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Daily Devotion

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“…It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” – Matthew 9:12
JESUS IS FOR EVERYONE
November 24, 2019
One of the things I love most about Jesus is His love for all people, all the time. Jesus even sought out the outcasts, those on the fringe of society – the people the religious elite often didn’t want to be around. Matthew was one of those “fringe people,” who would later became one of Jesus’ disciples and biographers.
Matthew was definitley one of the last guys you’d want on your team if your goal was impressing the good, religious folks. Why? Because Matthew was a crook. He ran with a bad crowd. He was a party animal. But after Jesus reached out to him and asked him to join His team, Matthew was so excited that he threw a party for all his wild and notorious friends – just so they could meet Jesus. And they all had a great time.
But the religious crowd was not impressed. If Jesus was supposed to be a man of God, then why would He run with such a rough crowd, they wondered. It just didn’t make sense.
Jesus, explained it this way: “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor. I came for those who know they’re sinners and need help – not for those who think they’re righteous” (Matt. 9:12).
Such a powerful statement! Jesus didn’t come to rub elbows with just the “religious.” He came for everyone. And that’s great news! You might be one of those individuals that feels excluded from the church. Maybe you feel like you’ll be rejected or judged based on your past. Thankfully, just like Matthew, Jesus accepts you and died for you – sins, baggage, and all.
 

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Today's Devotional


November 26
He’s Got This
Bible in a Year:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:18
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 Peter 3:14–18
Pastor Watson Jones remembers learning to ride a bike. His father was walking alongside when little Watson saw some girls sitting on a porch. “Daddy, I got this!” he said. He didn’t. He realized too late he hadn’t learned to balance without his father’s steadying grip. He wasn’t as grown up as he thought.
Our heavenly Father longs for us to grow up and “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). But spiritual maturity is different from natural maturity. Parents raise their children to become independent, to no longer need them. Our divine Father raises us to daily depend on Him more.
Peter begins his letter by promising “grace and peace . . . through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,” and he ends by urging us to “grow in” that same “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:2; 3:18). Mature Christians never outgrow their need for Jesus.
Watson warns, “Some of us are busy slapping Jesus’s hands off the handlebars of our life.” As if we didn’t need His strong hands to hold us, to pick us up, and to hug us when we wobble and flop. We can’t grow beyond our dependence on Christ. We only grow by sinking our roots deeper in the grace and knowledge of Him.
By: Mike Wittmer
Reflect & Pray
Where do you feel your dependence on Jesus? How is that a sign of maturity?
Jesus, thank You for walking alongside me as I grow in my relationship with You.
 

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November 27
Greedy Grasping
Bible in a Year:

Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:6
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Ecclesiastes 4:4–8
In the ancient fable The Boy and the Filberts (Nuts), a boy sticks his hand into a jar of nuts and grabs a great fistful. But his hand is so full that it gets stuck in the jar. Unwilling to lose even a little of his bounty, the boy begins to weep. Eventually, he’s counseled to let go of some of the nuts so the jar will let go of his hand. Greed can be a hard boss.
The wise teacher of Ecclesiastes illustrates this moral with a lesson on hands and what they say about us. He compared and contrasted the lazy with the greedy when he wrote: “Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” (4:5–6). While the lazy procrastinate until they’re ruined, those who pursue wealth come to realize their efforts are “meaningless—a miserable business!” (v. 8).
According to the teacher, the desired state is to relax from the toil of greedy grasping in order to find contentment in what truly belongs to us. For that which is ours will always remain. As Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (Mark 8:36).
By: Remi Oyedele
Reflect & Pray
What are you driven to pursue and grasp? How can you apply the wise words of Ecclesiastes in order to find tranquility?
God, thank You for Your provision and faithful presence in my life. Help me to live in a contented way, exhibiting true gratefulness to You.
 

