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511 Scripture Reading Challenge

Buy God’s Gift – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

When word reached the apostles in Jerusalem that Samaria had accepted God’s word, they commissioned Peter and John to go to Samaria. Peter and John went down to Samaria where they prayed that the new believers would receive the Holy Spirit. (This was because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

When Simon perceived that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money. He said, “Give me this authority too so that anyone on whom I lay my hands will receive the Holy Spirit.”

Peter responded, “May your money be condemned to hell along with you because you believed you could buy God’s gift with money! You can have no part or share in God’s word because your heart isn’t right with God. Therefore, change your heart and life! Turn from your wickedness! Plead with the Lord in the hope that your wicked intent can be forgiven, for I see that your bitterness has poisoned you and evil has you in chains.”

Simon replied, “All of you, please, plead to the Lord for me so that nothing of what you have said will happen to me!” After the apostles had testified and proclaimed the Lord’s word, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the good news to many Samaritan villages along the way. – Acts 8:14–25

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by: Wes Crawford

What is the most difficult task you ever had to complete? As I worked to complete my doctoral dissertation a few years ago, I regularly heard a certain radio commercial advertising quick and easy degrees. The commercial suggested that one could obtain a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or even a PhD by simply calling the advertised number and sending in a check. Believe me, I was tempted!

Upon further reflection, however, I remembered that the “easy way” is more often than not the wrong way. In this reading from Acts, Simon saw the power of God (and possibly the fame of God’s messengers), and instead of drawing closer to God for a better look, he attempted to maintain his distance and purchase the ability to perform miracles. In your journey with God, do you ever find yourself looking for shortcuts? Remember, the reward comes not only in the destination, but also in the journey.

Read this verse in context: Acts 8

1 Saul was in full agreement with Stephen’s murder.

The church scatters
At that time, the church in Jerusalem began to be subjected to vicious harassment. Everyone except the apostles was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2 Some pious men buried Stephen and deeply grieved over him. 3 Saul began to wreak havoc against the church. Entering one house after another, he would drag off both men and women and throw them into prison.

Philip in Samaria
4 Those who had been scattered moved on, preaching the good news along the way. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria[a] and began to preach Christ to them. 6 The crowds were united by what they heard Philip say and the signs they saw him perform, and they gave him their undivided attention. 7 With loud shrieks, unclean spirits came out of many people, and many who were paralyzed or crippled were healed. 8 There was great rejoicing in that city.

9 Before Philip’s arrival, a certain man named Simon had practiced sorcery in that city and baffled the people of Samaria. He claimed to be a great person. 10 Everyone, from the least to the greatest, gave him their undivided attention and referred to him as “the power of God called Great.” 11 He had their attention because he had baffled them with sorcery for a long time. 12 After they came to believe Philip, who preached the good news about God’s kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Even Simon himself came to believe and was baptized. Afterward, he became one of Philip’s supporters. As he saw firsthand the signs and great miracles that were happening, he was astonished.

14 When word reached the apostles in Jerusalem that Samaria had accepted God’s word, they commissioned Peter and John to go to Samaria. 15 Peter and John went down to Samaria where they prayed that the new believers would receive the Holy Spirit. (16 This was because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon perceived that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money. 19 He said, “Give me this authority too so that anyone on whom I lay my hands will receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter responded, “May your money be condemned to hell along with you because you believed you could buy God’s gift with money! 21 You can have no part or share in God’s word because your heart isn’t right with God. 22 Therefore, change your heart and life! Turn from your wickedness! Plead with the Lord in the hope that your wicked intent can be forgiven, 23 for I see that your bitterness has poisoned you and evil has you in chains.”

24 Simon replied, “All of you, please, plead to the Lord for me so that nothing of what you have said will happen to me!” 25 After the apostles had testified and proclaimed the Lord’s word, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the good news to many Samaritan villages along the way.

Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch
26 An angel from the Lord spoke to Philip, “At noon, take[b] the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he did. Meanwhile, an Ethiopian man was on his way home from Jerusalem, where he had come to worship. He was a eunuch and an official responsible for the entire treasury of Candace. (Candace is the title given to the Ethiopian queen.) 28 He was reading the prophet Isaiah while sitting in his carriage. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Approach this carriage and stay with it.”

30 Running up to the carriage, Philip heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?”

31 The man replied, “Without someone to guide me, how could I?” Then he invited Philip to climb up and sit with him. 32 This was the passage of scripture he was reading:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent
so he didn’t open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was taken away from him.
Who can tell the story of his descendants
because his life was taken from the earth?[c]
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, about whom does the prophet say this? Is he talking about himself or someone else?” 35 Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him. 36 As they went down the road, they came to some water.

The eunuch said, “Look! Water! What would keep me from being baptized?”[d] 38 He ordered that the carriage halt. Both Philip and the eunuch went down to the water, where Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Lord’s Spirit suddenly took Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip found himself in Azotus. He traveled through that area, preaching the good news in all the cities until he reached Caesarea.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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511 Scripture Reading Challenge

Temporary – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16–18

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by: Stefanie Albright

What a wonderful reminder for us all. This world is not my home and everything that I go through is helping mold me into the Christian that God designed me to be. My body will begin to fail, my looks will diminish and my possessions are temporary, but my spirit strengthens daily and is being prepared for eternity. Praise God for what is unseen! Praise God for what is eternal!

Read this verse in context: 2 Corinthians 4

This is why we don’t get discouraged, given that we received this ministry in the same way that we received God’s mercy. 2 Instead, we reject secrecy and shameful actions. We don’t use deception, and we don’t tamper with God’s word. Instead, we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God by the public announcement of the truth. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are on the road to destruction. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Christ is the image of God.

5 We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord, and we describe ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Physical bodies and eternal glory
7 But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. 8 We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. 9 We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.

10 We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies. 11 We who are alive are always being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies that are dying. 12 So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 We have the same faithful spirit as what is written in scripture: I had faith, and so I spoke.[a] We also have faith, and so we also speak. 14 We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you. 15 All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.

16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. 17 Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison. 18 We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Categories
511 Scripture Reading Challenge

Salt – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses is saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. – Matthew 5:13

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by:Don McCarty

Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth. What does that mean exactly? Beyond simply adding flavor to the people and world around us, salt had many other uses and implications. For starters, salt was once a rare, valuable, and precious commodity. This is hard to imagine these days since salt is accessible and inexpensive. Just as salt was valuable and precious to the people of Jesus’ time, God’s children are valuable and precious to Him. No one else in the world has our DNA or fingerprints. God has breathed His life into us and in addition to being made in His image and likeness, we are filled with His Spirit and presence. Because of this, we are precious and extremely valuable. As salt was a preservative for food, we are a preservative on earth. Prior to refrigeration, meats were packed in salt to prolong and prevent the rotting process due to the growth of bacteria. Without salt, the meat would decay and become foul to both the sense of smell and taste. Likewise, this world without God and without Christians around them will start to decay and become more and more unpleasant. Without Christians in the world, the growth of spiritual and moral decay would be even more rampant than it is already. By being in the world and living in close proximity to people who do not know God, we are helping to preserve the atmosphere of love, unity, and healthy interpersonal relationships that God originally intended for humankind. Each of us needs to be encouraged that we are precious and valuable to God by being the preservative that God is using in the world today.

Read this verse in context: Matthew 5

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. 2 He taught them, saying:

Happy people
3 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

4 “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.

5 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.

6 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.

7 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.

8 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.

9 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.

10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.

Salt and light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus and the Law
17 “Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I haven’t come to do away with them but to fulfill them. 18 I say to you very seriously that as long as heaven and earth exist, neither the smallest letter nor even the smallest stroke of a pen will be erased from the Law until everything there becomes a reality. 19 Therefore, whoever ignores one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called the lowest in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps these commands and teaches people to keep them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 I say to you that unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the legal experts and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Law of murder
21 “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder,[a] and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. 23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift. 25 Be sure to make friends quickly with your opponents while you are with them on the way to court. Otherwise, they will haul you before the judge, the judge will turn you over to the officer of the court, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I say to you in all seriousness that you won’t get out of there until you’ve paid the very last penny.

