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Old 05-30-2018, 10:21 AM   #2341
GOLDDUSTERS5703

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When Words Fail


Read: Romans 8:22–27 | Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 10–12; John 11:30–57

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Not long ago I sent my wife, Cari, a text message using only voice prompts. I was on my way out the door to give her a ride home from work and intended to send the words, “Where would you like me to pick you up, old gal?”

Cari doesn’t mind my calling her “old gal”—it’s one of the affectionate nicknames we use around the house. But my cell phone didn’t “understand” the phrase, and sent the words “old cow” instead.

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Fortunately for me, Cari immediately understood what had happened and found it funny. She later posted my text message on social media and asked, “Should I be offended?” We were both able to laugh about it.

My wife’s loving response to my awkward words that day makes me think about God’s loving understanding of our prayers. We may not know what to say when we pray or even what to ask for, but when we belong to Christ, His Spirit within “intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26) and lovingly helps us articulate our deepest needs before Him.

Our heavenly Father doesn’t stand at a distance waiting for us to get our words right. We can come to Him with every need, assured that He understands and receives us with love.

Abba, Father, thank You that I can come to You without fear of having to get my words just right. Help me to keep company with You today.

God’s love is beyond words.

By James Banks | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Some of the New Testament’s most important teaching on the Holy Spirit is found in Romans 8. The Spirit is mentioned 21 times in the first 27 verses, with activities ranging from indwelling the lives of followers of Jesus (v. 9), giving us assurance of our relationship with the Father (v. 16), and helping us as we pray (as seen in today’s devotional; vv. 26–27). What a rich and wonderful gift we have received in the Holy Spirit! May we, as Paul says, “not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (v. 4).

Bill Crowder
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Old 05-31-2018, 08:32 AM   #2342
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Interrupted Fellowship

Read: Matthew 27:32–50 | Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 13–14; John 12:1–26

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46

The loud, sorrowful cry pierced the dark afternoon air. I imagine it drowning out the sound of mourning from friends and loved ones gathered at Jesus’s feet. It must have overwhelmed the moans of the dying criminals who flanked Jesus on both sides. And surely startled all who heard it.

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Jesus cried out in agony and in utter despondency as He hung on that cross of shame on Golgotha (Matthew 27:45–46).

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“My God,” He said, “my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I cannot think of more heart-wrenching words. Since eternity, Jesus had been in perfect fellowship with God the Father. Together they had created the universe, had fashioned mankind in their image, and planned salvation. Never in the eons past had they not been in total fellowship with each other.

And now, as the anguish of the cross continued to bring devastating pain on Jesus—He for the first time lost the awareness of God’s presence as He carried the burden of the sins of the world.

It was the only way. Only through this time of interrupted fellowship could our salvation be provided for. And it was only because Jesus was willing to experience this sense of being forsaken on the cross that we humans can gain fellowship with God.

Thank You, Jesus, for experiencing such pain so we could be forgiven.

Jesus, we again stand in awe at Your sacrifice. We kneel in Your presence and with gratitude acknowledge what You did for us on the cross. Thank You for making it possible to have fellowship with the Father forever.

The cross reveals God’s heart for the lost.
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Old 06-01-2018, 08:40 AM   #2343
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Stop

Read: Psalm 46 | Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 15–16; John 12:27–50

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

My friend and I sat in the sand, near the ever-rhythmic ocean. As the sun sank in the distance, wave after wave curled, paused and then rippled toward our extended toes, stopping just short each time. “I love the ocean,” she smiled. “It moves so I don’t have to.”

What a thought! So many of us struggle to stop. We do, do, do and go, go, go, somehow afraid that if we cease our efforts we will cease to be. Or that by stopping we will expose ourselves to the ever-present realities we work to keep at bay.

In Psalm 46:8–9, God flexes His omnipotent muscles, putting His power on display. “Come and see what the Lord has done . . . . He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” God is a busy God, who works to create calm within the chaos of our days.

And then in verse 10 we read, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Of course it’s possible to know God while running here and there. But the psalmist’s invitation to cease striving beckons us into a different kind of knowing. A knowing that we can stop—and still be—because God never stops. A knowing that it is God’s power that gives us ultimate value, protection, and peace.

Dear God, help me to find my rest in You.

