Friday, January 31, 2014

January 31 - Careful about Freedom

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 20:14-21:22
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Psalm 89:1-8
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 Corinthians 8:1-2; 9-12

1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. - - - 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

Insight:
What a person knows, understands, and believes has a direct relationship with what that person can or cannot do with a clear conscience. Some Christians, with a clearer knowledge and understanding of truth, may have freedoms that others do not. They must, however, exercise those freedoms with sensitivity and care toward others--Christian or not--who do not share them.

Knowledge that results in carelessness toward others is not wise or Christ-like. Real and mature knowledge is always more concerned with the interests of others than with the exercise of personal freedoms.

Response and Action:
I need to pursue truth and wisdom. The more I know the truth, the more the truth will set me free. My freedoms must always be lived out with reverence for Christ and concern for others. I must guard against knowledge that is blind to the interests of others. I must avoid pride and live with humility. I will not sin by exercising freedoms in ways that are hurtful or destructive toward others.

Lord God, Help me to grow in knowledge and understanding. I want to live in the freedom that comes from a knowledge and understanding of truth. At the same time, Lord, I want to live the truth in love. Give me a sensitivity and awareness of the needs and views of others who may not fully understand what is true or may not have the same freedoms. Give me a love and concern for others that tempers and guides my actions. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Romans 14:12-13 
12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

January 30 - Darkness Is My Closest Friend

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 19:11-20:13
1 Corinthians 7:25-40
Psalm 88:10-18
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:  
Psalm 88:16-18
16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. 17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. 18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.

Insight:

Psalm 88 begins with the words: "LORD, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry." The Psalmist acknowledges faith in God's power to save, but also expresses frustration with the feelings that God may not be listening. The combined impact of feeling overwhelmed by life and feeling ignored by God is deadly to a person's emotional and spiritual wellness. So the Psalmist pours out his lament and complaint to God.

This bold and honest expression of doubt is surprisingly also an expression of faith. The psalmist's faith in God's goodness, justice, and compassion is what gives him the confidence to be honest and direct in his prayer. If God is who the psalmist believes him to be, then there is freedom to speak honestly about doubts, fears, and frustrations. He wants to be a friend of God, but right now the darkness seems closer to him and more real than God.

Response and Action:
Life is overwhelming and frustrating. I believe in God, but there are many times when the silence and darkness engulf me. Instead of retreating from God in these times, I will boldly and honestly pour out my heart to God. I will tell God when I am frustrated and confused. I will complain and cry out when I feel abandoned or unheard. It is only people of faith who talk to God about their doubts.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Do not be far away from me, O God. Give me a deep and unshakable sense of your presence. Sustain me in times of trouble. Strengthen my faith in times of doubt. Be my light and my closest friend when the darkness closes in. In your compassion and mercy, be patient with my complaints. By your grace, calm my heart. By your Spirit, guard my heart and mind with the peace of Christ. Be my heart's wellspring of deep and abiding joy, and dispel the shadows of despair. Abide with me and graciously make me able to abide in you. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: 
John 16:33b 
33b "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Resources:
Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent
by Ben Patterson

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 29 - Husbands and Wives

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 18:1-19:10
1 Corinthians 7:1-24
Psalm 88:1-9
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 
1 Corinthians 7:1-5
1 Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. 2 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Insight:

Remaining unmarried is a good thing, but it is not advisable for people with strong sexual needs and desires. People must be realistic about their sexuality and the temptations they will face in a sexually immoral culture.

Marriage is the God-given context for sexual activity. It is the sacred context for the fulfillment of sexual needs. Husbands and wives must take sexual intimacy very seriously—caring for each other and considering themselves to be one flesh.

Husbands and wives may, by mutual consent, agree to refrain from sexual activity if it serves a higher spiritual purpose, but even that must be approached as a temporary situation. A healthy sexual relationship in marriage strengthens the relationship and serves as a deterrent to sexual immorality.

Response and Action:
I am a married person. I must treat my wife with loving respect and care. Our marriage is a sacred and committed context for sexuality. Even within marriage, there may be times where spiritual formation and ministry needs may require a season of sexual abstinence. This must be mutually agreed upon. My wife and I belong to each other. Our healthy intimacy strengthens our belonging and safeguards against sexual immorality and temptation.

