Saturday, October 21, 2017

Stubborn and Quick to Turn Away

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 32:1-33:23
Luke 21:29-22:13
Psalm 25:16-22
 
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Focus Verses: Exodus 32:7-9
7
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' 9 "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people.

Insight:
The Golden Calf was not some new invention of the Israelites. During the time of the Exodus, the image of "The Bull" was an object of worship in Egypt. It was also widely worshiped among their neighboring nations in the Ancient Near East.

Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights. That was long enough for the people of Israel to jump to the conclusion that something had happened to him. In his absence, they reverted to pagan idolatry and turned back to a god-image they had learned in Egypt. Not only did they make a calf, they celebrated the deity it represented with pagan practices of ritualistic gluttony and sexual immorality.

This whole event is a stark and shocking reminder of just how far the people of Israel were from understanding or knowing the true God who had delivered them from slavery. Moses was angry with the people, but he begged God to forgive them.

Response and Action:
The people of Israel were so close to God, and yet so far away from him. Moses was in the very presence of God on Mt. Sinai, receiving God's promises and commands, but the people of Israel were distant, disobedient, and confused in the dark valley of their ignorance. They needed the commands and guidance God was giving them through Moses. They needed the truth God was revealing and to turn from their false ideas about God.

I need to draw near to God. The truth revealed to me in the Bible will help me to leave the darkness of my ignorance and help me to recognize the One True God and not confuse him with my own ideas or the false concepts of God so prevalent in the world around me.

O God, thank you for your Holy Word. I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Save me from my own ignorance and the false ideas of the world that surround me. Thank you for Jesus who has made you known to me. Help me to follow in his way and to build my life upon the solid ground of his words. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Colossians 1:13-14
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Stand Firm and Gain Life

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 30:11-31:18
Luke 21:1-28
Psalm 25:8-15
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 21:16-19 
16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 All men will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By standing firm you will gain life.

Insight:

Jesus warns his followers of a time when, because of their faith in him, they will face betrayal, hate, and even death. He tells them to stand firm in their faith because in standing firm they will gain life. Jesus speaks these words with great confidence and authority. He even appropriates the very words of God (Isaiah 40:8) as his own when he says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

Response and Action:
I have never yet faced the kind of persecution Jesus warns about in these verses, but someplace in the world today Christians are suffering because of their faith in Jesus. I must pray for them and prepare my heart and mind for the very real possibility of persecution at some time in my future. The world is a volatile place where things can shift dramatically and unexpectedly.

I must follow Jesus with my heart, soul, and strength today—acknowledging his lordship and authority—if I am going to be ready to stand firm in him in times of trial and hardship. I must embrace Jesus' words and promises with the same confidence he speaks them to me. I will hold to the words of Jesus as the very words of God Almighty. In faith, I must live with the conviction that if I stand firm in Christ, I will gain life.

O God, you are my hope, my strength, and my deliverance. The escapes from death belong to you. You scatter your enemies and overcome the darkness with light. You bear my burdens, you save me, and you sustain me. By your power and grace, O Lord, help me to navigate difficult times and dark days. Help me to stand firm in you. Give me your peace and guard my heart and mind. Give me confidence for life through faith in Christ. Blessed be his name! Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 68:19-20
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. 20 Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.

Resources:
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance
by Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday

Thursday, October 19, 2017

My Hope Is in You All Day Long

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 29:1-30:10
Luke 20:27-47
Psalm 25:1-7
 
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Focus Verses: Psalm 25:1-5
1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; 2 in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. 3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. 4 Show me your ways, O 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.

Insight:
Hoping and trusting in God are closely related to the desire and willingness to be led by God. Those who seek God's salvation must seek to know his ways. Those who hope in the Lord must be eager to be guided in the paths of truth.

Response and Action:
Because I hope in the Lord, I will seek to know his ways. I will read his word. I will meditate upon the truth of Christ and the instruction of the Scriptures. I will heed Christ's commands. Because I believe in God's goodness to save, I will look to him for guidance and protection.

