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Our 365 Daily Readings and Devotionals for 2018

Band-Aid

Band-Aids
By Bridget Foy

            I love this time of year. It’s a time where families come together and celebrate the holidays. When families come together, there are often meals shared, games played, and stories from our childhoods retold, reminisced, and laughed about. One story in particular that my family often brings up this time of year is a story my uncle tells. There really isn’t much to the story and it still perplexes me as to why my family finds this story so funny. But apparently, when I was about 3 years old, I was riding my tricycle out on the sidewalk in front of our house. My grandparents lived across the street and at the time, my uncle also lived with them. One day, my uncle was walking across the street to come to our house and he saw me outside riding my tricycle. I guess I was trying to set some sort of toddler world record for the fastest turn around a corner on a tricycle. I rode back and forth with all of my might as if the fate of the world depended on how fast I could make my tricycle go. But as I turned the corner, I completely wiped out. It was the toddler equivalent of a motorcycle crash complete with road rash, a skinned knee, and rocks stuck to my hands. My uncle stood watching and waiting to see if I was going to start crying like most little girls do when they get hurt. Nope! Absolutely not! I got up and started kicking the tar out of my tricycle and yelling at it for being a “stupid piece of junk.” My uncle just about died laughing. To this day, my family still continues to tell this story over and over again about how “Bridget was such a tough little kid. She never cried.”

            Over the past year and 5 months, God has issued me a challenge. The challenge has been to learn to run to my Heavenly Father when I’m hurt. It’s as if God has knelt down to that little girl on the sidewalk, looked her in the eyes, opened his arms, and has said, “it’s okay to come to me.” The way this challenge has been issued is that I have been encouraged to stop turning to other things when I’m stressed, hurt, scared, anxious, etc. Some of us turn to things like video games to escape to a virtual reality, some vent to others as if to regain a sense of justice by having their side of the story heard and understood, some drown it in the bottom of a bottle, some smoke it away, some eat their feelings, some exercise their brains out for a release of endorphins, some turn to sex/porn for that sense of being embraced instead of rejected, some obsess like lawyers within their own minds and replay their story and why they are right over and over again, some rehearse a skit in their minds of what they should have said instead for a good comeback, and the list goes on and on. Personally, I’ve learned to call these things “Band-Aids.” They don’t really fix the problem, but they give us the illusion that the wound isn’t bleeding anymore. It’s the things we do to try to make ourselves feel better. If you struggle with reaching for “band-aids”, here are 4 things God has been teaching me through the lens of Psalm 139 that might help you too.

Despite My Errors, My Circumstances, or My Fears I Am Loved Immensely.

Psalm 139:17-18 NLT says, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” You cannot even begin to comprehend just how much your Heavenly Father loves you. It’s a love that is so deep, so strong, so intense, so consuming that your mind can’t even begin to grasp it. Trying to comprehend it would be like going to Bradenton Beach and attempting to count every single grain of sand.  The love and understanding you crave when you’re hurt, anxious, scared, etc is found within the arms of your Father. And He can provide it in heaps and bounds far more than you can provide it for yourself with your “band-aid”. Run to Him! Pray. Cry out to Him when you need to.

God Knows and Understands My Anxious Thoughts.

Psalm 139:1-2 NLT says, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.” God knows what’s on your heart. He knows what hurts you, what brings you joy, your fears, your failures, your victories, your triumphs….all of it. Sometimes we reach for a “band-aid” simply because we are desperate for somebody to understand where we are coming from and why we feel the way we do. Guess what, God does! He understands you more than anyone ever could or ever will. His PhD. is in Y.O.U. Going to bars, having one nightstands, doing drugs, calling up your girlfriends to gossip, late night internet searches while everyone else in the house is asleep, etc is not going to give you the sense of understanding and comfort your soul is crying out for. If you want to be truly understood, go to the one who created you!

God is Always With Me No Matter What.

Psalm 139:7 NLT says, “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!.” Maybe the reason you turn to your “band-aid” is because you feel lonely, afraid, forgotten, rejected or brushed off. Maybe you turned to a 1 nightstand because you are desperate for closeness. Maybe your internet searches in the early morning hours is because you are dying for physical touch and the warmth of another person. Maybe you finished off that bottle to numb the feeling of being alone. Maybe you injected that into your arm to quiet the silence. Whatever your reason for reaching for your “band-aid”, that sense of not being alone that your soul is craving is found in your relationship with your Heavenly Father. You are never alone! He is always right here. And if and when you reach for that “band-aid”, remember verse 11 says that even in darkness you cannot hide from him. God loves you enough that He doesn’t leave you. Stop trying to escape the loneliness when you’re not alone. Pray and talk to God. He’s there and he’s listening.

