Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reading Schedule for September 1 - 7

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

This week we begin our Reading Schedule for September 2013 through August 2014. To view, download, or print a copy, CLICK HERE. If you live in the Lakeville, Rosemount, Apple Valley area, I hope you will consider being part of my weekly Pathways Bible Reading Group which begins on Wednesday night, September 11. CLICK HERE for more information about Pathways.

Sunday, September 1 -
Genesis 1:1-2:25 / Luke 1:1-25 / Psalm 1:1-6

Monday, September 2  -
Genesis 3:1-4:26
/ Luke 1:26-56 / Psalm 2:1-12

Tuesday, September 3  -
Genesis 5:1-7:24
/ Luke 1:57-80 / Psalm 3:1-8

Wednesday, September 4  -
Genesis 8:1-10:32
/ Luke 2:1-35 / Psalm 4:1-8

Thursday, September 5 -
Genesis 11:1-13:4
/ Luke 2:36-52 / Psalm 5:1-12

Friday, September 6 -
Genesis 13:5-15:21
/ Luke 3:1-22 / Psalm 6:1-10

Saturday, September 7 -
Genesis 16:1-18:15
/ Luke 3:23-38 / Psalm 7:1- 9

August 31 - The Sun of Righteousness

Today's Reading: 
Malachi 3:1-4:6 
Mark 16:1-20 
Proverbs 31:21-31
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Malachi 4:1-3
1 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty.

People of faith cling to God's promises of judgment and redemption. Though the wicked may prosper and the righteous may suffer for a season, God promises to one day set things straight. Believers put their trust in God's will and ability to put the world to rights. Those who love and revere God are promised healing, freedom, joy, and triumph over evil.

Response and Action:
I need to persevere in faith. I must remember God's promises to deliver and save his people. I want to live in reverence before God, and acknowledge him in all my ways.

O God, remind me of your promises and help me to persevere in life out of love and reverence for you. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Bring me safely through this day and all the days to come. Be my hope and my life and my strength. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N. T. Wright

Friday, August 30, 2013

August 30 - Never Forsaken

Today's Reading: 
Malachi 1:1-2:17 
Mark 15:1-47 
Proverbs 31:10-20
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Mark 15:33-34

33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

When Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," he was quoting the opening lines of Psalm 22, a psalm of David. He must have known, recited, and pondered over this song many times, especially as he knew the time of his death was drawing near. I think he was quoting or alluding to the last words of this Psalm ("he has done it") when he said, "It is finished." The account of the crucifixion in Mark 15 and the words of Psalm 22 are amazingly interconnected considering the Psalm was written hundreds of years before the time of Christ.

I don't believe that Jesus was forsaken by God, or thought he had been forsaken by God. His reference to Psalm 22 is actually a way for him to declare his absolute faith that God would not forsake him. He knew the last verse as well as the first verse. While others mocked and treated him as though he had been forsaken by God, Jesus quoted a song that declared his faith and hope that God would vindicate him, and his expectation to be victorious over death.

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

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

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Psalm 22:1-5 
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. 4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
Praying the Psalms of Jesus by James Sire

Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 29 - There Will Be One Lord

Today's Reading:
Zechariah 14:1-21
Mark 14:53-72 
Proverbs 31:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Zechariah 14:9
9 The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.

When all is said and done, the truth of God will be known to all people. Everyone will know there is one Lord; his name will be exalted, and all people will acknowledge his authority over all things.

Response and Action:
I do not want to wait until the final day to recognize the Lordship of Jesus. I want to look to him in faith today and every day. I want to submit to his authority and serve him with my whole heart.

O God, I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father—God from God, light from light, true God from true God. I believe he will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. Help me to acknowledge him in faith, surrender to him in love, and worship him in spirit and in truth. Amen. 

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 2:9-11  
9 Therefore God exalted him [Christ Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Why I Am a Christian
by John Stott

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August 28 - The Bread and Cup

Today's Reading: 
Zechariah 12:1-13:9 
Mark 14:22-52 
Proverbs 30:24-33
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Mark 14:22-25 
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." 23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. 25 "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."

