Saturday, May 31, 2014

Reading Schedule for June 1-7


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, June 1 -
Isaiah 66:1-24 / Revelation 3:7-22
/ Proverbs 1:1-7

Monday, June 2 -
Jeremiah 1:1-2:30
/ Revelation 4:1-11 / Proverbs 1:8-19

Tuesday, June 3 -
Jeremiah 2:31-4:18
/ Revelation 5:1-14 / Proverbs 1:20-33

Wednesday, June 4 -
Jeremiah 4:19-6:15
/ Revelation 6:1-17 / Proverbs 2:1-11

Thursday, June 5 -
Jeremiah 6:16-8:7
/ Revelation 7:1-17 / Proverbs 2:12-22

Friday, June 6 -
Jeremiah 8:8-9:26
/ Revelation 8:1-13 / Proverbs 3:1-10

Saturday, June 7 -
Jeremiah 10:1-11:23
/ Revelation 9:1-21 / Proverbs 3:11-20

May 31 - Life and Death

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 62:6-65:25
Revelation 2:18-3:6
Psalm 150:1-6
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Revelation 3:1-3
1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Insight:
The glorified Christ of John's vision warns the church in Sardis that they need to wake up. They had a reputation for being alive, but they were really dead. Somehow they had let their reputation and the good things they had done in the past lull them into apathy. There were many other good things God intended them to do, but they were leaving these things undone. If they failed to wake up and take their calling seriously, they would continue to die and eventually suffer the consequences of their unfaithfulness.

Response and Action:
What is God calling me to do that I am leaving undone? I need to be careful to not become idle and rest upon past accomplishments and deeds. Idleness and apathy lead to spiritual death. The Christian life is about today! I must follow Jesus today and seek God's will today. There are so many things I can do to honor God and serve the cause of Christ. I will push forward to take hold of all that Christ Jesus has in mind for me to be and do.

Lord Jesus, help me to be faithful to seek and do your will until the end. Write my name in the book of life and purify me. Give me eyes to see the good things you have prepared in advance for me to do. Give me a heart that delights in your will, feet that walk in your ways, and a spirit that longs to honor you in all I do. Help me to wake up and get honest about any disobedience, apathy, or distractions that are keeping me from faithfulness to you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Ephesians 5:14-17
14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

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

Friday, May 30, 2014

May 30 - Your First Love

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 60:1-62:5
Revelation 2:1-17
Psalm 149:1-9
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Revelation 2:1-4
1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Insight:
In John's vision, the glorified Christ has words of commendation and warning for seven churches. The first was the church in Ephesus. He commended them for good deeds, hard work, perseverance, holiness, and discernment. He warned them that, despite all these good qualities, they had forsaken their first love—their love for him.

It is unsettling to realize how it is possible to do good, work hard, be committed, and exercise commitment, and yet somehow lose sight of a genuine love for Jesus himself. While a sincere love for Christ will always produce the good qualities and actions the Ephesians displayed, these commendable qualities, without love for Christ, are bound to deteriorate into religiosity and law. What results is a churchianity that is both unsustainable and empty.

Response and Action:
I must cultivate my love for Jesus. My obedience and commitment to Christ must be rooted in my love and trust for him. I will nurture my love for Jesus through worship, expressions of thanks, and meditation upon the things he did and the words he said. I will remember that following Christ is more than belief, obedience, and perseverance; it is love.

Lord Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, I believe you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Help me to love you with my whole heart, so that my obedience and deeds and commitment might flow out of that love. Thank you for your great love for me. Forgive me for the times I lose sight of you and forget that you want more than my belief and my behavior -- you want my love. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Deuteronomy 6:4-5
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Resources:
Mere Churchianity
by Michael Spencer

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 29 - I Hold the Keys

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 57:15-59:21
Revelation 1:1-20
Psalm 148:7-14
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Revelation 1:17-18

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Insight:
In the Apostle John's great vision he sees the resurrected Christ Jesus, the Son of Man, who "has freed us from our sins by his blood" (1:5), and will return again—"coming with the clouds" (1:7). The sight and sound of the glorified Christ Jesus so overwhelmed John that he fell to the ground as a dead man. But Jesus put his right hand on John saying, "Don't be afraid."

