Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Watch Out for Divisiveness

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 4:1-6:23
Romans 16:10-27
Psalm 83:1-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 16:17-18
17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Insight:

Fellowship among Christians is threatened by those who confuse the clear teachings of scripture with their own opinions, agendas, or selfish interests. These create obstacles to unity. Christians must be on guard against conflicts and circumspect about the people who start them.

Response and Action:I need to watch out for people and influences that would damage Christian community. Are problems arising out of selfish motives? Are opinions and issues raised contrary to scriptural teaching and precedent? I must be careful to recognize deception and manipulation, and discern when people are putting their own interests over the interests of others and of Christ. I must also guard against self-centeredness.

Reading and studying the Scriptures will help me recognize the things that run contrary to the truth. I will take time for prayer and Bible reading every day in order to learn what Christ and the apostles have taught. I will strive to be humble and selfless and carefully examine my own actions and motives.

O God, help me to recognize those things that are divisive—opinions, arguments, lies, pride, manipulation, and selfishness. Help me to know your word, to live by it, and to bring people together through it. Help us all to turn away from selfish impulses and instead be filled with the desire to serve and honor you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 2:1-3
1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Resources:
Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict
Kenneth C. Haugk

Monday, January 30, 2017

Strife that Ends in Bitterness

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 2:12-3:39
Romans 15:23-16:9
Psalm 82:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 2 Samuel 2:26; 3:1
2:26 Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”
3:1 The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.

Insight:

King David's ascent to power was slow, bloody, and bitterly complicated with personal and political deception and intrigue. The feud between the Saul's clan (tribe of Benjamin) and David's (tribe of Judah) would have long-lasting echoes in Israel's future.

The ruthless warrior, Abner, was disturbingly astute when he asked, "Must the sword devour forever?" The sword continues to devour every day, and as Jesus said, those who live by the sword die by the sword. Once the cycle of retribution is in motion, it is nearly impossible to stop it. Even when someone attempts to take steps toward peace, those attempts are undermined by the history of hurts, the scars of skepticism, and the fears of subterfuge.

Response and Action:
The world is corrupted with the destructive patterns of violence, selfishness, power, and deception. I am looking to Christ for the salvation, transformation, guidance, and example I need to escape these patterns. I want to break free from the miserable downward spiral of sin and selfishness. I seek God's renovating and renewing work in my life that I might turn away from violence and become an instrument of righteousness.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where their is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light. Where there is hunger, food. Where there is homelessness, shelter. Where there is brokenness, restoration. Where there is sickness, healing. Grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that I receive; it is in pardoning that I receive pardon; it is in dying that I am born to eternal life. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 12:17-19
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.

Resources:
Forgiving as We've Been Forgiven
by L. Gregory Jones and CĂ©lestin Musekura

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Spirit of Unity as You Follow Christ

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 1:1-2:11
Romans 15:1-22
Psalm 81:8-16
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 15:1-6
1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Insight:

Acceptance of others is essential to unity within the Christian community. The strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak. The weak should be thankful for the guidance and help of those who are strong. We should work to build up our neighbors and do what is pleasing for their good. We should seek to grow in Christ and be receptive to the ways others are helping us to mature in our faith and become more Christ-like in our living. True community produces true disciples who glorify God in both word and deed.

Response and Action:
I want to experience healthy Christian community marked by unity and acceptance. I must bear with the weaknesses of others and do my best to help them grow in their faith. I must acknowledge my own weaknesses and be responsive to the patience and counsel of Christian brothers and sisters who are doing what they can to help me grow. I will look to God for the grace, encouragement, and strength I need to help my church family to experience unity and maturity. I want my church family to be a strength for each other, a blessing and witness to the world around us, and a praise to God.

