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Old 01-04-2017, 08:59 AM   #2021
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A Multiplied Love

Read: 1 John 4:20–5:5 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 10–12; Matthew 4

Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:21

When a woman in Karen’s church was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), things looked bad. This cruel disease affects nerves and muscles, eventually leading to paralysis. The family’s insurance wouldn’t cover home care, and the stricken woman’s husband couldn’t bear the thought of putting her in a nursing home.

As a nurse, Karen had the expertise to help and began going to the woman’s home to care for her. But she soon realized she couldn’t take care of her own family while meeting the needs of her friend, so she started teaching others in the church to help. As the disease ran its course over the next seven years, Karen trained thirty-one additional volunteers who surrounded that family with love, prayer, and practical assistance.

Ask God to show you how He wants you to use your gifts for His kingdom.
“Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister,” said John the disciple (1 John 4:21). Karen gives us a shining example of that kind of love. She had the skills, compassion, and vision to rally a church family around a hurting friend. Her love for one person in need became a multiplied love lived out by many.

How might God use your talents and abilities to serve others in need? Ask God to show you how He wants you to use your gifts for His kingdom.


To learn more, read God Is Love at discoveryseries.org/q0612.

Love your neighbor as yourself. —Jesus

INSIGHT:
In the gospel of John, Jesus told His disciples that love would be the identifying mark of His followers: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (13:35). He also told them: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (15:10). The connection between these two verses is as simple as it is wonderful: Loving Jesus means keeping His commands, and His command is to love. In fact, John says we cannot do one if we do not do the other. They cannot be separated—we cannot love God in one way and fellow believers in another way. Rather, “Whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).
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Old 01-05-2017, 09:40 AM   #2022
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Listening to God

Read: Genesis 3:8–17 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 13–15; Matthew 5:1–26

The Lord God called . . . “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9

My young son loves to hear my voice, except when I call his name loudly and sternly, followed by the question, “Where are you?” When I do that, I am usually calling for him because he has been into some mischief and is trying to hide from me. I want my son to listen to my voice because I’m concerned about his well-being and do not want him to get hurt.

Adam and Eve were used to hearing God’s voice in the garden. However, after they disobeyed Him by eating the forbidden fruit, they hid from Him when they heard Him calling, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). They didn’t want to face God because they knew they had done something wrong—something He had told them not to do (v. 11).

Thank You, Lord, for Your love and care.
When God called for Adam and Eve and found them in the garden, His words did include correction and consequence (vv. 13–19). But God also showed them kindness and gave them hope for mankind in the promise of the Savior (v. 15).

God doesn’t have to look for us. He knows where we are and what we are trying to hide. But as a loving Father, He wants to speak to our hearts and bring us forgiveness and restoration. He longs for us to hear His voice—and to listen.

Thank You, Lord, for Your love and care. Thank You for sending Your Son, our Savior, to fulfill Your promise of forgiveness and restoration.

When God calls, we need to answer.
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Old 01-06-2017, 08:36 AM   #2023
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Someone to Celebrate


Read: Matthew 2:1–12 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 16–17; Matthew 5:27–48

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Psalm 95:6

Many manger scenes depict the wise men, or magi, visiting Jesus in Bethlehem at the same time as the shepherds. But according to the gospel of Matthew, the only place in Scripture where their story is found, the magi showed up later. Jesus was no longer in the manger in a stable at the inn, but in a house. Matthew 2:11 tells us, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Realizing that the magi’s visit happened later than we may think provides a helpful reminder as we begin a new year. Jesus is always worthy of worship. When the holidays are past and we head back to life’s everyday routines, we still have Someone to celebrate.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. Psalm 95:6
Jesus Christ is Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), in every season. He has promised to be with us “always” (28:20). Because He is always with us, we can worship Him in our hearts every day and trust that He will show Himself faithful in the years to come. Just as the magi sought Him, may we seek Him too and worship Him wherever we are.

Lord Jesus, just as the magi sought You and bowed before You as the coming King, help me to yield my will to You and to follow where You lead.

When we find Christ we offer our worship.

