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Word of the Day Archives Part 2

December 31st, 2017
STANDING ON THE EDGE
My little girl stood apprehensively at the pool's edge. As a non-swimmer, she was just learning to become comfortable in the water. Her instructor waited in the pool with outstretched arms. As my daughter hesitated, I saw the questions in her eyes: Will you catch me? What will happen if my head goes under?
The Israelites may have wondered what would happen when they crossed the Jordan River. Could they trust God to make dry ground appear in the riverbed? Was God guiding their new leader, Joshua, as He had led Moses? Would God help His people defeat the threatening Canaanites who lived just across the river?
To learn the answers to these questions, the Israelites had to engage in a test of faith-they had to act. So they "set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant before [them]" (v.14). Exercising their faith allowed them to see that God was with them. He was still directing Joshua, and He would help them settle in Canaan (vv.7,10,17).
If you are facing a test of faith, you too can move forward based on God's character and His unfailing promises. Relying on Him will help you move from where you are to where He wants you to be.
by Jennifer Benson Shuldt
Lord, we're prone to quickly forget Your goodness and care for us. May we trust You today and into the New Year-whatever uncertainties we face. You are the God who can be trusted.
FEAR FADES WHEN WE TRUST OUR FATHER.
Joshua 3:9-17

So Joshua said to the children of Israel, "Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God."
And Joshua said, "By this you shall know that the living God is among You, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and Hivites and Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and Jebusites: Behold, the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. Now therefore take for yourselves 12 men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe.
And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap."
So it was, when the people set out from the camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant before the people, and as those who bore the Ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the Ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan over flows all its banks during the whole time of the harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.

December 29th, 2017
DELAY MAY NOT MEAN DENIAL
My son't birthdays are in December. When they were small, Angus quickly learned that if he didn't receive a longed-for toy for his birthday at the beginning of the month, it might be in his Christmas stocking. And if David didn't receive his gift for Christmas, it might appear for his birthday 4 days later. Delay didn't necessarily mean denial.
It was natural for Martha and Mary to send for Jesus when Lazarus because seriously ill (John 11:1-3). Perhaps they looked anxiously along the road for signs of His arrival, but Jesus didn't come. The funeral service had been over 4 days when Jesus finally walked into town (v.17).
Martha was blunt. "If You had been here," she said, "my brother would not have died" (v.21). Then her faith flickered into certainty, "Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You" (v.22). I wonder what she expected. Lazarus was dead, and she was wary about opening the tomb. And yet at a word from Jesus, Lazarus' spirit returned to his decaying body (vv.41-44). Jesus had bypassed simply healing His sick friend, in order to perform the far greater miracle of bringing him back to life.
Waiting for God's timing may also give us a greater miracle than we had hoped for.
by Marion Stroud
My Savior hears me when I pray,
Upon His Word, I calmly rest;
In His own time, in His own way,
I know He'll give me what is best.
by Hewitt
TIME SPENT WAI
TING ON GOD IS NEVER WASTED.
John 11:21-35
Now Martha said to Jesus, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."....
Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, "She is going to the tomb to weep there."
Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."
Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled.
And He said, "Where have you laid him?"
And they said to Him, "Lord, come and see."
Jesus Wept.
Insight: Martha, often maligned for her attitude in Luke 10:38-42, displays great faith in today's passage. Not only does she believe that Jesus has a special relationship with the Father (John 11:22), she also affirms her confidence that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God (v.27).


December 28th, 2017
OUT OF EGYPT
One year when our family was traveling through Ohio on the way to Grandma's house, we arrived in Columbus just as a tornado warning was issued. Suddenly everything changed as we feared that our children might be in danger.
I mentioned that story to help us imagine what it was like for Joseph's family as he, Mary and their young child traveled to Egypt. Herod, not a tornado, threatened them as he sought to kill their little boy. Imagine how frightening it was for them, knowing that "Herod [sought] the young Child to destroy Him" (Matt.2:13).
We usually take a more idyllic view of Christmastime-lowing cattle and kneeling shepherds in a peaceful scene. But there was no peace for Jesus' family as they sought to escape Herod's horror. Only when an angel told them it was safe did the family go out of Egypt and back home to Nazareth (vv.20-23).
Consider the awe we should feel for the incarnation. Jesus, who enjoyed the majesty of heaven in partnership with the Father, set it all aside to be born in poverty, to face many dangers, and to be crucified for us. Coming out of Egypt is one thing, but leaving heaven for us-that's the grand and amazing part of the story!
by Dave Brannon
Jesus our Savior left heaven above,
Coming to earth as a servant with love;
Laying aside all His glory, He came,
Bringing salvation through faith in His name.
by Hess
JESUS CAME TO EARTH FOR US SO WE COULD GO TO HEAVEN WITH HIM.
Matthew 2:13-21

Now...an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him."
When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son."
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
"A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great morning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."
Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Arise, take the young child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead."
Then he arose, took the young child, and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
Insight: Today's passage is both a harrowing and a comforting account of early events in Jesus' life. Verse 15 reminds us that the threat to His life and His family's hasty escape to Egypt were within God's plan.

December 27th, 2017
IS JESUS STILL HERE?
Ted Robertson's home in Colorado was one of the more than 500 destroyed by the Black Forest Fire in June 2013. When he was allowed to return and sift through the ash and rubble, he was hoping to find a precious family heirloom made by his wife-a tiny ceramic figurine of baby Jesus about the size of a postage stamp. As he searched the charred remains of their home, he kept wondering, "Is the baby Jesus still here?"
When our lives are rocked by disappointment and loss, we may wonder if Jesus is still here with us. The Bible's answer is a resounding Yes! "Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, not things present nor things to come....shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (ROM 8:38-39).
In a corner of what used to be his garage, Ted Robertson discovered the burned remnants of a nativity scene and there he found the baby Jesus figurine undamaged by the flames. He told KRDO Newschannel 13, "[We've] gone from apprehension to hope...that we're going to recover some parts of our life that we thought were lost."
Is Jesus still here? He is indeed, and that is the everlasting wonder of Christmas
David McCasland
When all around me is darkness
And earthly joys have flown,
My Savior whispers His promise
Never to leave me alone
IF YOU KNOW JESUS, YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE.
Romans 8:31-39

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all these things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor thing present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Insight: In today's reading, Paul affirms the security the believer has in Christ (vv.31-35). God protects us (v.31), saves us (v.32), and no longer condemns us (vv.33-34). He also assures us we are safe, secure, and victorious in Christ's great love (vv.35,37,39). No wonder Paul triumphantly declares, "We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (v.37).

December 26th, 2017
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
It was the buzz of our neighborhood. A famous professional football player had moved in just two houses down from where we lived. We had seen him on television and read about his great skills on the field, but we never thought he would choose to reside in our neighborhood. Initially, our expectations were that we would welcome him into the neighborhood and we would all become great friends. But his life was obviously far too busy for any of us to get to know him personally.
Imagine this: Jesus-the Lord of the Universe and Creator of all things-chose to dwell among us! He left heaven and came to this earth. As John says, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (John 1:14). Jesus chose to become intimately involved with all who will come to Him. And, even more significant, for those of us who have received His redeeming love, the Holy Spirit has now set up residence in our hearts to comfort, counsel, convict, lead, and teach us.
When you think of the Babe in the manger, remember how special it is that He not only moved into our "neighborhood," but that He did it so He could bless us with the intimate privileges of His residence within us.
by Joe Stowell
Lord, I'm amazed that You, the greatest One of all, would take up residence within us! Help us to treasure the gift of Your presence as our ultimate joy. Draw us to Yourself to enjoy intimacy with You.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE GIFT OF GOD'S PRESENCE.
John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives Light to every man coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.
Insight: John's writings focus on the theme of light. Here, in the prologue of his gospel, John identifies Jesus as "The Light" to whom He bears witness (v.7). While also picturing Jesus as the Word (v.1) and the Creator (v.10), the portrayal of Jesus as the "Light of the world" seems to be foremost in John's mind (John 8:12;9:5). He is the Light who has come to live among us.
December 24th, 2017
LASTING PEACE
On Christmas Eve 1914, during the First World War, the guns fell silent along a 30-mile stretch of the Western Front. Soldiers peered cautiously over the tops of trenches while a few emerged to repair their positions and bury the dead. As darkness fell, some German troops set out lanterns and sang Christmas carols. Men on the British side applauded and shouted greetings.
The next day, German, French, and British troops met in no man's land to shake hands, share food, and exchange gifts. It was a brief respite from war that soon ended when the artillery and machine guns roared to life again. But no one who experienced "The Christmas Truce," as it became known, would ever forget how it felt and how it fueled their longing for lasting peace.
In Isaiah's prophecy of the coming Messiah we read, "His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa.9:6) By His death on the cross, Jesus removed the "no man's land" between us and God. "For He Himself is our peace" (Eph. 2:14).
In Jesus we can find lasting peace with god and harmony with each other. This is the life-changing message of Christmas!
by David McCasland
Hark! The Herald angels sing.
"Glory to the newborn King:
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
by Wesley
ONLY IN CHRIST CAN TRUE PEACE BE REALIZED.
Ephesians 2:13-19

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
Insight: Unity is a common theme in the New Testament writings of Paul. Jesus has brought us peace with God and therefore we should also be at peace with each other. In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about peace between Jew and Gentile. Despite the centuries-old separation of the two groups, God in Christ Jesus has "broken down the middle wall of separation" (v.14) In the temple there was a wall beyond which Gentiles could not pass; it formed the boundary of "the court of the Gentiles." However, Jesus has removed the barriers between God and us and between us and others. Now we all are "members of the household of God" (v.19).
December 22nd, 2017
REMEMBER THE WRAPPING
At our house some Christmas events are the same each year. Among them is my wife Martie's appeal to the kids and grandkids as they attack their gifts: "Save the paper we can use it next year!" Martie loves to give nice gifts but also appreciates the wrapping. Presentation is part of the beauty of the gift.
It makes me think of the wrapping Christ chose when He came as a redemptive gift to rescue us from our sinful selves. Jesus could have wrapped Himself in a mind-boggling show of power, lighting up the sky with His presence in a celestial show of glory. Instead, in a beautiful reversal of Genesis 1:26, He chose to wrap Himself "in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7).
So why is the wrapping so important? Because being like us, He is no stranger to our struggles. He experienced deep loneliness and the betrayal of a dear friend. He was publicly shamed, misunderstood and falsely accused. In short, He feels our pain. As a result, the writer of Hebrews tells us that we can "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
When you think of the gift of Jesus this Christmas, remember to keep the "wrapping" in mind!
by Joe Stowell
Lord, thank You for wrapping Yourself in our likeness! Remind us that You understood our struggles and that we can confidently take advantage of the mercy and grace You offer to make us victorious.
DON'T DISREGARD THE WRAPPING OF THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT OF ALL.
Philippians 2:5-11

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance of a man, He humbled Himself and become obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Insight: Philippians 2:5-11 is perhaps the greatest declaration of Christ's deity and humanity in the Bible. In His incarnation, Jesus did not replace His deity with humanity, but added humanity to His deity; He did not cease to be God, but surrendered the independent use of His divine powers and the right to manifest His glory as God. Before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed that the Father would restore to Him the glory He had with the Father "Before the world was" (John 17:5). Jesus' prayer was answered when the Father "highly exalted Him and [gave] Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow...to the glory of God the Father" (Phil.2:9-11).

December 21, 2017
JUST THE RIGHT TIME
The conductor stood on the podium, his eyes scanning the choir and orchestra. The singers arranged the music in their folders, found a comfortable position for standing, and held the folder where they could see the conductor just over the top. Orchestra members positioned their music on the stand, found a comfortable position in their seats, and then sat still. The conductor waited and watched until everyone was ready. Then, with a downbeat of his baton, the sounds of Handel's "Overture to Messiah" filled the cathedral.
With the sound swirling around me, I felt I was immersed in Christmas-when God, at just the right moment, signaled the down beat and set in motion an overture that started with the birth of the Messiah, the "High Priest of the good things to come" (Heb. 9:11).
Every Christmas, as we celebrate Christ's first coming with glorious music, I'm reminded that God's people, like choir and orchestra members, are getting ready for the next down beat of the conductor when Christ will come again. On that day, we will participate with Him in the final movement of God's symphony of redemption-making all things new (Rev.21:5). In anticipation, we need to keep our eyes on the conductor.
by Julie Akerman Link
Sound the soul-inspiring anthem,
Angel hosts, your harps attune;
Earth's long night is almost over,
Christ is coming-coming soon!
by Macomber
THE ADVENT OF CHRIST CELEBRATES HIS BIRTH AND ANTICIPATES HIS RETURN.
Hebrews 9:11-22

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
And for this reason He is the mediator of the New Covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry.
And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

December 20th, 2017
IN JESUS' NAME
One of my favorite collections of photos is of a family dinner. Preserved in an album are images of dad, his songs and their wives, and his grand children in a time of thanksgiving and intercession.
Dad had suffered a series of strokes and was not as verbal as usual. But during that time of prayer, I heard him say with heart felt conviction: "We pray in Jesus' name!" About a year later, Dad passed from this world into the presence of the One in whose name he placed such trust.
Jesus taught us to pray in His name. The night before He was crucified, He gave a promise to His disciples: "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24). But the promise of asking in Jesus' name is not a blank check that we might get anything to fulfill our personal whims.
Earlier that evening, Jesus taught that He answers requests made in His name so that He will bring glory to the Father (John 14:13). And later that night, Jesus Himself prayed in anguish, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matt.26:39).
As we pray, we yield to God's wisdom, love, and sovereignty, and we confidently ask "In Jesus' name."
by Dennis Fisher
Father in heaven, help us worry less about what we can get from You and more about what we can learn from You. As Your followers said, "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5).
NOTHING LIES BEYOND THE REACH OF PRAYER EXCEPT THAT WHICH LIES OUTSIDE THE WILL OF GOD.
John 14:12-21

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live You will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And He who loves Me will be loved by My Father and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.
Insight: In today's passage, Jesus tells His small group of followers that whoever believes in Him will do the same, and even greater, works than He did (v.12). Jesus' work was to call people to repentance and relationship with the Father. As one example of this, the apostle Peter preached a sermon that moved three thousand people to repentance! (Acts 2).

December 19th, 2017
THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS
Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol was released on December 19, 1843, and has never been out of print. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a wealthy , sour, stingy man who says, "Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas,' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding!" Yet, one Christmas eve, Scrooge is radically changed into a generous and happy man. With great humor and insight, Dickens' book captures the universal longing for inner peace.
As a young man, the apostle Paul opposed Jesus and His followers with a vengeful spirit. He "made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison" (Acts 8:3). But one day, he encountered the risen Christ, and his life became a different story (9:1-16).
In a letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, Paul described that life-changing event by saying, even though he was "a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man…the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 1:13-14).
Jesus was born into our world and gave His life so that we can be forgiven and transformed through faith in Him. This is the heart of Christmas!
By David McCasland
Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That hath made heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought
-English Carol
A CHANGE IN BEHAVIOR BEGINS WITH JESUS CHANGING OUR HEART.
1 Timothy 1:12-17

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He had counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formally a blasphemer , a prosecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are all in Christ Jesus.
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all long suffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the king eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!
Insight: Though Paul's words to Timothy in today's reading, are not one of the traditional Biblical texts we read at Christmas, they definitely have application for this season. In verse 15 we read: "Christ Jesus came into the world ." This is a reference not only to Christ's coming but also to His purpose for coming. Why was He born in human flesh? Paul answers that question by adding, "to save sinners." Jesus' coming was a mission of rescue for a race that desperately needed a Savior.

December 18th, 2018
MY FRIENDS AND I
John Chrysostom (347-407), arch bishop of Constantinople, said this about friendship: "Such is friendship, that through it we love places and seasons; for as...flowers drop their sweet leaves on the ground around them, so friends impart favor even to the places where they dwell."
Johnathan and David illustrate the sweetness of a true friendship. The Bible records an intimate and immediate bond between them (1 Sam.18:1). They kept their friendship alive by demonstrating their loyalty to each other (18:3, 20:16, 42; 23:18), as well as nurturing it by expressions of concern. Johnathan gave gifts to David (18:4) and watched out for him through many difficulties (19:1-2; 20:12-13).
In 1 Samuel 23:16, we see the highest moment of their friendship. When David was a fugitive on the run from Johnathan's father, "Johnathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God." Friends help you find strength in God during the low points of life.
In a world where most relationships are about what we can get, let us be the type of friends who focus on what we can give. Jesus, our perfect Friend, demonstrated for us that "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for His friends" (John 15:13).
by Poh Fang Chia
Thank You, Lord, for the friends You've given me to love me inspite of my failures and weaknesses. Let me treat them as You treated Your friends. Bind us together in You and enable us to help one another.
THE GLORY OF LIFE IF TO LOVE, NOT TO BE LOVED; TO GIVE, NOT TO GET; TO SERVE, NOT TO BE SERVED.
1 Samuel 18:1-4;23:15-18

Now when we had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Johnathan was knit to the soul of David, and Johnathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father's house anymore.
Then Johnathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Johnathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.
1 Samuel 23
So David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. And David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a forest. Then Johnathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, "Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that." So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. And David stayed in the woods, and Johnathan went to his own house.
Insight: The deep friendship between David and Johnathan withstood the test of time and circumstances evidenced when Johnathan went against his father, King Saul (1 Sam.20), endangering his own life in order to save David (v.33). Although Johnathan was the crown prince, he encouraged David by assuring his safety and affirming that he would be the next king (23:17). After Johnathan died in battle (31:1-6), David honored him with the "Song of the bow," which was to be remembered by the people of Judah (2 Sam. 1;18-27).

December 17th, 2018
A WORK IN PROGRESS
Pablo Casals was considered to be the preeminent chellist of the first half of the 20th century. When he was still playing his cello in the middle of his tenth decade of life, a young reporter asked, "Mr. Casals, you are 95 years old and the greatest chellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice 6 hours a day?"
Mr. Casals answered, "Because I think I'm making progress."
What a great attitude! As believers in Christ we should never be satisfied to think we have reached some self-proclaimed pinnacle of spiritual success, but rather continue to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). Jesus reminds us in John 15:16 that He chose us to "Go and bear fruit." The result of healthy growth is continuing to bear spiritual fruit throughout our lives. Our Lord promises: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit" (v.5).
In a steady and faithful progression to become more and more like the One we love and serve, we can be confident that He who began "a good work" in us will continue it until it is finally finished on the day when He returns (Phil.1:6).
by Cindy Hess Kasper
Closer yet, I'd cling, my Savior,
You're the all-sufficient vine;
You alone can make me fruitful,
Blessed source of strength divine.
by Bosch
GOD'S UNSEEN WORK IN OUR HEART PRODUCES FRUIT IN OUR LIVES.
John 15:9-17

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that you're joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down ones life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.
Insight: Two ideas appear repeatedly in today's passage: Love and obedience. The two are related, and it is important to understand their order and priority. In verse 9, Jesus reminds His disciples that He has loved them. In verse 10, He tells them that obedience to His commands is the way to respond to that love. God's love for us is the first and primary part of our relationship with Him, and obedience-which leads to bearing fruit-is our response.

December 15th, 2017
STORY STEWARDS
Many people take great care to make sure their resources are used well after they die. They set up trusts, write wills, and establish foundations to guarantee that their assets will continue to be used for a good purpose after their life on earth is done. We called Good Stewardship.
Equally important however, is being good stewards of our life story. God commanded the Israelites not only to teach their children His laws but also to make sure they knew their family history. It was the responsibility of parents and grandparents to make sure their children knew the stories of how God had worked in their behalf (Deut.4:1-14).
God has given each of us a unique story. His plan for our lives is individualized. Do others know what you believe and why? Do they know the story of how you came to faith and how God has worked in your life to strengthen your faith? Do they know how God has shown Himself and has helped you through doubts and disappointments?
The faithfulness of God is a story that we have the privilege to pass on. Record it in some way and share it. Be a good steward of the story that God is telling through you.
by Julie Ackerman Link
How great, O God, Your acts of love!
Your saving deeds would now proclaim
That generations yet to come
May set their hope in Your great name.
by D.DeHaan
A LIFE LIVED FOR GOD LEAVES A LASTING LEGACY.
Deuteronomy 4:1-9

Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.....
Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the people's who will hear all these statutes, and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people."
For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?
And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?
Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.
Insight: In today's passage, Moses reminded the people of Israel that-unlike the nations around them-they were the only ones privileged to have intimate fellowship with God (v.7) and the only nation given God's law (v.8). If they faithfully obeyed His law God would make them a great and wise people (vv.6,8-9).

December 14th, 2017
A SPECIAL BIRTH
In the pages of Scripture, several baby-boy births stand out. Cain, the firstborn after creation. Issac, the hope of Israel's future. Samuel, the answer to a mother's fervent prayer. All extremely important. All joyously expected. And all described exactly the same by the Chroniclers of Scripture: In each case, we are told that the mother conceived and bore a son (Gen. 4:1; 21:2-3; 1 Sam. 1:20).
Now consider one more baby boy's birth. The description of this arrival was much more greatly detailed: a few words were clearly not enough to tell of Jesus' birth. In Micah, we were told where He would be born-Bethlehem (5:2). In Isaiah, that His mother would be a virgin (7:14), and that He was coming to save people from their sin (ch.53).
In the New Testament, we were given such key information as what His name would be and why (Matt. 1:21), where He was born in fulfillment of prophecy (2:6), and how both His birth mother and His adoptive father were part of God's plan (1:16).
Jesus' birth stands above all births. His coming changed the world and can change our lives. Lets celebrate Him!
by Dave Branon
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more will die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
CHRIST IS THE GREATEST GIFT KNOWN TO MAN.
Isaiah 7:10-16

Moreover the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, "Ask a sign for yourself from God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above."
But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!"
Then he said, "Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good."
Insight: Scripture tells the story of God's rescue of humanity from the curse and consequences of sin, which was accomplished by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Isaiah's prophecy is just one of the many that predict His coming and the events of His life. The first prophecy of redemption comes as soon as the need for the rescue is pronounced. In Genesis 3, God delivers the devastation news of the consequences of Adam and Eve's actions. However, He does not leave them hopeless; the promise of a redeemer is included (v.15). What the Old Testament prophets predicted about the Redeemer, the New Testament says i fulfilled in Jesus Christ (See Luke 24:44).

December 13th, 2017
ANOTHER HERO FOR CHRISTMAS
For most of my life, I missed the importance of Joseph in the Christmas story. But after I became a husband and father myself, I had a greater appreciation for Joseph's tender character. Even before he knew how Mary had become pregnant, he decided that he wasn't going to embarrass or punish her for what seemed to be infidelity (Matt.1:19).
I marveled at his obedience and humility, as he not only did what the angel told him (v.24) but also refrained from physical intimacy with Mary until after Jesus was born (v.25). Later we learned that Joseph was willing to flee his home to protect Jesus (2:13-23).
Imagine the pressure Joseph and Mary must have felt when they learned that Jesus would be theirs to raise and nurture! Imagine the complexity and pressure of having the Son of God living with you every moment of every day; a constant call to holiness by His very presence. What a man Joseph must have been to be trusted by God for this task! What a wonder example for us to follow, whether we're raising our own children or those born to others who are now entrusted to us.
May God grant us the strength to be faithful like Joseph even if we don't fully understand God's plan.
by Randy Kilgore
We know, Father, that Your wisdom is far above our limited understanding. We thank You that we can rely on You to carry out Your good plans for us. You are worthy of our faithfulness.
THE SECRET OF TRUE SERVICE IS ABSOLUTE FAITHFULNESS WHEREVER GOD PLACES YOU.
Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with the child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her first born Son. And he called His name Jesus.
Insight: Each of the two New Testament accounts of Jesus' birth has a different focus. Luke focuses on Mary and the angel's message to her, the journey to Bethlehem, and the birth of Jesus. Matthew focuses on Joseph, telling of the angelic messenger who assured Joseph of the miraculous nature of the Christ child.

December 12th, 2017
SNUG AS A BUG IN A RUG
When I was a child, my family lived in a house my father built in the cedar breaks west of Duncanville, Texas. Our house had a small kitchen-dinette area, two bedrooms, and a great room with a large stone fire place in which we burned two-foot-long cedar logs. That fireplace was the center of warmth in our home.
There were five people in our family: My father and mother, my sister, my cousin, and me. Since we had only two bedrooms, I slept year-round on a porch with canvas screens that rolled down to the floor. Summers were delightful; winters were cold.
I remember dashing from the warmth of the living room onto the porch, tiptoeing across the frost-covered plank floor in my bare feet, leaping into bed and burrowing under a great mountain of blankets. Then, when hail, sleet, or snow lashed our house and the wind howled through the eaves like a pack of wolves, I snuggled down in sheltered rest. "Snug as a bug in a rug," my mother used to say. I doubt that any child ever felt so warm and secure.
Now I know the greatest security of all: God Himself. I can "Lie down in peace, and sleep" (Ps.4:8), knowing that he is my shelter from the stinging storms of life. Enveloped in the warmth of His love, I'm snug as a bug in a rug.
by David Roper
Leaning, leaning,
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
NO ONE IS MORE SECURE THAN THOSE WHO ARE IN GOD'S HANDS.
Psalm 91:9-16

Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent, you shall trample under foot.
"Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation."
Insight: Psalm 91 celebrates the safety and security of those who trust in God, who have made the Lord (the Most High) their refuge, fortress, and dwelling place (vv.2,9). The psalmist affirms that our God is powerful and faithful and therefore trustworthy (vv.1-8). He also testifies of God's protection and deliverance in a dangerous and destructive world. (vv.9-16). In the New Testament, satan misquoted verses 11-12 to tempt Jesus to test God's protection by jumping from the top of the temple (Matt.4:6). In response, Jesus says that God's promise is for those who love and obey Him (Ps.91:14-15) and not for those who presume upon God's grace (Matt.4:7).

December 11, 2017
SNAKE IN A BOX
At a nature center, I watched my friends rosy-cheeked toddler pat the side of a large glass box. Inside the box, a bull snake named Billy slithered slowly, eyeing the little girl. Billy's body was as thick as my forearm and he sported brown and yellow markings. Although I knew Billy could not escape from his container, seeing a menacing-looking creature so close to a small child made me shudder.
The Bible speaks of a time in the future when fierce animals will fail to threaten each other or human beings. "The wolf...shall dwell with the lamb" and "the nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole" (Isa.11:6,8). All the inhabitants of the world will experience total harmony and peace.
The Lord will establish this safe environment when He restores the world with His wisdom, might, and knowledge. At that time, He will judge the world with righteousness and justice (11:4). And everyone will acknowledge His greatness: "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord" (11:9).
We live in a broken world. Unfairness and discord, fear and pain are a very real part of our daily lives. But one day God will change everything, and "the Son of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings" (Mal. 4:2). Then Jesus will rule the world in righteousness.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Be Still, my soul: The hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
by von Schlegel
LEAVE FINAL JUSTICE IN THE HANDS OF A JUST GOD.
Isaiah 11:1-9
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat. The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt not destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
Insight: The future and everlasting kingdom of God will be one of peace and harmony. Many of the prophets looked forward to this day with great anticipation. In today's passage, Isaiah describes this kingdom by picturing animals that would normally prey on each other at peace together. This will be a time of peace because the Messiah will rule (v.9).

December 10th, 2017
WONDERS OF THE HEART
Our heart beats about a hundred thousand times every day, pumping blood to every cell in our bodies. This adds up to about thirty five million beats a year and 2.5 billion beats in an average lifetime. Medical science tells us that every contraction is similar to the effort it would take for us to hold a tennis ball in our palm and give it a good hard squeeze.
Yet as amazing as our heart is, it is only one example of a natural world that is designed to tell us something about our Creator. This is the idea behind the story of a man named Job.
Broken by a series of mounting troubles, Job felt abandoned. When God finally spoke, He didn't tell Job why he was suffering. Nor did the Creator tell him that some day He would suffer for Job. Instead, He drew Job's attention to a series of natural wonders that are always whispering to us-and sometimes shouting-about a wisdom and power far greater than our own (Job 38:1-11).
So what can we learn from the complexity of this hard-working muscle, the heart? The message may be similar to the sound of waves coming to shore and stars quietly shining in the night sky. The power and wisdom of our Creator give us reason to trust Him.
by Mart DeHaan
Lord, we are Yours, You are our God; We have been made so wondrously; This human frame in every part. Your wisdom, power, and love we see.
by Anon
WHEN WE REFLECT ON THE POWER OF GOD'S CREATION, WE SEE THE POWER OF HIS CARE FOR US.
Job 38:1-11

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: "Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the suns of God shouted for joy?
"Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; when I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; when I said, 'This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!' "
Insight: The experiences of Job are among the most heartrending found anywhere in the Scriptures. The loss of his children, wealth, and health drove him to question the purposes of God and wonder why He was silent. Then, in Job 38, God finally responded. And when He did, He didn't offer Job answers-He offered Himself. The reminders of God's greatness and power are not to be seen as cold or heartless, but as legitimate cause to put our trust in Him, even when we suffer and don't know why.

December 8th, 2017
STONES CRY OUT
Every year it seems that Christmas becomes more and more commercialized. Even in nations where the majority of people call themselves "Christian," the season has become more about shopping than worshiping. The pressure to buy gifts and plan elaborate parties makes it increasingly difficult to stay focused on the real meaning of the holiday-the birth of Jesus, God's only Son, the Savior of the world.
But every holiday I also hear the gospel coming from surprising places-the very places that so commercialize Christmas-shopping malls. When I hear "Joy to the World! The Lord is come; let earth receive her King" ringing from public address systems, I think of the words Jesus said to the pharisees who told Him to silence the crowds who were praising Him,"If they keep quiet," Jesus said, "the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40 NIV).
At Christmas we hear stones cry out. Even people spiritually dead sing carols written by Christians long dead, reminding us that no matter how hard people try to squelch the real message of Christmas, they will never succeed.
Despite the commercialism that threatens to muddle the message of Christ's birth, God will make His good news known as "far as the curse is found."
by Julie Ackerman Link
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow.
Far as the curse is found.
by Watts
KEEPING CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS IS AS FUTILE AS HOLDING BACK THE OCEANS TIDE.
Luke 19:28-40

When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, saying, "Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. 'And if anyone asks you, why are you loosing it?' thus you shall say to him, 'Because the Lord has need of it.' " So Those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, "Why are loosing the colt?" And they said, "The Lord has need of him."
Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.
Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: " 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!' Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
And some of the pharisees called to Him from the crown, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples."
But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
Insight: Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey's colt was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zachariah 9:9. The salvation Christ brings is what all creation is waiting for (see Rom.8:19-20) and is a message that cannot be silenced (Luke 19:40).
December 7th, 2017
JOHNNY'S RACE
When 19 year old Johnny Agar finished the 5k race, he had a lot of people behind him-family members and friends who were celebrating his accomplishment.
Johnny has cerebral palsy, which makes physical activity difficult. But he and his dad, Jeff, have teamed up to compete in many races-Dad pushing and Johnny riding. But one day, Johnny wanted to finish by himself. Halfway through the race, his dad took him out of his cart, helped him to his walker, and assisted Johnny as he completed the race on his own two feet. That led to a major celebration as friends and family cheered his accomplishment. "It made it easier to do it with them behind me," Johnny told a reporter. "The encouragement is what drove me."
Isn't that what Christ-followers are meant to do? Hebrews 10:24 reminds us, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (NIV). As we model the love our Savior (John 13:34-35), imagine the difference it could make if we all set out to encourage each other-if we always knew that behind us we had a group of friends cheering us on. If we took the words "comfort each other and edify one another" (1 Thess. 5:11) seriously, the race would be easier for all of us.
by Dave Brannon
Help us, Lord, not to think that we can go through life without others. Cure us of our independent spirit. Use us to bless others and humble us to except encouragement.
A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GIVING UP OR GOING ON.
Hebrews 10:19-25

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and out bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
And let us consider one another in order to stir love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Insight: The "Holiest" (Heb. 10:19) was a reference to the Holy of Holies in ancient Israel's tabernacle and temple. It was viewed as the dwelling place of God among His people and could only be entered once a year, and then only by the High Priest. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would take the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies to atone for the people's sins for another year. However, the work of our High Priest, Jesus is so complete that we now have the freedom to enter into God's presence at any time. In fact, we can enter boldly because as a result of Christ's sacrifice, we are welcomed into the Father's presence. This intimate relationship we have with our Father causes us to want to share His grace with others.

December 6th, 2017
BETTER THAN BEFORE
As infants, my children had nearly perfect skin. Their flesh was soft-they had no dry elbows or rough patches on their feet. Smooth and new it contrasted with mine, which was marked by years of various scars and callouses.
As a mighty warrior and the commander of the Syrian Army, Naaman may have had scuffed skin and battle scars, but he also had a serious skin disease-leprosy. When a servant suggested that the prophet Elisha could heal him, Naaman visited him. He followed Elijah's instructions and his diseased flesh became "like the flesh of a little child" (2 Kings 5:14). This cure left Naaman better off both physically and spiritually. After being healed, he proclaimed, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel" (v.15). Through this miraculous experience, he learned that there is only one true God (1 Cor. 8:6).
Like Naaman, we can learn important lessons about God as a result of our life experiences. Receiving a blessing may show us about his mercy and goodness (Matt.7:11). Surviving or enduring a trial may help us see God's sufficiency and care. Growing in knowledge of Him (2 Pet. 3:18) will always leave us better off spiritually than we were before.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Father, help me to learn more about You as I traveled through this world. Let this knowledge inspire fresh praise in my heart and a desire to become more like You.
LESSONS ABOUT GOD ARE EMBEDDED IN LIFE EXPERIENCES.
2nd Kings 5:1-15

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, .... but a leper.
And the Syrians had gone out on raids and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman's wife.
Then she said to her mistress, "If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy."...
Then Naaman went with his horses and chariots, and he stood at the door of Elijah's house. And Elijah sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean."
But Naaman became furious and went away and said, ..."Are not...the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage.
And his servants said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more than, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. And he returned to the man of God...and stood before him; and he said, "Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel....."
Insight: Naaman's journey of faith started with humility. It was only when he listened to his young slave girl (2 kings 5:2-4), followed the instructions of Elijah's servant and his own servants, and humbled himself by washing in the Jordan river that he received healing (vv.8-14).

December 5th, 2017
HUMAN CHESS
Chess is an ancient game of strategy. Each player begins with 16 pieces on the chess board with the goal of corning his opponent's king. It has taken different forms over the years. One form is human chess, which was introduced around AD 735 by Charles Martel, Duke of Austrasia. Martel would play the game on giant boards with real people as the pieces. The human pieces were costumed to reflect their status on the board and moved at the whim of the players-manipulating them to their own ends.
Could this human version of the game of Chess be one that we sometimes play? We can easily become so driven by our goals that people become just one more pawn that we use to achieve them. The Scriptures, however, call us to a different view of those around us. We are to see people as created in the image of God (Gen.1:26). They are objects of God's love (John 3:16) and deserving of ours as well.
The apostle John wrote, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7). Because God first loved us, we are to respond by loving Him and the people He created in His image.
by Bill Crowder
Open my eyes, Lord, to people around me, Help me to see them as You do above; Give me the wisdom and strength to take action, so others may see the depth of Your love.
by Kurt DeHaan
PEOPLE ARE TO BE LOVED, NOT USED.
1 John 4:7-12

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
Insight: The apostle John wrote today's memorable words about love to a church struggling with the influences of false teachers. The words of verses 7-12 follow his instructions in verses 1-6 about identifying false teachers and false teaching (mainly by their view of Jesus). These verses indicate that love for God and for others is a key test for identifying those who truly follow Christ. Therefore, it is no surprise that John emphasizes the Christian characteristic of love. In today's passage, he says that we ought to love one another, and in his gospel he records Jesus's words, "By this, all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for another" (John 13:35). How we treat one another is a demonstration of our love for God.

December 4th, 2017
CALLED BY NAME
At the beginning of the academic year, a school principal in our city pledged to learn the names of all 600 students in her school. Anyone who doubted her ability to resolve could look at her track record. During the previous year, she had learned the names of 700 students, and prior to that, 400 children in a different school. Think of what it must have meant to these students to be recognized and greeted by name.
The story of Zacchaeus and Jesus (Luke 19:1-10) contains a surprising element of personal recognition. As Jesus passed through the city of Jericho, a wealthy tax collector named Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to see Him. "When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him 'Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house" ' (v.5). Instead of ignoring Zacchaeus or saying "Hey, you in that tree," Jesus called him by name. From that moment on, his life began to change.
When it seems that no one knows you or cares who you are, remember Jesus. He knows us by name and longs for us to know him in a personal way. Our Father in heaven sees us through His eyes of love and cares about every detail of our lives.
by David McCasland
Father, thank you that my value in Your eyes is not determined by what I do but simply by the fact that you created me. Help me to recognize that same value in others as I represent You to the world.
JESUS KNOWS YOU BY NAME AND LONGS FOR YOU TO KNOW HIM.
Luke 19:1-10

The Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not become part of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a Sycamore tree to see Him, for he was going to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house."
So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.
But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner."
Then Zacchaeus stood and said the the Lord, "Look Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I had taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold."
And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham: for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Insight: First century tax collectors were hated by the people of Israel because they were seen as collaborators with the occupying Romans. Tax collectors often became wealthy at the expense of their own people. As a result, they were considered defiled and impure. This is ironic, for the tax collector mentioned here is named Zacchaeus, which means "pure."
December 3rd, 2017
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
In the heat of the American Civil War, one of President Lincolns advisers said he was grateful that God was on the side of the Union. Lincoln replied, "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." What a great challenge for us who assumed that God is there to support our plans, our perspectives, our decisions, and our desires. However, Lincolns reply reminds us that even our best plans may not be near to what God desires.
Clearly the psalmist wants to be on God's side when he pleads, "Search me, O God, and know my heart;...and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way ever lasting" (Ps.139:23-24). When we followed the palmist's example to "draw near to God" (73:28), we can be certain that we are on His side, as His Spirit helps us measure every thought and action by His ways that are always right.
So, lets ask ourselves: Are we on the Lord's side? Being on His side means that we will reflect His love to the world around us in the way we interact with others. We will forgive, treat others justly, and seek peace. God's ways are always best.
by Joe Stowell
Father, teach us to search Your ways so that we may know how to be on Your side of the critical issues in life. Thank You that when we draw near to You, You draw near to us with gifts of wisdom and discernment.
WHEN YOU DRAW NEAR TO GOD, YOU ARE SURE TO BE ON HIS SIDE.
Psalm 73

Truly God is good to Israel to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet have almost stumbled; my steps have nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily...
Surely I had cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocence.
For all day long, I have been plagued and chastened every morning....
Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterword receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart failed; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works.
Insight: Embittered by the prosperity of the wicked and his own suffering, Asaph complained of life's unfairness. When reminded of God's presence, providence, and provision in his life (Ps.73:23-26) and the punishment awaiting the wicked (vv.18-19,27), Asaph reaffirmed his trust in God and drew near to Him (v.28).

December 1st, 2017
STRUGGLING WITH ADDICTION
Eric was struggling with an addiction, and he knew it. His friends and family members encouraged him to stop. He agreed that it would be best for his health and relationships, but he felt helpless. When the others told him how they had quit their bad habits, he replied, "I'm happy for you, but I can't seem to stop! I wish I had never been tempted in the first place. I want God to take the desire away right now."
Immediate deliverance may happen for some, but most face a daily battle. While we don't always understand why the temptation doesn't go away. We can turn to God on whatever path we find ourselves. And perhaps that is the most important part of our struggle. We learn to exchange our futile efforts to change for complete dependence on God.
Jesus was tempted also, just as we are, so He understands what we're feeling (Mark 1:13). He sympathizes with our struggles (Heb.4:15), and we can "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace, to help in time of need" (v.16). He also uses others, including trained professionals, to lean on along the way.
Whatever battles we may be facing today, we know this-God loves us much more than we can imagine, and He is faithful to come to our assistance.
Anne Cetas
WE ARE NOT TEMPTED BECAUSE WE ARE EVIL; WE ARE TEMPTED BECAUSE WE ARE HUMAN.
Hebrews 4:14-16

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Insight: The high priest in ancient Israel was the representative of the people before God. The writer of Hebrews draws a distinction between the high priests of Israel and Jesus, our Great High Priest, who came and experienced life on the earth. We can approach Him with confidence, knowing that He truly understands what we face, for He faced it as well.
11/30/17
THE HEAVENLY MANIFEST
At the Kenya Airways check-in counter, I presented my passport for verification. When the agents searched for my name on their manifest- the document that lists names of passengers-my name was missing. The problem? Overbooking and lack of confirmation. My hope of reaching home that day was shattered.
The episode reminded me of another kind of manifest-the Book of life. In Luke 10, Jesus sent His disciples on an evangelistic mission. On their return, they happily reported their success. But Jesus told them: "Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (v.20). The focus of our joy is not merely that we are successful but that our names are inscribe in God's book.
But how can we be sure of that? God's Word tells us, "if you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom.10:9).
In Revelation 21, John makes a breathtaking description of the Holy City that awaits those who trust Christ. Then he writes, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lambs book of life" (v.27).
The Book of Life is God's heavenly manifest. Is your name written it it?
by Lawrence Darmani
Father in heaven, thank You for the gift of Your Son, who promised to prepare a place for us. Thank You too, that You are preparing us for that place.
GOD OPENS THE GATES OF HEAVEN TO THOSE WHO OPEN THEIR HEARTS TO HIM.
Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."
Insight: Two important concepts appear in today's passage: Jesus is the one who gives us the authority to carry on His work on earth, and God is the one who writes our names "in heaven" (v.20). Notice that in both cases it is not our doing but God's. Salvation is a gift of God's grace; our part is to accept this gift.
by J.R. Hudberg

November 29th, 2017
THE LOW POINT
CS Lewis and his older brother, Warren (Warnie), endured several terms at Wynyard, an English boarding school for boys. The head master was a cruel man who made life unbearable for everyone there. Decades later, Warnie wrote in his understated dry wit, I am now sixty-four and a bit, and have never yet been in a situation in which I have not had the consolation of reflecting that at any rate I was better off than I was at Wynyard." Most of us can recall a similar dark and difficult time in our lives and be grateful that we are better off now than we were then.
Psalm 40:1-5 records a low point of David's life when he cried out to the Lord who rescued him. God brought him up from "the slimy pit" and "the mud and mire" and set his feet on a rock (v.2). "He put a new song in my mouth," David says, "A hymn of praise to our God" (v.3).
But deliverance from depression and despair are seldom one-time events. Psalm 40 continues with David's renewed plea for God's mercy, loving kindness, and truth to deliver him from his own sin and the threats of his enemies (vv. 11-14).
Along with David, we can say at every low point, "I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer" (v.17).
by David McCasland
How does recalling a low point in your life encourage you to trust God for His help today?
THE ONE WHO HOLDS THE UNIVERSE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN.
Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud an mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside the false gods. Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare...
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.
Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without numbers surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord to help me.
May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!" be appalled at their own shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, "the Lord is great!"
But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.

November 29th, 2017
SEEING OURSELVES
Long ago, before the invention of mirrors or polished surfaces, people rarely saw themselves. Puddles of water, streams, and rivers were one of the few ways they could see their own reflection. But mirrors changed that. And the invention of cameras took fascination with our looks to a whole new level. We now have lasting images of ourselves from any given time throughout our entire life. This is good for making scrapbooks and keeping family histories, but it can be detrimental to our spiritual well-being. The fun of seeing ourselves on camera can keep us focused on outward appearance and leave us with little interest in examining our inner selves.
Self-examination is crucial for a healthy spiritual life. God wants us to see ourselves so that we can be spared the consequences of sinful choices. This is so important that Scripture says we are not to participate in the Lord's Supper without first examining ourselves (1 Cor.11:28). The point of this self-examination is not only to make things right with God but also to make sure we are right with one another. The Lord's Supper is a remembrance of Christ's body, and we can't celebrate it properly if we're not living in harmony with other believers.
Seeing and confessing our sin promotes unity with others and a healthy relationship with God.
by Julie Ackerman Link
Dear Lord, help me to be more concerned with the reflection of my heart than with my physical reflection. Change me through the power of Your Spirit.
WHEN WE LOOK INTO THE MIRROR OF GOD'S WORD, WE SEE OURSELVES MORE CLEARLY.
1st Corinthians 11:23-34

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.
Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
And when I come I will give further directions.
Insight: Jesus ate the Jewish Passover meal-a celebration to remember God's rescue of His people from slavery in Egypt-with His disciples the night before He went to the cross. Christ used the elements of this meal to institute the memorial celebration of the Lord's Supper, or Communion (1 Cor.11:20), to help us remember how He has rescued us from our sins.
by Bill Crowder

November 27th, 2017
HELP FROM THE OUTSIDE
On a business trip, my husband had just settled into his hotel room when he head an unusual noise. He stepped into the hall to investigate and heard someone yelling from a nearby room. With the help of a hotel worker, he discovered that a man had become trapped in the bathroom. The lock on the bathroom door had malfunctioned an the man trapped inside started to panic. He felt he couldn't breathe and began yelling for help.
Sometimes in life we feel trapped. We are banging on the door, pulling on the handle, but we can't get free. We need help from the outside, just like the man in the hotel.
To get that outside assistance, we have to admit that we are helpless on our own. Sometimes we look inward for the answers to our problems, yet the Bible says "the heart is deceitful" (Jer.17:9). In truth, we are often the source of our problems in life.
Thankfully, "God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (1 John 3:20). Because of this, He knows exactly how to help us. Lasting heart-level change and real progress with our problems originate with God. Trusting Him and living to please Him means we can flourish and be truly free.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Heavenly Father, I humble myself before You. I can't solve my problems on my own. Please help me to seek Your help and perspective.
GOD HELPS THOSE WHO KNOW THEY ARE HELPLESS.
Jeremiah 17:7-13

"But blessed is the one, who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
I, the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve."
Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay are those who gain riches by unjust means. When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them, and in the end they will prove to be fools.
A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary. Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.
Insight: The Bible describes the heart as the very basis of our character-the center of who we are and the source of our thoughts, feelings, and actions (See Prov.4:23;23:7). "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure" (Jer.17:9) is the consistent verdict of Scripture. This deceitfulness has made humanity incapable of knowing how sinful we really are, for only God knows the true condition of our heart (2nd Chron,6:30; Ps.139:1-4;Jer.17:10). We will not admit we are sinners apart from divine intervention, revelation, and conviction (John 6:65;Rom.8:7-11;2nd Cor.4:4). But God will redeem and give a new heart to all who humbly come to Him and accept His grace and mercy (Ps.51:10;2nd Cor.5:17).
by Sim Kay Tee

November 27th, 2017
NO PEAS!
When our kids were young, one of them bluntly said "no" when we passed him some peas for dinner to which we replied, "no what?" We hoped he would say, "no, thank you." Instead he said, "no peas!" That led to a discussion about the importance of good manners. In fact, we had similar discussion on numerous occasions.
Beyond good manners-which are external-our Lord reminds us that we are to have a heart of gratitude. Scripture contains dozens of reminders that expressing gratitude is of primary importance in our relationship with God. Psalm 1:18 begins and ends with the exhortation to "give thanks to the Lord" (vv.1,29). We are to give thanks when we come into His presence (100:4). And the requests we bring to Him are to be wrapped in a spirit of thanksgiving (Phil.4:6). Such an attitude of gratitude will help us remember our abundant blessings. Even in the midst of trouble and disappear, God's presence and love are our constant companions.
Its no wonder, then, that the psalmist reminds us to "give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever" (Ps.118:1).
by Joe Stowell
Lord, You're goodness is enough to make me thankful every day. Teach me to live with a thankful heart and remind me to regularly thank You for Your goodness and steadfast love.
IT IS ONLY WITH GRATITUDE THAT LIFE BECOMES RICH.
Psalm 118:1-14

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Let Israel say: "His love endures forever."
When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; He is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord, I cut them down. They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; In the name of the Lord I cut them down. I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.
Insight: Today's psalm celebrates the beautiful deliverance of the Lord. These verses provide a wonderful example of how to thank the Lord for His work in our lives. Verses 1-4 show us that praise is not only personal and private but can be expressed by a whole community. Verses 5-14 encourage us to reflect on our times of need and to celebrate how God has worked in us and through us.
by J.R.Hudberg

November 21st, 2017
WINNING THE BIG ONE
In every field of endeavor, one award is considered the epitome of recognition and success. An Olympic gold metal, a Grammy, an academy award or a Nobel Prize are among "the big ones." But there is a greater prize that anyone can obtain.
The apostle Paul was familiar with first-century athletic games in which competitors gave their full effort to win the prize. With that in mind, he wrote to a group of followers of Christ in Philippi: "Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." (Phil.3:7). Why? Because his heart had embraced a new goal: "I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings" (v.10). And so, Paul said, "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" (v.12). His trophy for completing the race would be the "crown of righteousness" (2nd Tim.4:8).
Each of us can aim for that same prize, knowing that we honor the Lord in pursuing it. Every day, in our ordinary duties, we are moving toward "the big one"-"the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us" (Phil.3:14 NLT).
by David McCasland
Dear Lord, when I get discouraged, help me to keep pressing on, looking ahead to when I will be with You forever.
WHAT IS DONE FOR CHRIST IN THIS LIFE WILL BE REWARDED IN THE LIFE TO COME.
Philippians 3:7-14

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Insight: Paul's letter to the church at Philippi is one of warmth of affection, perhaps rooted in his founding of this congregation-the first church planted in Europe. While presenting the theme of joy, the letter the Philippians also focuses on Paul's care for them (1:3-4), the matchless person of Christ (2:5-11), and the need for unity (4:2-3). Today's Bible reading (3:7-14) draws our attention to the "surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (v.8) and the impact that that knowledge should have on our living.
by Bill Crowder
November 20th, 2017
OUR MAIN CONCERN
Peer pressure is part of everyday life. Sometimes we base our decisions on what other people will think or say rather than on our convictions and on what will please God. We're worried that we'll be judged or made fun of.
The apostle Paul experienced his fair share of peer pressure. Some Jewish Christians believed that Gentiles should be circumcised to be truly saved (Gal.1:7; See 6:12-15). However, Paul stood his ground. He continued to preach that salvation is by grace through faith alone; no further works are required. And for that he was accused of being a self-appointed apostle. They further asserted that his version of the gospel had never received the apostle's approval (2:1-10).
Despite the pressure, Paul was very clear about whom he served-Christ. God's approval mattered most, not man's. He made it his goal not to win the approval of people, but of God (1:10).
Similarly, we are Christ's servants. We serve God whether people honor or despise us, whether they slander or praise us. One day "each of us will give an account of ourselves to God" (Rom.14:12). That doesn't mean that we shouldn't consider what people think or say, but ultimately, we make pleasing God our main concern. We want to hear our Savior say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matt.25:23).
by Jaime Fernandez Garrido, Guest Writer
Dear Lord, no matter what others may say or do, give me the courage to be faithful to You today.
KEEP FOLLOWING JESUS.
Galatians 1:6-10

