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Monday, October 19, 2020

Stronger than Hate

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 56–58, 2 Thessalonians 2

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
Luke 23:34

Today's Scripture & Insight: Luke 23:32–34, 44–46

Within twenty-four hours of his mother Sharonda’s tragic death, Chris found himself uttering these powerful, grace-filled words: “Love is stronger than hate.” His mother, along with eight others, had been killed at a Wednesday night Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. What was it that had so shaped this teenager’s life that these words could flow from his lips and his heart? Chris is a believer in Jesus whose mother had “loved everybody with all her heart.”

In Luke 23:26–49 we get a front row seat to an execution scene that included two criminals and the innocent Jesus (v. 32). All three were crucified (v. 33). Amid the gasps and sighs and the likely groans from those hanging on the crosses, the following words of Jesus could be heard: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (v. 34). The hate-filled initiative of the religious leaders had resulted in the crucifixion of the very One who championed love. Though in agony, Jesus’ love continued to triumph.

How have you or someone you love been the target of hate, ill-will, bitterness, or ugliness? May your pain prompt your prayers, and may the example of Jesus and people like Chris encourage you by the power of the Spirit to choose love over hate.

By: Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray
When have you found it hard to love someone? Is there someone you find it hard to forgive now? What steps might you take?

Father, forgive me when I find it hard to forgive others. Help me to demonstrate that love is stronger than hate.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Monday, October 19, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

Listening Beyond the Stars

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 53–55, 2 Thessalonians 1

Seek the Lord while he may be found.
Isaiah 55:6

Today's Scripture & Insight: Isaiah 55:1–7

Imagine life without mobile phones, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth devices, or microwave ovens. That’s the way it is in the little town of Green Bank, West Virginia, known as “the quietest town in America.” It’s also the location of the Green Bank Observatory, the world’s largest steerable radio telescope. The telescope needs “quiet” to “listen” to naturally occurring radio waves emitted by the movement of pulsars and galaxies in deep space. It has a surface area larger than a football field and stands in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area established to prevent electronic interference to the telescope’s extreme sensitivity.

This intentional quiet enables scientists to hear “the music of the spheres.” It also reminds me of our need to quiet ourselves enough to listen to the One who created the universe. God communicated to a wayward and distracted people through the prophet Isaiah, “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you” (Isaiah 55:3). God promises His faithful love to all who will seek Him and turn to Him for forgiveness.

We listen intentionally to God by turning from our distractions to meet Him in Scripture and in prayer. God isn’t distant. He longs for us to make time for Him so He can be the priority of our daily lives and then for eternity.

By: James Banks

Reflect & Pray
Why is listening to God so vital in your life? In what ways do you plan to take time for Him?

Help me to be quiet before You today, loving God, even if it’s only for a moment! Nothing matters more than being with You!
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Sunday, October 18, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Singer’s Heart

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 50–52, 1 Thessalonians 5

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Psalm 95:1

Today's Scripture & Insight: Psalm 95:1–7

The praise song drifted downstairs . . . at 6:33 on a Saturday morning. I didn’t think anyone else was awake, but my youngest daughter’s scratchy voice proved me wrong. She was barely conscious, but there was already a song on her lips.

My youngest is a singer. In fact, she can’t not sing. She sings when she wakes up. When she goes to school. When she goes to bed. She was born with a song in her heart—and most of the time, her songs focus on Jesus. She’ll praise God anytime, anywhere.

I love the simplicity, devotion, and earnestness of my daughter’s voice. Her spontaneous and joyful songs echo invitations to praise God found throughout Scripture. In Psalm 95, we read, “Come let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation” (v. 1). Reading further, we learn that this praise flows from an understanding of who He is (“For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods,” v. 3)—and whose we are (“For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture,” v. 7).

For my daughter, those truths are her first thought in the morning. By God’s grace, this little worshiper offers us a profound reminder of the joy of singing to Him.

By: Adam R. Holz

Reflect & Pray
What prompts you to praise God for His faithfulness to you? What songs help you to remember and focus on His character and goodness?

God, thank You for who You are and for what You’ve done for me—and for all Your people—by inviting us to be sheep in Your pasture. Let today be filled with my songs of praise for Your goodness.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Saturday, October 17, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Slow, but Sure

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 47–49, 1 Thessalonians 4

Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.
Matthew 13:32

Today's Scripture & Insight: Matthew 13:31–35

I ran into an old friend who told me what he’d been up to, but I confess it seemed too good to be true. Within a few months of that conversation, however, his band was everywhere—from charting top singles on the radio to having a hit song pulsing under TV ads. His rise to fame was meteoric.

We can be obsessed with significance and success—the big and the dramatic, the quick and the meteoric. But the parables of the mustard seed and yeast compare the way of the kingdom (God’s reign on earth) to small, hidden, and seemingly insignificant things whose work is slow and gradual.

The kingdom is like its King. Christ’s mission culminated in His life, like a seed, being buried in the ground; like yeast, being hidden in the dough. Yet He rose. Like a tree breaking through the dirt, like bread when the heat is turned up. Jesus rose.

We’re invited to live according to His way, the way that’s persisting and permeating. To resist the temptation to take matters into our own hands, to grasp for power and to justify our dealings in the world by the outcomes they may produce. The outcome—“a tree . . . that the birds come and perch in its branches” (v. 32) and the bread that provides a feast—will be Christ’s doing, not ours.

By: Glenn Packiam

Reflect & Pray
What small and seemingly insignificant things could you do to encourage or bless the people in your life? Where do you need to turn away from comparison with others or from a false picture of significance and success?

Dear Jesus, thank You for often working in small, hidden, and seemingly insignificant ways. Help me to trust You’re at work even when I can’t see You. Grant me the grace to remain faithful.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Friday, October 16, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Preach or Plow?

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 45–46, 1 Thessalonians 3

From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:16

Today's Scripture & Insight: Ephesians 4:4–16

According to the family legend, two brothers, one named Billy and the other Melvin, were standing on the family’s dairy farm one day when they saw an airplane doing some skywriting. The boys watched as the plane sketched out the letters “GP” overhead.

Both brothers decided that what they saw had meaning for them. One thought it meant “Go preach.” The other read it as “Go plow.” Later, one of the boys, Billy Graham, dedicated himself to preaching the gospel, becoming an icon of evangelism. His brother Melvin went on to faithfully run the family dairy farm for many years.

Skywriting signs aside, if God did call Billy to preach and Melvin to plow, as seems to be the case, they both honored God through their vocations. While Billy had a long preaching career, his success doesn’t mean that his brother’s obedience to his calling to plow was any less important.

While God does assign some to be in what we call full-time ministry (Ephesians 4:11–12), that doesn’t mean those in other jobs and roles aren’t doing something just as important. In either case, as Paul said, “each part [should do] its work” (v. 16). That means honoring Jesus by faithfully using the gifts He’s given us. When we do, whether we “go preach” or “go plow,” we can make a difference for Jesus wherever we serve or work.

By: Dave Branon

Reflect & Pray
How can you use your gifts to honor God in your vocation? How can you encourage others you know so they too can use their calling as a way to serve Jesus?

Help me, God, to be used right where You put me. Help me to see that my words, actions, and work ethic can profoundly affect others.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Thursday, October 15, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Thriving Together

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 43–44, 1 Thessalonians 2

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
Colossians 3:15

Today's Scripture & Insight: Colossians 3:5–16

My husband, Alan, stood below the towering lights illuminating the athletic field, as a member of the opposing team hit a ball into the air. With his eyes fixed on the ball, Alan ran full speed toward the darkest corner of the field—and slammed into the chain link fence.

Later that night, I handed him an ice pack. “Are you feeling okay?” I asked. He rubbed his shoulder. “I’d feel better if my buddies had warned me that I was getting near the fence,” he said.

Teams function best when they work together. Alan’s injury could have been avoided, if only one of his teammates had yelled out a warning as he approached the fence.

Scripture reminds us that members of the church are designed to work together and watch out for each other like a team. The apostle Paul tells us that God cares about how we interact with each other, because the actions of one person can impact the whole community of believers (Colossians 3:13–14). When we all embrace opportunities to serve each other, fully devoted to unity and peace, the church flourishes (v. 15).

Paul instructed his readers to “let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” (v. 16). In this way we can inspire and protect one another through loving and honest relationships, obeying and praising God with grateful hearts—thriving together.

By: Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray
How can you share Scripture this week with others to encourage unity and love in the body of Christ? What does it mean for you to have “the message of Christ [dwelling] among you richly”?

Father God, thank You for using Scripture to instruct me, Your Spirit to guide me, and Your people to keep me focused and accountable.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Wednesday, October 14, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

God Holds Us

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 41–42, 1 Thessalonians 1

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Today's Scripture & Insight: Isaiah 41:1–10

South African Fredie Blom turned 114 in 2018, widely recognized as the oldest living man. Born in 1904, the year the Wright Brothers built their Flyer II, he’s lived through both World Wars, apartheid, and the Great Depression. When asked for the secret for his longevity, Blom only shrugs. Like many of us, he hasn’t always chosen the foods and practices that promote wellness. However, Blom does offer one reason for his remarkable health: “There’s only one thing, it’s [God]. He’s got all the power . . . . He holds me.”

Blom echoes words similar to what God spoke to Israel, as the nation wilted under the oppression of fierce enemies. “I will strengthen you and help you,” God promised. “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). No matter how desperate their situation, how impossible the odds that they would ever find relief, God assured His people that they were held in His tender care. “Do not fear, for I am with you,” He insisted. “Do not be dismayed, for I am your God” (v. 10).

No matter how many years we’re given, life’s hardships will come knocking at our door. A troubled marriage. A child abandoning the family. Terrifying news from the doctor. Even persecution. However, our God reaches out to us and holds us firmly. He gathers us and holds us in His strong, tender hand.

By: Winn Collier

Reflect & Pray
When have you felt isolated or exposed? How does it encourage you to know that your life is being held in God’s strong hand?

God, assure me that You’re holding me because I feel like I’m only hanging on by a thread. I trust that You’ll help and uphold me.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Tuesday, October 13, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Loving the Stranger

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 39–40, Colossians 4

Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
Leviticus 19:34

Today's Scripture & Insight: Leviticus 19:33–37

When I moved to a new country, one of my first experiences left me feeling unwelcome. After finding a seat in the little church where my husband was preaching that day, a gruff older gentleman startled me when he said, “Move along down.” His wife apologized as she explained that I was sitting in the pew they always occupied. Years later I learned that congregations used to rent out pews, which raised money for the church and also ensured no one could take another person’s seat. Apparently some of that mentality carried on through the decades.

Later, I reflected on how God instructed the Israelites to welcome foreigners, in contrast to cultural practices such as I encountered. In setting out the laws that would allow His people to flourish, He reminded them to welcome foreigners because they themselves were once foreigners (Leviticus 19:34). Not only were they to treat strangers with kindness (v. 33), but they were also to “love them as [themselves]” (v. 34). God had rescued them from oppression in Egypt, giving them a home in a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17). He expected His people to love others who also made their home there.

As you encounter strangers in your midst, ask God to reveal any cultural practices that might keep you from sharing His love with them.

By: Amy Boucher Pye

Reflect & Pray
Why is it so important that we welcome people into our homes and churches? What do you find most challenging and most rewarding in this?

Father God, You welcome me with open arms, for You love me day after day. Give me Your love to share with others.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Monday, October 12, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Missing: Wisdom

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 37–38, Colossians 3

Give your servant a discerning heart . . . to distinguish between right and wrong.
1 Kings 3:9

Today's Scripture & Insight: 1 Kings 3:5–12

Two-year-old Kenneth went missing. Yet within three minutes of his mom’s 9-1-1 call, an emergency worker found him just two blocks from home at the county fair. His mom had promised he could go later that day with his grandpa. But he’d driven his toy tractor there, and parked it at his favorite ride. When the boy was safely home, his dad wisely removed the toy’s battery.

Kenneth was actually rather smart to get where he wanted to go, but two-year-olds are missing another key quality: wisdom. And as adults we sometimes lack it too. Solomon, who’d been appointed king by his father David (1 Kings 2), admitted he felt like a child. God appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (3:5). He replied, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. . . . So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (vv. 7–9). God gave Solomon “a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” (4:29).

Where can we get the wisdom we need? Solomon said the beginning of wisdom is a “fear” or awe of God (Proverbs 9:10). So we can start by asking Him to teach us about Himself and to give us wisdom beyond our own.

By: Anne Cetas

Reflect & Pray
In what areas do you need God’s wisdom? What might give you a teachable heart?

I’m always in need of wisdom, God. I want to follow Your ways. Please show me which way to go.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Sunday, October 11, 2020 by RBC Ministries

Missing: Wisdom
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Saturday, October 10, 2020

Fighting Life’s Dragons

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 34–36, Colossians 2

Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:15

Today's Scripture & Insight: Colossians 2:9–15

Have you ever fought a dragon? If you answered no, author Eugene Peterson disagrees with you. In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, he wrote, “Dragons are projections of our fears, horrible constructions of all that might hurt us. . . . A peasant confronted by a magnificent dragon is completely outclassed.” Peterson’s point? Life is filled with dragons: the life-threatening health crisis, the sudden job loss, the failed marriage, the estranged prodigal child. These “dragons” are the supersized dangers and frailties of life that we’re inadequate to fight alone.

But in those battles, we have a Champion. Not a fairy tale champion—the ultimate Champion who has fought on our behalf and conquered the dragons that seek to destroy us. Whether they’re dragons of our own failures or the spiritual enemy who desires our destruction, our Champion is greater, allowing Paul to write of Jesus, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). The destructive forces of this broken world are no match for Him!

The moment we realize that the dragons of life are too big for us is the moment we can begin to rest in Christ’s rescue. We can confidently say, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

By: Bill Crowder

Reflect & Pray
What “dragons” are you facing in life? How can Christ’s victory on the cross provide encouragement as you deal with them?

Father, thank You for being more than enough for the threats I will face today. Give me the wisdom and strength to walk with You, trusting You for the grace I need.
Read Overcoming Worry at DiscoverySeries.org/Q0711.

Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Saturday, October 10, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Friday, October 9, 2020

A Critical Reaction

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 32–33, Colossians 1s 4

The one who is patient calms a quarrel.
Proverbs 15:18

Today's Scripture & Insight: Proverbs 15:1–2, 31–33

Tough words hurt. So my friend—an award-winning author—struggled with how to respond to the criticism he received. His new book had earned five-star reviews plus a major award. Then a respected magazine reviewer gave him a backhanded compliment, describing his book as well-written yet still criticizing it harshly. Turning to friends, he asked, “How should I reply?”

