November 2016 Archives

Lessons from Ruth

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Today's reading: Ruth 1-4

No matter what I'm reading in my Bible (a real life account like Ruth, Old Testament laws, genealogies, instructions on living for Christ, etc.), my approach is to ask myself "What is it from this particular verse, passage, chapter or Book that I can learn? What is it that God wants me to see and grasp from what I've read today?" I'm a firm believer that every word contained in the Bible is important for us to take in and process, and even if we don't feel like we understand it well or fully, if we're obedient to read His Word, God will reveal truth and lessons for living to us.

So before moving on to another Book, let's look back at the Book of Ruth and think about what truth and lessons God revealed to each of us. The big lesson for me was actually a reminder that I need over and over again--that God is bigger than my circumstances, that His plan (which includes His timing) is best for my life and that I must trust fully in Him, regardless of how I might feel at the moment.

What's one truth or lesson that God impressed on your heart from the Book of Ruth? What encouraged you the most from the account of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz? What did this story reveal to you about God? Tami

Mara No More

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Today's reading: Ruth 4:13-22; Jeremiah 29:11

The final chapter of Ruth is so encouraging. What a turnaround for Ruth and Naomi since we first met them in Ruth 1 when they were feeling devastated because of the extreme circumstances they were facing.

Although I am drawn to the sweet love story of Boaz and Ruth, my favorite part of Ruth 4 is the final picture we're given of a restored and joyful Naomi. Although she didn't understand what was happening to her at the time and she certainly wouldn't have chosen the things she experienced, it was all part of God's plan. God had every detail of Naomi's life in the palm of His hands.

As I finished the final verses of Ruth, Jeremiah 29:11 came to my mind. The powerful promise contained in this verse was displayed and evident through the story of Naomi and Ruth.

"'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope'" (Jeremiah 29:11).

What's your current situation--Is God's provision clear to you? Are you in a place where things don't seem to make sense and you're struggling to see God's plans for you to prosper? Or maybe you're somewhere in between? Whatever your situation, will you join with me in claiming the promise of Jeremiah 29:11? Let's give everything to God and let His Word be our encouragement this week. Tami

Wise Operator

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Today's reading: Ruth 4:1-12

As we move into Ruth 4, Boaz remains the front and center character of the Book of Ruth. In this chapter, however, what's taking place is business related, having to do with Boaz redeeming Naomi's property which would include marrying Ruth in order to carry on the family line of Elimelech.

Once again, I was impressed with the way Boaz chose to approach the situation and how he handled himself throughout the exchange with his senior relative. We know that the underlying purpose of Boaz seeking out this relative was to clear the way for Boaz to redeem and marry Ruth. But rather than letting his relative know his feelings for Ruth and his desire to marry her, Boaz was wise in his approach. He was calm and composed, he wasn't wordy, and he chose to initiate the transaction by addressing the item he knew his relative would be most interested in--Naomi's land. Boaz only informed his relative about Ruth when it became necessary, and when that moment came, he was careful to frame the situation in a way that wasn't particularly attractive to this relative by highlighting the fact that any children of Ruth would share this man's inheritance with his other children.

What wise business practices did you see Boaz use as he met with his relative and the men of Bethlehem? What was the most important lesson you noticed or learned from either Boaz or his relative, and why? Tami

Right and Righteous

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Today's reading: Psalm 119:137-144 (Tsadhe)

Three verses of eight in Psalm 119:137-144 drive home the message of God's perfect nature and the completeness of His Word.

  • Verse 137: Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules.
  • Verse 142: Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.
  • Verse 144: Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

What does knowing that God is "righteous forever" mean personally to you? Why is this important? How would you explain the significance of God's righteousness to someone who doesn't yet know Christ? Tami

Tears to Action

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Today's reading: Psalm 119:129-136 (Pe)

Psalm 119:136 resonated with me today. It's no secret. The rejection of God and His Word and the mocking of those who have chosen to follow God are becoming the norm in our world. It grieves my heart.

"My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law."

So beyond shedding tears, how should I respond? I must make sure that I'm actively proclaiming God and His goodness and love wherever I can to a world in desperate need of a Savior.

