Bible Reading Plan
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Weekends: Read any passages of your choice or catch up if you’ve fallen behind 🙂

November 4: Esther 9, Revelation 17, Psalm 73

November 5: Esther 10, Revelation 18, Psalm 74

November 6: Job 1, Revelation 19, Psalm 75

November 7: Job 2, Revelation 20, Psalm 76

 
 
 
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How To Soul Journal
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Journal Entries
Every weekday you will find a journal entry here from someone different in our church family. 
 
Click the scripture title and scroll down to see a comments section where you can ask questions, share insights and post your own SOUL Journal entry for the day!
 

Isaiah 48

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Scripture

Isaiah 48:10

10See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

Observation – What does it say?

Israel had been rebellious and stubborn, refusing to listen to God or turn to him. But God (two of my favorite words!), rather than discarding or destroying them, chooses to refine them through seasons of hardship and affliction.

Understanding – What does it mean?

For God, suffering is not an end in itself. The language God uses is, “the furnace of affliction.” Uh, no thanks. That sounds horrible. I’d rather meditate on other verses like, “God’s kindness leads us to repentance.” But, like it or not, suffering comes to all of us and thankfully it’s not for no reason or because God has malice in his heart toward us. The truth is, God allow us to go through suffering because he loves us. Sounds confusing, but God actually uses suffering and hardship to purge the bad and cultivate purity in his people, similarly to a silversmith refining silver in a furnace. I recently read a story that opened my eyes to the refining process…

Some time ago, a few ladies met to study the scriptures. While reading the third chapter of Malachi, they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse:
    “And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” (Malachi 3:3).
One lady decided to visit a silversmith, and report to the others on what he said about the subject.
She went accordingly, and without telling him the reason for her visit, begged the silversmith to tell her about the process of refining silver. After he had fully described it to her, she asked, “Sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?”
“Oh, yes ma’am,” replied the silversmith; “I must sit and watch the furnace constantly, for, if the time necessary for refining is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.”
The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”
God sees it necessary to put His children into the furnace; but His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for us. Our trials do not come at random, and He will not let us be tested beyond what we can endure.
Before she left, the lady asked one final question, “How do you know when the process is complete?”

“That’s quite simple,” replied the silversmith. “When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished.”

Rather than despising suffering, Christ-followers should allow God to use it to transform them into his image, trusting that he wont give them more than they can handle.

Life Application

When suffering or facing difficult situations, ask God to show me what he is trying to accomplish in me through them.

God, I thank you that you allow us to experience difficulty so that we can be purified to look more like you. When I face hard situations, rather than complaining, I choose to ask you what you are trying to accomplish in me. May I not be stubborn, but yield to you and allow you to transform me. Amen.
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Isaiah 47

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Scripture

Isaiah 47:14

They cannot even save themselves
from the power of the flame.

Observation – What does it say?

Isaiah continues his prophecy against Babylon. They will soon discover that they had misplaced their trust in many things – their idols, sorceries and spells, wisdom, knowledge and astrologers – while failing to put their trust in the only One who has power to save them. The astrologers who look at the stars and make their predictions cannot save the Babylonians with their counsel. They can’t even save themselves!

Understanding – What does it mean?

Don’t rely on people to save you who can’t even save themselves.

Astrology may not be something common for us to put our trust in. But, there are those in our lives who may and it’s important we understand what the Bible teaches about it. Astrology is a false religion, a belief that doesn’t save or benefit it’s followers. Like Babylon, everyone who trusts astrologers and their predictions will one day come to recognize that they have been in error (verse 15). Not only is it powerless to benefit or save those who trust it, astrology is an idol and distraction from the one true God.

Whether it’s astrologers, psychics, political or economic analysts, a close friend or parent, none of them are able to save or provide guidance like our God. It’s our privilege and responsibility to not only model complete reliance on God, but to encourage others who are in error to repent and turn to God. Salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Guidance comes from God alone, through scripture and the godly men and women around us who are in relationship with him.

Life Application

Look for opportunities to encourage people to trust in Jesus.

When people around me mention the trust they have put in counsel other than God’s, rather than keeping my beliefs to myself I choose to show them their error. Not out of pride, but out of love for them and a desire for them to know the truth.
God, bring people across my path who are in error. Use me to expose the truth of their error, your greatness, and your ability to save and guide them. Give me the words to say and may the power of the Holy Spirit work in their hearts and bring them to repentance and faith in you. Amen.
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Isaiah 46

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Scripture

Isaiah 46:9

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.

