Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31 - Alert and Self-Controlled

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 32:1-33:13
1 Thessalonians 5:4-28
Psalm 119:17-24
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 Thessalonians 5:2-6
2 For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.

Insight:
The "Day of the Lord" is a phrase that goes all the way back to the Old Testament prophets. It refers to a final day when God will intervene with judgment and blessing.

The Christians who witnessed Jesus' ascension into heaven were told that he would one day return. Hope in the Christ's promised return has been central to Christianity since the beginning. The Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) says, "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end."

With this faith and hope, Paul urged Christians to live with an expectation of that "final day." This expectation, he said, should shape the way they live each day—making them thoughtful, alert, and self-controlled.

Response and Action:
Anticipation and readiness for Christ's return should be a part of my daily thinking. Remembering the "Day of the Lord" and believing that it is imminent should heighten my attentiveness to life. Faith in the certainty of Christ's promised return should guide my choices and actions.

Dear Lord, I want to be ready for Christ's return. More than that, I long for it. Bring your Kingdom to earth today, O Lord. Help me to live and work in this world today as a servant of your Kingdom, which is and is to come. Help me to be alert and able to see the world from a Kingdom perspective. Help me to be self-controlled and to walk in your ways. I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Revelation 21:1-3
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Recommended Reading:
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N. T. Wright

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 30 - Living According to Your Word

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 30:1-31:21
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3
Psalm 119:9-16
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:  
Psalm 119:9-11
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Insight:
God's Word is useful for knowing God's will and for learning how to live in purity and truth. It is important to have a desire to know God and his will. This whole-hearted desire motivates the believer to read, apply, study, know, and memorize Scripture.

Response and Action:
If I want to know God and his will for my life, I need to spend time in the Bible. I will seek him with my whole heart and commit myself to walking in the light of his truth. I will make time every day to read the Scripture, to prayerfully consider how it applies to my life, and to be as responsive to it as I can be.

O God, thank you for the Bible. Open my mind to understand what it says. Make my heart soft and ready to receive it. Give me the wisdom and the will to obey and respond to it. Show me your ways, O Lord, guide me in your truth and lead me for you are God, my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Amen.

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

Recommended Reading:
Transforming Bible Study: Understanding Scripture Like You've Never Read It Before
by Bob Grahmann

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 29 - As a Loving Father

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 29:1-36
1 Thessalonians 2:9-3:13
Psalm 119:1-8
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
1 Thessalonians 2:6b-12

6b As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
 
Insight:
Paul uses the imagery of parenthood to describe the nurturing role that he and his missionary companions served in Thessalonica. Like a mother with her children, they loved and delighted in the people they served. They didn't merely teach; they shared their very lives. Like a good father, they encouraged, comforted, and prodded their new converts to live lives that honor God, and to see themselves as Kingdom people with a purpose to fulfill.

This is a good model for spiritual guidance and mentoring. Christian leaders would do well to choose the model of loving and nurturing parents over the entrepreneurial, business, marketing, coach/expert models that seem to be more prevalent today. Nurture is more likely to flow out of relationships than lessons.

Response and Action:
I need to see relationships as the basis for real spiritual nurture and Christian mentoring. I need to look for this kind of leadership and example for my own maturity in Christ. I need to become this kind of leader to serve and bless others.

O God, bring spiritual leaders into my life who nurture and encourage me as good parents love and guide their children. Help me to be an encouraging and loving friend, example, and mentor to anyone who is looking to me for spiritual guidance and support. Help me to love and delight in the people I serve. I pray through Christ, your son, who has demonstrated true servanthood, and calls me to be a servant too. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
John 13:14-17
14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Resources:
Full Service: Moving from Self-Serve Christianity to Total Servanthood
by Siang-Yang Tan

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reading Schedule for March 29 – April 4


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2014-15

Sunday, March 29 -
2Chronicles 29:1-36 / 1Thessalonians 2:9-3:13
/ Psalm 119:1-8

Monday, March 30 -
2Chronicles 30:1-31:21
/ 1Thessalonians 4:1-5:3 / Psalm 119:9-16

Tuesday, March 31 -
2Chronicles 32:1-33:13
/ 1Thessalonians 5:4-28 / Psalm 119:17-24

