Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31 - He Rescues and He Saves

Today's Reading:
Daniel 6:1-28
Matthew 25:31-26:13
Proverbs 20:25-21:4
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Daniel 6:25-28
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: "May you prosper greatly! 26 "I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. "For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions." 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Insight:
Daniel was a Jewish captive living in exile. He experienced hardship and endured persecution for his faith. Ultimately, his faithfulness to God resulted in prosperity and blessing. Even King Darius was moved to offer praise and worship to "the God of Daniel," because he had witnessed God's mighty power to sustain and help Daniel.

Response and Action:
My faithfulness to God through thick and thin will result in blessing to me and others. I want to live with faithfulness and boldness like Daniel. I pray that my life would be a testimony of God's power to protect, sustain, and bless.

O God, pour out your mercy and blessing on me. Give me a heart that is faithful toward you, grant me the strength to persevere through any circumstance, and give me the wisdom and will to walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 3:13-14
13 Brothers, 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:
Following After God: What Difference Does God Make
by Daniel Hill

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30 - You Did It for Me

Today's Reading:
Daniel 5:1-31
Matthew 25:1-30
Proverbs 20:15-24
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Matthew 25:34-40
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' .

Insight:
While leaving a restaurant some time ago, I was approached by a homeless person. His wife, who looked to be about eight months pregnant, was standing on the sidewalk a short distance away. They had two small children with them. He was begging for money to buy them a meal and bus fare to Madison, WI.

His eyes had a milky glaze to them, and I wondered if he might be on something. He told me how embarrassed he was to be begging for money, and he really did look like the whole pathetic situation was a crying shame to him. As he spoke, I looked him directly in the eye and suddenly realized I saw Jesus. I gave him some money.

Response and Action:
If I am really a follower of Jesus, I cannot be blind or closed to the needs of others. When I see "the least of these"—the poor, the addicted, the homeless, the hungry, the hopeless—I need to be generous and softhearted. More than giving a few bucks here and there to the occasional beggar who approaches me on the street, I need to be active in my community and my church to work for solutions to the broader issues that are causing need and poverty.

O Lord, make me an instrument of your grace and a vessel of your blessing. Give me a heart of compassion for the many people in this world who are suffering overwhelming need. Help me to find practical and meaningful ways to share, to love, and bless others. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 3:16-18
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Resources:
Generous Justice
by Timothy Keller

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29 - Watching and Waiting

Today's Reading:
Daniel 4:1-37
Matthew 24:29-51
Proverbs 20:5-14
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Matthew 24:42-46
42 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. 45 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.

Insight:
Jesus' description of his coming on the final day makes a clear claim to divine power—"coming on the clouds in power and glory"—and is spoken with apocalyptic urgency. The exact time of his coming is not possible to know, but there are plenty of reasons to be alert, to keep watch, and to be ready.

Response and Action:
I believe that Jesus rose from the dead in accordance with the Scripture, and that he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. I believe he will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end. I will heed his commands and walk in his ways every day. I want to be faithful, watchful, and ready for his imminent return.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come and establish your eternal Kingdom. Help me to be your faithful servant. Strengthen and guide me in your ways for the glory of your name. Even as I wait for your return, help me to live as a citizen of your Kingdom today! Make me ready to welcome you on the final day, and help me to faithfully to live and proclaim the Gospel until that day. I look forward to the resurrection and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Resources:
Jesus, Paul and the End of the World
by Ben Witherington III

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Reading Schedule for July 29 - August 4

2 Timothy 2:14-16
14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.


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


Sunday, July 29 -
Daniel 4:1-37 / Matthew 24:29-51
/ Proverbs 20:5-14

Monday, July 30 -
Daniel 5:1-31
/ Matthew 25:1-30 / Proverbs 20:15-24

Tuesday, July 31 -
Daniel 6:1-28
/ Matthew 25:31-26:13 / Proverbs 20:25-21:4

Wednesday, August 1 -
Daniel 7:1-28
/ Matthew 26:14-46 / Proverbs 21:5-16

Thursday, August 2 -
Daniel 8:1-27
/ Matthew 26:47-68 / Proverbs 21:17-26

Friday, August 3 -
Daniel 9:1-11:1
/ Matthew 26:69-27:14 / Proverbs 21:27-22:6

Saturday, August 4 -
Daniel 11:2-35
/ Matthew 27:15-31 / Proverbs 22:7-16

July 28 - Wisdom and Power for Life

Today's Reading:
Daniel 2:24-3:30
Matthew 24:1-28
Proverbs 19:23-20:4
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Daniel 2:17-20
17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.

