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Daily Devotion

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January 10
Here Be Dragons?
Bible in a Year:

The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 Timothy 1:6–14
Legend has it that at the edges of medieval maps, marking the boundaries of the world the maps’ creators knew at the time, there’d be inscribed the words “Here be dragons”—often alongside vivid illustrations of the terrifying beasts supposedly lurking there.
There’s not much evidence medieval cartographers actually wrote these words, but I like to think they could have. Maybe because “here be dragons” sounds like something I might’ve written at the time—a grim warning that even if I didn’t know exactly what would happen if I ventured into the great unknown, it likely wouldn’t be good!
But there’s one glaring problem with my preferred policy of self-protection and risk-aversion: it’s the opposite of the courage to which I’m called as a believer in Jesus (2 Timothy 1:7).
One might even say I’m misguided about what’s really dangerous. As Paul explained, in a broken world bravely following Christ will sometimes be painful (v. 8). But as those brought from death to life and entrusted with the Spirit’s life flowing in and through us (vv. 9–10,14), how could we not?
When God gives us a gift this staggering, to fearfully shrink back would be the real tragedy—far worse than anything we might face when we follow Christ’s leading into uncharted territory (vv. 6–8, 12). He can be trusted with our hearts and our future (v. 12).
By: Monica La Rose

Reflect & Pray
Is there a particularly debilitating fear God may be calling you to confront? How might the support and love of other believers encourage you as you walk through your fears?
Loving God, thank You for the new life You’ve given us, for freedom from all that would cripple us in fear and shame. Help us to find peace in You.
 

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January 13
Everyone Needs Compassion
Bible in a Year:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9:36
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 9:27–38
When Jeff was a new believer in Jesus and fresh out of college, he worked for a major oil company. In his role as a salesman, he traveled; and in his travels he heard people’s stories—many of them heartbreaking. He realized that what his customers most needed wasn’t oil, but compassion. They needed God. This led Jeff to attend seminary to learn more about the heart of God and eventually to become a pastor.
Jeff’s compassion had its source in Jesus. In Matthew 9:27–33 we get a glimpse of Christ’s compassion in the miraculous healing of two blind men and one demon-possessed man. Throughout His earthly ministry, He went about preaching the gospel and healing “through all the towns and villages” (v. 35). Why? “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 36).
The world today is still full of troubled and hurting people who need the Savior’s gentle care. Like a shepherd who leads, protects, and cares for his sheep, Jesus extends His compassion to all who come to Him (11:28). No matter where we are in life and what we’re experiencing, in Him we find a heart overflowing with tenderness and care. And when we’ve been a beneficiary of God’s loving compassion, we can’t help but want to extend it to others.
By: Alyson Kieda


Reflect & Pray
When have you experienced God’s tender care? Who can you reach out to in compassion?
Heavenly Father, we’re so grateful You had compassion on us! We would be lost without You. Help us to extend Your overflowing compassion to others.
 

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“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
THINK YOU’RE GOOD ENOUGH ON YOUR OWN?
January 13, 2020
Ever look around at others and think, “Well, I’m not as bad as they are. I’m pretty good most of the time, so I should be able to get into heaven?” Or how about, “You see, me and God, we’ve got an agreement. We’ve got things worked out?”
Let me make this clear – if you feel you can be right with God in your “own” way, you’re going to get to the end of your life, stand before God, and the judgement won’t come out in your favor. All of us are sinners, yet amazingly, God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins – to be a substitute in facing the sentence we actually deserve. So, if we feel like there is any way we can receive salvation other than through Jesus Christ, we are showing blindness to our own sinful ignorance. It’s absolutely appalling to God. Continue on that course and you’re doomed.
But God’s Word gives us some great news. “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”
In the end, where will you stand?
 

