Thursday, December 31, 2015

December 31 - The Lord's Will Be Done

Today's Reading:
Joshua 22:21-23:16
Acts 21:1-17
Psalm 68:7-14
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 21:10-14
10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

Acts chapter seven is where we find the first mention of Paul (Saul) in the New Testament. There, he was so opposed to the Jesus followers that he approved of killing them. By Acts 21, the Apostle Paul had himself become such a committed follower of the Lord Jesus that he was ready to face imprisonment or even death for him. As a committed follower of Jesus, Paul's primary concern was not his own freedom or safety, but rather God's will. If doing the things he believed God wanted him to do resulted in hardship, he was willing to do them. Jesus had suffered and died in order to accomplish God's will, and Paul was willing to follow that same path if necessary.

Response and Action:
Am I willing to follow Jesus into hardship? If following Jesus means loss, am I willing to lose? If loving as he loves means suffering, am I willing to suffer? If living out the grace and generosity of Jesus means giving up possessions and living with less, am I willing to let go of things? If forgiving as he forgives requires sacrifice, am I willing to suffer loss? If obedience to God requires the faith to face death, am I willing to die?

I want to love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want love Jesus and follow in his steps. I will press on to know Christ more and more—to be so committed that I not only believe in his promise to bless, but also find myself able and willing to share in his suffering. I want to embrace the Christ life so fully that I am willing and able to die to myself.

O God, help me to find my life in you. Give me a faith that makes me able to commit all things to you. Give me a heart for your will and your purposes. Shape and strengthen me to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Whether by life or death, may Christ be exalted in me. Help me to press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me. It's in his name that I pray these things. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 1:20-21
20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling
by John Stott

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 30 - The Lord's Good Promise

Today's Reading:
Joshua 21:1-22:20
Acts 20:1-38
Psalm 68:1-6
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Joshua 21:43-45
43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. 45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

God keeps his promises. Israel's obedience and faith brought them to a place where they experienced God's promise and provision.

Response and Action:I need to trust God and obey him. I will commit myself to knowing his word, understanding his will, and following his commands. The testimony of Scripture is that those who trust in the Lord will never find that trust to be misplaced. I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I will acknowledge him in all my ways, trusting that he will make my path straight.

O God, you have promised to deliver and sustain me. You have promised that I will find life and hope in you. If I will surrender to you, you promise to protect, provide, forgive, renew, empower, transform, lead, strengthen, and deliver me. Help me to trust in you completely and to live out that trust in every day and in every way. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 16:24-25
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

by J. I. Packer

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December 29 - No Gods at All

Today's Reading:
Joshua 19:1-20:9
Acts 19:13-41
Psalm 67:1-7
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 19:23-27
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25 He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."

Luke gives an account of Paul's efforts to take the message of Jesus to the people of Ephesus. There he encounters a wide variety of opportunities and opposition. In the short span of chapter nineteen we see him in the synagogue (religious Jews), in the lecture hall (academics and philosophers), confronting those who practiced sorcery (superstitious), opposed by those who were followers of Artemis (pagan worship), and by those who profited from the followers of Artemis (commercialism). The message of Jesus was dangerous, according to Demetrius the silversmith, because it would subvert their world.

Response and Action:
Demetrius worded his opposition as a defense of the goddess Artemis, but it seems pretty clear that his greatest concern was the lost profits he would suffer if Artemis worship were to stop. I need to remember that opposition to the message of Jesus might be worded in one way, but actually be rooted in something altogether different.

The message of Jesus is dangerous. To accept the truth of Christ may indeed require the loss of profits, the change of career (Demetrius), the burning of a book (sorcery), the risk of seeming less than intellectual (lecture hall), and the rejection of long-held traditions (synagogue).