Lord God, I thank you for the gift of marriage. Help me to love, cherish, and honor my wife. Thank you for this special relationship, and thank you for making it a sanctuary for loving intimacy in a world filled with sexual sin. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: 
Ephesians 5:3 
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

Resources:
The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle
by Mike Mason

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 28 - Flee Sexual Immorality

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 17:1-29
1 Corinthians 6:1-20
Psalm 87:1-7

Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 Corinthians 6:13b-20

13b The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Insight:

Sexual immorality is a product of fallen humanity. The human body is not meant for immorality. The body is intended for glorifying God. God raised Jesus from the dead and by that same power he can raise us from our fallen condition. Sexuality is a very deep part of the human self. That makes it a very dangerous form of sin. Once it takes root in our bodies it is very difficult to root it out, and its impact upon our whole person can be devastating.

We need to think of our bodies as a temple--a holy place for the Holy Spirit to live. We bring honor to God by caring for our bodies and making sure they are used for holy purposes.

Response and Action:
I must avoid sexual immorality. I must recognize the danger sexual immorality poses to my whole self. I need to honor God with my heart, mind, and body. I need to draw upon the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit to rise above my vulnerability and the sexual sinfulness of my fallen world, recognizing that God's power and grace can raise me up. God is the creator of sexuality, and so it follows that if it is to be a blessing to me, and an honor to God, I must acknowledge and heed God's boundaries and purposes for sexuality.

O God, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Create in me a clean heart. Help me to delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Give me the wisdom and the will and the strength to do what is right. Help me to honor you with my heart, my mind, and my body.
Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Ephesians 5:3 
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

Resources:
On the Meaning of Sex
by J. Budziszewski

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27 - Gracious Accountability

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 15:23-16:23
1 Corinthians 5:1-13
Psalm 86:11-17
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 
1 Corinthians 5:9-11
9
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

Insight:
Corinth was famous for sexual immorality. The church there would certainly have had to deal with a wide variety of sexual issues as people were coming to God through faith in Christ. How does the church extend grace and hope to all people—all sinners—and still hold up a standard for holy living?

The case in 1 Corinthians 5 was one of incest. A man was having a sexual relationship with a woman who was or who had been his father's wife. The church was evidently proud of how tolerant they were, thinking that non-confrontation would be the gracious, Christian thing to do. Paul counters this attitude in no uncertain terms. The problem seems to be that the man claimed to be a Christian, but didn't see his sexual behavior as inconsistent with this claim.

Paul says that Christians need to take holiness and morality very seriously because Christian fellowship should be moving people toward maturity and holiness. Sin must be seen as sin if it is to be dealt with. A "toleration" that turns a blind eye toward sin and a deaf ear to Christ's call to holiness is a form of tolerance that denies the need for change and the possibility of transformation.

Response and Action:
I need to pursue holiness and take sin seriously in my life. I also need to take it seriously when I see it in the lives of my Christian friends. To tolerate open and defiant sin in my life or in the lives of my Christian friends would be to ignore the calling of Christ and the resurrection power he offers for our transformation. We must recognize sin in our lives, repent of this sin, and work together toward holiness by the grace of God.

O God, help me to be honest about sin in my life. Help me to be honest and loving with my Christian friends about the sins I recogniz
e in their lives. Help us all to humbly turn to you for the power we need to change. Help us to graciously receive the gentle corrections and admonitions we extend to each other. Help the Christian community I'm a part of to be both loving and straightforward in a spirit of gracious accountability and support. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
2 Corinthians 5:16-17
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Resources:
Restoring the Fallen: A Team Approach to Caring, Confronting & Reconciling
by Sandy Wilson, Paul Friesen, Virginia Friesen, and Larry Paulson

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26 - Devising Ways to Restore

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 14:1-15:22
1 Corinthians 4:1-21
Psalm 86:1-10
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:  
2 Samuel 14:14
14 Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.