One friend advised, “Let it go.” I shared advice from writing magazines, including tips to ignore such criticism or learn from it even while continuing to work and write.

Finally, however, I decided to see what Scripture—which has the best advice of all—has to say about how to react to strong criticism. The book of James advises, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). The apostle Paul counsels us to “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16).

An entire chapter of Proverbs, however, offers extended wisdom on reacting to disputes. “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” says Proverbs 15:1. “The one who is patient calms a quarrel” (v. 18). Also, “The one who heeds correction gains understanding” (v. 32). Considering such wisdom, may God help us hold our tongues, as my friend did. More than all, however, wisdom instructs us to “fear the Lord” because “humility comes before honor” (v. 33).

By: Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray
What’s your typical reaction when you’re criticized? In a dispute, what’s a humble way you can guard your tongue?

Dear God, when criticism strikes or a dispute hurts, guard my tongue in humble honor of You.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Friday, October 9, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Zax Nature

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 30–31, Philippians 4

Let your gentleness be evident to all.
Philippians 4:5

Today's Scripture & Insight: Philippians 4:1–7

In one of Dr. Seuss’ whimsical stories, he tells of a “North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax” crossing the Prairie of Prax. Upon meeting nose to nose, neither Zax will step aside. The first Zax angrily vows to stay put—even if it makes “the whole world stand still.” (Unfazed, the world moves on and builds a highway around them.)

The tale offers an uncomfortably accurate picture of human nature. We possess a reflexive “need” to be right, and we’re prone to stubbornly cling to that instinct in rather destructive ways!

Happily for us, God lovingly chooses to soften stubborn human hearts. The apostle Paul knew this, so when two members of the Philippian church were squabbling, he loved them enough to call them out (Philippians 4:2). Then, having earlier instructed the believers to have “the same mindset” of self-giving love as Christ (2:5–8), Paul asked them to “help these women,” valued coworkers with him in sharing the gospel (4:3). It seems peacemaking and wise compromise call for team effort.

Of course there are times to take a firm stand, but a Christlike approach will look a lot different than an unyielding Zax! So many things in life aren’t worth fighting over. We can bicker with each other over every trivial concern until we destroy ourselves (Galatians 5:15). Or we can swallow our pride, graciously receive wise counsel, and seek unity with our brothers and sisters.

By: Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray
What are the things you’re fighting over right now? How could wise friends help you resolve your situation?

Soften my hardened, stubborn heart, loving God, so I can truly live in unity. And help me to be open to wise counsel.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Saturday, October 8, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Do We Matter?

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 28–29, Philippians 3

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14

Today's Scripture & Insight: Psalm 90:1–2, 10–17

For some months now I’ve been corresponding with a young man who’s thinking deeply about faith. On one occasion he wrote, “We’re no more than teeny, tiny, infinitesimal blips on the timeline of history. Do we matter?”

Moses, Israel’s prophet, would agree: “Our days . . . quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). The brevity of life can worry us and cause us to wonder if we matter.

We do. We matter because we’re deeply, eternally loved by the God who made us. In this poem, Moses prays, “Satisfy us . . . with your unfailing love” (v. 14). We matter because we matter to God.

We also matter because we can show God’s love to others. Though our lives are short, they’re not meaningless if we leave a legacy of God’s love. We’re not here on earth to make money and retire in style, but to “show God” to others by showing them His love.

And finally, though life here on earth is transient, we’re creatures of eternity. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we’ll live forever. That’s what Moses meant when he assured us that God will “satisfy us in the morning with [His] unfailing love.” On that “morning” we’ll rise to live and love and be loved forever. And if that doesn’t create meaning, I don’t know what does.

By: David H. Roper

Reflect & Pray
When have you struggled with wondering if your life counts? How does Psalm 90 help?

I’m grateful, loving God, that I matter to You. Help me to share You with others.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Wednesday, October 7, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

You’ll See Her Again

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 26–27, Philippians 2

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:22

Today's Scripture & Insight: 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, 12–22

The room was dim and silent as I pulled a chair close to Jacquie’s bed. Before a three-year battle with cancer, my friend had been a vibrant person. I could still picture her laughing—eyes full of life, her face lit with a smile. Now she was quiet and still, and I was visiting her in a special care facility.

Not knowing what to say, I decided to read some Scripture. I pulled my Bible out of my purse and turned to a reference in 1 Corinthians and began to read.

After the visit and an emotional time in the seclusion of my parked car, a thought came to mind that slowed my tears: You’ll see her again. Caught up in sadness, I had forgotten that death is only temporary for believers (1 Corinthians 15:21–22). I knew I’d see Jacquie again because both of us had trusted in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sin (vv. 3–4). When Jesus came back to life after His crucifixion, death lost its ultimate power to separate believers from each other and from God. After we die, we’ll live again in heaven with God and all of our spiritual brothers and sisters—forever.

Because Jesus is alive today, believers in Him have hope in times of loss and sorrow. Death has been swallowed up in the victory of the cross (v. 54).

By: Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Reflect & Pray
How has God comforted you in times of sorrow? How might He want to use you to comfort someone who’s grieving today?

Dear Jesus, thank You for dying for my sin. I believe that You’re alive today because God raised You from the dead. Read Life After Loss: Grieving with Hope at DiscoverySeries.org/CB131.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Tuesday, October 6, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Monday, October 5, 2020

Begin with the End

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 23–25, Philippians 1

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Today's Scripture & Insight: Philippians 1:3–11

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I was often asked that question as a child. And the answers changed like the wind. A doctor. A firefighter. A missionary. A worship leader. A physicist—or actually, MacGyver (a favorite TV character)! Now, as a dad of four kids, I think of how difficult it must be for them to be asked that question. There are times when I want to say, “I know what you’ll be great at!” Parents can sometimes see more in their children than the children can see in themselves.

This resonates with what Paul saw in the Philippian believers—those he loved and prayed for (Philippians 1:3). He could see the end; he knew what they’d be when all was said and done. The Bible gives us a grand vision of the end of the story—resurrection and the renewal of all things (see 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 21). But it also tells us who’s writing the story.

Paul, in the opening lines of a letter he wrote from prison, reminded the Philippian church that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Jesus started the work and He’ll complete it. The word completion is particularly important—the story doesn’t just end, for God leaves nothing unfinished.

By: Glenn Packiam

Reflect & Pray
Where are you in your story? How can you trust Jesus to take the “pen” from your hand and to bring your story to completion?

Dear Jesus, You’re in charge of my story. It’s not up to me to make it happen. I surrender my life to You. Help me to trust You. To learn more about who you are and how you can best serve God, visit ChristianUniversity.org/SF108.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Monday, October 5, 2020 by RBC Ministries

Begin with the End
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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Strange Comfort

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 20–22, Ephesians 6

Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.
2 Kings 6:17

Today's Scripture & Insight: 2 Kings 6:15–17

The verse on the card Lisa received didn’t seem to match her situation: “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). I have cancer! she thought in confusion. I’ve just lost a baby! A verse about angel soldiers doesn’t apply.

Then the “angels” began to show up. Cancer survivors gave her their time and a listening ear. Her husband got released early from an overseas military assignment. Friends prayed with her. But the moment she most felt God’s love was when her friend Patty walked in with two boxes of tissues. Placing them on the table, she started crying. Patty knew. She’d endured miscarriages too.

“That meant more than anything,” Lisa says. “The card made sense now. My ‘angel soldiers’ had been there all along.”

When an army besieged Israel, a host of literal angels protected Elisha. But Elisha’s servant couldn’t see them. “What shall we do?” he cried to the prophet (v. 15). Elisha simply prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see” (v. 17).

When we look to God, our crisis will show us what truly matters and that we’re not alone. We learn that God’s comforting presence never leaves us. He shows us His love in infinitely surprising ways.

By: Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray
What’s your first reaction when you receive bad news? When you endured a crisis, how did you view God in new ways?

Loving God, thank You for the complete reliability of Your presence. Open my eyes so that I may see You in a new way today.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Sunday, October 4, 2020 by RBC Ministries

Strange Comfort
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Saturday, October 3, 2020

Removing the Intruder

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 17–19, Ephesians 5:17–33

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:25

Today's Scripture & Insight: Ephesians 5:25–33

It wasn’t quite dawn when my husband rose from bed and went into the kitchen. I saw the light flip on and off and wondered at his action. Then I recalled that the previous morning I’d yelped at the sight of an “intruder” on our kitchen counter. Translated: an undesirable creature of the six-legged variety. My husband knew my paranoia and immediately arrived to remove it. This morning he’d risen early to ensure our kitchen was bug-free so I could enter without concern. What a guy!

My husband awoke with me on his mind, putting my need before his own. To me, his action illustrates the love Paul describes in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Paul goes on, “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (v. 28). Paul’s comparison of a husband’s love to the love of Christ pivots on how Jesus put our needs before His own. My husband knows I’m afraid of certain intruders, and so he made my concern his priority.

That principle doesn’t apply to husbands only. After the example of Jesus, each of us can lovingly sacrifice to help remove an intruder of stress, fear, shame, or anxiety so that someone can move more freely in the world.

By: Elisa Morgan

Reflect & Pray
What “intruder” might God be asking you to address to help another? How might you allow someone to help rid your life of certain “intruders”?

Dear God, thank You for the gift of Your Son who’s removed the intruder of sin from my life and reconciled me to You!
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Saturday, October 3, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Friday, October 2, 2020

He Won’t Let Us Go

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 14–16, Ephesians 5:1–16

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
John 10:28

Today's Scripture & Insight: John 10:22–30

Julio was biking across the George Washington Bridge—a busy, double-decked thoroughfare connecting New York City and New Jersey—when he encountered a life-or-death situation. A man was standing on a ledge over the Hudson River preparing to jump. Knowing that the police wouldn’t arrive in time, Julio acted quickly. He recalls getting off his bike and spreading out his arms, saying something like: “Don’t do it. We love you.” Then, like a shepherd with a crook, he grabbed the distraught man, and with the help of another passerby, brought him to safety. According to reports, Julio wouldn’t let go of the man, even after he was safe.

Two millennia earlier, in a life-or-death situation, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, said He would lay down His life to save and never let go of those who believed in Him. He summarized how He would bless His sheep: they would know Him personally, have the gift of eternal life, would never perish, and would be secure in His care. This security didn’t depend on the ability of the frail and feeble sheep, but on the sufficiency of the Shepherd who’ll never let one be snatched “out of [His] hand” (John 10:28–29).

When we were distraught and feeling hopeless, Jesus rescued us; now we can feel safe and secure in our relationship with Him. He loves us, pursues us, finds us, saves us, and promises to never let us go.

By: Marvin Williams

Reflect & Pray
What makes you feel insecure in your relationship with Jesus? How do you feel knowing that your security in Him depends on His sufficiency and not your weakness?

Jesus, when I let go of You because of my sin, You never let go of me because of Your grace. To learn more about Jesus’ offer of salvation and His resurrection, visit ChristianUniversity.org/CA206.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Friday, October 2, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Thursday, October 1, 2020

How to Reflect Christ

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 11–13, Ephesians 4

God has chosen to make known . . . the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27

Today's Scripture & Insight: Colossians 1:25–27

Thérèse of Lisieux was a joyful and carefree child—until her mother died when she was just four years old. She became timid and easily agitated. But many years later on Christmas Eve, all of that changed. After celebrating the birth of Jesus with her church community, she experienced God releasing her from her fear and giving her joy. She attributed the change to the power of God leaving heaven and becoming a man, Jesus, and through His dwelling in her.

What does it mean for Christ to dwell within us? It’s a mystery, said Paul to the Colossian church. It’s one that God “kept hidden for ages and generations” (Colossians 1:26), but which He disclosed to God’s people. To them God revealed “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (v. 27). Because Christ now dwelled in the Colossians, they experienced the joy of new life. No longer were they enslaved to the old self of sin.

If we’ve asked Jesus to be our Savior, we too live out this mystery of His dwelling in us. Through His Spirit, He can release us from fear, as He did Thérèse, and grow within us the fruit of His Spirit, such as joy, peace, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).

Let’s give thanks for the wonderful mystery of Christ within us.

By: Amy Boucher Pye

Reflect & Pray
How do you see Jesus reflected in your life? In the lives of those you love who follow Him?

Jesus, thank You for lowering Yourself and becoming a man, and for living within me. Help me to understand more of Your work in my life.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Thursday, October 1, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Rooted in Love

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 9–10, Ephesians 3

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power . . . to grasp . . . the love of Christ.
Ephesians 3:17–18

Today's Scripture & Insight: Ephesians 3:14–21

“That’s all it takes!” Megan said. She had clipped a stem from her geranium plant, dipped the cut end into honey, and stuck it into a pot filled with compost. Megan was teaching me how to propagate geraniums: how to turn one healthy plant into many plants, so I would have flowers to share with others. The honey, she said, was to help the young plant establish roots.

Watching her work, I wondered what kinds of things help us establish spiritual roots. What helps us mature into strong, flourishing people of faith? What keeps us from withering up or failing to grow? Paul, writing to the Ephesians, says that we are “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17). This love comes from God, who strengthens us by giving us the Holy Spirit. Christ dwells in our hearts. And as we begin to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (v. 18), we can have a rich experience of God’s presence as we’re “completely filled and flooded with God Himself” (v. 19 amp).

Growing spiritually requires rooting into the love of God—meditating on the truth that we are beloved by the God who is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (v. 20). What an incredible basis for our faith!

By: Amy Peterson

Reflect & Pray
How can you cultivate a habit of meditating on God’s love? Who could you share the truth of God’s love with today?

God, thank You for Your love for me. Help me to meditate on the truth of that love. May Your love grow in my heart, bringing beauty to my life and to a world in need.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Wednesday, September 30, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Eyes to See

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 7–8, Ephesians 2

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
Psalm 119:18

Today's Scripture & Insight: Psalm 119:97–104

I recently discovered the wonder of anamorphic art. Appearing at first as an assortment of random parts, an anamorphic sculpture only makes sense when viewed from the correct angle. In one piece, a series of vertical poles align to reveal a famous leader’s face. In another, a mass of cable becomes the outline of an elephant. Another artwork, made of hundreds of black dots suspended by wire, becomes a woman’s eye when seen correctly. The key to anamorphic art is viewing it from different angles until its meaning is revealed.

