Friday, September 30, 2011

September 30 - What's That in Your Hand?

Today's Reading:
Exodus 4:1-5:21
Luke 12:35-59
Psalms 18:25-36
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Exodus 4:2-5
2 Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied. 3 The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. 4 Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 5 "This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you."

Insight:
Moses felt insufficient and was reluctant to accept God's call to go to Egypt. He asked God, "What if no one believes me? What if I don't know what to say or how to say it?"

God asked Moses, "What's that in your hand?" And then God demonstrated what could happen with his help and power. God asked him, "Who made your mouth?" After all, if God could make Moses' mouth, surely he could help Moses speak!

Moses still felt inadequate to the task and said, "Please send someone else!" But God was determined to use Moses. God was not pleased with Moses' slowness to accept his calling, but God continued to do whatever needed to be done to give Moses more confidence.

Response & Action:
What am I holding in my hand? How can God use that for his purpose and glory? What am I holding back, or slow to do, because I lack confidence? I need to trust in God and trust that he has the power to use whatever I have, however small or weak it may seem to me. God made me, and God can use me for his good purpose.

O God, help me to remember that you can use me to do things I could never do on my own. Help me to trust in you and look to you for the strength and guidance I need for life. Give me a strong faith in you, and a readiness to serve you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

September 29 - Things That Last

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

Focus Verses:
Luke 12:32-34
32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Insight:

Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions. Security is not to be found in things, even lots of things. Worry about things can lead to misplaced priorities: obsession with self; blindness toward the needs of others; disregard for righteousness; failure to recognize the real beauty of today; and distorted values. My pursuits and treasures indicate whether my perspective toward life is temporal and false, or eternal and true.

Response & Action:
I want to live with the eternal values and perspectives of the kingdom of Christ. I want to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. I want my faith in Christ, my pursuit of his righteousness, and my submission to his authority to shape the way I live and the choices I make. I do not want my faith in self or the pursuit of things to shape my relationship with Christ. I want to seek Jesus, his ways, and his priorities more than anything else. I will put first the things that last.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Shape my love for others by the grace and work of Christ in my life. Give me the wisdom to recognize what is true and what has eternal value. I trust you to provide for my needs as I put you first. Through Christ, I pray. 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 Suburban Christian: Finding Spiritual Vitality in the Land of Plenty
by Albert Y. Hsu

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 28 - 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 reason to live, our compassion and love for others, and our desire to serve and be used for God's purpose.

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 27, 2011

Blog Correction

I apologize for getting the posts for today and tomorrow switched around. Thanks to one of my readers for letting me know. Sorry for the confusion. If you ever see a problem with links or posts, please don't hesitate to send me a note. Thanks.

September 27 - Backwards Blessing

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 26, 2011

September 26 - 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 25, 2011

September 25 - Being a Neighbor

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 Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
by Scot McKnight

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reading Schedule for Sept. 25 - Oct. 1

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


September 25 -
Genesis 44:1-45:28
/ Luke 10:13-37 / Psalms 17:6-12

September 26 -
Genesis 46:1-47:31
/ Luke 10:38-11:13 / Psalms 17:13-15

September 27 -
Genesis 48:1-49:33
/ Luke 11:14-36 / Psalms 18:1-6

September 28 -
Gen. 50:1-Ex 2:10
/ Luke 11:37-12:7 / Psalms 18:7-15

September 29 -
Exodus 2:11-3:22
/ Luke 12:8-34 / Psalms 18:16-24

September 30 -
Exodus 4:1-5:21
/ Luke 12:35-59 / Psalms 18:25-36

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

September 24 - The Harvest Is Plentiful

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 23, 2011

September 23 - Right Place, Right TIme

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 22, 2011

September 22 - 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 21, 2011

September 21 - They Laughed at Him

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

Focus Verses:
Luke 8:53-56
53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Insight:
Jesus' ministry was a declaration that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Luke 10:9). In Jesus, the Kingdom was close enough to touch. When the power of the Kingdom encountered the pain of this broken world, it produced unexpected and astonishing results. The power of death was subordinate to the power of God. People who laughed at the suggestion that Jesus could do anything to overcome the cold reality death found themselves dumbfounded at the life-giving power of the Kingdom.