As I Come to Him, He is Faithful to Guide Me to Paths That Lead to His Kingdom.

         Maybe at this point in today’s reading, you understand and want to run to God, but you feel so stuck in the cycle of running to your “band-aid” that maybe you feel hopeless. If that is you, I want to say this: God loves you and right now at this moment, he is proud of you! It’s not easy learning how to break the cycle of hunting for “band-aids” and learn to run to your Heavenly Father instead. It’s not usually a one and done, fixed overnight sort of thing. It takes continually walking in relationship with God. It takes honest prayers and letting God into that part of your heart that you hide from everyone else. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Let God see your heart even when you’re hurting, anxious, lonely, etc. Let him lead you as the verse says. Trust him. He loves you, understands you, never leaves you, and will lead you through whatever has you reaching for a “band-aid”.  


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October 7

Who are you?
by Kevin Clark
 
 
Have you noticed our growing affinity toward labels? Are you gay or straight or a mixture thereof? Does your identity include a hyphen to highlight your cultural heritage or beliefs? Native, European, African, Evangelical, Fundamental, Conservative, Liberal, Progressive, Independent, Baptist, Pentecostal, Non-affiliated, and the list seems endless. Are you defined by your generation, your profession, your diet, your place of birth, or your hobbies? In a quest to find our unique identity we have created great division and distrust.
 
 
In the three verses of this opening passage in Acts 13, we see how the early church united people from a vast variety of backgrounds. A very encouraging picture of unity. Faith in Jesus, in its purest unadulterated form, is unifying. I would hope that we could return to that place of grace, set aside our divisions and embrace our identity in Jesus.

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October 3

Gangsters Loved
by Michael Dunn
 
 
In today’s reading, we see religious people getting mad at Peter for hanging out with a group of people called the Gentiles.
 
 
A Gentile was a name given to anyone who was not a Jew. Most Jewish believers thought that God offered salvation only to the Jews simply because God had given His law specifically to them. The Jews were just as broken and imperfect as we are today, and religion can’t save you anymore today than it could back then. Because of our imperfections, we needed someone who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. That sacrifice would come in the form of a person by the name of Jesus.
 
 
I recently read an article about a Christian rap/hip hop artist by the name of Thi’sl. He was recently a victim, who was shot during an attempted robbery. He wrote this article from his hospital bed after the doctor told him that he was going to have a long road to recovery. He said “I’m out here every day breaking my back to save the very dudes that just tried to rob me.” I instantly combatted those thoughts with, “This is the reason why I have to go harder, so these dudes don’t have to do this.” This will not shake me or change the way I view these young men. I still want to see these young men changed.  I still want to see them come to know their creator and experience the saving grace of Jesus!
 
 
Thi’sl was sharing the same good news that Peter was sharing. He knows that because of what Jesus did, you can be saved. He has the power to save you no matter where you are from, no matter what you did, or what you’re thinking about doing. Whether Jew, Gentile, or gangster, he died for you! As you read through today’s verses, let Peter’s courage inspire you to share the good news wherever you go! .

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October 2

Would You Like to Come Inside?

By Kristen Dunn
In our current ladies’ bible study, we are studying biblical hospitality and what that looks like in today’s society. We are digging in and learning how to see Jesus as our greatest example. You see, He was always moving, never had a permanent address, and yet He was always inviting people to join Him. It is no different in verse 34 & 35 when He tells us the door is open.
 
God is offering this constant invitation. He is always there ready for us, and His door is always open.  It doesn’t matter what we look like, how we dress, what we do for a living, what color our skin is. He is giving us an invitation and it is up to us accept His offer.
 
“It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.” Acts 10:34-35 Message  
 
If you were there listing to Peter as a Gentile, what would you do? Would you accept the invitation? It is crazy to think that same invitation that was offered so many years ago is still alive and relevant today.

