Welcome to 2016! Today's readings are Genesis 1, Matthew 1, Ezra 1, and Acts 1. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Ezra 1.
Genesis 1 describes the six days of Creation.
Matthew 1 describes the background to the birth of Jesus.
Ezra 1 describes the background to the return of the exiles to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.
Acts 1 describes the events between the resurrection of Christ and the Day of Pentecost.
Look with me at Ezra 1:1, to the middle of the verse which says, "...the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia...." Here we have an unbelieving king of a Gentile nation. Yet, "the Lord moved" his heart. This phrase reminds us that God is not limited by the unbelief of human rulers. When God purposes to make something happen, he has the power to move circumstances and even the individual desire and will of anyone in the human race to make His will happen. Yet, God's moving in the hearts of people is not forced or coercive. Instead, somehow our sovereign God can accomplish his will through the choices and decisions of others--choices and decisions that they freely choose to make.
Think about this in terms of decisions made by our government in 2015. Think about it in terms of the elections that are coming later this year. Think about your boss, your spouse, your children, or someone else who seems to have power over you and the course of your life. Does God control their desires and decisions? If so, what does this say about decisions you want them to make? What does it say about decisions that frighten, anger, or discourage us? Are these outside of the control of God? Is God concerned, frightened, and discourage along with us? If not, then why does God allow things to happen that seem to be contrary to his moral will?
Also, think about the surprisingly good decisions that others make. Who responded to King Cyrus' decree (Ezra 1:5)? Was his decree beneficial to them or not? What happens to your faith when an unbeliever who has influence over your life makes a decision that benefits you within the will of God? What response should we have when God directs someone unexpectedly to bless us through a decision they have made?
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.