Scripture reading for November 19: Ezra 1-2; John 21
Key Scriptures: John 21: 17-19 “He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything: You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.” And after this He said to him, “Follow Me.””
The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus persistently asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter had denied Jesus three times and now Jesus was restoring him by asking him to affirm his love. Love is the basis for all ministry. Love for Jesus is the foundation of His Church and disciples would be known by their love for Jesus and one another. It would be for love of Jesus that Peter would die a martyr’s death, choosing to be crucified upside down. Jesus spoke prophetically about this and emphasized to Peter his need to lovingly follow the Master, even unto death.
Faith confession and prayer: Lord, You alone know what is ahead in my life and I ask You to help me each day to follow You, even if it leads to persecution or death. Your unrelenting love draws me to love You more each day and love people into Your eternal kingdom.
Ezra 1:1-2 “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the Word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”“
Scripture reading for November 11th: Ezekiel 43-45; Psalm 135; John 15
Key Scriptures: John 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the Word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My Word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of My Name, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”
The world as it is used here refers to the mass of unredeemed humanity under the darkness of sin and the world system of Babylon. Those who are still a captive of sin and Satan have a hatred for Jesus and those who follow Him. The world loves its own but despises disciples of Jesus and the Lord Himself. Disciples have been chosen by Jesus to come out of the world and join the kingdom of heaven. They are grafted into Jesus Christ, the true Vine of Life. Disciples remember the Word of Jesus concerning the world’s hatred and live by faith, loving each other and those still caught in the trap of the devil. They want to see all men saved and know Jesus Christ.
Psalm 135:14 “For the Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants.”
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your precious Word and Your patient endurance of suffering and persecution by those still under this world system. Your goodness has lead me and others to repentance and my eternal inheritance, Jesus Christ forever and ever.
Ezekiel 44:28 “This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance: and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession.”
Scripture reading for May 1st: 1st Samuel 20, 1st Chronicles 4, Psalm 56, 57, 142, Acts 14
Key Scriptures: Acts 14:19-22 “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the Gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”
Paul was stoned for preaching the Gospel at Lystra and left for dead. The other disciples gathered around him and prayed and he arose and entered the city. The crowd that stoned him had been stirred up by Jews from Antioch, their home mission base. This did not stop them from their mission! They continued to preach in Lystra and made many disciples there and even went back to Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the church members. They understood that persecution and tribulation was a part of kingdom opposition.
Psalm 57:2-3 “I cry out to God Most High, to God Who fulfills His purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; He will put to shame him who tramples on me.”
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the privilege of preaching the Gospel and for persecution for the kingdom’s sake. Help me to boldly trust You each day for strength and help.
1st Samuel 20:3 “. . . But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.”
Scripture reading for May 22nd: Acts 13, Psalm 102, Proverbs 9
Key Scriptures: Acts 13:48-52 “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the Word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Paul and Barnabas had been sent off by the church on a missionary journey to preach to the Gentiles. As they preached the Word of God, many Gentiles believed. This caused the Jews to incite persecution. Paul and Barnabas simply shook the dust off their feet as Jesus had instructed them and went on their way. Those who believed were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit! Unbelievers were filled with wrath!
Faith Confession: The Word of God brings salvation to the humble and causes persecution from the religious. Help me to respond appropriately to persecution and use me to spread Your Word throughout the place You put me. Thank You for filling me with joy and the Holy Spirit!
Psalm 102:12 “But You, O Lord, are enthroned forever; You are remembered throughout all generations.”
Scripture reading for May 21st: Acts 12, Psalm 101, Proverbs 8
Key Scriptures: Acts 12:1-5 “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James, the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”
King Herod hated the believers and followers of Jesus. He also wanted to please the Jews to appease them. So he violently seized James, the brother of John, and put him to death. He arrested Peter, but it was during the Passover celebration week. Not wanting to disrupt this, he decided to postpone Peter’s execution. But the church was praying! The result was an angelic intervention that freed Peter and brought about the death of his guards and the death of King Herod. God knows how to turn the tables when His people pray!
