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.

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Bible Readings for August 31, 2012

Today our passages are Job 37:1–39:30; 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:10; Psalm 44:9-26; and Proverbs 22:13. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

Job 37-39:30 (The Message)

Job 37

    "Whenever this happens, my heart stops— I'm stunned, I can't catch my breath.
Listen to it! Listen to his thunder,
   the rolling, rumbling thunder of his voice.
He lets loose his lightnings from horizon to horizon,
   lighting up the earth from pole to pole.
In their wake, the thunder echoes his voice,
   powerful and majestic.
He lets out all the stops, he holds nothing back.
   No one can mistake that voice—
His word thundering so wondrously,
   his mighty acts staggering our understanding.
He orders the snow, 'Blanket the earth!'
   and the rain, 'Soak the whole countryside!'
No one can escape the weather—it's there.
   And no one can escape from God.
Wild animals take shelter,
   crawling into their dens,
When blizzards roar out of the north
   and freezing rain crusts the land.
It's God's breath that forms the ice,
   it's God's breath that turns lakes and rivers solid.
And yes, it's God who fills clouds with rainwater
   and hurls lightning from them every which way.
He puts them through their paces—first this way, then that—
   commands them to do what he says all over the world.
Whether for discipline or grace or extravagant love,
   he makes sure they make their mark.
A Terrible Beauty Streams from God
 14-18 "Job, are you listening? Have you noticed all this?
   Stop in your tracks! Take in God's miracle-wonders!
Do you have any idea how God does it all,
   how he makes bright lightning from dark storms,
How he piles up the cumulus clouds—
   all these miracle-wonders of a perfect Mind?
Why, you don't even know how to keep cool
   on a sweltering hot day,
So how could you even dream
   of making a dent in that hot-tin-roof sky?

 19-22 "If you're so smart, give us a lesson in how to address God.
   We're in the dark and can't figure it out.
Do you think I'm dumb enough to challenge God?
   Wouldn't that just be asking for trouble?
No one in his right mind stares straight at the sun
   on a clear and cloudless day.
As gold comes from the northern mountains,
   so a terrible beauty streams from God.

 23-24 "Mighty God! Far beyond our reach!
   Unsurpassable in power and justice!
   It's unthinkable that he'd treat anyone unfairly.
So bow to him in deep reverence, one and all!
   If you're wise, you'll most certainly worship him."

Job 38

God Confronts Job
Have You Gotten to the Bottom of Things?
 1 And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said:  2-11 "Why do you confuse the issue?
   Why do you talk without knowing what you're talking about?
Pull yourself together, Job!
   Up on your feet! Stand tall!
I have some questions for you,
   and I want some straight answers.
Where were you when I created the earth?
   Tell me, since you know so much!
Who decided on its size? Certainly you'll know that!
   Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?
How was its foundation poured,
   and who set the cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang in chorus
   and all the angels shouted praise?
And who took charge of the ocean
   when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb?
That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds,
   and tucked it in safely at night.
Then I made a playpen for it,
   a strong playpen so it couldn't run loose,
And said, 'Stay here, this is your place.
   Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.'

 12-15 "And have you ever ordered Morning, 'Get up!'
   told Dawn, 'Get to work!'
So you could seize Earth like a blanket
   and shake out the wicked like cockroaches?
As the sun brings everything to light,
   brings out all the colors and shapes,
The cover of darkness is snatched from the wicked—
   they're caught in the very act!

 16-18 "Have you ever gotten to the true bottom of things,
   explored the labyrinthine caves of deep ocean?
Do you know the first thing about death?
   Do you have one clue regarding death's dark mysteries?
And do you have any idea how large this earth is?
   Speak up if you have even the beginning of an answer.

 19-21 "Do you know where Light comes from
   and where Darkness lives
So you can take them by the hand
   and lead them home when they get lost?
Why, of course you know that.
   You've known them all your life,
   grown up in the same neighborhood with them!

 22-30 "Have you ever traveled to where snow is made,
   seen the vault where hail is stockpiled,
The arsenals of hail and snow that I keep in readiness
   for times of trouble and battle and war?
Can you find your way to where lightning is launched,
   or to the place from which the wind blows?
Who do you suppose carves canyons
   for the downpours of rain, and charts
   the route of thunderstorms
That bring water to unvisited fields,
   deserts no one ever lays eyes on,
Drenching the useless wastelands
   so they're carpeted with wildflowers and grass?
And who do you think is the father of rain and dew,
   the mother of ice and frost?
You don't for a minute imagine
   these marvels of weather just happen, do you?

 31-33 "Can you catch the eye of the beautiful Pleiades sisters,
   or distract Orion from his hunt?
Can you get Venus to look your way,
   or get the Great Bear and her cubs to come out and play?
Do you know the first thing about the sky's constellations
   and how they affect things on Earth?

 34-35 "Can you get the attention of the clouds,
   and commission a shower of rain?
Can you take charge of the lightning bolts
   and have them report to you for orders?
What Do You Have to Say for Yourself?
 36-38 "Who do you think gave weather-wisdom to the ibis,
   and storm-savvy to the rooster?
Does anyone know enough to number all the clouds
   or tip over the rain barrels of heaven
When the earth is cracked and dry,
   the ground baked hard as a brick?

 39-41 "Can you teach the lioness to stalk her prey
   and satisfy the appetite of her cubs
As they crouch in their den,
   waiting hungrily in their cave?
And who sets out food for the ravens
   when their young cry to God,
   fluttering about because they have no food?"

Job 39

    "Do you know the month when mountain goats give birth? Have you ever watched a doe bear her fawn?
Do you know how many months she is pregnant?
   Do you know the season of her delivery,
   when she crouches down and drops her offspring?
Her young ones flourish and are soon on their own;
   they leave and don't come back.

 5-8 "Who do you think set the wild donkey free,
   opened the corral gates and let him go?
I gave him the whole wilderness to roam in,
   the rolling plains and wide-open places.
He laughs at his city cousins, who are harnessed and harried.
   He's oblivious to the cries of teamsters.
He grazes freely through the hills,
   nibbling anything that's green.

 9-12 "Will the wild buffalo condescend to serve you,
   volunteer to spend the night in your barn?
Can you imagine hitching your plow to a buffalo
   and getting him to till your fields?
He's hugely strong, yes, but could you trust him,
   would you dare turn the job over to him?
You wouldn't for a minute depend on him, would you,
   to do what you said when you said it?