INSIGHT:
The magi were considered wise, not because they were people of great learning but because they searched for Jesus and—having found Him—they worshiped Him as God. That’s what wise people do. The wise are those who fear God and worship Him!
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Old 01-09-2017, 08:18 AM   #2024
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Old Yet New

Read: Revelation 21:1–5 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 23–24; Matthew 7

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new.” Revelation 21:5

In 2014, a sinkhole opened up under the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky, swallowing eight vintage, irreplaceable Chevrolet Corvette sports cars. The automobiles were severely damaged—some beyond repair.

One car in particular received a lot of attention. The one-millionth Corvette, which rolled off the assembly line in 1992, was the most valuable in the collection. What happened to that gem after it was pulled from the sinkhole is fascinating. Experts restored the car to mint condition, mainly by using and repairing its original parts. Although this little beauty was in horrible shape, it now looks as good as it did the day it was built.

The old and damaged was made new.

This is a great reminder of what God has in store for believers in Jesus. In Revelation 21:1, John spoke of seeing “a new heaven and a new earth.” Many biblical scholars see this “new” earth as a renovated earth, for their study of the word new here reveals that it means “fresh” or “restored” after the decay of the old has been wiped away. God will renovate what is corrupt on this earth and provide a fresh, yet familiar place where believers will live with Him.

What an amazing truth to contemplate: a new, refreshed, familiar, and beautiful earth. Imagine the majesty of God’s handiwork!

Lord, we thank You for this beautiful world we live in—but at the same time we anticipate greatly the new world You have in store for us. We praise You for Your love for us, revealed in Your amazing plans for our future.

Our Creator God makes everything new.

INSIGHT:
Those who have undergone a rebirth individually through believing in Christ (John 3:3–5; Titus 3:5) will participate in the future universal makeover of this planet (Matt. 19:28; Acts 3:21). Revelation 21:1–5 refers to three new items—“a new heaven and a new earth,” plus “the new Jerusalem” (v. 2). Christians can be part of that new world as “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). A significant part of Revelation 21:1–5 involves an interlacing of previously announced truths and texts from the Old Testament. Isaiah 48:6 forecasted “new things,” which Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22 expand to “new heavens and a new earth.” What are you especially looking forward to being made new?
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Old 01-10-2017, 08:22 AM   #2025
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Random Acts of Kindness

Read: Ruth 2:8–13 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 25–26; Matthew 8:1–17

“Why have I found such favor [grace] in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” Ruth 2:10

Some say that the American writer Anne Herbert scribbled the phrase “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat at a restaurant in 1982. The sentiment has since been popularized through film and literature and has become a part of our vocabulary.

The question is “Why?” Why should we show kindness? For those who follow Jesus, the answer is clear: To show the tender mercy and kindness of God.

Lord, what do You want me to do for another today? Lead me.
There’s an Old Testament example of that principle in the story of Ruth, the emigrant from Moab. She was a foreigner, living in a strange land whose language and culture she did not understand. Furthermore, she was desperately poor, utterly dependent on the charity of a people who took little notice of her.

There was one Israelite, however, who showed Ruth grace and spoke to her heart (Ruth 2:13). He allowed her to glean in his fields, but more than simple charity, he showed her by his compassion the tender mercy of God, the One under whose wings she could take refuge. She became Boaz’s bride, part of the family of God, and one in a line of ancestors that led to Jesus, who brought salvation to the world (see Matt. 1:1–16).

We never know what one act of kindness, done in Jesus’s name, will do.

Lord, what do You want me to do for another today? Lead me. And may that person see a glimmer of You.


Share your ideas of how you can show kindness in the name of Jesus today at Facebook.com/ourdailybread.

It’s never too soon to be kind.

INSIGHT:
The command to be kind to others is embedded in the Law that God gave to the Jews fresh out of Egypt. God told them, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18). Today, Christ-followers are to “be kind and compassionate to one another” (Eph. 4:32). And the reasons we are to show kindness have not changed: It is because of who God is and what He has done for us. We are to “follow God’s example, . . . and walk in the way of love” (5:1–2).
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:21 AM   #2026
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Work Together

Read: Romans 8:28–30 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 27–28; Matthew 8:18–34

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

My wife makes an amazing pot roast dinner. She takes raw meat, along with raw sliced white and sweet potatoes, celery, mushrooms, carrots, and onions and throws them into the slow cooker. Six or seven hours later the aroma fills the house, and the first taste is a delight. It is always to my advantage to wait until the ingredients in the slow cooker work together to achieve something they could not achieve individually.