Observation – What does it say?

Once again, God is reminding Israel of how silly idols are. In particular, the so called gods of Babylon. Men find some material on the ground and craft an idol out of it. Although they cry out to it, it cannot answer or save them from troubles. God on the other hand is the complete opposite – not only alive but the source of life, all-powerful and the sustainer of every living thing. God declares that there is no other. He has no equal, there is none beside him or above him. He alone is God.

Understanding – What does it mean?

There is no adequate substitute for God.

There is no substitute! God is not one of many options, one of many worthy pursuits, one of many things that satisfy, one among others who created the earth, and Jesus isn’t just one of many paths to eternal life. There is nothing that can take his place in any way.

When there is anything we turn to for help, that we pursue, that we worship, that we look to for fulfillment besides God, it’s like we’re settling for a really bad knock-off of a good product, a kindergardner’s attempt to recreate the Mona Lisa with finger-paints when we’re offered the real thing, or trying to satisfy your thirst with salt water. It’s foolishness! Just as a gas engine cannot run off of diesel fuel, God designed us to run off of the fuel of himself. The great Christian thinker and author, C.S. Lewis, said, “God himself is the fuel we were meant to burn.” And, the human machine can run successfully on no other.

Life Application

Where have I been turning to a God-substitute instead of to God himself? When I have the answer, lay that thing down and choose God instead!

Our 28 days of Prayer and Fasting is a great opportunity to show God that he is our God and there is no other in our lives. It’s an opportunity to lay down the things we look to for satisfaction and sustenance – food, entertainment, tv and music, etc – and seek God instead. When we fast those things we are demonstrating, not just saying, that God alone satisfies and we choose to look to him instead of those things.
God, forgive us for turning to substitutes. Forgive me for choosing naps over prayer and choosing tv with my wife over reading the Bible with my wife. Nothing satisfies, fulfills, protects or provides like you do! Please help us to turn to you alone! We recognize this morning that you are God and there is no other. Amen.
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Isaiah 45

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Scripture

Isaiah 45:19

I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I, the Lord, speak the truth;
I declare what is right.

Observation – What does it say?

God declares through the prophet Isaiah his faithfulness to Israel and to upholding every word he has spoken. He hasn’t asked Israel to seek him only to hide himself and leave them frustrated and alone. Rather, he grants everlasting salvation and a glorious inheritance to those who have sought him.

Understanding – What does it mean?

Seeking God is never a waste of time.

Although we strive to remember and celebrate daily, God’s faithfulness to answer us, Christmas is a day we especially celebrate the ultimate answer God gave to a broken and sin-stained world: the gift of his Son. We celebrate today the fact that God is faithful to his promises, and faithful to answer us when we cry out to him.

The people of Israel cried out to God as they were in slavery in Egypt and he answered by sending Moses to deliver them from slavery and take them to the Promised Land. In the same way, mankind cried out to God in their slavery to sin and he answered by sending Jesus to deliver them and us from slavery and to eventually takes us into the land he promised us, heaven. His faithfulness to his promise to send Jesus 2,000 years ago is proof that he will be faithful to his promise to come again and take us to the place he has been preparing for us.

And, if God has been faithful to give the greatest gift and sacrifice by giving his son, wont he be faithful to answer us when we seek him for the daily challenges we face in this life? Our seeking and working for the Lord is never in vain!

Romans 8: 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Life Application

Set aside more time today to seek God. And when I pray, pray with faith that it’s not a waste of time because God will answer!

Not only today, but I’m looking forward to seeking God together for our 28 Days of Prayer and Fasting in January! It’s not a waste of time, but rather the most effective way we could spend our time! Please check out the Prayer and Fasting Manual and plan to join us in lifting prayers and worship to God that will usher in his presence and kingdom in our lives!

God, thank you for your faithfulness! You have been faithful from the beginning and you will be faithful to the end. Thank you for your goodness, that you don’t ask us to seek you in vain, but so that we can find you. We remember today your faithfulness to send Jesus. We look forward to the day you come again. And while we wait, we choose to seek you for your will to be done in our lives and in the earth. Amen.

 

To check out the discussion or to join in click here.



Isaiah 44

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Scripture

Isaiah 44:2

This is what the Lord says—
he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.

