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January 2020

2020

Flying Chariots

January 31, 2020 • Kevin Zeller

The fleet of war machines hurtled through the air toward the city. The leader smiled fiercely, hands on the controls of his ship. “This is the greatest military power in the history of humanity,” he said to his officers, not caring if it was true. The leader’s ship went into a dive, and the fleet followed. The city darkened as the sun was blocked. Emergency sirens wailed, and fearful people ran from the streets. “It is high time this city fell,” the leader shouted, “laid waste like all the others! We will build a great empire, and nothing can stop us now! Nothing can stop this fleet!” The girl stood on the wall of the city, watching the approaching fleet. It filled the sky from east to west, and the noise of thundering rumbled her feet. Then silence. Great, whooshing silence. The girl gasped. The machines were plummeting from the sky, all at once in a great wave of wood and metal. The first struck the ground not far from the city wall, scraping up great piles of earth as the ships disintegrated with bright explosions. Soon the entire fleet lay in ruins, smoke rising up and up to the heavens. • What kinds of things do you put your hope in? • What kinds of technology or other manmade things do people place their hope in? • Reread Romans 8:22-28. As Christians, where is our hope? Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7 (NIV)

Found

January 30 • January 30, 2020 • Hope Bolinger

If you’d told me I’d get lost in New York City, I’d have begged you to wake me up from my nightmare. But lo and behold, during my junior year on choir tour, with over one hundred students jam-packed into a few charter buses, I ended up lost in one of the biggest cities in the world. I and a handful of other friends followed a chaperone who, although they were invested in getting a picture with a person dressed up as Woody from Toy Story in Times Square, didn’t invest in a GPS. But when we realized the time—thanks to the handy dandy screens in the Square—we scrambled toward the sidewalks to get back to the bus for our next tour stop. None of us had a keen sense of direction, and the only ones with cell phones didn’t have our choir director’s number. It was a time before any of us had smart phones, so no luck in using a GPS. Swerving from street to street, I felt my chest contract as tears welled up in my eyes. *We’ll never get back to the bus. They’ll ditch us and pick up a couple of Broadway actors to take our place. I mean, there are more than one hundred students. Who needs a couple of spare altos and sopranos who can’t read a map?* At long last, our choir director called one of our phones (she must’ve gotten the number from another student) and discovered our location. She rushed over, directed us to the bus’s position, and made sure we climbed aboard before we took off to our next destination. I had never related to Jesus’ story of the lost sheep until that day. Especially knowing that our choir teacher would not leave until she had all of us, even having to ditch the bus to locate where we’d gotten lost. And man, oh man, did it feel good to be found. • Have you ever been lost before? What did it feel like to be lost? What did it feel like to be found? • Reread today’s Bible passage. Where do you see yourself in the story of the lost sheep? The one who is lost? One of the ninety-nine? To learn more about how we all need to be found by Jesus, check out our "Know Jesus" page. What man among you, who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? Luke 15:4 (CSB)

Waiting

January 29 • January 29, 2020 • Melissa Yeagle

Did you grow up playing “I Spy”? It’s a great game to play on long car rides. Because the hardest part of long car rides is the waiting till you get there. Waiting is never fun. As Christians, we have to wait for many things. We are waiting for Christ’s return, and, in the meantime, we often wait for answers to our prayers. A wise Christian once told me God always has one of three answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait. While we know God is good, waiting to see His answers and the unfolding of His promises is hard. When we are in the midst of waiting, we can trust that God is good and we can stand on God’s promises in Christ. One of those promises? God is so good that He is working all things—the good and the bad—for good for all those who love Him (Romans 8:28). And here’s some great news: God will never break His promises. We might have to wait for His timing, but He will always keep His promises. • Can you think of a time when God answered your prayer with a wait? • Why is it important to remember God’s promises when you are waiting for something? It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:26 (NKJV)

