. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: John 5:24-25
24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John R. W. Stott

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reading Schedule for May 29- June 4

Ephesians 6:13-17
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

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

May 29 -
Isaiah 45:11-48:11 / 1 John 5:1-21
Psalm 146:1-10

May 30 -
Isaiah 48:12-50:11
/ 2 John 1:1-13 / Psalm 147:1-11

May 31 -
Isaiah 51:1-53:12
/ 3 John 1:1-14 / Psalm 147:12-20

June 1 -
Isaiah 54:1-57:14
/ Jude 1:1-25 / Psalm 148:1-6

June 2 -
Isaiah 57:15-59:21
/ Revelation 1:1-20 / Psalm 148:7-14

June 3 -
Isaiah 60:1-62:5
/ Revelation 2:1-17 / Psalm 149:1-9

June 4 -
Isaiah 62:6-65:25
/ Revelation 2:18-3:6 / Psalm 150:1-6

May 28 - Acknowledging Jesus

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 43:14-45:10
1 John 4:1-21
Psalm 145:14-21
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 John 4:1-3; 14-15
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. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. - - - 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.

Insight:
Just as we saw warnings from Peter and Jude regarding faith and sound doctrine, we now see the Apostle John telling Christians to be careful to not believe just anyone. He urges them to "test the spirits" and to remember that there are many false teachers in the world.

John gave them some important truths about Jesus they should look for as they exercised discernment. First, sound doctrine acknowledges that Jesus is from God. Secondly, sound doctrine acknowledges that Jesus is God incarnate—actually human, actually flesh and blood. Third, sound doctrine acknowledges that Jesus is actually the Son of God—actually divine.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful to not believe just anyone who claims to be teaching from the Bible or claims to be a “Christian” teacher. I need to study the Bible carefully for myself in order to have first-hand knowledge of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. I will reject teaching that fails to recognize the importance of the incarnation and the humanity of Jesus. I will reject teaching that fails to acknowledge the deity of Jesus.

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit became incarnate from the virgin Mary.

Show me your ways, O Lord. Guide me in your truth, and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. I pray through Jesus, the son of God and the son of man, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God today and for all eternity. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 30:4
4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!

Resources:
Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels
by Darrell L. Bock

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 27 - Seeing and Meeting Needs

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 41:17-43:13
1 John 3:7-24
Psalm 145:8-13
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 John 3:16-20
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Insight:
Jesus' love was more than words and feelings; he demonstrated God's love through the selfless act of laying down his life for us. We are called to follow his example through selflessly laying down our lives for others.

Love must be demonstrated through actions that respond to the practical needs of people around us. Meeting real needs not only proves to others the sincerity of our love, it also confirms it to us. We begin to know that we belong the truth once we see ourselves living it out—not just talking about it.

Response and Action:
I need to be quick to see the needs of others. I need to be willing to take selfless action to help and address the needs of others. To see needs, but do nothing, is a contradiction. Following Jesus is a call to love, and his call to love is a call to action.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love my neighbor as myself. Help me to follow Christ's selfless example, watching for the needs of others, and doing what I can to meet those needs. Help me to use every good gift you have given me to bless and encourage others. Through Christ, Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 14:21
"He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy."

Resources:
You Can Help Tornado Victims:
Urban Homeworks
Salvation Army
Minneapolis Foundation - N. Mpls Recovery Fund
Red Cross

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 26 - Prepare the Way for the Lord

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 39:1-41:16
1 John 2:18-3:6
Psalm 145:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Isaiah 40:3-5

3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Insight:
The words of the prophet Isaiah promise something beyond the restoration of Israel. They look beyond the rebuilding of Jerusalem. They look to the salvation and hope for all humanity. They look to the time when all things will be put right. This promised hope was centered in the coming of the Christ, the Lord who would save and redeem.

Response and Action:
I believe that Jesus is the Christ. I have put all my hopes for salvation and restoration in him. I will look to him for the strength, hope, and guidance I need for every day. All my aspirations for the future are resting upon my trust in him.

O God, you give strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. My hope is in Jesus. Renew my strength in him. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, help me to soar on wings like eagles. Give me the strength to run and not grow weary. Sustain me that I might walk and not be faint. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 3:1-3
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' "

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25 - Whoever Hates

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 37:1-38:22
1 John 2:1-17
Psalm 144:9-15
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 John 2:9-11

9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

Insight:
Hate and darkness go together. Hate and light are contradictory. A hate or disregard for others is inconsistent with a claim to love God. You cannot hate others and embrace the light of Christ. Blindness toward the needs and concerns of others indicates blindness toward God. True love for God will always result in love, concern, and compassion for others.

