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

 
 
 
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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!
 

Esther 8

Scripture

Esther 8:17a

In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating.

Observation – What does it say?

What a great ending! The road here wasn’t easy for Mordecai, Esther and the Jewish people. It was paved with a powerful enemy, many tears and fears, desperate prayers and fasting, Esther risking her life, and times where it seemed their destruction was certain. But God, clearly at work in every detail worked everything to this amazing end! The Jewish people were safe, Mordecai had been honored as royalty, Esther was still queen, and everyone was throwing a party because of their exceeding joy.

Understanding – What does it mean?

This story reminds me of Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

The journey is often crazy, filled with trials and what appears to be major setbacks on the way. Think about Joseph sold as a slave and then made a prisoner before ruling in Egypt. Think about Abraham waiting for what seems like much too long before his wife was able to conceive. Think about all of creation falling into sin and groaning as it eagerly awaits the redemption of all things.

The bottom line is that just because things are rough right now it doesn’t mean God is absent. We can be confident that God is working everything together for a good ending.

If it isn’t good, it isn’t over.

Life Application

Trust God’s plan.

God, I know life is filled with unexpected trials things to be worried about. But I also know that you are our good Father. You care for us, provide for us, protect us; you never let us down. Thank you for always being in the details even when we don’t see it. Thank you for the hope we have today because we know you work all things together for our good! We receive your peace and hope today. Amen.
 
– Levi Thompson
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Esther 7

Scripture

Esther 7:8

Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.

The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”

As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.

Observation – What does it say?

The crazy turn of events continues into this chapter! Haman had been filled with rage toward a Jew who had refused to bow and now he is bowing before a Jewish woman begging for his life!

Understanding – What does it mean?

Check out the timing. Just as the king returned…
It is significant and once again shows that God was completely in control of this scene. When does the king just happen to return? It is when Haman is “falling on the couch where Esther was” and that was the final straw for the king. Haman’s fate was sealed. Had Haman gone out with the king instead of staying to beg the queen, this scene wouldn’t have taken place. But Haman chose to fall on the couch, and he did it at the wrong time! – just as the king entered the room! God was again at work, moving to avenge his people the Jews and His timing is always perfect!
I also notice the biblical truth illustrated here: We reap what we sow. Haman sowed anger toward God’s people and then reaped anger from the king. He sowed a plot to execute a righteous man and reaped the very execution he plotted. It’s amazing how God brings about justice so quickly. In less than 2 days, Haman progresses from honored to humiliated to horrified to hanged.

Proverbs 11:8

The righteous person is rescued from trouble,
    and it falls on the wicked instead.

Life Application

Sow righteousness!

God, although those living in sin seem to be enjoying it now, give us wisdom to do what’s right. We know that although we don’t always reap when
we sow, the time for reaping will come inevitably. Instead of joining in with those who give themselves to gossip, lying, drunkenness, anger and complacency, may we shine bring and give ourselves to loving you and loving others. Amen.
 
– Levi Thompson
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Esther 6

Scripture

Esther‬ ‭6:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬ 

“What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked. “Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.”

‭‭Observation-What does it say?

The King couldn’t sleep and all of a sudden requested that the book that chronicles his reign be retrieved and read to him. In the process, it was found that Mordecai saved the King’s life by exposing 2 men who planned to assassinate him.  These men were his own trusted officials!  The King wanted to know if Mordecai was honored and recognized for his noble deed. He was told that nothing was done for Mordecai, so King Xerxes made sure to do what was necessary to honor him.  Haman was getting ready to request the death of Mordecai, but instead, the King asked him for ways that he could be honored. Haman thought the King was talking about honoring him, so he suggested the most prestigious and noteworthy way that he could do it. Haman later found out that he would be honoring Mordecai the way he suggested for himself! Talk about humiliation!

Understanding-What does it mean?

Every deed a man or woman does, whether good or bad, always comes to the light.
 
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Luke‬ ‭8:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬
 
Mordecai and Haman were men who were part of two extremes. One was prideful, wanting all of his good deeds to be exposed and honored, while Moredecai was a humble man, who was not even honored or cared to be honored for saving the King’s life. But, Mordecai’s good deeds were eventually brought to light later on and exalted, while Haman’s evil plans were halted. God protected Mordecai, while Haman suffered humiliation as a consequence for his evil plot and prideful heart.

