Monday, February 29, 2016

Light Shines on the Righteous

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 22:1-53
2 Corinthians 4:1-12
Psalm 97:1-12
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
Psalm 97:9-12

9 For you, LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. 10 Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 11 Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. 12 Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.

Acknowledging God to be the only True God over all the earth involves turning away from wickedness. To love the Lord is to hate evil. Walking into the light requires leaving the darkness. Joy is the result of having an upright heart that seeks God. True praise involves the pursuit of holiness.

Response and Action:
I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father—God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life who proceeds from the Father and the Son. I believe the triune God is faithful and able to deliver me. I believe that joy is found in living for God, in seeking righteousness, and in turning away from evil. I will trust in the Lord with all my heart. I will seek his counsel. I will walk in his light. I will read his word, and I will sing his praise.

O God, help me turn away from what is wrong and do what is right. You are the only true God. You are faithful. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Lead me away from temptation. Deliver me from evil. Help me to praise you by seeking righteousness. Fill me with joy and give me an upright heart. Teach and empower me to live an upright life. Transform me by your Holy Spirit. Help me to acknowledge you in all my ways. Let your light shine on me, and help me to reflect your glory. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 
John 3:19-21
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Becoming Good
by David W. Gill

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ever Increasing Glory

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 20:1-21:29
2 Corinthians 3:1-18
Psalm 96:1-13
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

The Spirit of the Lord gives freedom. Those who place faith in Christ receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) who indwells our mortal bodies (Romans 8). We are no longer in bondage to sin (Romans 6), but instead we are freed from it to live a new life in Christ.

Freedom in Christ means that I have the freedom to change and grow and become. The Spirit of God leads, empowers, transforms, and shapes the lives of all who follow and submit to Christ. The Christian life is a process of change and renewal. Every passing day, every passing year, I can continue to grow and become more and more like Jesus.

Response and Action:
I need to remember that in Christ, I have the freedom to change and become more like Jesus. The Good News of Jesus tells me that I really can change. I need to hold on to this promise and take hold of God's grace, making every effort to experience the reality of what God can do in my life. I need to open my heart and focus my mind on the leading of the Spirit of the Lord as I read the scriptures, as I pray, and as I participate in Christian community.

O God, I have so far to go, but I know you love me where I am. Thank you for a love that accepts me where I am and yet calls and lifts me to where I can be. Thank you for your Spirit and the freedom he gives me as a believer in Christ Jesus. Help me to be faithful in prayer, a student of the scriptures, and an active participant in Christian community. Make me sensitive and alert to your leading. Help me to make new strides each day as I follow Jesus with a heart to be like him. Amen.

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

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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Reading Schedule for Feb. 28 – March 5

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2015-16

Sunday, February 28 -
1Kings 20:1-21:29 / 2Corinthians 3:1-18 / Psalm 96:1-13

Monday, February 29  -
1Kings 22:1-53
/ 2Corinthians 4:1-12 / Psalm 97:1-12

Tuesday, March 1  -
2Kings 1:1-2:25
/ 2Corinthians 4:13-5:10 / Psalm 98:1-9

Wednesday, March 2  - 

2Kings 3:1-4:17 / 2Corinthians 5:11-21 / Psalm 99:1-9

Thursday, March 3  -
2Kings 4:18-5:27
/ 2Corinthians 6:1-13 / Psalm 100:1-5

Friday, March 4 -
2Kings 6:1-7:20
/ 2Corinthians 6:14-7:7 / Psalm 101:1-8

Saturday, March 5 -
2Kings 8:1-9:13
/ 2Corinthians 7:8-16 / Psalm 102:1-11

Not Motivated by Profit

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 19:1-21
2 Corinthians 2:12-17
Psalm 95:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses:
2 Corinthians 2:17
17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

Christianity has been turned into big business and Jesus has become a cottage industry. It's nothing new. Even in the first century, people had figured out ways to "peddle the word of God for profit."

Paul's ministry was rooted in his genuine faith that Jesus was the hope of the world. He was not motivated by personal gain, but rather by his conviction that Christ died for all in order to bring salvation. Paul believed that those who had been redeemed by Christ should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

Response and Action:
I want to live for Christ. Salvation and hope have been given freely to me, and I will freely pass it along. Jesus is my Lord and Savior; therefore, all that I am is rightfully his. I will do all I can to commit my life and my ministry
to sharing the grace of Christ as sincerely, generously, and wholeheartedly as possible. And I will encourage my church community to do the same.