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“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” – John 3:36
SAVED FOREVER? YOU BET
January 14, 2020
There is a theological term called eternal security. What this five-dollar phrase means is that once you are saved, you are always saved; you can never lose your salvation.
How can we be so certain of this? You are saved by the grace of God, not by your deeds or actions. You cannot be nice enough, you cannot help enough people, you cannot donate enough money – there is absolutely nothing you can do to earn your way into heaven. And since there is nothing you can do to gain salvation, there is nothing you can do to lose it. Once saved, always saved.
You might ask yourself if you are always saved, then does that mean that you can go out and sin without having to worry about being shut out of heaven? Well, yes, in the literal sense, it does. But if you were sincere in accepting Christ, then you will not want to use this loophole. You will have such gratitude to Jesus for His remarkable gift that you will seek to live your life in a manner that pleases Him.
Now, perhaps some of you may be worried that perhaps you weren’t really saved years ago. Perhaps it was done on a whim or without the proper motivation. If you’re still unsure, you can always ask Him to save you for sure. Read Revelation 3:20 and 1 John 5:11-13. Believe those words of God, and you can know for sure that you have eternal life!
 

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January 16
Bring What You Have
Bible in a Year:

“Bring them here to me,” [Jesus] said.

Matthew 14:18
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
John 6:4–14
“Stone Soup,” an old tale with many versions, tells of a starving man who comes to a village, but no one there can spare a crumb of food for him. He puts a stone and water in a pot over a fire. Intrigued, the villagers watch him as he begins to stir his “soup.” Eventually, one brings a couple of potatoes to add to the mix; another has a few carrots. One person adds an onion, another a handful of barley. A farmer donates some milk. Eventually, the “stone soup” becomes a tasty chowder.
That tale illustrates the value of sharing, but it also reminds us to bring what we have, even when it seems to be insignificant. In John 6:1–14 we read of a boy who appears to be the only person in a huge crowd who thought about bringing some food. Christ’s disciples had little use for the boy’s sparse lunch of five loaves and two fishes. But when it was surrendered, Jesus increased it and fed thousands of hungry people!
I once heard someone say, “You don’t have to feed the five thousand. You just have to bring your loaves and fishes.” Just as Jesus took one person’s meal and multiplied it far beyond anyone’s expectations or imagination (v. 11), He’ll accept our surrendered efforts, talents, and service. He just wants us to be willing to bring what we have to Him.
By: Cindy Hess Kasper

Reflect & Pray
What have you been holding back from God? Why is it difficult to bring that area of your life to Him?
Jesus, help me to surrender whatever I have to You, knowing You can multiply a little into a lot.
 

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January 20
Clean Containers
Bible in a Year:

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

Proverbs 10:12
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
1 Peter 4:7–11
“Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” These words were spoken by former Senator Alan Simpson at the funeral of George H. W. Bush. Attempting to describe his dear friend’s kindness, Senator Simpson recalled how the forty-first president of the United States embraced humor and love rather than hatred in his professional leadership and personal relationships.
I relate to the senator’s quote, don’t you? Oh, the damage done to me when I harbor hatred!
Medical research reveals the damage done to our bodies when we cling to the negative or release bursts of anger. Our blood pressure rises. Our hearts pound. Our spirits sag. Our containers corrode.
In Proverbs 10:12, King Solomon observes, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” The conflict that results from hatred here is a blood feud between rivaling peoples of different tribes and races. Such hatred fuels the drive for revenge so that people who despise each other can’t connect.
By contrast, God’s way of love covers—draws a veil over, conceals, or forgives—all wrongs. That doesn’t mean we overlook errors or enable a wrongdoer. But we don’t nurse the wrong when someone is truly remorseful. And if they never apologize, we still release our feelings to God. We who know the Great Lover are to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
By: Elisa Morgan


Reflect & Pray
What things cause you to hate? How might the hard-hearted heat of hostility eat away at our personal joy and our world’s peace?
O God, help me surrender to Your great love that covers all sins and makes me into a clean container in which You dwell in love.
 

