Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31 - Leave Some for the Poor

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 22:17-23:44
John 6:22-42
Psalm 35:11-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Leviticus 23:22
22 " 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.' "

Insight:
The levitical harvest laws instructed the Israelites to leave the grain in corners and edges of their fields. If they dropped something while harvesting, they were to leave it where it fell. In other words, they were commanded to do a less than thorough job. Instead of reaping every last grain for themselves, they were to leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among them. God's command included provision for those struggling in poverty. They were to be allowed to harvest the corners and edges and pick up anything that had been dropped.

Response & Action:
Rather than keeping every little bit of the blessing and harvest God has given me, I will find ways to share with those in need. Instead of selling everything I don't need, I will make it available to others. I will invite others to benefit from the "corners and edges" of my life. The heart of God is considerate of those in need, and so I want to have a heart for those in need. God asks those who have to be mindful of those who have not. I want to be mindful of and empathetic toward those who are struggling to find ways to meet their needs.

O God, thank you for providing for my needs. May I always have the wisdom and humility to recognize that you are my provider. Give me a heart that is generous toward those in need. Make me ready and willing to help those who are less fortunate. May your grace and provision for me always result in grace and provision for those around me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 3:17-18
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.

Resources:
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity
by Ronald J. Sider

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30 - They All Had Enough

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 20:22-22:16
John 6:1-21
Psalm 35:1-10
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 6:12-13

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Insight:
The miraculous feeding of the five thousand is described in all four of the New Testament gospels. What appeared to be an impossible need was met beyond anyone's imagination. What seemed to be an utterly inadequate supply, just a few loaves and fishes, proved to be more than enough at the hand of Jesus. There were enough left overs to fill twelve baskets.

Perhaps the number of baskets was symbolic—one for each tribe of Israel. Just as God had provided for the twelve tribes during the exodus under the leadership of Moses, he was was now providing for the nation through Jesus. Jesus claimed to be the true bread from heaven who would provide more than food for the stomach—he would give eternal life.

Response & Action:
When my circumstances are difficult, I will cry out to God for help. I will pray not only for my rescue from hardship, but also for the encouragement and witness God's deliverance will be for those who are praying for me. Ultimately, I pray that God's salvation and strength in my life will result in praise and thanksgiving to God.

O God, I trust you to provide for my needs. Thank you for your son, Jesus, the bread of life. Fill me to overflowing with the bread of Christ. Bless and provide for me so completely that my life is a testimony of your faithfulness to provide more than enough. May your grace and provision in my life be so complete that the abundance overflows to my family, my friends, and my community. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 3:20-21
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reading Schedule for Oct. 30 - Nov. 5

Psalm 119:50-55
50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. 51 The arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your law. 52 I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them. 53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law. 54 Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. 55 In the night I remember your name, O LORD, and I will keep your law.


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


October 23 -
Leviticus 7:28-9:6
/ John 1:29-51 / Psalms 31:1-8

October 24 -
Leviticus 9:7-10:20
/ John 2:1-25 / Psalms 31:9-18

October 25 -
Leviticus 11:1-12:8
/ John 3:1-21 / Psalms 31:19-24

October 26 -
Leviticus 13:1-59
/ John 3:22-4:3 / Psalms 32:1-11

October 27 -
Leviticus 14:1-57
/ John 4:4-54 / Psalms 33:1-11

October 28 -
Leviticus 15:1-17:16
/ John 4:43-54 / Psalms 33:12-22

October 29 -
Leviticus 18:1-20:21
/ John 5:1-27 / Psalms 34:1-22

October 29 - Crossing Over

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 18:1-20:21
John 5:1-27
Psalm 34:1-22
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 5:24-26

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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself."

Insight:
Jesus was persecuted for more than breaking Sabbath laws. There were attempts and plots to kill him, not because he was a controversial teacher, but because "he was calling God his own father, and making himself equal with God" (John 5:18). He claimed to be the Son of God, the promised redeemer, the giver of eternal life, the one who would raise the dead, and the one who would judge on the final day.

Response & Action:
My faith is in Jesus. I accept his claims about himself. I believe he is the fulfillment of the promises found in the law and the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. The scriptures tell me that belief in Jesus is the way to cross over from death to life. My hope of life, purpose, and eternity are in Jesus. I will seek to do good, and to pursue his righteousness today and every day as I eagerly await the day of his appearing—the day when he will redeem all humankind and all of creation with his resurrection power.