With thousands of verses of history, poetry, and more, the Bible can sometimes be hard to understand. But Scripture itself tells us how to unlock its meaning. Treat it like an anamorphic sculpture: view it from different angles and meditate on it deeply.

Christ’s parables work this way. Those who care enough to ponder them gain “eyes to see” their meaning (Matthew 13:10–16). Paul told Timothy to “reflect” on his words so God would give him insight (2 Timothy 2:7). And the repeated refrain of Psalm 119 is how meditating on Scripture brings wisdom and insight, opening our eyes to see its meaning (119:18, 97–99).

How about pondering a single parable for a week or reading a gospel in one sitting? Spend some time viewing a verse from all angles. Go deep. Biblical insight comes from meditating on Scripture, not just reading it.

Oh, God, give us eyes to see.

By: Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray
What do you think the difference is between reading Scripture and meditating on it? How will you spend time meditating on today’s verse?

God, open my eyes to see each wonderful thing within the Scriptures. Guide me down the paths connecting each one.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Tuesday, September 29, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Monday, September 28, 2020

Never Enough

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 5–6, Ephesians 1

The eye never has enough of seeing.
Ecclesiastes 1:8

Today's Scripture & Insight: Ecclesiastes 1:1–11

Frank Borman commanded the first space mission that circled the moon. He wasn’t impressed. The trip took two days both ways. Frank got motion sickness and threw up. He said being weightless was cool—for thirty seconds. Then he got used to it. Up close he found the moon drab and pockmarked with craters. His crew took pictures of the gray wasteland, then became bored.

Frank went where no one had gone before. It wasn’t enough. If he quickly tired of an experience that was out of this world, perhaps we should lower our expectations for what lies in this one. The teacher of Ecclesiastes observed that no earthly experience delivers ultimate joy. “The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing” (1:8). We may feel moments of ecstasy, but our elation soon wears off and we seek the next thrill.

Frank had one exhilarating moment, when he saw the earth rise from the darkness behind the moon. Like a blue and white swirled marble, our world sparkled in the sun’s light. Similarly, our truest joy comes from the Son shining on us. Jesus is our life, the only ultimate source of meaning, love, and beauty. Our deepest satisfaction comes from out of this world. Our problem? We can go all the way to the moon, yet still not go far enough.

By: Mike Wittmer

Reflect & Pray
When have you felt the most joy? Why didn’t it last? What can you learn from its fleeting nature?

Jesus, shine the light of Your love on me.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Monday, September 28, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Wandering Off

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 3–4, Galatians 6

Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.
Luke 15:6

Today's Scripture & Insight: Luke 15:1–7

Living near cattle ranches as he did, humorist Michael Yaconelli noticed how cows were prone to wander while grazing. A cow would keep moving, always looking for the fabled “greener pastures.” Near the edge of the property, the cow might discover some cool fresh grass under a shade tree. Just beyond a broken-down part of the fence was a tasty clump of foliage. Then the cow might push far beyond the fence and out to the road. It slowly “nibbled” its way into being lost.

Cows aren’t alone in their roaming problem. Sheep also wander, and it’s likely that people have the biggest tendency of all to stray.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons God compares us to sheep in the Bible. It can be easy to meander and “nibble our way” through reckless compromises and foolish decisions, never noticing how far away from the truth we’ve strayed.

Jesus told the Pharisees the story of a lost sheep. The sheep was of such value to the shepherd that he left his other sheep behind while he searched for the wandering one. And when he found the one that had strayed, He celebrated! (Luke 15:1–7).

Such is the happiness of God over those who turn back to Him. Jesus said, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” (v. 6). God has sent us a Savior to rescue us and bring us home.

By: Cindy Hess Kasper

Reflect & Pray
In what way might you be wandering in the wrong direction? What’s the first step you need to take to get back where you belong?

Father in heaven, I feel lost. Have I wandered too far? Redirect my heart and show me the way home.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Sunday, September 27, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Promise-Keeper

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 1–2, Galatians 5

After waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
Hebrews 6:15

Today's Scripture & Insight: Hebrews 6:13–20

Gripped by the gravity of the promises he was making to LaShonne, Jonathan found himself stumbling as he repeated his wedding vows. He thought, How can I make these promises and not believe they’re possible to keep? He made it through the ceremony, but the weight of his commitments remained. After the reception, Jonathan led his wife to the chapel where he prayed—for more than two hours—that God would help him keep his promise to love and care for LaShonne.

Jonathan’s wedding-day fears were based on the recognition of his human frailties. But God, who promised to bless the nations through Abraham’s offspring (Galatians 3:16), has no such limitations. To challenge his Jewish Christian audience to perseverance and patience to continue in their faith in Jesus, the writer of Hebrews recalled God’s promises to Abraham, the patriarch’s patient waiting, and the fulfillment of what had been promised (Hebrews 6:13–15). Abraham and Sarah’s status as senior citizens was no barrier to the fulfillment of God’s promise to give Abraham “many descendants” (v. 14).

Are you challenged to trust God despite being weak, frail, and human? Are you struggling to keep your commitments, to fulfill your pledges and vows? In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God promises to help us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For more than thirty-six years God has helped Jonathan and LaShonne to remain committed to their vows. Why not trust Him to help you?

By: Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray
Why do we find God’s promises to help us difficult to embrace? What promises are you challenged to keep in this season of your life?

God, thank You for being faithful in Your commitments to me. Help me to be faithful in my commitments to You and others.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Saturday, September 26, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Friday, September 25, 2020

Love Locks

Bible in a Year: Songs of Songs 6–8, Galatians 4

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm.
Song of Songs 8:6

Today's Scripture & Insight: Song of Songs 8:5–7

I stood amazed at the hundreds of thousands of padlocks, many engraved with the initials of sweethearts, attached to every imaginable part of the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris. The pedestrian bridge across the Seine River was inundated with these symbols of love, a couple’s declaration of “forever” commitment. In 2014, the love locks were estimated to weigh a staggering fifty tons and had even caused a portion of the bridge to collapse, necessitating the locks’ removal.

The presence of so many love locks points to the deep longing we have as human beings for assurance that love is secure. In Song of Songs, an Old Testament book that depicts a dialogue between two lovers, the woman expresses her desire for secure love by asking her beloved to “place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm” (Song of Songs 8:6). Her longing was to be as safe and secure in his love as a seal impressed on his heart or a ring on his finger.

The longing for enduring romantic love expressed in Song of Songs points us to the New Testament truth in Ephesians that we are marked with the “seal” of God’s Spirit (1:13). While human love can be fickle, and locks can be removed from a bridge, Christ’s Spirit living in us is a permanent seal demonstrating God’s never-ending, committed love for each of His children.

By: Lisa M. Samra

Reflect & Pray
How have you experienced the secure love of your heavenly Father? How might you allow His love to guide and encourage you today?

Heavenly Father, thank You that even though the security of human love often remains elusive, Your love for me is strong, steadfast, and eternal.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Friday, September 25, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Never Too Sinful

Bible in a Year: Song of Songs 4–5, Galatians 3

You are a forgiving God . . . abounding in love.
Nehemiah 9:17

Today's Scripture & Insight: Nehemiah 9:17, 27–31

“If I touched a Bible, it would catch fire in my hands,” said my community college English professor. My heart sank. The novel we’d been reading that morning referenced a Bible verse, and when I pulled out my Bible to look it up, she noticed and commented. My professor seemed to think she was too sinful to be forgiven. Yet I wasn’t bold enough to tell her about God’s love—and that the Bible tells us we can always seek God’s forgiveness.

There’s an example of repentance and forgiveness in Nehemiah. The Israelites had been exiled because of their sin, but now they were allowed to return to Jerusalem. When they’d “settled in,” Ezra the scribe read the law to them (Nehemiah 7:73–8:3). They confessed their sins, remembering that despite their sin God “did not desert” or “abandon them” (9:17, 19). He “heard them” when they cried out; and in compassion and mercy, He was patient with them (vv. 27–31).

In a similar way, God is patient with us. He won’t abandon us if we choose to confess our sin and turn to Him. I wish I could go back and tell my professor that, no matter her past, Jesus loves her and wants her to be part of His family. He feels the same way about you and me. We can approach Him seeking forgiveness—and He will give it!

By: Julie Schwab

Reflect & Pray
Do you know someone who feels they’re too sinful for Jesus to forgive them? How does the truth that Jesus has come not for “the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17) speak to this way of thinking?

Dear Father, thank You for forgiving my sins and for Your assurance that no one is too sinful to be forgiven. To learn more about forgiveness in the Christian life, visit ChristianUniversity.org/SF107
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Thursday, September 24, 2020 by RBC Ministries

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

God-Paved Memories

Bible in a Year: Song of Songs 1–3, Galatians 2

Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me.
Deuteronomy 4:10

Today's Scripture & Insight: Deuteronomy 4:3–10

When my grown son faced a difficult situation, I reminded him about God’s constant care and provision during his dad’s year of unemployment. I recounted the times God strengthened our family and gave us peace while my mom fought and lost her battle with leukemia. Highlighting the stories of God’s faithfulness stitched into Scripture, I affirmed He was good at keeping His word. I led my son down our family’s God-paved memory lane, reminding him about the ways He remained reliable through our valley and mountaintop moments. Whether we were struggling or celebrating, God’s presence, love, and grace proved sufficient.

Although I’d like to claim this faith-strengthening strategy as my own, God designed the habit of sharing stories to inspire the future generations’ belief in Him. As the Israelites remembered all they’d seen God do in the past, He placed cobblestones of confidence down their divinely paved memory lanes.

The Israelites had witnessed God holding true to His promises as they followed Him (Deuteronomy 4:3–6). He’d always heard and answered their prayers (v. 7). Rejoicing and reminiscing with the younger generations (v. 9), the Israelites shared the holy words breathed and preserved by the one true God (v. 10).

As we tell of our great God’s majesty, mercy, and intimate love, our convictions and the faith of others can be strengthened by the confirmation of His enduring trustworthiness.

By: Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray
Who’s invested in your spiritual growth by sharing what God has done in their lives? What creative ways can you share His faithfulness and love across generational lines?

Sovereign God, thank You for empowering me to walk with sure-footed faith that crosses generational lines.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Wednesday, September 23, 2020 by RBC Ministries


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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A Risky Detour

Bible in a Year: Ecclesiastes 10–12, Galatians 1

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season.
2 Timothy 4:2

Today's Scripture & Insight: 2 Timothy 4:1–5

What a waste of time, thought Harley. Her insurance agent was insisting they meet again. Harley knew it would be yet another boring sales pitch, but she decided to make the most of it by looking for an opportunity to talk about her faith.

Noticing that the agent’s eyebrows were tattooed, she hesitantly asked why and discovered that the woman did it because she felt it would bring her luck. Harley’s question was a risky detour from a routine chat about finances, but it opened the door to a conversation about luck and faith, which gave her an opportunity to talk about why she relied on Jesus. That “wasted” hour turned out to be a divine appointment.

Jesus also took a risky detour. While traveling from Judea to Galilee, He went out of His way to speak to a Samaritan, something unthinkable for a Jew. Worse, she was an adulterous woman avoided even by other Samaritans. Yet He ended up having a conversation that led to the salvation of many (John 4:1–26, 39–42).

Are you meeting someone you don’t really want to see? Do you keep bumping into a neighbor you normally avoid? The Bible reminds us to be always ready—“in season and out of season”—to share the good news (2 Timothy 4:2). Consider taking a “risky detour.” Who knows, God may be giving you a divine opportunity to talk to someone about Him today!

By: Leslie Koh

Reflect & Pray
Whom might you meet today? How might there be an opportunity to talk about Jesus? How can you go out of your way to share the good news in a bold but loving, sensitive way?

Jesus, teach me to see the doors You’ve opened for me to share Your love, and give me the courage to tell others about You.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Tuesday, September 22, 2020 by RBC Ministries


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Monday, September 21, 2020

Making Peace with Trouble

Bible in a Year: Ecclesiastes 7–9, 2 Corinthians 13

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

Today's Scripture & Insight: John 16:25–33

We were almost home when I noticed it: the needle of our car’s temperature gauge was rocketing up. As we pulled in, I killed the engine and hopped out. Smoke wafted from the hood. The engine sizzled like bacon. I backed the car up a few feet and found a puddle beneath: oil. Instantly, I knew what had happened: The head gasket had blown.

I groaned. We’d just sunk money into other expensive repairs. Why can’t things just work? I grumbled bitterly. Why can’t things just stop breaking?

Can you relate? Sometimes we avert one crisis, solve one problem, pay off one big bill, only to face another. Sometimes those troubles are much bigger than an engine self-destructing: an unexpected diagnosis, an untimely death, a terrible loss.

In those moments, we yearn for a world less broken, less full of trouble. That world, Jesus promised, is coming. But not yet: “In this world you will have trouble,” He reminded His disciples in John 16. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (v. 33). Jesus spoke in that chapter about grave troubles, such as persecution for your faith. But such trouble, He taught, would never have the last word for those who hope in Him.

Troubles small and large may dog our days. But Jesus’ promise of a better tomorrow with Him encourages us not to let our troubles define our lives today.

By: Adam R. Holz

Reflect & Pray
What does it look like for you to surrender your troubles to God? What might you use as a prompt to remind yourself to offer up your anxieties to Him throughout the day?

Father, troubles never seem far away. But when they’re close, You’re even closer. Please help me to cling to You in trust today.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Monday, September 21, 2020 by RBC Ministries


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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Stopping Rumors

Bible in a Year: Ecclesiastes 4–6, 2 Corinthians 12

Do not spread false reports.
Exodus 23:1

Today's Scripture & Insight:Exodus 23:1–3

After Charles Simeon (1759–1836) was named the minister of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, England, he faced years of opposition. As most in the congregation had wanted the associate minister to be appointed rather than Simeon, they spread rumors about him and rejected his ministry—even at times locking him out of the church. But Simeon, who desired to be filled by God’s Spirit, sought to cope with the gossip by creating some principles to live by. One was never to believe rumors unless they were absolutely true and another was “always to believe, that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter.”

In this practice, Simeon followed God’s instructions to His people to cease the gossip and malicious talk He knew would erode their love for each other. One of God’s Ten Commandments reflects His desire for them to live truthfully: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). Another instruction in Exodus reinforces this commandment: “Do not spread false reports” (23:1).

Think of how different the world would be if each of us never spread rumors and false reports and if we stopped them the moment we heard them. May we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us speak the truth in love as we use our words to bring glory to God.

