Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Written on Their Hearts

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 31:27-32:44
Revelation 19:1-21
Proverbs 6:30-35
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 31:33-34
33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Insight:
Jeremiah's message of restoration and renewal includes God's promise to make a new covenant with his people. This new covenant includes transformation of the heart. God promises he will not only forgive the sins of his people, but will also renovate their hearts in such a way that their desires and wills are in line with his desires and will. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy (Hebrews 10). Forgiveness and transformation of the heart are found in Jesus.

Response and Action:
I want to take hold of God's promise and experience the new covenant by surrendering my heart to Christ and putting my faith for life in him. God has given me more than a list of rules and expectations; he has given me the gift of his Holy Spirit. The Spirit will guide me into truth and strengthen me to live according to God's will and purpose for my life. I will draw near to God through prayer, reading and meditating upon the Scriptures, and fellowship with Christian friends who encourage me and spur me on toward love and good deeds.

O God, I have confidence in you and your promises to forgive, renew, and transform me. Thank you for the new and living way I have found in Christ. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 10:19-23
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

I Will Restore and Have Compassion

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 30:1-31:26
Revelation 18:1-24
Proverbs 6:20-29
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 30:15, 18-19
15 Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure? Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you. - - - 18 "This is what the LORD says: " 'I will restore the fortunes of Jacob's tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place. 19 From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained.

Insight:
The consequences of Israel's guilt and sin were painful and inevitable. Their wound could not be cured apart from the correction and discipline God was bringing upon them. God's intentions, however, were not merely punitive, but rather redemptive. God's promise was that they would come through the correction and suffering to a place of restoration and renewal. The mourning and sorrow of discipline would eventually be replaced with songs of thanksgiving and sounds of rejoicing.

Response and Action:
I must always remember that God's love and good will toward me does not mean that he will spare me from every consequence of sin. In fact, the consequences of sin are sometimes a necessary part of being refined and purified. Distress is often a part of being disciplined. The pain of correction is often a prerequisite to the blessing of renewal.

I will trust God to discipline and renew me, just as a loving father disciplines and blesses his children. When I face consequences for my sins and mistakes, I will humble myself before God, turn away from sin, and gain wisdom from lessons learned. I will also look forward with confidence in God to restore and renew me.

O God, have mercy upon me, a sinner. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of salvation and uphold me by your liberating Spirit. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 12:11
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Resources:
The Smell of Sin: And the Fresh Air of Grace
by Don Evertsdssss

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Lamb Will Overcome

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 28:1-29:32
Revelation 17:1-18
Proverbs 6:12-19
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 17:12-14
12 "The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."

Insight:
All powers and authorities lifted up against God and his purposes will ultimately be brought down in defeat. Those who boast of their power and seem to have unlimited dominance will one day be judged and reduced to nothing. The Kingdom of Heaven and the chosen and faithful followers of the Lamb will eventually overcome because their Lord and Savior is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Response and Action:
God's people have always had to persevere in the face of oppression. From the ancient days of the Old Testament prophets, to the days of the Apostle John, to the present days of the persecuted church in many areas of the world, God-fearing believers have been sustained by their faith in a righteous God who will one day put the world to rights and save his people from the corrupt powers of this world. My hope is in the Lord. I stand with those who follow the Lamb.

O God, sustain me and give me hope. Save this world and your people from the hands of wicked rulers and corrupt powers. Bring down those who oppress and destroy and deliver us from evil. Come Lord, quickly, and save. 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:
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N. T. Wright

