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Old 09-07-2017, 09:50 AM   #2181
GOLDDUSTERS5703

Name: GOLDDUSTERS5703
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The Ministry of Mourning

Read: Acts 7:54–8:2 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 1–2; 1 Corinthians 16

Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. Acts 8:2

In 2002, a few months after my sister Martha and her husband, Jim, died in an accident, a friend invited me to a “Growing Through Grief” workshop at our church. I reluctantly agreed to attend the first session but had no intention of going back. To my surprise, I discovered a caring community of people trying to come to grips with a significant loss in their lives by seeking the help of God and others. It drew me back week after week as I worked toward acceptance and peace through the process of sharing our grief together.

Like the sudden loss of a loved one or friend, the death of Stephen, a dynamic witness for Jesus, brought shock and sorrow to those in the early church (Acts 7:57–60). In the face of persecution, “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him” (8:2). These men of faith did two things together: They buried Stephen, an act of finality and loss. And they mourned deeply for him, a shared expression of their sorrow.

Father in heaven, help us to grow together in Your healing love.
As followers of Jesus, we need not mourn our losses alone. In sincerity and love we can reach out to others who are hurting, and in humility we can accept the concern of those who stand beside us.

As we grieve together, we can grow in understanding and in the peace that is ours through Jesus Christ, who knows our deepest sorrow.

Father in heaven, help us to “mourn with those who mourn” and grow together in Your healing love.


Read Life After Loss at discoveryseries.org/cb131.

The ministry of mourning with others helps bring healing to our hearts.

By David C. McCasland | See Other Authors
INSIGHT

Stephen was part of a group of men, known to be full of wisdom and the Spirit, selected to work together to meet the needs of others in the church. This text raises some interesting questions. Was Stephen alone in front of the members of the Sanhedrin? Where was the rest of the group? Where were they when he was being stoned?

While those who mourned and buried Stephen had the physical shoulders of others to cry on, Stephen wasn’t alone either—he was comforted and supported by Jesus Himself: “ ‘Look,’ [Stephen] said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ ” (7:56). Stephen was granted a vision of Jesus at the moment of his greatest need of support.

Jesus will never leave us alone and we have the privilege of being Jesus to those around us. Who needs your support today?
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Old 09-08-2017, 10:22 AM   #2182
GOLDDUSTERS5703

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Carried Through

Read: Psalm 30:1–12 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 3–5; 2 Corinthians 1

Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

I recently stumbled across some of my journals from college and couldn’t resist taking time to reread them. Reading the entries, I realized I didn’t feel about myself then the same as I do today. My struggles with loneliness and doubts about my faith felt overwhelming at the time, but looking back now I can clearly see how God has carried me to a better place. Seeing how God gently brought me through those days reminded me that what feels overwhelming today will one day be part of a greater story of His healing love.

Psalm 30 is a celebration psalm that similarly looks back with amazement and gratitude on God’s powerful restoration: from sickness to healing, from threat of death to life, from feeling God’s judgment to enjoying His favor, from mourning to joy (vv. 2–3,11).

Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
The psalm is attributed to David, to whom we owe some of the most pain-filled laments in Scripture. But David also experienced restoration so incredible he was able to confess, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (v. 5). Despite all the pain he had endured, David discovered something even greater—God’s powerful hand of healing.

If you are hurting today and need encouragement, recall those times in your past when God carried you through to a place of healing. Pray for trust that He will do so again.

Lord, when our struggles feel bigger than what we can handle, help us to find comfort and strength in how You’ve carried us before.

God is lovingly working toward restoration and joy in and through the pain of our lives.
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Old 09-11-2017, 10:14 AM   #2183
GOLDDUSTERS5703

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The One Who Understands

Read: John 1:1–18 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 10–12; 2 Corinthians 4

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14

John Babler is the chaplain for the police and fire departments in his Texas community. During a twenty-two-week sabbatical from his job, he attended police academy training so that he could better understand the situations law enforcement officers face. Through spending time with the other cadets and learning about the intense challenges of the profession, Babler gained a new sense of humility and empathy. In the future, he hopes to be more effective as he counsels police officers who struggle with emotional stress, fatigue, and loss.

We know that God understands the situations we face because He made us and sees everything that happens to us. We also know He understands because He has been to earth and experienced life as a human being. He “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” as the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14).

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14
Jesus’s earthly life included a wide range of difficulty. He felt the searing heat of the sun, the pain of an empty stomach, and the uncertainty of homelessness. Emotionally, He endured the tension of disagreements, the burn of betrayal, and the ongoing threat of violence.

