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Daily Devotion

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June 30
Navigating Life’s Rapids
Bible in a Year:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Psalm 32:8
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Psalm 32:5–11
“Everybody on the left, give me three strong forward strokes!” our whitewater raft guide shouted. Those on the left dug in, pulling our raft away from a churning vortex. For several hours, we’d learned the importance of listening to our guide’s instructions. His steady voice enabled six people with little rafting experience to work together to plot the safest course down a raging river.
Life has its share of whitewater rapids, doesn’t it? One moment, it’s smooth sailing. Then, in a flash, we’re paddling like mad to avoid suddenly swirling whirlpools. Those tense moments make us keenly aware of our need for a skilled guide, a trusted voice to help us navigate turbulent times.
In Psalm 32, God promises to be that voice: “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go” (v. 8). Backing up, we see that confessing our sins (v. 5) and prayerfully seeking Him (v. 6) play a role in hearing Him too. Still, I take comfort in the fact that God promises, “I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (v. 8), a reminder that His guidance flows from His love. Near the end of the chapter, the psalmist concludes, “The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts him” (v. 10). And as we trust Him, we can rest in His promise to guide us through life’s rockiest passages.
By: Adam R. Holz
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Reflect & Pray
What circumstances in your life right now feel like whitewater rapids? How might you seek God’s guiding voice about how to respond?
Father, thank You for Your promise to be my Guide. Help me to seek You and listen to You as You direct the course of my life.
For help in navigating the storms of life, read discoveryseries.org/hp061.
 

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Talking Bananas
Bible in a Year:

[Barnabas] encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

Acts 11:23
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Acts 11:19–26
Never give up. Be the reason someone smiles. You’re amazing. It isn’t where you came from—it’s where you’re going that counts. Some schoolchildren in Virginia Beach, Virginia, found these messages and more written on bananas in their lunchroom. Cafeteria manager Stacey Truman took the time to write the encouraging notes on the fruit, which the kids dubbed “talking bananas.”
This caring outreach reminds me of Barnabas’ heart for the “spiritual youngsters” in the ancient city of Antioch (Acts 11:22–24). Barnabas was famous for his ability to inspire people. Known as a good man, full of faith and the Holy Spirit, he prompted the new believers to “remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (v. 23). I imagine he spent time with those he wanted to help, saying things like: Keep praying. Trust the Lord. Stay close to God when life is hard.
New believers, like children, need loads of encouragement. They’re full of potential. They’re discovering what they’re good at. They may not fully realize what God wants to do in and through them, and often the enemy works overtime to prevent their faith from flourishing.
Those of us who’ve walked with Jesus for a while understand how hard living for Jesus can be. May all of us be able to give and receive encouragement as God’s Spirit guides us and reminds us of spiritual truth.
By: Jennifer Benson Schuldt
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Reflect & Pray
How has God encouraged you in the past? How might God want to work through you to inspire someone?
Heavenly Father, give me someone to encourage today. Show me what to say and how to meet this person’s needs so that You’ll be glorified.
 

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July 3
Just a Spark
Bible in a Year:

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.

James 3:5
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
James 3:1–6
“We’re in the library, and we can see the flames right outside!” She was scared. We could hear it in her voice. We know her voice—the voice of our daughter. At the same time we knew her college campus was the safest place for her and her almost 3,000 fellow students. The 2018 Woolsey Fire spread more quickly than anyone anticipated—most of all fire personnel. The record heat and dry conditions in the California canyon, along with the legendary Santa Ana winds, were all the rather small sparks needed to ultimately burn 97,000 acres, destroy more than 1,600 structures, and kill three people. In the photos taken after the fire was contained, the usual lush coastline resembled the barren surface of the moon.
In the book of James, the author names some small but powerful things: “bits [in] the mouths of horses” and the rudders of ships (3:3–4). And while familiar, these examples are somewhat removed from us. But then he names something a little closer to home, something small that every human being possesses—a tongue. And while this chapter is first directed specifically to teachers (v. 1), the application quickly spreads to each of us. The tongue, small as it is, can lead to disastrous results.
Our small tongues are powerful, but our big God is more powerful. His help on a daily basis provides the strength to rein in and guide our words.
By: John Blase
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Reflect & Pray
When was the last time your tongue got away from you? What will help you keep a tight rein on your words in God’s strength?
Jesus, I’ve been on the receiving end of words that burn. And my words have hurt others. Help me to keep a tight rein on my tongue.
To learn more about the book of James, visit christianuniversity.org/nt336.
 

