Friday, February 28, 2014

February 28 - The Only True God

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 18:13-19:37
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
Psalm 104:19-30
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Kings 19:16-19

16 "Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 It is true, LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God.”

Insight:
When the Assyrian commander came to threaten Jerusalem, he was bold and intimidating. He wanted them to surrender without a fight. He hurled out threats in Aramaic to be sure all the bystanders would be able to understand his graphic description of the horrors they would face if they resisted. He told them that no other god of any other city had been able to stop Sennacherib's takeover. He even claimed that the god of the Israelites had told the Assyrians to attack Jerusalem. He told them that King Hezekiah had been deceiving his own people.

In the face of this powerful enemy, and with his own people terrified and demoralized, Hezekiah quickly turned to the prophet Isaiah for counsel. He poured out his heart to God and pleaded for God to intervene. As he made his appeal for deliverance, he asked God to show himself to be the true God—the God who was faithful and able to save his people, the God who was not like the false gods of the surrounding nations, the God who was worthy of glory and praise.

In the end, God delivered Jerusalem. The words of the prophet Isaiah all came to pass. Incidentally, there is good extra-biblical witness for Sennacherib's withdrawal from Jerusalem and his subsequent death.

Response and Action:
When I face bold threats and dangers, I will lean into the Lord. When my faith is insulted and my God is slandered, I will cry out and ask God to show his power and faithfulness. I will pray for more than my own deliverance; I will pray that God's character and actuality are clearly made known.

O God, give me a faith that is stronger than the threats I encounter. Help me to know you so well that I am not shaken or frightened by those who deny or misrepresent you. Give me the wisdom to trust you in every situation. Help me to humble myself in the confidence that you are faithful and will lift me up in due time. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
1 Peter 5:6-7
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Resources:
Know Doubt
by John Ortberg

Thursday, February 27, 2014

February 27 - Worthless Idols

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 17:1-18:12
2 Corinthians 11:1-15
Psalm 104:1-18
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Kings 17:14-17

14 But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the LORD their God. 15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.” 16 They forsook all the commands of the LORD their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger.

Insight:
The Israelites had a long and sad history of unfaithfulness. Hosea and Amos preached against their idolatry and blatant disregard for the commands of the Lord. Israel fell because of its hard-heartedness toward God. They allowed their worship of God to be compromised and corrupted by serving foreign gods and idols. This spiritual adultery began with the first king to rule over the north after Solomon's death, Jeroboam, and persisted even after the fall of the northern kingdom. Eventually even the southern kingdom would succumb to idolatry.

Response and Action:
God calls us to undivided devotion to him. We are to worship him, and him only. Half-heartedness toward God is self-destructive. Careless compromise destroys. God calls us to worship him in spirit and truth. I will seek God with wholehearted devotion. I will honor God by putting him first in my life. I will follow Jesus and look to him for the guidance and strength I need to draw near to God.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from evil. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Teach me to recognize those things that threaten to diminish or corrupt my walk with you. Help me to worship you in spirit and in truth. Show me your ways and give me an undivided heart that is quick to worship and serve you alone. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
John 4:23-24
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

Resources:
Breaking the Idols of Your Heart
by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 26 - A Compassionate Father

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 15:1-16:20
2 Corinthians 10:1-18
Psalm 103:13-22
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 103:13-14
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Insight:
God knows my frailty and weakness. He knows I'm made of dust—that I fail and sin—and yet loves me. He has compassion on me as a good father has compassion on his children. God's compassion and forgiveness are given to all who have reverence for him, the humility to acknowledge sin, a heart to follow him, and the desire to live a fruitful life that honors him.

Response and Action:
Faith in God is more than a matter of words and beliefs; it is something to be lived out. Though I fail and fall, God's love and compassion never fail. Because my heart is turned toward God and my desire is to keep his word and obey his precepts, God graciously comes to my aid. God's grace is greater than my sin. God's steadfast love and transforming power will help me to turn away from sin and push forward toward righteousness. God knows I need his grace to become the child he has in mind for me to be.