We rest well when we’re in the loving arms and perfect will of God.

By Elisa Morgan | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Psalm 46 has been a source of encouragement to many over the years—including reformer Martin Luther. In fact, he based the classic hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” on this psalm. During times of struggle “when terribly discouraged, he would turn to his co-worker, Philipp Melanchthon, and say, ‘Come, Philipp, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm’” (Ligonier Ministries, Luther and the Psalms: His Solace and Strength).

This mighty fortress describes the God of strength who is our refuge. And He is also the God who calls us to find our rest in Him. In the New Testament, Jesus personalized that rest when He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). In the midst of the cares and despairs of life, we can stop, be still, and find refuge in God.

Bill Crowder
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Old 06-01-2018, 09:36 AM   #2344
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Thanks for always posting these.

Reading this one today makes me think of what I read on a church sign that I saw just last night driving home: "Impatience is a form of unbelief, trust Jesus."
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Old 06-04-2018, 08:42 AM   #2345
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No problem. Thank you for taking the time to read them. Thank you for sharing. I like that!! "Impatience is a form of unbelief, trust Jesus."

Have a good one
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Old 06-04-2018, 08:43 AM   #2346
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Open My Eyes


Read: John 14:23–31 | Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 21–22; John 14

The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things. John 14:26

The first time I went to the gorgeous Chora Church in Istanbul, I was able to figure out some Bible stories from the Byzantine frescos and mosaics on the ceiling. But there was much I missed. The second time, however, I had a guide. He pointed to all the details I had previously missed, and suddenly everything made perfect sense! The first aisle, for instance, depicted the life of Jesus as recorded in the gospel of Luke.

Sometimes when we read the Bible we understand the basic stories, but what about the connections—those details that weave Scripture into the one perfect story? We have Bible commentaries and study tools, yes, but we also need a guide—someone to open our eyes and help us see the wonders of God’s written revelation. Our guide is the Holy Spirit who teaches us “all things” (John 14:26). Paul wrote that He explains “spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (1 Corinthians 2:13).

How wonderful to have the Author of the Book to show us the wonders of it! God has not only given us His written Word and His revelation but He also helps us to understand it and learn from it. So let us pray with the psalmist, saying, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).

Dear Lord, as I read Your Word, open my eyes that I may discover the wonders of Your revelation.


Study more at basics.christianuniversity.org/courses/SF105.

We need God in order to understand Scripture.

By Keila Ochoa | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Did you do connect-the-dot puzzles as a child?

When Jesus spoke in John 14:23–31 about giving His Spirit to show His disciples all they needed to know, they couldn’t yet see the picture. What He said about love, obedience, and the Spirit who would help them put it all together were still just words.

Imagine what it was like to be one of Jesus’s disciples for whom what He was saying was such a mystery and a puzzle on that Passover night. Then the Spirit came and began to reveal truth. Think about how the Spirit is now, through the Scriptures, connecting the dots for you.

Mart DeHaan
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Old 06-05-2018, 09:06 AM   #2347
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A Blind Man’s Plea



Read: Luke 18:35–43 | Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 23–24; John 15

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Luke 18:38

Some years ago a traveling companion noticed I was straining to see objects at a distance. What he did next was simple but life changing. He took off his glasses and said, “Try these.” When I put his glasses on, surprisingly my blurred vision cleared up. Eventually I went to an optometrist who prescribed glasses to correct my vision problem.

Today’s reading in Luke 18 features a man with no vision at all, and living in total darkness had forced him to beg for a living. News about Jesus, the popular teacher and miracle worker, had reached the blind beggar’s ears. So when Jesus’s travel route took Him by where the blind man was sitting, hope was ignited in his heart. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 38) he called. Though without sight physically, the man possessed spiritual insight into Jesus’s true identity and faith in Him to meet his need. Compelled by this faith, “He shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (v. 39). The result? His blindness was banished, and he went from begging for his living to blessing God because he could see (v. 43).

In moments or seasons of darkness, where do you turn? Upon what or to whom do you call? Eyeglass prescriptions help improve vision, but it’s the merciful touch of Jesus, God’s Son, that brings people from spiritual darkness to light.

Father, open the eyes of my heart to clearly see who Jesus is and what He can do.

