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Monday, January 21, 2019

Creation’s Song

As we start the New Week Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his willingness to stand up for injustice and be the Voice for the voiceless let's take a moment to reflect on Dr. Kings legacy and ask ourselves those same questions are we standing up and being a Voice for the Voiceless with these words of wisdom The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1 Using acoustic astronomy, scientists can observe and listen to the sounds and pulses of space. They’ve found that stars don’t orbit in silence in the mysterious night sky, but rather generate music. Like humpback whale sounds, the resonance of stars exists at wavelengths or frequencies that may not be heard by the human ear. Yet, the music of stars and whales and other creatures combine to create a symphony that proclaims the greatness of God. Psalm 19:1-4 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” In the New Testament, the apostle Paul reveals that in Jesus “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). In response, the natural world’s heights and depths sing to its Maker. May we join creation and sing out the greatness of the One who “with the breadth of his hand marked off the [vast] heavens” (Isaiah 40:12). By Remi Oyedele REFLECT & PRAY Let [us] praise the name of the Lord, for at His command [we] were created. Psalm 148:5 How great You are, O God! Open my eyes to see You in creation’s majesty and open my heart to offer the praise You deserve. Welcome to Remi Oyedele! Meet all our authors at INSIGHT Psalm 19 celebrates God’s revealing of Himself to humanity through creation (vv. 1-6; often referred to as general revelation), and through Scripture (vv. 7-11; often referred to as special revelation). Interestingly, verses 1-6 use the general title for God (El), while in verses 7-14 the speaker chooses the personal title for God in the Old Testament of YHWH (“the Lord”). Although creation powerfully and wordlessly reveals God’s care and power over all creation (vv. 2, 3, 6), this psalm paints a picture of how through Scripture God reveals Himself more intimately, in a way that transforms our lives (vv. 7-11). And, knowing our weaknesses, the psalmist confesses that this growth in intimacy with God is only possible through grace (vv. 12-14). God reveals Himself, not only through creation and Scripture, but through powerfully redeeming His people (v. 14). Monica Brands

Friday, January 18, 2019

Worshiping with Questions

We have made it to the end of the week YES! It's FRIDAY! Take a moment to reflect on all that as transpire in your day to day life with these words of wisdom to continue to guide you in ALL TRUTH I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. Psalm 13:5 READ PSALM 13 It’s not uncommon during a long (or short!) trip for someone in a group of travelers to ask, “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?” Who hasn’t heard these universal queries coming from the lips of children and adults eager to arrive at their destination? But people of all ages are also prone to ask similar questions when wearied because of life challenges that never seem to cease. Such was the case with David in Psalm 13. Four times in two verses (vv. 1-2), David—who felt forgotten, forsaken, and defeated—lamented “How long?” In verse two, he asks, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?” Psalms that include lament, like this one, implicitly give us permission to worshipfully come to the Lord with questions of our own. After all, what better person to talk to during prolonged times of stress and strain than God? We can bring our struggles with illness, grief, the waywardness of a loved one, and relational difficulties to Him. Worship need not stop when we have questions. The sovereign God of heaven welcomes us to bring our worry-filled questions to Him. And perhaps, like David, in due time our questions will be transformed into petitions and expressions of trust and praise to the Lord (vv. 3-6). By Arthur Jackson REFLECT & PRAY Bring your questions to God. Lord, thank You that I don’t have to stop worshiping when I have questions; I can worship You with my questions. INSIGHT A lament psalm typically contains five elements: invocation, lament, request, trust, and praise. We see all five in Psalm 13. First is the invocation, in which an appeal for help is made to an authority: “How long, Lord?” (v. 1). Next is the lament, which takes the form of David’s bitter questions (vv. 1-2). Soon he pivots to his request, as he demands an answer from God: “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death” (v. 3). The poet then circles back to trust (v. 5), which naturally leads to his anticipation of future praise (v. 6). We don’t know the details of David’s desperate straits, but that uncertainty only enhances this psalm’s universal accessibility. Everyone understands what it is to be desperate. Not everyone understands where to turn for genuine help. David shows us what it looks like to find hope where there seems to be none. Tim Gustafson