By: Amy Boucher Pye

Reflect & Pray
What has helped you when you’ve faced opposition? How do you react when you hear gossip?

Jesus, help me to speak Your truth in love. Give me words that bring peace, grace, and encouragement.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Sunday, September 20, 2020 by RBC Ministries


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Saturday, September 19, 2020

In Focus

Bible in a Year: Ecclesiastes 1–3, 2 Corinthians 11:16–33

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong.
Acts 3:16

Today's Scripture & Insight:Acts 3:2–8, 16

Author Mark Twain suggested that whatever we look at in life—and how we see it—can influence our next steps, even our destiny. As Twain said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

Peter too spoke of vision when he replied to a lame beggar, a man whom he and John encountered at the busy temple gate called Beautiful (Acts 3:2). As the man asked them for money, Peter and John looked directly at the man. “Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ ” (v. 4).

Why did he say that? As Christ’s ambassador, Peter likely wanted the beggar to stop looking at his own limitations—yes, even to stop looking at his need for money. As he looked at the apostles, he would see the reality of having faith in God.

As Peter told him, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (v. 6). Then Peter “helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk” and give praise (vv. 7–8).

What happened? The man had faith in God (v. 16). As evangelist Charles Spurgeon urged, “Keep your eye simply on Him.” When we do, we don’t see obstacles. We see God, the One who makes our way clear.

By: Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray
What are you focused on instead of God? With refocused faith, what could you see in Him for your life?

Heavenly Father, when my eyes wander from You, focus my gaze on Your unlimited power.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Saturday, September 19, 2020 by RBC Ministries


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Friday, September 18, 2020

Fixing Elevators

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 30–31, 2 Corinthians 11:1–15

Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Leviticus 19:18

Today's Scripture & Insight:Leviticus 19:9–18

Sarah has a rare condition that causes her joints to dislocate, making her reliant on an electric wheelchair to get around. On her way to a meeting recently, Sarah rode her wheelchair to the train station but found the elevator broken. Again. With no way of getting to the platform, she was told to take a taxi to another station forty minutes away. The taxi was called but never arrived. Sarah gave up and went home.

Unfortunately, this is a regular occurrence for Sarah. Broken elevators stop her from boarding trains, forgotten ramps leave her unable to get off them. Sometimes Sarah is treated as a nuisance by railway staff for needing assistance. She’s often close to tears.

Out of the many biblical laws governing human relationships, “love your neighbor as yourself” is key (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:8–10). And while this love stops us from lying, stealing, and abusing others (Leviticus 19:11, 14), it also changes how we work. Employees must be treated fairly (v. 13), and we should all be generous to the poor (vv. 9–10). In Sarah’s case, those who fix elevators and drag out ramps aren’t doing inconsequential tasks but offering important service to others.

If we treat work as just a means to a wage or other personal benefit, we will soon treat others as annoyances. But if we treat our jobs as opportunities to love, then the most everyday task becomes a holy enterprise.

By: Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray
Why do you think we can become annoyed at someone needing extra assistance? How can you turn your job into a channel of love today?

Father, a job is never just a job to You but an opportunity to love You and serve others. Help me to see my work as an opportunity to benefit others today.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Friday, September 18, 2020 by RBC Ministries


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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Don’t Be Deceived

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 27–29, 2 Corinthians 10

[The devil] is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44

Today's Scripture & Insight:Genesis 3:1–7

The spotted lanternfly is a pretty insect with speckled outer wings and a splotch of bright red on its inner wings that flashes when it flies. But its beauty is a bit deceptive. This insect, first seen in the US in 2014, is considered invasive to North America, which means it has the potential to harm the environment and economy. The lanternfly will “eat the innards of practically any woody plant,” which includes cherry and other fruit trees, and leaves a sticky goo that leads to mold—killing trees outright or leaving them with little energy to grow fruit.

In the story of Adam and Eve, we learn of a different kind of menace. The serpent, Satan, deceived the couple into disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit so they would “be like God” (Genesis 3:1–7). But why listen to a serpent? Did his words alone entice Eve, or was there also something attractive about him? Scripture hints at Satan being created beautiful (Ezekiel 28:12). Yet Satan fell by the same temptation he used to entice Eve: “I will make myself like [God]” (Isaiah 14:14; Ezekiel 28:9).

Any beauty Satan now has is used to deceive (Genesis 3:1; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14). Just as he fell, he seeks to pull others down—or keep them from growing. But we have someone far more powerful on our side! We can run to Jesus, our beautiful Savior.

By: Alyson Kieda

Reflect & Pray
When have you been deceived by a person or group’s seemingly attractive idea? What helps you to recognize deception?

Dear God, help me to weigh what I see and hear by the truths of the gospel. Thank You for triumphing over evil through the cross.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Give It All You’ve Got

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 25–26, 2 Corinthians 9

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give.
2 Corinthians 9:7

Today's Scripture & Insight:2 Corinthians 9:6–11

Scaling. It’s a term used in the world of fitness that allows room for anyone to participate. If the specific exercise is a push-up, for example, then maybe you can do ten in a row, but I can only do four. The instructor’s encouragement to me would be to scale back the push-ups according to my fitness level at the time. We’re not all at the same level, but we can all move in the same direction. In other words, she would say, “Do your four push-ups with all the strength you have. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Scale the movement for now, keep doing what you can do, and you may be amazed in time you’re doing seven, and even one day, ten.”

When it comes to giving, the apostle Paul was clear: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). But his encouragement to the believers in Corinth, and to us, is a variation of scaling. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart” (v. 7). We each find ourselves at different giving levels, and sometimes those levels change over time. Comparison is not beneficial, but attitude is. Based on where you are, give generously (v. 6). Our God has promised that the disciplined practice of such cheerful giving brings enrichment in every way with a blessed life that results in “thanksgiving to God” (v. 11).

By: John Blase

Reflect & Pray
How would you describe your giving: Cheerful? Reluctant? Under compulsion? Not comparing yourself to anyone else, what might cheerful giving look like?

Generous God, I want to be a cheerful giver, to give it my best effort. I know that discipline in this area is crucial. Give me the wisdom not to compare, the strength to sow generously, and the faith to leave the results in Your hands.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Compassion on the Job

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 22–24, 2 Corinthians 8

[Jesus] had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:14

Today's Scripture & Insight:Matthew 14:1–14

My friend Ellen calculates payroll for an accounting firm. This may sound like a straightforward job, but there are times when employers submit their information later than requested. Ellen often makes up for this by working long hours so employees can receive their money without delay. She does this out of consideration for the families that depend on those funds to buy groceries, purchase medicine, and pay for housing.

Ellen’s compassionate approach to her job points me to Jesus. On earth, He sometimes ministered to people when it was inconvenient for Him. For instance, Christ wanted some alone time after He heard that John the Baptist had been killed, so He boarded a boat in search of an isolated place (Matthew 14:13). Perhaps He needed to grieve for His relative and pray through His sorrow.

There was just one problem. Crowds of people tagged along behind Him. This group had various physical needs. It would have been much easier to send the people away, but “when Jesus landed and saw [them], he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (v. 14).

Although it was part of Jesus’ calling to teach people and cure their diseases as He ministered on earth, His empathy affected the way in which He carried out His responsibilities. May God help us to recognize His compassion in our lives and give us the strength to pass it on to others.

By: Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Reflect & Pray
How have you experienced God’s compassion and care? What prevents you from showing God’s love when you carry out your daily responsibilities?

Dear Jesus, thank You for meeting my spiritual and physical needs. Help my thankfulness to overflow in the world so that I can glorify You through caring for other people.
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Monday, September 14, 2020

Goodbyes and Hellos

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 19–21, 2 Corinthians 7

God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 21:3–4

Today's Scripture & Insight:Revelation 21:1–5

When my brother David suddenly died of cardiac failure, my perspectives on life changed dramatically. Dave was the fourth of seven children, but he was the first of us to pass—and the unexpected nature of that passing gave me much to ponder. It became apparent that as age began to catch up with us, our family’s future was going to be marked more by loss than by gain. It was going to be characterized as much by goodbyes as hellos.

None of this was a surprise intellectually—that is just how life works. But this realization was an emotional lightning bolt to the brain. It gave a fresh, new significance to every moment life gives us and every opportunity time allows. And it placed a huge new value on the reality of a future reunion, where no goodbyes will ever be needed.

This ultimate reality is at the heart of what we find in Revelation 21:3–4: “God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Though today we may find ourselves experiencing seasons of long goodbyes, our trust in Christ’s death and resurrection promises an eternity of hellos.

By: Bill Crowder

Reflect & Pray
How do you cope with grief and the loss of loved ones? What comfort does it bring to know that you will one day see them again?

Father, I thank You that You’re the living God who gives everlasting life. I pray that You would use our eternal hope to comfort us in our seasons of loss and grief.
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Sunday, September 13, 2020

Friendly Fin

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 16–18, 2 Corinthians 6

Am I my brother’s keeper?
Genesis 4:9

Today's Scripture & Insight:Genesis 4:8–16

A marine biologist was swimming near the Cook Islands in the South Pacific when a 50,000- pound humpback whale suddenly appeared and tucked her under its fin. The woman thought her life was over. But after swimming slowly in circles, the whale let her go. It’s then that the biologist saw a tiger shark leaving the area. The woman believes the whale had been protecting her—keeping her from danger.

In a world of danger, we’re called to watch out for others. But you might ask yourself, Should I really be expected to be responsible for someone else? Or in Cain’s words: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). The rest of the Old Testament resounds with the thunderous response: Yes! Just as Adam was to care for the garden, so Cain was to care for Abel. Israel was to keep watch over the vulnerable and care for the needy. Yet they did the opposite— exploiting the people, oppressing the poor, and abdicating the calling to love their neighbors as themselves (Isaiah 3:14–15).

Yet, in the Cain and Abel story, God continued to watch over Cain, even after he was sent away (Genesis 4:15–16). God did for Cain what Cain should have done for Abel. It’s a beautiful foreshadowing of what God in Jesus would come to do for us. Jesus keeps us in His care, and He empowers us to go and do likewise for others.

By: Glenn Packiam

Reflect & Pray
Who has God entrusted to your care? How have you embraced that responsibility? How have you tried to evade or avoid it?

Compassionate God, thank You for Your care for me. You keep me and watch over me. Help me to do the same for others.
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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Day of Encouragement

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 13–15, 2 Corinthians 5

We urge you, brothers and sisters, . . . encourage the disheartened.
1 Thessalonians 5:14

Today's Scripture & Insight:Exodus 3:1–10

First responders show dedication and courage daily by being on the front lines when disasters occur. In the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001 when thousands of people were killed or injured, more than four hundred emergency workers also lost their lives. In honor of first responders, the US Senate designated September 12 as the National Day of Encouragement.

While it may seem unique that a government would declare a national day of encouragement, the apostle Paul certainly thought this was needed for the growth of a church. He commended the young church in Thessalonica, a city in Macedonia, to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Although they were going through persecution, Paul encouraged the believers to “always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (v. 15). He knew that as humans, they would be prone to despair, selfishness, and conflict. But he also knew they would not be able to uplift one another without God’s help and strength.

Things are no different today. We all need to be uplifted, and we need to do the same for those around us. Yet we can’t do it in our own strength. That’s why Paul’s encouragement that “the one who calls you [Jesus] is faithful, and he will do it” is so reassuring (v. 24). With His help, we can encourage one another every day.

By: Estera Pirosca Escobar

Reflect & Pray
How can a word of encouragement keep despair away? Who can you encourage today?

Jesus, thank You for the encouragement You give me each day. Show me who I need to encourage as well.
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Friday, September 11, 2020

Fire in the Desert

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 10–12, 2 Corinthians 4

I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.
Exodus 3:10

Today's Scripture & Insight:Exodus 3:1–10

While riding in the Chihuahuan Desert in the late 1800s, Jim White spotted a strange cloud of smoke spiraling skyward. Suspecting a wildfire, the young cowboy rode toward the source, only to learn that the “smoke” was a vast swarm of bats spilling from a hole in the ground. White had come across New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns, an immense and spectacular system of caves.

As Moses was tending sheep in a Middle Eastern desert, he too saw an odd sight that grabbed his attention—a flaming bush that didn’t burn up (Exodus 3:2). When God Himself spoke from the bush, Moses realized he had come to something far grander than it had first appeared. He told Moses, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham” (v. 6). God was about to lead an enslaved people to freedom and show them their true identity as His children (v. 10).

More than six hundred years earlier, God had made this promise to Abraham: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). The flight of the Israelites from Egypt was but one step in that blessing—God’s plan to rescue His creation through the Messiah, Abraham’s descendant.

Today we can enjoy the benefits of that blessing, for God offers this rescue to everyone. Christ came to die for the sins of the whole world. By faith in Him, we too become children of the living God.

By: Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray
What surprising things have helped you learn about God? How are you living in the knowledge that you are one of His children?

Thank You, Father, for making Yourself accessible to me despite Your great power, holiness, and overwhelming presence.
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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Making His Music

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 8–9, 2 Corinthians 3

We all . . . are being transformed into his image.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Today's Scripture & Insight:2 Corinthians 3:17–18

Choir director Arianne Abela spent her childhood sitting on her hands—to hide them. Born with fingers missing or fused together on both hands, she also had no left leg and was missing toes on her right foot. A music lover and lyric soprano, she’d planned to major in government at Smith College. But one day her choir teacher asked her to conduct the choir, which made her hands quite visible. From that moment, she found her career, going on to conduct church choirs and serving now as director of choirs at another university. “My teachers saw something in me,” Abela explains.

Her inspiring story invites believers to ask, What does God, our holy Teacher, see in us, regardless of our “limits”? More than anything, He sees Himself. “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 nlt).

As His glorious “image bearers,” when others see us, we should reflect Him. For Abela, that means Jesus, not her hands—or her lack of fingers—matters most. The same is true for all believers. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image,” says 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Similar to Abela, we can conduct our lives by Christ’s transforming power (v. 18), offering a life song that rings out to the honor of God.

By: Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray
How does knowing you are God’s “image-bearer” help you to see yourself differently? How does it help you in your interactions with others?