Jesus is the beginning and the end. He is the Living One and is alive forever. He has conquered death and holds the keys to death. Jesus holds the keys that open the doors from death to life for all humanity.

Response and Action:
Jesus is alive forever! He is the Living One who has conquered death. Every thought I have of Jesus will be shaped and celebrated with the amazing truth that he is alive today. He is coming again. He is the beginning and the end. He holds the keys and he will deliver me from death.

O God, help me to walk and live in the truth that Jesus is alive. Fill my heart with hope, and give me peace and confidence as embrace this truth by faith. Give me courage in the face of suffering and hope in the face of death, as I trust in Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 28 - Keep Yourselves

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 54:1-57:14
Jude 1:1-25
Psalm 148:1-6
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Jude 1:17-21
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." 19 These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Insight:
The Apostle Peter warned his readers to be discerning about false teachers and heresy; Jude does the same. In fact, Peter may have been drawing upon Jude in his second letter (compare 2 Peter 2 with Jude 4–18).

Jude gives a number of markers for discerning heretical teachers and leaders. These include: a twisting of God's grace that leads to disregard for holy living (v. 4); a refusal to acknowledge Jesus as the only sovereign Lord (v. 4); a selfish pattern of putting themselves first (v. 12); boastful arrogance (v. 16); and being divisive and opposing the unity of the Spirit (v. 19).

Response and Action:
I need to recognize godly teaching and leadership. It is essential for the life and mission of my church family that our leaders follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who is able to keep us from falling.

In order to live by the truth, I will build myself up in Christian faith. I will pray and look to the Holy Spirit for guidance and integrity. I will look to the Scriptures and the teachings of the Apostles for direction and doctrine. In my Christian community, I will oppose teaching and leadership that ignores Scripture or fails to follow in the way of Christ. In all circumstances, I must be merciful and redemptive toward others as I endeavor to be a voice for the pursuit of truth and sound doctrine.

O God, help me to know and live by the truth. Help me to be a student of the Scriptures. Help me to follow Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, give me the honesty and integrity to recognize your will and your ways. Deliver me from pride, selfishness, and unholiness. Grant me the faith and the perseverance of Christ Jesus, who is able to keep me from falling and present me without fault before your throne with great joy. To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
2 Peter 1:19-21
19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Resources:
Basic Christian Leadership: Biblical Models of Church, Gospel And Ministry
by John Stott

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27 - My Righteous Servant

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 51:1-53:12
3 John 1:1-14
Psalm 147:12-20
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Isaiah 53:11-12
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Insight:
God's righteous servant, as foretold by Isaiah, "would pour out his life unto death" as he "bore the sins of many." He would also, after his suffering, "see the light of life and be satisfied." He would receive from God "a portion among the great." He would "divide the spoils with the strong." Jesus, the suffering Savior who died on the cross, has risen, and now reigns as Christ the Victor. As victor over sin and death, he gives life and grace to all who place faith in him.

Response and Action:
Jesus is more than my Savior; he is my Lord. He not only redeems, he reigns! I will look to him not only for forgiveness and salvation, but also for his guidance and command. I will trust him for victory in the battles of my life. I will do more than merely call him "Lord;" I will strive to prove his lordship by walking in his ways and doing what he commands. I will do this by the power and grace of his resurrection Spirit.

