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Friday, December 29, 2017

What Remains in the Eye

We have made it to the end of the Week YES! It is FRIDAY! This is the last week of 2017 as we continue to reflect on these last two remaining days before we hit 2018 let's remember ALL that God brought us through in 2017 weather it be good or bad it was help building you for what is ahead in 2018. Take a moment just to reflect on these words of wisdom and let's get ready for an AWESOME 2018! Here's to 2018! with Read: Psalm 104:24–35 Bible in a Year: Zechariah 9–12; Revelation 20 How many are your works, Lord!—Psalm 104:24 The hummingbird gets its English name from the hum made by its rapidly beating wings. In other languages, it is known as the “flower-kisser” (Portuguese) or “flying jewels” (Spanish). One of my favorite names for this bird is biulu, “what remains in the eye” (Mexican Zapotec). In other words, once you see a hummingbird, you’ll never forget it. G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.” The hummingbird is one of those wonders. What is so fascinating about these tiny creatures? Maybe it is their small size (averaging two to three inches) or the speed of their wings that can flap from 50 to 200 times per second. We aren’t sure who wrote Psalm 104, but the psalmist was certainly captivated by nature’s beauty. After describing many of creation’s wonders, like the cedars of Lebanon and the wild donkeys, he sings, “May the Lord rejoice in his works” (v. 31). Then he prays, “May my meditation be pleasing to him” (v. 34). Nature has plenty of things that can remain in the eye because of their beauty and perfection. How can we meditate on them and please God? We can observe, rejoice, and thank God as we contemplate His works and recapture the wonder. —Keila Ochoa Father, help me to reflect on the wonders of nature and meditate on them with thankfulness for all You have done! Wonder leads to gratitude. INSIGHT: Many of the psalms overflow with awe at the magnificence of our God and the world He created. Psalms 8 and 104 are two examples. To realize that we are loved by our Creator God who “wraps himself in light as with a garment” (104:2) and who “set [his] glory in the heavens” (8:1) can cause us, like the psalmist David, to wonder, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (v. 4). Yet Scripture repeatedly assures us that God does indeed love us! In what ways—large or small—have you felt God’s love for you today? Alyson Kieda

Monday, December 25, 2017

Traditions and Christmas

What a way to jump start the New Week by Celebrating CHRISTMAS! As we take a moment to Celebrate the birth of Jesus with Family and Friends lets take a moment to reflect on this Christmas day ALL that JESUS has done for us Read: Luke 2:1–10 Bible in a Year: Zephaniah 1–3; Revelation 16 I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you. —Luke 2:10–11 As you savor a candy cane this Christmas, say “danke schön” to the Germans, for that confectionary treat was first created in Cologne. As you admire your poinsettia, say “gracias” to Mexico, where the plant originated. Say “merci beaucoup” to the French for the term noel, and give a “cheers” to the English for your mistletoe. But as we enjoy our traditions and festivities of the Christmas season—customs that have been collected from around the world—let’s save our most sincere and heartfelt “thank you” for our good, merciful, and loving God. From Him came the reason for our Christmas celebration: the baby born in that Judean manger more than 2,000 years ago. An angel announced the arrival of this gift to mankind by saying, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10-11). This Christmas, even in the light of the sparkling Christmas tree and surrounded by newly opened presents, the true excitement comes when we turn our attention to the baby named Jesus, who came to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). His birth transcends tradition: It is our central focus as we send praises to God for this indescribable Christmas gift. —Dave Branon Lord, we thank You for coming to join us on that first Christmas. During a time of the year filled with many traditions, help us to keep You first. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13 INSIGHT: The angel Gabriel told Mary, “[Jesus] will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32-33). The angel who appeared to Joseph said, “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. . . . [Y]ou are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20-21). Mary and Joseph knew Jesus would be the Messiah, and as faithful Jews they would have known the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem, David’s hometown. Perhaps when Joseph was ordered to Bethlehem for the census he thought, So that’s how God is going to get us to Bethlehem! How does reflecting on the miraculous events that led to the birth of Jesus fill you with renewed awe and wonder? Adapted from Mystery of the Manger by John Greco. Read more at

