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Friday, March 16, 2018

Wonders in Focus

Wrapping up the end of the week YES! we have made it to FRIDAY! with the words of wisdom so you can take a moment to reflect on Read: Job 38:1–18 Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 28–29; Mark 14:54–72 For from him and through him and for him are all things.—Romans 11:36 Some of us are inclined to look at the world and see only what’s wrong. DeWitt Jones is a National Geographic photographer who has used his profession to celebrate what’s right about the world. He waits and watches until a shaft of light or turn of perspective suddenly reveals a wonder that had been there all along. He uses his camera to find beauty in the most common faces of people and nature. If anyone had reason to focus on the wrongs of the world, Job did. After losing all that had given him joy, even his friends became his accusers. Together their voices taunted him for not admitting that he was suffering for sins he was hiding. When Job cried out to the heavens for help, God remained silent. Finally, from within the chaos of a whirlwind and the darkness of a storm, God asked Job to consider wonders of nature that reflect a wisdom and power far beyond our own (Job 38:2-4). Would He now ask us? What about something as natural as the ways of a dog, cat, fluttering leaf, or blade of grass? Could a shaft of light, or a turn of perspective, reveal—even in our pain—the mind and heart of a Creator who has been with us and for us all along? —Mart DeHaan Father in heaven, we’ve spent too much time thinking only about what is wrong and broken with our world. Please help us to see evidence of Your presence in the wonder of what only You could have done. In the faces of nature there are wonders that never cease. INSIGHT: Job had heard many “answers” to the problem of his pain, but he wanted to hear from the Lord. When he did, God asked Job a series of questions that revealed His infinite superiority. And His questions pointed to the wonders of creation. All creation points to God. A key way He speaks to us is through that creation. How refreshing to commune with our Lord as we enjoy His handiwork! Tim Gustafson

Monday, March 12, 2018

Three-Lettered Faith

Just coming off a restful Spring Break starting the New Week refresh with these words of wisdom to help us power through this week with Read: Habakkuk 3:17–19 Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 17–19; Mark 13:1–20 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior.—Habakkuk 3:18 With a tendency toward pessimism, I quickly jump to negative conclusions about how situations in my life will play out. If I’m thwarted in my efforts on a work project, I’m easily convinced none of my other projects will be successful either, and—even though utterly unrelated—I will probably never be able to touch my toes comfortably. And, woe is me, I’m an awful mother who can’t do anything right. Defeat in one area unnecessarily affects my feelings in many. It’s easy for me to imagine how the prophet Habakkuk might have reacted to what God showed him. He had great cause for despair after having seen the coming troubles for God’s people; long and arduous years lay ahead. Things really did look dismal: no fruit, no meat, and no creature comforts. His words lure me into a pessimistic bed of hopelessness until he jars me awake again with a small three-letter word: yet. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord” (Habakkuk 3:18). Despite all the hardships he anticipated, Habakkuk found cause for rejoicing simply because of who God is. While we might be prone to exaggerate our problems, Habakkuk truly faced some extreme hardships. If he could summon praise for God in those moments, perhaps we can too. When we’re bogged down in the depths of despair, we can look to God who lifts us up. —Kirsten Holmberg Lord, You are the reason for all my joy. Help me to fix my eyes on You when my circumstances are painful and hard. God is our cause for joy in the midst of despair. INSIGHT: We don’t know much about the prophet Habakkuk. Not even his father, tribe, or hometown is provided. Yet he is believed to be a temple musician-prophet because he had his own stringed instruments (see Habakkuk 3:19). He was likely a contemporary of the prophets Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah. He prophesied in a period of violence and political chaos that began in the context of Assyria’s upheaval, continued during the Babylonian victory over Jerusalem (597 bc), and ended in Babylon’s fall to the Persians (539 bc). He would have felt the impact of the death of good King Josiah, who had brought Judah back to God for a short time. Before and after Josiah’s reign, Judah had turned away from God and been characterized by moral and spiritual decay that included the worship of other gods. No wonder Habakkuk was in despair! In his little book he questions (complains to) God out of his burdened heart, and God answers. In the end, the prophet has a deeper understanding of God’s justice. When has God given you joy in the midst of pain?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Phone Zone

So here we are we have step into the 3rd month of the New Year Welcome to March YES! we have also made it to the end of the week OMG! It is FRIDAY! Let's just STOP and take a minute to reflect on ALL God's Grace and Mercy as we reflect on these words of wisdom Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:16–24 Bible in a Year: Numbers 26–27; Mark 8:1–21 Pray continually.—1 Thessalonians 5:17 One of the benefits of cell phones is that we now have virtually unlimited access to others. As a result, many people talk on the phone or text even while driving—sometimes resulting in terrible car crashes. To avoid such disasters, many areas of the world have made distracted driving illegal. In the United States, highway signs are popping up to remind drivers of special cell phone zones where they can pull off the road to safely talk and text to their heart’s delight. While it is a good idea to restrict mobile phone communication for drivers, there is another kind of communication that has no restrictions: prayer. God invites us to call on Him whether we are coming, going, or sitting still. In the New Testament, Paul’s words advise each person who wants to communicate with God to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Paul brackets this divine open-door policy by encouraging us to “rejoice always” (v. 16) and to “give thanks in all circumstances” (v. 18). God calls us to joy and thanksgiving—expressions of faith in God through Christ anchored in continual prayer. God is available for our quick cry or for a lengthy conversation. He welcomes us into a relationship with Him, a constant and endless sharing of our joys and gratitude, needs, questions, and concerns (Hebrews 4:15-16). We are always in the prayer zone. —Bill Crowder I’m grateful, Lord, that You want to hear from me. I need You today. Access to God’s throne is always open. INSIGHT: As in today’s text, we find helpful teaching on prayer in Luke 18:1-8. The parable of the persistent widow contrasts the widow’s plight and a believer’s privilege. In this parable, the widow perseveres in getting an unjust judge to give her the justice she needs. Like the widow, we’re desperately helpless. But unlike the widow, who is a stranger to the judge, we’re God’s beloved children (Romans 8:16). The widow went to a court of law claiming man’s laws, but we approach the throne of grace claiming God’s promises (Hebrews 4:14-16). The callous judge didn’t care, but our heavenly Father cares deeply for us (1 Peter 5:7). She didn’t have easy access to the judge, but we have unhindered “access to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence” to talk with our Father and to ask for His help any time (Ephesians 3:12 nlt). How does knowing we can talk with God “face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11) encourage you in your prayers? K. T. Sim