Will you join me? How will you move beyond tears to take action for God, starting today? Tami

Ascribe

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Today's reading: 1 Chronicles 16:23-36

Verses 28 and 29 of David's song of praise recorded in 1 Chronicles 16 begins with the command to "Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength," and to "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name." I looked up the definition of the word "ascribe." What I found is that "ascribe" basically means to recognize, credit and/or attribute a quality or characteristic. So David is specifically directing us to recognize God for His wonder, splendor and magnificence, and actually includes a variety of ways to do this in the verses surrounding and following verses 28 and 29.

Are you an "ascriber" of God and His glory and strength? How have you recognized the wonder of God in the past week? Who have you recently told about God's power, strength and magnificence? Tami

Giving Thanks

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Today's reading: 1 Chronicles 16:8-22

With this being Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., I decided to spend today and tomorrow looking at and considering the song of thanks composed and sung by King David when the ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 16:8-36). In addition to being quite a beautiful musical poem, it also puts before us various examples of ways we, too, can give thanks to God.

We give thanks to the Lord when we:

  • Talk with Him and tell Him thank you;
  • Tell others the amazing things He has done;
  • Praise Him through our singing;
  • Revel in the name of the Lord and place our confidence in Him;
  • Seek God's presence and strength;
  • Remember what He's done for us as His children.

What would you add to the list above of ways we can give thanks to God? Will you join me in verbally giving thanks to God today? Tami

Knight

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Today's reading: Ruth 3:6-18

The account of Ruth and Boaz reminds me of a fairy tale, set in a time from long ago where Boaz is the classic knight in shining armor. But Ruth and Boaz aren't fictional characters. They're real people and the Book of Ruth sets out the real life story of their relationship.

Today we're turning our spotlight on Boaz. We first met Boaz in Ruth 2, and everything we've seen about this man from that point through chapter 3 has shown him to be a God-fearing and God-following man. Boaz is obviously respected by his men, and his interactions with them and then with Ruth demonstrate that he was honorable, considerate, caring, generous, and responsible--just to point out a few desirable qualities.

What stood out to you as godly qualities from Boaz's actions and words? How would you describe what it is to be a godly man, and explain why that's important, to a young boy or girl? How might you use Boaz's example? Tami

Reciprocal Support

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Today's reading: Ruth 3:1-6; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

There's no question that Naomi and Ruth had a good relationship before leaving Moab. But moving and then settling together in Bethlehem has drawn this mother and daughter-in-law even closer. These two women have truly become a strong team--each contributing from her own unique life experience, as well as bringing to the team her different skillsets, strengths and personality.

God designed us to live and function at our best when we're in relationship with other people. Reading in Ruth 3 today, brought this passage in Ecclesiastes to mind:

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

As I look back over my life, relationships have been vital in that they've provided support, guidance, encouragement, and most importantly, spiritual growth. And those relationships have been (and continue to be) with many different people--my parents, my spouse, family members (both blood and through marriage) and special friends. Thank you, God, for creating us to be in relationship with You and with others!

Why is having and maintaining relationships so important? Who are those people who have been, and currently are, your support system? How are you reciprocating and returning the benefits of relationship to them? Tami

Beyond Expectations

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Today's reading: Ruth 2:9-23

I like surprises, and there's nothing better than when God responds to a situation in a better and bigger way than I ever expected.

That's precisely what we see in Ruth 2 when Ruth, trusting that God will provide, sets out to find a field where she can glean grain for herself and Naomi. Although Ruth doesn't realize it at the time, God directs her to a field owned by Boaz (who will later become her husband). When she arrives, Boaz's men treat Ruth respectfully and kindly and allow her to glean as they harvest. And then when Boaz comes on the scene, he not only takes note of Ruth, but immediately reaches out to ensure Ruth that she is welcome to glean in his fields and that he will protect her while she's there.

Later in the day when it's mealtime, Boaz again looks out for Ruth quite generously. He invites her to eat a meal of bread, wine and roasted grain with him and his gleaners, and then instructs his men to be lenient with Ruth and to make sure that she will gather an ample amount of grain to take back to Naomi. Verse 17 tells us that at the end of the first day, Ruth had gathered an ephah (approximately 3/5 of a bushel) of barley!

What an amazing day that neither Ruth nor Naomi expected. I love this example of how God watches over us and is good all the time!!

When has God surprised you by responding above and beyond your expectations? What has God shown you about your present circumstances through Ruth 1 and 2? How have you been encouraged by the story of Ruth and Naomi thus far? Tami

Servant

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Today's reading: Psalm 119:121-129 (Ayin)

Three times in the eight verses of Ayin, Psalm 119:121-129, the psalmist identifies himself as a "servant" of God.

