Read the Bible in a Year

Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year. This is part of The Colossians 13:16 Project, sponsored by Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia. You're invited to worship with us Sundays, at 11:00 a.m. or Saturdays, at 6:30 p.m. You may also want to consider joining one our adult Bible Studies: Thursdays at 12:00 noon and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. We also have a full range of programs for children. If you want more information about the church, check out the other blogs. And please feel free to leave any comments.

The Bible in a Year is a ministry of Cove Presbyterian Church. We need your support to keep posting. If you find it helpful, you can support this blog by your contributions. They may be sent to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, WV 26062. You can also use the PayPal link below:

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bible Readings for September 30, 2010

Today our passages are Isaiah 60:1 – 62:5; Philippians 1:27 – 2:18; Psalm 72:1-20; and Proverbs 24:11-12. The readings are from The Message, paraphrased by Eugene H. Peterson. If you'd like to read from another translation, check out the links to the right.


Isaiah 60-62:5 (The Message)

Isaiah 60

People Returning for the Reunion

1-7 "Get out of bed, Jerusalem! Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.
God's bright glory has risen for you.
The whole earth is wrapped in darkness,
all people sunk in deep darkness,
But God rises on you,
his sunrise glory breaks over you.
Nations will come to your light,
kings to your sunburst brightness.
Look up! Look around!
Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you:
Your sons coming from great distances,
your daughters carried by their nannies.
When you see them coming you'll smile—big smiles!
Your heart will swell and, yes, burst!
All those people returning by sea for the reunion,
a rich harvest of exiles gathered in from the nations!
And then streams of camel caravans as far as the eye can see,
young camels of nomads in Midian and Ephah,
Pouring in from the south from Sheba,
loaded with gold and frankincense,
preaching the praises of God.
And yes, a great roundup
of flocks from the nomads in Kedar and Nebaioth,
Welcome gifts for worship at my altar
as I bathe my glorious Temple in splendor.
What's That We See in the Distance?

8-22"What's that we see in the distance,
a cloud on the horizon, like doves darkening the sky?
It's ships from the distant islands,
the famous Tarshish ships
Returning your children from faraway places,
loaded with riches, with silver and gold,
And backed by the name of your God, The Holy of Israel,
showering you with splendor.
Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
and their kings assist you in the conduct of worship.
When I was angry I hit you hard.
It's my desire now to be tender.
Your Jerusalem gates will always be open
—open house day and night!—
Receiving deliveries of wealth from all nations,
and their kings, the delivery boys!
Any nation or kingdom that doesn't deliver will perish;
those nations will be totally wasted.
The rich woods of Lebanon will be delivered
—all that cypress and oak and pine—
To give a splendid elegance to my Sanctuary,
as I make my footstool glorious.
The descendants of your oppressor
will come bowing and scraping to you.
All who looked down at you in contempt
will lick your boots.
They'll confer a title on you: City of God,
Zion of The Holy of Israel.
Not long ago you were despised refuse—
out-of-the-way, unvisited, ignored.
But now I've put you on your feet,
towering and grand forever, a joy to look at!
When you suck the milk of nations
and the breasts of royalty,
You'll know that I, God, am your Savior,
your Redeemer, Champion of Jacob.
I'll give you only the best—no more hand-me-downs!
Gold instead of bronze, silver instead of iron,
bronze instead of wood, iron instead of stones.
I'll install Peace to run your country,
make Righteousness your boss.
There'll be no more stories of crime in your land,
no more robberies, no more vandalism.
You'll name your main street Salvation Way,
and install Praise Park at the center of town.
You'll have no more need of the sun by day
nor the brightness of the moon at night.
God will be your eternal light,
your God will bathe you in splendor.
Your sun will never go down,
your moon will never fade.
I will be your eternal light.
Your days of grieving are over.
All your people will live right and well,
in permanent possession of the land.
They're the green shoot that I planted,
planted with my own hands to display my glory.
The runt will become a great tribe,
the weakling become a strong nation.
I am God.
At the right time I'll make it happen."

Isaiah 61

Announce Freedom to All Captives

1-7 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them "Oaks of Righteousness"
planted by God to display his glory.
They'll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They'll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You'll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
and foreigners to work your fields,
But you'll have the title "Priests of God,"
honored as ministers of our God.
You'll feast on the bounty of nations,
you'll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble
and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
and your joy go on forever.

8-9"Because I, God, love fair dealing
and hate thievery and crime,
I'll pay your wages on time and in full,
and establish my eternal covenant with you.
Your descendants will become well-known all over.
Your children in foreign countries
Will be recognized at once
as the people I have blessed."

10-11I will sing for joy in God,
explode in praise from deep in my soul!
He dressed me up in a suit of salvation,
he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo
and a bride a jeweled tiara.
For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers,
and as a garden cascades with blossoms,
So the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom
and puts praise on display before the nations.

Isaiah 62

Look, Your Savior Comes!

1-5 Regarding Zion, I can't keep my mouth shut, regarding Jerusalem, I can't hold my tongue,
Until her righteousness blazes down like the sun
and her salvation flames up like a torch.
Foreign countries will see your righteousness,
and world leaders your glory.
You'll get a brand-new name
straight from the mouth of God.
You'll be a stunning crown in the palm of God's hand,
a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God.
No more will anyone call you Rejected,
and your country will no more be called Ruined.
You'll be called Hephzibah (My Delight),
and your land Beulah (Married),
Because God delights in you
and your land will be like a wedding celebration.
For as a young man marries his virgin bride,
so your builder marries you,
And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride,
so your God is happy with you.

Philippians 1:27-2:18 (The Message)

27-30Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people's trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they're up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There's far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There's also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You're involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.

Philippians 2

He Took on the Status of a Slave

1-4If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

5-8Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

9-11Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Rejoicing Together

12-13What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

14-16Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing.

17-18Even if I am executed here and now, I'll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ's altar, a part of your rejoicing. But turnabout's fair play—you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don't feel sorry for me.

Psalm 72:1-20 (The Message)

Psalm 72

A Solomon Psalm

1-8 Give the gift of wise rule to the king, O God, the gift of just rule to the crown prince.
May he judge your people rightly,
be honorable to your meek and lowly.
Let the mountains give exuberant witness;
shape the hills with the contours of right living.
Please stand up for the poor,
help the children of the needy,
come down hard on the cruel tyrants.
Outlast the sun, outlive the moon—
age after age after age.
Be rainfall on cut grass,
earth-refreshing rain showers.
Let righteousness burst into blossom
and peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.
Rule from sea to sea,
from the River to the Rim.

9-14 Foes will fall on their knees before God,
his enemies lick the dust.
Kings remote and legendary will pay homage,
kings rich and resplendent will turn over their wealth.
All kings will fall down and worship,
and godless nations sign up to serve him,
Because he rescues the poor at the first sign of need,
the destitute who have run out of luck.
He opens a place in his heart for the down-and-out,
he restores the wretched of the earth.
He frees them from tyranny and torture—
when they bleed, he bleeds;
when they die, he dies.

15-17 And live! Oh, let him live!
Deck him out in Sheba gold.
Offer prayers unceasing to him,
bless him from morning to night.
Fields of golden grain in the land,
cresting the mountains in wild exuberance,
Cornucopias of praise, praises
springing from the city like grass from the earth.
May he never be forgotten,
his fame shine on like sunshine.
May all godless people enter his circle of blessing
and bless the One who blessed them.

18-20 Blessed God, Israel's God,
the one and only wonder-working God!
Blessed always his blazing glory!
All earth brims with his glory.
Yes and Yes and Yes.

