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 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


Matthew 27

Scripture

Matthew 27:39-43

39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

Observation

Chapter 27 lays out the aftermath of Judas’ betrayal…Judas returns the money and hangs himself.  Jesus is in the hands of those that want to crucify him.  Pilate attempts to have Jesus cleared at the prompting of his wife, but to no avail.  The soldiers mock Him and beat Him as they prepare Him for his crucifixion and now Jesus hangs on the cross…where the people continue to mock, hurl insults at and challenge Him.

Understanding

Despite how many times I’ve read and heard this part of Christ’s story, it still hurts my heart.  As I read it again, it’s as if reading a book or watching a movie…seeing the injustice and wanting a hero to come intervene!  In a movie/show script or a comic book, in the midst of the mocking, this is where God’s big entrance would be.  Jesus seems destined for death, but God jumps in and saves the day, bringing justice in the moment…but that’s now how THIS story goes.  And, oddly enough, it’s the lack of intervention that makes Jesus the “hero” for generations to come.

Had God “shown up” in this moment, the physical body of Jesus would have been “saved” and, perhaps, a few souls would be turned to God or have faith renewed; but the souls of generations would have been lost.  This part of the story was necessary to bridge the gap between our human sinfulness and eternity in heaven. 

I am filled with gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus bore for my sins.

I am in awe at the amount of love shown in Jesus dying on the cross for the people that followed; before we were even a thought in the human realm, God orchestrated the restoration of our souls to relationship with Him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.” – John 6:47

God’s got the big picture in mind and is always at work in the details.

If we just looked at this part of Christ’s story in the moment, it might be easy to miss the big picture.  It appears that Jesus is betrayed, mocked and left for dead.  Perhaps, in the moment, we could think God had abandoned Jesus or our focus could remain on the injustice of the situation.  But God’s thoughts are bigger than ours and He’s got the big picture in mind ALWAYS.  He knew this heartbreaking injustice was for the greater good for those who would follow and choose to believe. 

Life Application

God, I’m so grateful that you are bigger and greater than any human circumstance or situation.  I’m grateful for your love for me, poured out so generously on the cross.  May I remain grateful and honor that sacrifice in the way I live life out.  Also, if there are situations on my life that seem dead or hopeless, may I remember that you have the power to resurrect and heal.  May I trust you in the process – through the good and the not so great – knowing that you will never leave or forsake me.  And, knowing that, may I love you with my WHOLE heart! <3

In your name, I pray.  Amen.

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

– Rei



Matthew 26

Scripture

Matthew 26:8-9

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Observation – What does it say?

Jesus was at the home of Simon the Leper, reclining at the table, when a woman broke an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head. Mark tells us (Mark 14) that the jar was worth a year’s wages. The disciples watching were annoyed, perplexed and frustrated by what they perceived as a waste.

Understanding – What does it mean?

People who don’t see through the eyes of love, will always be critical of love’s extravagant expressions.

The disciples saw this extravagant expression of love, this act that Jesus referred to as “a beautiful thing,” as a waste. In this passage, the disciples are contrasted with this woman. The disciples were focused on the things of this world while the woman was focused on Jesus. One was focused on the money that could be produced by the perfume, the other was focused on the love that could be expressed by it. One was motivated by the love for money, the other was motivated by a love for Jesus.

At the end of it, the woman was defended and honored by Jesus and the disciples were reprimanded by him.

Life Application

Choose to love extravagantly!

I would rather be “wasting” my life on loving Jesus – my time enjoying his presence, my resources on loving him and others, and my talents on serving his people. I would rather be the one worshiping, than the one critically observing others as they worship. I would rather be honored by Jesus than reprimanded by him!

God, forgive me for the times I’ve seen things merely from a worldly perspective! Forgive us for judging others. May we be those who worship extravagantly. May we see our time, resources and talents merely as tools to express our love for you. And may we never fall into the trap of being critical of others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

– Levi Thompson

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



Matthew 25

Scripture

Matthew‬ ‭25:37-40‬ ‭NIV

““Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”‬‬

Observation-What does it say?

Jesus tells 3 parables to illustrate what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. The verses above come from the parable that Jesus explained regarding sheep and goat. He put the sheep (righteous) on his right and the goats on his left. The righteous were rewarded because they loved and did something about the needy, hungry, sick and the imprisoned, which Jesus said was the same as doing it to Him. However, those on his left were not rewarded, but instead punished for neglecting to love in action those who were in need.

Understanding-What does it mean?

There is always action associated with loving people, just like there is always action associated with loving God.

It reminds me of what James said in James 2:15-17-“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Also, the people that Jesus points out in this parable are not those who are well off or have their lives together. They are people that society tends to shun. People who are hungry, thirsty, needing shelter, needing clothing; those who are sick and in prison. Those are the people that Jesus points out for us not to neglect.