O God, thank you that Christ Jesus has conquered death. Give me the faith and surrender to embrace him as Savior. Grant me the wisdom and the will to obey him as Lord. Help me to not only hear his words, but also to put them into practice. I pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Luke 6:46-48
46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47 I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Monday, May 26, 2014

May 26 - Walk in Love

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 48:12-50:11
2 John 1:1-13
Psalm 147:1-11
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 John 1:5b-6
5b I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Insight:
Love for God moves us to draw near to him and to obey his commands. Drawing near to God and obeying his commands moves us to love others. Love for God, and love for others—each one feeds the other. The more we love God, the more ready and able we are to love others. The more we love others, the more we recognize our need to know and love and obey God.

Response and Action:
I want to love God with my whole being. I want to know his word and obey his commands. I need God to work in my life and make me able to love others. I will put my love for God into action by making every effort to obey him and live by his word. I will follow Christ's example and yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit as I make every effort to love others.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength. Help me to love my neighbor as myself. Make me more able to love others as I follow Christ and the example he has given. By your word and the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
John 15:9-13
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Recommended Reading:
The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
by Scot McKnight

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 25 - He Who Has the Son Has Life

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 45:11-48:11
1 John 5:1-21
Psalm 146:1-10
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 
1 John 5:9-12
9 We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.


Insight:
God has spoken. His testimony is that life is in his Son, and only in his Son. Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God have this testimony in their hearts. To reject faith in Jesus and this promise of life, John says, is to reject the Christian view of God and the Christian hope of life in Christ.

Response and Action:
I believe that the testimony and teaching of the apostles is true and reliable. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I believe that God has given abundant testimony—through scripture, prophecy, miracles, incarnation, history, apostolic revelation, the present work of the Holy Spirit, and my personal experience in following Christ—that Jesus is His Son and that life is found in him. This testimony rings true in my own heart.

O Lord, confirm your testimony and the truth of Christ Jesus in my heart more and more with each new day. Help me to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Help me to mature in my faith, that my life might also become a testimony of your grace and the truth of Jesus. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
John 5:24-25
24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John R. W. Stott

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Reading Schedule for May 25 - 31


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, May 25 -
Isaiah 45:11-48:11 / 1John 5:1-21
/ Psalm 146:1-10

Monday, May 26 -
Isaiah 48:12-50:11
/ 2John 1:1-13 / Psalm 147:1-11

Tuesday, May 27 -
Isaiah 51:1-53:12
/ 3John 1:1-14 / Psalm 147:12-20

Wednesday, May 28 -
Isaiah 54:1-57:14
/ Jude 1:1-25 / Psalm 148:1-6

Thursday, May 29 -
Isaiah 57:15-59:21
/ Revelation 1:1-20 / Psalm 148:7-14

Friday, May 30 -
Isaiah 60:1-62:5
/ Revelation 2:1-17 / Psalm 149:1-9

Saturday, May 31 -
Isaiah 62:6-65:25
/ Revelation 2:18-3:6 / Psalm 150:1-6






 

May 24 - Test the Spirits

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 43:14-45:10
1 John 4:1-21
Psalm 145:14-21
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 John 4:1-3; 14-15
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. - - - 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.


Insight:
Just as we saw warnings from Peter and Jude regarding faith and sound doctrine, we now see the Apostle John telling Christians to be careful to not believe just anyone. He urges them to "test the spirits" and to remember that there are many false teachers in the world.

John gave them some important truths about Jesus they should look for as they exercised discernment. First, sound doctrine acknowledges that Jesus is from God. Secondly, sound doctrine acknowledges that Jesus is God incarnate—actually human, actually flesh and blood. Third, sound doctrine acknowledges that Jesus is actually the Son of God—actually divine.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful to not believe just anyone who claims to be teaching from the Bible or claims to be a “Christian” teacher. I need to study the Bible carefully for myself in order to have first-hand knowledge of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. I will reject teaching that fails to recognize the importance of the incarnation and the humanity of Jesus. I will reject teaching that fails to acknowledge the deity of Jesus.

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit became incarnate from the virgin Mary.