Monday, February 26, 2018

Fearless Giving

As we start this New Week Off in the last week of February take a moment to just reflect on ALL the things that God has brought you through just this week alone so let's take a look at these words of wisdom Read: Malachi 3:8–12 Bible in a Year: Numbers 15–16; Mark 6:1–29 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.—Malachi 3:10 When my son Xavier was six years old, a friend brought her toddler to visit and Xavier wanted to give him a few toys. I delighted in our little giver’s generosity, until he offered a stuffed animal my husband had searched several stores in different cities to find. Recognizing the high-demand toy, my friend tried to politely decline. Still, Xavier placed his gift into her son’s hands and said, “My daddy gives me lots of toys to share.” Though I’d like to say Xavier learned his confident giving from me, I’ve often withheld my resources from God and others. But when I remember that my heavenly Father gives me everything I have and need, it’s easier to share. In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to trust Him by giving a portion of all He had supplied to the Levite priests, who would in turn help others in need. When the people refused, the prophet Malachi said they were robbing the Lord (Malachi 3:8-9). But if they gave willingly, showing they trusted the Lord’s promised provision and protection (vv. 10-11), others would recognize them as God’s blessed people (v. 12). Whether we’re managing our finances, our schedules, or the gifts God entrusted to us, giving can be an act of worship. Giving freely and fearlessly can show our confidence in the care of our loving Father—the ultimate generous Giver. —Xochitl Dixon Lord, please help us live with full confidence in Your faithful provision, so we can give freely and fearlessly to You and others. Fearless giving to God and others reveals our trust in the Lord’s promises and provision. INSIGHT: The command to give a tithe (one-tenth) of one’s income to God was central in ancient Israel (Leviticus 27:30; Deuteronomy 12:5-6; 2 Chronicles 31:4-5). In Israel’s God-ruled government, the tithe helped to provide for the Levitical tribe, which offered sacrifices to the Lord and assisted in temple work (Numbers 18:21, 26), as well as provide for the poor. Today’s passage gives us a stirring warning about the neglect of giving to God, calling it robbery (Malachi 3:8-9). When Christ came, He fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law (see Galatians 3:10-13), and there is no longer a required tithe. Instead, believers are encouraged to regularly give to the Lord in proportion to their income and with an attitude of generosity (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Giving is an act of worship and generous giving can show our confidence in the God of grace. In what ways can you worship God this week through your generosity? For further study see Dennis Fisher

Friday, February 23, 2018

Mercy over Judgment

So we have finished the third week of February with only one more week in this month before we head into the third month of the New Year which will be March MAN! time is moving so fast YES! It is FRIDAY so let's just take a moment to reflect on these word of wisdom Read: James 2:1–13 Bible in a Year: Numbers 7–8; Mark 4:21–41 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.—James 2:12 When my children were squabbling and came to me to tattle on one another, I took each child aside separately to hear their account of the problem. Since both were guilty, at the end of our chat I asked them each what they felt would be an appropriate, fair consequence for their sibling’s actions. Both suggested swift punishment for the other. To their surprise, I instead gave them each the consequence they had intended for their sibling. Suddenly, each child lamented how “unfair” the sentence seemed now that it was visited upon them—despite having deemed it appropriate when it was intended for the other. My kids had shown the kind of “judgment without mercy” that God warns against (James 2:13). James reminds us that instead of showing favoritism to the wealthy, or even to one’s self, God desires that we love others as we love ourselves (v. 8). Instead of using others for selfish gain, or disregarding anyone whose position doesn’t benefit us, James instructs us to act as people who know how much we’ve been given and forgiven—and to extend that mercy to others. God has given generously of His mercy. In all our dealings with others, let’s remember the mercy He’s shown us and extend it to others. —Kirsten Holmberg Lord, I’m grateful for the great mercy You’ve shown me. Help me to offer similar mercy to others as a measure of my gratitude to You. God’s mercy prompts us to be merciful. INSIGHT: Growing up under Roman oppression and the religious legalism of Israel’s rulers, James valued mercy and forgiveness, which was the fruit of his relationship with Christ. For further study on mercy and forgiveness, see “Forgiven Debt” at Bill Crowder

Monday, February 19, 2018

Not Enough?

