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How to Seek the Lord

Psalm 105:1-7

Although Scripture tells us to seek the Lord, many Christians struggle with this command. Some are so distracted by other interests and responsibilities that God is only a miniscule part of their goals and desires in life. When confronted with their responsibility to pursue Him, they often feel guilty but don’t know how to begin.

When desire for the Lord surpasses our eagerness for other pursuits, following through becomes more natural. But hunger for the Lord can be like an acquired taste. The more we pursue Him, the greater our hunger will be. However, if we ignore Him, what little appetite we have will diminish even further. Do you find that the latter describes your experience? If so, ask the heavenly Father to whet your appetite for Him—and follow through by making the effort to seek Him.

Begin with the Scriptures and prayer. Set aside time each day for meditating on God’s Word—listen for His voice, slowly digest what you read, talk to the Lord, ask Him questions, and apply what you learn to your life. Begin studying the Bible. Some of you may say, “I’ve never been into that.” My advice: Get into it! The deep things of God don’t just drop into our brains; they are placed there through diligent study.

Seeking anything requires time and effort. Will you invest your life in the pursuit of the Eternal One—the source of all contentment, joy, and hope? Or will you go after that which is fleeting? By neglecting the Lord, you cheat yourself of all the benefits He promises to those who diligently seek Him.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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4/11/19 7:41 A

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Trained to Discern
APRIL 11, 2019

Hebrews 5:11-14

In today’s world, impatience is an all-too-common trait. We want food, help, and information right away. Just waiting for the computer to turn on or the “next available agent” to answer our call can cause frustration. But the Lord specializes in steady work. He’s more interested in the quality of the process than a speedy outcome.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of spiritual discernment. When we become Christians, we aren’t instantly wise and knowledgeable—learning begins at salvation and continues the rest of our life.

Some believers, however, don’t seem to grow up at all. They get older, but their understanding of God’s Word never goes very deep. This lack of spiritual wisdom results from ignorance of the Scriptures, apathy and complacency about matters of faith, and a failure to apply biblical truths. Discernment requires time and effort. You can’t simply move through life, thoughtlessly reacting to situations yet never learning from them.

Take time to reflect on your responses and observe the consequences of your actions and choices. If you feel convicted by what you notice, let that motivate you to begin a lifelong pursuit of the Lord and His ways. Start reading the Bible regularly. And as you do, ask the Lord to open your heart and mind to understand what He’s saying.

Remember, just reading God’s Word isn’t enough. Without applying what you’ve read, all you’ll have is head knowledge. Obedience trains us to discern good and evil. Through practice, we learn wisdom and develop spiritual maturity. With God’s grace and your perseverance, the ability to discern will come.

Bible in One Year: 2 Samuel 20-22

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Bob Hook

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4/8/19 5:39 P

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Courage Behind Your Convictions

Daniel 1:1-21

Today we live in a society that is convinced there are no absolute moral truths. It not only considers the Bible outdated and irrelevant to contemporary problems but also sees each person as free to decide what is right. As a result, our culture is ungodly, immoral, violent, and self-centered. How are we as Christians supposed to live in such an environment?

We need look no further than the example of a teenage boy named Daniel, who had the courage to stand for his convictions in the midst of the depraved atmosphere of Babylon. Despite his immersion in Babylonian culture, he committed to following the Lord faithfully, even if doing so would cost him his life. The issue of diet may seem trivial to us, but Jewish people of his day believed eating meat that had been offered to idols was an abomination to God.

In the modern Western world, we may find it hard to relate to Daniel’s example. Few of us are willing to take such a bold stand even though we have no fear of losing our life. It’s the threat of rejection, ridicule, or being seen as narrow-minded or judgmental that keeps us silent. Or worse, it may be that we don’t have any strong convictions because we haven’t let God’s Word develop them within us. Ignorance of Scripture may let us live comfortably in a sinful culture, but it will never please the Lord.

God is looking for people like Daniel—followers of Christ who will stand by their convictions, regardless of threats or the temptation to compromise for the sake of profit or acceptance. Are you such a person?