Insight:
Joab's elaborate ruse to convince David to show mercy to his son, Absalom, is very interesting. Why is this type of approach so prevalent in the stories about David? Was David difficult to confront? Did he not take criticism well? Was he so feared even by those closest to him? Whatever the reason, the words Joab put in the mouth of the woman from Tekoa were effective and David was persuaded (even though he saw through the scheme).

The woman's description of God—"he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him"—may have reminded David of his own words of repentance (Psalm 51) he offered up to God after his sin with Bathsheba: "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (Psalm 51:11-12)

Response and Action:
I praise God for devising ways to save the lost, welcome back the banished, and restore the estranged. I will praise God for the hope and peace he extends to all who follow Jesus—peace with God, peace among people, and peace of heart and mind. I will make every effort to live at peace with all people, restore relationships, and rebuild the broken.

Thank you, O God, for your gracious and restoring love toward me. Help me to likewise be gracious to others
. Thank you for the peace and restoration you extend through Christ. Help me to live in that peace and to live out that peace. Amen.

 Spiritual Formation Verses: 
1 John 4:9-10
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Resources:
Rebuilding Your Broken World
by Gordon MacDonald

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reading Schedule for January 26 - February 1


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, January 26 -
2Samuel 14:1-15:22
/ 1Corinthians 4:1-21 / Psalm 86:1-10

Monday, January 27 -
2Samuel 15:23-16:23
/ 1Corinthians 5:1-13 / Psalm 86:11-17

Tuesday, January 28 -
2Samuel 17:1-29
/ 1Corinthians 6:1-20 / Psalm 87:1-7

Wednesday, January 29 -
2Samuel 18:1-19:10
/ 1Corinthians 7:1-24 / Psalm 88:1-9

Thursday, January 30 -
2Samuel 19:11-20:13
/ 1Corinthians 7:25-40 / Psalm 88:10-18

Friday, January 31 -
2Samuel 20:14-21:22
/ 1Corinthians 8:1-13 / Psalm 89:1-8

Saturday, February 1 -
2Samuel 22:1-23:23
/ 1Corinthians 9:1-18 / Psalm 89:9-13

January 25 - Stories of Sin and Salvation

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 13:1-39
1 Corinthians 3:5-23
Psalm 85:8-13
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 2 Samuel 13:20-22
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, "Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother. Don't take this thing to heart." And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's house, a desolate woman. 21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.

Insight:
Some portions of the Bible are deeply disturbing. Today's reading exposes David's family for the dysfunctional mess it was—a mess that rivals any horror story you could point to in the news today. In this one horrific chapter, we see the house of David engaged in incest, premeditated sexual assault, misogyny, denial, aiding and abetting, injustice, vengeance, and murder. Yikes. So much for reading the Bible for inspiration and heroes to emulate!

Evil is nothing new. The unfolding drama of God's plan to redeem and save humankind is a long, tragic, and messy story. Sin isn't just a problem for humanity; it's an addiction.

It's no wonder the story of our salvation culminates with Jesus dying at the hands of those he came to save. It's why the cross, an instrument of death and violence, has become ironically the symbol of salvation and love. The cross is not just a reminder of Jesus' love and sacrifice, it's a reminder of the violence, death, hate, and sin he came to save us from.

Response and Action:
The first step toward salvation is to recognize the sinfulness of the human heart and the need to be saved. I need to recognize the sin in my life. I need the forgiveness, deliverance, and power of God to turn away from sin. I cannot be saved from sin if I refuse to recognize it and fail turn away from it. I need to embrace the hope, the life, the direction, the grace, and the transformation only Christ can give me.

O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, I ask you to 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:  
Romans 6:22-23
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Friday, January 24, 2014

January 24 - The Deep Things of God

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 12:1-31
1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4
Psalm 85:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 Corinthians 2:10b-12

10b The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 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.

Insight:

Only the Spirit of God truly understands the deep things of God. The Holy Spirit's indwelling of our mortal bodies (Romans 8) is a gift from God to all who believe in Jesus and surrender themselves to him. The Holy Spirit helps us come to know God in deeper and clearer ways—helping us to understand all that God is freely giving to us through Christ.