 13-18 "The ostrich flaps her wings futilely—
   all those beautiful feathers, but useless!
She lays her eggs on the hard ground,
   leaves them there in the dirt, exposed to the weather,
Not caring that they might get stepped on and cracked
   or trampled by some wild animal.
She's negligent with her young, as if they weren't even hers.
   She cares nothing about anything.
She wasn't created very smart, that's for sure,
   wasn't given her share of good sense.
But when she runs, oh, how she runs,
   laughing, leaving horse and rider in the dust.

 19-25 "Are you the one who gave the horse his prowess
   and adorned him with a shimmering mane?
Did you create him to prance proudly
   and strike terror with his royal snorts?
He paws the ground fiercely, eager and spirited,
   then charges into the fray.
He laughs at danger, fearless,
   doesn't shy away from the sword.
The banging and clanging
   of quiver and lance don't faze him.
He quivers with excitement, and at the trumpet blast
   races off at a gallop.
At the sound of the trumpet he neighs mightily,
   smelling the excitement of battle from a long way off,
   catching the rolling thunder of the war cries.

 26-30 "Was it through your know-how that the hawk learned to fly,
   soaring effortlessly on thermal updrafts?
Did you command the eagle's flight,
   and teach her to build her nest in the heights,
Perfectly at home on the high cliff face,
   invulnerable on pinnacle and crag?
From her perch she searches for prey,
   spies it at a great distance.
Her young gorge themselves on carrion;
   wherever there's a roadkill, you'll see her circling."

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10 (The Message)

 13-15We're not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, "I believed it, so I said it," we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God's glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
 16-18So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.

2 Corinthians 5

 1-5For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we'll never have to relocate our "tents" again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less.  6-8That's why we live with such good cheer. You won't see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don't get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we'll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.
 9-10But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that's what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we'll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what's coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad.

Psalm 44:9-26 (The Message)

 9-12 But now you've walked off and left us,
      you've disgraced us and won't fight for us.
   You made us turn tail and run;
      those who hate us have cleaned us out.
   You delivered us as sheep to the butcher,
      you scattered us to the four winds.
   You sold your people at a discount—
      you made nothing on the sale.

 13-16 You made people on the street,
      urchins, poke fun and call us names.
   You made us a joke among the godless,
      a cheap joke among the rabble.
   Every day I'm up against it,
      my nose rubbed in my shame—
   Gossip and ridicule fill the air,
      people out to get me crowd the street.

 17-19 All this came down on us,
      and we've done nothing to deserve it.
   We never betrayed your Covenant: our hearts
      were never false, our feet never left your path.
   Do we deserve torture in a den of jackals?
      or lockup in a black hole?

 20-22 If we had forgotten to pray to our God
      or made fools of ourselves with store-bought gods,
   Wouldn't God have figured this out?
      We can't hide things from him.
   No, you decided to make us martyrs,
      lambs assigned for sacrifice each day.

 23-26 Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day?
      Wake up! Don't you care what happens to us?
   Why do you bury your face in the pillow?
      Why pretend things are just fine with us?
   And here we are—flat on our faces in the dirt,
      held down with a boot on our necks.
   Get up and come to our rescue.
      If you love us so much, Help us!

Proverbs 22:13 (The Message)

 13 The loafer says, "There's a lion on the loose!
   If I go out I'll be eaten alive!"

Verse of the Day

“Bow down and worship the LORD our Creator! The LORD is our God, and we are his people, the sheep he takes care of in his own pasture. Listen to God's voice today!” - Psalm 95:6-7
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.

ITT CEO Harold Geneen (seeThought for the Day

American businessman most famous for serving as president of the ITT Corporation Harold S. Geneen wrote, "Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bible Readings for August 30, 2012

Today our passages are Job 34:1–36:33; 2 Corinthians 4:1-12; Psalm 44:1-8; and Proverbs 22:10-12. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

Job 34-36:33 (The Message)

Job 34

Elihu's Second Speech
It's Impossible for God to Do Evil
 1-4Elihu continued: "So, my fine friends—listen to me,
   and see what you think of this.
Isn't it just common sense—
   as common as the sense of taste—
To put our heads together
   and figure out what's going on here?

 5-9 "We've all heard Job say, 'I'm in the right,
   but God won't give me a fair trial.
When I defend myself, I'm called a liar to my face.
   I've done nothing wrong, and I get punished anyway.'
Have you ever heard anything to beat this?
   Does nothing faze this man Job?
Do you think he's spent too much time in bad company,
   hanging out with the wrong crowd,
So that now he's parroting their line:
   'It doesn't pay to try to please God'?

 10-15 "You're veterans in dealing with these matters;
   certainly we're of one mind on this.
It's impossible for God to do anything evil;
   no way can the Mighty One do wrong.
He makes us pay for exactly what we've done—no more, no less.
   Our chickens always come home to roost.
It's impossible for God to do anything wicked,
   for the Mighty One to subvert justice.
He's the one who runs the earth!
   He cradles the whole world in his hand!
If he decided to hold his breath,
   every man, woman, and child would die for lack of air.
God Is Working Behind the Scenes
 16-20 "So, Job, use your head;
   this is all pretty obvious.
Can someone who hates order, keep order?
   Do you dare condemn the righteous, mighty God?
Doesn't God always tell it like it is,
   exposing corrupt rulers as scoundrels and criminals?
Does he play favorites with the rich and famous and slight the poor?
   Isn't he equally responsible to everybody?
Don't people who deserve it die without notice?
   Don't wicked rulers tumble to their doom?
When the so-called great ones are wiped out,
   we know God is working behind the scenes.

 21-28 "He has his eyes on every man and woman.
   He doesn't miss a trick.
There is no night dark enough, no shadow deep enough,
   to hide those who do evil.
God doesn't need to gather any more evidence;
   their sin is an open-and-shut case.
He deposes the so-called high and mighty without asking questions,
   and replaces them at once with others.
Nobody gets by with anything; overnight,
   judgment is signed, sealed, and delivered.
He punishes the wicked for their wickedness
   out in the open where everyone can see it,
Because they quit following him,
   no longer even thought about him or his ways.
Their apostasy was announced by the cry of the poor;
   the cry of the afflicted got God's attention.
Because You Refuse to Live on God's Terms
 29-30 "If God is silent, what's that to you?
   If he turns his face away, what can you do about it?
But whether silent or hidden, he's there, ruling,
   so that those who hate God won't take over
   and ruin people's lives.

