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Daily Devotion

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July 15
Confident Prayer
Bible in a Year:

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?

Luke 11:11
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Luke 11:5–13
Having tried for years to have a child, Richard and Susan were elated when Susan became pregnant. Her health problems, however, posed a risk to the baby, and so Richard lay awake each night praying for his wife and child. One night, Richard sensed he didn’t need to pray so hard, that God had promised to take care of things. But a week later Susan miscarried. Richard was devastated. He wondered, Had they lost the baby because he hadn’t prayed hard enough?
On first reading, we might think today’s parable suggests so. In the story, a neighbor (sometimes thought to represent God) only gets out of bed to help the friend because of the friend’s annoying persistence (Luke 11:5–8). Read this way, the parable suggests that God will give us what we need only if we badger Him. And if we don’t pray hard enough, maybe God won’t help us.
But biblical commentators like Klyne Snodgrass believe this misunderstands the parable—its real point being that if neighbors might help us for selfish reasons, how much more will our unselfish Father. We can therefore ask confidently (vv. 9–10), knowing that God is greater than flawed human beings (vv. 11–13). He isn’t the neighbor in the parable, but the opposite of him.
“I don’t know why you lost your baby,” I told Richard, “but I know it wasn’t because you didn’t pray ‘hard’ enough. God isn’t like that.”
By: Sheridan Voysey
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Reflect & Pray
If the neighbor in the parable represents God, what does it suggest God is like? If verses 11–13 clarify the parable, what then is God like?
Father, today I bring You my needs and the needs of others, confident that You’ll hear and answer, and grateful that it’s Your goodness and not my words that count.
Read about the power of prayer at DiscoverySeries.org/Q0740.
 

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July 16
Navigating the Storms of Life
Bible in a Year:

Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me.

Psalm 43:3
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Psalm 43
On July 16, 1999, the small plane piloted by John F. Kennedy Jr. crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Investigators determined the cause of the accident to be a common error known as spatial disorientation. This phenomenon occurs when, due to poor visibility, pilots become disoriented and forget to rely on their instruments to help them successfully reach their destination.
As we navigate life, there are often times when life gets so overwhelming we feel disoriented. A cancer diagnosis, the death of a loved one, a job loss, a betrayal by a friend—life’s unexpected tragedies can easily leave us feeling lost and confused.
When we find ourselves in these kinds of situations, we might try offering the prayer of Psalm 43. In this psalm, the psalmist is overwhelmed and feeling lost because he feels surrounded by evil and injustice. In despair, the psalmist pleads with God to provide His sure guidance to help him safely navigate through the situation to his desired destination, God’s presence (vv. 3–4). In God’s presence the psalmist knows he’ll find renewed hope and joy.
What are the tools the psalmist requests for guidance? The light of truth and the assurance of God’s presence by His Holy Spirit.
When you’re feeling disoriented and lost, God’s faithful guidance through His Spirit and loving presence can comfort you and light your way.
By: Lisa M. Samra
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Reflect & Pray
What disorienting circumstances are you experiencing? How might you ask God to help guide you today?
Heavenly Father, thank You that You’ve not left me alone in the challenging and disorienting circumstances of life. Please help me to rely on You to guide my steps today.
To learn how to help people who are in pain, visit ChristianUniversity.org/CC205.



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July 19
Firm Refusal
Bible in a Year:

Daniel . . . still pray[ed] three times a day.