Law of adultery
27 “You have heard that it was said, Don’t commit adultery.[b] 28 But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body go into hell.

Law of divorce
31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a divorce certificate.’[c] 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except for sexual unfaithfulness forces her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Law of solemn pledges
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago: Don’t make a false solemn pledge, but you should follow through on what you have pledged to the Lord.[d] 34 But I say to you that you must not pledge at all. You must not pledge by heaven, because it’s God’s throne. 35 You must not pledge by the earth, because it’s God’s footstool. You must not pledge by Jerusalem, because it’s the city of the great king. 36 And you must not pledge by your head, because you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Law of retaliation
38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.[e] 39 But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. 40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. 41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.

Law of love
43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor[f] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Categories
511 Scripture Reading Challenge

Where are the Other Nine? – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”

When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you. – Luke 17:11–19

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by: Lance Bolay

Jesus healed ten people with skin diseases. Only one returned to give him thanks and praise God. And this person was a Samaritan—a foreigner, a social and religious outcast, and in some respects even an enemy of the Jews. This man did not simply shake Jesus’ hand and say, “Thank you.” He praised God in a loud voice and fell on his face at Jesus’ feet. Not just his voice, but his entire body shouted, “Thank you!”

Gratitude is often scarce in our world. Just one out of ten people returned to express thankfulness to Jesus! Isn’t this a lot like our society today? Think about how often we hear and participate in negative and judgmental conversations. Consider how often you complain about people and situations throughout the day. Pay attention to all of the negative thoughts that cross your mind.

Here is a challenge for you. For the next thirty days, write down five things each day for which you are thankful. Be specific. Notice the good in people. Deepen your awareness of the Spirit at work in your life and in the world. And give thanks. This exercise will redirect your attention and even rewire your brain to begin looking at things from a more faith-full and hopeful way.

Read this verse in context: Luke 17

Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause people to trip and fall into sin must happen, but how terrible it is for the person through whom they happen. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into a lake with a large stone hung around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to trip and fall into sin. 3 Watch yourselves! If your brother or sister sins, warn them to stop. If they change their hearts and lives, forgive them. 4 Even if someone sins against you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times and says, ‘I am changing my ways,’ you must forgive that person.”

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

7 “Would any of you say to your servant, who had just come in from the field after plowing or tending sheep, ‘Come! Sit down for dinner’? 8 Wouldn’t you say instead, ‘Fix my dinner. Put on the clothes of a table servant and wait on me while I eat and drink. After that, you can eat and drink’? 9 You won’t thank the servant because the servant did what you asked, will you? 10 In the same way, when you have done everything required of you, you should say, ‘We servants deserve no special praise. We have only done our duty.’”

Jesus heals a Samaritan
11 On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, 13 they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”

14 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. 16 He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” 19 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

The kingdom is coming
20 Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom was coming. He replied, “God’s kingdom isn’t coming with signs that are easily noticed. 21 Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Don’t you see? God’s kingdom is already among you.”

22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “The time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Human One,[a] and you won’t see it. 23 People will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Don’t leave or go chasing after them. 24 The Human One[b] will appear on his day in the same way that a flash of lightning lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 However, first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

26 “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be during the days of the Human One.[c] 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage until the day Noah entered the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise in the days of Lot, people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building. 29 But on the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 That’s the way it will be on the day the Human One[d] is revealed. 31 On that day, those on the roof, whose possessions are in the house, shouldn’t come down to grab them. Likewise, those in the field shouldn’t turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to preserve their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in the same bed: one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together: one will be taken and the other left.”[e]

37 The disciples asked, “Where, Lord?”

Jesus said, “The vultures gather wherever there’s a dead body.”