 31-33 "So why don't you simply confess to God?
   Say, 'I sinned, but I'll sin no more.
Teach me to see what I still don't see.
   Whatever evil I've done, I'll do it no more.'
Just because you refuse to live on God's terms,
   do you think he should start living on yours?
You choose. I can't do it for you.
   Tell me what you decide.

 34-37 "All right-thinking people say—
   and the wise who have listened to me concur—
'Job is an ignoramus.
   He talks utter nonsense.'
Job, you need to be pushed to the wall and called to account
   for wickedly talking back to God the way you have.
You've compounded your original sin
   by rebelling against God's discipline,
Defiantly shaking your fist at God,
   piling up indictments against the Almighty One."

Job 35

Elihu's Third Speech
When God Makes Creation a Classroom
 1-3 Elihu lit into Job again: "Does this kind of thing make any sense?
   First you say, 'I'm perfectly innocent before God.'
And then you say, 'It doesn't make a bit of difference
   whether I've sinned or not.'

 4-8 "Well, I'm going to show you
   that you don't know what you're talking about,
   neither you nor your friends.
Look up at the sky. Take a long hard look.
   See those clouds towering above you?
If you sin, what difference could that make to God?
   No matter how much you sin, will it matter to him?
Even if you're good, what would God get out of that?
   Do you think he's dependent on your accomplishments?
The only ones who care whether you're good or bad
   are your family and friends and neighbors.
   God's not dependent on your behavior.

 9-15 "When times get bad, people cry out for help.
   They cry for relief from being kicked around,
But never give God a thought when things go well,
   when God puts spontaneous songs in their hearts,
When God sets out the entire creation as a science classroom,
   using birds and beasts to teach wisdom.
People are arrogantly indifferent to God—
   until, of course, they're in trouble,
   and then God is indifferent to them.
There's nothing behind such prayers except panic;
   the Almighty pays them no mind.
So why would he notice you
   just because you say you're tired of waiting to be heard,
Or waiting for him to get good and angry
   and do something about the world's problems?

 16 "Job, you talk sheer nonsense—
   nonstop nonsense!"

Job 36

Those Who Learn from Their Suffering
 1-4 Here Elihu took a deep breath, but kept going: "Stay with me a little longer. I'll convince you.
   There's still more to be said on God's side.
I learned all this firsthand from the Source;
   everything I know about justice I owe to my Maker himself.
Trust me, I'm giving you undiluted truth;
   believe me, I know these things inside and out.

 5-15 "It's true that God is all-powerful,
   but he doesn't bully innocent people.
For the wicked, though, it's a different story—
   he doesn't give them the time of day,
   but champions the rights of their victims.
He never takes his eyes off the righteous;
   he honors them lavishly, promotes them endlessly.
When things go badly,
   when affliction and suffering descend,
God tells them where they've gone wrong,
   shows them how their pride has caused their trouble.
He forces them to heed his warning,
   tells them they must repent of their bad life.
If they obey and serve him,
   they'll have a good, long life on easy street.
But if they disobey, they'll be cut down in their prime
   and never know the first thing about life.
Angry people without God pile grievance upon grievance,
   always blaming others for their troubles.
Living it up in sexual excesses,
   virility wasted, they die young.
But those who learn from their suffering,
   God delivers from their suffering.
Obsessed with Putting the Blame on God
 16-21 "Oh, Job, don't you see how God's wooing you
   from the jaws of danger?
How he's drawing you into wide-open places—
   inviting you to feast at a table laden with blessings?
And here you are laden with the guilt of the wicked,
   obsessed with putting the blame on God!
Don't let your great riches mislead you;
   don't think you can bribe your way out of this.
Did you plan to buy your way out of this?
   Not on your life!
And don't think that night,
   when people sleep off their troubles,
   will bring you any relief.
Above all, don't make things worse with more evil—
   that's what's behind your suffering as it is!

 22-25 "Do you have any idea how powerful God is?
   Have you ever heard of a teacher like him?
Has anyone ever had to tell him what to do,
   or correct him, saying, 'You did that all wrong!'?
Remember, then, to praise his workmanship,
   which is so often celebrated in song.
Everybody sees it;
   nobody is too far away to see it.
No One Can Escape from God
 26 "Take a long, hard look. See how great he is—infinite,
   greater than anything you could ever imagine or figure out!

 27-33 "He pulls water up out of the sea,
   distills it, and fills up his rain-cloud cisterns.
Then the skies open up
   and pour out soaking showers on everyone.
Does anyone have the slightest idea how this happens?
   How he arranges the clouds, how he speaks in thunder?
Just look at that lightning, his sky-filling light show
   illumining the dark depths of the sea!
These are the symbols of his sovereignty,
   his generosity, his loving care.
He hurls arrows of light,
   taking sure and accurate aim.
The High God roars in the thunder,
   angry against evil."

2 Corinthians 4:1-12 (The Message)

2 Corinthians 4

Trial and Torture
 1-2Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.  3-4If our Message is obscure to anyone, it's not because we're holding back in any way. No, it's because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won't have to bother believing a Truth they can't see. They're stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we'll ever get.
 5-6Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we're proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
 7-12If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best!

Psalm 44:1-8 (The Message)

Psalm 44

A Psalm of the Sons of Korah
 1-3 We've been hearing about this, God, all our lives.
   Our fathers told us the stories
      their fathers told them,
   How single-handedly you weeded out the godless
      from the fields and planted us,
   How you sent those people packing
      but gave us a fresh start.
   We didn't fight for this land;
      we didn't work for it—it was a gift!
   You gave it, smiling as you gave it,
      delighting as you gave it.

 4-8 You're my King, O God—
      command victories for Jacob!
   With your help we'll wipe out our enemies,
      in your name we'll stomp them to dust.
   I don't trust in weapons;
      my sword won't save me—
   But it's you, you who saved us from the enemy;
      you made those who hate us lose face.
   All day we parade God's praise—
      we thank you by name over and over.