Reading Schedule for June 25 - July 1


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017


Sunday, June 25 -
Jeremiah 28:1-29:32 / Revelation 17:1-18
/ Proverbs 6:12-19

Monday, June 26 -
Jeremiah 30:1-31:26
/ Revelation 18:1-24 / Proverbs 6:20-29

Tuesday, June 27  -
Jeremiah 31:27-32:44
/ Revelation 19:1-21 / Proverbs 6:30-35

Wednesday, June 28  -
Jeremiah 33:1-34:22
/ Revelation 20:1-15 / Proverbs 7:1-5

Thursday, June 29 -

Jeremiah 35:1-36:32 / Revelation 21:1-27 / Proverbs 7:6-20

Friday, June 30 -

Jeremiah 37:1-38:28 / Revelation 22:1-21 / Proverbs 7:21-27

Saturday, July 1 -

Jeremiah 39:1-41:18 / Matthew 1:1-2:12 / Proverbs 8:1-11

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Leader of the Flock

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 26:1-27:22
Revelation 16:1-21
Proverbs 6:1-11
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 25:34-37
34 Weep and wail, you shepherds; roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock. For your time to be slaughtered has come; you will fall and be shattered like fine pottery. 35 The shepherds will have nowhere to flee, the leaders of the flock no place to escape. 36 Hear the cry of the shepherds, the wailing of the leaders of the flock, for the LORD is destroying their pasture. 37 The peaceful meadows will be laid waste because of the fierce anger of the LORD. 

Jeremiah 26:8-9
 8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the Lord’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?” And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

Insight:
The failure of leaders to seek and honor God is a tragedy. Nations, families, churches, organizations, businesses, and ministries all need to be led and shepherded by men and women who are humble before God, love truth, and are guided by integrity. Leadership is a sacred trust and God holds leaders accountable for the way they lead.

Response and Action:
I will take leadership responsibilities seriously and aspire to be a good leader. Every opportunity I have to lead must be seen as an opportunity to honor God. I will seek God, study the scriptures, pursue righteousness and integrity, and commit myself to learning sound principles of leadership. Following Christ is the first and highest principle for leading others.

O God, you are my God and I will praise you forever. I will seek you in the morning and learn to walk in your ways. Lead me every step of the way. Teach me to follow you, and as I follow you, grant me the ability to lead others to do the same. Help me to be an effective leader in my home, in my church, in my community and in every other good endeavor. I ask this in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Shepherd. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 5:1-4
1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Nations Will Come and Worship

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 23:21-25:38
Revelation 15:1-8
Proverbs 5:15-23

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Focus Verses: Revelation 15:3b-4
3b"Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. 4 Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."
 
Insight:
Hope and worship go together; they reinforce each other. God is to be praised for his righteousness, mighty acts, justice, truth, and power to save. When these words of praise are (become) the firm conviction of our hearts, we have reason to hope.

Response and Action:
I will worship God for his righteousness and mighty acts. I will praise him for his justice and truth. I will thank him for his promise to save through Christ Jesus.

O God, help me to see you for who you really are, and fill me with a sense of hope as I worship you. Show yourself to me in new ways today. Encourage me, by your Spirit, through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 71:14-16
14 But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 15 My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. 16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.

Resources:
The Air I Breathe: Worship As a Way of Life
by Louie Giglio

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Words Supposedly from God

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 22:1-23:20
Revelation 14:1-20
Proverbs 5:1-14
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 23:25-26, 30-32
25 "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!' 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? - - - 30 "Therefore," declares the LORD, "I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. 31 Yes," declares the LORD, "I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, 'The LORD declares.' 32 Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," declares the LORD. "They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least," declares the LORD.
 
Insight:
Not every claim of a message from God is true. Sometimes people say, "God told me this or that," but, at best, it's nothing more than wishful thinking, or, at worst, a flat out lie or delusion. God is against those who wag their tongues and carelessly profess to speak for God or claim to have special revelation from God. False claims of hearing from God are worthless!

Response and Action:
I will be very careful about believing or making claims about hearing from God or speaking for God. I will look to the Bible and the teaching of Jesus and the apostles for guidance. Critical thinking and faith are not mutually exclusive. Claims need to be tested and evaluated. Discernment requires humility, a readiness to ask questions, sound counsel, and a thorough knowledge of Scripture.

O God, show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Help me to live with integrity and wisdom. Strengthen my faith, but protect me from foolish gullibility. I want to hear your voice clearly and never confuse it with my own thoughts or ideas. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 7:22-23
22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Blessings and Burdens

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 19:1-21:14
Revelation 13:1-13:18
Proverbs 4:20-27
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 20:13-14
13 Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. 14 Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
 
Insight:
The contrast of these two consecutive verses is extreme and abrupt enough to give you whiplash. In one breath, Jeremiah says, "Praise God!" In the next he says, "I wish I had never been born!" The sheer resolve of verse thirteen stands out like a brilliant rose in this chapter of thorns and thistles.

