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Daily Devotion

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August 16
Active Faith
Bible in a Year:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.

James 1:27
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
James 2:14–26
Sam’s father had to flee for his life during a military coup. With the sudden loss of income, the family could no longer afford the crucial medicine that kept Sam’s brother alive. Seething at God, Sam thought, What have we done to deserve this?
A believer in Jesus heard about the family’s troubles. Finding he had enough money to cover the medicine, he bought a supply and took it to them. The life-saving gift from a stranger had a profound impact. “This Sunday, we will go to this man’s church,” his mother declared. Sam’s anger began to subside. And eventually, one by one, each member of the family put their faith in Jesus.
When James wrote about the necessity of a lifestyle of integrity accompanying a profession of faith in Christ, he singled out the need to care for others. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food,” James wrote. “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (2:15–16).
Our actions demonstrate the genuineness of our faith. Significantly, those actions can influence the faith-choices of others. In Sam’s case, he became a pastor and church-planter. Eventually he would call the man who helped his family “Papa Mapes.” He now knew him as his spiritual father—the one who showed them the love of Jesus.
By: Tim Gustafson
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Reflect & Pray
How have you experienced the love of Jesus extended to you? What can you do to help someone in need?
Faithful God, help me to live out my faith in You. I want the way I serve others to honor You.
 

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August 17
Trusting the Bible
Bible in a Year:

When your words came, I ate them.

Jeremiah 15:16
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Jeremiah 15:15–21
Billy Graham, the renowned American evangelist, once described his struggle to accept the Bible as completely true. One night as he walked alone in the moonlight at a retreat center in the San Bernardino Mountains, he dropped to his knees and placed his Bible on a tree stump, able only to “stutter” a prayer: “Oh, God! There are many things in this book I do not understand.”
By confessing his confusion, Graham said the Holy Spirit finally “freed me to say it. ‘Father, I am going to accept this as thy Word—by faith!’ ” When he stood up, he still had questions, but he said, “I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.”
The young prophet Jeremiah fought spiritual battles too. Yet he consistently sought answers in Scripture. “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16). He declared, “The word of the Lord . . . is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones” (20:8–9). Nineteenth-century evangelist Charles Spurgeon wrote, “[Jeremiah] lets us into a secret. His outer life, especially his faithful ministry, was due to his inward love of the word which he preached.”
We too can shape our life through the wisdom of Scripture despite our struggles. We can keep studying, as always, by faith.
By: Patricia Raybon
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Reflect & Pray
How has your life been shaped by Scripture? As you accept it by faith, how do you expect your life to change?
Heavenly Father, show me new things about You as I read the Bible. Teach me Your ways. Show me Your love.
 

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August 19
Remember and Celebrate
Bible in a Year:

[Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Luke 22:19
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Luke 22:14–23
On December 6, 1907, explosions rocked a small community in the US state of West Virginia, producing one of the worst disasters in the history of the coal-mining industry. Some 360 miners were killed, and it’s been estimated that this horrific tragedy left behind about 250 widows and 1,000 children without fathers. Historians maintain that the memorial service became the seedbed from which the celebration of Father’s Day in the US would eventually grow. Out of great loss came remembrance and—eventually—celebration.
The greatest tragedy in human history occurred when human beings crucified their Creator. Yet, that dark moment also produced both remembrance and celebration. The night before He would go to the cross, Jesus took the elements of Israel’s Passover and created His own memorial celebration. Luke’s record describes the scene this way: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’ ” (Luke 22:19).
Still today, whenever we take communion, we honor His great, unflinching love for us—remembering the cost of our rescue and celebrating the gift of life His sacrifice produced. As Charles Wesley said in his great hymn, “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
By: Bill Crowder
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Reflect & Pray
How often do you find yourself just going through the motions when taking communion? What are some ways to keep your focus on the cross?
Father, when I come to the memorial table, help me to remember why my forgiveness was so costly, and help me to celebrate Your great, awesome love.
 

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WHAT IS THE WAY TO HEAVEN?
August 18, 2021
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to Father except through me.’” John 14: 6
Many are asked, “Why do Christians feel like their way to God is the only way?” Well, understand this: There’s no Christian on the face of the earth that feels they alone have the only way to God, but Jesus does. And as followers of Jesus, Christians believe that His words are absolute truth.