Proverbs 22:10-12 (The Message)

 10 Kick out the troublemakers and things will quiet down;
   you need a break from bickering and griping!

 11 God loves the pure-hearted and well-spoken;
   good leaders also delight in their friendship.

 12 God guards knowledge with a passion,
   but he'll have nothing to do with deception.

Verse of the Day

“You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God.” - Ephesians 2:19
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.,_gagnant_de_prix_Nobel,_portrait_en_buste,_posé_au_bureau,_faisant_face_à_gauche,_cigarette_de_tabagisme.jpg
Thought for the Day

French pied-noir author, journalist, and philosopher Albert Camus wrote, “Your successes and happiness are forgiven you only if you generously consent to share them.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bible Readings for August 29, 2012

Today our passages are Job 31:1–33:33; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Psalm 43:1-5; and Proverbs 22:8-9. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

Job 31-33:33 (The Message)

Job 31

What Can I Expect from God?
 1-4"I made a solemn pact with myself never to undress a girl with my eyes.
So what can I expect from God?
   What do I deserve from God Almighty above?
Isn't calamity reserved for the wicked?
   Isn't disaster supposed to strike those who do wrong?
Isn't God looking, observing how I live?
   Doesn't he mark every step I take?

 5-8 "Have I walked hand in hand with falsehood,
   or hung out in the company of deceit?
Weigh me on a set of honest scales
   so God has proof of my integrity.
If I've strayed off the straight and narrow,
   wanted things I had no right to,
   messed around with sin,
Go ahead, then—
   give my portion to someone who deserves it.

 9-12 "If I've let myself be seduced by a woman
   and conspired to go to bed with her,
Fine, my wife has every right to go ahead
   and sleep with anyone she wants to.
For disgusting behavior like that,
   I'd deserve the worst punishment you could hand out.
Adultery is a fire that burns the house down;
   I wouldn't expect anything I count dear to survive it.

 13-15 "Have I ever been unfair to my employees
   when they brought a complaint to me?
What, then, will I do when God confronts me?
   When God examines my books, what can I say?
Didn't the same God who made me, make them?
   Aren't we all made of the same stuff, equals before God?

 16-18 "Have I ignored the needs of the poor,
   turned my back on the indigent,
Taken care of my own needs and fed my own face
   while they languished?
Wasn't my home always open to them?
   Weren't they always welcome at my table?

 19-20 "Have I ever left a poor family shivering in the cold
   when they had no warm clothes?
Didn't the poor bless me when they saw me coming,
   knowing I'd brought coats from my closet?

 21-23 "If I've ever used my strength and influence
   to take advantage of the unfortunate,
Go ahead, break both my arms,
   cut off all my fingers!
The fear of God has kept me from these things—
   how else could I ever face him?
If Only Someone Would Give Me a Hearing!
 24-28 "Did I set my heart on making big money
   or worship at the bank?
Did I boast about my wealth,
   show off because I was well-off?
Was I ever so awed by the sun's brilliance
   and moved by the moon's beauty
That I let myself become seduced by them
   and worshiped them on the sly?
If so, I would deserve the worst of punishments,
   for I would be betraying God himself.

 29-30 "Did I ever crow over my enemy's ruin?
   Or gloat over my rival's bad luck?
No, I never said a word of detraction,
   never cursed them, even under my breath.

 31-34 "Didn't those who worked for me say,
   'He fed us well. There were always second helpings'?
And no stranger ever had to spend a night in the street;
   my doors were always open to travelers.
Did I hide my sin the way Adam did,
   or conceal my guilt behind closed doors
Because I was afraid what people would say,
   fearing the gossip of the neighbors so much
That I turned myself into a recluse?
   You know good and well that I didn't.

 35-37 "Oh, if only someone would give me a hearing!
   I've signed my name to my defense—let the
      Almighty One answer!
   I want to see my indictment in writing.
Anyone's welcome to read my defense;
   I'll write it on a poster and carry it around town.
I'm prepared to account for every move I've ever made—
   to anyone and everyone, prince or pauper.

 38-40 "If the very ground that I farm accuses me,
   if even the furrows fill with tears from my abuse,
If I've ever raped the earth for my own profit
   or dispossessed its rightful owners,
Then curse it with thistles instead of wheat,
   curse it with weeds instead of barley."    The words of Job to his three friends were finished.

Job 32

Elihu Speaks
God's Spirit Makes Wisdom Possible
 1-5 Job's three friends now fell silent. They were talked out, stymied because Job wouldn't budge an inch—wouldn't admit to an ounce of guilt. Then Elihu lost his temper. (Elihu was the son of Barakel the Buzite from the clan of Ram.) He blazed out in anger against Job for pitting his righteousness against God's. He was also angry with the three friends because they had neither come up with an answer nor proved Job wrong. Elihu had waited with Job while they spoke because they were all older than he. But when he saw that the three other men had exhausted their arguments, he exploded with pent-up anger.  6-10 This is what Elihu, son of Barakel the Buzite, said:
   "I'm a young man,
   and you are all old and experienced.
That's why I kept quiet
   and held back from joining the discussion.
I kept thinking, 'Experience will tell.
   The longer you live, the wiser you become.'
But I see I was wrong—it's God's Spirit in a person,
   the breath of the Almighty One, that makes wise human insight possible.
The experts have no corner on wisdom;
   getting old doesn't guarantee good sense.
So I've decided to speak up. Listen well!
   I'm going to tell you exactly what I think.

 11-14 "I hung on your words while you spoke,
   listened carefully to your arguments.
While you searched for the right words,
   I was all ears.
And now what have you proved? Nothing.
   Nothing you say has even touched Job.
And don't excuse yourselves by saying, 'We've done our best.
   Now it's up to God to talk sense into him.'
Job has yet to contend with me.
   And rest assured, I won't be using your arguments!

 15-22 "Do you three have nothing else to say?
   Of course you don't! You're total frauds!
Why should I wait any longer,
   now that you're stopped dead in your tracks?
I'm ready to speak my piece. That's right!
   It's my turn—and it's about time!
I've got a lot to say,
   and I'm bursting to say it.
The pressure has built up, like lava beneath the earth.
   I'm a volcano ready to blow.
I have to speak—I have no choice.
   I have to say what's on my heart,
And I'm going to say it straight—
   the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
I was never any good at bootlicking;
   my Maker would make short work of me if I started in now!"