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we are an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God's curse!
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Insight: Because the risen Christ called Paul to be an apostle on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-18;22:1-15;26:9-18), Paul acknowledges that his apostleship was different from the original 12 apostles (Gal.1:11-17), but it was clearly accepted by them (1:18;2:7-10). Because Christianity was birthed in Judaism, at adhering to the Mosaic Law became an issue as more Gentiles became believers. The Judaizers taught that Christians must follow Jewish Laws and practices in order to be saved. Paul wrote this letter to counter and condemn this false teaching (vv.8-9), affirming that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by observing the law (Gal.2:16,20-21;3:11,24).
by Sim Kay Tee
November 19th, 2017
AS IT IT WRITTEN
When it comes to putting things together-electronics, furniture, and the like-my son and I have different approaches. Steve is more mechanically inclined, so he tends to toss the instructions aside and just start in. Meanwhile, I'm pouring over the "read this before starting" warning while he has already put the thing halfway together.
Sometimes we can get by without the instructions. But when it comes to putting together a life that reflects the goodness and wisdom of God, we can't afford to ignore the directions He's given to us in the Bible.
The Israelites who had returned to their land after the Babylonian captivity are a good example of this. As they began to reestablish worship in their homeland, they prepared to do so "in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses" (Ezra 3:2). By building a proper altar and in celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles as prescribed by God in Leviticus 23:33-43, they did exactly what God's directions told them to do.
Christ gave His followers some directions too. He said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." And "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt.22:37,39). When we believe in Him and come to Him, He shows us the way to live. The One who made us knows far better than we do how life is supposed to work.
by Dave Branon
Remind us, Lord, as we start each day that You have already shown us by Your example how to live. Help us to read Your Word and follow the directions You so graciously provide for us.
IF WE WANT GOD TO LEAD US, WE MUST BE WILLING TO FOLLOW HIM.
Ezra 3:1-6

When the 7th month came and the Israelite had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel his associates began to build the alter of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the alter on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices. Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the festival of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed sacred festivals of the Lord, as well as those brought as freewill offerings to the Lord. On the 1st day of the 7th month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord though the foundation of the Lord's temple had not yet been laid.
Insight: Twice in today's passage Ezra records that the people returning from exile did things "in accordance with what is written" (vv.2,4). However, what makes these statements impressive is what is found in the middle of the paragraph. They did all these things "despite their fear of the people's around them"-the residents of Judah who were not part of the returning exiles (v.3).
by J.R.Hudberg

November 17th, 2017
SAFE IN HIS ARMS
I sat next to my daughters bed in a recovery room after she had undergone surgery. When he eyes fluttered open, she realized she was uncomfortable and started to cry. I tried to reassure her by stroking her arm, but she only became more upset. With help from a nurse, I moved her from the bed and onto my lap. I brushed tears from her cheeks and reminded her that she would eventually feel better.
Through Isaiah, God told the Israelite, "As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you" (Isa.66:13). God promised to give His children peace and to carry them the way a mother totes a child on her side. This tender message was for the people who had a reverence for God-those who "trembled at his word" (v.5).
God's ability and desire to comfort His people appears again in Paul's letter to the Corinthian believers. Paul said the Lord is the one "who comforts us in all our troubles" (2 Cor.1:3-4). God is gentle and sympathetic with us when we are in trouble.
One day all suffering will end. Our tears will dry up permanently and we will be safe in God's arms forever (Rev.21:4). Until then, we can depend on God's love to support us when we suffer.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Dear God, help me to remember that nothing can separate me from Your love. Please assure me of Your care through the power of the Holy Spirit.
GOD COMFORTS HIS PEOPLE.
Isaiah 66:5-13

Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word: "you're own people who hate you, and exclude you because of my name, have said, 'Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!' Yet they will be put to shame. Here that uproar from the city, hear that noise from the temple! It is the sound of the Lord repaying his enemies all they deserve.
"Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?" says the Lord. "Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery? says your God. "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who lover her; rejoice greatly with her all you who mourn over her. For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance."
For this is what the Lord says: "I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."
Insight: Having warned of exile in Babylon (Isa.39:6-7), Isaiah now comforts the Israelites with the promise that God will bring them back to Judea and bless them (Chs.40-66). This restoration is so certain and swift that it is likened to a woman giving birth to a child before she even experiences labor pains (39:7-8). What God promises, He fulfills (v.9). God will love His people like a mother loves her child (v.13).
by Sim Kay Tee

November 16th, 2015
SHARED STRUGGLES
April the 25th, 2015, marked the 100th commemoration of Anzac Day. It is celebrated each year by both Australia and New Zealand to honor the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought together during WW1. It marks a time when neither country had to face the dangers of war alone; soldiers from both countries engaged in the struggle together.
Sharing life's struggles is fundamental to the way followers of Christ are called to live. As Paul challenged us, "Share each other's burdens and in this way obey the law of Christ" (Gal.6:2 NLT). By working together through life's challenges, we can help to strengthen and support one another when times are hard. By expressing toward one another the care and affections of Christ, the difficulties of life should draw us to Christ and to each other-not isolate us in our suffering.
By sharing in the struggles of another, we are modeling the love of Christ. We read in Isaiah "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Isa.53:4 NKJV). No matter how great the struggle we face, we never face it alone.
by Bill Crowder
Thank You, Father, that I don't have to walk my life's journey alone. You are near.
WE CAN GO A LOT FURTHER TOGETHER THAN WE CAN ALONE.
Galatians 6:1-10

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sews. Whoever sews to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sews to please the spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Insight: In Galatians 6:2 Paul instructs the Galatian believers to carry each other's burdens. However, in verse 5 Paul says that each person should carry his own load. In the case of carrying each other's burdens, we are to do so in the context of someone caught in sin (V.1). However, in the case of carrying our own load, it is so that we do not compare ourselves to others and become unduly disheartened by our progress (or lack of it).
by J.R.Hudberg

November 15th, 2017
WHO WE ARE
In a autobiography, Corrie ten Boom described her and her sister Betsie's horrific time in a Zazi concentration camp in the early 1940's. On one occasion they were forced to take off their clothes during an inspection. Corrie stood in line feeling defiled and forsaken. Suddenly, she remembered that Jesus had hung naked on the cross. Struck with wonder and worship, Corrie whispered to her sister, "Betsie, they took His clothes too." Betsie gasped and said, "Oh, Corrie,...and I never thanked Him."
It is easy for us to live thanklessly in a world that is full of trouble, struggles and woes. On any given day we can find many reason to complain. However, Psalm 100 exhorts God's people to be glad, joyful and thankful for "it is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture" (v.3). As we remember who we are, we can respond in thanksgiving. For even in the worst of times, we can remember Christ's love and sacrifice for us.
Don't let the brutality of the world take away your thankful heart. Remember you are God's child, and He has shown you His goodness and mercy through His work on the cross.
by Albert Lee
I thank you, Lord, that though my heart can grow cold at times, when I remember that I am Yours and You are mine, I'm encouraged yet again. Thank You for Your love for me, for Your mercy, and Your sacrifice.
PRAISE COMES NATURALLY WHEN YOU COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.
Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Insight: Psalm 100 is a doxology, a statement or word (logos) describing the glory (doxa) of God. This psalm forms the conclusion to a series of psalms that celebrate the Lord's rule in power, glory and grace. In spite of its brevity, it is considered preeminent among the psalms of praise and thanksgiving. Its superscription-"For giving grateful praise"-is unique to this song. Psalm 100 is used often in liturgical worship and is the basis for several hymns, including "All people that on Earth Do Dwell."
by Bill Crowder

November 14th, 2017
THE MIGHTY FINNS
It began as a distant, foreboding hum, then grew into an ominous, earth-rattling din. Soon hundreds of tanks and thousands of enemy infantrymen swarmed into view of the badly outnumbered soldiers in Finland assessing the murderous wave, and anonymous Finn lent some perspective. Courageously, he wondered aloud about the enemy: "Where will we find room to bury them all?"
Some two thousand six hundred years before Finland showed such pluck in that World War 2 battle, an anxious Judean citizenry reacted quite differently to their own overwhelming situation. The Assyrian armies had trapped the people of Jerusalem inside its walls, where they faced the hopeless prospect of a starvation-inducing siege. Hezekiah nearly panicked. But then he prayed, "Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth" (Isa.37:16).
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord answered with strong words for Assyria's King Sennacherib. "Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!" (v.23). Then God comforted Jerusalem. "I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!" (V.35). The Lord defeated Sennacherib and destroyed the Assyrian army (vv.36-38).
No matter what dangers loom on your horizon today, the God of Hezekiah and Isaiah still reigns. He longs to hear from each of us and show himself powerful.
by Tim Gustafson
In what ways has God shown Himself strong in the past?
GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR GREATEST PROBLEM.
Isaiah 37:30-38

"This will be the sign for you, Hezekah: "This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sew and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
"Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the King of Assyria: "He will not enter this city or shoot and arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city," declares the Lord. "I will defend this city and save it, for my sake an for the sake of David my servant!"
Then the Angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning-there were all the dead bodies! So Shennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Asarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.
Insight: Isaiah 36-37 and a parallel account in 2nd Kings 18-19 tell of the threat and siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians during the reign of Hezekiah. Having exiled the northern kingdom of Israel ten years earlier (2nd Kings 18:9-12), Assyria now turned its attention to Judah (v.13). Initially, Hezekiah tried to avert the invasion by agreeing to pay tribute (vv.14-16), but Assyria was determined to attack Judah (v.17;Isa.36:1). Hezekiah turned to God for help (37:14-20), and Isaiah prophesied the defeat of the Assyrians and promised protection and deliverance for Judah (vv.21-37).
by Sim Kay Tee

November 13th, 2017
THE BIG STINK
In August 2013, large crowds gathered Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to witness the blooming of the tropical plant known as the Corpse flower. Since the flower is native to Indonesia, and may flower only once every several years, its blooming is a spectacle. Once opened, the huge spiky, beautiful, red bloom smells like rotten meat. Because of its putrid fragrance, the flower attracts flies and beatles that are looking for rotting meat. But there is no nectar.
Like the Corpse flower, sin holds out promises but in the end offers no rewards. Adam and Eve found this out the hard way. Eden was beautiful until they ruined it by doing the one thing God urged them not to do. Tempted to doubt God's goodness, they ignored their Creator's loving warning and soon lost their innocence. The God-given beauty of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil became like a corpse flower to them. The reward for their disobedience was alienation, pain, emptiness, toil, and death.
Sin looks inviting and may feel good, but it doesn't compare with the wonder, beauty, and fragrance of trusting and obeying God, who has made us to share His life and joy.
by Marvin Williams
What temptations are you facing today? Remember that God promises to help you fight against temptation. Ask Him to help you remember to rely on Him.
GOD'S COMMANDS CAN OVERPOWER SATAN'S SUGGESTIONS.
Genesis 3:6-13,22-24

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?"
He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"
The man said, "The woman you put here with me-she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."
Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"
The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."...
And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." So the Lord God banished him from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden Cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Insight: Today's passage records the entrance of sin into an innocent world. But it also records God's grace in response to sin. Rather than let Adam and Eve eat from the tree of life and live forever in their sin, God graciously blocked the way to that tree (vv.22-24).
by J.R. Hudberg
November 12th, 2017
OF GEESE AND DIFFICULT PEOPLE
When we first moved into our present home, I enjoyed the beauty of the geese that nest nearby. I admired the way they cared for each other and the way they moved in straight lines in the water and in majestic V-formations in the air. It as also a joy to watch them raise their young.
Then summer came, and I discovered some less than beautiful truths about my feathered friends. You see, geese love to eat grass, and they don't really care if it ruins the look of the lawn.
Worse, what they leave behind makes a stroll across the yard a messy adventure.
I think of these geese when I'm dealing with difficult people. Sometimes I wish I could simply shoo them out of my life. Its then that God usually reminds me that there is beauty in even the most difficult person. If we can get close enough to discover it, and the pain their giving out may be reflective of the pain they are feeling. The apostle Paul says in Romans, "if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (12:18).
So I ask God to help me be patient with the "hard side" of others. This doesn't always produce a happy outcome, but it is remarkable, how often God redeems these relationships.
As we encounter difficult people, by God's grace, we can see and love them through His eyes.
by Randy Kilgore
By Your grace, Lord, help me to live peaceably with others. And help me to recognize when I'm the difficult person in other people's lives and need Your intervention. Give me the will and desire to change.
PEACE CAN COME IF WE RESPOND WITH A GENTLE ANSWER.
Romans 12:14-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Insight: When the apostle Paul instructs the Roman Christians to bless rather than curse those who persecute them, he's not talking just about words. The Biblical concept of blessing and cursing nearly always meant both words and actions. Into today's passage, Paul is calling for radical acts of love, for-as Jesus showed us-true love is not just conveyed by what we say but also by what we do (John 15:13;1 John 3:18).
by Dennis Moles

November 11th, 2017
GENTLE LIGHTS
Wang Xiaoying (Shao-ying) lives in a rural area of China's Yunnan Provence. Due to health problems, her husband couldn't find work in the fields, causing hardship for the family. Her-in-law attributed the trouble to Xiaoying's faith in God. So she mistreated Xiaoying and urged her to go back to the traditional religion of her ancestors.
But because Xiaoying's husband had observed her transformed life, he said, "Mother, it isn't enough for Xiaoying alone to believe in God; we too should put our faith in God!" Because of the noticeable change in his wife, he is now considering the good news of Jesus.
People will watch our walk before listening to our talk. The best witness combines good behavior with appropriate words, reflecting the difference Christ makes in our lives.
This was the apostle Peter's instruction on how we can introduce Jesus to a hostile world. He challenged his readers to be "eager to do good" (1 Pet.3:13), to live obediently in Christ, to have a good conscience, and to be prepared to explain to others why we have such hope (v.15). If we do this, we have no reason to fear when people mistreat or slander us because of our beliefs. Whatever our situation, lets shine for Jesus where we are. He can provide the grace we need to reach even those who don't agree with us.
by Poh Fang Chia
Lord, we tend to react defensively when people shun us or attack us for our faith. Give us Your courage to offer wise and gentle responses.
THE MORE WE LIVE LIKE JESUS, THE MORE OTHERS WILL BE DRAWN TO HIM.
1 Peter 3:13-17

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened."
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Insight: First Peter was written to those who were being persecuted because of their faith in Christ. In 1 Peter 2:11-25, echoing Jesus' teachings in Matthew 5:10-16, Peter encourages the believers to live holy lives and to do good works so that those who don't believe might be one to the Lord. In today's passage he encourages followers of Christ to remain faithful, to continue to "revere Christ as Lord," and to be ready to share the gospel when the opportunity presents itself (3:14-16). Paul makes similar calls to godly living in his other letters (Rom.13:12-14;Phil.2:14-16;Col.4:5-6;1 Thess.4:9-12;Titus 2:7-8).
by Sim Kay Tee

November 9, 2017
CHARITY ISLAND
Charity Island is the largest island in Saginaw Bay in the Michigan waters of Lake Huron. For many years the island has provided a lighthouse for navigational aid and a safe harbor for those sailing these waters. The island received its name because sailors believed it was there "through the charity of God."
Sometime in life we have to navigate through seas of troubling circumstances. Like those sailors we need guidance and a place of safety; we might with for our own Charity Island. The psalmist understood that God is the one who can bring tranquility to troubled waters and guide us to safe harbors. He wrote, "He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven" (Ps.107:109-30).
While no one asks for the storms of life, they can multiply their appreciation for the guidance and refuge God provides. He offers the light of His spirit and His Word to guide us. It is the safe harbor of His love that we long for. He alone can be our ultimate "Charity Island."
Father, help me to seek Your light to guide me through the storms of life.
THE LIVING GOD WILL ALWAYS BE OUR SHELTER
Psalm 107:23-32

Some were out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.
Insight: Today's psalm reminds us that God can indeed guide us to safe havens in the midst of life's storms and trials. However, the psalm also reminds us that the same God who calms the storm and points the way to our "desired haven" (v.30) is the God who sometimes stirs up the oceans in our lives. It is God who "stirred up a tempest" (v.25) that caused the sailors to melt with fear and reel and stagger (vv.26,27) Then "they cried out to the Lord....and he brought them out of their distress" (v.28). The god who stirs the seas wants us to turn to Him for help.
by J.R.Hudberg

November 8th, 2017
BRINGING OUR FRIENDS TO JESUS
During my childhood, one of the most feared diseases was polio, often called "infantile paralysis" because most of those infected were young children. Before a preventive vaccine was developed in the mid-1950's, some 20,000 people were paralyzed by polio and about 1,000 died from it each year in the United States alone.
In ancient times, paralysis was viewed as a permanent, hopeless condition. But one group of men believed Jesus could help their paralyzed friend. While Jesus was teaching in the village of Capernaum, four of the men carried the man to Him. When they couldn't reach Jesus because of the crown, "they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on" (Mark 2:1-4).
"When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven' "(v.5), followed by "Get up, take your mat and go home" (v.11). How remarkable that in response to the faith of the men who brought their friend, Jesus forgave his sins and healed his incurable condition!
When someone we know is facing serious physical difficulty or spiritual crisis, it is our privilege to join together in prayer, bringing our friends to Jesus-the only one who can meet their deepest needs.
Lord Jesus, we know that you can speak the words of eternal life and healing to people in great need. We bring then to You in prayer today.
PRAYING FOR OTHERS IS A PRIVILEGE-AND A RESPONSIBILITY.
Mark 2:1-12

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this is what they were thinking in their hearts and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they prayed to God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"
Insight: Capernaum was a fishing community on the western shore of the sea of Galilee, which essentially became the headquarters of Jesus's northern ministry (Matt.4:13). Home to Peter, James, John, and Andrew-four of Jesus' disciples-Capernaum was an important village on a major trade route. The name Capernaum means "the village of Nahum," and Nahum was one of the Old Testament prophets. This fact seems to have been conveniently ignored by the religious leaders of Jesus' day who, when debating His legitimacy as a prophet, said, "You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee" (John 7:52).

by Bill Crowder
November 7th, 2017
MENTION THE NAME
A church group invited a speaker to address their meeting. "Talk about God," the group leader told him, "but leave out Jesus."
"Why?" the man asked, taken aback.
"Well," the leader explained, "some of our prominent members feel uncomfortable with Jesus. Just use God and we'll be fine."
Excepting such instructions, however, was a problem for the speaker who said later, "Without Jesus, I have no message."
Something similar was asked of followers of Jesus in the days of the early church. Local religious leaders conferred together to warn the disciples not to speak about Jesus (Acts 4:17). But the disciples knew better. "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard," they said (v.20).
To claim to believe in God and not in His Son Jesus Christ is a contradiction in terms. In John 10:30, Jesus clearly describes the unique relationship between Himself and God: "I and the Father are one"-Thus establishing His deity. That is why He could say, "You believe in God; believe also in Me" (John 14:1). Paul knew that Jesus is the very nature of God and equal with God (Phil.2:6).
We need not shy away from the name Jesus, for "salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
by Lawrence Darmani
Jesus You are God. Thank You for showing Yourself to us in the Bible and in our lives. You have done so much for us. Help us to share with others what we know of You and have experienced of You.
THE NAME OF JESUS IS AT THE HEART OF OUR FAITH AND OUR HOPE
Acts 4:5-20

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?"
Then Peter filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men have been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they had performed a notable sign and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name."
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Which is right in God's eyes: To listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

November 6th, 2017
HE TRAINS MY HANDS
When former NBA player David Wood was playing for Taugres de Baskonia, I was with him at a Spanish Basketball Cup final. Before one game, he read Psalm 144:1: "Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle." He turned to me and said, "You see? It's as if God has written this verse just for me! He trains my hands to catch rebounds and fingers to shoot!" David felt called to play basketball and had learned that God takes us as we are and enables us to do what He calls us to do.
We can easily dismiss ourselves as having little use to God because we feel we have nothing to offer. When God appeared to Moses and assigned him the task of telling the Israelites that He would deliver them from the Egyptians (ex.3:16-17), Moses felt inadequate. He said to the Lord, "I have never been eloquent...I am slow of speech and tongue" (4:10.) Perhaps Moses had some kind of speech impediment, or he was just afraid, but God overcame his in adequacy with His sufficiency. God said, "Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say" (v.12).
All God wants from us is to follow His plans. He will sort out the rest. In His mighty hands, you can be a blessing to others.
by Jamie Fernandez Garrido, Guest Writer
Here I am, Lord, ready to serve You in whatever way You desire. Lead me.
GODS CALL TO A TASK INCLUDES HIS STRENGTH COMPLETE IT
Exodus 4:10-17

Moses said to the Lord, "Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."
The Lord said to him, "Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
But Moses say, "Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else."
Then the Lord's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? Then the Lord says I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it."
Insight: When God called Moses to deliver the Jews from Egyptian bondage, Moses protested and offered various reasons why he was not the right candidate for the job (Ex.3). He questioned his own identity (v.11), his lack of authority (v.13), and his credibility and acceptability (4:1). God responded by assuring Moses of his power and presence (4:1-9). Moses then continued his protest, saying he lacked eloquence and was "slow of speech and tongue" (v.10). But God assured Moses He would enable him to speak powerfully and effectively (v.12). Running out of excuses, Moses asked God to "send someone else" (v.13). God was angry with Moses for his lack of trust and being unwilling to take up the assignment (v.14). God told Moses that He would enable him to do what He called him to do.
by Sim Kay Tee

November 5th, 2017
ANGRY PRAYERS
The neighbors probably didn't know what to think as they looked out their windows at me one wintry day. I was standing in the driveway with a garden shovel clutched in my hands, wacking wildly and angrily at a clump of ice that had formed beneath a corner gutter. With each smack, I was uttering prayers that were variations on one theme: "I can't do this." "I don't have the strength to do this." As a care giver, with a long list of responsibilities to handle, I now had this ice to deal with, and I had had enough!
My anger was wrapped around a bundle of lies: "I deserve better than this." "God isn't enough after all." "Nobody cares anyway." But when we choose to cling to our anger, we become mired in the trap of bitterness, never moving forward. And the only cure for anger is truth. The truth is that God does not give us what we deserve; He gives us mercy instead. "You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you" (PS.86:5). The truth is that God is more than enough, despite what we see. The truth is that His strength is sufficient (2 Cor.12:9). Yet before we can find such reassurance, we may need to step back, lay down the shovel of our own efforts, and take Jesus' hand that's extended to us in mercy and grace. God is big enough to listen to our anger and loving enough to show us, in His time, the path forward.
by Shelly Beach, a guest writer
Loving God, forgive me for my outbursts of anger. Today I choose to lay down my sinful anger and accept your mercy and grace.
GRACE: GETTING WHAT WE DON'T DESERVE. MERCY: NOT GETTING WHAT WE DO DESERVE.
Psalm 86:1-13

Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I put my trust in you.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress I call to you, because you answer me.
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.
Insight: The Psalms are often read as windows to the soul-songs that reflect the reality of our emotions and struggles. They encourage us to understand that God can handle our honesty as we express ourselves to Him. Yes, God is big enough to absorb our anger and listen to our complaints, but we must not overlook the context in which the writers of the Psalms expressed their feelings. In today's passage, over and over David recognizes his place in relationship to God. He acknowledges that he is "poor and needy" (v.1), he is faithful to God and trusts in Him (v.2), and he is God's "servant" (v.4). It is important that we understand who we are in relationship to God when we bring our hurts and struggles to Him.
by J.R. Hudberg

November 3rd, 2017
THE DAILY GRIND
The high school I attended required four years of latin instruction. I appreciate the value of that discipline now, but back then it was a grind. Our teacher believed in drill and repetition. "Repetitio est Mater Studiorum," she intoned over us several times a day, which simply means, "repetition is the mother of learning." "Repetitio est ab surdan," we muttered under our breath. "Repetition is absurd."
I realize now that most of life is simply that: repetition-a round of dull-uninspiring, lack-luster things we must do again and again. "Repetition is both as ordinary and necessary as bread," said Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. But he went on to say, "It is the bread that satisfies with benediction."
Its a matter of taking up each duty, no matter how mundane, humble, or trivial, and asking God to bless it and put it to His intended purposes. In that way we take the drudgeries of life and turn them into holy work, filled with unseen, eternal consequence.
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said, "to life up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with [pitch fork] in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give Him glory, to God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should."
If whatever we do is done for Christ, we'll be amazed at the joy and meaning will in even the most ordinary tasks.
David Roper
Remind us, Lord, that You are in the dull and ordinary tasks in a most extraordinary way. May we do even the smallest tasks for You.
A WILLING SPIRIT CHANGES THE DRUDGERY OF DUTY INTO A LABOR OF LOVE.
Ephesians 6:5-9

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he is who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Insight: Historians say that slaves composed about one-third of the population of Ephesus. In today's reading Paul teaches believing slaves and masters how to live in a Christ like way within the established structures of society. These instructions called for reciprocal attitudes and applied to both slaves and masters (v.9). Because of their new relationship with Christ, believers were accountable to Him as their Master, and He would judge fairly regardless of one's social or economic status. Both slaves and masters were to treat each other with respect, sincerity, justice, and fairness (vv.5-9).
by Sim Kay Tee
November 2nd, 2017
WORDS OF THE WISE
My niece's husband recently wrote these words on a social media site: "I would say a lot more online if it weren't for this little voice that prompts me not to. As a follower of Jesus, you might think that little voice is the Holy Spirit. It isn't. It's my wife, Heidi."
With the smile comes a sobering thought. The cautions of a discerning friend can reflect the wisdom of God. Ecclesiastes 9 says that the "words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard" (v.17 NKJV).
Scripture warns us not to be wise in our own eyes or proud (Prov.3:7; ISA. 5:21; Rom 12:16). In other words, lets not assume that we have all the answers! Proverbs 19:20 says, "Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise." Whether it is a friend, a spouse, a pastor, or co-worker, God can us others to teach us more of His wisdom.
"Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning," declares the book of Proverbs (14:33). Part of recognizing the Spirit's wisdom is discovering how to listen and learn from each other.
by Cindy Hess Kasper
Dear Lord, Thank You for Your Word that teaches me how to love You and others. Thank You also for the people You place in my life to remind me of Your truth.
TRUE WISDOM BEGINS AND ENDS WITH GOD.
Ecclesiasities 9:13-18

I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it.Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. So I said, "Wisdom is better than strength." But the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.
The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
Insight: The author of the book of Ecclesiastes is unknown. Many believe if it to be Solomon, the legendary wise son of King David. However, we are only told that the author is "the teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem" (Eccl. 1:1). This description would fit King Solomon.
by J.R. Hudberg
November 1st, 2017
WATER AND LIFE
As Dave Mueller reached down and turned the handle, water rushed from a spigot and into a blue bucket. Around him people applauded. They celebrated as they saw fresh, clean water flowing in their community for the first time. Having a clean source of water was about to change the lives of the groups of people in Kenya.
Dave and his wife, Joy, work hard to meet people's needs by bringing them water. But they don't stop with H2O. As they help bring people clean water, they also tell them about Jesus Christ.
Two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus stood at a Samaritan well and talked with a woman who was there to get clean drinking water for her physical health. But Jesus told her that what she needed even more than that was living water for her spiritual health.
As history has marched on and humanity has become more sophisticated, life still filters down to two truths: Without clean water, we will die. More important, without Jesus Christ, the source of living water, we are already dead in our sins.
Water is essential to our existence-both physically with H2O and spiritually with Jesus. Have you tasted of the water of life that Jesus, the Savior provides?
by Dave Brannon
Thank You, Jesus, for being our living water. Thank You for Your willingness to die on the cross and for Your power to rise from the dead in order to provide us that water.
ONLY JESUS HAS THE LIVING WATER TO QUENCH OUR SPIRITUAL THIRST.
John 4:1-15

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John- although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus as tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"(His disciples had gone into town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?"
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The woman said to him, "Sir give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."
Insight: First century Jews avoided traveling through Samaria. Making the journey from Galilee to Judea meant crossing the Jordan River and following the east side before re-crossing toward Jerusalem to circumvent Samaria. Why? Because Samaritans were seen as ceremonially unclean. Jesus had no such qualms and broke tradition to meet a Samaritan woman in need.
by Bill Crowder

October 31st, 2017
IT NEVER RUNS OUT
When I asked a friend who is about to retire what she feared about her next stage of life, she said, "I want to make sure I don't run out of money." The next day as I was talking to my financial counselor he gave me advice on how I might avoid running out of money. Indeed, we all want the security of knowing we'll have the resources we need for the rest of our lives.
No financial plan can provide an absolute guarantee of earthly security. But there is a plan that extends far beyond this life and indefinitely into the future. The apostle Peter describes it like this: "In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade" (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
When we place our faith in Jesus to forgive our sins we receive an eternal inheritance through God's power. Because of this inheritance, we'll live forever and never run short of what we need.
Planning for retirement is a good idea is we are able to do so. But more importantly is having an eternal inheritance that never runs out-and that is available only through faith in Jesus Christ.
by Dave Branon
Dear God, I want that assurance of an eternal inheritance-the certainty of everlasting life with you. I put my faith in Jesus to forgive my sins and make me His child. Thank You for saving me and reserving a place for me in Your eternal kingdom.
THE PROMISE OF HEAVEN IS OUR ETERNAL HOPE.
1 Peter 1:3-9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never parish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Insight: Revelation 21:15-21 describes heaven by referring to 12 sparkling, colorful gems and "gold as pure as transparent glass" (v.21). Those who belong to Christ are heirs of heaven-it is called our "inheritance" (1 Pet.1:4). And we "are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time" (v.5). Peter says that this reality fills the believer with "inexpressible and glorious joy" (v.8). The Bible assures us that even though we "may have...to suffer grief in all kinds of trials," we can be assured that even the worst imaginable pain or problem is only "for a little while" (v.6).
by Jim Townsend
October 30th, 2017
HEARING GOD
I felt like I was under water, sounds muffled and muted by a cold and allergies. For weeks I struggled to hear clearly. My condition made me realize how much I take my hearing for granted.
Young Samuel in the temple must have wondered what he was hearing as he struggled out of sleep at the summons of his name (1 Sam.3:4). Three times he presented himself before Eli, the high priest. Only the third time did Eli realize it was the Lord speaking to Samuel. The word of the Lord had been rare at that time (v.1), and the people were not in tune with His voice. But Eli instructed Samuel how to respond (v.9).
The Lord speaks much more now than in the days of Samuel. The letter to the Hebrews tells us, "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets...but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son" (1:1-2). And in Acts 2 we read of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (vv.1-4), who guides us in the things Christ taught us (John 16:13), who guides us in the things Christ taught us (John 16:13). But we need to learn to hear His voice and respond in obedience. Like me with my cold, we may hear as if underwater. We need to test what we think is the Lord's guidance with the Bible and hear His voice. He loves to speak life into us.
by Amy Boucher Pye
Open our eyes, Lord, that we might see You. Open our ears, that may hear You. Open our mouths, that we might speak Your praise.
THE LORD SPEAKS TO HIS CHILDREN, BUT WE NEED TO DISCERN HIS VOICE.
1 Samuel 3:1-10

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the Ark of God of was. "Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down.
Again the Lord called "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
"My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."
Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
A third time the Lord called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said "Here I am you called me."
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel "go and lie down and he calls you say, 'Speak, Lord for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."
Insight: God has communicated in various ways throughout history (Heb.1:1). One way God speaks today is through our conscience (Rom.2:14-16). Our conscience is like a moral monitor. An important way we discern whether a spiritual communication is from God is to ask: Does the message agree with the Bible, God's written Word? If it does not align with God's previously revealed truth, than we cannot put our stamp of approval on it.
by Jim Townsend

October 29th, 2017
THE PRAYING PATIENT
The obituary for Alan Nanninga, a man in my city, identified him as "foremost, a dedicated witness for Christ." After a description of his family life and career, the article mentioned nearly a decade of declining health. It concluded by saying, "His hospital stays...earned him the honorary title of 'The Praying Patient.' ":Because of his ministry to other patients. Here was a man who, in his times of distress, reached out to pray for and with the people in need around him.
Hours before Judas betrayed Him, Jesus prayed for His disciples. "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name you gave me so that they may be one as we are one" (John 17:11). Knowing what was about to happen, Jesus looked beyond Himself to focus on His followers and friends. During our times of illness and distress we long for and need the prayers of others. How those prayers help and encourage us! But may we also, like our Lord, lift our eyes to pray for those around us who are in great need.
by David McCasland
Lord, even in our difficult times, may we honor you and encourage others by praying for those who are suffering today.
OUR TROUBLES CAN FILL OUR PRAYERS WITH LOVE AND EMPATHY FOR OTHERS.
John 17:6-19

"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they of not of the world any more then I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."

October 27th, 2017
STAGE BY STAGE
Numbers 33 is a chapter in the Bible we might pass by without reflection. It appears to be nothing more than a long list of places tracing Israel's pilgrimage from Rameses in Egypt to their arrival in the plains of Moab. But it must be important because its the only section in Numbers that follows with the words: "At the Lords command Moses recorded..." (v.2).
Why keep a record of this? Could it be that this list provides a framework upon which the Israelites emerging from the wilderness could retrace that forty-year journey in their thoughts and recall God's faithfulness at each location?
I envision an Israelite Father, sitting near a campfire, reminiscing with his son: "I will never forget Rephidim! I was dying of thirst, nothing but sand and sage for hundreds of miles. Then God directed Moses to take his staff and strike a rock-actually a hard slab of flint. I thought, What a futile gesture; he'll never get anything out of that stone. But to my amazement water gushed out of that rock! A generous flow that satisfied the thirst of the thousands of Israelites. I'll never forget that day!" (See Ps.114:8; Num.20:8-13; 33:14).
So why not give it a try? Reflect on your life-stage by stage- and remember all the ways God has shown you His faithful, covenant love.
by David Roper
Count your many blessings, name them one by one.
GOD'S FAITHFULNESS EXTENDS TO ALL GENERATIONS.
Numbers 33:1-15, 36-37

Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. At the Lord's command Moses recorded the stages in their journey....
The Israelites set out from Rameses on the 15th day of the 1st month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying all their first born whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods.
The Israelites left Ramsese and camped at Sukkoth.
The left Sukkoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert.
They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol.
They left Pi Hahiroth...and when they had traveled for 3 days in the desert of Etham, they camped at Marah.
They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were 13 springs and 70 palm trees, and they camped there.
They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea.
They left the Red Sea and camped in the Desert of Sin.
They left the Desert of Sin and camped at Dophkah.
They left Dophkah and camped at Alush.
They left Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.
They left Rephidim and camped in the Desert of Sinai....
They left Ezion Geber and camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.
They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom.
Insight: Stage by stage God leads His dear children along. Sometimes (as in Israel's case), God's leading in our lives may seem quite mystifying; we may feel we are traveling in circles. Nevertheless, when we trust in the Lord, He will direct us (Prov.3:5-6). God is faithful to all who put their trust in Him.
by Jim Townsend

October 26th, 2017
MENDING HEARTS
Not long ago I went to a seamstress to have some clothing altered. As I entered her shop I was encouraged by what I saw on the walls. One sign read, "We can mend your clothes but only God can mend your heart." Near it was a painting of Mary Magdalene weeping in anguish as the risen Christ was about to reveal Himself to her. Another sign asked, "Need prayer? Let us pray with you."
The owner told me that she had run this small business for fifteen years. "We've been surprised how the Lord has worked here through the statements of faith we have posted in different places. A while back someone trusted Christ as their Savior right here. It is amazing to watch God work." I told her I too was a Christian and commended her for telling others about Christ in her workplace.
Not all of us are able to be so bold in our workplace, but we can find many creative and practical ways of showing others unexpected love, patience, and kindness wherever we are. Since leaving that shop, I've been thinking about how many ways there are to live out our Lord's statement: "You are the light of the world" (Matt.5:14).
Dear Father, use me to be a light today to the world around me. I love You and want others to know and love You too.
GOD POURS HIS LOVE INTO OUR HEARTS TO FLOW OUT TO OTHER'S LIVES.
Matthew 5:1-16

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and set down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
He said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who morn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt looses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot.
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Insight: Today's reading deals with the Beatitudes in our Lord's sermon on the Mount. Those who recognize their own spiritual bankruptcy will be helped as they "seek first [God's] kingdom and His righteous" (Matt.6:33). The gift of God's grace in our lives manifests itself in doing good to others, which brings glory to God (5:16). We are blessed by God so we can bless others.
by Dennis Fisher
October 25th, 2017
THIS GIFT
A number of years ago I wrote an essay about my collection of canes, staffs, and walking sticks and mused that I might someday graduate to a walker. Well, the day has come. A combination of back issues and peripheral neuropathy has left me pushing a three-wheel walker. I can't hike; I can't fish; I can't do many of the things that used to bring me great joy.
I'm trying to learn, however, that my limitation, whatever it may be, is a gift from God, and it is with this gift that I am to serve Him. This gift and not another. This is true of all of us, whether our limits are emotional, physical, or intellectual. Paul was so bold as to say that he boasted in his weakness for it was in weakness that God's power was revealed in him (2 Cor.12:9).
Seeing our so-called liabilities this way enables us to go about out business with confidence and courage. Rather than complain, feel sorry for ourselves, or opt out, we make ourselves available to God for His intended purposes.
I have no idea what he has in mind for you and me, but we shouldn't worry about that. Our task today is just to accept things as they are and to be content, knowing that in the love, wisdom, and providence of God, this moment is as good as it can possibly be.
by David Roper
Dear Lord, I know that You are good and You love me. I trust You to give me everything I need for today.
CONTENTMENT ENABLES YOU TO GROW WHERE GOD HAS PLANTED YOU.
2nd Corinthians 12:6-10

Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Insight: Paul possessed "a thorn in [his] flesh" (2 Cor.12:7), which prayer did not eliminate. Whatever it was, it was painful and physical. Some Bible teachers believe it was an eye disease, since elsewhere Paul refers to having eye problems (Gal.4:15;6:11) and that others might have treated him "with contempt or scorn" (4:14) because of an illness he had when he "first preached the gospel" to the Galatians (4:13). Paul's enemies seemed to ride him because of his physical limitations. I imagine them asserting "God doesn't even answer his prayers or heal him" (see 2nd Cor.12:8-10). Nevertheless, Paul viewed his limitations as a reflective mirror to magnify God's greatness.
by Jim Townsend

October 24th, 2017
CHOOSING TO CHANGE 
When my son acquired a small robot, he had fun programming it to perform simple tasks. He could make it move forward, stop, and then retrace its steps. He could even get it to beep and replay recorded noises. The robot did exactly what my son told it to do. It never laughed spontaneously or veered off in an unplanned direction. It had no choice.
When God created humans, He didn't make robots. God made us in His image, and this means we can think, reason, and make decisions. We're able to choose between and wrong. Even if we have made a habit of disobeying God, we can decide to redirect out lives.
When the ancient Israelites found themselves in trouble with God, He spoke to them through the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel said, "Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall....Get a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezek.18:30-31).
This kind of change can begin with just one choice, empowered by the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:13). It might mean saying no at a critical moment. No more gossip. No more greed. No more jealously. No more blank. (You fill in the blank.) If you know Jesus, your not a slave to sin. You can choose to change, and with God's help, this personal revolution can start today.
Jennifer Benson Shult
Dear God all things are possible with You. Through the power of Jesus's resurrection help me to take the first step toward a life of greater devotion to You.
FOR A NEW START, ASK GOD FOR A NEW HEART.
Ezekiel 18:25-32

"Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Here, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous person turns from the righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed, they will die. But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. Yet the Israelites say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?
"Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!"
Insight: God promises to perform a spiritual heart transplant, giving everyone who repents "an undivided heart and a new spirit" and replacing a "heart of stone" with a "heart of flesh" (Ezek.11:19). Ezekiel talked about this work of God in saving those who would repent (Ezek.36:25-27). God will give us His Holy Spirit to enable us to obey Him (v.27). Jeremiah calls this "a new covenant" (Jer.31:31-34). Hours before He died on the cross, Jesus spoke of the "New Covenant in [His] blood" (Luke 22:20;1 Cor. 11:25). Because of Jesus's death, He is now the mediator of the new covenant (Heb.8:6-13;9:17;12:24). Under the terms of the New Covenant, God has made it possible for everyone who repents to "Get a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezek.18:31).
by Sim Kay Tee

October 23rd, 2017
I AM WITH YOU
When I served as an intern for a Christian magazine, I wrote a story about a person who had become a Christian. In a dramatic change, he said goodbye to his former life and embraced his new master: Jesus. A few days after the magazine hit the street, an anonymous caller threatened, "Be careful, Darmani. We are watching you! Your life is in danger in this country if you write such stories."
That was not the only time I have been threatened for pointing people to Christ. On one occasion a man told me to vanish with the tract I was giving him or else! In both cases, I cowered. But these were only verbal threats. Many Christians have had threats carried out against them. In some cases simply living a godly lifestyle attracts mistreatment from people.
The Lord told Jeremiah, "You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you" (Jer 1:7), and Jesus told His disciples, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves" (Matt. 10:16). Yes, we may encounter threats, hardships, and even pain. But God assures us of His presence. "I am with you," He told Jeremiah (Jer.1:8), and Jesus assured His followers, I am with you always" (Matt.28:20). Whatever struggles we face in our attempt to live for the Lord, we can trust in the Lord's presence.
by Lawrence Darmani
Lord, we're grateful that You are near to us in everything we face. Please protect Your people around the world.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Matthew 5:10
Jeremiah 1:1-10

The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the 5th month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, "before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
"Alas, sovereign Lord," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am too young."
But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am too young.' You must go to everyone I send you too and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I point you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."
Insight: The promise of God's presence with His people is reiterated in a number of places; for example, Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:18-20; and John 15:1-17. And David also reminds us of God's intimate knowledge of our lives (Ps.139). God indeed does know us intimately and His promised presence is always with us. How does knowing this to be true encourage you today?
by JR.Hudberg

October 22nd, 2017
MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Several years ago when the Southern California economy took a downturn, Pastor Bob Johnson saw not only difficulty but also opportunity. So he scheduled a meeting with the mayor of his city and asked, "What can our church do to help you?" The mayor was astonished. People usually came to him for help. Here was a minister offering him the services of an entire congregation.
Together the mayor and pastor came up with a plan to address several pressing needs. In their county alone, more than twenty thousand seniors had gone the previous year without a single visitor. Hundreds of foster children needed families. And many other kids needed tutoring to help them succeed in school.
Some of those needs could be addressed without much financial investment, but they all required time and interest. And that's what the church had to give.
Jesus told His disciples about a future day in which He would say to his faithful followers "Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance" (Matt.25:34). He also said they would express surprise at their reward. Then He would tell them, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (v.40).
God's kingdom work gets done when we give generously of the time, love, and resources He has provided us.
by Tim Gustafson
What lonely person is the Spirit bringing to your mind right now? Can you visit them, call, or write? What young person in your life could use some of your time and attention?
GIVING ISN'T JUST FOR THE WEALTHY; ITS FOR ALL OF US.
Matthew 25:31-40

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or need clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' "
Insight: Jesus's theme of caring for others in need was part of Paul's teaching and practice as well. In his letters, he encouraged the gentile churches he founded to contribute generously to help meet the needs of the church in Jerusalem (1st Cor.16:1-3). In fact, part of the purpose of his final journey to Jerusalem was to deliver those gifts. The call to share with those in need is still one of the ways we can impact our world. In showing love, concern, and generosity to those in need, it may provide an opportunity for sharing the message of the cross.
by Bill Crowder

October 20th, 2017
YOUR JOURNEY
I grew up in the rebellious 1960s and turned my back on religion. I had attended church all my life but didn't come to faith until my early twenties after a terrible accident. Since that time, I have spent my adult years telling others of Jesus's love for us. It has been a journey.
Certainly "a journey" describes life in this broken world. On the way we encounter mountains and valleys, rivers and plains, crowded highways and lonely roads-highs and lows, joys and sorrows, conflict and loss, heartache and solitude. We can't see the road ahead, so we must take it as it comes, not as we wish it would be.
The follower of Christ, however, never faces this journey alone. The Scriptures remind us of the constant presence of God. There is nowhere we can go that He is not there (PS.139:7-12). He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5). Jesus after promising to send the Holy Spirit, told His disciples, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18).
The challenges and opportunities we face on our journey can be met confidently, for God has promised us His never-failing presence.
by Bill Crowder
Loving Lord, thank You not that You not only know the path I take, You walk with me. Help me to rely on Your presence, help, and wisdom every day of my journey through life.
FAITH NEVER KNOWS WHERE IT IS BEING LED, BUT IT LOVES AND KNOWS THE ONE WHO IS LEADING ...Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest.
John 14:15-21

"If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them."
Insight: Imagine how the disciples felt when the Master they had followed for three and a half years said He was going away. How could they cope with the loss of their Teacher, the one from whom flowed the words of life? But Jesus said He would not leave them alone, for He would send them "another Helper" (John 14:16 NJV) who would be with them forever. The word translated "Helper" is paraclete, which means "encourager, exhorter, comforter, and intercessor." It denotes someone who is called alongside to help. The Spirit of Christ would not dwell within them and be their helper and comforter.
by Dennis Fisher

October 19th, 2017
DESERT SOLITUDE
Desert Solitude is Edward Abbey's personal history of his summers as a park ranger in what is now called Arches National Park in Utah. The book is worth reading if only for Abbey's bright language and vivid descriptions of the US Southwest.
But Abbey, for all his artistry, was an atheist who could see nothing beyond the surface of the beauty he enjoyed. How sad! He lived his entire life in praise of beauty and missed the point of it all.
Most ancient peoples had theories of origins enshrouded in legend, myth, and song. But Israel's story of creation was unique. It told of a God who created beauty for our enjoyment and childlike delight. God thought up the cosmos, spoke it into being and pronounced it "beautiful." (The Hebrew word for good also signifies beauty.) Then, having created a paradise, God in love spoke us into being, placed us in Eden, and told us, "Enjoy!"
Some see and enjoy the beauty of the Creator's good gifts all around them, but don't "worship him as God or even give him thanks." They "think up foolish ideas of what God [is] like. As a result, their minds become dark and confused" (Rom. 1:21 NLT).
Others see beauty, say "Thank You, God," and step into His light.
by David Roper
Loving Father, we praise You because You are good. Thank You for infusing Your creation with beauty and purpose and for placing us here to enjoy it as we discover You. Your love endures forever!
ALL OF CREATION REFLECTS THE BEAUTY OF GOD.
Psalm 136:1-9

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
To him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
Who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
Who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.
Who made the great lights -His love endures forever.
The sun to govern the day, His love endures forever.
The moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.
Insight: This psalm of worship praises the wonders of God's creation and God's providential intervention for His people. The repeating refrain is, "His love endures forever." Key concepts in this psalm are God's creation (see Isa.40), the love of God (see Pss.5:7), and the miracles of God (see Ex.6-7). The list of items for which to thank God, our Creator, are vast and extensive: God is good (v.1); He is over all other "gods" (v.2); God is the Lord of lords (v.3); He alone does great wonders (v.4); God by His understanding made the heavens (v.5); He placed the earth on the waters (v.6); God made the great lights (v.7); He made the sun to govern the day (v.8); and God made the moon and stars to govern the night (v.9).

by Dennis Fisher


October, 18th, 2017
FROM THE HEART
In many cultures, loud weeping, wailing, and the tearing of clothing are accepted ways of lamenting personal sorrow or a great national calamity. For the people of the Old Testament Israel, similar outward actions expressed great mourning and repentance for turning away from God.
An outward demonstration of repentance can be a powerful process when it comes from our heart. But without a sincere inward response from God, we may simply be going through the motions, even in our communities of faith.
After a plague of locusts devastated the land of Judah, God through the prophet Joel, called the people to sincere repentance to avoid his further judgment. " 'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning' " (Joel 2:12).
The Joel called for a response from deep inside: "Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity" (v.13). True repentance comes from the heart.
The Lord longs for us to confess our sins to Him and receive His forgiveness so we can love and serve Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Whatever you need to tell the Lord today, just say it-from the heart.
by David McCasland
Lord please give me a heart of repentance to see myself as You do. Give me the grace to respond to Your merciful call for change.
GOD WANTS TO HEAR YOUR HEART.
Joel 2:12-17

"Even now," declares the Lord," return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing-grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, "Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?' "
Insight: In today's reading we find remarkable insights on the theme of repentance. Key phrases punctuate this exhortation. "Even now" (Joel 2:12); Despite a pattern of disobedience that has merited the righteous judgment of God, He extends grace to a repentant heart. "Return to me with all your heart" (v.12): The repentance God is calling for is not lukewarm but rather a full commitment from the heart. "Declare a holy fast" (vv. 15-17): The act of fasting does not carry a meritorious element but is a means of self-denial and sets the foundation for turning from selfishness to God. In the spiritual life of Israel both a national and individual repentance were keenly related.
by Dennis Fisher

October 17th, 2017
DO WE HAVE TO?
Joie started the children's program with prayer, then sang with the kids. Six-year-old Emmanuel squirmed in his seat when she prayed again after introducing Aaron the teacher. Then Aaron began and ended his talk with prayer. Emmanuel complained: "That's four prayers! I can't sit still that long!"
If you think Emmanuel's challenge is difficult, look at 1st Thessalonians 5:17: "Pray continually" or always be in a spirit of prayer. Even some of us adults can find prayer to be boring. Maybe thats because we don't know what to say or don't understand that prayer is a conversation with our Father.
Back in the 17th century, Francois Fenelon wrote some words about prayer that have helped me: "Tell God all that pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them." He continued, "Talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them: Show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them...If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say."
May we grow in our intimacy with God so that we will want to spend more time with Him.
by Anne Cetas
For further study, read about Jesus's example of prayer in John 17 and Luke 5:16
PRAYER IS AN INTIMATE CONVERSATION WITH OUR GOD.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.
Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God's people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Insight: Paul ends this letter with a frenzy of instructions. In today's verses, one small string of phrases is closely linked and includes a key to their significance: "for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (vv.16-18). We often wonder what God's will is for us in our circumstances. Phrases like these, though couched in a presentation that seemed to minimize their importance, help us to clarify what it is that God desires of us. Do you want to follow God's will? "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
by J.R. Hudberg

October 16th, 2017
KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK
My son loves to read. If he reads more books than what is required at school, he receives an award certificate. That bit of encouragement motivates him to keep up the good work.
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he motivated them not with an award but with words of encouragement. He said, "Brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more" (1st Thess.4:1). These Christians were pleasing God through their lives, and Paul encouraged them to continue to live more and more for Him.
Maybe today you and I are giving our best to know and love and please our Father. Let's take Paul's words as an incentive to continue on in our faith.
But let's go one step further. Who might we encourage today with Paul's words? Does someone come to mind who is diligent in following the Lord and seeking to please Him? Write a note or make a phone call and urge this person to keep on in their faith journey with Him. What you say may be just what they need to continue following and serving Jesus.
by Keila Ochoa
Dear Lord, Thank You for encouraging me through Your Word to keep living for You.
ENCOURAGE SOMEONE TODAY TO KEEP LIVING FOR GOD.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God's family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
Insight: We may get weary (as if on a hamster's running wheel) sticking to sameness over and over again. Yet when what we are doing is worthwhile, its worth doing "more and more" (1 Thess.4:1). Not only do we reap rewards (in this life and the coming one), but we also have the opportunity to hear our Lord's eventual "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matt.25:23).
by Jim Townsend

October 15th, 2017
DYING FOR OTHERS
I loved birds, which is why I bought six caged birds and carried them home to our daughter Alice who began to care for them daily. Then one of the birds fell ill and died. We wondered if the birds would be more likely to thrive if they were not caged. So we freed the surviving five and observed them fly away to jubilation.
Alice then pointed out, "Do you realize, daddy, that it was the death of one bird that caused us to free the rest?"
Isn't that what the Lord Jesus did for us? Just as one man's sin (Adam's) brought condemnation to the world, so one Man's righteousness (Jesus's) brought salvation to those who believe (Rom.5:12-19). Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
John makes it more practical when he says, "Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brother and sisters" (1st John 3:16). This won't likely mean literal death, but as we align our lives with Jesus's example of sacrificial love, we find that we are "laying down our lives." For instance, we might choose to deprive ourselves of material goods in order to share them with others (v.17) or make time to be with someone who needs comfort and companionship.
Who do you need to sacrifice for today?
by Lawrence Darmani
In what ways have others sacrificed for your well-being?
CHRIST'S ULTIMATE SACRIFICE FOR US MOTIVATES US TO SACRIFICE OURSELVES FOR OTHERS.
1st John 3:16-17

