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!
 

1 John 3

Scripture

1 John 3:18

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Observation

1 John 3 speaks to God’s love for His children.  It is also includes a call to be different – no longer walking in sin (lawlessness) – as His children…but instead to “love one another” (v 11).

Understanding

I just returned from 6 days at ComicCon in San Diego.  If you’re unsure what this is, some 120,000 people come to celebrate all things comic/character related.  Amidst the chaos and throngs of people, there were people each day with signs “Christ died for your sins.”  “Repent!  Turn to Christ.”  Some of them had blow horns.  Some of them played recorded scripture readings or sermons.  I’m not 100% sure what they thought would be the outcome of their approach but the reality was people came away feeling judged “I don’t understand what they think is so wrong with ComicCon” or prepared to mock the sign holders – “Oh, there’s the Christians” and various (much worse) other comments being made.  And, to be honest, the people with the blow horns seemed judgy…straight faced, no smile, spouting out their scripture…and they represented a picture of Christianity that I wouldn’t want to be a part of either.   

It made me wonder what a different approach may bring.  It was HOT and people were literally sleeping outside to get in.  If the intent was to love through action and, ultimately, to win souls to Christ, maybe handing out cold waters with those same scriptures…or “camping out” with the people on the streets and grass with the intent of developing connections that lead to sharing about Christ…or handing out little “blessing bags” to those that waited for hours…or maybe even creating little comics with the story of Jesus to give to the kids.  It’s easy to speak from a distance on how this could have been done better…but what if we all applied that same thought process to each situation we faced?  As I enter into this [situation/location], how can I show love through action that may open the door to share the good news? 

Life Application

May we look for ways to put our love in action – both towards those we love and those we don’t yet know.  May we have a heart for people – both saved and lost – the way that Jesus did.  A heart that seeks to show Christ’s love in tangible and intangible, big and small ways.  May we know Him and make Him known in everything we do. 

God, I thank you for your love for me, for your love for your people.  May I actively seek to partner with you, to be a conduit for that love in every circumstance, every situation, every connection I make throughout the day.  May my life be an outpouring of love through action and in truth to all those I encounter. 

In your name, I pray.  Amen.   

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

– Rei



1 John 2

Scripture

1 John 2:15-17

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Observation What does it say?

I love the way The Message version paraphrases this passage:

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

Understanding – What does it mean?

We’re at a fork in the road. We are forced to make a decision between two options: Love the world and it’s ways (which is all about living for myself) OR do the will of God. One road leads to passing away, the other to living forever. And, this isn’t a one time decision. Following Jesus and doing his will is an ongoing decision we’re forced to make in every situation throughout every day.

Life Application

How convicting! How often do I want my own way? Uh… always. How often to I want things for myself? If I’m honest… all the time. How often to I want to appear important to others? Again, pretty much always.  These desires continually become the driving motives that determine the decisions I make and the way I live.

Do everything purely for the love of God.

I long for the motive driving every one of my actions, every one of my words, to be my love for God.  “I’m picking up this piece of trash in the parking lot because I love you.” “I’m doing these dishes because I love you.” “I’m responding kindly to my wife because I love you.” “I’m driving the speed limit because I love you.” “I’m getting up early to pray because I love you.”

God, forgive me for my selfishness. You saved me and set me apart to live for you! Not myself. I’ve lived for myself and the result wasn’t good. I want to walk in the plans you have for my life! I want to do everything purely out of love for you. Help me to do your will today. Amen. 
– Levi Thompson
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


1 John 1

Scripture

1 John‬ ‭1:8-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬-

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 

Observation-What does it say?

John writes in this epistle (aka letter or message), that light and darkness do not mix. We cannot claim to live in Christ, while still living in the darkness. But then, he goes on to say that those who claim to be without sin have deceived themselves. Living in the light is impossible without dependence and surrender to the One who gives light, and that is Jesus Christ our Savior. 

Understanding-What does it mean?

A self righteous attitude leads us away from Christ, rather than towards Him.

I like to let God’s Word speak for itself.  I am reminded of 2 passages to support the above understanding.  The first one is in Luke 18:9-14.  To paraphrase, Jesus was addressing the crowd, specifically those who were confident of their own righteousness and looking down on everyone else. it is about a Pharisee and a tax collector. The first one was self righteous, thanking God that he was not like the other sinners over there, because he fasted twice a week and gave a tenth of his wages.  The other man beat his breast and would not even look to heaven, asking God for mercy because he was a sinner.  Scripture says the one who was justified before God in this situation was the tax collector.

The second passage I am reminded of is Matthew 19:16-26, where a man felt that it was his good works that would get him to heaven, and even told Jesus that He has kept all the commandments, and asked Him what he lacked.  Jesus knew the man’s heart and told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor.  The man ended up leaving sad because that was a sacrifice he couldn’t make.But then I love what Jesus told his disciples afterwards, when they asked him, “Who then can be saved?”  Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Life Application

The only way to stand firm in our faith; to stand firm in our calling and stand firm when the devil attacks is to remain in the One who is unchanging and stands firm forever. Jesus Christ our Savior. 