Show me your ways, O Lord. Guide me in your truth, and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. I pray through Jesus, the son of God and the son of man, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God today and for all eternity. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
Proverbs 30:4
4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 23 - How We Know What Love Is

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 41:17-43:13
1 John 3:7-24
Psalm 145:8-13
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 John 3:16-20
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. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Insight:
Jesus' love was more than words and feelings; he demonstrated God's love through the selfless act of laying down his life for us. We are called to follow his example through selflessly laying down our lives for others.

Love must be demonstrated through actions that respond to the practical needs of people around us. Meeting real needs not only proves to others the sincerity of our love, it also confirms it to us. We begin to know that we belong to the truth once we see ourselves living it out—not just talking about it.

Response and Action:
I need to be quick to see the needs of others. I need to be willing to take selfless action to help and address the needs of others. To see needs, but do nothing, is a contradiction. Following Jesus is a call to love, and his call to love is a call to action.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love my neighbor as myself. Help me to follow Christ's selfless example, watching for the needs of others, and doing what I can to meet those needs. Help me to use every good gift you have given me to bless and encourage others. Through Christ, Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
Proverbs 14:21
"He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy."

Resources:
Urban Homeworks
Minnesota Council of Churches - Refugee Services
Salvation Army

Thursday, May 22, 2014

May 22 - All Mankind Will See It

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 39:1-41:16
1 John 2:18-3:6
Psalm 145:1-7
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Isaiah 40:3-5

3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Insight:
The words of the prophet Isaiah promise something beyond the restoration of Israel. They look beyond the rebuilding of Jerusalem. They look to the salvation and hope for all humanity. They look to the time when all things will be put right. This promised hope was centered in the coming of the Christ, the Lord who would save and redeem.

Response and Action:
I believe that Jesus is the Christ. I have put all my hopes for salvation and restoration in him. I will look to him for the strength, hope, and guidance I need for every day. All my aspirations for the future are resting upon my trust in him.

O God, you give strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. My hope is in Jesus. Renew my strength in him. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, help me to soar on wings like eagles. Give me the strength to run and not grow weary. Sustain me that I might walk and not be faint. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Matthew 3:1-3
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' "

Resources:
The Incomparable Christ
by John Stott

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 21 - Claiming to Be in the Light

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 37:1-38:22
1 John 2:1-17
Psalm 144:9-15
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 John 2:9-11

9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

Insight:
Hate and darkness go together. Hate and light are contradictory. A hate or disregard for others is inconsistent with a claim to love God. You cannot hate others and embrace the light of Christ. Blindness toward the needs and concerns of others indicates blindness toward God. True love for God will always result in love, concern, and compassion for others.

Response and Action:
Hate is a strong word. Do I hate others? Who have I written off, or judged, or given up on? I need to be on guard for the subtle ways hate may be at work in my heart. To detest, disrespect, disregard, or dislike others may be subtle forms of hate.

I need to hold up my motives, feelings, and actions to the light of Christ's love so hate can be exposed for what it is. I need to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength; this will help me to love my neighbor as myself. By God's grace and the power of his Spirit, I need to cultivate compassion, understanding, sympathy, and love for others.

O God, help me to truly love you. Don’t let me be blinded or deceived by hatred. Teach me to love others as I follow the example and the commands of Christ Jesus. Forgive me for the times I claim to know and love you, but harbor hate toward others. Help me to walk in the light and to walk in fellowship with others. Give me a heart of compassion and concern for the interests of others. Help me to be patient and forgiving with others, as you are patient and forgiving to me. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Mark 12:29-31
29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these."