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July 4
The Kindness Man
Bible in a Year:

When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her.

Luke 7:13
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Luke 7:11–17
Disillusioned and wanting a more meaningful life, Leon quit his job in finance. Then one day he saw a homeless man holding up this sign at a street corner: KINDNESS IS THE BEST MEDICINE. Leon says, “Those words rammed straight into me. It was an epiphany.”
Leon decided to begin his new life by creating an international organization to promote kindness. He travels around the world, relying on strangers to provide him with food, gas, and a place to stay. Then he rewards them, through his organization, with good deeds such as feeding orphans or building on to a school for underprivileged children. He says, “It’s sometimes seen as being soft. But kindness is a profound strength.”
Christ’s very essence as God is goodness, so kindness naturally flowed from Him. I love the story of what Jesus did when He came upon the funeral procession of a widow’s only son (Luke 7:11–17). The grieving woman most likely was dependent on her son for financial support. We don’t read in the story that anyone asked Jesus to intervene. Purely from the goodness of His nature (v. 13), He was concerned and brought her son back to life. The people said of Christ, “God has come to help his people” (v. 16).
By: Anne Cetas
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Reflect & Pray
What kindnesses does Jesus pour out on you? List them and thank Him.
You, God, are always showering me with Your gifts of love. I praise You for caring for me.
 

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A Flourishing Tree
Bible in a Year:

Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

Proverbs 11:28
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Proverbs 11:24–30
I’ve always had a collector’s heart. As a kid, I collected stamps. Baseball cards. Comics. Now, as a parent, I see the same impulse in my kids. Sometimes I wonder, Do you really need another teddy bear?
Of course, it’s not about need. It’s about the allure of something new. Or sometimes the tantalizing draw of something old, something rare. Whatever captivates our imagination, we’re tempted to believe that if we only had “X,” our lives would be better. We’d be happy. Content.
Except those things never deliver the goods. Why? Because God created us to be filled by Him, not by the things that the world around us often insists will satisfy our longing hearts.
This tension is hardly new. Proverbs contrasts two ways of life: a life spent pursuing riches versus a life grounded in loving God and giving generously. In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases Proverbs 11:28 like this: “A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree.”
What a picture! Two ways of life: one flourishing and fruitful, one hollow and barren. The world insists that material abundance equals “the good life.” In contrast, God invites us to be rooted in Him, to experience His goodness, and to flourish fruitfully. And as we’re shaped by our relationship with Him, God reshapes our hearts and desires, transforming us from the inside out.
By: Adam R. Holz
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Reflect & Pray
When has an undue focus on material things become a major spiritual struggle for you? What helps you keep your desires in proper perspective?
Father, thank You for the good gifts You give. Help me to keep putting my trust in You rather than the stuff of this world.
 