Psalm 51: Confession of Rage

January 28 • January 28, 2020 • Kandi Zeller

Have mercy on me, O God. For I have sinned against You. Will you rip up the rage Within my heart of dirt, And plant in its place love, The nutrient of ruined earth? Against You, against Your image-bearers, I have injected venom, Poisoning another’s heart-soil In casting seeds of seething words, Reaping anything but Your truth. Purge me of rage, Clean me with forgiveness, Clothe me in Your love. Don’t leave me an orphan, Naked with sin festering in my blood. For only when the poison, a trail of infectious rage, Is replaced by the cleansing antidote of love Can I proclaim Your truth, Scattering seeds of Your life-giving words. • Why is it important to confess our sins to God? • Why do you think Jesus wants us to be honest with Him about our hurts and struggles? • What sin or struggle are you wrestling with? Have you been honest with Jesus about your sins and shortcomings? My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 1 John 2:1 (NLT)

Transformed

January 27 • January 27, 2020 • Kristi Dennis

When you know someone well, you generally know how they will act: your dog is going to eat any food that hits the floor, your teacher will stand in front of the class to teach, etc. But what if your teacher started doing handstands in front of the class? Or your dog started wearing tap shoes and a top hat? That would be pretty strange, right? In Exodus 34, there was something strange about Moses. His face literally glowed! Verse 29 tells us this happened to Moses “because he had spoken with the Lord.” Speaking with God—having a real encounter with Him—made Moses seem weird to his friends and family. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, He changed everything. As Christians, we are now saved from the power of sin. This good news changes us! We might not have glowing faces like Moses did, but we will become more like Christ as we get to know our Savior. We will start loving others better, being kind to those who aren’t kind to us, speaking truth instead of lies, and glorifying God in all areas of our lives. Moses had to cover his glowing face, but Paul says, “We all...with unveiled faces...are being transformed into his [Jesus’] image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). In other words, as Christians, we don’t want to hide the things God is doing in our lives because we want others to know what we have in Jesus. We might be afraid it will change our friendships or our status, but all of that is worth the love and peace we find in Jesus. Being like Jesus will sometimes mean we seem as strange as a dog who regularly dons tap shoes and a top hat! As Christians, we find comfort in 1 Peter 3:14: “if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” We have a relationship with Jesus, our Hope, who is with us always. Pray God will grant you courage to be more like Christ, even if it means people will notice. • Have your friends ever told you that you’re weird or that what you were doing wasn’t normal? What made you so different to them? • Why does following Jesus mean we will sometimes seem very different to those who don’t know Him? And we all...are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

Bird Food

January 26 • January 26, 2020 • Melissa Yeagle

Did you know that all birds do not eat the same kind of bird food? Some birds don’t even eat birdseed! Woodpeckers prefer to eat suet cakes as opposed to plain birdseed. Finches don’t like plain birdseed either. They prefer thistle seed or black oil sunflower seeds. Hummingbirds and orioles prefer to eat bugs, and they also like sweet treats like grape jelly, nectar, and orange slices. Crows and ravens prefer not to go to the bird feeder at all. Instead, they prefer to eat from a compost pile, or they will sometimes eat nuts scattered on the ground. God created each bird a little bit differently, and He knows them all personally. He knows what they like and want to eat. He puts them in areas of the world where they can get it. They don’t have to worry about where they’re going to eat. What do you worry about? Do you worry if you will have enough to eat, pass the test, or have someone to sit with at lunch? It’s normal to worry about some things, but it’s what we do with our worry that matters. We need to take all of our worries to Jesus, who is God the Son. He knows what we need and wants us to depend on Him. We can come to Him first with our problems, believing He is loving, trustworthy, and good. In today’s Bible passage, Jesus talks about how God the Father takes care of the birds and makes sure their needs are met. In turn, He will take care of us, His people. Just like different birds eat different kinds of food, each Christian has different needs. God knows each of us personally and will provide for our needs. We can trust Him to care for us and to make every wrong right in the end, knowing He is with us no matter what we face. • What are some of your needs right now? Talk to God about them in the space below. • Reread today’s Bible passage. What promises does Jesus make to His people? Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (NKJV)

