Thursday, 2/26

Today's Reading: Ephesians 5

Today's Meditation:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1
 

It is a passage we would do well to read every day. Paul continues to stress the importance of unity among believers and explains why unity is important and what we will look like as believers who are maturing together.

God gives believers different gifts so each can serve the others in a unique way, to help all become mature in their union with Jesus. This maturing process will show in the way we live, day to day and minute by minute. “Be very careful, then, how you live,” Paul implores. We are children of the light, and this shines through in our behavior. The things we talk about, the way we joke together, the way we handle sexual desires, the place we give to greed, the people we choose for close companions, the way we handle anger, the things with which we fill our minds – all these matter because they reflect who we are. If we belong to Jesus, we long to live for him, seeking sanctification – a growing likeness to him – every day. This won’t happen if we take lightly the choices we make about how to live.

As believers, we “put off [our]old self and put on the new self, created to be like God.” When this is our prayer, God gives us the help we need to care about the way we live, and then to live as if we care. Brenda Quinn

How often, in the course of a day, do you consider whether your behavior is pleasing to God? Pray that with each day you would more closely resemble Jesus. 

Wednesday, 2/25

Today's Reading: Matthew 5:21-26
Today's Meditation: by Eugene Peterson

Make the first move; make things right with him. (The Message)

Anger is a legitimate emotion. It isn’t a sin any more than laughter is. We need to think through the legitimacy of anger, for we’re prone to think condemningly of it. Paul, for example, tells us to be angry but to be careful and not let our anger get away from us and cause us to sin (Ephesians 4:26). Further evidence of its legitimacy is that it is ascribed to God. The wrath of God and the anger of God are common biblical phrases.

All the same, anger is a dangerous emotion. It can easily consume us, and in consuming us, lead to our condemnation. “I’m telling you,” Jesus said, “that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder” (Matthew 5:21)

Most anger, in other words, ends up being sinful. It’s sinful not because of the emotion itself is wrong but because the thing we want is wrong or we’re angry with the wrong person or the wrong way or for too long a time. Unlike the divine wrath, which burns with a clean flame, human anger generates a toxic and suffocating smoke.

Is there someone you need to make the first move with to make things right? Don’t wait, do it now. 

Tuesday, 2/24

Today's Reading: Ephesians 4:17-32
Today's Meditation: What Is Real Forgiveness?
by Rick Warren — May 21, 2014

Real forgiveness is not a cheap term you just throw out that instantly makes everybody feel better. That’s not real forgiveness.

The Bible says real forgiveness is four things:

1. Forgiveness is remembering how much you’ve been forgiven.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). This is the starting point for genuine forgiveness. If you don’t feel forgiven, you won’t want to forgive anybody else. If you’re hard on yourself, you’re going to be hard on others. But the more grace you receive from God, the more gracious you’re going to be to others. The more forgiven you feel by God, the more forgiving you’ll be toward others.

2. Forgiveness is relinquishing your right to get even.
Romans 12:19 says, “Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it” (LB). Life is not fair, but one day God’s going to settle the score. He’s going to right the wrongs. So, who can get better justice — you or God?

3. Forgiveness is responding to evil with good.
The Bible says in Luke 6:27-28, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (NIV). How can you tell when you’ve really forgiven somebody? When you can look at that person’s hurt and not just your own and pray for God to bless him or her.

You ask, “How could I ever do that for the person who’s hurt me?” You can’t unless you allow the love of God to penetrate your life. Only the love of God can help you do something like that.

Forgiveness is repeating the process as long as necessary. (Matthew 18:21-22 NLT)

How long do you have to keep forgiving a person? As long as it takes. You have to keep forgiving that person until the pain stops and the desire to get revenge goes away.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)

Talk It Over

  1. What difference has God’s grace made in your life? How can you extend that grace to others?
  2. For whom do you need to pray God’s blessing today? What hurt do you need to let go of?
  3. What good can you do for someone in your life who hates you or who has wronged you? 
 

Monday, 2/23

Today's Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

Today's Meditation: What Forgiveness Means

We, as Christians, approach those who have sinned against us with the sentiment of grace deeply ingrained in our hearts. We forgive others because we ourselves have been forgiven. Forgiveness is the releasing of our wrath and condemnation in favor of these things.

While Scripture is full of stories, parables, and words about forgiveness, the heart of the matter is that it will not always be easy to forgive. People do horrible things to one another, and sometimes genuine forgiveness isn’t going to bring about the restoration of a relationship. This is especially so if the person in the wrong is unrepentant and unwilling to change. So, while it may be difficult to immediately forgive, we need to spend time dwelling on the fact that no matter what has been committed against us, it has been committed against God a thousand times over. This is yet another reason why genuine biblical community is so crucial to living a Christ-centered life, because we need help remembering who God is, and in turn, who that makes those of us who are His.