Here we are in this third week of February as we start this New Week let's take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom with Read: 2 Corinthians 9:10–15 Bible in a Year: Leviticus 25; Mark 1:23–45 Do not forget to do good and to share with others.—Hebrews 13:16 On the way home from church, my daughter sat in the backseat enjoying Goldfish crackers as my other children implored her to share. Trying to redirect the conversation, I asked the hoarder of snacks, “What did you do in class today?” She said they made a basket of bread and fish because a child gave Jesus five loaves and two fish that Jesus used to feed more than 5,000 people (John 6:1-13). “That was very kind of the little boy to share. Do you think maybe God is asking you to share your fish?” I asked. “No, Momma,” she replied. I tried to encourage her not to keep all the crackers to herself. She was unconvinced. “There is not enough for everyone!” Sharing is hard. It is easier to hold onto what we see in front of us. Perhaps we do the calculation and reason there is simply not enough for everyone. And the assumption is that if I give, I will be left wanting. Paul reminds us that all we have comes from God, who wants to enrich us “in every way so that [we] can be generous” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11). The math of heaven isn’t a calculation of scarcity but of abundance. We can share joyfully because God promises to care for us even as we are generous to others. —Lisa Samra Father, You take good care of me. Help me to think of others today and to share Your goodness with them. When we believe that God is good, we can learn to open our hands to others. INSIGHT: A careful reading of 2 Corinthians 9 is quite eye-opening. One of the things we see is a cycle of giving that includes the gracious giving of God, the generous giving of those who have received from God, and the giving of thanks from those who have received from God through others. The abundant giving of God is prominent (v. 8). His giving is evident in nature and other areas (v. 10). He enriches us so we can be generous (v. 11), and His gifts include grace that cannot be measured (v. 14). His ultimate gift (the gift of His Son) is “indescribable”—words are inadequate to communicate its worth (v. 15). Generous givers are next in the cycle. Having been enriched by God, the riches received are to be shared with others, especially with those in the family of God (vv. 1-5; see also Galatians 6:10). Lastly, the giving cycle continues with the giving of thanks—thanksgiving to God, the giver of every good and perfect gift. People are recipients of and conduits for God’s bounty, and God—the ultimate Giver—gets the thanks and the glory! What are some ways you can participate in the cycle of giving? Arthur Jackson

Friday, February 16, 2018

Loving All

The week has come to an end as we take a moment to reflect on ALL that has transpired over the course of the week let's reflect on these words of wisdom. Read: Leviticus 19:33–34 Bible in a Year: Leviticus 19–20; Matthew 27:51–66 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.—Leviticus 19:34 I worship in a church located in a large, open field—a rare commodity on the island of Singapore (we’re just twenty-five miles long and fifteen miles wide). Some time back, people from abroad who work in my country started gathering on the church property for a picnic every Sunday. This evoked a range of responses from fellow churchgoers. Some fretted about the mess the visitors would leave behind. But others saw this as a divine opportunity to extend hospitality to a wonderful group of strangers—without even leaving the church grounds! The Israelites must have faced similar issues in their time. After they settled in their new land, they had to grapple with how to relate to other peoples. But God expressly commanded them to treat foreigners like their own kind, and to love them as themselves (Leviticus 19:34). Many of His laws made special mention of foreigners: they were not to be mistreated or oppressed, and they were to be loved and helped (Exodus 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:19). Centuries later, Jesus would command us to do the same: to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). May we have God’s heart to love others as ourselves, remembering that we too are sojourners on this earth. Yet we have been loved as God’s people, treated as His own. —Leslie Koh Father, You have made each and every one of us in Your likeness. May we love those from elsewhere and seek to reach out to them with Your love. Embracing God’s love for us is the key to loving others. INSIGHT: The story of Ruth (a Moabitess) offers a moving illustration of “loving the foreigner.” The pagan nation of Moab was situated just east of the Dead Sea. The Moabites were descended from Moab, the son of Lot (Genesis 19:37). During the exodus and throughout the reigns of Saul and David, the Moabites were frequently at war with Israel. In the time of the judges, Naomi and Elimelek and their sons settled in Moab to escape a famine in Israel (Ruth 1). During their stay, Elimelek died, the sons married Moabite women (Ruth and Orpah), and then the sons also died. With no one to care for them, Naomi and Ruth left Moab and returned to Bethlehem, where Ruth was a foreigner (who may have been despised because of her heritage). When they arrived, “the barley harvest was beginning” (v. 22). As a widow, Ruth was allowed to gather the leftover grain after the harvesters had gone through. “As it turned out,” she ended in the field of Boaz, a relative of Elimelek’s (2:3). But it was no coincidence. Boaz’s kindness resulted in Ruth and his place in the ancestry of King David (and Jesus) (Matthew 1:5-16). What would it look like for you to extend kindness to a stranger? Alyson Kieda

