Running and Rest [March 20, 2017]

Read: Mark 6:30–46 | Bible in a Year: Joshua 4–6; Luke 1:1–20
 
[Jesus] said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
 
The headline caught my eye: “Rest Days Important for Runners.” In Tommy Manning’s article, the former member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team emphasized a principle that dedicated athletes sometimes ignore—the body needs time to rest and rebuild after exercise. “Physiologically, the adaptations that occur as a result of training only happen during rest,” Manning wrote. “This means rest is as important as workouts.”
 
The same is true in our walk of faith and service. Regular times of rest are essential to avoid burnout and discouragement. Jesus sought spiritual balance during His life on Earth, even in the face of great demands. When His disciples returned from a strenuous time of teaching and healing others, “He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:31). But a large crowd followed them, so Jesus taught them and fed them with only five loaves and two fish (vv. 32–44). When everyone was gone, Jesus “went up on a mountainside to pray” (v. 46).
 
If our lives are defined by work, then what we do becomes less and less effective. Jesus invites us to regularly join Him in a quiet place to pray and get some rest.
 
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your example of prayer alone with Your Father. Give us wisdom and determination to make rest a priority as we follow You.
 
In our life of faith and service, rest is as important as work.
 
– David McCasland
 
 


A Small Fire [March 19, 2017]

Read: James 3:3–12 | Bible in a Year: Joshua 1–3; Mark 16
 
The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. – James 3:5
 
It was a Sunday night in September and most people were sleeping when a small fire broke out in Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane. Soon the flames spread from house to house and London was engulfed in the Great Fire of 1666. Over 70,000 people were left homeless by the blaze that leveled four-fifths of the city. So much destruction from such a small fire!
 
The Bible warns us of another small but destructive fire. James was concerned about lives and relationships, not buildings, when he wrote, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:5).
 
But our words can also be constructive. Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” The apostle Paul says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). As salt flavors our food, grace flavors our words for building up others.
 
Through the help of the Holy Spirit our words can encourage people who are hurting, who want to grow in their faith, or who need to come to the Savior. Our words can put out fires instead of starting them.
 
Lord, I can always use help with the way I talk. For this day, help me to speak words of hope and encouragement to build up others.
 
What will our words be like today?
 
INSIGHT: Foolish words are likened to a powerfully destructive “scorching fire” (Prov. 16:27), and the deadly weapons of war, the “flaming arrows of death” (26:18). Jesus said that our words come from our hearts and reveal if we are good or evil. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). How can you use words that will delight God and bless others?
 
–  Bill Crowder

 



Something’s Wrong [March 18, 2017]

Read: Psalm 34:11–18 | Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 32–34; Mark 15:26–47
 
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
 
The morning after our son, Allen, was born, the doctor sat down in a chair near the foot of my bed and said, “Something’s wrong.” Our son, so perfect on the outside, had a life-threatening birth defect and needed to be flown to a hospital 700 miles away for immediate surgery.
 
When the doctor tells you something is wrong with your child, your life changes. Fear of what lies ahead can crush your spirit and you stumble along, desperate for a God who will strengthen you so you can support your child.
 
Would a loving God allow this? you wonder. Does He care about my child? Is He there? These and other thoughts shook my faith that morning.
 
Then my husband, Hiram, arrived and heard the news. After the doctor left, Hiram said, “Jolene, let’s pray.” I nodded and he took my hand. “Thank You, Father, for giving Allen to us. He’s Yours, God, not ours. You loved him before we knew him, and he belongs to You. Be with him when we can’t. Amen.”
 
Hiram has always been a man of few words. He struggles to speak his thoughts and often doesn’t try, knowing that I have enough words to fill any silence. But on a day when my heart was broken, my spirit crushed, and my faith gone, God gave Hiram strength to speak the words I couldn’t say. And clinging to my husband’s hand, in deep silence and through many tears, I sensed that God was very near.
 
The best kind of friend is a praying friend.
 
INSIGHT: First Samuel 21:10–15 records the story of David pretending madness to the Philistines in order to escape the pursuit of King Saul, and it was this event to which David addressed Psalm 34. His joyful gratefulness for divine protection can be seen in verses 4–6, and he recommends that the reader also “taste and see that the Lord is good” (v. 8). A wonderful verse of ongoing thanksgiving and worship is verse 5: “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” The Wycliffe Bible Commentary tells us that this psalm is not only for ourselves but for the next generation: “Those addressed as children are again the humble and teachable disciples of any age (vv. 11–22).” God works in our lives at the most difficult times and His gracious lessons are worth passing on to others.
 