Response and Action:
Hate is a strong word. Do I hate others? Who have I written off, or judged, or given up on? I need to be on guard for the subtle ways hate may be at work in my heart. To detest, disrespect, disregard, or dislike others may be subtle forms of hate.

I need to hold up my motives, feelings, and actions to the light of Christ's love so hate can be exposed for what it is. I need to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength; this will help me to love my neighbor as myself. By God's grace and the power of his Spirit, I need to cultivate compassion, understanding, sympathy, and love for others.

O God, help me to truly love you. Don’t let me be blinded or deceived by hatred. Teach me to love others as I follow the example and the commands of Christ Jesus. Forgive me for the times I claim to know and love you, but harbor hate toward others. Help me to walk in the light and to walk in fellowship with others. Give me a heart of compassion and concern for the interests of others. Help me to be patient and forgiving with others, as you are patient and forgiving to me. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Mark 12:29-31
29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: '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:
Relational Masks: Removing the Barriers That Keep Us Apart
by Russell Willingham

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23 - Those Who Rely on Strength

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 30:12-33:9
2 Peter 3:1-18
Psalm 143:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Isaiah 31:1; 33:2
31:1 - Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD. 33:2 - O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.

Insight:
Isaiah chides those who have turned from God and placed their trust in human strength. It's tempting to trust in military might, political power, or wealth, but none of those things are ultimately as reliable as God. It's even more tempting to trust in our own strength, smarts, and ability to scramble to get us through life.

The short prayer offered up in Isaiah 33:2 reveals the authentic way of faith. It's a wonderful prayer and reminder for all of us who see the fallacy of trusting in ourselves or anyone or anything else besides God. Only God can give us the strength to live with joy, endurance, and patience.

Response & Action:
I need to be very careful about where I place my trust. I am not smart enough or strong enough to navigate and manage my own life. The money, power, privilege, and promises the world has to offer me are never as stable or satisfying as they appear to be. I need to recognize that the strength and security I long for in life are only found in God. My faith needs to be fixed firmly upon Jesus. I can live with confidence only through Christ who gives me strength.

O God, you are my strength and my salvation. Every morning you hear my voice as I lay my requests before you. You listen to my cries for help. I wait upon you with confidence and fully expect that you will answer my prayers and strengthen me for life. I see that trusting in myself, or earthly strength, is like building my life on shifting sand. I will build my life upon the solid rock of faith in you. 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:
Isaiah: Trusting God in Trouble Times
by Howard Peskett

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22 - Destructive Heresies

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 28:14-30:11
2 Peter 2:1-22
Psalm 142:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Peter 2:1-3
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Insight:
In the first chapter of this short letter, Peter says the testimony of the prophets and the apostles is trustworthy and inspired by God. In the second chapter he warns of false teachers who invent their stories and teachings. He says that false teachers are marked by: 1) their denial of God's sovereignty; 2) their shameful ways; and 3) their greed and exploitation of others.

Peter urged Christians to exercise discernment. Not everyone who claims to be teaching the truth of God is doing so. Followers of Jesus must be careful that they are not lead astray by so-called prophets and teachers. Truth stands up to questioning. Having faith does not mean being gullible. Well-placed faith looks for reasons to believe.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful about whom I listen to and whom I follow. I want to follow Jesus, so I will study the Scriptures carefully everyday. I will hold every teaching and story I hear up to the light of Christ's teaching and example. I will be on guard against every teaching that diminishes God or questions the lordship of Jesus. I will evaluate teachers and leaders with a critical mindset and watch out for any indicators of greed, exploitation, or other selfish motives.

O God, your word is sharper than a two edged sword -- able to cut through the attitudes and motives of the heart. Give me a growing love for your written word and the discipline to study and meditate upon it each day. Thank you for Jesus, the Living Word. Help me to follow him closely and to become so familiar with his words, his actions, and his life that I am able to clearly recognize and reject anything that runs contrary to his way. 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:
God Talk: Cautions for Those Who Hear God's Voice
by Ruth Tucker

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reading Schedule for May 22-28

Romans 15:4-6
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. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