The Un-Lost Son

January 25 • January 25, 2020 • H.K. Rausch

Abidan stretched, looking toward the sun. It was setting, so he left the field and approached the house. He stopped, listening. That sounds like a party, he thought, waving over Baanah the servant. “What’s going on tonight?” Abidan asked. “Your brother has returned!” Baanah said. “Your father has served the feasting calf to celebrate!” “Jabin’s back?” Abidan’s tone was angry. Baanah nodded. “Shall I get your father?” Abidan only threw up his hands in frustration. When Abidan saw his father coming, he turned away. “What do you want?” “I want you to join the party. Please come see your brother. It’s been thirteen months.” “I know.” Abidan’s voice was strained. “And I have been here. Working hard every day. Respecting you, always doing exactly what you’ve asked. I’ve given you everything, never once getting a goat to eat with my friends! Jabin runs off and wastes his inheritance. Upon his return, you restore him like he’s been a victim and I don’t even get told to leave the field early? Isn’t what I do enough to please you? The disobedient son gets all your love?” “My son, you are welcome to a goat and all I have!” said his father. “Abidan, you have not entrusted to me what I long for: your brokenness. You keep me at arm’s length all the time. You desire to be loved, but ‘doing enough’ cannot earn what you want.” His father continued. “Both my sons have been wrong in their perception of my love. One thought he could enjoy it by what he got from me, the other by what he could give to me. I celebrate Jabin’s return because he has come to discover what I will do with the truth about him, however ugly it might be. This is what I long for with you, Abidan. Will you come to the party, that I might celebrate the return of both my sons?” • What was Jesus contrasting by His parable of the two brothers? • Does Jesus want us to clean ourselves up before we come to Him (John 15:3-4)? Can our works, status, or what we don’t do sustain our relationship with Christ (Luke 18:9-14)? Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32 (CSB)

What Do They Think?

January 24 • January 24, 2020 • Leah Najimy

Have you ever felt like you had to work to get people to like you? School, church, homeschool co-op, work—anywhere you go there are expectations to act a certain way, to say certain things, to not do this, and to definitely not do that! You might feel like you have to guard yourself to make sure no one sees who you really are because they might not like that person. Looking for approval is something we all do, but we often look for acceptance in the wrong places. When we focus on being the cool kid or being the teacher’s favorite or wearing the right thing, we sometimes forget we belong to Jesus, our loving King and the One who should be the center of every action we take. It’s so difficult to fight the urge to fit in because, even though our world says, “Be yourself” and “You’re perfect just like you are,” we still are constantly being judged and even rejected by others. But why should we try so hard to fit in when God has called us to be different? In Christ, He’s given us a new identity as His children, and we belong to Him. When we focus on that truth, we don’t care how other people are acting. Because of the love Jesus gives us, we become focused on showing others His love and truth instead of worrying about what others think of us. Teenagers especially have an opportunity to be a light to the world. Why teenagers especially? You’ve heard the stereotypes! *Teenagers are lazy. They just want to have fun and be cool. They are self-obsessed and addicted to their phones.* But, in Christ, we can be the ones to break the stereotypes. We can be the ones who work hard and don’t care if other people think we’re weird. We can be the ones who are respectful, intuitive, smart, and helpful, putting others first and reflecting Christ’s truth and grace in every interaction (John 1:14). We don’t have to conform to the world’s expectations because we are being transformed to be like Jesus (Romans 12:1-2)! • Have you ever felt pressured to look or act a certain way? How did you deal with it? • Reread 1 Peter 2:9-12. What are some things that come with having our identity in Christ? • How does knowing we are accepted and loved in Jesus affect the way we view others and what they think about us? Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)

Things or People?

January 23 • January 23, 2020 • Kevin Zeller

People are more important than things. It sounds so obvious, and yet we often forget this important truth. This is where hospitality comes in. Hospitality, essentially, is acting as though the people in our lives are more important than the things. That’s right. Hospitality isn’t really about the things at all. We think of hospitality as serving nice food or using fancy dishes. Or having clean carpets and drawers. But true hospitality is not about these things. It’s about sharing your life with others. Being involved with their everyday existence. Eating together. Hanging out. Relaxing. Working. Jesus demonstrated this by taking on human nature and dwelling among us (John 1:14). He wants to share His whole life with His people and to participate in our lives. In fact, when He returns, He will never stop living with us, forever and ever (Revelation 21:1-5). So you don’t need a fancy guest room to share in the lives of others. You don’t need to make complicated food. Rejoice in Christ and His life shared with us. Be with others and love them in every aspect of their lives. • How can you become more involved in others’ lives and let them become more involved in yours? • How does thinking of Jesus’ hospitality toward us change the way you think about the gospel? They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:45-46 (NIV)