–  Jolene Philo
 
 


After You [March 17, 2017]

Read: Genesis 13:1–18 | Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 30–31; Mark 15:1–25
 
Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left. – Genesis 13:9
 
In some cultures a younger person is expected to permit his elder to enter a room first. In others, the most important or highest ranking individual enters first. No matter what our traditions, there are times when we find it difficult to allow someone to choose first on important matters, especially when that privilege rightfully belongs to us. 
 
Abram (later called Abraham) and his nephew Lot had so many flocks, herds, and tents that the land could not support both of them as they traveled together. To avoid conflict, Abram suggested they part company and generously gave Lot first choice of the land. His nephew took the fertile Jordan Valley, leaving Abram with the less desirable land.
 
Abram did not insist on his rights as the elder in this situation but trusted his future to God. “So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me . . . . Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left’ ” (Gen. 13:8–9). Lot’s choice eventually led to dire consequences for his entire family (see Gen. 19).
 
Today, as we face choices of many kinds, we can trust our Father to guide us in His way. He has promised to care for us. He will always give us what we need.
 
Father, Your unfailing love and faithfulness guide us in every choice we make. May our lives speak well of You and honor You today.
 
God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.  – Jim Elliot
 
– David McCasland

 



Spilling Through My Fingers [March 16, 2017]

Read: Isaiah 40:9–17 | Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 28–29; Mark 14:54–72
 
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand . . . ? Isaiah 40:12
 
After I clumsily knocked over my glass on the restaurant counter, the spilled beverage began to cascade over the edge and onto the floor. Out of sheer embarrassment, I tried to catch the waterfall with cupped hands. My efforts were largely unsuccessful; most of my beverage rushed through my fingers. In the end, my upturned palms held little more than a meager tablespoon each, while my feet stood in puddles.
 
My life feels similar on many days. I find myself scrambling to solve problems, oversee details, and control circumstances. No matter how hard I try, my feeble hands are incapable of managing all the pieces and parts. Something invariably slips through my fingers and pools on the floor at my feet, leaving me feeling overwhelmed. No amount of contorting my hands or squeezing my fingers more tightly together makes me able to handle it all.
 
Yet God can. Isaiah tells us that God can measure the globe’s waters—all the oceans and rivers and rain—in the hollow of His hands (40:12). Only His hands are large enough to hold them all. We needn’t try to hold more than the tablespoon He’s designed our hands to carry. When we feel overwhelmed, we can entrust our cares and concerns into His capable hands.
 
Help me, Lord, to stop trying to hold everything in my hands, but instead to trust my needs and concerns into Your perfect care.
 
We can trust God to handle the things that overwhelm us.
 
INSIGHT:  The truth of God’s intimate care for us is grounded in God’s self-revelation, the Bible. In the Discovery Series booklet How Can I Know God through His Book? David Egner writes, “Although the Bible was written by men like Moses and Luke and Paul, it is the self-revelation of God. He is the Author behind the authors. And what He says reflects who He is. To know God we have to read His book; . . . to see Him on every page, above every event, in every place and circumstance, and overseeing the choice of every person who makes his way into the sacred pages of biblical history.”
 
– Kirsten Holmberg
 


A Good Inheritance [March 15, 2017]

Read: 2 Timothy 1:1–5 | Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 26–27; Mark 14:27–53
 
I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice. – 2 Timothy 1:5
 
Grandpa and Grandma Harris didn’t have a lot of money, yet they managed to make each Christmas memorable for my cousins and me. There was always plenty of food, fun, and love. And from an early age we learned that it was Christ who made this celebration possible.
 
We want to leave the same legacy to our children. When we got together last December to share Christmas with family, we realized this wonderful tradition had started with Grandpa and Grandma. They couldn’t leave us a monetary inheritance, but they were careful to plant the seeds of love, respect, and faith so that we—their children’s children—might imitate their example.
 
In the Bible we read about grandma Lois and mom Eunice, who shared with Timothy genuine faith (2 Tim. 1:5). Their influence prepared this man to share the good news with many others.
 