Thank You, God, for making me in Your image. Help me to apply this fact to all of my life.
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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Printed on Our Hearts

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 6–7, 2 Corinthians 2

Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.
Proverbs 7:3

Today's Scripture & Insight:Proverbs 7:1–5

When Johannes Gutenberg combined the printing press with moveable type in 1450, he ushered in the era of mass communications in the West, spreading learning into new social realms. Literacy increased across the globe and new ideas produced rapid transformations in social and religious contexts. Gutenberg produced the first-ever printed version of the Bible. Prior to this, Bibles were painstakingly hand-copied, taking scribes up to a year to produce.

For centuries since, the printing press has provided people like you and me the privilege of direct access to Scripture. While we also have electronic versions available to us, many of us often hold a physical Bible in our hands because of his invention. What was once inaccessible given the sheer cost and time to have a Bible copied is readily at our fingertips today.

Having access to God’s truth is an amazing privilege. The writer of Proverbs indicates we should treat His instructions to us in the Scriptures as something to be cherished, as “the apple of [our] eye” (Proverbs 7:2) and to write His words of wisdom on “the tablet of [our] heart” (v. 3). As we seek to understand the Bible and live according to its wisdom, we, like scribes, are drawing God’s truth from our “fingers” down into our hearts, to be taken with us wherever we go.

By: Kirsten Holmberg

Reflect & Pray
How has having Scripture stored in your heart benefitted you? How can you begin to internalize more of God’s wisdom?

Loving God, help me to know Your Word intimately that I might live in the way You desire.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Loving Others with Our Prayers

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 3–5, 2 Corinthians 1

This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:9

Today's Scripture & Insight:2 Corinthians 1:8–11

“Are people still praying for me?”

That was one of the first questions a missionary asked his wife whenever she was allowed to visit him in prison. He had been falsely accused and incarcerated for his faith for two years. His life was frequently in danger because of the conditions and hostility in the prison, and believers around the world were earnestly praying for him. He wanted to be assured they wouldn’t stop, because he believed God was using their prayers in a powerful way.

Our prayers for others—especially those who are persecuted for their faith—are a vital gift. Paul made this clear when he wrote the believers in Corinth about hardships he faced during his missionary journey. He “was under great pressure,” so much that he “despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). But then he told them God had delivered him and described the tool He’d used to do it: “We have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers” (vv. 10–11, emphasis added).

God moves through our prayers to accomplish great good in the lives of His people. One of the best ways to love others is to pray for them, because through our prayers we open the door to the help only God can provide. When we pray for others, we love them in His strength. There’s none greater or more loving than He.

By: James Banks

Reflect & Pray
How do you love others with your prayers? In what ways can you encourage prayer for those who are persecuted for their faith?

Loving and Almighty God, thank You for the amazing gift of prayer and the ways You move through it. Please help me to pray faithfully for others today!
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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Loving Others with Our Prayers

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 3–5, 2 Corinthians 1

This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:9

Today's Scripture & Insight:2 Corinthians 1:8–11

“Are people still praying for me?”

That was one of the first questions a missionary asked his wife whenever she was allowed to visit him in prison. He had been falsely accused and incarcerated for his faith for two years. His life was frequently in danger because of the conditions and hostility in the prison, and believers around the world were earnestly praying for him. He wanted to be assured they wouldn’t stop, because he believed God was using their prayers in a powerful way.

Our prayers for others—especially those who are persecuted for their faith—are a vital gift. Paul made this clear when he wrote the believers in Corinth about hardships he faced during his missionary journey. He “was under great pressure,” so much that he “despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). But then he told them God had delivered him and described the tool He’d used to do it: “We have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers” (vv. 10–11, emphasis added).

God moves through our prayers to accomplish great good in the lives of His people. One of the best ways to love others is to pray for them, because through our prayers we open the door to the help only God can provide. When we pray for others, we love them in His strength. There’s none greater or more loving than He.

By: James Banks

Reflect & Pray
How do you love others with your prayers? In what ways can you encourage prayer for those who are persecuted for their faith?

Loving and Almighty God, thank You for the amazing gift of prayer and the ways You move through it. Please help me to pray faithfully for others today!
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Monday, September 7, 2020

Now, then Next

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 1–2, 1 Corinthians 16

He holds success in store for the upright.
Proverbs 2:7

Today's Scripture & Insight:Proverbs 2:1–11

I recently attended a high school graduation during which the speaker provided a needed challenge for the young adults awaiting their diplomas. He mentioned that this was a time in their lives when everyone was asking them, “What’s next?” What career would they be pursuing next? Where would they be going to school or working next? Then he said that the more important question was what were they doing now?

In the context of their faith journey, what daily decisions would they be making that would guide them to live for Jesus and not for themselves?

His words reminded me of the book of Proverbs, which makes many pointed statements about how to live—now. For instance: practicing honesty, now (11:1); choosing the right friends, now (12:26); living with integrity, now (13:6); having good judgment, now (13:15); speaking wisely, now (14:3).

Living for God now, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, makes the decisions about what is next much easier. “The Lord gives wisdom; . . . He holds success in store for the upright, . . . he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones” (2:6–8). May God supply what we need for us to live by His guidelines now, and may He guide us into what’s next for His honor.

By: Dave Branon

Reflect & Pray
What changes in direction do you need to make now to honor God? How can you seek God’s guidance and empowerment in doing so?

Thank You, heavenly Father, for Your guidance in my life today. Protect me and give me wisdom to live in a way that both pleases You and reveals who You are.
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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Failed Again

Bible in a Year: Psalms 148–150, 1 Corinthians 15:29–58

After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
Galatians 3:3

Today's Scripture & Insight:Galatians 3:1–6

Back in my sermon-making days I approached some Sunday mornings feeling like a lowly worm. During the week before, I had not been the best husband, father, or friend. I felt that before God could use me again I had to establish a track record of right living. So I vowed to get through the sermon as best I could and try to live better the coming week.

That was not the right approach. In Galatians 3 it’s said that God continually supplies us with His Spirit and works powerfully through us as a free gift—not because we’ve done anything or deserve it.

Abraham’s life demonstrates this. At times he failed as a husband. For example, he twice put Sarah’s life in jeopardy by lying to save his own skin (Genesis 12:10–20; 20:1–18). Yet his faith “was credited to him as righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). Abraham put himself in God’s hands despite his failures, and God used him to bring salvation to the world through his lineage.

There’s no justification for behaving badly. Jesus has asked us to follow Him in obedience, and He supplies the means to do so. A hard, unrepentant heart will always hinder His purposes for us, but His ability to use us doesn’t depend on a lengthy pattern of good behavior. It’s based solely on God’s willingness to work through us as we are: saved and growing by grace. You don’t have to work for His grace—it’s free.

By: David H. Roper

Reflect & Pray
Think of those situations in which you’ve felt disqualified. How does God look at those occasions? How do you?

I’m thankful, God, that You bless me and use me in spite of my failures. Your grace is amazing!
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Saturday, September 5, 2020

God Understands

Bible in a Year: Psalms 146–147, 1 Corinthians 15:1–28

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
Psalm 147:5

Today's Scripture & Insight:Psalm 147:1–11

After a recent move, Mabel’s seven-year-old son, Ryan, fussed as he prepared to attend a summer camp at his new school. Mabel encouraged him, assuring him that she understood change was hard. But one morning, Ryan’s out-of-character grumpiness seemed excessive. With compassion, Mabel asked, “What’s bothering you, Son?”

Staring out of the window, Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom. I just have too many feelings.”

Mabel’s heart ached as she comforted him. Desperate for a way to help him, she shared that the move was hard for her too. She assured Ryan that God would stay close, that He knows everything, even when they couldn’t understand or voice their frustrations. “Let’s set up a visit with your friends before school starts,” she said. They made plans, grateful that God understands even when His children have “too many feelings.”

The writer of Psalm 147 experienced overwhelming emotions throughout his faith journey and recognized the benefits of praising the all-knowing Maker and Sustainer of all, the Healer of physical and emotional wounds (vv. 1–6). He praised God for the ways He provides and “delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (v. 11).

When we’re struggling to make sense of our emotions, we don’t have to feel alone or discouraged. We can rest in the unlimited understanding of our unchanging, loving God.

By: Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray
How does knowing God understands your most intimate needs help you trust Him while you process your emotions? What emotions seem most difficult for you to place into God’s mighty and merciful hands?

Sovereign God, thank You for assuring me that You understand and care about my emotional and physical needs.
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Friday, September 4, 2020

Speak Up!

Bible in a Year: Psalms 143–145, 1 Corinthians 14:21–40

Pray . . . that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.
Colossians 4:3

Today's Scripture & Insight:Colossians 4:2–6

Brittany exclaimed to her coworker at the restaurant, “There’s that man! There’s that man!” She was referring to Melvin, who first encountered her under different circumstances. While he was tending to the lawn of his church, the Spirit prompted him to start a conversation with a woman who appeared to be a prostitute. Her reply when he invited her to church was: “Do you know what I do? They wouldn’t want me in there.” As Melvin told her about the love of Jesus and assured her of His power to change her life, tears streamed down her face. Now, some weeks later, Brittany was working in a new environment, living proof of the power of Jesus to change lives.

In the context of encouraging believers to be devoted to prayer, the apostle Paul made a twofold request: “Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:3–4).

Have you prayed for opportunities to speak boldly and clearly for Jesus? What a fitting prayer! Such prayers can lead believers, like Melvin, to speak about Him in unexpected places and to unexpected people. Speaking up for Jesus can seem uncomfortable, but the rewards—changed lives—have a way of compensating for our discomforts.

By: Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray
When did you share the love of Jesus with someone even though it was unexpected and uncomfortable? What role does prayer play in our preparation to boldly speak up for Him?

Jesus, help me to see opportunities and step through the doors You open to speak boldly and clearly about You!
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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Irrational Fears

Bible in a Year: Psalms 140–142, 1 Corinthians 14:1–20

I will not forget you!
Isaiah 49:15

Today's Scripture & Insight:Isaiah 49:14–19

It makes no logical sense, but when my parents died within a three-month period, I feared they would forget me. Of course they were no longer on earth, but that left me with a large uncertainty. I was a young, unmarried adult and wondered how to navigate life without them. Feeling really single and alone, I sought God.

One morning I told Him about my irrational fear and the sadness it brought (even though He knew it already). The Scripture passage that came from the devotional I read that day was Isaiah 49: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast . . . ? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (v. 15). God reassured His people through Isaiah that He had not forgotten them and later promised to restore them to Himself through sending His Son Jesus. But the words ministered to my heart too. It’s rare for a mother or a father to forget their child, yet it’s possible. But God? No way. “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” He said.

God’s answer to me could have brought more fear. But the peace He gave because of His own remembrance of me was exactly what I needed. It was the start of discovering that God is even closer than a parent or anyone else, and He knows the way to help us with everything—even our irrational fears.

By: Anne Cetas

Reflect & Pray
What fears do you face? How might you seek God’s help to address them?

Father, my emotions and fears can be overwhelming and controlling. Thank You for being kind by helping me with them.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Whispering Gallery

Bible in a Year: Psalms 137–139, 1 Corinthians 13

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.
Psalm 18:6

Today's Scripture & Insight:Psalm 18:1–6, 16–19

In the towering dome of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, visitors can climb 259 steps to access The Whispering Gallery. There you can whisper and be heard by another person anywhere along the circular walkway, even across the enormous abyss nearly one hundred feet away. Engineers explain this anomaly as a result of the spherical shape of the dome and the low intensity sound waves of a whisper.

How we long to be confident that God hears our agonized whispers! The Psalms are filled with testimonies that He hears us—our cries, prayers, and whispers. David writes, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help” (Psalm 18:6). Over and over again, he and other psalmists plead, “Hear my prayer” (4:1), my voice (5:3), my groans (102:20). Sometimes the expression is more of a whispered, “Hear me” (77:1), where the “heart meditated and [the] spirit asked” (77:6).

In answer to these pleas, the psalmists—like David in Psalm 18:6—reveal that God is listening: “From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Since the actual temple wasn’t yet built, might David have been referring to God listening in His heavenly dwelling?

From His very own “whispering gallery” in the dome of the heavens above the earth, God bends to our deepest murmurs, even our whispers . . . and listens.

By: Elisa Morgan

Reflect & Pray
What do you long to whisper to God today? How can you know that He hears?

Dear God, give me courage to whisper to You today, trusting You to hear and respond.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Suffering Together

Bible in a Year: Psalms 135–136, 1 Corinthians 12

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.
1 Corinthians 12:26

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 Corinthians 12:14–26

In 2013, seventy-year-old James McConnell, a British Royal Marine veteran, died. McConnell had no family, and staff from his nursing home feared no one would attend his funeral. A man tapped to officiate McConnell’s memorial service posted a Facebook message: “In this day and age it is tragic enough that anyone has to leave this world with no one to mourn their passing, but this man was family. . . . If you can make it to the graveside . . . to pay your respects to a former brother in arms, then please try to be there.” Two hundred Royal Marines packed the pews!

These British compatriots exhibited a biblical truth: we’re tied to one another. “The body is not made up of one part, but of many,” Paul says (1 Corinthians 12:14). We’re not isolated. Just the opposite: we’re bound in Jesus. Scripture reveals organic interconnection: “If one member suffers, all the members suffer” (v. 26 nasb). As believers in Jesus, members of God’s new family, we move toward one another into the pain, into the sorrow, into those murky places where we would fear to go alone. But thankfully we do not go alone.

Perhaps the worst part of suffering is when we feel we’re drowning in the dark all by ourselves. God, however, creates a new community that suffers together. A new community where no one should be left in the dark.

By: Winn Collier

Reflect & Pray
When have you felt most alone? How does God’s grace, kindness, and friendship help you deal with loneliness?

Is it true, God? Have You really placed me in a new community that knows and loves me in my suffering? Help me to believe this.
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Monday, August 31, 2020

The Servant Hears

Bible in a Year: Psalms 132–134, 1 Corinthians 11:17–34

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
1 Samuel 3:10

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 Samuel 3:1–10

Had the wireless radio been on, they would have known the Titanic was sinking. Cyril Evans, the radio operator of another ship, had tried to relay a message to Jack Phillips, the radio operator on the Titanic—letting him know they had encountered an ice field. But Phillips was busy relaying passengers’ messages and rudely told Evans to be quiet. So Evans reluctantly turned off his radio and went to bed. Ten minutes later, the Titanic struck an iceberg. Their distress signals went unanswered because no one was listening.