"Give your servant a portion of good..." (vs. 122) "Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love..." (vs. 124) "I am your servant; give me understanding..." (vs. 125)

The word "servant" isn't one of my favorite words (unless, of course, I'm the one being served, and then I like it much more). But the Bible is clear that if we've chosen to follow Christ, God wants and expects us to willingly be His servant. And that's precisely what the psalmist's words convey in this stanza.

When you think of being a "servant" of God, what comes to mind? What does being God's servant mean for you personally? How would you describe being God's servant to someone? Tami

Sustain Me

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Today's reading: Psalm 119:113-120 (Samekh)

In Psalm 119:113-120 (Samekh), the psalmist is under attack and is speaking out against those who are acting sinfully. So as the psalmist talks with God, he contrasts himself to this group by repeatedly confirming his love of God and His Word. He then claims God as his shield and strength, calling on God to "Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live" (vs. 116) and to "Hold me up, that I may be safe..." (vs. 117).

Why is it important to tell God that you love Him and that you are grateful for His Word? What's one example of how God's Word has sustained you when you've come under attack, encountered difficulty or experienced loss? Tami

Trusting Example

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Today's reading: Ruth 2:1-7

Today we learn more about this amazing woman, Ruth. We know from Ruth 1 that Ruth, a Moabite or Gentile, had committed to joining Naomi's people and following Naomi's God (see Ruth 1:16), and we see Ruth living this out, quite impressively, in the first few verses of chapter 2. She trusted in God and that he would provide for her and Naomi, and as a result, her godly example radiated throughout verses 1-7. A few of Ruth's actions and qualities that stood out to me were:

  • She was humble in that she was willing to gather left over grain (a position just above begging) in order to get food for Naomi and herself.
  • She was humble and respectful in her approach and dealings with Boaz's men.
  • She was a hard worker.
  • She was respectful to Naomi, seeking her approval and guidance, even though she had taken on the role of caregiver.
  • She was proactive and positive in her thinking and actions. She didn't mope and she didn't look back and pine for her homeland or talk about what she used to have.

What godly actions and/or qualities did you notice about Ruth? Do you have any qualities in common with her, and if so, which ones? How does trusting that God is in control and will provide for you influence your thinking and actions? Tami

Open Book

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Today's reading: Ruth 1:19-22

Naomi and Ruth's arrival in Bethlehem doesn't go unnoticed. In fact, verse 19 says the "whole town was stirred" when they arrived. I imagine there was any element of surprise to see Naomi, but I also get a sense that the women of Bethlehem who were familiar with Naomi were a little shocked at her physical appearance. We all know how things like grief, stress and worry can affect the way we look, as well as impacting our emotional state. So it's no wonder the women say "Is this you, Naomi?" because she probably looked worn and haggard.

At first glance, Naomi's response struck me as being grumpy and brusque, but the more I thought about it, I realized that Naomi was simply being straightforward with a group of women with whom she was familiar. (By the way, her response also indicates that she has been straightforward with God). Instead of trying to save face by downplaying or sugar coating reality, she speaks openly from her broken and distressed heart. Naomi's candid response provides the women with an accurate picture of what's going on in her life, and in turn, lets her friends and acquaintances know that she is in need of their support.

Is it your practice to have open and honest dialogue with God? If not, what is holding you back? Do you feel like you need to put on a "happy face" with your Christian friends and fellow church goers? Why or why not? Tami

Selfless

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Today's reading: Ruth 1:6-18

Today we meet Naomi, the widowed wife of Elimelech, and her two widowed daughters-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth. The bond between these three women is strong, but as this small group faces the possibility of starving because of the famine in Moab, Naomi decides it's time to return to her homeland. Although all three women begin the journey, Naomi soon instructs her daughters to return to their blood relatives so that they can remarry and have a full life. It's a tearful exchange, with Orpah deciding to follow Naomi's request. Ruth, however, chooses to remain by Naomi's side--in spite of the fact that she and Naomi have no idea what awaits them in Bethlehem, and knowing that the road would be a tough one without a man to protect and financially support them.

Although we've just met Ruth, it's already clear that she is a good and exceptional woman. Some of the words that came to mind as I thought about Ruth were: caring, supportive, loyal, kind, responsible and courageous. But the one word that stood out to me more than all the others was--selfless. Instead of thinking about herself, Ruth willingly chose to put Naomi's interests before her own and acted accordingly. (vs. 16-17). What an example for us to follow.