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January 21
Where Are You Headed?
Bible in a Year:

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

2 Samuel 12:7
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 Samuel 12:1–14
In northern Thailand, the Wild Boars youth soccer team decided to explore a cave together. After an hour they turned to go back and found that the entrance to the cave was flooded. Rising water pushed them deeper into the cave, day after day, until they were finally trapped more than two miles (four kilometers) inside. When they were heroically rescued two weeks later, many wondered how they had become so hopelessly trapped. Answer: one step at a time.
In Israel, Nathan confronted David for killing his loyal soldier, Uriah. How did the man “after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) become guilty of murder? One step at a time. David didn’t go from zero to murder in one afternoon. He warmed up to it, over time, as one bad decision bled into others. It started with a second glance that turned into a lustful stare. He abused his kingly power by sending for Bathsheba, then tried to cover up her pregnancy by calling her husband home from the front. When Uriah refused to visit his wife while his comrades were at war, David decided he would have to die.
We may not be guilty of murder or trapped in a cave of our own making, but we’re either moving toward Jesus or toward trouble. Big problems don’t develop overnight. They break upon us gradually, one step at a time.
By: Mike Wittmer


Reflect & Pray
What decision can you make right now to move toward Jesus and away from trouble? What must you do to confirm this decision?
Jesus, I’m running to You!
 

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January 22
Demonstrating Grace
Bible in a Year:

You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:19
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Micah 7:18–20
“In moments where tragedy happens or even hurt, there are opportunities to demonstrate grace or to exact vengeance,” the recently bereaved man remarked. “I chose to demonstrate grace.” Pastor Erik Fitzgerald’s wife had been killed in a car accident caused by an exhausted firefighter who fell asleep while driving home, and legal prosecutors wanted to know whether he would seek the maximum sentence. The pastor chose to practice the forgiveness he often preached about. To the surprise of both him and the firefighter, the men eventually became friends.
Pastor Erik was living out of the grace he’d received from God, who’d forgiven him all of his sins. Through his actions he echoed the words of the prophet Micah, who praised God for pardoning sin and forgiving when we do wrong (Micah 7:18). The prophet uses wonderfully visual language to show just how far God goes in forgiving His people, saying that He will “tread our sins underfoot” and hurl our wrongdoings into the deep sea (v. 19). The firefighter received a gift of freedom that day, which brought him closer to God.
Whatever difficulty we face, we know that God reaches out to us with loving, open arms, welcoming us into His safe embrace. He “delights to show mercy” (v. 18). As we receive His love and grace, He gives us the strength to forgive those who hurt us—even as Pastor Erik did.
By: Amy Boucher Pye


Reflect & Pray
How do you respond to this story of amazing forgiveness? Can you think of someone you need to forgive? If so, ask God to help you.
Father God, You love us without ceasing, and You delight to forgive us when we return to You. Envelop us with Your love, that we might demonstrate grace to those who hurt us.
 

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“Then (Elijah) said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.'” – I Kings 19: 14
TRUTH FOR TROUBLED TIMES
January 22, 2020
The prophet Elijah’s life tells a powerful story. It’s full of boldness, faith and miraculously answered prayers. Still, Elijah struggled with fear, depression and self-pity – things many of us battle today. You can read his full story in 1 Kings chapters 17 and 18.
For those of us struggling in these same areas, what can we learn from the life of Elijah?
Fear comes when we lose sight of God. Elijah became fearful when he shifted his focus from God to Queen Jezebel’s threats. The same is true for us.
  • Life Lesson: When we focus more on the problem than on God, fear replaces faith.
Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes life’s “blues” settle-in after a spiritual high point or some great excitement in life. In Elijah’s case, these feelings crept in after God’s miraculous answer to prayer in his showdown against false prophets that ended a 3.5-year drought. In spite of all Elijah witnessed, he was completely exhausted: emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
  • Life Lesson: Don’t let yourself be caught off guard by these normal ups and downs of life.
Unresolved anger leads to self-pity and depression. In verse 14, Elijah let out some brutally honest complaints to God. He let his self-righteousness and self-pity take control of his life.
  • Life Lesson: Unresolved anger can lead to deep depression if we aren’t careful.
Hope that is lost is deadly. When Elijah lost hope, he began to hope for death. It’s no secret that suicidal thoughts can accompany severe depression. Losing the will to live has been a struggle battled by some of the greatest men of faith: Moses when leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Job after losing literally everything, and the prophet Jeremiah when preaching to an uninterested people – just to name a few.
If you are struggling with fear, hopelessness, depression, or self-pity, you’re not alone. Be honest with God in your prayers and seek out a trusted friend and/or professional for support. Learn from Elijah’s story and remember that there is hope, healing, and victory in the powerful name of Jesus Christ.
 