Wednesday, April 1 -
2Chronicles 33:14-34:33
/ 2Thessalonians 1:1-12 / Psalm 119:25-32

Thursday, April 2 -
2Chronicles 35:1-36:23
/ 2Thessalonians 2:1-17 / Psalm 119:33-40

Friday, April 3 -
Ezra 1:1-2:70
/ 2Thessalonians 3:1-18 / Psalm 119:41-48

Saturday, April 4 -
Ezra 3:1-4:23
/ 1Timothy 1:1-20 / Psalm 119:49-56

March 28 - The Day the Lord Has Made

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 26:1-28:27
1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:8
Psalm 118:17-29
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 118:
13-14; 22-24
13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. - - - 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Insight:
It's not unusual to hear someone at a church gathering quote "this is the day the Lord has made" from Psalm 118. It is unusual, however, to hear them quote it with the same meaning the psalmist had in mind. Most times you would think it meant: "Wow, what a nice day! The sun is shining, the birds are singing; it's good to be together on this lovely day that God has given us." But is that what the Psalmist had in mind? Nope.

The "day" the psalmist is talking about is certainly a good one, but exactly what good "day" is he talking about? The day of salvation. The psalmist is talking about the day of deliverance given to us by our faithful and good God whose love endures forever. The psalmist was rejoicing in God's salvation from a national perspective (v. 1), from a faith perspective (vv. 2-3), and a personal perspective (vv. 5-6).

The psalmist understood the need for rescue from sin in order to have peace and fellowship with God (v. 27). In the New Testament, the Apostles picked up on this theme and proclaimed Jesus to be the ultimate deliverer the psalmist was pointing to. This is the day that the Lord has made: the day of salvation through Christ Jesus, who laid down his life for us and conquered death in order that we might have eternal life, peace, and fellowship with God. Let us rejoice and be glad!

Response and Action:
I will give God thanks for the many ways he delivers and saves me. I look to Christ Jesus as the supreme expression of God's faithfulness to save. I will seek to be an instrument of God's faithfulness and grace in the lives of others around me.

O God, thank you for the ways you save and deliver me. Thank you for bringing me through trials and hardships. Thank you for rescuing me from an empty life. Thank you for liberating me from the fear of death. Thank you for saving me and granting me eternal life through Jesus. Thank you for reclaiming my life and renovating my spirit through the indwelling of your Holy Spirit. I rejoice in every day of deliverance you have made! I will rejoice and be glad as I place my complete trust and confidence to keep and save me to the end! Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Acts 4:11-12
11 He is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Recommended Reading:
How to Read the Psalms
by Tremper Longman

Friday, March 27, 2015

March 27 - Devote Yourselves to Prayer

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 24:1-25:28
Colossians 3:18-4:18
Psalm 118:1-16
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Colossians 4:2-6

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Insight:
Prayer is something that requires devotion. True devotion is demonstrated through intentional practices and committed routines in daily life. Faithfulness in prayer will help me be watchful and thankful. Praying for people will make me more thoughtful and aware of their needs, relationships, responsibilities, joys, and sorrows.

Consistent times of prayer will also help me to see the many ways God is working, saving, sustaining, and blessing. This will result in an attitude of gratitude and a desire to give thanks and praise to God.

A devoted prayer life includes a concern for the spreading of the gospel of Christ Jesus. It's important to pray for missionaries, churches, and evangelistic ministries. It's also important to pray about my own witness for Christ in everyday life and conversation.

Response and Action:
I must be committed to prayer and be intentional about how and when I will pray. I will exercise my commitment to prayer with a thoughtful approach to who and what I pray about. I will strive to develop consistent prayer routine. I will keep a prayer journal, noting the ways I see God responding to my prayers. I will ask God to open doors for missionaries and evangelists who are taking the message of Christ around the world. I will also pray for God's help to be a gracious and winsome witness for Christ in my everyday life and conversations.