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew‬ ‭6:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

““So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”” Matthew‬ ‭20:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” Proverbs‬ ‭27:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Life Application

Let’s learn from Mordecai’s humble example and also learn from Haman’s prideful and revengeful mistakes.

Humility comes before honor. Pride before the fall. (Proverbs 18:12)

The life of a Christ follower is one where we must die to ourselves daily for the cause of Christ. We lose our lives in order to find it. (Matt. 10:39). Being a disciple of Christ is a very humble calling, with many deeds uncompensated for, unseen and overlooked. However, our all knowing, all seeing and ever present Father sees it all and it is He who we honor and please. We please Him for His glory alone, to further the Kingdom and so that through our good deeds, men will praise Him. (Matthew 5:16). There’s no room whatsoever for pride in the life of a servant and disciple.

Dear Jesus, please forgive me for the times that I seek to be honored and recognized for the good deeds I do for people, like my family, church family and other people you have called me to serve. May Your affection and recognition be enough and all that I seek. May I be more like Haman than Mordecai. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

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

-Michelle Gaddi



Esther 5

Scripture

Esther 5:11-13

“Haman started bragging about how rich he was. He was bragging to his friends about his many sons, and about all the ways the king had honored him. And he was bragging about how the king had promoted him higher than all the other leaders. “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only one Queen Esther invited to be with the king at the party she gave. And the Queen also has invited me to be with the king again tomorrow. But all this means nothing to me. I cannot be happy as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”

Observation-What does it say?

Haman was the highest ranking official seated at the king’s table. He had a lot of things going for him. He was very wealthy. He had earned the king’s honor and praise. He also had a growing number of family and friends. He was literally sitting at “the big boys table” now. Haman was the only one invited to go to Queen Esther’s banquet with the king. Everything seemed to be going Haman’s way. All except one thing…Mordecai still wasn’t showing him the respect and fear that he felt he deserved.

Understanding-What does it mean?

Pride comes before the fall.

For Haman, life was good. Well so it seemed. Throughout all his riches and status, his pride couldn’t let one thing go… Mordecai’s unwillingness to bow or stand and show him any proper respect that he felt due him. The one thing that Haman couldn’t let go of (his pride) was causing him so much anger, so much rage inside, that even with all the blessings he has received in life, he still was left unsatisfied. Haman felt he couldn’t truly be happy until Mordecai was gone. His hate and anger towards Mordecai extended beyond belief. Haman not only wanted to kill Mordecai for his disobedience towards him, but he even set out to kill Mordecai’s people (God’s people) because of it. Now, if there are two things I learned from reading comics and the Bible, it’s 1) that you don’t pull on Superman’s cape, and 2) you don’t mess with God’s people. You’re just asking for trouble!

“Pride is the first step toward destruction. Proud thoughts will lead you to defeat.” ‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:18‬ ‭ERV‬‬

Life Application

Remember that God is the true source of your happiness.

“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” Psalm‬ ‭10:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Haman let his foolish pride cloud his judgement. Instead of seeing all the good that was happening in his life, he focused more on the one thing wrong in his life. Instead of letting it go, he chose to let it linger and fester in his heart. It eventually would lead to his demise as you read on. 

I know the one thing that helps keep me grounded in life no matter how successful I become is knowing that as long and hard that it may take me to achieve something, God can take it away in a flash! Remembering that truly humbles me. Knowing that God is more concerned for my holiness than my happiness, keeps me striving to stay connected to Him each and every day!

 
-To check out the discussion or to join in, click here
 
-Moses Gaddi


Esther 4

Scripture

Esther 4:15-16
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Observation

After discovering Haman’s evil plan for the annihilation of the Jews, Mordecai sends word to Esther and appeals for her to seek mercy from the king. Esther is initially reluctant to appear before the king without being summoned by him, as the penalty for doing so is death. Mordecai reminds Esther that, should the edict be carried out, her position in the palace would not protect her from suffering the same fate as her fellow Jews. Esther informs Mordecai to assemble intercessors on behalf of her mission and agrees to petition the king for deliverance, even if it costs her life.