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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511 Scripture Reading Challenge

True and Proper – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1–2

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by: Tim Grounds

Growing up in a very conservative church of Christ, I was taught that in order to please God, one must worship God exactly according to the instructions laid out in the New Testament. The sermons I heard on this subject all started with the famous quote by Jesus in John 4:24, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.” The lessons that followed would then go on to describe worship as acts that were to be performed on Sunday morning somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00. This time of worship was—and still is—called a “worship service.” I was instructed that these acts of worship—and there were exactly five, by the way—were extremely important. So important were these acts of worship that other religious groups who didn’t worship the same way were not even considered true Christians.

Then one day while reading Romans 12:1–2, a light came on in my head. Could it be that the worship God really wants is not a ceremony observed on the first day of the week? Is it possible that what Jesus was talking about in John 4:24 was something more than five acts performed according to some divine pattern? Yes! This amazing scripture tells us that what God wants, desires, and considers true worship is the sacrifice of ourselves. It involves the sacrifice of our will, our pride and our desires. If we live the way we want, we will be conformed to this world, but this does not please God. He wants us to be different—like His Son Jesus was different.

In order to resist conformity to the world we must make sacrifices. We must sacrifice those things that are most dear and precious to us—our will, our pride, our wants and desires. Until these sacrifices are made, we will never be able to embark on our journey to be transformed into the image of God. This is what God wants and what pleases Him the most. This is our spiritual worship that Jesus was talking about in John 4. How can I be so sure? Consider this: If you were to read the four Gospels and paid close attention to the teachings of Jesus, what you would notice is that He NEVER taught on the importance of performing a ceremony as worship to God. What He DID teach, was a change in the way we live and treat other people. This is the truth revealed in Romans 12:1–2, which is why it is so special to me.

Read this verse in context: Psalm 103:1-22

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. 2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

Transformed relationships
3 Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. 4 We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. 5 In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. 6 We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. 7 If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. 8 If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.

9 Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. 11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. 14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. 17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.

18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. 19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord.[a] 20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head.[b] 21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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511 Scripture Reading Challenge

Easier – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. – Luke 5:22–25

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by: Jerry Frazier

We all like things that are easier. Given the choice between something that is hard and time consuming, or something that is easier and more comfortable, most of us would choose comfort. Jesus had just told a paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven. The people there began to criticize Jesus for saying this, since only God could forgive sins. So Jesus asks this question: “Which is easier?” Saying something is always easier than doing something, so Jesus decides to do something (e.g. heal the man) to demonstrate that He could also do what He said He could do (e.g. forgive sins).

Here’s the rub: While everyone was amazed at what Jesus did (e.g. healing the man), that is small compared to what Jesus said (e.g. forgiving sins). Jesus knew the moment He said it that forgiving sins is much harder than making a paralyzed man walk. Making a paralyzed man walk is a miracle. God created the universe: getting a paralyzed man to walk was easy. Forgiving sins requires sacrifice: Jesus’ sacrifice. That’s hard. So Jesus knew His life would be sacrificed for saying “Your sins are forgiven.” As you reflect on what Jesus has done for you, perhaps choosing the harder thing isn’t so bad sometimes.

Read this verse in context: Luke 5

One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. 2 Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. 3 Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”

5 Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

6 So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. 7 They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” 9 Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. 10 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.

Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” 11 As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.

A man with a skin disease
12 Jesus was in one of the towns where there was also a man covered with a skin disease. When he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged, “Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.” Instantly, the skin disease left him. 14 Jesus ordered him not to tell anyone. “Instead,” Jesus said, “go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses instructed. This will be a testimony to them.” 15 News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses. 16 But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer.

Jesus heals a paralyzed man
17 One day when Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and legal experts were sitting nearby. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea, and from Jerusalem. Now the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal. 18 Some men were bringing a man who was paralyzed, lying on a cot. They wanted to carry him in and place him before Jesus, 19 but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they took him up on the roof and lowered him—cot and all—through the roof tiles into the crowded room in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The legal experts and Pharisees began to mutter among themselves, “Who is this who insults God? Only God can forgive sins!”

