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Our 365 Daily Readings and Devotionals for 2018

May 24

Stand Firm

by Michael Dunn
 

Hurricanes are the most violent storms on earth. Back in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic damage along the gulf coast from central Florida to Texas. This storm has a place in history as being the costliest Atlantic hurricane ($125 billion in damage).

Not only does this hurricane hold a place in history, it also holds a place in my heart.  Ten days after Katrina hit, I was a part of a strike team that went to Mississippi to do search and rescue. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the kind of damage a category 5 hurricane could cause. All the houses on the coastline were completely wiped away, there were no walls, no roofs, nothing. Every house was completely gone! As I got a little closer, I noticed something interesting.  Even though all the houses were wiped away, the foundation remained.

Job experienced the kind of devastation that rivals a hurricane’s destructive path but his foundation was built on God, and he endured! In today’s scripture reading, we see Job’s restoration. We may never understand why bad things happen to people, but we can rest in the fact that God can use any disaster, whether spiritually or physically, for good. God loves us, and He will restore whatever we have lost. Cling tightly to your foundation in God through all of your trials, and you, too, will be rewarded. If not now, in eternity.


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May 23

When You Struggle with Anxiety

By Bridget Foy
 

As many of you know, last week I had a baby. He was born at 34 weeks and 6 days. Since he was a little premature, he has been having to stay in the NICU. When he was first born, he had some breathing problems that have since gone away. Praise God for that! Since then though, he was diagnosed with reflux and is unable to eat by mouth very much. Until he starts eating all of his feedings by mouth, he will be unable to come home.

If any of you have ever had a baby in the NICU then you know some of the challenges that come with it. You know the deep sense of longing to bring your baby home. You know the frustration of feeling you and your baby aren’t getting to bond enough. You know the fear of wondering if your baby recognizes you as mommy/daddy compared to all the nurses and doctors he sees 24/7. You worry if your baby feels loved and nurtured. You know the heartbreak of watching your little one cry as they get poked with a needle for the 3 billionth time. And the list of things you know goes on and on.

For me personally, I have been struggling with anxiety. All of these worries and fears and frustrations have been bouncing around in my heart and mind in the early morning hours. Perhaps I’m being a little bit too transparent. But I know many students at Bethel who struggle with anxiety. And I want to share the tools that have been helping me in those moments. They just might be helpful to you too. Maybe God will use my transparency to make a powerful difference in your life.  

When I’m feeling anxious, the first thing I do is get out a piece of paper and a pen. I start writing down all of the things that are going good in my life. I list everything I can think of. Here is an example:

  • My son no longer has breathing problems!
  • The students at Bethel are awesome!
  • I am surrounded by a loving church family.
  • We have been blessed by a meal-train.
  • My son has wonderful nurses who work hard to take good care of him.

If you struggle with anxiety, I highly recommend you start making this a regular practice. It shifts your focus from all the fear, frustration, worry, etc and helps you to see the good things in your life. The second thing I do is list the truth I know about God. The list might look ridiculously simple, but it helps your heart to relax and trust your Heavenly Father. Here is an example:

  • God loves my son.
  • God loves me.
  • God is in control.
  • God loves my marriage.
  • God gave me my job for a reason.
  • God placed me in this school for a reason.
  • God chose me to be this child’s mom/dad.

But maybe you are somebody who feels that a list like this is just too simple. Maybe you believe those statements, but in the moment, it doesn’t calm your heart. If that is the case, I challenge you to open up your Bible to Job 38:1-41. In Job 38, God is speaking to Job. Here is just a little snapshot of what God says to Job in verses 4-11.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions
    and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations,
    and who laid its cornerstone
as the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

 “Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
    as it burst from the womb,
and as I clothed it with clouds
    and wrapped it in thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates,
    limiting its shores.
I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
    Here your proud waves must stop!’

I love this passage! This passage reminds me that God is in control. He laid the foundations of the earth. He can handle whatever situation we are facing! He set the sea inside its boundaries. I mean, THIS is the God who is watching over you and taking care of you. To me, its mind-boggling. And at the same time, it calms my anxious thoughts and helps me to trust God. If you get a chance, open your Bible and read all of chapter 38. It just might open your eyes a little bit wider to just how much God is in control of your situation and has you in the palm of his hand.

