Sunday, April 30, 2017

He Shared Our Humanity

Today's Reading:
Job 1:1-3:26
Hebrews 2:1-18
Psalm 119:169-176
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Hebrews 2:14-15
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

In Jesus, through the incarnation, God shares our humanity. Jesus suffered death, in order to destroy the power of death. Jesus, the only human being not guilty of sin, or bound by death, willingly laid down his life in order to free the rest of us from our fear and bondage to death.

Response and Action:
I will put my trust and hope in Jesus. I will praise and thank God for the great deliverance Christ Jesus has made possible by sharing in our humanity––destroying death's power and grip on me through his sinless death. I will live with hope and purpose and joy, believing that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. I will live today in the confidence that I have eternal life in Jesus. I will encourage others to take hold of eternal life through faith in Jesus.

I will rejoice in you, O God. You are my salvation and my strength. I bless and thank you, Lord, because you are a God of deliverance -- the escape from death belongs to you. Even when walking in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. You are worthy of my praise, my life, my all. Because you have freed me from death, I will live for you. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in an Everyday Life
by Eugene Peterson

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Reading Schedule for April 30 - May 6

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

Sunday, April 30 - Job 1:1-3:26 / Hebrews 2:1-18 / Psalm 119:169-176

Monday, May 1 -Job 4:1-7:21 / Hebrews 3:1-19 / Psalm 120:1-7

Tuesday, May 2  -Job 8:1-11:20 / Hebrews 4:1-16 / Psalm 121:1-8

Wednesday, May 3  -Job 12:1-15:35 / Hebrews 5:1-14 / Psalm 122:1-9

Thursday, May 4 -Job 16:1-19:29 / Hebrews 6:1-20 / Psalm 123:1-4

Friday, May 5 -Job 20:1-22:30 / Hebrews 7:1-17 / Psalm 124:1-8

Saturday, May 6 -Job 23:1-27:23 / Hebrews 7:18-28 / Psalm 125:1-5

The Radiance of God's Glory

Today's Reading:
Esther 8:1-10:3
Hebrews 1:1-14
Psalm 119:161-168
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Hebrews 1:1-4
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Hebrews begins with a glorious description of the Son of God. He is the prophetic voice of God. He is "the radiance of God's glory." He is the "exact representation of God's being." He is the one who is "sustaining all things by his powerful word." He is the one who provides "purification for sins." He is seated "at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven" and is "superior to the angels."

The deity and supremacy of Jesus the Christ are not the wishful ideas and inventions of Christians three or four centuries down the line. No, the earliest Christians were totally convinced that Jesus was the divine Son of God. The book of Hebrews was written in the last half of the first century (probably around 80 A.D.).

Response and Action:
I will look to Jesus to understand the truth of God. Jesus is the embodiment of God's divine radiance. My faith is in Jesus. He is the one who is able to make purification for my sin. He is the one who is able to sustain me.

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ; the only begotten of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God; begotten, not made; through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death, and was buried. On the third day he rose again, in accordance with the Scripture. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 16:13-17
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven."

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

For Such a Time as This

Today's Reading:
Esther 4:1-7:10
Philemon 1:1-25
Psalm 119:153-160
Click on Text Link to Read Online

Focus Verses: Esther 4:12-14
12 When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

When Esther was swept up in the Persian court officials’ search for a new queen, Mordecai must have been mortified. Why would God allow a young daughter of Abraham to be drawn into circumstances so abhorrent to devout Jews? But later, when Haman's plan to destroy and oppress the Jews became known, Mordecai could see a good reason for God to allow Esther's situation. "Your opportunity to speak up for the Jews might just be the very reason you have come to your royal position," he told her.

Response and Action:
It's good for me to consider the ways God may be at work in the details of my daily life. My whole perception of my circumstances is changed by asking, "How could God use this to accomplish his good purpose?"

Which of the conversations, opportunities, relationships, responsibilities, or problems of my today will be used by God for some greater purpose tomorrow? I don’t know, and because I don’t, I will commit every detail of my life to God, always remembering that small details in God's hand have big possibilities. Maybe I was born for what is happening around me right now!

O God, help me to delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Open my eyes to your presence and work in my life. Give me the faith to see how you can use my words, my relationships, and my struggles. Open my mind to the possibilities and reasons you have for me at my workplace, in my home, around my neighborhood, in my family, and in my church. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Philippians 1:12-14
12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Avoid Foolish Controversies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking About Good And Bad Without Getting Ugly
by Paul Chamberlain

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Eager to Do What Is Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 8:10-11
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trustworthy and Encouraging

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

Focus Verses:
Titus 1:7-9

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your word, O God. Help me to get a firm grip on the trustworthy message of Christ so that it might direct and support me. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Make my life a praise to you and an encouragement to others. Amen.

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Turning Away from Sound Doctrine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Opening the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reading Schedule for April 23-29

Tips for Bible Readers
Reading Schedule for 2016-2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Used for Noble Purposes

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

Focus Verses: 2 Timothy 2:20-22
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

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

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

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

O God, help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Forgive, cleanse, and renew me so that I might serve your holy purposes. Make me an instrument of your love and peace. Amen.

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bringing Life and Immortality to Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things Unseen: Living in Light of Forever
by Mark Buchanan

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Rich in Good Deeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Do Nothing Out of Favoritism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subverting the Power of Prejudice
by Sandra L. Barnes

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Watch Your Life Closely

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

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

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

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

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

By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, O God, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Help me to be a good steward of all you have given me. Grant me the wisdom and the will to guard my heart, feed my spirit, stimulate my mind, and care for my body. Help me to do the good things you've prepared for me to do. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

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

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

Being Worthy of Respect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Prayers, Intercession and Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prayer God Longs For
by James Emery White