O God, give me a love for others. Help me to accept those who are weak and commit myself to helping them grow strong. When I am weak, move others to come around to encourage and help me. By the power of your Spirit and the guidance of your written word, help your people to become servants to each other. Help us to follow Jesus with all our hearts and to bring honor and glory to you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 4:1-3
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Resources:
Community and Submission
by Jan Johnson

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Reading Schedule for January 29 - February 4


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017


Sunday, January 29 -
2Samuel 1:1-2:11 / Romans 15:1-22
/ Psalm 81:8-16

Monday, January 30 -
2Samuel 2:12-3:39
/ Romans 15:23-16:9 / Psalm 82:1-8

Tuesday, January 31  -
2Samuel 4:1-6:23
/ Romans 16:10-27 / Psalm 83:1-18

Wednesday, February 1  -
2Samuel 7:1-8:18
/ 1Corinthians 1:1-17 / Psalm 84:1-7

Thursday, February 2 -
2Samuel 9:1-11:27
/ 1Corinthians 1:18-2:5 / Psalm 84:8-12

Friday, February 3 -
2Samuel 12:1-31
/ 1Corinthians 2:6-3:4 / Psalm 85:1-7

Saturday, February 4 -
2Samuel 13:1-39
/ 1Corinthians 3:5-23 / Psalm 85:8-13

Passing Judgment on Disputable Matters

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 29:1-31:13
Romans 14:1-23
Psalm 81:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 14:1-5
1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

Insight:

Some matters are disputable. People of genuine faith may have differing views on what to do and how it should be done, especially when there is no clear "thus sayeth the Lord" available to them. Christians may have very different backgrounds, perspectives, freedoms, and weaknesses. These differences may require Christians to live out their faith in very different ways. Learning to acknowledge and allow this freedom among believers is essential to the health and practice of any Christian community.

In such matters of opinion, believers should not judge or look down on each other. Christians should be fully convinced about their own perspectives and convictions, and live according to them out of reverence for God. They should grant that same freedom and responsibility to others who may disagree with them.

Response and Action:
I need to be realistic and accept the fact that Christians will disagree on some matters in life. I need to make sure that my viewpoints and actions are guided by my faith in God and my submission to his will. In disputable matters, I need to graciously respect the viewpoints and actions of others. I will learn and grow as I interact in healthy and loving ways with those who have opinions and perspectives different from my own. I will live my life according to my convictions, while graciously granting that same freedom to others.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Guide me by your Spirit and by your written word. Help me to live out my faith in my daily life. Give me a humble heart and graciousness toward others who live out their faith differently than I do. Help all of us who follow Christ to be an encouragement to each other. Help us to respect, understand, and forebear each other. In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 3:14-16
14
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Resources:
Mere Christianity
by C.S. Lewis

Friday, January 27, 2017

Love Is the Fulfillment of the Law

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 26:1-28:25
Romans 13:1-14
Psalm 80:8-19
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 13:8-10
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Insight:

It's important to keep Romans 12 in mind as I think about today's reading, Romans 13. The life God has called me to live in the world begins with my surrendered relationship with him. My relationship with God is to be lived in Christian community where I serve and encourage others, and, in turn, receive love and support from them. Christian community must relate to the world around it—other religions, competing worldviews, persecution, enemies, governing authorities, political tensions, and social obligations. In all these things, love for God and love toward others should guide our behavior, choices, and attitudes.

Response and Action:
I want to honor God and live in the way of Christ. This is very challenging a world filled with pluralistic beliefs, hostile conflicts, competing political systems, complex laws, and multi-layered governing structures.

In all this complexity, I will be guided by a few straightforward principles: 1) I will surrender my life to God and follow Christ; 2) I will make Christian community a priority in my life by giving my time, sharing myself, exercising my talents, and building authentic relationships; 3) I will love God with my all, and love my neighbors with the same love and concern I would want them to extend to me.