O God, you are my God and I seek to be led by you. Lead me into truth. Show me your ways. Teach me to follow your lead. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. My hope is in you all day long. Help me to be a faithful follower of Jesus and help me to become more like him each day. It's in his name that I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Luke 6:40
40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

Resources:
Renovation of the Heart
by Dallas Willard

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Consecrated for Noble Purposes

Today's Reading:
Exodus 28:1-43
Luke 20:1-26
Psalm 24:1-10
 
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Focus Verses: Exodus 28:36-41
36 "Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. 37 Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. 38 It will be on Aaron's forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron's forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD. 39 "Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer. 40 Make tunics, sashes and headbands for Aaron's sons, to give them dignity and honor. 41 After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.

Insight:
All the details and elements of the Tabernacle—its accouterments, its furnishings, and the priests—were set aside for a special purpose. These things and these people were consecrated for serving God. Every aspect of Israel's religious practice was intended to emphasize the holiness, uniqueness, and majesty of God.

The objects, the garments, the rituals, and the priests were dedicated to one purpose—the worship of God. Once consecrated to God, they were not to be used for anything else. They belonged to their Holy God and were exclusively committed to his holy purposes.

Response and Action:
I want all the details of my life to be devoted to honoring and serving God. My choices, my lifestyle, my mouth, my attitudes, my work, my relationships, my hopes, and my plans should be consecrated to his holy purpose for me.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead me, teach me, transform me, shape me, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to you. Through Christ, Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Timothy 2:20-21
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Resources:
Renovation of the Heart
by Dallas Willard

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

If You Had Only Known

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 26:1-27:21
Luke 19:28-48
Psalm 23:1-6
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 19:41-44
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

Insight:
Peace is often forfeited because the source of peace is not recognized. Suffering is often not averted because the presence and power of God is not acknowledged.

Response and Action:
I need to open my eyes to the realities of life. I need to give careful consideration to the possibilities that are available to me through Christ. Jesus claimed to be the one who could show me the Father, lead me into truth, bring me safely through hardship, and give me eternal life. If he is who he claimed to be, it would be costly and sad to ignore or deny him.

O Lord, what peace am I missing today because I am failing to recognize you as the source of peace? What hardships will I have to face in the future if I fail to acknowledge your presence with me today? Help me to know your peace and to practice your presence today. I acknowledge Jesus as the source of peace—Immanuel, God with us. Grant me the grace to recognize your presence, your guidance, and your power to save. Through Christ, I pray. 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:
The Incomparable Christ
by John R. W. Stott

Monday, October 16, 2017

Moses on the Mountain

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 23:14-25:40
Luke 19:1-27
Psalm 22:22-31
 
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Focus Verses: Exodus 24:15-18
15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Insight:
The Israelites saw what looked like a consuming fire and cloud on the mountain. The elders of Israel went part of the way toward the mountain with Moses and saw some sort of vision of God's presence. Moses climbed the mountain into the cloud cover and spent forty days in the very presence of God. The overwhelming message of all this serves to reinforce the authority of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was understood to be directly from God.

Response and Action:
My view of the Scriptures is very important. If I consider the Bible to be just a book with the ideas and beliefs and directives of human beings, it will probably not have much power or authority in my life. If I consider it to be the Word of God, it will have a great deal of authority and power in my life. I will give careful consideration to my views toward Scripture. If I believe the Bible is from God, then I must give it the respect and authority it deserves. A desire to read, study, memorize, and apply the truths of the Bible should accompany the belief that it is truly inspired by God.

O God, thank you for the Bible. 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 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. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 119:105
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Resources:
Can I Trust the Bible?
by Darrell Bock

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Come Quickly to Help Me

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 21:22-23:13
Luke 18:18-43
Psalm 22:12-21
 
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Focus Verses: Psalm 22:17-20 
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. 19 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. 20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.
 
Insight: When Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," he was very likely quoting the opening lines of Psalm 22, a psalm of David. He must have known, recited, and pondered over this song many times, especially as he knew the time of his death was drawing near. It seems even more likely that he was thinking of Psalm 22 considering the last words of this Psalm, "he has done it,' are so close to his last words on the cross, "It is finished." The account of the crucifixion in Mark 15 is amazingly interconnected with the words of Psalm 22, though it was written hundreds of years before the time of Christ.