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January 24
No Line to Love
Bible in a Year:

I have made you and I will carry you.

Isaiah 46:4
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Isaiah 46:3–10
Sometimes when my Labrador retriever wants attention, he’ll take something of mine and parade it in front of me. One morning as I was writing at the desk with my back turned, Max snatched my wallet and ran off. But realizing I hadn’t seen him do it, he returned and nudged me with his nose—wallet in mouth, eyes dancing, tail wagging, taunting me to play.
Max’s antics made me laugh, but they also reminded me of my limitations when it comes to being attentive to others. So often I’ve intended to spend time with family or friends, but other things occupy my time and awareness; and before I know it the day slips away and love is left undone.
How comforting to know that our heavenly Father is so great that He’s able to attend to each of us in the most intimate ways—even sustaining every breath in our lungs for as long as we live. He promises His people, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4).
God always has time for us. He understands every detail of our circumstances—no matter how complex or difficult—and is there whenever we call on Him in prayer. We never have to wait in line for our Savior’s unlimited love.
By: James Banks


Reflect & Pray
In what ways does God take care of your daily needs? How can you share His love with others?
You always have time for me, Jesus. Please help me to live every moment for You!
 

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“The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, ‘See, your son is alive.’ Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.’” – I Kings 17: 22-24
TRUSTING GOD IN THE TOUGH TIMES
January 26, 2020
It’s easy to lose faith when life becomes difficult and problems appear impossible. Elijah and a struggling single mom were very familiar with those circumstances. After King Ahab had turned his back on the One True God, the prophet Elijah went into hiding. While God took care of him and provided for his every need, it wasn’t easy – especially when God told Elijah to head north into enemy territory and ask for food from a dirt poor single mom. Nevertheless, both Elijah and this single mom chose to step out in faith, trusting God to provide – and He did. Then true hardship arrived when the woman’s son died. Yet Elijah’s powerful prayers brought him back to life. So what does this story demonstrate about trusting God in tough times?
  1. God uses the Godly to proclaim God’s Word. Elijah stood up to King Ahab when the king had encouraged the people to worship the idol Baal. When this forced Elijah to flee, he shared God’s word with a struggling mother and her son; they were both blessed. Even when the son died, Elijah’s trust in God brought him back to life. Elijah remained faithful and boldly trusted God even in the midst of incredibly difficult circumstances.
  2. The greater the need, the greater the blessing. One of the lessons in the life of Elijah and the single mom is trust. God calls us to trust Him enough to put faith into action. Often, that’s when we’ll see just how incredible God’s blessings can be.
  3. Trusting God doesn’t mean a problem-free life. Challenges and difficulties don’t disappear simply because we trust God. Why? Because God wants us to grow. It’s through life’s ups and downs that God transforms us to look more like Jesus in spirit, character, and purpose.
Are you trusting in materialism or career more than God? Maybe you’re holding onto a secret addiction, a secret sin that you just can’t give up. Could it be that God is challenging you to trust in Him rather than in your things, your job, or your wants? Put God FIRST and just like Elijah and the single mom, see how God shows up.
 

