Friday, August 18, 2017

I WIll Pour Out My Spirit

Today's Reading: 
Joel 1:1-3:21 
Mark 3:7-30 
Proverbs 24:5-14 
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Focus Verses: Joel 2:28, 31-32 
28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. - - - 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
 
Insight:
The prophet Joel compared the destructive invasion of Israel by its enemies to a devouring plague of locusts. They would utterly consume and destroy everything in their path as judgment for rejecting their God.

Joel also had a message of hope and restoration for the remnant of repentant people who were steadfast in their faith in God. They were promised restoration of their land and their lives. They were also promised a new outpouring of God's Spirit and salvation on the final day of judgment.

Jesus' disciples appropriated the promises of Joel's prophecy. They saw the Day of Pentecost as the beginning of fulfillment of his promise to all who would "call on the name of the Lord." They believed they were seeing the long-awaited outpouring of the Holy Spirit and salvation given to all who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Response and Action:
I want to experience salvation and to live in the hope and power of the Holy Spirit. I will call on the name of the Lord. I will hold on to faith through every circumstance, believing that God will sustain and save me.

O God, save and protect me from the things that threaten to consume and destroy me. Help me to look to you in faith in all circumstances. Thank you for Jesus, my Lord, who for my sake and my salvation came down from heaven. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life who has spoken through the prophets. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

Spiritual Formation Verses: Acts 2:21-23
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' 22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 

Resources:
Hope Has Its Reasons
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Break Up Your Unplowed Ground

Today's Reading:
Hosea 10:1-14:9 
Mark 2:13-3:6 
Proverbs 23:29-24:4
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Focus Verses: Hosea 10:12 
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. 

Insight:
The call to righteousness is a call to soften and open your heart. Like soil that needs to be tilled and broken up to receive seed and produce a crop, our hearts must be made ready to receive God's word and to produce righteousness as God nurtures that seed by the showers of his grace and provision.

Response and Action:
I need to be softhearted toward God. I need to break up the soil of my life and receive the word of God's truth. I need to sow seeds in my life that produce righteousness and integrity.

O God, by your grace and mercy, help me to soften my heart. I seek you with all my heart. Make the field of my life ready to receive your truth and your guidance. Nurture and sustain me that I might grow strong in faith and be productive in life. Help me to honor you in all things. Amen. 

Spiritual Formation Verses: Galatians 6:6-8 
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Resources:
Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ's Pattern for Spiritual Transformation
by Dallas Willard and Don Simpson

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Let Us Return to the Lord

Today's Reading: 
Hosea 6:1-9:17 
Mark 1:29-2:12 
Proverbs 23:19-28 
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Focus Verses: Hosea 6:1-3
1 “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Insight:
In today's reading, Hosea describes the ways Israel's unfaithfulness to God mirrors the unfaithfulness he has experienced from his own wife. Israel had turned to false Gods, borne illegitimate children, and prostituted itself. Its religion had become empty, its priests corrupt, and its leaders unjust. They had ignored God, rejected knowledge, and exchanged what was beautiful for something disgraceful.

Hosea calls out to them, "Come, let us return to the Lord." He pleads with them to "acknowledge the Lord." If they would turn to God, blessing and forgiveness would come "as surely as the sun rises." Tragically, like Hosea's wife, the people were unresponsive. And as Gomer left Hosea, Israel rejected God.

Response and Action:
I want to turn away from darkness and be responsive to God. I do not want to exchange the truth of God for lies. I will acknowledge God in all my ways and be wise. I will commit myself to seeking God's will and living by it. I do not want to be lost in the sleep of sin and weakness; I want to wake up from the things that lead to death and let the light of Christ shine on me and fill me.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Thank you for the light and hope I have in Christ. Thank you that your forgiveness is as sure—even more sure—as the rising of the sun. Forgive me of my sins and raise me up to walk in your truth by your grace. Help me to press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me. And as I press on, teach me to acknowledge you in all my ways. Through Christ, I pray. Amen. 

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 2:24-25
25 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
 
Resources:
Coming Home to Your True Self: Leaving the Emptiness of False Attractions
by Albert Haase

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Kingdom of God is Near

Today's Reading:
Hosea 4:1-5:15  
Mark 1:1-28 
Proverbs 23:10-18
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Focus Verses: Mark 1:14-15 
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" 

Insight:
Jesus proclaimed the good news of God. He declared that the kingdom of God was near. His authority and message were demonstrated and confirmed through the amazing miracles he performed. He cast out evil spirits and healed the sick. God's power to save and redeem and transform had come close by in the person of Jesus. The Christian hope of an eventual reconciliation and renewal of all things is rooted in the message and ministry of Jesus—the promise that one day the kingdom will come in all its fullness.