The Father’s delight is to give sight to those who ask Him.

By Arthur Jackson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
From the gospel of Mark we learn the blind man’s name is Bartimaeus (10:46). Bible scholar Kenneth Bailey, in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, tells us that Bartimaeus’s story is best understood in the context of what happens next—Jesus’s encounter with Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of Jericho (Luke 19). With these two men, Jesus is reaching out to the extremes of the social context of first-century Israel—a blind beggar and a wealthy publican. Christ shows profound grace to both by giving Bartimaeus his sight and bringing salvation to the house of Zacchaeus (19:9–10).

A key element that connects these stories is the word son. Bartimaeus calls Jesus “Son of David,” a title identifying Jesus as the Messiah that Israel had longed for. Jesus calls Zacchaeus a “son of Abraham” (v. 9). This was not an ethnic description but an affirmation that Zacchaeus had come to faith (Galatians 3:7). The stories close with Jesus’s self-identification as “the Son of Man”—another title with Messianic implications (Luke 19:10).

On the cross Christ would complete His work of seeking and saving those who are lost—like Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus, and us.

Bill Crowder
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Old 06-06-2018, 08:16 AM   #2348
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Side by Side


Read: Nehemiah 3:1–12 | Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 25–27; John 16

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. Ecclesiastes 4:9

In ancient times, a city with broken walls revealed a defeated people, exposed to danger and shame. That is why the Jews rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. How? By working side by side, an expression that can well describe Nehemiah 3.

At first glance, chapter 3 might appear to be a boring account of who did what in the reconstruction. However, a closer look highlights how people worked together. Priests were working alongside rulers. Perfume-makers were helping as well as goldsmiths. There were some who lived in nearby towns and came to give a hand. Others made repairs opposite their houses. Shallum’s daughters, for example, worked alongside the men (3:12), and some people repaired two sections, like the men of Tekoa (vv. 5, 27).

Two things stand out from this chapter. First, they all worked together for a common goal. Second, all of them are commended for being part of the work, not for how much or little they did as compared to others.

Today we see damaged families and a broken society. But Jesus came to build the kingdom of God through the transformation of lives. We can help to rebuild our neighborhoods by showing others they can find hope and new life in Jesus. All of us have something to do. So let us work side by side and do our part—whether big or small—to create a community of love where people can find Jesus.

Dear Lord, help me to work with others, side by side, by showing love and pointing others to Jesus.

Let’s work together to build the kingdom of God.
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Old 06-07-2018, 08:29 AM   #2349
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And in Truth


Read: Zephaniah 1:1–6; 2:1–3 | Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 28–29; John 17

In his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Years ago, I attended a wedding where two people from different countries got married. Such a blending of cultures can be beautiful, but this ceremony included Christian traditions mixed with rituals from a faith that worshiped many gods.

Zephaniah the prophet pointedly condemned the mixing of other religions with faith in the one true God (sometimes called syncretism). Judah had become a people who bowed in worship to the true God but who also relied on the god Molek (Zephaniah 1:5). Zephaniah described their adoption of pagan culture (v. 8) and warned that as a result God would drive the people of Judah from their homeland.

Yet God never stopped loving His people. His judgment was to show them their need to turn to Him. So Zephaniah encouraged Judah to “Seek righteousness, seek humility” (2:3). Then the Lord gave them tender words promising future restoration: “At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home” (3:20).

It’s easy to condemn examples of obvious syncretism like the wedding I attended. But in reality, all of us easily blend God’s truth with the assumptions of our culture. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to test our beliefs against the truth of God’s Word and then to stand for that truth confidently and lovingly. Our Father warmly embraces anyone who worships Him in the Spirit and in truth (see John 4:23–24).

When I am in trouble, where do I turn? A crisis reveals where I put my trust. Is my faith completely in God? What do I need to give over to Him today?

God is always ready to forgive and restore.

By Tim Gustafson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
God’s judgment is the theme of Zephaniah and is predicted because the people “neither seek the Lord nor inquire of him” (1:6). Several groups are targeted: the priests, who thought they could worship God and false gods (v. 6); the royal family, “who fill the temple of their gods with violence and deceit” (v. 9); “merchants,” who exploit the poor (v. 11); and the “complacent” (v.12), who live comfortably while doing nothing to change their corrupt culture. When we mix God’s truth with error, as the idolatrous priests did, judgment is inevitable.

