Saturday, November 30, 2013

Reading Schedule for December 1 - 7

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, December 1 -
Deuteronomy 23:1-25:19 / Acts 9:1-25
/ Psalm 55:12-23

Monday, December 2 -
Deuteronomy 26:1-27:26
/ Acts 9:26-43 / Psalm 56:1-13

Tuesday, December 3 -
Deuteronomy 28:1-68
/ Acts 10:1-23 / Psalm 57:1-6

Wednesday, December 4 -
Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20
/ Acts 10:24-48 / Psalm 57:7-11

Thursday, December 5 -
Deuteronomy 31:1-32:27
/ Acts 11:1-30 / Psalm 58:1-11

Friday, December 6 -
Deuteronomy 32:28-52
/ Acts 12:1-23 / Psalm 59:1-8

Saturday, December 7 -
Deuteronomy 33:1-29
/ Acts 12:24-13:15 / Psalm 59:9-17

November 30 - Do You Understand?

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 21:1-22:30
Acts 8:14-40
Psalm 55:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 8:30-32

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. 31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth."


Philip was able to meet and help the Ethiopian because:
1. He received direction from the Holy Spirit (vv. 26, 20).
2. The Ethiopian was already seeking God through worship (v. 27) and the scriptures (v. 28).
3. He knew the scriptures so well that he could recognize what the man was reading and could explain how that scripture pointed to Jesus.

Response and Action:
I need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading. I need to open my eyes to see others who are seeking. I need to be willing to approach and connect with people who are different from me. I need to be grounded and growing in my own faith in order to help those who are seeking truth. I need to be very familiar with the Scriptures if want to be able to help those who have questions. I want to be ready and able to explain how the message of the Bible points to Jesus.

O God, thank you for reaching out to humanity. Thank you for revealing yourself through your son, Jesus, through the Scriptures, and through your people. Please lead me into paths where there are opportunities to help others find you. Help me to recognize those who are seeking for the truth that is found in Jesus alone. Help me to know, understand, and remember the Scriptures. Give me the words and ability to explain the good news of Jesus. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:

Romans 10:14-15
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Growing Your Faith By Giving It Away: Telling the Gospel Story With Grace and Passion
by R. York Moore

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 29 - Saul and Stephen

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20
Acts 7:51-8:13
Psalm 54:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 7:59 - 8:3

7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.


As Stephen was martyred for his faith in Christ Jesus, a man named Saul was in the crowd giving his full approval. The event sparked the beginning of an intense campaign of persecution against Christians, and Saul became a zealous champion of a crusade to destroy the heretical movement he believed Christianity to be.

What a shocking beginning to the story of the Apostle Paul! He began as a passionate antagonist intent on obliterating Christianity from the earth, but he became the passionate missionary devoted to taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. He began as an angry man who approved of killing those who believed in Jesus, but he became a gracious man willing to lay down his life for Christ.

Saul was a self-righteous Pharisee, but Paul became a humble pastor who saw himself as “chief of sinners.” The enemy of the church, Saul, doesn't speak a word in Acts 8, but he became the great Apostle who wrote much of the New Testament—committing his life to establishing, expanding, and edifying the church. Saul, who stopped and silenced Stephen, would become Paul who mentored and inspired young men like Timothy and Titus to become Christian leaders.

Response and Action:
Dramatic change is possible with Jesus. Passionate opponents of Christianity can become enthusiastic advocates of Jesus. I need to remember that Jesus and transformation go hand in hand.

It is impossible for me to know just how God may be using what seems to be loss and defeat in order to accomplish gain and victory. Stephen's faith and boldness in the face of death may have been the very thing that inspired the Apostle Paul to later write: "Whether by life or by death, may Christ be exalted in my body."

I will ask God to use and change me as I follow Christ. I will pray for those who oppose Christ, believing that they could by God's grace become wholehearted ambassadors for Christ.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to turn away from what is false and to love what is true. Help me to turn away from confidence in self and, instead, turn to you with a humble recognition of my need and my sin. By the power 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. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:

2 Corinthians 5:16-17
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Coming Home to Your True Self: Leaving the Emptiness of False Attractions
by Albert Haase

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 28 - You Always Resist

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20
Acts 7:30-50
Psalm 53:1-6
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 7:51-53
51 "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."


