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Old 06-26-2018, 09:23 AM   #2361
GOLDDUSTERS5703

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Set Free


Read: Romans 8:1–2, 15–17 | Bible in a Year: Job 5–7; Acts 8:1–25

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

When I was a boy in the village, something about chickens fascinated me. Whenever I caught one, I held it down for a few moments and then gently released it. Thinking I was still holding it, the chicken remained down; even though it was free to dash away, it felt trapped.

When we put our faith in Jesus, He graciously delivers us from sin and the hold that Satan had on us. However, because it may take time to change our sinful habits and behavior, Satan can make us feel trapped. But God’s Spirit has set us free; He doesn’t enslave us. Paul told the Romans, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1–2).

Through our Bible reading, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit, God works in us to cleanse us and to help us live for Him. The Bible encourages us to be confident in our walk with Jesus without feeling as if we are not set free.

Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). May the freedom we have in Christ spur us on to love Him and serve Him.

Lord, forgive me for sometimes revisiting my past and forgetting that You have washed away my sins. Thank You for taking my burden and setting me free to enjoy living for You.

My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. Charles Wesley

By Lawrence Darmani | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Romans 8 is one of the theological highpoints of the Bible, specifically as it relates to the Holy Spirit. Of the many references to the Holy Spirit in the book of Romans, over half are found in Romans 8! The life-giving Spirit liberates from sin and death and empowers believers to live in ways that honor God, which includes the reorientation of our thinking (vv. 2–8). God’s Spirit is the seal of God’s ownership and those so sealed are destined for future resurrection (vv. 9–11). God’s children are not under obligation to slavish, sinful desires (vv. 12–13); rather, like Jesus, they are led by the Spirit of God (v. 14). As those in God’s family, believers in Jesus have the Spirit as their internal witness of their privileged status (vv. 15–16). Painful circumstances that make us groan and pray are our lot in this fallen world (vv. 18–25). Though sometimes our prayers are weak, we are not helpless. The Spirit of God is our prayer-helper whose intercession targets the will of God (vv. 26–27).

How have you seen the Holy Spirit working in your life?

Arthur Jackson
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Old 06-27-2018, 08:18 AM   #2362
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Unlocked

Read: Colossians 1:13–23 | Bible in a Year: Job 8–10; Acts 8:26–40


Once you were alienated from God . . . . But now he has reconciled you. Colossians 1:21–22

A boy born with cerebral palsy was unable to speak or communicate. But his mother, Chantal Bryan, never gave up, and when he was ten years old she figured out how to communicate with him through his eyes and a letter board. After this breakthrough, she said, “He was unlocked and we could ask him anything.” Now Jonathan reads and writes, including poetry, by communicating through his eyes. When asked what it’s like to “talk” with his family and friends, he said, “It is wonderful to tell them I love them.”

Jonathan’s story is profoundly moving and leads me to consider how God unlocks us from the prison of sin. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Colossae, once we were “alienated from God” (Colossians 1:21), our evil behavior making us His enemy, but through Christ’s death on the cross we are now presented to God as “holy in his sight” (v. 22). We may now “live a life worthy of the Lord” as we bear fruit, grow in the knowledge of God, and are strengthened in His power (vv. 10–11).

We can use our unlocked voices to praise God and share His good news that we are no longer bound to a life of sin. As we continue in our faith, we can hold firm to our hope in Christ.

Lord God, You have released us from our chains of unbelief and given us words to praise You. May we share this freedom with others for Your glory.

The Lord unlocks us from our prison of sin.

By Amy Boucher Pye | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
These few verses (Colossians 1:13–23) in Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae are a theological goldmine! In them we read about Jesus’s relationship to God—His kingship, redemption, and forgiveness—and His role in creating and sustaining the universe. How amazing to see everything point to one thing—our reconciliation to God (v. 22).

Why not praise God today for unlocking you from the prison of sin and reconciling you to Himself.

J.R. Hudberg
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Old 06-28-2018, 10:43 AM   #2363
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Ring in a Dumpster

Read: Matthew 13:44–46 | Bible in a Year: Job 11–13; Acts 9:1–21

Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

In college, I woke up one morning to find Carol, my roommate, in a panic. Her signet ring was missing. We searched everywhere. The next morning we found ourselves picking through a dumpster.