Proverbs 24:11-12 (The Message)


11-12 Rescue the perishing;
don't hesitate to step in and help.
If you say, "Hey, that's none of my business,"
will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know—
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bible Readings for September 29, 2010

Today our passages are Isaiah 57:14 – 59:21; Philippians 1:1-26; Psalm 71:1-24; and Proverbs 24:9-10. The readings are from The Message, paraphrased by Eugene H. Peterson. If you'd like to read from another translation, check out the links to the right.


Isaiah 57:14-59:21 (The Message)

14Someone says: "Build, build! Make a road!
Clear the way, remove the rocks
from the road my people will travel."

15-21A Message from the high and towering God,
who lives in Eternity,
whose name is Holy:
"I live in the high and holy places,
but also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed,
And what I do is put new spirit in them,
get them up and on their feet again.
For I'm not going to haul people into court endlessly,
I'm not going to be angry forever.
Otherwise, people would lose heart.
These souls I created would tire out and give up.
I was angry, good and angry, because of Israel's sins.
I struck him hard and turned away in anger,
while he kept at his stubborn, willful ways.
When I looked again and saw what he was doing,
I decided to heal him, lead him, and comfort him,
creating a new language of praise for the mourners.
Peace to the far-off, peace to the near-at-hand," says God—
"and yes, I will heal them.
But the wicked are storm-battered seas
that can't quiet down.
The waves stir up garbage and mud.
There's no peace," God says, "for the wicked."

Isaiah 58

Your Prayers Won't Get Off the Ground

1-3 "Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what's wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They're busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people—
law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?'
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
'Why do we fast and you don't look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'

3-5"Well, here's why:
"The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won't get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places

9-12"If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.

13-14"If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don't use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God's holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,'
making money, running here and there—
Then you'll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob."
Yes! God says so!

Isaiah 59

We Long for Light but Sink into Darkness

1-8 Look! Listen! God's arm is not amputated—he can still save.
God's ears are not stopped up—he can still hear.
There's nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.
Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.
Your sins got between you so that he doesn't hear.
Your hands are drenched in blood,
your fingers dripping with guilt,
Your lips smeared with lies,
your tongue swollen from muttering obscenities.
No one speaks up for the right,
no one deals fairly.
They trust in illusion, they tell lies,
they get pregnant with mischief and have sin-babies.
They hatch snake eggs and weave spider webs.
Eat an egg and die; break an egg and get a snake!
The spider webs are no good for shirts or shawls.
No one can wear these weavings!
They weave wickedness,
they hatch violence.
They compete in the race to do evil
and run to be the first to murder.
They plan and plot evil, think and breathe evil,
and leave a trail of wrecked lives behind them.
They know nothing about peace
and less than nothing about justice.
They make tortuously twisted roads.
No peace for the wretch who walks down those roads!

9-11Which means that we're a far cry from fair dealing,
and we're not even close to right living.
We long for light but sink into darkness,
long for brightness but stumble through the night.
Like the blind, we inch along a wall,
groping eyeless in the dark.
We shuffle our way in broad daylight,
like the dead, but somehow walking.
We're no better off than bears, groaning,
and no worse off than doves, moaning.
We look for justice—not a sign of it;
for salvation—not so much as a hint.

12-15Our wrongdoings pile up before you, God,
our sins stand up and accuse us.
Our wrongdoings stare us down;
we know in detail what we've done:
Mocking and denying God,
not following our God,
Spreading false rumors, inciting sedition,
pregnant with lies, muttering malice.
Justice is beaten back,
Righteousness is banished to the sidelines,
Truth staggers down the street,
Honesty is nowhere to be found,
Good is missing in action.
Anyone renouncing evil is beaten and robbed.

15-19God looked and saw evil looming on the horizon—
so much evil and no sign of Justice.
He couldn't believe what he saw:
not a soul around to correct this awful situation.
So he did it himself, took on the work of Salvation,
fueled by his own Righteousness.
He dressed in Righteousness, put it on like a suit of armor,
with Salvation on his head like a helmet,
Put on Judgment like an overcoat,
and threw a cloak of Passion across his shoulders.
He'll make everyone pay for what they've done:
fury for his foes, just deserts for his enemies.
Even the far-off islands will get paid off in full.
In the west they'll fear the name of God,
in the east they'll fear the glory of God,
For he'll arrive like a river in flood stage,
whipped to a torrent by the wind of God.

20"I'll arrive in Zion as Redeemer,
to those in Jacob who leave their sins."
God's Decree.

21"As for me," God says, "this is my covenant with them: My Spirit that I've placed upon you and the words that I've given you to speak, they're not going to leave your mouths nor the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your grandchildren. You will keep repeating these words and won't ever stop." God's orders.

Philippians 1:1-26 (The Message)

Philippians 1

1-2Paul and Timothy, both of us committed servants of Christ Jesus, write this letter to all the followers of Jesus in Philippi, pastors and ministers included. We greet you with the grace and peace that comes from God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ.

A Love That Will Grow

3-6Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God's Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

7-8It's not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!

9-11So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

They Can't Imprison the Message

12-14I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else, too, found out that I'm in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they've learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah.

15-17It's true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they'll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I'm out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.

18-21So how am I to respond? I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

And I'm going to keep that celebration going because I know how it's going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don't expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn't shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I'm Christ's messenger; dead, I'm his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can't lose.

22-26As long as I'm alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I'd choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it's better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We'll be praising Christ, enjoying each other.

Psalm 71:1-24 (The Message)

Psalm 71

1-3 I run for dear life to God, I'll never live to regret it.
Do what you do so well:
get me out of this mess and up on my feet.
Put your ear to the ground and listen,
give me space for salvation.
Be a guest room where I can retreat;
you said your door was always open!
You're my salvation—my vast, granite fortress.

4-7 My God, free me from the grip of Wicked,
from the clutch of Bad and Bully.
You keep me going when times are tough—
my bedrock, God, since my childhood.
I've hung on you from the day of my birth,
the day you took me from the cradle;
I'll never run out of praise.
Many gasp in alarm when they see me,
but you take me in stride.

8-11 Just as each day brims with your beauty,
my mouth brims with praise.
But don't turn me out to pasture when I'm old
or put me on the shelf when I can't pull my weight.
My enemies are talking behind my back,
watching for their chance to knife me.
The gossip is: "God has abandoned him.
Pounce on him now; no one will help him."

12-16 God, don't just watch from the sidelines.
Come on! Run to my side!
My accusers—make them lose face.
Those out to get me—make them look
Like idiots, while I stretch out, reaching for you,
and daily add praise to praise.
I'll write the book on your righteousness,
talk up your salvation the livelong day,
never run out of good things to write or say.
I come in the power of the Lord God,
I post signs marking his right-of-way.

17-24 You got me when I was an unformed youth,
God, and taught me everything I know.
Now I'm telling the world your wonders;
I'll keep at it until I'm old and gray.
God, don't walk off and leave me
until I get out the news
Of your strong right arm to this world,
news of your power to the world yet to come,
Your famous and righteous
ways, O God.
God, you've done it all!
Who is quite like you?
You, who made me stare trouble in the face,
Turn me around;
Now let me look life in the face.
I've been to the bottom;
Bring me up, streaming with honors;
turn to me, be tender to me,
And I'll take up the lute and thank you
to the tune of your faithfulness, God.
I'll make music for you on a harp,
Holy One of Israel.
When I open up in song to you,
I let out lungsful of praise,
my rescued life a song.
All day long I'm chanting
about you and your righteous ways,
While those who tried to do me in
slink off looking ashamed.