When Paul used the phrase “work together” in the context of suffering, he used the word from which we get our word synergy. He wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). He wanted the Romans to know that God, who didn’t cause their suffering, would cause all their circumstances to cooperate with His divine plan—for their ultimate good. The good to which Paul referred was not the temporal blessings of health, wealth, admiration, or success, but being “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (v. 29).

May we wait patiently and confidently before our heavenly Father. He wants to make us like Jesus.
May we wait patiently and confidently because our heavenly Father is taking all the suffering, all the distress, all the evil, and causing them to work together for His glory and our spiritual good. He wants to make us like Jesus.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 1:6, and 1 Peter 5:10. What encouragement did you find for tough times?

The growth we gain from waiting on God is often greater than the answer or result we desire.

INSIGHT:
“All things” (Rom. 8:28) is a phrase that treats the seemingly good and bad events of life as a whole. The idea is that there is a dynamic interaction between the good and bad to bring a desired outcome, though this positive outcome may not yet be visible. If we consider a young man nailed to a cross dying in agony, we might wonder if anything good could be found there. But if we understand that this is Jesus Christ atoning for the sins of those who love Him, we can see how even this terrible event worked together for good. God works for “the good” of those who are true believers in Jesus Christ. They demonstrate the authenticity of their faith because they respond back with love to the One who first loved them (1 John 4:19).
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Old 01-12-2017, 09:27 AM   #2027
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Nothing Hidden

Read: Hebrews 4:12–16 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 29–30; Matthew 9:1–17

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Hebrews 4:13

In 2015 an international research company stated that there were 245 million surveillance cameras installed worldwide, and the number was growing by 15 percent every year. In addition, multiplied millions of people with smartphones capture daily images ranging from birthday parties to bank robberies. Whether we applaud the increased security or denounce the diminished privacy, we live in a global, cameras-everywhere society.

The New Testament book of Hebrews says that in our relationship with God, we experience a far greater level of exposure and accountability than anything surveillance cameras may see. His Word, like a sharp, two-edged sword, penetrates to the deepest level of our being where it “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12–13).

Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Nothing is greater than God’s love.
Because Jesus our Savior experienced our weaknesses and temptations but did not sin, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (vv. 15–16). We don’t need to fear Him but can be assured we’ll find grace when we come to Him.

Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Nothing is greater than God’s love. Nothing is stronger than God’s mercy and grace. Nothing is too hard for God’s power.


Discover how you can develop and maintain a meaningful prayer life. Read Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer at discoveryseries.org/hj891.

No part of our lives is hidden from God’s grace and power.

INSIGHT:
We can be thankful for the Scriptures and all they teach about the wisdom and heart of our Father. His ultimate expression of Himself, however, came in the person of Jesus, who lived in flesh on this earth and showed us all we could ever need to know about our God. Why is it important that God became flesh and lived among us? In Hebrews 4:15-16 how does it help to know we can approach God in “our time of need”?
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Old 01-13-2017, 08:33 AM   #2028
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Remember When

Read: Psalm 126 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 31–32; Matthew 9:18–38





The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

Our son wrestled with drug addiction for seven years, and during that time my wife and I experienced many difficult days. As we prayed and waited for his recovery, we learned to celebrate small victories. If nothing bad happened in a twenty-four-hour period, we would tell each other, “Today was a good day.” That short sentence became a reminder to be thankful for God’s help with the smallest things.

Tucked away in Psalm 126:3 is an even better reminder of God’s tender mercies and what they ultimately mean for us: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” What a great verse to take to heart as we remember Jesus’s compassion for us at the cross! The difficulties of any given day cannot change the truth that come what may, our Lord has already shown us unfathomable kindness, and “his love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1).

When we cannot see God’s hand, we can trust His heart.
When we have lived through a difficult circumstance and discovered that God was faithful, keeping that in mind helps greatly the next time life’s waters turn rough. We may not know how God will get us through our circumstances, but His kindness to us in the past helps us trust that He will.

Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end, our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend. Robert Grant

When we cannot see God’s hand, we can trust His heart.