I ripped open a trash bag. “You’re so dedicated to finding this!”

“I’m not losing a two-hundred-dollar ring!” she exclaimed.

Carol’s determination reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven, which “is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). Certain things are worth going great lengths to find.

Throughout the Bible, God promises that those who seek Him will find Him. In Deuteronomy, He explained to the Israelites that they would find Him when they turned from their sin and sought Him with all their hearts (4:28–29). In the book of 2 Chronicles, King Asa gained encouragement from a similar promise (15:2). And in Jeremiah, God gave the same promise to the exiles, saying He would bring them back from captivity (29:13–14).

If we seek God, through His Word, worship, and in our daily lives, we will find Him. Over time, we’ll know Him on a deeper level. That will be even better than the sweet moment when Carol pulled her ring out of that trash bag!

Lord, help me to seek You with all my heart.

To find God, we must be willing to seek Him.



By Julie Schwab | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” You’ve probably heard that line used to pressure you to do something or buy any number of things that failed to live up to the hype. But in the case of the kingdom of God, the claims Jesus makes about it in Matthew 13 are actually true.

In this chapter, Jesus repeatedly emphasizes how seeing and living in the new reality of His kingdom isn’t natural. In fact, God’s kingdom is so countercultural that Jesus describes it as “yeast” (v. 33), which in Scripture is typically seen as a symbol of corruption and evil (Hosea 7:4; Matthew 16:6, 11; 1 Corinthians 5:6–13). Jesus’s shocking use of this word would be similar to saying that the kingdom is like a virus or like saying, “It ruins everything.”

And that’s exactly Jesus’s point. Truly experiencing His kingdom will not be comfortable or easy for any of us. It’ll ruin everything!—all our plans, all our assumptions, all our comfort. But it’s more than worth it. It’s the treasure that’s infinitely precious, the source of endless joy (Matthew 13:44–46).

Monica Brands
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Old 06-29-2018, 08:44 AM   #2364
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Pictures of Love


Read: 2 John 1:1–6 | Bible in a Year: Job 14–16; Acts 9:22–43

I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 2 John 1:5

My children and I have started a new daily practice. Every night at bedtime, we gather colored pencils and light a candle. Asking God to light our way, we get out our journals and draw or write answers to two questions: When did I show love today? and When did I withhold love today?

Loving our neighbors has been an important part of the Christian life “from the beginning” (2 John 1:5). That’s what John writes in his second letter to his congregation, asking them to love one another in obedience to God (2 John 1:5–6). Love is one of John’s favorite topics throughout his letters. He says that practicing real love is one way to know that we “belong to the truth,” that we’re living in God’s presence (1 John 3:18–19). When my kids and I reflect, we find that in our lives love takes shape in simple actions: sharing an umbrella, encouraging someone who is sad, or cooking a favorite meal. The moments when we’re withholding love are equally practical: we gossip, refuse to share, or satisfy our own desires without thinking of others’ needs.

Paying attention each night helps us be more aware each day, more tuned in to what the Spirit might be showing us as we walk through our lives. With the Spirit’s help, we’re learning to walk in love (2 John 1:6).

Lord, let us not love just in words, but in actions and in truth. Teach us to be obedient to Your call to love.

How can I show love today?

By Amy Peterson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Love is a prominent theme in the apostle John’s writings. In today’s reading (2 John 1:1–6) John writes: “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us” (v. 4). Just as caring parents delight in the development of the gifts and character of their children, John had a father’s pride in those who walked in love. It is interesting to contemplate what John means by “walk in love” (v. 6). The Greek word translated “walk” can also mean a consistency one exhibits in speech, attitudes, and behavior. It’s clear that we’re being told to make sure the words we say, the attitudes we have toward others, and our general behavior be characterized by sensitivity and generosity. Of course, the ultimate example of love is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (1 John 4:10). We love others because Christ first loved us.