Proverbs 24:9-10 (The Message)


8-9 The person who's always cooking up some evil
soon gets a reputation as prince of rogues.
Fools incubate sin;
cynics desecrate beauty.
Rescue the Perishing


10 If you fall to pieces in a crisis,
there wasn't much to you in the first place.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bible Readings of September 28, 2010

Today our passages are Isaiah 54:1 – 57:13; Ephesians 6:1-24; Psalm 70:1-5; and Proverbs 24:8. The readings are from The Message, paraphrased by Eugene H. Peterson. If you'd like to read from another translation, check out the links to the right.


Isaiah 54-57:13 (The Message)

Isaiah 54

Spread Out! Think Big!

1-6 "Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
Fill the air with song, you who've never experienced childbirth!
You're ending up with far more children
than all those childbearing women." God says so!
"Clear lots of ground for your tents!
Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big!
Use plenty of rope,
drive the tent pegs deep.
You're going to need lots of elbow room
for your growing family.
You're going to take over whole nations;
you're going to resettle abandoned cities.
Don't be afraid—you're not going to be embarrassed.
Don't hold back—you're not going to come up short.
You'll forget all about the humiliations of your youth,
and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.
For your Maker is your bridegroom,
his name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel,
known as God of the whole earth.
You were like an abandoned wife, devastated with grief,
and God welcomed you back,
Like a woman married young
and then left," says your God.

7-8Your Redeemer God says:
"I left you, but only for a moment.
Now, with enormous compassion, I'm bringing you back.
In an outburst of anger I turned my back on you—
but only for a moment.
It's with lasting love
that I'm tenderly caring for you.

9-10"This exile is just like the days of Noah for me:
I promised then that the waters of Noah
would never again flood the earth.
I'm promising now no more anger,
no more dressing you down.
For even if the mountains walk away
and the hills fall to pieces,
My love won't walk away from you,
my covenant commitment of peace won't fall apart."
The God who has compassion on you says so.

11-17"Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied:
I'm about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
Lay your foundations with sapphires,
construct your towers with rubies,
Your gates with jewels,
and all your walls with precious stones.
All your children will have God for their teacher—
what a mentor for your children!
You'll be built solid, grounded in righteousness,
far from any trouble—nothing to fear!
far from terror—it won't even come close!
If anyone attacks you,
don't for a moment suppose that I sent them,
And if any should attack,
nothing will come of it.
I create the blacksmith
who fires up his forge
and makes a weapon designed to kill.
I also create the destroyer—
but no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged.
Any accuser who takes you to court
will be dismissed as a liar.
This is what God's servants can expect.
I'll see to it that everything works out for the best."
God's Decree.

Isaiah 55

Buy Without Money

1-5 "Hey there! All who are thirsty,
come to the water!
Are you penniless?
Come anyway—buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
Buy without money—everything's free!
Why do you spend your money on junk food,
your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?
Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best,
fill yourself with only the finest.
Pay attention, come close now,
listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words.
I'm making a lasting covenant commitment with you,
the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love.
I set him up as a witness to the nations,
made him a prince and leader of the nations,
And now I'm doing it to you:
You'll summon nations you've never heard of,
and nations who've never heard of you
will come running to you
Because of me, your God,
because The Holy of Israel has honored you."

6-7Seek God while he's here to be found,
pray to him while he's close at hand.
Let the wicked abandon their way of life
and the evil their way of thinking.
Let them come back to God, who is merciful,
come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.

8-11"I don't think the way you think.
The way you work isn't the way I work."
God's Decree.
"For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don't go back until they've watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They'll do the work I sent them to do,
they'll complete the assignment I gave them.

12-13"So you'll go out in joy,
you'll be led into a whole and complete life.
The mountains and hills will lead the parade,
bursting with song.
All the trees of the forest will join the procession,
exuberant with applause.
No more thistles, but giant sequoias,
no more thornbushes, but stately pines—
Monuments to me, to God,
living and lasting evidence of God."

Isaiah 56

Messages of Hope - Salvation Is Just Around the Corner

1-3 God's Message: "Guard my common good:
Do what's right and do it in the right way,
For salvation is just around the corner,
my setting-things-right is about to go into action.
How blessed are you who enter into these things,
you men and women who embrace them,
Who keep Sabbath and don't defile it,
who watch your step and don't do anything evil!
Make sure no outsider who now follows God
ever has occasion to say, 'God put me in second-class.
I don't really belong.'
And make sure no physically mutilated person
is ever made to think, 'I'm damaged goods.
I don't really belong.'"

4-5For God says:
"To the mutilated who keep my Sabbaths
and choose what delights me
and keep a firm grip on my covenant,
I'll provide them an honored place
in my family and within my city,
even more honored than that of sons and daughters.
I'll confer permanent honors on them
that will never be revoked.

6-8"And as for the outsiders who now follow me,
working for me, loving my name,
and wanting to be my servants—
All who keep Sabbath and don't defile it,
holding fast to my covenant—
I'll bring them to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
They'll be welcome to worship the same as the 'insiders,'
to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar.
Oh yes, my house of worship
will be known as a house of prayer for all people."
The Decree of the Master, God himself,
who gathers in the exiles of Israel:
"I will gather others also,
gather them in with those already gathered."

9-12A call to the savage beasts: Come on the run.
Come, devour, beast barbarians!
For Israel's watchmen are blind, the whole lot of them.
They have no idea what's going on.
They're dogs without sense enough to bark,
lazy dogs, dreaming in the sun—
But hungry dogs, they do know how to eat,
voracious dogs, with never enough.
And these are Israel's shepherds!
They know nothing, understand nothing.
They all look after themselves,
grabbing whatever's not nailed down.
"Come," they say, "let's have a party.
Let's go out and get drunk!"
And tomorrow, more of the same:
"Let's live it up!"

Isaiah 57

Never Tired of Trying New Religions

1-2 Meanwhile, right-living people die and no one gives them a thought.
God-fearing people are carted off
and no one even notices.
The right-living people are out of their misery,
they're finally at rest.
They lived well and with dignity
and now they're finally at peace.

3-10"But you, children of a witch, come here!
Sons of a slut, daughters of a whore.
What business do you have taunting,
sneering, and sticking out your tongue?
Do you have any idea what wretches you've turned out to be?
A race of rebels, a generation of liars.
You satisfy your lust any place you find some shade
and fornicate at whim.
You kill your children at any convenient spot—
any cave or crevasse will do.
You take stones from the creek
and set up your sex-and-religion shrines.
You've chosen your fate.
Your worship will be your doom.
You've climbed a high mountain
to practice your foul sex-and-death religion.
Behind closed doors
you assemble your precious gods and goddesses.
Deserting me, you've gone all out, stripped down
and made your bed your place of worship.
You've climbed into bed with the 'sacred' whores
and loved every minute of it,
adoring every curve of their naked bodies.
You anoint your king-god with ointments
and lavish perfumes on yourselves.
You send scouts to search out the latest in religion,
send them all the way to hell and back.
You wear yourselves out trying the new and the different,
and never see what a waste it all is.
You've always found strength for the latest fad,
never got tired of trying new religions.

11-13"Who talked you into the pursuit of this nonsense,
leaving me high and dry,
forgetting you ever knew me?
Because I don't yell and make a scene
do you think I don't exist?
I'll go over, detail by detail, all your 'righteous' attempts at religion,
and expose the absurdity of it all.
Go ahead, cry for help to your collection of no-gods:
A good wind will blow them away.
They're smoke, nothing but smoke.

"But anyone who runs to me for help
will inherit the land,
will end up owning my holy mountain!"