Almighty God, help me to recognize the false and selfish "reasons" I may be using to justify half-hearted discipleship. And as I share the message of Jesus with those around me, help me to remember that it may not sound like good news—in fact, it may sound dangerous and threatening as it challenges lifestyles, beliefs, and practices. Help me to respond to the real reasons people oppose the message of Jesus, not necessarily the spoken reasons. In all conversations, give me grace and charity. Give me the humility and integrity to be honest about the ways Jesus challenges and threatens me as well. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 16:24-25
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Six Dangerous Questions to Transform Your View of the World
by Paul Borthwick

Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28 - He Was a Great Help

Today's Reading:
Joshua 16:1-18:28
Acts 18:23-19:12
Psalm 66:13-20
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 18:27-28
27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Apollos was from Alexandria, Egypt, the second most important city in the Roman Empire, a center of academic excellence, and home to a large Jewish population. He was very educated (v.24), a passionate speaker (v.25), and a skillful debater (v.28). He would have certainly been conversant in Western thought, Hebrew Scriptures, and dominant world-views of his day. His education and ability to communicate effectively and persuasively made him a "great help" to believers.

Response and Action:
Christians who are well-educated, critical thinkers, strong communicators, knowledgeable of scripture, and instructed in the way of the Lord Jesus, can be a great help to other believers. I am very thankful for the wonderful help I have received from intelligent and articulate people—teachers, authors, pastors, artists, philosophers, theologians, historians, and scientists.

I want to grow in my understanding of the world, the scriptures, religion, philosophy, history, and theology. I will make learning a priority in my life and make sure I keep reading, listening, thinking, and searching.

O God, you know all things. All truth and understanding belong to you. Reverence for you is the beginning of wisdom. Help me to love you with all my mind. Strengthen my faith through learning, and give me wisdom and insight that I might be a great help and encouragement to others. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Timothy 2:15
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Discipleship of the Mind: Learning to Love God in the Ways We Think
by James W. Sire

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 27 - Shout with Joy

Today's Reading:
Joshua 15:1-63
Acts 18:1-22
Psalm 66:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 66:1-5, 16
1 Shout with joy to God, all the earth! 2 Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! 3 Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. 4 All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name." 5 Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf! - - - 16 Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.

The psalmist is absolutely exuberant with praise at the thought of all God is and all God has done. So many of the psalms are filled with appeals for God to do something, but this psalm is simply a celebration of all God has done.

Response and Action:
I spend a lot of time asking God to do things for me. I want to spend more time reflecting on all God has done and the many blessings he has provided. I will lift up my needs to the Lord, but I will also lift up enthusiastic shouts of praise for the awesome deeds he has done on behalf of humankind—the awesome works that have blessed me in so many ways.

Not only will I praise God, I will make that praise glorious and unrestrained. I will tell anyone who will listen of the great things God has done for me. I will celebrate and tell others about the things God is doing in my life. I will delight in the great things God has promised to do.

O God, thank you for hearing my prayers. Thank you for the love you have not withheld from me. Give me a mind to recount my blessings. Give me a heart to offer up thanks. Give me a mouth that is quick to sing praise. Give me an eagerness to tell others of all you have done for me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 5:18-20
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflections on the Psalms
by C. S. Lewis

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Reading Schedule for December 27 - January 2

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2015-16

Sunday, December 27 -
Joshua 15:1-63 / Acts 18:1-22
/ Psalm 66:1-12

Monday, December 28  -
Joshua 16:1-18:28
/ Acts 18:23-19:12 / Psalm 66:13-20

Tuesday, December 29  -
Joshua 19:1-20:9
/ Acts 19:13-41 / Psalm 67:1-7

Wednesday, December 30  -
Joshua 21:1-22:20
/ Acts 20:1-38 / Psalm 68:1-6

Thursday, December 31  -
Joshua 22:21-23:16
/ Acts 21:1-17 / Psalm 68:7-14

Friday, January 1 -
Joshua 24:1-33
/ Acts 21:18-36 / Psalm 68:15-20

Saturday, January 2 -
Judges 1:1-2:9
/ Acts 21:37-22:16 / Psalm 68:21-27

December 26 - Good News

Today's Reading:
Joshua 13:1-14:15
Acts 17:1-34
Psalm 65:1-13
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 17:16-18
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

