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 christianuniversity.org/HAGGAI-MALACHI. Bill Crowder
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
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
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 Facebook.com/ourdailybread.
God’s grace offers us fresh starts.