Tim Gustafson
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Old 06-11-2018, 10:14 AM   #2350
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Advice from My Father










Read: Proverbs 3:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Ezra 1–2; John 19:23–42


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

After being laid off from an editorial job, I prayed, asking for God to help me find a new one. But when weeks went by and nothing came of my attempts at networking and filling out applications, I began to pout. “Don’t You know how important it is that I have a job?” I asked God, my arms folded in protest at my seemingly unanswered prayer.

When I talked to my father, who had often reminded me about believing God’s promises, about my job situation, he said, “I want you to get to the point where you trust what God says.”

My father’s advice reminds me of Proverbs 3, which includes wise advice from a parent to a beloved child. This familiar passage was especially applicable to my situation: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). To “make . . . paths straight” means God will guide us toward His goals for our growth. His ultimate goal is that I become more like Him.

This does not mean that the paths He chooses will be easy. But I can choose to trust that His direction and timing are ultimately for my good.

Are you waiting on God for an answer? Choose to draw near to Him and trust that He will guide you.

Lord, thank You for guiding and caring for us every step of the way. Help us to trust in You daily.

Your Father in heaven knows what’s best for you.

By Linda Washington | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The first nine chapters of Proverbs don’t follow the same format (pithy sayings; poetry couplets) that the rest of the book follows. The beginning chapters are a father’s encouragement to his son. The father tells his son of the benefits of wisdom, of its ability to make life more pleasant and fulfilling. Wisdom and folly are personified and invite the young man to pursue them. But why is this important? It seems obvious that wisdom is better than folly, so why go to such lengths to convince a child of the need to pursue wisdom?

The answer is experiential. You see, folly is the easier of the two, the more natural. As we read chapters 10–31, we see what the better choice is. But folly is far simpler to choose—it seems hardwired into us. Whether it’s a harsh word, a selfish action, or self-indulgence, folly is always ready to embrace us. That’s why the father takes such time to encourage his son to pursue wisdom. Wisdom isn’t restricted to big decisions, however; we need it for every action we take and every word we speak.

How can we pursue wisdom today?

J.R. Hudberg
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Old 06-12-2018, 08:37 AM   #2351
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Called by Name

Read: John 20:11–18 | Bible in a Year: Ezra 3–5; John 20

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” John 20:16

Advertisers have concluded that the most attention-grabbing word that viewers react to is their own name. Thus a television channel in the UK has introduced personalized advertisements with their online streaming services.

We might enjoy hearing our name on television, but it doesn’t mean much without the intimacy that comes when someone who loves us says our name.

Mary Magdalene’s attention was arrested when, at the tomb where Jesus’s body had been laid after He was crucified on the cross, He spoke her name (John 20:16). With that single word, she turned in recognition to the Teacher whom she loved and followed, I imagine with a rush of disbelief and joy. The familiarity with which He spoke her name confirmed for her beyond a doubt that the One who’d known her perfectly was alive and not dead.

Although Mary shared a unique and special moment with Jesus, we too are personally loved by God. Jesus told Mary that He would ascend to His Father (v. 17), but He had also told His disciples that He would not leave them alone (John 14:15–18). God would send the Holy Spirit to live and dwell in His children (see Acts 2:1–13).

God’s story doesn’t change. Whether then or now, He knows those whom He loves (see John 10:14–15). He calls us by name.

Loving Father, living Jesus, comforting Holy Spirit, thank You that You know me completely, and that You love me unceasingly.

The God who created the cosmos also made you, and He calls you by name.

By Amy Boucher Pye | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
God knows us, and He loves us. That’s easy to say but harder to believe sometimes—especially when we feel crippled by grief, when we feel completely alone.

This beautiful passage (John 20:11–18) can remind us that we can be honest with God. We don’t need to pretend to be happy. We can bring our pain to Him, exactly as it is. Tell Him why we’re crying (vv. 13, 15); tell Him when He seems far away. He loves us and wants us to run to Him in our pain (1 Peter 5:7). When we do, we can experience the tender love of our Father knowing and holding us in even those most painful places (John 20:16). And we can share with others how He brought joy even out of our weeping (v. 18).