Gracious God, thank you for hearing the prayers of your people. Open my eyes to needs and situations around me as I pray. Give me a heart of gratitude and lips that praise you as my time in prayer helps me to see the many ways you answer and bless. Guide and sustain your servants who are taking the good news of Jesus to those who do not yet know him. Give me a gracious and seasoned demeanor as I go about my life today, that I might be an effective and salty witness for the hope and life you freely give through Christ. In his name, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Ephesians 6:18-20
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
 
Resources:
Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight
by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom

Thursday, March 26, 2015

March 26 - Clothe Yourselves

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21
Colossians 3:1-17
Psalm 117:1-2
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Colossians 3:12-15

12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Insight:
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are all prominent characteristics of God's people. These qualities are essential if people who follow Christ are to become a "people"--a community. Forbearance and forgiveness are also essential to community. Love is at the heart of all of this. Christ's love, peace, and forgiveness are what make it possible for his people to love each other and live together in unity.

Response and Action:
Are compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience prominent characteristics of my life? Are these the qualities I am known for by others? I need to think about Christ's great love and forgiveness for me. I need to consider how I can follow his example and exercise love, forbearance, grace, and mercy toward others.

Paul instructs Christians to "clothe themselves" with these virtues. This instruction makes it clear that action on my part is needed for this to happen. I will give effort to the things that will help me cultivate, learn, and live out these virtues.

O God, thank you for the love, mercy, and forgiveness you have for your people. Help me to clothe myself with the virtues of love, humility, gentleness, and patience, that I might experience true Christian community and make a positive contribution to it. Help me to graciously forgive and forbear others and live in peace with everyone as much as is possible. Help me, and my circle of Christian friends, to be a testimony of your truth and grace as we live in unity. Help our community to be marked by love, gentleness, service, and peace. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Romans 15:5-6
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.

Resources:
Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25 - Rooted & Growing

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 19:1-20:37
Colossians 2:8-23
Psalm 116:12-19
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Colossians 2:6-10
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

Insight:
Putting faith in Christ Jesus and surrendering to his authority is the beginning to a new life that must be continued and lived out. As our roots grow deep into Christ and our hearts are strengthened by faith in him, our lives are built up; we are able to do what we've been taught, and thankfulness flows out of us.

Response and Action:
I must not let my faith in Christ become a powerless list of rules, beliefs, and traditions, or be reduced to a philosophical system of principles. My faith is rooted in Christ. He is my hope because he embodies the fullness of Deity. As I receive Christ, his fullness becomes my fullness. He is greater than every power and authority. It is by his power and authority that my life can be transformed.

I desire to live a transformed life, and to be built up with Christ as my foundation. He is the one who saves me--not religion, not a set of ideas, not traditions, not spiritual disciplines, and not rules. All these become distractions unless they lead me to a deeper love and relationship with Jesus. They are only valuable to me as a means of growing into and building upon Jesus, who is the hope of my life and the power for living.

O God, help me to know and experience Christ Jesus more each day. My faith and hope are in him. Strengthen and increase my faith, as I put down deep roots through the study of scripture, prayer, service, obedience, and fellowship with other believers. O Jesus, all authority and power belong to you. Lead me, teach me, and transform me into your likeness. May my life overflow with thanksgiving as I continue to build my life on you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Ephesians 3:16-19
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Resources:
Deep-Rooted in Christ: The Way of Transformation
by Joshua Choonmin Kang

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 24 - He Heard My Voice

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 17:1-18:34
Colossians 1:18-2:7
Psalm 116:1-11
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 116
:1-5 
1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD : "O LORD, save me!" 5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

Insight:
The person who lives by faith trusts that God is not distant or unconcerned. We believe he hears our voice and is responsive to our cries for help. When we are tied up in the stress and struggles of our lives, we call on the Lord. We believe he is gracious and righteous and full of compassion, and so we ask him to save us. And because we cry out to him, we experience his help. We discover that he does indeed hear our cries and he does meet us in our times of need.

Having faith, we are moved to prayer. Having prayed, we are more able to recognize God's saving response. Having recognized God's response, we grow in faith. Having grown in our faith, we find ourselves more apt to pray and more confident in God's grace. Having grown more confident in God's grace, we find ourselves more able to live by faith.

Response and Action:
I believe God is gracious, righteous, and compassionate. Because I trust him, I will cry out to him. Problems, heartaches, struggles, losses, defeats, and threats will drive me to the God I trust. I will cry out to him as long as I live.