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November 28
A Sincere Thank You
Bible in a Year:

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Psalm 9:1
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Psalm 9:1–2, 7–10
In preparation for Xavier’s first job interview, my husband, Alan, handed our son a pack of thank-you cards for him to send out after he met with prospective employers. He then pretended to be a hiring interviewer, using his decades of experience as a manager to ask Xavier questions. After the role-playing, our son tucked several copies of his resume into a folder. He smiled when Alan reminded him about the cards. “I know,” he said. “A sincere thank-you note will set me apart from all the other applicants.”
When the manager called to hire Xavier, he expressed gratitude for the first hand-written thank-you card he’d received in years.
Saying thanks makes a lasting impact. The psalmists’ heartfelt prayers and grateful worship were preserved in the book of Psalms. Though there are one hundred and fifty psalms, these two verses reflect a message of thankfulness: “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1–2).
We will never be able to finish expressing our gratitude for all God’s wonderful deeds. But we can start with a sincere thank you through our prayers. We can nurture a lifestyle of grateful worship, praising God and acknowledging all He’s done and all He promises He’ll do.
By: Xochitl Dixon
Reflect & Pray
What would you like to thank God for on this day He’s made? How can writing down prayers of thanks help us cultivate a spirit of gratitude in all circumstances?
Generous and loving God, please help us acknowledge the countless and wonderful ways You work.
 

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“Was no one found who returned to give glory to God…?” – Luke 17:18
THE IMPORTANCE OF SAYING THANKS
November 28, 2019
It’s that time of the year again to remind ourselves that one of life’s most common oversights is not taking time to say thanks. We get in such a rush that we often forget.
Years ago, ten men with the dreaded disease of leprosy saw Jesus. They were a long distance away, because leprosy was the most feared disease of that day. They were outcasts. People didn’t want to touch them for fear of getting the disease. They were treated like many were treated when the AIDS virus was discovered.
These lepers cried out to Christ to have mercy on them, and He did. He healed them all. What a fantastic day that must have been! Those ten guys got so excited that they all began to run and tell what had happened. But one turned around and took time to worship and thank Jesus – only one. “Weren’t there ten? Where are they?” Jesus asked. Even God desires to be thanked.
This week, don’t miss a great opportunity to take time to say thanks – to God for His blessings – to friends and loved ones – and to any who helped you along the way.
 

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December 2
The Flip Side of Love
Bible in a Year:
  • Ezekiel 42–44
  • 1 John 1

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

2 John 1:3
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 John 1:1–11
The Roman inns during the time of Christ had a reputation so bad that rabbis wouldn’t even permit cattle to be left at them. Faced with such bad conditions, traveling Christians usually sought out other believers for hospitality.
Among those early travelers were false teachers who denied that Jesus was the Messiah. This is why the letter of 2 John tells its readers there is a time to refuse to extend hospitality. John had said in a previous letter that these false teachers were “antichrist—denying the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). In 2 John he elaborated on this, telling his readers that whoever believes Jesus is the Messiah “has both the Father and the Son” (v. 9).
Then he warned, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them” (v. 10). To extend hospitality to someone preaching a false gospel would actually help keep people separated from God.
John’s second letter shows us a “flip side” of God’s love. We serve a God who welcomes everyone with open arms. But genuine love won’t enable those who deceitfully harm themselves and others. God wraps His arms around those who come to Him in repentance, but He never embraces a lie.
By: Tim Gustafson
Reflect & Pray
How can you reflect God’s love in your relationships today? What issues might you need to confront in your own life or in the lives of others?
Father, You love us in Your truth. Help us extend that love to others with the unwavering grace that comes only from Your Spirit.
 

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December 3
The Lost Envelope
Bible in a Year:
  • Ezekiel 45–46
  • 1 John 2

Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matthew 6:20
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 6:19–21
We were on the way home from a visit with family in another state when I found it. I was pumping gas when I noticed a dirty, bulky envelope on the ground. I grabbed it, dirt and all, and looked inside. To my surprise, it contained one hundred dollars.
One hundred dollars that someone had lost and who at that very moment was possibly frantically searching to find. I gave our phone number to the attendants at the gas station in case anyone came back looking for it. But no one ever called.
Someone had that money and lost it. Earthly treasure is often like that. It can be lost, stolen, or even squandered. It can be lost in bad investments or even in a monetary market over which we have no control. But the heavenly treasure we have in Jesus—a restored relationship with God and the promise of eternal life—isn’t like that. We can’t lose it at a gas station or anywhere else.
That’s why Christ told us to store up “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). We do that when we become “rich in good deeds” (1 Timothy 6:18) or “rich in faith” (James 2:5)—lovingly helping others and sharing Jesus with them. As God leads and empowers us, may we store up eternal treasure even as we anticipate our eternal future with Him.
By: Dave Branon

Reflect & Pray
What can you do this week that has eternal implications? How can you better use your earthly treasures as investments for heaven’s good?
Dear God, thank You for everything You’ve given us on this earth—our money, our homes, and more. Help us to hold them loosely while seeking to store up more eternal treasures.
 