Understanding

Only someone who has placed their life totally in the sovereign plan of Almighty God could make the statement of absolute trust and surrender that Esther makes – “If I perish, I perish.” The apparent flippancy with which she says this only serves to further accentuate her total submission to whatever the will of God would determine the result of her obedience to be. This episode from the Old Testament is not merely past history, but is a current event that is being played out in the lives of countless believers throughout the world as Christians are being made to choose between a bold confession of Christ or martyrdom. Even as Esther sought out the mourning, prayers and fasting of her kinsmen for deliverance in the face of possible death, the Spirit calls the church to pray and intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters whose lives hang in the balance for their testimony of faith; as surely as did Esther’s and that of the entire Jewish race.

Life Application

I thank God that I live in a country that, for now, allows me to exercise my religious freedom without fear of death. Yet God still calls me to the boldness exhibited by Esther – not from fear of losing my life because of my faith but, perhaps, from fear of losing other things that I cherish. May I be able to say, in the context of my life, that I am going to live boldly and obediently for Christ and put my trust in God no matter what the ramifications of that commitment might bring. Like Esther, may I so trust in God’s protection and provision that I can fearlessly live a life of faith, obedience and integrity regardless of the circumstances or the cost. And in doing so, if I lose that promotion, then I lose that promotion; if I lose those relationships, then I lose those relationships; If I lose the profit of dishonest gain, then I lose the profit of dishonest gain and if I am mocked and persecuted for His name’s sake, then so be it. And, knowing that what I stand to lose for my faith pales in comparison to the imprisonment, torture and death that others throughout the world are facing for their testimony, may I often petition the Lord on their behalf for courage, strength and faith in the face of their trials and tribulations and for deliverance from their persecutors. 
 
Revelation 12:11
They triumphed over [Satan] 
by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here
-Gary Parker


Esther 3

Scripture

Esther 3:15

15 The couriers went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

Observation

We don’t even hear of this “Haman” character until now; but here he is, being honored and given the “seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles” (v1).  In this role, he is to be bowed to but Mordecai – who raised Esther, bringing her up as his own daughter when her mother and father died (Esther 2:7) – refused to comply.  Haman is prideful and revengeful about Mordecai’s refusal and decides to seek vengeance not just on Mordecai but on all “his people,” the Jews.  Being in this seat of honor, Haman comes to the king with malicious intent and informs him that “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them…” (v 8-9).  Hearing this, the king turns over his signet ring, authorizing Haman to “do as he pleases” with the people.  Haman takes this opportunity to create an order from the king to have all the Jews massacred on a certain day. 

Understanding

As we end Chapter 3, things look dark!

“The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.”

The king and Haman sat down to drink, likely celebrating – Haman, celebrating his [believed to be] success in setting up the genocide of the Jews and the king likely celebrating that these “certain [separatist] people” will no longer be tolerated – reinforcing his reign.  Meanwhile, the city is bewildered at this sudden change of heart, the impending doom upon a peaceful people…or perhaps they are perplexed at a king that would allow himself to be abused and/or manipulated?  Perhaps it’s not celebration at all…but rather Haman hoping to keep the king ignorant re: his malicious plan and/or the king numbing his feelings about what he had just helped put into motion.  

Thank God we know the rest of the story for this, were it to continue as Haman wishes, would be the end of God’s people.

“A very black and mournful scene here opens, and which threatens the ruin of all the people of God. Were there not some such dark nights, the light of the morning would not be so welcome.” – Matthew Henry Commentary

Life Application

In this season of life, I’m learning more and more to see God in the details and, also, to find gratitude for every part of the process.  It’s a beautiful thing to look back at Esther’s story and see how God fashioned together each part that Esther would be chosen, that Mordecai would be put into the place he was, that Haman’s plan – meant for evil – would be redeemed and used to good.   

God, thank you for being ever-so-present in the details.  Thank you for ALL the parts of my own story – even those that may look grim, for they make the “light of the morning” even more welcome.  I look forward to seeing how you continue to fashion for good ALL the little details.  I put my trust in you todayIn your name, I pray.  Amen.