Monica Brands
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Old 06-13-2018, 08:19 AM   #2352
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Humble Love


Read: Philippians 2:1–11 | Bible in a Year: Ezra 6–8; John 21

The greatest among you will be your servant. Matthew 23:11

When Benjamin Franklin was a young man he made a list of twelve virtues he desired to grow in over the course of his life. He showed it to a friend, who suggested he add “humility” to it. Franklin liked the idea. He then added some guidelines to help him with each item on the list. Among Franklin’s thoughts about humility, he held up Jesus as an example to emulate.

Jesus shows us the ultimate example of humility. God’s Word tells us, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:5–7).

Jesus demonstrated the greatest humility of all. Though eternally with the Father, He chose to bend beneath a cross in love so that through His death He might lift any who receive Him into the joy of His presence.

We imitate Jesus’s humility when we seek to serve our heavenly Father by serving others. Jesus’s kindness helps us catch a breathtaking glimpse of the beauty of setting ourselves aside to attend to others’ needs. Aiming for humility isn’t easy in our “me first” world. But as we rest securely in our Savior’s love, He will give us everything we need to follow Him.

Beautiful Savior, I am Your servant. Please help me to live in Your love and be a blessing to someone today.




We can serve because we are loved.

By James Banks | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Philippians 2 teaches us that how we behave is rooted in what we believe. Paul says the call to humble love and service is built on the example of Jesus. We are to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” He then adds, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (vv. 2–4). This type of living does not come naturally. Only when we allow the Holy Spirit to enable us can we live out the humble love expressed perfectly by Christ.

For more, get our free download, The Mind of Christ.

Bill Crowder
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Old 06-14-2018, 08:36 AM   #2353
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Quieting the Critic


Read: Nehemiah 4:1–6 | Bible in a Year: Ezra 9–10; Acts 1

Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Nehemiah 4:4

I work with a team to put on an annual community event. We spend eleven months plotting many details to ensure the event’s success. We choose the date and venue. We set ticket prices. We select everything from food vendors to sound technicians. As the event approaches, we answer public questions and provide directions. Afterward we collect feedback. Some good. Some that is hard to hear. Our team hears excitement from attendees and also fields complaints. The negative feedback can be discouraging and sometimes tempts us to give up.

Nehemiah had critics too as he led a team to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. They actually mocked Nehemiah and those working alongside him saying, “Even a fox climbing up on it would break down [your] wall of stones” (Nehemiah 4:3). His response to the critics helps me handle my own: Instead of feeling dejected or trying to refute their comments, he turned to God for help. Instead of responding directly, he asked God to hear the way His people were being treated and to defend them (v. 4). After entrusting those concerns to God, he and his co-laborers continued to work steadily on the wall “with all their heart” (v. 6).

We can learn from Nehemiah not to be distracted by criticism of our work. When we’re criticized or mocked, instead of responding to our critics out of hurt or anger, we can prayerfully ask God to defend us from discouragement so we can continue with a whole heart.

Help me to evaluate the good and bad in the criticism, to trust You, and to continue in my work wholeheartedly.

God is our best defense against criticism.

By Kirsten Holmberg | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Have you noticed how criticism seems so justified when we give it—but so wrong when we receive it?

As Jewish families returned to their homeland after seventy years of exile in Babylon, they faced strong criticism. Current residents believed it was in their own interest to resist the returning exiles. They saw the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls as a threat to their own homes and families.

Just as understandably, Nehemiah and his friends felt they had a God-given right to regard as enemies those who opposed their effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s broken-down walls (Nehemiah 4:4).

Nehemiah’s courageous prayer of faith is a chapter in a bigger story that leads us to even higher ground. Many years later, by His own example, Jesus calls all people on both sides of conflict to find security in more than walls of self-interest. He taught all of us to pray for those who abuse us and to bless those who curse us (Matthew 5:9–12, 44). In His kingdom, it’s a heart of mercy that Christ desires.

Mart DeHaan
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Old 06-15-2018, 10:29 AM   #2354
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Happy Father's day all of you dads!!!!!!


“Lovable!”


Read: Jeremiah 31:1–6 | Bible in a Year: Nehemiah 1–3; Acts 2:1–21

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

“Lovable!”