Daniel 6:13
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Daniel 6:10–23
When the Nazis drafted Franz Jägerstätter during World War II, he completed military basic training but refused to take the required pledge of personal loyalty to Adolf Hitler. Authorities allowed Franz to return to his farm, but they later summoned him to active duty. After seeing Nazi ideology up close and learning of the Jewish genocide, however, Jägerstätter decided his loyalty to God meant he could never fight for the Nazis. He was arrested and sentenced to execution, leaving behind his wife and three daughters.
Over the years, many believers in Jesus—under peril of death—have offered a firm refusal when commanded to disobey God. The story of Daniel is one such story. When a royal edict threatened that anyone “who pray[ed] to any god or human being except [the king]” (Daniel 6:12) would be thrown into the lions’ den, Daniel discarded safety and remained faithful. “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (v. 10). The prophet would bend his knee to God—and only God—no matter the cost.
Sometimes, our choice is clear. Though everyone around us implores us to go along with prevailing opinion—though our own reputation or well-being may be at risk—may we never turn from our obedience to God. Sometimes, even at great cost, all we can offer is a firm refusal.
By: Winn Collier
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Reflect & Pray
Where are you sensing that obedience to God will require your firm refusal? What might this refusal cost you? What will you gain?
God, I know my loyalty to You will at times mean saying no to others’ expectations or demands. It may cost me dearly. Give me courage.
 

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IS YOUR SPOUSE YOUR BEST FRIEND?
July 18, 2021
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24
God has decreed that the most important human relationship in a marriage is with our spouse.

Men and women, we are to leave our fathers and mothers and be joined to our spouse.

It doesn’t mean that we love our parents or our children less, but the priority should always be with our spouse. In other words, the husband and the wife are called to be best friends. There should not be a person on this earth that we are closer to than our spouse. And if there is, our priorities have gotten out of whack and we need to confess our sin to God and ask Him to forgive us and help us reprioritize our life.

I speak often about the importance of a weekly date for a husband and wife. I call it the “falling in love all over again” time. Anne and I still have our weekly date after 40+ years of marriage. Every time, it’s like we are bonded together once again. This continues to amaze me that after all these years I can look at her and say, “Anne, isn’t it amazing? We’ve spent all this time together, and there’s nobody we want to be with more than each other.”

There is nothing like having your spouse as your best friend. It’s marriage as God designed it to be.
 

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July 21
Authentic Christianity
Bible in a Year:

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.

Matthew 5:12
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 5:3–10
I applied for a position in a Christian organization years ago and was presented with a list of legalistic rules having to do with the use of alcohol, tobacco, and certain forms of entertainment. “We expect Christian behavior from our employees” was the explanation. I could agree with this list because I, for reasons mostly unrelated to my faith, didn’t do those things. But my argumentative side thought, Why don’t they have a list about not being arrogant, insensitive, harsh, spiritually indifferent, and critical? None of these were addressed.
Following Jesus can’t be defined by a list of rules. It’s a subtle quality of life that’s difficult to quantify but can best be described as “beautiful.”
The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–10 sum up that beauty: Those who are indwelt by and dependent on the Spirit of Jesus are humble and self-effacing. They’re deeply touched by the suffering of others. They’re gentle and kind. They long for goodness in themselves and in others. They’re merciful to those who struggle and fail. They’re single-minded in their love for Jesus. They’re peaceful and leave behind a legacy of peace. They’re kind to those who misuse them, returning good for evil. And they’re blessed, a word that means “happy” in the deepest sense.
This kind of life attracts the attention of others and belongs to those who come to Jesus and ask Him for it.
By: David H. Roper
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Reflect & Pray
Which of the attributes from Matthew 5 do you especially need in your life? How can you grow in this?
Spirit of God, please produce these characteristics from the Beatitudes in my life.
 

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LOSING YOUR WONDER
July 25, 2021
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25
WARNING: Be careful not to lose your wonder of who Jesus is and what He’s done.

Losing our sense of wonder can not only happen in our relationship with Jesus, but in other relationships as well. My wife and I, for instance, have been married for 20+ years. I remember the days when I would get as excited as a lovesick puppy each time she called. Now, her text messages are so commonplace that I take them for granted. The wonder of having a wife, a sacred partner on the journey of life, has gradually diminished.

I wish this wasn’t the case, but it’s just a part of human nature.

This is why John’s words at the very end of his book are both inspiring and challenging. For the better part of three years, John was with Jesus nearly 24/7. Yet, John’s closeness with Jesus didn’t stifle his amazement of Him.