Jesus experienced the joys of friendship and family love, as well as the worst problems that we face here on earth. He provides hope. He is the Wonderful Counselor who patiently listens to our concerns with insight and care (Isa. 9:6). He is the One who can say, “I’ve been through that. I understand.”

Dear Lord, thank You for caring enough to humble Yourself and come to earth as a human being.

God understands the struggles we face.
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Old 09-12-2017, 08:49 AM   #2184
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Taking the First Step

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:11–21 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 13–15; 2 Corinthians 5

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19

Tham Dashu sensed something was missing in his life. So he started going to church—the same church his daughter attended. But they never went together. In earlier days, he had offended her, which drove a wedge between them. So, Tham would slip in when the singing started and leave promptly after the service ended.

Church members shared the gospel story with him, but Tham always politely rejected their invitation to put his faith in Jesus. Still, he kept coming to church.

Our willingness to seek reconciliation with others shows God’s heart to them.
One day Tham fell gravely ill. His daughter plucked up the courage and wrote him a letter. She shared how Christ had changed her life, and she sought reconciliation with her dad. That night, Tham put his faith in Jesus and the family was reconciled. A few days later, Tham died and entered into the presence of Jesus—at peace with God and his loved ones.

The apostle Paul wrote that we are to “try to persuade others” about the truth of God’s love and forgiveness (2 Cor. 5:11). He said that it is “Christ’s love [that] compels us” to carry out His work of reconciliation (v. 14).

Our willingness to forgive may help others realize that God desires to reconcile us to Himself (v. 19). Would you lean on God’s strength to show them His love today?

Is there someone you need to try to reconcile with? What practical first step can you take today?

Our willingness to seek reconciliation with others shows God’s heart to them.

By Poh Fang Chia | See Other Authors
INSIGHT

The “ministry of reconciliation” Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:18 is the story of the gospel. We were alienated from God, but in His mercy and grace He reached out to us. In sending Jesus, the Father extended the greatest offer of peace in human history—the Prince of Peace Himself.
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Old 09-13-2017, 11:33 AM   #2185
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Stay Awhile

Read: Hebrews 11:8–13 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 16–18; 2 Corinthians 6

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Hebrews 11:13

During a discussion of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, a teenager said he prefers his stories in books rather than movies. When asked why, the young man replied, “With a book, I can stay there as long as I want.” There is something to be said for the power of lingering in a book, especially the Bible, and “inhabiting” the stories there.

Hebrews 11, often called “the faith chapter” of the Bible, mentions nineteen people by name. Each one traveled a road of difficulty and doubt, yet chose to obey God. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (v. 13).

Father in heaven, thank You for Your written Word.
How easy it is to rush through our Bible reading without pondering the people and events in the text. Our self-imposed time schedule robs us of going deeper into God’s truth and His plan for our lives. Yet, when we are willing to stay awhile, we find ourselves caught up in the real-life dramas of people like us who chose to stake their lives on God’s faithfulness.

When we open God’s Word, it’s good to recall that we can stay as long as we want.

Father in heaven, thank You for Your written Word and the examples of people who lived by faith. Help us to follow You as they did.


Linger in God’s Word and you'll find stories of faith.

By David C. McCasland | See Other Authors
INSIGHT

Hebrews 11 provides examples of how authentic faith leads to a changed life. Belief and action produce acts of courage and perseverance. As we ponder the deep and impressive faith our spiritual ancestors demonstrated through their actions, it encourages us to follow in their footsteps. The examples of those who have preceded us—those who lived as “foreigners and strangers on earth” (v. 13)—help us to fix our eyes on Jesus (12:2).

As you reflect on today’s reading, how are you inspired in your walk with Christ?

J.R. Hudberg
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Old 09-15-2017, 11:03 AM   #2186
GOLDDUSTERS5703

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What’s Your Father’s Name?

Read: John 8:39–47 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 22–24; 2 Corinthians 8

To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

When I went to buy a cell phone in the Middle East, I was asked the typical questions: name, nationality, address. But then as the clerk was filling out the form, he asked, “What’s your father’s name?” That question surprised me, and I wondered why it was important. Knowing my father’s name would not be important in my culture, but here it was necessary in order to establish my identity. In some cultures, ancestry is important.

The Israelites believed in the importance of ancestry too. They were proud of their patriarch Abraham, and they thought being part of Abraham's clan made them God's children. Their human ancestry was connected, in their opinion, to their spiritual family.

God is our Eternal Father.
Hundreds of years later when Jesus was talking with the Jews, He pointed out that this was not so. They could say Abraham was their earthly ancestor, but if they didn’t love Him—the One sent by the Father—they were not part of God’s family.