This special meal that Jesus gave to his disciples must be the most reenacted historical event of all time. Every day for most of the last two thousand years, some group of people somewhere around the world has broken bread, poured a cup, and remembered Jesus and the new covenant of his blood. And now, the sun never sets on this special meal, as every day millions of Christians all around the world are breaking bread in sacred remembrance and joyful proclamation of the redemption and new life Jesus has made possible through his death on the cross.

Response and Action:
I will join with other Christians every week to worship and remember Christ with the simple elements of broken bread and poured wine. In doing so I will remember and give witness to my need for forgiveness and salvation. I will remember and give witness to God's great love for humanity. I will remember and give witness to my place in the church--the body of Christ. I will remember and give witness to my faith and hope in the promise of Christ's return to redeem, restore, renew, and set all things right.

O God, thank you for sending your only Son into the world to save and redeem. O Christ, thank you for your selfless sacrifice. Thank you for the new and living way you have made for us to be renewed and made right with God. Thank you for rescuing us from the dominion of darkness and bringing us into your kingdom. Thank you for your church and for the opportunity to gather with them around a table each week to remember the cross, the resurrection, and the hope and purpose you give to our lives. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 23:5-6 
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The Meal Jesus Gave Us
by N. T. Wright

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 27 - Neither Poverty Nor Riches

Today's Reading: 
Zechariah 10:1-11:17 
Mark 14:1-21 
Proverbs 30:11-23
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Proverbs 30:7-9 
7 "Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD ?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Both poverty and riches test character and contentment. Each presents unique challenges and temptations. Poverty can lead to theft and dishonesty. Riches can lead to pride and disregard for God. A prayerful humility and awareness of these pitfalls is essential to wise living. Those who are wise desire to serve and honor God regardless of the circumstances of life.

Response and Action:
I want to live with commitment to integrity and a will to honor God. I want to follow Christ and depend upon God's provision and guidance regardless of my circumstances. I will seek God above all else and ask for his protection and provision. I will be on guard against the temptations of both poverty and plenty. I will ask God for the wisdom and character I need to honor him in any circumstance.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Provide for my needs and protect me from discouragement. Help me to be humble and reverent in times of plenty. Help me to be honest and faithful in times of want. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 4:12-13
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions
by Craig L. Blomberg

Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26 - That Day or Hour

Today's Reading: 
Zechariah 9:1-17 
Mark 13:14-37 
Proverbs 30:1-10
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Mark 13:32-34 
32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

These apocalyptic passages provoke more questions than provide answers. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. seems to fit the description of much of what Jesus is foretelling. Those events, however, do not adequately embody the full sense of finality and ultimate vindication Jesus describes.

It seems, to me, that Jesus was speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem, and, at the same time, using it as a picture of the final day when the Son of Man would return. I think he was pointing to the immediate crises and struggles of their time, while simultaneously putting them in the context of the ultimate crises and struggles of all time and all creation.

While the passage may be mysterious, it's important to not let the clear message of Jesus' words get lost among the questions.

1. Life will be filled with struggles and hardships. These struggles are part of the ultimate struggle (Mk. 15:5-13).
2. Believers need to be on guard because our troubled world is filled with false claims, false teachers, false Christs, and false miracles (Mk. 13:21-23).
3. Jesus, the Son of Man, will ultimately be vindicated and bring justice and redemption (Mk. 13:26-27).
4. Following Jesus is the way to be watchful and ready for anything that happens whenever it happens (Mk. 13:32-36).

Response and Action:
Am I living in the last days? Yes. If not the final days before Christ's return, certainly the last days for me (I'll be doing good if I live another 30 years). The difficult events and problems of my time and life are part of the ultimate struggles and conflicts of all time and all life. I need to follow Jesus with all my heart in order to be ready for this day, every day to come, and the never ending day of eternity.

O God, I want to be watchful, alert, and ready. Help me to follow Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give me the peace and hope that comes from trusting him to sustain and provide for all my todays and tomorrows. Amen. 

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N. T. Wright

Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 25 - God Is With You

Today's Reading: 
Zechariah 8:1-23 
Mark 12:38-13:13 
Proverbs 29:19-27
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Zechariah 8:3-5,23 
3 This is what the LORD says: "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain." 4 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there." - - - 23 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.' "
Zechariah, one of the young people who returned to Jerusalem, was a member of a priestly family. Like Haggai, Zechariah urged the people of Israel to complete the rebuilding of the Temple, and called them to embrace God's promise of restoration and blessing. These promises, he said, were something they would enjoy into old age and for generations to come. God's renewal and blessing would be so complete that surrounding nations and cultures would come to Jerusalem and ask to know the living God.