That exclamation came from my daughter as she got ready one morning. I didn’t know what she meant. Then she tapped her shirt, a hand-me-down from a cousin. Across the front was that word: “Lovable.” I gave her a big hug, and she smiled with pure joy. “You are lovable!” I echoed. Her smile grew even bigger, if that was possible, as she skipped away, repeating the word over and over again.

I’m hardly a perfect father. But that moment was perfect. In that spontaneous, beautiful interaction, I glimpsed in my girl’s radiant face what receiving unconditional love looked like: It was a portrait of delight. She knew the word on her shirt corresponded completely with how her daddy felt about her.

How many of us know in our hearts that we are loved by a Father whose affection for us is limitless? Sometimes we struggle with this truth. The Israelites did. They wondered if their trials meant God no longer loved them. But in Jeremiah 31:3, the prophet reminds them of what God said in the past: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” We too long for such unconditional love. Yet the wounds, disappointments, and mistakes we experience can make us feel anything but lovable. But God opens His arms—the arms of a perfect Father—and invites us to experience and rest in His love.

Lord, hard things in our lives can tempt us to believe we are unlovable. But You say otherwise. Please help us to receive the life-transforming gift of Your everlasting love for us.

No one loves us like our Father.

By Adam Holz | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Much of the book of Jeremiah deals with the prophet’s anguished appeal for God’s people to turn back to Him. Those pleas were ignored, making judgment inevitable. But God’s love is relentless, and in chapters 30–31 Jeremiah gives hope to the remnant who would live through the coming invasion. “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness,” God said (31:2). This “favor” would show up in ways the scattered survivors likely thought no longer possible. What the invading horde destroyed, God would rebuild, causing the people to “take up [their] timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful” (v. 4). Their farmers would plant fruitful vineyards (v. 5). No longer would watchmen cry out in warning, but would instead call the people to Zion (Jerusalem) for worship (v. 6).

When we begin to understand the scope of God’s love, we can accept His correction and learn from it. As we embrace His everlasting love, we find that God’s discipline is for our good and is proof that we are His children (see Hebrews 12:5–7).

Do you see God as our gentle and loving heavenly Father? In what ways have you sensed His loving correction?

Tim Gustafson
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Old 06-18-2018, 09:37 AM   #2355
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Blessing in the Mess


Read: Genesis 28:10–22 | Bible in a Year: Nehemiah 10–11; Acts 4:1–22

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I got myself into this mess, so I’d better get myself out, I sometimes find myself thinking. Although I believe in a God of grace, I’m still prone to act as if His help is available only when I deserve it.

God’s first encounter with Jacob is a beautiful illustration of how untrue this is.

Jacob had spent a lifetime trying to alter his destiny. He’d been born second at a time when firstborn sons typically received their father’s blessing—believed to guarantee future prosperity.

So Jacob decided to do whatever it would take to get his father’s blessing anyway. Eventually, he succeeded—through deceit—obtaining the blessing intended for his brother (Genesis 27:19–29).

But the price was a divided family, as Jacob fled from his furious brother (vv. 41–43). As night descended (28:11), Jacob must have felt as far from a life of blessing as ever.

But it was there, leaving behind a trail of deception, that Jacob met God. God showed him he didn’t need desperate schemes to be blessed; he already was. His destiny—a purpose far greater than material prosperity (v. 14)—was held securely by the One who would never leave him (v. 15).

It was a lesson Jacob would spend his whole life learning.

And so will we. No matter how many regrets we carry or how distant God seems, He is still there—gently guiding us out of our mess into His blessing.

Lord, so often we feel trapped by our mistakes, thinking there’s no future left for us. Remind us that you are the God of Jacob, the God who will never give up on Your purposes for us.

God never gives up on His love and purposes for our lives.
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Old 06-19-2018, 09:58 AM   #2356
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Impaired Judgment


Read: Matthew 7:1–6 | Bible in a Year: Nehemiah 12–13; Acts 4:23–37

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Matthew 7:1

I’ve been quick to judge anyone I saw walking in the street while staring at a phone. How could they be so oblivious to the cars about to hit them? I’ve told myself. Don’t they care about their own safety? But one day, while crossing the entrance to an alleyway, I was so engrossed in a text message, that I missed seeing a car at my left. Thankfully, the driver saw me and came to an abrupt stop. But I felt ashamed. All of my self-righteous finger-pointing came back to haunt me. I had judged others, only to do the same thing myself.