O God, life in this world is more than I can face on my own. By your power and grace, help me to navigate through the many challenges, complexities, and conflicts. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to live with integrity and care toward others in authentic Christian community. Help my Christian community to be an instrument of your grace, truth, peace, and blessing to the world around us. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 4:14-16
14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

Resources:
Generous Justice
by Timothy Keller

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The True Worship of Surrender

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 24:1-25:44
Romans 12:1-21
Psalm 80:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 12:1-5
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Insight:

The NIV (New International Version) translation of Romans 12:1-2 used to read, "offer your bodies as living sacrifices" (bodies plural and sacrifices plural), but has now been revised to read, "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice" (bodies plural and sacrifice singular). This revision is consistent with the NAS (New American Standard) translation of the same verses: "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice."

So, is Paul's exhortation in these verses for individuals or for the church? I think the answer is, "Yes." We are to offer our bodies (plural) as a sacrifice (singular). Because the church—the body of Christ, is a community made up of many individuals, we should think of Romans 12:1-2 in both ways. This community meaning is clear when we read these verses in the context of the chapter, but an individualistic meaning tends to take over when we hear the verses quoted in isolation from their context.

Response and Action:
As an individual, I am to offer myself as a living sacrifice. As a church, we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. The sacrifice and worship I offer to God must be in both my personal walk with Christ and my corporate walk with Christ's Church. Both personal devotion and Christian community are essential to understanding God's good, pleasing, and perfect will.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as I love myself. Give me a heart that is devoted to you, and a life that is devoted to Christian community. Help me/us to be shaped by you and to honor you. Help me/us to experience and share your grace with each other. Make me/us a testimony of your goodness. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 3:17b-18
17b ...I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ...

Resources:
The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends
by Richard Lamb

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Depths of God's Wisdom

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 22:1-23:29
Romans 11:13-36
Psalm 79:1-13
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 11:33-36 
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Insight:

God's will and work to save humankind is beyond human comprehension. Why some respond to God's grace and mercy, why others reject it, and how both groups relate and interact with each other is something only the infinite knowledge and wisdom of God can trace out.

And what is God's part in all of this? Just how is he involved? When is he pushing, calling, influencing, revealing, or waiting? It's a mystery beyond our knowledge or reason. But in faith, we accept that all things are from God and through God and for God, and so we give him praise and honor.

Response and Action:
My faith rests in God. The scriptures testify that he is loving, just, all-wise, and all-powerful. I know that life, truth, and even knowledge of myself are too wonderful and deep for me to grasp and comprehend. In humble recognition of my weakness, the limitations of my understanding, the smallness of my being, and the frailty of my life, I place all my hope and trust in God.

In faith, I will take hold of the salvation and hope God has given me through Christ. In faith, I will surrender to the leading and shaping of the Holy Spirit. In faith, I will hide the Scriptures in my heart that I might be an obedient disciple. Since all I have comes from God, I will commit my all to bringing glory and honor to Him.

O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together! O God, you are my God, and I will glorify you. I will seek you in the morning. My hope is in you all day long. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Corinthians 1:25
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Resources:
My Prayer Book
Concordia Publishing House

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Covenant Love for a Friend

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 20:1-21:15
Romans 10:14-11:12
Psalm 78:56-72
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 20:16-17
16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD call David's enemies to account." 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

Insight:
Jonathan's affection and loyalty for David serve as a beautiful example of what friendship can be when friends humble themselves before God and walk with integrity. When people put the Lord first, they become more able to be authentic friends. They are able to be loyal and they are prompted to consider the interests of others.

Jonathan could have easily seen David as a threat to his future, his standing, his prospects and his birthright. Instead, Jonathan accepted that David was God's choice to be the next king of Israel. Because Jonathan and David were both committed to God and trusted in him, they were able to pledge their trust and loyalty to each other.

Response and Action:
I want to be a good friend. By seeking God with my whole heart and living according to his word, I hope to find the wisdom, integrity, and humility I need to be a good friend. I am thankful for the genuine friends God has brought into my life. I will strive to be a true friend and a blessing to others.