I saved the most important thing I do when I feel anxious for last. Its actually the first thing I do, but I saved it for last because it is by far the most helpful thing I do. When I feel anxious, I open up to God and tell him exactly what’s on my heart. I don’t offer up shallow, timid prayers. I say the stuff that I wouldn’t say to anybody else. I don’t know why we sometimes have a tendency to hide behind holy sounding words or ritualized prayers, but God is our Abba Father. He knows us inside and out. He loves us more than anyone has ever loved us. We can trust Him more than our best friend, our spouse, family members, etc. When we have something weighing on our hearts, we can pour it out to God. When I was a sophomore in college, after one of my family members committed suicide, I sought advice from one of my professors. His advice to me was to pour everything out to God. He said, “God is a big boy. He can handle it.” Its kind of a funny thing for a Bible College professor to say, but there is truth to it. God can handle the things that weigh on our hearts and anxiety is no exception.

All of that said, if you are like me and you struggle with anxiety sometimes, I challenge you to start listing the things that are going well in your life, list the truth you know about God, read Job 38, and pray those gut-wrenching-honest prayers that you wouldn’t say to anybody else. God loves us and he knows the situations we face. I hope you found this devotional encouraging and that it added a few more tools to your toolbox. Love you guys!

 

P.S. I miss you all (especially the jr. high and high school students)! I will be back soon.


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May 22

“Skin for skin!”

By David Voight

Job 2:1-13

One word that can immediately strike fear into the heart of a person: cancer.  My nephew began a fight for his life when it was discovered he had a brain tumor.  For the past 5 years he has undergone one surgery after the other to remove tumors that continue to reappear.  Just when we think this is the last time he will have to face this threat, it seems to show up again and again.  But, with all the setbacks, his faith never waivers, and he still finds ways to praise God even in the midst of it all.

In Job 1, Job loses everything.  His family and all that he had was now gone and through it all he still finds a way to worship God.  Now we come to Job’s second test.  Satan insinuates that Job is nothing more than a selfish man and that he would give up everything in order to save his own skin.  “Skin for skin!”  That was Satan’s way of saying to God that a man will trade anything to save his own life.  So this time Satan takes away his health in order to get Job to curse God.  Job is tested and this time it is no different.  He recognizes that God allows good fortune as well as bad.  He continues to praise God through it all.

Are we so eager to accept good health and fortune from God but when things go south we get angry with Him?  My challenge for us this week is to try and seek God in all our circumstances: good and bad.  Maybe it’s God trying to get our attention.


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May 21

All Gone!
by Kevin Clark
Job 1:1-22 NLT
 
What would you do or think if tomorrow when you woke and everything and everyone you love was missing? Our journey of discovery continues to unveil men and women of powerful faith who remain resolute in the face of very difficult circumstances. But none more dramatic than the sudden turn of events that has rained down on Job’s formally perfect life.
 
Satan – “the accuser” is in the heavenly court charging God of showing favoritism toward Job to win his devotion. To prove Satan wrong, God allows Satan to test Job’s love and loyalty through a series of losses. At the conclusion of today’s reading Job, after hearing of all his losses falls on his face in worship. He says,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”
 
What a response! The losses do not drive Job away from God, it drove him toward God. Satan will continue to pressure Job to give in a curse God. Job will have to decide again if he will choose the blessing or “The Blesser” It is the same choices we make. Are we in love with what God gives us, promises us or can do for us? Or are we in love with God?

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May 20

Want Authentic Worship?  Try this!

By Andrew Seip

Nehemiah 8:1-18

When I was graduating from a Christian college it was fun sport to be “anti-church establishment.”  Our secular peers liked to say they were spiritual but not religious, and my Christian peers liked to say they followed Jesus, not religion.  Younger Christians wanted something more authentic, so the argument went.