O God. I believe in your goodness, therefore I pray. Though the world is filled with liars and lies, you speak and act in truth. Though the world is full of death, you offer life. Though life is difficult and demanding, you are attentive and faithful. Though the world is entangled in the lie that everything is meaningless, you give meaning a purpose and hope. Thank you for the salvation, the strength, and the stability you have given through Christ Jesus, my Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Romans 12:11-12
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Resources:
Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home
by Richard Foster

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23 - All Over the World

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 14:1-16:14
Colossians 1:1-17
Psalm 115:12-18

Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Colossians 1:3-6
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.

Insight:
The truth of God and the good news of Jesus is bearing fruit all over the world. Christianity is not a private thing or a western culture thing. In fact, there are now more Christians in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. English is not the first language of most Christians.

People all around the globe are putting their faith in Jesus, which is resulting in changed lives. Hope for life and love for others flows out of an understanding of God's grace in all its truth. Hearing about the worldwide response to Christ should make me thankful and move me to prayer.

Response and Action:
I want to be a world Christian who appreciates being part of global community of faith in Christ. I want to pray for Christians around the world. I want to grow in my own faith as I gain understanding and encouragement from Christians living in other cultures and circumstances. I want to understand and experience God's grace in all its truth.

Dear Lord, thank you for your grace and mercy to all people. Thank you for extending your love to the whole world. Thank you for saving all who put their faith in Christ. Help me to understand and remember that my faith in Christ is not just a personal, individual affair, but is, rather, a reality to be experienced in a global community of believers. Help me to be faithful to pray for Christians around the world. Help all who follow Christ to be a light and witness, that the household of faith will extend to and include people from every tribe, language, ethnicity, and nation. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Revelation 5:9-10
9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." 

Resources:
Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight
by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22 - The Peace of God

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 11:1-13:22
Philippians 4:1-23
Psalm 115:1-11
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Philippians 4:6-7

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Insight:
It's not hard to be stressed out. Life is filled with burdens and problems that can lead to worry and fear. Rather than being consumed with anxiety, Paul advises prayer, petition, and thanksgiving. Worry and stress accomplish nothing, but lifting up my needs to God in a spirit of praise and thanksgiving accomplishes something beneficial. There is a peace only God can give, and only those who cast their anxieties upon the Lord experience that peace in their hearts and minds.

Response and Action:
Instead of letting the concerns and difficulties of life fill me with anxiety, I will let them push and prompt me toward prayer. I will make my needs and concerns known to God, trusting that he will provide and care for me. As I pray, I will praise God for his goodness and thank him for all the ways I believe he has blessed me.

O Lord,
you are gracious and righteous and full of compassion. I know you see my needs and hear my prayers. Guard my heart and mind with the peace of Christ. When I am stressed, give me rest as I trust in you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
John 14:26-27
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Resources:
Living Peacefully in a Stressful World: A Stategy for Replacing Stress With Peace
by Ronald Hutchcraft and Ray C. Stedman

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Reading Schedule for March 22-28


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2014-15

Sunday, March 22 -
2Chronicles 11:1-13:22 / Philippians 4:1-23 / Psalm 115:1-11

Monday, March 23 -
2Chronicles 14:1-16:14
/ Colossians 1:1-17 / Psalm 115:12-18

Tuesday, March 24 -
2Chronicles 17:1-18:34
/ Colossians 1:18-2:7 / Psalm 116:1-11

Wednesday, March 25 -
2Ch 19:1-20:37
/ Colossians 2:8-23 / Psalm 116:12-19

Thursday, March 26 -
2Chronicles 21:1-23:21
/ Colossians 3:1-17 / Psalm 117:1-2

Friday, March 27 -
2Chronicles 24:1-25:28
/ Colossians 3:18-4:18 / Psalm 118:1-16

Saturday, March 28 -
2Chronicles 26:1-28:27
/ 1Thessalonians 1:1-2:8 / Psalm 118:17-29
 

March 21 - I Press On

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 8:11-10:19
Philippians 3:4-21
Psalm 114:1-8
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Philippians 3:12b-14

12b I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Insight:
For the Christian who is growing and maturing, nothing comes before Christ. The center and priority of life is to know him and all he has for us--experiencing the transformation and purpose he brings. This requires effort.

