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June 11, 2021

1 Peter 1:8

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.

In the twilight of her years, Mrs. Goodrich’s thoughts came in and out of focus along with memories of a challenging and grace-filled life. Sitting by a window overlooking the waters of Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, she reached for her notepad. In words she soon wouldn’t recognize as her own she wrote: “Here I am in my favorite chair, with my feet on the sill, and my heart in the air. The sun-struck waves on the water below, in constant motion—to where I don’t know. But thank You—dear Father above—for Your innumerable gifts and Your undying love! It always amazes me—How can it be? That I’m so in love with One I can’t see.”

The apostle Peter acknowledged such wonder. He had seen Jesus with his own eyes, but those who would read his letter had not. “Though you have not seen him . . . you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). We love Jesus not because we’re commanded to, but because with the help of the Spirit (v. 11) we begin to see how much He loves us.

It’s more than hearing that He cares for people like us. It’s experiencing for ourselves the promise of Christ to make the wonder of His unseen presence and Spirit real to us at every stage of life.

By Mart DeHaan

 

REFLECT & PRAY

Read 1 Peter 1:3–9 again. In what ways do these words show you how our God makes the inexpressible real to us? How open are you to the Spirit of Jesus, who lives in and among us?

Our Father in heaven, please help me to see the miracle of Your love and presence in Your Son and to believe in Your Spirit.

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

The Greek word for hope in the New Testament (elpis) is used in much the same way as the Old Testament words for hope—to emphasize waiting in expectation for God’s promised future (see Psalm 39:7). But the New Testament emphasizes Jesus as the ultimate source for hope and the ultimate demonstration of God’s goodness and faithfulness. In 1 Peter 1, the author describes believers’ “living hope” as rooted securely in the future accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection (v. 3). It’s this hope that helps believers survive times of great hardship in expectation of the final “salvation” (v. 5) that will “be revealed in the last time.” Here, “salvation” refers to the final and complete deliverance from evil and death that will be accomplished at Jesus’ final return.

Monica La Rose

 

 

 

June 10, 2021

Ezekiel 32:2

You

are like a lion among the nations, you are like a monster in the seas.

The leader of our video conference said, “Good morning!” I said “Hello” back, but I wasn’t looking at him. I was distracted by my own image on the screen. Do I look like this? I looked at the smiling faces of the others on the call. That looks like them. So yes, this must be me. I should lose some weight. And get a haircut.

In his mind, Pharaoh was pretty great. He was “a lion among the nations . . . a monster in the seas” (Ezekiel 32:2). But then he caught a glimpse of himself from God’s perspective. God said he was in trouble and that He would expose his carcass to wild animals, causing “many peoples to be appalled at you, and their kings [to] shudder with horror because of you” (v. 10). Pharaoh was much less impressive than he thought.

We may think we’re “spiritually handsome”—until we see our sin as God sees it. Compared to His holy standard, even “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). But God also sees something else, something even more true: He sees Jesus, and He sees us in Jesus.

Feeling discouraged about how you are? Remember this is not who you are. If you have put your trust in Jesus, then you’re in Jesus, and His holiness drapes over you. You’re more beautiful than you imagine.

By Mike Wittmer

 

REFLECT & PRAY

What image do you have of yourself? How does that compare to the image God has of you?

Jesus, I cling to You. Your love and goodness beautifies me.

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

The prophecy against Egypt in Ezekiel 32 is prolonged and graphic underscoring God’s sovereignty over the course of this world and the kings and kingdoms that inhabit it. His message to the king of Egypt, portrayed as causing chaos (“muddying the streams” v. 2), is that his destruction is coming. In verses 3–10, God declares eleven times, “I will . . . .” Though He uses people to accomplish His will (v. 3), He’s the One who brings it about.

J.R. Hudberg

 

 

 

 

June 9, 2021

Ephesians 4:13

Become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

A recent survey asked respondents to identify the age at which they believed they became adults. Those who considered themselves adults pointed to specific behaviors as evidence of their status. Having a budget and buying a house topped the list as being marks of “adulting.” Other adult activities ranged from cooking dinner every weeknight and scheduling one’s own medical appointments, to the more humorous ability to choose to eat snacks for dinner or being excited to stay at home on a Saturday evening instead of going out.