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

– Rei



Esther 2

Scripture

Esther 2:15

When the turn came for Esther… to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.

Observation – What does it say?

Twelve months of beauty treatments all led up to this moment. Esther was finally ready to approach the king and hopefully win his favor. Each woman was able to bring into the king’s presence whatever she wanted. We don’t know what the king’s eunuch suggested Esther bring, but that is what she chose. Hegai was in charge of the king’s harem. In that position he had relationship with the king and had surely observed the king’s taste and what appealed to him in a woman. He was the resident expert, and in humility Esther sought him for counsel. As a result, Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.

Understanding – What does it mean?

Favor grows in tandem with humility.

Matthew 23:12 …those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 11:14 …victory is won through many advisers.

Life Application

Be humble!

God, forgive me for the times I think I know best, for the times I don’t seek your counsel or the counsel of others. I recognize my desperation for wisdom and guidance, so may I seek you in all my ways. And, thank you for placing wise Christians in my life! You’ve set each of us up to grow in favor by giving us access to you and to those people. May we be humble and teachable enough to seek counsel! Amen.
 
– Levi Thompson
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Esther 1

Scripture

Esther 1:17-18

“For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.”

Observation-What does it say?

The King wanted his wife to make an appearance at the party because he was proud that she was his wife. Scripture said she was very beautiful and lovely to look at. Queen Vashti refused to come and it made the King angry. So, he banished her from his presence and took away her royal position.

Understanding-What does it mean?

Regardless of whether or not it was fair that Queen Vashti got banished from the kingdom, 2 lessons are learned here.

  1. The King consulted with trusted advisers for wisdom. He didn’t make the decision to banish her on his own.
  2. One person’s unwise choice can affect a whole kingdom. In Queen Vashti’s case, she refused to submit and was disrespectful towards the authority of her husband. As a result, it was feared that there would be a spread of disrespect and discord in the kingdom because of Queen Vashti’s example.

Life Application

We make decisions in community with other people, for one unwise decision can affect an entire family and church community.

Proverbs 12:15-The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 15:22-Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

Sin and foolish decisions usually occur independently of community. When we feel that it is our life and we can do whatever we want, we fall into the devil’s trap of pride, which always “come before the fall.” (Proverbs 16:8). However, with the support of the Body, especially Spirit filled people we trust, we are able to stand firm on the path of righteousness.

Also, being transparent for a moment, a couple months ago, I had told God that I loved him, but was tired of submitting to my pastor and also to my husband. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I began falling into the trap of society’s female liberation movement, but then the Lord reminded me that if I loved Him, I would submit (trust) the authorities He has placed over my life. I’m thankful for that protection. Learning to submit to authority, whether it is our parents, pastors, or spouses, helps us to submit to the Lord as well.  

Submit one to another in the fear of the Lord. Eph. 5:21

Dear Holy Spirit, help us to make wise instead of unwise decisions. Help us to submit to authority and take advice instead of dismiss it. May we be purposeful to pray for the trusted authorities You’ve placed over our lives. Just as unwise choices can affect a whole community, I pray that our wise choices would affect a whole community in an even greater way for Your glory alone. Amen.

 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here
 
-Michelle Gaddi


Ruth

Scripture

Ruth 1:16

“But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”

‭‭Observation-What does it say?

There was a great famine in Israel. So Naomi, her husband Elimelech, and her two sons decided to pack up and head to the country of Moab. When they reached Moab and finally settled in, Naomi’s husband died. Her two sons married Moab women. One son married a woman Orpah, and the other son married a woman named Ruth. Then after ten years into their marriages, Naomi’s sons died. This left Naomi alone, without a husband and her two sons.  

Then Naomi heard that God blessed His people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws decided to return to Judah. On the way to Judah Naomi thanked her daughter-in-laws for their kindness and loyalty. Naomi then told them that they didn’t need to go back with her. She told them that they should go back home to their own families. This way they can still have a chance to remarry and carry on in life. At first, both refused and insisted on staying with Naomi. But after further convincing by Naomi, Orpah went back to her family, but Ruth was very adamant about staying by Naomi’s side. Ruth declared that Naomi’s people will be her people, and Naomi’s God will be her God.