When Jesus said that He was the only way to God (John 14:6), more than a few people objected. Who was Jesus to deliver such a black and white statement. And what did He mean by, “I am the way?” The way to where?

Let’s look at the context in which Jesus was speaking: At the beginning of John chapter 14, Jesus was speaking about going to heaven to be with the Father. So when Jesus said, “I am the way,” He was saying “I am the way to heaven” (my paraphrase).

Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, needed a bit more clarity. So he asked the big question they were probably all thinking: “What is the way to heaven? How can we be sure that we’re on the right road (my paraphrase)?”

The majority of people feel that if they’re good enough, religious enough, or moral enough, they will get to heaven. That’s completely contrary to what the Bible says, because if we sin even once, we’re disqualified. Heaven demands perfection because God is perfect. With perfection as the standard, no one other than Jesus qualifies.

So how can we be sure we’re going to heaven?

It comes down to trust. Are you going to trust that Jesus is whom He says He is and that He died on the cross for your sins, making you right with God? Are you going to trust Jesus to be the ONE way?

READ OTHER DEVOTIONALS
 

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August 20
Peace in the Chaos
Bible in a Year:

[Our] help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:2
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Psalm 121
Something that sounded like firecrackers roused Joanne from sleep. Glass shattered. Wishing she didn’t live alone, she got up to see what was going on. The dark streets were empty and the house seemed to be okay—then she saw the broken mirror.
Investigators found a bullet only a half-inch from the gas line. If it had struck the line, she probably wouldn’t have made it out alive. Later they discovered it was a stray bullet from nearby apartments, but Joanne was afraid to be at home. She prayed for peace, and once the glass was cleaned up, her heart calmed.
Psalm 121 is a reminder for us to look to God in times of trouble. Here, we see that we can have peace and calm because our “help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 2). The God who created the universe helps and watches over us (v. 3)—even while we sleep—but He Himself never sleeps (v. 4). He watches over us day and night (v. 6), “both now and forevermore” (v. 8).
No matter what kind of situations we find ourselves in, God sees. And He’s waiting for us to turn to Him. When we do, our circumstances may not always change, but He’s promised His peace in the midst of it all.
By: Julie Schwab
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Reflect & Pray
When have you experienced God’s peace in a troubling situation? How have you seen Him help others?
Loving God, thank You for Your peace. Please continue to calm my heart in the areas of my life that feel chaotic.
 

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August 23
Loving Your Enemy
Bible in a Year:

You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria.

Acts 1:8
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Acts 1:1–8
I ducked into a room before she saw me. I was ashamed of hiding, but I didn’t want to deal with her right then—or ever. I longed to tell her off, to put her in her place. Though I’d been annoyed by her past behavior, it’s likely I had irritated her even more!
The Jews and Samaritans also shared a mutually irritating relationship. Being a people of mixed origin and worshiping their own gods, the Samaritans—in the eyes of the Jews—had spoiled the Jewish bloodline and faith, erecting a rival religion on Mount Gerizim (John 4:20). In fact, the Jews so despised Samaritans they would walk the long way around rather than take the direct route through their country.
Jesus revealed a better way. He brought salvation for all people, including Samaritans. So He ventured into the heart of Samaria to bring living water to a sinful woman and her town (vv. 4–42). His last words to His disciples were to follow His example. They must share His good news with everyone, beginning in Jerusalem and dispersing through Samaria until they reached “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Samaria was more than the next geographical sequence. It was the most painful part of the mission. The disciples had to overcome lifetimes of prejudice to love people they didn’t like.
Does Jesus matter more to us than our grievances? There’s only one way to be sure. Love your “Samaritan.”
By: Mike Wittmer
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Reflect & Pray
How can you begin to show love to those who aren’t very loving? When have you been loving to a difficult person and then found them softening?
Father, may the waves of Your love crash over me, producing a torrent that streams to others through me.
 

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August 24
God’s Provision
Bible in a Year:

See how the flowers of the field grow. . . . Will he not much more clothe you?