We can prepare a spiritual inheritance for those whose lives we influence by living in close communion with God. In practical ways, we make His love a reality to others when we give them our undivided attention, show interest in what they think and do, and share life with them. We might even invite them to share in our celebrations! When our lives reflect the reality of God’s love, we leave a lasting legacy for others.
 
Father, may I leave a good spiritual inheritance to my family as You use me to show Your everlasting love.
 
If someone has left you a godly inheritance, invest it in others.
 
INSIGHT:  Paul’s second letter to Timothy is one of his most personal epistles. Chapter 1 is marked by the apostle’s fatherly challenges to Timothy about courageously using the giftedness God has invested in him. In chapter 2, Paul again encourages his young son in the faith to stand firm and grow in a mature walk with Christ. Chapter 3 provides a warning about the difficulties of the days ahead and a call to hold tight to the teachings he has received. In the closing chapter, Paul acknowledges that he wants Timothy to show the same faithfulness to the gospel that he himself has sought to exhibit. Paul shares the disappointment and hurt he has suffered at the hands of some people, but he has been faithful in passing along the faith to others, just as Eunice and Lois had invested in young Timothy. The result was that their son and grandson had become like a son to Paul.
 
– Keila Ochoa
 


Open Arms [March 14, 2017]

Read: Psalm 139:17–24 | Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 23–25; Mark 14:1–26
 
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23
 
The day my husband, Dan, and I began our caregiving journey with our aging parents, we linked arms and felt as if we were plunging off a cliff. We didn’t know that in the process of caregiving the hardest task we would face would be to allow our hearts to be searched and molded and to allow God to use this special time to make us like Him in new ways.
 
On days when I felt I was plunging toward earth in an out-of-control free-fall, God showed me my agendas, my reservations, my fears, my pride, and my selfishness. He used my broken places to show me His love and forgiveness.
 
My pastor has said, “The best day is the day you see yourself for who you are—desperate without Christ. Then see yourself as He sees you—complete in Him.” This was the blessing of caregiving in my life. As I saw who God had created me to be, I turned and ran weeping into His arms. I cried out with the psalmist: “Search me, God, and know my heart” (Ps. 139:23).
 
This is my prayer for you—that as you see yourself in the midst of your own circumstances, you will turn and run into the open, loving, and forgiving arms of God.
 
Gracious Father, I recognize today my desperate need of Your love, wisdom, and grace. Search me and know me. Pour out Your grace and mercy in my life to bring healing to my heart.
 
When worry walks in, strength runs out. But strength returns when we run to God.
 
INSIGHT:  There is no place where David is outside God’s protective presence and care (139:7–12). Recognizing that it was a great privilege to know such a God, David prayed a prayer of commitment, seeking to live a blameless life (vv. 23-24). Even as he asks God to “search and test” him (v. 23), he was well-assured that God already knew him through and through, for he had declared at the start of this song, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me” (v. 1). The Old Testament patriarch Job made a similar statement, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Job’s world had been turned upside down, having lost his wealth, his family, and his health (1:14–2:7). In the midst of his trials he boldly asks, “Does [God] not see my ways and count my every step?” (31:4). Perhaps, like David and Job, you may be going through a rough patch. We can be encouraged that our God knows and cares. What is your response to the truth that God knows everything about you and His arms of love are always open?
 
– Shelly Beach

 

Read more…



Surprise Interview [March 13, 2017]

Read: Acts 26:9–15 | Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 20–22; Mark 13:21–37
 
The King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” Matthew 25:40 NLT
 
On a crowded London commuter train, an early morning rider shoved and insulted a fellow passenger who got in his way. It was the kind of unfortunate and mindless moment that usually remains unresolved. But later that day, the unexpected happened. A business manager sent a quick message to his social media friends, “Guess who just showed up for a job interview.” When his explanation appeared on the Internet, people all over the world winced and smiled. Imagine walking into a job interview only to discover that the person who greets you is the one you had shoved and sworn at earlier that day.
 
Saul also ran into someone he never expected to see. While raging against a group called the Way (Acts 9:1–2), he was stopped in his tracks by a blinding light. Then a voice said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (v. 4). Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The One speaking to him replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (26:15).
 
Years earlier Jesus had said that how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, and the prisoner reflects our relationship to Him (Matt. 25:35–36). Who would have dreamed that when someone insults us, or when we help or hurt another, the One who loves us takes it personally?
 
Father, forgive us for acting as if You were not present in our moments of need, hurt, anger, or compassion.
 
