Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30 - Unless the Lord Builds the House

Today's Reading:
Job 31:1-33:33
Hebrews 9:1-10
Psalm 127:1-5
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 127:1-2

1 Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Insight:

As the Israelites climbed the road to Jerusalem for feast days and sang these songs, they remembered what it must have been like for the first generation who returned to Jerusalem after the exile (Ps. 126). They thought of how joyous and unbelievable it must have been for the children of those who had seen Jerusalem destroyed to one day return and rebuild it.

The returning exiles knew the consequences of turning away from God. They had seen their houses destroyed, and understood the futility of the things accomplished in their own strength. Psalm 127 was perfect song to sing after Psalm 126. Those who know the futility and destruction of turning away from God can wisely declare: "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."

Response:
I want to begin today with a Psalm 126 perspective--to look back at the foolish ambitions and efforts of my past, and to rejoice in the ways God faithfully continues to lead me out of those failures into a joyful and hopeful future.

I will give careful consideration to the things I work on today. Am I building something that honors God? Am I giving myself to the work and purpose and direction God is leading me to do? Am I depending upon his guidance, strength, and provision, or am I wearing myself out by doing things for my own reasons, in my own way, and in my own strength?

I want my life to be a house that God is building. I want to find rest and peace and satisfaction in God's will and purpose. God is the builder of the life I want to live.

O God, help me to live for you and THROUGH you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong, and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, build, provide, and sustain my life. Help me to delight in your will, and to walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ, Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Luke 14:28-30
28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

Recommended Reading:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene Peterson

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29 - Written on Their Hearts

Today's Reading:
Job 28:1-30:31
Hebrews 8:1-13
Psalm 126:1-6
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 8:10-12

10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Insight:
External laws are not able to transform the heart and mind that opposes and resists them. Because God desires to forgive our sins, make us his people, and be our God, he declares that he will put his laws in our minds and write them on our hearts. Instead of doing good things to become God's people, God will make us his people in order to help us do good things. This is the covenant he makes with all who place faith in Christ Jesus.

Response:
I need to surrender my heart and mind to God. I should expect him to change me and guide me. I must meditate on the Scriptures and prayerfully ask God to help me apply them to my daily life. I can't settle for a "behavior modification" approach to following Christ; I need my heart and mind to be changed so that Christ-like behavior will flow out from what I am in Jesus.

O God, you are my rock and my salvation. Forgive my wickedness and forget my sins. Save me from the inside out. Heal and transform my heart and mind. Be my God, and make me one of your people. Make me new by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Resources:
Renovation of the Heart
by Dallas Willard

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Reading Schedule for April 29 - May 5

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


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

Sunday, April 29 -
Job 28:1-30:31 / Hebrews 8:1-13
/ Psalms 126:1-6

Monday, April 30 -
Job 31:1-33:33
/ Hebrews 9:1-10 / Psalms 127:1-5

Tuesday, May 1 -
Job 34:1-36:33
/ Hebrews 9:11-28 / Psalms 128:1-6

Wednesday,
May 2 -
Job 37:1-39:30
/ Hebrews 10:1-17 / Psalms 129:1-8

Thursday,
May 3 -
Job 40:1-42:17
/ Hebrews 10:18-39 / Psalms 130:1-8

Friday,
May 4 -
Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22
/ Hebrews 11:1-16 / Psalms 131:1-3

Saturday,
May 5 -
Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12
/ Hebrews 11:17-31 / Psalms 132:1-18

April 28 - Those Who Trust

Today's Reading:
Job 23:1-27:23
Hebrews 7:18-28
Psalm 125:1-5
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 125:
1-31 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore. 3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.

Insight:
The fifteen psalms called the "Psalms of Ascent" (Psalms 120 - 134) were to be sung when the children of Israel traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem (Mount Zion) three times a year to worship and celebrate the feast days prescribed in the Law of Moses. Christians have long considered these ancient pilgrimages to be a useful metaphor of their own spiritual journey and maturity (ascent) as followers of Christ.

As the people climbed the road to Jerusalem, and saw how it was surrounded by rugged and unshakable mountains, they sang praise to their God who surrounded them with his unshakable love and provision. They rejoiced in God's steadfast care, and put their hope in his promises.