The Bible says we should press on toward spiritual maturity as well. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, urging the people to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). While we’re “young” in our faith, we’re vulnerable to “every wind of teaching” (v. 14), which often results in division among us. Instead, as we mature in our understanding of the truth, we function as a unified body under “him who is the head, that is, Christ” (v. 15).

God gave us His Spirit to help us grow into a full understanding of who He is (John 14:26), and He equips pastors and teachers to instruct and lead us toward maturity in our faith (Ephesians 4:11–12). Just as certain characteristics are evidence of physical maturity, our unity as His body is evidence of our spiritual growth.

By Kirsten Holmberg

 

REFLECT & PRAY

In what ways are you still vulnerable to “every wind of teaching”? How can you continue to grow spiritually?

Loving God, You’re the author of my growth and maturity. Please help me to see where my understanding of You is still immature and teach me more of Your wisdom.

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 contain the two main lists of what we call “spiritual gifts” (Spirit-empowered giftedness for serving God and fellow believers in Christ). While these lists are extensive, they’re not necessarily exhaustive. Though some consider Ephesians 4:11 as another list, it seems quite different. The gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 represent the gifted leaders that God provides for the growth, encouragement, and strengthening of the body. This seems to be the point of verse 12, which reminds us that these leaders were appointed to equip believers in Jesus for spiritual service. As such, these two kinds of “gifts” are connected. The Spirit provides the spiritual enabling, and spiritual leaders are there to train and equip people to employ those gifts in ministry.

Bill Crowder

 

 

June 8, 2021

Exodus 3:8

I have come down to rescue them.

After being informed of a 911 call from a concerned citizen, a police officer drove alongside the train tracks, shining his floodlight into the dark until he spotted the vehicle straddling the iron rails. The trooper’s dashboard camera captured the harrowing scene as a train barreled toward the car. “That train was coming fast,” the officer said, “Fifty to eighty miles per hour.” Acting without hesitation, he pulled an unconscious man from the car mere seconds before the train slammed into it.

Scripture reveals God as the One who rescues—often precisely when all seems lost. Trapped in Egypt and withering under suffocating oppression, the Israelites imagined no possibility for escape. In Exodus, however, we find God offering them words resounding with hope: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt,” He said. “I have heard them crying out . . . and I am concerned about their suffering” (3:7). And God not only saw—God acted. “I have come down to rescue them” (v. 8). God led Israel out of bondage. This was a divine rescue.

God’s rescue of Israel reveals God’s heart—and His power—to help all of us who are in need. He assists those of us who are destined for ruin unless God arrives to save us. Though our situation may be dire or impossible, we can lift our eyes and heart and watch for the One who loves to rescue.

By Winn Collier

 

REFLECT & PRAY

Where does all seem lost and where do you need God’s rescue? How can you turn your hope to Him in this dire place?

God, I’m in real trouble, and if You don’t help me, I don’t see a good ending. Will You help me? Will You rescue me?

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

The book of Exodus describes the culmination of the Israelites’ time in Egypt. They’d been in the land for 430 years (Exodus 12:40) and had become so numerous that the Egyptians decided to treat them harshly to prevent their numbers from increasing (1:6–10). God had made a promise to Abraham to bring his descendants to the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:13–16; 17:8)—“a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17)—and God always keeps His promises. When He appeared to Moses in the burning bush in chapter 3, it was part of His plan unfolding. However, Pharaoh wouldn’t allow the Israelites to go. Chapter 12 describes their final release, but they continued to face many challenges that left them wandering in the wilderness until they finally reached the promised land (see Joshua 3–4).

Julie Schwab

 

 

June 7, 2021

Proverbs 14:1

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers.

Sojourner Truth, whose birth name was Isabella Baumfree, was born a slave in 1797 in Esopus, New York. Though nearly all her children were sold as slaves, she escaped to freedom in 1826 with one daughter and lived with a family who paid the money for her freedom. Instead of allowing an unjust system to keep her family apart, she took legal action to regain her small son Peter—an amazing feat for an African American woman in that day. Knowing she couldn’t raise her children without God’s help, she became a believer in Christ and later changed her name to Sojourner Truth to show that her life was built on the foundation of God’s truth.

King Solomon, the writer of Proverbs 14, declares, “The wise woman builds her house” (v. 1). In contrast, one without wisdom “tears hers down.” This building metaphor shows the wisdom God provides to those willing to listen. How does one build a house with wisdom? By saying “only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:11). How does one tear down? Proverbs 14 gives the answer: “A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride” (v. 3).