Insight:
The magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers who served King Nebuchadnezzar claimed to have special gifts of interpretation and secret knowledge. The King challenged the credibility of these claims by saying essentially, "Anybody can make up an interpretation to a dream. If you're so smart, tell me what I dreamed. If you can't tell me the dream I had, why should I believe your explanation of it?"

Daniel, on the other hand, claimed no special gift or secret knowledge. Instead he simply professed his faith in the God who knows all things. Daniel's ability to reveal and interpret the king's dream would only be possible with God's help and revelation. So Daniel cried out to the Lord, and when God answered his prayer, Daniel's immediate response was to give thanks, praise, and testimony for God's provision.

Response and Action:
The world is filled with needs I cannot meet, questions I cannot answer, and problems I cannot solve. While many claim to have all the answers, their solutions usually fail. That is not a mistake I want to make.

Instead, like Daniel, I simply want to put my faith and confidence in God’s power to meet needs, provide answers, and solve problems. I will cry out to God for the insight and wisdom I need to serve and bless others. I will give God praise and thanks for any good thing he helps me do in his name.

O God, by the grace of your Holy Spirit, transform and empower me to be your servant. By following in the footsteps of Jesus, teach me to live out grace and truth that blesses others. By the instruction, rebuke, and correction of your Holy Scriptures, train me in righteousness and make me thoroughly equipped for every good work. I ask all this in Jesus' name, with a readiness to give thanks and praise to you for every mercy you grant. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 1:5-6
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

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

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27 - Outside and Inside

Today's Reading:
Daniel 1:1-2:23
Matthew 23:13-39
Proverbs 19:13-22

Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Matthew 23:27-28  
27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

Insight:
In reading this text, it's easy to stand on the sidelines and watch with smug satisfaction as Jesus comes down hard on the teachers and Pharisees. We might even catch ourselves chiming in, "Yeah, take that you hypocrites!" Of course, the minute we do, we betray our own duplicity.

It's easy to read Scripture and apply it to others before applying it to ourselves. How quick we are to see the sins of others, but blind the same failings in ourselves! Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and all the more because they refused to recognize it. What should we expect Jesus say to us when we refuse to see our own sin and pretense?

Response & Action:
I need to identify and acknowledge the ways I am a hypocrite. I do not want to say one thing, but do another. I want to be honest, real, and consistent. I do not want to present myself as better than I am. I want to be more concerned about what I truly am on the inside than how I appear to others. I care more about what I am before God than what others think about me.

O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. You see all my hidden faults and know all my secret sins. I've got a long way to go in my pursuit of holiness. Thank you for loving me where I am and giving me the grace and guidance to rise above my weakness and failure. Help me to live with humility before you and before the people around me. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Grant me integrity that my life might be a proof, not a pretense, of my devotion to you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 11:3
3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Resources:
Who You Are When No One's Looking
by Bill Hybels

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26 - Leaves for Healing

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 47:1-48:35
Matthew 22:34-23:12
Proverbs 19:3-12
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 47:12
12 "Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."

Insight:
Most of Ezekiel's temple vision seems like a literal description of something to come, but suddenly, the vision turns more poetic and symbolic. In the middle of all the measurements and details, he begins to describe a life-giving river that flows out from under the very entrance of the temple. From this place of worship, a stream of life and blessing are flowing out into the surrounding land—first ankle deep, then knee deep, and finally so deep it cannot be crossed. The trees along the bank are always fruitful. Their fruit is nourishing and their leaves have healing, restorative attributes.

True worship and a right relationship with God are like a river of life. Those who know and honor God are standing in that river and they should bear fruit in every season. They should be a source of nourishment and healing to everyone around them.

Response and Action:
I must draw near to God, through Christ Jesus. I will worship and honor God in thanksgiving for the river of life and blessing Jesus has opened up for me. I will draw upon this living water, and seek to be a source of blessing and healing for others around me. Bearing fruit, nourishing others, and giving health are things I will expect to result from a life of genuine worship and praise.

