Thursday, April 27, 2017

Avoid Foolish Controversies

Today's Reading:
Esther 1:1-3:15
Titus 3:1-15
Psalm 119:145-152
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Titus 3:9-11
9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Being argumentative is dangerous and divisive. It’s one thing to ask hard questions, to reason through disagreements, and to think through important issues. It's another thing altogether to be quarrelsome and nitpicky about things that are of questionable value.

An unhealthy interest in controversy is usually indicative of self-centeredness and pride. It is sinful and distorted to value your own opinions (and the sound of your own voice) over the people with whom you disagree. People who stir up controversy over unimportant and unknowable things are hurting themselves and those associated with them.

Response and Action:
I want to avoid foolish and stupid arguments. When there is an issue or controversy that is important to me, I will strive to discuss it and handle it in humble and respectful ways. I will not value my opinions over people, but will instead exercise thoughtful restraint. I will be careful to listen and interact respectfully in a genuine effort to understand.

I will recognize and remember that some things are not important enough to argue about. I will not discuss difficult issues with people who are unable to do so without being threatened and upset. I will not let unimportant things become quarrels that hurt and divide.

O God, show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me. Give me a humble spirit so that I can be teachable. Give me sensitivity and care for others that I might be able to discuss important and difficult things in constructive and loving ways. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 2:14-16a
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16a as you hold out the word of life..."

Talking About Good And Bad Without Getting Ugly
by Paul Chamberlain

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Eager to Do What Is Good

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 12:27-13:31
Titus 2:1-15
Psalm 119:137-144
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Titus 2:11-14
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

God desires a people for himself—people who are purified by his grace, and are eager to do what is good. God's grace is more than forgiveness and mercy; it is our teacher. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passion. It teaches us to live self-controlled lives that honor God.

God's grace is also our strength for transformation. It purifies our hearts, redeems us from wickedness, and shapes our desires.

Response and Action:
I want to be taught by God's grace. I want and need to learn how to say "No" to ungodliness. I want to say "No" to worldly passion. I want to honor God and learn how to live a self-controlled life by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

I will draw upon the power of God's grace for transformation, redemption, and purification. I will prayerfully identify the things I need to say "No" to in order to live a godly life. I will look to God for the strength I need, trusting his gracious promise to shape the desires of my heart.

O God, help me to live for you and through this day in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong, and to do what is right. Teach me to say "No" to ungodliness, and teach me to say "Yes" to all that is righteous and true. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, make me yours and help me to honor you. Change my heart and help me to live a self-controlled life. Through Christ, Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 8:10-11
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.

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trustworthy and Encouraging

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 11:1-12:26
Titus 1:1-16
Psalm 119:129-136
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Titus 1:7-9

7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Paul instructed Titus that it was essential that spiritual maturity be evident before people are given leadership roles in Christian community. Many people claim to know God, but their actions contradict this claim (v.16). It's not enough for Christians to say what they believe; they must demonstrate it in the actions of their lives.

Spiritual maturity isn't just for those in leadership; it is for everyone who follows Jesus. The marks of maturity listed in these verses are appropriate for anyone who is growing in Christ. A mature Christian is not overly controlling, slow to get upset, not prone to excess, not rough or abusive, and not interested in dishonest gain.

Christians should be ready to share and quick to welcome others into their home. They should love what is good, be self-controlled, and lead lives that are upright and holy. Because they hold firmly to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, mature Christians are able to identify and refute anything contrary to the way of Christ.

Response and Action:
I want to grow in Christ. I want my faith to be more than words or empty claims. I want my life to demonstrate that Jesus' Spirit is really at work in my life. I will hold firmly to the trustworthy message of the Scriptures. I will surrender fully to God and take hold of his grace and power to make me a person who is self-controlled, disciplined, and wise. I will commit myself to growing in Christ so that I can discern between what is false and true. I will do my best to be a person who encourages others.

Thank you for your word, O God. Help me to get a firm grip on the trustworthy message of Christ so that it might direct and support 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. Make my life a praise to you and an encouragement to others. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 5:12-14
12 ...though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ
by Greg Ogden

Monday, April 24, 2017

Turning Away from Sound Doctrine

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 9:22-10:39
2 Timothy 4:1-22
Psalm 119:121-128
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 2 Timothy 4:3-5
3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

There is always someone ready to tell people whatever it is they want to hear. Truth, however, is often inconvenient. Because it makes demands and brings definition, truth is often rejected. It's not what people want to hear and is often swept aside in favor of something less rigorous and easier to accept. Truth is frequently replaced with speculative opinions, comfortable myths, and self-serving lies.