Jesus was not forsaken by God (Psalm 22:24). He didn't think he had been forsaken by God. His quotation of Psalm 22 was actually a way for him to declare his confidence that God would never forsake him. Jesus knew the last verse of Psalm 22 as well as he knew the first verse. While people mocked and treated him as though he had been forsaken by God, Jesus quoted a song that declared his faith and hope that God would vindicate him. He expected to be victorious over death.

Response and Action:
I will trust in God's promises, even in the face of adversity and the threat of death. I believe that God is able to save. When it looks like I have been forsaken, I will, like Jesus, cling to the belief that God will save and restore me. I believe that nothing can separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.

O God, thank you for the hope of salvation. Lead me away from temptation. Deliver me from evil. Provide for my needs today. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. 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. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Resources:
Praying the Psalms of Jesus
by James Sire

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Reading Schedule for October 15-21


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2017-2018

Sunday, October 15 -
Exodus 21:22-23:13 / Luke 18:18-43 / Psalm 22:12-21

Monday, October 16 -
Exodus 23:14-25:40
/ Luke 19:1-27 / Psalm 22:22-31

Tuesday, October 17  -
Exodus 26:1-27:21
/ Luke 19:28-48 / Psalm 23:1-6

Wednesday, October 18  -
Exodus 28:1-43
/ Luke 20:1-26 / Psalm 24:1-10

Thursday, October 19 -
Exodus 29:1-30:10
/ Luke 20:27-47 / Psalm 25:1-7

Friday, October 20 -
Exodus 30:11-31:18
/ Luke 21:1-28 / Psalm 25:8-15

Saturday, October 21 -
Exodus 32:1-33:23
/ Luke 21:29-22:13 / Psalm 25:16-22

The Humble Will Be Exalted

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 19:16--21:21
Luke 18:1-17
Psalm 22:1-11
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 18:13-14 
13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Insight:

Jesus taught that God sees the injustices of our world and will one day bring justice and set all things right. Jesus warned those who looked down at others and felt a little too sure of their own goodness. He told them that truly righteous people understand they are sinners, and have a deep sense of their need for mercy. Humility is the mark of true righteousness.

Response and Action:
I want to be humble before God and others. I want to be quicker to see the sin in my own life than to notice the faults of others. I will deal with the log in my own eye before trying to help others with the speck in theirs. I want to draw upon God’s grace for living a righteous life. I will be careful to give God glory for any good thing he does in me. I will put aside arrogance and self-congratulation and depend on God to lift me up at the right time.

O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Thank you for your son, Jesus, who has brought your grace and forgiveness to me. Help me to follow him in humility and full surrender. Thank you for the promise of redemption Christ brings for me and for the whole world. Give me the wisdom and the strength to join him in his redemptive work today, as he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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

Resources:
Why Sin Matters: The Surprising Relationship between Our Sin and God's Grace
by Mark R. McMinn

Friday, October 13, 2017

You Cannot Handle It Alone

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 17:8-19:15
Luke 17:11-37
Psalm 21:8-13
 
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Focus Verses: Exodus 18:17-18,21,23
17 Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. --- 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. --- 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied."

Insight:

Moses received some very wise and godly advice about leadership from his father-in-law, Jethro. The advice was very clear and thoughtful, and was given with a spirit of concern and humility.

Some Bible scholars suggest that the number of people Moses was leading was as many as three million. If these people were to be led well, there would have to be a strategy and structure for leadership. Moses would be doing well just to lead the leaders!

Wise leadership in any community (whether it be church, organization, city, state, or nation), must have a strategy for and commitment to developing levels of leadership. The best leaders are always training, equipping, and nurturing a larger network of leaders who can deliver satisfying care and service to the greater community. Failure to do this results in stressed out leaders and frustrated followers.

Response and Action:
I want to encourage wise leaders and followers in my church and community. It is vital for leaders to share the load. It is important for followers to support leaders and not expect too much from any one person. I want to give prayerful consideration opportunities I have to be a leader. I want to be a supportive follower of others who are serving and leading.