O God, I thank you for the friendship Christ Jesus has extended to me. Help me to know him, follow him, and trust him so completely that I am able to be a Christlike friend to others. Teach me to love others as Christ has loved me. I pray through Jesus, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 4:11-12
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Resources:
Spiritual Friendship
by Mindy Caliguire

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Righteousness that Is by Faith

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 18:5-19:24
Romans 9:25-10:13
Psalm 78:40-55
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 9:14-16; 30-33
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.
- - -
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." 33 As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

Insight:

This chapter of Romans is often very misunderstood because it is not read in context with the entire book of Romans. When we ask, "Who is chosen by God to receive his mercy (9:14)?" The greater context answers, "The one who pursues righteousness by faith (9:30-31) in Christ (9:33)."

God's sovereign choice ("compassion on whom I have compassion") is not some willy-nilly arbitrary groundless whim. The sovereign God has made a way to life and salvation—Jesus. To pursue righteousness through placing faith in Christ is a choice I make. God's sovereign choice is to save all who choose to place faith in Christ Jesus.

Read all of Romans and notice how God holds people accountable for rejecting Christ. Notice that those who do not receive mercy are those who are obstinate toward God's mercy (10:21) Though God has been extending his open arms of love to them, they are unwilling to accept his love. Instead of choosing righteousness through Christ, they exchange the truth of God for a lie (1:25). The sovereign God chooses to hold us responsible for our choices.

Response and Action:
I choose Jesus, who first chose me. I surrender to God and embrace the salvation and forgiveness he extends to me through faith in Christ Jesus. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus. I would have no hope or choice apart from God's grace, but God in his sovereignty has offered life for the choosing through Christ.

O God, thank you for extending your compassion and mercy to mankind. Help me to know your compassion and mercy in deeper and fuller ways with each new day. O Lord, I pray that you would soften hearts and open eyes so that more and more people would come to know the hope of Christ and the joy of salvation. Help me to be a witness of your mercy and a testimony of your compassion. Thank you for your promise to save all who put their faith in Christ. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Timothy 2:4-6
4 [God our Savior] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.

Resources:
Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God
by Stanley Grenz and Roger E. Olson

Sunday, January 22, 2017

He Remembers that We Are but Flesh

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 17:1-18:4
Romans 9:1-24
Psalm 78:32-39
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 78:37-39
37 ...their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant. 38 Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. 39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.

Insight:

This is a teaching song. It begins with an appeal to listen to the psalmist's words as he speaks in parables, as he speaks of hidden things, and as he recounts the things of old. His hope is that the generations to come will learn something from those who have gone before them. He is honest about the good and the bad. He wants their descendants to learn from the mistakes of their forefathers.

Asaph speaks of God's judgment and wrath, but he also speaks of God's love and grace. He speaks of the unfaithfulness and weakness of people, but rejoices in God's faithfulness. God, he says, remembers the frailty and weakness of people—that they "are but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return." God knows our weaknesses and is merciful. Through Christ Jesus, he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, and he is willing and able to help us in our times of need.

Response and Action:I want to pay attention and be teachable. There is so much to learn from the experiences of God's people recorded in Scripture and throughout church history. I will consider the words, stories, and experiences from people of faith who have gone before me. I will read the Bible and explore the rich supply of Christian biographies, memoirs, letters, poetry, songs available to me.