Bible in One Year: 2 Samuel 13-14

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Bob Hook

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4/1/19 8:07 P

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What Makes a Church Powerful?

1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

What factors determine whether a church is powerful or weak? Oftentimes people make such evaluations based on appearances and human reasoning rather than on God’s Word.

For instance, large congregations with dynamic worship services and programs for every age and interest group look impressive. Or a church could be viewed as powerful because of its prominent location, a big budget, or the pastor with a magnetic personality. In contrast, small churches—especially those with few members, a rural setting, and little money—are often considered lesser.

The point is that we can’t judge a church’s strength or weakness based on outward factors like size, location, prosperity, or prominence. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians points out that a strong church is one that is founded on the message of the cross and grounded in God’s wisdom rather than the world’s.

God’s power is given to the church for His purposes, not for human agendas. And it isn’t a persuasive sermon but the gospel of Christ that can save souls. Some pastors may be able to manipulate people, but only God’s Spirit brings the genuine conviction of sin that leads to repentance and salvation.

For divine power to flow into and through a local body, that church must hold firmly to Scripture. What’s more, it cannot use techniques derived from worldly thinking but must rely on God’s direction.

A faith community cannot be powerful unless the people within it are individually submitted to Christ and empowered by Him. This means our commitment to Jesus affects our churches for better or for worse.

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 25-26

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3/23/19 3:08 P

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How the Bible Is Structured

Psalm 119:89-96

One of the reasons we sometimes fail to understand the Bible is because we skip around as we read it. The Bible has an organized structure, and all the parts fit together as a whole. By reading through it systematically, we’ll see God’s plan of redemption clearly revealed in an orderly fashion.

The Plan. In Genesis 1 and 2, the Lord created the heavens and earth and all that fills them, but His plan of redemption through the death of His Son was already in place before creation (1 Peter 1:18-21).

The Need. In Genesis 3, sin entered the world, but God sacrificed an animal to cover the sinners’ shame and promised to send a Redeemer.

Preparation. God eventually chose the nation Israel, through whom He proclaimed Himself as the one true God and brought the Messiah into the world.

Redemption. The Gospels document how Jesus came as the Messiah, died as God’s sacrifice for man’s sin, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven.

Proclamation. The book of Acts tells of the growth of the church through the spread of the gospel.

Explanation. God inspired the apostles to write letters to the churches regarding the faith and instructions for spiritual growth.

Completion. The book of Revelation reveals Christ’s future kingdom, in which His followers join Him eternally in a new heaven and a new earth.

Even though God’s Word is organized in sections, do not forget that it functions as a whole. Once you understand the Bible’s outline, you can see how all the diverse elements connect to make one story of redemption.

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 1-3

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Bob Hook

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3/16/19 10:04 A

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Living Obediently

Joshua 6:1-20

If you grew up attending Sunday school, you know the story of Joshua and Jericho. But we must be careful not to file this story away in our minds as something amazing the Lord did a long time ago. The same God still guides us today, and by studying this account, we gain insight into living obediently.

Joshua heard God’s directive, “You shall march around the city” (Josh. 6:3). In order for us to obey, we likewise need to hear what the Lord is telling us to do. This means we must be reading and meditating on His Word, confessing sin, praying, and spending time with Him.

Joshua obeyed, telling the people, “Go forward, and march around the city” (Josh. 6:7). Joshua did as instructed, despite three potential stumbling blocks:

1. He could have questioned God’s directive. After all, marching around the city didn’t seem like a practical battle strategy for overpowering a fortified city.
2. He could have felt pressured to explain himself to his men in order to gain their approval and agreement.
3. He could have let fear of failure keep him from obeying.

But Joshua did none of these. Upon hearing God’s voice, he followed instructions to the letter—and without hesitation. The result was that God honored his obedience: “The wall fell down ... and they took the city” (Josh. 6:20).

Are you willing to do what God says, regardless of your feelings or misgivings? Joshua was confident because the Lord had promised to give Jericho into his hand. And God’s promises to us are also the reason we can trust and obey Him.