Dennis Fisher
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Old 07-02-2018, 08:12 AM   #2365
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Living Out Loud


Read: 1 Peter 3:8–16 | Bible in a Year: Job 22–24; Acts 11


In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. 1 Peter 3:15

While staying at a hotel in Austin, Texas, I noticed a card lying on the desk in my room. It said:

Welcome
Our prayer is that your stay here will be restful
and that your travels will be fruitful.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and make
His face shine upon you.

This card from the company that manages the hotel made me want to know more, so I accessed their website and read about their culture, strength, and values. In a winsome way, they seek to pursue excellence and live out their faith in the workplace.

Their philosophy reminded me of Peter’s words to the followers of Jesus scattered throughout Asia Minor. He encouraged them to demonstrate their faith in Christ in the society where they lived. Even as they faced threats and persecution, Peter told them not to be afraid, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

A friend of mine calls this “living a lifestyle that demands an explanation.” No matter where we live or work, may we in God’s strength live out our faith today—always ready to reply gently and respectfully to everyone who asks the reason for our hope.

May our lives cause others to ask the reason we have hope.

By David C. McCasland | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
When we think of Peter, we often think of young Peter—his rash denials of Christ (John 18:17, 25, 27), his jumping out of the boat to walk on the water to Jesus (Matthew 14:22–31), or his cutting off a servant’s ear in the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:10). Yet aged Peter—mature Peter—is a much different man who wrote letters to encourage believers in Jesus. The man who called down a curse on himself as he denied Christ (Matthew 26:73–75) now writes that believers should be prepared to give an answer for their hope—something he was once unwilling to do. Such is the difference the Spirit makes in our lives.

How has the Spirit been transforming you and helping you to live out your faith?

J.R. Hudberg
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Old 07-03-2018, 10:18 AM   #2366
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I See You


Read: Psalm 121 | Bible in a Year: Job 25–27; Acts 12


The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:8

When Xavier was two, he darted into one aisle after another in a small shoe store. Hiding behind stacks of shoeboxes, he giggled when my husband, Alan, said, “I see you.”

Moments later, I saw Alan dash frantically from aisle to aisle, calling Xavier’s name. We raced to the front of the store. Our child, still laughing, ran toward the open door leading to the busy street outside.

Within seconds, Alan scooped him up. We embraced as I thanked God, sobbed, and kissed our toddler’s chubby cheeks.

A year before I became pregnant with Xavier, I’d lost our first child during the pregnancy. When God blessed us with our son, I became a fearful parent. Our shoe store experience proved I wouldn’t always be able to see or protect our child. But I discovered peace as I learned to turn to my only sure source of help—God—when I struggled with worry and fear.

Our heavenly Father never takes His eyes off His children (Psalm 121:1–4). While we can’t prevent trials, heartache, or loss, we can live with confident faith, relying on an ever-present Helper and Protector who watches over our lives (vv. 5–8).

We may encounter days when we feel lost and helpless. We may also feel powerless when we can’t shield loved ones. But we can trust that our all-knowing God never loses sight of us—His precious and beloved children.

Thank You for watching over our loved ones and us, Lord.

God always keeps His eye on His children.

By Xochitl Dixon | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Psalms 120–134 are known as “Pilgrim Songs”—songs for “pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem” (nlt). God commanded all male Jews to come to the temple to observe the three annual feasts (see Deuteronomy 16:16): Unleavened Bread (Passover), Weeks (Pentecost), and Tabernacles. As pilgrims trod up the hilly paths to Jerusalem, they sang from these psalms.

When we embark on a journey, we often pray for journeying mercies for safety is foremost on our minds. Psalm 121—known as “The Traveler’s Psalm”—is a prayer addressing our safety and security concerns as we journey through life. Even as the psalmist speaks of unknown dangers, he affirms God’s divine protection and preservation. He reminds us that God is our Helper, giving us the security and stability we need (vv. 1–3). And because God is our Keeper—watching our every step (vv. 4–8)—we can pray in confident trust, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (Psalm 4:8 nlt).

How does being led by God, our Good Shepherd, empower you to “walk through the darkest valley”? (Psalm 23:4).