The same applies today. We don't choose our human family, but we can decide the spiritual family we belong to. If we believe in Jesus’s name, God gives us the right to become His children (John 1:12).

Who is your spiritual Father? Have you decided to follow Jesus? Let this be the day you trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and become part of God’s family.

Dear Lord, You are my heavenly and eternal Father. Thank You for Jesus, my Savior.

God is our Eternal Father.

By Keila Ochoa | See Other Authors
INSIGHT

The Israelites of Jesus’s day had many Old Testament heroes, but three soared above the rest. David was the great king who established the city of Jerusalem and stabilized the kingdom. Moses was the leader who was given the law of God. He was God’s instrument of deliverance and led the Israelites to the threshold of the land of promise. But their most ancient hero was Abraham—the father of the faithful and the man whose faith was counted to him as righteousness. Jesus, however, surpasses this great heritage, for through Him we become children of God Himself.

Bill Crowder
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Old 09-18-2017, 10:30 AM   #2187
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Watch the Conductor

Read: Hebrews 12:1–3 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 30–31; 2 Corinthians 11:1–15

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1–2

World-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, has an unusual way of leading the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, a forty-four-member chamber orchestra. Instead of waving a baton he directs while playing his Stradivarius with the other violinists. Bell told Colorado Public Radio, “Even while I’m playing I can give them all kinds of direction and signals that I think only they would understand at this point. They know by every little dip in my violin, or raise in my eyebrow, or the way I draw the bow. They know the sound I’m looking for from the entire orchestra.”

Just as the orchestra members watch Joshua Bell, the Bible instructs us to keep our eyes on Jesus our Lord. After listing many heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, the writer says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:1–2).

Let us keep our eyes on Jesus our Savior as He directs our lives.
Jesus promised, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Because He is, we have the amazing privilege of keeping our eyes on Him while He conducts the music of our lives.

Lord, our eyes look to You this day so we may follow Your direction and live in harmony with You.

Let us keep our eyes on Jesus our Savior as He directs our lives.

By David C. McCasland | See Other Authors
INSIGHT

Have you ever walked away from a parent, teacher, coach, or military officer you thought was being too hard on you?

The men and women of faith listed in Hebrews 11 must have wondered at times whether their God was asking more of them than they could possibly give. Yet through doubt, personal failure, and unfulfilled dreams, the Bible gives all of them honorable mention—as witnesses to the faith that has been entrusted to us.

Now it’s our turn. When we face fears, we have the opportunity to follow the One who asks us to trust Him in a way that lifts us above own natural inclinations. This is a moment to remember the lingering witness of Jesus’s own disciples who so often heard the words, “Don’t be afraid.” From the stories of those who have gone before us, we are reminded that it was on a road of faith that Jesus and His witnesses suffered to bring others to God.

Jesus invites us to experience for ourselves the honor of being witnesses to His faithfulness even when we struggle to trust Him.

Mart DeHaan
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Old 09-19-2017, 10:00 AM   #2188
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The Best Portion of All

Read: Psalm 73:21–28 | Bible in a Year: Ecclesiastes 1–3; 2 Corinthians 11:16–33

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Philippians 4:12

“His piece is bigger than mine!”

When I was a boy my brothers and I would sometimes bicker about the size of the piece of homemade pie mom served us. One day Dad observed our antics with a lifted eyebrow, and smiled at Mom as he lifted his plate: “Please just give me a piece as big as your heart.” My brothers and I watched in stunned silence as Mom laughed and offered him the largest portion of all.

When we are His, He is ours, forever.
If we focus on others’ possessions, jealousy too often results. Yet God’s Word lifts our eyes to something of far greater worth than earthly possessions. The psalmist writes, “You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart” (Ps. 119:57–58). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the writer conveyed the truth that nothing matters more than closeness to God.

What better portion could we have than our loving and limitless Creator? Nothing on earth can compare with Him, and nothing can take Him away from us. Human longing is an expansive void; one may have “everything” in the world and still be miserable. But when God is our source of happiness, we are truly content. There’s a space within us only God can fill. He alone can give us the peace that matches our hearts.

Loving Lord, thank You that nothing and no one can meet my every need like You can.

When we are His, He is ours, forever.