22 Jesus recognized what they were discussing and responded, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? 23 Which is easier—to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But so that you will know that the Human One[a] has authority on the earth to forgive sins” —Jesus now spoke to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, get up, take your cot, and go home.” 25 Right away, the man stood before them, picked up his cot, and went home, praising God.

26 All the people were beside themselves with wonder. Filled with awe, they glorified God, saying, “We’ve seen unimaginable things today.”

Jesus calls a tax collector
27 Afterward, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”

28 Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him. 29 Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them. 30 The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. 32 I didn’t come to call righteous people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.”

The old and the new
33 Some people said to Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and pray frequently. The disciples of the Pharisees do the same, but your disciples are always eating and drinking.”

34 Jesus replied, “You can’t make the wedding guests fast while the groom is with them, can you? 35 The days will come when the groom will be taken from them, and then they will fast.”

36 Then he told them a parable. “No one tears a patch from a new garment to patch an old garment. Otherwise, the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t match the old garment. 37 Nobody pours new wine into old wineskins. If they did, the new wine would burst the wineskins, the wine would spill, and the wineskins would be ruined. 38 Instead, new wine must be put into new wineskins. 39 No one who drinks a well-aged wine wants new wine, but says, ‘The well-aged wine is better.’”

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Categories
511 Scripture Reading Challenge

My Shepherd – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by: Don McCarty

When I am struggling I invariably turn to the Psalms, and Psalm 23 is one of the first ones I look for encouragement. Simply put, it is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It is unsurpassed in its beauty, brevity and benefits. It is like the Lord’s Prayer, both simple and complete. Psalm 23 is a declaration of trust in the Lord as our good shepherd. He is not just our good shepherd, but also my good shepherd. The language is personal throughout. I’m all for the corporate aspect of many of the commands and promises of God, but suffering tends to make us feel all alone. When we feel alone, we crave a more personal word from God and Psalm 23 delivers on that aspect. Here God is revealed as both magnificent and humble. The sovereign Lord tenderly cares for His people as a shepherd cares for his sheep. If the Lord weren’t great, His care wouldn’t amount to much and if He didn’t care about us, His greatness would only terrorize us. But in Psalm 23, we see the Lord as He is, both powerful and loving, sovereign and compassionate. Because of the divine Shepherd’s care, the psalmist (David) says He lacks nothing. God is David’s source for what he writes. He trusts that the good Shepherd will provide all he needs. There is no anxiety about the future, but only trust and rest and blessings. We can learn to be secure in our Heavenly Father’s love and care for us.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Categories
511 Scripture Reading Challenge

Large Crowds – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. They will say, ‘Here’s the person who began construction and couldn’t complete it!’ Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand soldiers could go up against the twenty thousand coming against him? And if he didn’t think he could win, he would send a representative to discuss terms of peace while his enemy was still a long way off. In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple.” – Luke 14:25–33

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by: Lance Bolay

Like many of Jesus’ teachings, this is a difficult one to swallow. We tend to think bigger is better. Not Jesus. Large crowds followed Jesus, yet he doesn’t seem impressed. Jesus demanded more than a large audience. He expected discipleship. He told them that if a person is not willing to give up his or her family, their personal comforts, and their wealth, they are not fit to be his disciple.

Think about that for a moment. Does this sound fanatical to you? Irresponsible? Unrealistic?

Do you really want to learn from Jesus how to live life (which is the meaning of discipleship)? Are you willing to risk everything to follow Him?

There are many voices calling for our attention. They each proclaim a particular vision of human flourishing.

How much do we trust the way of Christ to be the way of true human flourishing? 