Bible in One Year: Joshua 20-22

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Living Obediently
MARCH 11, 2019

BOOKMARK READ LATER SHARE
MONDAY
11
Joshua 6:1-20

If you grew up attending Sunday school, you know the story of Joshua and Jericho. But we must be careful not to file this story away in our minds as something amazing the Lord did a long time ago. The same God still guides us today, and by studying this account, we gain insight into living obediently.

Joshua heard God’s directive, “You shall march around the city” (Josh. 6:3). In order for us to obey, we likewise need to hear what the Lord is telling us to do. This means we must be reading and meditating on His Word, confessing sin, praying, and spending time with Him.

Joshua obeyed, telling the people, “Go forward, and march around the city” (Josh. 6:7). Joshua did as instructed, despite three potential stumbling blocks:

1. He could have questioned God’s directive. After all, marching around the city didn’t seem like a practical battle strategy for overpowering a fortified city.
2. He could have felt pressured to explain himself to his men in order to gain their approval and agreement.
3. He could have let fear of failure keep him from obeying.

But Joshua did none of these. Upon hearing God’s voice, he followed instructions to the letter—and without hesitation. The result was that God honored his obedience: “The wall fell down ... and they took the city” (Josh. 6:20).

Are you willing to do what God says, regardless of your feelings or misgivings? Joshua was confident because the Lord had promised to give Jericho into his hand. And God’s promises to us are also the reason we can trust and obey Him.

Bible in One Year: Joshua 20-22

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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3/10/19 9:57 A

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Contentment in Every Circumstance

Philippians 4:10-13

Many people think contentment is elusive, because happiness and peace never last. But is that really the reason? It’s common to associate a state of satisfaction with a positive situation, but Paul challenges this idea when he says, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).

Contentment isn’t something that comes naturally; it is learned. And what kind of classroom do you think God uses? It’s not in the midst of comfort and ease that we sense gratification most profoundly, but in situations that cause us to be troubled, fearful, and anxious. Paul had plenty of opportunities for these lessons because his life was a series of hardships (2 Corinthians 11:23-33). And in his letters, he passes down what he’s learned about contentment.

Focus on Christ rather than your circumstances. Paul had every reason to complain, because he was wrongfully imprisoned. Yet in his letter to the Philippians, he didn’t blame anyone or grumble. Instead, he kept rejoicing in Christ because that’s where his focus, affections, and devotion lay.

Focus on what God is doing through the situation. Paul saw how the Lord used his imprisonment for the greater progress of the gospel (Phil. 1:12).

Focus on the omnipotence and goodness of the Lord. The apostle was confident that his circumstances were under the sovereign control of God—the One who causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

In essence, we could say that Paul evaluated his circumstances through a God-centered lens. The result was joy and contentment in every situation.

Bible in One Year: Joshua 16-19

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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3/7/19 6:57 P

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Forgiving Ourselves

Psalm 103:10-14

Have you ever come to the Lord in repentance, confessing your wrongdoing, and yet still felt guilty? Sometimes the problem is that we can’t forgive ourselves. Therefore, we go into a self-punishing mode, repeatedly replaying the sin until we feel unworthy not only of pardon but also of blessings, answers to prayer, and the Father’s love. Eventually we build a prison of guilt because our offense seems unforgivable.

But what does such behavior tell us about our faith in God and our estimation of ourselves? According to the Bible, our Father freely bestows forgiveness on the basis of His Son’s payment of our sin debt—and has removed our transgression “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Is our refusal to forgive ourselves a way of saying we consider Christ’s sacrifice insufficient? In other words, is our standard of righteousness higher than the Lord’s?

Two men in Scripture teach us about the importance of accepting God’s full forgiveness. One is Peter, who denied knowing Christ, and the other is Paul, who persecuted Christians. The Bible gives no evidence that either one of them refused to forgive himself. Although their offenses were great and both men probably regretted their actions, they received God’s forgiveness and lived in the freedom of His grace.