You have made us for yourself, Lord. Our hearts are restless until they can find rest in You. Augustine of Hippo

By James Banks | See Other Authors
INSIGHT

In Philippians 4:12, the key verse for today, the apostle Paul says he’s learned the secret of being content. Yet for Paul, life wasn’t easy—especially life as an evangelist. In another letter written by him, Paul lists the many trials he faced: five times he was brutally whipped, three times beaten with rods, and once pelted with stones. He was in danger at sea and on land, was imprisoned several times, and often went without sleep or food (see 2 Cor. 11:23–27). How could Paul be content in such difficult circumstances? What was his “secret”? He wrote, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). Because of the strength God gave him, Paul could be content “whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (v. 12).

Do you struggle with contentment? Ask God to give you the strength to be content in your situation.

Alyson Kieda
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Old 09-20-2017, 10:39 AM   #2189
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Let’s Finish the Race

Read: Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 | Bible in a Year: Ecclesiastes 4–6; 2 Corinthians 12

Two are better than one . . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10

In the 2016 Rio Olympics, two athletes in the 5,000-meter race caught the world’s attention. About 3,200 meters into the race, New Zealander Nikki Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino collided and fell. Abbey was quickly up on her feet, but stopped to help Nikki. Moments after the two athletes had started running again, Abbey began faltering, her right leg injured as a result of the fall. It was now Nikki’s turn to stop and encourage her fellow athlete to finish the race. When Abbey eventually stumbled across the finish line, Nikki was waiting to embrace her. What a beautiful picture of mutual encouragement!

It reminds me of a passage in the Bible: “Two are better than one . . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Eccl. 4:9–10). As runners in a spiritual race, we need one another—perhaps even more so, for we are not racing in competition with each other but as members of the same team. There’ll be moments where we falter and need someone to pick us up; at other times, someone may need our encouragement through our prayers or presence.

The spiritual race is not to be run alone.
The spiritual race is not to be run alone. Is God leading you to be a Nikki or Abbey in someone’s life? Respond to His prompting today, and let’s finish the race!

Dear Lord, thank You for the encouragement of fellow believers to help me on my journey. Help me to look for ways to encourage others.

We need each other to get where God wants us to go.

By Poh Fang Chia | See Other Authors
INSIGHT

Ecclesiastes is a very unusual book. For much of this inspired text, life is examined without God in the picture (1:2). Although the book concludes with moral admonitions (see 12:1–8), the majority of the book has almost a secular feel to it. Yet because King Solomon the Wise is its author, remarkable principles of life surface. Today’s reading blesses the reader with insights on the benefits of meaningful relationships. The journey of life is not to be walked alone but benefits from mutual support of another.

Can you recall a time when God used someone to help you carry your load?

Dennis Fisher
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Old Yesterday, 09:27 AM   #2190
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Sweet and Sour

Read: Job 2:1–10 | Bible in a Year: Ecclesiastes 10–12; Galatians 1



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Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? Job 2:10

When our toddler first bit into a lemon wedge, he wrinkled his nose, stuck out his tongue, and squeezed his eyes shut. “Sow-wah,” he said (sour).

I chuckled as I reached for the piece of fruit, intending to toss it into the trash.

The Lord uses trials to teach us how to trust Him
“No!” Xavier scampered across the kitchen to get away from me. “Moe-wah!” (more). His lips puckered with every juice-squirting bite. I winced when he finally handed me the rind and walked away.

My taste buds accurately reflect my partiality to the sweet moments in life. My preference for avoiding all things bitter reminds me of Job’s wife, who seems to have shared my aversion to the sourness of suffering.

Job surely didn’t delight in hardship or trouble, yet he honored God through heart-wrenching circumstances (Job 1:1–22). When painful sores afflicted Job’s body, he endured the agony (2:7–8). His wife told him to give up on God (v. 9), but Job responded by trusting the Lord through suffering and afflictions (v. 10).

It’s natural to prefer avoiding the bitter bites in life. We can even be tempted to lash out at God when we’re hurting. But the Lord uses trials, teaching us how to trust Him, depend on Him, and surrender to Him as He enables us to persevere through difficult times. And like Job, we don’t have to enjoy suffering to learn to savor the unexpected sweetness of sour moments—the divine strengthening of our faith.

Thank You for assuring us that suffering is never wasted when we place our confidence in who You are, what You’ve done, and what You’re capable of doing.

God uses suffering to strengthen our faith.

By Xochitl Dixon | See Other Authors
INSIGHT

In the ancient story of Job, we see a devout follower of God whose life has been laid bare by financial, family, and physical suffering. The book of Job asks the perennial question, “Why do the righteous suffer?” Job’s ordeals test his devotion to his Redeemer and Provider. Clearly the book shows how God uses suffering to strengthen believers’ faith and refine their character. Job declares, “But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Has God used a trial in your life to refine your character and strengthen your faith?

Dennis Fisher
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