O God, thank you for the incomparable gift of Christ. Thank you for your generosity and goodness. Help me to be shaped so completely by your grace that I too am able to be generous and good. Help me to be sincere in my faith, and motivate me to be a servant, a witness, and a blessing to others. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:  
Mark 10:43-45
43 "...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Counterfeit Gods
by Timothy Keller

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Fire of the Lord

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 18:1-46
2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11
Psalm 94:12-23
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Kings 18:36-39
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!"

King Ahab was so wrongheaded in his religious beliefs that he blamed Elijah for his problems. Elijah was uncompromisingly faithful to the God of Abraham, but King Ahab saw this as stubborn and narrow-minded. Ahab was religiously pluralistic and thought it made more sense to embrace more gods in more ways. Elijah's condemnation of Baal worship and his insistence that there was only one God ran in direct conflict with Ahab's pantheism.

The confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel was the collision of opposing worldviews. Faith in the one true God, the God of Abraham, won the day.

Response and Action:
Truth is, by nature, exclusive. Conflicting claims to truth cannot stand unchallenged and untested. I need to give careful scrutiny to all truth claims. I need to think through my reasons for believing the things I believe. I need to be thorough as I determine my reasons for considering one claim to be true and others to be false.

Both reason and experience factor into this evaluation process. I need to consider who is making the claim, why are they making it. I must be conscientious about my basis for doubting or believing these claims. I must also be honest about whether or not truth claims resonate with my life experiences, the experiences of others, and the testimony of history.

O God, help me to recognize what is true and what is false. Confirm my faith in you through your Word, through your people, through my life experiences, through the testimony of others, and through sound reasoning. Protect me from deception and doubt. Increase my faith and show yourself to be powerful and true in all things. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Peter 1:20-21
20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Faith AND Doubt
by John Ortberg

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The God of All Comfort

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 15:25-17:24
2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Psalm 94:1-11
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God is compassionate. He sees our troubles and sustains us. He knows our pain and comforts us. For this, we should offer him praise and thanks. The comfort we receive from God enables us to bring comfort to others around us as they encounter trouble and despair.

Response and Action:
I need to take notice of the many ways God has sustained, comforted, and brought me through troubles and hardships. I will praise God for his love and provision and promises. I need to be mindful of those around me who are experiencing trouble, and then do what I can to pass along the same comfort I have received. I can be a source of God's compassion and encouragement to others. I will look to God for the grace to endure trouble. I will endeavor to be a channel of God's grace and comfort to others facing trouble and heartache.

O God, thank you for the grace and comfort you extend to me through your word, your Spirit, your people, and your provision. I praise you for being a God of comfort and consolation. Help me to always look to you for the strength and hope I need to the face my troubles. Give me eyes to see the hurts of those around me. Give me a heart of compassion toward them, and give me the readiness to be an instrument of comfort in their lives. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Established Long Ago

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 14:1-15:24
1 Corinthians 16:1-24
Psalm 93:1-5
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 93:1-2, 5
1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 2 Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. - - - 5 Your statutes, LORD, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.

God's power, authority, and word are unshakable and eternal. He is before all things and after all things. He is the maker of all that is, seen and unseen. The authority that establishes all creation, is the same authority that establishes my life. Understanding and wisdom are found only in him and in his word. All truth belongs to him.

Response and Action:
I believe that God reigns and that he has given all authority to Christ Jesus. I humbly yield to him and recognize his rightful place of authority in my life. I will seek him and build my life upon his word in order to have a steadfast faith and an unshakable life.

O God, you reign over all things. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. By your power and grace, help me to follow Christ and yield to his Lordship. Help me to be a faithful disciple, and help me to help others become disciples. Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 7:26-29
26 "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

The Lord and His Prayer
by N.T. Wright

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Downfall and Delusion

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 12:20-13:34
1 Corinthians 15:29-58
Psalm 92:1-15
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Kings 12:31-32; 13:31
12:31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. - - - 13:31 This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth.

Jeroboam was promised, through the Prophet Ahijah, that God would make him a great king like David if he would walk in obedience to God and do what was right in God's eyes by obeying God's decrees and commands, as David had (1 Kings 11:38). Instead, Jeroboam decided to seek other advice and take things into his own hands. Rather than trusting God, he decided to invent his own religion.

Jeroboam was afraid that the people in the northern ten tribes under his rule would not be politically faithful to him as king if the priests, practices, and temple for their worship were located in Jerusalem. He set up new altars, new practices, a new priesthood, and a new worship center within the geographic borders of his kingdom. Instead of it being a pathway for true faith in the true God, Jeroboam saw religion as a political tool. Instead of trusting God's promise, he trusted his political and military advisers.