When we help or hurt one another, Jesus takes it personally.
 
INSIGHT:  Commentator William Barclay says, “One of the extraordinary things about the great characters in the New Testament story is that they were never afraid to confess what once they had been.” In today’s passage, Paul describes how Christ had transformed his life from someone who once persecuted Christ and His followers to someone who proclaims the truth of the gospel. His former way of life no longer defined him. A personal testimony is an effective witnessing tool. A simple way of telling our story is to write down answers to three simple questions: What characterized my life before receiving Christ? What were the circumstances when I chose to receive Him? How has my life changed since I trusted Jesus for salvation?
 
– Mart Dehaan
 
 


It’s Not Me [March 12, 2017]

Read: 1 Peter 4:7–11 | Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 17–19; Mark 13:1–20
 
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others. 1 Peter 4:10
 
While on vacation recently, I gave my razor a rest and grew a beard. Various responses came from friends and co-workers—and most were complimentary. One day, however, I looked at the beard and decided, “It’s not me.” So out came the razor.
 
I’ve been thinking about the idea of who we are and why one thing or another does not fit our personality. Primarily, it’s because God has bestowed us with individual differences and preferences. It’s okay that we don’t all like the same hobbies, eat the same foods, or worship in the same church. We are each uniquely and “wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). Peter noted that we are uniquely gifted in order to serve each other (1 Peter 4:10–11).
 
Jesus’s disciples didn’t check their characteristics at the door before entering His world. Peter was so impulsive that he cut off a servant’s ear the night Jesus was arrested. Thomas insisted on evidence before believing Christ had risen. The Lord didn’t reject them simply because they had some growing to do. He molded and shaped them for His service.
 
When discerning how we might best serve the Lord, it’s wise to consider our talents and characteristics and to sometimes say, “It’s not me.” God may call us out of our comfort zone, but He does so to develop our unique gifts and personalities to serve His good purposes. We honor His creative nature when we permit Him to use us as we are.
 
Thank You, Father, for the great individuality You have built into us. Thank You for my personality and for my abilities. Guide me in using them for You.
 
There are no ordinary people—we were created to be unique.
 
INSIGHT:  Peter writes a lot about how important it is to know who we are. He wrote as someone who knew what it was like to live under a new name and personal history. By natural birth he was Jewish by ancestry, the son of John (Jona), from the Galilean fishing village of Bethsaida. But when he introduced himself in his first letter, he described himself and those he was writing to as those who had been “born again” with a spiritual birth far beyond the life span and giftedness received from our mortal parents (1:3, 23). To go along with this new identity, Peter gives examples of the spiritual abilities God gives each of His children so that we can enjoy what it means to allow God’s generosity to flow through us to others (1 Peter 4:10–11). What are some ways God is using you?
 
– Dave Branon

 



Mayday! [March 11, 2017]

Read: Psalm 86:1–13 | Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 14–16; Mark 12:28–44
 
When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Psalm 86:7
 
The international distress signal “Mayday” is always repeated three times in a row—“Mayday-Mayday-Mayday”—so the situation will be clearly understood as a life-threatening emergency. The word was created in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio officer at London’s Croydon Airport. That now-closed facility once had many flights to and from Le Bourget Airport in Paris. According to the National Maritime Museum, Mockford coined Mayday from the French word m’aidez, which means, “help me.”
 
Throughout King David’s life, he faced life-threatening situations for which there seemed to be no way out. Yet, we read in Psalm 86 that during his darkest hours, David’s confidence was in the Lord. “Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.  When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me” (vv. 6–7).
 
David also saw beyond the immediate danger by asking God to lead his steps: “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (v. 11). When the crisis was past, he wanted to keep walking with God.
 
The most difficult situations we face can become doorways to a deeper relationship with our Lord. This begins when we call on Him to help us in our trouble, and also to lead us each day in His way.
 
Lord, even as we call to You for help today, please help us to keep walking with You when this crisis is over.
 
God hears our cries for help and leads us in His way.
 
INSIGHT:  In today’s psalm, David asks for God’s help in his time of trouble but looks beyond this difficult time. In verse 11, he asks God to teach him His ways, so he can rely on God’s faithfulness. David knew that learning God’s ways would change the way he responded to the situations of life. Spending time with God, learning who He is and what He has done, draws us close to Him and changes us. What situation are you facing for which you need God’s help?
 
– David McCasland

 

Read more…