Ephesians 6:1-24 (The Message)

Ephesians 6

1-3 Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. "Honor your father and mother" is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, "so you will live well and have a long life." 4Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.

5-8Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don't just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ's servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you're really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.

9Masters, it's the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.

A Fight to the Finish

10-12And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

19-20And don't forget to pray for me. Pray that I'll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out.

21-22Tychicus, my good friend here, will tell you what I'm doing and how things are going with me. He is certainly a dependable servant of the Master! I've sent him not only to tell you about us but to cheer you on in your faith.

23-24Good-bye, friends. Love mixed with faith be yours from God the Father and from the Master, Jesus Christ. Pure grace and nothing but grace be with all who love our Master, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 70:1-5 (The Message)

Psalm 70

A David Prayer

1-3 God! Please hurry to my rescue! God, come quickly to my side!
Those who are out to get me—
let them fall all over themselves.
Those who relish my downfall—
send them down a blind alley.
Give them a taste of their own medicine,
those gossips off clucking their tongues.

4 Let those on the hunt for you
sing and celebrate.
Let all who love your saving way
say over and over, "God is mighty!"

5 But I've lost it. I'm wasted.
God—quickly, quickly!
Quick to my side, quick to my rescue!
God, don't lose a minute.

Proverbs 24:8 (The Message)


8-9 The person who's always cooking up some evil
soon gets a reputation as prince of rogues.
Fools incubate sin;
cynics desecrate beauty.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bible Readings for September 27, 2010

Today our passages are Isaiah 51:1 – 53:12; Ephesians 5:1-33; Psalm 69:19-36; and Proverbs 24:7. The readings are from The Message, paraphrased by Eugene H. Peterson. If you'd like to read from another translation, check out the links to the right.


Isaiah 51-53:12 (The Message)

Isaiah 51

Committed to Seeking God

1-3 "Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking God.
Ponder the rock from which you were cut,
the quarry from which you were dug.
Yes, ponder Abraham, your father,
and Sarah, who bore you.
Think of it! One solitary man when I called him,
but once I blessed him, he multiplied.
Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion,
comfort all her mounds of ruins.
I'll transform her dead ground into Eden,
her moonscape into the garden of God,
A place filled with exuberance and laughter,
thankful voices and melodic songs.

4-6"Pay attention, my people.
Listen to me, nations.
Revelation flows from me.
My decisions light up the world.
My deliverance arrives on the run,
my salvation right on time.
I'll bring justice to the peoples.
Even faraway islands will look to me
and take hope in my saving power.
Look up at the skies,
ponder the earth under your feet.
The skies will fade out like smoke,
the earth will wear out like work pants,
and the people will die off like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my setting-things-right will never be obsolete.

7-8"Listen now, you who know right from wrong,
you who hold my teaching inside you:
Pay no attention to insults, and when mocked
don't let it get you down.
Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten,
from brains that are termite-ridden,
But my setting-things-right lasts,
my salvation goes on and on and on."

9-11Wake up, wake up, flex your muscles, God!
Wake up as in the old days, in the long ago.
Didn't you once make mincemeat of Rahab,
dispatch the old chaos-dragon?
And didn't you once dry up the sea,
the powerful waters of the deep,
And then made the bottom of the ocean a road
for the redeemed to walk across?
In the same way God's ransomed will come back,
come back to Zion cheering, shouting,
Joy eternal wreathing their heads,
exuberant ecstasies transporting them—
and not a sign of moans or groans.

What Are You Afraid of—or Who?

12-16"I, I'm the One comforting you.
What are you afraid of—or who?
Some man or woman who'll soon be dead?
Some poor wretch destined for dust?
You've forgotten me, God, who made you,
who unfurled the skies, who founded the earth.
And here you are, quaking like an aspen
before the tantrums of a tyrant
who thinks he can kick down the world.
But what will come of the tantrums?
The victims will be released before you know it.
They're not going to die.
They're not even going to go hungry.
For I am God, your very own God,
who stirs up the sea and whips up the waves,
named God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
I teach you how to talk, word by word,
and personally watch over you,
Even while I'm unfurling the skies,
setting earth on solid foundations,
and greeting Zion: 'Welcome, my people!'"

17-20So wake up! Rub the sleep from your eyes!
Up on your feet, Jerusalem!
You've drunk the cup God handed you,
the strong drink of his anger.
You drank it down to the last drop,
staggered and collapsed, dead-drunk.
And nobody to help you home,
no one among your friends or children
to take you by the hand and put you in bed.
You've been hit with a double dose of trouble
—does anyone care?
Assault and battery, hunger and death
—will anyone comfort?
Your sons and daughters have passed out,
strewn in the streets like stunned rabbits,
Sleeping off the strong drink of God's anger,
the rage of your God.

21-23Therefore listen, please,
you with your splitting headaches,
You who are nursing the hangovers
that didn't come from drinking wine.
Your Master, your God, has something to say,
your God has taken up his people's case:
"Look, I've taken back the drink that sent you reeling.
No more drinking from that jug of my anger!
I've passed it over to your abusers to drink, those who ordered you,
'Down on the ground so we can walk all over you!'
And you had to do it. Flat on the ground,
you were the dirt under their feet."

Isaiah 52

God Is Leading You Out of Here

1-2 Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots, Zion! Dress up in your Sunday best, Jerusalem, holy city!
Those who want no part of God have been culled out.
They won't be coming along.
Brush off the dust and get to your feet, captive Jerusalem!
Throw off your chains, captive daughter of Zion!

3God says, "You were sold for nothing. You're being bought back for nothing."

4-6Again, the Master, God, says, "Early on, my people went to Egypt and lived, strangers in the land. At the other end, Assyria oppressed them. And now, what have I here?" God's Decree. "My people are hauled off again for no reason at all. Tyrants on the warpath, whooping it up, and day after day, incessantly, my reputation blackened. Now it's time that my people know who I am, what I'm made of—yes, that I have something to say. Here I am!"

7-10How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the messenger bringing good news,
Breaking the news that all's well,
proclaiming good times, announcing salvation,
telling Zion, "Your God reigns!"
Voices! Listen! Your scouts are shouting, thunderclap shouts,
shouting in joyful unison.
They see with their own eyes
God coming back to Zion.
Break into song! Boom it out, ruins of Jerusalem:
"God has comforted his people!
He's redeemed Jerusalem!"
God has rolled up his sleeves.
All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm.
Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other,
sees him at work, doing his salvation work.

11-12Out of here! Out of here! Leave this place!
Don't look back. Don't contaminate yourselves with plunder.
Just leave, but leave clean. Purify yourselves
in the process of worship, carrying the holy vessels of God.
But you don't have to be in a hurry.
You're not running from anybody!
God is leading you out of here,
and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.

It Was Our Pains He Carried

13-15"Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn't begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn't even look human—
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they'll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they'll have right before them."

Isaiah 53

1 Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this?

2-6The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
on him, on him.

7-9He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn't say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he'd never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn't true.

10Still, it's what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.

11-12Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many "righteous ones,"
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Ephesians 5:1-33 (The Message)

Ephesians 5

Wake Up from Your Sleep

1-2Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

3-4Don't allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don't talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn't fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.

5You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.

6-7Don't let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don't even hang around people like that.

8-10You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You're out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.

11-16Don't waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It's a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.

Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!

17Don't live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.

18-20Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.


21Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

22-24Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

25-28Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor—since they're already "one" in marriage.

29-33No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That's how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become "one flesh." This is a huge mystery, and I don't pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.