Think back over your actions in the past month or so. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being selfish and 10 being selfless) where would you rate yourself? Would you describe yourself as a "Ruth"? Why or why not? What's one thing you can do this week to be more like Ruth? Tami

Family Trees

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Today's reading: Ruth 1:1-5; 4:13-22; Matthew 1:1-5

After hanging out for the past several weeks in the New Testament reading through Acts, we're now going to spend a week or so taking in and considering the Old Testament Book of Ruth. Ruth is a beautiful, real life account of the love story between Ruth, a widowed Moabite woman, and Boaz, a Hebrew man. It's a short Book (4 chapters) full of lessons and illustrations of God's love and grace. The Book of Ruth takes place during the time of the Book of Judges, and gives us the account of a particular family (the family of Elimelech) who is distressed because they've experienced death and are now facing famine.

Before we jump into the actual story of Ruth, I thought it would be good to look at the family history of the two main characters in this account, Ruth and Boaz, and their family tree going forward. Boaz is a decendent of Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who helped the Israelite spies (see Joshua 2 and 6), Ruth is a Moabite (a Gentile), and the son of Boaz and Ruth (see Ruth 4) is Obed who was the great grandfather of king David. So the Book of Ruth puts before us the family roots or the ancestry of Jesus.

What's your background and family tree? What does this account reveal about God's salvation being for all people? How do you see God working in and through your unique family tree and life situation? Tami

Acts in Review

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Today's reading: Acts 1-28

It's taken us a few weeks, but we did it--we worked through the entire Book of Acts. Thank you for choosing to be part of this journey with me! I enjoyed the time in Acts and learned much from it.

Because we did spend quite a chunk of time in Acts, I decided to take a day to think back over Acts and some of the lessons and examples it provided for each of us. So before moving on to another Book, take a few minutes and think back through, or better yet, flip back through the pages of Acts, looking for those things that God impressed on your heart and that stood out to you.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned from Acts, and why? Have you applied this lesson to your life? Why would you encourage someone to read the Book of Acts? Tami

Stormy Praise

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Today's reading: Psalm 119:105-112 (Nun)

Three times in eight verses labeled Nun, the psalmist references his difficult and problematic circumstances.

  • severely afflicted (vs. 107)
  • holds his life in his hands (vs. 109)
  • snares the wicked have laid for him (vs. 110)

"Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules" (vs. 108).

It's pretty clear that things aren't going well in this man's life. Even so, he doesn't let his difficult circumstances consume his thoughts or shake his foundation. Instead he's intentional about remaining focused on God and giving his time and affection to Him. The psalmist's reaching out to God with his proclamation of praise in verse 108 spoke loudly to my heart. I am thankful for this example and the reminder it provides that we must be diligent to seek after and praise God in all circumstances.

"How are you seeking after God in your current circumstances? What impact does choosing to praise God in and through our "storms" have on our attitudes and actions? How does it impact our relationship with God?" (vs. 108). Tami

Understanding

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Today's reading: Psalm 119:97-104 (Mem)

Throughout the stanza titled Mem, verses 97-104, the psalmist repeatedly writes of the understanding he has gained from taking in and then meditating on God's Word. Although I certainly recognize and know what the word "understanding" means, I decided to look up some synonyms, or alternative words, to give me an even better comprehension of what the psalmist is describing. Here are some of the other words for understanding that I found:

  • Knowledge
  • Discernment
  • Comprehension
  • Wisdom
  • Awareness
  • Insight
  • Prudence
  • Discretion
  • Judgment

What amazing benefits we get when we choose to spend time taking in, considering and then putting into practice, God's Word.

Is it your practice to regularly meditate on (consider, reflect, mull over) God's Word, and why is this so important? How has God's Word given you understanding? What's one example of how God's Word has made you "wiser"? Tami

Thriving

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Today's reading: Acts 28:17-30

Acts 28 records Paul's arrival at his final earthly destination. Paul has had quite an experience since being arrested. And on the surface, his arrest and imprisonment look like such a restriction and hindrance. But Paul's incarceration by the Roman government was part of God's plan, and as we know from the benefit of hindsight, it accomplished much for Christ. These final chapters of Acts highlight how God's plan doesn't always align with ours, and reveal, quite well, how often times God uses what we view as undesirable or unthinkable situations to protect us and help us flourish in serving Him.