Sojourner had a “secure fortress” (v. 26) in a turbulent time, thanks to the wisdom of God. You may never have to rescue your children from an injustice. But you can build your house on the same foundation Sojourner did—the wisdom of God.

By Linda Washington

 

REFLECT & PRAY

What foundation is your house established upon? How will you build your house this week? Father, I need Your wisdom to build a lasting legacy for Your glory.

  

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

The “wise woman” of Proverbs 14:1, who “builds her house” rather than tearing it down, finds a fuller description in Proverbs 31:10–31. This “wife of noble character” (v. 10) not only “speaks with wisdom” (v. 26) but manages her household and business affairs with skill and dignity and “opens her arms to the poor and . . . needy” (v. 20). The New Testament women Dorcas and Lydia seem to fit this description in many aspects. Dorcas (or Tabitha) was a disciple who “was always doing good and helping the poor” by making “robes and other clothing.” When she fell sick and died, Peter raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36–42). Lydia was a “dealer in purple cloth” and a “worshiper of God” who opened her home to Paul and his companions (16:13–15, 40). The key characteristic of the wise woman is that she “fears the Lord ” (Proverbs 31:30).

Alyson Kieda

 

 

June 6, 2021

1 John 3:2

We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him.

Inside my parents’ old photo album is a picture of a young boy. He has a round face, freckles, and straight, light-blond hair. He loves cartoons, hates avocados, and owns just one record, by Abba. Also inside that album are pictures of a teenager. His face is long, not round; his hair is wavy, not straight. He has no freckles, likes avocados, watches movies rather than cartoons, and would never admit to owning an Abba record! The boy and the teenager are little alike. According to science they have different skin, teeth, blood, and bones. And yet they are both me. This paradox has baffled philosophers. Since we change throughout our lives, who is the real us?

The Scriptures provide the answer. From the moment God began knitting us together in the womb (Psalm 139:13–14), we’ve been growing into our unique design. While we can’t yet imagine what we’ll finally become, we know that if we’re children of God we’ll ultimately be like Jesus (1 John 3:2)—our body with His nature, our personality but His character, all our gifts glistening, all our sins gone.

Until the day Jesus returns, we’re being drawn toward this future self. By His work, step by step, we can reflect His image ever more clearly (2 Corinthians 3:18). We aren’t yet who we’re meant to be, but as we become like Him, we become our true selves.

By Sheridan Voysey

 

REFLECT & PRAY

When songs and films encourage us to find our “true selves,” what do you think they miss? In what area can you step toward Christlikeness today?

Jesus, make me more like You today and every day.

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

What makes a true child of God? John answers that question both here in 1 John 3 and in another of his writings. In the account of Jesus’ life we know as the gospel of John, he wrote: “To all who did receive [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent . . . but born of God” (John 1:12–13). Now, in this letter, John notes that as His children “we shall be like him [Jesus]” (1 John 3:2). Later in the chapter, John makes the point that a key evidence of our status as God’s children is our love for each other (v. 10). This is such a vital aspect that John says, “Anyone who does not love remains in death” (v. 14). True children of God will love each other.

Tim Gustafson

 

 

June 5, 2021

Romans 12:12

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Rogelio served as our waiter during our weeklong vacation. In one conversation, he credited Jesus for blessing him with Kaly, a compassionate wife with strong faith. After they had their first baby, God gave them the opportunity to help care for their niece who had Down syndrome. Soon after, Rogelio’s mother-in-law needed live-in care.

Rogelio works with joy, often taking on double shifts to ensure his wife can stay home to care for the people God entrusted to them. When I shared how the couple inspired me to love better because of the way they opened their hearts and home to serve their family members, he said, “It is my pleasure to serve them . . . and you.”

Rogelio’s life affirms the power of living with generosity and trusting God to provide as we serve one another selflessly. The apostle Paul urged God’s people to be “devoted to one another in love . . . joyful in hope, patient in affliction, [and] faithful in prayer” as we “share with the Lord’s people who are in need [and] practice hospitality” (Romans 12:10–13).

Our life can change in an instant, leaving us or those we love in circumstances that feel impossible to bear. But when we’re willing to share all God has given us while we wait on Him, we can cling to His enduring love . . . together.

By Xochitl Dixon

 

REFLECT & PRAY

How can you prayerfully and physically support someone in need today? How has God used someone to offer you tangible support while you waited for Him?