INSIGHT:
Psalm 126 is a song of happiness on the other side of a broken heart. It celebrates the return of Jewish citizens to Jerusalem after seventy years of Babylonian exile. These lyrics are in striking contrast to Psalm 137 that recalls the tears of their years of captivity: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (v. 1). Does either one of these two songs resonate with you today? Can you remember days when there seemed to be no way forward, until the sun of God’s provision dawned? Maybe the emotions of that moment can be seen in the joy of Psalm 126. Is there ever not a time to remember the God who is with us—to be trusted in our waiting and thanked in song when circumstances seem to shout of His goodness?
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Old 01-16-2017, 08:33 AM   #2029
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The Valley of Blessing

Read: 2 Chronicles 20:1,13–22 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 39–40; Matthew 11

If calamity comes . . . [we] will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us. 2 Chronicles 20:9

French artist Henri Matisse felt his work in the last years of his life best represented him. During that time he experimented with a new style, creating colorful, large-scale pictures with paper instead of paint. He decorated the walls of his room with these bright images. This was important to him because he had been diagnosed with cancer and was often confined to his bed.

Becoming ill, losing a job, or enduring heartbreak are examples of what some call “being in the valley,” where dread overshadows everything else. The people of Judah experienced this when they heard an invading army was approaching (2 Chron. 20:2–3). Their king prayed, “If calamity comes . . . [we] will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us” (v. 9). God responded, “Go out to face [your enemies] tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you” (v. 17).

“Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 20:21
When Judah’s army arrived at the battlefield, their enemies had already destroyed each other. God’s people spent three days collecting the abandoned equipment, clothing, and valuables. Before leaving, they assembled to praise God and named the place “The Valley of Berakah,” which means “blessing.”

God walks with us through the lowest points in our lives. He can make it possible to discover blessings in the valleys.

Dear God, help me not to be afraid when I encounter difficulty. Help me to believe that Your goodness and love will follow me.


Looking for hope in the middle of difficult circumstances? Read Hope: Choosing Faith Instead of Fear at discoveryseries.org/q0733.

God is the master of turning burdens into blessings.
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Old 01-17-2017, 11:10 AM   #2030
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Finding Life

Read: John 14:5–14 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 41–42; Matthew 12:1–23

Because I live, you also will live. John 14:19

The words of Ravi’s father cut deep. “You’re a complete failure. You’re an embarrassment to the family.” Compared to his talented siblings, Ravi was viewed as a disgrace. He tried excelling in sports, and he did, but he still felt like a loser. He wondered, What is going to become of me? Am I a complete failure? Can I get out of life some way, painlessly? These thoughts haunted him, but he talked to no one. That simply wasn’t done in his culture. He had been taught to “keep your private heartache private; keep your collapsing world propped up.”

So Ravi struggled alone. Then while he was recovering in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt, a visitor brought him a Bible opened to John 14. His mother read these words of Jesus to Ravi: “Because I live, you also will live” (v. 19). This may be my only hope, he thought. A new way of living. Life as defined by the Author of life. So he prayed, “Jesus, if You are the one who gives life as it is meant to be, I want it.”

Transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to You alone.
Life can present despairing moments. But, like Ravi, we can find hope in Jesus who is “the way and the truth and the life” (v. 6). God longs to give us a rich and satisfying life.

Dear Lord, I acknowledge that I am a sinner, and I need Your forgiveness. Thank You, Jesus, for dying for me and giving me eternal life. Transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to You alone.


Share this prayer from our Facebook page: Facebook.com/ourdailybread.

Only Jesus can give us new life.

INSIGHT:
On the eve of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, His preoccupation was not with the imminent pain that awaited Him but on the welfare of His disciples. After promising He was going away to prepare a dwelling place for them, Jesus told His followers He would come again to gather them to Himself. The foundation for such claims was Christ’s declaration that He is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He was able to comfort His disciples because of who and what He is. Jesus offers all who believe in Him the same hope of a new life.
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Old 01-18-2017, 08:34 AM   #2031
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Long Shadows

Read: Psalm 100 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 43–45; Matthew 12:24–50

The Lord is good and his love . . . continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5

Several years ago, my wife and I stayed in a rustic bed-and-breakfast in the remote Yorkshire Dales of England. We were there with four other couples, all British, whom we had never met before. Sitting in the living room with our after-dinner coffees, the conversation turned to occupations with the question “What do you do?” At the time I was serving as the president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and I assumed that no one there knew of MBI or its founder, D. L. Moody. When I mentioned the name of the school, their response was immediate and surprising. “Of Moody and Sankey . . . that Moody?” Another guest added, “We have a Sankey hymnal and our family often gathers around the piano to sing from it.” I was amazed! The evangelist Dwight Moody and his musician Ira Sankey had held meetings in the British Isles more than 120 years ago, and their influence was still being felt.