In 21 chapters, John accurately and eloquently describes the key moments of Jesus’ life and ministry. He writes with the sole purpose of proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (20:31).

As he writes his concluding sentence, John knows he has only scratched the surface. The story of Jesus is far more glorious than one man could ever capture with pen and paper. Words can’t adequately portray the beauty of who Jesus is, nor is there a library big enough to catalogue the ineffable greatness of His deeds.

The largest library in the U.S. is the Library of Congress. Home to more than 1.7 million items and occupying over 2 million square feet, John would still say it’s far too small to tell the story of Jesus.

What’s more, John had no idea how true his words would become. Throughout the ages, countless books, articles, blogs, sermons, lyrics, etc. have been written about Jesus. Granted, not all of them are theologically accurate. Some are even penned by skeptics and cynics.

But the point remains: people can’t stop writing about Jesus and never will.

We might be tempted to dismiss John 21:25 as mere hyperbole, but that’s unfair to what John wants to convey. When trying to tell the story of Someone who truly surpasses comprehension, it’s not an exaggeration to say the work cannot be contained, nor will it ever be completed.

So, why does John end this way?

• To grab our attention.

• To humble us by the grandeur of the story of Jesus.

• To awaken the wonder inside of us.

How about you? Little by little, have you lost your sense of wonder for who Jesus is and what He’s done?

Do you feel as if you’re just going through the motions?

Take a few moments and allow John’s words to rekindle your wonder of Jesus.

(By the way…in case you’re wondering, Lisa and I are happily celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary this month. We’re far from perfect. But after all these years, we’re still fighting to not lose the wonder of marriage amidst the craziness of life ☺.)



Written by Jonathan Munson, Executive Director, RFTH
 

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WHAT IS RIGHTEOUS ANGER, ANYWAY?
July 27, 2021
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” Matthew 5: 21-23
Is anger as bad as murder?

Of course not.

Right?

Well…Jesus would disagree – equating anger with murder when it comes to the seriousness of the sin. In other words, there’s no scale when it comes to sin: losing one’s temper and murder are the same in God’s eyes.

But Jesus got angry, so how can anger be a sin if Jesus never sinned? Well, it’s a bit complicated – especially when we read in Ephesians 4: 26: “In your anger do not sin.” So how can we make sense of all this?

  1. True righteous anger isn’t wrong. Righteous anger is the kind of anger that God and Jesus displayed in the Bible. It’s an anger that comes when God is not respected, when our fellow man is taken advantage of, or an injustice is committed against the defenseless. This kind of anger often moves us to action. However, if in the process of defending the defenseless, we lose our temper, that righteous anger suddenly becomes wrong in God’s eyes; it becomes a sin.
  2. Losing our temper is sin. No matter the circumstances, when we lose our temper, it always means we’ve blown it. We’ve all said and done things in a fit of temper that we deeply regret.
  3. Contempt for others is sin. This refers to any feelings of superiority or actions that belittle or insult others. The seriousness of an arrogant attitude of pride that leads to disrespecting others is no laughing matter.
What are we to do? If we have allowed anger to get in the way of a relationship, if we’ve lost our temper, belittled another or even called them a “harmless” but derogatory name – we need to stop and make it right. Confess it to God and ask for the courage to go and make it right with the person you’ve wronged.
 

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AVOIDING COUNTERFEIT MARRIAGE
July 28, 2021
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24
One of the saddest statements I’ve heard time and again as a pastor when a person loses their spouse is, “I feel like I’ve lost a part of me.” And they truly have. Because what God has designed for marriage is one-flesh bonding:

  • Emotionally; one- flesh bonding
  • Relationally; one-flesh bonding
  • Spiritually; one-flesh bonding, and
  • Physically; one-flesh bonding
And for those of you who are wondering, there is no doubt that sexual intercourse is the ultimate symbol of the one-flesh relationship that God has in mind for the husband and wife in marriage. Sex is a wonderful gift. This false idea that sex originated after the fall of man is nonsense! God gave sex as a gift to man and woman to be enjoyed in the context of committed love, but only in marriage. Adam and Eve enjoyed the mutual pleasure of “the one flesh” relationship long before they fell into sin, and God was very pleased. After all, sex is His idea.