O God, thank you for the life and redemption you have given through Christ Jesus, your Son. Thank you that I can cross over from death to life through faith in him. Give me the wisdom and the will to follow and serve him. Help me to live in such a way that my life becomes yet another testimony of the hope and life he came to give. Strengthen and transform me that I might know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: John 3:16-17
16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Resources:
Faith & Doubt
by John Ortberg

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28 - Scapegoat

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 15:1-17:16
John 4:43-54
Psalm 33:12-22
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Leviticus 16:20-22

20 "When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat's head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.

Insight:
The Day of Atonement was an annual ritual of cleansing and forgiveness that foreshadowed the ultimate and eternal cleansing that would be accomplished by Christ's sacrificial death. What they did year after year was a picture that anticipated what Jesus would one day do once for all (Hebrews 10:11-13).

The goat sacrificed on the Day of Atonement, along with the other sacrificed animals, symbolized the death and sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. There is much discussion and speculation about the meaning of the scapegoat driven away. Some think it represents the physical suffering and hardship Christ endured in bearing our sins. I think it may represent the believer's part in casting sin aside. Christ died for sin, but the believer must also participate in Christ’s work by turning away from and dying to sin (Rom. 12:1-2).

Response & Action:
I will look to Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, renewal, and the hope of eternal life. I will put my faith in his saving sacrifice on my behalf. I will also make every effort to drive out the sins in my life. Christ not only died to atone for my sin, but also gives me the power of his Spirit to be made new and to find freedom from sin. By the power and grace of Christ, I will make every effort to put aside the sins that entangle me. Beyond forgiveness, I will pursue holiness.

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. Thank you for the forgiveness you have given through Jesus. Help me to drive sin and unfaithfulness out of my life. Help me to offer myself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to you. By your grace, strengthen and bless my efforts to turn away from sin. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 10:1-4
1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Resources:
The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views
by Thomas R. Schreiner

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 27 - Blessing Others

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 14:1-57
John 4:4-54
Psalm 33:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 4:31-34

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something." 32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." 33 Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?" 34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."

Insight:
Jesus put the needs and interests of others before his own. He was able to defer or put aside his own needs because he found such satisfaction in ministering to others. Jesus was a hungry and tired man as he sat down by a well in Sychar and asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. He became a satisfied and energized man once he saw the woman's response to God's truth and grace. Jesus' disciples, confused as they were by his words on this occasion, would eventually learn and experience the same satisfaction of ministry and selflessness Jesus spoke about.

Response & Action:
There is a satisfaction and joy in serving the interests of others. I want to understand and experience that satisfaction. I want to be more concerned with the Kingdom of God than in the gratifying of self. I want to know how much more blessed it is to give than to receive. I want my desire to bless others to far surpass the desire to bless myself.

O God, grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled, as to console. To be loved, as to love. To be understood, as to understand. To be satisfied, as to satisfy. Give me food that the self-centered person I am today cannot comprehend. Thank you for the power and grace of your Holy Spirit who is able to transform me and renew my mind as I offer myself to you as a living sacrifice. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 2:3-5
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 26 - I Acknowledged My Sin

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 13:1-59
John 3:22-4:3
Psalm 32:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 32:1-5
1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD "— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Insight:
Failure to acknowledge my sin before God will result in guilt and depression. How much better for me to admit my failures, uncover my sins, and confess my need for God's forgiveness and grace. The blessing of forgiveness and relief from guilt comes from being humble and honest before God. If I confess my sins, God is faithful and just and he will forgive me my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness.

Response & Action:
I will be humble and honest before God and admit my sins and weaknesses. God knows all about them anyway, so covering them up is only self-deception. I want the peace and freedom from guilt that comes with confession and honesty to God. I will openly acknowledge my weakness and transgressions to God. I will look to God for the grace and guidance I need to overcome sin. I will give God my thanks and praise for his mercy and faithfulness to forgive and restore.

Thank you, Almighty God, for your mercy and grace. Thank you for your faithfulness and your forgiveness that blesses all who confess their sins and look to you for salvation. Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from evil. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give me a humble heart and a readiness to repent, and as I do, restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free Spirit. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 1:8-9
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Resources:
Reflection & Confession
by Janet L. Johnson

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October 25 - God So Loved the World

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 11:1-12:8
John 3:1-21
Psalm 31:19-24
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: John 3:16-19
16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."

Insight:
Jesus' words to Nicodemus are very straightforward. "The Son" is God's plan for saving the world. Salvation comes through believing in the Son. Condemnation is not the penalty for rejecting the Son. Rather, condemnation is where we are until we are saved by the Son. Jesus, God's Son, is the one who rescues us from darkness and condemnation.