Response and Action:
The nearness of the kingdom of God is good news. I want to receive and experience the good news of God. I also want to bless others and change my world by living out the good news. I will recognize Jesus' authority and follow him. I will come to Jesus for healing and hope, and I will point others to Jesus. I will cultivate an awareness of God's presence and work in the world. I will commit myself to God, that he might use me to bring his kingdom to earth.

Our Father who fills the heavens, holy is your name. I long to see your kingdom come—your will lived out on earth as in heaven. Give me the wisdom to recognize Jesus' authority. Help me to follow him and to make every effort to advance his kingdom agenda. Help me to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Through Christ, Amen. 

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 6:9-13
9 "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.' "
 
Resources:
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N. T. Wright

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Lord's Redemptive Love

Today's Reading:
Hosea 1:1-3:5
Matthew 28:1-20
Proverbs 22:28-23:9
 
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Focus Verses: Hosea 3:1-2
1 The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes." 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley."

Insight:
God instructed the prophet Hosea to illustrate God's great love and faithfulness to his people by taking a wife who would be unfaithful to him. Hosea's actions and responses to his wife's unfaithfulness would be a graphic real-life demonstration of God's actions and responses to the nation of Israel.

Hosea's wife was unfaithful to him, she prostituted herself, had children by other men, and eventually left Hosea for someone else. After all that, Hosea one day found her abandoned, destitute, and being sold as a slave. God told him, "Show your love to her again." Hosea paid the price to buy her back—he saved and redeemed her. He didn't just save her; that was just the beginning. Astonishingly, Hosea brought her home to be his wife! He restored his relationship with her and said, "You are to live with me in faithfulness, and I will live with you."

Response and Action:
God loves, redeems, and restores his people. God wants to save me from unfaithfulness. He desires to restore me to a right relationship with him. I need to turn away from sin and turn to God. I need to recognize the ways I am unfaithful to God and, by God's grace, put those things aside. I want to be responsive to God's love and receive the restoration and renewal he offers. I want to honor him with my life, and to learn how to "live with him in faithfulness."

O God, thank you for your love. Look upon me in mercy and redeem me from my unfaithfulness. Thank you for Jesus, who has purchased me by laying down his life, and for your Spirit who is renewing and restoring me. 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: Luke 15:17-18
17 "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

He Can Save Others, but Not Himself

Today's Reading:
Daniel 11:36-12:13
Matthew 27:32-66
Proverbs 22:17-27
 
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Focus Verses: Matthew 27:39-42
39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.

Insight:
Ironically, those who mocked Jesus on the cross were inadvertently making a profound observation when they said, "He saved others, but he can't save himself." Jesus emptied himself and freely laid down his life in order to save others. If he had saved himself, he could not have saved others.

Christ's death opened the door for “reconciliation to God” (Romans 5:11). By his death he destroys the power of death and frees us from bondage and the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14,15). Instead of saving himself, he saves others.

Response and Action:
Jesus gave himself freely in order to save others. His death on the cross was the means to salvation for all who look to him in faith. I want to take hold of the new life Jesus died to give me. I want to follow Christ's example of faithfulness to God and personal sacrifice for the salvation and life of others.

O Lord, thank you that Jesus saves. Thank you for the great sacrifice he made in order to save me. Help me to be responsive to him, and to love him with all my heart. Teach me to follow his example, to give of myself, and to lay down my life for others. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 3:16
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Resources:
The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way
by Eugene H. Peterson

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Reading Schedule for August 13-19


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

Sunday, August 13 -
Daniel 11:36-12:13 / Mt 27:32-66
/ Proverbs 22:17-27

Monday, August 14 - 

Hosea 1:1-3:5 / Matthew 28:1-20 / Proverbs 22:28-23:9

Tuesday, August 15  - 

Hosea 4:1-5:15 / Mark 1:1-28 / Proverbs 23:10-18

Wednesday, August 16  - 

Hosea 6:1-9:17 / Mark 1:29-2:12 / Proverbs 23:19-28

Thursday, August 17 - 

Hosea 10:1-14:9 / Mark 2:13-3:6 / Proverbs 23:29-24:4

Friday, August 18 - 

Joel 1:1-3:21 / Mark 3:7-30 / Proverbs 24:5-14

Saturday, August 19 - 

Amos 1:1-3:15 / Mark 3:31-4:25 / Proverbs 24:15-22

Taking Responsibility

Today's Reading:
Daniel 11:2-35
Matthew 27:15-31
Proverbs 22:7-16
 
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Focus Verses: Matthew 27:24
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"