Observation – What does it say?

Despite just declaring to Israel that they had grown tired of God and had been unfaithful, God still proceeds to call them his servant and his chosen people. He also calls them by the name Jeshurun, which means the upright one.

Understanding – What does it mean?

It doesn’t make sense to call unfaithful and sinful people upright. Even so, God calls them upright though they had been sinful and the very opposite.

Yet, this is what God does. Not only here but all throughout scripture he declares over his people their identity before they’re walking in it. Following his command to forget the past and look ahead (see yesterday’s post), it’s as though he’s saying, “Your unfaithfulness in the past has been forgiven. So look ahead! From this moment forward you are Jeshurun, you are upright, you are my servant and chosen people. Walk in that identity!”

God continually offers us a clean slate and the power to walk out the identity he’s given us.

Scripture says his mercies are new each morning. Each morning we have the opportunity to forget the failures of the past and to choose to walk out who God says we are – to live holy, as his children, his ambassadors, disciple makers, pure, lovers of God and people, temples of the Holy Spirit, etc.

God’s people aren’t defined by their past, but by what God says about them.

Life Application

Let go of past failures and choose to walk in my God-given identity. Today, each time a past failure comes to mind, I will dismiss it and remind myself of who God says I am.

For example, when I remember how I’ve hesitated obeying God in the past and missed opportunities, rather than dwelling on that I will remind myself that now I am a man who always responds in obedience when God speaks to me.
God, thank you that you give us the power to change! We don’t have to be the way we’ve always been! We don’t have to be stuck in patterns of sin or unfaithfulness! Any morning we can choose to change and, by your power, walk out our God-given identity! Wash your people clean of shame and guilt and beliefs about themselves that are inconsistent with what you say about them. We can’t afford to believe something about ourselves that you don’t believe about us. Give us the strength to let go and to walk in our identity today as disciples who are consumed with loving you and loving others. Today I declare that I am righteous, I am faithful to you and I seek to love you and love others in everything I say and do. Amen.
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Isaiah 43

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Scripture

Isaiah 43:18-19

18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Observation – What does it say?

God is calling out to Israel to stop dwelling on the past and instead to look ahead to what he is doing. What he was doing was already springing up, but they were missing it because their focus was on the past.

Understanding – What does it mean?

Those who look back will miss what’s ahead.

All throughout scripture we see this. Lot’s wife looked back when fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah and missed out on the good to come. Jesus said that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back isn’t fit for service in the kingdom. Yet it’s the tendency of human beings to look back and dwell on the past.

The Israelites had just been delivered from slavery in Egypt through unparalleled miracles (referenced in the previous 2 verses). Yet, rather than looking ahead to where God was taking them, being filled with joy and excitement, some wished they were back in slavery because of the fish they were able to eat there! If only they knew the delicacies that awaited them in the Promised Land!

Likewise, many Christians tend to look back and dwell on the past. Following Jesus is a lot like climbing a mountain with him. We begin our journey and recognize we have a long way to go. But after some time following Jesus and reaching higher altitudes of spiritual maturity, our tendency is to set up camp on the side of the mountain. We sit in our lawn chair, look down and admire how far we’ve come. We relish our past experiences and think of all the ways we’ve served God. We feel good about ourselves and many of us enter spiritual retirement there on the side of the mountain. All the while, Jesus is beckoning us to keep climbing up the mountain! There’s a summit to pursue! Our comfortable little camp here isn’t the destination Jesus had in mind when he said, “Come follow me.”

Philippians 3:13b-14 But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Life Application

Look ahead to what God is doing!

Regardless of what we have experienced of God in the past, as long as we have breath in our lungs God has more in store for us and is beckoning us to follow him higher up the mountain.

What a better way to forget the past and look ahead to the new thing God is doing than to Pray and Fast together in January?! I’m excited to seek God together for the new and wonderful things he has in store for us. The best is yet to come!

God, thank you that you are always doing a new thing. Thank you that following you is always exciting, a suspenseful adventure! I can’t wait to seek you together in January and to be purposeful about letting go of the past so we can take hold of what’s to come. Amen.
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Isaiah 42

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Scripture

Isaiah 42:20

“You have seen many things, but you pay no attention;
your ears are open, but you do not listen.”

Observation – What does it say?