In order to share the Good News with others, I must be a disciple of Jesus and a student of the Scriptures. I also need to know and understand the people around me. I need to be a student of my world—its cultures, beliefs, questions, religions, philosophies, literature, and arts. True faith in Jesus, coupled with a commitment to study, think, and learn, makes it possible to engage the world in the marketplace of ideas. I want a vibrant faith that does not retreat from the world, but, rather, interacts with it in thoughtful and challenging ways.

Response and Action:
I will make every effort to be a person of the Word. I will commit myself to reading, studying, memorizing, and applying the Scriptures. I want to grow deeper and deeper in my understanding of God's Word and be able to help others understand it too. I will keep my eyes open for people who are seeking to know and understand the Bible. I will come alongside them to study, discuss, explore, and apply the truth we find.

O God, thank you for Jesus, the Christ, who came into the world and suffered for my sake. Thank you for his resurrection and victory over death--the validation of his claims and promises. Give me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to grow in my understanding and experience of the salvation and hope Christ brings. Give me the wisdom and the skill to share and communicate my faith with others in thoughtful and meaningful ways. 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."

True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In
by James Choung

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

John 1:1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

December 25 - Joyful Faith

Today's Reading:
Joshua 11:1-12:24
Acts 16:16-40
Psalm 64:1-10
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 16:29-34
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

What would make this jailer ask, "What must I do to be saved?" Was it the hymns he heard Paul and Silas singing? Was it the way they conducted themselves as prisoners? Was it the fact that they stopped him from killing himself? And was it a miracle that none of the prisoners had escaped when an earthquake shook the prison doors open and the prisoners chains were loosed?

When the question was asked, Paul and Silas instructed the man to "believe in the Lord Jesus." The Philippian jailer probably had absolutely no idea who Jesus was, so Paul and Silas "spoke the word of the Lord" to him.

Response and Action:
What brings people to a place where they sense their spiritual need and cry out for salvation? There are so many influences. It could be something as simple as the lyrics of a song. It could be the difference they see Jesus making in someone's life. It could be a sense of wonder. It could be an act of kindness. When people ask, I need to be ready to point them to Jesus. They may not have a clue about who he is or what it means to believe in him, so I need to be ready to "speak the word of the Lord" to them.

O God, may the words of my mouth and the actions of life be a testimony of the difference you make in the lives of those who believe in Jesus. When people around me become aware of their need for your salvation and love, help me to point them to Jesus and speak words of life. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Colossians 4:5-6
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible's Central Story
by Christopher J. H. Wright

Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 24 - Sharp Disagreements

Today's Reading:
Joshua 9:3-10:43
Acts 15:36-16:15
Psalm 63:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 15:36-41
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement about John Mark. Paul was disappointed with John Mark, because of his failure with them in Pamphylia, and didn't want to risk the same thing happening again. Barnabas, however, wanted to give John Mark another chance. This should not have surprised Paul, since it was Barnabas who had stood up for him in the early days of his own Christian faith when none of the other disciples wanted to give him a chance.

The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was so sharp they decided to part company and go their separate ways. It seemed like the only way they could both do what they each believed needed to be done. Paul needed to pursue his apostolic priority and Barnabas needed to pursue his pastoral priority.

Response and Action:
Christians can and sometimes need to disagree with each other. People who work well together in one season may need to part ways in the next. Priorities and perspectives can change. It is important to be gracious and humble about such disagreements. Each of us needs to seek God's guidance and follow it with integrity. We must also grant others the freedom and respect they need to do the same.