Monday, January 14, 2019

Hope’s Sure Foundation

Yes, the weekend has come to an end and we are starting in the second week of the New Year as we start this New Week let keep on encouraging one another with these words of wisdom My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 READ HEBREWS 11:1–6 Lessons on faith can come from unexpected places—like the one I learned from my 110-pound, black Labrador retriever, “Bear.” Bear’s large metal water bowl was located in a corner of the kitchen. Whenever it was empty, he wouldn’t bark or paw at it. Instead, he would lie down quietly beside it and wait. Sometimes he would have to wait several minutes, but Bear had learned to trust that I would eventually walk into the room, see him there, and provide what he needed. His simple faith in me reminded me of my need to place more trust in God. The Bible tells us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). The foundation of this confidence and assurance is God Himself, who “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (v. 6). God is faithful to keep His promises to all who believe and come to Him through Jesus. Sometimes having faith in “what we do not see” isn’t easy. But we can rest in God’s goodness and His loving character, trusting that His wisdom is perfect in all things—even when we have to wait. He is always faithful to do what He says: to save our eternal souls and meet our deepest needs, now and forever. By James Banks REFLECT & PRAY Don’t worry about tomorrow—God is already there. Almighty Father, thank You for Your faithfulness to always take care of me. Help me to trust You and to rest in Your perfect love today. INSIGHT In Hebrews 11:1 we are presented with the powerful relationship between faith and hope (“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for”). This relationship becomes the foundation for all that follows in the Hebrews 11 “hall of faith.” In that light, each event of faith cited is anchored in the hope that the individuals held in God. That hope is what prompted Abel to offer a better sacrifice (v. 4), Enoch to walk with God (v. 5), Noah to build an ark (v. 7), Abraham to migrate to a far country (v. 8), and Isaac and Jacob to pronounce blessings on future generations (vv. 20-21). All of these expressions of faith were made by those anticipating a hope that would be fulfilled by the God in whom they had placed their faith. For more on hope and faith, see Hope: Choosing Faith Instead of Fear at Bill Crowder

Friday, January 11, 2019

Infinite Dimensions

So here we are YES! It's FRIDAY! and we have made it to the end of the week, Yes I know this week we may have experienced some highs and some lows but just know that God is with you in this New Season and New Chapter in your life with these words of wisdom I pray that you . . . [will] grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:17-18 READ EPHESIANS 3:16–21 I lay still on the vinyl-covered mat and held my breath on command as the machine whirred and clicked. I knew lots of folks had endured MRIs, but for claustrophobic me, the experience required focused concentration on something—Someone—much bigger than myself. In my mind, a phrase from Scripture—“how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18)—moved in rhythm with the machine’s hum. In Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church, he described four dimensions to God’s love in order to stress the unending parameters of His love and presence. My position while lying down for the MRI provided a new image for my understanding. Wide: the six inches on either side of where my arms were tightly pinned to my body within the tube. Long: the distance between the cylinder’s two openings, extending out from my head and feet. High: the six inches from my nose up to the “ceiling” of the tube. Deep: the support of the tube anchored to the floor beneath me, holding me up. Four dimensions illustrating God’s presence surrounding and holding me in the MRI tube—and in every circumstance of life. God’s love is ALL around us. Wide: He extends His arms to reach all people everywhere. Long: His love never ends. High: He lifts us up. Deep: He dips down, holding us in all situations. Nothing can separate us from Him! (Romans 8:38-39). By Elisa Morgan REFLECT & PRAY Dear God, help us pause to ponder Your multidimensional love for us! What situations cause you to question God’s love? How will you choose to trust Him? INSIGHT Ephesians 3:16-21 is actually a prayer that flows out of the context of Ephesians 2, where Paul outlines what God has done for us. Though we were dead in our sins, God gave us new life (2:1-10) and brought Jews and Gentiles together to form His church (2:11-22). In Ephesians 3 Paul builds on that by saying, “For this reason . . .” (3:1). But then he interrupts himself to explain his own unique role in sharing the “mystery” of the church with them (vv. 2-6). All of this sets the stage for verses 16-21, as he returns to the phrase of 3:1, “For this reason . . .” (v. 14). Throughout Ephesians we see the theme of God’s lavish and unmerited grace and “glorious riches” (v. 16) extended to His people. Tim Gustafson

Monday, January 7, 2019

An Ordinary Man

The weekend has come to an end and we are jump-starting the New Week with these words of wisdom to guide us through the week that lies ahead with People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 READ 1 SAMUEL 16:1–7 William Carey was a sickly boy, born to a humble family near Northampton, England. His future didn’t look too bright. But God had plans for him. Against all odds, he moved to India, where he brought incredible social reforms and translated the Bible into several Indian languages. He loved God and people, and accomplished many things for God. David, son of Jesse, was an ordinary young man, the youngest in his family. He was seemingly an insignificant shepherd on the hills of Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:11-12). Yet God saw David’s heart and had a plan for him. King Saul had been rejected by God for disobedience. While the prophet Samuel mourned Saul’s choices, God called Samuel to anoint a different king, one of Jesse’s sons. When Samuel saw the handsome, tall Eliab, he naturally thought, “surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (v. 6). However, God’s strategy to select a king was much different than Samuel’s. In fact, God said no to each of Jesse’s sons, except the youngest one. Selecting David as king was definitely not a strategic move from God’s part, or so it seemed at first glance. What would a young shepherd have to offer his community, let alone his country? How comforting to know that the Lord knows our hearts and has His plans for us. By Estera Pirosca Escobar REFLECT & PRAY God’s priority is your heart. Dear Lord, thank You that You care more about my heart’s attitude toward You than my outward beauty, possessions, or achievements. Welcome to Estera Pirosca Escobar! Meet all our authors at INSIGHT Samuel, whose name means “heard by God,” was Israel’s last judge as well as a priest and prophet. Samuel was born during the time of the judges at a turning point in Israel’s history. The son of Hannah and Elkanah, Samuel was dedicated to the Lord by his mother. As a little boy, Samuel went to live in the “house of the Lord at Shiloh,” the tabernacle (see 1 Samuel 1:24-28). There he was trained under the guidance of the priest Eli, and there he received a special calling from God (3:1-21). Samuel anointed the first king, Saul (chs. 9-10); and in today’s passage we see him preparing to anoint David, Saul’s replacement (16:1-13). Alyson Kieda