Response and Action:
I want to embrace God's promises to renew, transform, and bless my life. My commitment to seek, honor, and obey God, springs from my faith in his promises. My hope in Christ is a long-term perspective. I fully expect to experience God's blessing into my old age. I fully expect my commitment to Christ to result in blessing for my children and for their children. I pray that the blessing of the Lord would be so visible in my life that I can serve as an example of how to seek God and follow Jesus.

O God, teach me to number my days that I might present a heart of wisdom. Increase my faith and help me to cling to your promises. Strengthen and transform me as I follow in the footsteps of Christ, and build my life upon the solid foundation of his teaching. Make my life a testimony of your grace, and a light to all who seek your truth and blessing. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 3:15 
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...
True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In
by James Choung

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Reading Schedule for August 25-31

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2012-2013

Sunday, August 25 -
Zechariah 8:1-23
/ Mk 12:38-13:13 / Proverbs 29:19-27

Monday, August 26  -
Zechariah 9:1-17
/ Mark 13:14-37 / Proverbs 30:1-10

Tuesday, August 27  -
Zechariah 10:1-11:17
/ Mark 14:1-21 / Proverbs 30:11-23

Wednesday, August 28  -
Zechariah 12:1-13:9
/ Mark 14:22-52 / Proverbs 30:24-33

Thursday, August 29 -
Zechariah 14:1-21
/ Mark 14:53-72 / Proverbs 31:1-9

Friday, August 30 -
Malachi 1:1-2:17
/ Mark 15:1-47 / Proverbs 31:10-20

Saturday, August 31 -
Malachi 3:1-4:6 / Mark 16:1-20
/ Proverbs 31:21-31

August 24 - The Capstone

Today's Reading: 
Zechariah 6:1-7:14 
Mark 12:18-37 
Proverbs 29:10-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Mark 12:10-12 
10 "Haven't you read this scripture: 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?" 12 Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away. 

The authority of Jesus' words and actions were a direct confrontation to the authority of the religious establishment in Israel. This tension between the two was increasing and coming to a point of crisis. In clearing the temple, the cursing of the fig tree (see Luke 13:6-9), and the parable of the tenants, Jesus was denouncing and rejecting the authority of the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. They rejected Jesus' claims to authority, and plotted to have him arrested and silenced.

Using the words of the Psalms and the prophets, Jesus claimed to be the capstone and foundation stone of God's salvation. He said that in rejecting him, the religious leaders were ultimately rejecting God's hope and salvation. Jesus' appropriation of Psalm 118 turned it into a powerful statement of his claim to be God, the Messiah, the source of salvation, the foundation for life, and the gateway to salvation.

Response and Action:
I accept Jesus' authority. I look to him as the Son of God, the source of salvation, and the rightful Lord and master of my life. I will seek to know him, to follow him, and to obey him. I will build my life on the solid rock of his teaching. I will submit myself to his ways and trust him for the strength I need for life.

O Christ, you are my God, and I will ever praise you. I will seek you in the morning and learn to walk in your ways. Lead me step by step. Save me, strengthen me, guide me, renew me, and sustain me. Help me to know you more each day. Be the cornerstone of my life. Amen. 

Spiritual Formation Verses: Psalm 118:8, 20-24 
20 This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Praying the Psalms of Jesus
by James Sire

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 23 - Small Things, Big God

Today's Reading: 
Zechariah 4:1-5:11 
Mark 11:27-12:17 
Proverbs 29:1-9 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Zechariah 4:6-10a 
6 So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. 7 "What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!' " 8 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 9 "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. 10 "Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

Zerubbabel was rebuilding the Temple. It was a monumental undertaking and he must have looked quite small as he stood on the temple site with his plumb line in hand.

The destruction of the first temple was so much more than the loss of a building; it represented the loss of God's favor and blessing. Israel had fallen, Jerusalem had been destroyed, its people had been killed, scattered and taken as prisoners and slaves. And now, nearly a century later, a man was standing on a hill with plans to rebuild the Temple. How could Zerubbabel possibly succeed? Not by might or power, but by the Spirit of God.

Little becomes much when God is in it. Small things in the hands of small people are cause for wonder and great respect when they are devoted to the will of God and empowered by his Spirit.

Response and Action:
God can do great things through small people. Though my strengths and abilities are small, God can use them to accomplish wonderful things. When I am weak, God is strong. I must be careful to not limit, by failing to remember God's Spirit, what I or others can do. I should not despise the day of small things; instead I should live by faith in a big God.

O God, give me eyes to see beyond human limitations. Give me the faith to recognize the great things weak people can do when they are empowered by your Spirit. Give me the courage to trust in you and depend on you, that I might pursue great things and great causes. I want to do something bigger than me. By your Spirit, give me the will, give me the strength, give me the faith, and give me a vision. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Mark 4:30-32
30 Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."
Living the Story: Biblical Spirituality for Everyday Christians
by R., Paul Stevens and Michael, Green

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August 22 - Holding Anything Against Anyone

Today's Reading: 
Zechariah 2:1-3:10 
Mark 11:1-26 
Proverbs 28:18-28 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Mark 11:22-25 
22 "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23 "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Our relationship with God is connected to our relationships with others. If we ask God for forgiveness, we should be prepared to offer forgiveness to others. God's grace toward us should result in our graciousness toward others. Lack of forgiveness toward others is a hindrance to our prayers.

Response and Action:
As I look to God for grace and forgiveness, I need to be ready and willing to extend that same graciousness to those who have trespassed against me. I do not want my relationship with God to be diminished or hindered by poor relationships with others. I will forgive others instead of harboring any grudge or resentment toward them.

O God, thank you for the mercy and grace and forgiveness you have given to me through Christ. Give me a heart to forgive others as you have forgiven me. Help me to treat others as I would want to be treated. May the attitudes of my heart, the words of my mouth, and the works of my hands be a witness to your grace and goodness to me. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Colossians 3:12-14 
12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 

Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope
by Everett Worthington

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 21 - He Shouted All the More

Today's Reading:
Zechariah 1:1-21 
Mark 10:32-52 
Proverbs 28:7-17
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Mark 10:48-50 
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

Bartimaeus was a beggar, sitting along the roadside, doing the same thing he had done day after day with little hope for anything to ever change. And yet, the very moment he heard that Jesus was passing along that way, he erupted with hope began to shout out his name.

I love the way he seized upon his opportunity to encounter Jesus with such abandon and intensity. I love that when others told him to calm down and be quiet "he shouted all the more." He had, apparently, already heard a lot about Jesus and was not about to miss the opportunity to meet him.

Bartimaeus was bold in his desire for Jesus. Jesus restored his sight and commended his faith. Bartimaeus left his place among the beggars and took his place among the followers of Jesus.

Response and Action:
I want to call out to Jesus with the intensity and focus of Bartimaeus. When circumstances, people, or even my own feelings and doubts tell me to calm down and be quiet, I will shout out all the more! I believe in Jesus and in his power to save and restore. I will pursue him with abandon, asking him for healing and for hope. I will follow Jesus wherever he leads and leave my blindness and begging behind.

O God, thank you for the mercy and healing you have given through Christ Jesus, your son. Help me to seek him above all else. Give me a focus and desire for Jesus that cannot be suppressed. Help me to encounter him through the Scriptures, through the Spirit, through the Church, and through his redemptive and saving work in my life. Help me to follow him all the days of my life. Help me to press on to take hold of all the blessing and purpose he has for me. It's in his healing name that I pray. Amen. 

Spiritual Formation Verses: Deuteronomy 6:4-5 
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Generous Justice
by Timothy Keller

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 20 - Is It Time to Put Yourself First?

Today's Reading: 
Haggai 1:1-2:23
Mark 10:13-31
Proverbs 27:23-28:6
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Haggai 1:2-6  
2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.' " 3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."

When Israel returned from exile and captivity, their first priority seems to have been to rebuild their own homes and lives. Evidently, they got very use to thinking about rebuilding the Temple as something they would get around to someday. Haggai confronted them with their self-centered procrastination. He warned them that it was time to put God first. They could no longer put their own comfort and gain before worship and reverence for God, and expect God to bless them.