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his live for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or a sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
Insight: John reminds believers to model the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. True Christian love is sacrificial action (1st John 3:16) and selfless generosity (v.17). John exhorts us to be loving and genuine, both in our speech and, more so, in our actions (v.18). This kind of sacrificial love is the clearest of evidence that one has a new life (v.14). The person who lacks love shows that he does not really know God nor is he in close fellowship with God, "For God is love" (1st John 4:7-8). Reminiscent of John 3:16, 1st John 4:9-10 once again reiterates how much God loves us (vv.9-10).
by Sim Kay Tee
October 13th, 2017
All Welcome!
The much-prayed-for film night at the church youth club had finally arrived. Posters had been displayed all around the village and pizzas were warming in the oven. Steve, the youth pastor, hoped that the film-about gang members in New York who were brought face-to-face with the claims of Jesus by a young pastor-would bring new recruits to the club.
But he hadn't realized that a key football match was being shown on television that evening, so attendance was much smaller than he had hoped for. Sighing inwardly, he was about to dim the lights and began the film when five leather-clad members of the local motorbike club came in. Steve went pale.
The leader of the group, who was known as TDog, nodded in Steve's direction. "It's free and for everyone, right?" he said. Steve opened his mouth to say, "Youth club members only" when TDog bent down and picked up a bracelet with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) stamped on it. "This yours, mate?" he asked. Steve nodded, hot with embarrassment, and waited while the new guests found a seat.
Have you ever been in Steve's situation? You long to share the good news about Jesus but you have a mental list of the "right" people who would be acceptable? Jesus was often criticized by the religious authorities for the company He kept. But He welcomed those everyone else avoided, because He knew they needed Him most (Luke 5:31-32).
by Marion Stroud
Lord, please help me to see people through Your eyes of love and to welcome all those You bring into my life.
A HEART THAT IS OPEN TO CHRIST WILL BE OPEN TO THOSE HE LOVES.
Luke 5:27-32

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow Me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belong to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus answered them, "it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Insight: In ancient Israel, tax collectors were considered traitors to their country because they were employees of the occupying Roman force. To make matters worse, some tax collectors demanded more tax than required from their fellow citizens. Thus Jesus's choice of a "traitor" as one of his closet followers would have seemed strange to put it mildly. Yet when the religious leaders confronted Jesus, his defense was not only logical but revealed the depth of His love and mission. "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick" (Luke 5:31). Jesus wasn't applauding the religious leaders while condemning the depravity of Levi. Instead He was placing everyone on the same level. All need the love and healing He offers.
by J.R. Hudberg

October 12th, 2017
WARNING
The following warnings have been found on consumer products: "Remove child before folding." (baby stroller) "Does not supply oxygen." (Dusk Mask) "Never operate your speaker phone while driver." (Hands-free cell phone product called the "Drive'n'Talk") "This product moves when used." (Scooter)
An appropriate warning label that Nabal could have warned would have been: "Expect folly from a fool" (see 1 Sam.25). He certainly was irrational as he addressed David. On the run from Saul, David had provided security details for the sheep of a wealthy man named Nabal. When David learned that Nabal was sheering those sheep and celebrating with a feast, he sent ten of his men to politely ask for food as remuneration for these duties (vv.4-8).
Nabal's response to David's request was beyond rude. He said, "Who is this David?...Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat..., and give it to men coming from who knows where?" (vv.10-11). He broke the hospitality code of the day by not inviting David to the feast, disrespecting him by calling out insults, and essentially stole from him by not paying him for his work.
The truth is, we all have a little bit of Nabal in us. We act foolishly at times. The only cure for this is to acknowledge our sin to God. He will step in to forgive us, instruct us, and give us His wisdom.
by Marvin Williams
I'm selfish sometimes Lord. I get more concerned with what I need than what others need. Give me a heart of integrity and compassion.
GOD'S WISDOM OVERSHADOWS OUR SELF-CENTEREDNESS.
1 Samuel 25: 1-12

Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the desert of Paran.
A certain man in Maon who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was sheering at Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife's name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings-he was a Calebite.
While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was sheering sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, "Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: 'Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!'
" 'Now I hear that it is sheep-sheering time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing....Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.' "
When David's men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David's name. Then they waited.
Nabal answered David's servants, "Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?"
David's men turned around and went back. When they arrived they reported every word.
Insight: The Hebrew word Nabal means confusion and foolishness. It describes a person who is mischievous and reckless and who lacks wisdom, discipline and accountability. We see all of those characteristics in Nabal. His name carries with it a warning-seek wisdom, for it will always lead to a better way!
by Bill Crowder

October 11th, 2017
CHANGING HEARTS
On the last day of the US Civil War, officer Joshua Chamberlain was in command of the Union Army. His soldiers lined up on both sides of the road that the confederate army had to march down and surrender. One wrong word or one belligerent act and the longed-for peace could be turned to slaughter. In an act as brilliant as it was moving, Chamberlain ordered his troops to salute their foe! No taunting here, no vicious words-only guns in salute and swords raised to honor.
When Jesus offered His words about forgiveness in Luke 6, He was helping us understand the difference between people of grace and people without grace. Those who know His forgiveness are to be strikingly unlike everyone else. We must do what others think impossible: Forgive and love our enemies. Jesus said, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (v.36).
Imagine the impact in our workplaces and on our families if we were to embrace this principle. If a salute can make armies whole again, what power there must be in Christ's grace reflected through us! Scripture gives evidence of this in Essau's embrace of his deceitful brother (Gen.33:4), in Zacchaeus's joyful penance (Luke 19:1-10), and in the picture of a father raising to greet his prodigal son (Luke 15).
With the grace of Christ, may we let this be the final day of bitterness and dispute between our enemies and us.
by Randy Kilgore
Lord, we know how the gentle power of forgiveness can bring healing in relationships. Grant us the courage to end our conflicts by Your grace.
ANGER ALMOST ALWAYS VANISHES IN THE FACE OF GRACE.
Luke 6:27-36

"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your father is merciful."
Insight: We often thing of forgiving someone as no longer holding resentment for a past wrong. This is a central definition of forgiveness in the New Testament. However Luke 6:34-35 records a different meaning, that of forgiving business loans. The understanding we gain from the Old Testament about forgiveness becomes central to the context for Jesus's audience. Yahweh, Jehovah God, had mandated the Year of Jubilee a 7th-year fiscal readjustment. During this time, indebted workers found financial relief. "In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property! (Lev.25:13). Scholars believe the year of Jubilee had an impact on lending to needy farmers. When this time of forgiveness of loans became imminent, those with the means to lend money were reluctant to do so because they feared not receiving repayment.
by Dennis Fisher
October 10th, 2017
DOING THE OPPOSITE
A wilderness excursion can seem daunting, but for outdoor enthusiasts this only adds to the appeal. Because hikers need more water than they can carry, they purchase bottles with built in filters so they can use water sources along the way. But the process of drinking from such a container is counter-intuitive. Tipping the bottle does nothing. A thirsty hiker has to blow into it to force the water through the filter. Reality is contrary to what seems natural.
As we follow Jesus, we find much that is counter-intuitive. Paul pointed out one example: Keeping rules won't draw us closer to God. He asked, "Why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'? These rules...are based on merely human commands and teachings" (Col.2:20-22).
So what are we to do? Paul gave the answer. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above" (3:1). "You died," he told people who were still very much alive, "and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (v.3).
We are to consider ourselves "dead" to the values of this world and alive to Christ. We now aspire to a way of life demonstrated by the One who said, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant" (Matt.20:26).
by Tim Gustafson
Consider what these counter-intuitive principles from the Bible might me for you: "Whoever loses their life for me will find it" (Matt.16:25). "The last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matt.20:16). "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor.12:10).
GOD CHOSE THE FOOLISH THINGS OF THE WORLD TO SHAME THE WISE. 1 Corinthians 1:27

Colossians 2:20-3:4
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These rules which have to do with things that are all destined to parish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Insight: In Colossae a false teaching known as Gnosticism circulated. It promoted the idea that matter is evil and spirit is good, rejecting Jesus Christ's full humanity as well as His complete divinity. To correct this, Paul wrote: "For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form" (Col.2:9). An equally destructive heresy in the spiritual life of the Colossian believers was legalism. This can be summed up as placating the gods or God by following a set of rules for behavior. The believers in Colossae fell into the trap of applying legalism to their Christian walk. Paul's correction of legalism was logical: He argued that to experience redemption in Christ means that we die to man made religions of this world and gain spiritual life in Him.
by Dennis Fisher

Oct. 9th, 2017
UNITED IN CHRIST
When we come across a list of names in the Bible, we might be tempted to skip over it. But we can find treasures there, such as in the list of the twelve apostles whom Jesus called to serve in His name. Many are familiar-Simon whom Jesus called Peter, the Rock. Brothers James and John, fishermen. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. But we could easily overlook that Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot must once have been enemies.
Matthew collected taxes for Rome, and therefore, in the eyes of his fellow Jews, collaborated with the enemy. Tax collectors were despised for their corrupt practices and for requiring the Jewish people to give money to an authority other than God. On the other hand, before Jesus's call, Simon the Zealot was devoted to a group of Jewish nationalists who hated Rome and sought to overturn it, often through aggressive and violent means.
Although Matthew and Simon held opposing political beliefs, the Gospels don't document them bickering or fighting about them. They must have had at least some success in leaving their previous allegiances behind as they followed Christ.
When we too fix our eyes on Jesus, the God who became Man, we can find increasing unity with our fellow believers through the bond of the Holy Spirit.
by Amy Boucher Pye
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You exist in perfect harmony. May Your Spirit dwell in us that the world might see You, and believe.
OUR STRONGEST ALLEGIANCE IS TO CHRIST, WHO GIVES US UNITY WITH EACH OTHER.
Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means "Sons of thunder"), Andrew, Philip, Bartholemew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Insight: The Twelve had two things in common. They were the first to become Rabbi Jesus' disciples. Accepting the role of a Rabbi's disciple in ancient Israel meant living in the Rabbi's presence full-time, diligently absorbing his teachings, and recruiting more followers. Aside from Judas Iscariot, all lived up to being the demands of being a disciple. Second, aside from John, all of the faithful eleven disciples gave their life spreading the message of Jesus. Only John appears to have died of natural causes. This is one of the reasons we often hear about the cost of discipleship. Though we will not all pay that cost in the same way, every disciple will face the challenges and struggles of following Jesus.
by Bill Crowder

October 7th, 2017
THE DRINKABLE BOOK
Because it is so difficult in parts of the world to find clean drinking water, an organization called Water Is Life developed a wonderful resource called "The Drinkable Book." The paper in the book is coated is silver nano particles that filter out almost 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria! Each tear-out page can be used and reused to filter up to 100 liters of water at the cost of only 4 pennies per page.
The Bible is also an unusually "drinkable" Book. In John 4, we read of a particular kind of thirst and a special kind of water. The woman at the well needed much more than to quench her physical thirst with clean, clear liquid. She was desperate to know the source of "living water." She needed the grace and forgiveness that comes from God alone.
God's Word is the ultimate "drinkable" Book that points to God's Son as the soul source of "living water." And those who accept the water that Jesus gives will experience "a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (v.14).
by Cindy Hess Kasper
Father, we yearn for the satisfaction that only You can give. Help us discard the things that leave us empty and thirsting, and exchange them for the satisfaction of the living water You offer.
JESUS IS THE SOLE SOURCE OF LIVING WATER.
John 4:7-15

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
"Sir," the woman said, "You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?" Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?"
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."
Insight: The Samaritan woman thinks of "Water" as purely material-just H2O. So, in her conversation with Jesus, she is stuck on having to trudge tiresomely back and forth daily to this well-perhaps a hundred feet deep and use muscle power to draw and hoist the container of water homeward. Jesus's statements symbolize salvation and satisfaction in what is both essential and enjoyable in water; He wants to ratchet up her understanding of eternal life in Him (John 4:14). Perhaps the closest thing to a definition of eternal life" is found in John 17:3: "This is eternal life" that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Eternal life means having a relationship with God by knowing Jesus Christ.
by Jim Townsend
October 6th, 2017
Praising And Asking
Teen Challenge, a ministry to at-risk youth that started in New York city, was born from an unusual commitment to prayer. Its founder David Wilkerson, sold his television set and spent his TV-watching time (2 hours each night) praying. In the months that followed, he not only gained clarity about his new endeavor but he also learned about the balance between praising God and asking Him for help.
King Solomon's Temple dedication prayer shows this balance. Solomon began by highlighting God's Holiness and faithfulness. Then he gave God credit for the success of the project and emphasized God's greatness, declaring, "The heavens, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!" (2nd Chron. 6:18).
After exhalting God, Solomon asked Him to pay special attention to everything that happened inside the temple. He asked God to show mercy to the Israelites and to provide for them when they confessed their sin.
Immediately after Solomon's prayer, "fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple" (7:1). This incredible response reminds us that the mighty One we praise and speak to when we pray is the same One who listens to and cares about our requests.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
How would you describe your conversations with God? What might help you grow closer to Him as you pray?
PRAYER HELPS US SEE THINGS AS GOD SEES THEM.
2nd Chronicles 6:12-21

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands. Now he had made a bronze platform, five cubits long, five cubits wide and three cubits high, and had placed it in the center of the outer court. He stood on the platform and then knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven. He said:
"Lord, the God of Israel, there is no Guide like You in heaven or on earth-you keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. You have kept your promise to your servant David my Father; with your mouth you have promised and with your had you have fulfilled it-as it is today.
"Now, Lord, the God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, 'You shall never fail to have a successor to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before me according to my law, as you have done.'
And now, Lord, the God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David come true.
"But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet, Lord my God, give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence. May your eyes be opened toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive."
October 5th, 2017
Good Medicine
Careless driving, rising tempers and use of foul language among some taxi and mini bus drivers are a constant source of traffic fights in our city of Accra, Ghana. But one traffic incident I witnessed took a different turn, a bus was almost hit by a careless taxi driver. I expected the bus driver to get angry and yell at the other driver, but he didn't. Instead, the bus driver relaxed his stern face and smiled broadly at the guilty-looking taxi driver. And the smile worked wonders. With a raised hand, the taxi driver apologized, smiled back, and moved away-the tension diffused.
A smile has a fascinating affect on our brain chemistry. Researchers have found that "When we smile it releases brain chemicals called endorphins which have an actual physiological relaxing effect." Not only can a smile defuse a tense situation, but it can also diffuse tension within us. Our emotions affect us as well as others. The Bible teaches us to "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another" (Eph.4:31-32).
When anger or tension or bitterness threatens our relationship with the Lord and with others, it helps to remember that "a cheerful heart is good medicine" for our own joy and well-being.
by Lawrence Darmani
Think about a time when you were angry with someone or when you had an argument. How did you feel inside? What parts of your life did it affect?
WE FIND JOY WHEN WE LEARN TO LIVE IN JESUS'S LOVE.
Ephesians 4:25-32

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin" :Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work doing something useful with their own hands, that may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Insight: Paul tells his readers to "get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Eph.4:31). The Greek word translated "Get rid of " is artheto, and it means to lift something for the purpose of carrying it off or putting it away. Getting rid of sinful and destructive behavior requires that we allow the Holy Spirit to remove those things that mark our former life (4:17-24) so that the compassion and forgiveness of Christ (v.32) will flourish.
by Dennis Moles
October 4th, 2017
SETTING PRISONERS FREE
When my wife and I visited the National Museum of the Mighty-Eighth Air force near Savannah, Georgia, we were especially moved by the prisoner-of-war exhibit, with its re-creation of a German prisoner-of-war-camp's barracks. Marlene's dad, Jim, served in the Eighth Air Force, the "Mighty Eighth," as they flew missions over Europe during World War II. During the war, the Eight Air Force suffered over 47,000 injuries and more than 26,000 deaths. Jim was one of those shot down and held as prisoner of war. As we walked through the exhibit, we recalled Jim telling about the absolute joy he and his fellow prisoners felt the day they were set free.
God's care for the oppressed and liberation of the imprisoned are declare in Psalm 146. The psalmist describes the one who "upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry," who "sets prisoners free" (v.7). All of this is cause for celebration and praise. But the greatest freedom of all is freedom from our guilt and shame. No wonder Jesus said, "So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).
Through Christ's sacrifice, we are set from from the prison of sin to know His joy and love and the freedom that only forgiveness can bring.
by Bill Crowder
THE PRISON OF SIN CANNOT WITHSTAND THE POWER OF CHRIST'S FORGIVENESS.
Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.
Insight: Psalm 146 underscores the truth that the poor and marginalized have a special place in the heart of God. Our help does not come from earthly rulers but from the maker of heaven and earth. When God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, He made the marginalized and the broken a central focus of His earthly ministry.
By Dennis Fisher
October 3rd, 2017
NO OUTSIDERS
In the remote region Ghana where I lived as a boy, "Chop time, no friend" was a common proverb. Locals considered it impolite to visit at "Chop Time" (meal time) because food was often scarce. The maxim applied to neighbors and outsiders alike.
But in the Philippines, where I also lived for a time, even if you visit unannounced at meal time, your hosts will insist on sharing with you regardless of whether they have enough for themselves. Cultures differ for their own good reasons.
As the Israelites left Egypt, God provided specific instructions to govern their culture. But rules-even God's rules-can never change hearts. So Moses said, "Change your hearts and stop being stubborn" (Deut.10:16 NLT). Interestingly, right after issuing that challenge Moses took up the topic of Israel's treatment of outsiders. God "loves the foreigner residing among you" he said, "giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt" (vv.18-19).
Israel served the "God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome" (v.17). One powerful way they were to show their identification with God was by loving foreigners-those from outside their culture.
What might this small picture of God's character mean for us today? How can we show His love to the marginalized and the needy in our world?
by Tim Gustafson
Heavenly Father, help us bless others today by showing your love in some small way.
IN CHRIST, THERE ARE NO OUTSIDERS.
Deuteronomy 10:12-22

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations- as it is today.
Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were 70 in all, and now the Lord Your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.
Insight: God commanded His people to allow the poor to feed on their lands (Lev.19:9-10;23:22;Deut.24:19-21). "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleamings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner" (Lev.19:9-10;23:22).
by Sim Kay Tee

October 2nd, 2017
GOD'S REMINDERS
My friend Bob Horner refers to Jesus as "the Master Reminder." And that is good, because we are so doubting and forgetful no matter how often Jesus met the needs of the people who came to Him when He was here on earth, His first disciples feared they would somehow be left in need. After witnessing miracles they failed to understand the greater meaning the Lord wanted them to remember.
On a journey across the Sea of Galilee, the disciples realized they had forgotten to bring bread and were talking about it. Jesus asked them, "Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes that fail to see, and ears that fail to hear? And don't you remember?" (Mark 8:17-18). Then He reminded them that when He fed 5,000 people with five loaves, the disciples had collected 12 basketfuls of left over pieces. And when He fed 4,000 with 7 loaves, they filled 7 baskets with leftovers. Then "He said to them, 'Do you still not understand?' " (v.21).
The Lord's miraculous provision for people's physical needs pointed to the greater truth-that He was the Bread of Life and that His body would be "broken" for them and for us.
Every time we eat the bread and drink the cup during the Lord's Supper, we are reminded of our Lord's great love and provision for us.
by David McCasland
In the Lord's Supper, Jesus left us a great reminder of His sacrifice. Read about it in Matthew 26:17-30; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Cor.11:23-26.
COMMUNION IS THE LORDS REMINDER TO US OF HIS LOVE AND PROVISION
Mark 8:11-21

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it." Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod."
They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread."
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes that fail to see, and ears that fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"
Twelve," they replied.
"And when I broke the seven loaves for the 4,000 how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"
They answered, "Seven." He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"
Insight: In Mark 7-8, Mark records three stories that highlight Jesus's ability to meet the needs of His followers: The exorcism of a demon-possessed girl (Mark 7:24-30), the healing of a deaf and mute man (7:31-37), and the feeding of 4,000 people with seven simple loaves of bread (8:1-10). Mark tells these three stories in quick succession, underscoring Jesus's ability to meet the needs of people in a variety of situations. The apostle John calls the miracles Jesus performed "signs." Like all signs, they point to something. In the case of Jesus's miracles, they point to His true identity.
by J.R.Hudberg

October 1st, 2017
HOLD ON
Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajae, China, is considered one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. To view its towering cliffs in all their glorious splendor, you must take the Tianmen Shan cable car, which covers a distance of 7,455 meters (4.5 miles). Its amazing how this cable car can travel long distances and scale such steep mountains without any motor on the car itself. Yet it moves safely up these spectacular heights by keeping a strong grip on a cable that is moved by a powerful motor.
In our journey of faith, how can we finish the race well and "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus"? (Phil.3:14). Like the cable car, we keep a strong grip on Christ, which is what Paul meant when he said "stand firm in the Lord" (4:1). We have no resources of our own. We depend fully on Christ to keep us moving forward. He will take us through the greatest challenges and lead us safely home.
Toward the end of his earthly life, the apostle Paul declared, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim.4:7). You can too. Simply keep a strong grip on Christ.
by Albert Lee
We're grateful, Lord that while we aim to keep a strong grip on You, You always keep a strong grip on us! You are working in us and giving us what we need to continue trusting You on our faith journey.
KEEPING THE FAITH MEANS TRUSTING GOD TO FAITHFULLY KEEP YOU.
Philippians 3:12-4:1

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
Insight: Philippians is a testimony to Paul's joy in Christ. What is this joy? It is a sense of complete contentment in Christ that is dependent upon His presence in our lives. Our relationship with the Savior is the foundation for our joy, and we can have confidence He will bring us to this joy as we yield our hearts and lives to Him.
by Bill Crowder
September 29th, 2017
PIERCING THE DARKNESS
I caught my first glimpse of them as a college student. On a frosty, fall night, far from the likes of the city, I was riding on a hay wagon loaded with noisy friends when the sky lit up and colors flashed across the horizon. I was mesmerized. Ever since that night I have been fascinated with the phenomenon called Aurora Borealis, also known as northern lights. Mostly they are seen far north of where I lived, but occasionally they appear in lower latitudes. Having seen them once, I long to see more. Whenever the conditions are favorable I say to my equally fascinated friends, "Maybe tonight..."
Throughout Scripture, light and glory are used to describe the coming of the Lord. A time is coming when the sun and moon will be unnecessary (Isa.60:19). And in describing God on His throne, the apostle John wrote, "The one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shown like an emerald encircled the throne" (Rev.4:3).
An emerald circle is an apt description of the northern lights. So whenever I see glorious light displays in the skies above-whether in person or via picture or video-I think of it as a foretaste of what is to come, and I praise God that even now His glory pierces the darkness.
by Julie Akerman Link
Lord the world around us is sometimes so dark that it is difficult to see Your power and goodness. Thank You for the reminders that the darkness does not and will not last forever. Help us wait with great expectation for the day when we will see You on Your throne.
JESUS CAME TO GIVE LIGHT TO A DARK WORLD.
Isaiah 60:19-22

The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor. The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly."
Insight: In today's passage, Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of what life will be like in God's eternal kingdom. Using the imagery of light and darkness, Isaiah tells the people of Israel that the presence of God will ensure that their problems will never appear again. It is not that light simply makes problems disappear; it is that in the presence of God, only goodness and righteousness can exist. One day the darkness of our lives will be illuminated by the presence of God.
by J.R. Hudberg

September 28th, 2017
GIVE IT AWAY
Many charities that help people with various needs depend on donations of unwanted clothing and household items from those who have more than enough. And its good to give away unused things so they can benefit others. But we are often more reluctant to part with things of value that we use every day.
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he needed continuing encouragement and the companionship of trusted friends. Yet he sent two of his closest comrades to help the followers of Jesus in Philippi (Phil.2:19-30). "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon....I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare" (vv.19-20). And, "I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs" (v.25). Paul freely gave to others what he most needed himself.
Whatever we feel is "most valued" in our lives today could be of great benefit to someone we know. It may be our time, friendship, encouragement, a listening ear, or a helping hand. When we give away what the Lord has given to us, He is honored, others are helped, and we are blessed.
by David McCasland
Lord, show me what I cling to. If someone needs it, open my heart and my hands and help me give it away today.
GIVING FREELY HONORS THE LORD, HELPS OTHERS, AND BLESSES US.
Philippians 2:19-30

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphrodius, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
Insight: Epaphroditus is mentioned only into today's passage and in Philippians 4:18. The Philippian church had sent him to minister to Paul, who was in a Roman prison (2:25). He willingly took the role of Paul's personal servant and also brought gifts from the church (4:18). Paul called him "my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier" (2:25). Epaphroditus had become seriously ill and upon recovery Paul sent him back to Philippi carrying with him this letter of encouragement (vv.27-29). Paul asked the church to honor him for his faithfulness and the costliness of the service he had rendered to Christ (v.30;1 Thess.5:12-13).
by Sim Kay Tee

September 27th 2017
CONSIDER THE POOR
The year was 1780, and Robert Raikes had a burden for the poor, illiterate children in his London neighborhood. He noticed that nothing was being done to help these children, so he set out to make a difference.
He hired some women to set up schools for them on Sunday. Using the Bible as their textbook, the teachers taught the poorest children of London to read and introduced them to the wisdom of the Bible. Soon about a hundred children were attending these classes and enjoying lunch in a safe, clean environment. These "Sunday schools," as they were soon called, eventually touched the lives of thousands of boys and girls. By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain reached more than a million children-all because one man understood this truth: "The righteous considers the cause of the poor" (Prov.29:7 NKJV).
Its no secret that Jesus cares greatly for those who struggle. In Matthew 25, he suggests that followers of Christ show a readiness for the Lord's return by helping the hungry to get food, helping the thirsty to get a drink, helping the homeless to find a home, helping the naked to get clothed, and helping the sick or imprisoned to receive comfort (vv.35-36).
As we bear witness that Jesus Christ is in our hearts, we honor our compassionate Savior by considering those on God's heart.
by Dave Branon
Awaken my heart, Lord, to those You care about, including the poor and helpless, the hungry and homeless, the troubled and hopeless in our world.
OPEN YOUR HEART TO GOD TO LEARN COMPASSION, AND OPEN YOUR HAND TO GIVE HELP.

Matthew 25:31-40
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep and goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' "
Insight: Today's Bible reading is a portion of what is sometimes referred to as the Olivet Discourse, our Lord's last recorded public sermon before going to the cross. Matthew 24:3 says that Jesus led His disciples to the Mount of Olives where He delivered this message on the future judgment and the establishment of the kingdom. Jesus spoke to them of tribulation, of the coming of the King, and of the need to have a prepared heart. Its a sober message, yet one that ends with Jesus calling His followers to a heart of service that reaches out to hurting people with compassion and generosity.
by Bill Crowder
September 26th, 2017
A NEW CREATION
Early in my work, I had a coworker who seemed to delight in using God's name as a profanity. He mercilessly taunted Christians who were new to their faith or who tried to talk to him about Jesus. On the day I left that job to move to another community and a new place of employment, I remember thinking that this man would never become a follower of Jesus.
Two years later I visited my old workplace. He was still there, but never have I witnessed such a dramatic change in a person! This man, so antagonistic to faith, was now a walking, talking example of what it means to be a "New Creation" in Christ (2 Cor.5:17). And now, more than thirty years later, he's still telling others how Jesus "Met him where he was-sin and all."
It occurs to me that the early Christians must have seen something similar in Paul, their fiery persecutor-a riveting example of what it means to become a new creation (Acts 9:1-22). What great hope both of these lives are to those who think themselves beyond redemption!
Jesus sought Paul and my former coworker-and me. And He continues today to reach the "unreachable" and model for us just how we can reach people too.
by Randy Kilgore
Lord I want to learn to reach out to others and share Your love and forgiveness. Teach me and help me to step out in both faith and trust.
NO ONE IS BEYOND THE REACH OF GOD.
Acts 9:10-22

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!"
"Yes, Lord," he answered.
The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he had seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized....
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the son of God.
All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
Insight: A true encounter with Jesus always results in change. However, this change is not merely stopping negative behavior; true change begins to do positive things. Saul immediately "began to preach" (v.20).
by J.R. Hudberg

September 25th, 2017
FIRST STEPS
A friend stopped me the other day with some exciting news and then spent ten minutes describing for me the first steps of her one-year-old nephew. He could walk! Later I realized how bizarre we might have sounded to an eavesdropper. Most people could walk. What was the big deal?
It struck me that childhood provides a quality of specialness that nearly vanishes for the rest of life. Thinking about our treatment of children gave me further appreciation for the fact that God chooses the word picture of "children" to describe our relationship with Him. The New Testament announces that we are God's children, with all the rights and privileges of worthy heirs (Rom.8:16-17). Jesus (The "One and only" Son of God) came, we're told, to make possible our adoption as sons and daughters in God's family.
I imagine God views each halting step forward in my spiritual "walk" with the eagerness of a parent watching a child take that very first step.
Perhaps when the secrets of the universe are finally revealed, we will learn an underlying purpose of watching children grow. It may be that God has granted us these times of specialness to waken us to His infinite love. Of the fullness of the love, our experiences here on earth are mere glimpses.
by Philip Yancy
Loving heavenly Father, increase our awareness of Your love for us and Your delight in us so we can show the world the difference You make in our lives.
YOU ARE LOVED.
Romans 8:14-17

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.
Insight: Notice in today's Bible reading the extensive nature of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us that the Spirit leads us as God's children (v.14), enables us through adoption to call God our Father (v.15), and affirms God's saving work in our hearts (v.16). It is one of the truly great passages in the New Testament on the work of the Spirit in our lives-and one we should celebrate!
by Bill Crowder
September 24th, 2017
THE UPSIDE OF SETBACKS
American swimmer Dara Torres had a remarkable career, appearing in five different olympics from 1984 to 2008. Late in her career, Torres broke the US record for the fifty-meter freestyle-twenty five years after she herself set that record. But it wasn't always metals and records. Torres also encountered obstacles in her athletci carreer: Injuries, surgeries, as well as being almost twice the age of most other competitors. She said, "I wanted to win at everything, everyday, since I was a kid....I'm also aware that setbacks have an upside; they fuel new dreams."
"Setbacks have an upside" is a great life lesson. Torres's struggles motivated her to reach for new heights. They have a spiritual benefit too. As James said, "Consider it pure joy...whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-3).
Adopting this perspective on the difficulties of life is not easy, but it worth while. Trials provide opportunity to deepen our relationship with God. They also provide the opening to learn lessons that success cannot teach by developing in us the kind of patience that waits on God and trusts Him for the strength to endure.
The psalmist reminds us, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Ps.27:14).
by Bill Crowder
In my times of trial, dear Lord. Teach me to wait for You. But please teach me even more to trust the love You have for me. And as I do, may I learn Your wisdom and have the patience to endure.
THE SETBACKS OF LIFE CAN TEACH US TO WAIT UPON THE LORD FOR HIS HELP AND STRENGTH.
Psalm 27
The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though and army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the Lord this only do I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exulted above the enemies who surround me at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

September 22nd, 2017
A FISHING LESSON
I was fishing quietly on the clear, still waters of Piatt Lake, casting next to a lush weedbed. I watched a large smallmouth bass sneak out of the thick vegetation to investigate. He approached the tempting night crawler on the end of my line, stared at it, and backed into the weeds. This happened several times until he spotted the hook. Then he whipped his tail and disappeared into his lair, never to come out again.
Satan dangles temptations, like a fishhook, right in front of us. It looks tasty. It promises gratification. But satan's power ends there. He cannot force us to take the hook. His power stops at the edge of our will-at our decision point. When we are warned by the Holy Spirit and decide to say no, satan can do no more. James says He runs away (4:7).
As believers, we can receive great comfort from the words of the apostle Peter, who himself experienced great temptation (Matt. 26:33-35). In later life he wrote, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion...Resist him, standing firm in the faith" (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Just as that big old bass ignored my hook, we can in God's strength successfully resist Satan's most enticing tactics!
Dave Egner
Father in heaven, thank you for the promise of your help when we are tempted and for the truth that satan's power is limited. Give us the wisdom to recognize temptation and the humility to rely on Your Spirit for the strength to resist.
RESPOND TO THE LIES OF SATAN TO THE TRUTH OF GOD'S WORD.
1 Peter 5:1-9
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ's sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will received the crown of glory that will never fade away.
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God apposes the proud but shows favor to the humble."
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may life you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Insight: The apostle Peter wrote this letter to a church that was suffering persecution. In today's passage he addressed the leaders of the church concerning their attitude, their motivation, and their method. He encouraged them to serve from a willing heart and not out of obligation (V.2). They were to be motivated by the opportunity to serve, not by money (v.2). Finally, they were not to abuse their power, but to use their position as an opportunity to exemplify a life lived in service to Christ (v.3).
by J.R. Hudberg

September 21st, 2017
A FLY'S REMINDER
When I first began working in the small office I now rent, the only inhabitants were a few mopey flies. Several of them had gone the way of all flesh, and their bodies littered the floor and windowsills. I disposed but all but one, which I left in plain site.
That fly carcass reminds me to live each day well. Death is an excellent reminder of life, and life is a gift. Solomon said, "Anyone who is among the living has hope" (Eccl.9:4). Life on earth gives us the chance to influence and enjoy the world around us. We can eat and drink happily and relish our relationships (vv.7,9).
We can also enjoy our work. Solomon advised, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" (v.10). Whatever our vocation or job or role in life, we can still do things that matter, and do them well. We can encourage people, pray, and express love with sincerity each day.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says, "Time and chance happen to them all....No one knows when their hour will come" (vv.11-12). Its impossible to know when our lives on earth will end, but gladness and purpose can be found in this day by relying on God's strength and depending on Jesus' promise of eternal life (John 6:47).
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Dear God, help me to manage my time well and enjoy the gifts of this world today. Thank you for the promise of eternal life through Your Son, Jesus Christ.
THIS IS THE DAY THE LORD HAS MADE. REJOICE AND BE GLAD.
Ecclesiastes 9:4-12

Anyone who is among the living has hope- even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
Go, eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun-all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planting, nor knowledge, nor wisdom.
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.
Insight: Solomon's wisdom was legendary in his day (1 King 4:34) and so was his pursuit of knowledge. 1 Kings 4-32-33 says, "He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish."
by Bill Crowder
September 20th, 2017
TISSUE BOXES
As I sat in the surgical waiting room, I had time to think. I had been here recently, when we received the jarring that my only brother, much too young, was "brain dead."
And so on this day, waiting for news about my wife who was undergoing a serious surgical procedure, I waited and listened for the quiet voice of God.
Suddenly, news! The surgeon wanted to see me. I went to a secluded room to wait. There, on the table, sat two tissue boxes, conspicuously available. They weren't for the sniffles. They were for cold, hard phrases like I heard when my brother died-"brain dead" and "nothing we can do."
In such times of grief or uncertainty, the honesty of the psalms makes them a natural place to turn. Psalm 31 was the heart-cry of David, who endured so much that he wrote, "my life is consumed by anguish" (v.10). Compounding that grief was the pain of abandonment by his friends and neighbors (v.11).
But David had the bedroom of faith in the one true God. "I trust in you, Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands" (vv.14-15). His lament concludes with resounding hope. "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord" (v.24).
This time in the waiting room, the surgeon gave us good news: My wife could expect a full recovery. But even if she hadn't been ok," our times still remain in God's hands.
by Tim Gustafson
Lord, we give You our deepest grief as well as our joy. Thank You for Your constant presence no matter what today holds. You alone are faithful!
WHEN WE PUT OUR PROBLEMS IN GOD'S HANDS, HE PUTS HIS PEACE IN OUR HEARTS.
Psalm 31:9-18

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul embodied with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends-those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. For I hear many whisper, "Terror on every side!" They conspire against me and plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, Lord, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
Insight: David was in great distress (v.9) and in grave danger (v.13) when he wrote Psalm 31. Because he was persecuted and threatened by powerful enemies, his close friends abandoned him (v.11), considered him a lost cause, and left him alone to fend for himself (v.12). Twice David affirmed his unwavering faith in God. He says in verse 6, "As for me, I trust in the Lord" and in verse 14, "But I trust in you, Lord." Acknowledging that God has been faithful to him, David confidently committed his spirit to God and trusted Him to deliver him (v.5). While on the cross, Jesus prayed the same prayer of trust to His Father, "Into Your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
by Sim Kay Tee

September 19th, 2017
LESSONS IN SUFFERING
The close-up image on the giant screen was big and sharp, so we could see the deep cuts on the man's body. A soldier beat him while an angry crowd laughed at the man whose face was now covered in blood. The scenes appeared so real that, in the silence of the open-air theater, I cringed and grimaced as I could feel the pain myself. But this was only a film reenactment of Jesus' suffering for us.
Reminding us of Jesus' suffering, Peter wrote, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, follow in His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21). While suffering comes in different forms and intensity, it is to be expected. Ours may not be as intense as that experienced by Paul, who for the sake of Christ was beaten with rods, stoned, and shipwrecked. He was attacked by bandits, and he endured hunger and thirst (2 Cor.11:24-27). Likewise, we may not suffer like those who endure severe persecution in cultures where Christianity is not welcome.
In some form or another, however, suffering will come our way as we deny ourselves, endure harassment, bear insults, or refuse to engage in activities that do not honor the Lord. Even exercising patience, avoiding revenge, and forgiving others in order to foster good relationships are forms of following in His steps.
Whenever we encounter suffering, may we remember what Jesus endured for us.
by Lawrence Darmani
What had you learned about God through your trials?
THE SCHOOL OF SUFFERING TEACHES US LESSONS THAT WE CAN LEARN IN NO OTHER CLASSROOM.
2nd Corinthians 11:21-30

...Whatever anyone else dares to boast about-I am speaking as a fool-I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.)
I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is lead into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
Insight: Today's passage lists the trials that Paul suffered in service for the gospel. Most of us have not experienced the persecution that Paul faced. But for him, suffering was a small price to pay. In fact, it was an honor for him to suffer because of the gospel (v.30). Because Christ suffered for us, suffering for Him is a privilege.
by J.R. Hudberg

September 18th, 2017
2 A.M. FRIENDS
A friend told me about a group of people who share a strong bond of faith in Christ. One of them, a ninety three-year-old woman, said, "I feel like I can call any of you at 2.A.M., and I don't even have to apologize if I feel the need for any type of assistance." Whether the need is prayer, practical help, or someone to be there during a time of need, these friends are unconditionally committed to each other.
The same sense of commitment shines through Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Colossae. Writing from prison in Rome, Paul says he is sending Tychicus and Onesimus to encourage them (Col.4:7-9). Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus send their greetings (vv.10-11). And Epaphras is "always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured" (v.12). These are bold assurances of practical help and deep-seated love.
Are you part of a "2.A.M. group"? If so, give thanks for the faithfulness of friends. If not, ask the Lord to connect you with another person with whom you can share a commitment to pray and care. I suspect it will soon grow to include others. Share the love of Christ with one another. Anything. Anytime. Anywhere. All in Jesus' name!
by David McCasland
Jesus, thank You for friends who demonstrate Your love to me. Help me to do the same for them and those around me. Most of all, thank You for being the friend who sticks closer than a brother.
GREATER LOVE HAS NO ONE THAN THIS: TO LAY DOWN ONE'S LIFE FOR ONE'S FRIENDS. JESUS
Colossians 4:2-15

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances in that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you...
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (you have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)
Jesus who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Epaphras who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
Insight: Paul wrote the book of Colossians to the church at Colossae, which apparently was a sister church to the church at Laodica about ten miles away (Col.2:1). The Colossian church appears to have been founded by Paul's collegue Epaphras (1:7) and was also the home church of Philemon and his redeemed slave, Onesimus (4:9;SEE Philem.1:2).
by Bill Crowder

September 17th, 2017
DOESN'T GOD CARE
Why does the intoxicated driver escape an accident unharmed while his sober victim is seriously injured? Why do bad people prosper while good people suffer? How often have you been so confused by things going on in your life that you have cried out, "Doesn't God care?"
Habakkuk struggled with this same question as he saw the distressing situation in Judah where wickedness and injustice were running rampant (Hab.1:1-4). His confusion drove him to ask God when He would act to fix the situation. God's reply was nothing short of perplexing.
God said that He would use the Chaldeans as the means of Judah's correction. The Chaldeans were notorious for their cruelty (v.7). They were bent on violence (v.9) and worshiped nothing but their military prowess and false gods (vv.10-11).
In moments when we don't understand God's ways, we need to trust His unchanging character. That's exactly what Habakkuk. He believed that God is a God of justice, mercy, and truth (PS. 89:14). In the process, he learned to look at his circumstances from the framework of God's character instead of looking at God's character from the context of his own circumstances. He concluded, "The sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights" (Hab.3:19).
Lord, it is easy to let my circumstances change how I understand You. Help me to remember that You are good and faithful, even though I can't see everything and may not understand how You are working.
OUR SITUATION MAY LOOK VERY DIFFERENT FROM GOD'S POINT OF VIEW.
Habukkuk 1:1-11

The prophecy that Habukkuk the prophet received.
How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" But you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong doing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous so that justice is perverted.
"Look at the nations and watch-and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their calvary gallops head-long; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour; they all come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They mock kings and scoff at rules. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they captured them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on-guilty people, whose own strength is their god."
Insight: The book of Habakkuk is a dialogue between the prophet Habakkuk and God. Ministering to the rebellious kingdom of Judah 120 years after Assyria destroyed the Northern kingdom of Israel, Habbakkuk was perplexed as to why God had not punished Judah for her sin (1:2-4). God responded that He would use the Babylonians to punish Judah (vv.5-11). Habakkuk was even more perplexed that a holy God would use an evil pagan nation to discipline His own people (1:12-2:1). He then learned that God would punish Babylon too (2:2-20). Habakkuk, praising God's faithfulness (3:1-15), affirms his trust in God to do what is right (vv.16-19).
by Sim Kay Tee
September 15th, 2017
GOD'S COMPASS
During World War II, small compasses saved the lives of 27 sailors 300 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Waldemar Semenov, a retired merchant seaman, was serving as a junior engineer aboard the SS Alcoa Guide Ship. The ship was hit, caught fire, and began to sink. Semenov and his crew lowered compass equipped life boats into the water and used the compasses to guide them toward the shipping lanes closer to shore. After three days, the men were rescued.
The psalmist reminded God's people that His word was a trustworthy "compass." He likened it to a lamp. In that day, the flickering light cast by an olive oil lamp was only bright enough to show a traveler his next step. To the psalmist, God's Word was such a lamp, providing enough light to illuminate the path for those pursuing God (PS. 119:105). When the psalmist was wondering in the dark on a chaotic path of life, he believed that God, through the guidance of His Word, would provide direction.
When we lose our bearings in life, we can trust our God who gives His trustworthy Word as our compass, using it to lead us into deeper fellowship with Him.
by Marvin Williams
Heavenly Father, it is difficult to navigate life. I drift sometimes, but I will trust You. You lead and guide me by the faithfulness and reliability of Your Word.
GOD HAS GIVEN US HIS WORD TO HELP US KNOW AND FOLLOW HIM.
Psalm 119:105-112

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
I have take an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. I have suffered much: Preserve my life, Lord, according to your word. Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.
Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. The wicked have set a snare for me. But I have not strayed from your precepts. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy in my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.
Insight: Many times we views rules and laws as restrictions on what we can and cannot do. It is tempting to see laws impinging on our freedom. However the psalmist clearly has a positive view of God's law. Instead of seeing it as limiting, the psalmist celebrates the law as something that gives him life (119:107,111). Since we live in a broken world, we need the guidance of god's Word to show us how to truly live.
by J.R. Hudberg

September 14th, 2017
WORDS AND ACTIONS
The email from the student in my college writing class expressed urgency. It was the end of the semester, and he realized, he needed a better grade to participate in sports. What could he do? He had missed some assignments, so I gave him two days to complete those papers and improve his grade. His response: "Thank you. I'll do it."
Two days-and the deadline-passed, and no papers appeared. He didn't back up his words with action.
Jesus told about a young man who did something similar. The boy's dad asked him to do some work in the vineyard. The son said, "I will, sir" (Matt.21:30). But he was all talk and no action.
In commenting on this parable, Matthew Henry concluded: "Buds and blossoms are not fruit." The buds and blossoms of our words, which breed anticipation of what we might do, are empty without the fruit of our follow-through. Jesus' main application was to religious leaders who spoke of obedience yet refused to follow through repentance. But the words apply to us as well. It is in following God "with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18)-not in making empty promises-that we honor our Lord and Savior.
Our actions in obeying God show Him more love, honor, and praise than any empty words we might say to try to appear good.
by Dave Branon
Dear Father, help me to follow through on my promises to You and to all who depend on me. Especially help me to do Your will and not just talk about it.
WORDS ARE THE BLOSSOMS, ACTION THE FRUIT.
Matthew 21:28-32

"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'
" 'I will not,' He answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.
"Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
"The first," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."
Insight: Matthew 21 describes several events in the life of Christ. This chapter opens with Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (vv.1-11) followed by the cleansing of the temple (vv.12-17) and the cursing of the fig tree (vv.18-22). Then the parable of the two sons follows a debate with religious leaders about Jesus' authority (vv.23-32). It is this issue that forms the context of the parable, for it deals with how the sons responded to authority. The son who did his father's wishes was the one who honored his father.
by Bill Crowder
September 13th, 2017
GOD SO LOVED....
July 28th, 2014, marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW1. In the British media, many discussions and documentaries recalled the start of that four-year conflict. Even the TV program Mr. Selfridge, which is based on an actual department store in London, including an episode set in 1914 that showed young male employees lining up to volunteer for the army. As I observed these portrails of self-sacrifice, I felt a lump in my throat. The soldiers they depicted had been so young, so eager, and so unlikely to return from the horror of the trenches.
Although Jesus didn't go off to war to defeat and earthly foe, He did go to the cross to defeat the ultimate enemy-sin and death. Jesus came to earth to demonstrate God's love in action and to die a horrendous death so that we could be forgiven of our sins. And He was even prepared to forgive the men who flogged and crucified Him (LUKE 23:34). He conquered death by His resurrection and now we can become part of God's forever family (John 3:13-16).
Anniversaries and memorials remind us of important historical events and heroic deeds. The cross reminds us of the pain of Jesus' death and the beauty of His sacrifice for our salvation
by Marion Stroud
Dear Lord, thank You for loving me so much that You left Your home in heaven, came to earth, and willingly went to the cross for me. Thank You for paying the penalty for my sins and forgiving me.
THE CROSS OF JESUS IS THE SUPREME EVIDENCE OF THE LOVE OF GOD.
John 3:13-19

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Insight: Jesus spoke of Himself as "The Son of Man" (John 3:13), a title used exclusively to refer to Himself in the Gospels. In today's passage, Jesus used it synonymously with "God's one and only Son" (v.18; See Matt.26:63-64). Jews who were familiar with the book of Daniel would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah (See Dan.7:13-14). Although "Son of Man" is a Messianic title, Jesus often used it in connection with His humiliation and suffering and His dying on the cross (Matt.12:40;17:9,12,22;LUKE 9:22,44;18:31-33;JOHN3:14-16). Making a typological reference to the bronze snake in Numbers 21:4-9, Jesus said that He too would be lifted up and anyone who looks to Him will not die but have eternal life (JOHN 3:14-15).
by Sim Kay Tee

September 12th, 2017
THE TWO BEARS
Some years ago, my wife, Caroline, and I spent a few days camping on the flanks of Mount Rainier in Washington State. When we were returning to our camp site one evening, we saw in the middle of a meadow, two male bears boxing each others ears. We stopped to watch.
There was a hiker near by, and I asked him what the conflict was about. "A young female," he said.
"Where is she?" I asked.
"Oh, she left about twenty minutes ago," he chuckled. Thus, I gathered, the conflict at this point was not about the female bear but about being the toughest bear.
Most fights aren't about policy and principle, or about right and wrong; they're almost always about pride. The wise man of Proverbs swings his ax at the root of the problem when he writes: "Pride leads to conflict" (13:10 NLT). Quarrels are fueled by pride, by needing to be right, by wanting our way, or by defending our turf or our egos.
On the other side, wisdom resides with the well-advised-those who listen and learn, those who allow themselves to be instructed. There is wisdom in those who humble themselves-those who set aside their own selfish ambition; who acknowledge the limits of their own understanding; who listen to the other person's point of view; who allow their own ideas to be corrected. This is the wisdom from God that spreads peace wherever it goes.
by David Roper
Dear heavenly Father, help me as I battle pride today. It's so easy to take my eyes off You and focus on myself. Give me a humble heart.
HUMILITY BRINGS WISDOM.
Proverbs 13:10-20

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects a command is rewarded.
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.
Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.
All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.
A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.
whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.
A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Insight: The book of Proverbs is often quoted for its practical down-to-earth advice for living. However, the pithy sayings that the book is noted for are not the only part of the book. Several entire chapters are dedicated to the virtue of wisdom and how important it is to every day life. Wisdom is more than quick wit; it is living life in pursuit of God and His plans for us.
by J.R. Hudberg
September 11th, 2017
IN THE GARDEN
My forefathers were pioneers in Michigan. They cleared the land, planted crops, and cultivated gardens to raise food for their families. This agrarian bent has been passed down through the generations. My dad grew up on a Michigan farm and loved gardening, which may explain why I love gardening and the smell of fertile soil. Cultivating plants that bear beautiful flowers and tending roses that fragrantly grace our yard with beauty are enjoyable pass times for me. If it weren't for the weeds it would be wonderful!
When I have to wrestle with the weeds, I am reminded of the garden of Eden; it was a perfect garden until Adam and Eve disobeyed God and thorns and thistles became a reality for them and every gardener since then (Gen.3:17-18).
The Bible also mentions another garden-the garden of Gethsemane where Christ, in deep distress, pleaded with His Father to find another way to reverse sin's consequences that were born in Eden. In Gethsemane, Jesus surrendered to His Father by uttering words of full obedience in the face of great pain: "Your will be done" (Matt.26:42).
Because Jesus surrendered in that garden, we now harvest the benefits of His amazing grace. May this lead us to surrender to His weeding of sin from our lives.
by Joe Stowell
Lord thank You for the amazing price You paid to free me from sin. May the reality of the victory You won encourage me to reject the sin that entangles my ability to be fruitful for You.
SPIRITUAL GROWTH OCCURS WHEN FAITH IS CULTIVATED
Matthew 26:36-42

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit if willing, but the flesh is weak."
He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done."
Insight: While Gethsemane is usually referred to as a "garden," it was in reality more like an orchard of olive trees. A portion of that orchard still remains today at the foot of the Mount of Olives, just across the Brook Kidrom from the old city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. From Gethsemane, you have a clear view of the Eastern Gate where it is believed the Messiah will enter Jerusalem when He returns to earth at His second coming. Imagine: In the shadow of the place where Jesus will be greatly honored as the arriving King is the Garden where His sufferings began.
by Bill Crowder
September 10th, 2017
HOLDING ME UP
After I no longer went on family road trips with my parents, it became a rare occasion to visit my grandparents who lived hundreds of miles away from us. So one year, I decided to fly to visit them in the small town of Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin, for a long weekend. As we drove to the airport for my return flight, Grandma who had never flown, began to express her fears to me: "That was such a small plane you flew on... There's nothing really holding you up there, is there?... I will be so afraid to go up that high."
By the time I boarded the small aircraft, I was as fearful as the first time I had flown. What exactly is holding up this plane, anyway?
Irrational fears, or even legitimate ones, don't need to terrify us. David lived as a fugitive, afraid of King Saul who relentlessly pursued him because he was jealous of David's popularity with the people. David found true solace and comfort only in his relationship with God. In Psalm 34 he wrote: "I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears" (v.4).
Our Father in heaven is all-wise and all-loving. When fear starts to overwhelm us, we need to stop and remember that He is our God and He will always hold us up.
by Cindy Hess Kasper
My fears sometimes overwhelm me, Father. Yet I know that You are here with me. May Your perfect love cast out my fear and still my troubled heart!
WHEN WE BELIEVE THAT GOD IS GOOD, WE CAN LEARN TO RELEASE OUR FEARS.
Psalm 34:1-7

