Discover the Heart of God – Easter Reading Plan 2016


Lent/Easter Reading and Devotional Plan (Feb. 10 – March 26)

“Lent” is a man-made time of season where we focus our attention on the real events of the death (Good Friday) and the resurrection (Easter) of Jesus Christ. It’s a time of preparing our mind, body, and heart to meditate on our sin and weakness, to look at Jesus as our perfect substitute and example, and to be heightened in our worship from His victory over Satan, sin, and death. Lent (from Latin, meaning “fortieth”) is the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Sundays themselves are not counted in these forty days, as they are generally set aside as days of renewal and celebration (“mini-Easters” of sorts).

Preparing your mind, body, and heart.

1) Mind – “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Give your mind something good to think about. Let’s say you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night from a bad dream. What do you do? Do you play it over and over in your mind? Do you think about ways the dream could come true? Or do you tell yourself it’s only a dream and think of better and truer thoughts? Fill your mind with righteous thinking. Commit to spend time reading God’s Word through a Lent/Easter Bible Reading Plan. One is suggested below. Follow each day’s link to devotional content and a prayer starter (they won’t post until that day).

2) Body – People often use the Lenten season to fast (giving up something normal and significant for a short time) in order to devote more time, energy, and resources to God. Fasting for 40 days is not common. Most fasting in the Bible is for 3 days because they were giving up something significant like food. Going without Facebook or cupcakes is probably not going to send your body into shock and dehydration, so going 40 days without those can be a good choice, especially if it truly gives you more time, energy, and resources to focus on Christ.

3) Heart – “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The heart symbolizes the placement of your emotions, will, and desire. You have given your heart toward many things in your life. Some have let you down. Some have broken your heart. Some have given you a renewed purpose. God wants more than a task-doer. He wants your heart. Be passionate this Easter season to discover and experience God with a new or refreshed craving.


God is a Tester of the Heart

If you were to ask an average person in America what it takes to be a Christian, most would talk about doing the right thing more than doing the wrong thing. For them, being a christian is a life of “do’s” and “don’ts”. But that is not what it takes to be a Christian. Doing right is a way of life as a follower of Christ but only because it flows from a heart that desires to obey and to please the Lord. Just because there are good actions doesn’t mean someone has a heart of God. God desires a heart long before He desires the good deeds. Therefore, God is a tester of the heart long before He tests your manners.

Feb. 10 – Deuteronomy 8:1-20 – “to know what was in your heart” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 11 – 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 – “the fire will test the quality of each one’s work” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 12 – 1 Chronicles 28:9 – “understand the intention of every thought” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 13 – Hebrews 4:12-13 – “able to judge the thoughts and ideas of the heart” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

God Wants Your Heart

God tests your heart because He wants your heart. He knows that out of your heart flows the issues of life. The reason there is good fruit in your life is because the tree and root system is good. If God can get a hold of your heart, He knows it will change many outward things. Changing only the outward things doesn’t equate long lasting change. The reason it doesn’t last is because mankind’s heart is not inherently good. Sin has entered into the world starting with Adam and Eve and has been committed by every human being for generations since. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah says the “heart is more deceitful than anything else and incurable” (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart is weak and sickly like an illness without a cure or a pain that won’t go away. Your heart could tell you that you are good and that you don’t need God. That’s the deceiving aspect of a sin-natured heart. That’s why God wants to get a hold of your thoughts and intentions long before He challenges your words and actions.

Feb. 15 – Matthew 6:1-18 – “who sees in secret will reward you” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 16 – Matthew 15:8-20 – “honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 17 – Luke 12:22-34 – “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 18 – Acts 5:1-10 – “planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 19 – 1 Peter 3:1-4 – “inside the heart … which is very valuable in God’s eyes” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 20 – Psalm 51:12-17 “will not despise a broken and humbled heart” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

God Loves a Believing Heart

God tests your heart. God wants your heart. So what can you “do” to give your heart to God? As we have said before, it’s not about our actions and our words. We need our hearts to do something. The only requirement for God to get a hold of your heart is to believe. A believing heart and an unbelieving heart are significantly different. God can do so much with a believing heart. There’s little hope for an unbelieving heart. That unbelieving heart will remain with its incurable illness. Believing in God is what faith is all about. How strong is your belief?

Feb. 22 – Luke 8:4-15 – “having heard the word with an honest and good heart” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 23 – Mark 11:20-25 – “does not doubt in his heart, but believes” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 24 – Matthew 13:10-17 – “for this people’s heart has grown callous” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 25 – Mark 16:1-14 – “rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 26 – Romans 15:10-13 “God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Feb. 27 – John 14:1-7, 27-30 – “heart must not be troubled. Believe in God” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

God Creates and Cleans Out a New Heart

If every human is born with a heart that has an incurable illness bent towards sin, then how does a heart change? It can only be changed by God. We saw that the only thing we can do is to believe in God and in His message. God takes that believing heart and transforms it. We can’t clean our heart by doing good things. God can clean and give our hearts life. God can create a heart that is bent away from sin, a heart that will pass the test as righteous.