Listen

January 22 • January 22, 2020 • Bonnie Haveman

Editor’s Note: Today’s reading mentions the subject of abortion. Sarah and I had been best friends since third grade. She was an amazing ballerina and began ballet years before we met. I think the only time she went to church was when she went with me. We talked much about her need to have a relationship with Christ, but it never went past talking. Then, one day, Sarah came to me and was talking in disjointed sentences. “Jim and I...Mom says she knows someone. Mom will fix it. I have my ballet to think about. Someday I am going to New York. It doesn’t matter...forget I said anything.” We were fourteen, and I did not listen or comprehend what she was trying to tell me. It wasn’t until two years later that I understood. She’d had an abortion. While we still remain friends, our relationship has changed. We no longer enjoy the closeness we had before. I pray for Sarah every week; my heart yearns for her to know Jesus and His love for her. I often wonder, *How would the situation have been different if I had truly listened to Sarah? How could I have shown Jesus’ love and truth through my words and actions?* We all need Jesus, and, as Christians, living a life of love and kindness gives us opportunities to share the hope of Jesus in the darkest of situations. When a friend is struggling, listen—truly listen—to what they have to say. James 1:19 says to be “slow to speak.” He doesn’t say “don’t speak.” With words couched in God’s love, tell them of His grace and mercy. Because Jesus is the only One who can save us from the sin, brokenness, and death we all face. • No matter what situation you are facing, in Christ, you are never alone (Matthew 28:20). If you or a friend is facing a tough situation, who is a trusted adult you can talk with about it? • How can you listen to and speak with friends facing tough situations? How will the Holy Spirit help you speak the truth about Jesus into the situation (Luke 12:12)? • Abortion leaves a deep wound that only Jesus can heal. Jesus is the Ultimate Healer. If you are seeking healing after an abortion, find a trusted Christian friend who will listen. If you need someone to talk to, you can set up an appointment for a one time complimentary phone consultation with a Christian counselor through the Focus on the Family Counseling Service: In the United States, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time) to set up an appointment. In Canada, book your appointment by calling 1-800-661-9800 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (Pacific Time) and ask to speak with the care associate. Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19 (NLT)

Failures Aren't Fatal

January 21 • January 21, 2020 • Linda Ray Center

We all make wrong choices—we all sin. The struggle of a decision gone sour is real, but take heart. Mistakes don’t have to define us; they can refine us. Because of Jesus and what He did, God does not abandon those who make wrong decisions. A wrong decision leads us to a new experience of God’s grace and an opportunity to learn something. We can treat mistakes as chances to grow. Remember, if we know Christ, God remembers our wrong choices no more (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25). Even though we mess up daily, through God’s goodness, those unpleasant outcomes become something useful. Because of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, we are redeemed, despite our mistakes. Our failures aren’t the end of the road. They’re part of the growth process. That means that, as we journey through life, we can go to Jesus and acknowledge our mess-ups (1 John 1:9–2:1). As God’s children in Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom, correction, and reminders of who we are in Jesus, allowing us to grow spiritually. Before knowing Christ, we all are stuck under sin’s power. Even the Apostle Paul once built his life on persecuting Christians, a terrible decision that hurt many. God saw His heart and changed it, and Paul became a powerful witness for Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, Paul was able to live in victory over his sin, and so can we. Even when we mess up, we can remember Jesus has raised us up above our failures, giving us a new identity apart from the sins we commit or are tempted to commit. Instead, our identity is in who Jesus is. • How does knowing about identity in Christ affect the way you view yourself and the things you do or don’t do? • Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and 1 John 1:9–2:1. When you sin, what good comes from talking to Jesus about it? We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. Romans 6:6 (NLT)

