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Old 09-04-2018, 09:48 AM   #2401
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Beyond the Stars


Read: Psalm 8:1–9 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 143–145; 1 Corinthians 14:21–40

You have set your glory in the heavens. Psalm 8:1

In 2011, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration celebrated thirty years of space research. In those three decades, shuttles carried more than 355 people into space and helped construct the International Space Station. After retiring five shuttles, NASA has now shifted its focus to deep-space exploration.

The human race has invested massive amounts of time and money, with some astronauts even sacrificing their lives, to study the immensity of the universe. Yet the evidence of God’s majesty stretches far beyond what we can measure.

When we consider the Sculptor and Sustainer of the universe who knows each star by name (Isaiah 40:26), we can understand why the psalmist David praises His greatness (Psalm 8:1). The Lord’s fingerprints are on “the moon and the stars, which [He] set in place” (v. 3). The Maker of the heavens and the earth reigns above all, yet He remains near all His beloved children, caring for each intimately and personally (v. 4). In love, God gives us great power, responsibility, and the privilege to care for and explore the world He’s entrusted to us (vv. 5–8).

As we study our star-spattered night skies, our Creator invites us to seek Him with passion and persistence. He hears every prayer and song of praise flowing from our lips.

Loving Creator of the universe, thank You for being mindful of us.

The greatness of God is evident in His awesome vastness and intimate nearness.

By Xochitl Dixon | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Paul wrote that the sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another, and the stars in their differing sizes and brightness, still another (1 Corinthians 15:40–41). The varying wonders of the night sky, however, are only a hint of the differences we see in the glory of God. While the cosmos stretches our mind with its evidence of unlimited space and power, the heart of God contains a far greater wonder. Beyond the unbounded expanse, colors, and wonders of the cosmos is the hidden glory of the love of God on the cross.

Father, when we consider the universe Your hands have made and the face that bore the spit and fists of those who mocked Jesus, what is man that You are mindful of us?

Mart DeHaan
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Old 09-10-2018, 11:29 AM   #2402
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How to Stand Firm


Read: Jude 1:24–25 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 8–9; 2 Corinthians 3

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling. Jude 1:24

It was a cold, icy winter’s day, and my mind was focused on getting from my warm vehicle to a warm building. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, my knees turned inward and my lower legs turned outward. Nothing was broken, but I was in pain. The pain would get worse as time went by and it would be weeks before I was whole again.

Who among us hasn’t taken a spill of some sort? Wouldn’t it be nice to have something or someone to keep us on our feet all the time? While there are no guarantees of surefootedness in the physical sense, there is One who stands ready to assist us in our quest to honor Christ in this life and prepare us to stand joyfully before Him in the next.

Every day we face temptations (and even false teachings) that seek to divert us, confuse us, and entangle us. Yet, it’s not ultimately through our own efforts that we remain on our feet as we walk in this world. How assuring to know that when we hold our peace when tempted to speak angrily, to opt for honesty over deceit, to choose love over hate, or to select truth over error—we experience God’s power to keep us standing (Jude 1:24). And when we appear approved before God when Christ returns, the praise that we offer now for His sustaining grace will echo throughout eternity (v. 25).

Father, thank You for Your constant care for our souls.

Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. Edward Mote

By Arthur Jackson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Assertiveness training often includes guidelines for approaching conflict. Instead of being reactive, we are taught to calmly articulate our viewpoint while showing respect to the other person, even if they are behaving badly.

In his letter to believers, Jude offers similar insights into how to respond to harmful influences, but offers a far more profound foundation. Responding to false teachers (Jude 1:4), Jude pulled no punches when it came to describing their behavior. He described them as people who lied (v. 10) and selfishly manipulated others (v. 16), concluding they were not living from the Spirit (v. 19).

But after exposing the false teachers’ dangerous character, Jude didn’t suggest the believers respond by aggressively fighting against them. He suggested, instead, that they focus on their own spiritual growth. Instead of being reactive or returning evil for evil, as they grew deep roots in God’s love (vv. 20–21), they could more naturally rely on the Spirit’s leading for how to best respond (vv. 22–23). But in every situation, they could remain unshaken, anchored in the rock-solid truth of God’s love, power, and beautiful future for them (v. 24).

Monica Brands
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Old 09-11-2018, 11:06 AM   #2403
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He Knows Our Names


Read: Psalm 23:1–6 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 10–12; 2 Corinthians 4


Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

During a visit to the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, I quickly photographed one of the twin reflecting pools. Around these two pools, the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the World Trade Center attacks are etched into bronze panels. Later, while looking more closely at the photo, my eyes were drawn to the hand of a woman resting on a name. Many people come to this place to touch a name and remember someone they loved.

The prophet Isaiah reminded God’s people of His unfailing love and concern for them, even though they had often turned away from Him. The Lord said, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

In the 23rd Psalm, David wrote, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley [the valley of the shadow of death], I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . . Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (vv. 4, 6).

God never forgets us. No matter where we are or whatever our situation, He knows our names and holds us fast in His unfailing love.