Read this verse in context: Luke 14

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to share a meal in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely. 2 A man suffering from an abnormal swelling of the body was there. 3 Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Does the Law allow healing on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they said nothing. Jesus took hold of the sick man, cured him, and then let him go. 5 He said to them, “Suppose your child or ox fell into a ditch on the Sabbath day. Wouldn’t you immediately pull it out?” 6 But they had no response.

Lessons on humility and generosity
7 When Jesus noticed how the guests sought out the best seats at the table, he told them a parable. 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding celebration, don’t take your seat in the place of honor. Someone more highly regarded than you could have been invited by your host. 9 The host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give your seat to this other person.’ Embarrassed, you will take your seat in the least important place. 10 Instead, when you receive an invitation, go and sit in the least important place. When your host approaches you, he will say, ‘Friend, move up here to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”

12 Then Jesus said to the person who had invited him, “When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. 13 Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. 14 And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.”

15 When one of the dinner guests heard Jesus’ remarks, he said to Jesus, “Happy are those who will feast in God’s kingdom.”

16 Jesus replied, “A certain man hosted a large dinner and invited many people. 17 When it was time for the dinner to begin, he sent his servant to tell the invited guests, ‘Come! The dinner is now ready.’ 18 One by one, they all began to make excuses. The first one told him, ‘I bought a farm and must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I bought five teams of oxen, and I’m going to check on them. Please excuse me.’ 20 Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 When he returned, the servant reported these excuses to his master. The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.’ 22 The servant said, ‘Master, your instructions have been followed and there is still room.’ 23 The master said to the servant, ‘Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”

Discipleship’s demands
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, 26 “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. 30 They will say, ‘Here’s the person who began construction and couldn’t complete it!’ 31 Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand soldiers could go up against the twenty thousand coming against him? 32 And if he didn’t think he could win, he would send a representative to discuss terms of peace while his enemy was still a long way off. 33 In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple.

34 “Salt is good. But if salt loses its flavor, how will it become salty again? 35 It has no value, neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. People throw it away. Whoever has ears to hear should pay attention.”

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Categories
511 Scripture Reading Challenge

Wisdom – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by: Tim Grounds

I first remember reading this verse when I was about 18. I was making plans to leave home, go to college and embark upon a new and exciting era of life—adulthood. Although the road before me was wondrous and enchanting, it was also daunting. I saw before me a blank canvas. I had in my hand nothing more than a paint brush and head full of dreams and ideas that appeared and disappeared like fireflies in the night. What would I do, who would I marry, where would I live and most importantly; how would I serve God? I was very skeptical about my own decision making. After all, I had made many decisions in my life up to this point; many of those choices were anything but good. From here on, my choices would affect the rest of my life. I knew I needed help, but as a man I didn’t want to constantly run to mom and dad for advice. How could I know if I was making the right decision?

James 1:5 was for me a beautiful and precious jewel. I cherished that verse almost like a Gypsy cherishes her crystal ball. I made up my mind that from that point, I would make it my daily prayer to ask God for wisdom. All I had to do was ask and simply believe His promise because that’s exactly what this verse is: a promise! Shortly after I began praying this prayer, it dawned on me. If I want wisdom, I need to be reading the words of a wise man. Immediately I made it my daily habit to read Proverbs. After all, it was written by the wisest man who ever lived (besides Jesus). The reality then occurred to me. God’s first answer to my prayer for wisdom was to put it in my mind to read His word! COOL! For the next 37 years, James 1:5 has been one of my favorite verses. Not just because it opened my eyes to a great and wonderful truth, but because it made me aware of a tremendous promise that changed my life.

Read this verse in context: James 1

From James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To the twelve tribes who are scattered outside the land of Israel.

Greetings!

Stand firm
2 My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. 3 After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. 5 But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. 6 Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. 7 People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. 8 They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways.

9 Brothers and sisters who are poor should find satisfaction in their high status. 10 Those who are wealthy should find satisfaction in their low status, because they will die off like wildflowers. 11 The sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass so that its flowers fall and its beauty is lost. Just like that, in the midst of their daily lives, the wealthy will waste away. 12 Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward.