I will do my best to honestly share my experiences, good and bad, with my children and their children. I will rejoice in God's amazing grace and faithfulness to me. I will give thanks for my merciful God who understands my weaknesses and helps me in my times of need

O God, thank you for your love and faithfulness. Forgive my sins, and have mercy toward me in my weakness. 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. I pray all this in Jesus' name. Amen

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 4:14-16
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Resources:
What's So Amazing About Grace?
by Philip Yancey

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Reading Schedule for January 22-28


Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017


Sunday, January 22 -
1Samuel 17:1-18:4 / Romans 9:1-24
/ Psalm 78:32-39

Monday, January 23 -
1Samuel 18:5-19:24
/ Romans 9:25-10:13 / Psalm 78:40-55

Tuesday, January 24  -
1Samuel 20:1-21:15
/ Romans 10:14-11:12 / Psalm 78:56-72

Wednesday, January 25  -
1Samuel 22:1-23:29
/ Romans 11:13-36 / Psalm 79:1-13

Thursday, January 26 -
1Samuel 24:1-25:44
/ Romans 12:1-21 / Psalm 80:1-7

Friday, January 27 -
1Samuel 26:1-28:25
/ Romans 13:1-14 / Psalm 80:8-19

Saturday, January 28 -
1Samuel 29:1-31:13
/ Romans 14:1-23 / Psalm 81:1-7

Nothing Can Separate Us from God's Love

Today's Reading:
1Samuel 15:1-16:23
Romans 8:26-39
Psalm 78:17-31
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus 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.

Insight:

Because we believe Jesus is the Christ, and because we trust him to keep his promises, we live with confidence. Paul was convinced that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ, and because of this he was able to face suffering, persecution, powers, mysteries, and opposition.

Response and Action:
I want to grow in my faith in Jesus Christ. I want to trust him so completely that I live with confidence. I want to heed his instruction, follow in his steps, and know his promises so well that I am convinced of his faithfulness and love toward me. I want my choices, routines, ambitions, and confidence to be a testimony of my experience and faith in Christ.

O God, help me to know Jesus for who he really is. Give me eyes that see and ears that hear. Help me to follow him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to experience his presence and his power so completely that I am totally convinced about his love and his promises for me. Thank you for the Scriptures that give me such a clear picture of Jesus--showing me his actions and recounting his words. I want to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the certainty of his love and provision. 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:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene Peterson

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Spirit Who Raised Jesus

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 14:1-52
Romans 8:9-25
Psalm 78:9-16
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 8:6-11
6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Insight:

When we surrender our lives to Christ, the Spirit of God lives in us. Belonging to Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit go hand in hand. The Spirit who indwells the mortal bodies of believers is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. That same resurrection power of the Spirit is directed toward the believer's life.

Response and Action:
It's an amazing thought that the same Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead is living inside my mortal body. If the Spirit has power to raise the dead, he surely has the power to give new life to the living. My mouth, my mind, my habits, my choices, my weaknesses, my strengths can now be raised to new life by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

O God, raise me to newness of life through the resurrection power of your Spirit who lives in me. Help me to yield fully to the guidance and influence of your Holy Spirit in my life. Help me to understand your direction, and strengthen me to follow. Apply your resurrection power to every aspect of my life, that I might be raised to live as Christ. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Who Will Rescue Me?

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 12:1-13:23
Romans 7:14-8:8
Psalm 78:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 7:21-24a
21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Insight:

The Law of Moses was very good at articulating what was right and wrong, but it was powerless to change people. It defined sin and served as an external restraint, but it could not transform sinners into saints. The Law even inspired people to acknowledge and desire what was right, but it could not renovate their hearts and minds, enabling them to do it.

Through Christ we now have access to the transforming grace of God. Instead of the weak and unredemptive Law, we now have the saving and renewing power of the Holy Spirit who indwells the mortal bodies of those who have placed their faith in Christ (Romans 8).

Response and Action:
I recognize that I need more than rules and more than an understanding of right and wrong. I need transformation. I need to be saved and renewed by Christ. I need the saving grace of God and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit. Whenever I see a contradiction between the things I want to do and things I find myself doing, I will look to God, take hold of the gracious strength he offers through Christ, and seek to do what is right by the power of his Spirit.