Stephen's ministry in the early church had attracted the attention and opposition of the Sanhedrin—the ruling council and highest authority in ancient Jerusalem. His preaching and his persuasive arguments about Jesus were especially unacceptable to them. When Stephen was called to stand before them and defend himself, he gave a brief review of Hebrew history with an emphasis on the many occasions when the Israelites had been slow to obey God or recognize God's leading. He challenged them to consider their rejection of Jesus, framing it as the latest misstep in Israel's long history of disobedience and disbelief.

Response and Action:
In the face of abuse and opposition, Stephen stood firm in his faith. Instead of defending himself or arguing for his own release, Stephen boldly challenged the Sanhedrin to consider their own history and to give careful consideration to the claims of Jesus. They were cold and cruel to him, but he was gracious and forgiving toward them.

O God, give me eyes to see the work of Jesus in my world today. Help me to experience and understand your work and presence in my life. Help me to stand firm in my faith—to be a bold and effective witness for Jesus in my world and in my time. If I face disapproval from others, help me to be gracious to those who oppose me. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:

1 Peter 3:14-16
14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 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, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Living Gently in a Violent World
by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 27 - Being Openhanded

Today's Reading:
Deut. 13:1-15:23
Acts 7:1-29
Psalm 52:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Deuteronomy 15:7-11

7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

One of the truly astounding aspects of the Mosaic Law is its concern for the welfare of the widow, orphan, slave, and alien. God expected his people to live with compassion, concern, and generosity toward those who were in need. Those who were doing well were to see their well-being as a blessing from God. They were expected to give "without a grudging heart" and to be "openhanded" to the poor. There will always be someone in need, so those who are in a position to help must always be ready and willing to do so. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).

Response and Action:
Do I have concern for those who are in need? Do I have compassion for those who are in circumstances that lead to poverty? If so, how do I demonstrate this compassion and concern?

I must be ready to pitch in and give when someone around me is in need. I should also encourage my church family to be ready to meet practical needs within our fellowship and in the community around us. I can also be an advocate for social programs on the local, state, and federal level, that are directed toward meeting the needs of the poor and the alien.

I must be realistic about poverty; it is persistent and ongoing. My concern for those in poverty must likewise be persistent and ongoing.

O God, you have been so gracious and generous to me. Give me a heart like you -- compassionate toward the poor and generous to the needy. Give me the attitude of Christ Jesus, who emptied himself for my sake. Help me to be cheerful and openhanded as I share the blessings you've given me with those who are in need. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
1 John 3:17-18
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Practical Justice: Living Off-center in a Self-centered World
by Kevin Blue

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 26 - Teach Your Children

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32
Acts 6:1-15
Psalm 51:10-19
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Deuteronomy 11:1-2, 18-21

1 Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the LORD your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm...
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

The Israelites were finally taking possession of the land God had promised. As they settled down and established their new lives, they would need to be intentional about preserving and telling the stories of God's deliverance. They would need to live out their faith and be careful to pass it on to their children. They would need to tell the stories of wonders and miracles experienced, of hard-learned lessons, of God's faithful provision, of how God had given them the Law through Moses. They would need to live and teach the principles and practices that shaped their faith and worship.

Response and Action:
I want to be intentional about sharing my faith with my children. They don't know everything about my history. They haven't lived my life journey. I will be faithful to communicate the things God has taught me. I will make every effort to share stories, songs, experiences that have shaped and strengthened my faith. I will live out my faith in practical, visible, unavoidable ways that can be understood and copied.

O God, help me to know you and to live in truth. Make me aware of your presence and provision in my life, and help me to tell that story to others. By your grace, help me to share my faith with others–especially my children and grandchildren. Give me the clarity, the dedication, and the intentionality I need to nurture and strengthen the faith of those you would have me teach. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:

1 Peter 3:15
15 But in your hearts revere 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...

Hope Has Its Reasons
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Monday, November 25, 2013

November 25 - A Broken and Contrite Heart

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22
Acts 5:1-42
Psalm 51:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 51:6,10,17

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. - - - 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. - - - 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

When Samuel rebuked King Saul and told him the kingdom would be taken away from him (1Sam. 13:14), he said the Lord had "sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people." That man was David. In Acts 13, the Apostle Paul also makes reference to David as being "a man after God's own heart" who "would do everything God wanted him to do."