To be free of an unforgiving spirit toward ourselves, we must realize it’s the result of self-focus. Instead of believing the truth of God’s forgiveness, we’ve been relying on our own feelings and making them superior to His Word. It’s time to humble ourselves and place trust in God—not in our feelings.

Bible in One Year: Joshua 7-9

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Bob Hook

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Listening to our Appetites

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

What words would you say describe our society? Materialistic, sensual, impatient, indulgent, undisciplined—these are just a few. We’re also a “have it now” culture. Satan specializes in presenting us with opportunities for instant gratification while promising that indulging our appetites will bring us satisfaction.

Human appetites in themselves are not sinful. In fact, they’re God-given. However, because we are human, we can’t always trust them. When our appetites have complete authority, we’re in trouble. The apostle Paul likened the Christian life to that of athletes who are so focused on winning the race that they devote every aspect of their lives to that goal.

That’s how we’re called to live, yet we lack the power to do so in our own strength—and sometimes the motivation as well. For this reason, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit within us. If we yield our lives to Him and obey, He will be our strength, and we can say no when fleshly desires feel overpowering (Gal. 5:16).

Another key to success is keeping our focus on the eternal instead of the temporal. Many decisions that seem mundane are, in fact, spiritually significant. Are you indulging an appetite that could result in the sacrifice of an imperishable reward in heaven?

When the enemy tempts us, he tries to keep our attention on our desire and the pleasure of indulgence rather than on the eternal rewards and blessings we’re forfeiting. Just remind yourself how quickly immediate gratification wanes and how long eternity lasts.

Bible in One Year: Joshua 1-3

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3/3/19 4:29 P

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The Purpose of Equipping

Ephesians 4:11-16

Have you given any serious thought lately to what the purpose of your life is? Our culture is full of distractions and activities that appear to promise fulfillment or pleasure. So it is easy to forget that we are living on this earth for God’s glory and purposes, not our own.

Besides endowing us with spiritual gifts to use in carrying out our calling, the Lord also gives the church gifted women and men who are entrusted with the responsibility of equipping believers (Eph. 4:11-12). This prepares us ...

To serve in the body (Eph. 4:12). The church is edified when we each use our spiritual gifts to serve one another.

To attain the unity of the faith and knowledge of Christ (v. 13). This is the establishment of sound doctrine and truth by which the church is grounded and unified.

To achieve spiritual maturity (v. 13). Knowing truth helps us grow in Christlikeness and protects us from being deceived by false teaching (Eph. 4:14).

To hold fast to Christ as the head of the church (Eph. 4:15-16). When the believers are equipped by godly pastors through the Word of God and each one does his part in working together, the whole church functions according to Christ’s headship. Then the entire body exhibits growth that is from the Lord.

While God does give many things for our enjoyment, to live only for life’s pleasures is shortsighted; doing so would result in great disappointment when we stand before Christ to give an account of our life. But living with God’s purposes in mind will ultimately glorify Him and prove most satisfying.

Bible in One Year: Deuteronomy 31-32

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God Rules in Your Circumstances

Philippians 1:12-18

If you could change your circumstances, would you? Most of us would respond in the affirmative. Even if we’re experiencing relatively peaceful and comfortable conditions, we can always imagine a better life. And for those of us enduring difficult, painful, or trying situations, we long to see the burden lifted.

In reality, there are some circumstances over which we have no control. We can’t maneuver our way out, so our only option is to go through them. However, if we are redeemed children of God, we are exactly where He wants us, because His sovereignty rules over all our situations at all times.

This was true for Paul despite his being imprisoned, chained, and watched by the Roman guard. After a fruitful ministry of proclaiming the gospel and founding churches throughout the Roman Empire, he found himself under house arrest. But even during these difficult circumstances, God remained in control, and His work in and through Paul hadn’t stopped.

What seemed like a very negative aspect of the apostle’s life—being chained and watched—turned out to be the means God used to deliver the gospel to the entire praetorian guard. Paul’s imprisonment also prompted other believers to boldly proclaim Christ. Some did it out of love while others acted in envy; but in both cases, the goal of spreading the gospel was accomplished.