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“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’…’But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?'” – Matthew 16: 13 & 15
FROM RELIGION TO RELATIONSHIP
January 27, 2020
There’s a moment at the beginning of every Christian’s faith journey when they realize they’ve been forgiven and washed clean by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. It’s the moment they give their life to Jesus and begin walking with Him. It’s the start of a relationship – or it should be. Too often the “moment” fades and life’s pressures and disappointments creep back in. That’s when we can find ourselves moving from relationship to religion.
What do I mean? Over time, we begin to learn HOW to behave and talk about our faith, but in the process, we forget WHO it is we’ve given our lives to. Slowly, we can move from a relationship with Jesus Christ to following a list of rules. If this sounds familiar, if you’re feeling stuck going through the motions rather than getting to know the person of Jesus Christ – there is a solution. The way from religion back to relationship begins with Jesus.
Focus on who Jesus is, His character and life, His teachings and promises. Remind yourself of the Jesus whom you encountered in that moment when you first decided to give your life to Him. Ask God to reignite that first love – not with a “religion” but with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
 

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“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” – Matthew 24:10- 11
SIGNS OF THE END TIMES: FALSE PROPHETS
January 28, 2020
American culture is following in Europe’s footsteps as society becomes more and more secular. In the past 20 years, the number of Americans identifying as non-religious and not believing in God or religion has reached over 23%, compared to only 8% in 1996. With this dramatic increase, it can be difficult for Western Christians to grasp that they are rapidly becoming the minority. As such, believers will face increased persecution which, in turn, will cause many to lose faith. This will be a sign of the End Times.
“Look out for false teachers and prophets (My Paraphrase),” Jesus warned, because false prophets will only fuel this trend through subtle manipulation of the truth. Many will argue that false teachers outside the church are easy to spot: Mohammed in Islam and Joseph Smith in the Mormon Church, for example. What’s more difficult to spot, however, are false teachers within the church.
There have always been teachers who have tried to manipulate the Word of God. Prosperity theology preachers abound, while some others teach the Gospel of feel-good greed – both deceptive and false. Many mainline protestant preachers have stopped believing that the Bible is the perfectly true and inspired Word of God, sending their churches down a dead end road. Other Christians and spiritual leaders pick and choose what Scriptures they like, discarding the ones they don’t, and thus watering down what the Bible says about topics like sexual purity. This trend began in the 1960’s in the US and will only continue as society walks further away from Biblical teaching and values – just like Europe.
So how will you respond? Will you recognize a watered down Gospel when you hear it? Commit to spending more time in God’s Word this week and ask Him for the wisdom to recognize false teachers – inside and outside the church. We must stay alert in these end times.

Have more questions about the End Times and recognizing the signs of which Jesus spoke? Key insights to these questions and more are available in Bryant’s latest book, The Stage is Set, available in paperback, Kindle, and CD at www.amazon.com or anywhere books or e-books are sold.
 

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January 30
Strengthening Weak Knees
Bible in a Year:

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way.

Isaiah 35:3
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Isaiah 35:1–4
When I was a kid, I thought the song title “He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need,” written by Dottie Rambo in 1967, was “He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Knees.” Employing the logic of a child, I wondered why God would look at knees. Was it because they were weak? I knew that weak-kneed meant “afraid.” I later discovered that Dottie had written the song about God’s unconditional love in response to her brother Eddie’s belief that he was unlovable because of the wrong things he’d done. Dottie assured him that God saw his weakness but loved him anyway.
God’s unconditional love is apparent throughout the many weak-kneed moments of the people of Israel and Judah. He sent prophets like Isaiah with messages for His wayward people. In Isaiah 35, the prophet shares the hope of God’s restoration. The encouragement that would come as a result of embracing hope would “strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way” (v. 3). Through the encouragement they received, God’s people would in turn be able to encourage others. This is why Isaiah instructs in verse 4, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear.’ ”
Feeling weak-kneed? Talk to your heavenly Father. He strengthens weak knees through the truth of the Scriptures and the power of His presence. You’ll then be able to encourage others.
By: Linda Washington

Reflect & Pray
What are some of the ways you’ve been encouraged recently? How will you encourage someone who’s facing hard times?
Father, I need Your strength and Your grace today.
 