Job 33

 1-4"So please, Job, hear me out, honor me by listening to me.
What I'm about to say
   has been carefully thought out.
I have no ulterior motives in this;
   I'm speaking honestly from my heart.
The Spirit of God made me what I am,
   the breath of God Almighty gave me life!
God Always Answers, One Way or Another
 5-7 "And if you think you can prove me wrong, do it.
   Lay out your arguments. Stand up for yourself!
Look, I'm human—no better than you;
   we're both made of the same kind of mud.
So let's work this through together;
   don't let my aggressiveness overwhelm you.

 8-11 "Here's what you said.
   I heard you say it with my own ears.
You said, 'I'm pure—I've done nothing wrong.
   Believe me, I'm clean—my conscience is clear.
But God keeps picking on me;
   he treats me like I'm his enemy.
He's thrown me in jail;
   he keeps me under constant surveillance.'

 12-14 "But let me tell you, Job, you're wrong, dead wrong!
   God is far greater than any human.
So how dare you haul him into court,
   and then complain that he won't answer your charges?
God always answers, one way or another,
   even when people don't recognize his presence.

 15-18 "In a dream, for instance, a vision at night,
   when men and women are deep in sleep,
   fast asleep in their beds—
God opens their ears
   and impresses them with warnings
To turn them back from something bad they're planning,
   from some reckless choice,
And keep them from an early grave,
   from the river of no return.

 19-22 "Or, God might get their attention through pain,
   by throwing them on a bed of suffering,
So they can't stand the sight of food,
   have no appetite for their favorite treats.
They lose weight, wasting away to nothing,
   reduced to a bag of bones.
They hang on the cliff-edge of death,
   knowing the next breath may be their last.

 23-25 "But even then an angel could come,
   a champion—there are thousands of them!—
   to take up your cause,
A messenger who would mercifully intervene,
   canceling the death sentence with the words:
   'I've come up with the ransom!'
Before you know it, you're healed,
   the very picture of health!

 26-28 "Or, you may fall on your knees and pray—to God's delight!
   You'll see God's smile and celebrate,
   finding yourself set right with God.
You'll sing God's praises to everyone you meet,
   testifying, 'I messed up my life—
   and let me tell you, it wasn't worth it.
But God stepped in and saved me from certain death.
   I'm alive again! Once more I see the light!'

 29-30 "This is the way God works.
   Over and over again
He pulls our souls back from certain destruction
   so we'll see the light—and live in the light!

 31-33 "Keep listening, Job.
   Don't interrupt—I'm not finished yet.
But if you think of anything I should know, tell me.
   There's nothing I'd like better than to see your name cleared.
Meanwhile, keep listening. Don't distract me with interruptions.
   I'm going to teach you the basics of wisdom."

2 Corinthians 3:1-18 (The Message)

2 Corinthians 3

 1-3Does it sound like we're patting ourselves on the back, insisting on our credentials, asserting our authority? Well, we're not. Neither do we need letters of endorsement, either to you or from you. You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.  4-6We couldn't be more sure of ourselves in this—that you, written by Christ himself for God, are our letter of recommendation. We wouldn't think of writing this kind of letter about ourselves. Only God can write such a letter. His letter authorizes us to help carry out this new plan of action. The plan wasn't written out with ink on paper, with pages and pages of legal footnotes, killing your spirit. It's written with Spirit on spirit, his life on our lives!
Lifting the Veil
 7-8The Government of Death, its constitution chiseled on stone tablets, had a dazzling inaugural. Moses' face as he delivered the tablets was so bright that day (even though it would fade soon enough) that the people of Israel could no more look right at him than stare into the sun. How much more dazzling, then, the Government of Living Spirit?  9-11If the Government of Condemnation was impressive, how about this Government of Affirmation? Bright as that old government was, it would look downright dull alongside this new one. If that makeshift arrangement impressed us, how much more this brightly shining government installed for eternity?
 12-15With that kind of hope to excite us, nothing holds us back. Unlike Moses, we have nothing to hide. Everything is out in the open with us. He wore a veil so the children of Israel wouldn't notice that the glory was fading away—and they didn't notice. They didn't notice it then and they don't notice it now, don't notice that there's nothing left behind that veil. Even today when the proclamations of that old, bankrupt government are read out, they can't see through it. Only Christ can get rid of the veil so they can see for themselves that there's nothing there.
 16-18Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We're free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Psalm 43:1-5 (The Message)

Psalm 43

 1-2 Clear my name, God; stick up for me against these loveless, immoral people.
   Get me out of here, away
      from these lying degenerates.
   I counted on you, God.
      Why did you walk out on me?
   Why am I pacing the floor, wringing my hands
      over these outrageous people?

 3-4 Give me your lantern and compass,
      give me a map,
   So I can find my way to the sacred mountain,
      to the place of your presence,
   To enter the place of worship,
      meet my exuberant God,
   Sing my thanks with a harp,
      magnificent God, my God.

 5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
      Why are you crying the blues?
   Fix my eyes on God—
      soon I'll be praising again.
   He puts a smile on my face.
      He's my God.

Proverbs 22:8-9 (The Message)

 8 Whoever sows sin reaps weeds,
   and bullying anger sputters into nothing.

 9 Generous hands are blessed hands
   because they give bread to the poor.

Verse of the Day

“Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.” - Galatians 3:28
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.

Thought for the Day

Belgian playwright, poet, and essayist Maurice Maeterlinck wrote, “An act of goodness is of itself an act of happiness. No reward coming after the event can compare with the sweet reward that went with it.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bible Readings for August 28, 2012

Today our passages are Job 28:1–30:31; 2 Corinthians 2:12-17; Psalm 42:1-11; and Proverbs 22:7. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

Job 28-30:31 (The Message)

Job 28

Where Does Wisdom Come From?
 1-11"We all know how silver seams the rocks, we've seen the stuff from which gold is refined,
We're aware of how iron is dug out of the ground
   and copper is smelted from rock.
Miners penetrate the earth's darkness,
   searching the roots of the mountains for ore,
   digging away in the suffocating darkness.
Far from civilization, far from the traffic,
   they cut a shaft,
   and are lowered into it by ropes.
Earth's surface is a field for grain,
   but its depths are a forge
Firing sapphires from stones
   and chiseling gold from rocks.
Vultures are blind to its riches,
   hawks never lay eyes on it.
Wild animals are oblivious to it,
   lions don't know it's there.
Miners hammer away at the rock,
   they uproot the mountains.
They tunnel through the rock
   and find all kinds of beautiful gems.
They discover the origins of rivers,
   and bring earth's secrets to light.