The same sovereign God who used Paul’s circumstances for His purposes can do so with yours. But like the apostle, you’ll have to trust that the Lord will comfort and strengthen you to endure, and yes, even to rejoice.

Bible in One Year: Numbers 26-27

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When God Says No

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

We’ve all made foolish requests of God, which we’re now glad He didn’t answer. But this is easily forgotten when He’s presently withholding something we think is good. With so many scriptural promises to answer prayer, why is God saying no? According to His Word, there are several possible reasons.

God has forbidden it. God won’t contradict His Word or will, so praying for something prohibited in Scripture is futile. Because of Moses’ disobedience, God had decreed the leader wouldn’t enter the Promised Land. Moses asked Him to reconsider but was told not to speak of it again (Deut. 1:37; Deut. 3:23-28).

It’s for our protection. Because of the divine revelations Paul received, God allowed a “thorn in the flesh” to remain in order to keep him from exalting himself. The Lord prioritizes our spiritual protection over physical comfort.

God has a higher goal for us. Christ’s power was displayed in the weakness caused by Paul’s thorn. Knowing the higher goal for his suffering allowed Paul to be content and even appreciative of his weakness for Christ’s sake.

The Lord has something better for us. Jesus didn’t immediately heal Lazarus. Mary and Martha couldn’t yet understand that He was going to do something even greater—raising Lazarus, which would glorify God (John 11:1-44).

Our motives are wrong. James says one of the reasons we don’t receive our request is because we’re asking for selfish reasons and not according to God’s will (John 4:3).

Many times we won’t understand the good that God is doing by withholding what we desire. But these examples let us know we can trust Him.

Bible in One Year: Numbers 8-10

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The Word Implanted

James 1:21-25

Most Christians are taught early on to incorporate a devotional time into their day. This typically includes Scripture reading and prayer, both of which are essential for spiritual growth. But occasionally we should evaluate what effect this practice is having in us. In other words, we should ask, Is my quiet time accomplishing God’s purpose, or has it simply become a ritual I do out of habit or duty?

James says we need the Word to be implanted in us. This first happens when we hear and believe the gospel, which leads us to salvation. Peter describes salvation as being born again “through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). But the implanted Word does even more—it sanctifies us. That’s why Jesus prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Sanctification is the process by which believers are progressively transformed into Christlikeness in conduct, conversation, and character. And the means God uses is His Word.

When Scripture is implanted in us, it roots out sins and produces righteousness. A quiet time shouldn’t be like the description in James 1:24 of someone who looks in a mirror and then forgets what he’s seen. Instead, it should involve an intent look into God’s Word, which changes us inwardly. Divine truth penetrates the heart, mind, and will and ultimately expresses itself in obedience.

Is your quiet time bearing spiritual fruit, or have you become satisfied with a routine glance at the Bible? For the Word to implant in your soul, some digging is required—and also patience as you wait for spiritual fruit to develop.

Bible in One Year: Numbers 6-7

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Protection Through Strengthening

2 Timothy 4:9-18

When he wrote to timothy, the apostle Paul was in prison, where he experienced physical discomfort, personal attack, and desertion. For what reason would the Lord allow one of His most faithful servants to endure such suffering? Why didn’t He step in and protect him?

At times God doesn’t pull us out of hard situations, because He has a different plan. We may feel as if He’s abandoning us, but in reality, He is protecting us—not by deliverance but through strengthening.
When trouble and pain pay us a visit, we should seek to view the situation from God’s perspective, by asking ourselves these questions:

• Which is a greater demonstration of the Lord’s power—changing something around me or changing something within my heart?
• Which is the greater faith builder—seeing God’s deliverance from every difficulty or experiencing His presence and strengthening in the midst of trials?
• Which reward is greater—immediate relief from discomfort or tested and refined faith that will result in praise and glory when Christ returns (1 Peter 1:7)?
• Which answer to prayer is greater—that God has removed something and given me external peace, or that He’s left me in a trial and given an internal peace that nothing can steal, not even my circumstances?