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January 31
Going, Going, Gone
Bible in a Year:

Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone.

Proverbs 23:5
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Proverbs 23:1–5
The mischievous artist Banksy pulled off another practical joke. His painting Girl with Balloon sold for one million pounds at Sotheby’s auction house in London. Moments after the auctioneer yelled “Sold,” an alarm sounded and the painting slipped halfway through a shredder mounted inside the bottom of the frame. Banksy tweeted a picture of bidders gasping at his ruined masterpiece, with the caption, “Going, going, gone.”
Banksy relished pulling one over on the wealthy, but he need not have bothered. Wealth itself has plenty of pranks up its sleeve. God says, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich . . . . Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:4–5).
Few things are less secure than money. We work hard to earn it, yet there are many ways to lose it. Investments go sour, inflation erodes, bills come, thieves steal, and fire and flood destroy. Even if we manage to keep our money, the time we have to spend it continually flies. Blink, and your life is going, going, gone.
What to do? God tells us a few verses later: “always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (vv. 17–18). Invest your life in Jesus; He alone will keep you forever.
By: Mike Wittmer


Reflect & Pray
Where does your life feel insecure? How might that lead you to Jesus?
God, help me to give my insecurities to You and to trust in Your goodness and faithfulness.
 

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“…do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” – Matthew 6:13
DON’T LET WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD SHAKE YOUR FAITH
February 2, 2020
George Barna, the well-known public-opinion pollster, conducted a national survey: “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” The Number one answer was, “Why is there so much pain and suffering?”
In light of all of the unrest in the world, some follow-up thoughts are raised: “If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet doesn’t stop evil, then why should I believe in Him?” Or, “If He can’t do anything about all of this, then He isn’t much of a God, is He?”
Questions like these can shake our faith and grip us with fear, anger and bewilderment. If God is all-powerful and all-good, then how can he allow so much pain and suffering? As Christians, we know that God is powerful and loving, but sometimes it feels like He doesn’t care, or that we’re all alone. Two things to keep in mind:
  1. God gets blamed for a lot of man’s evil.
  2. God has given man a free will.
Ironically, the more victimized people are by man’s evil, the more they tend to blame God. But, we’re not computers programmed to simply do good or do evil. Like God, we can make choices and those choices have consequences.
So, the question remains: Why does God, who is all-loving and all-powerful, allow suffering and evil? No answer is adequate, but God’s main concern is that we trust Him to bring good out of evil. If He did it when mankind murdered His innocent Son, then He can do it with all of the suffering and unrest in 2020.
 

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February 4
God-Sized Love
Bible in a Year:

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?

Matthew 5:46
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 5:43–48
I once visited an impoverished neighborhood of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Homes were made of corrugated iron, with electrical wires dangling live above them. There I had the privilege of interviewing families and hearing how churches were helping to combat unemployment, drug use, and crime.
In one alleyway I climbed a rickety ladder to a small room to interview a mother and her son. But just a moment later someone rushed up, saying, “We must leave now.” A machete-wielding gang leader was apparently gathering a mob to ambush us.
We visited a second neighborhood, but there we had no problem. Later I discovered why. As I visited each home, a gang leader stood outside guarding us. It turned out his daughter was being fed and educated by the church, and because believers were standing by her, he stood by us.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a standard of love that’s beyond comparison. This kind of love embraces not just the “worthy” but the undeserving (Matthew 5:43–45), reaching beyond family and friends to touch those who can’t or won’t love us back (vv. 46–47). This is God-sized love (v. 48)—the kind that blesses everyone.
As believers in Santo Domingo live out this love, neighborhoods are starting to change. Tough hearts are warming to their cause. That’s what happens when God-sized love comes to town.
By: Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray
How would you describe the difference between human love and godly love? Who can you bless today who can’t repay you?
Jesus, pour Your love into me so I may pour it out to others—even to those who can’t repay the favor.
 

boldstardex

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February 6
Mercy’s Lament
Bible in a Year:

My heart is poured out on the ground . . . because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.

