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Daily Devotion

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October 19
When to Sacrifice
Bible in a Year:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Galatians 5:22–23
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Galatians 5:22–26
In February 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis was just beginning, a newspaper columnist’s concerns struck me. Would we willingly self-isolate, she wondered, changing our work, travel, and shopping habits so others wouldn’t get sick? “This isn’t just a test of clinical resources,” she wrote, “but of our willingness to put ourselves out for others.” Suddenly, the need for virtue was front-page news.
It can be hard to consider others’ needs while we’re anxious about our own. Thankfully, we’re not left with willpower alone to meet the need. We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us love to replace our indifference, joy to counter sadness, peace to replace our anxiety, forbearance (patience) to push out our impulsiveness, kindness to care about others, goodness to see to their needs, faithfulness to keep our promises, gentleness instead of harshness, and self-control to lift us beyond self-centeredness (Galatians 5:22–23). While we won’t be perfect at all of this, we’re called to seek the Spirit’s gifts of virtue regularly (Ephesians 5:18).
Author Richard Foster once described holiness as the ability to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. And such holiness is needed every day, not just in a pandemic. Do we have the capacity to make sacrifices for the sake of others? Holy Spirit, fill us with the power to do what needs to be done.
By: Sheridan Voysey
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Reflect & Pray
When have you made a sacrifice for the sake of others? What needs around you call for the Holy Spirit’s fruit today?
Holy Spirit, fill me afresh today and make me a person of virtue.
 

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October 20
Crumbled from Within
Bible in a Year:

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Psalm 32:5
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Psalm 32:1–5; Matthew 7:1–5
When I was a teenager, my mom painted a mural on our living room wall, which stayed there for several years. It showed an ancient Greek scene of a ruined temple with white columns lying on their sides, a crumbling fountain, and a broken statue. As I looked at the Hellenistic architecture that had once held great beauty, I tried to imagine what had destroyed it. I was curious, especially when I began studying about the tragedy of once great and thriving civilizations that had decayed and crumbled from within.
The sinful depravity and wanton destruction we see around us today can be troubling. It’s natural for us to try to explain it by pointing to people and nations that have rejected God. But shouldn’t we be casting our gaze inwardly as well? Scripture warns us about being hypocrites when we call out others to turn from their sinful ways without also taking a deeper look inside our own hearts (Matthew 7:1–5).
Psalm 32 challenges us to see and confess our own sin. It’s only when we recognize and confess our personal sin that we can experience freedom from guilt and the joy of true repentance (vv. 1–5). And as we rejoice in knowing that God offers us complete forgiveness, we can share that hope with others who are also struggling with sin.
By: Cindy Hess Kasper
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Reflect & Pray
What’s the first step in identifying sin in your life? Why is it vital that you confess your sin to God?
Father God, I thank You for the gift of Your forgiveness that eliminates the guilt of my sin. Help me to first examine my own heart before I concern myself with the sins of others.
 

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THE DIFFICULTY OF FORGIVENESS
October 25, 2021
“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:3-4
Forgiveness isn’t easy.

In fact, many times, it’s extremely difficult.

Is this something you’ve experienced?

You see, there is a parallel between our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with other people. One precipitates the other.

  • We can love others because He first loved us.
  • We are able to extend grace to others because He first extended grace toward us.
  • We can extend mercy to those around us because He has been merciful toward us.
  • And we can forgive because we have been forgiven.
In the next verses, you’ll find Jesus teaching more about forgiveness:

1. Forgiveness requires discipline and commitment.

It’s one thing to say words of forgiveness, but it’s another matter to truly live it. Here, Jesus reminds us of that difficulty because it’s often not a “one-time” thing. In this case, a person sins against us seven different times in a single day, and each time they come back with the same “I’m sorry.” Surely after infraction 4 or 5, we start to wonder if they really mean it.

But it doesn’t matter. The response must be the same – we must forgive them.

This is important to recognize because sometimes we think of forgiveness in terms of feelings. We forgive people when we feel like it; when we don’t, we don’t. The problem is we rarely feel like forgiving anyone; we feel like exacting revenge. Or holding onto bitterness. If we wait to forgive until we feel like it just simply won’t happen. It requires discipline and commitment to a relationship. Forgiveness, at least to the extent that Jesus is describing, is much more about discipline than feeling.