Faith Confession: Lord, thank You for Your care for Your people. I trust Your care and ways for both James and Peter and for me and Your church. Help me to always earnestly pray and seek You in times of persecution.
Proverbs 8:35-36 “For whoever finds Me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find Me injures himself; all who hate Me love death.”
Scripture reading for May 15th: Acts 8, Psalm 97, Proverbs 4
Key Scriptures: Acts 8:4-8 “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.”
Jesus had promised that His followers would suffer persecution. This happened after Stephen was martyred. The persecution caused the disciples to scatter out of Jerusalem into many other towns and regions. Philip, one of the first deacons, was scattered to Samaria. There he proclaimed Christ and preached the Word and God stretched out His hand in signs and healings and demonic evictions. Great joy was spread as the Word of God spread by those persecuted believers!
Faith Confession: Lord Jesus, help me to boldly proclaim Your truth wherever the Spirit takes me. I want the joy and light of Your truth and healing presence to flow among all people in my path.
Proverbs 4:18 “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”
Scripture reading for October 5th: 2nd Timothy 3
Key Scriptures for over-comers: 2nd Timothy 3: 12-17 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have know the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Paul did not pamper Timothy with smooth words or flattery. He told him straight out that persecution would follow all who lived a godly life in Christ. The world would not get progressively better, but would get worse! This would require a strong commitment to live by faith in the word of God that had been taught by godly believers in Timothy’s life. The Holy Scriptures provide the sound foundation of faith in Christ Jesus needed to over-come the terrible times of the last day! They equip the disciple of Jesus to do the good work prepared for them by the Holy Spirit.
Observations for over-comers: Over-comers esteem God’s word and those godly teachers who instructed them. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8)
Scripture reading for April 26th: John 15
Key Scriptures for over-comers: John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also.”
Jesus chose His disciples out of the world system of religion and self-exaltation. He called them to follow His own example of servanthood. He went about doing good, casting out devils, and healing the sick and oppressed and calling men and women to repentance and a new life. For this, He was persecuted and ultimately crucified. Some obeyed His teaching and followed Him. Jesus emphasized the need for servant leadership and that persecution would follow those who followed Him. The world system and people in that system would hate them!
Observations for over-comers: We are called out of the world system into the kingdom of God. We no longer belong to that dead system and it will hate and persecute us. We must remember these words of our Master Jesus! “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One.” (Psalm 2:1-2)
Scripture reading for January 7th: Matthew 5
Key Scriptures: Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus warned and taught His disciples that they would be persecuted. He, Himself, suffered persecution because of His stand for God’s truth. Our attitude in times of persecution should not be “woe is me!” Jesus taught that His followers should rejoice and be glad because of a great reward in heaven! This takes faith and an understanding of God’s word and His precious promises. He promised great reward and that is enough! We are not the first to experience this persecution and Jesus wasn’t either. The prophets of old also suffered! It is said that Isaiah was cut in half with a saw. Jeremiah was cast into the mud of a cistern and eventually stoned in Egypt where he had warned God’s people not to go! The people wanted to kill Moses and return to Egypt. We stand in good company with God’s prophets when we are persecuted for righteousness!
Observation for over-comers: Our attitude reflects the faith and rest we have in God’s promises in times of persecution that are already here! “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
Scripture reading for May 25th: Acts 14
Paul and Barnabas, commissioned by the church in Antioch, went out under the leading of the Holy Spirit to do the work that God would prepare for them. (Acts 13:4) They found many willing listeners and some believed. They also ran into opposition, primarily from the strong Jews who felt threatened by the Gospel message. They then took the message to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of His grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” (Acts 14:1-3) God worked with and through these missionaries enabling them to preach effectively. They also had the message confirmed by miracles. But this also stirred up opposition and a plot to stone them caused them to flee to Lystra and Derbe.
“In Lystra, there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.” (Acts 14:8-10) Paul discerned what God could do through the faith of this man. Paul encouraged him with a command and this man jumped up and walked around! This opened the door for the apostles to preach to a great crowd of people before the Jews from Iconium came and stoned Paul and dragged his body outside the city! God works through faith!