Response & Action:
When facing the cold realities of my world and my life, I must be careful not to dismiss the possibilities of the Kingdom. Things as real and powerful as death can be overcome by the very real power of Christ Jesus. There are times when a dismissive scoff comes easier than a prayer. There are situations so overwhelming and terminal that it seems laughable to have hope. Yet Jesus may calmly suggest that reality is bigger than I think it is. The power of the Kingdom changes the reality of life on earth. Knowing Jesus opens the door to knowing a greater reality.

O God, forgive me for the times I am blind to your power and grace. Save me from scornful skepticism and give me a Kingdom confidence. Make the power of your Kingdom a present reality in my life and in this world. And may the seeds of your Kingdom in my life produce a firm faith and a future hope. Remind me of the promised day when your Kingdom comes and your will is done on earth as it is in Heaven! Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 11:1, 6
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. - - - 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:
Kingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World
by Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 20 - Where Is Your Faith?

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

Focus Verses:
Luke 8:24-25
24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Insight:
Even in the presence of Jesus, the disciples were overcome with fear as they experienced this life-threatening storm. When they cried out to Jesus he amazed them by calming the wind and waves. When the storm subsided at Jesus' command, the disciples were overcome with a different kind of fear and awe. "Who is this?" they asked. "What kind of man is this who holds authority over nature?"

Jesus had a question for them too. As they marveled at his power, he asked, "Where is your faith?" There are two ways I can interpret that question. The first is to take it as, "Don't you have any faith?" The second possibility is, "Where are you placing your faith?"

Response & Action:
If I don't have any faith, surely the testimony Jesus' miraculous power should provoke me to reconsider. I need to ask myself, "Who is this Jesus?" If he is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the one announcing and demonstrating the authority and promise of the Kingdom of God, then my faith in him is very well-placed.

O God, in a world of wind and waves, I cry out to you. I ask you to help me see clearly the present power and future hope that you extend to me through Jesus. Help me to put my faith and trust in him. Amaze me as I give witness to his redemptive and saving power in my life. Encourage me as I hold to the promise of his Kingdom coming in all it's fullness. Bring the day when you will wipe away all tears from our eyes—the day your Kingdom comes and your will is done on earth as it is in heaven. 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:
Faith & Doubt
by John Ortberg

Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19 - Wrestling with God

Today's Reading:
Genesis 32:13-34:31
Luke 8:4-21
Psalms 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:
Wrestling with God: Loving the God We Don't Understand
by James Emery White

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 18 - Stones and Promises

Today's Reading:
Genesis 31:17-32:12
Luke 7:36-8:3
Psalm 11:1-6
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 17, 2011

Reading Schedule for September 18-24

Isaiah 50:4
4 The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.


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


September 18 -
Genesis 31:17-32:12
/ Luke 7:36-8:3 / Psalms 11:1-7

September 19 -
Genesis 32:13-34:31
/ Luke 8:4-21 / Psalms 12:1-8

September 20 -
Genesis 35:1-36:43
/ Luke 8:22-39 / Psalms 13:1-6

September 21 -
Genesis 37:1-38:30
/ Luke 8:40-9:6 / Psalms 14:1-7

September 22 -
Genesis 39:1-41:16
/ Luke 9:7-27 / Psalms 15:1-5

September 23 -
Genesis 41:17-42:17
/ Luke 9:28-50 / Psalms 16:1-11

September 24 -
Genesis 42:18-43:34
/ Luke 9:51-10:12 / Psalms 17:1-5

September 17 - Scheming or Blessing?

Today's Reading:
Genesis 30:1-31:16
Luke 7:11-35
Psalms 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 16, 2011

September 16 - Such Great Faith

Today's Reading:
Genesis 28:1-29:35
Luke 6:39-7:10
Psalms 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 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