Understanding-What does it mean?

God will bless those who are committed and loyal to Him.

Ruth showed major commitment and loyalty not only to Naomi, but to God. She did this by first sticking by Naomi’s side even when Naomi gave Ruth her blessing to go back home. Then when Ruth declared that Naomi’s people will be her people, and Naomi’s God will be her God, that changed everything for Ruth. 

That took a lot of faith on Ruth’s part to do what she did. I mean from Ruth’s vantage point, the only thing she could see was how God was treating Naomi. Here was a woman with a husband, and two sons (seems like a healthy and happy family). They left their homeland in search for a better life, and God not only takes away her husband, but also takes away her two sons. She left her homeland with a full and happy family, but now returns home empty and alone. Even Naomi herself felt that God had raised His fist against her! And Ruth is still one hundred percent on board in claiming Naomi’s God as her own?! Is she crazy?!!

But as you continue to read the book of Ruth you see how God blesses Ruth for her decision to stay loyal and committed to Naomi. In a way, when Ruth cares for her Mother-in-law, Naomi, she is also caring for God’s people. When Ruth submits to Naomi and is obedient to her directions, she is being obedient to God. And when Ruth claims Naomi’s people and God as her own…God welcomes her into the family. Ruth’s life was changed because of it. God protected her and watched over her even when she had to work the fields. While working the fields, God used the situation to help provide Ruth with food, shelter, and it helped introduce Ruth to her future husband Boaz. Ruth ultimately got remarried, and even gave birth to a son! 

When Ruth’s husband died, she had every chance and opportunity to leave and go back home to start over. She was hitting hard times. She was a widow and she had to perform hard manual labor working the fields. Her future looked dark and bleak. She could have even got up, gathered her things, and went back home.  Instead she stayed committed and loyal. She demonstrated great character. And I believe God blessed her because of it.

Life Application

Stay loyal and committed to God even through the rough patches in life.

God, help me to learn and be inspired by Ruth today. When things got rough and difficult in life, she chose to stay committed to You. She remembered her vow that she made when she claimed You as her own. Help me to remember the vow I made when I chose to follow You. Give me strength to stay committed and loyal to You not only during the good times, but even through the bad times as well. Give me faith to know that You are at work through it all, and Your plans are always good. In Your name Jesus I pray, Amen.
 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Moses Gaddi 


Matthew 28

Scripture

Mathew 28:5-6

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. 

Observation

Matthew offers a unique version of the resurrection as seen from the perspective of several women. This is revolutionary, as first century women in the Jewish culture were considered unqualified to give testimony in a court of law, yet Matthew offers their experience as the first report that Jesus is risen. Then, Matthew gives the account of how the false story of Jesus’ body being stolen by the disciples while the guards slept was invented and propagated. Finally, Jesus meets with the eleven and gives them the Great Commission, promising His power and presence in their ministry.

Understanding

The FACT of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the lynch-pin of the Christian faith. In fact, Paul testifies that if Christ has not been raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. Thankfully, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is perhaps the most provable and verifiable event in human history. He was declared dead by a medical doctor and a government coroner; His tomb was verified as empty after it was closed, sealed and guarded; and He was seen alive in the body by more than 500 people for 40 days after He was crucified and buried. Jesus offered His resurrection as the event that would validate every claim that He made about Himself when He was alive. When He brought Himself back from the dead, Jesus proved that He was God, validated His claim to be able to forgive sin, proved His authority; His sovereignty; and His power over nature, over Satan and over death, Hell and the grave. He prophesied that His resurrection would be the first fruits of the promised resurrection for all seek forgiveness, mercy and salvation in Him. Jesus proclaimed that the one who believes Him will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Him will never die. With His resurrection from the dead, Jesus made good on that and all of God’s glorious promises.

Life Application

Resurrection only occurs after death. If I am to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection in my life, then I must also be willing to join Him in His death and burial. The symbolism of my baptism needs to be lived out daily as I die to the flesh and temptation so that I may rise and walk in the newness of life in the Spirit.

Romans 6:6
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the
Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 8:11
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

 
To check out the discussion or the join in, click here
-Gary Parker

 

 
To check out the discussion or the join in, click here
-Gary Parker