Paul says he "presses on" and "strains toward what is ahead." Implicit in these words is the idea that Christians face pressures and resistance as they endeavor to move ahead in their pursuit of Christ. Paul also says that in order to move forward he "forgets what is behind." The habits and burdens from the past can also drag Christians down and hold them back.

Response and Action:
If knowing Christ and taking hold of his plan for me is my greatest desire and priority, I must fix my eyes on Jesus and direct my energies toward him and the purposes he has for me. I must let go of the past and be prepared to face challenges in the future. I do this in the confidence that his grace and power will sustain me.

Dear Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you and to desire you more than anything else in life. You are my life. I want to know you and the power of your resurrection. Lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me. Help me to let go of the past, to break free from old patterns and habits, and to shake off the sin that so easily entangles. Help me to press forward through the challenges and pressures that would hinder me from knowing and serving you. Help me to mature in Christ and give me confidence in your grace and power to help me win the prize of my upward calling. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Hebrews 12:2-3
2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Resources:
The Life You've Always Wanted
by John Ortberg

Friday, March 20, 2015

March 20 - From Sunrise to Sunset

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 6:12-8:10
Philippians 2:19-3:3
Psalm 113:1-9
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 
Psalm 113:2-4
2 Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. 3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. 4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.

Insight:

From the beginning of the day to its ending, the Lord is worthy of my praise. From the beginning of my week through its conclusion, the Lord is worthy of honor each and every day. His love is higher than the heavens, and his faithfulness reaches beyond the skies. The contemplation of all God has made and has done call for a response of worship and thanksgiving.

Response and Action:I want praise and thanksgiving to be the central ingredient of my day. I want to lift up praise to the Lord. I will worship him and stand in awe of his mighty acts. I will thank him for his grace and his faithfulness. I will wake up to all of the reasons to give glory to God.

O God, give me the eyes to see your goodness, and the mind to remember your faithfulness to your people throughout history. Give me a heart that is ready to worship you all day every day, and a voice that is quick to sing your praise. Thank you for your grace and mercy toward me, a sinner. Thank you for the redemption you have given through Christ. Thank you for the transformation and renewal you make possible by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Resources:
Reflections on the Psalms
by C. S. Lewis

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19 - The Interests of Others

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 4:1-6:11
Philippians 1:27-2:18
Psalm 112:1-10
 
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Focus Verses:
Philippians 2:3-8
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. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Insight:

Selfishness, pride, and self-serving ambition are contrary to following Christ. Jesus demonstrated true humility, selfless concern, and a willingness to sacrifice for the needs of others. Though he existed in the very nature of God, he emptied himself for our sake and for God's glory. He was humble and obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Response and Action:As a follower of Jesus, my attitude and my actions should be like his. With God's guidance, and by his grace, I must cultivate a genuine concern for the needs of others. I must become self-giving and humble. I must let go of any selfish agenda and any attitude that runs contrary to the pattern of Christ. I must seek God's will and strive to honor him in all my ways.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, shape me and help me to have the mind of Christ. Teach me through your word and give me the readiness and willingness to obey. Help me to serve you and honor you even if it means sacrifice and hardship for me. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ Jesus my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Ephesians 4:1-2
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.

Resources:
The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
by Scot McKnight

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 18 - Life or Death

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 1:1-3:17
Philippians 1:1-26
Psalm 111:1-10
 
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Focus Verses:
Philippians 1:19-21

19 ...for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Insight:

Paul was in prison and facing the real possibility of death. He wasn't sure whether he would be released and given more opportunities to minister, or whether he would be silenced by long-term imprisonment or even death. His faith in God was so much deeper than his fear of circumstances that he could imagine how God might use either possibility to accomplish his will. Paul could entertain the possibility of dying for Christ as easily as living for Christ.

Paul believed that by the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and through prayers of his Christian brothers and sisters, God's purposes would be accomplished. Paul was convinced that he personally would not be ashamed in either outcome—death or in life. For Paul, to live meant fruitful labor for God, and to die meant the great gain of being with the Lord.