Does God have to fix something for you to be happy? If He removes the situation, you may never learn that He is sufficient for everything you need. Instead, let Him change you, and you’ll discover His joy in whatever circumstance comes your way.

Bible in One Year: Numbers 3-5

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The Protection of Meditation

Psalm 119:9-16

If there was a seminar on overcoming sin, many Christians would sign up, hoping to discover the secret to victory over their temptations. But the answer isn’t elusive; it’s right under our nose. All we need to do is open our Bible. Every answer the psalmist gives to his initial question of how to keep our ways pure involves Scripture.

Live according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:9-10). This means we must spend time reading and meditating on Scripture in order to know what it says and means. But that alone isn’t enough to guard us from sin; we must obey it.

Treasure God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Since temptation usually comes unexpectedly, we must be prepared for it even when we can’t grab a Bible. That’s why having Scripture stored in our mind and heart is so important.

Rejoice in God’s Word (Psalm 119:14). There is great joy and peace that comes with knowing Scripture. In fact, it should be worth more to us than all the wealth and possessions this world offers.

Meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 119:15). We must take time to attune our heart and mind to the Lord, ponder His words, and receive the Spirit’s help translating His instructions for our particular situation. This isn’t a rushed process; it’s a slow yielding of ourselves to the truths we read as we discover how to apply them. And consistency may require a deliberate commitment.

When we faithfully practice biblical meditation, we will discover that the Holy Spirit has been busy transforming our thoughts, emotions, and actions so we’ll be more pleasing to God and less attracted to sinful pleasures. That is good news!

Bible in One Year: Numbers 1-2

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2/5/19 7:58 A

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2/4/19 11:51 P

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Wounded Parents, Wounded Children

Jeremiah 32:17-19

So often when we deal with difficult people, it’s easy to form judgments about them based on their behavior or attitudes. But have you ever stopped to wonder what has made that person so disagreeable or foolish? When the Bible says God “repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children” (Jer. 32:18), it is speaking about generational cycles of sin. Unless someone in the family line makes a deliberate choice to change, sinful and dysfunctional behavior can be passed from parent to child for many generations.

This is really just a confirmation of the principle of sowing and reaping. We pass down standards for conduct and character traits that we received from our parents. If we are unwilling to change our sinful habits and attitudes, they will very likely find their way into our children’s lives.

What is true for sin is also true for wounds. When a child is emotionally bruised in the home, his behavior and character may be negatively affected. With this in mind, think about a difficult person you know. What hurts do you think shaped his or her life? A heart of compassion originates from a willingness to empathize with those who have been wounded. This doesn’t excuse someone’s sin, but it does aid in opening our heart toward the individual.

What about you? Have childhood wounds contributed to who you are today? How have they affected your life? If you haven’t dealt with them, you’ll probably pass similar hurts down to your children. But with God’s help, you can break this cycle and begin one that will benefit future generations.

Bible in One Year: Leviticus 17-20

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1/30/19 11:46 A

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1/30/19 11:40 A

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Godly Living in an Ungodly Age
JANUARY 30, 2019

Titus 1:1-16

Our Founding Fathers created a governing framework heavily influenced by biblical principles. Slowly, we have changed from “one nation under God” to a group of people who no longer want Him to be involved.

Our nation has become ungodly in several ways: Many are driven by materialism and power; immorality and rebellion are prevalent; empty philosophy and false doctrine are widely accepted. Underlying it all is the push to keep God out of the nation’s affairs.

Yet even in an unbelieving society, people can, follow Jesus as individuals. But the world will continually disseminate faulty teachings, so believers must be discerning. Otherwise, erroneous messages can lead Christians to compromise their convictions. Then affections and priorities may change. Don’t let the world’s clamor make the Spirit’s voice less audible. Without His guidance, our minds become vulnerable to lies.

The Word of God is a compass that keeps us headed in the right direction, even in the midst of confusing messages. We need to be consistently filled with truth by reading, believing, meditating upon, and applying Scripture. God’s Word also says to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If our minds are focused upon Him, unholy beliefs will not be able to take root.