O God, have mercy upon me, a sinner. In your compassion, forgive my sin. Give me the strength and heart to live a life that honors you. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Thank you for your faithfulness to forgive and purify. By the power and guidance of your Holy Spirit, help me delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Hebrews 4:14-16
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. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Resources:
Learning to Pray Through the Psalms
by James Sire

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 25 - Reaping Generously

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 13:1-14:29
2 Corinthians 9:1-15
Psalm 103:1-12
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Insight:
Giving generously to help others and to advance the cause of Jesus is a testimony of faith and thanksgiving. When I recognize God's grace and generosity to me, I can give cheerfully and freely. Joyful giving reflects my confidence in God to supply my needs and my willingness to share God's blessings with others. What I give is mine to decide. How I give demonstrates my trust in God's ongoing generosity and provision.

Response and Action:God has been so generous and good to me that I too want to be a cheerful giver. I have decided in my heart to give generously to others in need, to my church, and to those who are advancing Christ's kingdom and purposes in the world. I will give generously because I have confidence that God is able to supply all my needs, and that his goodness to his own will never cease.

Holy Father, I long to see your kingdom come—your will lived out on earth as it is in heaven. Thank you for faithfully providing my daily bread. Thank you for your generous grace, and mercy, and forgiveness. Make me a cheerful giver and bless my giving to the praise of your name and the fulfillment of your good will toward humankind. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Philippians 4:19
19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Resources:
Giving to God: The Bible's Good News about Living a Generous Life
by Mark Allan Powell

Monday, February 24, 2014

February 24 - Careful to Do What Is Right

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 10:32-12:21
2 Corinthians 8:16-24
Psalm 102:18-28
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Corinthians 8:19-21
19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

Insight:
Paul took seriously the administration of the financial gifts he had received from fellow Christians. Their generosity toward the needs of others was sacred, and he considered the handling of those funds to be a sacred charge. He made every effort to act with integrity before God. He took pains to ensure that the people working with the money were well-respected. He followed protocol that would stand up to the scrutiny of anyone who might question their honesty. He clearly felt accountable to God, to those who had given the gifts, and to those who were to benefit from the gifts. 

Response and Action:
I want to be generous toward the needs of others. When I give, it is good to expect that those handling those funds will do so with integrity. When I contribute to charitable and missional initiatives, I will expect those who administer those contributions to do so in ways that are transparent and honest. Those entrusted with gifts given to honor God should have checks and balances, protocol, and standards that ensure the gifts are treated with the reverence and respect they deserve.

O Lord, help me to excel in the grace of giving. Give me a generous heart that is ready to meet needs and willing to share. Help me to be wise about who I trust and where I give. Grant those who manage and distribute the funds that have been given to their charge. Give them the wisdom, integrity, creativity, and transparency they need to be faithful stewards. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Proverbs 11:1-3
1 The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him. 2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. 3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 23 - The Prayer of the Destitute

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 9:14-10:31
2 Corinthians 8:1-15
Psalm 102:12-17
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 102:15-17
15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. 16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. 17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.

Insight:
This Psalm is prefaced with the note: "A Song of an Afflicted Person who Has Grown Weak and Pours Out a Lament before the Lord." The lament is more that just a plea for personal help and relief; it's an expression of faith and longing for the world. The psalmist hoped for a day when all peoples, nations, and kingdoms would find truth and redemption in the Lord.

Response and Action:
There is no shortage of affliction and weariness in the world. I have more than enough in my own family, church, and community. Like the psalmist, my hope and faith are in the Lord. He can comfort the sorrows, remove all affliction, and strengthen those who are weary.

My lament and cries for help are directed to God—from the smallest problems of my own life, to the troubles of friends, the hardships of people in my church family, to the overwhelming conflicts around the world. I look for a day when a future generation and the whole world gather around the throne of Christ Jesus and find renewal in him.