 12-19 "But where, oh where, will they find Wisdom?
   Where does Insight hide?
Mortals don't have a clue,
   haven't the slightest idea where to look.
Earth's depths say, 'It's not here';
   ocean deeps echo, 'Never heard of it.'
It can't be bought with the finest gold;
   no amount of silver can get it.
Even famous Ophir gold can't buy it,
   not even diamonds and sapphires.
Neither gold nor emeralds are comparable;
   extravagant jewelry can't touch it.
Pearl necklaces and ruby bracelets—why bother?
   None of this is even a down payment on Wisdom!
Pile gold and African diamonds as high as you will,
   they can't hold a candle to Wisdom.

 20-22 "So where does Wisdom come from?
   And where does Insight live?
It can't be found by looking, no matter
   how deep you dig, no matter how high you fly.
If you search through the graveyard and question the dead,
   they say, 'We've only heard rumors of it.'

 23-28 "God alone knows the way to Wisdom,
   he knows the exact place to find it.
He knows where everything is on earth,
   he sees everything under heaven.
After he commanded the winds to blow
   and measured out the waters,
Arranged for the rain
   and set off explosions of thunder and lightning,
He focused on Wisdom,
   made sure it was all set and tested and ready.
Then he addressed the human race: 'Here it is!
   Fear-of-the-Lord—that's Wisdom,
   and Insight means shunning evil.'"

Job 29

When God Was Still by My Side
 1-6 Job now resumed his response: "Oh, how I long for the good old days,
   when God took such very good care of me.
He always held a lamp before me
   and I walked through the dark by its light.
Oh, how I miss those golden years
   when God's friendship graced my home,
When the Mighty One was still by my side
   and my children were all around me,
When everything was going my way,
   and nothing seemed too difficult.

 7-20 "When I walked downtown
   and sat with my friends in the public square,
Young and old greeted me with respect;
   I was honored by everyone in town.
When I spoke, everyone listened;
   they hung on my every word.
People who knew me spoke well of me;
   my reputation went ahead of me.
I was known for helping people in trouble
   and standing up for those who were down on their luck.
The dying blessed me,
   and the bereaved were cheered by my visits.
All my dealings with people were good.
   I was known for being fair to everyone I met.
I was eyes to the blind
   and feet to the lame,
Father to the needy,
   and champion of abused aliens.
I grabbed street thieves by the scruff of the neck
   and made them give back what they'd stolen.
I thought, 'I'll die peacefully in my own bed,
   grateful for a long and full life,
A life deep-rooted and well-watered,
   a life limber and dew-fresh,
My soul suffused with glory
   and my body robust until the day I die.'

 21-25 "Men and women listened when I spoke,
   hung expectantly on my every word.
After I spoke, they'd be quiet,
   taking it all in.
They welcomed my counsel like spring rain,
   drinking it all in.
When I smiled at them, they could hardly believe it;
   their faces lit up, their troubles took wing!
I was their leader, establishing the mood
   and setting the pace by which they lived.
   Where I led, they followed."

Job 30

The Pain Never Lets Up
 1-8"But no longer. Now I'm the butt of their jokes— young ruffians! whippersnappers!
Why, I considered their fathers
   mere inexperienced pups.
But they are worse than dogs—good for nothing,
   stray, mangy animals,
Half-starved, scavenging the back alleys,
   howling at the moon;
Homeless guttersnipes
   chewing on old bones and licking old tin cans;
Outcasts from the community,
   cursed as dangerous delinquents.
Nobody would put up with them;
   they were driven from the neighborhood.
You could hear them out there at the edge of town,
   yelping and barking, huddled in junkyards,
A gang of beggars and no-names,
   thrown out on their ears.

 9-15 "But now I'm the one they're after,
   mistreating me, taunting and mocking.
They abhor me, they abuse me.
   How dare those scoundrels—they spit in my face!
Now that God has undone me and left me in a heap,
   they hold nothing back. Anything goes.
They come at me from my blind side,
   trip me up, then jump on me while I'm down.
They throw every kind of obstacle in my path,
   determined to ruin me—
   and no one lifts a finger to help me!
They violate my broken body,
   trample through the rubble of my ruined life.
Terrors assault me—
   my dignity in shreds,
   salvation up in smoke.

 16-19 "And now my life drains out,
   as suffering seizes and grips me hard.
Night gnaws at my bones;
   the pain never lets up.
I am tied hand and foot, my neck in a noose.
   I twist and turn.
Thrown facedown in the muck,
   I'm a muddy mess, inside and out.
What Did I Do to Deserve This?
 20-23 "I shout for help, God, and get nothing, no answer!
   I stand to face you in protest, and you give me a blank stare!
You've turned into my tormenter—
   you slap me around, knock me about.
You raised me up so I was riding high
   and then dropped me, and I crashed.
I know you're determined to kill me,
   to put me six feet under.

 24-31 "What did I do to deserve this?
   Did I ever hit anyone who was calling for help?
Haven't I wept for those who live a hard life,
   been heartsick over the lot of the poor?
But where did it get me?
   I expected good but evil showed up.
   I looked for light but darkness fell.
My stomach's in a constant churning, never settles down.
   Each day confronts me with more suffering.
I walk under a black cloud. The sun is gone.
   I stand in the congregation and protest.
I howl with the jackals,
   I hoot with the owls.
I'm black-and-blue all over,
   burning up with fever.
My fiddle plays nothing but the blues;
   my mouth harp wails laments."

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 (The Message)

An Open Door
 12-14When I arrived in Troas to proclaim the Message of the Messiah, I found the place wide open: God had opened the door; all I had to do was walk through it. But when I didn't find Titus waiting for me with news of your condition, I couldn't relax. Worried about you, I left and came on to Macedonia province looking for Titus and a reassuring word on you. And I got it, thank God!  14-16In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.
 16-17This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No— but at least we don't take God's Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ's presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.