Response & Action:
I want to take hold of God's gift of salvation. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. My faith in Jesus draws me into his light. I want to turn away from evil and do what is right. I want to reflect the light of Christ in my world so that others can believe in Him too.

O Lord, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Help me to walk in the light and to recognize Jesus as the true light. Help my life to be a light and witness of Jesus' power to save and transform. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 5:11-12
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.

Resources:
Becoming a Christian
by John Stott

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 24 - The First Miraculous Sign

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 9:7-10:20
John 2:1-25
Psalm 31:9-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 2:7-11

7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." 11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Insight:
There are some unusual things about Jesus' first miracle. To begin with, the supply of wine at a wedding doesn't seem like it really warrants supernatural intervention. There also seems to be reluctance on Jesus' part. His mother wants him to do something, but he doesn't want to get involved; he doesn't think it's the right time. When he does get involved, it seems to be at Mary's insistence. And though he performs a miracle, he does so in an anonymous way. Only Mary and the servants seem to know what has happened.

All of these peculiarities make fertile ground for both speculation and question. We ask “why this” and wonder “why that?” John jumps beyond our questions about this specific miracle and gets to a bigger question: Why miracles at all? His answer: To reveal Jesus' glory and to foster his disciples' faith in him (v. 11).

Response & Action:
As I encounter Jesus' miracles while reading the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I will remember what John said at the conclusion of his account of Jesus' first miracle. I will ask myself, "What does this miracle reveal to me about Jesus' glory?" and "What does this miracle call me or cause me to believe about Jesus?" I will look for his glory and consider my faith in him.

O God, help me to recognize Jesus as your Son, the Christ, the Savior, and Lord. Help me to grow in my knowledge and experience of who he is and what that means. Increase my faith and do a miraculous work in my life. Take my bondage to sin and transform it into freedom and righteousness. Help me to live by the miraculous power of resurrection. Change my heart from stone to flesh. Turn the tepid and bitter waters of my life into the rich new wine of your Spirit. Take my death and give me life. In Jesus transforming and powerful Name, 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:
Miracles
by C. S.Lewis

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 23 - The Son of God

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 7:28-9:6
John 1:29-51
Psalm 31:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 1:32-34

32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."

Insight:
John the Baptist was born to parents of advanced age. The angelic visits and miracles that accompanied his conception and birth (Luke 1) were signs that John was a special voice—a prophet who would announce the coming of Messiah. At his birth, John's father, Zechariah, exclaimed, "You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation, through the forgiveness of their sins..." (Luke 1:76-77).

John the Baptist, was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 40:3). He was "A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God." He was also the fulfillment of God's promise through the prophet Malachi: "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers..." (Malachi 4:5-6).

All this adds tremendous force to John's declaration that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John was giving prophetic notice that Jesus was the one who would fulfill God's promise to save sinners from judgment. Jesus was God's solution to humanity's problem of sin. Jesus was the one who would be the instrument of God's saving grace and salvation for the world.

Response & Action:
I accept the testimony of John the Baptist. John's birth, life, and ministry give prophetic credibility to his witness. I am putting my faith in Christ Jesus and I look to him as the one who can save me from sin. I believe that Jesus saves me from the penalty of sin and from bondage to sin. As I follow Jesus, I pray that my life and my voice, as John the Baptist's, might be a testimony and declaration of the saving and transforming power of Jesus.

O God, thank you for Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Help me to recognize him, to follow him, and to trust him. Make my life a testimony of his salvation, and use me to point others to Christ Jesus, your Son, my Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 5:11-12
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.

Resources:
Jesus: Lord and Savior
by F. F. Bruce

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reading Schedule for October 23-29

1 Corinthians 2:12-14
12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

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


October 23 -
Leviticus 7:28-9:6
/ John 1:29-51 / Psalms 31:1-8

October 24 -
Leviticus 9:7-10:20
/ John 2:1-25 / Psalms 31:9-18

October 25 -
Leviticus 11:1-12:8
/ John 3:1-21 / Psalms 31:19-24

October 26 -
Leviticus 13:1-59
/ John 3:22-4:3 / Psalms 32:1-11

October 27 -
Leviticus 14:1-57
/ John 4:4-54 / Psalms 33:1-11

October 28 -
Leviticus 15:1-17:16
/ John 4:43-54 / Psalms 33:12-22

October 29 -
Leviticus 18:1-20:21
/ John 5:1-27 / Psalms 34:1-22

October 22 - True Light

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 6:1-7:27
John 1:1-28
Psalm 30:8-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 1:9-12
9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God...