Response:
Though my journey to know and follow Jesus has been an uphill climb, I am trusting in God's enduring love. I believe he will keep his promises to those who worship him and seek his righteousness. I am surrounded by the unshakable love and care of my God who never sleeps or slumbers (Ps. 121). He watches over my life—my coming and my going—now and forever. I will celebrate and worship him today. I will live in hope, believing his promises to be faithful and true.

O God, I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of a child look to his mother, as the eyes of a captive look to his deliverer, as the eyes of the hungry look to their provider, and the eyes of a sinner look to the one who forgives, as the eyes of the broken look to the one who restores, as the eyes of the sick look to the one who heals, so my eyes look to Jesus Christ, my Lord and merciful Savior who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 12:1-3
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Resources:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene Peterson
A wonderful book of meditations based on the Psalms of Ascent.

Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27 - He Is Able to Save

Today's Reading:
Job 20:1-22:30
Hebrews 7:1-17
Psalm 124:1-8
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 7:23-25

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Insight:
Because Jesus has overcome death and lives forever, his priesthood is permanent and is therefore superior to any priesthood that preceded him. The salvation he makes possible is complete and eternal. He died for us, and now lives for us. He is always pleading on our behalf before God.

Response:
It's incredible to think that Jesus is forever interceding and advocating for all who are coming to God through faith in him. I want to be responsive to Christ's saving work in my life. I will follow him with my whole heart and expect change and spiritual maturity, knowing that Jesus is able to save me completely.

King Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for interceding on my behalf. Thank you for saving me from the penalty of sin and the bondage to sin. 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. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 4:14-15
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26 - Thorns and Thistles

Today's Reading:
Job 16:1-19:29
Hebrews 6:1-20
Psalm 123:1-4

Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 6:4-9

4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. 9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.

Insight:
It's very easy to miss the real point of this passage of scripture if we are sidetracked into a discussion about whether or not these verses say salvation can be lost. That's not an uninteresting subject or a bad conversation to have; it's just a distraction from the writer's main point—the things that accompany salvation.

Like land that that produces a useful and blessed crop after it drinks in the falling rain, our lives should produce better things—a harvest of righteousness—once we have taken in the life-giving rain of salvation through Christ. If we are truly receiving the saving grace of God through faith in Christ, our lives will be transformed. We should expect better things—the things salvation produces. To be saved is to change and grow and produce a life that honors God, and is blessed by God.

Response:
I want to experience transformation. With God's salvation and by his grace and power, I want to move toward better things. I want God's word and blessing in my life to produce fruit that gives witness to his salvation and power in my life. Through Christ, I will continually pursue righteousness and turn from sin. I will confidently expect change and growth in my life. I will not settle for a "taste" of heaven and the word; I will give every effort to experiencing the transformation salvation brings.

Thank you, God, for saving my soul. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making me whole. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving to me your great salvation, so rich and free. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 12:1-2
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Resources:
Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ's Pattern for Spiritual Transformation
by Dallas Willard and Don Simpson

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25 - Solid Food

Today's Reading:
Job 12:1-15:35
Hebrews 5:1-14
Psalm 122:1-9
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 5:11-14
11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Insight:
Spiritual maturity requires a desire and an effort to understand. We must cultivate an appetite for deeper understanding. Deeper understanding will require chewing on things with more substance. The milk of elementary beliefs and ideas is a good starting point for being a Christian, but a willingness to wrestle through the bigger questions of life demands perseverance and effort. The simple things that nurture us in our Christian infancy are sweet and good, but we will need a much more nutritious and complex diet if we are to mature into Christians able to live out the gospel in a complicated and demanding world.

Response:
My spiritual maturity requires my effort. A desire to grow is essential to growing. While I need to long for the pure spiritual milk that gets me started, I must not be content to live on milk alone. I must press forward for deeper things. I must wrestle with bigger questions. I must become more and more familiar with the scriptures. I must discuss and think and respond to more demanding aspects and concerns of what it means to follow Christ Jesus and live for him.

The way of spiritual maturity is more than a sweet and simple belief; it is a rigorous and demanding path that requires my best thinking, my deepest desire, and my wholehearted effort. Spiritual maturity results from more than belief and surrender; it requires diligent pursuit.