O God, thank for those who you have called to serve as leaders in the church and in the world. Help leaders to look to you for guidance and wisdom, and to love you with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to find my place and my roles of service in my church and in my community. When I have opportunities to lead, help me to do it effectively. When I need to follow, help me to do so with a gracious attitude and a readiness to do my part. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 13:17
17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Resources:
Leadership Next: Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture
by Eddie Gibbs

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Our Daily Bread

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 15:19-17:7
Luke 16:19-17:10
Psalm 21:1-7
 
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Focus Verses: Exodus 16:16-18
16 This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.' " 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.

Insight:

Escaping from Egypt is one thing. Becoming a free nation that follows and trusts God is another. Once the Israelites had been released from the hardships of slavery, they had to learn how to face the challenges and fears of freedom.

They worried and grumbled about food, and God provided for their needs. When they were attacked, God defended them. Their needs came one day at a time, and that's exactly how God provided for them--one day at a time. When it seemed to them they would not be able to face another day, God provided for that day. God wanted them to depend on him one day at a time. He told them to rest on the seventh day and trust him to meet their needs.

Moses took some manna and put it in a jar as an ongoing reminder of God's provision. When they were saved from the attack of the Amalekites, Moses wrote on a scroll to preserve an account of what had happened.

Response and Action:
I need to trust God one day at a time. I need to be faithful to follow him and trust that he will be faithful to care for me. When I find myself grumbling or stressed out, I want to examine my heart and ask God to strengthen my faith. I want to be careful to notice and remember the many ways God has brought me this far. I can take time for rest and for worship because I trust God to provide for my needs.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to trust you for my needs one day at a time. Give me a heart and mind that are at peace. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 6:11
11 Give us today our daily bread.

Resources:
Exodus: Learning to Trust God
by James Reapsome

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Stand Firm and You Will See

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 13:17-15:18
Luke 16:1-18
Psalm 20:1-9
 
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Focus Verses: Exodus 14:13-14
13 Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Insight:

With Pharaoh's army pursuing them from behind and the Red Sea before them blocking any way of escape, the Israelites were terrified. They thought they would be killed in a massacre.

Moses told them to be still, to stand firm, and to not be afraid. He said they did not need to fight because God would fight for them. God would bring them deliverance. Those who were threatening their lives would never threaten them again.

Response and Action:
When I am facing challenges and threatening circumstances, I need to remember that I am not alone. I believe God will help me, so I will stand firm. I believe God is able to deliver me, so I will not be afraid. I believe God is able to save, so I will be still and trust in him.

O God, when I am afraid, help me to be still and put my trust in you. When I feel like running in the face of challenges and obstacles, give me the courage to stand firm. Be my help, my shelter, and my deliverer. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation 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.

Resources:
Exodus: Learning to Trust God
by James Reapsome

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Father Ran to His Son

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 12:14-13:16
Luke 15:1-32
Psalm 19:7-14
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 15:20-24 
20 So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

Insight:

This story is most often called "The Parable of the Prodigal Son." I guess that makes sense since the story line follows the son, and most of us probably identify more strongly with the son. The main idea of the story, however, seems to be centered in the character of the father. He was willing to let the son leave him, but he longed for the son to come to his senses and be restored. He ran to welcome the son when he returned, and he rejoiced and threw a party to celebrate the reunion with his estranged son. It was like receiving his son back from the dead!

Response and Action:
I recognize that God has given me the freedom to honor and serve him, or to wander and reject him. I believe that when I turn away from him, he longs for me to return and be restored. I want to have the wisdom to come home to God and to live for him. I must give thanks to God for his goodness in extending forgiveness and reconciliation to me.

I will share God's love for my brothers and sisters who are wandering. I will do what I can to find them and bring them back home. With God, I long for them to return and find their place in his family. When they return, I will run alongside God to welcome them. I will celebrate their restoration and renewal.