Monday, February 12, 2018

Trust Me

The weekend has come to an end and we are starting the New Week off with these words of encouragement to help us get through the rest of the week let's truly reflect on these words of wisdom Read: 1 Kings 17:7–16 Bible in a Year: Leviticus 13; Matthew 26:26–50 Do not worry about tomorrow.—Matthew 6:34 After graduation from college, I had a low-paying job. Money was tight, and sometimes I didn’t even have enough for my next meal. I learned to trust God for my daily provision. It reminded me of the prophet Elijah’s experience. During his prophetic ministry, he learned to trust God to meet his daily needs. Shortly after Elijah pronounced God’s judgment of a drought in Israel, God sent him to a deserted place, Kerith Ravine, where He used the ravens to bring Elijah his daily meals and refresh him with water from the brook (1 Kings 17:1–4). But a drought occurred. The brook shrank to a tiny stream, and slowly became a mere trickle. It was only when the brook had dried up that God said: “Go at once to Zarephath . . . . I have directed a widow there to supply you with food” (v. 9). Zarephath was in Phoenicia, whose inhabitants were enemies of the Israelites. Would anyone offer Elijah shelter? And would a poor widow have food to share? Most of us would rather God provided in abundance long before our resources were depleted rather than just enough for each day. But our loving Father whispers, Trust Me. Just as He used ravens and a widow to provide for Elijah, nothing is impossible for Him. We can count on His love and power to meet our daily needs. —Poh Fang Chia Faithful Father, thank You for knowing exactly what we need before we even ask. Help us to trust You for our daily needs. God supplies all our needs—one day at a time.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Unlikely Friends

Made it to the end of the week YES! It's FRIDAY! As we prepare our minds for the weekend let's take a moment to reflect on ALL of God Grace and mercy towards us as we reflect on these words of wisdom Read: Isaiah 11:1–10 Bible in a Year: Leviticus 6–7; Matthew 25:1–30 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together.—Isaiah 11:6 My Facebook friends often post endearing videos of unlikely animal friendships, such as a recent video I watched of an inseparable pup and pig, another of a deer and cat, and yet another of an orangutan mothering several tiger cubs. When I view such heartwarmingly unusual friendships, it reminds me of the description of the garden of Eden. In this setting, Adam and Eve lived in harmony with God and each other. And because God gave them plants for food, I imagine even the animals lived peacefully together (Genesis 1:30). But this idyllic scene was disrupted when Adam and Eve sinned (3:21-23). Now in both human relationships and the creation, we see constant struggle and conflict. Yet the prophet Isaiah reassures us that one day, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together” (11:6). Many interpret that future day as when Jesus comes again to reign. When He returns, there will be no more divisions and “no more death . . . or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). On that renewed earth, creation will be restored to its former harmony and people of every tribe, nation, and language will join together to worship God (7:9-10; 22:1-5). Until then, God can help us to restore broken relationships and to develop new, unlikely friendships. —Alyson Kieda Dear Father, help us to break down barriers and to seek to befriend others; and as we do, enable us to be bearers of the gospel of peace. One day God will restore the world to perfect peace. INSIGHT: Do you long for a day when animals will no longer prey on one another and people will not be bullied? In the days of Isaiah, Assyria was the “Goliath” that made Jewish hearts melt in fear. The prophet Isaiah foresaw a future time when the Messiah will rule and man and beast will live in peace (Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:6-9). For further study, consider the free course on the book of Isaiah at Mart DeHaan

Monday, February 5, 2018

Listening to His Voice

Starting the New Week off in the second week of February with these word of wisdom to help us get through the rest of these week with Read: John 10:25–30 Bible in a Year: Exodus 36–38; Matthew 23:1–22 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.—John 10:27 nkjv I’m hard of hearing—“deaf in one ear and can’t hear out of the other,” as my father used to say. So I wear a set of hearing aids. Most of the time the devices work well, except in environments where there’s a lot of surrounding noise. In those settings, my hearing aids pick up every voice in the room and I cannot hear the person in front of me. So it is with our culture: a cacophony of sounds can drown out God’s quiet voice. “Where shall the Word be found, where will the Word resound?” poet T.S. Eliot asks. “Not here, there is not enough silence.” Fortunately, my hearing aids have a setting that cuts out the surrounding sounds and enables me to hear only the voices I want to hear. In the same way, despite the voices around us, if we quiet our souls and listen, we will hear God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12 nkjv). He speaks to us every day, summoning us in our restlessness and our longing. He calls to us in our deepest sorrow and in the incompleteness and dissatisfaction of our greatest joys. But primarily God speaks to us in His Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13). As you pick up His book and read it, you too will hear His voice. He loves you more than you can ever know, and He wants you to hear what He has to say. —David H. Roper Dear Lord, thank You for giving us Your Word. Help me to listen to Your voice as I spend time alone with You. God speaks through His Word when we take time to listen. INSIGHT: Throughout the Scriptures, God used a variety of ways to speak to people. Sometimes, God spoke audibly (Abraham, Moses). Sometimes, He communicated by way of dreams (Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar). At other times, God gave His message through prophets (Samuel, Ezekiel). Occasionally, God even sent His message by way of angels, which means “messengers,” as He did with Mary and Joseph. No wonder the writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, “God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (1:1). However, God’s greatest means of expressing His heart to people was His Son, as verse 2 states: “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.” That explains why John opened his gospel by describing Jesus as the Word (the Logos) who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Jesus—the living Word—is God’s ultimate message of love to us! And He is revealed to us in the Scriptures—the written Word. For more on Jesus as the living Word, check out the conversations from Discover the Word at Bill Crowder