 

Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)
 

Now, let us “be perfect, as [our] heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and work towards offering forgiveness more freely. 

Friday, 2/20

Today's Reading: Psalm 19:7-14

Today's Meditation: Let the words of God transform you

We all need the transforming power of God’s word in so many ways. Whether you are seeking wisdom in stressful and complex situations, encouragement when you are downhearted, or guidance on the way forward, you can find help in the pages of the Bible.

Obviously, David did not have nearly as much of the Bible as we have. But he did have ‘the law of the Lord’ (v.7a), ‘the statutes of the Lord’ (v.7b), ‘the precepts of the Lord’ (v.8a) and ‘the ordinances of the Lord’ (v.9b). He describes these words as being ‘perfect’ (v.7a), ‘pure’ (v.9a) and ‘precious’ (v.10a). In this psalm we see some of the effects of reading the Bible. It:

  • Revives your soul (v.7a)
  • Brings you wisdom (v.7b)
  • Gives joy to your heart (v.8a)
  • Gives light to your eyes (v.8b)
  • Warns you of danger (v.11a)
  • Brings you great reward (v.11b).

Reading the Bible and praying are very closely associated. Don’t simply read the Bible for information, but to hear God speaking to you. The natural response to that is prayer. It is a two-way process. That is why we try to finish each section of this Bible in One Year commentary with a prayer, responding to what God has shown us through his word. This is a model that we also see in this psalm, as David goes straight from extolling the virtues of the word of God into a wonderful prayer. David’s prayer is my prayer (vv.12–14): 

Lord, ‘forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me... May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer’.

Niki Gumble

Thursday, 2/19

Today's Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Today's Meditation: Run the Race
"Why, oh why, did I ever want to run this race?" my husband muttered at about the 10-mile mark in the Honolulu marathon. He was hot, his feet hurt, and people all around him were dropping out of the race. The thing that kept him going was the thought of the "prize"—his wife and kids waiting for him at the finish line, not to mention his life-long goal of running a marathon. Keeping his eye on the prize is what motivated him to complete the race.

The Value of Spiritual Discipline
The physical discipline my husband exercised in order to finish a marathon had value. His health improved because of it. But compared to the importance of running the spiritual race God has set before us, finishing a marathon is of very little value. Both physical and spiritual exercise makes you feel better. But no matter how much you enjoy the exercise, there are going to be some days you just don't feel like doing it. What should you do when that happens? Do it anyway! Of course, there are times when you'll legitimately have issues that may make it difficult for you to do your normal spiritual routine. You may be sick, or may have company, or may be traveling or perhaps...

Tips for Persevering
One thing I've found helpful is to have a "minimum daily requirement" that I can do on even the hardest days. For me, that is listening to one Bible CD. Even if I'm not feeling well, I can listen to the CD while in bed. If I'm running late for work, I can listen to part of the CD while I'm in the shower and finish it in the car as I drive to work. There are days when the only thing I do is put on a Bible CD as I'm drifting off to sleep. Perhaps that isn't ideal, but it keeps me on track with spending time in God's Word daily which is certainly preferable to skipping time in the Word altogether.

Setting a Daily Routine
What about you? Do you have a daily routine for staying in the Word of God and prayer? If not, start one! Set a minimum goal that you know you can do no matter what. That may be listening to a Bible CD like I do, or it may be reading a devotional, or a few verses of Scripture. Pick something you enjoy, and do it daily, even when you don't feel like it. On days when there is more time, add in additional spiritual disciplines such as Bible study and more extended time in prayer and journaling

Nothing else we do in life matters as much as running the race the Lord has set before us because nothing else lasts for eternity. 

Ash Wednesday, 2/18

Today's Reading: Hebrews 12:1-14 

Today's Meditation:

It’s Ash Wednesday, and if we choose to accept it, the next 40 days can be a race set before us of surveying the blood-stained cross of Jesus and preparing us for the greatest of all celebrations, Easter Sunday. This can be a time for us to choose to spend more quiet time with our Lord concentrating on all that He has done for us. We can find that extra time by giving up a meal at an interval right for us or giving up some tech games or another leisure time activity. Sitting in God’s presence, He will show you what gets in the way of more quiet time with Him. This usually means we will need to deny ourselves something that has taken up too much of our time, and keeps us occupied with fleshly pursuits. Our Lord wants us to love Him so much that there’s only joy in our heart at the thought of spending more time with the One who loves us most. When we choose to deny ourselves something on the outside, while replacing it with more time with Him, we will show our deep gratitude for what He has done for us. BRF

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. (v.1)

Father, for Your glory and our growth, I ask you to inundate us with fresh grace in the coming weeks. This special season is all about what You have done for us, not what we promise to do for You.