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October 1

COMING TOGETHER
by Pat Norman
 
I don’t know about you, but I have never had an angel of God appear in a vision and tell me to send for somebody…anybody. And Peter’s noontime vision of “something like a large sheet let down from heaven with all of God’s animals, reptiles, birds on it” sounds like a giant movie projection screen from heaven. So, I’m thinking these spiritual visions were coming attractions of what God wanted Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was a God-fearing man, and the apostle
 
Peter to perceive in the natural. Cornelius needed to meet Peter, hear his witness and teachings about Jesus Christ and become one of the first Gentiles to be a baptized Christian.
 
Peter did not know what to make of the voice telling him to “kill and eat” anything on the sheet, which was against Jewish law. But he came to realize that what he heard three times, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” 10:15, also applied to men. “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” 10:28.  Peter needed to change his perspective about Jewish law regarding food and relationships with Gentiles.
 
Both men heard and obeyed God through visions which brought all who were with them together because of their faith. I may never have a spectacular vision, but I pray I will not miss hearing even a whisper of God’s voice.

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September 30

Only takes One

by: Valery Dierdorf 
 
Why do you think Luke included these two stories? As an example of what we are to do? Or is there more to see here? Are we to pray for the sick? Sure!  But as we read on, I think we start to see the ‘bigger’ plan of God.
 
Peter finds this guy named Aeneas who was paralyzed for 80 years! Peter said,  “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up… and immediately he got up. It doesn’t even say he needed physical therapy to build up his strength after his 80 years in bed! Complete! Not a partial or as you go miracle. When the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent for him to come to Joppa. He was told of the death of a disciple named Dorcas. She was known for her goodness in helping the poor. He was taken to her room where widows stood around, crying and showing Peter the things she had made. I’m not sure why Peter sent them all out of the room before he prayed, unless he wanted to remove any fear or doubt or maybe just pure obedience to the Lord. It doesn’t say. Yet he prayed, then said, “get up”. The passage says she opened her eyes, saw Peter and sat up. So what are we to draw from these two really great miracles? One in Lydda, and one in Joppa that was recorded. What happened in both towns after each miracle is what I believe is the greater miracle. If we look back at these two stories, we see in both places that revival broke out! All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him walking and knew his story and turned to the Lord. When Peter presented Dorcas alive to the believers, especially the widows, it became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord from that day forward.
 
People are looking to us and the church saying; “show me the plan for love, grace, men, women, healing, marriage, family, peace, anxiety, hope, trust, anger, deliverance, wisdom, joy, depression and doubt.” Maybe this passage is showing us it only takes one Real Miracle? Are you that miracle that God wants to use in your area of influence? They didn’t become perfect.  They had just felt the hand of God move in their situation. They had a story to tell of how He came into their darkness and brought light. The physically or spiritually dead or handicapped still need a miracle. And I believe He is still a miracle, healing, life giving- City Saving God Today!

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September 29

Got to tell somebody!

By: Valery Dierdorf

Acts 9:19-31

Saul was the type of guy, if he really believed something he wouldn’t hide it. He wasn’t afraid of offending someone. He wasn’t going to be a secret Christian. It was so real and he was so full of the truth that had been revealed to him that he could not contain this love. Had he lived nowadays, he might have broken out in, “Praise Will Be My Song—I cannot contain, I cannot contain this love.”

So, this passage tells us as soon as he started feeling good he began to preach in the synagogues and tell everyone Jesus really is the Son of God. Many were like, “Isn’t this the guy that raised havoc over in Jerusalem with those who believed in this Jesus, even taking them as prisoners and killing them?”

Yet Saul became more powerful which really brought a division in the Jews living in Damascus by him proving Jesus was the Messiah to those who would hear. Then Saul learned of a plan of how these Jews were looking to kill him. But his followers helped him escape to Jerusalem. Oh, more fun begins! He wants to join up with the disciples. Can you imagine…let’s be honest! We would have been just as afraid and not trust him. The zebra stripe story I’m sure would be quoted.

But Barnabas took him to the apostles and explained what had happened and how the Lord had spoken to him and how fearlessly he was now preaching of Jesus. So Saul was then able to stay with them and move about freely in Jerusalem speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He even debated with the Hellenistic Jews which once again put a price on his head. So a new address was in Saul’s future! Caesarea to Tarsus was the new itinerary.

Then in God’s plan, the church in Judea, Galilee and Samaria had a time of increase, peace and strengthened as they lived for the Lord and was encouraged by the Holy Spirit.

