Until I put together the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan, I had never really given much time to the psalms. As I’ve been reading them and writing daily questions I’ve discovered something… The psalms offer us the gift of expression and the courage to honest with God. These sacred verses give us permission to talk to God without holding back and to be exactly where we are and who we are with God. If you haven’t given the psalms much attention, join me as we enter the world of the psalms where we’ll come into God’s presence as the vulnerable, honest, needy, spontaneous, joyful child He made us to be.
Monday, Feb. 11 – Acts 6; Psalm 18
With vv. 1-7, Luke wraps up his snapshots of the early days in the life of the Jerusalem church with an example of internal problem solving and a practical working out of fellowship. From 2:42-47, 4:32-37, and 6:1-7, summarize what mattered most to the early believers. What one insight from these three passages would you like to apply to your life this week or to your church community? What specific action(s) can you take toward apply this insight?
As the title indicates, David wrote this psalm “when the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.” Life in a fallen world is hard, unfair, and unpredictable but then there is our God who is exactly the opposite! The psalm starts with a series of powerful titles and allusions for God each beginning with the personal pronoun “my.” List the descriptions David gives for God in vv. 1-2. Now pick one or two of these statements, describe how God fulfills this role in your life? [For extra credit: write out these “my” statements on an index card or piece of paper and keep them close at hand for times when your “enemies” press hard against your spirit.]
Tuesday, Feb. 12 – Acts 7; Proverbs 5:1-6
Stephen’s speech is the longest recorded in Acts. As he answers the charges made against him (ref. 6:13-14) He demonstrates that: (1) God has acted outside the Temple, (2) God works with Gentiles, and (3) Jews have always rejected God’s message, men, and now they have rejected the Messiah! Throughout this whole passage we see in Stephen the evidence of being full of “faith [or grace] and power” (6:8) along with “wisdom and the Spirit” (6:10). What are the evidences today of being full of these qualities? In what aspect(s) of your life would you like to reflect more Stephen’s example?
Times have changed, but people haven’t. Ever since The Fall, humanity has struggled with sexual purity. The problem is catastrophic in our modern cultural, so Solomon’s wisdom in this area is all the more relevant. Our next three readings from Proverbs deal with the consequences of sexual sins. First (vv. 1-6), wisdom reveals the ugliness under the surface of the attractive seductress. Using vv. 3-4 as your guide, describe how at first the gratification of illicit sex seems pleasurable but how below the surface lies troubles. Why do you think that above all other evils, sexual sins are so appealing? When have you seen the truth of vv. 3-4 play out in your own life, or the life of someone else?
Wednesday, Feb. 13 – Acts 8; Psalm 19
Clearly Luke intends for us to see that Simon the sorcerer was a Christian, noting that he “believed, and [was] baptized” (v. 13; cf. Mark 16:16). The story of Simon demonstrates that becoming a Christian doesn’t instantly resolve all of one’s problems and character flaws. List all the ways you see Simon’s request connecting back to his sinful life before becoming a believer? How would you describe Peter’s response? What results do you see in Simon? Look at your own life, what problems and character flaws do you still struggle with as a believer? Enlist the help and prayers of a mature Christian to help you overcome your struggles.
David observes in this wisdom psalm that the majesty of the heavens declare, without “speech” or “words,” the glory of God to humanity. Likewise, people learn of God’s plan to bless humanity through the word of God, or in our modern vernacular the Bible. Write out vv. 7-8, slowly considering each statement. How does your current view of the scriptures match David’s? In what way(s) has your appreciation of the Bible changed over the years? What have the practical manifestations of these benefits from God’s word looked like in your life?
Thursday, Feb. 14 – Acts 9; Proverbs 5:7-14
In Acts 9, Luke records the dramatic conversion and call of Saul of Tarsus (later on we’ll know him better as Paul). This unlikely convert to Christ will spearhead the mission to take the gospel to the Gentiles as well as writing thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books. His contributions to the church can’t be underestimated. In your own words, why was Saul an unlikely convert? (ref. 7:58; 8:1-3; 9:1-2) What does Saul’s conversion teach you about those in your life who are most likely not to believer? What role(s) did Ananias and Barnabas play in Saul’s conversion and acceptance by other believers? Consider the people in your life who are most antagonistic to Christianity. How might God use you to bring them to Christ?
In the second part of Solomon’s warning about illicit sex he clarifies the cost of marital unfaithfulness (vv. 7-14). The price of infidelity is so high that it is unreasonable. Therefore one is wise to avoid the temptation altogether (compare v. 8; 1 Corinthians 6:18a). One commentator put it this way, “If you want to avoid the devil, stay away from his neighborhood.” Consider the areas of your life such as relationships, or entertainment, or social activities, etc. that pose (or have the potential to pose) as a sexual temptation. How do these warnings to flee sexual temptation apply to you? What safe guards do you have in place to keep yourself from going unnecessarily going close sexual temptations?
Friday, Feb. 15 – Acts 10; Psalm 20
The conversion of Cornelius along with his relatives and close friends is the longest narrative in Acts. The importance of the story is highlighted through three references to it chs. 10, 11, and 15. The conversion and full acceptance, of not only a gentile, but a Roman army officer sets the stage for a widespread mission to the Gentile world. Focus in on the great truth that Peter learns through this experience, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” (vv. 34-35). Why is it important for you that God doesn’t show favoritism? When (or with whom) are you most tempted to act as though God does favor certain ethnic, national, economic, social or political groups? In what ways do you most need to grow in relating to people of other cultures and races? Be sure to pray about it.
Psalms 20 and 21 are generally viewed as twin psalms; the first being a prayer before battle, the second being a thanksgiving for victory. It is crucial that every Christian understands that he or she is in a spiritual war (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Ephesians 6:11-18, and 2 Timothy 2:3-5). The spiritual battle is quite personal for each Christian and the need for aid from fellow-soldiers is great. This psalm is a good example of what it means to intercede for another, especially as we fight against the wicked one. Look around at your circle of friends, coworkers, and family members and select someone in a crisis. It would be especially good if you can identify someone who is going through something difficult that you’ve overcome. Write out a prayer for that person, modeling your thoughts off of Psalm 20, particularly vv. 1-5. Then do two things: 1) Pray your prayer often for the person you’ve selected. 2) Give or mail the person a hand written note (not an electronic message but a real-old school handwritten note) sharing with them your prayer you are praying on their behalf. Repeat as necessary.