Response and Action:
I want the driving motivation in my life to be centered on serving God's purposes and bringing glory to God. I want to draw so near to God, and be so convinced of his provision and good will, that I am willing to risk all and face anything. I want to grow so deep in my faith that I see every moment of life as the opportunity to serve and honor God, and see the possibilities and realities of death as gain.

O Father, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to seize every opportunity to know you, serve you, and love you. Give me a heart that seeks your guidance for life, and trusts your provision and promise in death. Help me to know you and experience you so deeply that I am able to say with Paul, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain." Give me eyes to see how you are able to make all things work toward the ultimate good of your redemptive and saving will. Help me to remember that there is more to life than my circumstances, and that life in Christ is bigger and truer than death. I pray all this in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Romans 8:38-39
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Resources:
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N. T. Wright

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17 - The Full Armor of God

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 28:1-29:30
Ephesians 6:1-24
Psalm 110:1-7
 
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Focus Verses:
Ephesians 6:11-13

11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Insight:

The struggle for good and evil has a spiritual, cosmic dimension. Paul reminds us that the struggles of humanity are part of a much larger picture. There is a spiritual dimension to the problems we face. To address difficult life issues effectively, we must recognize the spiritual roots and principles at work: hate, greed, malice, dehumanization, fear, rage, envy, pride, lust for power, possessions, self-gratification, godlessness, rebellion, and blasphemy.

To be truly concerned about spiritual issues in our world, we must also recognize and counter the problems and systems that grow out of spiritual depravity: social injustice and war; corporate greed; systemic poverty, starvation, and disease; political corruption; abuse and discrimination; human trafficking, and so much more. Our struggle is not merely with flesh and blood; it is against spiritual powers and principalities. Neither is our struggle merely spiritual; it is against the very material systems and evils brought on by dark powers at work in our world.

Response and Action:
I must recognize the spiritual root of all the evil and human suffering in my world. I must recognize the very practical and physical ways that spiritual evil is corrupting human affairs in my world. I must put on the full armor of God—his truth, his counsel, his word, his righteousness, his peace, and his Spirit—if I am to stand firm in the fight against evil. As a follower of Jesus, in the strength of the Lord, I need to oppose evil and stand up for what is right.

Our Father, who fills the heavens, holy is your name. I long to see your Kingdom come to earth—your will lived out on earth as it is in heaven. Strengthen me, protect me, and help me to stand firm in the face of evil. Help me to raise my voice, give my energy, and exercise my abilities as a force for truth and good against those powers of evil that are destroying the lives of so many in our world. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses:  
James 4:7-8
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Resources:
Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World
by Gary A. Haugen

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 16 - You Are Now Light

Today's Reading:
1 Chronicles 26:12-27:34
Ephesians 5:1-33
Psalm 109:21-31
 
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Focus Verses:
Ephesians 5:8-14
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Insight:
The light of life and truth is in Christ. To surrender to Christ and follow him is to embrace the light and come out of the darkness of sin, corruption, and shame. In Christ, we not only follow the light, we become light--"now you are light in the Lord." We are to live as "children of the light." Rather than participating in the fruitless acts of the darkness, we expose them for what they are. We see sin for the empty thing it is and the death it brings. We wake up and rise from the dead when we come out of the darkness of sin into the bright light of Christ.

Response and Action:
I see darkness and sin for what they are. I see the shame, destruction, and death they bring. I see Christ Jesus for who he is. I see the light and truth and life he gives. My faith is in Jesus. He is my Lord and my savior. He is my light. I will love and follow him with all my heart. I want to walk in his light. I want to break free from the darkness and become light in Him. I want to have nothing to do with the darkness. With faith in Christ's grace and power, I will put aside the fruitless acts of darkness and, instead, live in truth, goodness, and righteousness.

O God. Show me your ways; guide me in your truth and lead me. Be the light that guides my way. Raise me from the darkness. Help me to follow Christ so wholeheartedly that I am changed so completely that I too become light. Help me to be honest about the darkness in my life and in the world around me. Expose it for the emptiness and death it is, O God, so that it would have no attraction for me. Fill my heart with a desire to know and experience the true light of Christ and to live in it all my days. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Matthew 5:14-16
14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Resources:
Reflecting the Glory: Meditations for Living Christ's Life in the World
by N.T. Wright