Psalm 69:19-36 (The Message)

19 You know how they kick me around—
Pin on me the donkey's ears, the dunce's cap.

20 I'm broken by their taunts,
Flat on my face, reduced to a nothing.

I looked in vain for one friendly face. Not one.
I couldn't find one shoulder to cry on.

21 They put poison in my soup,
Vinegar in my drink.

22 Let their supper be bait in a trap that snaps shut;
May their best friends be trappers who'll skin them alive.

23 Make them become blind as bats,
Give them the shakes from morning to night.

24 Let them know what you think of them,
Blast them with your red-hot anger.

25 Burn down their houses,
Leave them desolate with nobody at home.

26 They gossiped about the one you disciplined,
Made up stories about anyone wounded by God.

27 Pile on the guilt,
Don't let them off the hook.

28 Strike their names from the list of the living;
No rock-carved honor for them among the righteous.

29 I'm hurt and in pain;
Give me space for healing, and mountain air.

30 Let me shout God's name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.

31 For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.

32 The poor in spirit see and are glad—
Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!

33 For God listens to the poor,
He doesn't walk out on the wretched.

34 You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth;
Also ocean and all things that swim in it.

35 For God is out to help Zion,
Rebuilding the wrecked towns of Judah.

Guess who will live there—
The proud owners of the land?

36 No, the children of his servants will get it,
The lovers of his name will live in it.

Proverbs 24:7 (The Message)


7 Wise conversation is way over the head of fools;
in a serious discussion they haven't a clue.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bible Readings for September 26, 2010

Today our passages are Isaiah 48:12 – 50:11; Ephesians 4:17-32; Psalm 69:1-18; and Proverbs 24:5-6. The readings are from The Message, paraphrased by Eugene H. Peterson. If you'd like to read from another translation, check out the links to the right.


Isaiah 48:12-50:11 (The Message)

12-13"Listen, Jacob. Listen, Israel—
I'm the One who named you!
I'm the One.
I got things started and, yes, I'll wrap them up.
Earth is my work, handmade.
And the skies—I made them, too, horizon to horizon.
When I speak, they're on their feet, at attention.

14-16"Come everybody, gather around, listen:
Who among the gods has delivered the news?
I, God, love this man Cyrus, and I'm using him
to do what I want with Babylon.
I, yes I, have spoken. I've called him.
I've brought him here. He'll be successful.
Come close, listen carefully:
I've never kept secrets from you.
I've always been present with you."

Your Progeny, Like Grains of Sand

16-19And now, the Master, God, sends me and his Spirit
with this Message from God,
your Redeemer, The Holy of Israel:
"I am God, your God,
who teaches you how to live right and well.
I show you what to do, where to go.
If you had listened all along to what I told you,
your life would have flowed full like a river,
blessings rolling in like waves from the sea.
Children and grandchildren are like sand,
your progeny like grains of sand.
There would be no end of them,
no danger of losing touch with me."

20Get out of Babylon! Run from the Babylonians!
Shout the news. Broadcast it.
Let the world know, the whole world.
Tell them, "God redeemed his dear servant Jacob!"

21They weren't thirsty when he led them through the deserts.
He made water pour out of the rock;
he split the rock and the water gushed.

22"There is no peace," says God, "for the wicked."

Isaiah 49

A Light for the Nations

1-3 Listen, far-flung islands,
pay attention, faraway people:
God put me to work from the day I was born.
The moment I entered the world he named me.
He gave me speech that would cut and penetrate.
He kept his hand on me to protect me.
He made me his straight arrow
and hid me in his quiver.
He said to me, "You're my dear servant,
Israel, through whom I'll shine."

4But I said, "I've worked for nothing.
I've nothing to show for a life of hard work.
Nevertheless, I'll let God have the last word.
I'll let him pronounce his verdict."

5-6"And now," God says,
this God who took me in hand
from the moment of birth to be his servant,
To bring Jacob back home to him,
to set a reunion for Israel—
What an honor for me in God's eyes!
That God should be my strength!
He says, "But that's not a big enough job for my servant—
just to recover the tribes of Jacob,
merely to round up the strays of Israel.
I'm setting you up as a light for the nations
so that my salvation becomes global!"

7God, Redeemer of Israel, The Holy of Israel,
says to the despised one, kicked around by the nations,
slave labor to the ruling class:
"Kings will see, get to their feet—the princes, too—
and then fall on their faces in homage
Because of God, who has faithfully kept his word,
The Holy of Israel, who has chosen you."

8-12God also says:

"When the time's ripe, I answer you.
When victory's due, I help you.
I form you and use you
to reconnect the people with me,
To put the land in order,
to resettle families on the ruined properties.
I tell prisoners, 'Come on out. You're free!'
and those huddled in fear, 'It's all right. It's safe now.'
There'll be foodstands along all the roads,
picnics on all the hills—
Nobody hungry, nobody thirsty,
shade from the sun, shelter from the wind,
For the Compassionate One guides them,
takes them to the best springs.
I'll make all my mountains into roads,
turn them into a superhighway.
Look: These coming from far countries,
and those, out of the north,
These streaming in from the west,
and those from all the way down the Nile!"

13Heavens, raise the roof! Earth, wake the dead!
Mountains, send up cheers!
God has comforted his people.
He has tenderly nursed his beaten-up, beaten-down people.

14But Zion said, "I don't get it. God has left me.
My Master has forgotten I even exist."

15-18"Can a mother forget the infant at her breast,
walk away from the baby she bore?
But even if mothers forget,
I'd never forget you—never.
Look, I've written your names on the backs of my hands.
The walls you're rebuilding are never out of my sight.
Your builders are faster than your wreckers.
The demolition crews are gone for good.
Look up, look around, look well!
See them all gathering, coming to you?
As sure as I am the living God"—God's Decree—
"you're going to put them on like so much jewelry,
you're going to use them to dress up like a bride.

19-21"And your ruined land?
Your devastated, decimated land?
Filled with more people than you know what to do with!
And your barbarian enemies, a fading memory.
The children born in your exile will be saying,
'It's getting too crowded here. I need more room.'
And you'll say to yourself,
'Where on earth did these children come from?
I lost everything, had nothing, was exiled and penniless.
So who reared these children?
How did these children get here?'"

22-23The Master, God, says:

"Look! I signal to the nations,
I raise my flag to summon the people.
Here they'll come: women carrying your little boys in their arms,
men carrying your little girls on their shoulders.
Kings will be your babysitters,
princesses will be your nursemaids.
They'll offer to do all your drudge work—
scrub your floors, do your laundry.
You'll know then that I am God.
No one who hopes in me ever regrets it."

24-26Can plunder be retrieved from a giant,
prisoners of war gotten back from a tyrant?
But God says, "Even if a giant grips the plunder
and a tyrant holds my people prisoner,
I'm the one who's on your side,
defending your cause, rescuing your children.
And your enemies, crazed and desperate, will turn on themselves,
killing each other in a frenzy of self-destruction.
Then everyone will know that I, God,
have saved you—I, the Mighty One of Jacob."

Isaiah 50

Who Out There Fears God?

1-3 God says: "Can you produce your mother's divorce papers
proving I got rid of her?
Can you produce a receipt
proving I sold you?
Of course you can't.
It's your sins that put you here,
your wrongs that got you shipped out.
So why didn't anyone come when I knocked?
Why didn't anyone answer when I called?
Do you think I've forgotten how to help?
Am I so decrepit that I can't deliver?
I'm as powerful as ever,
and can reverse what I once did:
I can dry up the sea with a word,
turn river water into desert sand,
And leave the fish stinking in the sun,
stranded on dry land . . .
Turn all the lights out in the sky
and pull down the curtain."