Resources:
Relational Masks: Removing the Barriers That Keep Us Apart
by Russell Willingham

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 20 - If We Walk in the Light

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 33:10-36:22
1 John 1:1-10
Psalm 144:1-8
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 John 1:6-10
6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Insight:
Seeing ourselves for who we are is an important part of seeing God for who he truly is. God is light; in him there is no darkness. Recognizing my sin and confessing it to God is essential to receiving and experiencing the grace of God's forgiveness and restoration. Not only is God faithful to forgive, he is able to purify and transform me. Confession and repentance make it possible to be reconciled to God and to walk in fellowship with others.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize my sin and ask God for forgiveness and healing. I cannot walk in fellowship with God and with others if I am blind to my own need for forgiveness. Closing myself off from forgiveness destroys my relationship with God and with others.

I will not be able to hear God's word of forgiveness for me unless I am willing to speak it with him. It is not simply a word to be heard; it is to be learned and spoken with him. Realizing I need to hear the word of forgiveness comes first. Truly hearing that word comes next. The irresistible impulse to speak it along with him naturally follows.

O God, have mercy upon me, a sinner. Forgive me of the wrongs I have committed, and give me a heart that is ready, willing, and able to forgive those who have wronged me. Thank you for your faithfulness to heal and restore. Through the transforming grace and power of Christ, help me to be an agent of your faithfulness and grace. Help me to walk in the light, as Christ Jesus is in the light. Help me to walk in the light with others who are looking to you for healing and forgiveness. May our fellowship be a living testimony of your saving grace. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses
:  
Psalm 51:10-13
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

Recommended Reading:
The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life
Chapter 11: Forgiveness
by Henri Nouwen

Monday, May 19, 2014

May 19 - Failing to Trust God

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 30:12-33:9
2 Peter 3:1-18
Psalm 143:1-12
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Isaiah 31:1; 33:2
31:1 - Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD. 33:2 - O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.

Insight:
Isaiah chides those who have turned from God and placed their trust in human strength. It's tempting to trust in military might, political power, or wealth, but none of those things are ultimately as reliable as God. It's even more tempting to trust in our own strength, smarts, and ability to scramble to get us through life.

The short prayer offered up in Isaiah 33:2 reveals the authentic way of faith. It's a wonderful prayer and reminder for all of us who see the fallacy of trusting in ourselves or anyone or anything else besides God. Only God can give us the strength to live with joy, endurance, and patience.

Response and Action:
I need to be very careful about where I place my trust. I am not smart enough or strong enough to navigate and manage my own life. The money, power, privilege, and promises the world has to offer me are never as stable or satisfying as they appear to be. I need to recognize that the strength and security I long for in life are only found in God. My faith needs to be fixed firmly upon Jesus. I can live with confidence only through Christ who gives me strength.

O God, you are my strength and my salvation. Every morning you hear my voice as I lay my requests before you. You listen to my cries for help. I wait upon you with confidence and fully expect that you will answer my prayers and strengthen me for life. I see that trusting in myself, or earthly strength, is like building my life on shifting sand. I will build my life upon the solid rock of faith in you. 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:
Isaiah: Trusting God in Trouble Times
by Howard Peskett

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 18 - Destructive Heresies

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 28:14-30:11
2 Peter 2:1-22
Psalm 142:1-7
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Peter 2:1-3
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Insight:
In the first chapter of this short letter, Peter says the testimony of the prophets and the apostles is trustworthy and inspired by God. In the second chapter he warns of false teachers who invent their stories and teachings. He says that false teachers are marked by: 1) their denial of God's sovereignty; 2) their shameful ways; and 3) their greed and exploitation of others.

Peter urged Christians to exercise discernment. Not everyone who claims to be teaching the truth of God is doing so. Followers of Jesus must be careful that they are not lead astray by so-called prophets and teachers. Truth stands up to questioning. Having faith does not mean being gullible. Well-placed faith looks for reasons to believe.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful about whom I listen to and whom I follow. I want to follow Jesus, so I will study the Scriptures carefully everyday. I will hold every teaching and story I hear up to the light of Christ's teaching and example. I will be on guard against every teaching that diminishes God or questions the lordship of Jesus. I will evaluate teachers and leaders with a critical mindset and watch out for any indicators of greed, exploitation, or other selfish motives.