K. T. Sim
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Old 07-05-2018, 08:41 AM   #2367
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God’s Great Creation

Read: Psalm 104:1–6, 10–23 | Bible in a Year: Job 30–31; Acts 13:26–52

The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. Psalm 104:12

On a recent visit with some of our grandchildren, we enjoyed watching a web cam that focused on an eagle family in Florida. Every day we would check in on the mom, the dad, and the baby as they went about their daily routine in their nest high off the ground. Each day the parent birds would keep a constant, protective vigil over the eaglet, bringing it fish from a nearby river for nourishment.

This little eagle family depicts for us one image the psalmist gave us of God’s magnificent creation in Psalm 104—an array of creation images, of scenes from the work of God’s creative hand.

We see the majesty of God’s creation as it relates to the universe (vv. 2–4).

We experience the creation of the earth itself—waters, mountains, valleys (vv. 5–9).

We enjoy the glory of God’s gift of animals, birds, and crops (vv. 10–18).

We marvel at the cycles God created in our world—morning/night, darkness/light, work/rest (vv. 19–23).

What a glorious world God has fashioned with His hands for our enjoyment—and for His glory! “Praise the Lord, my soul!” (v. 1). Each one of us can say thank You to God for all He has given us to appreciate and enjoy.

Praise God! Praise You, Lord, for the wonder of the earth You created.


Share a photo of your favorite place at Facebook.com/ourdailybread.

The beauty of creation reflects the beauty of our Creator.
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Old 07-06-2018, 09:32 AM   #2368
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Hidden Beauty

Read: 1 Samuel 16:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Job 32–33; Acts 14

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Our children needed a little coaxing to believe that it was worth putting on snorkeling gear to peer beneath the surface of the Caribbean Sea off the shore of the island of Tobago. But after they dove in, they resurfaced ecstatic, “There are thousands of fish of all different kinds! It’s so beautiful! I’ve never seen such colorful fish!”

Because the surface of the water looked similar to freshwater lakes near our home, our children could have missed the beauty hidden just below the surface.

When the prophet Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king, Samuel saw the oldest son, Eliab, and was impressed by his appearance. The prophet thought he had found the right man, but the Lord rejected Eliab. God reminded Samuel that He “does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

So Samuel asked if there were more sons. The youngest boy wasn’t present but caring for the family’s sheep. This son, David, was summoned and the Lord directed Samuel to anoint him.

Often we look at people only on a surface level and don’t always take the time to see their inner, sometimes hidden, beauty. We don’t always value what God values. But if we take the time to peer beneath the surface, we may find great treasure.

Heavenly Father, thank You for not valuing people based on outward appearances but instead by looking at our hearts. Help me to take the time to see beyond simply what my eyes can see in order to discover true and lasting beauty.

God can help me to see the inner beauty in others.

By Lisa Samra | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Who taught you how to think about yourself and others?

Long before Samuel looked for a king among the sons of Jesse, God was teaching His children to see below the surface of our skin. From the days of Eden, He has been showing people like us that what happens in our hearts is more important than our outward appearance.

How has God’s interaction with the men and women of the Bible helped you to think about yourself and Him?

Mart DeHaan
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Old 07-06-2018, 09:36 AM   #2369
GOLDDUSTERS5703

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Hidden Beauty

Read: 1 Samuel 16:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Job 32–33; Acts 14

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Our children needed a little coaxing to believe that it was worth putting on snorkeling gear to peer beneath the surface of the Caribbean Sea off the shore of the island of Tobago. But after they dove in, they resurfaced ecstatic, “There are thousands of fish of all different kinds! It’s so beautiful! I’ve never seen such colorful fish!”

Because the surface of the water looked similar to freshwater lakes near our home, our children could have missed the beauty hidden just below the surface.

When the prophet Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king, Samuel saw the oldest son, Eliab, and was impressed by his appearance. The prophet thought he had found the right man, but the Lord rejected Eliab. God reminded Samuel that He “does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

So Samuel asked if there were more sons. The youngest boy wasn’t present but caring for the family’s sheep. This son, David, was summoned and the Lord directed Samuel to anoint him.

Often we look at people only on a surface level and don’t always take the time to see their inner, sometimes hidden, beauty. We don’t always value what God values. But if we take the time to peer beneath the surface, we may find great treasure.