I left the room that night thinking of the ways our lives can cast long shadows of influence for God—a praying mother’s influence on her children, an encouraging coworker’s words, the support and challenge of a teacher or a mentor, the loving but corrective words of a friend. It’s a high privilege to play a role in the wonderful promise that “His love . . . continues through all generations” (Ps. 100:5).

Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Lord, help us to remember that while our lives are short, what we do for You now can have an impact long after we are home with You. Lead me today to invest in the lives of others.

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

INSIGHT:
Many scholars believe Psalm 100 was sung at Israel’s festivals and possibly in connection with a thank offering. It likely functioned as a liturgical conclusion to Psalms 96–99, which proclaim Yahweh’s kingship.

Each of the psalms in this section extols one attribute of God and then leads God’s people to worship Him in light of this attribute. Psalm 96 praises the Lord for His righteous judgment; He will not allow evil and injustice to reign forever. Psalm 97 praises God that He is sovereign, Psalm 98 praises Him for His salvation, and Psalm 99 for His holiness.

Together, Psalms 96–100 construct a movement of praise that culminates with a call for the whole earth to sing praise to God—the sovereign, holy, and righteous One who will judge the earth. How can you express praise today for God's faithfulness that will bear witness for future generations?
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Old 01-19-2017, 12:29 PM   #2032
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A Treasure to be Shared


Read: 2 Corinthians 4:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 46–48; Matthew 13:1–30

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

In March 1974, Chinese farmers were digging a well when they made a surprising discovery: Buried under the dry ground of central China was the Terracotta Army—life-size terracotta sculptures that dated back to the third century bc. In this extraordinary find were some 8,000 soldiers, 150 cavalry horses, and 130 chariots drawn by 520 horses. The Terracotta Army has become one of the most popular tourist sites in China, attracting over a million visitors annually. This amazing treasure lay hidden for centuries but is now being shared with the world.

The apostle Paul wrote that followers of Christ have a treasure inside them that is to be shared with the world: “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure" (2 Cor. 4:7 nlt). The treasure inside us is the message of Christ and His love.

Let others see your testimony as well as hear it.
This treasure is not to be hidden but is to be shared so that by God’s love and grace people of every nation can be welcomed into His family. May we, through His Spirit’s working, share that treasure with someone today.

The good news of Jesus is too wonderful to keep to myself, Father. May I live the gospel and share it with others throughout my journey with You, Lord.


Share your ideas with others about ways to be a light for Jesus. Go to Facebook.com/ourdailybread.

Let others see your testimony as well as hear it.

INSIGHT:
God’s story of redemption hinges on the incarnation—from the Latin wording that means “taking on flesh.” Incarnation simply means that God provided the perfect and final rescue for humans by becoming a human Himself. Jesus gave all who would follow Him the mission of carrying His message of life, hope, and rescue to the world. God has chosen to keep the treasure of the gospel, the light of Christ, in common vessels—His followers, the people of God. When we experience His power at work in our lives, we carry His kingdom message of grace, healing, newness, and love. We demonstrate the all-surpassing power of God to the world as He incarnates the treasure of Christ’s life in ours every day (v. 7).
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Old 01-20-2017, 09:42 AM   #2033
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Breath of Life

Read: Genesis 2:4–8 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 49–50; Matthew 13:31–58

Then the Lord God . . . breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Genesis 2:7

On a cold and frosty morning, as my daughter and I walked to school, we enjoyed seeing our breath turn to vapor. We giggled at the various steamy clouds we could each produce. I received the moment as a gift, reveling in being with her and being alive.

Our breath, which is usually invisible, was seen in the cold air, and it made me think about the Source of our breath and life—the Lord our Creator. For He who formed Adam out of the dust of the ground, giving him the breath of life, also gives life to us and to every living creature (Gen. 2:7). All things come from Him—even our very breath, which we inhale without even thinking about.