In God’s time, He does all things beautiful in His time! He sees so much farther ahead than we ever could. He anoints, He calls, He sets apart, He protects—yet I love that it takes the whole body of believers to have His plans succeed. Serving God is exciting and can be costly far more than being a 007 agent. Because it’s real! And so are the rewards!

Will you accept this mission?


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September 28

Open the eyes of my heart

by: Valery Dierdorf

Acts 9:1-19

Have you seen the movie: Paul, Apostle of Christ? If not, there is no other movie I could recommend to be seen more than this one! It shows the risk and cost and reward of following Christ.

You see Paul was formally Saul. No one had hated the believers like Saul. Hunting them down like dogs with the blessing of the high priest.

You’ve heard the expression “but God!”.  We use it when God steps in with a different plan or a different view of what the outcome should be.  The Bible is filled with examples of lives changed when God stepped in. I’m not sure of many I enjoy more, or that give the lasting effect more, than Paul’s encounter with Christ.

He first calls him by name (he already knew him), he met him on the road to Damascus (he knew where he was and the direction he was going), he spoke into his life that He was Jesus, the One he was really persecuting by his daily actions.

Those with Saul heard the noise but saw nothing except Saul fall. Helping him, Saul traveled for three days, blind, no food or drink.

Then the “but God” part starts. The Lord goes to Ananias in a vision and tells him to go to Judas’ home and, in short, pray for Saul as the Lord had already prepared him. Sounds great! Stop: Ananias said, but I have heard this is the guy that is hurting your people and has the chief priests’ okay. But the Lord still said, GO! I have chosen to use ‘this’ man to proclaim my name to the Gentiles, their kings and people of Israel. So, Ananias (obeyed) went, prayed and, of course, the results were healing, and the Bible says Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized.

I love this story because it gives me hope. Not just for me, but all who are away from God or those who have never met Him. He knows us by name, He knows where we are going, He has the healing we need and who will bring it to us, and He has a purpose for our lives. A purpose way beyond today… beyond what we can ever imagine. Yet for the “but God” moment to happen, we see both men had to obey and blindly trust in someone bigger than themselves. More than just physical sight—maybe I need to sing the song, “Open the eyes of my heart Lord. I want to see you.”


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September 27

Part of my daily prayer is that God would put someone in my path to share the good news of the gospel, and He usually does. A frequent comment that is usually shared by people is that they don’t understand scripture. I love when people say that. That statement presents the opportunity to share and explain the gospel.

 

The disciples of Jesus often asked him to explain some of his teachings when they were alone. A family my wife and I visited said that they were confused because too many had shared their opinions and not the gospel. I read them John 15:1-8.  After reading the scripture, I asked them if they had understood the reading.  They replied that it was very clear to them.

In Acts 8:26-40, the Ethiopian eunuch had the word of God in his hands but needed someone to explain to him the meaning of the scripture.  So, God’s Holy Spirit prompts Phillip to go to the eunuch. Scripture tells us that one sows the word of God and another reaps or “leads a person to Jesus”, but God gives the growth. Evangelism is one thing, but a divine appointment is something else. When God leads you to someone, or someone is led to you by the Holy Spirit, it’s because it’s harvest time.  Opinions lead to confusion, but the word of God leads to “salvation” for the word shall not return void!

 

Blessings – Pastor Andy

 


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September 26

 Cultural Barriers Fall
by Kevin Clark
 
 
I have seen a significant transformation in my lifetime. Regional diversity is much more difficult to identify in 21st Century America. What are the causes of that trend? Is it mass media, mass transportation, far-reaching commercial interest, television, radio, the internet or a combination of all that has monoculture our communities? As I travel from community to community across our great land, it is harder and harder to distinguish one town or state from another. Even as many cities are protecting their identity and celebrating their roots, others have long forgotten what made them special. I am not ready to condemn this trend even as I mourn the loss of those unique distinctions in our culture. The changing trends may also be unifying.
 
In today’s reading, we witness a significant cultural barrier fall in the early days of the Jesus movement. Philip courageously goes to the “dogs,” the Samaritans, the racially impure half-brothers of the Jewish people. He follows the lead of His Savior and reaches out in love to share the hope he has embraced. What barriers are we being called to break through to love another person? What do we have to give up to reach out? Pride? Safety? Convenience? Fear?

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