4-9The Master, God, has given me
a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
and I didn't go back to sleep,
didn't pull the covers back over my head.
I followed orders,
stood there and took it while they beat me,
held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn't dodge their insults,
faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
so I'm not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
confident that I'll never regret this.
My champion is right here.
Let's take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
socks and shirts, fodder for moths!

10-11Who out there fears God,
actually listens to the voice of his servant?
For anyone out there who doesn't know where you're going,
anyone groping in the dark,
Here's what: Trust in God.
Lean on your God!
But if all you're after is making trouble,
playing with fire,

Go ahead and see where it gets you.
Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames,
But don't expect me to just stand there and watch.
I'll hold your feet to those flames.

Ephesians 4:17-32 (The Message)

The Old Way Has to Go

17-19And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They've refused for so long to deal with God that they've lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can't think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.

20-24But that's no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

25What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

26-27Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.

28Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can't work.

29Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

30Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.

31-32Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Psalm 69:1-18 (The Message)

Psalm 69

A David Psalm

1 God, God, save me! I'm in over my head,

2 Quicksand under me, swamp water over me;
I'm going down for the third time.

3 I'm hoarse from calling for help,
Bleary-eyed from searching the sky for God.

4 I've got more enemies than hairs on my head;
Sneaks and liars are out to knife me in the back.
What I never stole
Must I now give back?

5 God, you know every sin I've committed;
My life's a wide-open book before you.

6 Don't let those who look to you in hope
Be discouraged by what happens to me,
Dear Lord! God of the armies!

Don't let those out looking for you
Come to a dead end by following me—
Please, dear God of Israel!

7 Because of you I look like an idiot,
I walk around ashamed to show my face.

8 My brothers shun me like a bum off the street;
My family treats me like an unwanted guest.

9 I love you more than I can say.
Because I'm madly in love with you,
They blame me for everything they dislike about you.

10 When I poured myself out in prayer and fasting,
All it got me was more contempt.

11 When I put on a sad face,
They treated me like a clown.

12 Now drunks and gluttons
Make up drinking songs about me.

13 And me? I pray.
God, it's time for a break!

God, answer in love!
Answer with your sure salvation!

14 Rescue me from the swamp,
Don't let me go under for good,

Pull me out of the clutch of the enemy;
This whirlpool is sucking me down.

15 Don't let the swamp be my grave, the Black Hole
Swallow me, its jaws clenched around me.

16 Now answer me, God, because you love me;
Let me see your great mercy full-face.

17 Don't look the other way; your servant can't take it.
I'm in trouble. Answer right now!

18 Come close, God; get me out of here.
Rescue me from this deathtrap.

Proverbs 24:5-6 (The Message)


5-6 It's better to be wise than strong;
intelligence outranks muscle any day.
Strategic planning is the key to warfare;
to win, you need a lot of good counsel.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bible Readings for September 25, 2010

Today our passages are Isaiah 45:11 – 48:11; Ephesians 4:1-16; Psalm 68:19-35; and Proverbs 24:3-4. The readings are from The Message, paraphrased by Eugene H. Peterson. If you'd like to read from another translation, check out the links to the right.


Isaiah 45:11-48:11 (The Message)

11-13Thus God, The Holy of Israel, Israel's Maker, says:
"Do you question who or what I'm making?
Are you telling me what I can or cannot do?
I made earth,
and I created man and woman to live on it.
I handcrafted the skies
and direct all the constellations in their turnings.
And now I've got Cyrus on the move.
I've rolled out the red carpet before him.
He will build my city.
He will bring home my exiles.
I didn't hire him to do this. I told him.
I, God-of-the-Angel-Armies."

14God says:

"The workers of Egypt, the merchants of Ethiopia,
and those statuesque Sabeans
Will all come over to you—all yours.
Docile in chains, they'll follow you,
Hands folded in reverence, praying before you:
'Amazing! God is with you!
There is no other God—none.'"

Look at the Evidence

15-17Clearly, you are a God who works behind the scenes,
God of Israel, Savior God.
Humiliated, all those others
will be ashamed to show their faces in public.
Out of work and at loose ends, the makers of no-god idols
won't know what to do with themselves.
The people of Israel, though, are saved by you, God,
saved with an eternal salvation.
They won't be ashamed,
they won't be at loose ends, ever.

18-24God, Creator of the heavens—
he is, remember, God.
Maker of earth—
he put it on its foundations, built it from scratch.
He didn't go to all that trouble
to just leave it empty, nothing in it.
He made it to be lived in.

This God says:

"I am God,
the one and only.
I don't just talk to myself
or mumble under my breath.
I never told Jacob,
'Seek me in emptiness, in dark nothingness.'
I am God. I work out in the open,
saying what's right, setting things right.
So gather around, come on in,
all you refugees and castoffs.
They don't seem to know much, do they—
those who carry around their no-god blocks of wood,
praying for help to a dead stick?
So tell me what you think. Look at the evidence.
Put your heads together. Make your case.
Who told you, and a long time ago, what's going on here?
Who made sense of things for you?
Wasn't I the one? God?
It had to be me. I'm the only God there is—
The only God who does things right
and knows how to help.
So turn to me and be helped—saved!—
everyone, whoever and wherever you are.
I am God,
the only God there is, the one and only.
I promise in my own name:
Every word out of my mouth does what it says.
I never take back what I say.
Everyone is going to end up kneeling before me.
Everyone is going to end up saying of me,
'Yes! Salvation and strength are in God!'"

24-25All who have raged against him
will be brought before him,
disgraced by their unbelief.
And all who are connected with Israel
will have a robust, praising, good life in God!

Isaiah 46

This Is Serious Business, Rebels

1-2 The god Bel falls down, god Nebo slumps. The no-god hunks of wood are loaded on mules
And have to be hauled off,
wearing out the poor mules—
Dead weight, burdens who can't bear burdens,
hauled off to captivity.

3-4"Listen to me, family of Jacob,
everyone that's left of the family of Israel.
I've been carrying you on my back
from the day you were born,
And I'll keep on carrying you when you're old.
I'll be there, bearing you when you're old and gray.
I've done it and will keep on doing it,
carrying you on my back, saving you.

5-7"So to whom will you compare me, the Incomparable?
Can you picture me without reducing me?
People with a lot of money
hire craftsmen to make them gods.
The artisan delivers the god,
and they kneel and worship it!
They carry it around in holy parades,
then take it home and put it on a shelf.
And there it sits, day in and day out,
a dependable god, always right where you put it.
Say anything you want to it, it never talks back.
Of course, it never does anything either!

8-11"Think about this. Wrap your minds around it.
This is serious business, rebels. Take it to heart.
Remember your history,
your long and rich history.
I am God, the only God you've had or ever will have—
incomparable, irreplaceable—
From the very beginning
telling you what the ending will be,
All along letting you in
on what is going to happen,
Assuring you, 'I'm in this for the long haul,
I'll do exactly what I set out to do,'
Calling that eagle, Cyrus, out of the east,
from a far country the man I chose to help me.
I've said it, and I'll most certainly do it.
I've planned it, so it's as good as done.

12-13"Now listen to me:
You're a hardheaded bunch and hard to help.
I'm ready to help you right now.
Deliverance is not a long-range plan.
Salvation isn't on hold.
I'm putting salvation to work in Zion now,
and glory in Israel."

Isaiah 47

The Party's Over

1-3 "Get off your high horse and sit in the dirt, virgin daughter of Babylon.
No more throne for you—sit on the ground,
daughter of the Chaldeans.
Nobody will be calling you 'charming'
and 'alluring' anymore. Get used to it.
Get a job, any old job:
Clean gutters, scrub toilets.
Hock your gowns and scarves,
put on overalls—the party's over.
Your nude body will be on public display,
exposed to vulgar taunts.
It's vengeance time, and I'm taking vengeance.
No one gets let off the hook."