The message Jeremiah had been called to preach was one of doom and judgment. The responses he got from people were rejection, violence, and hate. Jeremiah's life was filled with sorrow and pain because he was faithful to God's calling and God's message. Yet, in the midst of his pain he resolutely declared, "Sing to the Lord! Give Praise to the Lord!"

Though his suffering was unbearable, Jeremiah said, "I believe God sees my need and he will rescue me from the wicked." Jeremiah's praise was not a response to blessing and comfort he had already received, but was instead a profound statement of his faith. It was an expression of hope from a person in great pain.

Response and Action:
Praise is more than a response to blessing, it is an act of faith! I will praise God in times of blessing, but I will also praise him in times of need. I will sing songs of thanks when I am in a place of ease and comfort, but I will also worship him when I am in distress. My praise will be more than an expression of gratitude for what God has done, it will be a testimony of my faith in what God will do.

O God, whether by life or by death may Christ be exalted in me. You are worthy of my praise at all times. I believe you are faithful to your promises and I will praise you because I believe you will never fail to keep your word. Open my mouth Lord, and my lips will declare your praise! Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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:
Where Is God When It Hurts?
by Philip Yancey

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Like a Tree Planted by the Water

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 16:16-18:23
Revelation 12:1-17
Proverbs 4:10-19
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 17:5-8
5 This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. 7 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8 He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Insight:
Looking to God and trusting in him is the path to blessing and stability. Trusting in our own strength and wisdom always results in coming up short in life. Strength and blessing come from the Lord. Instead of trusting in ourselves, we should commit all our strength, energy, and will to seeking and serving God.

Response and Action:
Blessing, prosperity, stability, and confidence sound good to me. I trust that God is more able to direct my life into those things than anyone else, including me. I will commit all my strength and abilities toward knowing, loving, and following God. My trust is in the Lord.

O God, give me the wisdom to know my own limitations. Save me from the delusion of self-confidence and help me to trust in you with my whole heart. I want to acknowledge and follow you in every way and in every day. Thank you for Jesus; help me to walk in his steps. Thank you for your Holy Spirit; help me to surrender fully to him that he might transform, strengthen, and lead me. Thank you for your Holy Scriptures: help me to know the truth and hide it in my heart. Encourage me as I walk with you, O God, and give me more confidence in you with each new day. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 6:31-34
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Resources:
Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace
Jan Johnson

Monday, June 19, 2017

Like the First Gleam of Dawn

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 14:11-16:15
Revelation 11:1-19
Proverbs 4:1-9
 
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Focus Verses: Proverbs 4:18-19
18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

Insight:
The more a person walks in the light of God's wisdom, the more he is able to see. As the light increases, the clearer things become. As the sun of wisdom rises higher into the sky of a person's life, the right paths to walk become easier to find and follow.

Darkness, on the other hand, leads to deeper darkness. The longer the sun of truth sinks below the horizon, the darker the night becomes, and the harder it becomes to see anything at all. The tighter people close their eyes, the more hopeless and futile their journey becomes.

Response and Action:
I am encouraged by the idea that knowledge leads to more knowledge. I'm inspired by the promise that living in the light of wisdom will result in greater light and wisdom. I want to grow in truth and understanding every day.

I will seek God's wisdom through study, knowing that as I learn and grow, I will get increasingly more out of the things I am studying. I will explore and consider things that stretch my mind. I will seek out meaningful conversations with others, trusting that deep questions and discussions will lead me to deeper understanding. I will humble myself before God through prayer, worship, and obedience, believing that the more I see the light of Christ, the more clearly I will see everything else by that light.

O God, guide my steps in the light of your truth. Help me to walk in the light as Christ is in the light. Make your wisdom to shine brighter and brighter each day I live. Help me to see the light and to see by the light. Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Be thou my best Thought, by day or by night--waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Luke 8:16-18
16 "No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

It Tasted as Sweet as Honey

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 12:1-14:10
Revelation 10:1-11
Proverbs 3:21-35
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 10:9-11
9 So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey." 10 I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11 Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings."