How can it be that David is described as a man "after God's own heart?" He was every bit the sinner that Saul was. In fact, David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband (one of his most faithful soldiers) might surpass any of Saul's sins.

Obviously, "having a heart after God" does not mean being without sin. David and Saul were both sinners, but David was quick to recognize his sin, humble his heart, ask God for cleansing, and turn his heart back toward following and obeying God.

Response and Action:
I want to have a heart after God. This does not mean that I will never sin or make mistakes. It does mean, however, that I am seeking God. It means that I am humble before God and ready to recognize my sin and my need for forgiveness. It means that I desire to obey and serve God. It means that I will look to God for direction, for cleansing, for purpose. It means that I acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and that I will seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

O God, create in me clean heart -- a heart that is after your heart. Search me and try me to see if there is anything hurtful or sinful in me. Forgive me, purify me, and lead me in your everlasting ways. Put your truth and wisdom in my inmost parts. Help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:

2 Corinthians 7:9b-10
9b ...your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

A Heart for God: Learning From David Through the Tough Choices of Life
by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 24 - Ordinary People

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20
Acts 4:1-37
Psalm 50:16-23
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 
Acts 4:13-14
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.


The religious leaders who seized and jailed Peter and John were astonished. How could such unschooled and ordinary men perform a miracle, preach with such clarity and conviction, and be so confident when confronted?

Three things in the text explain the extraordinary effectiveness of such ordinary people. Peter and John had been with Jesus. The miracle they had performed in the name and power of Jesus was undeniable (the healed man was standing right there with them). The growing community of believers was faithful in prayer for them.

Response and Action:
I'm an ordinary person, but my devotion and fellowship with Christ Jesus can produce extraordinary results in my life. I will seek him first. I will commit myself to daily time in the scriptures and in prayer. I will set my heart and mind to follow him. I will cultivate an awareness of his presence and sensitivity to his Spirit. I will be open about my faith in Christ. I will give Jesus the honor for every good thing I am able to do by his power and grace. I will not be afraid of those who do question or oppose the cause of Christ. I will live in Christian community, depending on my Christian friends for prayer, encouragement, and help.

O God, thank you for your love and mercy for all people. Thank you for Jesus who came to seek and save all who come to him in faith and humility. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen your people for effective service in your kingdom. May the weakness and ordinariness of our lives be an astonishing reminder and testimony to all that the good we say and do is the result of your presence and power within us. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:

Romans 8:39-39 
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.

Make Your Job a Calling by Bryan J. Dik and Ryan D. Duffy

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reading Schedule for November 24–30

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, November 24 -
Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20 / Acts 4:1-37 / Psalm 50:16-23

Monday, November 25  -
Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22 / Acts 5:1-42 / Psalm 51:1-9

Tuesday, November 26  -
Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32 / Acts 6:1-15 / Psalm 51:10-19

Wednesday, November 27  -
Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23 / Acts 7:1-29 / Psalm 52:1-9

Thursday, November 28 -
Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20 / Acts 7:30-50 / Psalm 53:1-6

Friday, November 29 -
Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20 / Acts 7:51-8:13 / Psalm 54:1-7

Saturday, November 30 -
Deuteronomy 21:1-22:30 / Acts 8:14-40 / Psalm 55:1-11


November 23 - Times of Refreshing

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25
Acts 3:1-26
Psalm 50:1-15
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 3:19-21

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

Peter preached that Jesus was the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham. He gave witness to the resurrection of Jesus. He declared that the miracle he performed was done by the power of Jesus. He called people to turn from sin and put their faith in Christ Jesus. He promised that this would result in refreshment and restoration in their lives, and eventually all things would be restored and renewed by Christ.