Friday, December 22, 2017

Silent Night of the Soul

So here we are we have made it to the end of the week YES! It's FRIDAY! with only three more day until Christmas where we will be spending time with family and friends but let's STOP and take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom Read: 2 Corinthians 5:14–21 Bible in a Year: Micah 6–7; Revelation 13 If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here!—2 Corinthians 5:17 Long before Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber created the familiar carol “Silent Night,” Angelus Silesius had written: Lo! in the silent night a child to God is born, And all is brought again that ere was lost or lorn. Could but thy soul, O man, become a silent night God would be born in thee and set all things aright. Silesius, a Polish monk, published the poem in 1657 in The Cherubic Pilgrim. During our church’s annual Christmas Eve service, the choir sang a beautiful rendition of the song titled “Could but Thy Soul Become a Silent Night.” The twofold mystery of Christmas is that God became one of us so that we might become one with Him. Jesus suffered everything that was wrong so that we could be made right. That’s why the apostle Paul could write, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17–18). Whether our Christmas is filled with family and friends or empty of all we long for, we know that Jesus came to be born in us. Ah, would thy heart but be a manger for the birth, God would once more become a child on earth. —David C. McCasland Lord Jesus, thank You for being born into this dark world so that we might be born again into Your life and light. God became one of us so that we might become one with Him. INSIGHT: At the heart of the concept of becoming one with Christ is His work of reconciliation in us. In today’s passage, Paul weaves several themes together—life, love, new creation, and the ministry of reconciliation—all framed by a call to act with urgency. It is because of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection that we can be reconciled to God. Those who accept Christ’s gift of reconciliation must “no longer live for themselves” (2 Cor. 5:15). Instead, we are compelled to view everyone differently (v. 16), as people in dire need of Christ’s reconciliation. And what is this reconciliation? God will no longer “[count] people’s sins against them” (v. 19). With urgency, Paul tells us that we are now Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation and says, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (v. 20, emphasis added). With whom can you share this offer of reconciliation today? Tim Gustaftson

Monday, December 18, 2017

Everlasting Hope

So here we are starting the third week of December with Christmas fast approaching has we start this New week lets take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom to better understand the TRUE meaning of the month of December with Read: Psalm 146 Bible in a Year: Obadiah; Revelation 9 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.—Psalm 146:5 The week before Christmas, two months after my mom died, holiday shopping and decorating sat at the bottom of my priority list. I resisted my husband’s attempts to comfort me as I grieved the loss of our family’s faith-filled matriarch. I sulked as our son, Xavier, stretched and stapled strands of Christmas lights onto the inside walls of our home. Without a word, he plugged in the cord before he and his dad left for work. As the colorful bulbs blinked, God gently drew me out of my darkness. No matter how painful the circumstances, my hope remained secure in the light of God’s truth, which always reveals His unchanging character. Psalm 146 affirms what God reminded me on that difficult morning: My endless “hope is in the Lord,” my helper, my mighty and merciful God (v. 5). As Creator of all, He “remains faithful forever” (v. 6). He “upholds the cause of the oppressed,” protecting us and providing for us (v. 7). “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down” (v. 8). He “watches over” us, “sustains” us, and will always be King (vv. 9-10). Sometimes, when Christmas rolls around, our days will overflow with joyful moments. Sometimes, we’ll face loss, experience hurt, or feel alone. But at all times, God promises to be our light in the darkness, offering us tangible help and everlasting hope. —Xochitl Dixon Father God, thanks for inviting us to know and rely on Your unchanging character as the source of our eternal hope. God secures our hope in His unchanging character. INSIGHT: Psalm 146 is a psalm of contrasts. But the opening and closing phrases of the chapter are identical: “Praise the Lord.” This literary technique is called an inclusio. An inclusio sets the framework for understanding the content in between. In the case of Psalm 146, that framework is praising the Lord. In verses 1-4 the author describes the frailty and ineffectiveness of the strength of humans—they are a breath; they cannot save. Then comes the contrast. In verses 5-9 God is described as the Maker and Ruler of everything. And specifically in verses 7-9 the author says that the Lord watches over and protects those who are in trouble. What greater reason to praise the Lord than that He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves! In the midst of difficult circumstances the Lord is faithful. How can you remind yourself and others of this today? J.R. Hudberg