Response and Action:
I want to trust God's promises more than I trust my own abilities and understanding. I need to examine all of my personal goals, thoughts, beliefs, and efforts by the light of God's instruction and promise. I need to be sure that my religious practices and perspectives are rooted in a genuine relationship with God. I need to trust that when I acknowledge God in every aspect of life—submitting to his commands and leaning into his gracious provision—he will make my path straight.

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 love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your Name. Through Christ, I pray. 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 submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Counterfeit Gods
by Timothy Keller

Monday, February 22, 2016

If Christ Has Not Been Raised

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 11:1-12:19
1 Corinthians 15:1-28
Psalm 91:9-16
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Corinthians 15:13-20
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

If Jesus Christ did not raise from the grave—if the resurrection story is just a myth or wishful thinking, then Christianity is a sham. Apart from the resurrection, faith and preaching is worthless and the Apostles were misled at best and liars at worst. Without the resurrection, there is no hope for deliverance from sin, and all who have died with faith in Christ are lost. But Christ has been raised from the dead! The testimony of scripture, history, the church, and of changed lives all point to the veracity of Christ's resurrection.

Response and Action:
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus—my faith matters. Because I believe in resurrection, the study of scripture and learning as a disciple of Jesus are vital. Because I believe in resurrection, I have hope of something beyond my mortal life. Because I believe in resurrection power, I have hope of transformation and renewal in my life today. Because I believe in resurrection, I have hope that the world can change through faith and obedience to Christ. Because I believe in resurrection, I have hope of salvation. Because resurrection faith has changed my life, I want to help others find that same hope and salvation.

O God, thank you for raising Christ Jesus from the dead. Thank you that resurrection power is available to me today as I surrender to you (Romans 8). Help me to take hold of that power that I might be changed into the likeness of  Jesus in thought, word, and deed. Thank you for your promise to raise me on the final day, that I might spend eternity with you and all those who have believed in Jesus. Help me to be a witness and a blessing to everyone around me that others might come to salvation and be raised into a new life and a new hope. I look for the resurrection and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 1:3-5
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

by N.T. Wright

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Throne of Israel

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 9:1-10:29
1 Corinthians 14:18-40
Psalm 91:1-8
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Kings 10:9
9 Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness."

Solomon's fame became widespread because God's blessing on him and his kingdom was so great. The Queen of Sheba heard about God's blessing upon Solomon, and she traveled far to see for herself if the reports were true. The reality of what she discovered exceeded the reports she had heard. The wisdom, faith, beauty, leadership, and bounty she witnessed overwhelmed her.

When God is at work, people notice. Honest searches for the source of wisdom, truth, beauty, and blessing will always lead the searcher to God—the giver of every good and perfect gift.

When Solomon forgot that his blessing and power had come from God, he became compromised and ineffective. Losing sight of what the Queen of Sheba saw was ruin of his reign.

Response and Action:
Like the Queen of Sheba, I want to search out and recognize God's blessing and truth. Like Solomon, I want to love and honor God live a life that evidences his blessing and guidance. I want to be a living witness of God's wisdom and goodness, to be shaped and guided by his wisdom and truth.

O God, give me wisdom and make my life a testimony of your goodness. Help me to seek you with all my heart so that every aspect of my life gives evidence of your blessing. Protect me from the things that would make me lose sight of you. Draw me closer to you each day and help me to recognize you in everything that is beautiful and true. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 12:42
42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.

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

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reading Schedule for February 21-27

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2015-16

Sunday, February 21 -
1Kings 9:1-10:29 / 1Corinthians 14:18-40 / Psalm 91:1-8

Monday, February 22  -
1Kings 11:1-12:19 / 1Corinthians 15:1-28 / Psalm 91:9-16

Tuesday, February 23  -
1Kings 12:20-13:34 / 1Corinthians 15:29-58 / Psalm 92:1-15

Wednesday, February 24  -
1Kings 14:1-15:24 / 1Corinthians 16:1-24 / Psalm 93:1-5

Thursday, February 25  -
1Kings 15:25-17:24 / 2Corinthians 1:1-11 / Psalm 94:1-11

Friday, February 26 -
1Kings 18:1-46 / 2Corinthians 1:12-2:11 / Psalm 94:12-23

Saturday, February 27 -
1Kings 19:1-21 / 2Corinthians 2:12-17 / Psalm 95:1-11

Will God Really Dwell on Earth?

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 8:1-66
1 Corinthians 14:1-17
Psalm 90:11-17
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Kings 8:27-29
27 "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, 'My Name shall be there,' so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.