Sadly, that one-flesh relationship has been counterfeited over and over by mankind. How is it counterfeited? Let’s take a look at a few ways:

  1. It is counterfeited by pre-marital sex. Not only is it wrong, there’s no lifetime commitment that gives the meaning to a one-flesh relationship.
  2. It is counterfeited by adultery. Adultery puts a dagger into the heart of a marriage. It so destroys trust that it’s often very hard for a spouse to get over it.
  3. It is counterfeited by homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Sadly, the Christian community hasn’t done much to help the situation. Looking at people in the church, the gay rights advocates see either pro-gay clergy saying the practice of homosexuality is not a sin, but good; or they see the self-righteous hypocrisy found in the Christian church and are thinking, “Are you kidding me? With all the divorce and adultery in your churches?” Obviously these sins are not what God had in mind for marriage.
  4. It is counterfeited by pornography. The damage that pornography in its many forms has brought to marriages and relationships between men and women is difficult to number. We would be saddened if we had real numbers on how many men and women are addicted to pornography, or are dabbling in it regularly, inside and outside the church.
There are more ways to counterfeit marriage, of course, but just looking at these few, the mindset that embraces them is self-gratification, and that was never part of God’s plan. The one-flesh relationship between one man and one woman in marriage…THAT was God’s plan.

Way to go, God!

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July 30
Overcoming Envy
Bible in a Year:

Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.

1 Samuel 18:7
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
1 Samuel 18:5–9
In the film Amadeus, aging composer Antonio Salieri plays some of his music on the piano for a visiting priest. The embarrassed priest confesses he doesn’t recognize the tunes. “What about this one?” Salieri says, playing an instantly familiar melody. “I didn’t know you wrote that,” the priest says. “I didn’t,” Salieri replies. “That was Mozart!” As viewers discover, Mozart’s success had caused deep envy in Salieri—even leading him to play a part in Mozart’s death.
A song lies at the heart of another envy story. After David’s victory over Goliath, the Israelites heartily sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). The comparison doesn’t sit well with King Saul. Envious of David’s success and afraid of losing his throne (vv. 8–9), Saul begins a prolonged pursuit of David, trying to take his life.
Like Salieri with music or Saul with power, we’re usually tempted to envy those with similar but greater gifts than we possess. And whether it’s picking fault with their work or belittling their success, we too can seek to damage our “rivals.”
Saul had been divinely chosen for his task (10:6–7, 24), a status that should’ve fostered security in him rather than envy. Since we each have unique callings too (Ephesians 2:10), maybe the best way to overcome envy is to quit comparing ourselves. Let’s celebrate each other’s successes instead.
By: Sheridan Voysey
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Reflect & Pray
Whom are you most tempted to envy? How can you celebrate their success?
Loving God, I thank You for my friends’ and colleagues’ successes.
 

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EVERY WORD OF GOD IS PURE
August 01, 2021
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8
Legalism, in Christian theology, is a term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigor, pride, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God, or emphasizing the letter of law at the expense of the spirit. WHEW! Did you get all that?

One reason fundamentalist Christians are so resented is, quite frankly, because some fundamentalists have added words to Scripture. Well-intentioned people feel there is a need to add to Scripture and not trust Scripture to be enough. Throughout the years, we have seen certain legalisms permeate many denominations. There have been zealous Baptists who declared all dancing is bad; even not going to Disney World back in the late 90s, (because Disney allowed gay pride days in Central Florida).

Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Catholics…every denomination grabs hold of certain legalisms with the best of intentions. Of course, there are no greater legalists today than the secular legalists who espouse political correctness. They have become the modern day Gestapo when it comes to enforcing select legalisms (PCs) of their choice.