Psalm 42:1-11 (The Message)

Psalm 42

A psalm of the sons of Korah
 1-3 A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek;
   I want to drink God,
      deep draughts of God.
   I'm thirsty for God-alive.
   I wonder, "Will I ever make it—
      arrive and drink in God's presence?"
   I'm on a diet of tears—
      tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
   All day long
      people knock at my door,
      "Where is this God of yours?"

 4 These are the things I go over and over,
      emptying out the pockets of my life.
   I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd,
      right out in front,
   Leading them all,
      eager to arrive and worship,
   Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—
      celebrating, all of us, God's feast!

 5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
      Why are you crying the blues?
   Fix my eyes on God—
      soon I'll be praising again.
   He puts a smile on my face.
      He's my God.

 6-8 When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
      everything I know of you,
   From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
      including Mount Mizar.
   Chaos calls to chaos,
      to the tune of whitewater rapids.
   Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
      crash and crush me.
   Then God promises to love me all day,
      sing songs all through the night!
      My life is God's prayer.

 9-10 Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
      "Why did you let me down?
   Why am I walking around in tears,
      harassed by enemies?"
   They're out for the kill, these
      tormentors with their obscenities,
   Taunting day after day,
      "Where is this God of yours?"

 11 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
      Why are you crying the blues?
   Fix my eyes on God—
      soon I'll be praising again.
   He puts a smile on my face.
      He's my God.

Proverbs 22:7 (The Message)

 7 The poor are always ruled over by the rich,
   so don't borrow and put yourself under their power.

Verse of the Day

“Jesus answered, 'God wants you to have faith in the one he sent.'” - John 6:29
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.

Thought for the Day

Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “There is nothing permanent except change.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bible Readings for August 27, 2012

Today our passages are Job 23:1–27:23; 2 Corinthians 1:12–2:11; Psalm 41:1-13; and Proverbs 22:5-6. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

Job 23-27:23 (The Message)

Job 23

Job's Defense
I'm Completely in the Dark
1-7 Job replied: < >"I'm not letting up—I'm standing my ground.
My complaint is legitimate.
God has no right to treat me like this—
it isn't fair!
If I knew where on earth to find him,
I'd go straight to him.
I'd lay my case before him face-to-face,
give him all my arguments firsthand.
I'd find out exactly what he's thinking,
discover what's going on in his head.
Do you think he'd dismiss me or bully me?
No, he'd take me seriously.
He'd see a straight-living man standing before him;
my Judge would acquit me for good of all charges.

8-9 "I travel East looking for him—I find no one;
then West, but not a trace;
I go North, but he's hidden his tracks;
then South, but not even a glimpse.

10-12 "But he knows where I am and what I've done.
He can cross-examine me all he wants, and I'll pass the test
with honors.
I've followed him closely, my feet in his footprints,
not once swerving from his way.
I've obeyed every word he's spoken,
and not just obeyed his advice—I've treasured it.

13-17 "But he is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him?
He does what he wants, when he wants to.
He'll complete in detail what he's decided about me,
and whatever else he determines to do.
Is it any wonder that I dread meeting him?
Whenever I think about it, I get scared all over again.
God makes my heart sink!
God Almighty gives me the shudders!
I'm completely in the dark,
I can't see my hand in front of my face."

Job 24

An Illusion of Security
1-12"But if Judgment Day isn't hidden from the Almighty, why are we kept in the dark?
There are people out there getting by with murder—
stealing and lying and cheating.
They rip off the poor
and exploit the unfortunate,
Push the helpless into the ditch,
bully the weak so that they fear for their lives.
The poor, like stray dogs and cats,
scavenge for food in back alleys.
They sort through the garbage of the rich,
eke out survival on handouts.
Homeless, they shiver through cold nights on the street;
they've no place to lay their heads.
Exposed to the weather, wet and frozen,
they huddle in makeshift shelters.
Nursing mothers have their babies snatched from them;
the infants of the poor are kidnapped and sold.
They go about patched and threadbare;
even the hard workers go hungry.
No matter how backbreaking their labor,
they can never make ends meet.
People are dying right and left, groaning in torment.
The wretched cry out for help
and God does nothing, acts like nothing's wrong!

13-17 "Then there are those who avoid light at all costs,
who scorn the light-filled path.
When the sun goes down, the murderer gets up—
kills the poor and robs the defenseless.
Sexual predators can't wait for nightfall,
thinking, 'No one can see us now.'
Burglars do their work at night,
but keep well out of sight through the day.
They want nothing to do with light.
Deep darkness is morning for that bunch;
they make the terrors of darkness their companions in crime.

18-25 "They are scraps of wood floating on the water—
useless, cursed junk, good for nothing.
As surely as snow melts under the hot, summer sun,
sinners disappear in the grave.
The womb has forgotten them, worms have relished them—
nothing that is evil lasts.
they prey on those less fortunate.
However much they strut and flex their muscles,
there's nothing to them. They're hollow.
They may have an illusion of security,
but God has his eye on them.
They may get their brief successes,
but then it's over, nothing to show for it.
Like yesterday's newspaper,
they're used to wrap up the garbage.
You're free to try to prove me a liar,
but you won't be able to do it."

Job 25

Bildad's Third Attack
Even the Stars Aren't Perfect in God's Eyes
1-6 Bildad the Shuhite again attacked Job: "God is sovereign, God is fearsome—
everything in the cosmos fits and works in his plan.
Can anyone count his angel armies?
Is there any place where his light doesn't shine?
How can a mere mortal presume to stand up to God?
How can an ordinary person pretend to be guiltless?
Why, even the moon has its flaws,
even the stars aren't perfect in God's eyes,
So how much less, plain men and women—
slugs and maggots by comparison!"

Job 26

Job's Defense
God Sets a Boundary Between Light and Darkness
1-4 Job answered: "Well, you've certainly been a great help to a helpless man!
You came to the rescue just in the nick of time!
What wonderful advice you've given to a mixed-up man!
What amazing insights you've provided!
Where in the world did you learn all this?
How did you become so inspired?

5-14 "All the buried dead are in torment,
and all who've been drowned in the deep, deep sea.
Hell is ripped open before God,
graveyards dug up and exposed.
He spreads the skies over unformed space,
hangs the earth out in empty space.
He pours water into cumulus cloud-bags
and the bags don't burst.
He makes the moon wax and wane,
putting it through its phases.
He draws the horizon out over the ocean,
sets a boundary between light and darkness.
Thunder crashes and rumbles in the skies.
Listen! It's God raising his voice!
By his power he stills sea storms,
by his wisdom he tames sea monsters.
With one breath he clears the sky,
with one finger he crushes the sea serpent.
And this is only the beginning,
a mere whisper of his rule.
Whatever would we do if he really raised his voice!"