  • Paul's being in custody served to protect him from the Jews who clearly wanted him dead.
  • Paul's imprisonment opened the door for him to talk openly and boldly about his conversion experience with many Roman officials and guards.
  • Paul's public trials provided a forum where the Jews who opposed Paul had to be respectful and allow Paul to speak, and in so doing, hear every detail of his encounter with Jesus--multiple times.
  • Paul was able to write the letters, which are part of the New Testament, that we learn and draw instruction from today.

While I'm fairly certain Paul wouldn't have chosen to be arrested and spend his final years in prison, once God places him in that situation he embraces it. Rather than complaining or questioning God (something I'm prone to do), he instead looks for how he can make the most of every situation he encounters and then presses forward full force for God. Paul is truly an example of the phrase "thriving where you are planted."

What's your current situation, and would you say you're thriving for God in it? If not, what's hindering that and what needs to change for you to get to this point? If you are thriving, would you share one thing that has helped you acquire a mindset of, and then live out, thriving for God? Tami

Today's reading: Acts 28:11-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11

No matter who we are or what position we hold (stay at home mom, student, corporate executive, farmer, pastor, physician, factory worker, teacher, and the list goes on), we all need to be encouraged. I can tell you from my own experience that encouragement, whether that be through supportive and affirming words and/or interacting and spending time with friends and like-minded people, impacts me greatly. Receiving encouragement (which can come in many forms) stimulates my creativity and thinking, fans the flame of my enthusiasm and motivates me to do more in all areas. Which brings me back to where I started today--we all need to be encouraged.

Even the apostle Paul, a powerful and steadfast servant of God, needed encouragement. It's not until Acts 28:11 that Paul finally reaches Rome. It's been a long and arduous journey, and throughout it all, Paul has been an incredible encourager of others. He had to be a little weary. So when I read Acts 28:15, I smiled and knowingly nodded my head as I identified with Paul.

"And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage" (vs. 15).

How does being encouraged impact your thinking, attitude and actions? In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Paul instructs us to "encourage one another and build one another up." Why is this instruction so vital, especially between brothers and sisters in Christ? Tami

A Constant Force

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Today's reading: Acts 28:1-10

Paul's life exemplifies what living for Christ should look like. As we move into this final chapter of Acts, Paul being the "real deal," once again, stood out prominently to me. No matter what circumstance Paul finds himself in, he is a constant force and witness for God.

  • He is a pillar of reason and strength through the storm and shipwreck;
  • He is diligent to do his part and work physically--gathering wood for the fire;
  • He remains composed and doesn't respond in panic and fear when bitten by a poisonous snake;
  • He offers encouragement to those around him;
  • He extends God's love and kindness to ALL who were in need of healing on Malta;
  • And although the text doesn't specifically tell us, I think it's safe to assume that Christ was highlighted and the Gospel message was shared as Paul healed the sick and lived among the residents of Malta.

On a scale of 1-10 (1 being weak and 10 strong) where would you rate yourself when it comes to being a witness for Christ, and why? Would those who are around you the most use the phrase "a constant force for God" to describe you? What's one thing or area you can work on to help you be a stronger and even more constant witness for Christ? Tami

Buoying Up

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Today's reading: Acts 27:13-38

As Paul and those accompanying him sail along Crete toward Rome, they are engulfed by a violent northeaster that threatens to rip their ship apart. The men are afraid and fearing for their lives. As the situation worsens, cargo is dumped into the sea, the ship's tackle is thrown overboard, the men are afraid to the point they are unable to eat, and after numerous days of this hanging on, we're told in verse 20 that all hope of surviving the storm has been abandoned.

But then...Paul steps up and injects encouragement and hope into this dire situation. He urges all the men to "take heart," letting them know that the God of the universe is aware of their situation, that He is in control and that if they follow Paul's leading, God will protect each and every one of their lives. A few days later, Paul again rallies the men. He tells them to eat and reminds them of God's promise of protection. Paul then continues to encourage the men through his actions--taking bread, publically praying and thanking God for His provision and then eating.

The example Paul provides for us in the middle of this life-threatening situation is excellent. The prominent lesson I took away from this account was the importance of caring for, and being an encouragement to, other people in and through all circumstances. I loved how even though Paul's life was in danger and he was one of the lowest ranking people on the ship as a prisoner, he, nonetheless, steps forward and boldly takes on the task of "buoying up" the men who are going through this scary and dangerous situation with him by offering them hope and highlighting his faith in God through it all.