Friday, February 2, 2018

Stepping Into Opportunity

Here we are on this second day of February which is better known as Groundhogs Day Well the Groundhog saw it's shadow so there is going to be six more weeks of Winter OK! I'm alright with that, We have made it to the end of the week YES! It is FRIDAY! since we are in the Second month of the New Year let's take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom Read: Colossians 4:2–6 Bible in a Year: Exodus 29–30; Matthew 21:23–46 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.—Colossians 4:5 Like lots of people, I struggle to get enough exercise. So I recently got something to motivate myself to move: a pedometer that counts steps. It’s a simple thing. But it’s amazing how much difference this gadget makes in my motivation. Instead of grumbling when I have to get off the couch, I see it as an opportunity to get a few more steps. Mundane tasks, like getting one of my kids a cup of water, become opportunities that help me work toward a larger goal. In that sense, my pedometer has changed my perspective and my motivation. Now I look to get extra steps in whenever possible. I wonder if our Christian life isn’t a bit like that. There are opportunities to love and serve and interact with people every day, as Paul exhorts in Colossians 4:5. But am I always aware of those moments? Am I paying attention to opportunities to be an encourager in seemingly mundane interactions? God is at work in the lives of every person I relate to, from my family and coworkers to a clerk at the grocery store. Each interaction offers a chance for me to pay attention to what God might be doing—even if it’s something as seemingly “small” as kindly asking a server at a restaurant how she’s doing. Who knows how God might work in those moments when we’re alert to the opportunities He sends our way. —Adam Holz Lord, there are so many opportunities to love, listen, and serve those around us each day. Please help us to become people who notice the needs of others. Take every opportunity to serve someone. INSIGHT: Paul’s normal pattern for writing letters to churches is well evidenced in this epistle to the Colossians. That pattern calls for the first half of the book to be primarily theological in nature, with the remainder providing practical application of that doctrinal teaching. The first two chapters of Colossians describe the relationship between Christ, the head of the church; and the church, the body of Christ. Chapters 3-4 then give the practical outworking of those realities. In today’s Scripture reading, we find clear counsel on how to live and function as the church body. This includes the need for intercessory prayer (vv. 2-3) and the importance of personal testimony, which includes graciously using the opportunities God gives us (vv. 5-6). This is wise counsel that is still needed today. Bill Crowder

Monday, January 29, 2018

Like a Little Child

So here we are starting the New Week Off in the last week of January as we prepare ourselves to enter into the Second month of the New Year let's NOT for get ALL that JESUS has done for us as we take a look a these words of wisdom Read: Matthew 18:1–5; 19:13–14 Bible in a Year: Exodus 21–22; Matthew 19 Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.—Matthew 18:3 One evening many years ago, after saying a goodnight prayer with our two-year-old daughter, my wife was surprised by a question. “Mommy, where is Jesus?” Luann replied, “Jesus is in heaven and He’s everywhere, right here with us. And He can be in your heart if you ask Him to come in.” “I want Jesus to be in my heart.” “One of these days you can ask Him.” “I want to ask Him to be in my heart now.” So our little girl said, “Jesus, please come into my heart and be with me.” And that started her faith journey with Him. When Jesus’s disciples asked Him who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, He called a little child to come and join them (Matthew 18:1-2). “Unless you change and become like little children,” Jesus said, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. . . . And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (vv. 3-5). Through the eyes of Jesus we can see a trusting child as our example of faith. And we are told to welcome all who open their hearts to Him. “Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (19:14). —David C. McCasland Lord Jesus, thank You for calling us to follow You with the confident faith of a child. Help the children in your life come to know Jesus. Introduce them to Our Daily Bread for Kids at Our faith in Jesus is to be like that of a trusting child. INSIGHT: Jesus likens greatness to childlikeness. Anyone coming to Him must come in childlike dependency, expectancy, receptivity, and humility (Matthew 18:2-4). While on earth, Jesus lovingly embraced His disciples as “my children” (John 13:33), and the apostle John affectionately addressed us as “dear children” (1 John 2:1, 12, 18, 28). Used negatively, however, children or “infants” denote weak or immature believers (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Ephesians 4:13-14; Hebrews 5:13). “Don’t be childish,” Paul warned us (1 Corinthians 14:20 nlt). Christians are to be childlike, not childish (1 Corinthians 13:11). When have you needed to trust Christ with childlike faith? Sim Kay Tee

Friday, January 26, 2018

Holy, Holy, Holy

So here we are we have made it to the end of the week YES! It's FRIDAY let's take a moment to reflect on ALL that we have been through this week with these words of wisdom Read: Revelation 4 Bible in a Year: Exodus 14–15; Matthew 17 Day and night they never stop saying: “ ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”—Revelation 4:8 “Time flies when you’re having fun.” This cliché has no basis in fact, but experience makes it seem true. When life is pleasant, time passes all too quickly. Give me a task that I enjoy, or a person whose company I love, and time seems irrelevant. My experience of this “reality” has given me a new understanding of the scene described in Revelation 4. In the past, when I considered the four living creatures seated around God’s throne who keep repeating the same few words, I thought, What a boring existence! I don’t think that anymore. I think about the scenes they have witnessed with their many eyes (v. 8). I consider the view they have from their position around God’s throne (v. 6). I think of how amazed they are at God’s wise and loving involvement with wayward earthlings. Then I think, What better response could there be? What else is there to say but, “Holy, holy, holy”? Is it boring to say the same words over and over? Not when you’re in the presence of the one you love. Not when you’re doing exactly what you were designed to do. Like the four creatures, we were designed to glorify God. Our lives will never be boring if we’re focusing our attention on Him and fulfilling that purpose. —Julie Ackerman Link Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee; holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty! God in three Persons, blessed Trinity! Reginald Heber The author of this article, Julie, is now worshiping her Lord in heaven. A heart in tune with God can’t help but sing His praise.

Monday, January 22, 2018

It’s in the Attitude

Here we are in the third week of the New Year YES! we are still in the month of January BUT we are getting ready to say Goodbye to the first month of the new year so as we start this New Week let's take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom. Read: James 1:1–12 Bible in a Year: Exodus 4–6; Matthew 14:22–36 Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds.—James 1:2 Regina drove home from work discouraged and tired. The day had started with tragic news in a text message from a friend, then spiraled downward in meetings with co-workers who refused to work with any of her ideas. As Regina was talking to the Lord, she thought it best to put the stress of the day aside and made a surprise visit with flowers to an elderly friend at a care center. Her spirits lifted as Maria shared how good the Lord was to her. She said, “I have my own bed and a chair, three meals a day, and help from the nurses here. And occasionally God sends a cardinal to my window just because He knows I love them and He loves me.” Attitude. Perspective. As the saying goes, “Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it.” The people James wrote to were scattered because of persecution, and he asked them to consider their perspective about difficulties. He challenged them with these words: “Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). We are each on our own journey of learning to trust God with hard circumstances. The kind of joy-filled perspective James talked about comes as we learn to see that God can use struggles to produce maturity in our faith. —Anne Cetas Lord, please change my attitude about hard times. Bring about joy, perseverance, and maturity in me. God can bring times of growth out of our times of heartache. INSIGHT: When James says, “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position” (1:9), he reflects the paradox of Jesus’s words in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” said Jesus, describing those who are spiritually humble, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). No one wants to suffer, but without testing, there is no perseverance. And without perseverance, there is no spiritual growth and the eternal reward that comes with it. How might you choose to respond when you find yourself in humble or difficult circumstances? Tim Gustafson

Friday, January 19, 2018

Motherhood and IBD Natalie Hayden's Story

Here is an Inspirational story from Natalie Hayden who shares her story about Pregnancy and dealing with IBD Natalie Hayden's Story Since the day I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in July 2005, the thought of motherhood seemed like a far-off reality. Through my patient journey, I’ve experienced countless hospitalizations, flareups, tests and maintenance medications. Each setback and time my body failed me, made me questions whether I would ever be able to bring a life into this world. On March 29, 2017 I did just that. My son Reid Hayden was born into this world full-term, perfectly healthy. In that moment, I realized that despite the difficulty of living with Crohn’s disease, that my body was still capable of creating a life. The timing leading up to my pregnancy was impeccable. I had bowel resection surgery in August 2015. A decade of disease (18 inches) was removed. From that point forward, I was given a “fresh start”. I truly felt pain-free for months on end. I was also newly engaged. With my wedding 10 months away—and with starting a family on my mind—I knew I was in a good position to embark on that journey with my husband. I underwent a colonoscopy two weeks before my wedding day to ensure there was no inflammation and that my disease was not flaring. I got the green light that I was in the clear and my husband and I got pregnant a month after our wedding day. Pregnancy for me truly helped calm my disease. There were so many moments where I would eat something or feel stressed, but not feel pain in my gut. Gone were the days of running to the bathroom. For the first time since 2005, I felt like a “normal” person. There’s a Florida Georgia Line song entitled, “H.O.L.Y” and one of the lyrics is “you’re the healing hands where it used to hurt.”…that was my song for my baby. When you’re pregnant with inflammatory bowel disease you have a team of specialists—your regular OB, high risk OB and your gastroenterologist. All my doctors told me it was imperative I stayed on my Humira and Lialda, along with a prescription prenatal vitamin, folic acid and calcium. While I’ll be the first to admit it’s mentally difficult to inject a biologic into your leg when you have a huge belly and feel the baby kicking—it gave me peace of mind knowing I was doing everything in my power to stay healthy and carry to term. You can’t have a healthy baby without a healthy mom. A couple days after coming home from the hospital with Reid, my unwelcome Crohn’s symptoms returned. Nothing to the point where I’ve needed to be hospitalized, but the thought of the disease looms over my head more so than before. My son is seven months old now, he’s thriving and doing incredible. He has yet to even have a cold. Some days it’s easier to take care of him than others. There are moments when I need to put the bottle down mid-feeding and make a mad dash for the bathroom. There are times I want to play on the floor as he does tummy time, but I struggle to find the energy. My goal is to stay out of the hospital until he’s old enough to walk in to visit me. He is my strength and my inspiration to stay strong when the going gets tough. When I give myself my injections I look at his sweet face and know I have so much for fight for. If you dream of being a mom, don’t let IBD hold you back. The key is going into the pregnancy in a remission-state, and not when you have active disease. Trust in yourself—you’ve endured so much. I had to laugh to myself during the labor and delivery classes when they asked who has had an IV…and I was the only one to raise my hand. You have perspective and know your body better than anyone else. Have faith in yourself and don’t let your disease restrain you from following your dreams, whatever they may be.