Understand that man-made legalisms are an insult to God and to His Word. It’s like saying the Bible is incomplete and we have the knowledge to correct the scriptures with added insight on what is right and wrong. In fact, we are getting into some very scary territory when we do that. God’s Word plainly says, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)

Whew! That’s strong! The Word of God is enough. Let’s trust in that.

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August 4
Not Forgotten
Bible in a Year:

I will not forget you!

Isaiah 49:15
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Isaiah 49:14–18
“Uncle Arthur, do you remember the day you took me to the barbershop and the supermarket? I was wearing tan khakis, a blue-plaid oxford shirt, a navy-blue cardigan, brown socks, and brown Rockport shoes. The date was Thursday, October 20, 2016.” My nephew Jared’s autism-related challenges are offset by his phenomenal memory that can recall details like days and dates and the clothes he was wearing years after an event took place.
Because of the way he’s wired, Jared possesses the kind of memory that reminds me of the all-knowing, loving God—the Keeper of time and eternity. He knows the facts and won’t forget His promises or His people. Have you had moments when you’ve questioned whether or not you’ve been forgotten by God? When others appear to be healthier or happier or more successful or otherwise better off?
Ancient Israel’s less-than-ideal situation caused her to say, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). But that wasn’t the case. God’s compassion and care exceeded the natural bonds of affection that mothers have for their children (v. 15). Before embracing labels like “forsaken” or “forgotten,” think again of what God has done in and through His Son, Jesus. In the gospel that brings forgiveness, God has clearly said, “I will not forget you!” (v. 15).
By: Arthur Jackson
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Reflect & Pray
When have you felt alone, forsaken, and forgotten by God? How does processing the love of God expressed by sending Jesus to die for your sins help to counter feelings of being forgotten by Him?
Father, when I’m tempted to feel neglected, forgotten, and abandoned, help me to ponder again the love You demonstrated by sending Jesus to die for me.
 

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August 5
Greatness
Bible in a Year:

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.

Mark 9:35
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Mark 9:33–37
Cuthbert is a much-loved figure in northern England. Responsible for evangelizing much of the area in the seventh century, Cuthbert counseled monarchs and influenced state affairs; and after his death, the city of Durham was built in his honor. But Cuthbert’s legacy is great in more ways than these.
After a plague ravaged the region, Cuthbert once toured affected towns offering solace. Readying to leave one village, he checked if there was anyone left to pray for. There was—a woman, clutching a child. She had already lost one son, and the child she held was nearing death too. Cuthbert took the fevered boy in his arms, prayed for him, and kissed his forehead. “Do not fear,” he told her, “for no one else of your household will die.” The boy reportedly lived.
Jesus once took a small boy into his arms to give a lesson on greatness, saying, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me” (Mark 9:37). To “welcome” someone in Jewish culture meant to serve them, the way a host welcomes a guest. Since children were to serve adults and not be served, the idea must’ve been shocking. Jesus’ point? True greatness resides in serving the smallest and lowliest (v. 35).
A counselor to monarchs. An influencer of history. A city built in his honor. But perhaps heaven records Cuthbert’s legacy more like this: A mother noticed. A forehead kissed. A humble life reflecting his Master.
By: Sheridan Voysey
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Reflect & Pray
When you think of a “great” person in history, what image comes to mind? How can you pursue Jesus’ kind of greatness today?
Dear God, help me to humbly serve others.
 

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LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOUR SOUL
August 04, 2021
“Jesus answered, ‘The most important [commandment] is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your SOUL and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” – Mark 12:29-30
To continue from yesterday’s devotion, what is our SOUL?
Our soul is our personality and the seat of our will. Confused? Think about it this way. When a man and woman fall in love, they get married. While passion may have drawn them together, it is a decision of the will that keeps them together in a committed relationship. The fact is that sinful human nature often causes us to be tempted to be unfaithful to our spouse. And if we act by our feelings alone, we would follow the temptation!
It’s during those times that we have to completely ignore temporary feelings and by an act of the will, decide to stay faithful. We express our love through this long-term faithfulness, loyalty, and devotion.
It’s the same with God. When we give our heart to God, we begin that relationship with Him. Then along the way, we’re tempted to fall into sin. And if we simply follow our feelings, we might give into the temptation. But if we’re really going to love God, we will choose to be faithful to Him, no matter what we’re feeling at the moment.
So, how do we love God with all our soul? We do it with our will.
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August 6
Rise Again
Bible in a Year:

Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.