Roll on Like a River

January 20 • January 20, 2020 • Naomi Vroegop

Mass shootings, racism, sexual assault, displacement—our world is riddled with injustices, and they sting. We live in a world broken by sin. But there is hope in the midst of these injustices. The book of Amos says God’s justice will “roll on like a river” (Amos 5:24). Then, in Revelation 21, God promises to one day remove death, suffering, and pain, wiping away our tears as He does. In short, God hears us when we cry out against injustice. But even though we know part of God’s plan is to bring His justice, we wonder, *How will He bring justice to all of the hurts in our world?* First, Jesus showed us God’s justice carried out. When He died on the cross, He took on the sins of the world and God’s just punishment for them. Anyone who puts their trust in Jesus has their sins nailed to the cross. Second, those who have rejected Jesus’ work on the cross will face Him at the Judgment Day, and He promises to punish and bring justice for every outstanding injustice then. So, ultimately, whether through the cross or at the Judgment Day, all injustice will be made right (2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Peter 3:9-13). In the meantime, God calls His people to act justly here and now as we wait for His upcoming justice. Jesus Himself acted against injustice in His everyday life when He flipped over tables in the temple, stopping the money changers who were taking advantage of people (Mark 11:15-17). That means that one way we can show Jesus to others is through seeking after justice. While we wait for our Savior to return and bring ultimate justice, we, as Christians, can speak out against any injustice we encounter. • Did anything surprise you from today’s reading? If so, what? • Where do you see injustice in the world today? How can you help, showing Jesus’ love and justice to those involved? And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man [Jesus] comes, will he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:7-8 (NIV)

The Victorious Gospel

January 19 • January 19, 2020 • Kevin Zeller

Jesus won. He went up against the cosmic forces of sin and death and beat them. He died, but He didn’t stay dead. His body came alive after three days in the tomb, and He is no longer mortal. He is free from death because He beat it. He is free from sin because He beat it. Decay, hatred, hopelessness—He beat them all. And to the Victor goes the spoils. He won the hearts of His people, but He also won their bodies, promising to resurrect them one day too. He won the planet called Earth, and the web of life that covers it. He won Luna, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and the star Sol. He won the Milky Way galaxy and the whole universe, observable or not. That’s why, as Christians, we don’t have to be afraid, even when it seems like Satan is winning. Even when it seems like the forces of sin, death, and confusion are overrunning the people of Christ. We aren’t fighting the battle. The battle has been fought, and the battle has been won by Jesus Christ. He will return, He will raise our bodies from the dead, and His people will live with Him in His universe forever. There will be no sin, and there will be no dying. Because Jesus beat them to death. • How does knowing that Jesus Christ beat sin and death change your everyday life? • What role does the resurrection play in Jesus’ victory? To learn more about how Jesus beat sin and death, check out our "Know Jesus" page. In this way, he [Jesus] disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:15 (NLT)

Always There

January 18 • January 18, 2020 • Elena Dee

When the night is dark, Your light dissolves the shadows. When sadness spills from my heart, Your mercy dries my tears. When fear extends its grip, Your protection shields me. When my weaknesses announce defeat, Your strength supports me. When my worries reign, Your peace rescues me. When the road is confusing, Your wisdom guides me. When the future looks dim, Your promises ignite my hope. When I remember, I am still, Safe, in the palm of Your hand. • When things are not going your way, what steps can you take to remember Jesus is always with you? • Reread today’s Scripture passage. Why are we safe in Christ even though we face harm and pain while living in a broken world? Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (CSB)

Words

January 17 • January 17, 2020 • Rebecca Morgan

There’s something wonderful about French fries. But have you ever had disappointing French fries? Ones with no salt? It’s the worst thing that can happen to a perfectly good batch of fries because salt makes things taste good. Do you know what else salt is good for? Our words. If we know Jesus, the Holy Spirit seasons our words so we can communicate the gospel clearly. He adds things like kindness, gentleness, grace, and love, allowing us to build people up with our words, not tear them down. But our speech doesn’t just impact others, it also impacts ourselves! If we spend a lot of time telling ourselves we are stupid, ugly, fat, unloved, or failures, that negative self-talk will become part of our identity. Having the ability to speak is special; we are set apart from the rest of creation because of it. The Bible encourages us to keep a close watch over our mouths, and Jesus—fully God and fully human—showed us how to do it. In His time of temptation, He quoted Scripture. When He was mocked and beaten, He chose silence motivated by kindness. And while dying on the cross, He spoke with grace and compassion as He asked God to forgive the people who crucified Him. Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection redeemed human speech. Once, our speech was centered on sin, but now, in Christ, we can speak the truth in love, as we learn to season every word with His love and good news. Even when we mess up, we have the opportunity to start anew, replacing trash talk with Christ-centered speech! • How have you been speaking about your friends, family, or yourself? • How do you talk about the difficult people in your life? • What specific negative thoughts toward yourself or others can be replaced with seeing people how Jesus sees them—with truth and love? Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6 (NKJV)

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