My hypocrisy is the kind of thinking that Jesus addressed in the Sermon on the Mount: “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). I had a huge “plank”—a blind spot through which I judged others with my own impaired judgment.

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,” Jesus also said (7:2). Recalling the disgusted look on the driver’s face that day, after having to make an abrupt stop when I walked in front of the car, I’m reminded of the disgusted looks I gave others engrossed in their phones.

None of us is perfect. But sometimes I forget that in my haste to judge others. We’re all in need of God’s grace.

Heavenly Father, please help me be quicker to console or encourage, and slower to judge someone else.

Be slow to judge others.

By Linda Washington | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
In today’s reading we see our Lord’s condemnation of a judgmental attitude. It’s remarkable how we can have a perfectionistic attitude toward others yet ignore the glaring faults we possess. The Pharisees of Jesus day were scathing in their attack on the sins of others while seemingly unaware of their own faults. In seeing the pretense of these hypocrites, Jesus gave a series of rebukes such as: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23:25–26).

The Greek word hypocrite means “he that wears the mask” and was used of actors in plays. The private lives of hypocrites do not match the image they project for public view. The Christian walk should lead to greater integrity and transparency. To avoid hypocrisy, it’s essential that we confess our sin and rely on the Spirit to help us live holy lives (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18; 1 John 1:9).

In what ways can you become more gracious in your response to the behavior of others?

Dennis Fisher
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Old 06-20-2018, 10:01 AM   #2357
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Every Moment Matters











Read: Philippians 1:12–24 | Bible in a Year: Esther 1–2; Acts 5:1–21

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

When I met Ada, she had outlived her entire group of friends and family and was living in a nursing home. “It’s the hardest part of getting old,” she told me, “watching everyone else move on and leave you behind.” One day I asked Ada what kept her interest and how she spent her time. She answered me with a Scripture passage from the apostle Paul (Philippians 1:21): “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Then she said, “While I’m still around, I have work to do. On my good days, I get to talk to the people here about Jesus; on the hard days, I can still pray.”

Significantly, Paul wrote Philippians while in prison. And he acknowledged a reality many Christians understand as they face their mortality: Even though heaven seems so inviting, the time we have left on Earth matters to God.

Like Paul, Ada recognized that every breath she took was an opportunity to serve and glorify God. So Ada spent her days loving others and introducing them to her Savior.

Even in our darkest moments, Christians can hold on to the promise of permanent joy in the company of God. And while we live, we enjoy relationship with Him. He fills all our moments with significance.

Lord, grant me the strength to serve You with every breath I take, so that every moment of my remaining days matters to Your Kingdom.


Study more at christianuniversity.org/courses/spiritual-life-basics.

When God comes to call us home, may He find us serving Him.

By Randy Kilgore | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
How can you use the days God has given you to love and serve others?
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Old 06-21-2018, 08:40 AM   #2358
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Telling Time












Read: Psalm 90:9–17 | Bible in a Year: Esther 3–5; Acts 5:22–42

[Make] the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16

“Westerners have watches. Africans have time.” So said Os Guinness, quoting an African proverb in his book Impossible People. That caused me to ponder the times I have responded to a request with, “I don’t have time.” I thought about the tyranny of the urgent and how schedules and deadlines dominate my life.

Moses prayed in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). And Paul wrote, “Be very careful, then, how you live . . . making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16).

I suspect that Paul and Moses would agree that our wise use of time isn’t just a matter of clock-watching. The situation may call for us to keep a tight schedule—or it may compel us to give someone an extended gift of our time.

We have but a brief moment to make a difference for Christ in our world, and we need to maximize that opportunity. That may mean ignoring our watches and planners for a while as we show Christ’s patient love to those He brings into our lives.

As we live in the strength and grace of the timeless Christ, we impact our time for eternity.

Father, You have given us all the time we need to accomplish what You have given us to do. May we use our time in ways that honor You.


For more, read Mary and Martha: Balancing Life’s Priorities.

Time management is not about clock-watching, it’s about making the most of the time we have.