Friday, December 15, 2017

More Than a Hero

YES! It's the end of the week we have made it to FRIDAY! So has we close out this second week of December let's take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom. Read: John 1:1–5, 9–14 Bible in a Year: Amos 1–3; Revelation 6 We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.—John 1:14 As Star Wars fans around the world eagerly await the release of Episode 8, “The Last Jedi,” people continue to analyze the remarkable success of these films dating back to 1977. Frank Pallotta, media reporter for CNNMoney, said that Star Wars connects with many who long for “a new hope and a force of good at a time when the world needs heroes.” At the time of Jesus’s birth, the people of Israel were oppressed and longing for their long-promised Messiah. Many anticipated a hero to deliver them from Roman tyranny, but Jesus did not come as a political or military hero. Instead, He came as a baby to the town of Bethlehem. As a result, many missed who He was. The apostle John wrote, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). More than a hero, Jesus came as our Savior. He was born to bring God’s light into the darkness and to give His life so that everyone who receives Him could be forgiven and freed from the power of sin. John called Him “the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14). “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (v. 12). Indeed, Jesus is the one true hope the world needs. —David C. McCasland Lord Jesus, You are our Savior, and we praise You for coming to die that we might live. At Bethlehem, God demonstrated that to love is to give. INSIGHT: Many times when we think of heroes we think of someone who “rescues.” This is especially true of Jesus, who is the greatest hero of all time. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:4 that Jesus is the One “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Second Timothy 4:18 declares, “The Lord will rescue [us] from every evil attack, and will bring [us] safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” The greatest hero of all provides the greatest rescue of all—eternal life. Who might you want to tell about your story of Jesus’s rescue? Bill Crowder

Monday, December 11, 2017

It’s All a Gift!

The weekend has come to an end as we start this 2nd week of the month of December MAN! Christmas is fast approaching but lets NOT get ahead of ourselves let take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom. Read: Ephesians 2:1–9 Bible in a Year: Hosea 5–8; Revelation 2 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.—Ephesians 2:8 London’s Café Rendezvous has nice lighting, comfortable couches, and the smell of coffee in the air. What it doesn’t have are prices. Originally started as a business by a local church, the café was transformed a year after it started. The managers felt that God was calling them to do something radical—make everything on the menu free. Today you can order a coffee, cake, or sandwich without cost. There isn’t even a donation jar. It’s all a gift. I asked the manager why they were so generous. “We’re just trying to treat people the way God treats us,” he said. “God gives to us whether we thank him or not. He’s generous to us beyond our imaginations.” Jesus died to rescue us from our sins and reconcile us with God. He rose from the grave and is alive now. Because of this, every wrong thing we’ve done can be forgiven, and we can have new life today (Eph. 2:1-5). And one of the most amazing things about this is that it is all free. We can’t buy the new life Jesus offers. We can’t even donate toward the cost (vv. 8-9). It’s all a gift. As the folks at Café Rendezvous serve their cakes and coffees, they give people a glimpse of God’s generosity. You and I are offered eternal life for free because Jesus has paid the bill. —Sheridan Voysey Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17 Eternal life is a free gift ready to be received. INSIGHT: What does the phrase “dead in your sins” mean? (Eph. 2:1). Dead means lifeless, powerless, inanimate. It means we were incapable of doing anything to change our situation. Sin refers to our rebellion against God. Humanity instinctively rejects God, and this rebellion is expressed through words, deeds, and attitudes. The spiritually dead have no relationship with God. To be spiritually dead means we are completely cut off from Him and unable to reach out to Him. We cannot fix the things we’ve done that offended Him. We can’t apologize to God for rebelling against Him, for pretending He doesn’t exist, and for living as though we are God. Any solution to our deadness must come from somewhere other than us. Through Jesus God took action to bring our spiritually dead hearts to life and restore us to a right relationship with Him. What amazing grace! Adapted from Grace: Accepting God’s Gift to You by Constantine Campbell. Read more at

Friday, December 8, 2017

Unexpected Grace

The week has come to an end YES! It's FRIDAY! Now lets take a moment to reflect on this past week as we take a look at these words of wisdom Read: Acts 9:1–19 Bible in a Year: Daniel 8–10; 3 John In a vision, he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.—Acts 9:12 It was an early Saturday morning in my sophomore year of high school, and I was eager to get to my job at the local bowling lanes. The evening before, I had stayed late to mop the muddy tile floors because the janitor called in sick. I hadn’t bothered to tell the boss about the janitor so I could surprise him. After all, What could go wrong? I thought. Plenty, as it turns out. Stepping in the door, I saw inches of standing water, with bowling pins, rolls of toilet paper, and boxes of paper scoresheets bobbing on top. Then I realized what I had done: While doing the floors, I had left a large faucet running overnight! Incredibly, my boss greeted me with a huge hug and a big smile—“for trying,” he said. Saul was actively punishing and harassing Christians (Acts 9:1–2) when he came face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus (vv. 3–4). Jesus confronted the soon-to-be-called apostle Paul with his sinful actions. Blinded by the experience, Saul/Paul would need a Christian—Ananias—to restore his sight to him in an act of courage and grace (v. 17). Both Saul and I received unexpected grace. Most people know they’re messed up. Instead of lectures, they need a hope for redemption. Stern faces or sharp words can block their view of that hope. Like Ananias, or even my boss, followers of Jesus must become the face of grace in these life-changing encounters with others. —Randy Kilgore A Christian’s grace-filled actions can smooth someone’s path to the Savior’s presence.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas at MacPherson