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“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” – Galatians 4:4
PAUL’S TAKE ON CHRISTMAS – PART THREE
December 3, 2019
Super heroes have been part of American culture for a long time: think Batman, Spiderman, Ironman, Incredible Hulk, Superman, etc. No matter how bad things appear, these heroes always seem to show up just in the nick of time. There’s just something about heroes that appeals to all of us. Maybe it’s seeing good triumph over evil, especially in a day and age when evil seems to be winning over and over again.
The sad reality, however, is that real Super Heroes don’t exist. They’re made up; they’re all fiction. Well, except for one – because there is a real Super Hero that showed up at the perfect time in history to engage in a life or death battle against the evil that continues to wreak havoc on mankind. This hero came to literally save the day in a way that saves each of our lives – if we let him. Any guesses as to who I’m talking about? This hero is Jesus.
A little over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Rome was in charge and ruled by a man named Caesar Augustus. In an act of incredible greed, he called for a census to register each individual in his hometown. For Joseph, who was of the house of David, he had to return to Bethlehem. And so Joseph left, bringing with him a very pregnant Mary, along for the 70-mile journey.
When they arrived, the only rest they found was in a barn, surrounded by animals. There, Mary gave birth, under the law, to her firstborn Son, Jesus. Supernaturally conceived, but born of a woman, Jesus is both God and man. He lived, He died, and He rose again to pay the penalty for our sin and to offer us forgiveness. Jesus made it possible for us to become adopted children of God.
It’s for this reason that Jesus is the only REAL Super Hero. This is what Christmas is all about.
 

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Intentional Kindness
Bible in a Year:
  • Daniel 1–2
  • 1 John 4

I want to show God’s kindness to them.

2 Samuel 9:3 nlt
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 Samuel 9:3–11
Boarding a plane alone with her children, a young mom tried desperately to calm her three-year-old daughter who began kicking and crying. Then her hungry four-month-old son also began to wail.
A traveler seated next to her quickly offered to hold the baby while Jessica got her daughter buckled in. Then the traveler—recalling his own days as a young dad—began coloring with the toddler while Jessica fed her infant. And on the next connecting flight, the same man offered to assist again if needed.
Jessica recalled, “I [was] blown away by God’s hand in this. [We] could have been placed next to anyone, but we were seated next to one of the nicest men I have ever met.”
In 2 Samuel 9, we read of another example of what I call intentional kindness. After King Saul and his son Jonathan had been killed, some expected David to kill off any competition to his claim for the throne. Instead, he asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” (v. 3). Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, was then brought to David who restored his inheritance and warmly invited him to share his table from then on—just as if he were his own son (v. 11).
As beneficiaries of the immense kindness of God, may we look for opportunities to show intentional kindness toward others (Galatians 6:10).
By: Cindy Hess Kasper
Reflect & Pray
Who can you show God’s kindness to? What specific act of kindness can you demonstrate to someone who is hurting or discouraged?
Heavenly Father, I thank You for the kindness You’ve shown me. Help me to lavish it on others.
 

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‘One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”’ – Mark 12:28-31
GIVE THE GIFT OF LOVE THIS CHRISTMAS
December 5, 2019
Loving God means faith in action. But if that’s the case, then how do we live that out?
The answer is obedience. Faith in action means obeying God’s commandments. That pretty much covers the first part of the Scripture referenced above: to love God with everything we have. But today, we’re going to focus more on the second commandment in the verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Yeah, right, you might be thinking. You clearly don’t know my neighbor!
Ok, let’s break this down a bit. First of all, we need to understand what the word “love” really means. The LOVE referenced in these verses has nothing to do with feelings or emotions. It doesn’t even have anything to do with liking another person. This kind of LOVE is a decision of the will – whether you feel like loving or not.
But how can I love somebody if I don’t even like them? Believe me – you can. Here’s how:
  • Treat them fairly.
  • Show them respect.
  • Be honest with them.
  • Keep your word.
  • Demonstrate that you can show you care for them through your actions.
What would you add to that list? You see, there are many ways to demonstrate love towards people you might not necessarily always like.
But that’s not all. Have you ever thought about the eternal destiny of those around you? Think about those difficult to love neighbors. How well do you really know them? I mean really know your neighbors – more than just a quick wave and hello as you’re getting in your car to leave for work, or mowing the grass, or maybe grilling hamburgers.
Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12: 31). This means knowing that you have loved them enough to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them, especially now during the Christmas season. There’s no better time than today!
 