Response and Action:
I believe that my hopes for forgiveness and renewal are in Jesus. I believe that only Christ can give me the refreshment and strength I need for life. I believe that Jesus will one day restore and renew all things. I will turn away from sin and seek him with my whole heart. I will follow and obey him. I will put my faith in him and build my life on the foundation of his words and his example. I will trust him to restore all things as I look toward the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

O God, thank you for the redemption and restoration you have made possible through Christ. Help me to seek him and follow him with all my being. Give me hope and refreshment as I walk in his ways and obey his commands. Restore and renew me today and make my life a testimony of your power and promise to ultimately restore and renew all things. Help me to live by faith and to be a shining demonstration of your power to save and restore. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Isaiah 40:29-31
29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Surprised by Hope
by N. T. Wright

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22 - The Believers Were Together

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 4:1-49
Acts 2:1-47
Psalm 49:1-20
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 2:42-45

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.


The two short passages in today's reading are long on challenging things to think about. The community described sounds so intense and radical, just the way I would expect the beginning of something as amazing and explosive as Christianity to be. But what of these experiences of the early church should be a part of my church experience today?

A wedding day is one thing, but living out a marriage over years and decades is quite another. Similarly, the first days of the church are not the same as living out Christian community over many centuries and across many cultures. When I attend a wedding service, the songs, vows, scriptures, promises, and the faces of a young couple make me think about my thirty-some years marriage. In the same way, reading Luke's description of the first days of the church helps me think about being part of the church two thousand years later.

Response and Action:
I can and need to be devoted to the apostles teaching. By reading and studying the New Testament scriptures, I can follow the instruction and the example of the apostles. I can follow the patterns and precedents of the early Christians. I can and need to be devoted to fellowship. By faithful and self-giving involvement in Christian community, I can help, support, and encourage others. I can and need to look back to the early days of the church with awe and wonder. And today, I can still expect God to be at work in my life and my church in miraculous ways that inspire and amaze.

O God, thank you for your church. Help me to seek you with all my heart, to share my life with others in generous, authentic, and meaningful ways, and to serve others in the power and grace of Jesus. Thank you for the church. Help the church of today be a shining testimony of your truth and grace. Help me to be a devoted and giving member of the Christian communities I'm a part of. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
 Psalm 133:1
1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 21 - The Jesus Story: Part 2

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 2:1--3:29
Acts 1:1-26
Psalm 48:9-14
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Acts 1:1-5
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."


In just a few words of introduction, Luke says some very big things as he begins his account of the early church. Acts begins where The Gospel of Luke left off. Presumably, it was written with the same care and attention to detail as his first book (see Luke 1:1-4). Luke then tells us that Jesus' instruction to the apostles was inspired by God. Next, he explains that the apostles were chosen by Jesus. He then goes on to say that Jesus spent significant time with these apostles after his resurrection—40 days of proofs and teaching. Finally, Luke tells us that Jesus instructed the apostles to remain in Jerusalem. Their ministry would begin there when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit from God.

Response and Action:

Luke's account of these events is carefully assembled and is written with eyewitness perspective. The writings and practices of the early church are received from the apostles, authorized by Jesus, and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The apostles and, by extension, the New Testament have authority because of their relationship to the Risen Christ.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. He has spoken through the prophets. I accept the authority of Jesus the Christ, the teaching of his apostles, and the scriptures. I seek you, Lord, with all my heart. Don't let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Acts for Everyone, Part 1
Acts for Everyone, Part 2
by N. T. Wright

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November 20 - Do You Love Me?

Today's Reading:
Num. 36:1 - Deut. 1:46
John 21:1-25
Psalm 48:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 21:17-19

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." 18 Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

During the arrest and trial of Jesus, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Now the resurrected Jesus asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Each time Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, and Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

Following Jesus requires a love for him above all else, participation in his ministry, and a heart to bring glory to God in life and in death.

Response and Action:
How many times do I deny or fail Jesus in the trials and tasks of daily life? For each and every time I do, I need to hear his voice asking, "Do you love me?"

To love and follow Jesus, I must deny self. Jesus said, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt. 10:39) To love and follow Jesus, I must share in his ministry -- "Feed, care for, and shepherd his sheep."

To love and follow Jesus, I must share in his suffering ("when you are old you will stretch out your hands") and face things that are beyond my choice and control, and yet give glory to God. As the Apostle Paul said, "whether by life or by death, may Christ be exalted in my body" (Phil. 1:20).