Friday, January 4, 2019

Walking in the Light

We have made it to the end of the week in this New Year of 2019 YES! It is FRIDAY! take a moment to just STOP and reflect on these couple of days that we have been in the New Year you may have already started seeing God working on your behalf on some of the things you have already been praying about well this is the YEAR that God is going to show his mighty hand at work as you meditate on these words of wisdom In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. John 1:4 READ HEBREWS 12:18–24 Darkness descended on our forest village when the moon disappeared. Lightning slashed the skies, followed by a rainstorm and crackling thunder. Awake and afraid, as a child I imagined all kinds of grisly monsters about to pounce on me! By daybreak, however, the sounds vanished, the sun rose, and calm returned as birds jubilated in the sunshine. The contrast between the frightening darkness of the night and the joy of the daylight was remarkably sharp. The author of Hebrews recalls the time when the Israelites had an experience at Mount Sinai so dark and stormy they hid in fear (Exodus 20:18-19). For them, God’s presence, even in His loving gift of the law, felt dark and terrifying. This was because, as sinful people, the Israelites couldn’t live up to God’s standards. Their sin caused them to walk in darkness and fear (Hebrews 12:18-21). But God is light; in Him there’s no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). In Hebrews 12, Mount Sinai represents God’s holiness and our old life of disobedience, while the beauty of Mount Zion represents God’s grace and believers’ new life in Jesus, “the mediator of a new covenant” (vv. 22-24). Whoever follows Jesus will “never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Through Him, we can let go of the darkness of our old life and celebrate the joy of walking in the light and beauty of His kingdom. By Lawrence Darmani REFLECT & PRAY Thank You, Lord Jesus, for bringing me out of darkness into Your marvelous light. Help me to avoid the darkness to continue walking in the light toward eternity. If you’re a believer in Jesus, how has your life changed since He came into it? What are some ways you’d like to grow in your faith? INSIGHT No author is identified for the book of Hebrews. Scholarly speculation regarding potential authors ranges from Paul to Barnabas to Luke to Apollos, and even to Aquila and Priscilla. What are we to conclude about this ongoing, centuries-old debate? First, the very fact that there is so much speculation clearly reveals that no particular view can be totally proven. Second, human authorship is less of a problem if we understand that, by means of the inspiration of Scripture, the ultimate author is, in fact, the Holy Spirit who inspired it (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). For more on Bible background, check out Beyond Reasonable Doubt: The Truth of the Bible at Bill Crowder

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Messenger

As we start the New Week on the Last Day of 2018 this is truly a time of self-reflection as we ALL prepare ourselves for 2019 and another chapter and also another level in our walk with Christ so take these words of wisdom to heart and let it continue to guide us ALL into the true deep knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Malachi 3:1 READ MALACHI 3:1–5 “I have a message for you!” A woman working at the conference I was attending handed me a piece of paper, and I wondered if I should be nervous or excited. But when I read, “You have a nephew!” I knew I could rejoice. Messages can bring good news, bad news, or words that challenge. In the Old Testament, God used His prophets to communicate messages of hope or judgment. But when we look closely, we see that even His words of judgment were intended to lead to repentance, healing, and restoration. Both types of messages appear in Malachi 3 when the Lord promised to send a messenger who would prepare the way for Him. John the Baptist announced the coming of the true Messenger, Jesus (see Matthew 3:11)—“the messenger of the covenant” (Malachi 3:1) who will fulfill God’s promises. But He will act “like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap” (v. 2), for He will purify those who believe in His word. The Lord sent His word to cleanse His people because of His loving concern for their well-being. God’s message is one of love, hope, and freedom. He sent His Son to be a messenger who speaks our language—sometimes with messages of correction, but always those of hope. We can trust His message. By Amy Boucher Pye REFLECT & PRAY Ask the Lord to help you share His good news with others in the new year. Lord Jesus Christ, help me not only to understand Your message but to live it. INSIGHT Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was written by a man whose name means “my messenger.” Malachi, believed to be a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah, ministered to the Jews who had returned from the Babylonian exile. Although the temple had been rebuilt (Ezra 6:14-15), the temple service and sacrifices were defiled for several reasons: lack of reverence for God, offering of blemished sacrifices (Malachi 1:6-9, 12-14), and willful neglect of the tithe (3:8-9). Worse, the priests were defiled by mixed marriages and marital unfaithfulness (2:1-16). Because the priesthood—which served as “the messenger of the Lord”—failed in their priestly function (2:7-9), Malachi speaks of a future “messenger” who would prepare the way for “the messenger of the covenant” (3:1). Four hundred years later, Jesus identified John the Baptist as that messenger (Matthew 11:9-10; 17:12-13). K. T. Sim