Response and Action:
I need to put first things first. I need to be sure worship and service for God are a higher priority to me than personal gain and comfort. What am I not giving to God because I am spending it on myself? What am I not able to do for God because I am too busy doing things for me? How can I expect to be blessed by God if I put worship and service for him behind what I do for myself?

O God, help me to seek you and serve you with true reverence and devotion. Forgive me for the times I am guided by my own selfish ambition rather than selfless worship for you. Help me to seek your kingdom and your righteousness above all else. Through Christ, I pray. Amen. 

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

Monday, August 19, 2013

August 19 - He Took a Little Child

Today's Reading:
Zephaniah 1:1-3:20 
Mark 9:30-10:12 
Proverbs 27:15-22
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Mark 9:35-37 
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

Those who are focused on achievement and personal status will not find true greatness. Those whose priority is honoring God and whose joy is serving others will discover true greatness, even though it is not their goal or motivation. The person whose goal is greatness will be too busy with important people and projects to "waste" time with those people or things that are unlikely to serve that goal.

The person who is unconcerned with greatness and accomplishment is more likely to spend an afternoon with a child or serve the needs of someone who has nothing to offer in return. And in that selflessness, such a person will discover what true greatness is all about. Whoever loses his life will find it.

Response and Action:
I will not seek after accomplishment and praise. I will seek to love, know, and honor Christ Jesus with all my heart and soul. I will endeavor to live a selfless life and cultivate a heart and readiness for serving others. I will not think of myself as more important than others. I will share time and my attention with others without thought of personal gain. I will aspire to be unpretentious, unselfish, and unreserved.

O God, thank you for Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself and became a servant. Help me, like him, to reach across barriers, to welcome the weak, to serve, and to look to the interests of others. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 25:37-39 
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?'

A Childlike Heart: How to Become Great in God's Kingdom
by Alan D. Wright

Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 18 - Why Are You Silent?

Today's Reading: 
Habakkuk 1:1-3:19 
Mark 9:1-29 
Proverbs 27:5-14
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Habakkuk 1:12b-13 
12b O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. 13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

Like Jeremiah, Habakkuk prophesied during the final years of Judah, before the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 597 B.C. While Habakkuk recognized Israel's unfaithfulness to God, he complained and questioned why God would use the Babylonians to deliver judgment when they were more wicked than Israel.

God revealed to Habakkuk that though he was using the Babylonians as an instrument of judgment, their bloodshed and pride would come crashing back upon them. They too would experience judgment.

Habakkuk ended his prophecy with an expression of his faith in God's justice and promise of restoration. He said, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior" (3:17-18).

Response and Action:
Being used by God and being caused by God are two different things. Though God may be using something to accomplish his purpose, I should not assume that God loves or approves of that something. God's power to accomplish his purposes is so great, he can use things people have intended for evil and turn them to accomplish good. I will put my trust in God. I will trust him to be working for good, even when my circumstances are painful and hard to understand.

O God, you are the God of my salvation. Give me a heart that trusts in your unfailing love and rejoices in the hope of your deliverance. Strengthen my heart with the confidence that you will eventually put all things to right. Remind me that righteousness will ultimately win the day, though present trials and circumstances make this hard to believe. I pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 8:28
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Evil And the Justice of God
by N.T. Wright

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Reading Schedule for August 18-24

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2012-2013

Sunday, August 18 -
Habakkuk 1:1-3:19 / Mark 9:1-29 / Proverbs 27:5-14

Monday, August 19  -
Zephaniah 1:1-3:20 / Mark 9:30-10:12 / Proverbs 27:15-22

Tuesday, August 20  -
Haggai 1:1-2:23 / Mark 10:13-31 / Proverbs 27:23-28:6

Wednesday, August 21  -
Zechariah 1:1-21 / Mark 10:32-52  / Proverbs 28:7-17

Thursday, August 22 -
Zechariah 2:1-3:10 / Mark 11:1-26 / Proverbs 28:18-28

Friday, August 23 -
Zechariah 4:1-5:11 / Mark 11:27-12:17
/ Proverbs 29:1-9

Saturday, August 24 -
Zechariah 6:1-7:14
/ Mark 12:18-37 / Proverbs 29:10-18

August 17 - Losing to Find

Today's Reading: 
Nahum 1:1-3:19 
Mark 8:11-38 
Proverbs 26:23-27:4
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Mark 8:34-38 
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." 