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Obimelek, who drove him away, and he left.
I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
Insight: The superscription to Psalm 34 gives the occasion for David writing this song of deliverance. While a fugitive from the jealous King Saul, David foolishly took refuge in the Philistine territory of Gath (1 Sam.21:10-15). This was a dangerous thing to do because Gath was the hometown of Goliath (17:23). When the Philistines realized that David was the Jew who had slain their champion Goliath, they captured him (21:11-13). Aware that his life was now in danger, David feigned insanity and the ploy succeeded for he was released and made his escape. In response to God's deliverance, David wrote, "I sought the Lord, and he answered me" (Ps.34:4).
by Sim Kay Tee

September 8th, 2017
GOD'S PLANS
An army officer may have an overall plan but before each battle he has to receive and give out new instructions. After God's people spent forty years in the wilderness, God chose Joshua to lead them into the land He had promised to them.
The first stronghold they faced was the city of Jericho. Before the battle, Joshua saw the "commander of the Lord's army" (probably the Lord Himself) standing opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. Joshua fell on his face and worshiped. In other words, he recognized God's greatness and his own smallness. Then he asked, "What message does my Lord have for His servant?" (Josh.5:14). Joshua experienced victory at Jericho because he followed the Lord's instructions.
On another occasion, however, Joshua and his people "Did not inquire of the Lord" (9:14). As a result, they were deceived into making a peace treaty with the people of Gibeon, enemies in the land of Canaan. This displeased the Lord (vv.3-26).
We too are dependent on the Lord as we face life's struggles. He longs for us to come near to Him today in humility. And He'll be there again for us tomorrow.
by Keila Ochoa
In what area do you need God's guidance today? Ask God to lead the way.
SPIRITUAL VICTORY COMES TO THOSE WHO HUMBLE THEMSELVES AND SEEK GOD'S WILL.
Joshua 5:13-6:2

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither," he replied, "But as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"
The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandels for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men."
Insight: Easton's Bible dictionary provides some insight into the life of Joshua. He was "the son of nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, the successor of Moses as the leader of Israel....He was born in Egypt, and was probably of the age of Caleb, with whom he is generally associated. He shared in all the events of the exodus, and held the place of commander of the host of the Israelites at their great battle against Amalekites in Rephidim. He became Moses' minister or servant, and accompanied him part of the way when he ascended Mount Sinai to receive the two tablets. He was also one of the twelve who were sent on by Moses to explore the land of Canaan, and only he and Caleb gave an encouraging report."
by Bill Crowder

September 7th, 2017
RIPPLES OF HOPE
In 1966, U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy made an influential visit to South Africa. There he offered words of hope to opponents of apartheid in his famous "Ripple of Hope" speech at the University of Cape Town. In his speech, he declared, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against in justice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
At times in this world, hope seems scarce. Yet there is an ultimate hope readily available for the follower of Christ. Peter wrote, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet.1:3).
Through the certainty of Christ's resurrection, the child of God has a hope that is more than a ripple. It is an overwhelming current of confidence in the faithfulness of the One who conquered death for us. Jesus, in His victory over death-our greatest enemy-can infuse hope into the most hopeless of situations.
by Bill Crowder
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
by Edward Mote
IN CHRIST THE HOPELESS FIND HOPE
1 Peter 1:3-9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater of worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Insight: Peter wrote this letter to encourage believers in Asia Minor (Modern-day Turkey) who were suffering because of persecution. He tells them that their sufferings serve a divine purpose by proving the genuineness and quality of their faith (1:7). These believers can "greatly rejoice" (v.6) because they have "a living hope" that is eternal, guaranteed by the risen Christ, and divinely reserved by God (vv.3-4). Suffering believers have the privilege of following Jesus' example (2:21), participating not only in His sufferings, but also in His glory (1:7;4:13). They have the opportunity and responsibility to tell others about their living hope (3:15).
by Sim Kay Tee
September 6th, 2017
TO BE CONTINUED...
Growing up in the 1950s, I often attended the Saturday matinee at a local movie theater. Along with cartoons and a feature film, there was an adventure serial that always ended with the hero or heroine facing an impossible situation. There seemed to be no way out, but each episode concluded with the words "to be continued..."
The apostle Paul was no stranger to life-threatening situations. He was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and ship wreaked as he sought to take the good news of Jesus Christ to people. He knew that some day he would die, but he never considered that to be the end of the story. Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, "When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory'" (1 Cor.15:54). The passion of Paul's life was telling others that Jesus our Savior gave His life on the cross so that through faith in Him we can receive forgiveness for all our sins and have eternal life.
We are not like the movie hero who always escapes certain death. The day will come when our earthly lives will end either by death or Christ's return. But by God's grace and mercy, the story of your life and mine is "to be continued."
by David McCasland
Father, we praise You for Your gift of eternal life and say with Paul, "Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor.15:57).
IN LIFE AND DEATH, CHRIST IS OUR HOPE
1 Corinthians 15:50-58

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
When the perishable has been clothed with imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Insight: Paul wrote chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians in response to those in the church at Corinth who denied that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. This chapter is divided into two sections. In verses 1-34, Paul discuses the reasons to believe that Jesus did in fact walk out of His tomb. In verses 35-57, Paul talks about the need for and the nature of our resurrected bodies. These verses lead to Paul's concluding point in verse 58. While waiting for our resurrection, "Give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
by J.R. Hudberg

September 5th, 2017
LOVE LOCKS
"Love Locks" is a growing phenomenon. Thousands of people in love have attached these love padlocks to bridges, gates, and fences around the world, including France, China, Austria, Czech Republic, Serbia, Spain, Mexico, Northern Ireland. Couples in engrave their names on a padlock and then attach it in a public place to symbolize their everlasting love. Authorities of some landmarks frown upon them because of the danger they can cause if too many are attached. Some think they are acts of vandalism, while others view them as beautiful art and a picture of committed love.
The Lord showed us true "everlasting love" in a public place. He displayed His love on the cross when He gave His life to provide forgiveness of sin. And He continues to show us His love on a daily basis. Salvation is not only a promise that we'll have eternity with God, but it is also a daily experience of forgiveness, assurance, provision, and grace in our relationship with Him. Jesus' love for us is the basis of Paul's challenge to "walk in the way of love" toward others (Eph.5:2).
The love of our Father enables us to be patient and kind. In His Son He has given us the ultimate example and means of loving one another-forever.
Anne Ceatas
In what ways have you learned to love others? What action would you take today to grow in love?
JESUS SHOWS US HOW TO LOVE.
Ephesians 4:29-5:2

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy
Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Insight: The Church Ephesus was blessed with strong leadership. It was founded by the apostle Paul (Acts 18-19), who spent no less than three years there teaching those who came to Christ and reaching out with the gospel to those who did not know the Savior (20:20,31). He also provided direction and instruction to the elders of that church when he returned to Jerusalem following his third missionary journey (vv.18-35). Additionally, Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to instruct them concerning false teachers and to keep them from stumbling spiritually (1 Tim.1:3-4). Finally, tradition says that the apostle John spent his final years serving in the church at Ephesus. What a rich tradition of leadership this church.
by Bill Crowder

September 4th, 2017
PEOPLE POWER
A man was boarding a train in Perth, Australia, when he slipped and his leg got caught in the gap between the train carriage and the station platform. Dozens of passengers quickly came to his rescue. They used their sheer might to tilt the train away from the platform and the trapped man was freed! The train services spokesman, David Hynes said in an interview, "Everyone sort of pitched in. It was people power that saved someone from possibly quite serious injury."
In Ephesians 4, we read that people power is God's plan for building up His family. He has given each of us a special gift of His grace (v.7) for the specific purpose that "the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work" (v.16).
Every person has a job to do in God's family; there are no spectators. In God's family we weep and laugh together. We bear each others burdens. We pray for and encourage one another. We challenge and help each other to turn from sin. Show us, Father, our part in helping Your family today.
by Poh Fang Chia
Are you a spectator or a participant? What gifts do you have? In what ways can God use you to help others grow closer to Him?
WE NEED EACH OTHER TO GET TO WHERE GOD WANTS US TO GO.
Ephesians 4:7-16

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people."
(What does "He ascended" mean accept that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Insight: The various types of spiritual gifts are listed in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:7-30, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11. That no two lists are identical would suggest that each list is not exhaustive. God intends that we use these grace gifts to serve, instruct, encourage, edify, equip, and empower the church so as to glorify Him (1 Cor.14:4-5,26,31;Eph4:12;1Peter 4:10-11). In Ephesians 4, Paul highlights the teaching gifts that help build up and mature the church (vv.11-16). Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are gifted in proclaiming and teaching the Word of God.
by Sim Kay Tee

September 3rd, 2017
THE TYRANNY OF THE PERFECT
Doctor Brian Goldman obsessively tried to be perfect in treating his patients. But on a nationally broadcast show he admitted to mistakes he had made. He revealed that he had treated a woman in the emergency room and then made the decision to discharge her. Later that day a nurse asked him, "Do you remember that patient you sent home? Well, she's back." The patient had been readmitted to the hospital and then died. This devastated him. He tried even harder to be perfect, only to learn the obvious: Perfection is impossible.
As Christians, we may harbor unrealistic expectations of perfection for ourselves. But even if we can somehow manage the appearance of a flawless life, our thoughts and motives are never completely pure.
John the disciple wrote, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). The remedy is not to hide our sins and strive harder, but to step into the light of God's truth and confess them. "If we walk in the light," said John, "as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son purifies us from all sin" (V.7).
What if Christians were known not for hiding their sins but for loving and supporting each other with the truth and grace of our God? What if we practiced a risky yet healthy honesty with each other and with the watching world?
by Tim Gustafson
Father, its so difficult for us to share our faults with each other, but You call us to wholeness as Your people. Empower us by Your Spirit to live courageously in love and honesty.
HONESTY WITH GOD ABOUT OUR SINS BRINGS FORGIVENESS.
1 John 1:5-2:2

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
My dear children, I write these things to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father-Jesus Christ, the righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Insight: Verse 9 of today's passage is one of the most well-known verses in the New Testament. It speaks of the faithfulness of God to forgive our sins when we confess them. But it is interesting to note that verses 6-10 begin "if." The word if ties results to our actions. John is saying that our condition-walking in darkness or walking in light (vv.6-7) and being deceived or being forgiven (vv.8-9)-depends on the choices we make. Although in our standing with God we are eternally forgiven through Christ's sacrifice, we will miss out on fellowship with God when we neglect confession of sin.
by J.R. Hudberg

September 1, 2017
AGE IS NOT A FACTOR
After owning and working at his dental lab for fifty years, Dave Bowman planned to retire and take it easy. Diabetes and heart surgery confirmed his decision. But when he heard about a group of young refugees from Sudan who needed help, he made a life-changing decision. He agreed to sponsor five of them.
As Dave learned more about these young Sudanese men, he discovered that they had never been to a doctor or a dentist. Then one day in church someone mentioned the verse, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it" (1 Cor.12:26). He couldn't get the verse out of his mind. Sudanese Christians were suffering because they needed medical care, and Dave sensed that God was telling him to do something about it. But what?
Despite his age and bad health, Dave began exploring the possibility of building a medical center in Sudan. Little by little, God brought together the people and the resources, and in 2008 Memorial Christian Hospital opened its doors to patients. Since then, hundreds of sick and injured people have been treated there.
Memorial Christian Hospital stands as a reminder that God cares when people suffer. And often He works through people like us to share His care-even when we think our work is done.
by Julie Ackerman Link
Do you see a need that God may be calling you to meet? Pray and ask Him to help you step out in faith.
GOD CARES WHEN PEOPLE SUFFER.
1 Corinthians 12:12-26

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body-whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, "because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that would seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored every part rejoices with it.

August 31st, 2017
DON'T DELAY
For many years I spoke to my distant cousin about our need of a Savior. When he visited me recently and I once again urged him to receive Christ, his immediate response was: "I would like to accept Jesus and join the church, but not yet. I live among people of other faiths. Unless I relocate, I will not be able to practice my faith well." He cited persecution, ridicule, and pressure from his peers as excuses to postpone his decision.
His fears were legitimate, but I assured him that whatever happened, God would not abandon him. I encouraged my cousin not to delay but to trust God for care and protection. He gave up his defenses, acknowledged his need of Christ's forgiveness, and trusted him as his personal Savior.
When Jesus invited people to follow Him, they too offered excuses-all about being busy with the cares of this world (Luke 9:59-62). The Lord's answer to them (vv.60-62) urges us not to let excuses deprive us of the most important thing in life: The salvation of our souls.
Do you hear God calling you to commit your life to Him? Do not delay: "Now is the excepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor.6:2).
Come to the Savior, make no delay-Here in His Word He's shown us the way; here in our midst He's standing today, tenderly saying, "Come!"
by George F. Root
TODAY IS THE DAY OF SALVATION.
Luke 9:57-62

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go."
And Jesus said to Him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head."
Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But He said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."
And another also said, "Lord I will follow you, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."
But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom God."
Insight: Although large crowds followed Jesus wherever He went (Luke 5:15;8:42;9:11;14:25), Jesus knew that not all who followed Him were genuine disciples (John 6:66). Jesus taught often of the radical commitment needed if we want to follow Him. We are to love Him above all else, even our own life (Mark 10:17-22; Luke 9:23-27). In today's passage, Jesus warns that following Him may not be easy and comfortable. It requires precedence over all other relationships, a single-minded focus, wholehearted pursuit, and an undivided commitment (vv.59-62). God in His great mercy has given every believer the Holy Spirit to help us live a life that is pleasing to Him.
by Sim Kay Tee

August 31st 2017
VERIFY THE TRUTH
A deadly jumbo spider has migrated to the US and is killing people. This was the story sent to me and to others on my friend's email list. The story sounded plausible-lots of scientific names and real-life situations. But when I checked it out on reliable websites I found it was not true-it was an internet hoax. Its truth could only be verified by consulting a trusted source.
A group of first-century believers living in Macedonia understood the importance of confirming what they were hearing. The folks in Berea "received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts. 17:11). They were listening to Paul, and wanted to make sure what he was saying lined up with the teachings of the Old Testament. Perhaps he was telling them that there was evidence in the Old Testament that the Messiah would suffer and die for sin. They needed to verify that with the source.
When we hear spiritual ideas that disturb us, we need to be cautious. We can search the Scriptures for ourselves, listen to trustworthy sources, and seek wisdom from Jesus, our Lord.
by Dave Branon
Please give us discernment, Lord, to except only truth that is rooted in Your Word. We praise You for preserving the inspired Scriptures for us-now help us to use them to seek You.
GOD'S TRUTH STANDS ANY TEST.
Acts 17:19-13

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded then those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the Word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds.
Insight: The book of Acts is largely concerned with the beginnings of the Christian Church and specifically with the conversion and subsequent missionary efforts of Paul. Today's short passage underscores the fact that the gospel is open to all. In verse 12 Luke specifically mentions Greek men and women among those who believed at Berea. Because Paul was teaching in a Jewish synagogue (v.10), this is a remarkable statement about the universal offer of salvation.
by J.R. Hudberg

August 29th, 2017
BABY STEPS
My baby is learning to walk. I have to hold her, and she clings to my fingers because she is still unsteady on her feet. She is afraid of slipping, but I'm there to steady her and watch over her. As she walks with my help, her eyes sparkle with gratitude, happiness and security. But sometimes she cries when I don't let her take dangerous paths not realizing that I am protecting her.
Like my baby girl, we often need someone to watch over us, to guide and steady us in our spiritual walk. And we have that someone-God our Father-who helps His children to walk, guides our steps, holds our hand, and keeps us on the right path.
King David knew all about the need for God's watchful care in his life. In Psalm 18, he describes how God gives us strength and guidance when we are lost or confused (v.32). He keeps our feet steady, like the feet of the deer that can climb high places without slipping (v.33). And if we do slip, His hand is there for us (V.35).
Whether we are new believers just learning to walk in the faith or we are further along in our walk with God, all of us need His guiding, steadying hand.
by Keila Ochoa
Dear Father, hold my hand and lead me in the paths of right living.
GOD WATCHES OVER ME EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.
Psalm 18:31-36

For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have also given me the shield of Your salvation. Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip.
Insight: Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote of Psalm 18: "It should be observed that the words of this song were not composed with the view of gratifying the taste of men, but were spoken unto Jehovah. It were well if we had a more single eye to the honour of the Lord in our singing...That praise is little worth which is not directed solely and heartily to the Lord. David might well be thus direct in his gratitude, for he owed all to his God, and in the day of his deliverance he had none to thank but the Lord, whose right hand had preserved him. We too should feel that to God and God alone we owe the greatest debt of honor and thanksgiving."
by Bill Crowder

August 28th, 2017
DISAPPOINTING HEROES
A recent book that puts a fictional flavor on a slice of US history portrays Old West gunslingers Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday as shiftless bums. In an interview with National Public Radio, the author said the real Earp, "He didn't do anything remarkable his whole life, ever." Through the years, in books and Hollywood movies, they've become heroes. Yep reputable historical accounts show that they were not.
In contrast the Bible is full of flawed people who became real heroes. But don't lose sight of the vital source of their heroic actions. The object of their faith was God, who chooses flawed human beings for His remarkable purposes.
As biblical heroes go, Moses stands tall. We tend to forget that he was a murderer, and a reluctant leader who once directed a rant of God: "Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly?" he demanded. "What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them?" (Num.11:11-12NLT).
How very human of Moses! And yet Hebrews reminds us: "Moses was certainly faithful in God's house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later" (Heb. 3:5 NLT).
Real heroes point to the hero who never disappoints. "Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses" (v.3NLT).
by Tim Gustafson
Lord, than You for being the only Hero we can rely on without fail. Help us not to conceal our flaws and mistakes, but to give them to you. We trust You to use us for Your good purpose.
LOOKING FOR SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T DISAPPOINT YOU? LOOK TO JESUS.
Hebrews 3:1-6

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
Insight: The book of Hebrews was written to encourage Jewish Christians who were facing persecution and hardship for their faith and were now in danger of drifting away and reverting back to Judaism. The writer warns them against abandoning Christ (2:1-3; 3:7-15; 6:4-6;10:26-31) and presents the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus as Savior. Jesus is superior to the angels (chs. 5-7), to Moses (chs. 3-4), and to the Aaronic priesthood (chs. 5-7), and He is the perfect High Priest (chs. 8-10). In today's passage Moses is compared to Christ. While Moses was one of God's most faithful servants, Jesus is far greater than Moses because Jesus is God's Son (vv.5-6).
by Sim Kay Tee

August 27th, 2017
PURPOSE IN ROUTINE
A rolling-ball clock in the British Museum struck me as a vivid illustration of the deadening effects of routine. A small steel ball traveled in grooves across a tilted steel plate until it tripped a lever on the other side. This tilted the plate back in the opposite direction, reversed the direction of the ball and advanced the clock hands. Every year, the steel ball traveled some 2,500 miles back and forth, but never really went anywhere.
Its easy for us to feel trapped by our daily routine when we can't see a larger purpose. The apostle Paul longed to be effective in making the gospel of Christ known. "I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air" (1 Cor.9:26 NIV). Anything can become monotonous-traveling, preaching, teaching, and especially being confined in prison. Yet Paul believed he could serve Christ His Lord in every situation.
Routine becomes lethal when we can't see a purpose in it. Paul's vision reached beyond any limiting circumstance because he was in the race of faith to keep going until he crossed the finish line. By including Jesus in every aspect of his life, Paul found meaning even in the routine of life.
And so can we.
by David McCasland
Lord, give us renewed vision and energy to pursue the goal of making Christ known in the midst of our daily routine.
JESUS CAN TRANSFORM OUR ROUTINE INTO MEANINGFUL SERVICE FOR HIM.
1 Corinthians 9:19-27

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews, to those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Insight: To illustrate his unwavering resolve to preach the gospel to as many people as possible (1 Cor.9:18-23), Paul used two athletic metaphors- a runner who keeps his eye on the finish line, and the targeted and precise punches of a boxer. These examples picture passion, focus, commitment, dedication, and hard work needed to carry out his resolve. In 2nd Timothy 4:7-8, Paul used the same two metaphors. While athletes compete to win a prize bestowed by men, Paul sought to win an eternal crown awarded by Jesus. Faithful believers will receive various types of crowns as their reward ( 2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Rev. 2:10).
by J.R. Hudberg
August 26th, 2017
WHEN THINGS DON'T GO WELL
The first words that many people like to quote when misfortune hits are: "We know that all things work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose" (ROM. 8:28). But that's hard to believe in hard times. I once sat with a man who had lost his third son in a row, and I listened as he lamented, "How can this tragedy work for my good?" I had no answer but to sit silently and mourn with him. Several months later, he was thankful as he said, "My sorrow is drawing me closer to God."
Tough as Romans 8:28 may be to understand, countless testimonies give credence to the truth of it. The story of hymn writer Fanny Crosby is a classic example. The world is the beneficiary of her memorable hymns, yet what worked together for good, was born out of her personal tragedy, for she became blind at the age of 5. At only age 8, she began to write poetry and hymns. Writing over 8,000 sacred songs as "Blessed Assurance," "Safe in the Arms of Jesus," and "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior." God used her difficulty to bring good for her and us and glory for Him.
When tragedy befalls us, its hard to understand how anything good can come from it, and we won't always see it in this life. But God has good purposes and always remains with us.
What trial in your life have you found to be for your good? What good things have come from it? What are you now suffering that you pray will bring something good?
GOD ALWAYS HAS GOOD PURPOSES FOR OUR TRIALS.
Romans 8:28-30

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Insight: Romans 8:28 is often given as a promise to comfort and encourage those who are going through difficult and painful times. This promise is all-encompassing, for "all things" must include the good and the bad circumstances of life. It assures us that God is not absent and is sovereignly working in all things for our good. Although He may seem silent or even out of sight, nothing is ever wasted in the hands of God. The Old Testament equivalent of Romans 8:28 is Genesis 50:20: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good" (NLT). Romans 8:28 is a promise with a redemptive purpose, for God wants us "to become like his Son" (v.29 NLT).

August 24th, 2017
COMING ALONGSIDE
When my sister Carole was diagnosed with breast cancer, our family worried. That diagnosis, with its surgeries and treatments caused us to fear for her well-being, which drove our family to pray on her behalf. Over the ensuing months, Carole's updates were honest about the challenges. But we all celebrated when the report came back that the surgery and treatments had been successful. Carole was on the road to recovery!
Then, less than a year later, my sister Linda faced the same battle. Immediately, Carole came alongside Linda, helping her understand what to expect and how to prepare for what she would face. Carole's experience had equipped her to walk with Linda though her own trial. This is what Paul calls for in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, where we read,: 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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
Thankfully, the Lord doesn't waste anything. Our struggles not only give us an opportunity to experience His comfort, but they also open the door for us to share that comfort with others in their struggles.
by Bill Crowder
Today, how can I be an encouragement to others whose hearts are weighed down by the cares of life?
GOD'S PRESENCE BRINGS US COMFORT; OUR PRESENCE BRINGS OTHERS COMFORT.
2 Corinthians 1:3-11

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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effected for enduring the same the sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: That we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
Insight: This passage demonstrates how our personal pain can help others who suffer. Paul uses the word comfort both vertically and horizontally. God extends comfort to us. We experience His comfort. Then we can offer comfort to others. In this way, our pain can become a conduit of care for those in distress and lead to gratitude in the midst of pain. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (v.3).
by Dennis Fisher

August 23rd, 2017
TURN IT OFF
When our kids were young, we took a trip to N.Wisconsin to visit my grandparents. They didn't get very good reception on their television, but TV wasn't much of a priority with them. After I had seen our son Scott fiddling with the TV set for awhile, he asked with frustration, "What do you do if you can get only one channel and you don't like what's on that one?"
"Try turning it off," I said with a smile. Not exactly the advice he was hoping for. Its even more difficult to do now, especially when there are so many devices that entertain, inform, and distract us.
Sometimes we do need to just turn it all off and rest our minds for a little while; we simply need to "unplug." Jesus often drew aside for a time-especially when He wanted to take time to pray (Matt.14:13). He encouraged the disciples to step away as well-even for a brief time (Mark 6:31). That kind of solitude and time for reflection is beneficial for each of us. In those moments we are able to draw near to God.
Follow the example and wisdom of Christ. Get away by yourself and "rest awhile." It will be good for your body, mind, and spirit.
by Cindy Hess Casper
Lord, help me to seek those things which are from above. I want to turn off all that distracts me and draw near to You.
TURNING DOWN THE VOLUME OF LIFE ALLOWS YOU TO LISTEN CAREFULLY TO GOD.
Mark 6:30-32,45-47

Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves....
Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land.
Insight: Mark 6 is a pivotal chapter in this gospel account. It begins with the people of Jesus' hometown of Nazareth rejecting Him (vv.1-6). This experience is compounded by the death of John the Baptist (vv.14-29)-a person Jesus loved and honored (Matt.11:1-11;14:1-13). These moments of difficulty, however, did not impede Jesus' continuing work. The chapter concludes with two of His most notable miracles: His feeding of the multitude (vv.30-44) and His walking on water (vv.45-56). Great heartache and power combined to make this chapter so strategic in Mark's gospel.
by Bill Crowder

August 22nd 2017
IT'S WHAT WE DO
My father was critically injured when he took a bullet in the leg as a second lieutenant leading his men on Hill 609 in N.Africa during WW2. Dad was never again 100 percent physically. I was born several years after this, and when I was young I didn't even know he had been wounded. I found out later when someone told me. Although he felt constant pain in his leg, my dad never complained about it, and he never used it as an excuse for not providing for our family.
My parents loved the Savior and raised us to love, trust, and serve Him. Through good times and bad, they simply trusted God, worked hard, and loved us unconditionally. Proverbs 14:26 says that "Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge" (NIV). My dad did that for our family.
No matter what difficulties he faced, he provided a safe place for us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
We parents can provide a safe haven for our families with the help of our perfect heavenly Father, whose love for His children is deep and eternal.
by Dave Branon
How has God been a Father to you? In what ways do you honor Him in Your family life?
THE FATHER'S LOVE KNOWS NO LIMIT.
Psalms 1:12

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.
His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.
Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; he will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies.
He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted with honor. The wicked will see it and be grieved; he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish.
Insight: This psalm is the second of a series of "Hallelujah Psalms" (Pss.111-117), so named because they all begin with "Hahelu-Yah" or "Praise the Lord." Psalm 112 develops the concluding thought of Psalm 111:10: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." Psalm 112 celebrates the blessedness of the person who diligently and lovingly obeys the Lord's commands (V.1). That person is honorable, gracious, kind, honest, and known for integrity (vv.5-9). In contrast, the psalm describes the emptiness and the grievous end of the wicked (V.10).
by Sim Kay Tee

August 21st, 2017
CONTINUING WITH CHRIST
As a child, my favorite week of the summer was the one I spent at a Christian youth camp. At the end of the week, I'd sit elbow to elbow with friends in front of an enormous bonfire. There we would share what we had learned about God and the Bible and sing. One song I still remembered focused on deciding to follow Jesus. The chorus contained an important phrase: "No turning back."
When Elisha decided to follow the prophet Elijah, Elisha did something incredible that made it difficult, impossible really, for him to return to his prior occupation of farming. After going home and having a farewell banquet, Elisha "took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them" (1 Kings 19:21). Leaving his way of life, he burned up his plowing equipment. He roasted the freshly butchered meat over the blaze and fed everyone present. Then "[Elisha] arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant" (V.21).
Giving ourselves to God, who deserves our devotion, often comes with a price. At times, it means making difficult decisions about relationships, finances, and living arrangements. However, nothing compares with what we gain when we continue on with Christ. Jesus said, "Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matt.16:25).
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Father, help me to see if there's something You want me to leave behind to follow You completely.
JESUS IS LOOKING FOR FULL TIME FOLLOWERS.
1st Kings 19:19-21

So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yolk of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, "Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you."
And he said to him, "Go back again, for what have I done to you?"
So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.
Insight: It is often difficult to understand the significance of some events in Scripture without a knowledge of the cultural context. Today's story of Elijah and Elisha is an example of this. Two elements that carry significance are the placing of the cloak on Elisha (19:19 NIV) and the slaughtering of the oxen to feed the people (V.21). The placing of the cloak represented a significant calling. A person could not simply choose to be Elijah's apprentice; that person was chosen and it was a great honor. The slaughtering of the oxen, the burning of the plowing equipment, and the feeding of the people signified a deliberate leaving of Elisha's former life to follow Elijah. It was a public statement of Elisha's new identity.
by J.R. Hudberg

August 20th, 2017
WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
Mary enjoyed her midweek church group meeting when she and several friends gathered to pray, worship, and discuss questions from the previous weeks sermon. This week they were going to talk about the difference between "going" to church and "being" the church in a hurting world. She was looking forward to seeing her friends and having a lively discussion.
As she picked up her car keys, the doorbell rang. "I'm so sorry to bother you," said her neighbor Sue, "but are you free this morning?" Mary was about to say that she was going out when Sue continued, "I have to take my car to the repair shop. Normally I would walk or cycle home, but I've hurt my back and can't do either at the moment." Mary hesitated for a heartbeat and then smiled. "Of course," she said.
Mary knew her neighbor only by sight. But as she drove her home, she learned about Sue's husband's battle with dementia and the utter exhaustion that being a caregiver can bring with it. She listened, sympathized, and promised to pray. She offered to help in any way she could.
Mary didn't get to church that morning to talk about sharing her faith. Instead she took a little bit of Jesus' love to her neighbor who was in a difficult situation.
by Marion Stroud
Lord, help me to be ready at any time to be Your hands and feet to those in need.
FAITH IS SEEN IN OUR ACTIONS.
Luke 10:30-37

Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked at him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds pouring on oil and wine and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an Inn and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denari, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'
"So which of these there do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"
And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Insight: Samaritans lived in the territory between Galilee (to the north) and Judea (to the south). Historically they were Jews who, when conquered by the Assyrians, intermarried with their conquerors and lost their ethnic purity as Jews. For this reason Samaritans were despised by Jews who would not even travel through Samaria, choosing instead to travel around that land. This makes it stunning that Jesus would chose a hated Samaritan as the hero of this parable and an example of one who was a neighbor
by Bill Crowder

August 19th, 2017
UNDER SIEGE
During the Bosnian War (1992-1996), more than ten thousand people-civilians and soldiers-were killed in the city of Sarajevo as gun fire and mortar rounds reigned down from the surrounding hills. Steven Galloway's gripping novel The Cellist of Sarajevo unfolds there, during the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. The book follows three fictional characters who must decide if they will become completely self-absorbed in their struggle to survive, or will somehow rise above their numbing circumstances to consider others during a time of great adversity.
From a prison in Rome Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, saying: "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others" (Phil.2:4). Paul cited Jesus as the great example of a selfless focus on others: "Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, ...made Himself of no reputation...humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (vv.5-8). Rather than seeking sympathy from others, Jesus gave all He had to rescue us from the tyranny of sin.
Our continuing challenge as followers of Jesus is to see through His eyes and respond to the needs of others in His strength, even in our own difficult times.
by David McCasland
Are you going through something hard right now? What can you still do for another?
EMBRACING GOD'S LOVE FOR US IS THE KEY TO LOVING OTHERS.
Philippians 2:1-11

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Insight: The words that Paul penned to the Philippian church was he was under house arrest are some of the most challenging. There is so much in this short letter that goes against our natural inclinations. From prison, Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to "Make His joy complete" (2:2 NIV). Paul is joyful while in prison because of his faith in Christ and he encouraged the believers to add to his joy by looking out for one another and counting others as more important than themselves. Paul then uses Jesus as the example of this kind of selflessness. In taking on humanity, Jesus gave up everything that was rightfully His to come to our rescue.
by J.R. Hudberg

August 17, 2017
BAKING WITH JESS
One morning as Lilia prepared for work, her four-year-old daughter Jess set to work too. The family had purchased a conveyor toaster and the concept of cycling bread though the small counter top over fascinated Jess. Minutes later, Lila discovered a load and a half of toast piled up on the counter. "I'm a very good baker!" Jess declared.
Its no miracle that an inquisitive girl could turn bread into toast. But when Jesus transformed a boy's five loaves and two fish into a meal for thousands, the crowd on the hillside recognized the miraculous nature of the event and wanted to make Him king (see John 6:1-15).
Jesus' kingdom, of course, is "not of this world" (John 18:36), and so He slipped away. When the crowd found Him the next day, Christ identified a flaw in their motives: "You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ached of the loaves and were filled" (6:26). They mistakenly thought "King" Jesus would give them full stomachs and national freedom. But Jesus counseled them, "Do not labor for the food which parishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life" (v. 27).
An earthbound view will cause us to treat Jesus as a means to an end. He is, in fact, our Bread of Life.
by Tim Gustafson
Lord, our cares and worries can keep us from a genuine relationship with You. May we see You as our very food and not only as our divine problem-solver.
SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND ALL THESE THINGS WILL BE ADDED TO YOU. ...JESUS
John 6:22-34

On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which his disciples had entered and that Jesus has not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone-however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks-when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?"
Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has said His seal on Him."
Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' "
Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always."

August 16th, 2017
SILENT HELPER
The discovery of penicillin revolutionized health care. Prior to the 1940's, bacterial infections were often fatal. Since then, penicillin has saved countless lives by killing harmful bacteria. The men who recognized its potential and developed it for widespread use won a Nobel Prize in 1945.
Long before the discovery of penicillin, other silent killers were at work saving lives by destroying bacteria. These silent killers are white blood cells. These hard workers are God's way of protecting us from disease. No one knows how many invasions they have stopped or how many lives they have saved. They receive little recognition for all the good they do.
The Lord gets similar treatment. He often gets blamed when something goes wrong, but He seldom gets credit for all the things that go right. Every day people get up, get dressed, drive to work or school or the grocery store, and return safely to their families. No one knows how many times God has protected us from harm. But when there is a tragedy, we ask, "Where was God?"
When I consider all the wonderful things that God does silently on my behalf each day (Isa.25:1), I see that my list of praises is much longer than my list of petitions.
by Julie Ackerman Link
In what ways does God's goodness undergird your life? What are you thanking Him for today?
GOD KEEPS GIVING US REASONS TO PRAISE HIM.
Isaiah 25:1-9

O Lord You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. For You have made a city a ruin, a fortified city a ruin, a palace of foreigners to be a city no more; it will never be rebuilt. Therefore the strong people will glorify You; the city of the terrible nations will fear You. For You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the need in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the blast of the terrible one's is as a storm against the wall. You will reduce the noise of aliens, as heat in a dry place; as heat in the shadow of a cloud, the song of the terrible ones will be diminished.
And in this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well re-fined wines on the lees. And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.
And it will be said in that day: "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
Insight: Isaiah 25 opens with a call to worship and praise God. Interestingly, the motivation behind this praise is God's work of judgment and destruction. Normally we praise Him for His rescue and salvation, but here praise is offered for acts of judgment.
by Bill Crowder

August 15th, 2017
THE WAVING GIRL
In the late 1800's and early 1900's a familiar sight greeted ships as they pulled into the port of Savannah, Georgia. That sight was Florence Martus, "The Waving Girl." For forty four year, Florence greeted the great ships from around the word, waving a handkerchief by day or a lantern by night. Today, a statue of Florence and her faithful dog stands in Savannah's Morrell Park, permanently welcoming incoming vessels.
There is something in a warm welcome that speaks of acceptance. In Romans 15:7, Paul urged his readers: "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you" (NIV). Paul had in view our treatment of each other as followers of Christ, for in verses 5-6 he challenged us to live in harmony with one another. The key is to have "the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (NIV).
Our acceptance of our fellow believers in Christ demonstrates more than just our love for each other- it reflects the great love of the One who has permanently welcomed us into His family.
by Bill Crowder
Father, give me a heart for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Please give us, together, a heart for one another, so that we will love and honor You in all we do.
THE CLOSER CHRISTIANS GET TO CHRIST THE CLOSER THEY GET TO ONE ANOTHER.
Romans 15:1-7

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me." For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
Insight: In Romans 14:1-15:7 Paul addressed a conflict between "strong" believers "weak" believers that threatened the unity of the Roman church. The dispute was not over any core doctrines, but over some Old Testament laws (Rom. 14:1-6). The "strong"-or mature in faith-were those who believed that Christians no longer needed to observe these laws (vv.2,15). Paul asked the mature believers not to despise the less mature and the weak not to condemn the strong (v.3). He called for tolerance and acceptance of each other's convictions and practices. In today's passage he lays the responsibility on the mature to be sensitive to the convictions of those weaker in faith and to help build them up (15:1-2).
by Sim Kay Tee

August 14th 2017
EINSTEIN AND JESUS
We remember Albert Einstein for more than his disheveled hair, big eyes, and witty charm. We know him as the genius and physicist who changed the way we see the world. His famous formula of E = mc2 revolutionized scientific thought and brought us into the nuclear age. Through his "Special Theory of Relativity" he reasoned that since everything in the universe is in motion, all knowledge is a matter of perspective. He believed that the speed of light is the only constant by which we can measure space, time or physical mass.
Long before Einstein, Jesus talked about the role of life in understanding our world, but from a different perspective. To support his claim to be the Light of the World (John 8:12), Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth (9:6). When the Pharisees accused Christ of being a sinner, this grateful man said, "Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: That though I was blind, now I see" (v.25).
While Einstein's ideas would later be proven difficult to test, Jesus' claims can be tested. We can spend time with Jesus in the gospels.
We can invite Him into our daily routine. We can see for ourselves that He can change our perspective on everything.
by Mart DeHaan
Lord Jesus, You are the one constant in this chaotic world. Thank You for being the one true Light that the darkness can never extinguish.
ONLY AS WE WALK IN CHRIST'S LIGHT CAN WE LIVE IN HIS LOVE.
John 9:1-7
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with his saliva; and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, "Go wash in the pool of Saloam" (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.
Insight: In comparison to the other gospels, the gospel of John is sparse in recording Jesus' miracles. John records only seven miracles, but he does so for a specific purpose. In John 20:30-31 he writes: "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." Several of the miracles that John recorded pair with a significant statement about Jesus' identity. After He fed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish (vs. 6:1-13), He claimed to be "the bread of life" (v.35). He said He was the "Light of the world" (8:12) and then healed the man born blind (Chpt. 9). People believed in Jesus as the Messiah in response to His miracles (6:14;9:38).
by J.R. Hudberg

August 13th, 2017
NOT AGAIN!
As I was reading the text message on my mobile phone, my temperature started to rise and my blood began to boil. I was on the verge of shooting back a nasty message when an inner voice told me to cool down and reply tomorrow. The next morning after a good night's sleep, the issue that had upset me so greatly seemed so trivial. I had blown it out of proportion because I did't want to put another person's interest before my own. I was unwilling to inconveinence myself so I could help someone.
Regretfully, I am tempted to respond in anger more often than I would like to admit. I constantly find myself having to put into practice familiar Bible truths, such as "Be angry, and do not sin" (Eph.4:26) and "let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others" (Phil.2:4).
Thankfully, God has given us His Spirit who will assist us in our battle with our sin. The apostles Paul and Peter called it the "Sanctifying work of the Spirit" (2 Thess. 2:13;1 Peter 1:2 NIV). Without His power, we are helpless and defeated; but with His power, we can have victory.
by Poh Fang Chia
I'm grateful, Lord, that You are at work in me. I want You to change my heart; please help me to listen and to cooperate with You.
THE GROWTH OF A SAINT IS THE WORK OF A LIFETIME.
2nd Thessalonians 2:13-17

But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us ever lasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
Insight: Paul's letters to the church at Thessalonica are among his most personal. In 1st Thessalonians, he expresses appreciation for the believers who have continued the gospel work he had begun (CH.1). Paul describes his love for them in compassionate and caring terms (CHS. 2-3) and ultimately offers them hope and comfort regarding both the present and the future (CHS. 4-5). In his second letter, he continues with things of care and concern as he offers encouragement in hard times (CH. 1), clarity regarding the Lord's return (CH. 2), and wisdom for living out their faith (CH.3).
Amazingly, this deep bond of care and love was formed in a mere three weeks-the length of time Paul actually was with his friends at Thessalonica (See Acts 17:2).
by Bill Crowder

August 11th 2017
DEBITS AND CREDITS
When my husband was teaching an accounting class at a local college, I took one of the tests just for fun to see how well I could do. The results were not good. I answered every question wrong. The reason for my failure was that I started with a faulty understanding of a basic banking concept. I reversed debits and credits.
We sometimes get our debits and credits confused in the spiritual realm as well. When we blame satan for everything that goes wrong-whether its bad weather, a jammed printer, or financial trouble-we're actually giving him credit that he doesn't deserve. We are ascribing to him the power to determine the quality of our lives, which he does not have. Satan is limited in time and space. He has to ask God's permission before he can touch us (Job 1:12; Luke 22:31).
However, as the father of lies and prince of this world (John 8:44;16:11), satan can cause confusion. Jesus warned of a time when people would be so confused that they wouldn't know right from wrong (16:2). But He added this assurance: "The prince of this world now stands condemned" (v.11 NIV).
Problems will disrupt our lives, but they cannot defeat us. Jesus has already overcome the world. To Him goes all the credit.
by Julie Ackerman Link
Thank You, Father, for being Lord over everything in our lives. We praise You for overcoming the world through Your Son.
WHILE SATAN ACCUSES AND CONFUSES, GOD CONTROLS.
John 16:1-11

"These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.
And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
"But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you.
And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."

August 10th,2017
I'VE COME TO HELP
Reporter Jacob Riis's vivid descriptions of poverty in 19th-century New York City horrified a generally complacent public. His book How the other half lives combined his writing with his own photographs to paint a picture so desperate existence. The third of fifteen children himself, Riis wrote so effectively because he had lived in that world of terrible despair.
Shortly after the release of his book, he received a card fro a young man just beginning his political career. The note read simply, "I have read your book, and I have come to help. Theodore Roosevelt." (This politician later became a US President.)
True faith responds to the needs of others, according to James (1:19-27). May our hearts be moved from inaction to action, from words alone to deeds that back them up. Compassionate action not only aids those mired in life's difficulties, but it may also make them open to the greater message from our Savior who sees their need and can do so much more for them.
by Randy Kilgore
O Lord, it is so easy to be overwhelmed, or to judge and therefore to refrain from helping others. Lift our eyes above our own thoughts and circumstances, and let us care as You care.
OTHERS WILL KNOW WHAT THE WORDS "GOD IS LOVE" MEAN WHEN THEY SEE IT IN OUR LIVES.
James 1:19-27

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in the mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Insight: James letter was written to people enduring difficult times. In James 1:1 we read, "James, a bondservant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greeting." The "twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" were Jewish followers of Christ who had been driven from their homes in Jerusalem by persecution. Many of them had lost everything because of their faith in Christ, and they were struggling. Perhaps that is why James spoke so passionately about caring for orphans and widows (1:27) and the poor (CH.2). Because the believers had suffered so much themselves, they should have understood the importance of responding to the needs of others.
by Bill Crowder

August 09, 2017
BATTER IN THE BOWL
My daughter and I consider brownies to be one of the seven wonders of the culinary world. One day, as we were mixing the ingredients of our favorite treat, my daughter asked if I would leave some batter in the bowl after pouring most of it into the baking pan. She wanted to enjoy what was left over. I smiled and agreed. Then, I told her, "That's called gleaning, you know, and it didn't start with brownies."
As we enjoyed the remnants of our baking project, I explained that Ruth had gathered left over grain in order to feed herself and her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 2:2-3). Because both of their husbands had died, the women had returned to Naomi's homeland. There Ruth met a wealthy land owner named Boaz. She asked him, "Please let me glean...after the reapers among the sheaves" (v.7). He willingly consented and instructed his workers to purposely let grain fall for her (v.16).
Like Boaz, who provided for Ruth from the bounty of his fields, God provides for us out of His abundance. His resources are infinite, and He lets blessings fall for our benefit. He willingly provides us with physical and spiritual nourishment. Every good gift we receive comes from Him.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Dear God, thank You for the blessings I enjoy! You minister to Your children out of Your limitless abundance. I worship You as my provider.
OUR GREATEST NEEDS CANNOT EXCEED GOD'S GREAT RESOURCES.
Ruth 2:1-12

There was a relative of Naomi's husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. So Ruth the Moabites said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter."
Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz....
Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this?" So the servant...said, "It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab..."
Then Boaz said to Ruth, "You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them...."
So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?"
And Boaz answered and said to her, "It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law...The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge."
Insight: God commanded His people to be generous and to allow the poor to gather food from their lands at harvest time (Lev.19:9-10; Deut.24:19-22). God is the defender, protector, and provider of the poor, the helpless, and the oppressed (Deut.10:17-19;Ps.9:9-10;146:5-9).
by Sim Kay Tee

August 8th, 2017
UNPREDICTABLE
In the 2003 US Women's Open, the relatively unknown Hilary Lunke secured the greatest prize in women's golf-in a place in a history. Not only did she win the US Open in an 18-hole playoff, but it was also her only professional victory. Her surprising and inspiring win underscores the fact that one of the most exciting things about sports is its unpredictability.
The unpredictability of life is not always so thrilling however. We devise and strategize. We make plans, projections, and proposals about what we would like to see happen in life, but often they are little more than our best guess. We have no idea what a year, a month, a week, or even a day might bring. So we pray and plan, and then we trust the God who knows fully and completely what we can never predict. That is why I love the promise of Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"
Life is unpredictable. There are countless things I can never know with certainty. What I can know, however, is that there is a God who knows all and loves me deeply. And by knowing Him, I can "Be still"-I can be at peace.
by Bill Crowder
What plans do I need to surrender to God today?
GOD'S CARE IS THE CERTAINTY WE TAKE INTO LIFE'S UNCERTAINTIES.
Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; through its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has made desolation in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Insight: Today's psalm contains the much-loved and often-quoted words of verse 10: "Be still, and know that I am God." But it is interesting to note the context of these words. The psalmist opens by celebrating the help of God in times of trouble (vv.1-3) and then shows how strong the city of God is because God is there (vv.4-7). In verses 8-9 the psalmist describes the strength of the Lord in terms of His power over war and desolation, and in verse 10 he proclaims that God will be "exalted among the nations." In the midst of upheaval, whether natural or man-made, God is our stability.
by J.R. Hudberg
August 7th 2017
FAULTFINDERS ANONYMOUS
Like many people, when I read a newspaper of magazine I noticed the misteaks in grammar and spelling. (You saw that, didn't you!) I'm not trying to find errors; they leap off the page at me! My usual reaction is to criticize the publication and the people who produce it. "Why don't they use 'spell check' or hire a proof reader?"
You may have a similar experience in your area of expertise. It seems that often, the more we know about something, the more judgmental we become over mistakes. It can infect our relationships with people as well.
Yet Philippians 1:9 expresses a different approach. Paul wrote, "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment." God's plan is that the more we know and understand, the more we love. Rather than cultivating a critical spirit and pretending we don't notice or don't care, our understanding should nourish empathy. Criticism is replaced by compassion.
Instead of our being faultfinders, the Lord calls us to be "filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (v.11).
When the Lord fills our hearts, we can overlook mistakes, hold our criticism, and love others, no matter how much we know about them!
by David McCasland
Lord, by Your grace, please replace my critical spirit with Your love and compassion for others.
TO ERR IS HUMAN; TO FORGIVE, DIVINE. by Alexander Pope
Philippians 1:1-11

Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making requests for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you are all partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Insight: Notice the dept of love Paul has for his fellow believers at Philippi. This is seen in how he speaks to them and what he desires for them. He speaks as one who loves them and longs for them deeply (v.8). His desires are seen in his prayers-that they will experience a growing yet wise love (v.9), a discerning yet genuine spirit (v.10), and a fruitful and Christ-honoring life (v.11). These are great things we too can pray for in the lives of those we love and in our own lives as well.
by Bill Crowder

August 6th, 2017
FAMILY PRIVILEGE
When I was in primary school in Ghana, I had to live with a loving and caring family away from my parents. One day, all the children assembled for a special family meeting. The first part involved all of us sharing individual family experiences. But next, when only "blood children" were required to be present, I was politely excluded. Then the stark reality hit me: I was not a "child of the house." Despite their love for me, the family required that I should be excused because I was only living with them; I was not a legal part of their family.
This incident reminds me of John 1:11-12. The Son of God came to His own people and they rejected Him. Those who received Him then, and receive Him now are given the right to become God's children. When we are adopted into His family, "the spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (ROM. 8:16).
Jesus doesn't exclude anybody who is adopted by the Father. Rather He welcomes us as a permanent part of His family. "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).
by Lawrence Darmani
Thank you Father, for making it possible for me to be Your child. I'm grateful to be Yours and not to have to worry about whether You will remove me from Your family. I am Yours and You are mine.
ASSURANCE OF SALVATION IS NOT WHAT YOU KNOW BUT WHO YOU KNOW.
John 1:6-14

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not the Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to his own and his own did not receive Him. But as many as receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Insight: The gospel of John was written to testify that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:31). From the onset, John presents Jesus as the Logos, the self-existent, pre-existent, omnipotent, eternal, creator God who spoke everything into existence (1:1-5). John also presents Jesus as God incarnate-God in the flesh (vv. 9-14). The eternal God entered the world He created and became human like us in order to live with us (vv.11,14; MATT.1:23). The New Testament also affirms Christ's humanity (GAL. 4:4; 1 Tim. 3:16, HEB. 2:14-17).
by Sim Kay Tee

August 4th, 2017
WEB WISDOM
Scroll to the bottom of many online news sites and you'll find the "comments" section where readers can leave their observations. Even the most reputable sites have no shortage of rude rants, uninformed insults, and name-calling.
The book of proverbs was collected about three thousand years ago, but its timeless wisdom is as up-to-date as today's breaking news. Two proverbs in chapter 26 seem at first glance to contradict each other, yet they apply perfectly to social media. "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him" (v.4). And then "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes" (v.5).
The balance in those statements is in the "according to" : Don't answer in the way a fool would answer. But respond so that foolishness is not considered wisdom.
My problem is that the foolishness I encounter is often my own. I have at times posted a sarcastic comment or turned someone else's statement back on them. God hates it when I treat my fellow human beings with such disrespect, even when they're also being foolish.
God gives us an amazing range of freedoms. We are free to choose what we will say, and when and how we say it. And we are always free to ask Him for wisdom.
by Tim Gustafson
Things to keep in mind: Is what I am saying true, and is it loving? What's my motive? Will it help anyone? Will this reflect the character of Jesus?
LET LOVE BE YOUR HIGHEST GOAL.
Proverbs 26:1-12

As snow in summer and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight.
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and rod for the fools back. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. He who sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
Like the legs of the lame that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like one who binds a stone in a sling is he who gives honor to a fool. Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. The great God who formed everything gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages.
As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Insight: The Wisdom literature of the Old Testament (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) is Hebrew poetry that uses a variety of poetic devices. In today's reading, metaphors and analogies are used. The foolish person is compared to weather that is inappropriate for the season (v.1), an animal that needs to be constrained (v.3), a leg that is useless (v.7), and a sling that is powerless (v.8). These comparisons warn about the self-destructive nature of foolish choices.
by Bill Crowder

August 3rd, 2017
ON THE EDGE
There's an underground lava tube south of Kuna, Idaho, that has gained a certain amount of local notoriety. The only entrance, as far as i know, is a yawning shaft that plunges straight down into darkness.
Some years ago I stood at the end of that shaft and looked down. I was drawn to venture closer and almost lost my balance. I felt a moment of heart-pounding terror and stepped away from the opening.
Sin is like that, curiosity can draw us toward the darkness. How often have men and women gotten too close to the edge, lost their balance, and fallen into the darkness? They've destroyed their families, reputations, and careers through adulterous affairs that began with a "mere" flirtation but then progressed to thoughts and actions. Looking back they almost always say, "I never thought it would come to this."
We think we can flirt with the temptation, get very close to the edge, and walk away, but that's a fools dream. We know an action is wrong and yet we toy with it. Then, inescapably, we are drawn into deeper and darker perversions. Jesus put it simply: "
Whoever commits is a slave of sin" (John 8:34).
And so, seeing our own need for God's help, we pray as David did in Psalm 19:13, "Keep back your servant also from [deliberate] sins; let them not have dominion over me."
by David Roper
Heavenly Father, whether we are being tempted now, or have fallen, we thank You that You are always there, and You love us with relentless love. We have nowhere to turn but to You.
A BIG FALL BEGINS WITH A LITTLE STUMBLE.
Romans 6:16-23

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves who you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Insight: Having proven that all people are sinners and having shown how sinners are justified through faith in Jesus (Rom.1-4), Paul now describes the new life we can have because of what Jesus did (Chs. 5-8). We can live differently, we can choose not to sin, and we can live holy lives (6:1-14). In today's passage, Paul warns that we become the slave of whatever we choose to obey (vv.16-20). Rather than give ourselves to sin, we are to give ourselves to God (vv.22-23). When we do sin, we bear the consequences of our sins and experience a lack of fellowship with God (Gal.6:7-8).
by Sim Kay Tee

August 2nd, 2017
GOD'S GOOD HEART
Roger had been through a lot. He had open-heart surgery to repair a leaky valve. Then, within just a couple of weeks, doctors had to perform the surgery again because of complications. He had just begun to heal with physical therapy when he had a biking accident and broke his collarbone. Added to this, Roger also experienced the heartbreak of losing his mother during this time. He became very discouraged. When a friend asked him if he had seen God at work in any small ways, he confessed that he really didn't feel he had.
I appreciate Roger's honesty. Feelings of discouragement or doubt are part of my life too. In Romans the apostle Paul says, "We can rejoice...when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation" (5:3-4 NLT). But that doesn't mean we always feel the joy. We may just need someone to sit down and listen to us pour out our hearts to them, and to talk with God. Sometimes it takes looking back on the situation before we see how our faith has grown during trials and doubts.
Knowing that God wants to use our difficulties to strengthen our faith can help us to trust His good heart for us.
by Anne Cetas
In what ways has God used trials in your life? Are you learning to trust Him more?
GOD MAY LEAD US INTO TROUBLED WATERS TO DEEPEN OUR TRUST IN HIM.
Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a religious man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Insight: In the letter to the Romans, Paul discusses what salvation means. Today's passage twice mentions that we are justified, which means to be made right with God. In verse 1 Paul says that this happens by faith, and in verse 9 he writes that the blood of Christ justifies us. The sacrifice of Christ's blood for us is what makes justification possible, and faith is how we receive that justification. Hebrews 9:22 tells us: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (NIV).
J.R. Hudberg
August 1, 2017
HOW TO HAVE PEACE
The Kamppi Chapel of Silence in Helsinki, Finland, stands outin its urban setting. The curved structure, covered with wood, buffers the noise from the busy city outside. Designers created the chapel as a quiet space and a "calm environment for visitors to compose themselves." Its a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Many people long for peace, and a few minutes of silence may soothe our minds. But the Bible teaches that real peace-peace with God-comes from His Son. The apostle Paul said, "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"(Rom. 5:1). Without Christ, we are enemies with God because of our sin. Thankfully accepting Jesus' sacrifice reconciles us to God and ends the hostility that existed between us (Col. 1:19-21). He now sees us as Christ presents us - "holy, and blameless, and above reproach" (v.22).
Having peace with God does not ensure problems-free living. However, it does steady us during difficult times. Jesus told His followers, "In the world you will have tribulation," but he also said, "In me you may have peace" (John 16:33). Because of Christ, the true peace of God can fill our hearts (Col. 3:15).
Father, we long for Your peace in the midst of our turmoil. Please help us to rest in You.
PEACE FLOODS THE SOUL WHEN CHRIST RULES THE HEART.

Colossians 1:15-23

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by him reconcile all thing to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of the cross.
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled. In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight- if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Insight: In verse 15 of today's reading the key word is image. Because "God is Spirit" (John 4:24), and therefore invisible (col. 1:15), how can we see and know him? The answer is that Christ came in human form, yet perfectly exhibited the heart, character and life of the Father. This is where the word image comes in. It is the Greek term eikon (from which we get the work icon), which means "representation." We cannot see the Father, so the Son came as His representative to show us who He is and what He is like. This is so perfectly accomplished that Jesus told His disciples, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9).
by Bill Crowder

July 31st, 2017
FREE INDEED
Olaudah Equiano (c.1745-1796) was only 11 years when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He made the harrowing journey from West Africa to the West Indies, then to the colony of Virginia, and then to England. By the age of twenty he purchased his own freedom, still bearing the emotional and physical scars of the inhumane treatment he had experienced.
Unable to enjoy his own freedom while others were still enslaved, Equiano became active in the movement to abolish slavery in England. He wrote his autobiography (an unheard of achievement for a former slave in that era) in which he described the horrific treatment of the enslaved.
When Jesus came, He fought a battle for all of us who are enslaved and unable to fight for ourselves. Our slavery is not one of outward chains. We are held by our own brokenness and sin. Jesus said "everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son set you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:34-36).
Wherever such a freedom seems unheard of His words need to be declared. We can be liberated from our guilt, shame, and hopelessness. By trusting Jesus, we can be free indeed!
by Bill Crowder
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for making the sacrifice that has secured my freedom and eternal life. May I learn to love You in a way that honors the love You have shown me.
THE PRICE OF OUR FREEDOM FROM SIN WAS PAID BY JESUS'S BLOOD
John 8:31-37

To the Jews who have believed him, Jesus said if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"
Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son set you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.
Insight: Our Lord's conversation with religious leaders who opposed Him reveals the contrast between man-made legalism and God's truth. Christ says, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). Human beings were made to have fellowship with God, but our rebellion resulted in our being enslaved by sin. Excepting the truth of God's Word and yielding to Him breaks this bondage. The religious people who opposed Christ clung to their heritage as descendants of Abraham for their spiritual foundation, but only Christ can free us from our sinful, self-centered preoccupation.
Dennis Fisher.

July 30th, 2017
GENTLE INFLUENCE
A few years before he became the twenty sixth US. president (1901-1909), Theodore Roosevelt got word that his oldest son, Theodore Jr. was ill. While his son would recover, the cause of Ted's illness hit Roosevelt hard. Doctors told him that he was the cause of his son's illness. Ted was suffering from "nervous exhaustion," having been pressed unmercifully by Theodore to become the "fighter" hero-type he himself had not been during his own frail childhood. Upon hearing this, the elder Roosevelt made a promise to relent: "Here after I shall never press Ted either in body or mind."
The father was true to his word. From then on he paid close attention to how he treated his son-the very same son who would one day bravely lead the landing of Allied soldiers on Utah Beach in WW2.
God has entrusted each of us with influence in the lives of others. We have a deep responsibility in those relationships, not only to spouses and children, but to friends, employees, and customers.
The temptation to press too hard, to demand too much, to force progress, or to orchestrate success can lead us to harm others even when we don't realize it. For this very reason, followers of Christ are urged to be patient and gentle with one another (Col.3:12). Since Jesus, the Son of God came in humility, how can we withhold such kindness from one another?
by Randy Kilgore
What kind of expectations do you have of the people in your life-at home and at work? Think about the influence you might have on others. How can you reflect more of the character of Jesus?
WHAT GOD DOES FOR US WE SHOULD DO FOR OTHERS
Colossians 3:12-17

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forget one another if any of you has a grievance against someone forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through songs, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Insight: Most scholars believe the apostle Paul wrote Colosians from a Roman prison cell around AD 60, about the same time he wrote Ephesians, Philippians and Philemon. Paul seems to have had two primary purposes for writing this letter to the church at Colossae. First, he wanted the Colossian believers to know that Christ is superior to all human accomplishments, philosophies, and angelic beings. Second, he longed for these dear saints to experience freedom from the moralistic regulations and religious systems that enslaved them.
by Dennis Moles
July 28th, 2017
NAMING GOD
In his book The God I Don't Understand, Christopher Wright observes that an unlikely person is one of the first to give God a name. Its Hagar!
Hagar's story provides a disturbing honest look at human history. Its been years since God told Abram and Sarai they would have a son, and Sarai has only grown older and more impatient. In order to "help" God, she resorts to a custom of the day. She gives her slave, Hagar to her husband, and Hagar becomes pregnant.
Predictably, dissension arises. Sarai mistreats Hagar, who runs away. Alone in the desert, she meets the angel of the Lord, who makes a promise strikingly similar to one God had made earlier-to Abram (See Gen.15:5). "I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count" (16:10). The angel names Hagar's son Ishmael, which means "God hears" (V.11). In response, this slave from a culture with multiple gods that could neither see nor hear gives God the name "You are the God who sees me" (v.13).
"The God who sees us" is the God of impatient heroes and powerless runaways. He's the God of the wealthy and well-connected as well as the destitute and lonely. He hears and sees and cares, achingly and deeply, for each of us.
by Tim Gustafson
Lord, You didn't sugar coat the story of Your people in the Bible and yet You loved them-as You love us in-spite of all the dirt and drama. You are the God who sees us, and yet we can still run to You.
GOD SEES US WITH EYES OF COMPASSION
Genesis 16:1-13

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her."
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram "you are responsible for the wrong I'm suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me."
"Your slave is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, "Hagar, slave of Sarai where have you come from, and where are you going?"
"I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered. "Then the angel of the Lord told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." The angel added, "I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count."
The angel of the Lord also said to her:
"You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.
He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me."

July 27th, 2017
GODS MOUTHPIECE
My nerves fluttering, I waited for the phone to ring and the radio interview to start. I wondered what questions the host would ask and how I would respond. "Lord, I'm much better on paper," I prayed. "But I suppose its that same as Moses-I need to trust that you will give me the words to speak."
Of course I'm not comparing myself with Moses, the leader of God's people who helped them escape slavery in Egypt to life in a Promised Land. A reluctant leader, Moses needed the Lord to reassure him that the Israelites would listen to him. The Lord revealed several things to him, such as turning his shepherds staff into a snake (EX. 4:3), but Moses hesitated to accept the mantle of leadership, saying he was slow of speech (v.10). So God reminded him that He is the Lord and that He would help him speak. He would "be with his mouth" (as the original language translates, according to biblical scholars).
We know that since the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God's Spirit lives within His children and that however inadequate we may feel, He will enable us to carry out the assignments He gives to us. The Lord will "be with out mouths."
by Amy Boucher Pye
Lord Jesus, You dwell with me. May my words today build up someone for Your glory.
AS GOD'S PEOPLE WE ARE HIS MOUTHPIECE TO SPREAD HIS GOOD NEWS.
Exodus 4:1-12

Moses answered, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you'?"
Then the Lord said to him, "What is that in your hand?"
"A staff," he replied.
The Lord said, "Throw in on the ground."
Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. "This, "said the lord, "is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Issac and the God of Jacob-has appeared to you."
Then the Lord said, "Put your hand inside your cloak." So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous-it had become white as snow.
Now put it back into your cloak," he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.
Then the Lord said, "If they do not believe you or pay attention the the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground."
Moses said to the Lord, "Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."
The Lord said to him, "Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."

July 26th, 2017
HONORABLE LIVING
While delivering a well-publicized speech, a respected leader and statesman got the attention of his nation by declaring that most of his countrie's honorable Members of Parliament (MPs) were quite dishonorable. Citing lifestyles of corruption, pompous attitudes, unsavory language, and other vices, he rebuked the MPs and urged them to reform. As expected, his comments didn't go well with them and they dispatched-counter criticisms his way.
We may not be public officials in positions of leadership, but we who follow Christ are a "chosen people, a royal priest-hood, a holy nation, God's special possession" (1 Pet. 2:9). As such, our Lord calls us to lifestyles that honor Him.
The disciple Peter had some practical advice on how to do this. He urged us to "abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul" (V.11). Although he didn't use the word honorable, he was calling us to behavior worthy of Christ.
As the apostle Paul phrased it in his letter to Philippians, "Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things" (Phil.4:8). Indeed, these are the characteristics of behavior that honor our Lord.
by Lawrence Darmani
Lord, when we are honest with You, we understand how often we fall far short of honorable behavior. We know how much we need You. By Your Spirit, help us replace any selfish thoughts, words, and actions with things that please You and draw others to You.
WE HONOR GOD'S NAME WHEN WE CALL HIM OUR FATHER AND LIVE LIKE HIS CHILDREN.
1 Peter 2:9-12

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Insight: The apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage Jewish and Gentile Christians in Asia Minor (Modern Turkey) who were going through serve trials and suffering because of their faith in Jesus. Peter says that for the Christian, trials and suffering are inevitable. And to be expected (1 Peter 4:12), although often unreasonable, unjust, and inexplicable (2:19-20). But these difficulties can be valuable to the believer and therefore glorifying to God (1:6-7). Although they are universal, they are certainly temporal (5:9-10). Peter calls us to rejoice in our trials because we participate not only in Christ's suffering but also in His glory (1:7;4:13).
July 25th, 2017
REMEMBERING....
One difficult part of growing older is the fear of dementia and the loss of short-term memory. But Dr. Benjamin Mast, an expert on the topic of Alzheimer's disease, offers some encouragement. He says that patients' brains are often so "well worn" and "habitual" that they can hear an old hymn and sing along to every word. He suggests that spiritual disciplines such as reading Scripture, praying, and singing hymns cause truth to become "embedded" in our brains, ready to be accessed when prompted.
In Psalm 119:11, we read how the power of hiding God's words in our heart can keep us from sinning. It can strengthen us, teach us obedience, and direct our footsteps (vv. 28,67,133). This is turn gives us hope and understanding (vv.49,130). Even when we begin to notice memory slips in ourselves or in the life of a loved one, God's Word, memorized years earlier, is still there, "stored up" or "treasured" in the heart (v.11 ESV, NASB). Even as our minds lose their keen edge of youth, we know that God's words, hidden in our hearts, will continue to speak to us.
Nothing-not even failing memories-can separate us from His love and care. We have His word on it.
by Cindy Hess Kasper
Lord, you are such an amazing comfort to us. Thank You that our salvation and spiritual well-being does not depend on our failing minds and bodies, but on You and Your faithfulness to Your Word.
GOD'S PROMISES NEVER FAIL
Psalm 119:7-19, 130-134

Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me...
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.
Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts.
Insight: Psalm 119 is well known as the longest chapter in the Bible. It is an acrostic(each sentence beginning with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet)that praises the goodness and value of God's law. While it may be tempting to ignore the significance of what the writer of the psalm says and consider it mere poetic license, Scripture repeatedly praises the law of God as good and valuable. Jesus himself affirmed the value and benefit of the law on numerous occassions, most notably in His Serman on the Mount. He said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matt.5:17).
by J.R. Hudberg

July 24th, 2017
WATCH AND PRAY
From my window I can see a one thousand seven hundred-meter hill called the Carro Del Borrego or "Hill of the Sheep." In 1862, the French Army invaded Mexico. While the enemy camped in the central part of Orizaba, the Mexican army established its position at the top of the hill. However, the Mexican general neglected to guard access to the top. While the Mexican troops were sleeping, the French attacked and killed two thousand of them.
This reminds me of another hill, the Mount of Olives, and the Garden at its foot where a group of disciples fell asleep. Jesus rebuked them, saying, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:38).
How easy it is to sleep or become careless in our Christian walk. Temptation strikes when we are most vulnerable. When we neglect certain areas of our spiritual lives-such as prayer and Bible study-we become drowsy and let our guard down, making us easy targets for our enemy, Satan, to strike (1 Pet. 5:8).
We need to be alert to the possibilities of an attack and pray to maintain vigilance. If we remain watchful and pray-for ourselves and for others-the Spirit will enable us to resist temptation.
by Keila Ochoa
Lord Jesus, I know my Spirit is willing, but my body is weak. Help me to watch and pray today for myself and for others.
SATAN IS POWERLESS AGAINST THE POWER OF CHRIST.
Mark 14:32-42

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," He said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father," he said, "Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.
"Simon," he said to Peter, "Are you asleep? Couldn't you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to them.
Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
Insight: The Garden of Gethsemane was the starting point of the sufferings of Christ, and it could not have been more appropriately named. In Aramaic the word Gethsemane means "Olive press." In olive tree orchards, it was normal to have a press where the harvested olives would be placed so that a heavy stone could be rolled over them-crushing the olives and removing the valuable oil from the fruit. That imagery precisely describes what Christ would undergo in His own "Olive Press." Imagine the sinless Son loaded down with the weight of all the sinners of the entire world from all the ages!
by Bill Crowder
July 23rd, 2017
GOD TALK
Recently my son-in-law was explaining to my granddaughter Maggie that we can talk with God and that He communicates with us. When Ewing told Maggie that God sometimes speaks to us through the Bible, she responded without hesitation: "Well, He's never said anything to me. I've never heard God talk to me."
Most of us would probably agree with Maggie, if hearing an audible voice telling us, "Sell your house and go take care of orphans in a faraway land," is what we mean by God communicating with us. But when we talk about hearing God "speak," we usually mean something quite different.
We "hear" God through reading Scripture. The Bible tells us about Jesus and says that God "has spoken to us by his Son" who is "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (HEB. 1:2-3). Scripture tells us how to find salvation in Jesus and how to live in ways that please Him (2 TIM. 3:14-17). In addition to Scripture itself, we have the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 2:12 says that we are given the Spirit "so that we may understand what God has freely given us."
Has it been a while since you've heard from God? Talk to Him and listen to the Spirit, who reveals Jesus to us through His Word. Tune in to the wonderful things God has to say to you.
by Dave Brandon
Speak to me, Lord. Help me to understand the message of Scripture, the lessons of Jesus, and the urging of the Holy Spirit.
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH WORD WHEN WE TAKE TIME TO LISTEN.
Hebrews 1:1-12

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right had of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become our Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"?
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels Spirits, and His servants flames of fire."
But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."
He also says, "In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, buy you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end."
Insight: This section begins with a reference to Jesus's incarnation and His unique position as God's Son, and the admonition for Him to be worshiped (vv.5-8). We see the "radiance of God's glory" in the person of Christ (v.3). As we read His Word, we learn to love Him.
by Dennis Fisher

July 21st 2017
LET US
While standing in line for a popular attraction at Disneyland, I noticed that most people were talking and smiling instead of complaining about the long wait. It made me ponder what made waiting in that line an enjoyable experience. The key seemed to be that very few people were there by themselves. Instead friends, families, groups, and couples were sharing the experience, which was far different then standing in line alone.
The Christian life is meant to be lived in company with others, not alone. Hebrews 10:19-25 urges us to live in community with other followers of Jesus. "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings...let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together" (vv.22-25). In community we reassure and reinforce each other, "encouraging one another" (v.25).
Even our most difficult days can become a meaningful part of our journey of faith when others share them with us. Don't face life alone. Let us travel together.
by David McCasland
Lord, may we fulfill your calling today by walking the road of faith and encouragement with others.
LIFE IN CHRIST IS MEANT TO BE A SHARED EXPERIENCE
Hebrews 10:19-25

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up, meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Insight: The Jewish temple represented God's presence among His people. It was the center of religious life for the Jews. It was a place of corporate worship, the place where sacrifices were made, and the central structure around which yearly festivals and daily prayers took place. The temple construction and sacrificial system clearly meant to illustrate the separation sin had caused between the creator and creation, but according to the writer of the book of Hebrews this temple and system were merely shadows (Heb.10:1) of the reality that has come in Christ. Because of Christ the barriers no longer apply. God the Son has come near, and by His blood all believers-regardless of gender, stationed, or nationality-can come into the presence of almighty God.
by Dennis Moles

July 20th, 2017
GIANTS IN THE LAND
After being encamped near Mt. Sinai for two years, the people of Israel were on the verge of entering Canaan-the land God had promised them. God told them to send twelve spies to assess the land and the people living there. When the spies saw the strength of the Canaanites and the size of their cities, ten of them said, "We can't!" Two said, "We can!"
What made the difference!
When the ten compared the giants with themselves and the giants loomed large, the two-Caleb and Joshua-compared the giants with God, and the giants were cut down to size. "The Lord is with us, " they said. "Do not be afraid of them" (Num.14:9).
Unbelief never lets us get beyond the difficulties-the impregnable cities and the impossible giants. It preoccupies itself with them, brooding over them, pitting them against mere human resources.
Faith, on the other hand, though it never minimizes the dangers and difficulties of any circumstance, looks away from them to God and counts on His invisible presence and power.
What are your "Giants"? A habit you cannot break? A temptation you cannot resist? A difficult marriage? A drug-abusing son or daughter? If we compare ourselves with our difficulties, we will always be overwhelmed. Faith looks away from the greatness of the undertaker to greatness of an ever-present, all-powerful God.
by David Roper
Dear Lord, when the "Giants" in my life begin to overwhelm me with fear, help me to trust in You.
WHEN FEAR KNOCKS, ANSWER IT WITH FAITH
Numbers 13:25-14:9

At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large..."
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."
But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored....
That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?..."
Then Moses and Aaron fell face down in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there? Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we pass through and explore is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them."

July 19th, 2017
COMPARISON OBSESSION
Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at Harvard Business School, has noted a disturbing trend among his students and colleagues-a"comparison obsession." He writes: "More so than ever before, ...business executives, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals are obsessed with comparing their own achievements against those of others. ... This is bad for individuals and bad for companies. When you define success based on external rather than internal criteria, you diminish your satisfaction and commitment."
Comparison obsession isn't new. The Scriptures warn us of the dangers of comparing ourselves to others. When we do so, we become proud and look down on them (Luke 18:9-14). Or we become jealous and want to be like them or have what they have (James 4:1). We fail to focus on what God has given us to do. Jesus intimated that comparison obsession comes from believing that God is unfair and that He doesn't have a right to be more generous to others than He is to us (Matt.20:1-16).
By God's grace we can learn to overcome comparison obsession by focusing on the life God has given to us. As we take moments to thank God for every day blessings, we change our thinking and begin to believe deep down that God is good.
by Marvin Williams
I need a better focus, Lord. Help me to keep my eyes off others and instead on You and Your good heart for all of us.
GOD EXPRESSES HIS GOODNESS TO HIS CHILDREN IN HIS OWN WAY.
Matthew 20:1-16
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarious for the day and sent them into his vineyard....
About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'
" ' Because no one has hired us,' they answered.
"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'
"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'
"The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
"But he answered one of them, 'I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you..."So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
Insight: Jesus taught the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt.20:1-16) to show His disciples the generous heart of God. God is not unjust. He has no favorites and threats every Christian generously and equally (vv.13-15). Paul later taught this same truth: "There is no favoritism with [God]" (Eph.6:9;Col.3:25). This extends to believers and the way we view others (1 Tim.5:21).
by Sim Kay Tee

July 18th, 2017
THAT THING YOU DO
As the convoy waited to roll out, a young marine rapped urgently on the window of his team leader's vehicle. Irritated, the sergeant rolled down his window. "What?" "You gotta do that thing, "the marine said. "What thing?" asked the sergeant. "You know, that thing you do," replied the marine.
Then it dawned on the sergeant. He always prayed for the convoy's safety, but this time he hadn't. So he dutifully climbed out of the Humvee and prayed for his marines. The marine understood the value of his praying leader.
In ancient Judah, Abijah doesn't stand out as a great king. First Kings 15:3 tells us, "His heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God." But as Judah prepared for war against Israel, outnumbered two to one, Abijah knew this much: Faithful people in his kingdom of Judah had continued worshiping God (2 Chron. 13:10-12), while the ten tribes of Israel had driven out the priests of God and worshiped pagan gods instead (vv. 8-9). So Abijah turned confidently to the one true God.
Surely Abijah's checkered history had caused grave damage. But he knew where to turn in the crisis, and his army won soundly "because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors" (v.18). Our God welcomes whoever come to Him and relies on Him.
I know that prayer isn't a good-luck charm. But I come to you now, Lord, because there's no one better to talk to. I trust You with all of my circumstances today.
GOD WILL NEVER TURN AWAY WHOEVER TURNS TO HIM IN FAITH.
2 Chronicles 13:10-18

"As for us, the Lord is our God and we have not forsaken him. The priests who serve the Lord are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken him. God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed."
Now Jeroboam had sent troops around to the rear, so that while he was in front of Judah the ambush was behind them.
Judah turned and saw that they were being attacked at both front and rear. Then they cried out to the Lord. The priests blew their trumpets and the men of Judah raised the battle cry. At the sound of their battle cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. The Israelites fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hands. Abijah and his troops inflicted heavy losses on them, so that there were five hundred thousand casualties among Israel's able men.
The Israelites were subdued on that occasion, and the people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors.
Insight: In the battle between the northern and southern kingdoms recounted in today's reading, Abijah warned Israel that the Lord was on Judah's side because the priests were "observing the requirements of the Lord our God" (2 Chron.13:10-11). By keeping these requirements, the kingdom of Judah was following the instructions set out by Moses in the book of the Leviticus. Judah's victory over Israel, who greatly outnumbered them, demonstrates that God is a God who is faithful to His word.
by J.R. Hudberg

July 17, 2017
THE SWAGGER
In the summer of 2015, Hunter (aged 15) carried his brother Branden (8) for a fifty-seven-mile walk to raise awareness of the needs of people with cerebral palsy. Brandon weighs sixty pounds, so Hunter needed frequent rest stops where others helped him stretch his muscles, and he wore special harnesses to disperse Brandon's weight. Hunter says while the harness helped with the physical discomfort, what helped him most were the people along the way. "If it weren't for everyone cheering and walking with us, I wouldn't have been able to do it...My legs were sore, but my friends picked me up and I made it through..." His mom named the arduous trek "The Cerebral Palsy Swagger."
The apostle Paul, who we think of as strong and courageous, also needed to be "picked up." In Romans 16 he lists a number of people who did that just for him. They served alongside him, encouraged him, met his needs and prayed for him. He mentions Phoebe; Priscilla and Aquila, who were coworkers; Rufus's mother, who had been like a mother to him as well; Gaius, who showed him hospitality; and many more.
We all need friends who pick us up, and we all know of others who need encouragement. As Jesus helps and carries us, let us help one another.
by Anne Cetas
Lord, in Your wisdom, You established Your church as a place for us to love and care for each other. Help me to extend the grace I've received to others.
ENCOURAGERS PICK OTHERS UP WHEN TROUBLES WEIGH THEM DOWN.

Romans 16:1-4,13,21-23
I command to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risk their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them...
Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too....
Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.
I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.
Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here in joy, sends you his greetings.
Erastus, who is the citie's director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.
Insight: The letter to the Romans is arguably Paul's most intensely theological letter. Yet in Romans 16, he issues more personal greetings than in any other letter-twenty-seven! These personal greetings, included at the close of a theological letter about the nature of the gospel, serve as a significant reminder. The message of the death and resurrection of Jesus is not merely a piece of intellectual information. The doctrines that form the foundation for our rescue in Christ are not an academic exercise. These truths describe the love of God for human beings who have names and faces and struggles and victories. The gospel is the story of God's unfailing love for people-people like those listed here. People like you and me.
by Bill Crowder
July 16th, 2017
BRINGING LIGHT INTO DARKNESS
In 1989, Vaclav Havel was elevated from his position as a political prisoner to become the first elected President form Czechoslovakia. Years later at his funeral in Prague in 2011, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who herself was born in Prague, described him as one who had "brought the light to places of deep darkness."
What Havel's introduction of life did in the political area of Czechoslovakia (and later the Czech Republic), our Lord Jesus did for the whole world. He brought light into existence when He created light out of darkness at the dawn of time (John 1:2-3, CF. Gen.1:2-3). Then, with His birth, He brought light to the spiritual arena. Jesus is the life and light that darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5).
John the Baptist came from the wilderness to bare witness to Jesus, the light of the world. We can do the same today. In fact that is what Jesus told us to do: "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt.5:16).
In our world today-when good is often considered bad and bad is seen as good, when truth and error are switched around-people are looking for direction in life. May we be the ones who shine the light of Christ into our world.
by C.P.Hia
Father in heaven, thank You for the light of Jesus that came into the world and for the light He has brought into my life. Help me to remain grateful and to be Your light in the dark world around me.
SHINE THE LIGHT!
John 1:1-8

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness had not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
Insight: Bible scholars call the gospel of John the Autopick gospel because John looked at the life of Christ in its own unique way. For example, the "I ams" of Christ-such as "I am the way" (14:6) and "I am the vine" (15:5)-are found only in John's record of the life of Jesus Christ on earth. The other gospels-Matthew, Mark, and Luke-are called the Synoptic Gospels because they offer similar view points. Although Matthew, Mark and Luke each give their own account of the life of Christ, they share many of the same observations and stories about our Lord's life, death, burial, and resurrection.
by Dennis Fisher

July 14th, 2017
YOUR FATHER KNOWS
I was only four years old as I lay by my father on a floor mat on a hot summer night. (My mother, with a baby, had her own room at the time.) This was in Northern Ghana where the climate is mostly dry. Sweat covered my body, and the heat parched my throat. I felt so thirsty I shook my father awake. In the middle of that dry night, he rose up and poured water from a jar for me to quench my thirst. Throughout my life, as he did that night, he exemplified the image of a caring father. He provided what I needed.
Some people may not have a good father figure in their lives. But we all have a father who is strong and ever-present and who does not disappoint us. Jesus taught us to pray to "Our Father in heaven" (Matt.6:9). He told us that when our daily needs confront us-food, clothing, shelter, protection (v.31)-"your father knows what you need before you ask him" (v.8).
We have a Father who is always there. Night or day, whenever the going gets tough, we can trust that He will never abandon us. He has promised to care for us, and He knows better than we do what we need.
by Lawrence Darmani

Thank You, Lord, for the privilege of coming to You as my Father. You know my needs before I even ask. Thank You that You will never turn me away.
YOUR LOVING HEAVENLY FATHER NEVER TAKES HIS EYES OFF YOU.
Matthew 6:25-34
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sew or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagens run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Insight: Among the topics Christ so eloquently addresses is the subject of worry. It appears that He was attuned to the fretting the human heart experiences in daily life. He encourages us to seek God's kingdom as the top priority and then we are assured our Father God will provide for us (Matt.6:33). He suggests we manage stress by faith: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (v.34).
by Dennis Fisher

July 13th, 2017
WHEN WE DON'T UNDERSTAND
Although I depend on technology every day to get my job done, I don't understand much about how it works. I turn my computer on, bring up a Word document, and get to work on my writing. Yet my inability to comprehend how microchips, hard drives, Wi-Fi connections, and full-color displays actually function doesn't get in the way of my benefiting from technology.
In a sense, this mirrors our relationship with God. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God is far beyond us: " 'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.' "
Even though we don't understand everything about God, that doesn't prevent us from trusting Him. He has proven His love for us. The apostle Paul wrote, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom.5:8). Trusting that love, we can walk with Him even when life doesn't make sense.
by Bill Crowder
Heavenly Father, thank You that although I cannot comprehend You, I can know You. I'm grateful. Remind me that even though You and Your ways might be beyond me, I can always count on Your love for me and Your presence with me.
GOD WOULD NOT BE WORTHY OF OUR WORSHIP IF HE COULD BE UNDERSTOOD BY OUR WISDOM.
Isaiah 55:6-13
"Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways in the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I send it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever."
Insight: Isaiah had the unenviable task of proclaiming the sin of Judah and foretelling the impending Babylonian exile. His message, however, is not without hope. Verses 8 and 9 say quite a bit when seen in light of their context: " ' For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, 'declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.' " Even though the Israelites are facing exile and are in the throes of judgment, God's grace still shines through.
by Dennis Moles

July 12th, 2017
SHAPING YOUR THOUGHTS
When Marshall McLuhan coined the praise "The medium is the message" in 1964, personal computers were unknown, mobile phones were science fiction, and the internet didn't exist. Today we understand what great foresight he had in predicting how our thinking is influenced in this digital age. In Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, he writes, "[the media] supplied the stuff of thought, but they also shaped the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I'm on line or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles."
I like J.B. Phillip's paraphrase of Paul's message to the Christians in Rome: "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity" (Rom.12:2). How relevant this is today as we find our thoughts and the way our minds process material affected by the world around us.
We cannot stem the tide of information that bombards us, but we can ask God each day to help us focus on Him and to shape our thinking through His presence in our lives.
by David McCasland
Father in heaven, still and focus my mind, quiet my heart, and fill me with Your thoughts throughout this day.
LET GOD'S SPIRIT, NOT THE WORLD, SHAPE YOUR MIND.
Romans 12:1-8

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. 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.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Insight: Tradition has it that the apostle Peter brought the gospel to Rome. This is unlikely as there is no historical evidence that Peter was ever in Rome. The gospel was probably brought into Rome in two ways. First, among the three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost, there were "visitors from Rome" (Acts 2:10). These converted returnees could have brought the gospel back home. Second, because it was the capital city the Roman Empire, thousands of other believers (visitors, tourists, soldiers, traders, businessmen, and migrants) would have come into Rome. These visiting believers would have brought the gospel with them.
by Sim Kay Tee

July 11, 2017
NO FEAR
Nearly every time an angel appears in the Bible, the first words he says are, "Do not be afraid" (Dan.10:12,19; Matt.28:5; Rev.1:17). Little wonder. When the supernatural makes contact with planet Earth, it usually leaves the human observers flat on their faces in catatonic fear. But Luke tells of God making an appearance on earth in a form that does not frighten. In Jesus, born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough, God finds at last a mode of approach that we need not fear. What could be less scary than a new born baby?
Puzzled skeptics stalked Jesus throughout His ministry. How could a baby in Bethlehem, a carpenter's son, be the Messiah from God? But a group of shepherds in a field have no doubt about who He was, for they heard the message of good news straight from a choir of angels (2:8-14).
Why did God take on human form? The Bible gives many reasons, some densely theological and some quite practical; but the scene of Jesus as an adolescent lecturing rabbis in the temple gives one clue (v.46). For the first time, ordinary people could hold a conversation, a debate, with God in visible form. Jesus could talk to anyone-His parents, a rabbi, a poor widow-without first having to announce, "Don't be afraid."
In Jesus, God comes close to us.
by Philip Yancey
I'm humbled, Lord, that You would come near to me. But I'm grateful. Thank You.
GOD INCARNATE IS THE END OF FEAR.
F.B.MEYER
Luke 2:8-20

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly hosts appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
When the angels have left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Insight: While the writers of Matthew, Mark, and John had direct contact with Jesus, Luke was written by a historian after a great amount of research. The others began simply by diving into the story of Jesus. In the introduction to Luke's gospel, he begins by giving the reader reason to trust what he or she is about to read. (see Luke 1:1-4.)
by J.R. Hudberg

July 10th, 2017
RELIEF FROM THE SCORCHING SUN
Living in Britain, I don't usually worry about sunburn. After all, the sun is often blocked by a thick cover of clouds. But recently I spent some time in Spain, and I quickly realized that with my pail skin, I could only be out in the sunshine for ten minutes before I needed to scurry back under the umbrella.
As I considered the scorching nature of the Mediterranean sun, I began to understand more deeply the meaning of the image of the Lord God as His people's shade at their right hand. Residents of the Middle East knew unrelenting heat, and they needed to find shelter from the sun's burning rays.
The psalmist uses this picture of the Lord as shade in Psalm 121, which can be understood as a conversation on a heart level-a dialogue with oneself about the Lord's goodness and faithfulness.
When we use this psalm in prayer, we reassure ourselves that the Lord will never leave us, for He forms a protective covering over us. And just as we take shelter from the sun underneath umbrellas, so too can we find a safe place in the Lord.
We lift our eyes to the "Maker of heaven and earth" (vv.1-2) because whether we are in times of sunshine or times of rain, we receive His gifts of protection, relief, and refreshment.
by Amy Boucher Pye
Heavenly Father, You protect me. Shield me from anything that would take my focus away from You.
WE FIND REFUGE IN THE LORD
Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip-He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you-the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm-He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Insight: Psalm 121 is the second in a series of fifteen psalms known as "songs of ascent." They are a collection of songs by different composers, with four attributed to David and one to Solomon. Ten are anonymous. If they did not all carry the superscription "a song of ascent," they might appear unrelated. The superscription, however, shows they are connected in the liturgy of ancient Israel. One view is that they were sung by the Levitical worship leaders (Priests) as they ascended the steps into the temple in Jerusalem. The more prevalent view is that these songs were assembled so that pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate the three annual high feasts in community could sing them on their journey (Deut.16:16).
by Bill Crowder

July 9th, 2017
WHO WILL TELL THEM?
WW2 had ended. Peace had been declared. But young Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda of the Japanese Imperial Army, stationed on an island in the Philippines, didn't know that war had ended. Attempts were made to track him down. Leaflets were dropped over his location, telling him the war was over. But Onoda, whose last order in 1945 was to stay and fight, dismissed these attempts and leaflets as trickery or propaganda from the enemy. He did not surrender until March 1974-nearly thirty years after the war had ended-when his former commanding officer traveled from Japan to the Philippines, recinded his original order, and officially relieved Onoda of duty. Onoda finally believed the war was over.
When it comes to the good news about Jesus Christ, many still haven't heard or don't believe that He has "destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim.1:10). And some of us who have heard and believed still live defeated lives, trying to survive on our own in the jungle of life.
Someone needs to tell them the glorious news of Christ's victory over sin and death. Initially, they may respond with skepticism or doubt, but take heart. Imagine the freedom they'll find when Christ illumines their mind with the knowledge that the battle has been won.
by Poe Fang Chia
Lord, help me to keep an open heart to listen to others and to share about what You have done.
WILL YOU TELL SOMEONE THE GOOD NEWS TODAY?
2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.
On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.
Insight: When we hear the word ministry we often associate it with a vocation or certain church-related activities that perform individually-"my ministry is this or that." But Paul is telling the church at Corinth that they all have the same ministry: "Through God's mercy we have this ministry" (2 Cor.4:1). So what is this universal ministry Paul is calling the church to? The Greek word translated "Ministry" in this passage is commonly rendered "Waiting at tables." Paul is talking about service. All Christians are called to a lifestyle of service that witnesses to and communicates the good news of Jesus.
by Dennis Moles

July 7th ,2017
WHO ARE YOU DEFENDING?
When Kathleen's teacher called her to the front of the grammer class to analyze a sentence, she panicked. As a recent transfer student, she hadn't learned that aspect of grammar. The class laughed at her.
Instantly the teacher sprang to her defense. "She can out-wright any of you any day of the week!" he explained. Many years later, Kathleen gratefully recalled the moment: "I started that day to write as well as he said I could." Eventually, Kathleen Parker would win a Pulitzer Prize for her writing.
As did Kathleen's teacher, Jesus identified with the defenseless and vulnerable. When His disciples kept children away from Him, He grew angry. "Let the little children come to me," He said, "And do not hinder them" (Mark 10:14). He reached out to a despised ethnic group, making the Good Samaritan the hero of His parable (Luke 10:25-37) and offering genuine hope to a searching Samaritan woman at Jacob's well (John 4:1-26). He protected and forgave a woman trapped in adultery (John 8:1-11). And though we were utterly helpless, Christ gave His life for all of us (Rom.5:6).
When we defend the vulnerable and the marginalized, we give them a chance to realize their potential. We show them real love, and in a small but significant way we reflect the very heart of Jesus.
by Tim Gustafson
Father help me recognize the people in my life who need someone to stand with them. Forgive me for thinking that its "Not my problem." Help me to love others as You do.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LOVE CHRIST WITHOUT LOVING OTHERS.
Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus for Him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Insight: Jesus rebuked the disciples for seeking to sideline children. He actually welcome open access to those who sought contact with Him. The rationale given was that "the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Mark 10:14). What could Jesus possibly mean? Most likely went through the disciples' mind. Our Lord then qualified what He said: "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (V.15). A child is more likely to express faith than a skeptical adult is. We are to follow their example and believe and rely on the promises of God. After this explanation, Jesus physically showed His acceptance by taking the children in His arms and blessing them.
by Dennis Fisher

July 6th, 2017
CHIN UP
Emil was a homeless man who spent a whole year looking down at the pavement as he plodded around the city day after day. He was ashamed to meet the eyes of others in case they recognized him, for his life had not always been lived out on the streets. Even more than that, he was intent on finding a coin that had been dropped or a half-smoked cigarette. His downward focus became such a habit that the bones of his spine began to become fixed in that position so that he had great difficulty in straightening up at all.
The prophet Elisha's servant was looking in the wrong direction and was terrified at the huge army the king of Aram had sent to capture his master (2 Kings 6:15). But Elisha knew he was seeing only the danger and the size of the opposition. He needed to have his eyes opened to see the divine protection that surrounded them, which was far greater than anything Aram could bring against Elisha (v.17).
When life is difficult and feel we are under pressure, its so easy to see nothing but our problems. But the author of the letter to the Hebrews suggests a better way. He reminds us that Jesus went through unimaginable suffering in our place and that if we fix our eyes on Him (12:2), He will strengthen us.
Marion Stroud
Sometimes, Lord, it seems as if I can only see the knots and tangles in the tapestry of my life. Please help me to open my eyes and see the beautiful picture You are weaving.
CHRIST AT THE CENTER BRINGS LIFE INTO FOCUS.
2 Kings 6:8-17

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, "I will set up my camp in such and such a place."
The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: "Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there." So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.
This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, "Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?"
"None of us, my lord the king," said one of his officers, "but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom."
"Go, find out where he is," the king ordered, "so I can send men and capture him." The report came back: "He is in Dothan." Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?" the servant asked.
"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more then those who are with them."
And Elisha prayed, "Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see." Then the Lord opened the servants eyes and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Insight: Being a prophet was a thankless and hazardous profession, but Elisha knew God would be faithful. God never left Elisha even though others could not see God's presence. We also find in this passage that God knew Elisha's enemies and was more than capable of delivering His people.
By Dennis Moles.

July 5th, 2017
WHO'S WATCHING YOU?
No matter where the athletes of the 2016 Olympics go in the city of Rio de Janeiro, they can see Jesus. Standing high above this Brazilian city and anchored to a two thousand three hundred and ten-foot-high mountain called Corcovado is a one hundred-foot-tall sculpture called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). With arms spread wide, this massive figure is visible day and night from almost anywhere in the sprawling city.
As comforting as this iconic concrete and soapstone sculpture may be to all who can look up and see it, there is much greater comfort from this reality: The real Jesus sees us. In Psalm 34, David explained it like this: "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry" (v.15). He noted that when the righteous call out for His help, "The Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (vv.17-18).
Just who are the righteous? Those of us who place our trust in Jesus Christ, who Himself is our righteousness (1 Cor.1:30). Our God oversees our lives, and He hears the cries of those who trust Him. He is near to help in our greatest times of need.
Jesus has His eyes on you.
by Dave Branon
Sometimes, Lord, life seems out of control and I don't know exactly which direction to take. Thank You for overseeing my life and prompting me in the right way through Your Word and Your Spirit.
THE LORD NEVER LETS US OUT OF HIS SIGHT.
Psalm 34:15-22

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
Insight: As a lone fugitive running from the jealous King Saul (1 Sam.19:1-12), David took refuge in the Philistine territory of Gath. Not only was it a foolish thing to do, it was also very dangerous. Gath was the hometown of Goliath (17:4,23). When the Philistines discovered he was the same David who had slain their champion Goliath (18:6-7), they captured him (21:11-15). Aware that his life was in danger, David feigned insanity, foaming at the mouth as a sign of derangement (21:13). The ploy succeeded. David was released, and he made his escape. In response to God's deliverance, David wrote Psalm 34 celebrating the God who answers prayers. "I sought the Lord, and he answered me" (v.4).
by Sim Kay Tee

July 4th, 2017
NOT PERFECT
In his book Jumping Through Fires, David Nasser tells the story of his spiritual journey. Before he began a relationship with Jesus, he was befriended by a group of Christian teens. Although most of the time, his buddies were generous, winsome and none judgmental, David witnessed one of them lie to his girlfriend.
Feeling convicted, the young man later confessed and asked for her forgiveness. Reflecting on this, David said that the incident drew him closer to his Christian friends. He realized that they needed grace, just as he did.
We don't have to act like we're perfect with the people we know. Its ok to be honest about our mistakes and struggles. The apostle Paul openly referred to himself as the worst of all sinners (1 Tim.1:15).
He also described his wrestling match with sin in Romans 7, where he said, "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out" (v.18). Unfortunately the opposite was also true: "The evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing" (v.19).
Being open about our struggles puts us on the same level with every other human alive-which is right where we belong! However, because of Jesus Christ, our sin will not follow us into eternity. Its like the old saying goes, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Dear Jesus, I worship You as the only perfect human ever to live. Thank You for making it possible for me to have victory over sin.
THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHRISTIANS AND EVERYONE ELSE IS FORGIVENESS

Romans 7:14-25
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, so as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Insight: When Paul says that the "law" is spiritual, he is likely referring to the Torah (meaning "instruction"), the first five books of the Old Testament. The Torah is a gift to teach us something about God's holiness and our sin.
by Dennis Moles

July 3rd, 2017
MORE THAN WE CAN IMAGINE
What are the five best toys of all time? Jonthan H. Liu suggested the following: A stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt (see GeekDad column at wired.com). All are readily available, versatile, appropriate for all ages, fit every budget, and are powered by imagination. No batteries required.
Imagination plays a powerful role in our lives, so its not unusual that the apostle Paul mentioned it in his prayer for the followers of Jesus in Ephesus (Eph.3:14-21). After asking God to strengthen them with His power through His Spirit (v.16), Paul prayed that they would be able to grasp and experience the full dimension of the love of Christ (vv.17-19). In closing, Paul gave glory to "him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us" (v.20).
Often our experience limits our prayers-a situation we can't picture being different; destructive habits that remain unbroken; long-held attitudes that seem to defy change. As time passes, we may begin to feel that some things cannot be changed. But Paul says that is not true.
By God's mighty power working in us, He is able to do far more than we may dare to ask or even dream of.
by David McCasland
Dear Father, help us today to embrace all that You have given us in Your Son-forgiveness, hope, encouragement, and power to live a new life.
NEVER MEASURE GOD'S UNLIMITED POWER BY YOUR LIMITED EXPECTATIONS
Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever! Amen.
Insight: Paul knew intimately and intensely the power of God to do things that could not be imagined. His own conversion from persecutor of the church to follower of Christ was a perfect example of the power of God (see Acts 9). In his letter to the young pastor Timothy (the pastor of the church in Ephesus), Paul refers to the power of God in the improbability of his conversion. It is only by the power and grace of God that "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (1 Tim.1:13) could be transformed into a man who, when in prison and facing capital punishment, could say "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil.1:21).
by J.R. Hudberg

July 2nd, 2017
NEVER GIVE UP!
Joop Zoetemelk is known as the Netherland's most successful cyclist. But thats because he never gave up. He started and finished the tour de France sixteen times-placing second five times before winning in 1980. That's perseverance!
Many winners have reached success by climbing a special ladder called "Never give up." However there are also many who have lost the opportunity to achieve success because they gave up too soon. This can happen in every area of life: Family, education, friends, work, service. Perseverance is a key to victory.
The apostle Paul persevered despite persecution and affliction (2nd Tim. 3:10-11). He viewed life with realism, recognizing that as followers of Christ we will suffer persecution (vv.12-13), but he instructed Timothy to place his faith in God and the encouragement of the Scriptures (vv.14-15). Doing so would help him face discouragement and endure with hope. At the end of his life, Paul said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (4:7).
We too can allow the Scriptures to strengthen us to press on in the race marked out for us. For our God is both a promise-making and promise-keeping God and will reward those who faithfully finish the race (v.8).
by Jamie Fernandez Garrido
Heavenly Father, give me strength of character and perseverance to help you better. Help me not to get discouraged when things get tough but to rely on You to see me through.
FAITH CONNECTS OUR WEAKNESS TO GOD'S STRENGTH.
2nd Timothy 3:10-15

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings-what kinds of things happen to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecution I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse deceiving and being deceived.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Insight: Paul experienced great persecution in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and lystra. In Antioch, he faced aggressive opposition form the religious leaders (Acts.13:45;15:1-2). In Iconium, Gentile and Jewish leaders conspired to have him killed (14:4-5). And in Lystra, he was stoned and left for dead (v.19). Yet in his final letter to Timothy, Paul uses three cities as examples of perseverance. He recounts these terribly painful events not to garner pity but to remind Timothy of God's faithfulness during times of hardship and pain.
by Dennis Moles

June 30th, 2016
GREY POWER
Dutch artist Yoni Lefevre created a project called "Grey Power" to show the vitality of the aging generation in the Netherlands. She asked local school children to sketch their grandparents. Lefevre wanted to show an "honest and pure view" of older people, and she believed children could help supply this. The youngsters' drawings reflected a fresh and lively perspective of their elders-grandmas and grandpas were shown playing tennis, gardening, painting, and more!
Caleb, of ancient Israel, was vital into his senior years. As a young man, he infiltrated the Promised Land before the Israelites conquered it. Caleb believed God would help his nation defeat the Canaanites, but the other spies disagreed (Josh.14:8). Because of Caleb's faith, God miraculously sustained his life for forty five years so he might survive the wilderness wanderings and enter the Promised Land. When it was finally time to enter Canaan, eighty-five year old Caleb said, "Just as my strength was then, so now is my strength" (v.11). With God's help, Caleb successfully claimed his share of the land (Num.14:24).
God does not forget about us as we grow older. Although our bodies age and our health may fail, God's Holy Spirit renews us inwardly each day (2 Cor.4:16). He makes it possible for our lives to have significance at every stage and every age.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Heavenly Father, I know that my physical strength and health can fail. But I pray that You will continually renew me spiritually so I can serve You.
WITH GOD'S STRENGTH BEHIND YOU AND HIS ARMS BENEATH YOU, YOU CAN FACE WHATEVER LIES AHEAD OF YOU.
Joshua 14:6-12

Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: "You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.
Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses sword on the day, saying, 'Surely the land where your foot has trotted shall be your inheritance and your children's forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.'
And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakiam were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said."
Insight: Caleb was one of the twelve spies Moses sent to explore Canaan. Based on the report of ten of the spies, the Israelites concluded that they could not conquer the land (Num.13:14). Caleb challenged their lack of faith (13:30;14:6-9;Deut. 1:29-30). God took note of his faithfulness (Deut.1:34-36), and he is consistently described as one who wholly followed the Lord (Num.14:24;32:12;Deut.1:36,Josh.14:8-9,14).

June 29th, 2017
WHOSE MESS?
Could they not carry their own garbage this far? "I grumbled to Jay as I picked up empty bottles from the beach and tossed them into the trash bin less than 20 feet away. "Did leaving the beach a mess for others make them feel better about themselves? I sure hope these people are tourists. I don't want to think that any locals would treat our beach with such disrespect."
The very next day I came across a prayer I had written years earlier about judging others. My own words reminded me of how wrong I was to take pride in cleaning up other people's messes. The truth is, I have plenty of my own that I simply ignore-especially in the spiritual sense.
I am quick to claim that the reason I can't get my life in order is because others keep messing it up. And I am quick to conclude that the "garbage" stinking up my surroundings belongs to someone other than me. But neither is true. Nothing outside of me can condemn or contaminate me-only what's inside (Matt. 15:19-20). The real garbage is the attitude that causes me to turn up my nose at at a tiny whiff of someone else's sin while ignoring the stench of my own.
by Julie Ackerman Link
Forgive me, Lord, for refusing to throw away my own "trash." Open my eyes to the damage that pride does to Your natural and spiritual creation. May I have no part of it.
MOST OF US ARE FARSIGHTED ABOUT SIN-WE SEE THE SINS OF OTHERS BUT NOT OUR OWN.
Matthew 15:7-21

"Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: " 'These people draw near to me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
When He had called the multitude to himself, He said to them, "Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."
Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do you know that the pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?"
But He answered and said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, they will both fall into a ditch."
Then Peter answered and said to Him, "Explain this parable to us."
So Jesus said, "Are you also still without understanding?
Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth, come from the heart and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
Insight: In today's passage, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, a group of the religious elite in Israel. They taught that obeying the law was the most important thing, so they emphasized external behavior. Jesus called attention to the condition of the heart and essentially said, "It doesn't matter if you do everything right. If your heart is bad, you are still defiled."

June 28th, 2017
PENCIL BATTLE
As I learned to write my letters, my first grade teacher insisted that I hold my pencil in a specific way. As she watched me, I held it the way she wanted me to. But when she turned away, I obstinately reverted the pencil to the way I found more comfortable.
I thought I was the secret winner in that battle of the wills, and I still hold my pencil in my own peculiar way. Decades later, however, I realized that my wise teacher knew that my stubborn habit would grow into a bad writing practice that would result in my hand tiring more quickly.
Children rarely understand what is good for them. They operate almost entirely on what they want at the moment. Perhaps the "Children of Israel" were aptly named as generation after generation stubbornly insisted on worshiping the gods of the nations around them rather than the one true God. Their actions greatly angered the Lord because He knew what was best, and He removed His blessing from them (Judg.2:20-22).
Pastor Rick Warren says, "Obedience and stubbornness are two sides of the same coin. Obedience brings joy, but our stubbornness makes us miserable."
If a rebellious spirit is keeping us from obeying God, its time for a change of heart. Return to the Lord; He is gracious and merciful.
by Cindy Hess Kasper
Heavenly Father, You are loving and gracious, and eager to forgive when we return to You. May we pursue You with our whole heart and not cling to our stubborn tendency to want things our way.
FIRST WE MAKE OUR HABITS; THEN OUR HABITS MAKE US.
Judges 2:11-22

Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them....And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them....
Wherever they out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.
Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so. And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.
Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said, "Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not."
June 27th, 2017
THE CHECKUP
Its that time of year when I go to the doctor for my annual physical. Even though I feel well and I'm not experiencing any health problems, I know that routine checkups are important because they can uncover hidden problems that if left undiscovered can grow to be serious health issues. I know that giving permission to my doctor to find and remedy the health problems can lead to long-term health.
Clearly the psalmist felt that way spiritually. Pleading for God to search for hidden sin, he prayed, "Search me, O God,...and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps.139:23-24). Pausing to give God the opportunity for a full and unconditional inspection, he then surrendered to the righteous ways of God that would keep him spiritually healthy.
So, even if you are feeling good about yourself, it is time for a checkup! Only God knows the true condition of our heart, and only He can forgive, heal, and lead us to a cleansed life and productive future.
by Joe Stowell
Lord, You know me better than I know myself. Search the deepest parts of my heart for anything that is displeasing to You. Cleanse me of my wandering ways and lead me in Your good and righteous way.
GOD'S WORK IN US ISN'T OVER WHEN WE RECEIVE SALVATION-IT HAS JUST BEGUN.
Psalm 139:17-24

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.
Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men. For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Insight: Often when discussing the greatness of God, Bible scholars speak in terms of His "Omni" -attributes. These reveal God to be all-knowing (Omniscient), everywhere-present (Omni present), and all-powerful (Omnipotent). In Psalm 139 David gives us descriptions of all 3. God's perfect knowledge and understanding are pictured in verses 1-6, His continual presence is praised in verses 7-12, and His mighty power is in view in verses 13-18. We serve a God who is both great and good-a God who is big enough for all we will ever face.

June 26th, 2017
A DEVOTED HEART
A successful Christian businessman shared his story with us at Church. He was candid about his struggles with faith and abundant wealth. He declared, "Wealth scares me!"
He quoted Jesus' statement, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:25 NIV). He cited Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and Lazarus and how in this story it was the rich man who went to hell. The parable of the "rich fool" (Luke 12:16-21) disturbed him.
"But, " the business stated, "I've learned a lesson from Solomon's verdict on the abundance of wealth. It's all 'meaningless' " (Eccl.2:11 NIV). He determined not to let wealth get in the way of his devotion to God. Rather, he wanted to serve God with his assets and help the needy.
Throughout the centuries, God has blessed some people materially. We read of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 17:5, "The Lord established the kingdom...so that he had great wealth and honor." He did not become proud or bully others with his wealth. Instead, "his heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord" (v.6). Also, "he followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord" (20:32).
The Lord is not against wealth for He has blessed some with it-but he's definitely against the unethical acquisition and wrong use of it. He is worthy of devotion from all His followers.
by Lawrence Darmani
Giving thanks to God often helps us learn contentment with what we have. What are you thankful for?
WEALTH OR NO WEALTH, DEVOTED HEARTS PLEASE THE LORD.
2 Chronicles 17:1-11

Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place, and strengthened himself against Israel. And he placed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim which Asa his father had taken.
Now the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the former ways of his father David; he did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not according to the acts of Israel. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah gave presents to Jehoshaphat, and he had riches and honor in abundance. And his heart took delight in the ways of the Lord; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah.
Also in the 3rd year of his reign he sent his leaders, Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah. And with them he sent Levites: Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebabiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah-the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests. So they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the Lord with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people.
And the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they do not make war against Jehoshaphat. Also some of the Philistines brought Jehosphaphat presents and silver as tribute; and the Arabians brought him flocks, 7 thousand 7 hundred rams and 7 thousands 7 hundreds male goats.
Insight: Jehoshaphat's devotion to the Lord is evidenced by His obedience to God's Word (17:4). He removed idols (v.6) and sent teachers all over the country to teach the scriptures (vv.7-9). When in trouble, he trusted in God (20:6-12).

June 25th, 2017
WALKING WITH THE LORD
A small pamphlet I received from a friend was titled "An Attempt to Share the Story of Eighty Six Years of Relationship with the Lord." In it, Al Ackenheil noted key people and events in his journey of faith over nearly nine decades. What seemed to be ordinary choices at the time-memorizing Bible verses, meeting for prayer with others, telling his neighbors about Jesus-became turning points that changed the direction of his life. It was fascinating to read how God's hand guided and encouraged Al.
The psalmist wrote, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way" (PS.37:23). The passage continues with a beautiful description of God's faithful care for everyone who wants to walk with Him. "The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide" (v.31).
Each of us could create a record of God's leading and faithfulness, reflecting on God's guidance -the people, places, and experiences that are landmarks on our pathway of faith. Every remembrance of the Lord's goodness encourages us to keep walking with Him and to thank someone who influenced us for good.
The Lord guides and guards all who walk with Him.
by David McCasland
Heavenly Father, Your faithfulness to us is unfailing. Thank You for leading, guiding, and providing so many spiritual encouragers and mentors. Bless those today who have helped us so much.
YOU ARE HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION WHEN YOU WALK WITH GOD.
Psalm 37:23-31

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.
I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed.
Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake his saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it forever.
The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.
Insight: The psalms of David speak so powerfully and realistically to us because they are records of his own experience-his own trials and hardship. We often like to focus on phrases like the one found in verse 23, "The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him" (NIV). But the reality comes in verse 24: "Though he may stumble, he will not fall" (NIV). We will stumble even when we delight in the Lord, but we will not fall because He upholds us.

June 23rd, 2017
MIRACLE MATERIAL
CNN calls a derivative of graphic a "miracle material" that could revolutionize our future. Only one atom thick, graphene is being hailed as a truly two dimensional material in a 3-D world. One hundred times stronger than steel, it is harder than diamond, conducts electricity one thousands times better than copper, and is more flexible than rubber.
In and of themselves, such technological advances are neither moral nor evil. But we are wise to remember the limitations of anything we make for ourselves.
Isaiah spoke to a generation who found themselves carrying into captivity gods they have made with their own hands. The prophet wanted the Israelites to see the irony of needing to care for the silver and gold idols they had crafted to inspire, help, comfort, and protect them.
What was true of Israel holds true for us as well. Nothing we have made or bought for ourselves can meet the needs of our heart. Only God, who has been carrying us "from the womb" (Isa.46:3-4), can carry us into the future.
by Mart Dehaan
Father, thank You for the miracle of relationship with You. Help us not to rely on our own efforts, strength, or possessions but instead since Your loving care for us.
AN IDOL IS ANYTHING THAT TAKES GOD'S RIGHTFUL PLACE.
Isaiah 46:1-10

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops; their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle. Your carriages were heavily loaded, a burden to the weary beasts. They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity.
Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth...: Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike? They...hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; they prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. ...Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer nor save him out of his trouble.
Remember this, and show yourselves men; recalled to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure."
Insight: Isaiah assured the discouraged Jewish nation in exile in Babylon that God would come to their rescue and punish their enemies (Isa.40-55). The Babylonian conquerors and their gods (represented by their chief deity, Bel, and his son Nebo) would be defeated and destroyed (46:1-2). Unlike these false gods, who were crafted by human hands and were incapable of protecting or saving anyone (vv. 6-7), God asserted that He alone was God and there was none like Him (v.9). He reminded His people that He had faithfully cared for them since birth (vv.3-4) and He alone had the power to save them (v.10).

June 22, 2017
AN EXCHANGE
Jen sat on her patio pondering a scary question: Should she write a book? She had enjoyed writing a blog and speaking in public but felt God might want her to do more. "I asked God if He wanted me to do this," she said. She talked with Him and asked for His leading.
She began to wonder if God wanted her to write about her husband's pornography addiction and how God was working in his life and their marriage. But then she thought that it might publicly disrespect him. So she prayed, "What if we wrote it together?" and she asked her husband Craig. He agreed.
While he didn't say what sin he committed, King David engaged in a public conversation about his struggles. He even put them into song. "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away," he wrote (Ps.32:3 NIV). So he said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" (v.5). Not everyone should go public with their private battles. But when David confessed his sin, he found peace and healing that inspired him to worship God.
Craig and Jen say that the process of writing their deeply personal story has brought them closer than ever. How like God who loves to exchange our guilt, shame and isolation for His forgiveness, courage, and community!
by Tim Gustafson
Do you need to make an exchange with God of guilt for forgiveness? He is listening.
GOD FORGIVES THOSE WHO CONFESS THEIR GUILT.
Psalm 32

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute integrity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.
For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him. You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Insight: Like my psalms, Psalm 32 was written after a time of struggle and hardship. That is why it begins with such a wonderful and comforting affirmation: "Blessed is the one..." (vv.1-2 NIV). But we must not overlook the path David took to be able to make that statement. David had gone through anxiety and depression while hiding in his sin. The blessing came only when he acknowledged and confessed it to the Lord (v.5).



June 21st, 2017
BE NEAR
My friend was going through some difficult challenges in her life and family. I didn't know what to say or do, and I told her so. She looked at me and said, "Just be near." That's what I did, and later on we started talking about God's love.
Many times we don't know how to respond when others are grieving, and words may do more harm than good. Serving others requires that we understand them and find out what they need.
Often we can help by meeting practical needs. But one of the best ways to encourage those who are suffering is to be near-to sit beside them and listen.
God is near to us when we call out to Him. "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles," the psalmist says. "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit" (Ps.34:17-18).
By putting ourselves in the shoes of others and allowing our hearts to feel compassion, we can help those who are hurting. We can be near them as God is with us and sit close to them. At the right time, the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say, if they are needed.
by Keila Ochoa
Who needs my help or for me to sit along side them this week?
THE BEST WAY TO ENCOURAGE OTHERS MAY BE TO JUST BE NEAR.
Psalm 24:4-18

I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Insight: Notice the exuberance with which David celebrates God in Psalm 34. In verses 1-3, the king declares his commitment to continual praise and invites others to join him in the celebration. At the root of his exaltation are two great expressions of God's care-His answers to our prayers (vv.4-6) and His protection and provision (vv.7-10). These take on such great value to David because he recognizes his own weakness, marked by his fears (v.4) and his sense of personal emptiness ("this poor man," v.6). God's rescue in the face of such realities is cause for celebration.

June 20th, 2017
FAITHFUL SERVICE
Having served in WW1, CS Lewis was no stranger to the stresses of military service. In a public address during the Second World War, he eloquently described the hardships a soldier has to face: "All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity... is collected together in the life of the soldier on active service. Like sickness, it threatens pain and death. Like poverty, it threatens ill logic, cold, heat, thirst, and hunger. Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule. Like exile, it separates you from all you love."
The apostle Paul used the analogy of a soldier suffering hardship to describe the trials a believer may experience in service to Christ.
Paul-now at the end of his life-had faithfully endured suffering for the sake of the gospel. He encourages Timothy to do the same: "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2:3).
Serving Christ requires perseverance. We may encounter obstacles of poor health, troubled relationships, or difficult circumstances.
But as a good soldier we press on-with God's strength-because we serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who sacrificed Himself for us!
by Dennis Fisher
Dear Father, help me to be faithful in my service to You. Thank You for the strength You provide to help me persevere through suffering.
GOD'S LOVE DOES NOT KEEP US FROM TRIALS, BUT SEES US THROUGH THEM.
2 Timothy 2:1-10

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
Insight: Paul often uses colorful metaphors to describe the Christian. Sheep (John 10:27), salt and light (Matt.5:13-14), and Ambassadors (2 Cor.5:20) are well-known examples. In today's reading Paul uses 3 common professions to describe the motivation and challenges of the Christian life. He speaks of the perseverance and allegiance of the soldier (vv.3-4), the dedication and discipline of the athlete (v.5), and the diligence and patience of the farmer (v.6). Paul also uses these metaphors again in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor.9:7,27).

June 19th, 2017
EULOGIZE THE LIVING GOD
In 2005, when American civil rights hero Rosa Parks died, Oprah Winfrey counted it a privileged to Eulogize her. Oprah said of the woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955, "I often thought about what that took-knowing the climate of the times and what could have happened to you-what it took to stay seated. You acted without concern for yourself and made life better for us all."
We often use the word Eulogy to refer to the words spoken at a funeral. But it can also refer to other situations where we give high praise to someone. In the opening lines of the Ephesians, the apostle Paul Eulogized the living God. When he said, "Blessed be the God and Father," he used a word for "Blessed" that means "Eulogy." Paul invited the Ephesians to join him in praising God for all kinds of spiritual blessings: God had chosen and adopted them; Jesus had redeemed, forgiven, and made known to them the mystery of the gospel; and the Spirit had guaranteed and sealed them. This great salvation was purely and act of God and His grace.
Let us continue to center our thoughts on God's blessings in Christ. When we do, like Paul, we will find our hearts overflowing with the Eulogy that declares: "to the praise of His glory."
by Marvin Williams
Blessed Father, I am overwhelmed by Your grace. My only adequate response is ceaseless praise. Thank You for choosing me, adopting me, redeeming me, forgiving me, and making known to me the mystery of the gospel.
PRAISE IS THE SONG OF A SOUL SET FREE.
Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love....In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-in Him.
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the holy spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of His glory.
Insight: Ephesians 1:3-14 is an extended blessing to God for His work of creation and redemption. Paul goes to great links to describe and celebrate the goodness of God for His grace and promise. Twice Paul mentions that our salvation is in accordance with His good pleasure or "according to the purpose of His will" (vv.5,9 ESV). God made the decision to lavish grace on those who would be saved in Jesus Christ, and He took delight in extending that grace.

June 17th, 2017
MY WAY
Two small boys were playing a complicated game with sticks and string. After a few minutes the older boy turned to his friend and said crossly, "You're not doing it properly. This is my game, and we play it my way. You can't play anymore!" The desire to have things our own way starts young!
Naaman was a person who was accustomed to having things his way. He was commander of the army of the king of Syria. But Naaman also had an incurable disease. One day his wife's servant girl, who had been captured from the land of Israel, suggested that he seek healing from Elisha, the prophet of God. Naaman was desperate enough to do this, but he wanted the prophet to come to him. He expected to be treated with great ceremony and respect. So when Elisha simply sent a message that he should bathe seven times in the Jordan river, Naaman was furious! He refused (2nd kings 5:10-12). Only when he finally humbled himself and did it God's way was he cured (vv.13-14).
We've probably all had times when we've said "I'll do it my way" to God. But His way is always the best way. So let's ask God to give us humble hearts that willingly choose His way, not our own.
by Marion Stroud
Father, forgive me for my pride and for some often thinking I know best. Give me a humble heart that is willing to follow Your way in everything.
HUMILITY IS TO MAKE A RIGHT ESTIMATE OF ONE'S SELF. by Charles Spurgeon
2nd Kings 5:1-15

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, ...but a leper.
And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman's wife. Then she said to her mistress, "If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy."...
Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean."
But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, ..."Are not the Abana and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage.
And his servants...said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more than, when he says to you, 'Wash and be clean'?" So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
And he returned to the man of God...and stood before him; and he said, "Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel..."
Insight: In Luke 4:27 Jesus referred to the healing of Naaman: "And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." His words are a reminder that God's concern and compassion are not limited to His chosen people, Israel, but extend to both Jew and Gentile.

June 16th, 2017
A GIVEN NAME
Most families have their own family stories. One in our family has to do with how I got my name. Apparently, when my parents were in the early days of their marriage, they disagreed about what to name their first son. Mom wanted a son named after Dad, but Dad wasn't interested in naming a son "Junior." After much discussion, they reached a compromise, agreeing that only that if a son was born on Dad's birthday would he be given Dad's name. Amazingly, I was born on my dad's birthday. So I was given his name with a "Junior" attached to it.
The naming of children is as old as time. As Joseph wrestled with the news that his fiancee, Mary, was pregnant, the angel brought him insight from the Father about naming the Baby: "She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt.1:21). Not only would Jesus be His name, but it would also explain the reason for His coming into the world: To take on Himself the punishment we deserve for our sin. His redemptive purpose behind the manger is wrapped up in the perfectly given Name above all names.
May our heart's desire be to live in a way that honors His wonderful name!
by Bill Crowder JR.
Thank You, Father, for sending Your Son to rescue us from sin and bring us into relationship with You.
JESUS: HIS NAME AND HIS MISSION ARE ONE AND THE SAME.
Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her first born Son. And he His name JESUS.
Insight: The Bible contains more than two hundred names for Jesus. In today's passage we see two of them-Jesus and Immanuel-both drawn from the Old Testament. Jesus, the Greek form of the Hebrew word Joshua, means "The Lord saves" and describes what He came to do: "He will save His people from their sins" (v.21). This phrase comes from Psalm 130:7-8 where Israel is encouraged to "Put [their] hope in the Lord....He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins" (NIV). Immanuel is an Old Testament name mentioned in the prophecy of Isaiah (7:14;8:8) and describes His nature: He is "God with us" (Matt.1:23).

June 15th, 2017
TRANSFORMED HEARTS
During the early 1970's in Ghana, a poster titled "The Heart of Man" appeared on walls and public notice boards. In one picture, all kinds of reptiles symbolic of the vile of despicable-filled the heart-shaped painting with the head of a very unhappy man on top of it. In another image, the heart-shape was clean and serene with the head of a contented man. The caption beneath the images read: "What is the condition of your heart?"
In Matthew 15:18-19, Jesus explained what pollutes a person. "The things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts-murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (NIV). That is the condition of a heart separated from God-the situation ancient Israelites found themselves in when their sins forced them into exile (Ezek.36:23).
God's promise in Ezekiel 36:26 is beautiful: "I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive, heart" (NLT; See also 11:19). God will take away our stubborn hearts that have been corrupted by all kinds of evil and give to us a clean heart that is responsive to Him. Praise God for such a wonderful gift.
by Lawrence Darmani
Father in heaven, thank You that when we confess our sin to You, You give us a new heart and a new life. I pray that the life I live reflects the goodness of Your gift and that others may see the difference a new heart has made in me.
FOR A NEW START, ASK GOD FOR A NEW HEART.
Ezekiel 36:22-31

"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God: "I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for my Holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations which you have profaned in their midsts; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord," says the Lord God. "When I am hallowed in you before their eyes.
" 'For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all the countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statues, and you will keep my judgments and do them.
Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be my people and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of your fields so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations." ' " 
Insight: Today's text gives two reasons why God is going to rescue and redeem the people of Israel. He will do it for the sake of His holy name (v.22) and so the nations will know He is the Lord (v.23).

June 14th, 2017
THE LIKES OF US
In the late 19th century, William Carie felt the call to travel to India as a missionary to share the good news of Jesus. Pastors around him scoffed: "Young man, if God wants to save [anyone] in India, He will do it without your help or mine!" They missed the point of partnership. God does very little on earth without the like of us.
As partners in God's work on earth, we insist that God's will be done while at the same time committing ourselves to whatever that may require of us. "Your kingdom come. Your will be done," Jesus taught us to pray (Matt. 6:10). These words are not calm requests but holy demands. Give us justice! Set the world aright!
We have different roles to play. We and God. It is our role to follow in Jesus' steps by doing the work of the kingdom both by our deeds and by our prayers.
We are Christ's body on earth to borrow Paul's Metaphor in Colosians 1:24. Those we serve, Christ serves. When we extend mercy to the broken, we reach out with the hands of Christ Himself.
by Philip Yancey
Lord, You have called us Your friends. In some small way, help us to show Your love to this hurting world so they will know You.
EXPECT GREAT THINGS FROM GOD; ATTEMPT GREAT THINGS FOR GOD.
by William Carey
Matthew 9:35-38

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them.
Because they were wearied and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Insight: Matthew's gospel presents Jesus to the Jewish people as their long-promised Messiah. Matthew primarily uses two methods to make this powerful assertion, both of which were intended to resonate deeply with his audience. First, he repeatedly uses Old Testament Scriptures that describe Christ and are fulfilled in Jesus. Second, a critical part of Matthew's argument for Jesus as the King of the Jews was Jesus' compassionate power on display. This is seen in Matthew 9 where Jesus rescues the broken, the hurting, the marginalized, and the hated.

June 13th, 2017
NOT SAYING GOODBYE
Francis Allen led me to Jesus, and now it was nearly time for Francis to meet Jesus face to face. I was at his home as it grew time for him to say goodbye. I wanted to say something memorable and meaningful.
For nearly an hour I stood by his bed. He laughed hard at the stories I told on myself. Then he got tired, we got serious, and he spent his energy rounding off some rough edges he still saw in my life. I listened, even as I tried to sort out how to say goodbye.
He stopped me before I got the chance. "You remember, Randy, what I've always told you. We have nothing to fear from the story of life because we know how it ends. I'm not afraid. You go do what I've taught you." Those challenging words reminded me of what the apostle Paul said to the believers in Philippi: "The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do" (Phil.4:9).
Francis had the same twinkle in his eye this last day I saw him as he had the first day I met him. He had no fear in his heart.
So many of the words I write, stories I tell, and people I serve are touched by Francis. As we journey through life, may we remember those who have encouraged us spiritually.
by Randy Kilgore
Who has been your mentor? Are you mentoring others?
LIVE SO THAT WHEN PEOPLE GET TO KNOW YOU, THEY WILL WANT TO KNOW CHRIST.
Philippians 4:1-9

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on theses things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Insight: Paul often showed his appreciation for people who have worked with him, and he often singled out individuals for special mention in his letters (see Rom.16;Col.4:2;Tim. 1:16-18; Titus 3:12-13). It is estimated that he designates some eighty-ninety people as his "fellow workers" in the book of Acts and in his letters. Included are fellow missionaries and interns, independent ministry associates, traveling companions, fellow prisoners, and supporters. In today's passage, he urges two women to reconcile and lovingly acknowledges that these women together with Clement (not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament) and unnamed list of fellow workers, have labored with him in spreading the gospel (vv.2-3).

June 12th, 2017
SEEING BEYOND LOSS
Author William Zinsser described his last visit to see the house where he grew up, a place he greatly loved as a boy. When he and his wife arrived at the hill overlooking Manhasset Bay and Long Island Sound, they found that the house had been demolished. All that remained was a huge hole. Disheartened, they walked to the nearby seawall. Zinsser looked across the bay, absorbing the sights and sounds. Later, he wrote of this experience, "I was at ease and only slightly sad. The view was intact: The unique configuration of land and sea I remember so well that I still dream about it."
The psalmist wrote of a difficult time when his soul refused to be comforted and his spirit was over-whelmed (PS.77:2-3). But in the midst of the struggle, he shifted his focus from his sadness to his Savior saying, "I will remember the years of the right hand of the most high. I will remember the works of the Lord...Your wonders of old" (vv.10-11).
In dealing with disappointment, we can either focus on our loss or on God Himself. The Lord invites us to look to Him and see the scope of His goodness, His presence with us, and His eternal love.
by David McCasland
Heavenly Father, this life can be both wonder and disappointing. We know that things are not the way they ought to be. Our disappointments cause us to turn to You, the only true hope for the world.
FAITH IN GOD'S GOODNESS KEEPS HOPE ALIVE.
Psalm 77:1-15

I cried out to God with my voice-to God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforting. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was over-whelmed.
You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the day of old, the years of ancient times. I called to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search.
Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?
And I said, "This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds.
Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.
Insight: The Psalms are moving reflections on life and God. In today's Psalm Asaph shares the disappointment of feeling as though God has abandoned him. But Asaph also shows us how to change our perspective. We do this by focusing on the character and deeds of the Lord. Our circumstances may not change, but we will see them in a different way-against the back drop of God.

June 11th, 2017
DESERT PLACES
Dry. Dusty. Dangerous. A Desert. A place where there is little water, a place hostile to life. Its not surprising, then, that the word deserted describes a place that is uninhabited. Life there is hard. Few people chose it. But sometimes we can't avoid it.
In Scripture, God's people were familiar with desert life. Much of the middle east, including Israel, is desert. But there are lush exceptions, like the Jordan Valley and areas surrounding the Sea of Galilee. God chose to "Raise His Family" in a place surrounded by wilderness, a place where He could make His goodness known to His children as they trusted Him for protection and daily provision (Isa.48:17-19).
Today, most of us don't live in literal deserts, but we often go through desert-like places. Sometimes we go as an act of obedience. Other times we find ourselves there through no conscious choice or action. When someone abandons us, or disease invades our bodies, we end up in desert-like circumstances where resources are scarce and life if hard to sustain.
But the point of going through a desert, whether literally or figuratively, is to remind us that we are dependent on God to sustain us-a lesson we need to remember even when we're living in a place of plenty.
by Julie Ackerman Link
Are you living in a place of plenty or of need? In what ways is God sustaining you?
IN EVERY DESERT, GOD HAS AN OASIS OF GRACE
Isaiah 48:16-22

"Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me."
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the Lord your God who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go. Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants also would have been like the sand; and the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; his name would not have been cut off nor destroyed from before Me."
Go forth from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldeans! With a voice of singing, declare, proclaim this, utter it to the end of the earth; say, "the Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!"
And they did not thirst when He led them through the deserts. He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock and the waters gushed out.
"There is no peace," says the Lord, "for the wicked."
Insight: Easton's Bible Dictionary says of the prophet Isaiah: "He exercised the functions of his office during the reigns of Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Uzziah reigned fifty-two years (810-759 BC) and Isaiah must have begun his career a few years before Uzziah's death...He lived till the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, and in all likelihood outlived that monarch (who died [in] 698 BC)...His first call to the prophetical office is not recorded. A second call came to him 'in the year that king Uzziah died' (Isa.67:1). He exercised his ministry in a spirit of uncompromising firmness and boldness."
June 11th, 2017
GRACE IN OUR HEARTS
A few years ago, four-star General Peter Chiarelli (No.2 General in the US Army at that time) was mistaken for a waiter by senor presidential adviser at a formal Washington dinner. As the general stood behind her in his dress uniform, the senior adviser asked him to get her a beverage. She then realized her mistake, and the general graciously eased her embarrassment by cheerfully refilling her glass and even inviting her to join his family sometime for dinner.
The word gracious come from the word grace, and it can mean an act of kindness or courtesy, like the general's. But it has an even deeper meaning to followers of Christ. We are recipients of the incredible free and unmerited favor-grace-that God has provided through His Son, Jesus (Eph.2:8).
Because we have received grace, we are to show it in the way we treat others-for example, in the way we speak to them: "The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious" (Eccl. 10:12). Grace in our hearts pours out in our words and deeds (Col.3:16-17).
Learning to extend the grace in our hearts toward others is a by-product of the life of a Spirit-filled follower of Christ Jesus-the greatest of grace-givers.
by Cindy Hess Kasper
Dear heavenly Father, help me today to season my words with grace. May all that I say and do be gracious to others and pleasing to You, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
GOD'S GRACE IN THE HEART BRINGS OUT GOOD DEEDS IN THE LIFE.
Ephesians 2:4-10

But God, who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Insight: Salvation is God's gift and can never be earned by our good works. Paul reminds us that through Christ "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph.1:7). In today's passage, Paul emphasizes this grace by repeating the phrase "by grace you have been saved"(2:5-8). While we are not saved by our good works, we are saved so that we can do good works (v.10). Paul reminds us to be "fruitful in every good work" (Col.1:10) and "zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14).
June 8th, 2017
ORDINARY PEOPLE
Gideon was an ordinary person. His story, recorded in Judges 6, inspires me. He was a farmer, and a timid one at that. When God called him to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon's initial response was "How can I save Israel?
Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my Father's house" (Judge. 6:15). God promised that He would be with Gideon and that he would be able to accomplish what he had been asked to do (v.16). Gideon's obedience brought victory to Israel, and he is listed as one of the great heroes of faith (Heb.11:32).
Many other individuals played a significant part in this plan to save the Israelites from a strong enemy force. God provided Gideon with 300 men, valiant heroes all, to win the battle. We are not told their names but their bravery and obedience are recorded in the Scriptures (Judg.7:5-23).
Today, God is still calling ordinary people to do His work and assuring us that He will be with us as we do. Because we are ordinary people being used by God, its obvious that the power comes from God and not from us.
by Poh Fang Chia
Lord, I am just an ordinary person, but You are an all powerful God. I want to serve You. Pleas show me how and give me the strength.
GOD USES ORDINARY PEOPLE TO CARRY OUT HIS EXTRAORDINARY PLAN.
Judges 6:11-16

Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the Terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon thrashed wheat in the wine press, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!"
Gideon said to Him, "O my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our Fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites."
Then the Lord turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?"
So He said to Him, "O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manassah, and I am the least in my father's house."
And the Lord said to him, "Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man."
Insight: Today's text provides some insight into how we should view situations for which we feel inadequate. Gideon did not feel prepared to go into battle against the Midianites who were oppressing Israel. Responding to Gideon's understandable concern, God sent the Angel of the Lord to encourage him. He said that Gideon should "Go in the strength" He had (Judg.6:14 NIV), but he also said, "I will be with you" (v.16). When God calls us to take on a difficult task, we can rely on His strength and power to help us accomplish it.
June 7th, 2017
THE SLOW WALK
Caleb was sick. Really sick! Diagnosed with a nervous system disease, the five-year-old suffered from temporary paralysis. His anxious parents prayed. And waited. Slowly, Caleb began to recover. Months later, when doctors cleared him to attend school, all Caleb could manage was a slow unsteady walk.
One day his dad visited him at school. He watched his son haltingly descend the steps to the playground. And then he saw Caleb's young friend Tyler come alongside him. For the entire recess, as the other kids raced and romped and played, Tyler slowly walked the playground with his frail friend. Job must have ached for a friend like Tyler. Instead, he had three friends who were certain he was guilty. "Who ever perished, being innocent?" asked Eliphaz (Job 4:7). Such accusations prompted Job to bitterly declare, "Miserable comforters are you all!" (16:2).
How unlike Jesus. On the eve of His crucifixion He took time to comfort His disciples. He promised them the Holy Spirit, who would be with them forever (John 14:16), and assured them, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (v.18). Then, just before He returned to His Father, He said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt.28:20).
The One who died for us also walks with us, step by pain-staking step.
by Tim Gustafson
Father, we tend to say too much to our hurting friends. Help us choose our words wisely. Teach us to walk slowly with those in pain, as You walked patiently with us.
SOMETIMES THE BEST WAY TO BE LIKE JESUS IS TO SIT QUIETLY WITH A HURTING FRIEND.
Job 16:1-5

Then Job answered and said: "I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all! Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul's place. I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you; but I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief."
Insight: The story of how Job wrestled with tragedy and how he struggled to understand God's role in the apparent injustices of life is well known. Job and his three friends (Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite) engage in a series of debates to try to come to terms with life's great heartaches. In Job 16, Job responds to more charges from Eliphaz who says Job's suffering is punishment for wickedness (see 15:17-35). The issues of suffering and injustice do not always find resolution in this life, regardless of our attempts to explain them away. In the end, the wise response is to say that "the secret things belong to the Lord our God" (Deut.29:29), for some things are just not revealed to us.

June 6th, 2017
DARKNESS AND LIGHT
When I was a a boy, I delivered news papers to about 140 homes on two streets that were connected by a cemetery. Since I delivered a morning newspaper, I had to be out at 3:00 a.m. walking through that cemetery in the darkness. Sometimes I would be so frightened that I would actually run! I was afraid until I was standing safely under a street light on the other side. The scary darkness was dispelled by the light.
The psalmist understood the connection between fear and darkness, but he also knew that God is greater than those fears. He wrote, "You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness" (PS.91:5-6). Neither terrors of night nor evil in the darkness need to drive us to fear. We have a God who sent His Son, the Light of the World (John 8:12).
In the light of God's love and grace and truth, we can find courage, help, and strength to live for Him.
by Bill Crowder
Lord, I come to You, the Light of the World. I want You to bring Your light into the darkness of my fears.
YOU NEED NOT FEAR THE DARKNESS IF YOU ARE WALKING WITH LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
Psalm 91:1-8

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust."
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked.
Insight: Psalm 91 celebrates the safety and security of those who trust in God. The Psalmist warns of danger from insidious schemes of men, uninvited troubles, physical attacks, sickness, and disasters. But the Lord protects those who trust in Him. This psalm does not promise immunity from danger but security in the midst of it. Various metaphors are used to describe the safety of the Lord including "the secret place of the Most High," "the shadow of the almighty," A "refuge," and A "fortress" (vv.1-2). He will "cover [us] with His feathers," "under His wings" we take refuge (v.4), and "His faithful promises are [our] armor and protection" (v.4 NLT).
June 5th, 2017
COME TO ME
When Jesus lived on this earth, He invited people to come to Him, and He still does today (John 6:35). But what do He and His Father in heaven have that we need?
Salvation. Jesus is the only way to have forgiveness of sin and the promise of heaven. "Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:15).
Purpose. We are to give all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength to following Jesus. "Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mark 8:34).
Comfort. In trial or sorrow, the "God of all comfort...comforts us in all our tribulation" (2nd Cor.1:3-4).
Wisdom. We need wisdom beyond our own for making decisions. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,...and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).
Strength. When we're Weary, "The Lord will give strength to His people" (Ps.29:11).
Abundant Life. The fullest life is found in a relationship with Jesus. "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
Jesus said, "The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). Come!
by Anne Cetas
How can I grow closer to God today?
JESUS INVITES US TO COME TO HIM FOR LIFE.
John 6:30-40

Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our Father's ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' "
Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always."
And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is he will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
Insight: The day after Jesus performed the miracle of feeding thousands of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, the crowd asked Him, "What sign will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat' " (John 6:30-31 NIV). This question is significant because it was the same group of people (or at least part of that group) that Jesus fed the day before who were now asking for a sign. They claimed their ancestors believed because they ate the bread from heaven. They had just seen Jesus miraculously provide bread for them, but they lacked faith to believe Jesus was who He said He was.

June 4th, 2017
THE CYRUS CYLINDER
In 1879, archaeologists discovered a remarkable little island in an area now known a Iraq (biblical Babylon). Just nine inches long, the Cyrus Cylinder records something that king Cyrus of Persia did twenty five hundred years ago. It says that Cyrus allowed a group of people to return to their homeland and rebuild their "holy cities."
Its the same story told in Ezra 1. There we read that "the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia" to make a proclamation (v.1). Cyrus said he was releasing the captives in Babylon to go home to Jerusalem re-establish their homes, and rebuild their temple (vv.2-5). But there's more to the story. Daniel confessed his sins and his people's sins and pleaded with God to end the Babylonian captivity (Dan.9). In response, God sent an angel to speak to Daniel (v.21). Later He moved Cyrus to release the Hebrews. (see also Jer.25:11-12;39:10.)
Together, the Cyrus Cylinder and God's word combined to show us that the king's heart was changed and he allowed the exiled Hebrews to go home and worship.
This story has great implications for us today. In a world that seems out of control, we can rest assured that God can move the hearts of leaders. We read in Proverbs 21:1 that the "king's heart is in the hand of the Lord." And Romans 13:1 says that "there is no authority except from God."
The Lord, who is able to change our own hearts as well as our leaders', can be trusted for He is in control. Let's ask Him to work.
by Dave Branon
Father, the world seems out of control. We know You are sovereign over everything. We pray that Your will be done in the hearts of our leaders.
RATHER THAN COMPLAIN, PRAY.
Ezra 1:1-4
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, thus says Cyrus king of Persia:
All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.
Insight: Ezra is one of the Old Testament books that deals with the Israelites' return to the land of promise after their exile in Babylon. Along with the books of Nehemiah and Haggai, it focuses on rebuilding Jerusalem, the once proud capital of the southern kingdom. Ezra's role as a scribe was to rebuild the religious life of the Israelites through the law of Moses. In Nehemiah, the focus is on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem to once again make it a safe haven for the people. Haggai's focus some years later was on the importance of rebuilding the temple, the center of the Israelites national life. 

June 2nd, 2017
FIERY CONVERSATION
Where I come from in Northern Ghana, bush fires are regular occurrences in the dry season between December and March. I've witnessed many anchors of farmland set ablaze when the winds carried tiny embers from fireplaces or from cigarette butts carelessly thrown by the road side. With the dry grassland vegetation, all that is needed to start a devastating fire is a little spark.
That is how James describes the tongue, calling it "a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell" (James 3:6 NIV). A false statement made here or backbiting there, a vicious remark somewhere else, and relationships are destroyed. "The words of the reckless pierce like swords," says Proverbs 12:18, "But the tongue of the wise brings healing" (NIV). Just as fire has both destructive and useful elements, so "death and life are in the power of the tongue" (18:21).
For conversation that reflects God's presence in us and pleases Him, let it"always be with grace" (Col.4:6). When expressing our opinions during disagreements, let's ask God to help us choose wholesome language that brings honor to Him.
by Lawrence Darmani
Guide my conversation today, Lord. May the words I choose bless and encourage others and build them up rather then tear them down. May You be pleased with what You hear.
ANGER CAN MAKE US SPEAK OUR MIND WHEN WE SHOULD BE MINDING OUR SPEECH.
James 3:2-10

For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: Although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.
Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse man, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
Insight: The book of James is often referred to as "the Proverbs of the New Testament." The emphasis on wisdom and behavior throughout its five brief chapters makes the comparison understandable. Jame's well-known warning about the explosive threat hiding behind our lips is sandwiched between verses about the relationship between faith and deeds (2:14-26) and between wisdom and deeds (3:13-18). It seems that James is suggesting that faith and wisdom are both significantly demonstrated in our ability to control our tongue. In other words, our speech puts our faith and our wisdom on display for everyone to see.
June 1st, 2017
RAISE YOUR HAND
The Saint Olaf Choir from Northfield, Minnesota, is renowned for making beautiful music. One reason for its excellence is the selection process. Applicants are chosen based not only on how well they sing but also on how they sound as a part of the whole. Another reason is that all members agree to commit to a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule.
One of the things that intrigues me the most about this choir is what happens during rehearsals. Whenever members make a mistake, they raise their hand. Instead of trying to hide the blunder, they call attention to it! This allows the conductor to help each singer learn the difficult part, and it increases the likelihood of a flawless performance.
I think this is the kind of community Jesus was establishing when He told Nicodemus that God sent His Son into the world to save it, not condemn it (John 3:17). Shortly after this conversation, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at the public well. He made it easy for her to admit failure by promising her a better way of life where she could enjoy His forgiveness (John 4).
As members of Christ's body on earth we should not fear admitting our wrongs, but welcome welcome it as an opportunity to together experience and rejoice in the forgiveness of God.
by Julie Ackerman Link
Lord, its our tendency to hide our sins and flaws. May we come to You in full honesty, understanding that we are loved and forgiven by You.
WE CAN'T PUT OUR SINS BEHIND US UNTIL WE ARE READY TO FACE THEM.
John 4:7-15,28-30

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water."
The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?"
Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a foundation of water springing up into everlasting life."
The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."...
The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, "Come, see a man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" Then they went out of the city and came to Him.
Insight: Jesus crossed racial, cultural, theological, gender, and social boundaries when He spoke to the woman at the well. Samaritans were the descendants of the Israelites who intermarried with the Assyrians. Because of this, Samaritan customs and theology often differed from those of the Jews. The Samaritan woman was also an outcast among her own people for her failed relationships and immoral behavior. What a wonderful picture of the Savior reaching beyond all barriers with His love.


May 31st, 2017
KNOWING AND DOING
Chinese philosopher Han Fiezi made this observation about life: "Knowing the facts is easy. Knowing how to act based on the facts is is difficult."
A rich man with that problem once came to Jesus. He knew the law of Moses and believed he had kept the commandments since his youth (Mark 10:20). But he seems to be wondering what additional facts he might hear from Jesus. "Good teacher, he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' "(v.17).
Jesus' answer disappointed the rich man. He told him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him (v.21).
With these few words, Jesus exposed a fact the man didn't want to hear. He loved and relied on his wealth more than he trusted Jesus. Abandoning the security of his money to follow Jesus was too great a risk, and he went away sad (v.22).
What was the Teacher thinking? His own disciples were alarmed and asked, "Who then can be saved? He replied, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God" (v.27). It takes courage and faith. "If you declare with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9).
Poh Fang Chia
God, thank You for the good news of Jesus. Give us the courage to act on what we know to be true, and to accept the salvation offered through Jesus. Thank You that You will give us the strength to act on the facts.
BELIEVE IN THE LORD JESUS, AND YOU WILL BE SAVED. Acts 16:31
Mark 10:17-27

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered "No one is good-except God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.' "
"Teacher," he declared, "All these I have kept since I was a boy."
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said.
"Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "children how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
Insight: The rich young ruler (Matt. 19:20, Luke 18:18) believed he had earned his place in heaven and his place in heaven (Mark 10:19-20). But Jesus revealed that the young man had put his trust in material things (vv.21-22) and that salvation is obtained when we love God first and trust in Jesus only (v.21).
by Sim Kay Tee
May 30th, 2017
PRAISE FROM PURE HEARTS
During my friend Myrna's travels to another country, she visited a church for worship. She noticed that as people entered the sanctuary they immediately knelt and prayed, facing away from the front of the church. My friend learned that people in that church confessed their sin to God before they begin the worship service.
This act of humility is a picture to me of what David said in Psalm 51: "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise" (v.17). David was describing his own remorse and repentance for his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Real sorrow for sin involves adopting God's view of what we've done-seeing it as clearly wrong, disliking it, and not wanting it to continue.
When we are truly broken over our sin, God lovingly puts us back together. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). This forgiveness produces a fresh sense of openness with Him and is the ideal starting point for praise. After David repented, confessed, and was forgiven by God, He responded by saying, "Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise" (Ps.51:15).
Humility is the right response to God's holiness. And praise is our heart's response to His forgiveness.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Dear God, help me never to excuse or minimize my sin. Please meet me in my brokenness, and let nothing hold me back from praising Your name.
PRAISE IS THE SONG OF A SOUL SET FREE.
Psalm 51:7-17
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoiced. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from our presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Insight: In today's reading, the psalmist cries, "cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean" (Ps.51:7). Hyssop was a wild shrub used in several significant purification rites. On the night of the Passover the Lord commanded the Israelites to use a Hyssop branch to spread the blood of the lamb on the door post and lintel of their homes (Ex.12:22). If a leper had been healed of leprosy, the priests were to use hyssop to sprinkle a mixture of blood and water onto the person as a sign of healing. (Lev.14:1-9). And on the day of the ultimate purification, a hyssop branch hoisted the sponge filled with sour wine to the lips of Jesus (John 19:28-30).
by Dennis Moles

May 29th, 2017
CAN'T DIE BUT ONCE
Born into slavery and badly treated as a young girl, Harriet Tubman (C.1822-1913) found a shining ray of hope in the Bible stories her mother told. The account of Israel's escape from slavery under Pharaoh showed her a God who desired freedom for His people.
Harriet found freedom when she slipped over the Maryland state line and out of slavery. She couldn't remain content, however, knowing so many were still trapped in captivity. So she led more than a dozen rescue missions to free those still in slavery, dismissing the personal danger. "I can't die but once," she said.
Harriet knew the truth of the statement: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Matt.10:28). Jesus spoke those words as He sent His disciples on their first mission. He knew they would face danger and not everyone would receive them warmly. So why expose the disciplines to the risk? The answer is found in the previous chapter. "When He saw the crowds, [Jesus} had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (9:36).
When Harriet Tubman couldn't forget those still trapped in slavery, she showed us a picture of Christ, who did not forget us when we were trapped in our sins. Her couragious example inspires us to remember those who remain without hope in the world.
by Tim Gustafson
May we find our peace and purpose in You, Lord, and share You with others.
TRUE FREEDOM IS FOUND IN KNOWING AND SERVING CHRIST.
Matthew 10:26-32

"So do not be afraid of them, for their is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
"Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven."
Insight: The passage we are reading today explores the likelihood of persecution for those who profess faith in Christ. We are encouraged by the certain future judgment of God when everything done on Earth will be disclosed (vv.26-27). Meanwhile, Christ admonishes us not to fear the harm man can do to us but rather to fear God (v.28). Then our Lord points to God's care for even the smallest of creatures and tells us we are much more valuable than they are (vv.29-31). If God cares for the sparrow, how much more will He care for us. Persecution will one day end, and we will receive God's eternal reward.
by Dennis Fisher

May 28th, 2017
HE WALKED IN OUR SHOES
To help his staff of young architects understand the needs of those for whom they designed housing, David Dillard sends them on "sleepovers." They put on pajamas and spend 24 hours in a senior living center in the same conditions as people in their 80's and 90's. They wear ear plugs to simulate hearing loss, tape their fingers together to limit manual dexterity, and exchange eyeglasses to replicate vision problems. Dillard says, "the biggest benefit is [that] when I send twenty-seven-year olds out, they come back with a heart ten times as big. They meet people and understand their plights" (Rodney Brooks, USA Today).
Jesus lived on this earth for thirty-three years and shared in our humanity. He was made like us, "fully human in every way" (Heb 2:17, so He knows what its like to live in a human body on this earth. He understands the struggles we face and comes alongside with understanding and encouragement.
"Because [Jesus] Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted" (v.18). The Lord could have avoided the cross. Instead, He obeyed His Father. Through His death, He broke the power of satan and freed us from our fear of death (vv.14-15).
In every temptation, Jesus walks beside us to give us courage, strength and hope along the way.
by David McCasland
Lord Jesus, Thank You for "walking in our shoes" on this earth and for being with us. May we experience Your presence today.
JESUS UNDERSTANDS.

Hebrews 2:10-18
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises."
And again, "I will put my trust in him."
And again he says, "Here am I and the children God has given me."
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death-that is the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Insight: Having affirmed the superiority of Christ because of His diety (Heb.1), the writer of Hebrews now focuses on His humanity (2:5-18). It was necessary for Christ to become "flesh and blood"(v.14) so that He could "make atonement for the sins of the people"(v.17) that Jesus-who was "fully human in every way"-had to suffer in order to save us is a constant emphasis in Hebrews (vv.9-10,17-18;5:8-10). Jesus told His disciples many times that He must suffer (Matt.16:21;17:12;Luke 22:15;24:26), and Isaiah prophesied it seven hundred years earlier (Isa.53).
Sim Kay Tee
May 26th, 2017
LIKE SHEEP
One of my daily chores when I lived with my grandfather in Northern Ghana was taking care of sheep. Each morning I took them out to pasture and return by evening. That was when I first noticed how stubborn sheep can be. Whenever they saw a farm, for instance, their instinct drove them right into it, getting me in trouble with the farmers on a number of occasion.
Sometimes when I was tired from the heat and resting under a tree, I observed the sheep dispersing into the bushes and heading for the hills, causing me to chase after them and scratching my skinny legs in the shrubs. I had a hard time directing the animals away from danger and trouble especially when robbers sometimes raided the field and stole stray sheep.
So I quite understand when Isaiah says "We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way" (53:6). We stray in many ways: desiring and doing what displeases our Lord, hurting other people by our conduct, and being distracted from spending time with God and His Word because we are two busy or lack interest. We behave like sheep in the field.
Fortunately for us, we have the good shepherd who laid down His life for us (John 10:11) and who carries our sorrows and our sins (Isa.53:4-6). And as our shepherd, He calls us back to safe pasture that we might follow Him more closely.
by Lawrence Darmani
Shepherd of my soul, I do wander at times. I'm grateful that You're always seeking me to bring me back to Your side.
IF YOU WANT GOD TO LEAD YOU, BE WILLING TO FOLLOW.
Isaiah 53:1-6

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.
Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Insight: Isaiah 53 is part of a "servant song" that includes Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and focuses primarily on the Servants suffering, which would be fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus. The Old Testament provides several foreshadowings of that suffering, and each brings its own perspective. In the Passover (Ex.12), we see the cross from the Father's perspective as Christ becomes our Passover Lamb. In Psalm 22, we see the cross from the perspective of Jesus Himself as David describes Christ's suffering experience. Isaiah 53, however, describes the cross from the perspective of humanity. It tells us what they saw, what they fail to see, and what they desperately needed to see-the depth and passion of God's rescuing love.
May 25th, 2017
WHEN THE WOODS WAKE UP
Through cold, snowy winters, the hope of Spring sustains those of us who live in Michigan. May is the month when that hope is rewarded. The transformation is remarkable. Limbs that look lifeless on May 1, turn into branches that wave green leafy greetings by months end. Although the change each day is imperceptible, by the end of the month the woods in my yard have changed from gray to green.
God has built into creation a cycle of rest and renewal. What looks like death to us is rest to God. And just as rest is preparation for renewal, death is preparation for resurrection.
I love watching the woods awaken every Spring, for it reminds me that death is a temporary condition and that its purpose is to prepare for new life, a new beginning, for something even better. "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24).
While pollen is a Springtime nuisance when it coats my furniture and makes people sneeze, it reminds me that God is in the business of keeping things alive. And after the pain of death, He promises a glorious resurrection for those who believe in His Son.
by Julie Ackerman Link
Read these encouraging verses that remind us of the hope of resurrection: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.
EVERY NEW LEAF OF SPRINGTIME IS A REMINDER OF OUR PROMISED RESURRECTION.
John 11:14-27

So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, She went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they died; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Lord," she replied, "I believe that you are the Messiah the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
Insight: John 11:1-27 is the third time the Gospels record Jesus raising someone from the dead. In Mark 5:22-43 Jesus goes to the house of a Jewish leader named Jairus and raises his twelve-year-old daughter. In Luke 7:11-17 Jesus interrupted a funeral procession in the town of Nain and brought a widow's dead son back to life. John 11 is unique since it is the only time a name is given for the resurrected person. In this case, Lazarus an abbreviation of Eleazar, was brought back from the dead. His name means "One whom God helps."
by Dennis Moles

May 24th, 2017
NO WORRIES
A comfortable plane ride was about to get bumpy. The voice of the captain interrupted in-flight beverage service and asked passengers to make sure their seat belts were fastened. Soon the plane began to roll and pitch like a ship on a wind-whipped ocean. while the rest of the passengers were doing their best to deal with the turbulence, a little girl sat through it all reading her book. After the plane landed, she was asked why she had been able to be so calm. She responded, "My daddy is the pilot and he's taking me home."
Though Jesus' disciples were seasoned fishermen, they were terrified the day a storm threatened to swamp their boat. They were following Jesus' instructions. Why was this happening? (Mark 4:35-38). He was with them but He was asleep at the stern of the craft. They learned that day that it is not true that when we do as our Lord says there will be no storms in our lives. Yet because He was with them, they also learned that storms don't stop us from getting to where our Lord wants us to go (5:1).
Whether the storm we encounter today is the result of a tragic accident, a loss of employment, or some other trial, we can be confident that all is not lost. Our pilot can handle the storm. He will get us home.
by C.P.Hia
What storms are you encountering today? Perhaps you have lost a loved one or are facing a serious illness. Perhaps you are having difficulty finding a job. Ask the Lord to strengthen your faith and take you safely through the storm to the other side.
WE DON'T NEED TO FEAR THE STORM WITH JESUS AS OUR ANCHOR.
Mark 4:35-5:1

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be Still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes
Insight: Jesus' calming of the storm is a remarkable witness to the power of our Creator over nature, for He spoke directly to the storm threatening the ship He and His disciples were in. He rebuked the wind and waves and said, "Quiet! Be still!" (4:39). The Greek word used here for "still" denotes the muzzling of a hustle animal. When we are overcome with worries and concerns, we can trust that our powerful Creator will still our fears.
by Dennis Fisher
May 23rd, 2017
WHY ME ?
Ruth was a foreigner. She was a widow. She was poor. In many parts of the world today, she would be considered a nobody-someone whose future doesn't hold any hope.
However, Ruth found favor in the eyes of a relative of her deceased husband, a rich man and the owner of the fields where she chose to ask for permission to glean grain. In response to his kindness, Ruth asked, "What have I done to deserve such kindness?...I am only a foreigner" (Ruth 2:10 NLT).
Boaz, the good man who showed Ruth such compassion, answered her truthfully. He had heard about her good deeds toward her mother-in-law, Naomi, and how she chose to leave her country and follow Naomi's God. Boaz prayed that God, "under whose wings" she had come for refuge, would bless her (1:16;2:11-12; See Ps.91:4). As her kinsman redeemer (Ruth 3:9), when Boaz married Ruth he became her protector and part of the answer to his prayer.
Like Ruth, we were foreigners and far from God. We may wonder why God would chose to love us when we are so undeserving. The answer is not in us, but in Him. "God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners" (Rom. 5:8 NLT). Christ has become our redeemer. When we come to Him in salvation, we are under His protective wings.
by Keila Ochoa
Dear Lord, I don't know why You love me, but I don't doubt Your love. I thank You and worship You!
GRATEFULNESS IS THE HEART'S RESPONSE TO GOD'S UNDESERVED LOVE.
Ruth 2:1-11

Now Naomi had a relative on her husband's side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was boaz.
And Ruth Moabite said to Naomi, "Let me go to the fields and pick up the left over grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor."
Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter." So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek...
Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, "Who does that young woman belong to?"
The overseer replied, "She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, 'Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.' She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter."
So Boaz said to Ruth, "My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled."
At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me-a foreigner?"
Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband...."
Insight: The book of Ruth demonstrates the redemptive nature of God's commandments. While many Old Testament laws may sound strange to modern ears, adherence to these laws provided food for the hungry, protection for the foreigner, and hope for the childless widows.
by Dennis Moles

May 21st, 2017
GOD'S DWELLING PLACE
James Oglethorpe (1696-1785) was a British general and member of Parliament who had a vision for a great city. Charged with settling the state of Georgia in North America, he planned the city of Savannah according to that vision. He designed a series of squares, each having a green space and designated areas for churches and shops, with the rest reserved for housing. The visionary thinking of Oglethorpe is seen today in a beautiful, well-organized city that is considered a jewel of the American South.
In Revelation 21, John received a vision of a different city-the New Jerusalem. What he said of this city was less about its design and more about the character of who was there. When John described our eternal home, he wrote, "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them'" (v.3). And because of who was there-God Himself-this dwelling place would be notable for what was not there. Quoting from Isaiah 25:8, John wrote," He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death" (v.4).
No more death! Nor will there be any more "mourning or crying or pain." All our sorrow will be replaced by the wonderful, healing presence of the God of the Universe. This is the home Jesus is preparing for all who turn to Him for forgiveness.
by Bill Crowder
Thank You, Father, that Your Son is preparing a place for us to live with You. Thank You that it will be more than just a wonderful place. It is where we will live with You and Know You forever.
WHILE YOU PREPARE A PLACE FOR US, LORD, PREPARE US FOR THAT PLACE.
Revelation 21:1-7

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.' He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
He said to me: "It is done. I am the alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children."
Insight: As the Godhead is clearly seen at the creation (Gen. 1:1-2; John 1:1-5), the triune God is likewise present in the recreation of all things. All members of the trinity appear in this recreation text (Rev.21). In verse 4, God Himself wipes away our tears. In verse 9, Christ the Lamb is pictured. In verse 10, John is carried away by the Spirit.
by Bill Crowder

May 19th, 2017
GREAT LITERATURE
Recently I came across and article describing what constitutes great literature. The author suggested that great literature "changes you. When you are done reading, you are a different person."
In that light, the Word of God will always be classified as great literature. Reading the Bible challenges us to be better. Stories of biblical heroes inspire us to be courageous and persevering. The wisdom and prophetic books warn of the danger of living by our fallen instincts. God spoke through various writers to pen life-changing psalms for our benefit. The teachings of Jesus shape our character to become more like Him. The writings of Paul orient our minds and lives to Holy living. As the Holy Spirit brings these Scriptures to our minds, they become powerful agents for change in our lives.
The writer of Psalm 119 loved God's Word for its transforming influences in his life. He recognized that the ancient Scriptures handed down from Moses made him wise and more understanding than his teachers (v.99). It kept him from evil (v.101). No wonder he exclaimed, "Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long," and "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (vv.97,103).
Welcome to the joy of loving great literature, especially the life-changing power of God's Word!
by Joe Stowell
Lord, thank You for Your Word and its powerful influence in my life. Help me learn to put its truth into practice.
THE SPIRIT OF GOD USES THE WORD OF GOD TO CHANGE THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
Psalm 119:97-104

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
Insight: When we hear the word law, we think of obligations and regulations, so the psalmist's declamation of love for God's law might sound strange to our modern ears. However, the Hebrew word translated "law" is Torah and literally means "direction" or "instruction." At this point in Israel's history, Torah had become the designation for the books of Moses. In the Hebrew context it included more than just the religious and civil regulations. It also included the stories, songs, poems and laws in the first five books of the Old Testament. Yahweh had spoken, and His instructions and directions-whether through law, story, or song-always lead to wisdom (Ps.119:98).
by Dennis Moles
May 18th, 2017
THE BREAD THAT SATISFIES
I learned to recite the Lord's prayer as a boy in primary school. Every time I said the line, "Give us today our daily bread" (Matt.6:11), I couldn't help but think about the bread that we got only occasionally at home. Only when my father returned from his trip into town did we have a loaf of bread. So asking God to give us our daily bread was a relevant prayer to me.
How curious I was when years later I discovered the booklet Our Daily Bread. I knew the title came from the Lord's prayer, but I also knew it couldn't be talking about the loaf of bread from the baker's shop. I discovered as I read the booklet regularly that this "Bread," full of Scripture portions and helpful notes, was spiritual food for the soul.
It was spiritual food that Mary chose when she sat at the feet of Jesus and listened attentively to His words (Luke 10:39). While Martha wearied herself with concern about physical food, Mary was taking time to be near their guests, the Lord Jesus, and to listen to Him. May we take that time as well. He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35), and He feeds our hearts with spiritual food. He is the Bread that satisfies.
by Lawrence Darmani
I sit before You now, Lord, and want to learn from You. My heart is open to hear from You in Your Word. Teach me. Feed me.
"I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE." JESUS
Luke 10:38-11:4

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
"'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'"
Insight: Martha was lovingly rebuked by Christ for her attitude in Luke 10:38-42. Yet later, in John 11:17-27 she made a profound statement of trust and dependence upon Christ following the death of her brother, Lazarus. Then in John 12:1-7, she once again served Jesus and his disciples, yet without any mention of the kinds of frustration pictured in Luke 10. It seems that Martha had grown in her relationship with Christ.
by Dennis Fisher
May 17th, 2017
TIME TO GROW
In Debbie's new home, she discovered an abandoned plant in a dark corner of the kitchen. The dusty and ragged leaves looked like those of a month Orchard, and she imagined how pretty the plant would look once it had sent up new bloom-baring stems. She moved the pot into a spot by the window, cut off the dead leaves, and watered it thoroughly. She bought plant food and applied it to the roots. Week after week she inspected the plant, but no new shoots appeared. "I'll give it another month," she told her husband, "and if nothing has happened by then, out it goes."
When decision day came, she could hardly believe her eyes. Two small stems were poking out from among the leaves! The plant she'd almost given up on was still alive.
Do you ever get discouraged by your apparent lack of spiritual growth? Perhaps you frequently lose your temper or enjoy that spicy piece of gossip you just can't resist passing on. Or perhaps you get up too late to pray and read your Bible, inspite of resolving to set the alarm earlier.
Why not tell a trusted friend about the areas of your life in which you want to grow spiritually and ask that person to pray for and encourage you to be accountable? Be patient. You will grow as you allow the Holy Spirit to work in you.
by Marion Stroud
Please give me patience, dear Lord, with myself and with others. Help me to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He shapes my desires and helps me grow.
EACH SMALL STEP OF FAITH IS A GIANT STEP OF GROWTH.
Galatians 6:1-10

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, our you also may be tempted. Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the Word should share all good things with their instructor.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Insight: When the Scriptures were written, much of the culture was agrarian. Even the city-dwellers, like those who made up the church at Galacia, were familiar with the natural rhythm of planting, growth, and harvest. No doubt Paul's encouragement to keep doing good had a ring of truth that modern and industrialized people might miss. The harvest takes hard work, investment, and time.
by Dennis Moles.
May 16th, 2017
IS HE GOOD?
" I don't think God is good," my friend told me. She had been praying for years about some difficult issues, but nothing had improved. Her anger and bitterness over God's silence grew. Knowing her well, I sensed that deep down she believed God is good, but the continual pain in her heart and God's seeming lack of interest caused her to doubt. It was easier for her to get angry then to bear the sadness.
Doubting God's goodness is as old as Adam and Eve (Gen.3). The serpent put that thought in Eve's mind when he suggested that God was withholding the fruit from her because "God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (v.5). In pride, Adam and Eve thought they, rather than God, should determine what was good for them.
Years after losing a daughter in death, James Bryan Smith found he was able to affirm God's goodness. In his book The Good and Beautiful God, Smith wrote, "God's goodness is not something I get to decide upon. I am a human being with limited understanding." Smith's amazing comment isn't naive; it arises out of years of processing his grief and seeking God's heart.
In times of discouragement, lets listen well to each other and help each other see the truth that God is good.
Anne Cetas
Lord, we will praise You in our difficult times like the psalmist did. You know us, and we turn to You because we know You are good.
THE LORD IS GOOD TO ALL; HE HAS COMPASSION ON ALL HE HAS MADE. PSALM 145:9
Genesis 3:1-8
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
"You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were open, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Insight: Today's reading unveils one of the central strategies of our enemy, satan. In addition to suppressing God's truth, satan uses Scripture for his own evil ends by tempting the believer to doubt the truth. When we experience doubts concerning the word of God, we can follow our Lord's example and cite Scripture with confidence (Matt.4). Scripture is an offensive weapon against our enemy (Eph.6:10-18).
by Dennis Fisher

May 15th, 2017
ALWAYS IN HIS CARE
Veteran news reporter Scott Pelley never goes on assignment without his travel essentials-a short wave radio, camera, indestructible suitcase, laptop computer, phone, and an emergency locator, beacon that works anywhere. "You extend the antenna, push two buttons, and it sends a signal to a satellite connected to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration," Pelley says. "It tells them who and where I am. Depending on what country you're in, they'll either send a rescue team-or not" (AARP The Magazine). Pelley has never needed to use the beacon, but he never travels without it.
But when it comes to our relationship with God, we don't need radios, phones, or emergency beacons. No matter how precarious our circumstances become, He already knows who and where we are. The psalmist celebrated this as he wrote, "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me....You are familiar with all my ways" (Ps.139:1-3).
Our needs are never hidden from God, and we are never separated from His care.
Today, we can say with confidence, "If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" (v.9-10).
The Lord knows who we are, where we are, and what we need. We are always in His care.
by David McCasland
O Lord, we praise You for Your never-ending love and Your never-failing care.
WE ARE ALWAYS IN HIS CARE.
Psalm 139:1-18

You have searched me, Lord and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, two lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," Even the darkness will not be dark to you: The night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand-when I wake, I am still with you.
Insight: Psalm 139 is a complex poem with several themes: meditation, confession, prayer, reflection, and lament. It contains four sections. The first deals with God's exhaustive and comprehensive knowledge (vv.1-6). The second displays his perfect and persistent presence (vv.7-12). The third movement in the psalm talks about God's intentional, personal, and ongoing creativity (vv.13-18). And finally, the psalm calls attention to humanity's desire and need for justice and redemption (vv.19-24).
by Dennis Moles

May 14th, 2017
RESTING AND WAITING
It was high noon. Jesus, foot-weary from His long journey, was resting beside Jacob's well. His disciples had gone into the city of Sychar to buy bread. A woman came out of the city to draw water...and found her Messiah. The account tells us that she quickly went into the city and invited others to come hear "A man who told me everything I ever did" (John 4:29).
The disciples came back bringing bread. When they urged Jesus to eat, He said to them, "My food...is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish his work" (v.34).
Now I ask you: What work had Jesus been doing? He'd been resting and waiting by the well.
I find great encouragement in this story for I am living with physical limitations. This passage tells me that I do not have to scurry about-worrying myself about doing the will of my Father and getting His work done. In this season of life, I can rest and wait for Him to bring His work to me.
Similarly, your tiny apartment, your work cubicle, your prison cell, or your hospital bed can became a "Jacob's well" a place to rest and to wait for your Father to bring His work to you. I wonder who He'll bring to you today?
David Roper
Lord, our circumstances can often threaten to overwhelm us. Today, help us to see You in all of life. We are learning to trust You as You do Your work.
IF YOU WANT A FIELD OF SERVICE, LOOK AROUND YOU.
John 4:4-14

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
"Sir," The woman said, "You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?"
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
Insight: In John 4:4 the Greek text literally says that Jesus had to travel throughout Samaria. He was not just going on a specific errand to meet one specific person. His encounter with the Samaritan woman is about more than just his heart and compassion for the individual. It is about His love and mercy for all who are lost and in need of His grace and forgiveness.
by Dennis Moles

May 12th, 2017
AMBASSADOR OF LOVE
In my work as a chaplain, some people occasionally ask if I am willing to give them some additional spiritual help. While I'm happy to spend time with anyone who asks for help, I often find myself doing more learning then teaching. This was especially true when one painfully honest new Christian said to me with resignation, "I don't think its a good idea for me to read the Bible. The more I read what God expects from me, the more I judge others who aren't doing what it says."
As he said this, I realized that I was at least partially responsible for instilling this judgmental spirit in him. At that time, one of the first things i did with those new to faith in Jesus was to introduce them to things they should no longer be doing. In other words, instead of showing them God's love and letting the Holy Spirit reshape them, I urged them to "behave like a believer."
Now I was gaining a new appreciation for John 3:16-17. Jesus' invitation to believe in Him in verse 16 is followed by these words. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
Jesus didn't come to condemn us. But by giving these new Christians a check list of behaviors, I was teaching them to condemn themselves, which then led them to judge others. Instead of being agents of condemnation, we are to be ambassadors of God's love and mercy.
by Randy Kilgore
Father, help me not to judge others today. Let me learn this until it changes me into someone more like You.
IF JESUS DIDN'T COME TO CONDEMN THE WORLD, THAT'S PROBABLY NOT OUR MISSION EITHER!
John 3:9-21

"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "And do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him."
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they had not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Insight: In John 3:1-21 Jesus is having a conversation with a religious leader named Nicodemus and tells him these important things about the kingdom of God. God's Spirit gives new life and entrance into His kingdom, and this is not obtained by our own efforts (vv.5-8). God sent Jesus to show His love, not His condemnation (vv.16-18). People hide in the darkness because of their sin, but Jesus is the Light and whoever follows Him is in the light (vv.19-21).
by Dennis Moles

May 11th,2017
START AFRESH
When I was growing up, one of my favorite books was Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. In one amusing passage, young Anne, by mistake, adds a skin medication instead of vanilla to the cake she is making. Afterward, she exclaims hopefully to her stern-faced guardian, Marilla, "Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"
I like that thought: Tomorrow is a new day-a new day when we can start afresh. We all make mistakes. But when it comes to sin, God's forgiveness is what enables us to start each morning with a clean slate. When we repent, He chooses to remember our sins no more (Jer.31:34;Heb.8:12).
Some of us have made wrong choices in our lives, but our past words and deeds need not define our future in God's eyes. There is always a fresh start. When we ask for His forgiveness, we take a first step toward restoring our relationship with Him and with others. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
God's compassion and faithfulness are new every morning (Lam.3:23), so we can start afresh each day.
by Cindy Hess Kasper
Thank You for this new day, Lord. Forgive me for doing those things in the past that I shouldn't have done, and for not doing those things that I should have done. Set my feet on Your right path today.
EACH NEW DAY GIVES US NEW REASONS TO PRAISE THE LORD.
Psalm 86:5-15

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call you, because you answer me.
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.
Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me-they have no regard for you. But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Insight: Psalm 86:5 declares, "You, Lord, are forgiving and good." The Hebrew word translated "forgiving" is sallah and litterly means "ready to forgive." Sallah appears just once in the Old Testament. By choosing this particular word, the psalmist is telling his readers that the Lord is not only capable of forgiving our sins, He is also ready and willing to do so.
by Dennis Moles

May 10th, 2017
OUR DIVINE DEFENSE
Under Nehemiah's supervision, the Israelite workers were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. When they were nearly half finished, however, they learned that their enemies were plotting to attack Jerusalem. This news demoralized the already exhausted workers.
Nehemiah had to do something. First, he prayed and posted numerous guards in strategic places. Then, he armed his workers. "Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked" (Neh.4:17-18).
We who are building God's kingdom need to arm ourselves against the attack of our spiritual enemy, satan. Our protection is the sword of the Spirit, which is God's Word. Memorizing Scripture and meditating on it enable us to "take [our] stand against the devil's schemes" (Eph. 6:11). If we think that working for God doesn't matter, we should turn to the promise that what we do for Jesus will last for eternity (1 Cor.3:11-15). If we fear we've sin too greatly for God to use us, we must remember that we've been forgiven by the power of Jesus' blood (Matt.26:28). And if we're worried we might fail if we try to serve God, we can recall that Jesus said we will bear fruit as we abide in Him (John 15:5).
God's Word is our divine defense!
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
God, thank You for the Bible. I believe that Your Word is alive and active. Please help me to remember it when I am worried or fearful, when I need encouragement and inspiration.
GOD'S WORD IS A DIVINE DEFENSE AGAINST ATTACKS FROM THE ENEMY.
Nehemiah 4:7-18

But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem's walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, "the strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall."
Also our enemies said, "before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and we will kill them and put an end to the work."
Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, "Wherever you turn, they will attack us."
Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes."
When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.
From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

May 9th, 2017
KEEP CLIMBING!
Richard needed a push, and he got one. He was rock climbing with his friend Kevin who was the delayer (the one who secures the rope). Exhausted and ready to quit, Richard asked Kevin to lower him to the ground. But Kevin urged him on, saying he had come too far to quit. Dangling in midair, Richard decided to keep trying. Amazingly, he was able to reconnect with the rock and complete the climb because of his friend's encouragement.
In the early church, followers of Jesus encouraged one another to continue to follow their Lord and to show compassion. In a culture riddled with immorality, they passionately appealed to one another to live pure lives (Rom.12:1;1Thess.4:1). Believers encouraged one another daily, as God prompted them to do so (Acts 13:15). They urged each other to intercede for the body (Rom.15:30), to help people stay connected to the church (Heb.10:25), and to love more and more (1 Thess.4:10).
Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has connected us to one another. Therefore, we have the responsibility and privileged with God's enablement to encourage fellow believers to finish the climb of trusting and obeying Him.
by Marvin Williams
When was the last time you needed to urge someone to keep following Jesus? Who has encouraged you or stirred you to pursue holiness, to keep praying, or to enlarge your love for Jesus and others?
ENCOURAGE ON ANOTHER AND BUILD EACH OTHER UP. 1 THESSALONIANS 5:11
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
Now about your love for one another, we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God's family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
Insight: Paul commended the Thessalonian Christians for being "a model to all the believers in Mascedonia and Achaia" (1 Thess. 1:7). In today's reading, Paul urges them to continue to live lives that "please God" (4:1). As believers, our desire should be to "live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way" (Col.1:10).
by Sim Kay Tee
May 8th, 2017
NOT FORGOTTEN
At her mother's fiftieth birthday celebration with hundreds of people present, firstborn daughter Kukua recounted what her mother had done for her. The times were hard, but her single mother deprived herself of personal comfort, selling her precious jewelry and other possessions in order to put Kukua through high school. With tears in her eyes, Kukua said that no matter how difficult things were, her mother never abandoned her or her siblings.
God compared His love for His people with a mother's love for her child. When the people of Israel felt abandoned by God during their exile, they complained: "The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me" (Isa.49:14). But God said, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (v.15).
When we are distressed or disillusioned, we may feel abandoned by society, family, and friends, but God does not abandon us. It is a great encouragement that the Lord says, "I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" (v.16) to indicate how much He knows and protects us. Even if people forsake us, God will never forsake His own.
by Lawrence Darmani
Thank You, Lord, that I am Yours forever. I'm thankful that I won't have to walk through any experience alone.
GOD NEVER FORGETS US.
Isaiah 49:13-21

Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me."
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you. Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live, "declares the Lord.
"You will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.
"Though you were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away.
The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, 'this place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.' Then you will say in your heart, 'who bore me these? I was bereaved and baron; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone but these-where have they come from?"'
Insight: The love of a mother for her new born child serves as a powerful symbol of God's love for us. Life has its inevitable painful surprises and upsets, and we can sometimes be tempted to doubt the goodness, protection, and provision, of the God who has redeemed us but as this wonderful Bible passage shows, our heavenly Father could no more forget about us than a nursing mother can turn her back on her child. The example of faithful parental care can serve as a reminder of God's never-ending love.
by Dennis Fisher

THE PROMISED SPIRIT
Tenacity and audacity-Elisha had heaps of both. Having spent time with Elijah, he witnessed the Lord working through the prophet by performing miracles and by speaking truth in an age of lies. Second Kings 2:1 tells us that Elijah is about to be taken "up to heaven," and Elisha doesn't want him to leave.
The time came for the dreaded separation, and Elisha knew he needed what Elijah had if he was going to successfully continue the ministry. So he made a daring demand: "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit" (2 Kings 2:9). His bold request was a reference to the double portion given the first born son or heir under the law (Deut.21:17). Elisha wanted to be recognized as the heir of Elijah. And God said yes.
Recently one of my mentors- a woman who spread the good news of Jesus-died. Having battled ill health for years, she was ready to enjoy her eternal feast with the Lord. Those of us who loved her were grateful at the thought of her new found freedom from pain and that she could enjoy God's presence, but we grieved the loss of her love and example.
Despite her departure, she did not leave us alone. We too had God's presence.
Elisha gained a double portion of Elijah's spirit-a tremendous privileged and blessing. We who live after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus have the promised Holy Spirit. The triune God, makes His home with us!
by Amy Boucher Pye
Dear Lord, we want to be more like You. Help us to be witnesses of Your Spirit within us.
WHEN JESUS ASCENDED TO HIS FATHER, HE SENT HIS SPIRIT.
2 Kings 2:5-12

The company of the prophets at Jerico went up to Elisha and asked him, "Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?"
"Yes, I know," he replied, "So be quiet."
The Elijah said the him, "Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan."
And he replied, "As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So the two of them walked on.
Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?"
"Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit," Elisha replied.
"You have asked a difficult thing," Elijah said, "Yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours-otherwise, it will not."
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horse of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in whirlwind.
Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! Thee chariots of horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore in two.
Insight: When Elisha received the "double portion" of Elijah's spirit, the first thing he asked was, "Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" (2 Kings 2:14). This question voices Elisha's deep concern that the ministry Elijah had-bringing the word of the Lord to the people-would not cease after Elijah was taken to heaven.
by J.R. Hudberg
May 5th, 2017
PRAYER MARATHON 
Do you struggle to maintain a consistent prayer life? Many of us do. We know that prayer is important, but it can be downright difficult. We have moments of deep communion with God and then we have times when it feels like we're just going through the motions. Why do we struggle so in our prayers?
The life of faith is a marathon. The ups, the downs, and the plateaus in our prayer life are a reflection of this race. And just as in a marathon we need to keep running, so we keep praying. The point is: Don't give up!
That is God's encouragement too. The apostle Paul said, "Pray continually" (1 Thess.5:17), "Keep on praying" (Rom.12:12 NLT), and "Devote yourselves to prayer" (Col.4:2). All of these statements carry the idea of remaining steadfast and continuing in the work of prayer.
And because God, our heavenly Father, is a personal being, we can develop a time of close communion with Him, just as we do with our close human relationships. A.W. Tozer writes that as we learn to pray, our prayer life can grow "From the initial most casual brush to the fullest, most intimate communion of which the human soul is capable." And that's what we really want-deep communication with God. It happens when we keep praying.
by Poh Fang Chia
Dear Father, we often struggle to spend time with You. Help us to make the time, and help us sense Your goodness and presence.
THERE IS NEVER A DAY WHEN WE DON'T NEED TO PRAY.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-28

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God's people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Insight: The Wycliffe Bible Commentary provides illumination on how Paul's concluding prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 summarizes key points covered in this epistle: "Paul embraces all his exhortations in a prayer for sanctification, and assures the believers that a faithful God will answer...Though human surrender and obedience are necessary, sanctification is essentially a divine work (CF. Rom.15:16; Eph.5:26). Wholly (holoteleis) implies that no part is lacking; the whole person is to be kept blameless." Every aspect of human nature is to be made whole in Christ.
by Dennis Fisher
May 4th, 2017
OUT OF THE RUINS
In the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem you'll find Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue. Built in the 19th century, the synagogue was dynamited by commandos during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
For years the site lay in ruins. Then, in 2014, rebuilding began. As city officials set a piece of rubble as the cornerstone, one of them quoted from Lamentations: "Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old" (5:21).
Lamentations is Jeremiah's funeral song for Jerusalem. With graphic imagery the prophet describes the impact of war on his city. Verse 21 is his heartfelt prayer for God to intervene. Still, the prophet wonders if that is even possible. He concludes his anguished song with this fearful caveat: "unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure" (v.22). Decades later, God did answer that prayer as the exiles returned to Jerusalem.
Our lives too may seem to be in ruins. Troubles of our own making and conflicts we can't avoid may leave us devastated. But we have a Father who understands. Gently, patiently, He clears away the rubble, repurposes it, and builds something better. It takes time, but we can always trust Him. He specializes in rebuilding projects.
by Time Gustafson
Lord, You have reclaimed us and you are remaking us. Thank You for Your love and Your care despite our self-centered and destructive ways. Thank You for the true forgiveness and unity in You.
GOD WILL ONE DAY RESTORE ALL THE BEAUTY LOST BEFORE.
Lamentations 5:8-22

Slaves rule over us, and there is no one to free us from their hands. We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the desert. Our skin is hot as an oven, feverish with hunger. Women have been violated in Zion, and virgins in the town of Judah. Princes have been hung up by their hands; elders are shown no respect. Young men toil at the millstones; boys stagger under loads of wood.
The elders are gone from the city gate; the young men have stopped their music. Joy is gone from their hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us for we have sinned! Because of this our hearts are faint, because of these things our eyes grow dim for Mount Zion, which lies desolate, with jackals prowling over it.
You Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.
Insight: According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, one characteristic of the book of Lamentations is the pattern of its Laments. "Lamentations is a series of five laments, or funeral dirges; each chapter is a separate lament. A lament was a funeral song or poem written and resited for someone who had just died (CF. 2 SAM. 1:17-27). The song usually emphasized the good qualities of the departed and the tragety of loss felt by those mourning his death. Jeremiah was lamenting the tragic 'death' of the city of Jerusalem and the results of her demise that were being experienced by the people. Thus he used the form of a funeral lament to convey the feeling of sadness and loss being experienced by the survivors."
May 3rd, 2017
JUST WHAT I NEED
As I stood in the back of the room as a senior citizens' center in Palmer, Alaska, listening to my daughter's high school choir sing "It Is Well With My Soul," I wondered why she, the choir director, had chosen that song. It had been played at her sister Melissa's funeral, and Lisa knew it was always tough for me to hear it without having an emotional response.
My musings were interrupted when a man sidled up next to me and said, "This is just what I need to hear." I introduced myself and then asked why he needed this song. "I lost my son Cameron last week in a motorcycle accident," he said.
Wow! I was so focused on myself that I never considered the needs of others, and God was busy using that song exactly where He wanted it to be used. I took my friend Mac, who worked at the center, aside, and we talked about God's care in this toughest time in his life.
All around us are people in need, and sometimes we have to set aside our own feelings and agendas to help them. One way we can do that is to remember how God has comforted us in our trials and troubles "So that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God" (2 Cor. 1:4). How easy it is to be engrossed in our concerns and forget that someone right next to us might need a prayer, a word of comfort, a hug, or gift of mercy in Jesus' name.
by Dave Brannon
Lord help me to see where help is needed, and help me to provide that help. Thank You for the comfort You give; help me to share it.
COMFORT RECEIVED SHOULD BE COMFORT SHARED
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and 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. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you shared in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
Insight: Today's reading gives special attention to how believers are to serve one another in humility. During our Lord's time on earth He provided the ultimate example of ministering to others. Now the Holy Spirit indwells believers and gives us the power to show that kind of self-sacrifice to the body of Christ.
by Dennis Fisher

May 2nd, 2017
SHINE THROUGH
A little girl wondered what a saint might be. One day her mother took her to a great cathedral to see the gorgeous stained-glass windows with scenes from the Bible. When she saw the beauty of it all, she cried out loud, "Now I know what saints are. They are people who let the light shine through!"
Some of us might think that saints are people of the past who lived perfect lives and did Jesus-like miracles. But when a translation of Scripture uses the word saint, it is actually referring to anyone who belongs to God through faith in Christ. In other words, saints are people like us who have the high calling of serving God while reflection our relationship with Him wherever we are and in whatever we do. That is why apostle Paul prayed that the eyes and understanding of his readers would be opened to think of themselves as the treasured inheritance of Christ and saints of God. (EPH.1:18).
So then what do we see in the mirror? No halos or stained glass. But if we are fulfilling our calling, we will look like people who, maybe even without realizing it, are letting the rich colors of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control of God shine through.
by Keila Ochoa
Lord, You are the light of the world. Thank You for wanting to shine that light in our lives. Cleanse me today so that I may let Your light shine through.
SAINTS ARE PEOPLE THROUGH WHOM GOD'S LIGHT SHINES.
Matthew 5:13-16

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Insight: In John's gospel we see that Jesus often refers to Himself as "light." In John 8:12 and 9:5 He calls Himself "the light of the world." He also uses this light language to talk about the kingdom of God He comes to establish. In John 3:19 Jesus tells Nicodemus, "This is the verdict" Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." When Jesus tells believers that they are the light of the world (Matt.5:14), He is in a sense issuing an invitation to Christlikeness. As followers of Jesus we have been given the opportunity to shine the light of His love into the dark and dying world.
by Dennis Moles
May 1, 2017
THE RESTORATION BUSINESS
Adam Minter is in the junk business. The son of a junkyard owner, he circles the globe researching junk. In his book Junkyard Planet, he chronicles the multibillion-dollar industry of waste recycling. He notes that entrepreneurs around the world devote themselves to locating discarded materials such as copper wire, dirty rags, and plastics and re-purposing them to make something new and useful.
After the apostle Paul turned his life over to the Savior, he realized his own achievements and abilities amounted to little more than trash. But Jesus transformed it all into something new and useful. Paul said, "Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ" (Phil.3:7-8). Having been trained in Jewish religious law, he had been an angry and violent man toward those who follow Christ (Acts 9:1-2). After being transformed by Christ, the tangled wreckage of his angry past was transformed into the love of Christ for others (2 Cor.5:14-17).
If you feel that your life is an accumulation of junk, remember that God has always been in the restoration business. When we turn our lives over to Him, He makes us into something new and useful for Him and others.
by Dennis Fisher
Are you wondering how to become a new person? Romans 3:23 and 6:23 tell us that when we admit we are sinners and ask for God's forgiveness, He gives us the free gift of eternal life that was paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Talk to Him now about your need.
CHRIST MAKES ALL THINGS NEW
Philippians 3:1-8
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evil doers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh-though I myself have reason for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the 8th day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, thoughtless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.
Insight: The change Paul experienced as a result of his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road is evidenced in today's Bible passage. Paul warns believers about enemies of the faith who seek to impose on them the old legalism he used to champion before he encountered the grace of God in Christ. Paul understood that physical circucisiom in the tradition of Judaism can do nothing to redeem the human heart. Instead, redemption comes through Christ. "For it is we who are the circucisiom, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh" (v.3).
by Dennis Fisher
April 30th, 2017
DOING RIGHT IN GOD'S SIGHT
"Cowboy Builders" is a term many British home owners use for trades people who do shoddy construction work. The term is bandied about with fear or regret, often because of bad experiences.
No doubt there were rogue carpenters, masons, and stone cutters in biblical times, but tucked away in the story of King Joash repairing the temple is a line about the complete honesty of those who oversaw and did the work (2 Kings 12:15).
However, King Joash "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord" (v.2) only when Jehoiada the priest instructed him. As we see in 2 Chronicles 24:17-27, after Jehoiada died Joash turned from the Lord and was persuaded to worship other gods.
The mixed legacy of a king who enjoyed a season of fruitfulness only while under the spiritual counsel of a godly priest makes me stop and think. What will our legacies be? Will we continue to grow and develop in our faith throughout our lives, producing good fruit? Or will we become distracted by the things of this world and turn to modern-day idols-such as comfort, materialism, and self-promotion?
by Amy Boucher Pye
Go deeper: How does this passage compare with Jesus' letter to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2? How do these passages apply to your life?
LIVING WELL AND DOING RIGHT REQUIRE PERSEVERANCE AND SPIRITUAL DIRECTION.
2 Kings 12:1-15

In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fourty years...Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him....
Joash said to the priests, "collect all the money that is brought as sacred offerings to the temple of the Lord...Let every priest receive the money from one of the treasurers, then use it to repair whatever damage is found in the temple."
But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests still did not repair the temple. Therefore King Joash summoned Jehoiada and the other priests and asked them, "Why aren't you repairing the damage done to the temple? Take no more money from your treasurers, but hand it over for the repairing of the temple."...
Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in its lid...The priests who guarded the entrance put into the chest all the money that was brought to the temple of the Lord. Whenever they saw that there was a large amount of money in the chest, the royal secretary and the high priest came, counted the money that had been brought into the temple of the Lord and put it into bags. When the amount had been determined, they gave the money to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. With it, they paid those who worked on the temple of the Lord...
They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.
Insight: When a rival attempted to exterminate the royal family, Joash (whose name means "Yahweah has helped") was rescued and protected by the high priest Jehoiada (whose name means "Yahweah knows"). Jehoiada would later see Joash installed as King (2 Kings 11:1-16). Joash was the eighth king of Judah, and he became king when he was only seven years old.
by Dennis Moles

April 28th, 2017
AN AMAZING LOVE
The final major historic acts of the Old Testament are described in Ezra and Nehemiah as God allowed the people of Israel to return from exile and resettle in Jerusalem. The City of David was repopulated with Hebrew families, a new temple was built, and the wall was repaired.
And that brings us to Malachi. This prophet, who was most likely a contemporary of Nehemiah, brings the written portion of the Old Testament to a close. Notice the first thing he said to the people of Israel: "'I have loved you,' says the Lord." And look at their response: "How have you loved us?" (1:2).
Amazing, isn't it? Their history had proven God's faithfulness, yet after hundreds of years in which God continually provided for His chosen people in both miraculous and mundane ways, they wondered how He had shown His love. As the book continues, Malachi reminds the people of their unfaithfulness (See vv 6-8).
They had a long historical pattern of God's provision for them, followed by their disobedience, followed by God's discipline.
It was time, soon, for a new way. The prophet hints at it in Malachi 4:5-6. The Messiah would be coming. There was hope ahead for a Savior who would show us His love and pay the penalty once and for all for our sin.
That Messiah indeed has come! Malachi's hope is now a reality in Jesus.
by Dave Branon
Thank You, Father, for the story You told in Your Word of the people of Israel. It reminds us to be grateful for what You have done for us. Thank You for loving us so much You sent us Jesus.
THOSE WHO PUT THEIR TRUST IN JESUS WILL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.
Malachi 1:1-10;4:5-6
A prophecy: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.
"I have loved you," says the Lord.
"But you ask, 'How have you loved us?'
"Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the Lord. "Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals."
Edom may say, "Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins."
But this is what the Lord almighty says: "They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the wicked land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. You will see it with your own eyes and say, 'Great is the Lord-even beyond the borders of Israel!'
"A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" says the Lord Almighty.
"It is you priests who show contempt for my name.
"But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?'
"By offering defiled food on my alter.
"But you ask, How have we defiled you?'
"By saying that the Lord's table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lamed or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" Says the Lord Almighty....
"I am not pleased with you," says the Lord Almighty "And I will accept no offering from your hands....
"See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction."

April 27th, 2017
STORMS ON THE HORIZON
Our son, Josh, is a commercial salmon fisherman in Kodiak, Alaska. Some time ago he sent me a photograph he took of a tiny vessel a few hundred yards ahead of his boat moving through a narrow pass. Ominous storm clouds loom on the horizon. But a rainbow, the sign of God's providence and loving care, stretches from one side of the pass to the over, encircling the little boat.
The photograph reflects our earthly voyage: We sail into an uncertain future, but we are surrounded by the faithfulness of God!
Jesus' disciples were surrounded by a storm, and He used the experience to teach them about the power and faithfulness of God (Matt.8:23-27). We seek answers for the uncertainties of life. We watch the future growing closer and wonder what will happen to us there. Puritan poet John Keble captured this in one of his poems in which he watched the future as it drew near. But as he watched he was "waiting to see what God will do."
Whether young or old we all face uncertain futures. Heaven answers: God's love and goodness encircle us no matter what awaits us. We wait and see what God will do!
by David Roper
What do you need to trust God with today?
WE SAIL INTO THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE SURROUNDED BY THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD!
Matthew 8:23-28
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are going to drown."
He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.
Insight: When sin came into the world, everything broke. The earth no longer functioned as it was supposed to. Our bodies and minds became susceptible to sickness, disease, and demonic oppression. And we found ourselves, relationally separated from God and other humans. In Matthew 8, Jesus shows His authority over sin in all these areas. The kingdom of God is not just a place where we go to when we die. It is a kingdom Jesus began during His time on earth. He manifested it every time He healed a sick person, drove out a demon, or calmed a storm. And it will be ultimately revealed when He returns to earth again and makes everything whole perfect and new.
by Dennis Moles

April 26th, 2017
MEANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD
I enjoy visiting museums such as the National Gallery in London and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Mokow. While most of the art is breathtaking, some of it confuses me. I look at seemingly random splashes of color on canvas and realize I have no idea what I am seeing-even though the artist is a master at his craft.
Sometimes we can feel the same way about the Scriptures. We wonder, is it even possible to understand them? Where do I start? Perhaps Paul's words can give us some help: "Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope" (Rom.15:4).
God has given us the Scriptures for our instruction and encouragement. He has also given us His Spirit to help us to know His mind. Jesus said that He was sending the Spirit to "Guide [us] into all the truth" (John 16:13). Paul affirms this in 1 Corinthians 2:12, saying, "What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us."
With the help of the Spirit, we can approach the Bible with confidence, knowing that through its pages God wants us to know Him and His ways.
by Bill Crowder
Father, thank You for giving us Your Son to bring us into relationship with You. Thank You for giving us the Scriptures so that we can know You better. And thank You for giving us Your Spirit to guide us into the truth of what we need to know about You and Your great love.
READ THE BIBLE TO GET TO KNOW ITS AUTHOR
Romans 15:1-6
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Insight: One of the great truths of Scripture is that it is timeless. All of the stories and instructions of the past were written for our benefit. While this applies to all of the Old Testament, here in Romans it specifically applies to the example of Christ's life. Verse 4 of today's text tells us that what was written about Christ was written to teach us.
by J.R. Hudberg

April 25th, 2017
GREATER THAN THE MESS
A major theme of the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel could easily be "Life is a mess!" It has all the elements of a blockbuster TV miniseries. As David sought to establish his rule as king of Israel, he faced military challenges, political intrigue, and betrayal by friends and family members. And David himself was certainly not without guilt as his relationship with Bathsheba clearly showed (Chs.11:12).
Yet near the end of 2 Samuel we find David's song of praise to God for His mercy, love, and deliverance. "You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light (22:29).
In many of his difficulties, David turned to the Lord. "With your help I can advance against a troop [run through a baracade]; with my God I can scale a wall" (v.30).
Perhaps we identify with David's struggle's because he, like us, was far from perfect. Yet he knew that God was greater than the most chaotic parts of his life.
With David we can say, "As for God, "his way is perfect: The Lord's Word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him" (v.31). And that includes us!
Life is messy, but God is greater than the mess.
by David McCasland
Lord, we cannot read about the failures and difficulties of others without being reminded of our own. We bring them all to You, seeking forgiveness and Your power for a fresh start.
ITS NOT TOO LATE TO MAKE A FRESH START WITH GOD.
2 Samuel 22:26-37
"To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord's Word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do give way."
Insight: In 2 Samuel 22 David celebrates the faithfulness of God. Many of the same ideas and some of the same words are found in Psalm 18. The superscription to Psalm 18 says: For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. These words were so important to David that he relected on them often.
by Bill Crowder
April 24th, 2017
RELIEF FOR THE TROUBLED
One of my favorite scenes in literature occurs when a feisty aunt confronts an evil stepfather over the abuse of her nephew, David Copperfield. This scene takes place in Charles Dickens' novel named after the main character.
When David Copperfield shows up at his aunt's house, his stepfather is not far behind. Aunt Betsy Trotwood is not pleased to see the malicious Mr. Murdstone. She recounts a list of offenses and does not let him slither out of his responsibility for each act of cruelty. Her charges are so forceful and truthful that Mr. Murdstone-a normally aggressive person-finally leaves without a word. Through the strength and goodness of aunt Betsy's character, David finally receives justice.
There is Someone else who is strong and good, and who will one day right the wrongs in our world. When Jesus returns, He will come down from heaven with a group of powerful angels. He will "give relief to you who are troubled," and He will not ignore those who have created problems for His children (2 Thess.1:6-7). Until that day, Jesus wants us to stand firm and have courage. No matter what we endure on earth, we are safe for eternity.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt.
Dear God, please protect us and give us wisdom through Your Holy Spirit. Help us to be just and fair in everything we do so that we are good representatives for You.
ONE DAY GOD WILL RIGHT EVERY WRONG
2 Thessalonians 1:3-12
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
All this is evidence that God's judgement is right, and as a result, you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might on the day He comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Insight: Having commended the Thessolnian church as a model church in his previous letter (1 Thess.1:7), Paul now commends them for their spiritual growth despite experiencing severe persecution (2 Thess.1:3-4). Assuring the church that God, who knows their suffering, will vindicate them, he challenges them to continue to remain steadfast and strong (vv.5-12).
by Sim Kay Tee

April 23rd, 2017
GOD'S ENDURING WORD
At the beginning of World War 2, aireal bombing flatened much of Warsaw Poland. Cement blocks, ruptured plumbing and shards of glass lay strewn across the great city. In the downtown area, however, most of one damaged building still stubornly stood. It was the Polish headquarters for the British and Foreign Bible society. Still legable on a surviving wall were these words: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matt. 24:35).
Jesus made that statement to encourage His disciples when they asked Him about the "End of the age" (v.3). But his words also give us courage in the midst of our embattled situation today. Standing in the rubble of our shattered dreams, we can still find confidence in God's indestructible character, sovereignty, and promises.
The psalmist wrote: "Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens" (Ps.119:89). But it is more than the word of the Lord; it is His very character. That is why the psalmist could also say, "Your faithfulness continues through all generations" (v.90).
As we face devastating experiences, we can define them either in terms of despair or of hope. Because God will not abandon us to our circumstances, we can confidently chose hope. His enduring Word assures us of his unfailing love.
by Dennis Fisher
Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Your Word. Thank You for its truth, its timelessness and the guidance You give us by that Word. Help us believe and trust everything You say.
WE CAN TRUST GOD'S UNCHANGING WORD.
Psalm 119:89-96
Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.
Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. If your law had not been my delight, I will have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.
Insight: Psalm 119 is dedicated to the beauty of God's laws. Through a variety of medifores and comparisons, the law of the Lord is celebrated as being perfect and bringing life. Rather than seeing the law as something limiting and confining, the psalmist sees the law as vital to what it means to live a full and fruitful life. As believers, we can celebrate how God intends for us to live in relationship with Him and others.
by J.R. Hudberg

4/22/17
JESUS WEPT
I was engrossed in a book when a friend bent over to see what I was reading. Almost immediately, she recoiled and looked at me aghast. "What a gloomy title!" she said. I was reading "The Glass Coffin" in Grimm's Fairy Tales, and the word coffin disturbed her. Most of us don't like to be reminded of our mortality. But the reality is that out of one thousand people, one thousand people will die.
Death always elicits a deep emotional response. It was at the funeral of one of His dear friends that Jesus displayed strong emotions. When He saw Mary, whose brother had recently died, "He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled" (John 11:33). Another translation says, "A deep anger welt up within Him" (NLT).
Jesus was troubled-even angered- but at what? Possibly, He was indignant at sin and its consequences. God didn't make a world filled with sickness, suffering, and death. But sin entered the world and marred God's beautiful plan.
The Lord comes alongside us in our grief, weeping with us in our sorrow (v.35). But more than that, Christ defeated sin and death by dying in our place and rising from the dead (1 Cor.15:56-57).
Jesus promises, "The one who believes in me will live, even though they died" (John 11:25). As believers we enjoy fellowship with our Savior now, and we look forward to an eternity with Him where there will be no more tears, pain, sickness, or death.
by Poh Fang Chia
Thank You, Jesus, for being our living water. Thank You for Your willingness to die on the cross and for Your power to rise from the dead in order to provide us that water.
CHRIST'S EMPTY TOMB GUARANTEES OUR VICTORY OVER DEATH.
John 11:1-4,38-44
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."...
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor for he has been there four days."
Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to him, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
Insight: Bethany, which is less than two miles from Jerusalem, was the home of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus (John 11:1). Because Jesus had a very close relationship with this family (v.3), it is likely that He would stay in their home whenever he came into Jerusalem (Matt.21:17;Luke.10:38;John 12:1). It is possible that Jesus stayed often at their home after His resurrection, for Jesus's ascension took place "in the vicinity of Bethany" (Luke 24:50).
by Sim Kay Tee

April 20th, 2017
GOD'S WAY
We really needed to hear from God. Having been asked to foster two young children as an emergency measure just for three months, a decision had to be made about their future. With three older children of our own, becoming foster parents to preschoolers didn't seem to fit with our life plan and having our family almost double in size had been hard work. Our book of daily readings by the veteran missionary Amy Carmichael directed us to some unfamiliar verses in Numbers 7.
"I wonder how the Kohathites felt?" Amy wrote. "All the other priests had ox-carts to carry their parts of the tabernacle through the desert. But the sons of Kohath had to trudge along the rocky tracks and through the burning sand, with the 'holy things for which they were responsible' on their shoulders. Did they ever grumble inwardly, feeling that the other priests had an easier task? Perhaps!
But God knows that some things are too precious to be carried on ox-carts and then He asks us to carry them on our shoulders."
My husband and I knew this was our answer. We had often thought of sponsoring a child from an undeveloped country, but we hadn't done so. That would have been easier, much like the ox-cart. Now we had two needy children in our home to carry "on our shoulders" because they were so precious to Him.
God has different plans for each of us. We might feel that others have an easier assignment, or a more glamorous role to play. But if our loving Father has hand picked us for our task, who are we to whisper, "I can't do this"?
by Marion Stroud
GOD USES ORDINARY PEOPLE TO CARRY OUT HIS EXTRAORDINARY PLANS.
Numbers 7:1-9
When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the alter and all its utensils. Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings. They brought as their gifts before the Lord six covered carts and twelve oxen. An ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle.
The Lord said to Moses, "Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the tent of meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man's work requires."
So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites as their work required, and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merrarites, as their work required. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things for which they were responsible.
Insight: When we read the books of Leviticus and Numbers, we may wonder why so much detail is given about laws, the construction of the tabernacle and the provisions for the "Holy things." It may seen unimportant for our understanding of the text. Much detail is also recorded about the garden of Eden in Genesis and the New Jerusalem in Revelation. The details capture the beauty of what was required for God to dwell with His people.
by J.R.Hudberg
April 19th, 2017
THE GOD WHO PAINTS
Nezahualcoyotl (1402-1472) may have had a difficult name to pronounce, but his name is full of significance. It means "Hungry Coyote," and this man's writings show a spiritual hunger. As a poet and ruler in Mexico before the arrival of the Europeans, he wrote, "Truly the gods, which I worship, are idols of stone that do not speak nor feel....Some very powerful, hidden and unknown god is the creator of the entire universe. He is the only one that can console me in my affliction and help me in such anguish as my heart feels; I want him to be my helper and protection."
We cannot know Nezahualcoyotl found the Giver of life. but during his reign he built a pyramid to the "God who paints things with beauty," and he banned human sacrifice in his city.
The writers of Psalm 42 cried out, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (v.2). Every human being desires the true God, just as "the dear pants for streams of water" (v.1).
Today there are many Hungry Coyotes who know that the idols of fame, money, and relationships can't fill the void in their souls. The living God has revealed Himself through Jesus, the only One who gives us meaning and fulfillment. This is good news for those who are hungry for the God who paints things with beauty.
by Keila Ochoa
Lord You are the One my soul needs. Only You can bring me meaning and fulfillment to my life. You are the One my cries out for. I put my hope in You
BENEATH ALL OF OUR LONGINGS IS A DEEP DESIRE FOR GOD.
Psalm 42
As the dear pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" These things I remember as I pour out my soul: How I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the mighty one with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throne.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon-from Mt. Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of waterfalls; all you waves and breakers have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me-a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy ?" My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Insight: Psalm 42 is one of 11 psalms attributed to the sons of Korah-a Levitical family who were responsible for temple worship. Four of the eleven, including psalm 42, fall into the category of lament. A lament psalm is one that appeals to God for aid in the face of overwhelming circumstances. In this psalm, the sons of Korah lead the people of Israel to publically and communally declare their desperate need for God's provision and rescue.
by Dennis Moles
April 18th, 2017
UNCONVENTIONAL TACTICS
In 1980, a woman hopped on a subway during the Boston Marathon. No big deal, except for one small detail. She was supposed to be running the marathon! Later, witnesses saw her jump into the race less than a mile from the finish line. She finished well ahead of the other female runners, and oddly, she wasn't winded or even sweating much. For a brief time she looked like the winner.
In a conflict long ago, a people who were losing a battle found a more honorable way to win. When messengers told King Jehoshaphat, "a vast army is coming against you from Edom," he was terrified (2 Chron.20:2-3). But instead of turning to typical military tactics, Jehoshaphat turned to God. He acknowledged God's supremacy and admitted his own fear and confusion. "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you" (v.12). Then the king chose singers to lead the army into battle. Instead of a war cry, they sang of God's love (v.21). The result was startling. Their enemies turned on each other (vv.22-24). In the end, "the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side" (v.30).
Life can ambush us with overwhelming challenges. Yet our fear and uncertainties give us the opportunity to turn to our all-powerful God. He specializes in the unconventional.
by Tim Gustafson
Lord You are not the source of confusion or fear, but of strength and peace. We exchange our panicky plans for Your amazing answers. Encourage us as we wait for You.
OUR GOD IS NEVER PREDICTABLE, BUT HE IS UNFAILING RELIABLE.
2 Chronicles 20:1-13
After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat.
Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already Hazezon Tamar" (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: "Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 'If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in our presence before this temple that bears your Name and we'll cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.'
"But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mt. Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you."
All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord
April 17th, 2017
CHAMELEON CRAWL
When we think of the chameleon, we probably think of its ability to change color according to its surroundings. But this lizard has another interesting characteristic. On several occasions I watched a chameleon walk along a pathway and wondered how it ever reached its destination. Reluctantly, the chameleon stretches out one leg, seems to change its mind, attempts again, and then carefully plants a hesitant foot, as if afraid the ground will collapse under it. That is why I couldn't help laughing when I heard someone say, "Do not be a chameleon church member who says, 'Let me go to church today; no, let me go next week; no, let me wait for a while!"
"The house of the Lord" at Jerusalem was King David's place of worship, and he was far from being a "chameleon" worshiper. Rather, he rejoiced with those who said, "Let us go to the house of the Lord" (PS.122:1). The same was true fro believers in the early church. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.....Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts" (ACTS 2:42,46).
What a joy it is to join with others in worship and fellowship!
Praying and worshiping together, studying the Scriptures together, and caring for one another are essential for our spiritual growth and unity as believers.
by Lawrence Darmani
Before our Father's throne we pour out ardent prayers; our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.
by John Fawcett
WORSHIPING TOGETHER BRINGS STRENGTH AND JOY
Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continue to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Insight: Acts 2, describes the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost when God, in fulfillment of prophecies and promises (Joel 2:28-32;Isa.32:15; Ezek.36:26-27;39:29;John 16:7), sent the Holy Spirit to indwell those who believe in Jesus (Acts 2:1-4). This first church was growing, gracious, and generous. Luke says another 3,000 people were added to the 120-member congregation (ACTs 1:15;2:41). These early believers showed remarkable acts of generosity for those in need (2:44-45). Luke describes the elements that keep the church growing and vibrant: Instruction in God's Word, fellowship with believers, and prayer (Acts 2:42-44).
by Sim Kay Tee

April 16th, 2017
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT CALVARY
If asked what took place on Good Friday, many people could list the events of Calvary. Some might explain that Christ was nailed to the cross, Roman soldiers gambling for His garments, and darkness covered the land. Others would mention the crown of thorns, an earthquake, and Jesus' mother watching with what must have been heartbreak and horror.
But no matter how many visible details one could mention, far more was going on than the eye could see: At the cross, sin was judged.
In giving His very first command in the garden of Eden, God warned that disobedience carried the death penalty (Gen.2:17). So from the start, His judgment of sin was prophesied, and later it was also pictured in the elaborate sacrificial system He established.
Under this system, each transgression required an animal's blood to be sprinkled on the alter. The severity of the penalty-payment of a life-was a graphic way for our holy God to communicate how offensive and grievous sin actually is. It was also a foreshadowing of the Lamb of God, who would come to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Jesus Christ was, on the cross, what that lamb was on the alter-but with a significant difference: Under the old covenant, every time sin was committed another animal to die. Jesus, however, willingly offered Himself once for all to atone for the sin of the entire world (Heb.7:27).
Refusing to personally accept Christ's substitutionary atonement leaves a person with the responsibility of paying his or her own sin debt. Won't you thank the Savior for your amazing free gift-or receive it from Him now?