2. Forgiveness is an act of faith.

When confronted with the words of Christ, Jesus’ disciples, too, are at a loss. But it’s obvious they understand forgiveness isn’t something they can do on their own.:

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (v. 5).

They did not ask Jesus to increase their will or their resolve, or even their capacity for forgiveness.

They asked Him to increase their faith.

Oh, that we would ask this question of the Lord – over and over. When we do, we are entrusting justice, our feelings, our reputations, and our relationships to Him. Yes, forgiveness is indeed an act of faith.

Forgiveness is the language we should speak as Christians. Not naturally – certainly not. But now, because of the extent of the forgiveness that’s been shown to us in Christ, it can become such.

Forgiven people, forgive people.

Over and over again.


Written by Michael Kelley, Guest Contributor

To read more of Michael’s writing, check out his daily blog,
Forward Progress. http://michaelkelley.co/
 

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October 27
A Purpose in Suffering
Bible in a Year:

I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.

Job 42:7
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Job 42:1–9
“So what you’re saying is, it may not be my fault.” The woman’s words took me by surprise. Having been a guest speaker at her church, we were now discussing what I’d shared that morning. “I have a chronic illness,” she explained, “and I have prayed, fasted, confessed my sins, and done everything else I was told to do to be healed. But I’m still sick, so I thought I was to blame.”
I felt sad at the woman’s confession. Having been given a spiritual “formula” to fix her problem, she had blamed herself when the formula hadn’t worked. Even worse, this formulaic approach to suffering was disproved generations ago.
Simply put, this old formula says that if you’re suffering, you must have sinned. When Job tragically lost his livestock, children, and health, his friends used the formula on him. “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” Eliphaz said, suspecting Job’s guilt (Job 4:7). Bildad even told Job that his children only died because they had sinned (8:4). Ignorant of the real cause of Job’s calamities (1:6–2:10), they tormented him with simplistic reasons for his pain, later receiving God’s rebuke (42:7).
Suffering is a part of living in a fallen world. Like Job, it can happen for reasons we may never know. But God has a purpose for you that goes beyond the pain you endure. Don’t get discouraged by falling for simplistic formulas.
By: Sheridan Voysey
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Reflect & Pray
How else do you see the “suffering = sin” formula being used? Why do you think it’s still so prevalent?
Great Physician, give me words to heal, not hurt, in times of pain.
 

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October 28
Is God Listening?
Bible in a Year:

If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

1 John 5:14
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
1 John 5:13–15
When I served on my church’s congregational care team, one of my duties was to pray over the requests penciled on pew cards during the services. For an aunt’s health. For a couple’s finances. For a grandson’s discovery of God. Rarely did I hear the results of these prayers. Most were anonymous, and I had no way of knowing how God had responded. I confess that at times I wondered, Was He really listening? Was anything happening as a result of my prayers?
Over our lifetimes, most of us question, “Does God hear me?” I remember my own Hannah-like pleas for a child that went unanswered for years. And there were my pleas that my father find faith, yet he died without any apparent confession.
Etched across the millennia are myriad instances of God’s ear bending to listen: to Israel’s groans under slavery (Exodus 2:24); to Moses on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 9:19); to Joshua at Gilgal (Joshua 10:14); to Hannah’s prayers for a child (1 Samuel 1:10–17); to David crying out for deliverance from Saul (2 Samuel 22:7).
First John 5:14 crescendos, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” The word for “hears” means to pay attention and to respond on the basis of having heard.
As we go to God today, may we have the confidence of His listening ear spanning the history of His people. He hears our pleas.
By: Elisa Morgan
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Reflect & Pray
Pause to consider what you’ve most recently asked of God. What motivated you to ask? How can you know that God hears you?
Father, I come asking and trusting You to hear me because You say that You do.
 

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HOW JESUS FOUGHT TEMPTATION
October 28, 2021
“ In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:17-18
Do you ever find it a challenge to fight the temptation to do something you know isn’t right?

Of course you do. We all do.