Response and Action:
I will seek understanding and guidance from the Spirit of God. I will pray. I will read the scriptures and meditate on them. I will be responsive to the Spirit, being careful to not grieve or quench what the Spirit is doing in my life. I will make time to be quiet before the Lord. I want to grow in my awareness and sensitivity to the Spirit's presence in my life.

O God, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Through your Spirit, help me to understand and know you more each day. 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. Encourage me, by your Spirit, through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Ephesians 1:18-19a
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19a and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Resources:
The Knowledge of the Holy
by A.W. Tozer

Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 23 - The Wisdom of God

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 9:1-11:27
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5
Psalm 84:8-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 Corinthians 1:20-24

20
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Insight:

The power and wisdom of God are revealed in Christ Jesus. Philosophy and academics are useful, but they cannot, in and of themselves, give life. The wise man, the scholar, and the philosopher of this age need the truth of God to inform their wisdom, scholarship, and philosophy. Human reason has its limits. Inquiry and research can take us only so far. God has revealed his truth and wisdom through Jesus.

Response and Action:
Ultimate wisdom is found in Jesus Christ. His words, actions, teachings, relationships, prayers, and stories all reveal the truth of God. I will examine all my studies, ideas, and beliefs in the light of what Jesus has said and done, because he is the wisdom of the God.

O God, thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, your son. Just as the rising sun is visible with each new day, and by its illumination makes all things visible, I believe in Jesus, not just because I see him, but also because by his light and wisdom I become able to see everything else. Help me to grow in wisdom and truth of Christ as I follow closely after him. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
John 1:1-5
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Resources:
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
Dallas Willard

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 22 - Longing for the Living God

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 7:1-8:18
1 Corinthians 1:1-17
Psalm 84:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 84:1-2,10,12

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. - - - 10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. - - - 12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

Insight:
Psalm 84 expresses how wonderful it was to worship the Lord at Solomon's Temple. It was so beautiful, and God's presence was so tangible, that reverence and praise came easily (v.4). Even the trip to Jerusalem was a meaningful experience for those who traveled to worship at the Temple. It reminded them of the faith journeys made by their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (vv.5-7). Once they arrived and joined into the Temple worship experience, their faith was bolstered. One day of this experience was so encouraging and valuable to the worshipers they felt it was worth more than a thousand days doing anything else.

Response and Action:
Gathering with others to worship and praise God should be a beautiful and encouraging experience for me. It should be something I look forward to with joyful anticipation. As a follower of Christ, I want to do my part to make worship a beautiful and encouraging experience for others. I want my church family, my worship community, to be so filled with God's presence and beauty that people look forward to being together. I want time spent with my church family to be so sweet that it's better than a thousand days elsewhere.

O God, give me a heart that is quick to worship you. Give me a love for your church and an appreciation for time spent with your people. Help my church family to seek you wholeheartedly, and to become a beautiful and attractive witness of your grace and presence. Help me, as part of that community, to be an encouragement and joy to others. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Resources:
The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship
by A. W. Tozer

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January 21 - Those Who Cause Divisions

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 4:1-6:23
Romans 16:10-27
Psalm 83:1-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Romans 16:17-18

17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Insight:

Fellowship among Christians is threatened by those who confuse the clear teachings of scripture with their own opinions, agendas, or selfish interests. These create obstacles to unity. Christians must be on guard against conflicts and circumspect about the people who start them.

Response and Action:I need to watch out for people and influences that would damage Christian community. Are problems arising out of selfish motives? Are opinions and issues raised contrary to scriptural teaching and precedent? I must be careful to recognize deception and manipulation, and discern when people are putting their own interests over the interests of others and of Christ. I must also guard against self-centeredness.

Reading and studying the Scriptures will help me recognize the things that run contrary to the truth. I will take time for prayer and Bible reading every day in order to learn what Christ and the apostles have taught. I will strive to be humble and selfless and carefully examine my own actions and motives.

O God, help me to recognize those things that are divisive—opinions, arguments, lies, pride, manipulation, and selfishness. Help me to know your word, to live by it, and to bring people together through it. Help us all to turn away from selfish impulses and instead be filled with the desire to serve and honor you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Philippians 2:1-3
1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 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.