This day, O God, help me to love you more than all else. Help me to serve and share in the saving work of Christ. In every circumstance, every choice, every action, every temptation, and every trial, may I hear Jesus voice asking, "Do you love me more than these?" In every case, give me the grace to say "Yes, Lord, you know I love you," so that in life and even death I give you praise. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
Mark 12:29b-31
29b " 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 19 - Doubt AND Faith

Today's Reading:
Numbers 33:40-35:34
John 20:1-31
Psalm 47:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 20:24-28

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
When the disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus, he found it difficult to believe. Maybe they had seen someone or something else. Thomas would have to see it for himself. He would have to hear Jesus' voice, see his face, and see the evidence of his crucifixion.

When Thomas did eventually see Jesus, he was so convinced that he exclaimed, "My Lord and My God!" His expressions of praise and worship for Jesus are especially meaningful in light of how skeptical he had been. We should also not fail to notice how Jesus allowed Thomas to worship him. Jesus' claim of deity and authority is implicit in his acceptance of Thomas' confession. If Jesus did not consider himself to be Lord and God, why would he let Thomas to say such a thing?

Response and Action:
My doubts and concerns are not too much for Jesus. God will meet me in my honest doubts and help me come to the truth. Faith is not opposed to reason. A humble skepticism may lead me to genuine faith.

O God, I believe in Jesus. Increase my faith and help me to deal with honest doubts. Help me to see Jesus and, as my eyes are opened, make me quick to confess him as Lord and God. Amen.

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

Faith AND Doubt
by John Ortberg

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18 - Our Refuge and Strength

Today's Reading:
Numbers 32:1-33:39
John 19:23-42
Psalm 46:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 
Psalm 46:1-3 
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Trouble is never far away. Neither is God. The psalmist proclaims that God is ever-present. He is with his people in every moment of trouble.

The psalmist has complete faith in the provision and power of God. When the troubles are big, God is bigger. When the earth gives way, God is immovable. When the seas come crashing in to destroy, God is steadfast and sure. The two-fold confidence that the Lord God is almighty, and is with us gave the psalmist peace in the midst of life's storms.

Response and Action:
Truly believing in God's power, God's purposes, and God's presence makes a difference in how I face the troubles and terrors of life. When it comes to problems and pain, there is always something. That's why I need to remember that when it comes to peace and promise there is always Someone.

God is as present as my problems. His presence is even more real and persistent than my troubles because he is greater and deeper than any problem. Beyond sickness, he is the hope of health. Beyond war and politics, he is peace and truth. Beyond death, he is life. Beyond my sin and weakness, he is salvation and transformation. Beyond heartache, he is joy. Beyond darkness and despair, he is light and truth.

O God, save me from trouble and mercifully stir my heart toward complete trust in you. Grant me a deep sense of your loving presence when the troubles of life threaten to overwhelm me. Remind me of your faithfulness. Calm my heart. Help me to be still and know that you are God. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
 John 14:27; 16:33
14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

For the Tough Times: Reaching Toward Heaven for Hope
by Max Lucado

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17 - Jesus the King

Today's Reading:
Numbers 30:1-31:54
John 18:25-19:22
Psalm 45:10-17
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 
John 19:19-22
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

Jesus was very straightforward in his claim to authority. In response to Pilate's questions, Jesus said, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world" (John 18:37). When Pilate, irritated at Jesus' silence, spoke about his authority over Jesus, Jesus replied, "You wouldn't have any authority if I didn't allow you to have it."

By turning symbols of kingship (crown, robe, scepter) into symbols of contempt, the soldiers who mocked Jesus demonstrated their understanding of his claim. The Jews who handed Jesus over to Pilate said, "He claimed to be the Son of God." Pilate purposefully threw the word "King" back in their faces to provoke and annoy them.

The "King" claims of Jesus seem to annoy people today too. How many people today would raise their voices in objection to Pilate and say, "Don't write King Jesus. Instead, write Teacher Jesus, or Prophet Jesus, or Philosopher Jesus, or maybe even Savior Jesus."

Response and Action:
Belief in Jesus requires the acceptance of his authority. He must be recognized as King—he is Lord, he is master, and he is the highest authority.

I want Jesus to be the King of my life. I will commit myself to yielding to him in every choice, action, circumstance, opportunity, goal, direction, and relationship. In all my ways I need to acknowledge his authority over me.