I woke up one morning and the Lord gave me 2 words: STAND FIRM. I started doing a study in His Word looking for all the verses and passages where the word “stand” or “stand firm” is mentioned in Scripture. He was speaking to me personally to stand firm in the faith, stand firm when attacked by the enemy, stand firm in His Word, and stand firm in His work. After a day (or less) of feeling good about myself and trying to stand firm in my own strength, I admit that I started getting discouraged, telling the Lord that I was not strong enough and too weak to do what He was calling me to do. Then He brought me to this Scripture to remind me that it is only He who is able to stand firm. It is only His word that endures forever and as long as I stay connected, humbled and surrendered to Him and His Word, I will be able to stand firm. It is impossible without Him. 

“A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures (STANDS) forever.”” Isaiah‬ ‭40:6-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Dear Lord, I pray that we would all stand firm in being humbled and surrendered to You. May you take away all traces of self righteous pride in our hearts and may we be fully dependent on Your strength and righteousness alone. Teach us to live in the light as You are in the light and when darkness tries to overtake us or trap us, may we run to You for refuge. Purify our hearts Jesus and help us to repent and turn from our wicked ways for Your glory alone, so men would see our good deeds and glorify You (Matt. 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12). Amen.

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


Esther 10

Scripture

Esther 10:3

“Mordecai the Jew became the prime minister, with authority next to that of King Xerxes himself. He was very great among the Jews, who held him in high esteem, because he continued to work for the good of his people and to speak up for the welfare of all their descendants.”

‭‭Observation-What does it say?

Mordecai was promoted by King Xerxes. He was second in rank next to the king. He was held in high regards not only by King Xerxes, but by all his people, because of his willingness to stand up and fight for the welfare of the people and all their descendants.

Understanding-What does it mean?

Put others’ needs above your own.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Mordecai was blessed by God not only because of his obedience towards Him, but also because of the heart he had for God’s people. Often times we can get caught up with a self-centered life. We believe that the world revolves around us. We end up behaving more like Haman, than Mordecai. But God honors those who humble themselves and puts others before themselves. In this book we saw what happens to those of us who can get too prideful (Haman). And we also see what can happen to those who obey God and place the needs and welfare of others before their own (Mordecai). 

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew‬ ‭23:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Life Application

The keys for having joy in my life can be summed up with this acronym:

J-Jesus

O-Others

Y-Yourself

Father God may You give me the heart to serve others and care for them. Remove any pride in my heart that can cause me to fall. Instead let me walk into this day with a humble heart, ready to serve You and Your people. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Moses Gaddi 


Esther 9

Scripture

Esther 9:28

These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants.

Observation

After King Xerxes issues a decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves against those who sought to carry out Haman’s edict of annihilation, the Jews enact retribution on their enemies but do not lay their hands on any spoils of victory since securing the safety of their race, and not material gain, was the purpose of the slaughter that followed. After total victory is achieved and the bodies of Haman’s ten sons are impaled and displayed as a sign of infamy, Mordecai sends letters to all of the provinces instructing the people to celebrate with great feasts to commemorate God’s deliverance (even though within the Book of Esther God’s name is not mentioned once). Mordecai further instructs that it should be a festival that is kept at the same time each year from generation to generation – without end.  

Understanding

“Pur,” in the Persian language, means “lot”; and the feast of Purim is in reference to the time when Haman decided the day of the Jewish destruction by casting the lot. It was established as an annual feast, the celebration of which is kept to his day. Purim is considered one of the longest celebrated religious obervances ever – having been continuously kept for over twenty-five centuries. On both days of the feast, modern day Jews read the Book of Esther in their synagogues. The copy read must not be printed, but written on vellum in the form of a roll; and the names of the ten sons of Haman are written on it vertically, arranged like bodies impaled on poles. Whenever Haman’s name is pronounced, they make a terrible noise in the synagogue. Some drum with their feet on the floor, and the boys have mallets with which they knock and make a noise. Traditionally, Jews were to prepare themselves for their carnival by observing a three day fast prior to the feast, in imitation of Esther’s fast in preparation to appear before the king; but in modern times they have mostly reduced it to one day. The modern feast is celebrated with costumes, toys and gifts.

Life Application

The Jewish religious calendar is filled with many other feast days in addition to Purim, such as Rosh Hashanah (New Year); Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement); Passover, Succoth (Festival of the Tabernacles) and Hanukah (Festival of Lights), to name just a few. God uses each of them as a means by which we can remember His providence and protection in the past so that our faith may be strengthened for today and tomorrow. Christian celebrate holidays such as Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter and Christmas in remembrance of what God has done in the past. I pray to look upon these holidays with fresh eyes of faith and appreciation for God’s faithfulness. But I don’t have to wait for annual events to celebrate God’s mighty hand in my life. I can and should daily remember, rehearse and thank Him for all of His goodness and grace that I experience every moment of my life.

 

Deuteronomy 4:9
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Psalm 103:2
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits  
 
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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