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Old 02-01-2017, 10:53 AM   #2041
GOLDDUSTERS5703

Name: GOLDDUSTERS5703
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Always in His Care


Read: Psalm 32:1–11 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 27–28; Matthew 21:1–22

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8

On the day our youngest daughter was flying from Munich to Barcelona, I visited my favorite flight tracking website to follow her progress. After I entered her flight number, my computer screen showed that her flight had crossed Austria and was skirting the northern part of Italy. From there the plane would fly over the Mediterranean, south of the French Riviera toward Spain, and was scheduled to arrive on time. It seemed that the only thing I didn’t know was what the flight attendants were serving for lunch!

Why did I care about my daughter’s location and circumstances? Because I love her. I care about who she is, what she’s doing, and where she’s going in life.

Whatever our circumstances today, we can rely on God’s presence and care.
In Psalm 32, David celebrated the marvel of God’s forgiveness, guidance, and concern for us. Unlike a human father, God knows every detail of our lives and the deepest needs of our hearts. The Lord’s promise to us is, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (v. 8).

Whatever our circumstances today, we can rely on God’s presence and care because “the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him” (v. 10).

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for watching over me in love and guiding me along Your path today.

We are never out of God’s sight and His loving care.

INSIGHT:
Psalm 32 is an interesting look into the covenant relationship the believer has with the living God. King David, the writer of this psalm, is aware of his own personal sins and the need for confession and forgiveness. This spiritual connection with the living God is not simply a positive experience but includes God’s chastisement that leads to confession and restoration (vv. 4–5). Yet even within the ups and downs of our walk of faith, we have the assurance of God’s watchful care and provision.

For further study on the subject of forgiveness, check out the Discovery Series booklet The Forgiveness of God at discoveryseries.org/q0602.
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PHILIPPIANS 4:13
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Old 02-02-2017, 09:57 AM   #2042
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What’s the Occasion?

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:9–17 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 29–30; Matthew 21:23–46

Everything God does will endure forever. Ecclesiastes 3:14

Four-year-old Asher’s gleeful face peeked out from beneath his favorite hooded sweatshirt. His alligator-head hooded sweatshirt, complete with plush jaws that seemed to swallow his head! His mom’s heart sank. She wanted the family to make a good impression as they visited a family they hadn’t seen in a long time.

“Oh, Hon,” she said, “that may not be appropriate for the occasion.”

The Lord who made you wants you to make Him the center of your life.
“Of course it is!” Asher protested brightly.

“Hmm, and what occasion might that be?” she asked. Asher replied, “You know. Life!” He got to wear the shirt.

That joyful boy already grasps the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:12—“There is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” Ecclesiastes can seem depressing and is often misunderstood because it’s written from a human perspective, not God’s. The writer, King Solomon, asked, “What do workers gain from their toil?” (v. 9). Yet throughout the book we catch glimpses of hope. Solomon also wrote: “That each of [us] may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all [our] toil—this is the gift of God” (v. 13).

We serve a God who gives us good things to enjoy. Everything He does “will endure forever” (v. 14). As we acknowledge Him and follow His loving commands, He infuses our lives with purpose, meaning, and joy.

Restore to us childlike joy that appreciates Your good gifts.


Read more about making God the center of your life at discoveryseries.org/hp152.

The Lord who made you wants you to make Him the center of your life.

INSIGHT:
Ecclesiastes fits in a larger Ancient Near Eastern literary category called Wisdom Literature. Wisdom Literature uses stories, poetry, proverbial sayings, and songs to convey wisdom about God and the world. The brutal honesty and chronic despair in Ecclesiastes is typical of Wisdom Literature and gives us a clear vision of the writer’s purpose. What may seem like a disconnect with the rest of Scripture is actually an attempt to present the wisdom of living in the moment, enjoying the small joys of life, and relying on the power, presence, and goodness of God to sustain us in a fallen and broken world. Even in the harshness of this life, there is hope. God can and does give meaning and purpose to the meaninglessness that surrounds us.
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Old 02-03-2017, 09:29 AM   #2043
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I See You

Read: Genesis 16:1–13 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 31–33; Matthew 22:1–22

I have now seen the One who sees me. Genesis 16:13

“I see you,” a friend said in an online writers’ group where we support and encourage each other. Having felt stressed and anxious, I experienced a sense of peace and well-being with her words. She “saw” me—my hopes, fears, struggles, and dreams—and loved me.