Though the Temple was to be a place of worship, and a place where God's presence would dwell in a special way, Solomon and the people of Israel understood that no building could contain God. They knew that not even the whole of creation or the highest heavens could contain the one true God, much less a building built by human hands. The Temple served merely as a place of connection between God and man--a place where heaven and earth would overlap.

Jesus used temple language about himself. He referred to himself as the temple of God (Mt. 12:5-7; John 2:19). God's presence entered the world in a special way through Jesus. The word became flesh and lived among us full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Today, those who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:8-10) serve as a sort of temple as they live in the world filled with the Holy Spirit. Through God's people, heaven and earth overlap. Because God's Spirit lives in us, we are to live as children of light (Eph. 5:8).

Response and Action:
Through faith in Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I am part of God's temple. My heart and life should be a place where God's presence is powerful, fruitful, and visible. By God's grace my life can be a place where heaven and earth overlap. My life can be a witness for Christ and a connecting point with the love and grace of God.

O God, who fills the heavens, you are Holy. I long to see your kingdom come -- your will lived out on earth as in heaven. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and transform my heart by your power and grace. Help me to live to the praise of your glorious grace as the Spirit of Jesus indwells my mortal body. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Ephesians 2:19-22
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Surprised by Hope
by N. T. Wright

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Heart of Wisdom

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 7:1-51
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13
Psalm 90:1-10
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 90:2-6, 10, 12
2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You turn men back to dust, saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men." 4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning- 6 though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. - - - 10 The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. - - - 12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90 is attributed as "A Prayer of Moses the Man of God." Moses knew a lot about life and death. He had seen many of his people die as slaves in Egypt, and even as they were delivered from bondage, he saw many of them die in the wilderness during their forty-year sojourn before entering the land God had promised. Though he lived a long life, he was acutely aware of its brevity in the big picture of God's creation, God's plan, and the history of God's people. He knew that in order to be wise, a person must understand how just how ephemeral life is.

Response and Action:
My life is short. I will commit each new day God grants me to honoring him. Today, I will seek him with my whole heart. Today, I will strive to serve him. Today, I will treasure his Word. Today, I will surrender my life to the call of Christ Jesus. Today, I will love my neighbor. Today, I will hold up every goal, action, attitude, responsibility, and relationship to the light of God's will.

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 do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Teach me to number my days, that I might present to you a heart that is wise. Remind me that every day I have is a gift from you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 4:13-15
13 Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Knowing God's Will: Finding Guidance for Personal Decisions
by M. Blaine Smith

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Parts in the Body

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 5:1-6:38
1 Corinthians 12:1-26
Psalm 89:46-52
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Corinthians 12:14-18
14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

People in the body of Christ—the Church—have different gifts, serve different purposes, and meet different needs. Our place and purpose is arranged by God to accomplish God's intent for each individual and for the entire community. There is no need for competition, envy, or pride. Each person, each member of the body, should be content to be what she is and to do what he has been made to do. This is how we support the greater community, find our own fulfillment, and glorify God.

Response and Action:
I need to discover, develop, and exercise the gifts God has given me. I shouldn't envy others for what they are and do. I shouldn't despise or diminish what I am or what I can do. I am God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good things God has prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). Every member of the body is needed. By finding and doing my part, I support and serve the health and life of the whole body. I benefit others and others benefit me

O God, you have fearfully and wonderfully made me. You know the purposes you have for me and the gifts you have given me. Help me, as I seek you with my whole heart, to discover my gifts and to understand how I can use them to serve your will. Give me good things to do and the heart to do them. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 12:4-5
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Christly Gestures: Learning to Be Members of the Body of Christ
by Brett P. Webb-Mitchell

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Throne of David

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 2:1-3:2
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Psalm 89:30-37
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Psalm 89:34-37
34 "I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered. 35 Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—and I will not lie to David— 36 that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun; 37 it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.”

God's covenant with David ensured that there would always be a descendant of David on the throne. Someone from the lineage of David would reign forever. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of this covenant promise.

Response and Action:
Jesus is the fulfillment of God's faithful promise. He is the Eternal King, the Son of David. I will yield to him. I will submit myself to his authority over my life. He is Lord!

Our Father, who fills the heavens, holy is your Name. We long to see your kingdom come—your will lived out on earth as in heaven. Give to us, we pray, the bread we need this day. And forgive the debts we cannot pay, just as we forgive our debtors. Lead us away from temptation. Deliver us from evil. For the Kingdom is yours alone—the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Acts 13:16-23 
16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ 23 From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised."

Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels
by Darrell L. Bock

Monday, February 15, 2016

Seeking the Good of Others

Today's Reading:
1 Kings 1:1-53
1 Corinthians 10:14-33
Psalm 89:19-29
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

Some things a person may be free to do, with a clear conscience before God, may not be beneficial. Sometimes it is wise and righteous to give up a freedom. It's not enough for a person to consider whether something is legally permissible; one must also determine whether or not such actions would be beneficial.

Christians must consider how exercising their freedoms will impact the lives of others. Before claiming a right, we must consider whether or not the exercise of that right will be beneficial or detrimental toward ourselves and toward others.

Response and Action:
Instead of merely considering whether something is legal or allowable, I will consider whether or not it is helpful. Some things are not right to do, even if they are not wrong or sinful in and of themselves. Actions must be evaluated in the context of community.

Instead of asking if something is wrong, I will ask if it is beneficial. I will consider how my actions are likely to be helpful or hurtful. Some freedoms and rights are worth setting aside if doing so will make a positive impact in my own life or the lives of others. Pursuing holiness is more important than exercising freedoms. Being a source of blessing is always better than clinging to rights.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is darkness, light. Grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving we receive; it is in pardoning, we receive pardon; it is in giving that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 14:19-21 
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

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

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Running to Win

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 23:24-24:25
1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13
Psalm 89:14-18
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Paul uses the metaphor of running a race to describe the Christian life of discipleship, holiness, and mission. The Christian life has a goal, and it requires effort, training, and self-control. With this in mind, Paul says that he runs with: 1. Direction - He is not aimless; 2. Discipline - He exercises control over his body and his actions; 3. Diligence - He is in the race for the long run and his eye is on the prize at the finish line.

Response and Action:
Christ has called me to a life of discipleship--serving and honoring God, becoming more like Jesus, and sharing in the work and mission of Jesus. This Christian life will require no less focus, effort, training, and self-control than that of a runner who is competing to win a race.

I must keep my purpose before me at all times (direction). I must be very intentional and make every effort to establish patterns and practices in my life that move me toward my goals (discipline). I must be persistent and perseverant. I will keep my eye on the finish line, realizing that my goals are lifetime goals (diligence).

O God, help me to run my life's race with direction, discipline, and diligence. Show me the ways I should go through your word and by your Spirit. By your grace and power, help me to live with discipline and self-control. Help me to do the things that help me grow stronger in Christ. Uphold me and encourage me that I might be faithful and diligent as I follow Jesus all the days of my life. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 12:1 
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

The Spirit of the Disciplines
by Dallas Willard

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Reading Schedule for February 14-20

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2015-16

Sunday, February 14 -
2Samuel 23:24-24:25 / 1Cor 9:19-10:13 / Psalm 89:14-18

Monday, February 15  -
1Kings 1:1-53
/ 1Cor 10:14-33 / Psalm 89:19-29

Tuesday, February 16  -
1Kings 2:1-3:2
/ 1Cor 11:1-16 / Psalm 89:30-37

Wednesday, February 17  -
1Kings 3:3-4:34
/ 1Cor 11:17-34 / Psalm 89:38-45

Thursday, February 18  -
1Kings 5:1-6:38
/ 1Cor 12:1-26 / Psalm 89:46-52

Friday, February 19 -
1Kings 7:1-51
/ 1Cor 12:27-13:13 / Psalm 90:1-10

Saturday, February 20 -
1Kings 8:1-66
/ 1Cor 14:1-17 / Psalm 90:11-17

Reverence and Righteousness

Today's Reading:
2 Samuel 22:1-23:23
1 Corinthians 9:1-18
Psalm 89:9-13
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: 2 Samuel 23:2-4
2 “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. 3 The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, 4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’

For all of King David's failings, the saving ballast of his life and rule was his reverence for God. David was honest about his sin, his violence, his selfishness, and his transgressions. Here in his final words, David declares that the success of any king or kingdom is rooted not in military power, wealth, resources, or political acumen, but rather in reverence for God. Here at the end of his life, David acknowledged that any true success he had experienced was by the grace of God, not his own strength.

Response and Action:
Reverence for God is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the key for success in life and any endeavor. I think David's final words were right on track. When a king rules in the fear of God, then his reign is like the light of dawn on a cloudless morning. When a king has reverence for God, his leadership is like the spring rains the make the grass and crops grow.

I will seek God. In humility, I will look to God for wisdom and direction. I will follow Jesus, believing that he is the fullest and most visible expression of God. I will read and meditate upon the scriptures. I will humble myself before God believing that my success and joy are in his hands. Reverence for God and faith in his Son form the sure foundation for my life.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give me a humble spirit and a contrite heart. Show me your ways. Guide me in your truth and teach me. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your Name. Through Christ Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: James 3:17-18 
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship
by David Peterson