Job 27

No Place to Hide
1-6 Having waited for Zophar, Job now resumed his defense: "God-Alive! He's denied me justice!
God Almighty! He's ruined my life!
But for as long as I draw breath,
and for as long as God breathes life into me,
I refuse to say one word that isn't true.
I refuse to confess to any charge that's false.
There is no way I'll ever agree to your accusations.
I'll not deny my integrity even if it costs me my life.
I'm holding fast to my integrity and not loosening my grip—
and, believe me, I'll never regret it.

7-10 "Let my enemy be exposed as wicked!
Let my adversary be proven guilty!
What hope do people without God have when life is cut short?
when God puts an end to life?
Do you think God will listen to their cry for help
when disaster hits?
What interest have they ever shown in the Almighty?
Have they ever been known to pray before?

11-12 "I've given you a clear account of God in action,
suppressed nothing regarding God Almighty.
The evidence is right before you. You can all see it for yourselves,
so why do you keep talking nonsense?

13-23 "I'll quote your own words back to you:
"'This is how God treats the wicked,
this is what evil people can expect from God Almighty:
Their children—all of them—will die violent deaths;
they'll never have enough bread to put on the table.
They'll be wiped out by the plague,
and none of the widows will shed a tear when they're gone.
Even if they make a lot of money
and are resplendent in the latest fashions,
It's the good who will end up wearing the clothes
and the decent who will divide up the money.
They build elaborate houses
that won't survive a single winter.
They go to bed wealthy
and wake up poor.
Terrors pour in on them like flash floods—
a tornado snatches them away in the middle of the night,
A cyclone sweeps them up—gone!
Not a trace of them left, not even a footprint.
Catastrophes relentlessly pursue them;
they run this way and that, but there's no place to hide—
Pummeled by the weather,
blown to kingdom come by the storm.'"

2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11 (The Message)

12-14Now that the worst is over, we're pleased we can report that we've come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world—and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn't by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised. Don't try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. We're writing plain, unembellished truth, hoping that you'll now see the whole picture as well as you've seen some of the details. We want you to be as proud of us as we are of you when we stand together before our Master Jesus.
15-16Confident of your welcome, I had originally planned two great visits with you—coming by on my way to Macedonia province, and then again on my return trip. Then we could have had a bon-voyage party as you sent me off to Judea. That was the plan. 17-19Are you now going to accuse me of being flip with my promises because it didn't work out? Do you think I talk out of both sides of my mouth—a glib yes one moment, a glib no the next? Well, you're wrong. I try to be as true to my word as God is to his. Our word to you wasn't a careless yes canceled by an indifferent no. How could it be? When Silas and Timothy and I proclaimed the Son of God among you, did you pick up on any yes-and-no, on-again, off-again waffling? Wasn't it a clean, strong Yes? 20-22Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God's Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete. 23Now, are you ready for the real reason I didn't visit you in Corinth? As God is my witness, the only reason I didn't come was to spare you pain. I was being considerate of you, not indifferent, not manipulative. 24We're not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical. We're partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours.

2 Corinthians 2

1-2That's why I decided not to make another visit that could only be painful to both of us. If by merely showing up I would put you in an embarrassingly painful position, how would you then be free to cheer and refresh me? 3-4That was my reason for writing a letter instead of coming—so I wouldn't have to spend a miserable time disappointing the very friends I had looked forward to cheering me up. I was convinced at the time I wrote it that what was best for me was also best for you. As it turned out, there was pain enough just in writing that letter, more tears than ink on the parchment. But I didn't write it to cause pain; I wrote it so you would know how much I care—oh, more than care—love you! 5-8Now, regarding the one who started all this—the person in question who caused all this pain—I want you to know that I am not the one injured in this as much as, with a few exceptions, all of you. So I don't want to come down too hard. What the majority of you agreed to as punishment is punishment enough. Now is the time to forgive this man and help him back on his feet. If all you do is pour on the guilt, you could very well drown him in it. My counsel now is to pour on the love. 9-11The focus of my letter wasn't on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church. So if you forgive him, I forgive him. Don't think I'm carrying around a list of personal grudges. The fact is that I'm joining in with your forgiveness, as Christ is with us, guiding us. After all, we don't want to unwittingly give Satan an opening for yet more mischief—we're not oblivious to his sly ways!

Psalm 41:1-13 (The Message)

Psalm 41

A David Psalm
1-3Dignify those who are down on their luck; you'll feel good—that's what God does.
God looks after us all,
makes us robust with life—
Lucky to be in the land,
we're free from enemy worries.
Whenever we're sick and in bed,
God becomes our nurse,
nurses us back to health.

4-7 I said, "God, be gracious!
Put me together again—
my sins have torn me to pieces."
My enemies are wishing the worst for me;
they make bets on what day I will die.
If someone comes to see me,
he mouths empty platitudes,
All the while gathering gossip about me
to entertain the street-corner crowd.
These "friends" who hate me
whisper slanders all over town.
They form committees
to plan misery for me.

8-9 The rumor goes out, "He's got some dirty,
deadly disease. The doctors
have given up on him."
Even my best friend, the one I always told everything
—he ate meals at my house all the time!—
has bitten my hand.

10 God, give grace, get me up on my feet.
I'll show them a thing or two.

11-12 Meanwhile, I'm sure you're on my side—
no victory shouts yet from the enemy camp!
You know me inside and out, you hold me together,
you never fail to stand me tall in your presence
so I can look you in the eye.

13 Blessed is God, Israel's God,
always, always, always.
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Proverbs 22:5-6 (The Message)

5 The perverse travel a dangerous road, potholed and mud-slick;
if you know what's good for you, stay clear of it.

6 Point your kids in the right direction—
when they're old they won't be lost.

Verse of the Day

“The LORD gives perfect peace to those whose faith is firm.” - Isaiah 26:3
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.

Thought for the Day
German theological philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote, “It is easier to discover a deficiency in individuals, in states, and in providence, than to see their real import or value.”