Jesus, we praise You and stand in awe of You.
We may be tempted, living with today’s conveniences and technology, to forget our beginnings and that God is the one who gives us life. But when we pause to remember that God is our Creator, we can build an attitude of thankfulness into our daily routines. We can ask Him for help and acknowledge the gift of life with humble, thankful hearts. May our gratitude spill out and touch others, so that they also may give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness.

Dear heavenly Father, what an awesome and powerful God You are! You created life by Your very breath. We praise You and stand in awe of You. Thank You for Your creation.

Give thanks to God, our Creator, who gives us the breath of life.



INSIGHT:
Who hasn’t found themselves taking the unexplainable mysteries of life for granted? Who doesn’t obsess from time to time over what we don’t have, rather than treasuring the breath of life given to us by an all-wise God who has chosen to share His life and joy with us? According to the great story of the Bible, that’s why our Creator breathed His own life into a handful of earth. He wants to share His eternal existence, His love, His joy with us. That’s why He came to our rescue and offers us a restored relationship with Him through Jesus Christ—a life of forgiveness and hope.
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Old 01-23-2017, 08:22 AM   #2034
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Lack Nothing

Read: Mark 6:7–12 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 7–8; Matthew 15:1–20

God is able to bless you abundantly, so that . . . you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Imagine going on a trip without luggage. No basic necessities. No change of clothing. No money or credit cards. Sounds both unwise and terrifying, doesn’t it?

But that’s exactly what Jesus told His twelve disciples to do when He sent them out on their first mission to preach and heal. “Take nothing for the journey except a staff,” said Jesus. “No bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt” (Mark 6:8–9).

You are good, Lord, and all You do is good.
Yet later on when Jesus was preparing them for their work after He was gone, He told His disciples, “If you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

So, what’s the point here? It’s about trusting God to supply.

When Jesus referred back to that first trip, He asked the disciples, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” And they answered, “Nothing” (v. 35). The disciples had everything they needed to carry out what God had called them to do. He was able to supply them with the power to do His work (Mark 6:7).

Do we trust God to supply our needs? Are we also taking personal responsibility and planning? Let’s have faith that He will give us what we need to carry out His work.

You are good, Lord, and all You do is good. Help us in our endeavors to pray and to plan and to trust You.

God’s will done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission

INSIGHT:
We have a wonderful example of a believer in the early church who hosted and supported the workers the apostle John sent out to spread the gospel. Although these visiting itinerant teachers were strangers to him, Gaius provided a place for them to stay, gave them food to eat, and supported their ministry. Commending Gaius for his hospitality and generosity, John wrote, “You are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you” (3 John 1:5–6 nlt). We can trust God to supply what we need to serve where He has called us. And we can be partners with others as they teach the truth by praying and providing for them financially and practically.
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Old 01-24-2017, 09:01 AM   #2035
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Not In Vain


Read: 1 Corinthians 15:50–58 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 9–11; Matthew 15:21–39

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

A financial advisor I know describes the reality of investing money by saying, “Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.” With almost every decision we make in life there is uncertainty about the outcome. Yet there is one course we can follow where no matter what happens, we know that in the end it will not be a wasted effort.

The apostle Paul spent a year with the followers of Jesus in Corinth, a city known for its moral corruption. After he left, he urged them in a follow-up letter not to be discouraged or feel that their witness for Christ was of no value. He assured them that a day is coming when the Lord will return and even death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15:52–55).

Remaining true to Jesus may be difficult, but it is never pointless or wasted.
Remaining true to Jesus may be difficult, discouraging, and even dangerous, but it is never pointless or wasted. As we walk with the Lord and witness to His presence and power, our lives are not in vain! We can be sure of that.

Lord, in these days of uncertainty, we hold fast to Your promise that our labor for You will accomplish Your purpose and be of great value in Your eyes.

Our life and witness for Jesus Christ are not in vain.

INSIGHT:
In the fourth century, John Chrysostom, a church leader who served in Constantinople, reflected the same expectation of the return of Christ we hold today. Imagine living in the ancient city of Constantinople. To the west, barbarian tribes threaten to attack Rome, which for centuries has been the center of the vast Roman Empire. Your city is not currently under attack, but you face the challenges people of the ancient world experienced without the assistance of modern medicine and mechanical devices to make life easier. Yet above it all, Chrysostom preaches to the people about the return of Christ. To ears who listened then, the hope of Christ’s return stirred the soul as it still does today. How does the promise of Christ’s return give you hope and encouragement in your service for Christ?
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Old 01-25-2017, 09:54 AM   #2036
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Thunder and Lightning
Read: Psalm 29 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 12–13; Matthew 16
The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. Psalm 29:7

Many years ago a friend and I were fishing a series of beaver ponds when it started to rain. We took cover under a nearby grove of quaking aspen, but the rain continued to fall. So we decided to call it a day and run for the truck. I had just opened the door when lightning struck the aspen grove with a thunderous fireball that stripped leaves and bark off the trees, leaving a few limbs smoldering. And then there was silence.

We were shaken and awed.

Grant me Your peace and the strength to walk through this day.
Lightning flashes and thunder rolls across our Idaho valley. I love it—despite my close call. I love the raw power. Voltage! Percussion! Shock and awe! The earth and everything in it trembles and shakes. And then there is peace.

I love lightning and thunder primarily because they are symbols of God's voice (Job 37:4), speaking with stupendous, irresistible power through His Word. “The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning . . . The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Ps. 29:7, 11). He gives strength to endure, to be patient, to be kind, to sit quietly, to get up and go, to do nothing at all.

May the God of peace be with you.

Calm my spirit in the storms, Lord. Grant me Your peace and the strength to walk through this day.

Faith connects our weakness to God's strength.

INSIGHT:
Psalm 29:3 says, “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders.” The Lord is called “the God of glory”; therefore, in keeping with God’s character, we should “ascribe to the Lord glory” (v. 1). The appropriate reaction to whatever is genuinely awesome is to be awe-filled. What do you remember as being breathtaking or awesome? What response did it evoke?
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Old 01-26-2017, 11:20 AM   #2037
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All Too Human

Read: Romans 7:14–25 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 14–15; Matthew 17

The trouble is with me, for I am all too human. Romans 7:14 NLT

British writer Evelyn Waugh wielded his words in a way that accentuated his character flaws. Eventually the novelist converted to Christianity, yet he still struggled. One day a woman asked him, “Mr. Waugh, how can you behave as you do and still call yourself a Christian?” He replied, “Madam, I may be as bad as you say. But believe me, were it not for my religion, I would scarcely be a human being.”

Waugh was waging the internal battle the apostle Paul describes: “I want to do what is right, but I can’t” (Rom. 7:18 nlt). He also says, “The trouble is not with the law . . . [It] is with me, for I am all too human” (v. 14 nlt). He further explains, “In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me . . . . Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (vv. 22–24). And then the exultant answer: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25).

Teach us to rely on Your Holy Spirit. Make us more like Your Son each day.
When we come in faith to Christ, admitting our wrongdoing and need of a Savior, we immediately become a new creation. But our spiritual formation remains a lifelong journey. As John the disciple observed: “Now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But . . . when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).



Father, we bring our struggles to You because You know all about them, yet You love us anyway. Teach us to rely on Your Holy Spirit. Make us more like Your Son each day.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. C. S. Lewis

INSIGHT:
Although we are saved by grace, we often struggle to live up to our position as children of God. However, we can turn to Christ and find His sufficient help and grace to move beyond our worst selves and to stand in Him (vv. 24–25). How does it give you confidence to know that God is still at work in your life?
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Old 01-27-2017, 11:39 AM   #2038
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Unseen Heroes

Read: Exodus 17:8–15 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 16–18; Matthew 18:1–20

Aaron and Hur held [Moses’s] hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. Exodus 17:12

Stories in the Bible can make us stop and wonder. For instance, when Moses led God’s people to the Promised Land and the Amalekites attacked, how did he know to go to the top of the hill and hold up God’s staff? (Ex. 17:8–15). We aren’t told, but we learn that when Moses raised his hands, the Israelites would win the battle, and when he lowered them, the Amalekites would win. When Moses got tired, his brother Aaron and another man, Hur, held up Moses’s arms so the Israelites could triumph.

We aren’t told much about Hur, but he played a crucial role at this point in Israel’s history. This reminds us that unseen heroes matter, that supporters and those who encourage leaders play a key and often overlooked role. Leaders may be the ones mentioned in the history books or lauded on social media, but the quiet, faithful witness of those who serve in other ways is not overlooked by the Lord. He sees the person who intercedes daily in prayer for friends and family. He sees the woman who puts away the chairs each Sunday in church. He sees the neighbor who reaches out with a word of encouragement.

Dear Father, thank You for creating me and gifting me in my own unique way.
God is using us, even if our task feels insignificant. And may we notice and thank any unseen heroes who help us.

Dear Father, thank You for creating me and gifting me in my own unique way. Help me to serve You and others faithfully and to appreciate those You have sent to help me.

Unseen heroes are always seen by God.

INSIGHT:
In Exodus 17, it’s interesting that the task of holding Moses’s hands in the air did not fall only to Moses. Moses needed Aaron and Hur’s aid. It seems that the need for help is part of the point of the story. The entire army and the nation of Israel itself were depending on him. If he had failed—and on his own, this was virtually a guarantee—Israel would have lost the battle and many people would have died. Perhaps the dramatic moment when Moses realized his need for help prepared him for applying this lesson to his life. The leadership of the nation was too much responsibility for him alone. He needed help (see Exodus 18). The battle with the Amalekites reminds us of the reality that we do not, cannot, and need not stand alone.
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Old 01-30-2017, 09:57 AM   #2039
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Rebuilding

Read: Nehemiah 2:11–18 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 23–24; Matthew 20:1–16

Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. Nehemiah 2:17

When Edward Klee returned to Berlin after being away for many years, the city he remembered and loved was no longer there. It had changed dramatically, and so had he. Writing in Hemispheres magazine, Klee said, “Returning to a city you once loved tends to be a hit-or-miss proposition . . . . It can be a letdown.” Going back to the places of our past may produce a feeling of sorrow and loss. We are not the same person we were then, nor is the place that was so significant in our lives exactly as it was.

Nehemiah had been in exile from the land of Israel for many years when he learned of the desperate plight of his people and the devastation in the city of Jerusalem. He received permission from Artaxerxes, the Persian king, to return and rebuild the walls. After a night reconnaissance to examine the situation (Neh. 2:13–15), Nehemiah told the inhabitants of the city, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (v. 17).

Thank You, Lord, for the work You are doing in us and through us.

We cannot change the past, but God is changing us for the future.

It is our faith in Christ and His power that enables us to look ahead and move forward.
Nehemiah did not return to reminisce but to rebuild. It’s a powerful lesson for us as we consider the damaged parts of our past that need repair. It is our faith in Christ and His power that enables us to look ahead, move forward, and rebuild.
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Old 01-31-2017, 08:28 AM   #2040
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The Talking Tree

Read: Colossians 1:15–20 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 25–26; Matthew 20:17–34

"He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross. 1 Peter 2:24

One of the earliest Christian poems in English literature is “The Dream of the Rood.” The word rood comes from the Old English word rod or pole and refers to the cross on which Christ was crucified. In this ancient poem the crucifixion story is retold from the perspective of the cross. When the tree learns that it is to be used to kill the Son of God, it rejects the idea of being used in this way. But Christ enlists the help of the tree to provide redemption for all who will believe.

In the garden of Eden, a tree was the source of the forbidden fruit that our spiritual parents tasted, causing sin to enter the human race. And when the Son of God shed His blood as the ultimate sacrifice for all of humanity’s sin, He was nailed to a tree on our behalf. Christ “bore our sins in his body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24).

The cross is the turning point for all who trust Christ for salvation.
The cross is the turning point for all who trust Christ for salvation. And ever since the crucifixion, it has become a remarkable symbol that represents the sacrificial death of the Son of God for our deliverance from sin and death. The cross is the inexpressibly wonderful evidence of God’s love for us.

Lord, may my heart give You praise whenever I see a cross, for You gave Yourself for me in love.

Christ gave His life on the tree for our salvation.

INSIGHT:
Some experts in New Testament studies suspect that the poetic structure and inspiring thoughts of Colossians 1:15–20 reflect the lyrics of a first-century song of worship. Paul must have often sung about Jesus, the Peacemaker who changed his life by returning good for evil when He bore the sins of the world. Do you have anyone you would consider an enemy? If so, you probably know why Jesus’s example stands in such contrast to our normal human inclinations. The God who created and sustains the cosmos is the same God who chose to reconcile Himself to His enemies. Rather than turning on those who had done such evil to Him, our resurrected Creator reached out to say, I still love you. Come to me. Trust me, and I will forgive you and adopt you into my eternal family.
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