Are you an encourager? Who do you know that could use some "buoying up" today (family, coworker, classmate, neighbor, an acquaintance from church or school)? What words, actions and prayers can and will you offer to them? How does encouraging someone else draw you closer to God? Tami

Mind Frame

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Today's reading: Acts 27:1-44; Philippians 4:8

Acts 27 provides us with quite a detailed narrative of Paul's travel to Rome--traveling by boat, the people he was traveling with, the numerous ports they visited, the weather conditions they encountered. I enjoyed all the details because they helped me visualize and get a better sense of what Paul was experiencing. But because this chapter felt more like I was reading a story, I needed to go back and read it again to hone in on how I could learn and grow in my walk with the Lord through this account.

On my second and then third read through Acts 27, Paul's mindset (attitude, approach, outlook) stood out to me. I was struck by how Paul was diligent and intentional about living by a positive, and what I'd describe as pleasant, mindset regardless of what he encountered as he continued down the difficult path God had put before him.

Whether we're tuned in to it or not (and I believe we're not tuned in enough of the time), at every moment our mindsets are directing our thoughts, actions and words. That being the case, it's vital that we take every thought captive for God (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-6) and that we're intentional to fill our minds with right and positive things.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8).

What attitude or state of mind are you choosing to operate under right now? Think back over the past few days. How has your mindset influenced your behavior at home, at work, at school, as you're out and about with people you don't know? What actions are you taking to help maintain a godly mindset? Tami

Slowing Down

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Today's reading: Psalm 119:89-96 (Lamedh)

Having been raised in a Christian family and being in and around church as long as I can remember, I'd say I know quite a bit about God. That being the case, sometimes I find that I skim over passages that are addressing something I am familiar with. Here's an example. On my first read through Psalm 119:89-96 I breezed through verses 89-91. It wasn't until I went back, slowed down and read these verses with intentionality that I tuned in to, and then proceeded to think about and process, the amazing information about God that's being revealed to us in these three verses (as well as in the remainder of this stanza).

How does reading a passage more than once, breaking verses down into shorter segments and generally slowing down as you read your Bible impact, not only what you learn, but also the quality of the time you spend with God? What did you notice, remember or discover about God from Psalm 119:89-96? Tami

Holding Fast

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Today's reading: Psalm 119:81-88 (Kaph)

When we're going through tough times--experiencing painful changes, having conflict in our relationships, feeling mistreated, struggling financially, dealing with health issues or physical problems--keeping our focus on God and the truths found in His Word will enable us to stand strong. I like the example of the psalmist, telling God about the problems he is experiencing, but then immediately letting God know that despite the hardships, God and His laws remain his foundation and stronghold.

How has choosing to hold fast to God's Word helped you in difficult circumstances? What comfort do you find in the words of verse 86--"All your commandments are sure"? Tami

Such As I

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Today's reading: Acts 25:13-26:32

Paul's continued imprisonment gives him yet another opportunity to preach Christ. As we finish Acts 25 and then move on to Acts 26, Paul now gets to present his case, outside the presence of his Jewish accusers, to King Agrippa and Bernice, Festus, Roman military tribunes and many prominent men of the city. It's quite an impressive and unlikely audience, and Paul takes full advantage of the situation, boldly and passionately delivering his testimony. His listeners were drawn in, as was I, when I read his account today over 2,000 years later. I was particularly moved by the genuineness of Paul's response to King Agrippa's comment about Paul trying to persuade him to become a Christian.

"And Paul said, 'Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am--except for these chains'" (Acts 26:29).

As I finished chapter 26, I shot up a prayer asking God to help me be more like Paul--willing, ready and then intentional about reaching out to tell anyone I encounter about Christ.

How would you describe your heart when it comes to telling others about Jesus? Are you motivated by, and intentional about, being a witness for Christ? What would you being a "modern day Paul" look like? Tami

Slowly Forward

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Today's reading: Acts 25:1-12

After two years of incarceration under Felix, a new governor, Festus, arrives and in short order arranges to hear Paul's case. Paul had to be thinking, "Finally." But instead of doing what is right and quickly resolving Paul's case in his favor, Festus tries to push Paul's case back to Jerusalem for a trial before the Jews. Rather than accept this request which Paul knows will likely end in his death at the hands of the angry Jews, Paul appeals his case to Caesar. This wise decision, however, serves to prolong his undeserved imprisonment.