O God, help me to live in peace and harmony with others. Help me to be gracious when disagreements arise. Help me to graciously stand my ground and live within my convictions even if it means a parting of the ways with others. As I seek to draw near to you, help me to grow closer to others who seek to draw near to you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Proverbs 13:10
"Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice."

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23 - Hidden in the Ground

Today's Reading:
Joshua 7:16-9:2
Acts 15:1-35
Psalm 62:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Joshua 7:19-21
19 Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me." 20 Achan replied, "It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath."

The story of Achan is sad and tragic. It's sad that Achan valued possessions more than he valued obedience to God. It's sad that he somehow thought he could hide his sin from God and from others. It's tragic how instead of having humility and reverence for the destruction of the city and death of its people, he would be cold-hearted and selfish. It's tragic that his sin resulted in others losing their lives, and tragic how his self-indulgence turned out to be self-destruction.

Response and Action:
My secret sins are no secret to God. I have secret sins and, sadly, it's easy for me to identify with Achan. I want to be motivated by reverence for God and humble concern for others, not selfishness and greed. I don't want secret sins to destroy me or to hurt others. That's something I've seen happen all too often.

I am thankful for the grace and forgiveness God has extended to me through Christ Jesus. I want to live a life that is fully devoted to him. I will not bury sins under the “tent floor” of my life. I will strive to be honest with God and with others. With the guidance of God’s word, and the transforming strength of the Holy Spirit, I can escape the snares and temptations of selfish desires.

O God, help me to walk with integrity. Do not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear. Strengthen me to stand and provide ways of escape. Transform and shape my heart so that I desire what you desire. Help me to remember that I am not my own, I have been bought with a price. Help me to live a life of devotion to you. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

The Smell of Sin: And the Fresh Air of Grace
by Don Everts

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 22 - He Has Shown Kindness

Today's Reading:
Joshua 5:1-7:15
Acts 14:8-28
Psalm 61:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 14:14-18
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Paul and Barnabas proclaimed to the people of Lystra the good news that the true God who made heaven and earth was now showing himself to them. The living God was calling them to come to him and to turn away from worthless things.

Paul explained that their worship of false Gods had resulted from a long history of ignoring God and going their own way instead. He pointed to creation, the seasonal rains, and bountiful crops as witnesses of provision from their Creator. The abundance of blessing and joy in their lives, he said, were testimonies of God's kindness to them.

Response and Action:
The good news is that God is calling people to himself. In proclaiming this good news, it is important to help people see evidence of the true and living God who is already at work among them with love and kindness. It is also necessary to help them recognize what is false and worthless.

O Living and True God, I want to be responsive to your invitation. Help me to turn away from all that is worthless and false. Help me to recognize the evidences of your truth and kindness toward me. As I respond and surrender to you, help me to share this good news with others. Help me be a witness of your truth and kindness. Help me to humbly and gently expose falsehoods and point others to you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 28:18-20
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21 - What the Stones Say

Today's Reading:
Joshua 3:1-4:24
Acts 13:42-14:7
Psalm 60:5-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Joshua 4:20-22,24
20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' 22 tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' - - - 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God."


As the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, they took common rocks from the middle of the river and turned them into a memorial witness of their uncommon God. In the future, every time someone saw that pile of twelve stones, it would remind them of the powerful way God showed himself to be their provider.

The same God who had brought them out of Egypt, safely through the Red Sea, and safely through the wilderness, now brought them safely across the Jordan into the Land of Promise. Ordinary stones from the river became milestones of their journey—a memorial of God's faithfulness to them.

Response and Action:Common things can serve as wonderful faith souvenirs that remind me of God's goodness and provision. In communion, common bread and wine become a witness of God's grace and deliverance made possible by Christ's death and resurrection. In baptism, common water becomes a witness of the new life God offers to all who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

What is God bringing me through today? What common thing could I pick up today and turn it into a witness and reminder of God's faithfulness to me?