O God, thank you for welcoming me home. Thank you for your redeeming and saving love for all people. Thank you for giving your son, that whoever believes in him might have eternal life. Give me your heart for those who have wandered or turned away from you. Give me a readiness to reach out to them and to run to meet them with your gracious welcome. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 3:1a
1a How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Resources:
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
by Timothy Keller

Monday, October 09, 2017

Recognizing My Limitations

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 10:1-12:13
Luke 14:7-35
Psalm 19:1-6
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 14:28-33 
28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Insight:
Until a person is wise enough to see that he doesn't have what it takes to build the life he needs, he won't turn to Christ. Until a person recognizes that she doesn't have the resources to withstand the attacks and struggles of life, she won't turn to Christ. The wisdom to acknowledge limitations and needs is what moves us to turn away from ourselves and, instead, to reach out to Christ Jesus.

Response and Action:
I give up on being self-made. I have no faith in my ability to build my own life. I do, however, believe in Jesus. I am looking to him for the direction, purpose, and resources I need to find and build my life. I give up on defending myself from the challenges and adversaries that threaten to ruin me. I am depending on Jesus to defend and sustain me. Life is too big for me, but it is not too big for God. I am ready to be a disciple of Jesus because I have given up on me.

O God, thank you for Christ Jesus and his invitation to follow him. Give me the wisdom to hear and respond to his call with all my heart. Help me to see the wisdom of recognizing my limitations and my inability to build or sustain my life without him. Help me to find my life, my purpose, my joy, my strength, my very self in Christ. Amen.

 Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 11:6
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

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

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Pharaoh's Heart Was Unyielding

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 8:1-9:35
Luke 13:22-14:6
Psalm 18:43-50
 
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Focus Verses: Exodus 9:5-7
5 The LORD set a time and said, "Tomorrow the LORD will do this in the land." 6 And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. 7 Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.

Insight:
When it came to Moses and his God, Pharaoh struggled with two things. First, whether or not to believe this God was true. Second, whether or not he should submit to this God.

During the time of the Pharaohs, the people of Egypt believed in many gods. In their way of thinking, some gods were more powerful than others. They didn't have a concept of one true God who had ultimate power and who was worthy of complete surrender. In fact, every one of the plagues may have been a direct confrontation of specific gods Egyptians worshiped (the god of blood, the frog god, the god of darkness, of flies, of gnats, Pharaoh himself, etc.).

With every plague, God was making it undeniably clear to Pharaoh that the God of Abraham was the only true and almighty God. And with every new realization, Pharaoh was forced to make a choice—soften his heart and submit this God, or harden his heart and resist him.

Response and Action:
It is not enough to believe in God, I must surrender my life to him. If I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, I must submit to his authority and yield my heart and life to him. True faith results in complete surrender.

O God, help me to see you more clearly every day. Show me who you are through your Word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to submit to you in thought, word, and deed. Give me a readiness to obey you and follow in the steps of Jesus. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 11:6
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Resources:
Jesus Among Other Gods The Absolute Claims Of The Christian Message
by Ravi Zacharias

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Reading Schedule for October 8-14


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2017-2018


Sunday, October 8 -
Exodus 8:1-9:35 / Luke 13:22-14:6 / Psalm 18:43-50

Monday, October 9 -
Exodus 10:1-12:13
/ Luke 14:7-35 / Psalm 19:1-6

Tuesday, October 10  -
Exodus 12:14-13:16
/ Luke 15:1-32 / Psalm 19:7-14

Wednesday, October 11  -
Exodus 13:17-15:18
/ Luke 16:1-18 / Psalm 20:1-9

Thursday, October 12 -
Exodus 15:19-17:7
/ Luke 16:19-17:10 / Psalm 21:1-7

Friday, October 13 -
Exodus 17:8-19:15
/ Luke 17:11-37 / Psalm 21:8-13

Saturday, October 14 -
Exodus 19:16-21:21
/ Luke 18:1-17 / Psalm 22:1-11

Mustard Seed Faith

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 5:22-7:25
Luke 13:1-21
Psalms 18:37-42
 
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Focus Verses: Luke 13:18-21 
18 Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches." 20 Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."

Insight:

Once the Kingdom of God gets a little foothold in your life, it takes over. A mustard seed might be the smallest thing a gardener could plant, but eventually it dominates and becomes bigger than anything else in the garden. A minuscule amount of yeast in a large amount of dough will eventually work its way through the whole batch. It changes everything!