By Bill Crowder | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Psalm 90 is a worshipful conversation Moses has with God. The superscription reads, “A prayer of Moses, the man of God.” But even if we weren’t alerted that this psalm is a prayer, the language and tone clearly indicate the psalmist was talking to God. This prayer was spoken during a rough period in Israel’s history. It appears the people of God had experienced discipline (vv. 7–11, 15), which prompted Moses to talk to God about the brevity and fragility of human life in view of God’s eternal nature (vv. 1–6). The psalm includes many references to time, such as “generations” (v. 1), “years” (vv. 4, 9, 10, 15), “day(s)” (vv. 4, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15), “morning” and “evening” (v. 6).

Indeed, tough times can compel us to talk to the Lord about our brief time on earth and appeal to Him for His help (vv. 12–17). They can also cause us to ask who may need the gift of our time.

Arthur Jackson
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Old 06-22-2018, 08:24 AM   #2359
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Fellowship with Jesus





Read: Philippians 3:7–14 | Bible in a Year: Esther 6–8; Acts 6

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8

I’ll never forget the time I had the privilege of sitting next to Billy Graham at a dinner. I was honored but also somewhat nervous about what would be appropriate to say. I thought it would be an interesting conversation starter to ask what he loved most about his years of ministry. Then I awkwardly started to suggest possible answers. Was it knowing presidents, kings, and queens? Or preaching the gospel to millions of people around the world?

Before I had finished offering suggestions, Rev. Graham stopped me. Without hesitation he said, “It has been my fellowship with Jesus. To sense His presence, to glean His wisdom, to have Him guide and direct me—that has been my greatest joy.” I was instantly convicted and challenged. Convicted because I’m not sure that his answer would have been my answer, and challenged because I wanted it to be.

That’s what Paul had in mind when he counted his greatest achievements to be of no worth compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). Think of how rich life would be if Jesus and our fellowship with Him was our highest pursuit.

Lord, forgive me for chasing after things that matter far less than my fellowship with You. Thank You that You stand ready to enrich my life with Your presence and power.

To remain faithful where God has placed you, give Christ first place in your heart.

By Joe Stowell | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The apostle Paul’s passion to know Christ and to make Him known to others should guide our lives as well. In Philippians 3:1–14, we see how growing in our knowledge of Christ is mixed with both joy and pain: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings” (v. 10). Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). As we grow in our relationship with Christ we can expect both joy and suffering.

How has both joy and suffering deepened your fellowship with Christ?

Dennis Fisher
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Old 06-25-2018, 08:38 AM   #2360
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Saying Grace


Read: Colossians 3:12–17 | Bible in a Year: Job 3–4; Acts 7:44–60

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

For many years, I’ve enjoyed the writings of British author G. K. Chesterton. His humor and insight often cause me to chuckle and then pause for more serious contemplation. For example, he wrote, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, and grace before the concert and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

It’s good for us to thank the Lord before every meal, but it shouldn’t stop there. The apostle Paul saw every activity, every endeavor as something for which we should thank God and that we should do for His glory. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Recreation, occupation, and education are all avenues through which we can honor the Lord and express our gratefulness to Him.

Paul also encouraged the believers in Colossae to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (v. 15).

The best place to “say grace” is anywhere and anytime we want to give thanks to the Lord and honor Him.

Thank You for Your gift of life eternal. May we acknowledge and honor You throughout this day.

In all we do, let’s give thanks to God and honor Him.

By David C. McCasland | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Could anything make whatever we do better? When the apostle Paul wrote to readers in Colossae, he described an alternative to any and all attitudes that are harmful to us and others (Colossians 3:5–10). In his letter to the Philippians he uses the word whatever as he describes his personal accomplishments. Whatever he once considered gained, he now considers loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7). For reasons he never expected, he found a way to move on to something better than his own efforts to be seen as a good, moral, and religious person.

Many of us know the story behind Paul’s change. After an unforeseen encounter with the resurrected Christ (Acts 9:1–6), he thought differently about anything and everything. Seeing the failure of his own efforts, he learned to live by the grace of God. By relying on the presence of Jesus, Paul discovered the means by which any of us can live with divine help and thankfulness in anything and everything worth doing.

What will we face today that will give us a chance to see and say “grace” in whateverwe encounter?

Mart DeHaan
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