You're Acting Like the Center of the Universe

4-13Our Redeemer speaks,
named God-of-the-Angel-Armies, The Holy of Israel:
"Shut up and get out of the way,
daughter of Chaldeans.
You'll no longer be called
'First Lady of the Kingdoms.'
I was fed up with my people,
thoroughly disgusted with my progeny.
I turned them over to you,
but you had no compassion.
You put old men and women
to cruel, hard labor.
You said, 'I'm the First Lady.
I'll always be the pampered darling.'
You took nothing seriously, took nothing to heart,
never gave tomorrow a thought.
Well, start thinking, playgirl.
You're acting like the center of the universe,
Smugly saying to yourself, 'I'm Number One. There's nobody but me.
I'll never be a widow, I'll never lose my children.'
Those two things are going to hit you both at once,
suddenly, on the same day:
Spouse and children gone, a total loss,
despite your many enchantments and charms.
You were so confident and comfortable in your evil life,
saying, 'No one sees me.'
You thought you knew so much, had everything figured out.
What delusion!
Smugly telling yourself, 'I'm Number One. There's nobody but me.'
Ruin descends—
you can't charm it away.
Disaster strikes—
you can't cast it off with spells.
Catastrophe, sudden and total—
and you're totally at sea, totally bewildered!
But don't give up. From your great repertoire
of enchantments there must be one you haven't yet tried.
You've been at this a long time.
Surely something will work.
I know you're exhausted trying out remedies,
but don't give up.
Call in the astrologers and stargazers.
They're good at this. Surely they can work up something!

14-15"Fat chance. You'd be grasping at straws
that are already in the fire,
A fire that is even now raging.
Your 'experts' are in it and won't get out.
It's not a fire for cooking venison stew,
not a fire to warm you on a winter night!
That's the fate of your friends in sorcery, your magician buddies
you've been in cahoots with all your life.
They reel, confused, bumping into one another.
None of them bother to help you."

Isaiah 48

Tested in the Furnace of Affliction

1-11 "And now listen to this, family of Jacob,
you who are called by the name Israel:
Who got you started in the loins of Judah,
you who use God's name to back up your promises
and pray to the God of Israel?
But do you mean it?
Do you live like it?
You claim to be citizens of the Holy City;
you act as though you lean on the God of Israel,
named God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
For a long time now, I've let you in on the way I work:
I told you what I was going to do beforehand,
then I did it and it was done, and that's that.
I know you're a bunch of hardheads,
obstinate and flint-faced,
So I got a running start and began telling you
what was going on before it even happened.
That is why you can't say,
'My god-idol did this.'
'My favorite god-carving commanded this.'
You have all this evidence
confirmed by your own eyes and ears.
Shouldn't you be talking about it?
And that was just the beginning.
I have a lot more to tell you,
things you never knew existed.
This isn't a variation on the same old thing.
This is new, brand-new,
something you'd never guess or dream up.
When you hear this you won't be able to say,
'I knew that all along.'
You've never been good listeners to me.
You have a history of ignoring me,
A sorry track record of fickle attachments—
rebels from the womb.
But out of the sheer goodness of my heart,
because of who I am,
I keep a tight rein on my anger and hold my temper.
I don't wash my hands of you.
Do you see what I've done?
I've refined you, but not without fire.
I've tested you like silver in the furnace of affliction.
Out of myself, simply because of who I am, I do what I do.
I have my reputation to keep up.
I'm not playing second fiddle to either gods or people.

Ephesians 4:1-16 (The Message)

Ephesians 4

To Be Mature

1-3In light of all this, here's what I want you to do. While I'm locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don't want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don't want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

4-6You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

7-13But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is,

He climbed the high mountain,
He captured the enemy and seized the booty,
He handed it all out in gifts to the people.
Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

14-16No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

Psalm 68:19-35 (The Message)

19-23 Blessed be the Lord—
day after day he carries us along.
He's our Savior, our God, oh yes!
He's God-for-us, he's God-who-saves-us.
Lord God knows all
death's ins and outs.
What's more, he made heads roll,
split the skulls of the enemy
As he marched out of heaven,
saying, "I tied up the Dragon in knots,
put a muzzle on the Deep Blue Sea."
You can wade through your enemies' blood,
and your dogs taste of your enemies from your boots.

24-31 See God on parade
to the sanctuary, my God,
my King on the march!
Singers out front, the band behind,
maidens in the middle with castanets.
The whole choir blesses God.
Like a fountain of praise, Israel blesses God.
Look—little Benjamin's out
front and leading
Princes of Judah in their royal robes,
princes of Zebulon, princes of Naphtali.
Parade your power, O God,
the power, O God, that made us what we are.
Your temple, High God, is Jerusalem;
kings bring gifts to you.
Rebuke that old crocodile, Egypt,
with her herd of wild bulls and calves,
Rapacious in her lust for silver,
crushing peoples, spoiling for a fight.
Let Egyptian traders bring blue cloth
and Cush come running to God, her hands outstretched.

32-34 Sing, O kings of the earth!
Sing praises to the Lord!
There he is: Sky-Rider,
striding the ancient skies.
Listen—he's calling in thunder,
rumbling, rolling thunder.
Call out "Bravo!" to God,
the High God of Israel.
His splendor and strength
rise huge as thunderheads.

35 A terrible beauty, O God,
streams from your sanctuary.
It's Israel's strong God! He gives
power and might to his people!
O you, his people—bless God!

Proverbs 24:3-4 (The Message)


3-4 It takes wisdom to build a house,
and understanding to set it on a firm foundation;
It takes knowledge to furnish its rooms
with fine furniture and beautiful draperies.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bible Readings for September 24, 2010

Today our passages are Isaiah 43:14 – 45:10; Ephesians 3:1-21; Psalm 68:1-18; and Proverbs 24:1-2. The readings are from The Message, paraphrased by Eugene H. Peterson. If you'd like to read from another translation, check out the links to the right.


Isaiah 43:14-45:10 (The Message)

You Didn't Even Do the Minimum

14-15God, your Redeemer,
The Holy of Israel, says:
"Just for you, I will march on Babylon.
I'll turn the tables on the Babylonians.
Instead of whooping it up,
they'll be wailing.
I am God, your Holy One,
Creator of Israel, your King."

16-21This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
they lie down and then can't get up;
they're snuffed out like so many candles:
"Forget about what's happened;
don't keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new.
It's bursting out! Don't you see it?
There it is! I'm making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say 'Thank you!'
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself,
a people custom-made to praise me.

22-24"But you didn't pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob.
You so quickly tired of me, Israel.
You wouldn't even bring sheep for offerings in worship.
You couldn't be bothered with sacrifices.
It wasn't that I asked that much from you.
I didn't expect expensive presents.
But you didn't even do the minimum—
so stingy with me, so closefisted.
Yet you haven't been stingy with your sins.
You've been plenty generous with them—and I'm fed up.

25"But I, yes I, am the one
who takes care of your sins—that's what I do.
I don't keep a list of your sins.

26-28"So, make your case against me. Let's have this out.
Make your arguments. Prove you're in the right.
Your original ancestor started the sinning,
and everyone since has joined in.
That's why I had to disqualify the Temple leaders,
repudiate Jacob and discredit Israel."