Insight:
God is the righteous and the Mighty Lord of all the heavens and earth. He shines forth in perfect beauty and summons all the earth and all people of all times to stand before him—both those who have made a covenant with him, and those who have ignored and rejected him.

Judgment is a bitter thing to consider and take in, but the sweetness of a just and redeemed world is not possible without it. Thankfully, the Mighty Judge is also Mighty Savior, and has made a way—the Lamb of God—for everyone to find redemption and salvation.

Response and Action:
I must acknowledge my own sin and recognize my need for salvation. I will live in covenant with God by taking hold of the salvation he offers through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who has laid down his life in order to bring me safely through the fire of God's refining judgment.

While judgment is bitter to me, redemption and the hope of a purified and righteous world is sweet to me. I will celebrate and share God's love and power to save. I will shout out the promise of salvation and the hope of a restored and renewed world made possible through Christ Jesus.

O God, shine forth in perfect beauty and righteousness. Make your salvation known to all peoples, nations, languages, and kings, that they might escape your righteous judgment by your gracious redemption. May the sweetness of your desire to save overpower the bitterness of judgment that comes only to those who refuse your grace. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 30:4-5
4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Reading Schedule for June 18-24


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017


Sunday, June 18 - 
 Jeremiah 12:1-14:10 / Revelation 10:1-11 / Proverbs 3:21-35

Monday, June 19 - 

Jeremiah 14:11-16:15 / Revelation 11:1-19 / Proverbs 4:1-9

Tuesday, June 20  - 

Jeremiah 16:16-18:23 / Revelation 12:1-17 / Proverbs 4:10-19

Wednesday, June 21  -
 
Jeremiah 19:1-21:14 / Revelation 13:1-13:18 / Proverbs 4:20-27

Thursday, June 22 - 

Jeremiah 22:1-23:20 / Revelation 14:1-20 / Proverbs 5:1-14

Friday, June 23 - 

Jeremiah 23:21-25:38 / Revelation 15:1-8 / Proverbs 5:15-23

Saturday, June 24 - 

Jeremiah 26:1-27:22 / Revelation 16:1-21 / Proverbs 6:1-11

Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 10:1-11:23
Revelation 9:1-21
Proverbs 3:11-20
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 10:1-5
1 Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel. 2 This is what the LORD says: "Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. 3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. 4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. 5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good."

Insight:
So much of what people honor, pursue, and trust are worthless idols. No matter how slick, beautiful, religious, philosophical, or attractive people make them, these idols are nothing more than something they've made. When we choose to love the gods of our own making, we are bound for disappointment as we discover that they are powerless to give joy, security, or fulfillment.

Response and Action:
I will reserve my love, honor, and worship for God. I will not chase after the worthless things that most people seem to value, love, and trust. I want to see God for who he is and see empty substitutes for what they are.

O God, show yourself to me. Help me to know you more and more each day as I follow Christ, listen to your word, and surrender myself to your 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: Romans 1:20-25
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Too Much Woe!

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 8:8-9:26
Revelation 8:1-13
Proverbs 3:1-10
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 8:13
13
As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!"

Insight:
The world is filled with woe, woe, and more woe. Much of the pain and suffering we experience results from sin—the sins we commit and the sins of others. Other hardship seems to be deeply rooted complexities and brokenness of an out-of-balance world spinning out of control. From viruses to volcanoes, nature itself seems to be reeling from one trauma to the next and we're along for the scary ride.

What can we do? How can we deal with the sorrows and tragedies? Some of us reject God because we can't make sense of the pain. Some even taunt those who hope and believe in God. And even those who do place their faith in God become downcast and find themselves crying out to God, "Where are you?" We hurt, we feel despair, and we can't understand why we are suffering.

In Revelation, the Apostle John writes as a pastor encouraging Christians (and perhaps even reminding himself) that though the times are often dark and difficult, Christ will reign at the end of the day. In Psalm 42, the psalmist does something very similar; he admits that he is disturbed and depressed, even to the point of wondering if God sees or cares. The psalmists faith in God, however, triumphs as he sings the words, "Put your hope in God, your Savior, for suffering will give way to praise and victory in the end."