boldstardex

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“…the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…’” Luke 2:10
A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
December 6, 2019
Have you ever been visited by an angel? Some folks are positive they have been; others aren’t so sure. Still, others argue the very idea of being visited by an angel is just plain crazy.
In the mid 1990s, there was a popular TV series called “Touched by an Angel.” The show’s premise followed three angels as they quietly showed up in those big, crossroads moments of people’s lives. Only, it wasn’t until the end of each episode that the angels revealed their true nature. It was a powerful show that lasted nine seasons. There is just something about feeling that you aren’t alone in those dark, trying times that kept viewers glued to their TVs. Could it be true?
Take a moment to imagine that you’re a security guard on a late night shift patrolling the grounds of a business complex. Suddenly, an angel appears before you, hovering in the sky. You recognize immediately that it’s an angel, and so scared you can’t move, you call for help, or grab your gun—you’re frozen in fear. Then, the angel speaks: “Easy, don’t be afraid. I’ve got good news to share. A Savior has been born and God wants you to be the first to know!”
It’s a pretty wild scenario, right? But this actually happened one night over 2,000 years ago to a group of shepherds who were just minding their own business and watching their flock of sheep in the hills of Bethlehem – an angel appeared to them in the sky! Can you imagine? What I find fascinating is they believed the angel and went (the Bible says “with haste”) to find the Christ child. Those shepherds got to worship Jesus on that very first Christmas.
I love that out of everyone God could have chosen to announce this world changing event, He chose a group of shepherds. It’s a reminder that there’s no hierarchy in God’s kingdom. God sent His Son, Jesus to save the world – this means everyone from lowly shepherd to powerful world leader and everyone in between.
Just like the shepherds immediately went to see for themselves what the angels announced, you too can know and worship Jesus! All you have to do is seek Jesus in Scripture, and believe. Christmas will never be the same, once you worship the King!
 

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December 9
Our Guiding Light
Bible in a Year:
  • Daniel 11–12
  • Jude

You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

2 Samuel 22:29
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 Samuel 22:26–30
At a museum, I lingered near a display of ancient lamps. A sign revealed they were from Israel. Decorated with carved designs, these oval-shaped clay vessels had two openings—one for fuel, and one for a wick. Although the Israelites commonly used them in wall alcoves, each was small enough to fit in the palm of a person’s hand.
Perhaps a little light like this inspired King David to write a praise song in which he said, “You Lord are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (2 Samuel 22:29). David sang these words after God gave him victory in battle. Rivals from both inside and outside his own nation had been stalking him, intending to kill him. Because of his relationship with God, David didn’t cower in the shadows. He moved forward into enemy confrontations with the confidence that comes from God’s presence. With God helping him, he could see things clearly so he could make good decisions for himself, his troops, and his nation.
The darkness David mentioned in his song likely involved fear of weakness, defeat, and death. Many of us live with similar worries, which produce anxiety and stress. When the darkness presses in on us, we can find peace because we know God is with us too. The divine flame of the Holy Spirit lives in us to light our path until we meet Jesus face to face.
By: Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Reflect & Pray
Why can you trust God to help you with your fears? What can you do to seek God’s guidance in your life?
God, please assure me of Your presence when I’m afraid. Help me to remember that You’ve defeated spiritual darkness through Your death and resurrection.
 

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December 10
Grace at the End
Bible in a Year:
  • Hosea 1–4
  • Revelation 1

Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.

Mark 5:34
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Mark 5:25–34
Artist Doug Merkey’s masterful sculpture Ruthless Trust features a bronze human figure clinging desperately to a cross made of walnut wood. He writes, “It’s a very simple expression of our constant and appropriate posture for life—total, unfettered intimacy with and dependency upon Christ and the gospel.”
That’s the kind of trust we see expressed in the actions and words of the unnamed woman in Mark 5:25–34. For twelve years her life had been in shambles (v. 25). “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (v. 26). But having heard about Jesus, she made her way to Him, touched Him, and was “freed from her suffering” (vv. 27–29).
Have you come to the end of yourself? Have you depleted all your resources? Anxious, hopeless, lost, distressed people need not despair. The Lord Jesus still responds to desperate faith—the kind displayed by this suffering woman and depicted in Merkey’s sculpture. This faith is expressed in the words of hymn writer Charles Wesley: “Father, I stretch my hands to Thee; no other help I know.” Don’t have that kind of faith? Ask God to help you trust Him. Wesley’s hymn concludes with this prayer: “Author of faith, to Thee I lift my weary, longing eyes; O may I now receive that gift! My soul, without it, dies.”
By: Arthur Jackson
Reflect & Pray
When have you desperately clung to Christ? How did God meet your need?
Father, thank You for Your power to rescue me. Help me to trust You to meet all my needs.
 