In 1 Samuel we read that the priests of Israel were corrupt and had lost their spiritual sight and hearing as the nation drifted into danger. “The word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Samuel 3:1). Yet God wouldn’t give up on His people. He began to speak to a young boy named Samuel who was being raised in the priest’s household. Samuel’s name means “the Lord hears”—a memorial to God’s answering his mother’s prayer. But Samuel would need to learn how to hear God.

“Speak, for your servant is listening” (v. 10). It’s the servant who hears. May we also choose to listen to and obey what God has revealed in the Scriptures. Let’s submit our lives to Him and take the posture of humble servants—those who have their “radios” turned on.

By: Glenn Packiam

Reflect & Pray
Why is it vital for you to obey what God has revealed in Scripture? How can you stay “tuned in” to His voice?

Dear Jesus, thank You for being a speaking God. Thank You for the Scriptures that help me follow You in obedience. Speak, Your servant is listening.
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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Self-Checking

Bible in a Year: Psalms 129–131, 1 Corinthians 11:1–16

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.
Lamentations 3:40

Today's Scripture & Insight:Lamentations 3:37–42

Recently I read through a stack of World War II-era letters my dad sent to my mother. He was in North Africa and she was in West Virginia. Dad, a second lieutenant in the US Army, was tasked with censoring soldiers’ letters—keeping sensitive information from enemy eyes. So it was rather humorous to see—on the outside of his letters to his wife—a stamp that said, “Censored by 2nd Lt. John Branon.” Indeed, he had cut out lines from his own letters!

Self-censoring is really a good idea for all of us. Several times in Scripture, the writers mention the importance of taking a good long look at ourselves to find what’s not right—not God-honoring. The psalmist, for example, prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart . . . . See if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23–24). Jeremiah put it like this: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40). And Paul, speaking of our heart condition at the time of communion, said, “Everyone ought to examine themselves” (1 Corinthians 11:28).

The Holy Spirit can help us turn from any attitudes or actions that don’t please God. So before we head out into the world today, let’s stop and seek the Spirit’s help in doing some self-checking so we can “return to the Lord” in fellowship with Him.

By: Dave Branon

Reflect & Pray
How will you pursue healthy spiritual self-examination today? What are two things that come to mind that you could remove to improve your fellowship with God?

Search me, O God, and know my heart. See if there are any changes I need to make today as I seek to know You more and serve You better.
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Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Ultimate Wave

Bible in a Year: Psalms 126–128, 1 Corinthians 10:19–33

The gospel is bearing fruit and growing.
Colossians 1:6

Today's Scripture & Insight:Colossians 1:1–8

People love doing “the wave.” At sporting events and concerts around the world, it begins when a few people stand and raise their hands. A moment later, those seated beside them do the same. The goal is to have one sequential flowing movement work its way around an entire stadium. Once it reaches the end, those who started it smile and cheer—and keep the movement going.

The first recorded incident of the wave occurred at a professional baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees in 1981. I love joining in the wave because it’s fun. But it’s also occurred to me that the happiness and togetherness we experience while doing it is reminiscent of the gospel—the good news of salvation in Jesus that unites believers everywhere in praise and hope. This “ultimate wave” started over twenty centuries ago in Jerusalem. Writing to the members of the church in Colossae, Paul described it this way: “The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it” (Colossians 1:6). The natural result of this good news is “faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for [us] in heaven” (v. 5).

As believers in Jesus, we’re part of the greatest wave in history. Keep it going! Once it’s done, we’ll see the smile of the One who started it all.

By: James Banks

Reflect & Pray
From whom did you first hear the good news of Jesus? How can you share it with another person close to you this week?

I praise You for the wonderful gift of my salvation, Father. Please send me to someone who needs to hear of Your kindness today!
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Friday, August 28, 2020

God Our Rescuer

Bible in a Year: Psalms 123–125, 1 Corinthians 10:1–18

I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered.
Ezekiel 34:12

Today's Scripture & Insight:Ezekiel 34:5–12

In the open sea, a rescuer positioned her kayak to assist panicked swimmers competing in a triathlon. “Don’t grab the middle of the boat!” she called to swimmers, knowing such a move would capsize her craft. Instead, she directed weary swimmers to the bow, or front, of the kayak. There they could grab a loop, allowing the safety kayaker to help rescue them.

Whenever life or people threaten to pull us under, as believers in Jesus, we know we have a Rescuer. “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep . . . . I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:11–12).

This was the prophet Ezekiel’s assurance to God’s people when they were in exile. Their leaders had neglected and exploited them, plundering their lives and caring “for themselves rather than for [God’s] flock” (v. 8). As a result, the people “were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them” (v. 6).

But “I will rescue my flock,” declared the Lord (v. 10), and His promise still holds.

What do we need to do? Hold fast to almighty God and His promises. “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them,” He says (v. 11). That’s a saving promise worth holding tightly.

By: Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray
When you feel panicked, what’s your typical reaction? What problem can you release today as you reach instead for God?

Our rescuing God, when life makes me panic, encourage me to turn from the rolling waves and always reach for You.
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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Rescue the Weak

Bible in a Year: Psalms 120–122, 1 Corinthians 9

Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:4

Today's Scripture & Insight:Psalm 82:3–4

Which would you choose—a skiing holiday in Switzerland or rescuing children from danger in Prague? Nicholas Winton, just an ordinary man, chose the latter. In 1938, war between Czechoslovakia and Germany seemed on the horizon. After Nicholas visited refugee camps in Prague, where many Jewish citizens lived in horrible conditions, he felt compelled to come up with a plan to help. He raised money to transport hundreds of children safely out of Prague to Great Britain to be cared for by British families before the onset of World War II.

His actions exemplified those called for in Psalm 82: “Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed” (v. 3). Asaph, the writer of this psalm, wanted to stir his people to champion the cause of those in need: “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (v. 4). Like the children Nicholas worked tirelessly to rescue, the psalmist spoke for those who couldn’t speak for themselves—the poor and the widowed who needed justice and protection.

Everywhere we look today we see people in need due to war, storms, and other hardships. Although we can’t solve every problem, we can prayerfully consider what we can do to help in the situations God brings into our lives.

By: Linda Washington

Reflect & Pray
What are some immediate needs of others you can help meet? How has God uniquely prepared you to rescue and care for others?

Loving God, open my eyes to the needs of those around me.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Spiritual Driving

Bible in a Year: Psalm 119:89–176, 1 Corinthians 8

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15–16

Today's Scripture & Insight:Ephesians 5:8–20

I don’t remember many specifics about my driver’s education class. But for some reason, an acronym we learned, S-I-P-D-E, remains firmly lodged in my memory.

The letters stood for Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, and Execute, a process we were taught to practice continually. We were to scan the road, identify hazards, predict what the hazards might do, decide how we’d respond, and then, if necessary, execute that plan. It was a strategy for being intentional to avoid accidents.

I wonder how that idea might translate to our spiritual lives. In Ephesians 5, Paul told Ephesian believers, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise, but as wise” (v. 15). Paul knew certain hazards could derail the Ephesians—old ways of living at odds with their new life in Jesus (vv. 8, 10–11). So he instructed the growing church to pay attention.

The words translated “be very careful, then, how you live” literally mean “see how you walk.” In other words, look around. Notice hazards, and avoid personal pitfalls like drunkenness and wild living (v. 18). Instead, the apostle said, we can seek to learn God’s will for our lives (v. 17), while, with fellow believers, we sing to and give Him thanks (vv. 19–20).

No matter what hazards we face—and even when we stumble—we can experience our new life in Christ as we grow in dependence on His boundless power and grace.

By: Adam R. Holz

Reflect & Pray
What strategy do you use to recognize what might trip you up spiritually? What role do you think other believers play in identifying and resisting spiritual hazards? How might thanksgiving be an important part of avoiding spiritual pitfalls?

Heavenly Father, as I navigate the spiritual potholes on life’s road, thank You for reminding me to look up to You for help.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Wonderful Reward

Bible in a Year: Psalm 119:1–88, 1 Corinthians 7:20–40

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
Psalm 119:18

Today's Scripture & Insight:Psalm 119:17–24

Donelan, a teacher, had always been a reader, but one day it literally paid off. She was planning a trip and reviewing her lengthy travel insurance policy when on page seven she discovered a wonderful reward. As part of their “It Pays to Read” contest, the company was giving $10,000 to the first person to read that far into the contract. They also donated thousands of dollars to schools in Donelan’s area for children’s literacy. She says, “I’ve always been that nerd who reads contracts. I was the most surprised of anyone!”

The psalmist wanted his eyes opened to “see wonderful things” about God (Psalm 119:18). He must have had an understanding that God wants to be known, and so he longed for a deeper closeness to Him. His desire was to see more of who God is, what He’d already given, and how to follow Him more closely (vv. 24, 98). He wrote, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).

We too have the privilege of taking time to ponder God, His character, and His provisions—to learn about and grow closer to Him. God longs to instruct us, guide us, and open our hearts to who He is. When we search for Him, He rewards us with greater wonder at who He is and the enjoyment of His presence!

By: Anne Cetas

Reflect & Pray
As you open your Bible and read, how is your heart and mind opened to God and His ways? What would you like to know or experience more of?

How I love Your Word, God. It’s sweet to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.
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Monday, August 24, 2020

How Did I Get Here?

Bible in a Year: Psalms 116–118, 1 Corinthians 7:1–19

Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?
Job 2:10

Today's Scripture & Insight:Job 2:1–10

Tiffani awoke in the pitch-black darkness of an Air Canada jet. Still wearing her seat belt, she’d slept while the other passengers exited and the plane was parked. Why didn’t anyone wake her? How did she get here? She shook the cobwebs from her brain and tried to remember.

Have you found yourself in a place you never expected? You’re too young to have this disease, and there’s no cure. Your last review was excellent; why is your position being eliminated? You were enjoying the best years of your marriage. Now you’re starting over, as a single parent with a part-time job.

How did I get here? Job may have wondered as “he sat among the ashes” (Job 2:8). He’d lost his children, his wealth, and his health, in no time flat. He couldn’t have guessed how he got here; he just knew he had to remember.

Job remembered his Creator and how good He’d been. He told his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (v. 10). Job remembered he could count on this good God to be faithful. So he lamented. He screamed at the heavens. And he mourned in hope, “I know that my redeemer lives,” and that “in my flesh I will see God” (19:25–26). Job clung to hope as he remembered how the story began and how it ends.

By: Mike Wittmer

Reflect & Pray
What situation fills you with agony and dread? How might you regain your bearings and live with hope and joy?

Father, You’re not surprised by what surprises me. You were good before, and You remain good now. To learn more about the book of Job and its message, visit bit.ly/337DURd.
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Sunday, August 23, 2020

No Fishing Allowed

Bible in a Year: Psalms 113–115, 1 Corinthians 6

[God will] hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Micah 7:19

Today's Scripture & Insight:Psalm 130

Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom knew the importance of forgiveness. In her book Tramp for the Lord, she says her favorite mental picture was of forgiven sins thrown into the sea. “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. . . . I believe God then places a sign out there that says No Fishing Allowed.”

She points to an important truth that believers in Jesus can sometimes fail to grasp—when God forgives our wrongdoing, we’re forgiven fully! We don’t have to keep dredging up our shameful deeds, wallowing in any mucky feelings. Rather we can accept His grace and forgiveness, following Him in freedom.

We see this idea of “no fishing allowed” in Psalm 130. The psalmist proclaims that although God is just, He forgives the sin of those who repent: “But with you there is forgiveness” (v. 4). As the psalmist waits for God, putting his trust in Him (v. 5), he states in faith that He “himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (v. 8). Those who believe will find “full redemption” (v. 7).

When we’re caught in feelings of shame and unworthiness, we can’t serve God with our whole hearts. Instead, we’re restricted by our past. If you feel stymied by the wrong you’ve done, ask God to help you fully believe in His gift of forgiveness and new life. He’s cast your sins into the ocean!

By: Amy Boucher Pye

Reflect & Pray
Are you holding on to the false belief that God can’t possibly forgive you for some sin in your life? God wants you to allow His forgiveness to set you free!

Forgiving God, You sent Your Son Jesus to save me from my sins and shame. Help me to live in the freedom of being fully forgiven.
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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Faithful Until the Harvest

Bible in a Year: Psalms 110–112, 1 Corinthians 5

Let us not become weary in doing good.
Galatians 6:9

Today's Scripture & Insight:Galatians 6:7–10

A woman I know planned an event at a local park and invited all the neighborhood children to participate. She was excited about the opportunity to share her faith with her neighbors.

She recruited her three grandchildren and two high school students to help her, gave the assignments, planned a number of games and other activities, prepared food, prepared a Bible story about Jesus to present to the children, and waited for them to gather.

Not a single child showed up the first day. Or the second day. Or the third day. Yet, each day my friend went through that day’s activities with her grandchildren and helpers.

On the fourth day, she noticed a family picnicking nearby and invited the children to join in the games. One little girl came, entered into the fun, ate with them, and listened to the story about Jesus. Perhaps years from now she’ll remember. Who knows what the outcome will be? God, through the book of Galatians, encourages us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (6:9–10).

Don’t worry about numbers or other visible measures of success. Our job is to be faithful to what He wants us to do and then leave the harvest to Him. God determines the outcomes.

By: David H. Roper

Reflect & Pray
What best-laid plans of yours have gone wrong? How can you learn to trust God with the outcome despite disappointment?

God, I’m grateful that You’re the one in charge of the results. You’re the one at work. Help me to do what You ask no matter what.
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Friday, August 21, 2020

Bright Spots in Bleak Places

Bible in a Year: Psalms 107–109, 1 Corinthians 4

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.
Psalm 86:5

Today's Scripture & Insight:Psalm 86:1–13

When my husband and I were exploring a small, rugged corner of the state of Wyoming, I spied a sunflower in a rocky, dry place where sagebrush, nettles, prickly cactus, and other scraggly plants grew. It wasn’t as tall as the domestic sunflower, but it was just as bright—and I felt cheered.

This unexpected bright spot in rough terrain reminded me of how life, even for the believer in Jesus, can seem barren and cheerless. Troubles can seem insurmountable, and like the cries of the psalmist David, our prayers sometimes seem to go unheeded: “Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy” (Psalm 86:1). Like him, we too long for joy (v. 4).

But David goes on to declare that we serve a faithful (v. 11), “compassionate and gracious God” (v. 15), who abounds in love for all who call on Him (v. 5). He does answer (v. 7).

Sometimes in bleak places, God sends a sunflower—an encouraging word or note from a friend; a comforting verse or Bible passage; a beautiful sunrise—that helps us to move forward with a lighter step, with hope. Even as we await the day we experience God’s deliverance out of our difficulty, may we join the psalmist in proclaiming, “You are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God”! (v. 10).