By the Spirit’s Power

YES! We have made it the end of the week it is FRIDAY! So let's take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom and ALL that God has brought us through this week with Read: Zechariah 4:1–7 Bible in a Year: Genesis 46–48; Matthew 13:1–30 What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground.—Zechariah 4:7 What do you do when there is a mountain in your way? The story of Dashrath Manjhi can inspire us. When his wife died because he was unable to get her to the hospital to receive urgent medical care, Manjhi did what seemed impossible. He spent twenty-two years chiseling a massive gap in a mountain so other villagers could get to the local hospital to receive the medical care they needed. Before he died, the government of India celebrated him for his achievement. Rebuilding the temple must have looked impossible to Zerubbabel, one of the leaders of Israel who returned from exile. The people were discouraged, faced opposition from their enemies, and lacked resources or a big army. But God sent Zechariah to remind Zerubbabel that the task would take something more powerful than military strength, individual power, or man-made resources. It would take the Spirit’s power (Zechariah 4:6). With the assurance of divine aid, Zerubbabel trusted that God would level any mountain of difficulty that stood in the way of rebuilding the temple and restoring the community (v. 7). What do we do when there is a “mountain” before us? We have two options: rely on our own strength or trust the Spirit’s power. When we trust His power, He will either level the mountain or give us the strength and endurance to climb over it. —Marvin Williams What challenges stand in your way? How will you trust the power of God’s Spirit in your life? Share it on Human power is inadequate to accomplish God’s purposes. INSIGHT: What keeps us from finishing the work entrusted to us? Eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, told Jewish captives of Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of their God (Ezra 6:3,14). Now the prophet Zechariah urged completion. This temple, like the Messiah who would someday enter its courts, represented the heart of God for the world. Anything done for His honor—and for the good of others—is done in His Spirit. Mart DeHaan

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Power of Prayer

The weekend has come to an end and we are starting the New Week with these words of wisdom to help us maintain and get us through the remainder of the week let's take a look at these words of wisdom Read: 1 Samuel 7:7–14 Bible in a Year: Genesis 39–40; Matthew 11 Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us.—1 Samuel 7:8 One day, when I was deeply concerned about the welfare of one close to me, I found encouragement in part of the Old Testament story of Samuel, a wise leader of the Israelites. As I read how Samuel interceded for God’s people as they faced trouble, I strengthened my resolve to pray for the one I loved. The Israelites faced the threat of the Philistines, who had previously defeated them when God’s people didn’t trust in Him (see 1 Samuel 4). After repenting of their sins, they heard that the Philistines were about to attack. This time, however, they asked Samuel to continue praying for them (7:8), and the Lord answered clearly by throwing their enemy into confusion (v. 10). Though the Philistines may have been mightier than the Israelites, the Lord was the strongest of them all. When we ache over the challenges facing those we love, and fear the situation won’t change, we may be tempted to believe that the Lord will not act. But we should never underestimate the power of prayer, for our loving God hears our pleas. We don’t know how He will move in response to our petitions, but we know that as our Father He longs for us to embrace His love and to trust in His faithfulness. Do you have someone you can pray for today? —Amy Boucher Pye Father God, the way You hear and answer my prayers amazes me. Strengthen my faith, that I will always believe in Your goodness and love. Share your prayer request or pray for others at God hears us when we pray. INSIGHT: Samuel led his people to worship of the one true God (1 Samuel 7:1-6). Prayer was central to Samuel’s ministry (v. 9); in response to his intercession, God gave the nation victory over the Philistines (vv. 7-13). To commemorate this God-inspired victory, Samuel erected a remembrance stone he called Ebenezer, which means “stone of help.” It can also serve as a reminder to us not to underestimate the power of God to respond to our prayers! For further study see Let’s Pray at Dennis Fisher

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fitting In

We have made it to the end of the week YES! It's FRIDAY! So let's just take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom Read: Malachi 3:13–18 Bible in a Year: Genesis 29–30; Matthew 9:1–17 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.—Malachi 3:16 Lee is a diligent and reliable bank employee. Yet he often finds himself sticking out like a sore thumb for living out his faith. This reveals itself in practical ways, such as when he leaves the break room during an inappropriate conversation. At a Bible study, he shared with his friends, “I fear that I’m losing promotion opportunities for not fitting in.” Believers during the prophet Malachi’s time faced a similar challenge. They had returned from exile and the temple had been rebuilt, but there was skepticism about God’s plan for their future. Some of the Israelites were saying, “It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements . . . ? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it” (Malachi 3:14-15). How can we stand firm for God in a culture that tells us we will lose out if we don’t blend in? The faithful in Malachi’s time responded to that challenge by meeting with like-minded believers to encourage each other. Malachi shares this important detail with us: “The Lord listened and heard” (v. 16). God notices and cares for all who fear and honor Him. He doesn’t call us to “fit in” but to draw closer to Him each day as we encourage each other. Let’s stay faithful! —Poh Fang Chia Lord, help us to keep on encouraging one another to stay faithful to You in this faithless world. Our faith may be tested so that we may trust God’s faithfulness. INSIGHT: Malachi’s prophecy is a fitting conclusion to the Old Testament. (Malachi may not have been his actual name since it means “My messenger,” which is more a title than a name.) The prophecy challenges Israel’s condition following their return from exile and anticipates their coming Messiah. Chapters 1-2 give a series of rebukes for the waywardness of God’s people, leading to the declaration, “You have wearied the Lord with your words” (2:17). In response to Israel’s spiritual drifting, God reaches out with a promise for their rescue. Malachi 3:1 says, “ ‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty.” That messenger was John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus—Israel’s long-hoped-for Messiah (Matthew 11:10). Even when we are faithless, our God is faithful! How does God’s faithfulness encourage you to be faithful? Check out the free online course “Haggai-Malachi: No Substitute for Obedience” at Bill Crowder