The truth is, many of my peers were hurt by their experiences in churches.  They found that sometimes churches are run like businesses, and the mission of the Church gives way to self-preservation tactics and self-serving ambitions that can marginalize believers and non-believers alike.  This is certainly not always the case, but their grievances felt real.  Despite the tension that existed between opposing views of church, it is remarkable to me that on a global scale faithful disciples of Jesus can exist inside and outside the four walls of a church building.  The local church can exist as a safe place where imperfect people come together for corporate worship, in whatever form it takes.

Nehemiah and Ezra faced these same challenges almost 2500 years ago.  External threats and internal strife almost derailed the mission of the Jews to reestablish Jerusalem as the center of light to the world.  Holiness and faithfulness seemingly eluded them at every turn.  But as the work was completed in chapter seven, look closely at the following verses in chapter eight: God’s people gathered as one to hear the word of God and to worship.  What follows is weeping and repentance, calls to joy in God and faithful obedience to God’s word. 

Could it be that gratitude for what God had done for His people prompted this corporate gathering of heartfelt exaltation of their great God (Nehemiah 8:6)?  Perhaps if our hearts hungered for God out of gratitude for all He has done (i.e. the Cross), not worship based on our own good works, then we’d be too distracted making much of Him to become a circular firing squad.  Perhaps then the world would come to know Him as our great God (John 13:35).


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May 19

The Man Who Ended the Slave Trade

By Andrew Seip

Nehemiah 5:1-19

One person I would love to go back in time to meet is William Wilberforce.  If you haven’t heard of him before, Google him right now.  Wow, what a life!  Eighteenth and nineteenth century Great Britain was not a place for the faint of heart.  Moral corruption and social depravity ruled most of civilized life.  Worse still, slavery was a horrid fact of life.  Few people cared but a handful of out-group activists and “weird” Christians.  Wilberforce was not the first person to fight for the abolition of the slave trade, but he was one of the significant figures who laid their lives and reputations on the line to see the end of this grotesque practice.

In Nehemiah chapter five, there is an earlier account of the oppression of others.  In our world, it’s one thing to subjugate people you see as different, but it seems another thing to enslave your own people, and yet a whole other level for God’s people to enslave each other.  That’s what we see happening during Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild Jerusalem.  Like any good powerful figure, Nehemiah looks at this situation and figures it doesn’t serve his political future to oppose the wealthy nobles who will pay for his reelection bid.  No, he calls them to account before God!  Nehemiah put a stop to the evil practice and did not take even what was owed to him as governor in an effort to see God’s people prosper.  Even more, he and a group of others actually paid to set enslaved Jews free! 

We know why Nehemiah put everything on the line for the oppressed.  He feared God (Nehemiah 5:15).  Perhaps we could say it this way, Nehemiah feared God more than he feared man.  Sometimes I wonder if I could say the same about myself.  What about you?     


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May 18

God’s Provisional Leader

By Andrew Seip

Nehemiah 2:1-20

Nehemiah is an amazing character.  Long ago I lost track of the number of leadership books written using Nehemiah as the central figure.  Rightly so, his example is not irrelevant in a contemporary world.  Read through the first few chapters and you will find the kind of wisdom in leadership that would make even the late Steve Jobs blush.  Perhaps our political leaders today could learn a thing or two from Nehemiah’s tact and grace in diplomacy, boldness and courage in facing unrighteous opposition, and strategic thinking and planning to solve complex problems.

One thing that has always stuck with me about Nehemiah is his relationship with God.  Scholars speculate, but we don’t know if Nehemiah ever saw Jerusalem before going to repair the wall.  If he had not—or even if he had, for that matter—doesn’t it seem strange his first reaction to hearing of the city’s vulnerability would be to weep?  My mom’s family is from New England, but I don’t root for the Patriots or Red Sox even if they are playing a team I dislike.  I know of my family’s deep connection to the region, but I have no personal affinity with it beyond my family context.

Nehemiah’s heartache for Jerusalem comes from his love for God.  This led him to his knees in prayer, to ask for a sabbatical and provisions, to plan in a way that would likely lead to his desired outcome and to face opposition without fear.  At first glance in Nehemiah chapter two, I count ten significant risks for Nehemiah in taking on his task, each of which could potentially cost his life.  Why bother with all that trouble?  It’s not troublesome if you love God and trust His promises.


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