By: Alyson Kieda

Reflect & Pray
Out of what difficult place has God delivered you? During that time, did you experience any “sunflowers” that helped you persevere?

Loving God, thank You for being compassionate and gracious. Help me to remember how You’ve been faithful and answered my prayers in the past—and will again in the future.
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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Working with God

Bible in a Year: Psalms 105–106, 1 Corinthians 3

We are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:9

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 Corinthians 3:1–9

During his 1962 visit to Mexico, Bill Ashe helped fix windmill hand pumps at an orphanage. Fifteen years later, inspired by a deep desire to serve God by helping provide clean water to villages in need, Bill founded a nonprofit organization. He said, “God awoke me to ‘make the most of the time’ by finding others with a desire to bring safe drinking water to the rural poor.” Later, having learned about the global need for safe water through the requests of thousands of pastors and evangelists from more than 100 countries, Bill invited others to join the ministry’s efforts.

God welcomes us to team up to serve with Him and others in various ways. When the people of Corinth argued over which teachers they preferred, the apostle Paul affirmed his role as a servant of Jesus and a teammate of Apollos, fully dependent on God for spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 3:1–7). He reminds us that all work has God-given value (v. 8). Acknowledging the privilege of working with others while serving Him, Paul encourages us to build each other up as He transforms us in love (v. 9).

Though our mighty Father doesn’t need our help to accomplish His great works, He equips us and invites us to partner with Him.

By: Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray
How does leaving the results to God give you the courage to risk doing what seems impossible? What hard thing has He invited you to do with His help?

Father, thank You for providing all I need as You continue to accomplish great things in me.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Only Trust

Bible in a Year: Psalms 103–104, 1 Corinthians 2

So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.
1 Kings 17:15

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 Kings 17:8–16

Three hundred children were dressed and seated for breakfast, and a prayer of thanks was offered for the food. But there was no food! Situations like this were not unusual for orphanage director and missionary George Mueller (1805–1898). Here was yet another opportunity to see how God would provide. Within minutes of Mueller’s prayer, a baker who couldn’t sleep the night before showed up at the door. Sensing that the orphanage could use the bread, he had made three batches. Not long afterward, the town milkman appeared. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. Not wanting the milk to spoil, he offered it to Mueller.

It’s normal to experience bouts of worry, anxiety, and self-pity when we lack resources essential to our well-being—food, shelter, health, finances, friendships. First Kings 17:8–16 reminds us that God’s help can come through unexpected sources like a needy widow. “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug” (v. 12). Earlier it was ravens that provided for Elijah (vv. 4–6). Concerns for our needs to be met can send us searching in many directions. A clear vision of God as the Provider who has promised to supply our needs can be liberating. Before we seek solutions, may we be careful to seek Him first. Doing so can save us time, energy, and frustration.

By: Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray
What’s been your experience when you’ve focused on securing provision before seeking the Provider in prayer? What current needs will you bring before God?

Father, sharpen my vision of You as the Provider for all my needs. Forgive me for times I have futilely sought to find my way without seeking You first.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Rivals or Allies?

Bible in a Year: Psalms 100–102, 1 Corinthians 1

Be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 1:10

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 Corinthians 1:10–17

The city of Texarkana sits squarely on the state border between Texas and Arkansas. The city of 70,000 inhabitants has two mayors, two city councils, and two police and fire departments. The cross-town sporting rivalry between high schools draws an uncommonly high attendance, reflecting the deep allegiance each has to their own state’s school. More significant challenges arise as well, such as disputes over the shared water system, governed by two sets of state laws. Yet the town is known for its unity despite the line that divides it. Residents gather annually for a dinner held on State Line Avenue to share a meal in celebration of their oneness as a community.

The believers in Corinth may not have drawn a line down their main thoroughfare, but they were divided. They’d been quarreling as a result of their allegiances to those who taught them about Jesus: Paul, Apollos, or Cephas (Peter). Paul called them all to oneness “in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10), reminding them it was Christ who was crucified for them, not their spiritual leaders.

We behave similarly today, don’t we? We sometimes oppose even those who share our singularly important belief—Jesus’ sacrifice for our wrongdoings—making them rivals instead of allies. Just as Christ Himself is not divided, we, as His earthly representation—His body—mustn’t allow differences over nonessentials to divide us. Instead, may we celebrate our oneness in Him.

By: Kirsten Holmberg

Reflect & Pray
Over what nonessential spiritual issues are you likely to allow division? How can you foster unity instead?

God, help me to remain focused on You and Your sacrifice for Your people. May I not be distracted by the less important issues but call others to oneness as a community of faith.
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Monday, August 17, 2020

Refined in the Fire

Bible in a Year: Psalms 97–99, Romans 16

These trials will show that your faith is genuine.
1 Peter 1:7 nlt

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 Peter 1:6–9

Twenty-four–karat gold is nearly 100 percent gold with few impurities. But that percentage is difficult to achieve. Refiners most commonly use one of two methods for the purification process. The Miller process is the quickest and least expensive, but the resulting gold is only about 99.95 percent pure. The Wohlwill process takes a little more time and costs more, but the gold produced is 99.99 percent pure.

In Bible times, refiners used fire as a gold purifier. Fire caused impurities to rise to the surface for easier removal. In his first letter to believers in Jesus throughout Asia Minor (northern Turkey), the apostle Peter used the gold-refining process as a metaphor for the way trials work in the life of a believer. At that time, many believers were being persecuted by the Romans for their faith in Christ. Peter knew what that was like firsthand. But persecution, Peter explained, brings out the “genuineness of [our] faith” (1 Peter 1:7).

Perhaps you feel like you’re in a refiner’s fire—feeling the heat of setbacks, illness, or other challenges. But hardship is often the process by which God purifies the gold of our faith. In our pain we might beg God to quickly end the process, but He knows what’s best for us, even when life hurts. Keep connected to the Savior, seeking His comfort and peace.

By: Linda Washington

Reflect & Pray
What challenges have you faced that led to your growth? How did you respond to them?

Father God, help me see how the trials of my life bring out the gold in me.
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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Big Enough

Bible in a Year: Psalms 94–96, Romans 15:14–33

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Jeremiah 31:3

Today's Scripture & Insight:Luke 18:15–17

My grandson ran to the roller coaster line and stood with his back against the height-requirement sign to see if he was big enough to ride. He squealed with joy when his head exceeded the mark.

So much of life is about being “big” enough, isn’t it? To move from car seat to seatbelt and from the back seat to the front. To take a driver’s test. To vote. To get married. Like my grandson, we can spend our lives longing to grow up.

In New Testament times, children were loved but not highly valued in society until they “became of age” and could contribute to the home and enter the synagogue with adult privileges. Jesus shattered the standards of His day by welcoming the impoverished, the diseased, and even children. Three gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell of parents bringing little children to Jesus so that He might lay hands on them and pray for them (Matthew 19:13; Mark 10:16).

The disciples rebuked the adults for what they saw as an inconvenience. At this, Jesus was “indignant” (Mark 10:14) and opened His arms to the little ones. He elevated their value in His kingdom and challenged all to become like children themselves—to embrace their vulnerability and need for Him in order to know Him (Luke 18:17). It’s our childlike need that makes us “big” enough to receive His love.

By: Elisa Morgan

Reflect & Pray
How might you need to remain small in order to know God? What does His love, the love of a heavenly Father, mean to you?

Dear God, help me embrace my need for You today that You might draw me closer, like a child, to Your heart. To learn more about Jesus and His life, visit christianuniversity.org/courses/life-of-christ/.
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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Running into Love

Bible in a Year: Psalms 91–93, Romans 15:1–13

I have loved you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3

Today's Scripture & Insight:Jeremiah 31:1–9

Nora was tiny, but “Bridget”—the belligerent, six-foot-tall woman glowering down at her—didn’t intimidate her. Bridget couldn’t even say why she had stopped at the crisis pregnancy center; she’d already made up her mind to “get rid of this . . . kid.” So Nora gently asked questions, and Bridget rudely deflected them with profanity-laced tirades. Soon Bridget got up to leave, defiantly declaring her intent to end her pregnancy.

Slipping her small frame between Bridget and the door, Nora asked, “Before you go, may I give you a hug, and may I pray for you?” No one had ever hugged her before—not with healthy intentions, anyway. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the tears came.

Nora beautifully reflects the heart of our God who loved His people Israel “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). The people had stumbled into the hard consequences of their persistent violation of His guidelines. Yet God told them, “I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again” (vv. 3–4).

Bridget’s history is complex. (Many of us can relate.) Until she ran into real love that day, her belief had been that God and His followers would only condemn her. Nora showed her something different: the God who won’t ignore our sin because He loves us beyond imagination. He welcomes us with open arms. We don’t have to keep running.

By: Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray
What’s your perception of God? How does it line up with the God you read about in today’s Scripture reading?

Father, I so often take Your incredible love for granted. Forgive me, and help me to reflect that love to someone today.
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Friday, August 14, 2020

Hope Blossoms

Bible in a Year: Psalms 89–90, Romans 14

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Isaiah 35:1

Today's Scripture & Insight:Isaiah 35:1–4

In the city of Philadelphia, when weedy vacant lots were cleaned up and brightened with beautiful flowers and trees, nearby residents also brightened in overall mental health. This proved especially true for those who struggled economically.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that green space can have an impact on mental health,” said Dr. Eugenia South, “and that’s particularly important for people living in poorer neighborhoods.” South, a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, is coauthor of a study on the subject.

The downtrodden people of Israel and Judah found fresh hope in the prophet Isaiah’s vision of their beautiful restoration by God. Amid all the doom and judgment Isaiah foretold, this bright promise took root: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:1–2).

No matter our situation today, we too can rejoice in the beautiful ways our heavenly Father restores us with fresh hope, including through His creation. When we feel down, reflecting on His glory and splendor will bolster us. “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way,” Isaiah encouraged (v. 3).

Can a few flowers rekindle our hope? A prophet said yes. So does our hope-giving God.

By: Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray
When you feel hopeless, how do you usually respond? How could spending time outdoors in God’s creation transform your despair to renewed hope in God?

Dear God, thank You for the splendor of Your creation, pointing me to Your glory, and reviving my hope in You. For encouragement, read Hope: Choosing Faith Instead of Fear at discoveryseries.org/q0733.
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Thursday, August 13, 2020

A Great Work

Bible in a Year: Psalms 87–88, Romans 13

“I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”
Nehemiah 6:3

Today's Scripture & Insight:Nehemiah 6:1–4

The security guard found and removed a piece of tape that was keeping a door from clicking shut. Later, when he checked the door, he found it had been taped again. He called the police, who arrived and arrested five burglars.

Working at the Watergate building in Washington, DC, the headquarters of a major political party in the US, the young guard had just uncovered the biggest political scandal of his lifetime simply by taking his job seriously—and doing it well.

Nehemiah began rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem—a task he took very seriously. Toward the end of the project, neighboring rivals asked him to meet with them in a nearby village. Under the guise of a friendly invitation was an insidious trap (Nehemiah 6:1–2). Yet Nehemiah’s response shows the depth of his conviction: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (v. 3).

Although he certainly possessed some authority, Nehemiah may not have rated very high on the hero scale. He wasn’t a great warrior, not a poet or a prophet, not a king or a sage. He was a cupbearer-turned-contractor. Yet he believed he was doing something vital for God. May we take seriously what He’s given us to do and do it well in His power and provision.

By: Glenn Packiam

Reflect & Pray
What has God called you to do? Why is it important for you to take it seriously—seeing it as a great work?

Dear God, help me to believe that I’m doing a great work. I trust that You’ve called me to this in this season. Give me the focus to stay the course.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Living on Purpose

Bible in a Year: Psalms 84–86, Romans 12

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Today's Scripture & Insight:Romans 12:9–21

“We’re going on vacation!” my wife enthusiastically told our three-year-old grandson Austin as we pulled out of the driveway on the first leg of our trip. Little Austin looked at her thoughtfully and responded, “I’m not going on vacation. I’m going on a mission!”

We’re not sure where our grandson picked up the concept of going “on a mission,” but his comment gave me something to ponder as we drove to the airport: As I leave on this vacation and take a break for a few days, am I keeping in mind that I’m still “on a mission” to live each moment with and for God? Am I remembering to serve Him in everything I do?

The apostle Paul encouraged the believers living in Rome, the capital city of the Roman Empire, to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). His point was that our life in Jesus is meant to be lived intentionally and with enthusiasm. Even the most mundane moments gain new meaning as we look expectantly to God and live for His purposes.

As we settled into our seats on the plane, I prayed, “Lord, I’m yours. Whatever you have for me to do on this trip, please help me not to miss it.”

Every day is a mission of eternal significance with Him!

By: James Banks

Reflect & Pray
Have you ever been on a mission? How can you make life all about God?

Please give me grace to live for You, Jesus, so that I may one day hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23).
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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Named by God

Bible in a Year: Psalms 81–83, Romans 11:19–36

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”
Ruth 1:20

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 Peter 2:4–10

Riptide. Batgirl. Jumpstart. These are a few names given to counselors at the summer camp our family attends every year. Created by their peers, the camp nicknames usually derive from an embarrassing incident, a funny habit, or a favorite hobby.

Nicknames aren’t limited to camp—we even find them used in the Bible. For example, Jesus dubs the apostles James and John the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). It’s rare in Scripture for someone to give themselves a nickname, yet it happens when a woman named Naomi asks people to call her “Mara,” which means “bitterness” (Ruth 1:20), because both her husband and two sons had died. She felt that God had made her life bitter (v. 21).

The new name Naomi gave herself didn’t stick, however, because those devastating losses were not the end of her story. In the midst of her sorrow, God had blessed her with a loving daughter-in-law, Ruth, who eventually remarried and had a son, creating a family for Naomi again.

Although we might sometimes be tempted to give ourselves bitter nicknames, like “failure” or “unloved,” based on difficulties we’ve experienced or mistakes we’ve made, those names are not the end of our stories. We can replace those labels with the name God has given each of us, “loved one” (Romans 9:25), and look for the ways He’s providing for us in even the most challenging of times.

By: Lisa M. Samra

Reflect & Pray
Think of a nickname someone gave you. What did you like or not like about it? How does being called a beloved child of God change how you see yourself?