The best way to fight temptation is how Jesus did. When Satan tempted Jesus with bread, power, and freedom from harm, Jesus responded by quoting Scripture.

Again and again Satan would throw out a great prize and each time, Jesus shot him down with God’s Word!

Now, you may be thinking, “Bryant that makes a lot of sense, but I can’t memorize things.”

Let me offer you some advice. Instead of memorizing the exact words, capture the spirit of the passages.

There are two reasons for this.

  • First, worrying over the exact words will trip you up, post a barrier to your learning, and maybe even be so frustrating that you give up.
  • Secondly, it’s the point of the verse that God uses to give us victory over temptation.
Set a goal this week to meditate on one verse that has particular meaning or encouragement for your life. Write it out and place it where you will see it throughout the day: your bathroom mirror, the dashboard of your car, the lock screen of your phone – whatever works for you.

Every time you see that verse, pause and really read it.

By the end of the week, you might be surprised at just how easily that verse comes to mind. Then, choose another verse!

Soon, you will have a great collection of God’s Words to fight the temptations the devil sends your way.

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November 2
Reaching Others for Jesus
Bible in a Year:


Go and make disciples of all nations.

Matthew 28:19
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Matthew 28:16–20
A decade ago, they didn’t know the name of Jesus. Hidden in the mountains of Mindanao in the Philippines, the Banwaon people had little contact with the outside world. A trip for supplies could take two days, requiring an arduous hike over rugged terrain. The world took no notice of them.
Then a mission group reached out, shuttling people in and out of the region via helicopter. This gained the Banwaon access to needed supplies, crucial medical help, and an awareness of the larger world. It also introduced them to Jesus. Now, instead of singing to the spirits, they chant their traditional tribal songs with new words that praise the one true God. Mission aviation established the critical link.
When Jesus returned to His heavenly Father, He gave His disciples these instructions: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). That command still stands.
Unreached people groups aren’t limited to exotic locales we haven’t heard of. Often, they live among us. Reaching the Banwaon people took creativity and resourcefulness, and it inspires us to find creative ways to overcome the barriers in our communities. That might include an “inaccessible” group you haven’t even considered—someone right in your neighborhood. How might God use you to reach others for Jesus?
By: Tim Gustafson
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Reflect & Pray
Who are the hardest-to-reach people in your community? In what ways can you tell them about Jesus?
Father, please use me as You see fit in order that ________ might turn to You in faith.
Read Evangelism: Reaching Out Through Relationships.
 

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November 3
Comfort Shared
Bible in a Year:

We can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:4
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
2 Corinthians 1:3–8
When my daughter Hayley came to visit me, I saw her three-year-old son, Callum, wearing a strange piece of clothing. Called a ScratchMeNot, it’s a long-sleeved top with mittens attached to the sleeves. My grandson Callum suffers from chronic eczema, a skin disease that makes his skin itch, making it rough and sore. “The ScratchMeNot prevents Callum from scratching and injuring his skin,” Hayley explained.
Seven months later, Hayley’s skin flared up, and she couldn’t stop scratching. “I now understand what Callum endures,” Hayley confessed to me. “Maybe I should wear a ScratchMeNot!”
Hayley’s situation reminded me of 2 Corinthians 1:3–5, in which Paul says that our God is “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
Sometimes God allows us to go through trying times such as an illness, loss, or crisis. He teaches us through our suffering to appreciate the greatest suffering that Christ went through on our behalf on the cross. In turn, when we rely on Him for comfort and strength, we’re able to comfort and encourage others in their suffering. Let’s reflect on whom we can extend comfort to because of what God has brought us through.
By: Goh Bee Lee
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Reflect & Pray
Whom has God helped you to comfort through your own experiences of suffering? What can you do to help them appreciate Christ’s suffering on the cross through their pain?
God, help me to experience Your comfort in my sufferings and to become a source of comfort to others.
Read more about comforting others.
 

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UNCONDITIONAL: CHRIST’S LOVE PART ONE
November 03, 2021
“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
Did you know that the prophet Hosea’s love life is the topic of an often overlooked and pretty unexpected story in the Old Testament? (You can find the full story in his namesake book, Hosea.)

The short version of the story goes like this: God told Hosea to marry a woman with a “bad reputation.” She was known around town for her “loose morals” and sexual immorality – not exactly the usual pedigree a prophet would expect in a wife.

Yet, Hosea obeyed God and they married. A few years and three kids later, she runs away, completely abandoning Hosea and the family – only to end up trapped in a lifestyle of prostitution.

Unbelievably, God tells Hosea to take her back as his wife, despite everything she’s put him through, In what must have been a headshaking moment, still, Hosea obeys God, going so far as to even pay for her freedom.

For anyone who’s ever experienced relational infidelity, abandonment, or betrayal – Hosea’s forgiveness and obedience might be a little hard to understand, much less to accept.

What could God possibly be trying to communicate through this story?

I think there are two powerful take-aways for us.

The first, more obvious parallel is how Hosea’s love, acceptance, and continual pursuit of his wife, even after she rejected and turned her back on him, mirrors that of Christ’s love towards us. From the moment that Adam and Eve rejected God through their sin, God set in motion a redemption plan. He’s been pursuing us ever since.

  • “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
  • Jesus took upon Himself the judgment for our sin, so that we might have life forever. (My paraphrase) John 3:16
And secondly, just like Hosea’s love for His wife, God’s love isn’t contingent on us first getting our lives in order. If that were the case, then we would never be good enough.

No, Jesus took full ownership of our sins and accepts us as we are – sin, shame, and all.

We need only to come to Him with repentant hearts and a willingness to hand Him control of our lives, and to experience it personally.

It’s that simple and that powerful.

Don’t miss the second take-away in part two of this story tomorrow!
 

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UNCONDITIONAL: CHRIST’S LOVE PART TWO
November 04, 2021
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has pass away; behold the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Jesus offers freedom in forgiveness.

Author Stephen Chbosky writes in the book turned film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower,

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

In other words, how we view ourselves (our identity, value, and self-worth), has a big impact on how we engage in life. That’s why it can be so difficult to completely let go of our past sins, regrets, or even the harm others have done to us. It’s much easier to hold onto our pain and baggage, accepting the labels given by ourselves and others.

Let’s jump back into the story of Hosea and his wife from yesterday. (Read the full story in the Old Testament book, Hosea).

I wonder if Hosea’s wife ran back to her old life of sexual immorality because she wasn’t able to fully embrace Hosea’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness? I wonder if she still carried around the weight of her sin and shame from her previously immoral life, rather than walking in the new identity Hosea was offering her as his bride?

Have you ever done that? No matter how hard you try, you just can’t shake the lie that you’re not worthy of _love, happiness, purpose, worth, a healthy relationship___ (fill in the blank).

Why?

  • Maybe you messed up in the past and you’re letting guilt and shame keep you from moving on.
  • Perhaps you heard that label or statement spoken about you so often that it’s hard to believe anything different is possible.
  • Maybe you’ve had one door after another slammed in your face and you’ve internalized that rejection, believing there must really be something wrong with you.
Thankfully, there is no sin or shame or lie we’ve believed that is too big for the forgiveness of Jesus to redeem. Jesus accepts us as we are, where we are – when we come to Him with a repentant heart and surrendered spirit.

2 Corinthians 5: 17 speaks of becoming a new creation, “…the old has gone, the new has come.”

Gone is our sin and shame.

Gone are the lies we’ve believed and gone is that former identity we’ve carried.

The new has come! Praise the Lord!

If you’ve been holding onto the past, leave it at the foot of the cross. Go to God in prayer and ask for His forgiveness for your past, recognize your need for Christ to take over, and thank Him for already taking care of that sin and shame on the cross.

Make today the day that you finally step into the complete freedom that God’s forgiveness offers.
 

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FALSE PEACE…WHAT IS IT?
November 06, 2021
“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4: 6b-7
“I’ve prayed about it and God has given me peace.”

This is a pretty common statement in Christian circles, when it comes to deciding whether or not to follow God’s calling to take a big step of faith (professionally, relationally, or otherwise). It typically means that a person has spent serious time asking God for confirmation, studying God’s Word, and discussing the decision with trusted and wise counsel.

When a decision is made in God’s will, God shows up by providing a supernatural peace in the midst of an otherwise difficult situation or decision.

Yet, many times we rely on a feeling of FALSE peace as an excuse to justify escaping a difficult situation:

  • ending a relationship or marriage rather than work on our own weaknesses;
  • running away from a commitment just because it’s challenging; bailing on a friend in need because it’s uncomfortable;
  • choosing to cave to societal pressures and blend in rather than live differently and face ridicule.
In the moment, we might THINK that feeling of peace is from God, but…

…if the decision or action you’re making is contrary to God’s character or God’s Word, it’s NOT FROM GOD.

It’s a temporary, FALSE feeling of relief and escape rather than true peace.

And eventually, the consequences of those actions will burn you.

Jonah experienced this temporary FALSE peace after running from God’s calling because he didn’t want to share the Gospel with the Ninevites. He was so relieved. They were an evil people and a very real enemy to the nation of Israel. The last thing Jonah wanted was to face potential persecution and death simply by showing up.

So, he tried to sail away in literally the opposite direction.

It was there on that boat during a terrible storm, as Jonah slept peacefully, that he awoke to realize the impact his decision to run from God had on the lives of every man on board. All of their lives were in danger (Jonah 1:4-6).

You see, when we think running from God’s will won’t affect anybody else – we’re only deceiving ourselves.

Thankfully, Jonah recognized his sin after three days in the belly of a fish, and God rerouted him back towards Nineveh.

Have you, like Jonah, been hiding behind a false peace excuse to quickly escape a difficult or challenging situation? If so, then you’re not alone.

Make today the day that you choose to call out the fake peace for what it is and seek God’s TRUE peace – no matter where that leads you.

After all, if God calls you to do it – then He will see you through to the end.

And that’s a promise.



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GOD’S LOVE…AND THE FONZE
November 08, 2021
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:8-9
Love is a central component of the Christian life. Jesus reminded us in John 13:35 that people will be able to authenticate our relationship to Him by our love. He also claimed that “love” was the essence of all the commandments—love of God and love of those around us (Matthew 22:36). And Paul wrote that the greatest characteristic of all is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). To put an exclamation point at the end of things, John—who history would come to know as the beloved disciple—pointed out that those who do not love cannot possibly know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8).

Notice that John did not say that God is loving. He said that God IS love. And there’s a big difference between those two things.

A little illustration might help at this point:

In the sitcom of the late ’70s and ’80s called Happy Days, there was a character that was the essence of cool. He established hair combing and leather jackets as standards in the culture—he was the Fonze.
When the Fonze pounded on a jukebox or snapped his fingers, he wasn’t just doing cool things. (If Richie or Ralph or Potsy would have pounded on a jukebox or snapped their fingers, it wouldn’t have been cool.) The actions were cool because the Fonze was cool.
For the Fonze, “cool” was not a commentary on his actions. It was a statement regarding his nature.

In a manner of speaking, we might apply the same logic to God. You see, in the first of today’s verses, John was not making a statement about the actions of God; He was making a statement about His nature. John wants us to see that love finds its very definition in who God is.

This means that in some mysterious way, whatever comes into our lives has been filtered through God, whose very nature is love.

Even in the midst of difficulty, we must remember that no matter what else happens, God has shown His love to be true and real through the cross of Jesus Christ. We can rest in confidence that everything He does for us as believers flows from the fountain of His loving character.


Written by Michael Kelley, Guest ContributorTo read more of Michael’s writing, check out his daily blog,
 

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THINGS DON’T CHANGE THAT MUCH
November 09, 2021
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2
Selfish ambition. Greed. Violence. Debauchery. Idolatry.

These are pretty strong words, or “woes” as they are often referred to in Scripture. Yet, they could very easily describe much of modern-day culture.

It’s obvious that things don’t change, because God described the ancient nation of Babylon in these very same terms to the prophet, Habakkuk.

  1. Selfish Ambition (Habakkuk 2: 4-5): A society so focused on wealth and status that corners are cut and relationships crumble. From social media influencer to C-suite executive, the pursuit of the “American dream” of wealth and success has driven many people to take shortcuts and even sacrifice others in their climb to the top.
  2. Greed (Habakkuk 2: 9-11): The Bible uses the word covet to describe a level of envy and jealousy so great that it leads to resentment towards others. God took the sin of coveting so seriously that it made it into the ten commandments.
  3. Violence (Habakkuk 2: 12-14): Babylon was one of the most violent and powerful nations at that time. America is certainly in no shortage of violence.
  4. Debauchery (Habakkuk 2: 15-17): Debauchery isn’t a common word today. It refers to an excessive indulgence for pleasure. For Babylon it was drunkenness. Today, it could describe our culture of sexual freedom, drug addictions, or the opioid crisis that is crippling much of the nation.
  5. Idolatry (Habakkuk 2: 18-20): Now, in Babylon’s day, this often translated into a physical idol made out of precious metal, jewelry, or wood that would be worshipped as a god. However, in today’s modern culture, idolatry refers to anything that we place before God. This can be a relationship, career, finances, a hobby – you fill in the blank.
God might have been speaking about the Babylonians in this conversation with Habakkuk, but it could so easily describe society today. Ask God to identify which “modern-day woes” might be showing up in your life. With God’s help, you can address even the smallest root of these sins before they grow into bigger and bigger problems.

You’ll be glad you did!
 

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November 11
Good News
Bible in a Year:

We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us.

Acts 13:32–33
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Acts 13:32–39
In 1941, as Hitler’s reign was expanding across Europe, novelist John Steinbeck was asked to help with the war effort. He wasn’t asked to fight or visit troops on the frontline, but to instead write a story. The result was The Moon Is Down, a novel about a peaceful land that gets invaded by an evil regime. Printed on underground presses and secretly distributed throughout occupied countries, the novel sent a message: The Allies were coming, and by imitating the novel’s characters, readers could help secure their freedom. Through The Moon Is Down, Steinbeck brought good news to people under Nazi rule—their liberation was near.
Like the characters in Steinbeck’s story, Jews in the first century were an occupied people under brutal Roman rule. But centuries before, God had promised to send an Ally to liberate them and bring peace to the world (Isaiah 11). Joy erupted when that Ally arrived! “We tell you the good news,” Paul said. “What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us . . . by raising up Jesus” (Acts 13:32–33). Through Jesus’ resurrection and offer of forgiveness, the world’s restoration had begun (vv. 38–39; Romans 8:21).
Since then, this story has spread throughout the globe, bringing peace and freedom wherever it’s embraced. Jesus has been raised from the dead. Our liberation from sin and evil has begun. In Him we’re free!
By: Sheridan Voysey
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Reflect & Pray
Compared to other rulers, how does Jesus bring peace to the world? How can you join Him in this work?
Jesus, my ultimate Ally, I surrender to Your rightful rule.
 

boldstardex

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EARTHLY FAMILY OR ETERNAL FAMILY?
November 14, 2021
“Who are my mother and brothers?” He (Jesus) asked. Then He looked at those seated in a circle around Him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” – Mark 3:33-35
Let’s set the scene.

Jesus was in the early days of ministry and word had spread about His powerful teaching and miraculous healings. He was in the small town of Capernaum when His family showed up, hoping to talk some sense into Him. After all, to them, He was a simple carpenter and their older brother – not this radical preacher forgiving sins and calling Himself God.

When His mother and brothers showed up asking to speak to Him, Jesus’ response was unexpected.

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” He asked.

Now put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a second. As the mother of Jesus, this statement had to sting a little bit.

But, Jesus continued: “Whoever does God’s will is my mother, my brother and my sister” (My paraphrase). In other words, Jesus was saying that there are two types of families: our earthly family into which we are born, and our eternal family, the one we join only when we accept the gift of salvation that Jesus offers.

No matter how happy and loving, or how exhausting and dysfunctional, there is no such thing as a perfect earthly family. No matter where your family falls on the spectrum, Jesus says there’s actually another type of family – an eternal family. It, too, is imperfect while we’re still on earth, but this family welcomes anyone who recognizes their sins and their need for a Savior. Thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross that forgives our sins and makes us right with God, we all can enter this eternal family of faith.

It’s a family we will never lose.

Jesus is inviting us to join His family – by being “spiritually born” into the family of faith: His bride, the church.

Are you a member of His family?
 

boldstardex

Moderator

3 WAYS TO GROW YOUR GRATITUDE THIS THANKSGIVING
November 15, 2021
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1-3
A year ago, my wife and I decided to plant a garden. We tilled the soil, repaired the critter fence, planted seeds, and then waited.

And waited.

And waited.

From the time we began to plant until the day we ate the first tomato was around 3 months.

Apparently, this is called cultivation – it’s the act of preparing, promoting, developing, or promoting the growth of someone or something. “And it takes time. And intentionality. And effort. That’s true if you’re cultivating tomato plants, but it’s also true if you want to cultivate a characteristic in your life.

Like gratitude, for example.

Do we have to just sit around and wait to feel grateful, or can we actually actively cultivate our sense of gratitude this season?

Here are three active steps to do just that:

1. Remember what you deserve.

It strikes me that the moments when I am the most ungrateful are also the moments in which I feel the most entitled. That I deserve something better than the situation or circumstance in which I currently find myself. But what am I actually entitled to? Hell. Separation. Condemnation. Eternal punishment. This is what I truly deserve. If I want to cultivate gratitude in my life, then a healthy dose of remembering what I deserve should go a long way.

2. Remember what you have.

Many times my lack of gratitude stems from comparison. I compare the bank account, physical stature, intelligence, or influence of another. And then I am robbed of gratitude. Realizing this, it’s in those moments that I can reflect back on what I truly have. And what do I have?

A beautiful wife? Wonderful children? A church that I love and loves me?

Yes to all the above. But over and above that, I have every spiritual blessing in the heavens (Ephesians. 1:3). Every. Single. One. In Christ, God has held nothing back from me. By the virtue of His sacrifice on the cross, I am a co-heir with Jesus, and my inheritance in Him has already been secured. This is what I have. Right now.

3. Remember what was paid.

If you are a Christian, a great and terrible price has been paid. We were not brought out of darkness and into the light and rescued from our empty way of life by silver or gold; no – it was by something much more valuable. The precious blood of Jesus was shed on our behalf (1 Peter 1:18-21). Jesus was given for our sake; only a price this high could atone for our sin.

The cross of Jesus is like water to the parched ground of our ungrateful hearts. We pour it on and as we fix our eyes on Him, we can watch gratitude start to sprout up. Slowly, but steadily, by God’s grace, we can cultivate hearts that are no longer entitled, no longer covetous, but thankful and burning white-hot for the glory of the Lamb that was slain.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Written by Michael Kelley, Guest Contributor

To read more of Michael’s writing, check out his daily blog,
Forward Progress.http://michaelkelley.co/
 

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November 16
Our True Identity
Bible in a Year:

Jesus said . . . , “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

Luke 5:10
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Luke 5:1–11
First, the man selected a tackle box. Standing in his town’s small bait shop, he then filled a shopping cart with hooks, lures, bobbers, line, and weights. Finally, he added live bait and selected a new rod and reel. “Ever fished before?” the shop owner asked. The man said no. “Better add this,” said the owner. It was a first-aid kit. The man agreed and paid, then headed off to a day of not catching a thing—except snags on his fingers from his hooks and gear.
That wasn’t Simon Peter’s problem. An experienced fisherman, he was surprised one dawn when Jesus told him to push his boat into deep water and “let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Despite a long night of catching nothing, Simon and his crew let down their nets and “caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” In fact, his two boats started to sink from the haul (v. 6).
Seeing this, Simon Peter “fell at Jesus’ knees,” urging Him to “go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (v. 8). Jesus, however, knew Simon’s true identity. He told His disciple, “From now on you will fish for people.” Hearing that, Simon “left everything and followed” Christ (vv. 10–11). When we follow Him, He helps us learn who we are and what we’re called to do as His own.
By: Patricia Raybon
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Reflect & Pray
Outside of Jesus, what’s your identity or role in life? When you follow Him, how does your identity change?
Father, when I struggle to know my true identity, remind me to follow You to discover in You my true self.


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BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US
November 16, 2021
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he so loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” – 1 John 4: 9-12
The call to love is simple, but the act of loving people is hard. If it were easy we wouldn’t need to hear about it. Knowing it’s not easy, Jesus talked about it often.

Love – it’s Gospel 101.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to love God and to love others.

So how do we do it?

How do we live out this call to love?

If you are struggling to love those in your life, what can you do?


First, recognize the source. The power to live out this call to love comes from the love God has shown us through Christ. It’s because we’ve been unconditionally loved first, that we are empowered to love others.

Don’t miss this:

Misunderstanding this foundational Gospel truth has led many people to burnout and frustration with religion.


Second, the call to love others is not about earning the love of God, rather revealing the love of God we have received.

The apostle John says to look to Jesus. Jesus is the manifestation, the revealed picture of God’s love for us. God’s love is NOT portioned out based upon what we do for Him. It’s NOT revealed based upon our performance. It’s all about what God has already done for us. So, my efforts to love my neighbors, colleagues, friends or family is not in hopes of finally experiencing God’s love, but in hopes that they see this love and grace He has given to me.

We love because He first loved us!

Are you striving to love others out of a desire to be loved? OR out of a desire to reflect love you have received? If you’re looking for fulfilling love from others, you will only be let down. It’s the unconditional, unending, undeserved love found in Christ alone that truly satisfies.

The more we understand this kind of love, the more God empowers us to love others – even those hardest to love.


Adapted from a sermon by George Wright, Sr. Pastor, Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL
 

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November 18
God Heals Our Brokenness
Bible in a Year:

By grace you have been saved, through faith.

Ephesians 2:8
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Ephesians 2:1–10
Collin and his wife, Jordan, wandered through the craft store, looking for a picture to hang in their home. Collin thought he’d found just the right piece and called Jordan over to see it. On the right side of the ceramic artwork was the word grace. But the left side held two long cracks. “Well, it’s broken!” Jordan said as she started looking for an unbroken one on the shelf. But then Collin said, “No. That’s the point. We’re broken and then grace comes in—period.” They decided to purchase the one with the cracks. When they got to the checkout, the clerk exclaimed, “Oh, no, it’s broken!” “Yes, so are we,” Jordan whispered.
What does it mean to be a “broken” person? Someone defined it this way: A growing awareness that no matter how hard we try, our ability to make life work gets worse instead of better. It’s a recognition of our need for God and His intervention in our lives.
The apostle Paul talked about our brokenness in terms of being “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). The answer to our need to be forgiven and changed comes in verses 4 and 5: “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive . . . . [It] is by grace [we] have been saved.”
God is willing to heal our brokenness with His grace when we admit, “I’m broken.”
By: Anne Cetas
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Reflect & Pray
What brought you to your need to ask God to heal your brokenness? How do you need Him today?
God, thank You for being rich in mercy toward me! May I boast in You and Your gift of salvation through grace by faith.
 

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November 19
When You Can’t Go On
Bible in a Year:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed . . . great is [His] faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22–23
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Today's Scripture & Insight:
Lamentations 3:21–23
In 2006, my dad was diagnosed with a neurological disease that robbed him of his memory, speech, and control over body movements. He became bedridden in 2011 and continues to be cared for by my mom at home. The beginning of his illness was a dark time. I was fearful: I knew nothing about caring for a sick person, and I was anxious about finances and my mom’s health.
The words of Lamentations 3:22 helped me get up many mornings when the light was as gray as the state of my heart: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.” The Hebrew word for “consumed” means “to be used up completely” or “to come to an end.”
God’s great love enables us to go on, to get up to face the day. Our trials may feel overwhelming, but we won’t be destroyed by them because God’s love is far greater!
There are many times I can recount when God has shown His faithful, loving ways to my family. I saw His provision in the kindness of relatives and friends, the wise counsel of doctors, financial provision, and the reminder in our hearts that—one day—my dad will be whole again in heaven.
If you’re going through a dark time, don’t lose hope. God can help you to not be consumed by what you face. Keep trusting in His faithful love and provision for you.
By: Karen Huang
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Reflect & Pray
In the midst of difficulty, where do you go for strength? How can you remind yourself to trust in God’s great love?
Father, help me to keep trusting You. Open my eyes so I can see Your love and faithfulness.
 
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