O God, thank you for the freedom from sin you make available to me through your grace in Christ. Thank you for the saving and transforming power of your Holy Spirit. Renovate my heart and mind. Help me to want what you want. Make me a person who delights in your will, and walks in your ways, to the glory of your name. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ezekiel 36:26-27 
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rejecting the God Who Saves

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 10:1-11:15
Romans 7:1-13
Psalm 77:10-20
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 10:17-19, 25
17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah 18 and said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.' 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, 'No, set a king over us.' So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans." - - - 25 Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the LORD. Then Samuel dismissed the people, each to his own home.

Insight:

Rather than seeking God or listening to Samuel, the people were sure they needed a king. They thought that would make them like other nations and fix everything. They imagined a king who would fight their battles and solve their problems. They were unwilling to heed any warning of how a king could actually make their life worse. And since they would not listen, God gave them what they wanted (see also 1 Samuel 8:19-22).

Response and Action:
How many times do I look to something or someone other than God to solve my problems? It is so tempting to imagine that going along with the ways of the world might make my life better, easier, or safer. But my faith is in the Lord, not in the ways of the world, and not in the delusions of my heart and mind!

While I clearly have the freedom to reject God and his guidance, such rejection is never the way faith in Christ will let me go. I want God's way. I understand that getting my own way may not be what is best for me. My way may actually lead me away from what I truly need and want. That's why I will be careful to seek God with my whole heart and look to him for the direction I need.

O God, help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to not envy the wicked or put my faith in the ways of man. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God, my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 25:4-5
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.

Resources:
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God
by Dallas Willard

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Eternal Life: The Gift of God

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 8:1-9:27
Romans 6:1-23
Psalm 77:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 6:19b-23
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Insight:

Salvation is more than forgiveness; it is the transformation of our lives. Through faith in Christ Jesus, I am not just saved from the penalty of sin; I am saved from bondage to sin. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. This eternal life in Christ is a life of righteousness. Instead of being shaped by sin, I can be shaped by the grace of God, which results in ever-increasing holiness.

Response and Action:
As a Christian, I must recognize and remember that I am not a slave to sin. Through faith in Christ and by God's grace, I can say no to sin. I can offer my body to God and be shaped and refined by him.

I must always bear in mind that true salvation from sin is more than escaping a penalty; it is breaking free from the control of sin. To be truly saved is to be truly changed—transformed to live a holy life. I can realize new possibilities and live a new life in Jesus.

O God, my Savior. Thank you for your saving grace. Thank you for Jesus has done to free me from sin. Help me surrender to you fully so that I might not only be saved from destruction, but transformed to live a righteous life that honors you, blesses others, and gives me joy and fulfillment. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, change, and shape me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 2:6-8
6 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

God's Abundant Provision

Today's Reading:
1 Samuel 5:1-7:17
Romans 5:6-21
Psalm 76:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Romans 5:17-19  
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Insight:

Sin and the death it causes entered the world through the disobedience of our earliest ancestors. As we followed in their sinful steps, death came to all humankind. All of us sin, so all of us die. But Christ Jesus has broken this chain of disobedience and sin. He was faithful to obey God, even to the point of death. Just as walking in Adam's sinful steps leads to death, walking in the steps of Jesus brings life for all who follow him in faith.

Response and Action:
Jesus has broken the cycle of sin and death. Instead of being trapped in a downward spiral of disobedience and human weakness, through Christ I can take hold of righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has changed the possibilities for all of humankind. He has brought new life and the hope of transformation for all who trust in him. He has broken the chain of human failure and rebellion. Sin and death are no longer inevitable for me. Righteousness and obedience are possible for me with Jesus. He calls me to renewal, hope, and transformation.

O God, thank you for your son, Jesus, who has brought life into the world. Thank you that the life he brings is for everyone. Help me to recognize the possibilities Jesus brings. Give me the faith and the perseverance to take hold of the renewal and transformation he offers. Give me the wisdom and the will to turn away from the destructive path of sin and death. Give me the desire and diligence to follow in the life-giving and obedient steps of Jesus, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Peter 1:2-4
2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

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