O Lord, in your grace and mercy, incline your ear to all who are weary. Help us in our time of need. Renew us and save us from the things that afflict us. Give us the strength to persevere, and give us hope as we cling to your promises. Forgive us our sins and deliver us from evil. Make us vessels of your grace in a weary world. Though we are surrounded by so much suffering and hate, make us living witnesses of your saving and transforming love. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Resources:
Mobilizing Hope
by Adam Taylor

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Reading Schedule for February 23 - March 1


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, February 23 -
2Kings 9:14-10:31 / 2Corinthians 8:1-15
/ Psalm 102:12-17

Monday, February 24 -
2Kings 10:32-12:21
/ 2Corinthians 8:16-24 / Psalm 102:18-28

Tuesday, February 25 -
2Kings 13:1-14:29
/ 2Corinthians 9:1-15 / Psalm 103:1-12

Wednesday, February 26 -
2Kings 15:1-16:20
/ 2Corinthians 10:1-18 / Psalm 103:13-22

Thursday, February 27 -
2Kings 17:1-18:12
/ 2Corinthians 11:1-15 / Psalm 104:1-18

Friday, February 28 -
2Kings 18:13-19:37
/ 2Corinthians 11:16-33 / Psalm 104:19-30

Saturday, March 1 -
2Kings 20:1-22:2
/ 2Corinthians 12:1-10 / Psalm 104:31-35

February 22 - Godly Sorrow

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 8:1-9:13
2 Corinthians 7:8-16
Psalm 102:1-11
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Corinthians 7:8-10
8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Insight:
In his earlier letter to the Corinthians, Paul had confronted a number of very serious issues. His bold rebukes resulted, initially, in the Corinthians experiencing sorrow and hurt. The ultimate results, however, were self-examination, repentance, renewal, change, and spiritual maturity. Since the sorrow and hurt brought about good in the end, Paul called it "godly sorrow."

Sorrow and hurt don't always end with good results. So much depends upon how rebuke and confrontation are received. Those who will not accept correction, and are unwilling to be confronted with their failings, or are too proud to take responsibility for their wrongs will not experience godly results.

Response and Action:
Am I teachable and willing to face criticism? Can I accept rebuke? Am I willing to take responsibility for my wrong actions and attitudes? I need to be able answer "yes" to these questions if I want to grow in wisdom and integrity.

To truly follow in the way of Jesus, I will need to face up to the ways I am so unlike him. I will need to take ownership of my sin, so that in faith and repentance I can take hold of God's grace to overcome it. When I am confronted with my weaknesses and wrongs, I can choose to hold on to my hurt, or I can choose a godly sorrow that produces positive and holy results in my life.

Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner. Give me the humility to see my need and the grace to accept correction. Help my desire for godliness to outweigh the hurt and sorrow of recognizing my failures. Help me to be quick to repent of my sin and slow to sulk about it. Remind me of the glad promise and hope I have in your power and your desire to make me more like Jesus each day. I pray all this in his redeeming name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Proverbs 27:5-6
5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Resources:
Coming Home to Your True Self: Leaving the Emptiness of False Attractions
by Albert Haase

Friday, February 21, 2014

February 21 - Daring to Be Different

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 6:1-7:20
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7
Psalm 101:1-8
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Corinthians 6:14-17
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." 17 "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord."

Insight:
Christians have always struggled with being in the world and yet not shaped by it. Our place in the world is, in many respects, a role of being different from the world—light in the midst of darkness; truth in the midst of deception and confusion; love in the midst of hate; humility in the midst of pride; generosity in the midst of selfishness and greed.

To truly follow Jesus, who's Kingdom is not from the world, we must embrace his mission to change and redeem the world. We cannot subvert the evil and sin in our world without being different from it. We cannot serve two masters. We must turn away from any allegiance or bond that would hinder our loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus.

Response and Action:
I need to be very careful about the ties and commitments I make. I need to be in the world, but I also need to not let the world squeeze me into its mold (Roman 12:1). I must follow Jesus' example to love, minister, serve, and save. I must also follow his example to challenge, confront, reject, and resist evil.

Dear Lord, help me to be in the world as Jesus was in it. Help me to be truly engaged with my world and culture, and yet truly different from it. Help me to be an instrument of your grace and power. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is discord, unity. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is darkness light. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
1 John 2:14-16
14 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.

Resources:
Too Christian, Too Pagan
by Dick Staub

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 20 - Wash and Be Cleansed

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 4:18-5:27
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Psalm 100:1-5
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Kings 5:13-14
13 Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!" 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Insight:
Naaman did not know the God of Abraham, but his hope for a cure led him to Elisha. After being healed, he decided to never again worship any god other than the God of Israel. He didn't fully understand who that God was, but his heart was turned and headed in the right direction.