O God, I thank you for the streams of living water that flow from your Son, Jesus. Wash over me and transform me so completely that I become a source of life, blessing, and health to the world around me. May streams of living water flow from my heart, the innermost part of my being. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Revelation 22:1-5
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Resources:
The Throne, the Lamb and the Dragon: A Reader's Guide to the Book of Revelation
by Paul Spilsbury

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25 - Invite Anyone You Find

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 45:13-46:24
Matthew 22:1-33
Proverbs 18:17-19:2

Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Matthew 22:8-10
8
"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Insight:
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding feast where everyone is invited. The invitation is sent to palace dwellers and street people, to the good and the bad alike. The invitation is not given on the basis of merit or status; it springs from the king's heart to celebrate and honor his son.

There are several ways to disrespect the king's invitation. The first is to be too busy (Mt. 22:5) to accept the invitation—to not consider the invitation important enough for your time and attention. The second is to have utter contempt (Mt. 22:6) for the king and his invitation—to just rob and abuse his messengers. The third disrespectful response is to accept the invitation, but refuse to do what is expected (Mt. 22:11) of the king's guests—refusing to wear the special white wedding clothes the king provides.

Response & Action:
I want to accept God's invitation to celebrate and honor his son, Jesus. I realize that I do not deserve to be invited to such a celebration; I consider it an awesome privilege. Nothing in my life is more important than my wholehearted response to this invitation. As I accept the invitation to join in the Kingdom, I will also accept the King's expectations for those he has welcomed. I want to be transformed, to put on Christ, to be renewed and clothed in the righteousness the King offers me.

Thank You, O God, for inviting me to the party! Thank you for your gracious invitation to everyone. Help me to celebrate and honor your son, Jesus. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, clothe me in the new garments of Christ's righteousness. 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: Revelation 19:6-9
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God."

Resources:
Kingdom of God Is a Party
by Tony Campolo

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24 - Doing the Father's Will

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 44:1-45:12
Matthew 21:23-46
Proverbs 18:7-16
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Matthew 21:28-31

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.
He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Insight:
Some people ignore God's direction and turn away from him, but late come to their senses and do what God commands. Others affirm God's direction and say they will do what he commands, but never follow through.

What matters most is not a person's initial response to God's call, but rather the actual doing of what God commands. Resistance followed by responsiveness is much better than acceptance followed by apathy and inaction.

Response and Action:
It's not enough to have the right attitude and response to God's command, I need to take action and follow through. It's not enough to accept God's instruction, I must obey, be, and do what he instructs me to do. It does no good to call Jesus "Lord" if I do not do the things he commands.

O God, show me your ways and give me a heart to walk in them. Help me to receive your commands with a willing heart and make me quick to obey. Lead, teach, transform, and shape me that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 7:21
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Resources:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene Peterson

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23 - Visions and Failures

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 42:1-43:27
Matthew 20:29-21:22
Proverbs 17:25-18:6
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 43:3-5
3 The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. 4 The glory of the LORD entered the temple through the gate facing east. 5 Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

Insight:
Ezekiel's vision of a restored temple, Jerusalem, and Israel was very detailed. It brings to mind the visions Moses received from God. Ezekiel's ideas about how God would bring his people out of their captivity in Persia parallels the Exodus story of how God brought the nation of Israel out of bondage to Egypt.

Sadly, the actual story of Israel's return from exile (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther) does not seem to take hold of the promise Ezekiel prophesied. The temple they rebuilt was modest, and the "glory of the Lord" is noticeably absent from the accounts of its dedication. The city of Jerusalem was a shamble for years, and the wall around it lay in ruins for almost a century after the exile until Nehemiah took up the cause as an act of faith. There just weren't enough people who had enough faith to embrace Ezekiel's vision. That lack of faith led to a lack of action, and so most of the promises Ezekiel delivered were left unclaimed.

Response and Action:
God has made known many great and precious promises to me through the pages of Scripture and the recorded history of his people. He has sent his Son, Jesus, into the world, and given the teachings of the apostles (who were taught, empowered, and sent out by Jesus). In order to claim God's promises, my faith and action are necessary.