Insight:
When Judas experienced remorse for his actions, he tried to return the money the priests and elders had given him to betray Jesus. They said, "It's your responsibility, not ours." When Pilate saw that the crowd was out of hand and determined to see Jesus crucified, he said, "It's your responsibility, not mine." In the same way, it's easy for me to look at Judas, the priests and elders, Pilate, the crowd, and the Roman soldiers and think, "It's their fault; they're responsible for Jesus' death. It's their responsibility, not mine."

The scriptures, the Spirit, and my own conscience tell me that I need to take responsibility for my sin if I am to truly understand who Jesus is. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

My sins, along with the sins of all humanity, are the reason Jesus died on the cross. He was wounded for our transgressions. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered death, was buried, and rose again on the third day.

Response and Action:
I will give thanks to God for the saving work Christ Jesus did on the cross. I will not deceive myself by refusing to take responsibility for my actions. I will confess my sins, repent, and surrender my life to Christ. I will confess Jesus is Lord and look to him for salvation and renewal. I will take the responsibility and take initiative to follow in the steps of Christ by the power of his Spirit.

O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Thank you for Jesus who, in becoming human and dying at the hands of sinful men, demonstrated your great love for all humanity. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, save and renew me. Give me a heart that delights in your will, a mind to walk in your ways, and a desire to bring glory and honor to your name. Amen.


Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 1:8-10
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Lord Our God Is Merciful

Today's Reading:
Daniel 9:1-11:1
Matthew 26:69-27:14
Proverbs 21:27-22:6
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Daniel 9:7-10
7 "Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets.

Insight:
The details of Daniel's prophetic vision are difficult to unpack and understand. Even Daniel didn't know what they meant apart from God's explanation. Daniel did understand, however, that the exile God's people were experiencing was the result of their unfaithfulness to God.

Daniel recognized their sin, rebellion, disobedience, and failure to listen to the prophets. He knew this was why they were now in ruin and captivity. He appeals to God's mercy and forgiveness and asks God to save them that the world might see his loving kindness.

Response and Action:
I need to recognize my sin and guard against unfaithfulness. I need to read and heed the words of Scripture. When I disobey and sin, I must look to God for mercy and forgiveness. God's saving work in my life is a hope for me, and a testimony of God's goodness.

O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Help me to live for you and through you this day in thought word and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what right. Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from evil. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 9:9-11
9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. 10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

Resources:
Reflection and Confession
by Janet L. Johnson

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tell Us If You Are the Christ

Today's Reading:
Daniel 8:1-27
Matthew 26:47-68
Proverbs 21:17-26
 
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Focus Verses: Matthew 26:63-66  
63 ...Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." 64" Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?" "He is worthy of death," they answered.

Insight:
If Jesus did not believe himself to be the Christ and Son of God, or had he been misunderstood, or misrepresented, his trial before the high priest would have been the perfect time for him to set the record straight. Instead of backing away from the questions about his identity and deity, Jesus said, "Yes, I am the Christ. And you will see me in my glory at the right hand of God the Father."

It's clear that the high priest and the assembly understood Jesus' answer to be boldfaced claims to deity and Messiahship. They considered his words to be blasphemy and the grounds for execution.

Response and Action:
I believe Jesus' claim to be the Son of God. I accept his authority. I believe he has risen from the dead, he has ascended into heaven and is seated at the Father's right hand, where he lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit and the Father, one God now and forever. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end.

Thank you, O God, for Jesus, your Son who came to live among us, full of grace and truth. Help me to grow in my relationship with him. Help me to follow him wherever he leads. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: John 20:30-31
30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

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

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Don't Close Your Ears

Today's Reading:
Daniel 7:1-28
Matthew 26:14-46
Proverbs 21:5-16
 
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Focus Verses: Proverbs 21:13, 22:9, 16
21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. 22:9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. 22:16 He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

Insight:
Reverence for God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). A humble and attentive attitude toward God is the starting point for the knowledge, discipline, and precepts that lead to wisdom. Wisdom's root is in relationship with God, and wisdom flowers in our relationships toward others.

Humility before God results in friendship and redemptive behavior toward others. One of the most important marks of wisdom is a concern and care for the poor and oppressed. Disregard for the hungry, blindness toward injustice, and exploitation of the needy are all indications of a foolish and faithless way of life.

Response and Action:
I must be humble and reverent before God if I want to mature in Christ and grow in wisdom. True wisdom will manifest itself in generosity, love, and justice. I must open my eyes to the needs of the poor. I must oppose injustice. I must share with those who are hungry. I must guard against the exploitation and dehumanization of those who are in need. This has to be more than a personal belief or philosophical perspective; I have to live it out in practical and tangible ways. I will look for ways to connect and share and serve. I will work to help my church develop strategies for meeting needs in our community and world.

O God, I want my love and reverence for you to result in care and blessing for others. I want to be an instrument of your grace and loving care. Deliver me from selfishness and indifference. Open my eyes to needs. Please help me find meaningful and practical ways to help and share with others. Please give me a generous spirit and open hands. Make your truth and wisdom flower in my life and bear the Jesus-shaped fruit of kindness and compassion. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 3:16-18
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Resources:
Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian
by Gary A. Haugen

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

He Is the Living God

Today's Reading:
Daniel 6:1-28
Matthew 25:31-26:13
Proverbs 20:25-21:4
 
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Focus Verses: Daniel 6:25-28
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: "May you prosper greatly! 26 "I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. "For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions." 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Insight:
Daniel was a Jewish captive living in exile. He experienced hardship and endured persecution for his faith. Ultimately, his faithfulness to God resulted in prosperity and blessing. Even King Darius was moved to offer praise and worship to "the God of Daniel," because he had witnessed God's mighty power to sustain and help Daniel.

Response and Action:
My faithfulness to God through thick and thin will result in blessing to me and others. I want to live with faithfulness and boldness like Daniel. I pray that my life would be a testimony of God's power to protect, sustain, and bless.

O God, pour out your mercy and blessing on me. Give me a heart that is faithful toward you, grant me the strength to persevere through any circumstance, and give me the wisdom and will to walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 3:13-14
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.

Resources:
Following After God: What Difference Does God Make
by Daniel Hill

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Least of These

Today's Reading:
Daniel 5:1-31
Matthew 25:1-30
Proverbs 20:15-24
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Matthew 25:34-40
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' .

Insight:
Some time ago, while leaving a restaurant I was approached by a homeless person. His wife, who looked to be about eight months pregnant, was standing on the sidewalk a short distance away. They had two small children with them. He said he was begging for money to buy them a meal and bus fare to Madison, WI.

His eyes had a milky glaze to them, and I wondered if he might be on something. He told me how embarrassed he was to be begging for money, and he really did look like the whole pathetic situation was a crying shame to him. I usually feel conflicted in these situations, and, honestly, I don't think that giving to a beggar is always the right thing to do. But as he spoke, I looked him directly in the eye and felt like I saw Jesus. I gave him some money.

Response and Action:
If I am really a follower of Jesus, I cannot be blind or closed to the needs of others. When I see "the least of these"—the poor, the addicted, the homeless, the hungry, the hopeless—I need to be generous and softhearted. More than giving a few bucks here and there to the occasional beggar who approaches me on the street, I need to be active in my community and my church to work for solutions to the broader issues that are causing need and poverty.

O Lord, make me an instrument of your grace and a vessel of your blessing. Give me a heart of compassion for the many people in this world who are suffering overwhelming need. Help me to find practical and meaningful ways to share, to love, and bless others. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 3:16-18
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Resources:
Generous Justice
by Timothy Keller

Sunday, August 06, 2017

When the Son of Man Comes

Today's Reading:
Daniel 4:1-37
Matthew 24:29-51
Proverbs 20:5-14
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Matthew 24:42-46
42 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. 45 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.

Insight:
Jesus' description of his coming on the final day makes a clear claim to divine power—"coming on the clouds in power and glory"—and is spoken with apocalyptic urgency. The exact time of his coming is not possible to know, but there are plenty of reasons to be alert, to keep watch, and to be ready.