Feb. 29 – Ezekiel 36:25-28 – “I will give you a new heart and a new spirit within you” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 1 – Acts 15:1-11 – “cleansing their hearts by faith” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 2 – Romans 10:9-13 – “one believes with the heart resulting in righteousness” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 3 – Hebrews 10:19-25 – “with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 4 – Psalm 51:1-10 – “create a clean heart for me” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 5 – Titus 3:3-8 – “He saved us … through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Things Good for the Heart

Believing in God and in His message is the key to have a heart that God desires. But there are many distractions that want to draw your heart away from believing. The book of Proverbs talks about several things you can surround yourself with to guard your heart away from those distractions. The reason we didn’t talk about these sooner is because the tendency is to “do” rather than allowing God to “do”. If we talked about these sooner, some would have been tempted to practice these principles thinking that these will make our heart right before God. Even when you practice these values, it’s because you believe that God wants these for you. God will bless you when your heart follows His ways. That’s what makes this “work”.

March 7 – Proverbs 3:3 – “loyalty and faithfulness … write them on the tablet of your heart” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 8 – Proverbs 6:20-23 – “your father’s command, your mother’s teaching … bind them to your heart” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 9 – Proverbs 12:25; 15:30 – “a good word cheers it up” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 10 – Proverbs 18:12 – “humility” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 11 – Proverbs 23:15-19 – “don’t let your heart envy sinners” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 12 – Proverbs 27:9 – “heartfelt counsel of a friend” (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

The Days before the Death and Resurrection of Jesus

The arrival of the baby Jesus was a big deal. The arrival of the Messiah, the Savior, was anticipated for centuries. It was predicted by numerous prophets. It is one of the highlights of the Christian calendar. But Jesus’ arrival had an end target in mind. It was not to set Himself as the King as people expected. It was not to usher in His kingdom as the people expected. His goal in arriving was to die. Sounds strange, but it’s true. Death was His target because He planned to take on the sins of the world with His death. He was more concerned with providing the forgiveness of sins with His blood than collecting the few righteous for His monarchy. But most people didn’t anticipate His death. Even when He told them about it, they just couldn’t connect the dots. I invite you to listen closely to the final actions and words of the Messiah, the Savior of our sins, before His targeted goal of His death, burial, and amazing resurrection.

March 14 – Mark 8:27-9:13; 9:30-32; 10:32-45 – Jesus foretells His death and resurrection (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 15 – John 11 – Jesus resurrects Lazarus (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 16 – John 12:1-11 – Mary wipes the feet of Jesus with perfume and oil (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 17 – Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19:28-20:8; John 12:12-50; – Triumphal entry into Jerusalem and entry into the temple (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 18 – Matthew 22:1-26:5 – Jesus’ final parables and teachings at the temple before Passover meal (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 19 – Mark 12-13 – Jesus’ final parables and teachings at the temple before Passover meal (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

Holy Week

Traditionally this is called Holy Week. Holy Week traditionally begins with the triumphal entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter Sunday. However, we already talked about that (it was about 5 days before the Passover and if we hold to Thursday being the Passover with which Jesus had His last supper then the entry would be Saturday). The point is: don’t get tripped up on the timing of events. For example, traditional Holy Week includes “Maundy Thursday” which is the night Jesus had His last supper, washed the disciples feet, and gave the instructions for communion. Traditional Holy Week includes “Good Friday” when Jesus dies on the cross at 3 pm. Some would question the timing by asking how could Jesus die on Friday and rise 3 days later on Sunday? The math doesn’t seem to line up. However, there could be some logical explanations for all of this. But these readings are not about that. They are more about discovering the heart of God. For this reading, we also end on Silent Saturday rather than with the Resurrection Sunday. That is because I want you to embrace the seriousness of His death and then I want you to get to a local church to hear and celebrate the Risen Lord on Sunday. Then and there you can shout: “He is Risen!”

March 21 – Luke 20:9-21:38 – Jesus’ final parables and teachings at the temple before Passover meal (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 22 – Matthew 26:6-35; Mark 14:1-31 – Passover meal, final words to His followers (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 23 – Luke 22:1-39; John 13-17 – Passover meal, final words to His followers (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 24 – Matthew 26:36-75; Mark 14:32-72; Luke 22:39-62; John 18:1-12 – Garden prayers and betrayal (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 25 – “Good Friday” – Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 22:63-23:56; John 18:13-19:42 – Jesus’ trials and crucifixion (Devotional/Prayer Starter)

March 26 – Day of Silence – Nothing is recorded in Scripture. Jesus is dead. He has not yet risen (Devotional/Prayer Starter)