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December 11
Canceled Debts
Bible in a Year:
  • Hosea 5–8
  • Revelation 2

The Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed.

Deuteronomy 15:2
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Deuteronomy 15:1–8
In 2009, Los Angeles County stopped charging families for the costs of their children’s incarceration. Though no new fees were charged, those with unpaid fees from before the change in policy were still required to settle their debt. Then in 2018 the county canceled all outstanding financial obligations.
For some families, canceling the debt aided greatly in their struggle to survive; no longer having liens on their property or wages being garnished meant they were better able to put food on the table. It was for this kind of hardship that God called for debts to be forgiven every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:2). He didn’t want people to be crippled forever by them.
Because the Israelites were forbidden to charge interest on a loan to fellow Israelites (Exodus 22:25), their motives for lending to a neighbor weren’t to make a profit, but rather to help those who were enduring hard times, perhaps due to a bad harvest. Debts were to be freely forgiven every seven years. As a result, there would be less poverty among the people (Deuteronomy 15:4).
Today, believers in Jesus aren’t bound by these laws. But God might occasionally prompt us to forgive a debt so those who’ve been struggling can begin afresh as contributing members of society. When we show such mercy and generosity to others, we lift up God’s character and give people hope.
By: Kirsten Holmberg


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Reflect & Pray
How have your “debts” been forgiven? Who can you lift up by forgiving a debt owed or a wrong done to you?
Jesus, thank You for caring about the financial burdens we carry.
 

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December 12
Overcoming Fear
Bible in a Year:
  • Hosea 9–11
  • Revelation 3

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

Psalm 20:7
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
1 Samuel 17:4–7, 45–50
Fear ruled a man’s life for thirty-two years. Afraid of being caught for his crimes, he hid at his sister’s farmhouse, going nowhere and visiting no one, even missing his mother’s funeral. When he was sixty-four, he learned that no charges had ever been filed against him. The man was free to resume a normal life. Yes, the threat of punishment was real, but he allowed the fear of it to control him.
Likewise, fear ruled the Israelites when the Philistines challenged them at the Valley of Elah. The threat was real. Their enemy Goliath was 9 feet 9 inches tall and his body armor alone weighed 125 pounds (1 Samuel 17:4–5). For forty days, every morning and evening, Goliath challenged the Israelite army to fight him. But no one dared come forward. No one until David visited the battle lines. He heard and saw the taunting, and volunteered to fight Goliath.
While everyone in the Israelite army thought Goliath was too big to fight, David the shepherd boy knew he wasn’t too big for God. He said, “the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s” (v. 47).
When we’re gripped by fear, let’s follow David’s example and fix our eyes on God to gain a right perspective of the problem. The threat may be real, but the One who is with us and for us is bigger than that which is against us.
By: Albert Lee

Reflect & Pray
What giant battle are you facing that’s crippling you in fear? How can you intentionally fix your eyes on the living God?
Thank You, God, that You’re bigger than any other giant in my life. I trust You.
 

boldstardex

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“…seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” – Matthew 13:13
FIND JESUS IN CHRISTMAS
December 12, 2019
Christmas comes and Christmas goes, but there are far too many who miss out on the real meaning of the season. It’s always been that way; the first Christmas was no different.
  • The Innkeeper. He was too busy – a full hotel – so many customer needs. He had no time or place in his inn for Jesus at Christmas.
  • Religious leaders around King Herod. When the wise men came inquiring about the birth of a kingly Messiah, the religious leaders told Herod that God’s Word said Bethlehem. Yet, they were so focused on staying close to worldly power that they didn’t take God’s Word seriously, and they missed Jesus at Christmas.
  • Herod. King Herod tried to eliminate Christmas before it got off the ground – to eradicate Jesus from Christmas. This continues today, as people strive to use political power for the same end.
So, what about you? With Christmas just around the corner, will you miss Christmas, as well? Take some time amidst the busyness and festivities of the holiday season to slow down and really reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. If you keep Jesus at the center of all the holiday fun, then you’ll be sure to never miss the TRUE meaning of Christmas again.
 
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