Lamentations 2:11
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Lamentations 2:10–13, 18–19
Her father blamed his illness on witchcraft. It was AIDS. When he died, his daughter, ten-year-old Mercy, grew even closer to her mother. But her mother was sick too, and three years later she died. From then on, Mercy’s sister raised the five siblings. That’s when Mercy began to keep a journal of her deep pain.
The prophet Jeremiah kept a record of his pain too. In the grim book of Lamentations, he wrote of atrocities done to Judah by the Babylonian army. Jeremiah’s heart was especially grieved for the youngest victims. “My heart is poured out on the ground,” he cried, “because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city” (2:11). The people of Judah had a history of ignoring God, but their children were paying the price too. “Their lives ebb away in their mothers’ arms,” wrote Jeremiah (v. 12).
We might have expected Jeremiah to reject God in the face of such suffering. Instead, he urged the survivors, “Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children” (v. 19).
It’s good, as Mercy and Jeremiah did, to pour out our hearts to God. Lament is a crucial part of being human. Even when God permits such pain, He grieves with us. Made as we are in His image, He must lament too!
By: Tim Gustafson
Reflect & Pray
How do you handle the painful situations in your life? How might it help you to write it down and share your journal with a friend?
Dear God, I’m hurting because of ____________________. You see my grief. Please show Your strength in my life today.
 

boldstardex

Moderator
“…If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A GOOD FOLLOWER
February 6, 2020
When Jesus called His disciples, His first command was, “Follow me.”
What does it mean to follow someone?
Imagine that you’re in an unfamiliar place, following a friend in your car. To get to where you’re going, you have to follow their lead – right? When you follow someone else, you’re:
  • trusting them to lead you to the right place.
  • submitting to their leadership ; otherwise you get lost.
  • keeping your eyes on them. If you lose sight of them, you’ll get lost.
  • going at their pace, not getting ahead or falling behind.
This is what’s involved in following Jesus. We have to trust Him to guide us where we need to go. We have to submit to His leadership – His will before our own. We have to stay focused on Him and go at His pace. If we do this, then He’ll lead us to where we need to go.
And here’s even more good news – in the process, He’ll lead us to our life purpose! Are you following Jesus?
 

boldstardex

Moderator
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'” – Revelation 21:1-4
DESTINATION – HEAVEN
February 9, 2020
Years ago, the late Adrian Rogers, a well-known and beloved preacher, shared about an older, highly respected pastor. Known in his day as the “prince of preachers,” Adrian’s predecessor had been a man of such oratorical skills and spiritual anointing that his messages mesmerized listeners. As this older preacher neared the end of his life, he found himself going in and out of consciousness in a hospital bed. One day, with his daughter by his bedside, he suddenly looked up, wide-eyes and said, “It is greater than I imagined. I never did it justice.” And with that, he closed his eyes and died at peace.
Now think about it. Even this great man of God, an incredibly gifted and eloquent preacher, was at a loss for words when he reached that point of glimpsing heaven, just before stepping over to the other side of life.
Let this be a reminder to hold onto hope and not give up, as we journey through the highs and lows of faith with the Lord Jesus Christ by our side. No matter how tough life gets, when we get to our ultimate destination of heaven and finally see the Lord face to face, we, too, will exclaim: “I never knew how great He could be!” Because I can guarantee that there will be few words to adequately describe how incredible it will be to finally stand before the King of kings and the Lord of lords!
What about you? When you think about the end of your life – do you know where you will be? Like Adrian’s predecessor, will you arrive at that destination to experience the moment where words won’t be enough? I assure you, that for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, they will also experience that moment in heaven with Him. And that day is going to be so much greater than anything we could ever imagine. You don’t want to miss that!
 
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