Our cravings versus God’s gifts
13 No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. 14 Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them. 15 Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and when sin grows up, it gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. 18 He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created.

Welcoming and doing the word
19 Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. 20 This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.

22 You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. 23 Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. 24 They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. 25 But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.

26 If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless. 27 True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Categories
511 Scripture Reading Challenge

Invisible Qualities – Daily Scripture Reading

Daily Scripture

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. – Romans 1:20

Daily Devotional

Today’s Devotional was written by: Jerry Frazier

When we were kids we played a game called “Hide and Seek.” I’m sure you have too. The idea is to be unseen, so you hide as best you can. Being seen is the last thing you want in this game. Hiding is a purposeful act: you do it for a reason. So many people today believe God is hiding from them because they can’t see Him. But Paul tells us that it’s not God’s fault we can’t see. It’s ours.

Have you ever wondered how something invisible can be seen? God is “invisible” in that we can’t openly see Him as a corporal being, but that doesn’t mean He can’t be seen. God has left us His majesty in the world. All we have to do is look and attribute what is clearly seen as what it really is; namely, the eternal power and divine nature of God. God isn’t hiding. He IS in plain sight. We just have to see. These weeks as you go throughout your daily life, think about all that is around you that you don’t or can’t understand: how the world even works, for instance. That is where God can be clearly seen.

Read this verse in context: Romans 1

From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news. 2-3 God promised this good news about his Son ahead of time through his prophets in the holy scriptures. His Son was descended from David. 4 He was publicly identified as God’s Son with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness. This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we have received God’s grace and our appointment to be apostles. This was to bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience for his name’s sake. 6 You who are called by Jesus Christ are also included among these Gentiles.

7 To those in Rome who are dearly loved by God and called to be God’s people.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Paul’s plans to visit
8 First of all, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because the news about your faithfulness is being spread throughout the whole world. 9 I serve God in my spirit by preaching the good news about God’s Son, and God is my witness that I continually mention you 10 in all my prayers. I’m always asking that somehow, by God’s will, I might succeed in visiting you at last. 11 I really want to see you to pass along some spiritual gift to you so that you can be strengthened. 12 What I mean is that we can mutually encourage each other while I am with you. We can be encouraged by the faithfulness we find in each other, both your faithfulness and mine.

13 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I planned to visit you many times, although I have been prevented from coming until now. I want to harvest some fruit among you, just as I have done among the other Gentiles. 14 I have a responsibility both to Greeks and to those who don’t speak Greek, both to the wise and to the foolish.

God’s righteousness is revealed
15 That’s why I’m ready to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 16 I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 God’s righteousness is being revealed in the gospel, from faithfulness[a] for faith,[b] as it is written, The righteous person will live by faith.[c]

Gentiles are without excuse
18 God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. 19 This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. 21 Although they knew God, they didn’t honor God as God or thank him. Instead, their reasoning became pointless, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 While they were claiming to be wise, they made fools of themselves. 23 They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images that look like mortal humans: birds, animals, and reptiles. 24 So God abandoned them to their hearts’ desires, which led to the moral corruption of degrading their own bodies with each other. 25 They traded God’s truth for a lie, and they worshipped and served the creation instead of the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 That’s why God abandoned them to degrading lust. Their females traded natural sexual relations for unnatural sexual relations. 27 Also, in the same way, the males traded natural sexual relations with females, and burned with lust for each other. Males performed shameful actions with males, and they were paid back with the penalty they deserved for their mistake in their own bodies. 28 Since they didn’t think it was worthwhile to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to a defective mind to do inappropriate things. 29 So they were filled with all injustice, wicked behavior, greed, and evil behavior. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, and malice. They are gossips, 30 they slander people, and they hate God. They are rude and proud, and they brag. They invent ways to be evil, and they are disobedient to their parents. 31 They are without understanding, disloyal, without affection, and without mercy. 32 Though they know God’s decision that those who persist in such practices deserve death, they not only keep doing these things but also approve others who practice them.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible