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Old 07-26-2018, 08:18 AM   #2381
GOLDDUSTERS5703

Name: GOLDDUSTERS5703
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Unselfish Service


Read: Isaiah 58:6–12 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 40–42; Acts 27:1–26
If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness. Isaiah 58:10

A small collection of people stood together, dwarfed by the size of the huge tree lying on the lawn. An elderly woman leaned on her cane and described watching the previous night’s windstorm as it blew down “our majestic old elm tree. Worst of all,” she continued, voice cracking with emotion, “it destroyed our lovely stone wall too. My husband built that wall when we were first married. He loved that wall. I loved that wall! Now it’s gone; just like him.”

Next morning, as she peeked out at the tree company workers cleaning up the downed tree; a big smile spread across her face. In between the branches she could just make out two adults and the boy who mowed her lawn carefully measuring and rebuilding her beloved stone wall!

The prophet Isaiah describes the kind of service God favors: acts that lift the hearts of those around us, like the wall repairers did for the elderly woman. This passage teaches that God values unselfish service to others over empty spiritual rituals. In fact, God exercises a two-way blessing on the selfless service of His children. First, God uses our willing acts of service to aid the oppressed and needy (Isaiah 58:7–10). Then God honors those engaged in such service by building or rebuilding our reputations as powerful positive forces in His kingdom (vv. 11–12). What service will you offer this day?

Thank You, Father, for the acts of others You use to lift us up, and for calling us to do the same.

Selfless service to others brings honor to God.

By Randy Kilgore | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Am I my brother’s keeper? We might wonder something similar when we hear Isaiah urging his people to reach out to a world of hurting people. But another story is working in the background. God’s people were trying to avoid responsibility for the wrongs they were doing to their own flesh and blood (Isaiah 58:7).

Can you think of anything you are doing, or not doing, to those around you that is making their life difficult? Can you think of ways to unselfishly serve them?

Mart DeHaan
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:30 AM   #2382
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Lavish Expressions of Love


Read: 2 Corinthians 9:6–15 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 43–45; Acts 27:27–44



You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion. 2 Corinthians 9:11

On our wedding anniversary, my husband, Alan, gives me a large bouquet of fresh flowers. When he lost his job during a corporate restructure, I didn’t expect this extravagant display of devotion to continue. But on our nineteenth anniversary, the color-splashed blossoms greeted me from their spot on our dining room table. Because he valued continuing this annual tradition, Alan saved some money each month to ensure he’d have enough for this personal show of affection.

My husband’s careful planning exhibited exuberant generosity, similar to what Paul encouraged when he addressed the Corinthian believers. The apostle complimented the church for their intentional and enthusiastic offerings (2 Corinthians 9:2, 5), reminding them that God delights in generous and cheerful givers (vv. 6–7). After all, no one gives more than our loving Provider, who’s always ready to supply all we need (vv. 8–10).

We can be generous in all kinds of giving, caring for one another because the Lord meets all of our material, emotional, and spiritual needs (v. 11). As we give, we can express our gratitude for all God has given us. We can even motivate others to praise the Lord and give from all God has given them (vv. 12–13). Openhanded giving, a lavish expression of love and gratitude, can demonstrate our confidence in God’s provision for all His people.

Lord, please help us trust Your abundant love and generosity, so we can give to others as You so faithfully give to us.

Generous giving displays courageous confidence in God’s loving and faithful provision.

By Xochitl Dixon | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Paul reminds us that God provides for us so we can bless others (2 Corinthians 9:6–8). He quotes Psalm 112:9 to encourage generosity: “[The righteous] share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever” (nlt).

In what ways can you practice cheerful, generous giving this week?

K. T. Sim
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Old 07-30-2018, 09:13 AM   #2383
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Overcoming Challenges


Read: Nehemiah 6:1–9, 15 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 51–53; Romans 2

So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. Nehemiah 6:15

We gathered monthly to hold one another accountable to our individual goals. My friend Mary wanted to reupholster the seats of her dining room chairs before the year’s end. At our November meeting she wittily reported her progress from October: “It took ten months and two hours to recover my chairs.” After months of not being able to obtain the materials required, or find the quiet hours away from her demanding job and her toddler’s needs, the project took merely two hours of committed work to finish.

The Lord called Nehemiah to a far greater project: to bring restoration to Jerusalem after its walls had lain in ruin for 150 years (Nehemiah 2:3–5, 12). As he led the people in the labor, they experienced mockery, attacks, distraction, and temptation to sin (4:3, 8; 6:10–12). Yet God equipped them to stand firm—resolute in their efforts—completing a daunting task in just fifty-two days.

Overcoming such challenges requires much more than a personal desire or goal; Nehemiah was driven by an understanding that God appointed him to the task. His sense of purpose invigorated the people to follow his leadership despite incredible opposition. When God charges us with a task—whether to repair a relationship or share what He’s done in our lives—He gives us whatever skills and strength are necessary to continue in our effort to do what He’s asked, no matter what challenges come our way.

Lord, please equip me with Your strength to persevere and finish the tasks You’ve given me. May my labors bring You glory.

God equips us to overcome obstacles and complete the tasks He’s given us to do.

By Kirsten Holmberg | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
What kinds of challenges have you faced? How has God helped you to overcome them?
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Old 07-31-2018, 08:45 AM   #2384
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Sinners Like Us

Read: Luke 15:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 54–56; Romans 3

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. Luke 15:2

I have a friend—her name is Edith—who told me about the day she decided to follow Jesus.

Edith cared nothing for religion. But one Sunday morning she walked into a church near her apartment looking for something to satisfy her discontented soul. The text that day was Luke 15:1–2, which the pastor read from the King James Version: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”

That’s what it said, but this is what Edith heard: “This man receives sinners and Edith with them.” She sat straight up in her pew! Eventually she realized her mistake, but the thought that Jesus welcomed sinners—and that included Edith—stayed with her. That afternoon she decided to “draw near” to Jesus and listen to Him. She began to read the Gospels, and soon she decided to put her faith in Him and follow Him.

The religious folks of Jesus’s day were scandalized by the fact that He ate and drank with sinful, awful people. Their rules prohibited them from associating with such folk. Jesus paid no attention to their made-up rules. He welcomed the down-and-out and gathered them to Him, no matter how far gone they were.

It’s still true, you know: Jesus receives sinners and (your name).

Heavenly Father, we can’t thank You enough for the radical love of Your Son, who drew all of us outcasts and moral failures to Him, and made the way for us to come to You in joy and boldness.

God pursues us in our restlessness, receives us in our sinfulness, holds us in our brokenness. Scotty Smith

By David H. Roper | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1–7) is the first in a series of parables about lost things. It’s followed by the parable of the lost coin (vv. 8–10) and the parable of the lost son, better known as the prodigal son (vv. 11–32).

Although each of the parables is about something lost, there’s also something in each that isn’t lost—the sheep safe in the pen, the remaining coins, and the elder son at home. Yet the shepherd, the woman, and the father are not content with what they have; their concern is for that which is lost.

Is someone in your life lost and waiting to be found by the Savior? Whom can you trust to God’s loving and searching ways?

J.R. Hudberg
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Old 08-03-2018, 09:48 AM   #2385
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To My Dear Friend


Read: 3 John | Bible in a Year: Psalms 63–65; Romans 6


The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 3 John 1

What the apostle John did for his friend Gaius in the first century is a dying art in the twenty-first century. John wrote him a letter.

One writer for the New York Times, Catherine Field, said, “Letter-writing is among our most ancient of arts. Think of letters and the mind falls on Paul of Tarsus,” for example. And we can add the apostle John.

In his letter to Gaius, John included hopes for good health of body and soul, an encouraging word about Gaius’s faithfulness, and a note about his love for the church. John also spoke of a problem in the church, which he promised to address individually later. And he wrote of the value of doing good things for God’s glory. All in all, it was an encouraging and challenging letter to his friend.

Digital communication may mean letter-writing on paper is fading away, but this shouldn’t stop us from encouraging others. Paul wrote letters of encouragement on parchment; we can encourage others in a variety of ways. The key is not the waywe encourage others, but that we take a moment to let others know we care for them in Jesus’s name!

Think of the encouragement Gaius experienced when he opened John’s letter. Could we similarly shine God’s love on our friends with a thoughtful note or an uplifting call?

Lord, help us know how to encourage others who need a spiritual boost from us.

Encouraging words bring hope to the human spirit.
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Old 08-06-2018, 10:25 AM   #2386
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The Joy of Giving


Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:12–24 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 70–71; Romans 8:22–39

Encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

It was a dreary week. I had been feeling lethargic and listless, although I couldn’t figure out why.

Near the end of the week, I found out that an aunt had kidney failure. I knew I had to visit her—but to be honest, I felt like postponing the visit. Still, I made my way to her place, where we had dinner, chatted, and prayed together. An hour later, I left her home feeling upbeat for the first time in days. Focusing on someone else rather than myself had somehow improved my mood.

Psychologists have found that the act of giving can produce satisfaction, which comes when the giver sees the recipient’s gratitude. Some experts even believe that humans are wired to be generous!

Perhaps that’s why Paul, when encouraging the church in Thessalonica to build up their faith community, urged them to “help the weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Earlier, he had also cited Jesus’s words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). While this was said in the context of giving financially, it applies as well to the giving of time and effort.

When we give, we get an insight into how God feels. We understand why He’s so delighted to give us His love, and we share in His joy and the satisfaction of blessing others. I think I’ll be visiting my aunt again soon.

Father, You have made me to give to others just as You have given to me. Teach me to give so that I can truly reflect Your character and be more like You today.

The giver is the greatest recipient.

By Leslie Koh | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Do you ever feel that you’re always on the giving end? Or do you feel you’re always taking and receiving—with nothing to offer others but your own neediness? Take another look at Paul’s words to the Thessalonians. See if you can hear the wisdom of someone who knows there’s a time to give and a time to receive.

If you sense that you’re receiving more than your fair share of help, does Paul give you any idea about what you have to give even while receiving? Can you see that in acknowledging graciously the hard work of those who are caring for you, God can actually use you to encourage them?

If you seem to be giving to the point of exhaustion, see if you can hear any gentle wisdom here for yourself.

Mart DeHaan
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Old 08-09-2018, 09:32 AM   #2387
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A Good Daddy


Read: Psalm 63 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 77–78; Romans 10

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Psalm 63:6

When our son, Xavier, was younger, business trips often pulled my husband away from home. Though his father called often, there were rough nights when the calls alone didn’t comfort Xavier. To help soothe our son when he felt he needed his dad, I’d pull out our photo albums as he prepared for bedtime. I’d point out the images that showed them spending time together and ask, “Do you remember this?”

Memory after memory encouraged our son, who often said, “I have a good daddy.”

I understood Xavier’s need to be reminded of his father’s love when he couldn’t see him. Whenever I’m going through tough or lonely times, I too long to know I’m loved, especially by my heavenly Father.

David proclaimed his deep yearning for God as he hid from his enemies in the desert (Psalm 63:1). Remembering his personal encounters with God’s limitless power and satisfying love led him to praise (vv. 2–5). Through his most difficult nights, David could still rejoice in his dependable Father’s loving care (vv. 6–8).

During our dark times, when we feel as if God’s not there for us, we need reminders of who God is and how He’s demonstrated His love. Reflecting on our personal experiences with Him, as well as His actions recorded in Scripture, can affirm the countless ways our good Abba Father loves us.

Lord, thanks for demonstrating Your endless love to Your people, in our lives and through the words You preserved in Scripture.

Remembering God’s works, which reveal His character, reassures us of His love.

By Xochitl Dixon | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Do you ever wonder whether your faith could endure during hard times? Psalm 63 describes a relationship with God that is deep enough to sustain times so difficult that—literally or metaphorically—we experience life as a “dry and parched land where there is no water” (v. 1).

A faith that is long-lasting is one in which experiencing God’s love is so precious it’s “better than life” (v. 3). Such an intimate relationship is sustained through ongoing communication “through the watches of the night” (v. 6)—a time which in the psalms points to vulnerable communication with God (see, for example, 4:4; 16:7; 119:55).

Through cultivating such a relationship with God, when hard times come we will have a rich history to remember and cherish (63:2, 6). In this way we can trust God enough to cling to Him (vv. 7–8), confident that He’ll deliver us once more (vv. 9–11).

Monica Brands
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Old 08-10-2018, 11:50 AM   #2388
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A Hopeful Lament

Read: Lamentations 3:49–58 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 79–80; Romans 11:1–18


I called on your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit. Lamentations 3:55

To visit Clifton Heritage National Park in Nassau, Bahamas, is to revisit a tragic era in history. Where the land meets the water, stone steps lead up a cliff. Slaves brought to the Bahamas by ship in the eighteenth century would ascend these steps, often leaving family behind and entering a life of inhumane treatment. At the top, there is a memorial to those slaves. Cedar trees have been carved into the shapes of women looking out to sea toward the homeland and family members they’ve lost. Each sculpture is scarred with marks of the slave captain’s whip.

These sculptures of women mourning what they’ve lost remind me of the importance of recognizing the injustices and broken systems in the world, and lamenting them. Lamenting does not mean that we are without hope; rather, it’s a way of being honest with God. It should be a familiar posture for Christians; about forty percent of the Psalms are psalms of lament, and in the book of Lamentations, God’s people cry out to Him after their city has been destroyed by invaders (3:55).

Lament is a legitimate response to the reality of suffering, and it engages God in the context of pain and trouble. Ultimately, lament is hopeful: when we lament what is not right, we call ourselves and others to be active in seeking change.

And that’s why the sculpture garden in Nassau has been named “Genesis”—the place of lament is recognized as the place of new beginnings.

We can trust God to bring something new out of our seasons of lament.

By Amy Peterson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The prophet Jeremiah had prophesied for over forty years to a disobedient, disbelieving Judah (627–580 bc). Now in five emotionally charged “funeral laments” he writes as an eyewitness, lamenting the destruction and devastation of Jerusalem, the temple, and the people as they are forcefully exiled to Babylon. He includes the reasons why God would use the Babylonians to discipline His idolatrous people (Lamentations 1:5–8; see 1 Kings 9:6–9; Jeremiah 2:11–13, 18:15–17).

For two years the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem. Jeremiah witnessed the uncensored horrors of war (2 Kings 25:1-4; Jeremiah 52:12–27; Lamentations 2:20; 4:10). But he also wrote of hope in the midst of despair (3:21–33) and of the restoration that would come (5:19–22). Jeremiah reminded the Jewish people that the Lord, who has judged Judah rightly for her sins, is the Lord of hope (3:21, 24–25), compassion (v. 22), faithfulness (v. 23), and salvation (v. 26). Jeremiah calls the people to repent and to trust in the goodness of God (vv. 25–26; 5:21).

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation,” says the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 7:10). How has this been true in your own life?
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Old 08-15-2018, 08:42 AM   #2389
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The Lord Speaks


Read: Job 38:1–11 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 91–93; Romans 15:1–13

Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Job 40:2

We can find nearly every argument in the book of Job about why there is pain in the world, but the arguing never seems to help Job much. His is a crisis of relationship more than a crisis of doubt. Can he trust God? Job wants one thing above all else: an appearance by the one Person who can explain his miserable fate. He wants to meet God Himself, face to face.

Eventually Job gets his wish. God shows up in person (see Job 38:1). He times His entrance with perfect irony, just as Job’s friend Elihu is expounding on why Job has no right to expect a visit from God.

No one—not Job, nor any of his friends—is prepared for what God has to say. Job has saved up a long list of questions, but it is God, not Job, who asks the questions. “Brace yourself like a man,” He begins; “I will question you, and you shall answer me” (v. 3). Brushing aside thirty-five chapters’ worth of debates on the problem of pain, God plunges into a majestic poem on the wonders of the natural world.

God’s speech defines the vast difference between the God of all creation and one puny man like Job. His presence spectacularly answers Job’s biggest question: Is anybody out there? Job can only respond, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (42:3).

Lord, we have so many questions about life and its unfairness. You have shown Yourself good to us. Help us to trust You for what we cannot understand.

No calamity is beyond God’s sovereignty.

By Philip Yancey | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
After all Job had endured, how could the Lord of heaven respond to his honest, agonizing questions with more questions?

Job forgot the case he wanted to argue in the court of heaven (Job 23:1–10). The presence and questions of God suddenly reawakened the trust he’d expressed in those first moments of the worst days of his life (1:21; 2:10).

We, on the other hand, have an advantage that Job lacked. In the prologue of Job’s story, we are taken behind the scenes to see how God viewed Job (1:1–2:10).

What if our lives had such a prologue? Would it help to know that more is going on than we can see and that it’s better than we imagine? Even if we aren’t an exemplary example as Job was, can we take heart in being one of the dearly loved sinners for whom Christ died?

Mart DeHaan
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Old Yesterday, 09:19 AM   #2390
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Heart Hunger


Read: John 6:32–40 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 94–96; Romans 15:14–33

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35

Riding along with my husband on some errands, I scrolled through emails on my phone and was surprised at an incoming advertisement for a local donut shop, a shop we had just passed on the right side of the street. Suddenly my stomach growled with hunger. I marveled at how technology allows vendors to woo us into their establishments.

As I clicked off my email, I mused over God’s constant yearning to draw me closer. He always knows where I am and longs to influence my choices. I wondered, Does my heart growl in desire for Him the way my stomach did over the idea of a donut?

In John 6, following the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, the disciples eagerly ask Jesus to always give them “the bread that . . . gives life to the world” (vv. 33–34). Jesus responds in verse 35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” How amazing that a relationship with Jesus can provide constant nourishment in our everyday lives!

The donut shop’s advertisement targeted my body’s craving, but God’s continuous knowledge of my heart’s condition invites me to recognize my ongoing need for Him and to receive the sustenance only He can provide.

Dear God, remind me of my need for Your daily bread of presence.

Jesus alone offers the only bread that truly satisfies.

By Elisa Morgan | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The heart hunger described in today’s devotional was modeled by Jesus. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus told the Enemy, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then in John 4:34, He told His followers, “My food . . . is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” Jesus’s passion for the Father and His purposes is the greatest example we can have of true spiritual heart hunger. While we cannot perfectly reflect that desire, we can learn to long for the Father’s presence and provision—just as Jesus did.

For more on spiritual hunger and spiritual satisfaction, check out the Discover the Word conversations “Satisfied” at discovertheword.org/series/satisfied-3.

Bill Crowder
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Old Today, 08:12 AM   #2391
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Jesus Reached Out


Read: Matthew 14:22–33 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 97–99; Romans 16

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Matthew 14:31

Sometimes life gets busy—classes are hard, work is exhausting, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, and a coffee date is on the day’s schedule. It gets to the point where I force myself to read the Bible for a few minutes a day and tell myself I’ll spend more time with God next week. But it doesn’t take long before I’m distracted, drowning in the day’s tasks, and forget to ask God for help of any kind.

When Peter was walking on water toward Jesus, he quickly became distracted by the wind and waves. Like me, he began to sink (Matthew 14:29–30). But as soon as Peter cried out, “immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him” (vv. 30–31).

I often feel as if I have to make it up to God after being so busy and distracted that I lose sight of Him. But that’s not how God works. As soon as we turn to Him for help, Jesus reaches out without hesitation.

When we’re unsettled by the chaos of life, it’s easy to forget that God is standing in the middle of the storm with us. Jesus asked Peter, “Why did you doubt?” (v. 31). No matter what we’re going through, He is there. He is here. Next to us at that moment, in this moment, ready to reach out and rescue us.

Lord, help me to turn to You in the midst of my busyness and life’s distractions. Thank You for always being here, ready to catch me.

God is waiting for us to turn to Him so He can reach out and help.

By Julie Schwab | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The fear-filled disciples who saw Jesus walking on the lake cried out, “It’s a ghost!” (Matthew 14:26). But then they worshipfully acknowledged, “Truly you are the Son of God” (v. 33). In between the collective voices of the disciples, we hear the voices of Jesus and Peter. Following the words of Jesus in verse 27, Peter spoke, “Lord, if it’s you . . . tell me to come to you on the water” (v. 28). At first glance it’s easy to interpret Peter’s “if” as implying uncertainty. An alternate rendering of the word if is since. Given Peter’s actions, it seems to me that this translation makes sense. When Jesus is the one directing us, doubt can yield to confidence.

Arthur Jackson
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