O God, give me a heart of faith and the will to act in faith. Thank you for the promise of life, salvation, hope, and eternity you have extended to me through Christ Jesus. Give me the ears to hear your promises, and the obedience and belief to act upon them. Help me to experience the depth and abundance of life promised to all who will respond to you and act in faith. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 146:5-8
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, 6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the LORD, who remains faithful forever. 7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.

Resources:
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament
by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22 - The Last Will Be First

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 40:28-41:26
Matthew 20:1-28
Proverbs 17:15-24
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Matthew 20:13-16  
13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Insight:
The master of the vineyard was not primarily interested in pay, but rather in people and purpose. His main concern was to enlist people into the meaningful work of his kingdom. Some of the workers were more concerned about pay equity than about helping the others find employment.

It's likely that many of the last to be hired were in the worse condition; maybe they were less desirable or unable to compete or be as productive. In such a case, the mercy of the master is even more profound. Whatever the case, it's clear the master was motivated by his own generosity, not by the merits of his workers.

Response and Action:
God's grace is extended to everyone. I will rejoice in his generosity to all people and be thankful for his goodness to me. I will not waste my time by comparing myself to others. I will serve God with a thankful heart knowing that it is only by his grace that anyone serves. I will give thanks and praise for every new worker in the vineyard and pray for more to come.

O God, thank you for your grace and mercy. Thank you for giving me a place to work in your vineyard. Your generosity and goodness are such a blessing. Serving you gives me hope and purpose. Keep calling more and more people to your vineyard, O Lord, and bless them with all good things. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 146:5-8
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, 6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the LORD, who remains faithful forever. 7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.

Resources:
Interpreting the Parables
by Craig Blomberg

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reading Schedule for July 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, July 22 -
Ezekiel 40:28-41:26 / Matthew 20:1-28 / Proverbs 17:15-24

Monday, July 23 -
Ezekiel 42:1-43:27
/ Matthew 20:29-21:22 / Proverbs 17:25-18:6

Tuesday, July 24 -
Ezekiel 44:1-45:12
/ Matthew 21:23-46 / Proverbs 18:7-16

Wednesday, July 25 -
Ezekiel 45:13-46:24
/ Matthew 22:1-33 / Proverbs 18:17-19:2

Thursday, July 26 -
Ezekiel 47:1-48:35
/ Matthew 22:34-23:12 / Proverbs 19:3-12

Friday, July 27 -
Daniel 1:1-2:23
/ Matthew 23:13-39 / Proverbs 19:13-22

Saturday, July 28 -
Daniel 2:24-3:30
/ Matthew 24:1-28 / Proverbs 19:23-20:4

July 21 - Riches and the Kingdom

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 39:1-40:27
Matthew 19:13-30
Proverbs 17:5-14
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Matthew 19:23-26
23
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?" 26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."


Insight:
Wealth can be an obstacle to living with a "kingdom of heaven" perspective. The comfort, privilege, and power that accompany material possessions, are often in conflict with Kingdom values. You cannot serve both God and money. If Jesus is Lord of our lives, our money should serve his kingdom and his righteousness. This is difficult and counter to the prevailing attitudes of the world, but with God's grace and guidance, it is possible.

Response and Action:
I recognize that I am very blessed. I live in a wealthy nation and I have many possessions. I must be careful to never let wealth and blessing possess me. My money, my house, my car, and everything else I own must be used to serve and honor God. Following Jesus and living by his Kingdom values requires that I open my eyes to the needs of people around me. Good stewardship requires generosity and concern for others.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to seek first your Kingdom and your righteousness. Give me eyes to see all that I have as a gift from you to be used to honor and serve you. Teach me to hold on to Jesus with all my might, and to be open-handed and generous with my possessions. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ecclesiastes 5:10-11
10 Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. 11 As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?

Resources:
Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions
by Craig L. Blomberg

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20 - Can These Bones Live?

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 37:1-38:23
Matthew 18:21-19:12
Proverbs 16:28-17:4
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 37:3-6
3 He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know." 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' "

Insight:
God has the power to restore life. He can raise the dead. Those who are dead in their transgressions are not beyond God's resurrection power. The messed up and broken world is not beyond God's power to revive and restore. God can take a dead end and turn it into a new life. By the power and grace of God's Spirit, death gives way to breath.