The weekend has come to an end and we are jump starting the New week in the 12th month of the New Year Welcome to December lets take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom to help get through this week with Read: Luke 1:68–75 Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 47–48; 1 John 3 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.—Luke 1:68 About 230 families and individuals live at MacPherson Gardens, Block 72 in my neighborhood. Each person has his or her own life story. On the tenth floor resides an elderly woman whose children have grown up, gotten married, and moved out. She lives by herself now. Just a few doors away from her is a young couple with two kids—a boy and a girl. And a few floors below lives a young man serving in the army. He has been to church before; maybe he will visit again on Christmas Day. I met these people last Christmas when our church went caroling in the neighborhood to spread Christmas cheer. Every Christmas—as on the first Christmas—there are many people who do not know that God has entered into our world as a baby whose name is Jesus (Luke 1:68; 2:21). Or they do not know the significance of that event—it is “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). Yes, all people! Regardless of our nationality, culture, gender, or financial status, Jesus came to die for us and offer us complete forgiveness so that we can be reconciled with Him and enjoy His love, joy, peace, and hope. All people, from the woman next door to the colleagues we have lunch with, need to hear this wonderful news! On the first Christmas, the angels were the bearers of this joyous news. Today, God desires to work through us to take the story to others. —Poh Fang Chia Lord, use me to touch the lives of others with the news of Your coming. The good news of Jesus’s birth is a source of joy for all people. INSIGHT: One of the great themes of Luke’s gospel record is that it continually affirms that the message of Jesus’s death and resurrection is for everyone—not just for Israel. Today’s devotional declares that Christ’s coming would “cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). This important message continues later in this chapter when Simeon says that salvation is prepared in the “sight of all nations” and that Israel’s Messiah is both “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (vv. 30-32). At the conclusion of Luke’s account, the risen Christ tells the two disciples on the Emmaus road that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (24:47). This message was not intended for Israel alone, nor are we to keep it to ourselves. The entire world is the object of God’s love. For more on sharing your faith, see the Discovery Series booklet Truth with Love: Sharing the Story of Jesus at Bill Crowder

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Last Will Be First

We have made it to the end of the week and have entered into the 12th month of the New Year YES! It's FRIDAY! now lets take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom Read: Mark 9:33–37 Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 40–41; 2 Peter 3 Those who humble themselves will be exalted.—Matthew 23:12 Recently I was among the last in line to board a large passenger jet with unassigned seating. I located a middle seat beside the wing, but the only spot for my bag was the overhead compartment by the very last row. This meant I had to wait for everyone to leave before I could go back and retrieve it. I laughed as I settled into my seat and a thought occurred to me that seemed to be from the Lord: “It really won’t hurt you to wait. It will actually do you good.” So I resolved to enjoy the extra time, helping other passengers lower their luggage after we landed and assisting a flight attendant with cleaning. By the time I was able to retrieve my bag, I laughed again when someone thought I worked for the airline. That day’s experience made me ponder Jesus’s words to His disciples: “Anyone who wants to be first, must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). I waited because I had to, but in Jesus’s “upside down” kingdom, there’s a place of honor for those who voluntarily set themselves aside to attend to others’ needs. Jesus came into our hurried, me-first world not “to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). We serve Him best by serving others. The lower we bend, the closer we are to Him. —James Banks Loving Lord, help me to follow You into the needs of others and serve You there. Jesus’s kingdom is upside-down. INSIGHT: Mark 9 is an action-packed chapter in our second gospel account. The chapter opens with the transfiguration of Jesus (vv. 1-13), where Peter, James, and John witness the glory of Christ and the voice of the Father while seeing Moses and Elijah join Jesus on the mountain to discuss His coming death and resurrection. Then, after descending the mountain and entering the valley below, the Lord of light is confronted by the power of darkness—from which He rescues a demon-possessed boy (vv. 14-29). After Jesus reminds the disciples of His coming death and resurrection (vv. 3-32), the disciples argue about which of them will have the highest place in the kingdom. This discussion of greatness initiates Jesus’s call to servanthood. After hearing how their Master would sacrifice Himself for them, they must be reminded that they too were called to lay themselves down for the benefit of others. Our natural inclination is to put self first. How might you intentionally look to serve someone today? Bill Crowder