Response and Action:
I need to be honest and committed to seeking out truth. I must be ready to discover that the truth may be more difficult and demanding than I want it to be. I need to look beyond myself and my comfort zone if I intend to find truth. I must be prepared to make changes and put aside falsehood if I really want to know and live the truth.

I need to be careful to not just listen to the people who tell me what I want to hear. I need to be discerning and think critically about the things I read and hear. I need to examine my motives and my desires to ensure my beliefs are not being distorted by my own selfish perspectives. I need to fill my heart and mind with the truth of Scripture so it can be used by the Spirit to guide me in my thinking and discerning.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and lead me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Help me to seek the truth and surrender to it, that it might shape me and guide me. Save me from the self-deception that distorts and diminishes truth to make it fit personal comfort and convenience. Help me to know the truth, and grant me the freedom it gives. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 17:24
24 A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World
by Art Lindsley

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Opening the Book

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 7:73b-9:21
2 Timothy 2:22-3:17
Psalm 119:113-120
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Nehemiah 8:5-6
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Reading and understanding the Scriptures were central to the rebuilding of Israel. The remnant of Jews who had returned from exile needed to understand the word of the Lord if they were to reestablish their worship, life, and traditions. For days, the people listened to Ezra reading the book of the Law. Teachers helped to translate and explain what Ezra was reading, and the people wept because they were so moved and convicted by what they heard.

Response and Action:
Reading and understanding God's word is central to my life. If I am to build a life that is strong and true, I must build on the solid ground of God's word. Just as Ezra and the people of Israel gave special effort and time to give attention to Scripture, I will set aside time and make a special effort to attend to Bible reading. Just as those who heard the Scriptures were moved to tears, I will be soft-hearted toward God's word. Just as those who had trouble understanding what they were hearing, I will seek out help and instruction to gain understanding.

O God, thank you for the Bible. Thank you for the testimony and guidance of Scripture. Help me to understand and apply the truth of your Word in my daily life. Give me the wisdom and the will to make time for reading and meditating upon your Word. By the breath of your Holy Spirit, make your word living and active in my heart. Use it to teach me, rebuke me, correct me, and train me in righteousness, that I might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 7:24
24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation
by Richard Foster

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reading Schedule for April 23-29

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

Sunday, April 23 -
Nehemiah 7:73b-9:21 / 1Timothy 2:22-3:17 / Psalm 119:113-120

Monday, April 24 -
Nehemiah 9:22-10:39 / 1Timothy 4:1-22 / Psalm 119:121-128

Tuesday, April 25  -
Nehemiah 11:1-12:26 / Titus 1:1-16 / Psalm 119:129-136

Wednesday, April 26  -
Nehemiah 12:27-13:31 / Titus 2:1-15 / Psalm 119:137-144

Thursday, April 27 -
Esther 1:1-3:15 / Titus 3:1-15 / Psalm 119:145-152

Friday, April 28 -
Esther 4:1-7:10 / Philemon 1:1-25 / Psalm 119:153-160

Saturday, April 29 -
Esther 8:1-10:3 / Hebrews 1:1-14 / Psalm 119:161-168

Being Used for Noble Purposes

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 5:14-7:73a
2 Timothy 2:1-21
Psalm 119:105-112
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 2 Timothy 2:20-22
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. 22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

The many objects in my house serve as a good illustration of what it means to be "set apart for a noble purpose." Some objects, like the couch in my living room, are for anybody to use. Others, like the scouring brush in the kitchen sink are for specifically dirty purposes. Others, like my pillow or my toothbrush, are set aside for me, and for me alone.

In the same way, God is calling us to his noble purposes. We can't be used by just anybody for anything and still be set apart for him. If I want to take hold of God's highest purposes for my life, I must pursue holiness.

Response and Action:
Because I want to be used by God for noble purposes, I will flee from evil desires and unrighteousness. I will pursue purity, faith, love, and peace, and do so in the company of others who are trying to do the same.