Isaiah 44

Proud to Be Called Israel

1-5 "But for now, dear servant Jacob, listen—
yes, you, Israel, my personal choice.
God who made you has something to say to you;
the God who formed you in the womb wants to help you.
Don't be afraid, dear servant Jacob,
Jeshurun, the one I chose.
For I will pour water on the thirsty ground
and send streams coursing through the parched earth.
I will pour my Spirit into your descendants
and my blessing on your children.
They shall sprout like grass on the prairie,
like willows alongside creeks.
This one will say, 'I am God's,'
and another will go by the name Jacob;
That one will write on his hand 'God's property'—
and be proud to be called Israel."

6-8God, King of Israel,
your Redeemer, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says:
"I'm first, I'm last, and everything in between.
I'm the only God there is.
Who compares with me?
Speak up. See if you measure up.
From the beginning, who else has always announced what's coming?
So what is coming next? Anybody want to venture a try?
Don't be afraid, and don't worry:
Haven't I always kept you informed, told you what was going on?
You're my eyewitnesses:
Have you ever come across a God, a real God, other than me?
There's no Rock like me that I know of."

Lover of Emptiness

9-11All those who make no-god idols don't amount to a thing, and what they work so hard at making is nothing. Their little puppet-gods see nothing and know nothing—they're total embarrassments! Who would bother making gods that can't do anything, that can't "god"? Watch all the no-god worshipers hide their faces in shame. Watch the no-god makers slink off humiliated when their idols fail them. Get them out here in the open. Make them face God-reality.

12The blacksmith makes his no-god, works it over in his forge, hammering it on his anvil—such hard work! He works away, fatigued with hunger and thirst.

13-17The woodworker draws up plans for his no-god, traces it on a block of wood. He shapes it with chisels and planes into human shape—a beautiful woman, a handsome man, ready to be placed in a chapel. He first cuts down a cedar, or maybe picks out a pine or oak, and lets it grow strong in the forest, nourished by the rain. Then it can serve a double purpose: Part he uses as firewood for keeping warm and baking bread; from the other part he makes a god that he worships—carves it into a god shape and prays before it. With half he makes a fire to warm himself and barbecue his supper. He eats his fill and sits back satisfied with his stomach full and his feet warmed by the fire: "Ah, this is the life." And he still has half left for a god, made to his personal design—a handy, convenient no-god to worship whenever so inclined. Whenever the need strikes him he prays to it, "Save me. You're my god."

18-19Pretty stupid, wouldn't you say? Don't they have eyes in their heads? Are their brains working at all? Doesn't it occur to them to say, "Half of this tree I used for firewood: I baked bread, roasted meat, and enjoyed a good meal. And now I've used the rest to make an abominable no-god. Here I am praying to a stick of wood!"

20This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can't even look at what he's doing, can't even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, "This is crazy."

21-22"Remember these things, O Jacob.
Take it seriously, Israel, that you're my servant.
I made you, shaped you: You're my servant.
O Israel, I'll never forget you.
I've wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings.
There's nothing left of your sins.
Come back to me, come back.
I've redeemed you."

23High heavens, sing!
God has done it.
Deep earth, shout!
And you mountains, sing!
A forest choir of oaks and pines and cedars!
God has redeemed Jacob.
God's glory is on display in Israel.

24God, your Redeemer,
who shaped your life in your mother's womb, says:
"I am God. I made all that is.
With no help from you I spread out the skies
and laid out the earth."

25-28He makes the magicians look ridiculous
and turns fortunetellers into jokes.
He makes the experts look trivial
and their latest knowledge look silly.
But he backs the word of his servant
and confirms the counsel of his messengers.
He says to Jerusalem, "Be inhabited,"
and to the cities of Judah, "Be rebuilt,"
and to the ruins, "I raise you up."
He says to Ocean, "Dry up.
I'm drying up your rivers."
He says to Cyrus, "My shepherd—
everything I want, you'll do it."
He says to Jerusalem, "Be built,"
and to the Temple, "Be established."

Isaiah 45

The God Who Forms Light and Darkness

1-7 God's Message to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom he took by the hand
To give the task of taming the nations,
of terrifying their kings—
He gave him free rein,
no restrictions:
"I'll go ahead of you,
clearing and paving the road.
I'll break down bronze city gates,
smash padlocks, kick down barred entrances.
I'll lead you to buried treasures,
secret caches of valuables—
Confirmations that it is, in fact, I, God,
the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
It's because of my dear servant Jacob,
Israel my chosen,
That I've singled you out, called you by name,
and given you this privileged work.
And you don't even know me!
I am God, the only God there is.
Besides me there are no real gods.
I'm the one who armed you for this work,
though you don't even know me,
So that everyone, from east to west, will know
that I have no god-rivals.
I am God, the only God there is.
I form light and create darkness,
I make harmonies and create discords.
I, God, do all these things.

8-10"Open up, heavens, and rain.
Clouds, pour out buckets of my goodness!
Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation;
sprout right living.
I, God, generate all this.
But doom to you who fight your Maker—
you're a pot at odds with the potter!
Does clay talk back to the potter:
'What are you doing? What clumsy fingers!'
Would a sperm say to a father,
'Who gave you permission to use me to make a baby?'
Or a fetus to a mother,
'Why have you cooped me up in this belly?'"

Ephesians 3:1-21 (The Message)

Ephesians 3

The Secret Plan of God

1-3This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called. I take it that you're familiar with the part I was given in God's plan for including everybody. I got the inside story on this from God himself, as I just wrote you in brief.

4-6As you read over what I have written to you, you'll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God's Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.

7-8This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.

8-10And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!

11-13All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. When we trust in him, we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don't let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!

14-19My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

20-21God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

Psalm 68:1-18 (The Message)

Psalm 68

A David Psalm

1-4 Up with God! Down with his enemies!
Adversaries, run for the hills!
Gone like a puff of smoke,
like a blob of wax in the fire—
one look at God and the wicked vanish.
When the righteous see God in action
they'll laugh, they'll sing,
they'll laugh and sing for joy.
Sing hymns to God;
all heaven, sing out;
clear the way for the coming of Cloud-Rider.
Enjoy God,
cheer when you see him!

5-6 Father of orphans,
champion of widows,
is God in his holy house.
God makes homes for the homeless,
leads prisoners to freedom,
but leaves rebels to rot in hell.

7-10 God, when you took the lead with your people,
when you marched out into the wild,
Earth shook, sky broke out in a sweat;
God was on the march.
Even Sinai trembled at the sight of God on the move,
at the sight of Israel's God.
You pour out rain in buckets, O God;
thorn and cactus become an oasis
For your people to camp in and enjoy.
You set them up in business;
they went from rags to riches.

11-14 The Lord gave the word;
thousands called out the good news:
"Kings of the armies
are on the run, on the run!"
While housewives, safe and sound back home,
divide up the plunder,
the plunder of Canaanite silver and gold.
On that day that Shaddai scattered the kings,
snow fell on Black Mountain.

15-16 You huge mountains, Bashan mountains,
mighty mountains, dragon mountains.
All you mountains not chosen,
sulk now, and feel sorry for yourselves,
For this is the mountain God has chosen to live on;
he'll rule from this mountain forever.

17-18 The chariots of God, twice ten thousand,
and thousands more besides,
The Lord in the lead, riding down Sinai—
straight to the Holy Place!
You climbed to the High Place, captives in tow,
your arms full of booty from rebels,
And now you sit there in state,
God, sovereign God!

Proverbs 24:1-2 (The Message)

Proverbs 24

Intelligence Outranks Muscle


1-2 Don't envy bad people; don't even want to be around them.
All they think about is causing a disturbance;
all they talk about is making trouble.