Resources:
Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict
Kenneth C. Haugk

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 20 - Ending Bitterness

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 2:12-3:39
Romans 15:23-16:9
Psalm 82:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 2 Samuel 2:26; 3:1
2:26 Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”
3:1 The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.

Insight:

King David's ascent to power was slow, bloody, and bitterly complicated with personal and political deception and intrigue. The feud between the Saul's clan (tribe of Benjamin) and David's (tribe of Judah) would have long-lasting echoes in Israel's future.

The ruthless warrior, Abner, was disturbingly astute when he asked, "Must the sword devour forever?" The sword continues to devour every day, and as Jesus said, those who live by the sword die by the sword. Once the cycle of retribution is in motion, it is nearly impossible to stop it. Even when someone attempts to take steps toward peace, those attempts are undermined by the history of hurts, the scars of skepticism, and the fears of subterfuge.
Response and Action:The world is corrupted with the destructive patterns of violence, selfishness, power, and deception. I am looking to Christ for the salvation, transformation, guidance, and example I need to escape these patterns. I want to break free from the miserable downward spiral of sin and selfishness. I seek God's renovating and renewing work in my life that I might turn away from violence and become an instrument of righteousness.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where their is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light. Where there is hunger, food. Where there is homelessness, shelter. Where there is brokenness, restoration. Where there is sickness, healing. Grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that I receive; it is in pardoning that I receive pardon; it is in dying that I am born to eternal life. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
 Romans 12:17-19
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.

Resources:
Forgiving as We've Been Forgiven
by L. Gregory Jones and CĂ©lestin Musekura

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 19 - A Spirit of Unity

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 1:1-2:11
Romans 15:1-22
Psalm 81:8-16
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:  
Romans 15:1-6
1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Insight:

Acceptance of others is essential to unity within the Christian community. The strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak. The weak should be thankful for the guidance and help of those who are strong. We should work to build up our neighbors and do what is pleasing for their good. We should seek to grow in Christ and be receptive to the ways others are helping us to mature in our faith and become more Christ-like in our living. True community produces true disciples who glorify God in both word and deed.

Response and Action:
I want to experience healthy Christian community marked by unity and acceptance. I must bear with the weaknesses of others and do my best to help them grow in their faith. I must acknowledge my own weaknesses and be responsive to the patience and counsel of Christian brothers and sisters who are doing what they can to help me grow. I will look to God for the grace, encouragement, and strength I need to help my church family to experience unity and maturity. I want my church family to be a strength for each other, a blessing and witness to the world around us, and a praise to God.

O God, give me a love for others. Help me to accept those who are weak and commit myself to helping them grow strong. When I am weak, move others to come around to encourage and help me. By the power of your Spirit and the guidance of your written word, help your people to become servants to each other. Help us to follow Jesus with all our hearts and to bring honor and glory to you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
Ephesians 4:1-3
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Resources:
Community and Submission
by Jan Johnson

Reading Schedule for January 19-25


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, January 19 -
2Samuel 1:1-2:11 / Romans 15:1-22 / Psalm 81:8-16

Monday, January 20 -
2Samuel 2:12-3:39
/ Romans 15:23-16:9 / Psalm 82:1-8

Tuesday, January 21 -
2Samuel 4:1-6:23
/ Romans 16:10-27 / Psalm 83:1-18

Wednesday, January 22 -
2Sa 7:1-8:18
/ 1Corinthians 1:1-17 / Psalm 84:1-7

Thursday, January 23 -
2Samuel 9:1-11:27
/ 1Corinthians 1:18-2:5 / Psalm 84:8-12

Friday, January 24 -
2Samuel 12:1-31
/ 1Corinthians 2:6-3:4 / Psalm 85:1-7

Saturday, January 25 -
2Samuel 13:1-39
/ 1Corinthians 3:5-23 / Psalm 85:8-13

Saturday, January 18, 2014

January 18 - Passing Judgment on Disputable Matters

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 29:1-31:13
Romans 14:1-23
Psalm 81:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 
Romans 14:1-5
1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

Insight:

Some matters are disputable. People of genuine faith may have differing views on what to do and how it should be done, especially when there is no clear "thus sayeth the Lord" available to them. Christians may have very different backgrounds, perspectives, freedoms, and weaknesses. These differences may require Christians to live out their faith in very different ways. Learning to acknowledge and allow this freedom among believers is essential to the health and practice of any Christian community.