O God, your word is sharper than a two edged sword -- able to cut through the attitudes and motives of the heart. Give me a growing love for your written word and the discipline to study and meditate upon it each day. Thank you for Jesus, the Living Word. Help me to follow him closely and to become so familiar with his words, his actions, and his life that I am able to clearly recognize and reject anything that runs contrary to his way. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
1 John 4:1
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Resources:
God Talk: Cautions for Those Who Hear God's Voice
by Ruth Tucker

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reading Schedule for May 18 - 24


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, May 18 -
Isaiah 28:14-30:11
/ 2Peter 2:1-22 / Psalm 142:1-7

Monday, May 19 -
Isaiah 30:12-33:9
/ 2Peter 3:1-18 / Psalm 143:1-12

Tuesday, May 20 -
Isaiah 33:10-36:22
/ 1John 1:1-10 / Psalm 144:1-8

Wednesday, May 21 -
Isaiah 37:1-38:22
/ 1John 2:1-17 / Psalm 144:9-15

Thursday, May 22 -
Isaiah 39:1-41:16
/ 1John 2:18-3:6 / Psalm 145:1-7

Friday, May 23 -
Isaiah 41:17-43:13
/ 1John 3:7-24 / Psalm 145:8-13

Saturday, May 24 -
Isaiah 43:14-45:10 / 1John 4:1-21
/ Psalm 145:14-21

May 17 - A Light Shining

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 25:1-28:13
2 Peter 1:1-21
Psalm 141:1-10
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Peter 1:19-21
19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Insight:
Peter stresses to his readers that the testimony of the Apostles was based on eyewitness experience, not clever stories they invented (v.16). They were with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration and heard God's voice commend him (v.17-18).

What the prophets of old had spoken was now made certain through Christ Jesus. Prophecy and scripture, Peter says, are not merely ideas and interpretations that originate in the minds of men. Rather, Scripture is the result of men speaking from God, being moved and carried along by God's Spirit.

Response and Action:
I need to consider the claims of Scripture carefully. The idea that Scripture is nothing more than the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of humans runs contrary to what the Apostle Peter says here. I believe the Bible is reliable and inspired by God. I will read it and apply it to my life in the faith that it is from God, useful, and truthful.

O God, thank you for your written word. I will pay attention to it, as a light shining in the darkness. You word is a light for my path and a lamp to my feet. I seek you, Lord, with all my heart; don't let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Help me to receive your word so completely that my life becomes a reflection of your word and a testimony to your truth. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Resources:
Can I Trust the Bible?
by Darrell Bock

Friday, May 16, 2014

May 16 - The Party's Over!

Today's Reading:
Isaiah 22:1-24:23
1 Peter 4:7-5:14
Psalm 140:6-13
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online 

Focus Verses:
Isaiah 24:8-10
8 The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. 9 No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers. 10 The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred.

Insight:
Pride and self-gratification are often at the root of sin. Prosperity is often a precursor to careless self-indulgence. Eventually the parties give way to pain, the drinking is overcome by the misery of a hangover, and the songs turn into crying. Judgment is a wake-up call that forces us to face reality. Life is not meant to be lived without God. We were not created to gratify ourselves or serve our selfish desires. Rebellion against God is fundamentally a refusal to recognize the truth.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize God as my maker an the rightful and worthy owner of my life. Self-gratification is not the path to fulfillment and wholeness. Instead, I want to humbly acknowledge Jesus as Lord and to live for him. Self-indulgence and pride are deceptive and result in emptiness and ruin. I want to trust God, acknowledge him in all my ways, and find direction and wholeness in the truth.

O God, show me your ways, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth. Give me the humility and wisdom to live for you and to follow you. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen.

 Spiritual Formation Verses: 
 Romans 13:13-14
13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Resources:
Honest to God?
by Bill Hybels