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, and to love my neighbor as myself. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Forgive, cleanse, and renew me so that I might serve your holy purposes. Make me an instrument of your love and peace. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 4:3-4 
3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. 4 In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship
by N.T. Wright

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bringing Life and Immortality to Light

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 3:15-5:13
2 Timothy 1:1-18
Psalm 119:97-104
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 2 Timothy 1:8-10
8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

God's purpose to save and give life has been put on display in the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Christ has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality. This is good news for all of us. Though death and suffering are pervasive in our world, God has a will and a way to save us! He calls us to believe and follow Christ, and to live holy lives by his grace and power.

Response and Action:
My hope and faith are in Jesus. I will follow him and look to God for the power and grace to live a holy life. In a world filled with death and suffering, I will remember that Christ has destroyed death. Life and immortality are found in him. Because he is alive and giving life to me, I can face today with hope and purpose.

O God, you have saved me from death, not because of anything I have done, but because your purpose has always been to save and restore. Thank you for Jesus, who has shared my humanity, has faced death, and has destroyed it. Thank you for giving me the gift of life through Jesus. Make me more alive each day. Help me to remember that I have eternal life right now. Help me live in the hope of light of your eternal love today. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 1:16-17
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Things Unseen: Living in Light of Forever
by Mark Buchanan

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Rich in Good Deeds

Today's Reading:
Nehemiah 1:1-3:14
1 Timothy 6:1-21
Psalm 119:89-96
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

If you have access to the resources to read this blog, you are, from a global economic perspective, among the wealthiest people in the world. Since I'm in a position to write a blog, I must be rich too. Paul has some very practical instructions for rich people like us.

He tells us that we need to avoid arrogance, and that we should not put our hope in what we possess. We should remember that wealth is uncertain. We should trust in God and acknowledge him as the source of blessing and provision. We should be rich in good deeds—generous and willing to share with others.

Response and Action:
I need to acknowledge that all I have is a gift from God. I must never put my trust in things, but rather recognize that God is my hope and provider. I should strive to be rich in doing good deeds instead of trying to be rich in possessions. I need to be generous and open-handed. I need to be a faithful steward of all God has given. I will generously give to the church, to efforts that help the poor, to ministries that are taking the Good News of Jesus to the world, and to practical causes that contribute to the health and betterment of my community and my world.

O God, you have blessed me in so many ways. Help me, in reverence and thanksgiving to share all you have given me. Help me to be a source of blessing. Give me the wisdom I need to be a good steward and generous heart that is ready to give and share. Let me to live with a generosity that boldly demonstrates my confidence in you -- my hope, my security, and my provider. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 19:23-24
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions
by Craig L. Blomberg

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Do Nothing Out of Favoritism

Today's Reading:
Ezra 10:1-44
1 Timothy 5:1-25
Psalm 119:81-88
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 5:21
21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

Impartiality is essential to the administration and oversight of community needs and values. When leaders give preference to some members of the community over others, it undermines unity and destroys all trust and confidence.

Playing favorites is harmful, hurtful, and destructive to everyone involved. This is true in all communities, and it is especially true in the Christian community we call church. Christian leaders must be extremely careful to give respect, care, and guidance without favoritism.

Response and Action:
I will do all I can to make sure that everyone is afforded equal opportunity, respect, and resources in the communities of my life. I will guard against favoritism and take a stand against discrimination starting in my family, in my workplace, and in my church. I will also extend this principle to my neighborhood, city, state, and country.

O Lord, your love and grace extend to all people. Thank you for your goodness and provision given without favoritism. Help me to follow your gracious example, and treat others as I would want to be treated. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 2:3-4
3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Subverting the Power of Prejudice
by Sandra L. Barnes

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Watch Your Life Closely

Today's Reading:
Ezra 8:21-9:15
1 Timothy 4:1-16
Psalm 119:73-80
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 4:12-16
12 Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Though Timothy was a young Christian leader, Paul told him he could avoid being dismissed for his youth. He could do this by being a shining example in the way he lived out his faith. No one would look down on him, Paul said, if he were living up to Christ's call for his life. Timothy could win the respect of everyone, even those older than him, if his life—speech, love, purity—were shaped by his faith in Jesus.