Insight:
Jesus is the human manifestation of God's creative word—"all things came into being by him." Jesus is the incarnation of God's word of wisdom—"the true light that enlightens all mankind." Jesus is the embodiment of God's saving word—"in him was life." Jesus is the human face of God's regenerating word—"to those who received him, who believed in his Name, he gave to the power to become the children of God."

Response & Action:
I believe that Jesus is God made flesh. I believe that the gifts of God's grace and truth are found in him. I believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior. I receive him, embrace him, surrender myself to him, and look to him in faith. I look to Jesus to understand and take hold of God's truth and wisdom. I look to him for salvation, regeneration, meaning, and purpose.

O God, thank you for sending your son, Jesus, into the world. Thank you for showing yourself through him. Thank you for the grace and truth we receive through him. Give me the wisdom and the will to love and follow Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is in his saving Name that I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 1:1-3
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

Resources:
Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels
See
Part 3, Chapter 12, p. 409 for a fantastic explanation of John 1.
by Darrell Bock

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 21 - All the Scriptures Said

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 4:1-5:19
Luke 24:13-53
Psalm 30:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Luke 24:25-27

25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Insight:
When the disciples failed to recognize Jesus, he did not immediately tell them who he was. Instead, he asked them what they were thinking and feeling. He then turned them to the testimony of scripture. He wanted them to see how the scriptures accurately explained who he was and what would happen to him. He helped them see the reliability scripture and emphasized the importance scripture for all who want to understand and recognize him.

Response & Action:
Knowing and understanding the Bible is a very important part of knowing and understanding who Christ is. I must make time for reading and meditating upon God's word and make it a priority in my daily life. I want to be a person who recognizes Jesus for who the Scriptures show him to be.

O God, thank you for your written word. Thank you that your Spirit has spoken through the prophets. Help me to be a person of the Word. I want to read, study, memorize, and know the scriptures. As I hide your word in my heart, please help me to better recognize and know Jesus.
Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 8:33-34
"Listen to my (wisdom's) instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway."

Resources:
The IVP Introduction to the Bible
by Philip S. Johnston

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 20 - What Had Happened

Today's Reading:
Leviticus 1:1-3:17
Luke 23:44-24:12
Psalm 29:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Luke 24:9-12

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Insight:
Bible scholars generally agree that the gospel account of women being the first witnesses to the resurrection gives support to the veracity of the biblical narrative. Many a commentator has pointed out that if overzealous male disciples had fabricated the resurrection story, they would surely never have chosen women to be the first to know and tell about the empty tomb.

First-century Jewish society rejected women as legal witnesses. In fact, it's worth noting that Luke's account shows the apostles doing just that. Even though these women were surely well-known to them, the apostles dismissed their story as nonsense. Because they had a bias against the testimony of women, the apostles' first response to the resurrection message was one of rejection.

Response & Action:
Truth can come from very unexpected places. It's all too easy to miss the truth when it comes from someone I have dismissed as unreliable. Just because something seems incredible or unexpected or nonsensical to me, it doesn't mean it is untrue. It's fine to be skeptical and to thoroughly question and examine truth claims, but it is foolish to reject a truth claim simply because I have a predisposition or bias toward unbelief.

I will be a thoughtful and generous listener. When people share personal stories, experiences, and beliefs, I will be careful to not dismiss them without first giving their testimony honest consideration and examination. I will remember that God sometimes uses things that seem foolish to shame the wise. Sometimes God works through the weak instead of the strong. Sometimes wisdom comes from the mouths of children.

O God, save me from arrogance that would blind me to truth. Save me from overconfidence in myself that might cause me to reject something authentic and good. Deliver me from any prejudice that would make me insensitive and closed to the beautiful and redeeming things you are doing in the world. Give me the humility, the curiosity, the patience, and the wisdom to see truth regardless of who is speaking it. Help me to remember that all truth is your truth. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Corinthians 1:27-30
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. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Resources:
Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?
by James W. Sire

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19 - He Saved Others

Today's Reading:
Exodus 39:1-40:38
Luke 23:13-43
Psalm 28:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Luke 23:33-35

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."