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Debt Eraser

So here we are starting the New Week OFF! with these words of wisdom to help us grasp a hold of 2018 and start the New Year refresh and motivated to obtain our goals in the Year of New Beginnings with these words Read: Psalm 103:1–12 Bible in a Year: Genesis 20–22; Matthew 6:19–34 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.—Psalm 103:12 I blinked back tears as I reviewed my medical bill. Considering my husband’s severe cut in salary after a lengthy unemployment, even paying half of the balance would require years of small monthly installments. I prayed before calling the doctor’s office to explain our situation and request a payment plan. After leaving me on hold for a short time, the receptionist informed me the doctor had zeroed out our account. I sobbed a thank you. The generous gift overwhelmed me with gratitude. Hanging up the phone, I praised God. I considered saving the bill, not as a reminder of what I used to owe but as a reminder of what God had done. My physician’s choice to pardon my debt brought to mind God’s choice to forgive the insurmountable debt of my sins. Scripture assures us God is “compassionate and gracious” and “abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). He “does not treat us as our sins deserve” (v. 10). He removes our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (v. 12), when we repent and accept Christ as our Savior. His sacrifice erases the debt we once owed. Completely. Once forgiven, we aren’t defined by or limited by our past debt. In response to the Lord’s extravagant gift, we can acknowledge all He’s done. Offering our devoted worship and grateful affection, we can live for Him and share Him with others. —Xochitl Dixon Thank You for erasing our debt completely when we place our confidence in You, Lord. Our greatest debt, caused by sin, is erased by our greater God. INSIGHT: Psalm 103:13-14 is an example of the Bible’s characterization of God as a powerful, protective father (see Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 63:8). When Jesus came, He emphasized this idea, teaching His disciples to pray to God as Father (Matthew 6:9; 18:19). Remembering that God loves us like a father is a powerful reminder of His unconditional love. No matter how many mistakes their children make, good parents never stop loving them. And when children stray into danger, loving parents are willing to do anything to bring them safely home. Jesus taught us that God feels the same about us (see Luke 15:11-32). ​ When humankind walked away from Him, God was willing to pay the ultimate price to restore us into His family, enduring the weight of all our sin (Ephesians 1:7). Because of Jesus, believers need never doubt that they are God’s children (Romans 8:14-17). How does remembering that God is your Father encourage you? Monica Brands

Friday, January 5, 2018

Just Like My Father

Made it to the end of the week YES! It's FRIDAY! Let's take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom in the New Year Read: 1 Peter 5:8–12 Bible in a Year: Genesis 13–15; Matthew 5:1–26 It is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”—1 Peter 1:16 My father’s dusty, heeled-over, cowboy boots rest on the floor of my study, daily reminders of the kind of man he was. Among other things, he raised and trained cutting horses—equine athletes that move like quicksilver. I loved to watch him at work, marveling that he could stay astride. As a boy, growing up, I wanted to be just like him. I’m in my eighties, and his boots are still too large for me to fill. My father’s in heaven now, but I have another Father to emulate. I want to be just like Him—filled with His goodness, fragrant with His love. I’m not there and never will be in this life; His boots are much too large for me to fill. But the apostle Peter said this: “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ . . . will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). He has the wisdom and power to do that, you know (v. 11). Our lack of likeness to our heavenly Father will not last forever. God has called us to share the beauty of character that is His. In this life we reflect Him poorly, but in heaven our sin and sorrow will be no more and we’ll reflect Him more fully! This is the “true grace of God” (v. 12). —David H. Roper Father God, we want to be just like You. Help us to grow more and more like You each day! Through the cross, believers are made perfect in His sight. INSIGHT: Not everyone has a father whose boots they wish to fill. Some of us don’t even know our father. But the Bible gives us real hope! We have a Father who welcomes us with open arms. And He tells us, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). We shouldn’t let that lofty challenge frighten us. Our loving Father gives us what we need to follow Him, even when we fail. Just look at Simon Peter’s life. Peter wrote to a church facing intense persecution, and he warned of a mortal enemy—the devil—who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (5:8). That imagery reminds us of Jesus’s warning to Peter before His crucifixion: “Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus prayed for Peter. He prays for us too. Wherever we are today we can “turn back,” as Peter did, and find our Father’s welcome. What hinders you from enjoying God’s acceptance and love? Tim Gustafson

Monday, January 1, 2018

Beginning Again

We have turned the page today we start a New week in a New Year Welcome to 2018! Let's kick start this New Year with these words of wisdom to help prepare you for the Year that is going to be filled with AWESOMENESS! Let's begin with Read: Ezra 1:1–11 Bible in a Year: Genesis 1–3; Matthew 1 Everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.—Ezra 1:5 After Christmas festivities conclude at the end of December, my thoughts often turn to the coming year. While my children are out of school and our daily rhythms are slow, I reflect on where the last year has brought me and where I hope the next will take me. Those reflections sometimes come with pain and regret over the mistakes I’ve made. Yet the prospect of starting a new year fills me with hope and expectancy. I feel I have the opportunity to begin again with a fresh start, no matter what the last year held. My anticipation of a fresh start pales in comparison to the sense of hope the Israelites must have felt when Cyrus, the king of Persia, released them to return to their homeland in Judah after seventy long years of captivity in Babylon. The previous king, Nebuchadnezzar, had deported the Israelites from their homeland. But the Lord prompted Cyrus to send the captives home to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s temple (Ezra 1:2–3). Cyrus also returned to them treasures that had been taken from the temple. Their lives as God’s chosen people, in the land God had appointed to them, began afresh after a long season of hardship in Babylon as a consequence for their sin. No matter what lies in our past, when we confess our sin, God forgives us and gives us a fresh start. What great cause for hope! —Kirsten Holmberg What can you do to grow closer to God this year? Share your thoughts with us at God’s grace offers us fresh starts.