O God, give me a desire for maturity. 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. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, to feed my spirit, to stimulate my mind, and to care for my body. Help me to press on and to strain forward that I might know you more and more. Help me to take hold of the maturity and purpose you have in mind for me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 3:13-14
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Resources:
Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation
by Richard Foster

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24 - Dividing Soul and Spirit

Today's Reading:
Job 8:1-11:20
Hebrews 4:1-16
Psalm 121:1-8
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 4:12-13
12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Insight:
Nothing is hidden from God. God's word is alive and active; his truth is penetrating and able to cut to the heart of everything in creation. Even our thoughts and attitudes are an open book to God. God's truth must be heeded because we are all accountable to him.
Response & Action:
I recognize that God knows me better than I know myself. I will look to his word for guidance in my life. His word is able to help me see my own motives and attitudes. I will meditate on God's word and hide it in my heart. I will let the truth of God's word shape and direct me.

Almighty God, before you my heart is open, all my desires are known, and none of my secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the power of your Holy Spirit. Guide me and teach me through your word. Help me to love you with my whole heart, and to live in your truth, that I might bring you glory. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 16:1-3
1 To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. 2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. 3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. 

Resources:
Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation
by Richard Foster

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23 - The Heavenly Calling

Today's Reading:
Job 4:1-7:21
Hebrews 3:1-19
Psalm 120:1-7
 
Click on Texts to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 3:1, 12-14

1 Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. … 12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

Insight:
The writer of Hebrews encourages his Christian readers to fix their thoughts on Jesus, and to hold firmly to him in faith to the end. He warns them to not turn away from faith in the living God, and uses the story of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness to illustrate his point. Their bodies fell in the desert, and they never entered into the promise land because of their unbelief.

Response & Action:
More than a mere warning, the Hebrew writer suggests two things I can do to cultivate enduring faith. 1) I must focus on Jesus. I should immerse myself in everything the scriptures tell me about Jesus -- his words, his actions, his promises, his mission, his teaching, his commands, his example, and his call to me. 2) I must be part of a Christian community that encourages and admonishes me in faith. I should seize every opportunity to stimulate and inspire others toward a deeper knowledge and experience of Christ. In my circle of Christian friends, we should be able to help each other identify and turn away from the deceitfulness of sin.

O God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you. I will seek you in the morning. I will learn to walk in your ways. Lead me step by step that I might follow you all of my days. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 1:5-75 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
 
Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22 - Flesh and Blood

Today's Reading:
Job 1:1-3:26
Hebrews 2:1-18
Psalm 119:169-176
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus 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.

Insight:
In Jesus, through the incarnation, God shares our humanity. Jesus suffered death, in order to destroy the power of death. Jesus, the only human being not guilty of sin, or bound by death, willingly laid down his life in order to free the rest of us from our fear and bondage to death.

Response:
I will put my trust and hope in Jesus. I will praise and thank God for the great deliverance Christ Jesus has made possible by sharing my humanity and through his sinless death destroyed death's power and grip on me. I will live with hope and purpose and joy, believing that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. I will live today in the confidence that I have eternal life in Jesus. I will encourage others to take hold of eternal life through faith in Jesus.

I will rejoice in you, O God. You are my salvation and my strength. I bless and thank you, Lord, because you are a God of deliverance -- the escape from death belongs to you. Even when walking in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. You are worthy of my praise, my life, my all. Because you have freed me from death, I will live for you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Reading Schedule for April 22-28