May 22 -
Isaiah 28:14-30:11 / 2 Peter 2:1-22
/ Psalm 142:1-7

May 23 -
Isaiah 30:12-33:9
/ 2 Peter 3:1-18 / Psalm 143:1-12

May 24 -
Isaiah 33:10-36:22
/ 1 John 1:1-10 / Psalm 144:1-8

May 25 -
Isaiah 37:1-38:22
/ 1 John 2:1-17 / Psalm 144:9-15

May 26 -
Isaiah 39:1-41:16
/ 1 John 2:18-3:6 / Psalm 145:1-7

May 27 -
Isaiah 41:17-43:13
/ 1 John 3:7-24 / Psalm 145:8-13

May 28 -
Isaiah 43:14-45:10
/ 1 John 4:1-21 / Psalm 145:14-21

May 21 - A Light Shining

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 25:1-28:13
2 Peter 1:1-21
Psalm 141:1-10
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
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.

Insight:
Peter stresses to his readers that the testimony of the Apostles was based on eyewitness experience, not clever stories they invented (v.16). They were with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration and heard God's voice commend him (v.17-18).

What the prophets of old had spoken was now made certain through Christ Jesus. Prophecy and scripture, Peter says, are not merely ideas and interpretations that originate in the minds of men. Rather, Scripture is the result of men speaking from God, being moved and carried along by God's Spirit.

Response & Action:
I need to consider the claims of Scripture carefully. The idea that Scripture is nothing more than the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of humans runs contrary to what the Apostle Peter says here. I believe the Bible is reliable and inspired by God. I will read it and apply it to my life in the faith that it is from God, useful, and truthful.

O God, thank you for your written word. I will pay attention to it, as a light shining in the darkness. You word is a light for my path and a lamp to my feet. I seek you, Lord, with all my heart; don't let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Help me to receive your word so completely that my life becomes a reflection of your word and a testimony to your truth. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Resources:
Can I Trust the Bible?
by Darrell Bock

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20 - The Noise of the Revelers

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 22:1-24:23
1 Peter 4:7-5:14
Psalm 140:6-13
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Isaiah 24:8-10
8 The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. 9 No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers. 10 The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred.

Insight:
Pride and self-gratification are often at the root of sin. Prosperity is often a precursor to careless self-indulgence. Eventually the parties give way to pain, the drinking is overcome by the misery of a hangover, and the songs turn into crying. Judgment is a wake-up call that forces us to face reality. Life is not meant to be lived without God. We were not created to gratify ourselves or serve our selfish desires. Rebellion against God is fundamentally a refusal to recognize the truth.

Response & Action:
I need to recognize God as my maker an the rightful and worthy owner of my life. Self-gratification is not the path to fulfillment and wholeness. Instead, I want to humbly acknowledge Jesus as Lord and to live for him. Self-indulgence and pride are deceptive and result in emptiness and ruin. I want to trust God, acknowledge him in all my ways, and find direction and wholeness in the truth.

O God, show me your ways, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth. Give me the humility and wisdom to live for you and to follow you. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 13:13-14
13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Resources:
Honest to God?
by Bill Hybels

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 19 - Keeping Your Tongue

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 19:1-21:17
1 Peter 3:8-4:6
Psalm 140:1-5
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 Peter 3:8-10
8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.

Insight:
Harmony, sympathy, brotherhood, compassion, and humility are hallmarks of faith. The way we interact and relate with others, whether friends or foes, is part of the calling and inheritance of those who follow Jesus. The words of our mouths give evidence of the depth and maturity of our spiritual formation. When our hearts are formed and motivated by the redemptive grace and peace of Christ, we will not return insult for insult or evil for evil.

Response & Action:
If I am truly following Christ, and allowing him to shape and guide my heart and mind, my attitudes and words should demonstrate it. I do not want bitter or unkind words to be my first response when I am offended, hurt, or insulted. I want my speech and attitudes to be driven and shaped by what Christ Jesus would have me say and think.

O God, by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, transform my heart and mind. Unkind and mean words are too easily spoken when I face difficulties and offense in my own strength. I want you to shape and guide the attitudes of my heart, the thoughts of my mind, and the words of my mouth. Give me the wisdom and the will to surrender to you so fully that all my dealings with other people are rooted in the redemptive love of Jesus. It is in his gracious name that I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 3:9-12
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Resources:
The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
by Scot McKnight

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 18 - My Heart Laments

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 15:1-18:7
1 Peter 2:11-3:7
Psalm 139:17-24
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Isaiah 16:9-13
9 So I weep, as Jazer weeps, for the vines of Sibmah. O Heshbon, O Elealeh, I drench you with tears! The shouts of joy over your ripened fruit and over your harvests have been stilled. 10 Joy and gladness are taken away from the orchards; no one sings or shouts in the vineyards; no one treads out wine at the presses, for I have put an end to the shouting. 11 My heart laments for Moab like a harp, my inmost being for Kir Hareseth. 12 When Moab appears at her high place, she only wears herself out; when she goes to her shrine to pray, it is to no avail. 13 This is the word the LORD has already spoken concerning Moab.