Gehazi did know the God of Abraham, and had seen his power displayed in powerful ways through Elisha's ministry. However, in his actions toward Naaman, and deceit toward Elisha, he demonstrated that his heart was turning away from God and headed in the wrong direction.

Naaman turned toward God and found healing. Gehazi turned away from God and became diseased. Carelessly turning away from God in selfish sin leads to death and sickness. Turning toward God in faith and submission leads to life and restoration.

Response and Action
Am I, like Naaman, seeking truth and drawing nearer to God? Am I growing in my understanding and my wholeheartedness toward Christ? Or am I, like Gehazi, taking God for granted, and getting careless about my actions? I do not want my profession of faith to be contradicted by actions that are selfish and deceptive.

Both Naaman and Gehazi were confused in their understanding about God, but Naaman was stumbling toward God, and Gehazi was stumbling away from God. I have a long way to go in my understanding of God, my knowledge of Scripture, and my spiritual growth, so I will keep eyes on Jesus, turn my heart toward him, and pursue righteousness. When I stumble, I want to stumble toward God.

O God, I want to know you more. Thank you, that though I have so far to go, you love me where I am. Draw me closer to you. Grant me the wisdom and the will to seek you with my whole heart and to walk in your ways. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 3:14-15
14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.

Resources:
Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship
by N.T. Wright (Ch. 8 - "The Mind Renewed" is based on 2 Kings 5)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February 19 - Don't Ask for Just a Few

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 3:1-4:17
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Psalm 99:1-9
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Kings 4:3-6
3 Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side." 5 She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.

Insight:
Elisha performed many miracles. They were a demonstration of God's power and presence and, therefore, reinforced the authority of Elisha's prophetic words. The benevolent, providential, and restorative focus of these miracles was a witness to God’s redemptive character and inclination to bless. Similarly, the miracles of Jesus demonstrated his authority and testified to God’s saving power.

The miracle of the widow's oil illustrates the importance of faith. Her willingness to gather many jars demonstrated that she believed the prophet's promise. The detail about the flow of oil stopping at the precise moment when the last jar was filled seems to imply that the amount of the miraculous provision was somehow proportionate to the amount of her faith and obedience.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize God's goodness and goodwill. If I believe in God's power and his redemptive will, I will respond to his commands in obedience and put my faith into action. I do not want to limit God's blessing and provision, so, as the widow gathered many jars, I will seek out every opportunity I can for God to fulfill my need and bless my life.

O God, thank you for your resurrection power, your loving provision, your readiness to save, and your ability to satisfy needs. Thank you for Jesus who has demonstrated your great love and redemptive heart. Give me the wisdom to follow him and to submit to his authority. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
John 14:10-11
10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

Resources:
Miracles: A Preliminary Study
by C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February 18 - We Do Not Lose Heart

Today's Reading:
2 Kings 1:1-2:25
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10
Psalm 98:1-9
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


Insight:
Paul is honest with the Corinthians about the fatigue and weariness he is experiencing in his life and ministry. He is also clear about the hope he has in Christ. Even though there are hardships and troubles, he does not lose heart. In fact, he can see God using those troubles to accomplish greater things.

Though Paul and his ministry partners are outwardly weary, he says they are inwardly renewed one day at a time. Paul says that they experience this hope and renewal by looking past the momentary troubles to the eternal promises of God. Christians can find strength, purpose, and renewal each day by having an eternal perspective that sees beyond the trouble of the moment, by looking to Jesus for strength, and by believing God can use even the difficulties of life for good.

Response and Action:
Jesus said that in this world we would see trouble, but even in the face of trouble we should take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16:33). I will place my hope in Jesus and fix my eyes on him. Because my view of life includes the perspective of eternity, I will look at the troubles of today as momentary and temporary. I will trust God to bring me through my problems and look to him for the strength I need for today. I believe God is so redemptive and sovereign that he can use even the hardships of my life to accomplish good things.

O God, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. This world is filled with trouble, so in your grace and mercy, sustain me and renew me. Help me to fix my eyes on Jesus and your eternal promises so that I might not lose heart. Make my life a testimony of your faithfulness to uphold and strengthen those who trust in you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 1:2-5
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 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.


Resources:
Embracing the Mysterious God: Loving the God We Don't Understand
by James Emery White

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17 - Light Shines!