Paul reminded Timothy that the church elders had publicly recognized his gift for leadership and ministry by laying their hands on him. Their endorsement and support should be taken very seriously, and he should be diligent to make progress in his spiritual growth and the exercise of his gifts. Timothy's diligence toward maturity should include the study of scripture, careful self-examination of his lifestyle, and careful attention to sound doctrine. Paul promised that perseverance in these matters would result in blessing, both in his own life and in the lives of those to whom he ministered.

Response and Action:
I want to mature in my faith as I follow and serve Christ. I will do my best to lead an exemplary life in my speech, in my commitment to holiness, in my study of scripture, and in the exercise of my gifts. I believe that diligence in these things will result in blessing to me and to people around me. I also want to do all I can to encourage the young Christian leaders in my church and my circle of influence. I want to help them and spur them on to become all they can be.

By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, O God, 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. 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. Help me to do the good things you've prepared for me to do. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 6:11-12
11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

Being Worthy of Respect

Today's Reading:
Ezra 7:1-8:20
1 Timothy 3:1-16
Psalm 119:65-72
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 3:8-9
8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

Those who aspire to leadership and service roles in the church are desiring something good. But in order to lead and serve effectively, as Paul points out, it is essential for those who desire to lead and serve to first demonstrate their faith and integrity in their everyday lives. They should be respected, self-controlled, sincere, honest, and selfless. They should also be people with depth who cherish and chew on the deep truths of the faith. In other words, the sincerity of their walk with Christ should be nourished by deep roots, and be evidenced in fruitful lives.

Response and Action:
A wholehearted desire to be taught and guided by Christ must precede my desire to have a role of leadership and service in the life of the Church. I will give myself fully to knowing and following Christ. I will meditate on the deep truths of the Scriptures and apply them to my life in practical and specific ways. I will make every effort to live out my faith by God's grace; then I will be prepared for ministry to others as a leader and a servant.

O God, give me a sincere heart that seeks you. Help me to follow and emulate Christ in the actions and conduct of my daily life. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear the deep truths of faith. Prepare me for acts of service, and help me to approach every opportunity to lead with selfless integrity. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 10:17
17 "He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray."

Basic Christian Leadership: Biblical Models
by John R. W. Stott

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Prayers, Intercession and Thanksgiving

Today's Reading:
Ezra 4:24-6:22
1 Timothy 2:1-15
Psalm 119:57-64
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 2:1-4
1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

There are many ways to pray: making requests, lifting up the needs of others, and giving thanks. There are many people to pray for: those in authority, friends, relatives, neighbors, enemies, leaders, and co-workers. There are many reasons to pray: the hope of a peaceful life, the pursuit of holiness, to please and honor God, and to give witness to the truth of Christ.

God wants all people to be saved. God wants all people to come to a knowledge of the truth. Prayer is essential to my spiritual growth, my service, my worship, and my testimony.

Response and Action:
I will be intentional about prayer. I will pray for others, making requests and giving thanks. This will help me grow in my faith, live with godliness, and become an example and testimony of Christ's power to saving grace and power.

O God, thank you for the gift of prayer. Thank you that I can lift my needs and the needs of others up to you. Thank you for your desire to save all people and help them come to a knowledge of the truth. Help me to live in a way that demonstrates your power to save. I pray all this in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 5:1-3 
1 Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. 2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

The Prayer God Longs For
by James Emery White

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Reading Schedule for April 16-22

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

Sunday, April 16 -
Ezra 4:24-6:22 / 1Timothy 2:1-15
/ Psalm 119:57-64

Monday, April 17 -
Ezra 7:1-8:20
/ 1Timothy 3:1-16 / Psalm 119:65-72

Tuesday, April 18  -
Ezra 8:21-9:15
/ 1Timothy 4:1-16 / Psalm 119:73-80

Wednesday, April 19  -
Ezra 10:1-44 / 1Timothy 5:1-25 / Psalm 119:81-88

Thursday, April 20 - 

Nehemiah 1:1-3:14 / 1Timothy 6:1-21 / Psalm 119:89-96

Friday, April 21 - 

Nehemiah 3:15-5:13 / 1Timothy 1:1-18 / Psalm 119:97-104

Saturday, April 22 - 

Nehemiah 5:14-7:73a / 1Timothy 2:1-21 / Psalm 119:105-112

Christ Came to Save

Today's Reading:
Ezra 3:1-4:23
1 Timothy 1:1-20
Psalm 119:49-56

Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Timothy 1:14-17
14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

God's grace, love, mercy, and eternal life are available to everyone through Christ. There is no one too sinful to be beyond hope. His grace is greater than our sin. Our faith in Christ and surrender to him make us living demonstrations of the hope and transformation God gives to all who believe. Those who are experiencing changed and renewed lives through Christ are moved to exclamations of praise, and quick to give thanks to God.

Response and Action:
I will continually look to Christ for the salvation and the grace I need to become like him. I will live with the intention of making the hope and power of Christ visible to others. It is my hope that God's saving work in my life will be apparent to others. I will express my deepest thanks and highest praise to God for the resurrection life he is giving me through Jesus.

O God, help me to live in full surrender to you. Make me more like Jesus each day. Open my mouth, and my lips will praise you. Make my life a testimony of your saving grace. Help me to bring glory to Christ in all that I say and do. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 6:22-23
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.

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

Go Up to Jerusalem and Build

Today's Reading:
Ezra 1:1-2:70
2 Thessalonians 3:1-18
Psalm 119:41-48
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Focus Verses: Ezra 1:1-3
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2 "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem."

God had used foreign powers to humble, discipline, and purify his people. Seventy years later, just as he had promised through the prophet Jeremiah, he used the King of Persia to restore the Israelites to their homeland. During their years of exile, God had used prophets and leaders like Ezekiel and Daniel to preserve a remnant of Israel. These faithful Jews were now given the chance to return to their homeland.

The first thing those who returned to Jerusalem did was to build an altar to the Lord. They reestablished the priesthood, and restored the practices of worship, feast days, and sacrifices. Zerubbabel led the effort to rebuild the Temple.

Response and Action:
God is able to accomplish his purpose in my life. The very things that challenge, humble, and refine me today, God can use to restore and renew me tomorrow. The most important thing I can do is to seek and love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

If my eyes are fixed on Jesus, I will not need God's hand of discipline to turn me toward him. If I seek him with my whole heart, he will sustain me through times of challenge and hardship. When I experience times of favor and success, I will be careful to make worship my first priority and concern.

O God, you are sovereign. You are able to accomplish your purposes in the world and in my life. Give me the wisdom to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and my heart turned toward you. Help me to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness, trusting that everything else I need will be provided. Thank you for your great faithfulness and the hope of restoration you have given me in Christ. It's in his redeeming name that I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Jude 1:24-25
24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Stand Firm and Hold to the Teachings

Today's Reading:
2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23
2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
Psalm 119:33-40
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Focus Verses: 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17
15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Of all the scripture written by Apostle Paul, this chapter contains some of the most difficult to understand and interpret. The passage must be approached with care because it is a clarification of teachings he had previously given Thessalonians when he was with them. The original teachings are not available to us.

While we might not be able to grasp all of what Paul is saying here, we can certainly profit from the principles he gives to help them avoid being deceived. He warns them that not every claim to Apostolic authority is true (v.2). They should be careful to remember the teachings they received directly from the Apostles (v.5), stand firm in them (v.15), and consider them to be authoritative over competing or conflicting teachings and ideas.

He tells them that false and deceptive teachers are marked by: a rebellious spirit (v.3), a disregard for law and morality (v.3), and an inflated view of self that has no reverence for God (v.4). Self-deception, he says, results from delighting in wickedness, refusing to love truth, and believing lies (vv.10-12).

Response and Action:
I need to love and seek out the truth. Delighting in wickedness makes me vulnerable to being deceived by lies, and it leads to an inability to ever see or want truth. I must immerse myself in scripture in order to know the words of Jesus and the teaching of the Apostles. I should be extremely guarded against teachers who have an inflated view of self, even if they claim to be teaching what the Bible says. I should watch out for teachers who have a haughty spirit, demonstrate a low regard for others, and are motivated by personal gain.

God of Truth, I believe that Jesus, your son, is the way, the truth, and the life. Help me to know him and follow him closely that I might walk in your truth. Help me to hide your word in my heart, to read and memorize the Scriptures, and to meditate upon them day and night. Help me to discern lies and to delight in the truth. Help me to love and use your word that I might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 John 4:1
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Enemies With Smiling Faces
by Donald C. Posterski