Paul's Roman imprisonment up to and through Acts 25, brought the word PATIENCE to my mind. Almost from the beginning, Paul's Roman prison experience provided lessons in patience for all parties involved--Paul who shouldn't have been imprisoned in the first place, Paul's friends who were hoping at every step of the way that he would be released, the Jews who were forced to wait over and over again in their efforts against Paul.

Paul's prison experience provided me with a lesson on patience too. You see, I've been going through what seems to me like an extremely long season of waiting, and if I'm honest, more often than not, I've chosen to wrestle with God over it. Today as I considered Paul's situation and then his example, it's as if I could hear God saying to me--be patient, trust Me, and continue to be obedient in this season of waiting in which I've placed you. "Thank you, God, for how You guide, direct and encourage us through Your Word!"

How has God spoken to you as you've read through Acts? What's one specific thought or message God has impressed on your heart through Paul's experiences and examples? Tami

Roll With It

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Today's reading: Acts 24:22-27

After hearing and observing Paul, Felix is intrigued. The way Paul defends himself draws him in. So rather than deciding Paul's case like the Jewish leaders had hoped, Felix postpones the matter and then proceeds to dialogue with Paul about faith in Christ--for a period of two years! What an unlikely scenario and odd turn of events, which I doubt Paul was anticipating. Yet, Paul embraces his situation, he rolls with it, diligently making the most of the unique opportunity it put before him. One can only wonder the impact Paul's time with Felix had, not only on Felix and his family, but also on interactions Felix had with various people and numerous decisions he made in his position in the Roman government.

We won't always understand why God has placed us in a particular situation, at a particular time, at a particular place, with a particular person. But what I see clearly from Paul is that regardless of where we find ourselves and even if we don't fully understand our situation, it's still our job to represent and proclaim Christ, knowing that what's we're doing and what's taking place is part of God's plan.

When you find yourself in a circumstance or situation you don't understand, do you look at it as a God-given opportunity? Would you say your tendency is to "roll with it" and make the most of every situation, spiritually speaking? How are you making (or how can you make) the most of your current situation? Tami

Cool Under Fire

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Today's reading: Acts 24:1-21

Acts 24 takes us to "round two" or a second legal hearing for Paul. This time around, the Jewish leaders ramp up their game. They bring in a hired gun named Tertullus, an orator who was slick with his words and willing to say most anything for pay, to represent them in their case against Paul. The Jews are expecting a victory, but it's Paul who ends up being the bright light of the day. How Paul handled the situation was fascinating. Rather than responding out of fear, he draws on God's strength which enables him to wisely and successfully navigate the hearing before Felix. Here are a few of the things I noticed about Paul:

  • He was respectful to his adversaries. He didn't butt in or behave irresponsibly while they were presenting their false charges;
  • He was respectful and genuine to Festus, recognizing Festus' position but not lathering on fake compliments in an effort to gain favor;
  • He was composed and confident, both in his actions and with his words;
  • He didn't fall into the trap of trying to refute Tertullus' every point or simply make a general denial of the accusations made against him. Instead Paul states the facts and then challenges his opponents to actually prove what they are alleging.

Paul was able to take a situation that was clearly meant for evil and use it to bring God glory and further God's plan.

What's one example of God guiding, directing and sustaining you through a challenging situation? What encouragement or comfort do you draw from this account? Tami

About Me

Hi, my name is Tami Weissert, the P4 facilitator and the "voice" behind the blogs. I'm passionate about helping people grow spiritually and actively encourage Bible engagement through conference speaking and writing. I also served as co-host of the Back to the Bible radio program for over 8 years. A little about me. I'm married to Jeff, and we love scuba diving, playing with our 3 dachshunds and going to Husker football games. I also love growing orchids, singing and Diet Pepsi. I hope you'll join in the conversation as we read the Bible and grow together.

About My Blog

I'm passionate about engaging God's Word! And my blog is about just that--giving you opportunities to receive, reflect on and respond to Scripture. Each day you'll find a short passage as well as thoughts, challenges and application questions for you to think about and respond to. I look forward to interacting with you and learning together, so post comments as often as you'd like. You can even sign up to get the blogs delivered to your inbox each day!

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