When I heard my friend’s simple but powerful encouragement, I thought of Hagar, a slave in Abram’s household. After many years of Sarai and Abram still longing for an heir, Sarai followed the custom of the culture and told her husband to conceive through Hagar. But when Hagar became pregnant, she treated Sarai with contempt. When Sarai mistreated her in return, Hagar fled far away to the desert.

To know that God sees us gives us comfort and confidence.
The Lord saw Hagar in her pain and confusion, and He blessed her with the promise that she would be the mother of many descendants. After the encounter, Hagar called the Lord “El Roi,” which means “the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13), for she knew she wasn’t alone or abandoned.

As Hagar was seen—and loved—so are we. We might feel ignored or rejected by friends or family, yet we know that our Father sees not only the face we present to the world, but all of our secret feelings and fears. He speaks the words that bring us life.

Father God, just as You saw Hagar in her distress, so You see those who are hurting, fleeing oppression, and afraid. Please send them help and encouragement.




To know that God sees us gives us comfort and confidence.
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Old 02-06-2017, 09:24 AM   #2044
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Tried and Purified

Read: Job 23:1–12 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 39–40; Matthew 23:23–39

When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. Job 23:10

During an interview, singer and songwriter Meredith Andrews spoke about being overwhelmed as she tried to balance outreach, creative work, marital issues, and motherhood. Reflecting on her distress, she said, “I felt like God was taking me through a refining season, almost through a crushing process.”

Job was overwhelmed after losing his livelihood, his health, and his family. Worse still, although Job had been a daily worshiper of God, he felt that the Lord was ignoring his pleas for help. God seemed absent from the landscape of his life. Job claimed he could not see God whether he looked to the north, south, east, or west (Job 23:2–9).

Lord, I surrender myself to Your purposes.
In the middle of his despair, Job had a moment of clarity. His faith flickered to life like a candle in a dark room. He said, “[God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (v. 10). Christians are tried and purified when God uses difficulty to burn away our self-reliance, pride, and earthly wisdom. If it seems as if God is silent during this process and He is not answering our cries for help, He may be giving us an opportunity to grow stronger in our faith.

Pain and problems can produce the shining, rock-solid character that comes from trusting God when life is hard.

Dear Lord, help me to believe that You are with me, even when I can’t see You working in my life. I surrender myself to Your purpose for any suffering I may endure.

Faith-testing times can be faith-strengthening times.



INSIGHT:
In today’s passage, Job responds to the accusations brought by his friend Eliphaz, who sarcastically asks whether Job thinks God is judging him because of his reverence for Him (22:4). Eliphaz insists that Job is suffering for a hidden scandal (v. 5). With assumptions but no evidence, he explains Job’s troubles by accusing him of being a self-centered rich man who has mistreated weak people for his own material gain. And so Job expresses his desire to be able to argue his case before God (ch. 23). The wrong assumptions of his friends have become part of the fire that is testing and refining him (v. 10). Do we have the courage to express our honest questions and true feelings to the Lord?
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Old 02-07-2017, 10:31 AM   #2045
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Does It Spark Joy?

Read: Philippians 4:4–9 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 1–3; Matthew 24:1–28


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true . . . noble . . . right . . . pure . . . lovely . . . admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

A young Japanese woman’s book on decluttering and organizing has sold two million copies worldwide. The heart of Marie Kondo’s message is helping people get rid of unneeded things in their homes and closets—things that weigh them down. “Hold up each item,” she says, “and ask, ‘Does it spark joy?’” If the answer is yes, keep it. If the answer is no, then give it away.

The apostle Paul urged the Christians in Philippi to pursue joy in their relationship with Christ. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Instead of a life cluttered with anxiety, he urged them to pray about everything and let God’s peace guard their hearts and minds in Christ (vv. 6–7).

Let God’s peace guard your heart and mind in Christ. Philippians 4:6-7
Looking at our everyday tasks and responsibilities, we see that not all of them are enjoyable. But we can ask, “How can this spark joy in God’s heart and in my own?” A change in why we do things can bring a transformation in the way we feel about them.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true . . . noble . . . right . . . pure . . . lovely . . . admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (v. 8).

Paul’s parting words are food for thought and a recipe for joy.

Lord, show me how You want to spark joy in the tasks I face today.

A focus on the Lord is the beginning of joy.

INSIGHT:
Paul’s encouragement to rejoice in difficult situations wasn’t from the perspective of someone who did not understand suffering. On Paul’s second missionary journey (ad 50–52), he was falsely accused of disturbing the social peace of the city. Severely flogged and unjustly imprisoned (Acts 16:20–25), Paul remained a picture of calmness and peace. Luke tells us that in the midst of such adversity, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (v. 25). Paul knew what it meant to “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). He could write these words because he himself practiced them. Are you at peace like Paul when life is difficult?
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Old 02-08-2017, 10:25 AM   #2046
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The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Read: 1 Samuel 20:35–42 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 4–5; Matthew 24:29–51

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

A dear friend of mine sent me a text message that said, “I’m so glad we can tell each other the good, the bad, and the ugly!” We have been friends for many years, and we have learned to share our joys and our failures. We recognize we are far from perfect, so we share our struggles but we also rejoice in each other’s successes.

David and Jonathan had a solid friendship too, beginning with the good days of David’s victory over Goliath (1 Sam. 18:1–4). They shared their fears during the bad days of Jonathan’s father’s jealousy (18:6–11; 20:1–2). Finally, they suffered together during the ugly days of Saul’s plans to kill David (20:42).

Real friendships are a gift from God.
Good friends don’t abandon us when external circumstances change. They stay with us through the good and the bad days. Good friends also may point us to God in the ugly days, when we may feel tempted to walk away from our Lord.

Real friendships are a gift from God because they exemplify the perfect Friend, who remains loyal through the good, the bad, and the ugly days. As the Lord reminds us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

Dear Lord, I thank You for the good friends You have placed in my life, but above all, I thank You for Your friendship.


Read about living in the power of the Spirit and serving one another in love at discoveryseries.org/q0214.

A friend is the first person who comes in when the whole world has gone out.

INSIGHT:
Although Jonathan was the son of the king and in line for the throne, he was willing to sacrifice his own advancement and, instead, promote David. Throughout the years of their relationship, Jonathan showed the hallmarks of a true friend and brother, regarding David as more important than himself and seeking to put David’s interest ahead of his own. What are some characteristics of lasting, meaningful friendships (see Prov. 17:17)? What kinds of sacrifices are necessary in order to build a significant friendship (see Phil. 2:3–4)? How can our friendships represent the heart of Christ for us? (see John 15:15).
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Old 02-09-2017, 10:29 AM   #2047
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The Advocate

Read: 1 John 1:8–2:2 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 6–7; Matthew 25:1–30

If anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 1 John 2:1

From a Florida prison cell in June 1962, Clarence Earl Gideon wrote a note asking the United States Supreme Court to review his conviction for a crime he said he didn’t commit. He added that he didn’t have the means to hire a lawyer.

One year later, in the historic case of Gideon v. Wainright, the Supreme Court ruled that people who cannot afford the cost of their own defense must be given a public defender—an advocate—provided by the state. With this decision, and with the help of a court-appointed lawyer, Clarence Gideon was retried and acquitted.

Help us to know what it means to have the freedom of Your love and presence.
But what if we are not innocent? According to the apostle Paul, we are all guilty. But the court of heaven provides an Advocate who, at God’s expense, offers to defend and care for our soul (1 John 2:2). On behalf of His Father, Jesus comes to us offering a freedom that even prison inmates have described as better than anything they’ve experienced on the outside. It is a freedom of heart and mind.

Whether suffering for wrongs done by us or to us, we all can be represented by Jesus. By the highest of authority He responds to every request for mercy, forgiveness, and comfort.

Jesus, our Advocate, can turn a prison of lost hope, fear, or regret into the place of His presence.

Father in heaven, please help us to know what it means to have the freedom of Your love and presence. May we experience this freedom even in places that we have only seen as our confinement!

The one who died as our substitute now lives as our advocate.

INSIGHT:
John encourages us to be honest about ourselves. Actually, his words are more of a warning than they are encouragement. Writing to a struggling church, John reminds his readers that we all struggle with sin and the claim that we don’t struggle has several drastic consequences: We deceive ourselves, the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8), we make God out to be a liar, and His word is not in us (v. 10). But John’s point is not a downer. Those warnings surround a very familiar promise. Our sins do not keep us from God—because when we acknowledge (confess) them, we are forgiven for them (v. 9). What do you need to confess as sin and then trust that God has forgiven?
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Old 02-10-2017, 10:11 AM   #2048
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Leaning on Jesus

Read: John 13:12–26 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 8–10; Matthew 25:31–46

One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. John 13:23

Sometimes when I put my head on my pillow at night and pray, I imagine I’m leaning on Jesus. Whenever I do this, I remember something the Word of God tells us about the apostle John. John himself writes about how he was sitting beside Jesus at the Last Supper: “One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him” (John 13:23).

John used the term “the disciple whom Jesus loved” as a way of referring to himself without mentioning his own name. He is also depicting a typical banquet setting in first-century Israel, where the table was much lower than those we use today, about knee height. Reclining without chairs on a mat or cushions was the natural position for those around the table. John was sitting so close to the Lord that when he turned to ask him a question, he was “leaning back against Jesus” (John 13:25), with his head on his chest.

God, I cast all my cares on You and praise You because You are faithful.
John’s closeness to Jesus in that moment provides a helpful illustration for our lives with Him today. We may not be able to touch Jesus physically, but we can entrust the weightiest circumstances of our lives to Him. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). How blessed we are to have a Savior whom we can trust to be faithful through every circumstance of our lives! Are you “leaning” on Him today?

Dear Lord Jesus, help me to lean on You today and to trust You as my source of strength and hope. I cast all my cares on You and praise You because You are faithful.

Jesus alone gives the rest we need.
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Old 02-13-2017, 09:27 AM   #2049
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The Death of Doubt

Read: John 11:1–16 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 14; Matthew 26:51–75

Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. John 20:25

We know him as Doubting Thomas (see John 20:24–29), but the label isn’t entirely fair. After all, how many of us would have believed that our executed leader had been resurrected? We might just as well call him “Courageous Thomas.” After all, Thomas displayed impressive courage as Jesus moved purposefully into the events leading to His death.

At the death of Lazarus, Jesus had said, “Let us go back to Judea” (John 11:7), prompting a protest from the disciples. “Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (v. 8). It was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16).

Real doubt searches for the light; unbelief is content with the darkness.
Thomas’s intentions proved nobler than his actions. Upon Jesus’s arrest, Thomas fled with the rest (Matt. 26:56), leaving Peter and John to accompany Christ to the courtyard of the high priest. Only John followed Jesus all the way to the cross.

Despite having witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:38–44), Thomas still could not bring himself to believe that the crucified Lord had conquered death. Not until Thomas the doubter—the human—saw the risen Lord, could he exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Jesus’s response gave assurance to the doubter and immeasurable comfort to us: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).

Father, teach us to act on what we do know about You and Your goodness, and trust You in faith for what we don’t know.

Real doubt searches for the light; unbelief is content with the darkness.
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Old 02-13-2017, 09:29 AM   #2050
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The Death of Doubt

Read: John 11:1–16 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 14; Matthew 26:51–75

Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. John 20:25

We know him as Doubting Thomas (see John 20:24–29), but the label isn’t entirely fair. After all, how many of us would have believed that our executed leader had been resurrected? We might just as well call him “Courageous Thomas.” After all, Thomas displayed impressive courage as Jesus moved purposefully into the events leading to His death.

At the death of Lazarus, Jesus had said, “Let us go back to Judea” (John 11:7), prompting a protest from the disciples. “Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (v. 8). It was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16).

Real doubt searches for the light; unbelief is content with the darkness.
Thomas’s intentions proved nobler than his actions. Upon Jesus’s arrest, Thomas fled with the rest (Matt. 26:56), leaving Peter and John to accompany Christ to the courtyard of the high priest. Only John followed Jesus all the way to the cross.

Despite having witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:38–44), Thomas still could not bring himself to believe that the crucified Lord had conquered death. Not until Thomas the doubter—the human—saw the risen Lord, could he exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Jesus’s response gave assurance to the doubter and immeasurable comfort to us: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).

Father, teach us to act on what we do know about You and Your goodness, and trust You in faith for what we don’t know.

Real doubt searches for the light; unbelief is content with the darkness.
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Old 02-14-2017, 09:44 AM   #2051
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Love Revealed

Read: 1 John 4:9–16 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 15–16; Matthew 27:1–26

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9

When a series of pink “I love you” signs mysteriously appeared in the town of Welland, Ontario, local reporter Maryanne Firth decided to investigate. Her sleuthing turned up nothing. Weeks later, new signs appeared featuring the name of a local park along with a date and time.

Accompanied by a crowd of curious townspeople, Firth went to the park at the appointed time. There, she met a man wearing a suit who had cleverly concealed his face. Imagine her surprise when he handed her a bouquet and proposed marriage! The mystery man was Ryan St. Denis—her boyfriend. She happily accepted.

Dear God, help my life to demonstrate my love for You.
St. Denis’s expression of love toward his fiancée may seem a bit over-the-top, but God’s expression of love for us is nothing short of extravagant! “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

Jesus is not merely a token of love, like a rose passed from one person to another. He is the divine human who willingly gave up His life so that anyone who believes in Him for salvation can have an everlasting covenant relationship with God. Nothing can separate a Christian “from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).

Dear God, thank You for showing me, in the greatest way possible, that You love me. Help my life to demonstrate my love for You.

We know how much God loves us because He sent His Son to save us.

INSIGHT:
In today’s reading the word for love is the Greek noun agape, which speaks of the highest form of love imaginable, a love that seeks the welfare of the other even at great personal cost. John reminds us that the ultimate evidence of God’s love for us is seen in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf (1 John 4:9). John then says that our response to God’s love should be our self-sacrificing love for one another as fellow Christ-followers (v. 11). His application of God’s love concludes with a reminder that our ability to love one another is dependent upon His love being revealed and “made complete in us” (v. 12). Our expression of the Father’s love for us in our relationships will be a result of what the Holy Spirit is producing in our hearts.
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Old 02-15-2017, 12:30 PM   #2052
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Little Lies and Kittens

Read: Romans 5:12–21 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 17–18; Matthew 27:27–50
Just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead. Romans 5:21 NLT

Mom noticed four-year-old Elias as he scurried away from the newborn kittens. She had told him not to touch them. “Did you touch the kitties, Elias?” she asked.

“No!” he said earnestly. So Mom had another question: “Were they soft?”

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
“Yes,” he volunteered, “and the black one mewed.”

With a toddler, we smile at such duplicity. But Elias’s disobedience underscores our human condition. No one has to teach a four-year-old to lie. “For I was born a sinner,” wrote David in his classic confession, “yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5 nlt). The apostle Paul said: “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Rom. 5:12 nlt). That depressing news applies equally to kings, four-year-olds, and you and me.

But there’s plenty of hope! “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were,” wrote Paul. “But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant” (Rom. 5:20 nlt).

God is not waiting for us to blow it so He can pounce on us. He is in the business of grace, forgiveness, and restoration. We need only recognize that our sin is neither cute nor excusable and come to Him in faith and repentance.

Father, be merciful to me, a sinner.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
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Old 02-16-2017, 10:08 AM   #2053
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The Junkyard Genius

Read: John 9:1–11 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 19–20; Matthew 27:51–66

One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! John 9:25

Noah Purifoy began his work as an “assemblage” artist with three tons of rubble salvaged from the 1965 riots in the Watts area of Los Angeles. From broken bicycle wheels and bowling balls to discarded tires and damaged TV sets—things no longer usable—he and a colleague created sculptures that conveyed a powerful message about people being treated as “throw-aways” in modern society. One journalist referred to Mr. Purifoy as “the junkyard genius.”

In Jesus’s time, many people considered those with diseases and physical problems as sinners being punished by God. They were shunned and ignored. But when Jesus and His disciples encountered a man born blind, the Lord said his condition was not the result of sin, but an occasion to see the power of God. “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). When the blind man followed Jesus’s instructions, he was able to see.

God takes our broken lives and shapes us into His new creations.
When the religious authorities questioned the man, he replied simply, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (v. 25).

Jesus is still the greatest “junkyard genius” in our world. We are all damaged by sin, but He takes our broken lives and shapes us into His new creations.

Lord, I thank You today for Your amazing grace!

Jesus is the restorer of life.

INSIGHT:
Have you ever felt as though you saw no purpose to your life, couldn’t see your way forward, and were not even sure there is a God willing or able to give you light at the end of the tunnel? John wrote his gospel to proclaim the life and light that troubled people like us long for (John 1:1–5). John found many reasons to believe that Jesus really is the light of the world: “These [miraculous signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
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Old 02-20-2017, 09:46 AM   #2054
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River Tree

Read: Jeremiah 17:5–10 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 26–27; Mark 2

They will be like a tree planted by the water. Jeremiah 17:8

This was a tree to be envied. Growing on riverfront property, it didn’t have to worry about weather reports, withering temperatures, or an uncertain future. Nourished and cooled by the river, it spent its days lifting its branches to the sun, holding the earth with its roots, cleaning the air with its leaves, and offering shade to all who needed refuge from the sun.

By contrast, the prophet Jeremiah pointed to a shrub (Jer. 17:6). When the rains stopped and the summer sun turned the ground to dust, the bush shriveled into itself, offering no shade or fruit to anyone.

God, you alone can be trusted—even when it seems like You are nowhere to be seen.
Why would the prophet compare a flourishing tree to a withering bush? He wanted his people to recall what had happened since their miraculous rescue from the slave yards of Egypt. For forty years in a wilderness, they lived like a tree planted by a river (2:4–6). Yet in the prosperity of their promised land they had forgotten their own story; they were relying on themselves and on gods of their own making (vv. 7–8), even to the point of going back to Egypt looking for help (42:14).

So God, through Jeremiah, lovingly urged the forgetful children of Israel, and He urges us, to hope and trust in the Lord and to be like the tree—not the bush.

Father, in so many ways You have taught us that You alone can be trusted—even when it seems like You are nowhere to be seen. Please help us to recall today what You have already shown us along the way.

Let’s remember in good times what we have learned in days of trouble.

INSIGHT:
Today’s Bible reading contrasts the life of the person devoted to God with the life of one who trusts in his own strength. Jeremiah uses incredibly strong language to differentiate between the two. One is blessed and one is cursed. It’s mind-boggling that we would choose to trust in ourselves instead of God, yet we all choose to do so from time to time. But verse 10 offers hope. It is not what we claim that determines whether we are a tree by the streams or a bush in the desert; it is the Lord who examines and rewards us. Are there any areas of your life you need to ask the Lord to examine?
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Old 02-21-2017, 10:28 AM   #2055
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The Viral Gospel

Read: 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10 | Bible in a Year: Numbers 1–3; Mark 3

The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. 1 Thessalonians 1:8

The Viral Texts project at Northeastern University in Boston is studying how printed content in the 1800s spread through newspapers—the social media network of that day. If an article was reprinted 50 times or more, they considered that “viral” for the Industrial Age. Writing in Smithsonian magazine, Britt Peterson noted that a nineteenth-century news article describing which followers of Jesus were executed for their faith appeared in at least 110 different publications.

When the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, he commended them for their bold and joyful witness to Jesus. “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere” (1 Thess. 1:8). The message of the gospel went viral through these people whose lives had been transformed by Jesus Christ. In spite of difficulties and persecution, they could not remain silent.

Lord Jesus, help us to live boldly and tell others about You today.
We convey the story of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ through kind hearts, helping hands, and honest words from all of us who know the Lord. The gospel transforms us and the lives of those we meet.

May the message ring out from us for all to hear today!

Lord Jesus, help us to live boldly and tell others about You today.


Share with others at Facebook.com/ourdailybread how you have been able to live boldly for the Lord.

There’s no better news than the gospel—spread the word!

INSIGHT:
The story of the Thessalonians’ changed lives—according to Paul—went “viral.” Paul recalls the story of how Jewish and Gentile people turned from ancestral beliefs to personal faith in Christ. Such conversions were bound to be controversial. Decisions to leave the faith of our fathers (and mothers) seldom sound like good news to families, friends, and co-workers. But these Thessalonians gave their world something to talk about. Their lives gave substance to the faith, hope, and love of Jesus. It is easier to tell someone about our own experience rather than jumping into a controversial “answer” for them. Why not share your story?
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Old 02-22-2017, 02:54 PM   #2056
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Perfect Grace

Read: Matthew 5:43–48; John 8:9–11 | Bible in a Year: Numbers 4–6; Mark 4:1–20

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. John 8:11

Jesus’s teaching about absolute ideals and absolute grace seem contradictory.

Jesus never lowered God’s perfect ideal. In His response to the rich young ruler, He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). He told an expert in the law who inquired as to the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (22:37). No one has completely fulfilled those commands.

Father, may we live as people who enjoy Your forgiveness and a restored relationship with You.
Yet the same Jesus tenderly offered absolute grace. He forgave an adulteress, a thief on the cross, a disciple who had denied ever knowing Him, and a man named Saul, who had made his mark persecuting Christians. Grace is absolute and all-encompassing, extending even to those who nailed Jesus to the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” were among the last words He spoke on earth (Luke 23:34).

For years I felt so unworthy when considering Jesus’s absolute ideals that I missed any notion of His grace. Once I understood this dual message, however, I went back and found that the message of grace gusts through Jesus’s life and teachings.

Grace is for the desperate, the needy, the broken, those who cannot make it on their own. Grace is for all of us.

Father, Your all-encompassing grace washes over us and astonishes us. May we live today as people who enjoy Your complete forgiveness and a restored relationship with You.

Jesus fulfilled the perfect requirements of the law so that we may enjoy the perfect peace of His grace.

INSIGHT:
The life of the apostle Paul is another example of God's grace. Because of Paul's past, he considered himself the most undeserving recipient of God’s mercy and grace (1 Tim. 1:13–14). Although he was chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul also gave another reason he was chosen: “God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” (v. 16 nlt). God had you and me in mind when He saved Paul—an awesome thought. If Paul, the worst of sinners, could be saved, then there is hope for everyone else. No one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace.
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Old 02-23-2017, 09:49 AM   #2057
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Press On

Read: Philippians 3:12–21 | Bible in a Year: Numbers 7–8; Mark 4:21–41

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

One of my favorite television programs is The Amazing Race. In this reality show, ten couples are sent to a foreign country where they must race, via trains, buses, cabs, bikes, and feet, from one point to another to get their instructions for the next challenge. The goal is for one couple to get to a designated finishing point before everyone else, and the prize is a million dollars.

The apostle Paul compared the Christian life to a race and admitted that he had not yet arrived at the finish line. “Brothers and sisters,” he said, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Phil. 3:13–14). Paul did not look back and allow his past failures to weigh him down with guilt, nor did he let his present successes make him complacent. He pressed on toward the goal of becoming more and more like Jesus.

Let us keep pressing on toward the ultimate goal of becoming more like Jesus.
We are running this race too. Despite our past failures or successes, let us keep pressing on toward the ultimate goal of becoming more like Jesus. We are not racing for an earthly prize, but for the ultimate reward of enjoying Him forever.

Read Philippians 4:11–13. How are we able to press on toward our future hope? Read Hebrews 12:1–2. What are some practical things we must do to continue to press on and persevere?

Never call it quits in pursuing Jesus.

INSIGHT:
Philippians 3 describes the delicate balance needed to face the obstacles of the Christian life. The apostle Paul uses athletic terms to describe our journey of faith. He tells us not to look at the past, to realize we are incomplete, and to remember that moving toward the goal is everything. Only God’s grace can help us to be strong finishers in the Christian life.
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Old 02-24-2017, 09:54 AM   #2058
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The Land of “What Is”

Read: Psalm 46:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Numbers 9–11; Mark 5:1–20

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Even all these years after losing our seventeen-year-old daughter Melissa in a car accident in 2002, I sometimes find myself entering the world of “What If.” It’s easy, in grief, to reimagine the events of that tragic June evening and think of factors that—if rearranged—would have had Mell arriving safely home.

In reality, though, the land of “What If” is not a good place to be for any of us. It is a place of regret, second-guessing, and hopelessness. While the grief is real and the sadness endures, life is better and God is honored if we dwell in the world of “What Is.”

When we do face hard times, our greatest help comes from trusting God.
In that world, we can find hope, encouragement, and comfort. We have the sure hope (1 Thess. 4:13)—the assurance—that because Melissa loved Jesus she is in a place that is “better by far” (Phil. 1:23). We have the helpful presence of the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). We have God’s “ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). And we often have the encouragement of fellow believers.

We all wish to avoid the tragedies of life. But when we do face hard times, our greatest help comes from trusting God, our sure hope in the land of What Is.

Father God, You know my broken heart. You know the pain of loss because You suffered through the death of Your Son. In the midst of ongoing sorrow, help me to dwell in the comfort of Your hope, encouragement, and comfort.


See the book Beyond the Valley by Dave Branon at dhp.org/te236.html

Our greatest hope comes from trusting God.

INSIGHT:
In Psalm 46, the psalmist uses exaggeration to express his trust in the safety God provides. He tells of feeling safe in circumstances where safety is unimaginable. When the very ground under our feet is uncertain, the psalmist expresses confidence in the protection of the Lord. He isn’t saying, “Do not fear” because our circumstances are not fear-worthy, but because our God is bigger than our troubles. In uncertain times, He is stable. The mountains crumbling into the sea is a graphic image of the most stable land feature giving way. In what circumstances do you need to remember that God is constant and unchanging? How can you express your trust in Him as your refuge?
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Old 02-27-2017, 10:17 AM   #2059
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Ring of Invisibility

Read: John 3:16–21 | Bible in a Year: Numbers 17–19; Mark 6:30–56

Everyone who does evil hates the light. John 3:20

The Greek philosopher Plato (c. 427–c. 348 bc) found an imaginative way of shining light on the dark side of the human heart. He told the story of a shepherd who innocently discovered a golden ring that had been hidden deep in the earth. One day a great earthquake opened up an ancient mountainside tomb and revealed the ring to the shepherd. By accident he also discovered that the ring had the magical ability to enable the wearer to become invisible at will. Thinking about invisibility, Plato raised this question: If people didn’t have to worry about being caught and punished, would they resist doing wrong?

In John’s gospel we find Jesus taking this idea in a different direction. There, Jesus, known as the Good Shepherd, speaks of hearts that stay in the cover of darkness to hide what they are doing (John 3:19–20). He isn’t calling attention to our desire for cover-up to condemn us, but to offer us salvation through Him (v. 17). As the Shepherd of our hearts, He brings the worst of our human nature to light to show us how much God loves us (v. 16).

God in His mercy calls us out of our darkness and invites us to follow Him in the light.
God in His mercy calls us out of our darkness and invites us to follow Him in the light.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for the light of Your presence in my life. May I walk obediently in the light of Your truth in all that I do this day.

Sin’s darkness retreats when Christ’s light is revealed.

INSIGHT:
Often we think of judgment and eternal life as primarily future realities, but John’s gospel emphasizes that each person experiences either judgment or eternal life now, based on how we respond to Jesus. People experience judgment, are “judged already” (v. 18), when they reject Jesus—through the pain and emptiness of life outside of the fellowship of God. This judgment is not because God is eager to judge. If He was, He would not have sent Jesus (v. 17). Jesus was a pure gift from the heart of a God who loves His creation (v. 16). Those who reject Jesus condemn themselves by rejecting the only solution to the evil and brokenness in the world (v. 18), choosing darkness when God has made His light freely available in Jesus (vv. 19–20). But when anyone turns to Jesus, they experience life—overwhelming, overflowing, abundant life (see 4:14, 10:10).

Questions to consider: Why do we sometimes struggle to believe that God is more eager to show us love than judgment? How can we be more rooted in Christ’s love?
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Old 02-28-2017, 10:13 AM   #2060
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A Chuckle in the Darkness

Read: John 11:17–27 | Bible in a Year: Numbers 20–22; Mark 7:1–13

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

In a Washington Post article titled “Tech Titans’ Latest Project: Defy Death,” Ariana Cha wrote about the efforts of Peter Thiele and other tech moguls to extend human life indefinitely. They’re prepared to spend billions on the project.

They are a little late. Death has already been defeated! Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25–26). Jesus assures us that those who put their trust in Him will never, ever, under any circumstances whatever, die.

Jesus, help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
To be clear, our bodies will die—and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. But the thinking, reasoning, remembering, loving, adventuring part of us that we call “me, myself, and I” will never, ever die.

And here’s the best part: It’s a gift! All you have to do is receive the salvation Jesus offers. C. S. Lewis, musing on this notion, describes it as something like “a chuckle in the darkness”—the sense that something that simple is the answer.

Some say, “It’s too simple.” Well, I say, if God loved you even before you were born and wants you to live with Him forever, why would He make it hard?

Dear Jesus, I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I want to accept You as my Lord and Savior and follow You. Please forgive my sins and help me, from this moment on, to live a life that is pleasing to You.

Christ has replaced the dark door of death with the shining gate of life.

INSIGHT:
Often when confronted with death, we are tempted to either deny how painful it is or to live without hope, only seeing the grief. In this passage, Jesus holds together both the horror of death and the sure promise of life. Because death is a tragic distortion of God’s good creation, Jesus as the Resurrection and Life is all that is opposed to it. If we read the whole story of Lazarus’s resurrection, we see a fuller picture of how Jesus responds to death and grief. He is “deeply moved” and “troubled” (John 11:33) and He weeps (v. 35). Seeing death in all its horror, He defiantly overcomes it and raises Lazarus to life. Jesus’s shout, “Lazarus, come out!” (v. 43) points to the hope of our own bodily resurrection.
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