Response and Action:
I desire the mustard seed and the yeast of the Kingdom of God to take root and take over in my life. Like the gardener, I must exercise my desire by giving the mustard seed a place in my garden. Like the woman making bread, I must mix the yeast into the dough of my life. I am doing this through faith in Jesus, following him, praying, taking in the Scriptures, obeying, surrendering, thinking, applying, living, and seeking the Kingdom first.

If I am faithful to plant and mix, the seed or the yeast (the truth and life of the Kingdom) will become the most dominant and influential element of my life. The transforming power of the Kingdom of Christ will change everything.

O God, I long to be receptive and fertile soil for the seed of your Kingdom. May the power and grace of your Holy Spirit work its way through every aspect and dimension of my life. I want your ways to be my ways. I want my heart and mind to be controlled and shaped by your truth. Guide me, give me wisdom, and transform me that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Galatians 2:20
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Resources:
The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time
by Tom Sine and Shane Claiborne

Friday, October 06, 2017

What You Hold in Your Hand

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 4:1-5:21
Luke 12:35-59
Psalms 18:25-36
 
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Focus Verses: Exodus 4:2-5
2 Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied. 3 The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. 4 Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 5 "This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you." 

Insight:
Moses felt insufficient and was reluctant to accept God's call to go to Egypt. He asked God, "What if no one believes me? What if I don't know what to say or how to say it?"

God asked Moses, "What's that in your hand?" And then God demonstrated what could happen with his help and power. God asked him, "Who made your mouth?" After all, if God could make Moses' mouth, surely he could help Moses speak! But Moses still felt inadequate to the task and said, "Please send someone else!"

God was determined to use Moses. Though he was not pleased with Moses' slowness to accept his calling, God continued to do whatever needed to be done to give Moses more confidence.

Response and Action:
What am I holding in my hand? How can God use that for his purpose and glory? What am I holding back, or slow to do, because I lack confidence? I need to trust in God and trust that he has the power to use whatever I have, however small or weak it may seem to me. God made me, and God can use me for his good purpose.

O God, help me to remember that you can use me to do things I could never do on my own. Help me to trust in you and look to you for the strength and guidance I need for life. Give me a strong faith in you, and a readiness to serve you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

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

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Here I Am, Lord

Today's Reading: 
Exodus 2:11-3:22
Luke 12:8-34
Psalm 18:16-24
 
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Focus Verses: Exodus 3:1-4
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up." 4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."

Insight:
It's interesting that God did not save the Israelites by giving Moses favor in the eyes of Pharaoh as he had done with Joseph many years before. I wonder why he didn’t. The Pharaoh's daughter had taken him into her care when he was just a small child. Why not make Moses a great leader in Egypt like Joseph had been?

Instead, God used the disfavor of Pharaoh to get Moses out of Egypt. As an exile in the land of Midian, Moses became a shepherd, started a family, and gained perspective about who he was. Eventually he was called by God to go back to Egypt to save his people from their oppression.

God got Moses' attention with the strange sight of a burning bush. God's presence filled the bush with flames but the bush was not consumed, it just kept burning and burning. In a way, God was calling Moses to become like that bush—completely aflame with God's presence and used for God's purpose. Moses must have thought that such a calling would utterly consume him. But in surrendering his life to God's call, rather than being consumed, Moses was lifted to the most glorious, meaningful, and productive days of his life.

Response and Action:
The ways God plans to use me may not be the ways I would expect to be used. Regardless of my circumstances, whether favorable or unfavorable, God is at work to accomplish his good will. I want to fulfill God's calling and purpose for my life. I will keep my heart and mind open to his leading.

When the direction God is leading seems to be too big and overwhelming for me, I will remember Moses and the burning bush. Just as the bush was not consumed, but rather was transformed into a glorious testimony of God's presence and purpose. I believe my life will not be consumed or burned up by answering God's call, but instead will be transformed with the light and purpose of Christ.

O God, thank you for saving and reaching out to me. Thank you for being a God of deliverance. Help me to embrace the calling I have in Christ and to find my purpose and fulfillment in him. Help me, like Moses, to say, "Here I am." Give me the faith to find my life by losing it. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 2:9
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

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