Matthew 6:28, 30
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Genesis 1:11–13, 29–30
We trekked deeper and deeper into the forest, venturing farther and farther away from the village at Yunnan Province, China. After an hour or so, we heard the deafening roar of the water. Quickening our steps, we soon reached a clearing and were greeted by a beautiful view of a curtain of white water cascading over the gray rocks. Spectacular!
Our hiking companions, who lived in the village we had left an hour earlier, decided that we should have a picnic. Great idea, but where was the food? We hadn’t brought any. My friends disappeared into the surrounding forest and returned with an assortment of fruits and vegetables and even some fish. The shuixiangcai looked strange with its small purple flowers, but tasted heavenly!
I was reminded that creation declares God’s extravagant provision. We can see proof of His generosity in “all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit” (Genesis 1:12 nlt). God has made and given us for food “every seed-bearing plant . . . and every tree that has fruit with seed in it” (v. 29).
Do you sometimes find it hard to trust God to meet your needs? Why not take a walk in nature? Let what you see remind you of Jesus’ assuring words: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need [all these things]” (Matthew 6:31–32).
By: Poh Fang Chia
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Reflect & Pray
How has God provided for you in the past? How can you continue to lean on His provision in the present?
Loving Father, You’re a generous provider. Help me to trust You to meet my needs.
 

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August 25
A Good Reason
Bible in a Year:

Put [your] religion into practice by caring for [your] own family.

1 Timothy 5:4
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
1 Timothy 5:1–8
The two women occupied the aisle seats across from each other. The flight was two hours, so I couldn’t help but see some of their interactions. It was clear they knew each other, might even be related. The younger of the two (probably in her sixties) kept reaching in her bag to hand the older (I’d guess in her nineties) fresh apple slices, then homemade finger sandwiches, then a towelette for clean up, and finally a crisp copy of the New York Times. Each hand-off was done with such tenderness, such dignity. As we stood to exit the plane, I told the younger woman, “I noticed the way you cared for her. It was beautiful.” She replied, “She’s my best friend. She’s my mother.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all say something like that? Some parents are like best friends. Some parents are nothing like that. The truth is those relationships are always complicated at best. While Paul’s letter to Timothy doesn’t ignore that complexity, it still calls us to put our “religion into practice” by taking care of parents and grandparents—our “relatives,” our “own household” (1 Timothy 5:4, 8).
We all too often practice such care only if family members were or are good to us. In other words, if they deserve it. But Paul offers up a more beautiful reason to repay them. Take care of them because “this is pleasing to God” (v. 4).
By: John Blase
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Reflect & Pray
If your parents are still living, how would you describe your relationship with them? Regardless of what kind of job they did as parents, what are some ways you can take care of them right now?
Father, give me grace and mercy as I seek to care for those who cared for me. And help me to remember the reason I’m doing it.
 

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August 26
Heeding the Warnings
Bible in a Year:

Whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Matthew 10:33
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 10:1–7, 32–33
When a pickpocket tried to pilfer my property while I was on vacation in another country, it wasn’t a surprise. I’d read warnings about the danger of subway thieves, so I knew what to do to protect my wallet. But I never expected it to happen.
Fortunately, the young man who grabbed my wallet had slippery fingers, so it fell to the floor where I could retrieve it. But the incident reminded me that I should have heeded the warnings.
We don’t like to dwell on warnings because we think they’ll get in the way of enjoying life, but it’s imperative to pay attention to them. For instance, Jesus gave us a clear warning while sending out His disciples to proclaim God’s coming kingdom (Matthew 10:7). He said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (vv. 32–33).
We have a choice. In love, God provided a Savior and a plan for us to be in His presence for eternity. But if we turn away from God and choose to reject His message of salvation and the real life He offers for both now and forever, we lose out on the opportunity to be with Him.
May we trust in Jesus, the One who chose to save us from being eternally separated from the One who loves and made us.
By: Dave Branon
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Reflect & Pray
Why is rejecting Jesus such a serious thing? How have you chosen to respond to His call?
Heavenly Father, thank You for providing salvation through Jesus. And thank You for sending warnings to remind me of the importance of putting my faith in Him.
 

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August 31
Sharing Jesus
Bible in a Year:

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Isaiah 12:4
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Isaiah 12
Shortly after Dwight Moody (1837–99) came to faith in Christ, the evangelist resolved not to let a day pass without sharing God’s good news with at least one person. On busy days, he’d sometimes forget his resolution until late. One night, he was in bed before he remembered. As he stepped outside, he thought, No one will be out in this pouring rain. Just then he saw a man walking down the street. Moody rushed over and asked to stand under his umbrella to avoid the rain. When granted permission, he asked, “Have you any shelter in the time of storm? Could I tell you about Jesus?”
Moody embodied a readiness to share how God saves us from the consequences of our sins. He obeyed God’s instructions to the Israelites to proclaim His name and “make known among the nations what he has done” (Isaiah 12:4). Not only were God’s people called to “proclaim that his name is exalted” (v. 4), but they were also to share how He had “become [their] salvation” (v. 2). Centuries later, our call remains to tell the wonders of Jesus becoming a man, dying on the cross, and rising again.
Perhaps we heard about God’s love when, as Moody did, someone left their comfort zone to talk with us about Jesus. And we too, each in our own way, can let someone know about the One who saves.
By: Amy Boucher Pye
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Reflect & Pray
What has God done in your life that you can share with another? How has He equipped you to present the good news?
Jesus, thank You for setting me free from my sins. Help me to be ready to tell others of Your good news.
Read Evangelism: Reaching out through Relationships at DiscoverySeries.org/Q0913.
 

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September 1
Fix Up Time
Bible in a Year:

Be made new in the attitude of your minds.

Ephesians 4:23
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Ephesians 4:20–32
It was time to give the inside of our home a fresh, new look. But just as I’d begun prepping a room for painting, our state government announced it would be halting the sale of many home improvement items due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As soon as I heard the announcement, I rushed to the store and purchased the essential materials. You simply can’t remodel without the proper supplies.
Paul had a bit of a remodeling project in mind when he wrote Ephesians 4. But the changes he was talking about went far beyond superficial alterations. Even though trusting Jesus as Savior makes us a new creation, there’s still some ongoing work the Spirit needs to do. And it takes time and work for Him to accomplish “true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
The presence of the Spirit makes needed changes on the inside that can help us reflect Jesus in our words and actions. He helps us replace lying with speaking “truthfully” (v. 25). He guides us to avoid sin in regard to anger (v. 26). And He directs us to speak words that are “helpful for building others up” (v. 29). These Spirit-controlled actions are part of the internal change that’s manifested in things like kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (v. 32). The Spirit works in us to enable us to imitate Jesus Himself and reflect the heart of our heavenly Father (v. 24; 5:1).
By: Dave Branon
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Reflect & Pray
In what areas do you need the Holy Spirit to make real, heart-based improvement in you through His leading and strength? How will you get started?
Loving God, thank You for making me a new creation in Christ. Help my actions, through Your guidance, to reflect the change You’ve made in me.
Learn more about the Trinity.
 

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SET FREE TO BE A SLAVE?
September 01, 2021
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:20-23
Slavery is the exact opposite of freedom. In America, where freedom is at such a high value, our nation’s history of slavery is a painful part of our past. There’s no doubt that the most horrific war in the history of the United States was fought between the states as our southern forefathers sought to defend the institution of slavery who were seceding from the Union. Yet, President Lincoln felt that the Union should be preserved at all costs. While slavery is no longer a part of our nation’s culture, the negative consequences and ripple effects can still be seen today.

Yet, there are more slaves around the world today than in the history of man. How can that be? Well, in Christianity Today, an article entitled “Free at Last” quotes: “Experts estimate there are 27 million slaves worldwide today.” 17,500 slaves are trafficked annually into the United States, and about 300,000 children are believed to be currently at risk from sexual exploitation. We all know it is no longer legal to have slaves in America, but my home town of Atlanta is one of the major headquarters in the United States for trafficking and human bondage. It is truly hard to imagine.

But what the Word of God tells us is that there are two types of slavery. There is bad slavery and, believe it or not, there is good slavery.

“You’re kidding, right? Is that even possible?”

Even in our own lives, there is one major type of slavery that is bad: it is sin that is seen in many forms.

Wait…the Bible speaks of a slavery that is good. It is slavery to God, exemplified in submitting to obey God’s will versus our own. Here’s the irony: those of us in Christ have been set free from a bondage to sin and then we voluntarily, out of gratitude for what God has done, want to be His “slaves” in doing the right thing that is pleasing to Him. That’s the kind of slave I want to be. How about you? We can only do this through Christ.
 

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September 3
Empty Hands
Bible in a Year:

His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him.

Luke 15:20
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Luke 15:17–24
Robert was embarrassed when he showed up for a breakfast meeting and realized he’d forgotten his wallet. It bothered him to the point that he pondered whether he should eat at all or simply get something to drink. After some convincing from his friend, he relaxed his resistance. He and his friend enjoyed their entrees, and his friend gladly paid the bill.
Perhaps you can identify with this dilemma or some other situation that puts you on the receiving end. Wanting to pay our own way is normal, but there are occasions when we must humbly receive what’s graciously being given.
Some kind of payback may have been what the younger son had in mind in Luke 15:17–24 as he contemplated what he would say to his father. “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants” (v. 19). Hired servant? His father would have no such thing! In his father’s eyes, he was a much-loved son who’d come home. As such he was met with a father’s embrace and an affectionate kiss (v. 20). What a grand gospel picture! It reminds us that by Jesus’ death He revealed a loving Father who welcomes empty-handed children with open arms. One hymn writer expressed it like this: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.”
By: Arthur Jackson
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Reflect & Pray
How does it make you feel that because Jesus has paid your sin debt, you can receive forgiveness for all your sins? If you’ve never received this forgiveness, what’s keeping you from accepting this gift through Jesus?
God of heaven, help me to receive and enjoy the forgiveness You’ve provided through Your Son, Jesus.
 

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WHEN DOES LUST BECOME WRONG?
September 05, 2021
“I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5: 28
Adultery is never okay. Even in cultures that allow polygamy (having multiple wives), to have an affair with someone other than a spouse is considered wrong. Therefore, it’s safe to say that in every culture and religion, adultery is never accepted. In the Old Testament, God addressed the issue of adultery in the Ten Commandments handed down to Moses. The seventh commandment says very simply, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). It was pretty straight forward – until Jesus came along.

Now it would be easy for the majority of people who have never taken part in an affair to check the box on this command and move on, but Jesus had more to say on the matter. Jesus said that if you’ve ever looked at a person lustfully, then that is the same as committing adultery in your heart (my paraphrase). In other words, Jesus makes this cut and dried command applicable to every person.

So what is lust? Jesus isn’t talking about lusting or desiring things like money, fame or power. Jesus is talking about sexual lust. To find a person physically attractive is not lust. Lust becomes a problem when we begin to imagine sexual fantasies, a kind of sexual intimacy with that person. It’s in that moment that we have gone from appreciating beauty to lust. And here’s the problem: No one knows when you do it – not your spouse, not the people in your office, no one – except you and God.

Have you been struggling with lust? I know I do. It’s a daily battle for everyone. It never quits. So what can we do? First, confess it to God the moment the lustful thought occurs. Second, ask God to help you look away and concentrate on something else. Third, resist the temptation of porn and sexually explicit media which is like pouring gasoline onto a fire. Finally, ask God to help you appreciate and respect the beauty of others, who are loved and made in the image of God. And when you do fall into lust, be like Paul in Romans 7 and say to God, “I did it again. Please forgive me, cleanse me, and help me focus on something good (my paraphrase).”
 

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JTS John
Reflect on the ministry of Jesus according to the gospel of his Beloved Disciple, John.

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September 9
Hotel Corona
Bible in a Year:

Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all . . . . From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.

2 Corinthians 5:14, 16
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 Corinthians 5:14–20
The Dan Hotel in Jerusalem became known by a different name in 2020—“Hotel Corona.” The government dedicated the hotel to patients recovering from COVID-19, and the hotel became known as a rare site of joy and unity during a difficult time. Since the residents already had the virus, they were free to sing, dance, and laugh together. And they did! In a country where tensions between different political and religious groups run high, the shared crisis created a space where people could learn to see each other as human beings first—and even become friends.
It’s natural, normal even, for us to be drawn toward those we see as similar to us, people we suspect share similar experiences and values to our own. But as the apostle Paul often emphasized, the gospel is a challenge to any barriers between human beings that we see as “normal” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Through the lens of the gospel, we see a bigger picture than our differences—a shared brokenness and a shared longing and need to experience healing in God’s love.
If we believe that “one died for all,” then we can also no longer be content with surface-level assumptions about others. Instead, “Christ’s love compels us” (v. 14) to share His love and mission with those God loves more than we can imagine—all of us.
By: Monica La Rose
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Reflect & Pray
When do you find yourself most prone to forget the “bigger picture” of your shared humanity with others? What helps remind you of our equal brokenness and need for Jesus’ love?
In hard times, Jesus, thank You for those moments when I see a glimmer of breathtaking beauty through the love and joy of others. Help me to live each day this way, regarding “no one from a worldly point of view.”
 

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JTS John
Reflect on the ministry of Jesus according to the gospel of his Beloved Disciple, John.

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September 10
Like a Symphony
Bible in a Year:

Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Philippians 2:2
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Philippians 2:1–11
I surprised my wife with concert tickets to listen to a performer she’d always wanted to see. The gifted singer was accompanied by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the setting was the matchless venue at Red Rocks—an open-air amphitheater built between two 300-foot rock formations at more than 6,000 feet above sea level. The orchestra played a number of well-loved classical songs and folk tunes. Their final number was a fresh treatment of the classic hymn “Amazing Grace.” The beautiful, harmonized arrangement took our breath away!
There’s something beautiful about harmony—individual instruments playing together in a way that creates a bigger and more layered sonic landscape. The apostle Paul pointed to the beauty of harmony when he told the Philippians to be “like-minded,” have “the same love,” and be “one in spirit and . . . mind” (Philippians 2:2). He wasn’t asking them to become identical but to embrace the humble attitude and self-giving love of Jesus. The gospel, as Paul well knew and taught, doesn’t erase our distinctions, but it can eliminate our divisions.
It’s also interesting that many scholars believe Paul’s words here (vv. 6–11) are a prelude to an early hymn. Here’s the point: When we allow the Holy Spirit to work through our distinct lives and contexts, making us more like Jesus, together we become a symphony that reverberates with a humble Christlike love.
By: Glenn Packiam
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Reflect & Pray
Who could use some encouragement from you today? How could you put the interests of others above your own, just as Jesus did for us?
Dear Jesus, thank You for saving me. May Your Spirit transform me into Your image. In my attitude and actions, help me to take on Your humility and sacrificial love. May it result in a greater unity with other believers in my life.
 

boldstardex

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September 11
From Wisdom to Joy
Bible in a Year:

[Wisdom] will guide you down delightful paths.

Proverbs 3:17 nlt
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Proverbs 3:13–18
The phone rang and I picked it up without delay. Calling was the oldest member of our church family—a vibrant, hard-working woman who was nearly one hundred years old. Putting the final touches on her latest book, she asked me some writing questions to help her cross the finish line. As always, however, I soon was asking her questions—about life, work, love, family. Her many lessons from a long life sparkled with wisdom. She told me, “Pace yourself.” And soon we were laughing about times she’d forgotten to do that—her wonderful stories all seasoned with true joy.
Wisdom leads to joy, the Bible teaches. “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding” (Proverbs 3:13 nlt). We find that this path—from wisdom to joy—is a biblical virtue, indeed. “For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy” (Proverbs 2:10 nlt). “God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him” (Ecclesiastes 2:26 nlt). Wisdom “will guide you down delightful paths,” adds Proverbs 3:17 (nlt).
Reflecting on the matters of life, author C. S. Lewis declared that “joy is the serious business of heaven.” The path there, however, is paved with wisdom. My church friend, who lived to be 107, would agree. She walked a wise, joyful pace to the King.
By: Patricia Raybon
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Reflect & Pray
What paths have you taken in trying to find joy? How can wisdom lead you to joy?
When I might take a rocky road, loving God, please point me back to Your path of wisdom and joy.
Learn more about joy here.
 

boldstardex

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HAVING A HEART FOR GOD
September 12, 2021
“I hate, (says God – I hate) I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” – Amos 5:21-24
Wow. Did you read that verse? That’s pretty strong condemnation from the Lord! Obviously, this was a time when the children of Israel were engaging in all kinds of evil doings. They were worshiping idols, committing adultery, divorcing, and only giving God their leftovers. They had basically turned their hearts against God and His will for their lives.

And now, they wanted God’s help. The economy had gone south and their crops were failing. They couldn’t understand why God wasn’t coming through for them. “God, we’re worshiping with passion. We’re weeping on the altar. We’re pleading for Your mercy and forgiveness. We’re bringing You our offerings. What in the world is going on?”

Sound familiar? Do you ever find yourself asking the same question? “Hey, God, I’m going to church on Sunday, I’m singing Your praises, so why haven’t things turned around for me?” Never mind that I’m cheating on my income taxes. Or that I’m feasting on pornography. Or that I’m mistreating my children. Or that I never have time for You during the week.

I’ve got news for you: we cannot buy God’s favor with our offerings. We do not impress Him with an emotional, weeping, passionate worship, if our lifestyle doesn’t show a heart for God. He is far more concerned with our obedience than with our emotional worship. In fact, He won’t even ACCEPT our offerings or songs of worship unless our hearts are truly repentant and our lives are following Jesus.

So, I ask you…where is your heart?
 

boldstardex

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WALKING WITH GOD THROUGH GRIEF
September 13, 2021
“Therefore, you grieve now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” John 16:22
When you lose a loved one, many people tend to sink deep into the dungeons of darkness as the colors of life fade away. It often makes life feel meaningless. Losing a loved one might even bring your everyday life to a halt or just feel very disoriented.

Some of us have already lost someone close in our lives, while others have yet to walk through that season – but they will. We all do. Because death is something that will come to all of us; it’s just a matter of time. Losing a loved one or a close friend is never easy, but understanding the stages of grief can sometimes help us navigate the journey.

Grief often begins with a feeling of numbness and denial, promoting an inability to accept the news. It’s a sense of disbelief that the person is really gone. Once the reality of death settles in, a whole new wave of grief and emotions come crashing in. It’s an emotionally challenging season, the specifics of which impact everyone individually.

For many, the loss of a loved one can also lead towards an anger with God as the world continues on as normal, but you’re left picking up the pieces of your now shattered world – never to be the same again. It may stir up feelings of depression, or the outlook that life is now meaningless without that individual. Finally, however, there will come acceptance– a coming to terms with the loss, and beginning to move on with life as you navigate your new normal without this person.

The grieving process takes time, but it doesn’t have to crush you. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5 reminds us that even in the darkest pain and grief, God wants to be our greatest comforter : “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

God doesn’t rejoice in our sufferings. He grieves. He wants to comfort us. Why? So that we can in turn comfort others as they walk through seasons of pain and suffering. So, when you feel like you might be consumed by grief, cling to God’s strength. God understands loss – He saw His own Son, Jesus, die on the cross. God knows what you’re feeling and He wants to offer you hope, comfort, and strength to navigate each day. Will you let Him walk with you?



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THE DANGERS OF SEXUAL LUST
September 14, 2021
“Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22
What is lust?

Sexual lust refers to moving from simply appreciating the physical beauty of another to imagining a sexual fantasy. While men and women are both guilty of lust and improper sexual thoughts towards one another, men’s struggle is often more challenging. It’s a daily battle no matter how godly or spiritual a man he may be. With that in mind, pornography is like lust on steroids.

Pornography has always existed. But it wasn’t until the mid 20th century with the introduction of magazines like Playboy and Penthouse that pornography became more pervasive in American culture. Combine that with the sexual revolution of the 60s and we see a cultural shift away from the Judeo-Christian value system towards a “new morality.” Over time, Hollywood followed with more sexually explicit films, then TV and even advertising joined in. Today, with computers, iPads and smart phones in homes and offices, pornography has permeated every sphere of society. It’s so easy; it’s just a click away – and no one has to know.

So what’s the problem?

Over time, pornography desensitizes men’s view of women to that of sexual objects – to be used and thrown away for another. It’s all about selfish pleasure. But it doesn’t stop there. Think about the incredible abuse towards children with the worldwide growth of millions of child sex slaves. Out of the billions of dollars spent in the pornography industry, 20% comes from child pornography.

As David Platt has written – If you are joining the masses to demand an end to sex slavery but still engage in porn, you are one big hypocrite.

Pornographic lust is never satisfied; there’s always a desire for more. Over time, what began as a casual activity can turn into an inescapable addiction. If you’re struggling with pornography and lust, confess it to God. There’s incredible freedom in the forgiveness of Christ through the cross.

Secret sin exposed tends to lessen its power. If you’re a teenager or single adult – find a friend(s) to hold each other accountable. Porn is a killer – in a marriage and in men’s relationships with women. Ask God for strength to resist the temptation. He can provide the only way out.



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