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July 7
Prayer Eggs
Bible in a Year:

Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Habakkuk 2:1–3
Just outside my kitchen window, a robin built her nest under the eaves of our patio roof. I loved watching her tuck grasses into a safe spot and then hunker down to incubate the eggs. Each morning I checked her progress; but each morning, there was nothing. Robin eggs take two weeks to hatch.
Such impatience isn’t new for me. I’ve always strained against the work of waiting, especially in prayer. My husband and I waited nearly five years to adopt our first child. Decades ago, author Catherine Marshall wrote, “Prayers, like eggs, don’t hatch as soon as we lay them.”
The prophet Habakkuk wrestled with waiting in prayer. Frustrated at God’s silence with Babylon’s brutal mistreatment of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, Habakkuk commits to “stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts,” to “look to see what he will say to me” (Habakkuk 2:1). God replies that Habakkuk is to wait for the “appointed time” (v. 3) and directs Habakkuk to “write down the revelation” so the word can be spread as soon as it’s given (v. 2).
What God doesn’t mention is that the “appointed time” when Babylon falls is six decades away, creating a long gap between promise and fulfillment. Like eggs, prayers often don’t hatch immediately but rather incubate in God’s overarching purposes for our world and our lives.
By: Elisa Morgan
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Reflect & Pray
How difficult do you find it to wait while God works? While you wait, how can you obey God in what He has already given you to do?
Dear God, help me to trust You to work while I’m waiting.
To learn more about the prophet Habakkuk, visit bit.ly/35b7xTE.
 

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July 8
A Friend in Failure
Bible in a Year:

Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them.

Acts 15:38
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Acts 15:36–16:5
On November 27, 1939, three treasure hunters accompanied by film crews dug through the asphalt outside of the Hollywood Bowl amphitheater in Southern California. They were looking for the Cahuenga Pass treasure, consisting of gold, diamonds, and pearls rumored to have been buried there seventy-five years earlier.
They never found it. After twenty-four days of digging, they struck a boulder and stopped. All they accomplished was a nine-foot-wide, forty-two-foot-deep hole in the ground. They walked away dejected.
To err is human—we all fail sometimes. Scripture tells us that young Mark walked away from Paul and Barnabas on a missionary trip “and had not continued with them in the work.” Because of this, “Paul did not think it wise to take him” on his next trip (Acts 15:38), which resulted in a strong disagreement with Barnabas. But in spite of his initial failings, Mark shows up years later in surprising ways. When Paul was lonely and in prison toward the end of his life, he asked for Mark and called him “helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). God even inspired Mark to write the gospel that bears his name.
Mark’s life shows us that God won’t leave us to face our errors and failures alone. We have a Friend who’s greater than every mistake. As we follow our Savior, He’ll provide the help and strength we need.
By: James Banks
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Reflect & Pray
What mistakes or failures have you faced recently? In what ways have you discovered God’s strength as you shared them with Him in prayer?
Jesus, thank You for being there whenever I want to talk to You. I praise You for the comfort and hope only You can give!
 

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July 9
The Foolish Way of New Life
Bible in a Year:

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
1 Corinthians 1:20–31
Some things just don’t make sense until you experience them. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read multiple books about childbirth and listened to dozens of women tell their stories of labor and delivery. But I still couldn’t really imagine what the experience would be like. What my body was going to do seemed impossible!
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that birth into God’s kingdom, the salvation that God offers us through Christ, seems equally incomprehensible to those who haven’t experienced it. It sounds like “foolishness” to say that salvation could come through a cross—a death marked by weakness, defeat, and humiliation. Yet this “foolishness” was the salvation that Paul preached!
It wasn’t what anyone could have imagined it would be like. Some people thought that salvation would come through a strong political leader or a miraculous sign. Others thought that their own academic or philosophical achievements would be their salvation (1 Corinthians 1:22). But God surprised everyone by bringing salvation in a way that would only make sense to those who believed, to those who experienced it.
God took something shameful and weak—death on a cross—and made it the foundation of wisdom and power. God does the unimaginable. He chooses the weak and foolish things of the world to shame the wise (v. 27).
And His surprising, confounding ways are always the best ways.
By: Amy Peterson
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Reflect & Pray
How is God surprising you today? Why is it true that God’s ways are better than your ways?
God, with Isaiah I pray, as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are Your ways higher than my ways.
 
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