Father in heaven, thank You for calling us by name and surrounding us with Your love, today and forever.

God knows our names and He holds us fast in His love.

By David C. McCasland | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Psalm 23 describes God's intimate love for us. We see the same theme in the New Testament. In John 10, Jesus described Himself as the “good shepherd” who lays down His life for the sheep (v. 11). But this is only one facet of His personal, intimate care for the flock. In verse 3 Jesus says, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” He calls His sheep “by name”! This is beautifully pictured on resurrection day. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to mourn Jesus’s death and to complete the burial process (20:1–18). Finding the tomb empty, she wept (v. 11); and the risen Jesus came to her, asking questions that probed her heart. She failed to recognize Jesus—until He called her by name (v. 16). In that moment, she was aware that Christ Himself stood before her. No wonder Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” To be loved and known by God is one of salvation’s greatest gifts!

Bill Crowder
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Old 09-13-2018, 10:47 AM   #2404
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She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:21

“Gip” Hardin, a Methodist preacher, named his son after the famous preacher John Wesley, reflecting Gip’s hopes and aspirations for his baby boy. John Wesley Hardin, however, tragically chose a different path than his ministry-minded namesake. Claiming to have killed forty-two men, Hardin became one of the most notorious gunfighters and outlaws of the American West of the late 1800s.

In the Bible, as in many cultures today, names hold special significance. Announcing the birth of God’s Son, an angel instructed Joseph to name Mary’s child “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The meaning of Jesus’s name—“Jehovah saves”—confirmed His mission to save from sin.

Unlike Hardin, Jesus completely and thoroughly lived up to His name. Through His death and resurrection, He accomplished His mission of rescue. John affirmed the life-giving power of Jesus’s name, saying, “But these 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). The book of Acts invites everyone to trust Him, for, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

All who call on Jesus’s matchless name in faith can experience for themselves the forgiveness and hope He provides. Have you called on His name?

Thank You, Father, for providing salvation through Your Son, Jesus. I love You.

Jesus’s name is also His mission—to seek and to save that which was lost.

By Bill Crowder | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
In the Bible, people’s names often end up calling attention to their failures. For example, at birth Samson’s parents gave him a name that meant “like the sun.” By the time he died, his name reminds us of one who lived a dark and troubled life.

The names of God remind us of one whose character never fails. He is named, described, and remembered not only as the self-existent one (Exodus 3:14), but as the all-powerful Creator (Genesis 1:1), the Lord who provides (22:13–14), the Lord who gives peace (Judges 6:24), the Lord who is present (Ezekiel 48:35), and ultimately, the God and Father of our Savior (Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3).

Mart DeHaan
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Old 09-14-2018, 10:19 AM   #2405
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The Ultimate Satisfaction
Read: Isaiah 55:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 19–21; 2 Corinthians 7
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Isaiah 55:1

As we distributed snacks for children at a Bible School program, we noticed a little boy who devoured his snack. Then he also ate the leftovers of the children at his table. Even after I gave him a bag of popcorn, he still wasn’t satisfied. As leaders, we were concerned as to why this little boy was so hungry.

It occurred to me that we can be like that boy when it comes to our emotions. We look for ways to satisfy our deepest longings, but we never find what fully satisfies us.

The prophet Isaiah invites those who are hungry and thirsty to “come, buy and eat” (Isaiah 55:1). But then he asks, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (v. 2). Isaiah is talking about more than just physical hunger here. God can satisfy our spiritual and emotional hunger through the promise of His presence. The “everlasting covenant” in verse 3 is a reminder of a promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7:8–16. Through David’s family line, a Savior would come to reconnect people to God. Later, in John 6:35 and 7:37, Jesus extended the same invitation Isaiah gave, thus identifying Himself as the Savior foretold by Isaiah and other prophets.

Hungry? God invites you to come and be filled in His presence.

Father, I long to know You more. Only You can satisfy my deepest desires.

Only God will satisfy our spiritual hunger.

By Linda Washington | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Jesus’s invitation in John 7:37 echoes the call of Isaiah 55:1–7. The setting is the Feast of Tabernacles, and one of the daily rituals of the feast was designed to point to the exodus of Israel from Egypt. On each of the seven days of the feast, the priest would perform a ritual by bringing a pitcher of water to the altar and pouring it out—a reminder of God’s provision of water in the wilderness. In John 7, it’s the last day of the feast, and it appears that at the moment when the priest is pouring out the water, Jesus declares, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (v. 37). Water satisfies. It quenches thirst. It meets our deepest needs—and Jesus declares Himself to be the source of that ultimate satisfaction.

In what things might you be pursuing satisfaction other than in Christ?

Bill Crowder
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Old 09-17-2018, 09:10 AM   #2406
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Legacies of Love

Read: 2 Timothy 1:1–5 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 27–29; 2 Corinthians 10

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

I was paging through my great-grandmother’s Bible when a treasure fell into my lap. On a small scrap of paper, in a young child’s handwriting, were the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3–4 kjv). Scribbled beside those verses in wobbly cursive was my mother’s signature.

My great-grandmother had a habit of teaching her grandchildren to write out Scripture verses so they would learn them and take them to heart. But the story behind this verse brought tears to my eyes. My grandfather died when my mother was very young, and her little brother (my uncle) died just weeks later. It was in that tragic season that my great-grandmother pointed my mother to Jesus and the comfort only He can give.

Paul wrote Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Faith isn’t inherited, but it is shared. Timothy’s mother and grandmother shared their faith with him, and he believed.

When we encourage those close to us to have hope in Jesus, we offer them a legacy of love. Through a simple note, my mother left evidence of my great-grandmother’s love for her Savior and her family. Oh, to share Him with those who come after us!

Thank You for those who shared Your love with me, Father. Please help me to point others to Your salvation today.

When we share our faith, we share the greatest treasure of all.

By James Banks | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The family language used in 2 Timothy 1:1–5 is hard to miss. In addition to the reference to “God the Father” (v. 2), other family terms are used. Paul refers to Timothy as “my dear son” (v. 2). The word translated “son” can refer to literal or spiritual offspring, the latter being the case here. Paul was a “spiritual father” who had invested in Timothy’s ministerial training and development. The family term in verse 3 is the word “ancestors,” and it refers to those from whom Paul had inherited a legacy of faith. Paul had spiritual roots (see Acts 22:1–3; 23:6; Philippians 3:5–7).

Timothy’s connection to his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois was not just biological. His “sincere faith” had been nurtured by these godly women. Because of the influence of these family members, Paul could write in 2 Timothy 3:14–15: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

What kind of spiritual roots are you leaving for those who will follow you?

Arthur Jackson
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:44 AM   #2407
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A Fitting Time

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1–14 | Bible in a Year: Ecclesiastes 1–3; 2 Corinthians 11:16–33


He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

Yesterday I purchased an airline ticket to send my firstborn child to college. I’m surprised the keyboard on my computer still functions, given the waterworks my eyes unleashed on it during the flight selection process. I have so enjoyed my eighteen years of daily life with her that I am saddened by the prospect of her departure. Yet I wouldn’t rob her of the opportunity that lies ahead simply because I’ll miss her. At this juncture in her life, it is fitting for her to embark on a new journey to discover adulthood and explore another part of the country.

As this season of my parenting draws to a close, another one begins. It will undoubtedly bring both new challenges and new delights. Solomon, Israel’s third king, wrote that God appoints “a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We humans have little control over the events of our lives—whether we view those events as favorable or not. But God, in His mighty power, makes “everything beautiful in its time” (v. 11).

In seasons of heartache, we can trust God to bring something good from them in time. Our comforts and joys may come and go, but God’s works “will endure forever” (v. 14). We may not relish every season—some are quite painful—yet He can bring beauty to them all.

Father, You have permitted this season in my life. Help me to be content in the midst of it, and to recognize Your power and might are at work.

God brings beauty from all seasons.
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Old 09-20-2018, 11:13 AM   #2408
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Where to Find Hope

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5


And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

Elizabeth struggled for a long time with drug addiction, and when she recovered wanted to help others in return. So she started writing notes and anonymously placing them throughout her city. Elizabeth tucks these notes under car windshield wipers and tacks them on poles in parks. She used to look for signs of hope; now she leaves them for others to find. One of her notes concluded with these words: “Much love. Hope sent.”

Hope with love—that’s what Jesus gives. He brings us His love with each new day and strengthens us with that hope. His love is not rationed out to us drop by drop but flows out of His heart freely and is poured lavishly into ours: “We know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:5 nlt). He desires to use the hard times to develop perseverance and character and bring us a satisfying, hope-filled life (vv. 3–4). And even when we’re far from Him, He still loves us (vv. 6–8).

Are you looking for signs of hope? The Lord gives hope with love through inviting us to grow in a relationship with Him. Our hope for a fulfilling life is anchored in His unfailing love.

I’m grateful, God, for the love You lavishly pour on me. Please bring me contentment in You and confidence in what You are doing in me.


Read Hope: Choosing Faith Instead of Fear at discoveryseries.org/q0733.

Hope is the anchor of the soul.
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Old 09-21-2018, 10:06 AM   #2409
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Unexpected Ways

Read: 1 Kings 19:1–12 | Bible in a Year: Ecclesiastes 7–9; 2 Corinthians 13


Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:9

In 1986, five-year-old Levan Merritt fell twenty feet into the gorilla enclosure of England’s Jersey zoo. As parents and onlookers cried out for help, a full-grown male silverback, named Jambo, placed himself between the motionless boy and several other gorillas. Then he began to gently stroke the child’s back. When Levan began to cry, Jambo led the other gorillas into their own enclosure as zoo-keepers and an ambulance driver came to the rescue. More than thirty years later Levan still talks about Jambo the gentle giant—his guardian angel who had acted in a shockingly unexpected way, changing his perception of gorillas forever.

Elijah may have expected God to act in certain ways, but the God of gods used a rock-shattering wind, a powerful earthquake, and raging fire to show His prophet how not to think of Him. Then He used a gentle whisper to show His heart and to express His presence (1 Kings 19:11–12).

Elijah had seen God’s power before (18:38–39). But he didn’t fully understand the One who wants to be known as more than the greatest and most fearsome of gods (19:10, 14).

Eventually, that quiet whisper found fullness of meaning in the powerful gentleness of Jesus, who said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Then He quietly allowed Himself to be nailed to a tree—an unexpected, compassionate act by the great God who loves us.

Father in heaven, please help us to find courage in Your whisper—and in the ways of Your Son. Have mercy on us for not seeing beyond Your power to a love we’ve barely begun to know.

God won’t shout if we only need a whisper.
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Old 09-24-2018, 09:56 AM   #2410
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Walking God’s Way
Read: Isaiah 30:15–21 | Bible in a Year: Song of Solomon 4–5; Galatians 3

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

“We’re going this way,” I said as I touched my son’s shoulder and redirected him through the crowd to follow his mom and sisters in front of us. I’d done this more often as the day wore on at the amusement park our family was visiting. He was getting tired and more easily distracted. Why can’t he just follow them? I wondered.

Then it hit me: How often do I do exactly the same thing? How often do I veer from obediently walking with God, enchanted by the temptations to pursue what I want instead of seeking His ways?

Think of Isaiah’s words from God for Israel: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’ ” (Isaiah 30:21). Earlier in that chapter, God had rebuked His people for their rebelliousness. But if they would trust His strength instead of their own ways (v. 15), He promised to show His graciousness and compassion (v. 18).

One expression of God’s graciousness is His promise to guide us by His Spirit. That happens as we talk to Him about our desires and ask in prayer what He has for us. I’m thankful God patiently directs us, day-by-day, step-by-step, as we trust Him and listen for His voice.

Father, You’ve promised to guide us through the ups and downs and decisions we face in life. Help us to trust and follow You, and to actively listen for Your guiding voice.

God patiently directs us as we trust Him and listen for His voice.

By Adam Holz | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
In today’s passage, a resurgent militant Assyria threatened to conquer all of Israel. But instead of trusting God to deliver them, Judah turned to Egypt for help. God had explicitly prohibited Israelite kings from trusting in anything other than God for deliverance (Deuteronomy 17:16). Isaiah warned that it’s futile to trust Egypt instead of the Lord (Isaiah 30:1–19; 31:1). The psalmist also warned of the futility of putting our trust in something other than God: “No king is saved by the size of his army . . . . A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save” (Psalm 33:16–17).

When have you placed your trust in something other than God?

K. T. Sim
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Old 09-25-2018, 12:20 PM   #2411
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Many Beautiful Things

Read: Mark 14:1–9 | Bible in a Year: Song of Solomon 6–8; Galatians 4


She has done a beautiful thing to me. Mark 14:6

Just before her death, artist and missionary Lilias Trotter looked out a window and saw a vision of a heavenly chariot. According to her biographer, a friend asked, “Are you seeing many beautiful things?” She answered, “Yes, many, many beautiful things.”

Trotter’s final words reflect God’s work in her life. Not only in death, but throughout her life, He revealed much beauty to her and through her. Although a talented artist, she chose to serve Jesus as a missionary in Algeria. John Ruskin, a famous painter who tutored her, is said to have commented, “What a waste,” when she chose the mission field over a career in art.

Similarly, in the New Testament, when a woman came to Simon the Leper’s house with an alabaster jar and poured perfume on Jesus’s head, those present saw it as a waste. This expensive perfume was worth a year’s common wages, so some of the people present thought it could have been used to help the poor. However, commending this woman’s deep devotion to Him, Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6).

Every day we can choose to let Christ’s life shine in our lives and display His beauty to the world. To some, it may seem a waste, but let us have willing hearts to serve Him. May Jesus say we have done many beautiful things for Him.

Dear Father, help me express my love to You in beautiful ways.

May our lives display the beauty of God.

By Keila Ochoa | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
How can we, like the woman in Mark 14, do beautiful things for Christ? We can offer the beauty of “a gentle and quiet spirit” which “is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3–4). Gentleness is one of the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22–23, a list of characteristics that display Christ at work in our lives. We are to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). When we are willing to be used by Him, the Spirit produces fruit and can guide us to do beautiful things.

For more on the beauty of a Spirit-filled life, check out the online course “Foundations of Spiritual Formation I: The Work of the Spirit” at christianuniversity.org/SF507.

Alyson Kieda
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Old 09-26-2018, 09:55 AM   #2412
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It’s Not About the Fish

Read: Jonah 3:10–4:4 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 1–2; Galatians 5

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented. Jonah 3:10

Sighted numerous times off the coast of Australia’s South Queensland, Migaloo is the first albino humpback whale ever documented. The splendid creature, estimated at more than forty feet long, is so rare that Australia passed a law specifically to protect him.

The Bible tells us about a “huge fish” so rare that God had provided it especially to swallow a runaway prophet (Jonah 1:17). Most know the story. God told Jonah to take a message of judgment to Nineveh. But Jonah wanted nothing to do with the Ninevites, who had a reputation for cruelty to just about everyone—including the Hebrews. So he fled. Things went badly. From inside the fish, Jonah repented. Eventually he preached to the Ninevites, and they repented too (3:5–10).

Great story, right? Except it doesn’t end there. While Nineveh repented, Jonah pouted. “Isn’t this what I said, Lord?” he prayed. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love” (4:2). Having been rescued from certain death, Jonah’s sinful anger grew until even his prayer became suicidal (v. 3).

The story of Jonah isn’t about the fish. It’s about our human nature and the nature of the God who pursues us. “The Lord is patient with you,” wrote the apostle Peter, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God offers His love to brutal Ninevites, pouting prophets, and you and me.

Father, we tend to look at what others “deserve” and forget we need Your love just as much. Help us live in Your love and tell others about it.

Our love has limits; God’s love is limitless.

By Tim Gustafson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
What a difference a couple of chapters can make in the tone of Jonah’s prayers! In Jonah 2:2, the desperate prophet prayed, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.” But in Jonah 4:3, he asks God to kill him. God answered the first prayer miraculously, delivering Jonah from death. But with the second prayer, God simply asked, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (4:4). Then Jonah actually repeats his death wish. “I’m so angry I wish I were dead” (v. 9). Even then, God appealed to Jonah by sharing His heart for all of humanity. “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh?” God even extends His concern to the animals that would have been destroyed in Nineveh (v. 11). The book of Jonah provides a fascinating contrast between human nature, which is self-serving, and the profoundly loving and patient character of God.

How do we respond to God’s grace to us? Do we resent it when He extends that grace to others we may perceive as “worse” than we are? Do we resemble Jonah when things don’t go the way we’d like them to?

Tim Gustafson

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented. Jonah 3:10

Sighted numerous times off the coast of Australia’s South Queensland, Migaloo is the first albino humpback whale ever documented. The splendid creature, estimated at more than forty feet long, is so rare that Australia passed a law specifically to protect him.

The Bible tells us about a “huge fish” so rare that God had provided it especially to swallow a runaway prophet (Jonah 1:17). Most know the story. God told Jonah to take a message of judgment to Nineveh. But Jonah wanted nothing to do with the Ninevites, who had a reputation for cruelty to just about everyone—including the Hebrews. So he fled. Things went badly. From inside the fish, Jonah repented. Eventually he preached to the Ninevites, and they repented too (3:5–10).

Great story, right? Except it doesn’t end there. While Nineveh repented, Jonah pouted. “Isn’t this what I said, Lord?” he prayed. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love” (4:2). Having been rescued from certain death, Jonah’s sinful anger grew until even his prayer became suicidal (v. 3).

The story of Jonah isn’t about the fish. It’s about our human nature and the nature of the God who pursues us. “The Lord is patient with you,” wrote the apostle Peter, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God offers His love to brutal Ninevites, pouting prophets, and you and me.

Father, we tend to look at what others “deserve” and forget we need Your love just as much. Help us live in Your love and tell others about it.

Our love has limits; God’s love is limitless.

By Tim Gustafson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
What a difference a couple of chapters can make in the tone of Jonah’s prayers! In Jonah 2:2, the desperate prophet prayed, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.” But in Jonah 4:3, he asks God to kill him. God answered the first prayer miraculously, delivering Jonah from death. But with the second prayer, God simply asked, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (4:4). Then Jonah actually repeats his death wish. “I’m so angry I wish I were dead” (v. 9). Even then, God appealed to Jonah by sharing His heart for all of humanity. “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh?” God even extends His concern to the animals that would have been destroyed in Nineveh (v. 11). The book of Jonah provides a fascinating contrast between human nature, which is self-serving, and the profoundly loving and patient character of God.

How do we respond to God’s grace to us? Do we resent it when He extends that grace to others we may perceive as “worse” than we are? Do we resemble Jonah when things don’t go the way we’d like them to?

Tim Gustafson
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Old 09-27-2018, 11:42 AM   #2413
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When We’re Weary
Read: Galatians 6:1–10 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 3–4; Galatians 6

Let us not become weary in doing good. Galatians 6:9

Sometimes trying to do the right thing can be exhausting. We may wonder, Do my well-intentioned words and actions make any difference at all? I wondered this recently when I sent a prayerfully thought-out email meant to encourage a friend, only to have it met with an angry response. My immediate reaction was a mixture of hurt and anger. How could I be so misunderstood?

Before I responded out of anger, I remembered that we won’t always see the results (or the results we desire) when we tell someone about how Jesus loves them. When we do good things for others hoping to draw them to Him, they may spurn us. Our gentle efforts to prompt someone to right action may be ignored.

Galatians 6 is a good place to turn when we’re discouraged by someone’s response to our sincere efforts. Here the apostle Paul encourages us to consider our motives—to “test our actions”—for what we say and do (vv. 1–4). When we have done so, he encourages us to persevere: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (vv. 9–10).

God wants us to continue living for Him, which includes praying for and telling others about Him—“doing good.” He will see to the results.

Dear God, thank You for the encouragement we receive from Your Word. Help us to persevere in doing good.

We can leave the results of our lives in God’s hands.

By Alyson Kieda | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Sometimes we can be tempted to take pride in our own good deeds. Unfortunately, this attitude may result in our looking down on the shortcomings of others. Instead, Paul says that believers empowered by the Spirit are to restore those caught up in a sin gently. By helping people deal with their sins, we’re fulfilling the law of Christ.

This helps us understand what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Helping others grow in godliness is the essence of loving them.

How can you love your neighbor today?

J.R. Hudberg
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Old 09-28-2018, 09:45 AM   #2414
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Asking God First

Read: Psalm 37:3–7, 23–24 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 5–6; Ephesians 1

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Early in our marriage, I struggled to figure out my wife’s preferences. Did she want a quiet dinner at home or a meal at a fancy restaurant? Was it okay for me to hang out with the guys, or did she expect me to keep the weekend free for her? Once, instead of guessing and deciding first, I asked her, “What do you want?”

“I’m fine with either,” she replied with a warm smile. “I’m just happy you thought of me.”

At times I’ve wanted desperately to know exactly what God wanted me to do—such as which job to take. Praying for guidance and reading the Bible didn’t reveal any specific answers. But one answer was clear: I was to trust in the Lord, take delight in Him, and commit my way to Him (Psalm 37:3–5).

That’s when I realized that God usually gives us the freedom of choice—if we first seek to put His ways before our own. That means dropping choices that are plainly wrong or would not please Him. It might be something immoral, ungodly, or unhelpful toward our relationship with Him. If the remaining options please God, then we’re free to choose from them. Our loving Father wants to give us the desires of our hearts—hearts that take delight in Him (v. 4).

Teach me, O God, to put You first in everything I do. Show me how to take delight in You, that my heart will be transformed to be like Yours.

Do your decisions please God?

By Leslie Koh | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
A prayerful reading of Psalm 37 yields increased joy, assurance, and confidence in the Lord. After an opening exhortation to not be upset by the short-lived vitality and success of those who ignore the Lord (vv. 1–2), a series of commands follow that call for faithful dependence on Him (vv. 3–8). The remainder of the psalm includes commentary about the conduct of two kinds of people (the righteous and the wicked), who follow two different paths and end up at two different places (vv. 9–11, 20). In various ways, the wicked harass and prey upon the righteous (vv. 12–15, 32). But the righteous are not alone. The Lord—in whom they trust and delight and upon whom they wait—protects them, making them safe and secure and stable (vv. 16–17, 23–26, 32–33). The conclusion of the psalm speaks powerfully to those who place their faith in God. “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him” (vv. 39–40).

Arthur Jackson
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Old 10-01-2018, 10:11 AM   #2415
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For Our Friends

Read: John 15:5–17 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 11–13; Ephesians 4

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12

In Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights, a cantankerous man who often quotes the Bible to criticize others is memorably described as “the wearisomest self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake [apply] the promises to himself and fling the curses to his neighbours.”

It’s a funny line; and it may even bring particular people to mind. But aren’t we alla bit like this—prone to condemn others’ failures while excusing our own?

In Scripture some people amazingly did the exact opposite; they were willing to give up God’s promises for them and even be cursed if it would save others. Consider Moses, who said he’d rather be blotted out of God’s book than see the Israelites unforgiven (Exodus 32:32). Or Paul, who said he’d choose to be “cut off from Christ” if it meant his people would find Him (Romans 9:3).

As self-righteous as we naturally are, Scripture highlights those who love others more than themselves.

Because ultimately such love points to Jesus. “Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus taught, than “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Even before we knew Him, Jesus loved us “to the end” (13:1)—choosing death to give us life.

Now we are invited into the family of God, to love and be loved like this (15:9–12). And as we pour into others Christ’s unimaginable love, the world will catch a glimpse of Him.

Lord, thank You for showing us what it means to love. Help us to love like You.

When we love Christ, we love others.

By Monica Brands | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The important idea of love for one another found in John 15:12–14 is rooted in one of Jesus’s most enduring teaching images—the vine and the branches (vv. 1–8). Our life so completely flows from being connected to Christ that everything we do, including our ability to love one another, is drawn from His life and power.

Bill Crowder
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Old 10-02-2018, 10:23 AM   #2416
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God’s Brand

Read: Zechariah 3:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 14–16; Ephesians 5:1–16

I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you. Zechariah 3:4

Scooping up the smallest children, a frantic maid raced out of the flaming house. As she ran, she called loudly to five-year-old Jacky.

But Jacky didn’t follow. Outside, a bystander reacted quickly, standing on the shoulders of a friend. Reaching into the upstairs window, he pulled Jacky to safety—just before the roof caved in. Little Jacky, said his mother Susanna, was “a brand [stick] plucked from the burning.” You might know that “brand” as the great traveling minister John Wesley (1703–1791).

Susanna Wesley was quoting Zechariah, a prophet who provides valuable insight into God’s character. Relating a vision he had, the prophet takes us into a courtroom scene where Satan is standing next to Joshua the high priest (3:1). Satan accuses Joshua, but the Lord rebukes the devil and says, “Is this not a brand [burning stick] plucked from the fire?” (v. 2 nkjv). The Lord tells Joshua, “I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you” (v. 4).

Then the Lord gave Joshua this challenge—and an opportunity: “If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house” (v. 7).

What a picture of the gift we receive from God through our faith in Jesus! He snatches us from the fire, cleans us up, and works in us as we follow His Spirit’s leading. You might call us God’s brands plucked from the fire.

Father, we give You our thanks for rescuing us and making us right with You. We humbly ask for Your Spirit’s guidance as we serve You today.

God rescues us because He loves us; then He equips us to share His love with others.

By Tim Gustafson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
At the end of their Babylonian exile (Jeremiah 29:10), the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple (2 Chronicles 36:22–23). Only 50,000 returned (Ezra 2:64–65), led by Zerubbabel their governor and Joshua their high priest (Haggai 1:1). Because of opposition (Ezra 4:1–5) and economic hardships, coupled with low morale and spiritual lethargy (Haggai 1:2–11), the temple rebuilding stalled for twenty years (Ezra 4:24). God raised two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to encourage the returnees to repent and complete the temple rebuilding (6:14–16). Zechariah was both a prophet (Ezra 5:1; Zechariah 1:1) and a priest (Nehemiah 12:16). Through eight visions, Zechariah reminded the Jews that God is faithful and would restore and bless the nation (Zechariah 1:7–6:15). This fourth vision (3:1–10) pictures a court scene involving Joshua, the high priest, signifying God would remove their guilt, cleanse them, and make them ready to serve Him (vv. 1–5).

K. T. Sim
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Old 10-03-2018, 10:12 AM   #2417
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Asking for Help

Read: Mark 10:46–52 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 17–19; Ephesians 5:17–33

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. Mark 10:51

Her email arrived late in a long day. In truth, I didn’t open it. I was working overtime to help a family member manage his serious illness. I didn’t have time, therefore, for social distractions.

The next morning, however, when I clicked on my friend’s message, I saw this question: “Can I help you in any way?” Feeling embarrassed, I started to answer no. Then I took a deep breath to pause. I noticed then that her question sounded familiar—if not divine.

That’s because Jesus asked it. Hearing a blind beggar call out to Him on the Jericho Road, Jesus stopped to ask this man, named Bartimaeus, a similar question. Can I help? Or as Jesus said: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).

The question is stunning. It shows the Healer, Jesus, longs to help us. But first, we’re invited to admit needing Him—a humbling step. The “professional” beggar Bartimaeus was needy, indeed—poor, alone, and possibly hungry and downcast. But wanting a new life, he simply told Jesus his most basic need. “Rabbi,” he said, “I want to see.”

For a blind man, it was an honest plea. Jesus healed him immediately. My friend sought such honesty from me too. So I promised her I’d pray to understand my basic need and, more important, I’d humbly tell her. Do you know your basic need today? When a friend asks, tell it. Then take your plea even higher. Tell God.

Lord, I am needy. I want to share my heart with You now. Help me to humbly receive the help of others also.


Welcome to Patricia Raybon! Meet all our authors at odb.org/all-authors.

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5

By Patricia Raybon | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Today’s story is a beautiful picture of the compassion of our Savior. Even to those He initially refused to help (see the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21–28), He stretched out a merciful and loving hand. All of His actions proved the claim He made at the beginning of His ministry—He was anointed by God and came “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19).

But while Jesus is the epitome of mercy, He didn’t heal everyone. In the stories recorded in Scripture, we are told He healed all who came to him (see Matthew 8:16). But that’s the qualification—they came to Him. He healed all who admitted their need of something only He could provide.

Jesus still welcomes everyone who comes to Him. He may not always heal in the same way He did while He was here on Earth, but He still offers forgiveness and salvation to anyone who asks.

J.R. Hudberg
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Old 10-04-2018, 11:21 AM   #2418
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Courageous Stand
Read: Ephesians 6:10–18 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 20–22; Ephesians 6

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world. Ephesians 6:12

Teresa Prekerowa was just a teenager when the Nazis invaded her native Poland at the dawn of World War II. This was in the beginnings of the Holocaust when her Jewish neighbors began to disappear—arrested by the Nazis. So Teresa and other Polish countrymen risked their lives to rescue those neighbors from the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi purge. Teresa would become one of the premier historians of the war and the Holocaust, but it was her courage to stand against the tide of evil that would list her with the Righteous Among the Nations at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

Courage is needed to stand against evil. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). Clearly this unseen opposition is more than any of us can face alone, so God has given us the necessary spiritual resources (the “full armor of God”) to enable us to “stand against the devil’s schemes” (v. 11).

What might that courageous stand involve? It may be working against injustice or intervening on behalf of someone you know who is vulnerable or victimized. Whatever form the conflict may take, we can have courage—our God has already provided what we need to stand for Him and against evil.

Listen to the Discover the Word program “Brave Enough” at discovertheword.org/series/brave-enough.

God enables us to stand for Him.

By Bill Crowder | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The “full armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10–17 is God’s provision for us as we seek to live for Him in this world. Paul was under house arrest in Rome as he wrote the letter to the Ephesians, so the armor imagery would have been forefront in his mind. He had been under the close guard of Roman soldiers (the palace guard, see Philippians 1:12–14) for more than two years. With long experience in the presence of Roman soldiers, Paul’s description of their armor was a useful image and an accessible word picture for his first readers.

As you consider the different elements of Roman armor, consider the practical way each piece protected the soldier. How is Paul using those ideas to express how God enables us to stand against evil?

Bill Crowder





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Old 10-05-2018, 10:01 AM   #2419
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Better Than Ever

Read: Psalm 51:9-13 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 23–25; Philippians 1

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:12

The story is told of a group of salmon fishermen who gathered in a Scottish inn after a long day of fishing. As one was describing a catch to his friends, his arm swept across the table and knocked a glass against the wall, shattering it and leaving a stain on the white plaster surface. The man apologized to the innkeeper and offered to pay for the damage, but there was nothing he could do; the wall was ruined. A man seated nearby said, “Don’t worry.” Rising, he took a painting implement from his pocket and began to sketch around the ugly stain. Slowly there emerged the head of a magnificent stag. The man was Sir E. H. Landseer, Scotland’s foremost animal artist.

David, Israel’s illustrious king who penned Psalm 51, brought shame on himself and his nation by his sins. He committed adultery with the wife of one of his friends and engineered the death of that friend—both deeds worthy of death. It would seem his life was ruined. But he pled with God: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (v. 12).

Like David we have shameful acts in our past and the memories that accompany them, recollections that taunt us in the middle of the night. There’s so much we wish we could undo or redo.

There is a grace that not only forgives sin but also uses it to make us better than before. God wastes nothing.

Lord, I’ve failed You again. Please forgive me again. Change me. Turn me around. Teach me to follow Your ways.

God has both an all-seeing eye and all-forgiving heart.

By David H. Roper | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
David wrote Psalm 51 in repentance for his sin of adultery with Bathsheba; his deliberate actions that led to the death of her husband, Uriah; and ultimately his sin against God (v. 4). Psalm 32, also penned by David, is similar in that here too he writes from his own experience on the pain of unconfessed sin and of the blessing of repentance. Even as Christians we will sin—and sometimes again and again. At such times, if we stubbornly refuse to confess our sins, we feel the effects of the sin eating away at us spiritually, mentally, and physically (vv. 3–4). Why? Not because we’ve lost our salvation, but because we’ve driven a wedge between us and our holy God. When we come to God in sorrow for our sins and receive His forgiveness, the “joy of [our] salvation”—the joy of being in an intimate relationship with God—is restored (51:12; see 32:1–2). In both psalms, David illustrates that confession and repentance lead to God’s forgiveness, which leads to a restored relationship, which leads to great joy—and enables us to sing! (32:11).

When have you experienced restored joy after confession?

Alyson Kieda
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Old 10-10-2018, 12:18 PM   #2420
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Singing to the Firing Squad

Read: Mark 14:16–26 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 34–36; Colossians 2

I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” Psalm 116:10

Two men convicted of drug trafficking had been on death row for a decade. While in prison, they learned of God’s love for them in Jesus, and their lives were transformed. When it came time for them to face the firing squad, they faced their executioners reciting the Lord’s Prayer and singing “Amazing Grace.” Because of their faith in God, through the power of the Spirit they were able to face death with incredible courage.

They followed the example of faith set by their Savior, Jesus. When Jesus knew that His death was imminent, He spent part of the evening singing with friends. It’s remarkable that He could sing under such circumstances, but what’s even more remarkable is what He sang. On that night, Jesus and His friends had a Passover meal, which always ends with a series of Psalms known as the Hallel, Psalms 113–118. Facing death, that night Jesus sang about the “cords of death” entangling Him (Psalm 116:3). Yet He praised God’s faithful love (117:2) and thanked Him for salvation (118:14). Surely these Psalms comforted Jesus on the night before His crucifixion.

Jesus’s trust in God was so great that even as He approached His own death—a death He had done nothing to deserve!—He chose to sing of God’s love. Because of Jesus, we too can have confidence that whatever we face, God is with us.

God, strengthen our faith in You so that when we face trials, or even approach death, we can sing with confidence about Your love.

How sweet is the sound of God’s amazing grace!

By Amy Peterson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
It has been said that our songs are essentially our sung prayers. After having been severely beaten and unjustly arrested, Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God” in prison! (Acts 16:25). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church he exhorts them to “[sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and [make] music to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:19 nlt).

Are you going through a difficult time? Ask God to encourage you as you sing your favorite hymn or song.

K. T. Sim
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