O God, you are worthy of my praise and thanks. You guide and provide for your people as they follow you in faith. Open my eyes to all the common things around me that can serve as reminders of your uncommon power and goodness to me. Give me the creativity and discipline to gather small souvenirs along my life's journey to serve as witnesses of your love and mercy to me. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Luke 22:19
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts
by Harold Best

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20 - Be Strong

Today's Reading:
Deut. 34:1-Josh. 2:24
Acts 13:16-41
Psalm 60:1-4
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Joshua 1:7-9
7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."


The torch of leadership was passed on from Moses to Joshua. God admonished Joshua to be strong and courageous and to be careful to follow the commands he received through Moses. Though they would face frightening opposition and discouraging circumstances, God promised Joshua that he would be with him wherever he went, giving him strength and success.

Response and Action:
I'm no Joshua, but my life's journey requires strength and courage. Whether it's big or small, we're all leaders in some way. We all have to take the lead at some time. As a follower of Jesus, I take heart in knowing that God will not forsake me in the times I need to be a leader. Like Joshua, I will commit myself to knowing and meditating upon God's written word. When I face difficult and discouraging circumstances, I will look to God for the energy and confidence I need to keep pressing forward.

O God, thank you for the promise to be with your people. Give me an awareness of your presence with me today. Grant me the strength and the faith I need to face the challenges and circumstances of my life. When I am frightened, guard my heart and mind with the peace of Christ Jesus. Protect me from discouragement, and encourage me, by your Holy Spirit, through your Word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Timothy 2:1-7
1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day
by James Emery White

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Reading Schedule for December 20-26

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2015-16

Sunday, December 20 -
Deuteronomy 34:1-Jos 2:24 / Acts 13:16-41
/ Psalm 60:1-4

Monday, December 21  -
Joshua 3:1-4:24
/ Acts 13:42-14:7 / Psalm 60:5-12

Tuesday, December 22  -
Joshua 5:1-7:15
/ Acts 14:8-28 / Psalm 61:1-8

Wednesday, December 23  -
Joshua 7:16-9:2
/ Acts 15:1-35 / Psalm 62:1-12

Thursday, December 24  -
Joshua 9:3-10:43
/ Acts 15:36-16:15 / Psalm 63:1-11

Friday, December 25 -
Joshua 11:1-12:24
/ Acts 16:16-40 / Psalm 64:1-10

Saturday, December 26 -
Joshua 13:1-14:15
/ Acts 17:1-34 / Psalm 65:1-13

December 19 - Refuge in Troubled Times

Today's Reading:
Deut. 33:1-29
Acts 12:24-13:15
Psalm 59:9-17
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 59:16-17
16 But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. 17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.

Though his life was filled with problems, threats, and enemies, David put his faith in God. He believed that there would be a morning of blessing that followed the dark night. He believed that God was reliable. He considered the Lord to be his refuge. He was so confident in the Lord that he sang songs of praise even in times of trouble.

Response and Action:
I want to have a faith in God that exceeds my fear of trouble. I will give praise to God even in the dark times of hardship, believing that the morning of his blessing will come in due time

O God, be my refuge in times of trouble. Be my strength in times of weakness. Be my refuge in the storm. Show me your grace and love as I strive to honor and serve you in a world dominated by hate and selfishness. Make me an instrument of your peace. Make me a witness of your goodness. Help me to sing songs of praise until the final morning dawns and you set all things right. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Jude 1:24-25
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling 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.

Learning to Pray through the Psalms
by James W. Sire

Friday, December 18, 2015

December 18 - Astonished

Today's Reading:
Deut. 32:28-52
Acts 12:1-23
Psalm 59:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 12:12-15
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" 15 "You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel." 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

I'm always encouraged, in a backwards sort of way, by how surprised the believers praying for Peter were when he showed up at their door. When the servant girl went to answer the door during the prayer time and returned with news that Peter was standing at the door, they practically told her to stop bothering them. They were too busy praying for Peter to expect an answer to their prayers. They told her, “You’re crazy.” They told her she had probably seen an angel. It’s almost funny to see a group of people praying so fervently to God for Peter's release, and yet so unprepared for their prayer to be answered.

Response and Action:
The amount of my faith is not as important as the object of my faith. It's good for me to pray for all my concerns, even though I may not be able to grasp or expect the way God will answer my prayers. God can and may do more than I am able to ask or imagine. Prayers are not dependent upon the mind of those praying, but rather upon the will of the God to whom they pray. I will lift up my requests and petitions to God, knowing that he may answer my prayers in ways I am not expecting.

O God, thank you for your power to answer prayer. Give me the faith and boldness to come to you with every need and concern. Thank you that your answers to my prayers are not dependent upon my ability to anticipate what they will be. Give me eyes that are ready to recognize your answers to my prayers, and give me a mouth that is ready to give you praise for them. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
Ephesians 3:20-21
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

The God Who Hears
by W. Bingham Hunter

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 17 - Words for the Wayward

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 31:1-32:27
Acts 11:1-30
Psalm 58:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Deuteronomy 31:24-27
24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD: 26 “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!"

Here, at the end of his life, Moses is less than cheerful and optimistic about Israel's future. After reminding the people of the importance of seeking and obeying God, after stressing the importance of knowing and teaching God's word to their children, and after writing all the words of the Law in a book, he tells them to put the book beside the ark of the covenant as "a witness against them." He basically tells them, "Here's God's word. Put it in a sacred and special place so it can remind you of how rebellious and disobedient you are."

While Moses faithfully communicated the Law God revealed to him, he had absolutely no confidence that the Israelites would be able to follow it. He said, "I know you are corrupt and that you'll turn away from the things I've taught you." Moses gave the Law, but he understood that the future of his people would depend completely on the grace of God. Even Moses knew that the Law was unable to change people or save them.

Response and Action:
Knowing what is right and true is good, but knowledge cannot make me righteous. Knowing what is wrong only serves to show me how easily I am prone to do it. It highlights my inability to overcome the corruption and rebellion at work in me. It shows me that I need God's grace. Only by the grace of God and the power of his Spirit can I be transformed and strengthened to do his will.

I will seek to know the Scriptures and to humbly follow the instructions and precepts it reveals, but my confidence will be in God's grace, not in my ability to follow instructions. I will listen to the teachings of Jesus and make every effort obey them, but my hope is in Him, not in my ability to obey him. I know how stiff-necked and rebellious I can be, so my hope is firmly fixed upon God's grace and his resurrection power to transform and shape me.

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. 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: John 1:14, 16-18

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - - - 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us
by Scot McKnight

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 16 - No Favoritism

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20
Acts 10:24-48
Psalm 57:7-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Acts 10:30-35
30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” 34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

God accepts anyone who has faith in him and reverence for him. Faith and reverence are lived out through honoring God and doing what is right. The testimony of all the prophets, Peter said, is that "everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name." Through this amazing God-ordained encounter, God was not only showing himself to Cornelius and his household, he was also helping Peter to know and understand him more fully.

Response and Action:
 I am so glad that God's mercy and love are available to everyone regardless of ethnicity, language, nationality, or religious background. Those who believe in God and humbly seek him will find him.

My faith in God and reverence for him must be lived out in my daily life. I will seek God with my whole heart. I will continue to expect God to help me know him more completely and deeply. I will be ready and willing to help others know and respond to God. I will also be ready to learn new things about God. The more I know Christ the more I will be able to share him with others. The more I share Christ with others, the more I will know him.

O God, thank you for loving us and for making a way for us to have forgiveness and life through Jesus. You have promised that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. May all who seek you find you, O God. May all who know you freely and boldly share your love with everyone around them. Help me to know you more and more each day. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
1 John 5:11-12
11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

One Body, One Spirit: Principles of Successful Multiracial Churches
by George A. Yancey