Often we can feel like reading the Bible is our time to give to God, or Christian duty if you will. But God clearly wants the reading of His Holy Scriptures to be more than a duty we check off a list. So this week, lay aside your effort to do your Christian duty and commit yourself to accepting God’s wisdom and grace as you read His Word.
We’re in the ninth week of the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan. During this week’s reading God will show us how to pray when troubles and troublemakers invade our lives, along with some wisdom from Proverbs on what not to do, coupled with an example extreme repentance and why we should do it, and finally we’ll learn from a married couple how to be someone else’s supporting cast. There is so much God wants to give us through His word. Let’s jump in together.
Monday, Feb. 25 – Acts 16; Psalm 24
Bloody and battered in the stocks of a lightless prison, Paul and Silas spent the night, “praying and singing hymns to God” (v. 25). What attitude(s) toward self, God, circumstances, the other prisoners, and the jailer do these actions show? In what ways does your response to opposition and suffering compare and contrast to that of Paul and Silas? How can you better give both a verbal and living witnesses to the power of the gospel? Who specifically do you want to influence and bring to Christ through your words and life? Pray for yourself and them.
David does not note an occasion or reason for composing Psalm 24. It does however seem to fit a liturgical occasion, perhaps, as many scholars contend, when the ark of God was brought into Jerusalem (ref. 2 Samuel 6:12-19; 1 Chronicles 13). This psalm asserts the astounding idea that the God who created and owns everything is the very same God into whose presence the faithful worshiper enters. When you can, go outside and take a panoramic view of the creation around, above, and below you noting the intricacy and majesty of God’s creation. What thoughts about God come to your mind as you contemplate His creation? Looking at your list in what way(s), should the fact that “the earth is the Lord’s” (v. 1) by virtue of His creation and sustentation silence your fears? Cause you to live for Him? Bring you to worship Him?
Tuesday Feb. 26 – Acts 17; Proverbs 6:12-19
“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (v. 6b). These hostile opponents spoke better than they knew, for the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire was the beginning of a movement that would turn the world upside down for the good of all humanity. It’s been my experience that many Christians feel that they have very little impact on the world. When have you ever felt this way? Is it possible that your worldview is too big and rather you would do well to narrow your perspective? According to Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46, what can you do to turn someone else’s world upside down for the good? In the coming days, how will you personally change, for the positive, the world of a neighbor? Or a child? Or a widow/widower? Or a single mom/dad? Or a coworker? Or a struggling teen? Pick at least one or more is you’re able. Be specific and follow through.
The numeric devise “Six… seven” (v. 16) implies that this list is representative of (and by no means exhaustive) what God hates with particular attention given to the final item as the focus of Lord’s hatred. The list in vv. 16-19 parallels what Solomon mentions earlier in his description of the “worthless person” from vv. 12-15. These seven practices deal with attitude (v. 17a), speech (17b, 19a), actions (17c, 18b), thoughts (18a), and discord (19b). It’s easy to agree that God hates the first six entries of this list; it is also easy to overlook the seventh. Why do you think God hates “one who sows discord among brother” (v. 19b)? When have you been guilty of sowing discord? How did the situation turn out? What did you learn from the experience? How does it impact you now to know God vehemently hated your actions?
Wednesday, Feb. 27 – Acts 18; Psalm 25
The husband and wife team of Aquila and Priscilla become some of Paul’s closes friends and companions (ref. 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). So tight was their bond, on one occasion they even risk their lives for him (ref. Romans 16:3-4). The work of this faithful couple in Corinth, Ephesus, Roman, and points in between can’t be underestimated. Pulling from Acts 18 and the other referenced verses, describe Aquila and Priscilla? Then, put yourself in the place of Paul, how would you be affected by this kind of relationship? Next, put yourself in the place of Apollos, how would being taught by this kind of couple encourage you? Take a moment in the next day or two to write a letter of appreciation to a Christian couple who have been an Aquila and Priscilla to you.
In Psalm 25, David laments various troubles and troublemakers in his life. He begins his prayer with an emotionally heavy expression of confidence and trust, “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (v. 1) as he works out his grief, heartache, fear and shame. Why do you think God is the safest person to hear and receive your deepest fears and concerns? How does expressing those emotions, and more, in prayer help process your feelings? There’s a hymn that we sing from time-to-time entitled, How Long Has It Been. I’ll let a few of the words of the song ask you the last questions: “How long since your mind felt at ease? How long since your heart knew no burden?” If it’s been too long then make a point to spend time emptying your heart to your God who loves you and will take you through all your troubles.
Thursday, Feb. 28 – Acts 19; Proverbs 6:20-35
Perhaps the most costly act of repentance in the New Testament is when “many of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver” (v. 19). Essentially, the value of the books represented fifty thousand day’s wages for a common labor (just shy of 137 years). Needless to say, in today’s money their act of repentance meant divorcing themselves of not only assets in the millions but also lucrative means for making such high sums of money. From your perspective, why was it important for the Ephesians to burn their magical scrolls? Look closely at your own life, is there anything you should destroy or get rid of? Explain. If yes, then seek a trusted friend to help hold you accountable.
Solomon’s lengthy warning against one of life’s most destructive practices is classic. We can profit from reading it frequently. Wisdom here helps the reader see past the immediate temptation to the consequences of infidelity, namely, spiritual ruin in the midst of social and financial disgrace and possibly even death. Put into your own words Wisdom’s warning of what happens to a person who commits adultery. When have you seen the truth of this passage play out in your life, or someone else’s? Take what you’ve learned and pass it along to someone who would benefit from your insights.
Friday, Mar. 1 – Acts 20; Psalm 26
Even though Luke takes the reader through Paul’s journeys rather quickly, his missionary trips were no 10-day excursions. Rather they were grueling year’s long expeditions to systemically spread the gospel. Sometimes he spent a few weeks in a city or as in the case with Ephesus three years. With this in mind, its little wonder then why Paul so very much wants to meet with the elders of the Ephesian church; men with whom he had labored with for a long time and sadly, “will [never] see [his] face again” (v.25). Imagine that your congregation or close Christian friends would not see your face again. Write out what you would want to say to them? Like Paul, take time to express your hope, your love, your priorities, your warnings, and your passions for them. Remind them of how important it is for God and His Word to be the center of their lives. Now take your notes, asking God for courage, and go say these most important words to those you love in the Lord.
“Vindicate me, O Lord” (v. 1). With this plea, David prays that the Lord would show others that he was not guilty of the things with which he was falsely accused. To prove himself innocence of the fabricated claims against him, David invites God to “Prove me… try me… test my heart” (v. 2); knowing the Lord would find no guilt. How does David demonstrate to God that he is not the type of person who would commit the sins he is being accused of doing? Think of a time when you were falsely accused of doing something you did not do. In what way(s) did you follow David’s example? In what way(s) did you not? Detail what the experience taught you about others, yourself, and God?