Heavenly Father, thank You for not valuing people based on outward appearances but instead by looking at our hearts. Help me to take the time to see beyond simply what my eyes can see in order to discover true and lasting beauty.

God can help me to see the inner beauty in others.

By Lisa Samra | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Who taught you how to think about yourself and others?

Long before Samuel looked for a king among the sons of Jesse, God was teaching His children to see below the surface of our skin. From the days of Eden, He has been showing people like us that what happens in our hearts is more important than our outward appearance.

How has God’s interaction with the men and women of the Bible helped you to think about yourself and Him?

Mart DeHaan
__________________
1997 CTD2500 "CASPER"

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Old 07-09-2018, 09:28 AM   #2370
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Be Still, My Soul!


Read: Psalm 131 | Bible in a Year: Job 38–40; Acts 16:1–21

I have calmed and quieted myself. Psalm 131:2

Picture a parent poised lovingly over a child, finger gently placed in front of nose and lips softly speaking the words—“hush,” “shhhh.” The demeanor and simple words are meant to comfort and quiet anxious little ones in the midst of disappointment, discomfort, or pain. Scenes like this are universal and timeless and most of us have been on the giving or receiving end of such loving expressions. When I ponder Psalm 131:2, this is the picture that comes to mind.

The language and flow of this psalm suggest that the writer, David, had experienced something that provoked serious reflection. Have you experienced a disappointment, defeat, or failure that prompted thoughtful, reflective prayer? What do you do when you are humbled by life’s circumstances? When you fail a test or lose a job or experience the end of a relationship? David poured out his heart to the Lord and in the process did a bit of honest soul-searching and inventory (Psalm 131:1). In making peace with his circumstances, he found contentment like that of a young child who was satisfied with simply being with his or her mother (v. 2).

Life’s circumstances change and sometimes we are humbled. Yet we can be hopeful and content knowing that there is One who has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can trust Him fully.

Father, when things change in my life, help me not to be anxious but to trust You and find contentment in You alone.


Read more: Cultivating a Heart of Contentment at discoveryseries.org/hp052.

Contentment is found in Christ alone.

By Arthur Jackson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The theme of Psalm 131 is rest or spiritual contentment. Verse 2 says, “I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” This idea of rest connects to the preceding song (Psalm 130) whose theme is forgiveness. Psalm 130:4 affirms, “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” It is forgiveness that gives us true, lasting rest because it brings us into relationship with the God who made us.

This was voiced beautifully by the church father Augustine who said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Bill Crowder
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Old 07-10-2018, 12:52 PM   #2371
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God of the Depths


Read: Job 41:12–34 | Bible in a Year: Job 41–42; Acts 16:22–40

There is the sea, vast and spacious, . . . and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. Psalm 104:25–26

“When you go to the deep sea, every time you take a sample, you’ll find a new species,” says marine biologist Ward Appeltans. In one recent year, scientists identified 1,451 new types of undersea life. We simply don’t know the half of what’s down there.

In Job 38–40, God reviewed His creation for Job’s benefit. In three poetic chapters, God highlighted the wonders of weather, the vastness of the cosmos, and the variety of creatures in their habitats. These are things we can observe. Then God spoke of the mysterious Leviathan—for an entire chapter. Leviathan is a creature like no other, with harpoon-deflecting armor (Job 41:7, 13), graceful power (v. 12), and “fearsome teeth” (v. 14). “Flames stream from its mouth . . . smoke pours from its nostrils” (vv. 19–20). “Nothing on earth is its equal” (v. 33).

Okay, so God talks about a huge creature we haven’t seen. Is that the point of Job 41?

No! Job 41 broadens our understanding of God’s surprising character. The psalmist expanded on this when he wrote, “There is the sea, vast and spacious, . . . and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there” (Psalm 104:25–26). After the terrifying description in Job, we learn that God created a playpen for this most fearsome of all creatures. Leviathan frolics.

We have the present to explore the ocean. We’ll have eternity to explore the wonders of our magnificent, mysterious, playful God.