In such matters of opinion, believers should not judge or look down on each other. Christians should be fully convinced about their own perspectives and convictions, and live according to them out of reverence for God. They should grant that same freedom and responsibility to others who may disagree with them.

Response and Action:
I need to be realistic and accept the fact that Christians will disagree on some matters in life. I need to make sure that my viewpoints and actions are guided by my faith in God and my submission to his will. In disputable matters, I need to graciously respect the viewpoints and actions of others. I will learn and grow as I interact in healthy and loving ways with those who have opinions and perspectives different from my own. I will live my life according to my convictions, while graciously granting that same freedom to others.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Guide me by your Spirit and by your written word. Help me to live out my faith in my daily life. Give me a humble heart and graciousness toward others who live out their faith differently than I do. Help all of us who follow Christ to be an encouragement to each other. Help us to respect, understand, and forebear each other. In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen.

 Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 3:14-16
14
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Resources:
Mere Christianity
by C.S. Lewis

Friday, January 17, 2014

January 17 - Love Sums It Up

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 26:1-28:25
Romans 13:1-14
Psalm 80:8-19
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Romans 13:8-10

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Insight:

It's important to keep Romans 12 in mind as I think about today's reading, Romans 13. The life God has called me to live in the world begins with my surrendered relationship with him. My relationship with God is to be lived in Christian community where I serve and encourage others, and, in turn, receive love and support from them. Christian community must relate to the world around it—other religions, competing worldviews, persecution, enemies, governing authorities, political tensions, and social obligations. In all these things, love for God and love toward others should guide our behavior, choices, and attitudes.

Response and Action:
I want to honor God and live in the way of Christ. This is very challenging a world filled with pluralistic beliefs, hostile conflicts, competing political systems, complex laws, and multi-layered governing structures.

In all this complexity, I will be guided by a few straightforward principles: 1) I will surrender my life to God and follow Christ; 2) I will make Christian community a priority in my life by giving my time, sharing myself, exercising my talents, and building authentic relationships; 3) I will love God with my all, and love my neighbors with the same love and concern I would want them to extend to me.

O God, life in this world is more than I can face on my own. By your power and grace, help me to navigate through the many challenges, complexities, and conflicts. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to live with integrity and care toward others in authentic Christian community. Help my Christian community to be an instrument of your grace, truth, peace, and blessing to the world around us. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
1 John 4:14-16
14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

Resources:
Generous Justice
by Timothy Keller

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January 16 - Everybody in the Body

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 24:1-25:44
Romans 12:1-21
Psalm 80:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Romans 12:1-5
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. 2 Do not conform 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. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Insight:

The NIV (New International Version) translation of Romans 12:1-2 used to read, "offer your bodies as living sacrifices" (bodies plural and sacrifices plural), but has now been revised to read, "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice" (bodies plural and sacrifice singular). This revision is consistent with the NAS (New American Standard) translation of the same verses: "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice."

So, is Paul's exhortation in these verses for individuals or for the church? I think the answer is, "Yes." We are to offer our bodies (plural) as a sacrifice (singular). Because the church—the body of Christ, is a community made up of many individuals, we should think of Romans 12:1-2 in both ways. This community meaning is clear when we read these verses in the context of the chapter, but an individualistic meaning tends to take over when we hear the verses quoted in isolation from their context.

Response and Action:
As an individual, I am to offer myself as a living sacrifice. As a church, we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. The sacrifice and worship I offer to God must be in both my personal walk with Christ and my corporate walk with Christ's Church. Both personal devotion and Christian community are essential to understanding God's good, pleasing, and perfect will.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as I love myself. Give me a heart that is devoted to you, and a life that is devoted to Christian community. Help me/us to be shaped by you and to honor you. Help me/us to experience and share your grace with each other. Make me/us a testimony of your goodness. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Ephesians 3:17b-18
17b ...I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ...

Resources:
The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends
by Richard Lamb