O God, help me to follow Jesus in thought, word, and deed. Help me to live in complete surrender to Christ. Help me to submit to his authority and to trust his loving and gracious reign as my king. 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.

How God Became King
by N. T. Wright

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reading Schedule for November 17 - 23

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2013-14

Sunday, November 17 - 
Numbers 30:1-31:54 / John 18:25-19:22 / Psalm 45:10-17

Monday, November 18  -
Numbers 32:1-33:39 / John 19:23-42 / Psalm 46:1-11

Tuesday, November 19  -
Numbers 33:40-35:34 / John 20:1-31 / Psalm 47:1-9

Wednesday, November 20  -
Numbers 36:1-Dt 1:46 / John 21:1-25 / Psalm 48:1-8

Thursday, November 21 -
Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29 / Acts 1:1-26 / Psalm 48:9-14

Friday, November 22 -
Deuteronomy 4:1-49 / Acts 2:1-47 / Psalm 49:1-20

Saturday, November 23 -
Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25 / Acts 3:1-26 / Psalm 50:1-15

November 16 - Who Is It You Want?

Today's Reading: 
Numbers 28:16-29:40
John 18:1-24
Psalm 45:1-9
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 18:6-8

6 When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." 8 "I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go."

John's account of Jesus' arrest includes a very important detail missing from the other gospels. It also seems to be missing from most contemporary recounts of the story. I've never seen this detail depicted in any Passion play, movie, or painting. I've rarely heard it talked about in sermons. Many Christians actually react with surprise when I point out this detail in John's eyewitness account.

When Judas led a detachment of soldiers and officials from the chief priests and Pharisees to the garden to arrest Jesus, an amazing thing happened. Jesus asked, "Who are you looking for?" They replied, "Jesus the Nazarene." Then Jesus said, "I am he," and when he said those words, Judas and all the soldiers and officials, with their swords and lanterns and torches, fell to the ground.

What an incredible display of Jesus' authority and the power of his word! Clearly, he would not have had to submit to their arrest. No wonder Peter was so emboldened to strike out at a guard. Jesus had made his point, and so asked for the release of his disciples, which was granted, and only then submitted to arrest.

Response and Action:
Jesus clearly did not have to submit to arrest. This demonstrates his free and selfless choice to suffer death on the cross for us and for our salvation. Today, I will offer up my thanks to Christ Jesus who loved me and gave himself for me. I will praise him for his selfless gift of salvation. As a follower of Jesus, I will endeavor to live a selfless life, and surrender myself to God in service to others.

Help me, O God, to have the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus. He emptied himself and was obedient to death—even death on a cross. Help me to empty myself and freely choose to live for you. Give me the grace and courage to serve others in the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Philippians 2:4-8
4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

40 Days Living the Jesus Creed
by Scot McKnight

Friday, November 15, 2013

November 15 - Jesus' Prayer for Us

Today's Reading: 
Numbers 26:52-28:15
John 17:1-26
Psalm 44:13-26
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
John 17:20-21

20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Though it may sound confusing at first, I like to refer to John 17 as "The Lord's Prayer." No, it's not the model prayer Jesus gave his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). It is, however, the longest, most personal, and deeply relational prayer of Jesus recorded in Scripture. John 17 gives insight into Jesus' sense of mission, his hope for the world, and his love for his disciples.

Jesus asked his Father God to help him accomplish his purpose in a way that would demonstrate divine love and glory. He asked God to protect, sustain, and guide his disciples. He asked God to help them know the truth and to live holy lives. He prayed for the unity of believers—not just for those who were following him at that point, but for all believers who through the testimony of the disciples would subsequently come to believe in him.

Response and Action:
In this prayer of Jesus, I can recognize his claim to divinity. He calls God his Father and claims to have been present with God in glory before the world began. I also recognize Jesus' call to his disciples to follow him in faith, to walk in holiness, to be witnesses of the truth, to share the gospel, and to live in unity with other believers.

O God, thank you for Jesus and his prayer for all who believe in him. Thank you, Jesus, for interceding for your people at God's right hand. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, help me to grow in my faith, to lead a righteous life, to be a light, to live in harmony and shared purpose with other believers, and to give glory to God. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Psalm 133:1
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

Thinking About Church Life
by R. Paul Stevens and Robert Banks