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:
2011-12 Reading Schedule
 
Tips for Daily Bible Readers

Sunday, April 22 -
Job 1:1-3:26 / Hebrews 2:1-18
/ Psalms 119:169-176

Monday, April 23 -
Job 4:1-7:21
/ Hebrews 3:1-19 / Psalms 120:1-7

Tuesday, April 24 -
Job 8:1-11:20
/ Hebrews 4:1-16 / Psalms 121:1-8

Wednesday, April 25 -
Job 12:1-15:35
/ Hebrews 5:1-14 / Psalms 122:1-9

Thursday, April 26 -
Job 16:1-19:29
/ Hebrews 6:1-20 / Psalms 123:1-4

Friday, April 27 -
Job 20:1-22:30
/ Hebrews 7:1-17 / Psalms 124:1-8

Saturday, April 28 -
Job 23:1-27:23
/ Hebrews 7:18-28 / Psalms 125:1-5

April 21 - The Radiance of God's Glory

Today's Reading:
Esther 8:1-10:3
Hebrews 1:1-14
Psalm 119:161-168
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Hebrews 1:1-4
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Insight:
Hebrews begins with a glorious description of the Son of God. He is the prophetic voice of God. He is "the radiance of God's glory." He is the "exact representation of God's being." He is the one who is "sustaining all things by his powerful word." He is the one who provides "purification for sins." He is seated "at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven" and is "superior to the angels."

The deity and supremacy of Jesus the Christ are not the wishful ideas and inventions of Christians three or four centuries down the line. No, the earliest Christians were totally convinced that Jesus was the divine Son of God. The book of Hebrews was written in the last half of the first century (probably around 80 A.D.).

Response & Action:
I will look to Jesus to understand the truth of God. Jesus is the embodiment of God's divine radiance. My faith is in Jesus. He is the one who is able to make purification for my sin. He is the one who is able to sustain me.

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ; the only begotten of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God; begotten, not made; through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death, and was buried. On the third day he rose again, in accordance with the Scripture. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 16:13-17
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven."

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

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20 - For Such a Time

Today's Reading:
Esther 4:1-7:10
Philemon 1:1-25
Psalm 119:153-160
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Esther 4:12-14
12 When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

Insight:
When Esther was swept up in the Persian court officials’ search for a new queen, Mordecai must have been mortified. Why would God allow a young daughter of Abraham to be drawn into circumstances so abhorrent to devout Jews? But later, when Haman's plan to destroy and oppress the Jews became known, Mordecai could see a good reason for God to allow Esther's situation. "Your opportunity to speak up for the Jews might just be the very reason you have come to your royal position," he told her.

Response & Action:
It's good for me to consider the ways God may be at work in the details of my daily life. My whole perception of my circumstances is changed by asking, "How could God use this to accomplish his good purpose?"

Which of the conversations, opportunities, relationships, responsibilities, or problems of my today will be used by God for some greater purpose tomorrow? I don’t know, and because I don’t, I will commit every detail of my life to God, always remembering that small details in God's hand have big possibilities. Maybe I was born for what is happening around me right now!

O God, help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Open my eyes to your presence and work in my life. Give me the faith to see how you can use my words, my relationships, and my struggles. Open my mind to the possibilities and reasons you have for me at my workplace, in my home, around my neighborhood, in my family, and in my church. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 1:12-14
12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Resources:
Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day
by James Emery White

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19 - Foolish Controversies

Today's Reading:
Esther 1:1-3:15
Titus 3:1-15
Psalm 119:145-152
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Titus 3:9-11

9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Insight:
Being argumentative is dangerous and divisive. It’s one thing to ask hard questions, to reason through disagreements, and to think through important issues. It's another thing altogether to be quarrelsome and nitpicky about things that are of questionable value.

An unhealthy interest in controversy is usually indicative of self-centeredness and pride. It is sinful and distorted to value your own opinions (and the sound of your own voice) over the people with whom you disagree. People who stir up controversy over unimportant and unknowable things are hurting themselves and those associated with them.

Response & Action:
I want to avoid foolish and stupid arguments. When there is an issue or controversy that is important to me, I will strive to discuss it and handle it in humble and respectful ways. I will not value my opinions over people, but will instead exercise thoughtful restraint. I will be careful to listen and interact respectfully in a genuine effort to understand.

I will recognize and remember that some things are not important enough to argue about. I will not discuss difficult issues with people who are unable to do so without being threatened and upset. I will not let unimportant things become quarrels that hurt and divide.

O God, show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me. Give me a humble spirit so that I can be teachable. Give me sensitivity and care for others that I might be able to discuss important and difficult things in constructive and loving ways. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 2:14-16a
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16a as you hold out the word of life..."