Insight:
Even as Isaiah prophesied God's judgment against Moab and Damascus, he stressed God's love and grace. There was weeping in the streets and homes of these nations because of the corrective discipline God laid upon them, but there was also weeping in heaven as God grieved over these people.

God wanted to redeem and renew them. He took no joy in their suffering. He grieved as they turned to idols and prayed to false gods who were powerless to help them. God's hand of discipline was upon them because he loved them and desired what was best and true for them.

Response & Action:
I am committed to seeking God and living in truth. I will weep over the things that grieve God. I will remember that God loves and disciplines his children. Though it may bring tears, I will accept his hand of discipline as a blessing—a severe mercy—of being his child. I trust that God's judgment and discipline will result in renewal and righteousness for me. I will humble myself before God so that he can lift me up.

O God, you are a loving father. Your heart is touched and you weep for me when I hurt myself by turning away from you. Thank you for loving me enough to discipline and correct me. Your discipline and correction never seems pleasant at the time, but I trust that you are lovingly working for my good. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 12:10-11
10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 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.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 17 - Search Me, O God

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 12:1-14:32
1 Peter 1:13-2:10
Psalm 139:11-16
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 139:23-24

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Insight:
Psalm 139 is a beautiful song that we hear quoted frequently. The phrases "I'm fearfully and wonderfully made" (v. 14) and "where can I go from your Spirit" (v.7) and "before a word is on my tongue" (v. 4) and "Search me, O God" (v.23) get mentioned quite often. I never, however, hear anybody quote verses 19-22. We read the phrases, "If only you would slay the wicked" or "I have nothing but hate for them," and struggle with what to do with them.

Response & Action:
I suggest that we do the same thing David did with them. We should be honest about our anger and hate, we should give them up and place them in God's hands, and then humbly consider his wisdom and grace.

David begins this song (vv. 1-18) with awe and wonder at the knowledge of God. God knows everything. God’s knowledge is before and after all things. God is our maker and he knows us better than we know ourselves. God's thoughts are amazing and precious.

Next, David is honest about his own thoughts--thoughts like "God, why do you tolerate evil?" or "God, why don't you just get rid of everyone who opposes you?" (vv. 19-22). When we, like David, find ourselves thinking in those ways, we might just want to take a step back and consider where we would be if that were the way God thought.

Finally, like David (vv. 23-24), we should ask God to search our hearts and show us the ways our thoughts and attitudes are hurtful, or shortsighted, or motivated by fear and anxiety. We can then ask God to lead our hearts and thoughts into better and everlasting ways.

O God, your thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and your ways are higher than my ways. Help me to think more like you think. Make my heart more like yours. Replace my hate and frustration with grace and hope. Help me extend to others the same love, forgiveness, and redemption you have shown to me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 5:43-45a
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

Resources:
A Heart for God: Learning From David Through the Tough Choices of Life
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16 - Though You Have Not Seen Him

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 10:1-11:16
1 Peter 1:1-12
Psalm 139:1-10
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 Peter 1:8-9
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Insight:
Though life is filled with grief and all kinds of trials, the resurrection of Jesus gives hope and and a new way to live. Through Christ, God has promised an eternal inheritance that cannot be taken away or spoiled. Faith in God's promise and power is a shield and strength that helps us face the troubles and challenges of life. Those who persevere through the trials become purer and surer as they press on in faith. True faith produces true joy and results in true praise as we find ourselves experiencing the meaning and wholeness of what it means to be saved.

Response & Action:
Though I have not seen Jesus, I love him. Though I do not see him now, I believe him. I will live by faith in Christ and persevere through trials. I will cling to God's promises and live in the blessed hope of all he has promised in Christ. I want to be filled with joy in every circumstance. I want to see beyond the struggles of today and press on toward an eternal inheritance. I believe that God will sustain me through anything. He will use the trials I face to purify me and make me whole and real. I want to live a life that results in praise to God.

O God, 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. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me by your Spirit, through your word, your promises, your people, and all that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. 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. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Resources:
Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in an Everyday Life
by Eugene Peterson