Our exploration of creation teaches us about the Creator.
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Old 07-11-2018, 08:39 AM   #2372
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Strangers Welcome Strangers


Read: Leviticus 19:1–9, 33–34 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 1–3; Acts 17:1–15

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. . . . Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Leviticus 19:33–34

When my husband and I moved to Seattle to be near his sister, we didn’t know where we would live or work. A local church helped us find a place: a rental house with many bedrooms. We could live in one bedroom, and rent the others to international students. For the next three years, we were strangers welcoming strangers: sharing our home and meals with people from all over the world. We and our housemates also welcomed dozens of international students into our home every Friday night for Bible study.

God’s people know what it means to be far from home. For several hundred years, the Israelites were literal foreigners—and slaves—in Egypt. In Leviticus 19, alongside familiar instructions like “Respect your mother and father” and “Do not steal” (vv. 3, 11), God reminded His people to empathetically care for foreigners, because they knew what it was like to be foreigners and afraid (vv. 33–34).

While not all of us as followers of God today have experienced literal exile, we all know how it feels to be “foreigners” on earth (1 Peter 2:11)—people who feel like outsiders because our ultimate allegiance is to a heavenly kingdom. We are called to create a community of hospitality—strangers welcoming strangers into God’s family. The hospitable welcome my husband and I experienced in Seattle taught us to extend welcome to others—and this is at the heart of being the family of God (Romans 12:13).

To whom can I show hospitality?

By Amy Peterson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
God promised the Israelites they would always have enough food to eat if they remained faithful to Him (Leviticus 26:3–5). Because God promised to provide for them, He commanded them to provide for the poor and the needy. God gave various harvest laws (Leviticus 19:9–10; 23:22; Deuteronomy 23:24–25; 24:19–22) to enable the poor to “work” for their food with dignity without having to resort to begging or stealing. We also see this compassionate law of gleaning in the story of Ruth (Ruth 2).

K. T. Sim
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:19 AM   #2373
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An Anchor When We’re Afraid

Read: Isaiah 51:12–16 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 4–6; Acts 17:16–34


I, even I, am he who comforts you. Isaiah 51:12

Are you a worrier? I am. I wrestle with anxiety almost daily. I worry about big things. I worry about small things. Sometimes, it seems like I worry about everything. Once in my teens, I called the police when my parents were four hours late getting home.

Scripture repeatedly tells us not to be afraid. Because of God’s goodness and power, and because He sent Jesus to die for us and His Holy Spirit to guide us, our fears don’t have to rule our lives. We may well face hard things, but God has promised to be with us through it all.

One passage that has helped me profoundly in fearful moments is Isaiah 51:12–16. Here, God reminded His people, who had endured tremendous suffering, that He was still with them, and that His comforting presence is the ultimate reality. No matter how bad things may seem: “I, even I, am he who comforts you,” He told them through the prophet Isaiah (v. 12).

I love that promise. Those eight words have been an emotion-steadying anchor for my soul. I’ve clung to this promise repeatedly when life has felt overwhelming, when my own “constant terror” (v. 13) has felt oppressive. Through this passage, God reminds me to lift my eyes from my fears and in faith and dependence to look to the One who “stretches out the heavens” (v. 13)—the One who promises to comfort us.

Lord, sometimes the struggles we face in life seem so big. But You are bigger. Help us to cling to Your promise of comfort in fearful moments and to experience Your loving provision as we trust You.

God’s comforting presence is more powerful than our fears.



By Adam Holz | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Isaiah is fond of using imagery to display distinct ideas that are sometimes complementary and sometimes contrasting. Today’s passage presents contrasting ideas. In offering comfort to the people of Israel, Isaiah paints a portrait that gives the reader a beautiful vision of who God is in comparison to those who were trying to harm them. Notice the contrasts in verses 12–15: Mortals are like grass, while God stretches out the heavens and lays the foundations of the earth; the oppressor who stirs up wrath is nothing compared to the God who stirs the sea. While these words are comforting—after all, God is the one who covers us with the shadow of His hand—it’s important to understand that they don’t simply bypass the struggles we face. Isaiah acknowledges there is in fact an oppressor, and that oppressor is full of wrath. But he encourages us to see our difficulties in light of who God is and what He can do.

What difficult situation do you need to view in comparison with God’s power?

J.R. Hudberg
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Old 07-13-2018, 09:25 AM   #2374
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He Knows Us


Read: Psalm 139:1–14 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 7–9; Acts 18

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. Psalm 139:1–2

Did God know about me as I drove at night on a 100-mile journey to my village? Given the condition I was in, the answer was not simple. My temperature ran high and my head ached. I prayed, “Lord, I know you are with me, but I’m in pain!”

Tired and weak, I parked by the road near a small village. Ten minutes later, I heard a voice. “Hello! Do you need any help?” It was a man with his companions from the community. Their presence felt good. When they told me the name of their village, Naa mi n’yala (meaning, “The King knows about me!”), I was amazed. I had passed this community dozens of times without stopping. This time, the Lord used its name to remind me that, indeed, He, the King, was with me while I was alone on that road in my ailing condition. Encouraged, I pressed on toward the nearest clinic.

God knows us thoroughly as we go about our everyday chores, at different locations and situations, no matter our condition (Psalm 139:1–4, 7–12). He does not abandon us or forget us; nor is He so busy that He neglects us. Even when we are in trouble or in difficult circumstances—“darkness” and “night” (vv. 11–12)—we are not hidden from His presence. This truth gives us such hope and assurance that we can praise the Lord who has carefully created us and leads us through life (v. 14).

Thank You, Lord, that You always know where I am and how I am doing. You know me inside and out. I’m thankful I can count on You to care.

No matter where we are, God knows about us.

By Lawrence Darmani | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
In Psalm 139 David marvels at the Creator God. In these verses the poet-king reflects on God’s omniscience (vv. 1–6), omnipresence (vv. 7–12), and omnipotence (vv. 13–18)—clearly marking God out as distinct and above the creation He has made. This is the God who has welcomed us into relationship with Himself—and that invitation is based on His complete knowledge of who we are and how we have failed. His total awareness of our brokenness makes it all the more amazing that He desires for us to know Him.

Bill Crowder
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Old 07-16-2018, 08:39 AM   #2375
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No Co-Signer Required


Read: Hebrews 6:13–20 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 16–17; Acts 20:1–16

People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said. Hebrews 6:16

When a person without a long history of paying his or her bills on time wants to obtain a loan to purchase a home or car, lenders are often reluctant to take the financial risk. Without a track record, that person’s promise to repay what he borrows is insufficient for the bank. The would-be borrower usually resorts to finding someone who does have a history of making good on their debts, asking them to put their name on the loan too. The co-signer’s promise assures the lender the loan will be repaid.

When someone makes a promise to us—whether for financial, marital, or other reasons—we expect them to keep it. We want to know that God will keep His promises too. When He promised Abraham that He would bless him and give him “many descendants” (Hebrews 6:14; see Genesis 22:17), Abraham took God at His word. As the Creator of all that exists, there is no one greater than He; only God could guarantee His own promise.

Abraham had to wait for the birth of his son (Hebrews 6:15) (and never saw how innumerable his offspring would grow to be), but God proved faithful to His promise. When He promises to be with us always (13:5), to hold us securely (John 10:29), and to comfort us (2 Corinthians 1:3–4), we too can trust Him to be true to His word.

Lord, thank You for being so trustworthy. I need no other promises but Your word. Help me to trust You more and more each day.

God’s promises are sure.

By Kirsten Holmberg | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
In Hebrews 6:19, the metaphor of an anchor is used to describe the believer’s secure hope. This metaphor was a common one in Greco-Roman literature and was used to describe a person’s security and hope based on their good character.

But the author of Hebrews does not describe the believer’s “anchor”—their hope (6:11–12)—as based on their own character. Instead, the author says our hope is found “behind the curtain” (v. 19)—alluding to the “holy of holies” in the temple. In the past, this was the primary place where God’s people could fully experience God’s presence. Only the high priest could enter, and only once a year.

But now Jesus, the One both fully God and fully human, is our priest, the One who gives access to God. Because He has conquered sin and death, our rock-solid hope is anchored in Him. Through Christ we experience the very presence and power of God (v. 20).

Monica Brands
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Old 07-17-2018, 08:56 AM   #2376
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I Just Can’t Do It

Read: 1 Corinthians 1:26–31 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 18–19; Acts 20:17–38

The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24 nkjv

“I just can’t do it!” lamented the dejected student. On the page he could see only small print, difficult ideas, and an unforgiving deadline. He needed the help of his teacher.

We might experience similar despair when we read Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Anger is as bad as murder (v. 22). Lust equals adultery (v. 28). And if we dare think we can live up to these standards, we bump into this: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48).

“The Sermon on the Mount produces despair,” says Oswald Chambers. But he saw this as good, because at “the point of despair we are willing to come to [Jesus] as paupers to receive from Him.”

In the counterintuitive way God so often works, those who know they can’t do it on their own are the ones who receive God’s grace. As the apostle Paul put it, “Not many of you were wise by human standards. . . . But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:26–27).

In God’s wisdom, the Teacher is also our Savior. When we come to Him in faith, through His Spirit we enjoy His “righteousness, holiness and redemption” (v. 30), and the grace and power to live for Him. That’s why He could say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Thank You, Lord, for blessing those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who hunger and thirst for Your righteousness. You are our righteousness!


Read more from Oswald Chambers at utmost.org.

Through the Son we can enjoy life in God’s kingdom.

By Tim Gustafson | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
The Bible is filled with stories of how God used weak, unlikely, or flawed characters to bring about His purposes. Included in that lineup are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, and Peter—just to name a few. God chose elderly Abraham and his barren wife to be “the father [and mother] of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). He used Isaac, who played favorites (25:27–28), and Jacob, a deceiver, to continue that line (25:29–34; 27:1–29). God called the reluctant Moses, a murderer on the run, to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 2:11–15; 14:1–31). God chose the prostitute Rahab to hide the spies in Jericho (Joshua 2) and to be included in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5); He called Gideon, who cowered in fear, to serve as judge and rescue the Israelites from the Midianites (Judges 6–8); and He appointed Peter, an outspoken fisherman, to be His disciple (Matthew 16:22). God still uses flawed characters—you and me—to fulfill His purposes.

For more on how God can use you, check out christianuniversity.org/SF212.

Alyson Kieda
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Old Yesterday, 09:59 AM   #2377
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What’s Your Passion?

Read: Psalm 20:6–9 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 20–22; Acts 21:1–17

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

One of the tellers at my bank has a photograph of a Shelby Cobra roadster on his window. (The Cobra is a high-performance automobile built by the Ford Motor Company.)

One day, while transacting business at the bank, I asked him if that was his car. “No,” he replied, “that’s my passion, my reason to get up every morning and go to work. I’m going to own one someday.”

I understand this young man’s passion. A friend of mine owned a Cobra, and I drove it on one occasion! It’s a mean machine! But a Cobra, like everything else in this world, isn’t worth living for. Those who trust in things apart from God “are brought to their knees and fall,” according to the psalmist (Psalm 20:8).

That’s because we were made for God and nothing else will do—a truth we validate in our experience every day: We buy this or that because we think these things will make us happy, but like a child receiving a dozen Christmas presents or more, we ask ourselves, “Is this all?” Something is always missing.

Nothing this world has to offer us—even very good things—fully satisfies us. There is a measure of enjoyment in them, but our happiness soon fades away (1 John 2:17). Indeed, “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself,” C. S. Lewis concluded. “There is no such thing.”

I have found Him whom my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies my longings—through His blood I now am saved. Clara Williams

There is a longing in every heart that only Jesus can satisfy.

By David H. Roper | See Other Authors
INSIGHT
Psalm 20 warns against idolatry—worshiping and trusting in human objects instead of the Lord Himself. King David saw how easy it could be to shift his trust in the Lord to trust in military might: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (v. 7). In our culture, idolatry can take many different forms. But for the believer there’s only One who should be the object of our adoration and the One in whom we place our trust. It’s Christ who is the supreme example of courage, character, and compassion.

How is God teaching you that He’s the only true source of satisfaction?

Dennis Fisher
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