Resources:
Talking About Good And Bad Without Getting Ugly
by Paul Chamberlain

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18 - Upright and Godly Lives

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 12:27-13:31
Titus 2:1-15
Psalm 119:137-144
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Titus 2:11-14
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Insight:
God desires a people for himself—people who are purified by his grace, and are eager to do what is good. God's grace is more than forgiveness and mercy; it is our teacher. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passion. It teaches us to live self-controlled lives that honor God.

God's grace is also our strength for transformation. It purifies our hearts, redeems us from wickedness, and shapes our desires.

Response & Action:
I want to be taught by God's grace. I want and need to learn how to say "No" to ungodliness. I want to say "No" to worldly passion. I want to honor God and learn how to live a self-controlled life by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

I will draw upon the power of God's grace for transformation, redemption, and purification. I will prayerfully identify the things I need to say "No" to in order to live a godly life. I will look to God for the strength I need, trusting his gracious promise to shape the desires of my heart.

O God, help me to live for you and through this day in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong, and to do what is right. Teach me to say "No" to ungodliness, and teach me to say "Yes" to all that is righteous and true. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, make me yours and help me to honor you. Change my heart and help me to live a self-controlled life. Through Christ, Amen.

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

Resources:
Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ's Pattern for Spiritual Transformation
by Dallas Willard and Don Simpson

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17 - Loving What Is Good

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 11:1-12:26
Titus 1:1-16
Psalm 119:129-136
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Titus 1:7-9

7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Insight:
Paul instructed Titus that is was essential that spiritual maturity be evident before people are given leadership roles in Christian community. Many people claim to know God, but their actions contradict this claim (v.16). It's not enough for Christians to say what they believe; they must demonstrate it in the actions of their lives.

Spiritual maturity isn't just for those in leadership; it is for everyone who follows Jesus. The marks of maturity listed in these verses are appropriate for anyone who is growing in Christ. A mature Christian is not overly controlling, slow to get upset, not prone to excess, not rough or abusive, and not interested in dishonest gain.

Christians should be ready to share and quick to welcome others into their home. They should love what is good, be self-controlled, and lead lives that are upright and holy. Because they hold firmly to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, mature Christians are able to identify and refute anything contrary to the way of Christ.

Response & Action:
I want to grow in Christ. I want my faith to be more than words or empty claims. I want my life to demonstrate that Jesus' Spirit is really at work in my life. I will hold firmly to the trustworthy message of the Scriptures. I will surrender fully to God and take hold of his grace and power to make me a person who is self-controlled, disciplined, and wise. I will commit myself to growing in Christ so that I can discern between what is false and true. I will do my best to be a person who encourages others.

Thank you for your word, O God. Help me to get a firm grip on the trustworthy message of Christ so that it might direct and support me. 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. Make my life a praise to you and an encouragement to others. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 5:12-14
12 ...though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Resources:
Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ
by Greg Ogden

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 16 - What I Want to Hear

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 9:22-10:39
2 Timothy 4:1-22
Psalm 119:121-128
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Timothy 4:3-5
3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Insight:
There is always someone ready to tell people whatever it is they want to hear. Truth, however, is often inconvenient. Because it makes demands and brings definition, truth is often rejected. It's not what people want to hear and is often swept aside in favor of something less rigorous and easier to accept. Truth is frequently replaced with speculative opinions, comfortable myths, and self-serving lies.

Response & Action:
I need to be honest committed to seeking out truth. I must be ready to discover that the truth may be more difficult and demanding than I want it to be. I need to look beyond myself and my comfort zone if I intend to find truth. I must be prepared to make changes and put aside falsehood if I really want to know and live the truth.

I need to be careful to not just listen to the people who tell me what I want to hear. I need to be discerning and think critically about the things I read and hear. I need to examine my motives and my desires to ensure my beliefs are not being distorted by my own selfish perspectives. I need to fill my heart and mind with the truth of Scripture so it can be used by the Spirit to guide me in my thinking and discerning.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and lead me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Help me to seek the truth and surrender to it, that it might shape me and guide me. Save me from the self-deception that distorts and diminishes truth to make it fit personal comfort and convenience. Help me to know the truth, and grant me the freedom it gives. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 17:24
24 A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

Resources:
True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World
by Art Lindsley