Response and Action:
I need to look to God for life and restoration. Can God raise these bones and give them life? Yes. I must not give up on life or on the possibilities of change and transformation. In situations where things seem as hopeless as a pile of dry bones, I must remember that God can raise even dry bones into a mighty army to serve his purposes.

O God, give me faith in your power to save and restore. Help me to remember that you are able to conquer death with life. My hope is in you. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who lives in me, the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: John 11:25-26
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 19 - Just Like a Child

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 35:1-36:38
Matthew 18:1-20
Proverbs 16:18-27
 
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Focus Verses:
Matthew 18:2-4
2
He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Insight:
Humility is essential to entering God's Kingdom. To live with Jesus as King and to enter into his purpose and will on earth, we need to be honest about our weaknesses and needs. We need to see ourselves as children without power, status, or ability to provide for ourselves. People who are seeking God must also have a childlike capacity for wonder, learning, and the acceptance of help and guidance.

Response and Action:
I must be humble before God, honest about my needs, and ready to receive his mercy and provision. I must have a sense of wonder that moves me to seek out truth and learn how to live with joy and purpose.

Dear Father, I need you. Help me to seek you with a love and humility of a child. Help me to know you more each day. Strengthen and encourage me through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Amen.

 Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 3:1-3
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Resources:
A Childlike Heart: How to Become Great in God's Kingdom
by Alan D. Wright

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 18 - Nothing More than a Performance

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 33:1-34:31
Matthew 17:10-27
Proverbs 16:8-17
 
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Focus Verses:
Ezekiel 33:30-33
30 "As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, 'Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.' 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. 33 "When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them."

Insight:
People would come to hear Ezekiel prophesy, but their hearing didn't move them toward doing. They would listen to him, they found him to be entertaining, even inspirational, and they invited others to come along with them. They would nod their heads in agreement and sing songs of devotion with great emotion.

At the end of the day, however, they would go their merry way without acting upon the things he had said. They enjoyed religion, but they were unchanged. They were okay with words and feelings, but these words and feelings were disconnected from the reality of their lives and their hearts. Only after they suffered the consequences of their inaction would they come to understand the practical truth and divine authority of Ezekiel's words.

Response and Action:
Jesus said that wise people not only hear his words, but also put them into practice. When I hear the word of God and fail to act upon it, I am deceiving myself. It is not enough to hear or say words, enjoy teaching, or sing Christian songs; my faith must be lived out in real and tangible ways. Hearing without doing is worthless.

O God, thank you for your word. Give me a receptive heart and give me the wisdom to put your word into practice. Help me to demonstrate my faith in the Bible in the ways I act upon what it says. I believe the Scriptures to be God-breathed and I believe they are useful. As I read and meditate upon your Word, give me the wisdom to be taught, corrected, rebuked, and equipped for every good work. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 2:14-17
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Resources:
Faith Works
by Jim Wallis

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17 - What about You?

Today's Reading:
Ezekiel 31:1-32:32
Matthew 16:13-17:9
Proverbs 15:31-16:7
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Matthew 16:13-1713 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 Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

Insight:
From the day of his birth (no, even before his birth), people have had many ideas about just who and what Jesus is. When Jesus asked his disciples to recount some of the things they had heard people say about him, they had no trouble producing a variety of answers.

"But what about you?" Jesus asked, "What do you say?"

Peter didn't have to go on hearsay and speculation; he had face-to-face, day-to-day experience with Jesus. This personal experience led him to conclude that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah, God's anointed deliverer. He believed Jesus to be the only Son (sharing God's divine essence and authority) of the only true, living, and eternal God.

Response & Action:
Who do I say Jesus is? I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the World. I believe he is Lord, the only begotten Son of God—light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father. I will acknowledge him in all my ways. The way I actually live my life is, of course, the truest expression and testimony of what I claim to believe. Whatever I say about Jesus must be confirmed in my actions, choices, and attitudes.

O God, help me to follow your Son, Christ Jesus, with a whole heart. Help me to live out my faith in my words and in my deeds. Make my path straight as I make every effort every day to acknowledge Jesus to be my Savior and Master. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott