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Daily Devotion

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OUR BIGGEST PROBLEM
December 13, 2022
“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.” – Romans 3:21 NLT
What do you think is our biggest problem?

Some say, “It’s a lack of education.”

Education is vitally important, for when education is not available, mankind suffers greatly.

But that’s not the biggest problem.

Others say, “Well, it’s poverty. That’s where the biggest problems lie.”

Poverty is a huge mountain to overcome, yet the wealthy are also eaten up with greed, lust, materialism, divorce, dysfunctional families, emptiness, and on and on.

Others would say, “It is prejudice. It’s racism, hatred, or contempt for our fellowman.”

No doubt, this is a huge problem all over the world. Prejudice certainly has a negative impact on the world in which we live, but it is not our major problem.

So what is it?

Our biggest problem is sin.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “I knew it! Those preachers, that’s all they talk about. Putting guilt on folks, always talking about sin.”

I know some of you think we probably vote on all the sins we must preach on the most. That is not the case.

In Romans 1:18-3:23, the Word of God is very clear that man’s major problem is sin. Read it for yourself!

So if our biggest problem is sin, what is the solution?

The solution is Jesus.

And here’s the good news for all of us sinners. Jesus paid the incredible price to pay the penalty for our sins and, in the process, offers forgiveness when we repent and believe who He is and what He has done.

When we do this and invite Him into our lives, we receive the righteousness of God – not because of what we have done but because of who Jesus is and what He has done.

Do you get it? The Good News of the gospel is good news for our biggest problem!


Written by Bryant Wright, Founder, RFTH
 

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CHRISTMAS FROM ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE
December 14, 2022
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost sinner, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 1:15-17
When we speak of Christmas in Biblical terms, we’re often flipping to the New Testament books of Matthew, Luke, and John.

But today, we’re going to look at it from Paul’s perspective. Now, Paul wasn’t around when Jesus was born, nor was he involved in the earthly ministry of Jesus. And, he most certainly didn’t see Jesus on the cross or at the empty tomb. So, his perspective is a little different from that of the gospels.

First, I want you to think about the worst sinner you can possibly imagine.

Who comes to mind? As you give that some thought, if anyone other than yourself comes to mind – then your heart is probably not quite in tune with God. Why? Because the further a person is from God, the more we tend to feel pretty good about ourselves. As we compare our lives to others, it’s easier for self-righteousness to take root. On the other hand, the closer a person is to Christ, the more we’re aware of our sinfulness.

In comparing our life to Christ, we realize just how great He is!

We realize that we can never measure up.

Well, okay – but what does all this have to do with Christmas and Paul? Paul is about to tell us. “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance,” Paul begins. This means we better be paying attention to what comes next because Paul wants us to realize that the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was to save us from our sins.

Now, we can all think of a multitude of things Jesus’ coming reveals to us. It showed us God’s character and love, God’s compassion and mercy for the poor, His love for the sick, for the hurting, and for those in need of ministry. And Jesus’ coming revealed how God wants us to live. Yet, the main reason that Jesus was born was to save you and me from our sins.

So, as we begin to study the birth of Jesus from Paul’s point of view, what is the first thing to remember?

Remember that Jesus was born in Bethlehem to be our Savior.

If you think someone else’s sins are worse than yours, think again.

Each of us is the worst sinner we’ve ever known.

Yet, in spite of it all, God loves us so much that He sent us His Son to save us from ourselves.


That, my friends, is the best news ever!


Written by Bryant Wright, Founder, RFTH
 

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December 16
Legacy of Faith
Bible in a Year:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice.

2 Timothy 1:5
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 Timothy 1:3–5
In 2019, research exploring the spiritual heritage of believers in Jesus in the United States revealed that mothers and grandmothers have a significant influence on spiritual development. Nearly two-thirds of people who claim a legacy of faith credited their mother, and one-third acknowledged that a grandparent (usually a grandmother) also played a significant role.
The report’s editor remarked, “Over and over, this study speaks to the enduring impact of mothers in . . . spiritual development.” It’s an impact we also discover in Scripture.
In Paul’s letter to his protégé Timothy, he acknowledged that Timothy’s faith was modeled to him by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). It’s a delightful personal detail highlighting the impact of two women on one of the leaders of the early church. Their influence can also be seen in Paul’s encouragement to Timothy: “continue in what you have learned [because] from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures” (3:14–15).
A strong spiritual heritage is a precious gift. But even if our upbringing lacked the kind of positive influences that helped form Timothy’s faith, there are likely others in our life who’ve had a profound impact in helping to shape our spiritual development. Most important, we all have the opportunity to model sincere faith to those around us and leave a lasting legacy.
By: Lisa M. Samra
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Reflect & Pray
Who’s had a significant impact on your spiritual development? How can you encourage others in faith?
Father, thank You for the men and women in my life that have modeled sincere faith.
 

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JESUS STORIES
January 03, 2023
‘And Jesus said to them, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”’– Matthew 28: 19a & 20

Jesus told a lot of stories.

God’s Word uses the term “parables,” but that really just means stories that convey a deeper lesson or wisdom. These stories were simple enough for a child to grasp and yet full of insight and depth to capture the attention of even highly educated leaders of the day. Teaching through stories was common in the first century, as only the educated and elite were literate.

But what made these stories so powerful? Jesus spoke the language of the people. He didn’t use words and concepts only the religious elite would understand. No, He spoke in ways that connected with the day’s culture and turned their worldview on its head.

Jesus spoke of God’s relentless love through the story of a shepherd leaving his flock to seek out a single lost sheep (Luke 15). He spoke of the magnitude of God’s forgiveness and redemption by portraying a father’s love towards his rebellious son returning home after having squandered his inheritance (Luke 15: 11-32).

Jesus even taught the importance of living with an eternal perspective rather than focusing solely on the momentary pleasures of the day through the story of a rich man who stored up his “wealth” in giant barns, only to leave it all behind at the end of his life (Luke 12: 15-21).

As followers of Jesus, we, too, are called to share the truth of Jesus with others in a language and in ways that are understood. One way to do that is through stories.

What Jesus story can you tell? You might want to start with the story of how He changed your life.

We would love to know your story!


Written by Bryant Wright, Founder, RFTH
 

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January 4
New Vision
Bible in a Year:

I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Isaiah 43:18–21
Wearing my new eyeglasses as I stepped into the sanctuary, I sat down and spotted a friend sitting directly across the aisle on the other side of the church. As I waved at her, she looked so near and clear. It felt like I could reach out and touch her even though she was several yards away. Later, as we talked following the service, I realized she was in the same seat she always sat in. I simply could see her better because of an upgraded prescription in my new spectacles.
God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, knew that the Israelites stuck in Babylonian captivity would need a new prescription—a new view. He told them. “I am doing a new thing! . . . I am making a way in the wilderness” (Isaiah 43:19). And His message of hope included the reminders that He had “created” them, “redeemed” them, and would be with them. “You are mine,” He encouraged them (v. 1).
In whatever you’re facing today, the Holy Spirit can provide better vision for you to put the old behind you and look for the new. By God’s love (v. 4), it’s popping up all around you. Can you see what He’s doing in the midst of your pain and bondage? Let’s put on our new spiritual glasses to see the new that God is doing even in our wilderness moments.
By: Katara Patton
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Reflect & Pray
What new things do you see cropping up even in your wilderness? How can adjusting your vision help you focus on the new rather than the past?
God of new beginnings, thank You for all Your promises. Help me to see the new that You bring about even in my wilderness moments.
For further study, read When God Says No—Broken Dreams to New Beginnings.
 

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LIVE A LIFE OF INFLUENCE EVEN AT WORK
January 04, 2023
“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds…In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” Daniel 1: 17, 20
Can you live boldly in faith while respecting a culture and society that want nothing to do with God?

Daniel went from being a Hebrew captive to being an influential advisor to kings in both the Babylonian (modern-day Iraq) and later Persian (modern-day Iran) empires. God used the life of Daniel to demonstrate how we too can live a life of influence and faith, even when worldviews clash (Daniel chapter 1).

So, what can we learn from Daniel?

  1. Focus on pleasing God more than man. No matter what, Daniel wasn’t going to compromise his faith and disregard God’s instructions on how to live. Yet, at the same time, he showed tremendous respect to those in authority. As a result, Daniel gained their respect in return.
  2. Respect is earned by being faithful in the day-to-day. Even though Daniel’s beliefs and values were different from those in authority, Daniel earned their respect because of his consistent work ethic, his trustworthiness, and his results.
  3. Gentleness is STRENGTH under control. Too often, gentleness is seen as a weakness when in fact, it requires tremendous strength to remain humble and respectful when confronted with a leader’s opposing worldview.
How can Christ-followers live a faithful life in a world that is walking further away from Biblical beliefs and values?

Live like Daniel – a young man who earned incredible influence through a faith lived out in humility.

You can do this!

And not only can you influence the lives of others, but your life will also be enriched!

Written by Bryant Wright, Founder, RFTH

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A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF HEALING
January 08, 2023
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” Matthew 4:23
Why are some people miraculously healed while others are not?

Honestly, I don’t know. That’s just a part of trusting that God’s plan is bigger and more complete than our own. Still, the concept of healing is difficult even for the most faithful follower of Jesus.

So how can we better understand how and why God heals?

A while back, I read a fascinating article in Christianity Today by British pastor Andrew White addressing this healing subject. White and his church have witnessed some miraculous healings over the years, yet despite countless prayers seeking healing for his own two children, nothing happened. They remained autistic.

As a parent, that might be difficult to accept, yet his conclusion remains that God always heals.

Now, you may be thinking, “How can he believe this?”

Well, let’s dig a little deeper. In the article, White identifies four ways that God chooses to heal:

  1. The body heals itself because of the way that God has designed the intricacies of the immune system to work within the context of the body.
  2. God supernaturally heals in a way that medical science cannot explain.
  3. God uses medical science to enhance the healing process, such as performing surgery to repair something inside the body or putting a broken leg into a cast.
  4. “In the Twinkling of an eye” is White’s fourth kind of healing which refers to the new, resurrected body that all followers of Jesus are promised when Christ returns for His church. When that happens, our bodies will be brand new – free from sickness, pain, and even death. And this, my friend, is healing that lasts forever.
Andrew White not only came to the conclusion that God always heals, but he also surmised that God’s answer to a believer’s prayer for healing is never No, but Yes, or Not Yet.

And that is how we need to approach healing. It’s about coming to God in faith and trusting Him with the results of how He chooses to bring about healing in our lives.


Written by Bryant Wright, Founder, RFTH

 

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January 10
The God Who Redeems
Bible in a Year:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.

Isaiah 43:1
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Isaiah 43:1–7
As part of a sermon illustration, I walked toward the beautiful painting an artist had been creating on the platform and made a dark streak across the middle of it. The congregation gasped in horror. The artist simply stood by and watched as I defaced what she’d created. Then, selecting a new brush, she lovingly transformed the ruined painting into an exquisite work of art.
Her restorative work reminds me of the work God can perform in our lives when we’ve made a mess of them. The prophet Isaiah rebuked the people of Israel for their spiritual blindness and deafness (Isaiah 42:18–19), but then he proclaimed the hope of God’s deliverance and redemption: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you” (43:1). He can do the same for us. Even after we’ve sinned, if we confess our sins and turn to God, He forgives and restores us (vv. 5–7; see 1 John 1:9). We can’t bring beauty out of the mess, but Jesus can. The good news of the gospel is that He has redeemed us by His blood. The book of Revelation assures us that in the end, Christ will dry our tears, redeem our past, and make all things new (Revelation 21:4–5).
We have a limited vision of our story. But God who knows us “by name” (Isaiah 43:1) will make our lives more beautiful than we could ever imagine. If you’ve been redeemed by faith in Jesus, your story, like the painting, has a glorious ending.
By: Glenn Packiam
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Reflect & Pray
How have you messed up? What has God provided for your restoration and redemption?
Dear Jesus, thank You for never giving up on me. I surrender to You and ask that You please redeem what I’ve ruined.
 

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January 11
Out of the Lions’ Den
Bible in a Year:

My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.

Daniel 6:22
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Daniel 6:10–23
When Taher and his wife, Donya, became believers in Jesus, they knew they risked persecution in their home country. Indeed, one day Taher was blindfolded, handcuffed, imprisoned, and charged with apostasy. Before he appeared at trial, he and Donya agreed that they wouldn’t betray Jesus.
What happened at the sentencing amazed him. The judge said, “I don’t know why, but I want to take you out of the whale’s and lion’s mouths.” Then Taher “knew that God was acting”; he couldn’t otherwise explain the judge referencing two passages in the Bible (see Jonah 2; Daniel 6). Taher was released from prison and the family later found exile elsewhere.
Taher’s surprising release echoes the story of Daniel. A skilled administrator, he was going to be promoted, which made his colleagues jealous (Daniel 6:3–5). Plotting his downfall, they convinced King Darius to pass a law against praying to anyone other than the king—which Daniel ignored. King Darius had no choice but to throw him to the lions (v. 16). But God “rescued Daniel” and saved him from death (v. 27), even as He saved Taher through the judge’s surprising release.
Many believers today suffer for following Jesus, and sometimes they even are killed. When we face persecution, we can deepen our faith when we understand that God has ways we can’t even imagine. Know that He’s with you in whatever battles you face.
By: Amy Boucher Pye
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Reflect & Pray
How do you respond to the story of Taher and Donya’s commitment to Christ? How can you trust in the unlimited power of God?
Saving God, help me to trust in You when the obstacles feel insurmountable.


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3 TRUTHS TO HELP YOU GROW IN GENTLENESS
January 11, 2023
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:
Recently, one of my children faced a disappointing set of circumstances. He had worked hard, done his best, and put a lot of emotional energy into this particular thing, and it didn’t work out the way he had hoped. And as we were trying to sort through all those emotions, it occurred to me that this scenario was one we all face to varying degrees throughout our whole lives.

Despite our best efforts, we get disappointed. And in light of that, whether we’re 7 or 70, here is what seems like a good principle to remember:

Much of life is about what you do next.

That’s because we will always have circumstances that don’t go how we think they should. And we can’t control that. What we can control, however, is how we react. We can control how we treat the person who has blown up at us, the friend we thought we could trust. And one of the words the Bible uses to describe how we should react in these circumstances is gentleness:

  • Gentleness is one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • We are told to let our gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).
  • We are to clothe ourselves with characteristics like gentleness (Colossians 3:12).
The Christian is to be gentle, but that’s a hard thing. Especially when things aren’t going our way, and the temptation is to be angry. Hurt. Entitled. Bitter. So how can we grow in this attribute? Perhaps by remembering a few truths like these:

1. No one is finished.

One of the hardest times to be gentle is when someone else is not being gentle with you. It’s easiest at that moment to react in kind – to treat anger with anger. But to help us grow in gentleness, we should remember that the person who treated us so roughly is still in process.

Those people that are hard to be around? Or annoying? God is working in them, and He’s not done yet. No matter what group we come from, our personalities, and our struggles, the thing we have in common if we are in Christ, is that we are on the same journey. God is working in us all and moving us all toward Christlikeness. We should embrace these people who, along with us, are moving steadily toward who God has made us to be in Christ.

2. There is more to the story.

Another truth that can help us react more gently is that the person we have just interacted with has much more going on in his or her life than this particular interaction.

Who knows what their day has been like? Or their month? Or year? Who knows the extent of the pain, difficulty, or anxiety they are carrying around? We certainly don’t. Remembering that there is always more to the story helps us treat that person gently.

3. God is gentle with you.

But the greatest truth to help us grow in gentleness is reflecting on how gentle God has been with us. We are sinners, each and every one of us. We wrong God countless times every day, yet His grace never dies. He is patient and gentle with us. Just as others are on a journey toward Christlikeness, so are we, and it is a slow road.

You see, God is moving us along our journey at a good, steady pace. The next time we feel that anger bubbling inside us, we would do well to remember just how slowly and gently our patient Father God has been with us. Then we can reach for that love rather than a sense of entitled anger.

And the result?

We can react with more gentleness.


Written by Michael Kelley, Guest Contributor

To read more of Michael’s writing, check out his daily blog,
Forward Progress http://michaelkelley.co/
 

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THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF RADICAL LOVE
January 12, 2023
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
Matthew 5: 46 & 47

Followers of Christ are called to be different, to live lives that are distinct – transforming.

Why?

Because Christ’s message was radical.

To love the people who love us, who look and act and think like us – that’s normal. But Jesus called us to love our enemies, which was a radical statement.

How is something so unnatural even possible?

There’s an incredible story Nick Ripkin tells in the book Insanity of God about a Muslim man in the Middle East. A Christian ministry opened a health clinic in this man’s community, and each day he would curse and insult the staff as they passed by his shop on their way to work. He did just about everything he could to undermine the clinic until, one day, he was diagnosed with cancer. Slowly his friends began to abandon him until the only people who cared for him were the clinic’s staff. They reached out to the same man who had cursed them, taking care of him and offering him medical care. Towards the end of his life, this man gave his life to Christ – all because of the radical love he encountered in Christ Jesus.

But the story doesn’t end there. This man’s family was so impacted by how the staff ministered and cared for him that his wife became a bold, outspoken follower of Jesus. In fact, she was so outspoken that she was put in prison. Undeterred, she continued to share about Jesus with the other prisoners until she was moved to solitary confinement. Even when isolated from every other person, she was heard singing praises to God. Finally, the police chief released her and asked her to explain what made her so fearless. (How did she explain?)

What a witness!

Can you see the ripple effect of radical love?

The love of Christ is a radical love that transforms lives – IF we are courageous enough to live differently.

I pray every day that I’m that courageous.

How about you?


Written by Bryant Wright, Founder, RFTH
 

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WE ARE JUST PASSING THROUGH
January 15, 2023
“Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when He judges the world.” 1 Peter 2:11-12
For over 200 years, biblical values were the accepted moral standard for most Americans.

Of course, that didn’t mean that people always lived up to them. They didn’t and still don’t – because no one is perfect – but it was the accepted standard.

Today things are very different. And while this causes fear among many Christians who have watched society radically change, God isn’t surprised. In fact, God’s Word speaks straight to the heart of the morality battle in our country and around the world.

Don’t forget! God reminds us: You are aliens. You are strangers. You are foreigners in the nations where you live (My paraphrase).

For followers of Jesus, our primary citizenship is in the kingdom of God. This world is but a short stop on the way to heaven.

And because of that, we will not always agree with everything culture has to offer. We will not always be in sync with the majority of popular worldviews. And that’s ok because our eternal citizenship is not in this world.

So how do we navigate the tension created when popular culture contradicts our Biblical values?

We focus on living a life that pleases God rather than others. This doesn’t mean we judge, condemn, and hate; rather, we live lives of purity, goodness, and love according to the teachings of the Word of God. In doing so, our lives will reflect Jesus.

And who knows? Some may recognize genuine goodness in us and want what we have.

With that big picture in mind, even this short, temporary passing through of this life takes on an eternal purpose and meaning.


Written by Bryant Wright, Founder, RFTH
 

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January 17
Never Late
Bible in a Year:

Your brother will rise again.

John 11:23
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
John 11:17–27
As a visitor to a small West African town, my American pastor made sure to arrive on time for a 10 a.m. Sunday service. Inside the humble sanctuary, however, he found the room empty. So he waited. One hour. Two hours. Finally, about 12:30 p.m., when the local pastor arrived after his long walk there—followed by some choir members and a gathering of friendly town people—the service began “in the fullness of time,” as my pastor later said. “The Spirit welcomed us, and God wasn’t late.” My pastor understood the culture was different here for its own good reasons.
Time seems relative, but God’s perfect, on-time nature is affirmed throughout the Scriptures. Thus, after Lazarus got sick and died, Jesus arrived four days later, with Lazarus’ sisters asking why. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). We may think the same, wondering why God doesn’t hurry to fix our problems. Better instead to wait by faith for His answers and power.
As theologian Howard Thurman wrote, “We wait, our Father, until at last something of thy strength becomes our strength, something of thy heart becomes our heart, something of thy forgiveness becomes our forgiveness. We wait, O God, we wait.” Then, as with Lazarus, when God responds, we’re miraculously blessed by what wasn’t, after all, a delay.
By: Patricia Raybon
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Reflect & Pray
What are you waiting for God to do or provide on your behalf? How can you wait by faith?
For You, Father, I wait. Grant me Your strength and faithful hope in my waiting.
 

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January 18
Heart Problem
Bible in a Year:

The Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!

Ezekiel 14:6
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Ezekiel 14:1–8
“Do you see it, brother Tim?” My friend, a Ghanaian pastor, flashed his torchlight on a carved object leaning against a mud hut. Quietly he said, “That is the village idol.” Each Tuesday evening, Pastor Sam traveled into the bush to share the Bible in this remote village.
In the book of Ezekiel, we see how idolatry plagued the people of Judah. When Jerusalem’s leaders came to see the prophet Ezekiel, God told him, “These men have set up idols in their hearts” (14:3). God wasn’t merely warning them against idols carved of wood and stone. He was showing them that idolatry is a problem of the heart. We all struggle with it.
Bible teacher Alistair Begg describes an idol as “anything other than God that we regard as essential to our peace, our self-image, our contentment, or our acceptability.” Even things that have the appearance of being noble can become idols to us. When we seek comfort or self-worth from anything other than the living God, we commit idolatry.
“Repent!” God said. “Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” (v. 6). Israel proved incapable of doing this. Thankfully, God had the solution. Looking forward to the coming of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, He promised, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” (36:26). We can’t do this alone.
By: Tim Gustafson
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Reflect & Pray
When stress hits you, where do you turn for comfort? What might you need to turn away from today?
Father, show me the idols in my heart. Then help me destroy them and live in Your love.
 

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January 19
But I’m Telling You
Bible in a Year:

But I tell you, love your enemies.

Matthew 5:44
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 5:43–48
“I know what they’re saying. But I’m telling you . . .” As a boy, I heard my mother give that speech a thousand times. The context was always peer pressure. She was trying to teach me not to follow the herd. I’m not a boy any longer, but herd mentality’s still alive and kicking. A current example is this phrase: “Only surround yourself with positive people.” Now while that phrase may be commonly heard, the question we must ask is: “Is that Christlike?”
“But I’m telling you . . .” Jesus uses that lead-in a number of times in Matthew 5. He knows full well what the world is constantly telling us. But His desire is that we live differently. In this case, He says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (v. 44). Later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses that very word to describe guess who? That’s right: us—“while we were God’s enemies” (Romans 5:10). Far from some “do as I say, not as I do,” Jesus backed up His words with actions. He loved us, and gave His life for us.
What if Christ had only made room in His life for “positive people”? Where would that leave us? Thanks be to God that His love is no respecter of persons. For God so loved the world, and in His strength we are called to do likewise.
By: John Blase
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Reflect & Pray
When’s the last time someone extended love to you when you weren’t “positive”? What’s a tangible way today that you can show love to an enemy?
Father, it’s tempting to surround myself with only those who love me. But that’s not living, at least not the kind of living You desire for me. Help me to love even my enemies.
 

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January 20
Love like Blazing Fire
Bible in a Year:

[Love] burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.

Song of Songs 8:6
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Song of Songs 8:5–7
Poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake enjoyed a forty-five-year marriage with his wife, Catherine. From their wedding day until his death in 1827, they worked side by side. Catherine added color to William’s sketches, and their devotion endured years of poverty and other challenges. Even in his final weeks as his health failed, Blake kept at his art, and his final sketch was his wife’s face. Four years later, Catherine died clutching one of her husband’s pencils in her hand.
The Blakes’ vibrant love offers a reflection of the love discovered in the Song of Songs. And while the Song’s description of love certainly has implications for marriage, early believers in Jesus believed it also points to Jesus’ unquenchable love for all His followers. The Song describes a love “as strong as death,” which is a remarkable metaphor since death is as final and unescapable a reality as humans will ever know (8:6). This strong love “burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (v. 6). And unlike fires we’re familiar with, these flames can’t be doused, not even by a deluge. “Many waters cannot quench love,” the Song insists (v. 7).
Who among us doesn’t desire true love? The Song reminds us that whenever we encounter genuine love, God is the ultimate source. And in Jesus, each of us can know a profound and undying love—one that burns like a blazing fire.
By: Winn Collier
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Reflect & Pray
Where have you encountered strong love? How does Jesus’ love encourage you?
Dear God, please help me to receive Your love and share it with others.
For further study, read How God Loves Us.
 

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January 23
Lost, Found, Joy
Bible in a Year:

Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.

Luke 15:6
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Luke 15:1–10
“They call me ‘the ringmaster.’ So far this year I’ve found 167 lost rings.”
During a walk on the beach with my wife, Cari, we struck up a conversation with an older man who was using a metal detector to scan an area just below the surf line. “Sometimes rings have names on them,” he explained, “and I love seeing their owners’ faces when I return them. I post online and check to see if anyone contacted lost and found. I’ve found rings missing for years.” When we mentioned that I enjoy metal detecting as well but didn’t do it frequently, his parting words were, “You never know unless you go!”
We find another kind of “search and rescue” in Luke 15. Jesus was criticized for caring about people who were far from God (vv. 1–2). In reply, He told three stories about things that were lost and then found—a sheep, a coin, and a son. The man who finds the lost sheep “joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me’ ” (vv. 5–6). All the stories are ultimately about finding lost people for Christ, and the joy that comes as they’re found in Him.
Jesus came “to seek and to save the lost” (19:10), and He calls us to follow Him in loving people back to God (see Matthew 28:19). The joy of seeing others turn to Him awaits. We’ll never know unless we go.
By: James Banks
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Reflect & Pray
What joy have you seen when people turn to God? How will you point others to Jesus’ love today?
Thank You, Jesus, for finding and loving me! Please send me in Your joy to another who needs You today.
 

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January 24
No Loss
Bible in a Year:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure.

Matthew 13:44
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 13:44–46
My friend Ruel attended a high school reunion held in a former classmate’s home. The waterfront mansion near Manila Bay could accommodate two hundred attendees, and it made Ruel feel small.
“I’ve had many happy years of pastoring remote rural churches,” Ruel told me, “and even though I know I shouldn’t, I couldn’t help but feel envious of my classmate’s material wealth. My thoughts strayed to how different life might be if I’d used my degree to become a businessman instead.”
“But I later reminded myself there’s nothing to feel envious about,” Ruel continued with a smile. “I invested my life in serving God, and the results will last for eternity.” I’ll always remember the peaceful look on his face as he said those words.
Ruel drew peace from Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13:44−46. He knew that God’s kingdom is the ultimate treasure. Seeking and living for His kingdom might take various forms. For some, it might mean full-time ministry, while for others, it may be living out the gospel in a secular workplace. Regardless of how God chooses to use us, we can continue to trust and obey His leading, knowing, like the men in Jesus’ parables, the value of the imperishable treasure we’ve been given. Everything in this world has infinitely less worth than all we gain by following God (1 Peter 1:4−5).
Our life, when placed in His hands, can bear eternal fruit.
By: Karen Huang
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Reflect & Pray
What have you had to live without for the sake of following God? How does Matthew 13:44–46 encourage you?
Father, let each day of my life be a celebration of the treasure I’ve found in You.


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January 25
Fighting “Flashy” Things
Bible in a Year:

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Proverbs 22:1–6
In the 1960s-era TV series The Andy Griffith Show, a man tells Andy he should let his son Opie decide how he wants to live. Andy disagrees: “You can’t let a young’un decide for himself. He’ll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it. Then, when he finds out there’s a hook in it, it’s too late. Wrong ideas come packaged with so much glitter that it’s hard to convince them that other things might be better in the long run.” He concludes that it’s important for parents to model right behavior and help “keep temptation away.”
Andy’s words are related to the wisdom found in Proverbs: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (22:6). Although many may read these words as a promise, they're really a guide. All of us are called to make our own decision to believe in Jesus. But we can help lay a biblical foundation through our love for God and Scripture. And we can pray that as the little ones under our care mature, they choose to receive Christ as Savior and walk in His ways and not “in the paths of the wicked” (v. 5).
Our own victory over “flashy things” through the Holy Spirit’s enabling is also powerful testimony. Jesus’ Spirit helps us to withstand temptation and molds our lives into examples worth imitating.
By: Alyson Kieda
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Reflect & Pray
Why is it helpful to remember that Proverbs 22:6 isn’t a promise but a wise principle? Who can you help to “train up”?
Dear Father, help me to instill Your values into the hearts of the children You’ve placed in my life.
 

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January 26
Love That Forgives
Bible in a Year:

Bear with each other and forgive one another.

Colossians 3:13
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Colossians 3:12–14
Eighty years of marriage! My husband’s great-uncle Pete and great-aunt Ruth celebrated this remarkable milestone on May 31, 2021. After a chance meeting in 1941 when Ruth was still in high school, the young couple were so eager to get married that they eloped the day after Ruth graduated. Pete and Ruth believe God brought them together and has guided them all these years.
Reflecting on eight decades of marriage, Pete and Ruth both agree that one key to sustaining their relationship has been the decision to choose forgiveness. Anyone in a healthy relationship understands that we all regularly need forgiveness for the ways we hurt each other, whether through an unkind word, a broken promise, or a forgotten task.
In a section of Scripture written to help believers in Jesus live together in unity, Paul refers to the essential role forgiveness plays. After urging his readers to choose “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12), Paul adds the encouragement to “forgive one another if any of you has a grievance” (v. 13). Most importantly, all their interactions with each were to be guided by love (v. 14).
Relationships that model the characteristics outlined by Paul are a blessing. May God help all of us work to cultivate healthy relationships characterized by love and forgiveness.
By: Lisa M. Samra
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Reflect & Pray
How have you experienced healing through forgiving or being forgiven? How are relationships strengthened through practicing both forgiveness and accountability?
Jesus, help me to forgive others just as You’ve forgiven me.
 
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