Heavenly Father, thank You that I’m not defined by the circumstances or experiences of my life. Thank You for calling me Your child.
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Monday, August 10, 2020

On the Bubble

Bible in a Year: Psalms 79–80, Romans 11:1–18

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you . . . into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 Peter 2:4–10

A news article in May 1970 contained one of the first uses of the idiom “on the bubble.” Referring to a state of uncertainty, the expression was used in relation to rookie race car driver Steve Krisiloff. He’d been “on the bubble,” having posted a slow qualifying lap for the Indianapolis 500. Later, it was confirmed that his time—though the slowest of those who qualified—allowed him to compete in the race.

We can feel at times that we’re “on the bubble,” uncertain we have what it takes to compete in or finish the race of life. When we’re feeling that way, it’s important to remember that in Jesus we’re never “on the bubble.” As children of God, our place in His kingdom is secure (John 14:3). Our confidence flows from Him who chose Jesus to be the “cornerstone” on which our lives are built, and He chose us to be “living stones” filled with the Spirit of God, capable of being the people God created us to be (1 Peter 2:5–6).

In Christ, our future is secure as we hope in and follow Him (v. 6). For “[we] are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (v. 9).

In Jesus’ eyes we’re not “on the bubble.” We’re precious and loved (v. 4).

By: Ruth O’Reilly-Smith

Reflect & Pray
In what areas of life have you found yourself “on the bubble” and struggling with uncertainty? What can you do to regain your confidence in Jesus?

Father God, when disappointments threaten to undermine my identity as Your child, remind me to put my hope and confidence in You alone.
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Sunday, August 9, 2020

Time-Traveling Letters

Bible in a Year: Psalms 77–78, Romans 10

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
1 John 1:2

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 John 1:1–8

More than a million young people take part in the International Letter-Writing Competition each year. In 2018, the theme of the competition was this: “Imagine you are a letter traveling through time. What message do you want to convey to your readers?”

In the Bible, we have a collection of letters that—thanks to the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit—have made their way through time to us. As the Christian church grew, Jesus’ disciples wrote to local churches across Europe and Asia Minor to help the people understand their new life in Christ; many of those letters were collected in the Bible we read today.

What did these letter-writers want to convey to readers? John explains, in his first letter, that he’s writing about “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.” He’s writing about his encounter with the living Christ (1 John 1:1). He writes so that his readers may “have fellowship with” one another, and with “the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (v. 3). When we have fellowship together, he writes, our joy will be complete (v. 4). The letters in the Bible draw us into a fellowship that’s beyond time—fellowship with the eternal God.

By: Amy Peterson

Reflect & Pray
If God wrote a letter to you today, what would it say? If you wrote a letter to a friend telling about how you’ve encountered the living God, what would it say?

Thank You, Father, for the fellowship I have with You.
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Saturday, August 8, 2020

His Death Brings Life

Bible in a Year: Psalms 74–76, Romans 9:16–33

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Psalm 116:15

Today's Scripture & Insight:2 Corinthians 5:14–21

During her ministry to men incarcerated in South Africa’s most violent prison, Joanna Flanders-Thomas witnessed the power of Christ to transform hearts. In Vanishing Grace, Philip Yancey describes her experience: “Joanna started visiting prisoners daily, bringing them a simple gospel message of forgiveness and reconciliation. She earned their trust, got them to talk about their abusive childhoods, and showed them a better way of resolving conflicts. The year before her visits began, the prison recorded 279 acts of violence against inmates and guards; the next year there were two.”

The apostle Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). While we may not always see that newness expressed as dramatically as Flanders-Thomas did, the gospel’s power to transform is the greatest hope-providing force in the universe. New creations. What an amazing thought! The death of Jesus launches us on a journey of becoming like Him—a journey that will culminate when we see Him face-to-face (see 1 John 3:1–3).

As believers in Jesus we celebrate our life as new creations. Yet we must never lose sight of what that cost Christ. His death brings us life. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

By: Bill Crowder

Reflect & Pray
How has Jesus’ transforming work been evidenced in your life? What areas of your life are still in need of that “new creation” impact?

Loving Father, thank You that, because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, I am a new creation. Forgive me for the times I return to the old things that need to pass away.
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Friday, August 7, 2020

Letting Go

Bible in a Year: Psalms 72–73, Romans 9:1–15

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.
Psalm 116:15

Today's Scripture & Insight:John 11:21–36

“Your father is actively dying,” said the hospice nurse. “Actively dying” refers to the final phase of the dying process and was a new term to me, one that felt strangely like traveling down a lonely one-way street. On my dad’s last day, not knowing if he could still hear us, my sister and I sat by his bed. We kissed the top of his beautiful bald head. We whispered God’s promises to him. We sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and quoted the 23rd Psalm. We told him we loved him and thanked him for being our dad. We knew his heart longed to be with Jesus, and we told him he could go. Speaking those words was the first painful step in letting go. A few minutes later, our dad was joyously welcomed into his eternal home.

The final release of a loved one is painful. Even Jesus’ tears flowed when His good friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). But because of God’s promises, we have hope beyond physical death. Psalm 116:15 says that God’s “faithful servants”—those who belong to Him—are “precious” to Him. Though they die, they’ll be alive again.

Jesus promises, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25–26). What comfort it brings to know we’ll be in God’s presence forever.

By: Cindy Hess Kasper

Reflect & Pray
What words come to mind when you see yourself in the mirror? How different are they from Scripture’s depiction of what God sees in you?

What did Jesus accomplish by His death on the cross? How does His sacrifice affect every person who has ever lived?
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Thursday, August 6, 2020

In the Father’s Ways

Bible in a Year: Psalms 70–71, Romans 8:22–39

They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
1 Samuel 8:3

Today's Scripture & Insight:1 Samuel 8:1–9

In the 1960s, the bustling community of North Lawndale, on Chicago’s West Side, was a pilot community for interracial living. A handful of middle-class African Americans bought homes there on “contract”—that combined the responsibilities of home ownership with the disadvantages of renting. In a contract sale, the buyer accrued no equity, and if he missed a single payment, he would immediately lose his down payment, all his monthly payments, and the property itself. Unscrupulous sellers sold at inflated prices, then the families were evicted when they missed a payment. Another family would buy on contract, and the cycle fueled by greed just kept going.

Samuel appointed his sons judges over Israel, and they were driven by greed. His sons “did not follow his ways” (1 Samuel 8:3). In contrast to Samuel’s integrity, his sons “turned aside after dishonest gain” and used their position to their own advantage. This unjust behavior displeased the elders of Israel and God, putting in motion a cycle of kings that fills the pages of the Old Testament (vv. 4–5).

To refuse to walk in God’s ways allows room for the perversion of those values, and as a result injustice flourishes. To walk in His ways means honesty and justice are clearly seen not only in our words but in our deeds as well. Those good deeds are never an end in themselves but always that others may see and honor our Father in heaven.

By: John Blase

Reflect & Pray
What words come to mind when you see yourself in the mirror? How different are they from Scripture’s depiction of what God sees in you?

What current example of injustice are you aware of? What is one way you can work toward justice in that example?
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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Loved, Beautiful, Gifted

Bible in a Year: Psalms 68–69, Romans 8:1–21

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Romans 8:16

Today's Scripture & Insight:Romans 8:15–17

Malcolm appeared confident as a teenager. But this confidence was a mask. In truth, a turbulent home left him fearful, desperate for approval, and feeling falsely responsible for his family’s problems. “For as far back as I remember,” he says, “every morning I would go into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and say out loud to myself, ‘You are stupid, you are ugly, and it’s your fault.’”

Malcolm’s self-loathing continued until he was twenty-one, when he had a divine revelation of his identity in Jesus. “I realized that God loved me unconditionally and nothing would ever change that,” he recalls. “I could never embarrass God, and He would never reject me.” In time, Malcolm looked in the mirror and spoke to himself differently. “You are loved, you are beautiful, you are gifted,” he said, “and it’s not your fault.”

Malcolm’s experience illustrates what God’s Spirit does for the believer in Jesus—He frees us from fear by revealing how profoundly loved we are (Romans 8:15, 38–39), and confirms that we are children of God with all the benefits that status brings (8:16–17; 12:6–8). As a result, we can begin seeing ourselves correctly by having our thinking renewed (12:2–3).

Years later, Malcolm still whispers those words each day, reinforcing who God says he is. In the Father’s eyes he’s loved, beautiful, and gifted. And so are we.

By: Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray
What words come to mind when you see yourself in the mirror? How different are they from Scripture’s depiction of what God sees in you?

Father, thank You for loving me, gifting me, and making me Your child. May Your Spirit work in me today to truly, deeply believe it.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

God’s Mercy at Work

Bible in a Year: Psalms 66–67, Romans 7

May the Lord judge between you and me.
1 Samuel 24:12

Today's Scripture & Insight: 1 Samuel 24:1–10

My anger percolated when a woman mistreated me, blamed me, and gossiped about me. I wanted everyone to know what she’d done—wanted her to suffer as I’d suffered because of her behavior. I steamed with resentment until a headache pierced my temples. But as I began praying for my pain to go away, the Holy Spirit convicted me. How could I plot revenge while begging God for relief? If I believed He would care for me, why wouldn’t I trust Him to handle this situation? Knowing that people who are hurting often hurt other people, I asked God to help me forgive the woman and work toward reconciliation.

The psalmist David understood the difficulty of trusting God while enduring unfair treatment. Though David did his best to be a loving servant, King Saul succumbed to jealousy and wanted to murder him (1 Samuel 24:1–2). David suffered while God worked things out and prepared him to take the throne, but still he chose to honor God instead of seeking revenge (vv. 3–7). He did his part to reconcile with Saul and left the results in God’s hands (vv. 8–22).

When it seems others are getting away with wrongdoing, we struggle with the injustice. But with God’s mercy at work in our hearts and the hearts of others, we can forgive as He’s forgiven us and receive the blessings He’s prepared for us.

By: Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray
How can trusting that God is perfect, loving, good, and in control help you when sin seems to be prevailing? Who do you need to forgive and place in God’s mighty and merciful hands?

Merciful God, please help me trust You to determine how justice prevails.
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Monday, August 3, 2020

The Battle’s Over. Really.

Bible in a Year: Psalms 63–65, Romans 6

We were . . . buried with him.
James 5:20

Today's Scripture & Insight: Romans 6:1–11

For twenty-nine years after World War II ended, Hiroo Onoda hid in the jungle, refusing to believe his country had surrendered. Japanese military leaders had dispatched Onoda to a remote island in the Philippines (Lubang) with orders to spy on the Allied forces. Long after a peace treaty had been signed and hostilities ceased, Onoda remained in the wilderness. In 1974, Onoda’s commanding officer traveled to the island to find him and convince him the war was over.

For three decades, Onoda lived a meager, isolated existence, because he refused to surrender—refused to believe the conflict was done. We can make a similar mistake. Paul proclaims the stunning truth that “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3). On the cross, in a powerful, mysterious way, Jesus put to death Satan’s lies, death’s terror, and sin’s tenacious grip. Though we’re “dead to sin” and “alive to God” (v. 11), we often live as though evil still holds the power. We yield to temptation, succumbing to sin’s seduction. We listen to lies, failing to trust Jesus. But we don’t have to yield. We don’t have to live in a false narrative. By God’s grace we can embrace the true story of Christ’s victory.

While we’ll still wrestle with sin, liberation comes as we recognize that Jesus has already won the battle. May we live out that truth in His power.

By: Winn Collier

Reflect & Pray
How are you tempted to believe that death and sin still hold power over your life? Where can you see Christ’s victory already present in the world?

Jesus, I know You’ve won the battle over evil and darkness. Would You help me to live this out?
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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Kind Correction

Bible in a Year: Psalms 60–62, Romans 5

Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death.
James 5:20

Today's Scripture & Insight: James 5:19–20

The early spring weather was refreshing and my traveling companion, my wife, couldn’t have been better. But the beauty of those moments together could have quickly morphed into tragedy if it weren’t for a red and white warning sign that informed me I was headed in the wrong direction. Because I hadn’t turned wide enough, I momentarily saw a “Do Not Enter” sign staring me in the face. I quickly adjusted, but shudder to think of the harm I could have brought to my wife, myself, and others if I’d ignored the sign that reminded me I was going the wrong way.

The closing words of James emphasize the importance of correction. Who among us hasn’t needed to be “brought back” by those who care for us from paths or actions, decisions or desires that could’ve been hurtful? Who knows what harm might have been done to ourselves or others had someone not courageously intervened at the right time.

James stresses the value of kind correction with these words, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (5:20). Correction is an expression of God’s mercy. May our love and concern for the well-being of others compel us to speak and act in ways that He can use to “bring that person back” (v. 19).

By: Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray
What risks or rewards are associated with helping a wanderer find his or her way back to where they belong? When did God use someone to bring you back from a not-so-good place?

Father, keep me from straying from Your truth and grant me courage to help bring back those who are wandering.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Sunday, August 2, 2020 by RBC Ministries


Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Sunday, August 2, 2020 by RBC Ministries pix
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Saturday, August 1, 2020

A Divine Duet

Bible in a Year: Psalms 57–59, Romans 4

If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.
John 15:5

Today's Scripture & Insight: John 15:1–11

At a children’s music recital, I watched a teacher and student seat themselves in front of a piano. Before their duet began, the teacher leaned over and whispered some last-minute instructions. As music flowed from the instrument, I noticed that the student played a simple melody while the teacher’s accompaniment added depth and richness to the song. Near the end of the piece, the teacher nodded his approval.

Our life in Jesus is much more like a duet than a solo performance. Sometimes, though, I forget that He’s “sitting next to me,” and it’s only by His power and guidance that I can “play” at all. I try to hit all the right notes on my own—to obey God in my own strength, but this usually ends up seeming fake and hollow. I try to handle problems with my limited ability, but the result is often discord with others.

My Teacher’s presence makes all the difference. When I rely on Jesus to help me, I find my life is more honoring to God. I serve joyfully, love freely, and am amazed as God blesses my relationships. It’s like Jesus told His first disciples, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Each day we play a duet with our good Teacher—it’s His grace and power that carry the melody of our spiritual lives.

By: Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Reflect & Pray
Why do you sometimes resist the help and encouragement God offers? How could reliance on Him change your outlook and your actions in certain situations?

Dear God, help me to remember that You’re with me in every moment. I welcome Your influence and instruction today. Thank You for Your nearness.
Original version of Our Daily Bread daily devotional for Saturday, August 1, 2020 by RBC Ministries


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