What would I be willing to trade for my life? Jesus says that following him requires denying myself, but it’s a self-denial that will result in finding true life. There is a way to put myself in first place and end up with nothing. There is a way to deny myself that results in great blessing.

The path to real personal gain looks like loss from a worldly point of view. Giving my best time and energy to gain money, success, security, status and possessions is really the road to loss. Putting Christ first, following in his footsteps, and heeding his commands might look like loss from an earthly perspective, but it actually results in attaining the richest and most satisfying life possible.

Response and Action:
I need to put Christ Jesus first, to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Seeking and knowing Jesus must be my highest priority. Following his example and valuing the things he values is the substance of faith. If I truly believe in Jesus, I must entrust my life to him and give up ownership of myself. If he is truly my Lord, I must deny every rival to his authority. The more I do this, the more I will experience and understand that this "loss" is actually great gain.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Give me the wisdom and the will to put Jesus first. Give me eyes to see the great benefit of seeking him first. Give me eyes to see the emptiness and loss of materialism and self-gratification. Help me delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 6:33
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The Divine Conspiracy
by Dallas Willard

Friday, August 16, 2013

August 16 - What Is Good

Today's Reading: 
Micah 5:1-7:20 
Mark 7:24-8:10 
Proverbs 26:13-22 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Micah 6:8
8 He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 9 Listen! The LORD is calling to the city—and to fear your name is wisdom— "Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.

Micah prophesied during the final days of Israel. The northern kingdom had turned away from God and would soon be overrun and destroyed by Assyria. The southern kingdom would not last much longer either. Micah predicted the fall of the northern kingdom's capital, Samaria (1:5–7), and also foretold the coming desolation of Judah (1:9–16).

If only the people of Israel and Judah would have walked humbly with God, acting justly and loving mercy, they could have survived as a nation. Micah's prophecy called the people to open their eyes and recognize that the troubles they were facing were the result of spiritual and moral failure. He urged them to open their ears and listen to what God was saying to them through the troubles they were now experiencing.

Response and Action:
I want to avoid the hardships and troubles of life that are caused by indifference toward God. I want the wisdom to see the connection between sin and the consequences of sin. If I face hardship, I want it to be for doing the right thing. I want to act with justice—to treat others with goodwill and integrity. I want to love mercy—to be gracious, patient, and forgiving when others act wrongly toward me. I want to walk humbly with my God—to trust him to protect and provide, and to honor and obey him.

O God, thank you for your grace and mercy. Give me a heart and mind that delight in your will. Help me to walk in your ways with a humble spirit. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, teach me to act justly and to love mercy. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.
Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 2:20
20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian
by Gary Haugen

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15 - Liars and Deceivers

Today's Reading: 
Micah 1:1-4:13 
Mark 7:1-23 
Proverbs 26:3-12 
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:

Micah 2:11 and 3:5 
2:11 If a liar and deceiver comes and says, 'I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,' he would be just the prophet for this people! 3:5 This is what the LORD says: "As for the prophets who lead my people astray, if one feeds them, they proclaim 'peace'; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him. 

Anytime someone is being paid to teach or preach or prophesy, the listener should beware. This is true in all spheres of life, including religion, politics, business, media, and academics. When a person's livelihood is likely to be impacted adversely by what she/he says, it stands to reason that there will be a strong temptation to adjust the message for self-serving purposes. When truth-telling results in hardship or loss for the teller, strong character, courage, and integrity are necessary.

The "prophets" Judah would listen to were the ones who said exactly what they wanted to hear. If you're willing to pay, there is always someone willing to say what you want to hear. Micah declared God's condemnation of both the false prophets corrupted by money, and those who were paying them off.

Response and Action:
I need to be careful about who I listen to and who I believe. When a preacher or politician or celebrity make truth claims, I need to consider how personal gain figures into their motives for their message. I must be a person of integrity and be a truth teller. I must not allow my personal interests or opportunities for gain allow me to compromise my motives or my message.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to love truth and walk in truth. Give me the courage and integrity to speak the truth. Give me the heart and spiritual maturity to speak the truth in love. Give me the honesty to consider my motives for who I listen to, and who I believe. Give me the wisdom and discernment to recognize self-serving lies when I hear them. I ask all this in the name of Christ Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Titus 2:7b-8 
7b In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.