Insight:
The people who sneered and mocked Jesus with the words, "He saved others, let him save himself," were inadvertently stating the fact of the situation. Ironically, their taunts were true. It's true that Jesus could not save us if he saved himself from the pain of the cross. The incarnation of Jesus and his death on the cross are necessary for my salvation. Jesus freely chose to save humankind rather than saving himself.

Response & Action:
My salvation and life are the reason for Christ's incarnation and his death at the hands of sinful men. Jesus was without sin, yet was willing to enter a sinful world and suffer the violence of sinners. That is why God has given him all the life needed to reverse the injustices and crimes of humanity. He is the only human without sin, the only one worthy to receive life, and therefore the only one able to graciously give new life to the rest of humanity. I will put my hope and faith and confidence in him. I am a sinner, saved by grace—a grace made possible by Jesus!

Thank you, Jesus, for enduring the shame and suffering of the cross. You freely laid down your life in order to save mine. Help me, now, to hold fast to this great gift to me. Help me to lay down my life in surrender to you. Help me to live out surrender to you in all my choices and actions today. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 2:14-15
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Resources:
The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views
by Thomas R. Schreiner

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18 - I Will Seek

Today's Reading:
Exodus 37:1-38:31
Luke 22:54-23:12
Psalm 27:7-14
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Psalm 27:7-8

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Insight:
David was determined to seek God. It wasn't just his need or external circumstances that caused him to seek God; his heart also told him to "seek God's face!"

Response & Action:
I will seek God with all my heart. I do not want to be a person who seeks God only in times of need. I want a heart that desires to draw near to God so that I am ready for difficult situations. I will seek God through prayer, through the Scriptures, through fellowship with others who seek him, and through every true and beautiful thing in the world around me.

O God, help me to seek you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Show yourself to me through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Help me to desire and delight in your will and to walk in your ways to the glory of your Name. 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:
Learning to Pray Through the Psalms
by James Sire

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17 - Artistic Craftsmen

Today's Reading:
Exodus 35:10-36:38
Luke 22:35-53
Psalm 27:1-6
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Exodus 35:30-35

30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, "See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts- 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them master craftsmen and designers.

Insight:
God selected and gifted people to craft the Tabernacle structure, curtains, furnishings, tools, incense, and garments. These people were described as Spirit-filled and skillful. They had knowledge, ability, and artistry.

God has gifted different people in different ways for different purposes. The arts have a special purpose as they contribute to the worship and life of faith communities. Artistry, beauty, and craftsmanship are God-given. Those who are skilled in the arts should be called upon to use these gifts to nurture and enrich worship experiences and community life.

Response & Action:
I am thankful for the artistic men and women God has gifted in my church family. I am grateful for the music, photography, craftsmanship, beauty, creative writing, graphic arts, drama, architecture, painting, dance, and so much more that make my worship and Christian experience so rich and enjoyable. I will take note of the ways God has gifted me and consider how I can use these gifts to honor God, serve my Christian community, and shine as a witness of God's goodness to the world around me.

O God, thank you for beauty and creativity. When I consider all the worlds your hands have made--the stars, the rolling thunder, the lofty mountains, the gentle breeze, the songs of birds, the babbling brook--my soul sings, "O my Lord, how great you are!" Thank you for giving human beings the ability to appreciate beauty, and for giving them the skill and desire to create beautiful things. May the works of our hands be a praise to you, a blessing to your people, and a testimony of your grace. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 4:8
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Resources:
Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic
by Nicholas Wolterstorff

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 16 - The One Who Serves

Today's Reading:
Exodus 34:1-35:9
Luke 22:14-34
Psalm 26:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Luke 22:24-27

24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Insight:

Jesus was and is a servant. He did not serve despite his greatness, but rather, he served because of his greatness. Servanthood is at the core of greatness. To truly follow Jesus, I must become a servant. Unless a person learns to serve and care for others, it is impossible to be like Jesus.

Response & Action:
I will not pursue greatness, but rather Christ-likeness. I will look toward the needs and interests of others, rather than concern myself with how others think about me. I will apply my energy, time, and creativity toward helping others more than myself. I will come alongside and below others in an effort to lift them rather than try to exalt myself over others. Even when I am placed in positions of leadership and authority, I will see them as a privilege and a responsibility. Leadership is to be exercised with humility toward self and concern for others.

Lord God, help me to be a servant. I want to follow in the way of Jesus. Help me to pour out my life for others. Help me to serve my spouse, my family, my neighbors, my co-workers, my church, and my community, through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 5:2-3
2 Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Resources:
Full Service: Moving from Self-Serve Christianity to Total Servanthood
by Siang-Yang Tan