Response and Action:
There is nothing wrong with voicing my fears and my sorrows to God. Expressing my doubts and giving full voice to my questions are part of an honest relationship with him. My expressions of praise and hope and confidence in God are made even deeper and stronger when they stand up tall over my suffering, and overshadow my doubts. I will express my true feelings and concerns to God. I will cling to the hope I have in Christ Jesus and shout out my faith and confidence in him.

O God, as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you. My soul thirsts for you, Living God. When tears are my food, comfort me. When men say to me all day long, "Where is your God," speak to my soul, O Lord, and remind me that you are with me. When I become downcast, strengthen my heart to hope in you. Give me the faith to trust in you and praise you all my days. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me by your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 42:9-11
9
I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?" 11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Deceptive and Worthless Words

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 6:16-8:7
Revelation 7:1-17
Proverbs 2:12-22
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 7:3-8
3 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!" 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

Insight:
Sometimes we deceive ourselves by thinking that we're right with God just because we say the right words, observe the right traditions, or attend the right church. None of these things has value apart from a life that is truly devoted to God. Our actions, our dealings with others, and our wholehearted devotion to God are more important than rituals, traditions, and religion.

Response and Action:
I will not settle for forms and practices of religion or tradition that are disconnected with a true relationship with God. My worship and my traditions must flow out of a true devotion to God. I will do all I can to cultivate a deep and meaningful walk with God.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Let my praise be more than words, for I know it's more than words that you desire. Let my life proclaim honor and reverence for you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Galatians 6:7-8
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Resources:
The Spirit of the Disciplines
by Dallas Willard

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Knowing How to Blush

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 4:19-6:15
Revelation 6:1-17
Proverbs 2:1-11
 
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Focus Verses: Jeremiah 6:15-16
15 Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the LORD. 16 This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." But you said, "We will not walk in it."

Insight:
"Shame on you!" is not a phrase I hear very often anymore. No one ever wants to feel ashamed, and so the whole idea of shame is not generally valued. We hear about shame-based or guilt-based methods of manipulation: "He was shamed into that." In fact, these days you should probably feel ashamed if you do or say anything that makes someone else feel guilt or shame.

While shame and guilt can be unhealthy and used for wrong or selfish reasons, we shouldn't forget that there are times when shame and guilt are appropriate. To forget how to blush, or be blind to personal guilt, is to be oblivious to our sin and our need for forgiveness and direction.

Response and Action:
I will humble myself before God and honestly acknowledge my wrongs. I want to cultivate a soft heart that is able to feel shame when I do the wrong thing. I will turn to God's word to find the ancient path of truth and righteousness. I will commit myself to walk in it.

O Lord, show me your ways. Guide me in your paths and teach me. Thank you for forgiving me when I am guilty. Thank you for taking away my shame and for giving me hope. Thank you for giving me the capacity to feel shame and guilt. Use them to draw me to you for the redemption and healing I need. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 25:4-9
4 Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. 6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good. 8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Every Tribe, Language, People and Nation

Today's Reading:
Jeremiah 2:31-4:18
Revelation 5:1-14
Proverbs 1:20-33
 
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Focus Verses: Revelation 5:9
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.

Insight:
In John’s vision he sees the Lamb who was slain surrounded by the elders and the four living creatures as they worship him. The Lamb, they sing, is worthy of praise and worship because he laid down his life to save people from every people group. God's intention and plan is to save people from every people group. Jesus’ sacrifice was made for people of every race, ethnicity, nation, and language. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him might have eternal life.

Response and Action:
I need to be mindful that Christ’s love and sacrifice are for all people. If God's heart is benevolent toward all people regardless of ethnicity and culture, my heart, as I am being led and shaped by the Spirit, should be the same. I will raise my voice in praise to God for the salvation and hope he offers to all humanity through Christ. I will join God's redemptive intention and work for the blessing and salvation of all people whatever their race or nationality.

Thank you, O God, for Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Thank you for your grace and mercy to all people. Help your people to love and save and extend grace to all people. Help me to reach past every barrier of race, language, and culture in order to share the love of and redemption of Jesus with all people. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Acts 10:34-35
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Resources:
From Every People and Nation
by J. Daniel Hays and Donald A. Carson