Response and Action:
I believe that Jesus rose from the dead in accordance with the Scripture, and that he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. I believe he will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end. I will heed his commands and walk in his ways every day. I want to be faithful, watchful, and ready for his imminent return.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come and establish your eternal Kingdom. Help me to be your faithful servant. Strengthen and guide me in your ways for the glory of your name. Even as I wait for your return, help me to live as a citizen of your Kingdom today! Make me ready to welcome you on the final day, and help me to faithfully live and proclaim the Gospel until that day. I look forward to the resurrection and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Resources:
Jesus, Paul and the End of the World
by Ben Witherington III

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Reading Scheduled for August 6-12


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

Sunday, August 6 -
Daniel 4:1-37 / Matthew 24:29-51 / Proverbs 20:5-14

Monday, August 7 - 

Daniel 5:1-31 / Matthew 25:1-30 / Proverbs 20:15-24

Tuesday, August 8  - 

Daniel 6:1-28 / Matthew 25:31-26:13 / Proverbs 20:25-21:4

Wednesday, August 9  - 

Daniel 7:1-28 / Matthew 26:14-46 / Proverbs 21:5-16

Thursday, August 10 - 

Daniel 8:1-27 / Matthew 26:47-68 / Proverbs 21:17-26

Friday, August 11 - 

Daniel 9:1-11:1 / Matthew 26:69-27:14 / Proverbs 21:27-22:6

Saturday, August 12 - 

Daniel 11:2-35 / Matthew 27:15-31 / Proverbs 22:7-16

Wisdom and Power Are His

Today's Reading:
Daniel 2:24-3:30
Matthew 24:1-28
Proverbs 19:23-20:4
 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Daniel 2:17-20
17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.

Insight:
The magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers who served King Nebuchadnezzar claimed to have special gifts of interpretation and secret knowledge. The King challenged the credibility of these claims by saying essentially, "Anybody can make up an interpretation to a dream. If you're so smart, tell me what I dreamed. If you can't tell me the dream I had, why should I believe your explanation of it?"

Daniel, on the other hand, claimed no special gift or secret knowledge. Instead he simply professed his faith in the God who knows all things. Daniel's ability to reveal and interpret the king's dream would only be possible with God's help and revelation. So Daniel cried out to the Lord, and when God answered his prayer, Daniel's immediate response was to give thanks, praise, and testimony for God's provision.

Response and Action:
The world is filled with needs I cannot meet, questions I cannot answer, and problems I cannot solve. While many claim to have all the answers, their solutions usually fail. That is not a mistake I want to make.

Instead, like Daniel, I simply want to put my faith and confidence in God’s power to meet needs, provide answers, and solve problems. I will cry out to God for the insight and wisdom I need to serve and bless others. I will give God praise and thanks for any good thing he helps me do in his name.

O God, by the grace of your Holy Spirit, transform and empower me to be your servant. By following in the footsteps of Jesus, teach me to live out grace and truth that blesses others. By the instruction, rebuke, and correction of your Holy Scriptures, train me in righteousness and make me thoroughly equipped for every good work. I ask all this in Jesus' name, with a readiness to give thanks and praise to you for every mercy you grant. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 1:5-6
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

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

Friday, August 04, 2017

Inside and Outside

Today's Reading:
Daniel 1:1-2:23
Matthew 23:13-39
Proverbs 19:13-22

Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Matthew 23:27-28  
27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

Insight:
In reading this text, it's easy to stand on the sidelines and watch with smug satisfaction as Jesus comes down hard on the teachers and Pharisees. We might even catch ourselves chiming in, "Yeah, take that you hypocrites!" Of course, the minute we do, we betray our own duplicity.

It's easy to read Scripture and apply it to others before applying it to ourselves. How quick we are to see the sins of others, but blind to the same failings in ourselves! Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and all the more because they refused to recognize it. What should we expect Jesus say to us when we refuse to see our own sin and pretense?

Response and Action:
I need to identify and acknowledge the ways I am a hypocrite. I do not want to say one thing, but do another. I want to be honest, real, and consistent. I do not want to present myself as better than I am. I want to be more concerned about what I truly am on the inside than how I appear to others. I care more about what I am before God than what others think about me.

O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. You see all my hidden faults and know all my secret sins. I've got a long way to go in my pursuit of holiness. Thank you for loving me where I am and giving me the grace and guidance to rise above my weakness and failure. Help me to live with humility before you and before the people around me. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Grant me integrity that my life might be a proof, not a pretense, of my devotion to you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 11:3
3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Resources:
Who You Are When No One's Looking
by Bill Hybels