Speaking against Israel, God points out that they had seen him at work and heard him speak to them, yet they didn’t pay attention. Instead of looking to the great things God had done and putting their trust in him, instead of taking his words to heart and living in obedience to him, they sinned and had turned to idols. When it came to their daily living and decision-making, they didn’t take into consideration what God had done and said. As a result, they alone suffered as God gave them over to their enemies.

Understanding – What does it mean?

Think of someone you love with all your heart. Imagine you spend years and years doing everything you can to show them you love them. You are there every time they are in need, you tell them often how much you love them, you sacrifice your time and resources over and over again to show them your love. Although it’s not realistic, imagine that in this relationship you never wronged them once or left them hanging, you never did anything to them you regretted or needed to apologize for. You were the perfect friend. Then imagine that after all those years they turn their back on you. They tell you that they don’t really love you and that they don’t really believe you truly love them. The words sink in deep as you remember all the ways you had shown and expressed your love. Imagine the hurt and pain that would cause you. …This is what Israel had done to God.

When God reveals himself to people through protecting, providing and doing miracles, and when he speaks to them through his word, he expects them to pay attention. He expects them to respond by trusting in his love for them and by worshiping him only. When they don’t, they alone suffer.

When God acts and speaks, he expects us to pay attention!

It would be good for us to follow the example of the psalmist, and the encouragement of the prophet Samuel:

Psalm 143:5 I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.

1 Samuel 12:24 But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

Life Application

Meditate on what God has done and said, and respond in worship and obedience.

God, thank you for all you’ve done for us! Thank you for all the times you have miraculously provided, for the times you have protected us from harm and for the healings and other miracles I have witnessed with my own eyes. I worship you for all you have done and I put my trust in you. You are worthy of my life and of all the time, talent and treasure you’ve entrusted me with. As we go about our week, remind us what you’ve done for us and spoken through your word, and may it lead to us living lives that honor you and bring you glory. Amen.
As we spend time preparing for our 28 Days of Prayer and Fasting next month, it would be good for us to take some time to meditate on all God has done for us. He is worthy of all we could sacrifice during those 28 days, and more!
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Isaiah 41

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Scripture

Isaiah 41:19b-20

I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Observation – What does it say?

God is contrasting himself with the idols of the nations. He points out that the idols are worthless and detestable, and so is anyone who chooses them (vs 24). But God on the other hand causes big thirsty trees to grow and thrive in desert places and wastelands where those species would never be able to grow otherwise. And as a result people will see these trees thriving, and the only explanation will be that God did it.

Understanding – What does it mean?

God causes things to thrive where they would otherwise be unable to survive, so people will see and give him praise.

I was standing in front of an old pew in a worship service several years ago. I was trying to join in with the congregation in singing, but I was distracted. I had been going through a difficult season where I had been butting heads with the leadership in the church (before my time at DSC). I was discouraged and frustrated and the last thing I felt like doing was worshiping.

I thought to myself as I stood there, “I don’t even want to be here. I bet if I was in a different church or situation that I would be so much more effective in ministry. Yea, if I was somewhere else things would be totally different, way better.” But, before I could dream any more about the grass on the other side of the fence, God stopped me. I heard him distinctly say to me,

“Where you are can never be an excuse for your relationship with me.” He continued, “You will be you no matter where I place you. If you set yourself on fire for me, you will start fires wherever you are.”

It’s easy to blame our circumstances or those around us, but where we are can never be an excuse for our fruitfulness. Just as he causes trees to thrive in the desert, God causes his followers to bear fruit in the harshest seasons, to thrive even in the most difficult situations and to shine in the darkest places. Regardless of where we are, Jesus’ words are always true:

John 15:5  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Life Application

Stop making excuses and abide in Jesus.

Then I will be fruitful and God will get glory!

Once again, I find myself getting excited about our 28 Days of Prayer and Fasting! I can’t wait to see the fruit that comes as a result of us pressing into God together and abiding in him.

God, thank you that you cause us to thrive and to be fruitful in the harshest situations! We give you the difficult situations this morning and choose to trust you. Help us to abide in you and to lean on you when things are difficult so we can bear lots of good fruit. And, when people see our joy, peace and other good fruit may they recognize it could only be because of your work in our lives. Amen.
 
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Isaiah 40

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Scripture

Isaiah 40:30-31

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Observation – What does it say?

Unlike man-made idols of wood and precious metals which cannot help people in any way, God is the all-powerful Creator of the universe and provides unlimited strength to those who hope in him. Even where the most healthy, in-shape and energetic young person would get tired, the person who hopes in the Lord will have the strength to keep going.

Understanding – What does it mean?

This amazing promise of renewed strength and pictures of soaring, running and walking with ease are not for everyone. They are only for those who hope in the LORD. That word hope in the original Hebrew is also translated as wait. As a matter of fact, the majority of English translations seem to use the word wait in this verse. So the question for every person is, “What are you waiting on?”

This scripture leads me to believe that anyone (Christ-follower or not) who is weary and who isn’t having their strength renewed, hasn’t been hoping in, or taking enough time to wait, upon the Lord. In need of renewed strength? The answer is taking time to wait upon the Lord.

Life Application

Wait upon the Lord.

Although it hasn’t been intentional, every post this week has led me to think about our 28 days of prayer and fasting. When I prayed about my first 40 day fast several years ago, this verse in Isaiah was the one God gave me. As I set aside 40 days to stop waiting on tv, media, and around the dinner table, I would spend time waiting on God in prayer and the word instead. And as a result, God would renew my strength and cause me to soar. The picture of soaring was one of God granting me the ability to get an aerial view so to speak; the ability to see my situation, other people, the church, the world, etc, from his perspective.

God, next month as we fast the empty things we waste so much time waiting on, help us to follow through with waiting on you instead. And as we do, thank you that you will renew our strength and passion and bless us to see things from your perspective. Amen.

To check out the discussion or to join in click here.



Isaiah 39

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Scripture

Isaiah 39:8

“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

Observation – What does it say?

King Hezekiah opens his palace up for an ancient version of MTV Cribs. He gives some Babylonian visitors a grand tour of the palace and his storehouses showing off all his riches and valuables… things that he and his predecessors had worked centuries to accumulate. As soon as the Babylonian crew leaves, Isaiah walks in the door with yet another message from God: The Babylonians are going to ransack your palace and carry off every bit of wealth you showed off to them. And, if that isn’t enough, they will kidnap your own children too!

Rather than tearing his clothes in distress and seeking the Lord for mercy like he had in the past, Hezekiah is complacent and actually calls the news “good”! He was fine with the news because he assumed it would take place after he was dead.

Understanding – What does it mean?

Hezekiah, a man God put in charge of his people, seems to have had no heart for anyone except himself!

We know God would have had mercy if Hezekiah had only prayed. How?

God’s actions aren’t just random events. Rather, they are revelations of his character. When God heals someone that is sick, it’s important to recognize that he didn’t merely heal someone. He revealed that it’s in his nature to heal. It’s a critical distinction. When God provided enough to pay the bills last month it was a revelation that in his covenant relationship with you, he will always provide. In every action God is trying to reveal to us some part of his unchanging character and the nature of our relationship with him. Then, the next time sickness or financial hardship come we have no excuse to doubt or not turn to him. The fact that God healed and provided in the past is proof that he will heal and provide today if we look to him and trust him.

God had revealed to Hezekiah time and again the nature of his covenant relationship with him. He revealed that no matter the threat, sickness or bad news, if Hezekiah would humble himself and pray God would have mercy and deliver him. Although Hezekiah must have learned this about God, he didn’t have enough love for his citizens or even his own children to pray!

Contrast this with Philippians 2. Paul encourages the Christians to imitate Christ’s attitude and consider the interests of others instead of just their own. Jesus came and sacrificed himself because he loved the world and not just himself. Timothy was commended for being a man who, when everyone else was looking out for themselves, was genuinely concerned about others. The apostle Paul speaks of weeping for his lost Jewish brothers and sisters and even says he wished he could be cursed and separated from Christ himself if it meant they could be saved (Rom 9:3). Wow! What a contrast when you consider Hezekiah!

Life Application

Don’t be so self-centered that I only pray hard when I’m the one in trouble!

As we approach January and our 28 days of prayer and fasting, even if we aren’t personally feeling desperate for God’s mercy and intervention in our lives (although we are!), why not commit to pray and fast for God’s intervention in the lives of others?

God, forgive me for being selfish and self-centered! Make me more like you. Fill us with your heart for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the lost who are desperate to know you. Lead us in how to pray for others today and during our 28 days in January. Amen.

To check out the discussion or to join in click here.