‭‭Life Application

How can I show love to someone today? 

Let’s do one practical thing to show love to someone today, whether it is buying a homeless person a meal, being a pen pal and encouragement for someone institutionalized/imprisoned, feeding a hungry child, blessing a family with a gift card or meal who is going through grief, following up on someone’s health issue, visiting them in the hospital, blessing someone with a fridge full of groceries, taking a friend out to a meal who is struggling, etc. 

There’s a lot we can do to practically show love to people, specifically the broken, hurting and needy, which in turn is how we show love to our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Dear Jesus, you didn’t hang out with the prestigious and righteous people of your day. You hung out with the broken, the hurting, the sick and the unrighteous sinners. Most importantly, you loved us so much to leave Your throne in Heaven to save us, and You did it in the most humble way. Thank you! May Your heart for people be ours. May we be intentional about loving people, “the least of these”, through action and as Pastor says, be more outward focused instead of inward focused. Amen.

 
To check out the discussion, click here
 
-Michelle Gaddi


Matthew 24

Scripture

Matthew 24:42-44

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

‭‭Observation-What does it say?

Jesus is speaking with His disciples regarding the end times. Jesus tells His disciples all the signs to look out for during this time period. The rumors and threats of war, false prophets and false messiah’s, famines and earthquakes, the persecution of His disciples, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the total destruction and anguish that will surround them. But Jesus tells them not to worry. For all these things must come to pass in order for the Son of Man to return. So Jesus reminds them all to be on the lookout for these things, and most of all to be prepared.

Understanding-What does it mean?

Are we ready for Christ’s return?

I think that it’s the boy scouts that have the motto to “be prepared”. And as Christ Followers Jesus urges us to take on that same mindset. The future that Jesus describes to His disciples can be a very scary thought…for those who are unsaved. But for those of us who have that relationship with Jesus, it should give us a sense of urgency in our lives. A sense that our Master is coming back, and we have to get His house in order and have it ready for Him when He does return. Unfortunately, many of us are procrastinators. We tend to like to wait till the last minute. But the Bible tells us that tomorrow is not guaranteed. 

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Proverbs‬ ‭27:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” James‬ ‭4:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So we as Christ Followers need to go out in this world with a purpose…with a sense of urgency! Because the things that Daniel prophesied about and Jesus spoke of in this passage are coming. We need to do our part and help save those around us from the wrath and destruction that is heading their way.

Life Application

Be more purposeful with people I come into contact with in life. Continue to pray, invest, and invite these people into a relationship with Jesus.

Father God, help me to be more purposeful in building Your Kingdom. Help me to move with a sense of urgency. Open up my eyes, ears, and heart in the direction You want me to move today. Give me the passion and the words to speak into these people’s lives that will reveal Your love for them. In Your Holy name Jesus, Amen.

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


Matthew 23

Scripture

Matthew 23:13

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees…”

Observation

In the previous chapter, Jesus matches wits with the Pharisees and scribes who ask Him questions meant to entrap Him and invalidate His claims and ministry. In this chapter, Jesus is done entertaining their self-righteous and legalistic foolishness. He points out their arrogance and pride and challenges the people to do as they say but not as they do. Jesus then pronounces a series of seven woes upon the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, exposing their hypocrisy and legalism, their ignorant and burdensome teachings, their misguided priorities; their religion without mercy; then pronounces them guilty of the shed blood of the martyred prophets and pronounces theirs as a desolate house.

Understanding

Child of Hell! Blind guides! Hypocrites! Wicked! Whitewashed tombs! Snakes! Brood of vipers! Jesus saved His most vicious accusations and insults for the religious leaders of the day; this in vivid contrast to the patience, grace and mercy He had for the people whom the leaders had manipulated and exploited with their legalism and ritual. It is a weighty responsibility for any of us who assume the mantle of leadership and influence in the Body and one to which the Lord will hold us accountable. Jesus’ vitriol emphasizes His love for the sheep of His flock and the care and protection that He expects His shepherds to provide them. While He doesn’t expect perfection from teachers and leaders, He does demand integrity, honesty, accuracy, humility and mercy from those who “sit on Moses’ seat.” (v.2)

Life Application

As a teacher of God’s word, I am acutely aware of the higher level of accountability to which I (or any leader) am to be held. I need carefully guard my doctrine against any error and I need to be equally cautious against becoming self-righteous or legalistic. I strive to be honest enough to admit my personal faults and struggles even as I instruct others lest I fall into the same prideful trap as did the Pharisees and scribes. Yet, the warning against hypocrisy that Jesus gives to leaders and teachers applies to the life of every Christian. If our actions do not agree with our doctrine and, perhaps more importantly, the heart of God, then we are guilty of the same charges brought against the Pharisees and scribes.  
 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
-Gary Parker