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 22:1-53
2 Corinthians 4:1-12
Psalm 97:1-12
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 97:9-12

9 For you, LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. 10 Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 11 Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. 12 Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.

Insight:
Acknowledging God to be the only True God over all the earth involves turning away from wickedness. To love the Lord is to hate evil. Walking into the light requires leaving the darkness. Joy is the result of having an upright heart that seeks God. True praise involves the pursuit of holiness.

Response and Action:
I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father—God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life who proceeds from the Father and the Son. I believe the triune God is faithful and able to deliver me. I believe that joy is found in living for God, in seeking righteousness, and in turning away from evil. I will trust in the Lord with all my heart. I will seek his counsel. I will walk in his light. I will read his word, and I will sing his praise.

O God, help me turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. You are the only true God. You are faithful. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Lead me away from temptation. Deliver me from evil. Help me to praise you by seeking righteousness. Fill me with joy and give me an upright heart. Teach and empower me to live an upright life. Transform me by your Holy Spirit. Help me to acknowledge you in all my ways. Let you light shine on me, and help me to reflect your glory. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
John 3:19-21
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Resources:
Becoming Good
by David W. Gill

Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16 - Ever-Increasing Glory

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 20:1-21:29
2 Corinthians 3:1-18
Psalm 96:1-13
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus 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.

Insight:
The Spirit of the Lord gives freedom. Those who place faith in Christ receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) who indwells our mortal bodies (Romans 8). We are no longer in bondage to sin (Romans 6), but instead we are freed from it to live a new life in Christ.

Freedom in Christ means that I have the freedom to change and grow and become. The Spirit of God leads, empowers, transforms, and shapes the lives of all who follow and submit to Christ. The Christian life is a process of change and renewal. Every passing day, every passing year, I can continue to grow and become more and more like Jesus.

Response and Action:
I need to remember that in Christ, I have the freedom to change and become more like Jesus. The Good News of Jesus tells me that I really can change. I need to hold on to this promise and take hold of God's grace, making every effort to experience the reality of what God can do in my life. I need to open my heart and focus my mind on the leading of the Spirit of the Lord as I read the scriptures, as I pray, and as I participate in Christian community.

O God, I have so far to go, but I know you love me where I am. Thank you for a love that accepts me where I am and yet calls and lifts me to where I can be. Thank you for your Spirit and the freedom he gives me as a believer in Christ Jesus. Help me to be faithful in prayer, a student of the scriptures, and an active participant in Christian community. Make me sensitive and alert to your leading. Help me to make new strides each day as I follow Jesus with a heart to be like him. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
2 Peter 1:3-4
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Resources:
Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
by Dallas Willard

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Reading Schedule for February 16–22


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, February 16 -
1Kings 20:1-21:29 / 2Corinthians 3:1-18 / Psalm 96:1-13

Monday, February 17 -
1Kings 22:1-53
/ 2Corinthians 4:1-12 / Psalm 97:1-12

Tuesday, February 18 -
2Kings 1:1-2:25
/ 2Corinthians 4:13-5:10 / Psalm 98:1-9

Wednesday, February 19 -
2Kings 3:1-4:17
/ 2Corinthians 5:11-21 / Psalm 99:1-9

Thursday, February 20 -
2Kings 4:18-5:27
/ 2Corinthians 6:1-13 / Psalm 100:1-5

Friday, February 21 -
2Kings 6:1-7:20
/ 2Corinthians 6:14-7:7 / Psalm 101:1-8

Saturday, February 22 -
2Kings 8:1-9:13
/ 2Corinthiansz 7:8-16 / Psalm 102:1-11

February 15 - We Do Not Peddle the Word

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 19:1-21
2 Corinthians 2:12-17
Psalm 95:1-11
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Corinthians 2:17
17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

Insight:
Christianity has been turned into big business and Jesus has become a cottage industry. It's nothing new. Even in the first century, people had figured out ways to "peddle the word of God for profit."

Paul's ministry was rooted in his genuine faith that Jesus was the hope of the world. He was not motivated by personal gain, but rather by his conviction that Christ died for all in order to bring salvation. Paul believed that those who had been redeemed by Christ should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

Response and Action:
I want to live for Christ. Salvation and hope have been given freely to me, and I will freely pass it along. Jesus is my Lord and Savior; therefore, all that I am is rightfully his. I will do all I can to commit my life and my ministry
to sharing the grace of Christ as sincerely, generously, and wholeheartedly as possible. And I will encourage my church community to do the same.