Proverbs 24:16
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Proverbs 24:15–18
Olympic runner Ryan Hall is the US record-holder for the half marathon. He completed the event distance of 13.1 miles (21 kilometers) in a remarkable time of fifty-nine minutes and forty-three seconds, making him the first US athlete to run the race in under one hour. While Hall has celebrated record-setting victories, he’s also known the disappointment of not being able to finish a race.
Having tasted both success and failure, Hall credits his faith in Jesus for sustaining him. One of his favorite Bible verses is an encouraging reminder from the book of Proverbs that “though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (24:16). This proverb reminds us that the righteous, those who trust in and have a right relationship with God, will still experience difficulties and hardships. However, as they continue to seek Him even in the midst of difficulty, God is faithful to give them the strength to rise again.
Have you recently experienced a devastating disappointment or failure and feel like you'll never recover? Scripture encourages us not to rely on our strength but to continue to put our confidence in God and His promises. As we trust Him, God’s Spirit gives us strength for every difficulty we encounter in this life, from the seemingly mundane to significant struggles (2 Corinthians 12:9).
By: Lisa M. Samra
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Reflect & Pray
How has God strengthened you after a difficult disappointment? How does that give you encouragement for the struggles you face today?
Heavenly Father, thank You that in every trial and disappointment You’re always close, offering comfort and strength to help me rise again.
Visit ChristianUniversity.org/SF108 to discover how you can best serve others and understand yourself better.
 

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August 7
First Forgive
Bible in a Year:

Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him.

Genesis 33:4
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Genesis 33:1–11
We called ourselves “sisters in Christ,” but my White friend and I had begun to act like enemies. Over a café breakfast one morning, we argued unkindly over our differing racial views. Then we parted, with me vowing not to see her again. One year later, however, we were hired by the same ministry—working in the same department, unable not to reconnect. Awkwardly at first, we talked over conflicts. Then, over time, God helped us to apologize to each other and to heal and to give the ministry our best.
God also healed the bitter division between Esau and his twin brother, Jacob, and blessed both their lives. A onetime schemer, Jacob had robbed Esau of their father’s blessing. But twenty years later, God called Jacob to return to their homeland. So, Jacob sent ahead bountiful gifts to appease Esau. “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept” (Genesis 33:4).
Their reunion stands as a classic example of God’s urging to settle anger with a brother or sister before offering our gifts—talents or treasures—to Him (Matthew 5:23–24). Instead, “first go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (v. 24). Jacob obeyed God by reconciling with Esau, and later setting up an altar to God (Genesis 33:20). What a beautiful order: First, strive for forgiveness and reconciliation. Then, at His altar, He receives us.
By: Patricia Raybon
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Reflect & Pray
Against whom do you hold a grudge or grievance? What steps can you take to reconcile?
Dear God, when I hold onto hard feelings against another believer, inspire me on the way to Your altar to first forgive.
 

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August 9
Fearless Love
Bible in a Year:

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

1 John 3:14
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
1 John 3:1, 11–18
There are some images so powerful they can never be forgotten. That was my experience when I viewed a famous photograph of the late Princess Diana of Wales. At first glance, the captured scene looks mundane: smiling warmly, the princess is shaking the hand of an unidentified man. But it’s the photograph’s story that makes it remarkable.
On April 19, 1987, when Princess Diana visited London Middlesex Hospital, the United Kingdom was engulfed in a wave of panic as it confronted the AIDS epidemic. Not knowing how the disease—which often killed with terrifying speed—was spread, the public at times treated AIDS victims like social pariahs.
So it was a stunning moment when Diana, with ungloved hands and a genuine smile, calmly shook an AIDS patient’s hand that day. That image of respect and kindness would move the world to treat victims of the disease with similar mercy and compassion.
The picture reminds me of something I often forget: freely and generously offering the love of Jesus to others is worth it. John reminded early believers in Christ that to let love wither or hide in the face of our fear is really to live “in death” (1 John 3:14). And to love freely and unafraid, filled and empowered with the Spirit’s self-giving love, is to experience resurrection life in all its fullness (vv. 14, 16).
By: Monica La Rose
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Reflect & Pray
When are you most prone to let fear stifle your love for others? How can you grow in experiencing and sharing the Spirit’s boundless love within those fearful places?
God of love, You are love, and to live in love is to live in You. I long to live with that kind of fearless, joyous love. Fill me with Your Spirit, and carry me ever deeper into Your love, until fear dissolves and Your love flows freely through me.
 

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FOR ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE
August 09, 2021
“Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity…” Hebrews 2:14
You’re not alone in feeling alone.
Loneliness is a worldwide epidemic, reaching every corner of the globe and showing no distinction between age, gender, race, or socioeconomic level. In recent years, both Great Britain and Japan have even appointed official “Ministers of Loneliness” to confront the enormous problem in their countries.
I applaud their efforts.
But when loneliness knocks on your door, comes in for a visit, and lingers way longer than you’d like, having a national “Minister of Loneliness” probably isn’t much help, is it?
I speak from experience. I’ve tasted loneliness more in the past decade than any other season in my life.
I often perceive a gap between the quality of relationships I long for and the quality of relationships I actually have. (I have a feeling you can relate).
Yes, loneliness lives in this gap, but so does the compassion of Jesus.
Here’s a thought that continues to bring me great comfort:
Jesus did not exempt Himself from the desolating pain of loneliness.
Since He “shared in our humanity,” He can relate to us in our everyday struggles, including loneliness. Jesus is the perfect Minister of Loneliness, if you will, who faced loneliness head on and emerged victorious.
Let me explain.
You see, Jesus dwelled in perfect harmony with the Father and Spirit from eternity past. To become human, He relinquished this intimacy and subjected Himself to broken, imperfect relationships.
He lived among people who were made in His image, yet who did not “recognize, nor receive Him” (John 1:10,11). Isaiah even says Jesus would be “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3).
This rejection was most apparent during the final hours of His life.
• Facing the agony of His looming crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples could not even stay awake to pray with Him in Gethsemane. The men scattered upon His arrest, leaving Jesus to be tried, mocked, and flogged by Himself. (Matthew 26:36-56).
• Bearing the full weight of humanity’s sin on the cross, Jesus cried out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He was totally separated from His Father. With the exception of a few mourners and Roman soldiers at the foot of the cross, Jesus died alone.
These moments paint a picture of a Savior who truly understands our loneliness.
Here is REALLY good news for all the lonely people:
Jesus died alone so that we would never truly be alone, for “He is always with us, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He was forsaken by God so that we never would be, for He has promised to “never leave or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5).
Will we still experience seasons of loneliness?
Yes, it’s a heart-rending reality in the world in which we live.
But because of the glorious resurrection of Jesus, we can experience an intimacy with God that warms our hearts even amidst the icy chills of life’s loneliest moments.

Written by Jonathan Munson, Executive Director, RFTH
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“Good morning, I thank God for the devotionals that have come into my life through you. Thanks because my heart was reactive to believe in all the promises that the Lord has for me. God bless you greatly. I continue to wait for my devotionals
 

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August 11
Accessible to All
Bible in a Year:

Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:14
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 7:13–14
From a manmade bridge on the small Caribbean island of Eleuthera, visitors can admire the stark contrast between the roiling dark blue waters of the Atlantic and the calm turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Over time, storms washed away the original strip of land once marked by a natural stone arch. The glass window bridge that now serves as a tourist attraction on Eleuthera is known as “the narrowest place on earth.”
The Bible describes the road that leads to eternal life as narrow “and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). The gate is considered small because God the Son is the only bridge that can reconcile fallen man and God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit (vv. 13–14; see John 10:7–9; 16:13). However, Scripture also says that believers from every people, nation, and societal rank can enter heaven and will bow before the King of Kings and worship together around His throne (Revelation 5:9). This phenomenal image of contrast and unity includes all of God’s beautifully diverse people.
Though we’re separated from God by our sin, every person God created is invited to enter eternity in heaven by walking this narrow path of reconciliation through a personal relationship with Christ. His sacrifice on the cross, resurrection from the tomb, and ascension to heaven is the good news, accessible to all and worth sharing today and every day.
By: Xochitl Dixon
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Reflect & Pray
How did you respond after hearing the good news? How can you be more intentional about sharing it with others?
God the Father, please empower me through Your Holy Spirit so I can show others the accessible path that leads to Your approachable Son, Jesus.
 

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DO YOU BELIEVE JESUS?
August 10, 2021
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” John 11:25-26
According to Jesus, He is the way to God, the truth, the key to eternal life – and no one comes to the Father without Him (John 14: 6). Do you believe what Jesus said? It’s incredibly controversial, yet a question we cannot ignore. Because either Jesus is the truth or He was a liar. It’s one or the other. So why do I choose to believe Jesus? There are two key reasons:

  1. The CROSS. What other founder of a world religion has ever claimed to be God, to be the way to God, and gave His life for you and for me. Does any other religious leader come to mind? Jesus went to the cross and paid the penalty for all of my sin, my guilt, my baggage. Why? Because He loves me and He loves you. I believe in Jesus because of the cross, because He gave His life for me.
  2. The RESURRECTION. Do you realize that if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then Christianity is one colossal fraud? If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then sin and death won. Then the idea of heaven and eternal life is just wishful thinking based upon nothing – then everything Jesus said falls flat.
But Jesus did rise from the dead and historical evidence supports that claim. Think about the empty tomb. All the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities had to do to squash the early days of Christianity was to produce Jesus’ dead body. It was never produced. And how do you explain the disciples who fled in fear the night Jesus was arrested and crucified, willingly becoming martyrs for preaching Christ’s death and resurrection? Something dramatic happened.

But the most personal reason that I believe Jesus, is the difference that He’s made in my own life. Do you believe what Jesus said is true? Have you completely trusted Christ with your life? The next time someone asks, “Why Jesus?” What will your answer be?
 

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JESUS SET THE FORGIVENESS STANDARD
August 14, 2021
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6: 14-15
When I do or say something that harms my wife, my family, neighbors, or colleagues, what happens?

I don’t hurt just that individual – I hurt God.

Think about when you’ve offended someone. If my words or actions hurt them, I lose all negotiating power to make them forgive me. The power of forgiveness rests with that person. If a person says they need six months to get over what I’ve done, I have no right to negotiate and say, “Make it four.”

This same concept applies with God. When we sin against God, we lose all right to define the terms of reconciliation. We cannot say to God – “If you forgive me, then I’ll give a 10% tithe of my income for the next two years, or I’ll go to church every Sunday.” We have no right to decide what action will satisfy God. It’s pretty sobering when we think about all our past sins.

But here’s the incredible news: God, in His love and mercy, determined that Jesus’ death on the cross would be sufficient. This means that when we repent and ask God to forgive us of our sins, we can trust that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for all of our sins – it’s enough. God set the standard for forgiveness as the cross, paying the debt for our sins and the sins of every person who’s ever wronged us.

So what does God require of us when we sin? It’s not satisfying a list of good deeds, but a complete surrender of our lives to the Lord. It’s accepting and embracing God’s forgiveness and, in turn, forgiving one another.
 
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