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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 christianuniversity.org/courses/the-book-of-isaiah/. 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 discovertheword.org/the-living-word. 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