God, please help me love others while I wait for You to work in and through my circumstances.

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Love is the subject of a series of exhortations in Paul’s letter to the believers in Jesus in Rome. Romans 12:9–21 describes in detail what sincere love looks like. One common aspect of each of these expressions of love is that it requires putting the needs and interests of others ahead of our own. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul reiterates the sacrificial nature of love and describes what love is and what it isn’t. Again, the common aspect of love described in this passage is that it focuses on the good of someone else. Jesus taught that the greatest love is self-sacrificing: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). To say that we love includes placing others ahead of ourselves.

J.R. Hudberg

 

 

June 4, 2021

Deuteronomy 32:4

All [God’s] ways are just.

In 1983, three teens were arrested for the murder of a fourteen-year-old. According to news reports, the younger teen was “shot . . . because of his [athletic] jacket.” Sentenced to life in prison, the three spent thirty-six years behind bars before evidence surfaced that revealed their innocence. Another man had committed the crime. Before the judge released them as free men, he issued an apology.

No matter how hard we try (and no matter how much good is done by our officials), human justice is often flawed. We never have all the information. Sometimes dishonest people manipulate the facts. Sometimes we’re just wrong. And often, evils may take years to be righted, if they ever are in our lifetime. Thankfully, unlike fickle humans, God wields perfect justice. “His works are perfect,” says Moses, “and all his ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4). God sees things as they truly are. In time, after we’ve done our worst, God will bring about final, ultimate justice. Though uncertain of the timing, we have confidence because we serve a “faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (v. 4).

We may be dogged by uncertainty regarding what’s right or wrong. We may fear that the injustices done to us or those we love will never be made right. But we can trust the God of justice to one day—either in this life or the next—enact justice for us.

By Winn Collier

 

REFLECT & PRAY

Where have you seen justice abused or misrepresented? Where does your heart cry out for God to bring justice?

God, I see injustice all around me: in the news, in my relationships, on social media. Thank You for the hope I can have in You and Your just ways.

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Much of the book of Deuteronomy (which means “second law”) consists of Moses’ farewell address to the children of Israel, including a recitation of the law that the nation had agreed to forty years earlier at Mount Sinai. At this point, Moses had been leading the nation since their departure from Egypt four decades earlier, but most of the adults who’d been present at Sinai were no longer alive. As such, a repeating of the covenant was very appropriate. This farewell isn’t a victory celebration, however. Soon the people of Israel would enter the promised land—but Joshua, not Moses, would lead them. Moses was prohibited from entering because of an event of spiritual failure during the wilderness wanderings (Numbers 20:12–13). The book that begins with Israel at the Jordan, ready to start a new life, ends with Moses’ death and Joshua’s rise to leadership.

Bill Crowder

 

  

June 3, 2021

Lamentation 3:25

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him.

I dropped to my knees and let my tears fall to the floor. “God, why aren’t you taking care of me?” I cried. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. I’d been laid-off for almost a month, and something had gone wrong with my unemployment application. I hadn’t received any money yet, and the stimulus check the US government had promised hadn’t arrived. Deep down, I trusted that God would work out everything. I believed He truly loved me and would take care of me, but in that moment, I felt abandoned.

The book of Lamentations reminds us it’s okay to lament. The book was likely written during or soon after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587 bc.  It describes the affliction (3:1, 19), oppression (1:18), and starvation (2:20; 4:10) the people faced. Yet, in the middle of the book the author remembers why he could hope: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22–23). Despite the devastation, the author remembered that God remains faithful.

Sometimes it feels impossible to believe that “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (v. 25), especially when we don’t see an end to our suffering. But we can cry out to Him, trust that He hears us, and that He’ll be faithful to see us through.

By Julie Schwab

 

REFLECT & PRAY

What’s making it difficult for you to trust God today? What will help you feel comfortable enough to cry out to Him?

Father, I need You right now. Please help me to trust You to come through for me in my difficult situation.

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

When Jeremiah refers to “bitterness” and “gall” (Lamentations 3:19), bitterness is literally “wormwood,” a bitter-tasting plant, while gall is a poisonous plant that causes great pain if eaten. Together, the words function as a metaphor for great anguish, in this case attributed to God’s judgment (Jeremiah 9:15).