O God, thank you for the incomparable gift of Christ. Thank you for your generosity and goodness. Help me to be shaped so completely by your grace that I too am able to be generous and good. Help me to be sincere in my faith, and motivate me to be a servant, a witness, and a blessing to others. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Mark 10:43-45
43 "...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Resources:
Counterfeit Gods
by Timothy Keller

Friday, February 14, 2014

February 14 - The Fire of the Lord

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 18:1-46
2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11
Psalm 94:12-23
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 Kings 18:36-39
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!"

Insight:
King Ahab was so wrongheaded in his religious beliefs that he blamed Elijah for his problems. Elijah was uncompromisingly faithful to the God of Abraham, but King Ahab saw this as stubborn and narrow-minded. Ahab was religiously pluralistic and thought it made more sense to embrace more gods in more ways. Elijah's condemnation of Baal worship and his insistence that there was only one God ran in direct conflict with Ahab's pantheism.

The confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel was the collision of opposing worldviews. Faith in the one true God, the God of Abraham, won the day.

Response and Action:
Truth is, by nature, exclusive. Conflicting claims to truth cannot stand unchallenged and untested. I need to give careful scrutiny to all truth claims. I need to think through my reasons for believing the things I believe. I need to be thorough as I determine my reasons for considering one claim to be true and others to be false.

Both reason and experience factor into this evaluation process. I need to consider who is making the claim, why are they making it. I must be conscientious about my basis for doubting or believing these claims. I must also be honest about whether or not truth claims resonate with my life experiences, the experiences of others, and the testimony of history.

O God, help me to recognize what is true and what is false. Confirm my faith in you through your Word, through your people, through my life experiences, through the testimony of others, and through sound reasoning. Protect me from deception and doubt. Increase my faith and show yourself to be powerful and true in all things. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
2 Peter 1:20-21
20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Resources:
Faith AND Doubt
by John Ortberg

Thursday, February 13, 2014

February 13 - The God of All Comfort

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 15:25-17:24
2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Psalm 94:1-11
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Insight:
God is compassionate. He sees our troubles and sustains us. He knows our pain and comforts us. For this, we should offer him praise and thanks. The comfort we receive from God enables us to bring comfort to others around us as they encounter trouble and despair.

Response and Action:
I need to take notice of the many ways God has sustained, comforted, and brought me through troubles and hardships. I will praise God for his love and provision and promises. I need to be mindful of those around me who are experiencing trouble, and then do what I can to pass along the same comfort I have received. I can be a source of God's compassion and encouragement to others. I will look to God for the grace to endure trouble. I will endeavor to be a channel of God's grace and comfort to others facing trouble and heartache.

O God, thank you for the grace and comfort you extend to me through your word, your Spirit, your people, and your provision. I praise you for being a God of comfort and consolation. Help me to always look to you for the strength and hope I need to the face my troubles. Give me eyes to see the hurts of those around me. Give me a heart of compassion toward them, and give me the readiness to be an instrument of comfort in their lives. 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 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Resources:
Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February 12 - Established Long Ago

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 14:1-15:24
1 Corinthians 16:1-24
Psalm 93:1-5
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:  
Psalm 93:1-2, 5
1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 2 Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. - - - 5 Your statutes, LORD, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.

Insight:
God's power, authority, and word are unshakable and eternal. He is before all things and after all things. He is the maker of all that is, seen and unseen. The authority that establishes all creation, is the same authority that establishes my life. Understanding and wisdom are found only in him and in his word. All truth belongs to him.

Response and Action:
I believe that God reigns and that he has given all authority to Christ Jesus. I humbly yield to him and recognize his rightful place of authority in my life. I will seek him and build my life upon his word in order to have a steadfast faith and an unshakable life.

O God, you reign over all things. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. By your power and grace, help me to follow Christ and yield to his Lordship. Help me to be a faithful disciple, and help me to help others become disciples. Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 7:26-29
26 "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Resources:
The Lord and His Prayer
by N.T. Wright