April 14th, 2017
THIS IS THE DAY
In 1940, Dr. Virinia Connally, aged 27, braved opposition and criticism to become the first female physician in Abilene, Texas. A few months before he 100th birthday in 2012, the Texas Medical Association presented her with its Distinguished Service Award, Texas' highest physician honor. Between those two landmark events, doctor Connally has enthusiastically embarrassed a passion for spreading the gospel around the world through her many medical mission trips while living a life of service to God and to others-one day at a time.
Doctor Connally's pastor, Phil Christopher, said, "Every day for her is a gift." He recalled a letter in which she wrote, "Every tour, trip, effort, I wonder if this will be my last and ultimate? Only God knows. And this is enough."
The Psalmist wrote, "This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (PS.118:24 NKJV). So often we focus on the disappointments of yesterdays of the uncertainties of tomorrow and miss God's matchless gift to us: Today!
Doctor Connally said of her journey with Christ "As you live a life of faith, you're not looking for the results. I was just doing the things that God planted in my life and heart."
God made today. Let's celebrate it and make the most of every opportunity to serve others in His name
by David McCasland
Lord, thank You for today. May I embrace it as Your gift, celebrate Your faithfulness, and live this day fully for You.
WELCOME EACH DAY AS A GIFT FROM GOD.
Psalm 118:19-29
Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.
Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the alter.
You are my God, and I will praise you; You are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Insight: The unnamed psalmist of Psalm 118 tells of God's rescue and response to his cry for help (vv.5-16). Because of the rescue theme of this Psalm, the Jews often sang it after their Passover mean which commemorated their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. It is possible that Jesus and His disciples sang this thanksgiving song after the Last Supper (Matt.26:30). Psalm 118:22 is quoted or eluded to in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, Ephesians 2:20:22, and 1 Peter 2:7. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowds shouted the words of Psalm 118:25-26, proclaiming Jesus as their Messiah and deliverer (Matthew 21:9).
by Sim Kay Tee

April 13th, 2017
HEART CHECK
When commuting into Chicago on the train. I always followed the "unwritten codes of conduct"-such as, no conversations with people sitting next to you if you don't know them. That is tough on a guy like me who has never met a stranger. I love talking to new people! Although I kept the code of silence, I realized that you can still learn something about people based on the section of the newspaper they read. So I'd watch to see what they turned to first: The business section? Sports? Politics? Current events? Their choices revealed their interests.
Our choices are always revealing. Of course, God doesn't need to wait to see our choices in order for Him to know what's in our hearts. But the things that occupy our time and attention are telling. As Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12-34). Regardless of what we want Him to think of us, the true condition of our heart becomes clear based on how we use our time, our money and our talents. When we invest these resources in the things He cares about, then it reveals that our hearts are in tune with Him.
God's heart is with the needs of the people and the advancement of His kingdom. What do your choices tell Him and others about where your heart is?
Lord, I want my heart to be in tune with yours. Forgive me for giving it to things of far less value, and teach me the joy of investing my time in opportunities to serve you. Thank you.
Luke 12:22-34
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sew or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet, I tell you not even Solomon and all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you-you of little faith!
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the Pagan world runs after all such things, and your father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.
Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in the heavens that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Insight: The familiar words,"where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:34) are found in an interesting context. They are uttered after Jesus tells those listening not to worry about the cares of this world because the heavenly Father will take care of their needs. His provision allows us to seek the kingdom of God and not become excessively preoccupied with our temporary earthly needs.
  April 12th, 2017
RESISTING THE TRAP
Venus flytrap can digest an insect in about 10 days. The process begins when an unsuspecting bug smells nectar on the leaves that form the trap. When the insect investigates, it crawls into the jaws of the plant. The leaves clap shut within half a second and digestive juices dissolve the bug.
This meat-eating-plant reminds me of the way sin can devour us if we are lured into it. Sin is hungry for us. Genesis 4:7 says, "If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you." God spoke these words to Cain just before he killed his brother Abel.
Sin may try to entice us by temping us with a new experience, convincing us that living right doesn't matter, or appealing to our physical senses. However, there is a way for us to rule over sin instead of letting it consume our lives. The Bible says, "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16).
When we face temptation, we don't face it alone. We have supernatural assistance. Relying on God's Spirit supplies the power to live for Him and for others.
by Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Dear God, at times I let down my guard and indulge in sin. Please help me listen to Your warnings and obey Your Word. Protect me from my own impulses and conform me to your image. Thank You for your work in me.
WE FALL INTO TEMPTATION WHEN WE DON'T FLEE FROM IT.
Genesis 4:1-8
Adam made love to his wife Eve and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man." Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering-fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and his face was downcast.
The the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you so angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Insight: There has been much theological debate as to why God accepted Abel's sacrifice and rejected Cain's (Gen.4:4-5). One popular theory is that Abel's sacrifice mirrored God's act in the garden of Eden that provided covering for Adam and Eve-by means of an animals death-after they disobeyed God (3:21). Another view is that Cain's offering of what he had grown by his own efforts pictured works, but Abel's offering of a lamb pictured God's ultimate sacrifice of grace. It seems that these brothers must have been given some idea of what was-and was not-considered an acceptable offering.
by Bill Crowder
April 11th, 2017
WHO AM I WORKING FOR?
Henry worked 70 hours a week. He loved his job and brought home a sizeable paycheck to provide good things for his family. He always had plans to slow down but he never did. One evening he came home with great news-he had been prompted to the highest position in his company. But no one was home. Over the years, his children had grown up and moved out, his wife had found a career of her own, and now the house was empty. There was no one to share the good news with.
Solomon talked about the need to keep a balance in life with our work. He wrote, "Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves" (Eccl. 4:5). We don't want to go to the extreme of being lazy, but neither do we want to fall into the trap of being a workaholic. "Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind" (v.6). In other words, it is better to have less than enjoy more. Sacrificing relationships at the alter of success is unwise. Achievement is fleeting, while relationships are what make our life meaningful, rewarding and enjoyable(vv.7-12).
We can learn to work to live and not live to work by choosing to apportion our time wisely. The Lord can give us this wisdom as we seek him and trust him to be our provider.
by Poh Fang Chia
Lord, show me if my priorities are skewed and where I need to make changes. Thank You for the gift of family and friends.
TO SPEND TIME WISELY, INVEST IT IN ETERNITY.
Ecclesiastes 4:4-16
And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring forth from one person's envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquility than two handsfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.
Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "And why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless-this too is meaningless-a miserable business!
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the kings successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Insight: The book of Ecclesiastes laments the vanity of life when God is not taken into account. In regard to our work, Solomon calls us to seek moderation and contentment (4:6-8) and to find meaning, satisfaction, and enjoyment in cooperation with others (vv.9-12).
by Sim Kay Tee
April 10th, 2017
SWEET REMINDERS
When the tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamen was discovered in 1922, it was filled with things ancient Egyptians thought were needed in the afterlife. Among items such as golden shrines, jewelry, clothing, furniture, and weapons was a pot filled with honey-still edible after 3,200 years!
Today we think of honey primarily as a sweetener, but in the ancient world it had many other uses. Honey is one of the only foods known to have all the nutrients needed to sustain life, so it was eaten for nutrition. In addition, honey has medicinal value. It is one of the oldest known wound dressings because it has properties that prevent infection.
When God rescued the children of Israel from Egyptian captivity, He promised to lead them to a "land flowing with milk and honey" (EX.3:8,17), a metaphor for abundance. When their journey was prolonged due to sin, God fed them bread (manna) that tasted like honey (16:31). The Israelites grumbled about having to eat the same food for so long, but its likely that God was kindly reminding them of what they would enjoy in Promised Land.
God still uses honey to remind us that His ways and words are sweeter than the honeycomb (PS.19:10). So then the words we speak should also be like the honey we eat-both sweet and healing.
by Julie Akerman Link
Read these verses about the use of words: Proverbs 12:18; Proverbs 13:3; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 3:8. Which truths might God want you to put into practice in your life today?
SPEND TIME COUNTING YOUR BLESSINGS, NOT AIRING YOUR COMPLAINTS.
Exodus 3:7-17
The Lord said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good a spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"
And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."
Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM HAS SENT ME TO YOU.'"
God also said to Moses, "say to the Israelites, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.'
"This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation."
Insight: The Israelites' exodus from Egypt fulfilled a promise God had made to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-14. "You can be sure that you're descendants will be strangers in a foreign land....but I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth" (NLT).
by Dennis Moles

April 9th, 2017
PALM SUNDAY
Hindsight is always 20/20. Yet while we are in a particular situation, we often make things out to be what they aren't and infer wrong meanings. Later, we kick ourselves, thinking, If Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem must have been one of those moments for the disciples. It probably appeared to be a wonderful day for them-and it was, but for different reasons than they realized. They thought the Messiah had come to reestablish Israel's power in the world. But God had something else in mind.
The disciples weren't the only ones who had misconceptions about the Messiah. Many Jews expected Him to be an earthly King.
When the crowds heard Jesus was coming, they shouted, "Hosanna," which means "save now" (John 12:13). They saw Him as their new king, come to bring salvation from political and societal oppression. He raised the dead, so they assumed He could also restore the kingdom of David and free them from Roman rule.
Seated upon a donkey, Jesus resembled a ruler returning to a city in peace time, whose loyal subjects lined the path of coats and palm fronds. Even the Pharisees were there watching in indignation saying "Look the world has gone after Him" (v.19).
This week, think back to those times when circumstances looked one way but turned out to be something else. Recall what it was like to realize God was different than you imagined and to see His will unfold in surprising ways. Look for an opportunity to share your insight with a friend or a loved one.
April 7th, 2017
IN TRANSITION
People post obituary notices on billboards and concrete block walls in Ghana regularly. Headlines such as Gone Too Soon, Celebration of Life, and What a Shock! announce the passing away of loved ones and the approaching funerals. One I read-In transition-points to life beyond the grave.
When a close relative or friend dies, we sorrow as Mary and Martha did for their brother Lazarus (John 11:17-27). We miss the departed so much that our hearts break and we weep, as Jesus wept at the passing of His friend (V.35).
Yet, it was at this sorrowful moment Jesus made a delightful statement on life after death: "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they died; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die" (v.25).
On the basis of this we give departed believers only a temporary farewell. For they "will be with the Lord forever," Paul emphasizes (1 Thess.4:17). Of course, farewells are painful, but we can rest assured that they are in the Lord's safe hands.
In transition suggests that we are only changing from one situation to another. Though life on earth ends for us, we will continue to live forever and better in the next life where Jesus is. "Therefore encourage one another with these words" (v.18).
by Lawrence Darmani
It is because of You, Jesus, that we have hope and are sure of a forever life. We're grateful.
BECAUSE OF JESUS, WE CAN LIVE FOREVER.
John 11:17-27
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believe sin me will live, even though they died; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Lord," she replied, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the son of God, who is to come into the world."
Insight: Martha, Lazarus's sister is one of the most misunderstood characters in the New Testament. We usually think of her in the context of Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus challenges her misdirected priorities. This often leads to the conclusion that she was somehow spiritually infurior to her sister, Mary. However Martha is the one who expresses her confidence in Christ to do something about the death of her brother (John 11:21-22). And she makes a wonderful statement on the deity of Christ, showing that she, in fact, had great depth of spiritual understanding (v.27).
by Bill Crowder

April 6th, 2017
THE HOLLYWOOD HILLS CROSS
One of the most recognizable images in the US is the "Hollywood" sign in Southern California. People from all over the globe come to "Tinsel Town" to gaze at cement footprints of stars and perhaps catch a glimpse of celebrities who might pass by. Its hard for these visitors to miss the sign anchored in the foothills nearby.
Less well known in the Hollywood Hills is another easily recognized symbol-one with eternal significance. Known as the Hollywood Pilgrimage Memorial Monument, this thirty two-foot cross looks out over the city. The cross was placed there in memory of Christine Wetherill Stevenson, a wealthy heiress who in the 1020's established the Pilgrimage Theater (now the John Anson Ford Theatre). The site served as the venue for The Pilgrimage Play, a drama about Christ.
The two icons showcase an interesting contrast. Movies good and bad will come and go. Their entertainment value value, artistic contributions, and relevance are temporary at best.
The cross, however, reminds us of a drama eternal in scope. The work of Christ is a story of the loving God who pursues us and invites us to accept His offer of complete forgiveness. The high drama of Jesus' death is rooted in history. His resurrection conquered death and has an eternal impact for all of us. The cross will never loose its meaning and power.
by Dennis Fisher
Thank You, Father, for the eternal significance of the cross. Help us to understand and appreciate the love that caused Your Son to embrace His cross for our sakes.
TO KNOW THE MEANING OF THE CROSS, YOU MUST KNOW THE ONE WHO DIED THERE.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.
Insight: Paul speaks of different responses to the cross: The Jews expected a mighty deliverer and stumbled over the idea of Christ being crucified (1 Cor. 1:23). The Greeks laughed at the obsurdity of a dead man giving ever lasting life (v.23). But to all who believe, the cross is the power and wisdom of God that saves (vv.21,24).
by Sim Kay Tee
April 5th, 2017
DON'T WALK AWAY
In 1986, John Piper nearly quit as minister of a large church. At that time he admitted in his journal: "I am so discouraged. I am so blank. I feel like there are opponents on every hand." But Piper didn't walk away, and God used him to lead a thriving ministry that would eventually reach far beyond his church.
Although success is a word easily misunderstood, we might call John Piper successful. But what if his ministry had never flourished?
God gave the prophet Jeremiah a direct call. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you," God said. "Before you were born I set you apart" (Jer.1:5). God encouraged him not to fear his enemies, "For I am with you and will rescue you" (v.8).
Jeremiah later lamented his commission with ironic language for a man with a prenatal calling. "Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends!" (15:10).
God did protect Jeremiah, but his ministry never thrived. His people never repented. He saw them slaughtered, enslaved, and scattered. Yet despite a lifetime of discouragement and rejection, he never walked away.
He knew that God didn't call him to success but to faithfulness. He trusted the God who called him. Jeremiah's resilient compassion shows us the heart of the Father, who yearns for everyone to turn to Him.
by Tim Gustafson
Do you sense a call from God? Where in your calling have you encountered discouragement? How do you define success, and how do you react to it when you experience it?
BEWARE OF GIVING UP TOO SOON. OUR EMOTIONS ARE NOT RELIABLE GUIDES.
BY JOHN PIPER
Jeremiah 1:4-9
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
"Alas, sovereign Lord," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am too young."
But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am to young.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "I have put my words in your mouth."
Insight: Today's reading recounts God's setting apart of Jeremiah the prophet. The Scriptures tell us that God appointed him as a prophet at a young age. His ministry would last for over fourty years and would coincide with the reigns of five kings of Judah-Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah. Jeremiah is called "The Weeping Prophet" and it was during his ministry that Israel's disobedience prompted the exile and captivity of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah's ministry saw many heartbreaking things, including the forced march of Daniel and other young men from the royal families of Israel into Babylonian exile (Dan.1:1-6).
by Dennis Moles

April 4th, 2017
WISDOM AND GRACE
On April the 4th, 1968, American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, was assassinated, leaving millions angry and disillusioned. In Indianapolis, a largely African-American crowd had gathered to hear Robert F. Kennedy speak. Many have not yet heard of Dr. King's death, so Kennedy had to share the tragic news.
He appealed for calm by acknowledging not only their pain but his own abiding grief over the murder of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy then quoted a variation of an ancient poem by Aeschylus (526-456 BC):
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
"Wisdom through the awful grace of God" is a remarkable statement. It means that God's grace fills us with awe and gives us the opportunity to grow in wisdom during life's most difficult moments.
James wrote, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (James 1:5). James says that this wisdom is grown in the soil of hardship (vv.2-4), for there we not only learn from the wisdom of God, we rest in the grace of God.
by Bill Crowder
Father, in the face of life's sometimes awful circumstances, may we find Your grace to be a source of awe and wonder. Instruct us in our trials, and carry us in Your arms when we are overwhelmed.
THE DARKNESS OF TRIALS ONLY MAKES GOD'S GRACE SHINE BRIGHTER.
James 1:1-8
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Greetings.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Insight: The epistle of James was written to a very specific audience-the twelve tribes scattered among the nations (1:1). This scattering refers to the results of the persecution of the early church in 1st-century Jerusalem. Following the martydom of Stephen (Acts 7) and the exeution of James the brother of John (12:1-2), the church became exposed to widespread attack, forcing Jewish followers of Christ to evacuate their homeland in search of safety while taking the message of Jesus with them. This persecution, intended to wipe out the church, instead caused the message of the gospel to spread throughout the world.

by Bill CrowderApril 3rd, 2017
THE BLACKSMITH AND THE KING
In 1878, when Scottsman Alexander Mackay arrived in what is now Uganda to serve as a missionary, he first set up a blacksmith forge among a tribe ruled by King Mutesa. Villagers gathered around this stranger who worked with his hands, puzzled because everyone "knew" that work was for women. At that time, men in Uganda never worked with their hands. They raided other villages to capture slaves, selling them to outsiders. Yet here was this foreign man at work forging farming tools.
Mackay's work ethic in life resulted in relationships with the villagers and gained him an audience with the king. Mckay challenged King Mutesa to end the slave trade, and he did.
In Scripture, we read of Bezalel and Oholiab, who were chosen and gifted by God to work with their hands designing the tent of meeting and all its furnishings for worship (Ex.31:1-11). Like Mckay, they honored and served God with their talent and labor.
We tend to categorize our work as either church work or secular. In truth, there is no distinction. God designs each of us in ways that make our contributions to the kingdom unique and meaningful. Even when we have little choice in where or how we work, God calls us to know Him more fully-and He will show us how to serve Him-right now.
by Randy Kilgore
Father, grant me an awareness of my place in Your work. Help me to see You at work in the people and places where I spend my time.
GOD WILL SHOW US HOW TO SERVE HIM-WHERE EVER WE ARE.
Exodus 31:1-11
Then the Lord said to Moses, "See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Her, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills-to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: The tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent-the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand, and all its accessories, the altar of incense, the alter of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand-and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the Priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you."
Insight: The tabernacle was to function as God's dwelling place where the Israelites could come before His presence (Ex.25:8). It was built according to God's blue print. He especially appointed two craftsman-Bezalel and Oholiab (31:1-6)-and gave them the ability to lead the work and teach others (35:30-35). God spoke of a special empowering of Bezalel: God "filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, withunderstanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills" (31:3). God also provided the skilled workers needed to build the tabernacle and gave each of them the ability to make everything exactly as He wanted it made (vv.6,11;36:1).
by Sim Kay Tee
April 2nd, 2017
TOO CLOSE
I grew up in Oklahoma where severe weather is common from early spring through the end of summer. I recall one evening when the sky boiled with dark clouds, the TV weather forecaster warned of an approaching tornado, and the electricity went out. Very quickly, my parents, my sister, and I climbed down the wooden ladder into the storm cellar behind our house where we stayed until the storm passed by.
Today "storm chasing" has become a hobby many people and a profitable business for others. The goal is to get as close as possible to a tornado without being harmed. Many storm chasers are skilled forecasters with accurate information, but I won't sign up for a tornado tour any time soon.
In moral and spiritual areas of my life, however, I can foolishly pursue dangerous things God tells me to avoid because of His love for me, all the time believing I won't be harmed. A wiser approach is to read the book of Proverbs, which contains many positive ways to elude these snares of life.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding," Solomon wrote. "In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight" (Prov.3:5-6).
Our Lord is the master of the adventure of living, and following His wisdom leads us to fullness of life.
by David McCasland
Father, Your wisdom leads us along the path of life. Help us to follow your guidance today.
EVERY TEMPTATION IS AN OCCASSION TO TRUST GOD.
Proverbs 3:1-18
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father, the son he delights in.
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.
Insight: The Hebrew word translated "Teaching" in Proverbs 3:1 is torah. Torah is most often translated "Law" in the Old Testament, but it can also be translated "Instruction" or "Guidance." The Father in Proverbs 3 is not just advising his son to obey rules. He is urging him to internalize loving and helpful instructions: "Do not forget my teaching [instruction, guidance], but keep my commands in your heart."
by Dennis Moles
March 31st, 2017
FOLLOW ME
Health clubs offer many different programs for those who want to lose weight and stay healthy. One fitness center caters only to those who want to lose at least fifty pounds and develop a healthy lifestyle. One member says that she quit her previous fitness club because she felt the slim and fit people were staring at her and judging her-out-of shape body. She now works out five days a week and is achieving healthy weight loss in a positive and welcoming environment.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus came to call the spiritually unfit to follow Him. Levi was one such person. Jesus saw him sitting in his tax collector's booth and said, "Follow me" (Mark 2:14). His words captured Levi's heart, and he followed Jesus. Tax collectors were often greedy and dishonest in their dealings and were considered religiously unclean. When the religious leaders saw Jesus having dinner at Levi's house with other tax collectors, they asked, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" (2:16). Jesus replied, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (2:17).
Jesus came to save sinners, which includes all of us. He loves us, welcomes into His presence, and calls us to follow Him. As we walk with Him, we grow more and more spiritually fit.
by Marvin Williams
Read Acts 9:10-19 and see how one man obeyed God and welcomed someone who was considered spiritually unfit. What were the results? How can you reach out to those who need the Savior? How can you help your church become a more welcoming place for the spiritually unfit?
JESUS' ARMS OF WELCOME ARE ALWAYS OPEN.
Mark 2:13-17
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Insight: Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-32 both tell the story of Jesus calling a man named Levi to be His disciple. It appears that Levi was employed by Herod Antipas to collect tolls (travel taxes) from those outside of his territory who passed through Capernaum. There is almost universal agreement that the Levi in Mark 2 and Luke 5 is the apostle Matthew, since Matthew is identified as a tax collector and his own calling mirrors the calling of Levi (Matt.9:9-12). After Levi started his new life as a apostle, he was called by his Greek name-Matthew-which means "gift of God."
by Dennis Moles
March 30th, 2017
SURPRISED BY GRACE
A woman from Grand Rapids, Mi, fell asleep on the couch after her husband had gone to bed. An intruder sneaked in through the sliding door, which the couple had forgotten to lock, and crept through the house. He entered the bedroom where the husband was sleeping and picked up the television set. The sleeping man woke up, saw a figure standing there, and whispered, "Honey, come to bed." The burglar panicked, put down the TV, grabbed a stack of money from the dresser, and ran out.
The thief was in for a big surprise! The money turned out to be a stack of Christian pamphlets with a likeness of a twenty dollar bill on one side and explanation of the love and forgiveness God offers to people on the other side. Instead of the cash he expected, the intruder got the story of God's love for him.
I wonder what Saul expected when he realized it was Jesus appearing to him on the road to Damascus, since he had been persecuting and even killing Jesus's followers? (Acts 9:1-9). Saul, later called Paul, must have been surprised by God's grace toward him, which he called "a gift":"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power" (Eph.3:7).
Have you been surprised by God's gift of grace in your life as He shows you His love and forgiveness?
Anne Cetas
Lord, Your grace is amazing to me. I'm grateful that inspite of my sinfulness, You offer Your love to me.
NEVER MEASURE GOD'S UNLIMITED POWER BY YOUR LIMITED EXPECTATIONS.
Acts 9:1-19
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belong to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, why do you persecute me?"
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked
"I am Jesus, who you are persecuting," he replied. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!"
"Yes, Lord," he answered.
The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsas named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he had seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."...
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

March 29th, 2017
GOD OF MY STRENGTH
No one could have mistaken the ancient Babylonian soldiers for gentlemen. They were ruthless, resilient, and vicious, and they attacked other nations the way an eagle over takes its prey. Not only were they powerful, they were prideful as well. The practically worshiped their own combat abilities. In fact, the Bible says that their "strength [was] their god" (Hab.1:11).
God did not want this kind of self-reliance to infect Israel's forces as they prepared to battle the Midianites. So He told Gideon, Israel's army commander, "You have too many men. I cannot deliver Mideon into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, 'My own strength has saved me'"(Judg.7:2). As a result, Gideon discharged anyone who was fearful. Twenty-two thousand men high tailed it home, while 10,000 fighters stayed. God continued to downsize the army until only 300 men remain (vv.3-7).
Having fewer troops meant that Israel was dramatically outnumbered-their enemies who populated a near by valley were as "thick as locusts" (v.12). Despite this, God gave Gideon's forces victory.
At times, God may allow our resources to dwindle so that we rely on His strength to keep going. Our needs showcase His power, but He is the One who says, "I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with righteous right hand" (Isa.41:10).
Dear God, I am thankful for Your strength. You carry me when I am weak. Help me to give You the credit for every victor in life.
GOD WANTS US TO DEPEND ON HIS STRENGTH, NOT OUR OWN.
Judges 7:1-8
Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreah.
The Lord said to Gideon, "you have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, 'My own strength has saved me.' Now announce to the army, 'anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'" So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
But the Lord said to Gideon, "There are still two many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, 'this one shall not go with you,' he shall not go."
So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink." Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The Lord said to Gideon, "with the three hundred men that lapped, I will save you and give the Midanites unto your hands. Let all the others go home." So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets from the others.
Insight: Gideon's life clearly illustrates God's strength and man's frailty. God used Gideon to accomplish a great military victory and through him brought forty years of peace to Israel. (Judg.6-7). But this story also teaches us about the danger of pride. The circumstances surrounding Israel's victory over Mideon clearly showed that God, not Gideon, was responsible for Israel's success. Yet Gideon's pride led him to accept gold and to erect a monument in his own honor that would later become an object of worship and a snare to him and his family (8:22-27).
by Dennis Moles
March 28th, 2017
SURPRISED!
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), an Italian artist, was known for his fiery temperament and unconventional technique. He used ordinary working people as models for his saints and was able to make viewers of his paintings feel they were a part of the scene. The Supper at Emmaus shows an innkeeper standing while Jesus and two of His followers are seated at a table when they recognize Him as the risen Lord (Luke 24:31). One disciple is pushing himself to a standing position while the other's arms are outstretched and his hands open in astonishment.
Luke, who records these events in his gospel, tells us that the two men immediately returned to Jerusalem where they found the eleven disciples and others assembled together and saying, "'It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.' The the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread" (vv.33-35).
Oswald Chambers said, "Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections. The only way a worker can keep true to God is by being ready for the Lord's surprise visits."
Whatever road we are on today, may we be ready for Jesus to make Himself known to us in new and surprising ways.
by David McCasland
Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see You, the risen Christ, alongside us and at work in the circumstances of our lives today.
TO FIND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WE MUST BE WILLING TO SEEK HIM.
Luke 24:13-35
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him...
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the small village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. They their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Insight: Jesus's actions in today's reading opened eyes of truth of who He is. The road-to-Emmaus encounter in Luke 24 points back to the Last Supper and forward to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26." 'This is my body, which I do for you; do this in remembrance of me...This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
by Dennis Moles

March 27th, 2017
EASTER START
One detail in the Easter story has always intrigued me. Why did Jesus keep the scars from His crucifixion? Presumably He could have had any resurrected body He wanted, and yet He chose one identifiable mainly by scars that could be seen and touched. Why?
I believe the story of Easter would be incomplete without those scars on the hands, the feet, and the side of Jesus (John 20:27).
Human beings dream of pearly straight teeth and wrinkle-free skin and ideal body shapes. We dream of an unnatural state: the perfect body. But for Jesus, being confined in a skeleton and human skin was the unnatural state. The scars are a permanent reminder of His days of confinement and suffering on our planet.
From the perspective of heaven, those scars represent the most horrible event that has ever happened in the history of the universe.
Even that event, though, turned into a memory. Because of Easter, we can hope that the tears we shed, the struggles we endure, the emotional pain, the heartache over lost friends and loved ones-all these will become memories, like Jesus' scars. Scars never completely go away, but neither do they hurt any longer. Someday we will have re-created bodies and a re-created heaven and earth (Rev.21:4). We will have a new start, an Easter start.
Thank You, Lord, for the hope that the resurrection of Jesus brings-for now and for eternity. I put my trust in You today.
CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS THE GUARANTEE OF OUR OWN.
John 20:24-31
Now Thomas (also known as Didymous), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Insight: Thomas is a disciple about whom we know very little. He is mentioned only a few times in the biblical record and he himself speaks only in three places. Many point to Thomas's first recorded words as a strong statement of faith and commitment to Jesus: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16).
March 26th, 2017
NEVER FORSAKEN
Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." With that in mind, I read an online article describing "The Top 8 Deadliest Prisons in the World." In one of these prisons every prisoner is held in solitary confinement.
We are intended to live and relate in relationships and community, not in isolation. This is what makes solitary confinement such a harsh punishment.
Isolation is the agony Christ suffered when His eternal relationship with the Father was broken on the Cross. We hear this in His cry captured in Matthew 27:46: "About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?' (which means, 'My God, my God, why have forsaken me?' ) As He suffered and died under the burden of our sins, Christ was suddenly alone, forsaken, isolated, cut off from His relationship with the Father. Yet His suffering in isolation secured for us the promise of the Father: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Heb.13:5).
Christ endured the agony and abandonment of the cross for us so that we would never be alone or abandoned by our God. Ever.
by Bill Crowder
Father, thank You for making it possible for me to be Your child. I will be eternally grateful for the price Jesus paid to make that relationship possible. Thank You for the promise that You will never abandon me.
THOSE WHO KNOW JESUS ARE NEVER ALONE.
Psalm 22:1-10
My God, my God why have forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. "He trusts in the Lord," they say, "let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
Yet you brought me out of the womb: You made me trust in you, even at my mother's breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.
Insight: Adam and Eve's rebellion against God affected their relationship with Him, with each other, and with the good world God had created for them to live in and tend (Gen. 3:8-19). Too often we think of Jesus's work-His life, death, and resurrection-solely in terms of what it means for our relationship with God. But the redemptive work of Christ extends beyond reconciling us to God. Jesus inaugurated a kingdom that is about restoring what was broken at the fall.
by Dennis Moles
March 24th, 2017
THE OLIVE PRESS
If you visit the village of Capernaum beside the Sea of Galilee, you will find an exhibit of ancient olive presses. Formed from the basalt rock, the olive press consists of two parts: A base and a grinding wheel. The base is large, round, and has a trough carved out of it. The olives were placed in this trough and then the wheel, also made from heavy stone, was rolled over the olives to extract the oil.
On the night before His death, Jesus went to the Mt. of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem. There, in the garden called Gethsemane means "place of the olive press" -and that perfectly describes those first crushing hours of Christ's suffering on our behalf. There, "in anguish, he prayed...and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44).
Jesus the Son suffered and died to take away "the sin of the world" (John 1:29) and restore our broken relationship with God the Father. "Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering...He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed" (Isa.53:4-5).
Our hearts cry out in worship and gratitude.
by Bill Crowder

Father, help me understand what your son endured for me. Help me appreciate the depths of love that would allow my Lord and Christ to be crushed for my wrongs and my rescue.
GONE MY TRANSGRESSION, AND NOW I AM FREE-ALL BECAUSE JESUS WAS WOUNDED FOR ME. by W.G.OVENS
Mark 14:32-39
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
Going a little farther he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father," he said "Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will but what you will." Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "Are you asleep? Couldn't you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.
Insight: On the night Jesus was betrayed, He took His disciples to a familiar quiet place to pray. Gethsemane was just east of Jerusalem beyond the Kidron Valley near the Mount of Olives (Matt.26:36;Mark.14:32;John.18:1). One of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, was conspiring to have Jesus killed. Its in this context that the prayer in today's reading was uttered. But these words aren't the sum total of Jesus's prayer that night. John's gospel tells us that He also prayed for his disiples and for those of us who will believe in Him through their message (John 17:16-25). by Dennis Mowles
March 23rd, 2017
STORIES IN A CABIN
The vintage cabin, expertly constructed from hand-hewn logs, was worthy of a magazine cover. But the structure itself was only half the treasure. Inside, family heirlooms clung to the walls, infusing the home with memories. On the table sat a hand-woven egg basket, an ancient biscuit board, and an oil lamp. A weathered pork pie hat perched over the front door. "There's a story behind everything," the proud owner said.
When God gave Moses instructions for constructing the tabernacle, there was a "story" behind everything (Ex.25-27). The tabernacle had only one entrance, just as we have only one way to God (See Acts 4:12). The thick inner curtain separated the people from the most Holy Place where God's presence dwelt: Our sin separates us from God. Inside the Most Holy Place was the ark of covenant, which symbolized God's presence. The high priest was a forerunner of the greater Priests to come-Jesus Himself. The blood of the sacrifices foreshadowed Christ's perfect sacrifice: "He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption" (Heb.9:12).
All these things told the story of Christ and the work He would accomplish on our behalf. He did it so that "those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance" (v.15). Jesus invites us to be a part of His story.
by Tim Gustafson
What items have special meaning for me and why? What stories do I tell about them? How can they help point people to Jesus?
JESUS TOOK OUR SIN THAT WE MIGHT HAVE SALVATION.
Hebrews 9:11-15
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, than, will the blood of Christ, who threw the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
Insight: In the Old Testament, covenants were binding agreements between humans or between humans and God. Covenants between God and man were important markers for the Jewish people. For example, the people of Israel were brought into a special relationship with God through His covenant with Abraham (Gen.17). The tribes of Israel became a people of God in the covenant reached at Mt. Sinai (Ex.34). David had a special covenant with God that ensured the throne to David's offspring (2 Sam.7). The idea of covenant would resonate with the Jewish recipients of Hebrews-for Jesus has established his new covenant with us through His sacrifice. By accepting the gift of this covenant we receive eternal life (9:15).
by Bill Crowder

March 22nd, 2017
THE BEST IS YET TO COME
In our family, March means more then the end of winter. It means that the college basketball extravaganza called "March Madness" has arrived. As avid fans, we watch the tournament and enthusiastically root for our favorite teams. If we tune in early we get a chance to listen to the broadcasters talk about the upcoming game and to enjoy some of the pre-game drills where players shoot practice shots and warm up with team mates.
Our life on earth is like the pre-game in basketball. Life is interesting and full of promise, but it doesn't compare to what lies ahead. Just think of the pleasure of knowing that even when life is good, the best is yet to come! Or that when we give cheerfully to those in need, its an investment in heavenly treasure. In times of suffering and sorrow, we can find hope as we reflect on the truth that a pain-free, tearless eternity awaits us. Its no wonder that Paul exhorts: "Set your minds on things above" (Col.3:2).
The future God has promised us enables us to see all of life in new dimensions. While this may be a great life, the best life is still to come. It is a wonderful privilege to live here in the light of there.
by Joe Stowell
Let us then be true and faithful, trusting, serving every day; just one glimpse of Him in glory will the toils of life repay. When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!
by Eliza E. Hewitt
LIVING FOR THE FUTURE PUTS TODAY IN PERSPECTIVE.
Colossians 3:1-11
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died in your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Insight: When a person believes in Christ he is joined to Him in His death and resurrection (Rom.6:3-8;Col.2:12-13;3:1). Paul reminds the Colossian believers that their priority-their whole outlook on life-is to consistently focus on the resurrected, ascended, and exhausted Christ (3:1);to diligently strive and pursue things that are eternal (v.2); and to continuously put to death whatever belongs to the earthly nature (vv.3-5). Paul not only lists the practices that should no longer characterize the life of the believer, but he asks followers of Christ to embrace the virtues that should clothe God's chosen people (vv.12-17).
by Sim Kay Tee

March 21st, 2017
FULL SUN
I know better, but I still keep trying. The instructions on the label are clear: "Needs full sun." Our yard has mostly shade. It is not suitable for plants that need full sun. But I like the plant. I like its color, the shape of the leaves, the size, the scent. So I buy it, bring it home, plant it, and take really good care of it. But the plant is not happy at my house. My care and attention are not enough. It needs sunlight, which I cannot provide. I thought I could make up for lack of light by giving the plant some other kind of attention. But it doesn't work that way. Plants need what they need.
And so do people. Although we can survive for awhile in less-than-ideal conditions, we can't thrive. In addition to our basic physical needs, we also have spiritual needs that can't be met by any substitute.
Scripture says that believers are children of light. This means that we need to live in the full light of God's presence to thrive (Ps.89:15). If we try to live in darkness, we will produce nothing but "fruitless deeds" (See Eph.5:3-4,11). But if we are living in the light of Jesus the light of the world, we will produce the fruit of His light, which is good, faithful, and true.
by Julie Ackerman Link
Dear Lord, thank You for redeeming me and giving me new life. Help me to live as a child of the Light.
CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT WALK IN HIS LIGHT.
Ephesians 5:1-16
Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or course joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a person is an idolater- has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible-and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
This is why it is said:
"Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Insight: One of the great things about light is that it allows us to see where we are going. As believers in Christ, we are "children of light, " and we can clearly see the way we are to walk. Those in spiritual darkness stumble and fall. It is no simple turn of phrase that following Jesus is called "walking in the light."
by J.R.Hudberg

March 20th, 2017
WHEN THE WATER BLUSHED
Why did Jesus come to earth before the invention of photography and video? Couldn't He have reached more people if everyone could see Him? After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
"No," says Ravi Zacharias, who asserts that a word can be worth "a thousand pictures." As evidence, he quotes poet Richard Crashaw's magnificent line, "The conscious water saw its Master and blushed." In one simple line, Crashaw captures the essence of Jesus' first miracle (John 2:1-11). Creation itself recognizes Jesus as the creator. No mere carpenter could turn water into wine.
Another time, when Christ calmed a storm with the words, "Quiet!Be still," His stunned disciples asked, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" (Mark 4:39,41). Later, Jesus told the Pharisees that if the crowd did not praise him, "the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40). Even the rocks know who He is.
John tells us, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory" (John 1:14). Out of that eyewitness experience John also wrote, "We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen...He is the Word of life" (1 John 1:1 NLT). Like John, we can use our words to introduce others to Jesus whom wind and water obey.
by Tim Gustafson
Jesus, we acknowledge You as the Creator who knows and loves His creation. Yet You wait for Us to invite You into every aspect of our lives. Forgive us for those times we keep You at a safe distance. Today we choose to risk knowing You more completely.
THE WRITTEN WORD REVEALS THE LIVING WORD.
John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Insight: Andrew (Simon Peter's brother) and an unnamed disciple-who most scholars believe to be John, the son of Zebedee and the author of the fourth gospel-were already followers of John the Baptist when Jesus arrived in Bethany (John 1:28,35). After John the Baptist declared Christ to be "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (v.29), he nudged his two young followers to instead take their place as followers of Jesus Christ (v.37). A consistent feature in John's gospel record is that he doesn't name himself. This is one of the reasons many believe he was the disciple who joined Andrew in following Christ.
by Bill Crowder

March 19th, 2017
IGNORE NO MORE
I don't know how these people find me, but I keep getting more and more flyers in the mail from folks asking me to show up their events so they can teach me about retirement benefits. I started several years ago when I began getting invitations to join an organization that works on behalf of retirees, These reminders all serve to say: "You're getting older. Get ready!"
I have ignored them all along, but soon enough I'm going to have to break down and go to one of their meetings. I really should be taking action on their suggestions.
Sometimes I hear a similar reminder in the wisdom of Scripture. We know that what the passage says is true about us, but we are not ready to respond. Maybe its a passage like Romans 14:15 that says, "Let us stop passing judgment on one another." Or the reminder in 2 Corinthians 9:6, which tells us, "Whoever sows generously will also reap generously." Or the reminder in Philipians 1: "Stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened" (vv.27-28).
As we read God's Word, we get vital reminders. Let's take these seriously as from the heart of the Father who knows what honors Him and is best for us.
by Dave Branon
Thank you Lord for Your gentle reminders. We know that the things You tell us to do in Your Word are for our good and for Your glory. Help us to step up and do the things that bring honor to Your name.
HOLINESS IS SIMPY CHRIST IN US FULFILLING THE WILL AND COMMANDS OF THE FATHER.
Philippians 1:27-30

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Insight: The apostle Paul was concerned that believers in the Roman colony of Philippi live exemplary and holy lives. He prayed for the spiritual growth and maturity (Phil. 1:9-11) and exhorted them to "conduct [themselves] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." (v.27). This was a constant reminder and refrain in Paul's letters (Eph. 4:1; Col 1:10; 1Thess.2:12). The life "worthy of the gospel of Christ" is characterized by steadfastness, unity, harmony, humilty, and a willingness to suffer. Suffering for Christ is a gift and a privilege for the believer (Acts 5:41; Phil. 1:29; 1Peter 2:21; 3:14; 4:16).

March 17th, 2017
POSITIVE REPUTATION
A journalist had a quirky habit of not using blue pens. So when his colleague asked him if he needed anything from the store, he asked for some pens. "But not blue pens," he said. "I don't want blue pens. I don't like blue. Blue is too heavy. So please purchase 12 ball point pens for me-anything but blue!" The next day his colleague passed him the pens-and they were all blue. When asked to explain, he said, "You kept saying 'blue, blue.' that's the word that left the deepest impression!" The journalist's use of repetition had an affect, but not the one he desired.
Moses, the law giver of Israel, also used repetition in his requests to his people. More than thirty times he urged his people to remain true to the law of their God. Yet the result was the opposite of what he asked for. He told them that obedience would lead them to life and prosperity, but disobedience would lead to destruction (Deut.30:15-18).
When we love God, we want to walk in His ways not because we fear the consequences but because it is our joy to please the One we love. That's a good word to remember.
by Poh Fang Chia
Dear Lord, as we read Your inspired story, may Your Spirit be our teacher. Help us to walk the path of obedience as we hear the voice of Your heart.
LOVE FOR GOD WILL CAUSE YOU TO LIVE FOR GOD.
Deuteronomy 30:11-20Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will assend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Insight: Today's passage begins with a beautiful statement of how intimately God wants us to know Him. He has not given us commandments that are "too difficult" or "beyond our reach" (Deut.30:11). This passage ends with the reason His commands are "very near" (v.14)-that we may love and obey God and enjoy life in Him (v.20).
J.R.Hudberg

March 16th, 2017
DEEPLY LOVED
Years ago I had an office in Boston that looked out on the Granary Burying Ground where many prominent American heroes are buried. There one can find the gravestones for John Hancock and Samuel Adams, two signers of the Declaration of Independence, and just a few feet beyond that is Paul Revere's marker.
But no one really knows where in this burial ground each body is buried because the stones have been moved many times-sometimes to make the grounds more picturesque and other times so lawn mowers could fit between them. And while the Granary features approximately twenty three hundred markers, closer to five thousand people are buried there! Even in death, it seems some people are not fully known.
There may be times when we feel as if we are like those unmarked residents of the Granary, unknown and unseen. Loneliness can make us feel unseen by others-and maybe even by God. But we must remind ourselves that even though we may feel forgotten by our Creator God, we are not. God not only made us in His image (Gen.1:26-27), but He also values each of us individually and sent His Son to save us (John 3:16).
Even at our darkest hours, we can rest in the knowledge we are never alone, for our loving God is with us.
Thank You, Lord, that You never leave me alone and that You know all about me. Make me aware of Your presence so I may share that comfort with others who are feeling alone too.
By Randy Kilgore

WE ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE GOD LOVES US.
Matthew 6:25-34
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink: or about your body what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' for the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Insight: The Sermon on the Mount is all about the life of those who are part of God's kingdom. One of the characteristics of our heavenly Father is that He is our great provider-a fact that Jesus emphasizes in today's text. He describes the extent to which the Father goes to provide for His children. But what is most important is that this provision is not in response to our obedience or because we deserve it-it is because of our value to God (Matt.6:26).
by Bill Crowder
March 15th, 2017
LOOKING UP!
An article in the Surgical Technology International journal says that looking down at a smart phone with your head bent forward is equivalent of having a 60 pound weight on your neck. When we consider that millions of people around the world spend an average of 2-4 hours daily reading and texting, the resulting damage to the neck becomes a growing health concern.
It is also easy to become spiritually bowed down by the burdens of life. How often we find ourselves discouraged by the problems we face and the needs of those we love. The psalmist understood this weight of concern yet saw hope as he wrote about "the maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them- [who] remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous" (PS. 146:6-8).
When we consider God's care, His great power, and His loving heart, we can begin to look up and praise Him. We can walk through each day knowing that "the Lord reigns forever...for all generations" (v.10).
He lifts us up when we are bowed down. Praise the Lord!
O Lord, life our eyes to see Your power and love today so we can raise our heads and our hearts in grateful praise to You.
FAITH IN GOD'S GOODNESS PUTS A SONG IN YOUR HEART.
Psalm 146:1-10

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them-he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.
Insight: In today's psalm, the psalmist responds in grateful worship as he reflects on the greatness and grace of God. He invites us to trust the Lord, to look to him for help and to place our hope in him. He is the omnipotent, eternal God, the Creator who is forever faithful (vv.5-6), just, benevolent, gracious, compassionate, and loving (vv.7-9). The psalmist's message is a simple one: Trust in God, not in man, for only those who trust God can be truly blessed. ..
by Sim Kay Tee

March 14th, 2017
MY PERSONAL SPACE
An industrial design graduate from Singapore university was challenged in a workshop to come up with a novel solution to a common problem using only ordinary objects. She created a vest to protect ones personal space from being invaded while traveling in the crush of crowded public trains and buses. The vest was covered with long, flexible plastic spikes normally used to keep birds and cats away from plants.
Jesus knew what it was like to lose His personal space in the commotion of crowds desperate to see and touch Him. A woman who had suffered from constant bleeding for 13 years and could find no cure touched the fringe of His robe. Immediately her bleeding stopped (Luke 8:43-44).
Jesus' question, "Who touched me?" (v.45) isn't as strange as it sounds. He felt power come out of Him (v.46). That touch was different from those who merely happened to accidentally touch Him.
While we must admit that we do sometimes with to keep our personal space and privacy, the only way we help a world of hurting people is to let them get close enough to be touched by the encouragement, comfort, and grace of Christ in us.
Lord Jesus, I want to be near You and know You so that when I'm in contact with others they can see You through me.
A CHRISTIAN LIFE IS THE WINDOW THROUGH WHICH OTHERS CAN SEE JESUS.
Luke 8:40-48

Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
"Who touched me?" Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."
But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me."
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."
Insight: Luke recounts three miracles in quick succession. First, Jesus calms a storm while out in a boat on the sea (Luke 8:22-25). Then when the boat reaches the other side of the sea, Jesus heals a man possessed by demons (vv. 26-39). Finally Luke records that while going to heal the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader, Jesus heals a woman who had been suffering from bleeding for years (vv. 40-48). In the end, Jesus brings Jairus's daughter back to life (vv. 48-56). This series of miracles shows that nothing-nature, spirits, health, even life and death-is outside of Jesus's power and authority.
J.R. Hudberg