It’s the capacity to hope (Lamentations 3:21) that gives the prophet strength to endure. While today “hope” is often synonymous with an optimistic emotion, in the Old Testament both Hebrew words translated “hope” (yakhal and qavah) refer to waiting. In Lamentations 3:21, the word yakhal is used and is the same word translated “will wait for” in verse 24. Therefore, a posture of hope—waiting in expectation—isn’t based on an optimistic perspective on the current situation but on God’s character and faithfulness to bring about future restoration (see Psalm 39:7).

Monica La Rose

 

 

 June 2, 2021

1 Peter 2:12

Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors.

I came to learn about Catherine Hamlin, a remarkable Australian surgeon, through reading her obituary. In Ethiopia, Catherine and her husband established the world’s only hospital dedicated to curing women from the devastating physical and emotional trauma of obstetric fistulas, a common injury in the developing world that can occur during childbirth. Catherine is credited with overseeing the treatment of more than 60,000 women.

Still operating at the hospital when she was ninety-two years old, and still beginning each day with a cup of tea and Bible study, Hamlin told curious questioners that she was an ordinary believer in Jesus who was simply doing the job God had given her to do.

I was grateful to learn about her remarkable life because she powerfully exemplified for me Scripture’s encouragement to believers to live our lives in such a way that even people who actively reject God “may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12).

The power of God’s Spirit that called us out of spiritual darkness into a relationship with Him (v. 9) can also transform our work or areas of service into testimonies of our faith. In whatever passion or skill God has gifted us, we can embrace added meaning and purpose in doing all of it in a manner that has the power to point people to Him.

By Lisa M. Samra

 

REFLECT & PRAY

What has God called you to do? How might you do it today in Jesus’ name?

Jesus, may Your love and grace be evident in my words and deeds today.

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

In bold fashion, the apostle Peter refers to both Jewish and gentile readers as a divinely “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [and] God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9; see Exodus 19:5–6). Then comes the unexpected. Peter urges these same treasured people to bear their favored and exalted status with the humility of “foreigners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11–12). This contrast of being special and yet in exile (suffering) is important. From the beginning of time, God spoke of people like Adam, Eve, Abram, Isaac, and Jacob (later renamed Israel) as being chosen for the good of the world. Yet being “God’s elect” (1:1) meant more than special treatment. It meant being chosen to show a troubled humanity what it means to experience in Christ the presence, strength, and joy of God in weakness.

Mart DeHaan

 

  

June 1, 2021

Psalm 13:5

I trust in your unfailing love.

She was perhaps the greatest “scapecow” in history. We don’t know if her name was Daisy, Madeline, or Gwendolyn (each name has been suggested), but Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was blamed for the 1871 Great Chicago Fire that left every third resident of the city homeless. Carried by strong winds through wooden structures, the fire burned for three days and took the lives of nearly three hundred people.

For years, many believed the fire began when the cow knocked over a lantern left burning in a shed. After further investigation—126 years later—the city’s Committee on Police and Fire passed a resolution exonerating the cow and her owners and suggesting the activities of a neighbor warranted scrutiny.

Justice often takes time, and Scripture acknowledges how difficult that can be. The refrain, “How long?” is repeated four times in Psalm 13: “How long, Lord ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (vv. 1–2). But in the middle of his lament, David finds reason for faith and hope: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (v. 5).

Even when justice is delayed, God’s love will never fail us. We can trust and rest in Him not just for the moment but for eternity.

By James Banks

 

REFLECT & PRAY

In what ways has God shown you His unfailing love? How will you demonstrate trust in Him today?

Loving God, help me to trust You even when I can’t see what You’re doing. I’m thankful I can rest in Your goodness and faithfulness today.

 

SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

The lament psalm is a prominent type in the Hebrew psalter. In such a psalm, the singer pours out the pain of his heart to God with a candor that’s sometimes alarming. Psalm 13 is a perfect example of a lament, as it carries what Old Testament scholar Dr. David Lamb says are its five basic components. First is the invocation, where the singer addresses God Himself (v. 1, “L ord ”). This is followed by the complaint (vv. 1–2, “How long?”), then the request for help (vv. 3–4, “Look on me and answer”). All these components would be expected in a lament, but a proper lament psalm contains two more vital elements—a declaration of trust (v. 5, “I trust in your unfailing love”) that’s resolved in a call to worship (v. 6, “I will sing”). Lament drives us to trust in God and anticipates a time when the sting of pain is replaced with praise.

Bill Crowder