The Word is our guidebook. We will still face difficulty as we live in this imperfect world—it is a confusing, dark place that entices us but can never fulfills our true longings. Yet God’s truth will bring confidence and boldness, and His Spirit will direct and strengthen, enabling us to live victoriously.

Bible in One Year: Leviticus 1-4

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Bob Hook

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1/27/19 9:58 P

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1/27/19 9:16 P

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Living Without Goals

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Some of us are natural planners who know what we want to accomplish and set out to achieve it, whereas others are more flexible and spontaneous. Both approaches are determined by personality, background, and other factors but come with their own dangers. The organized people may be so focused on controlling their life that they leave God out of the picture, and the easygoing folks may end up never accomplishing what God intended for them.

In today’s passage, we see the Christian life compared to a race. As believers, we are admonished to exercise discipline and self-control in order to obediently follow the heavenly Father’s plan for our life. Otherwise our efforts will be as unproductive as a boxer who throws wild punches and never hits his mark.

Going through life without any objectives leads to wasted time and energy, mindless drifting, and mediocrity. After all, you can’t aim for nothing and expect to hit a bull’s eye. This is true in relationships, work, finances, and personal goals, but it’s also true of our spiritual life. Paul’s desire to fulfill the ministry God gave him was so strong that he was willing to give up his rights in order to reach the lost with the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Therefore, the apostle made his body his slave in order to finish the Christian life well.

One day we will all stand before Christ to give an account of our life and have our works evaluated by Him in the judgment (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Therefore, today we must live with the goal of honoring God and bearing fruit as we seek His will.

Bible in One Year: Exodus 34-35

Let Go and Let God!

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1/13/19 4:16 P

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1/13/19 2:21 P

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Evidence of a Proud Heart

Matthew 23:1-12

Pride is deceptive. In fact, a proud person is often the last one to know the contents of his or her own heart. This was definitely true of the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus confronted. They thought of themselves as good people who kept God’s law but failed to see their desire for prominence and respect as evidence of pride.

The same is true today—our quest for recognition and validation still flows from pride. Perhaps we want someone to thank us for the work we’ve done behind the scenes, and if it’s not forthcoming, we become resentful or self-pitying. Or maybe our pride manifests itself with a superior attitude of self-importance, and we secretly consider ourselves to be better than those around us. We may even choose to associate with prominent, well-liked people while ignoring those who are less admired.

However, while we chase after prominence externally, our spirits are becoming shriveled internally because we’ve become proud. The only solution is to turn back to God and humble ourselves before Him. We do this by confessing our sin and recognizing the specific parts of our life that have been damaged by it. Then we must ask the Lord to make us continually alert to any self-glorifying attitudes that pop up so we can quickly confess and walk in obedience once again.

One of the most effective ways to overcome pride is to look at Christ’s example. There was absolutely nothing in us that warranted His love and salvation. We were worthy only of hell, yet He humbled Himself to become a man, die in our place, and offer us salvation. To Him be all the glory!

Bible in One Year: Genesis 42-45

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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12/24/18 6:42 P

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12/24/18 5:50 P

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One of a Kind
DECEMBER 24, 2018

Matthew 1:18-25

By all outward appearances, Jesus was just an ordinary Jewish baby. He didn’t arrive with a halo or the visible presence of God’s glory. Apart from divine revelation, no one would have known that He was unlike any other human being ever born.

Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds all learned of Christ’s uniqueness from angels. But today we have the inerrant, divinely inspired Word of God to tell us who He truly is.

Jesus didn’t have a human father. In fulfillment of a prophecy given hundreds of years earlier to Isaiah (Isa. 7:14), Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit in a virgin’s womb.

He existed eternally before His birth. Another Old Testament prophet wrote about this baby born in Bethlehem, saying, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2).

Jesus was both born and given. The Lord declared that “a child will be born” signifying a human birth, yet at the same time “a son will be given” (Isa. 9:6). God gave His Son so that all who believe in Him could receive eternal life.

This baby is the Savior. He was destined to “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). That’s why Joseph was told to name Him Jesus, which means “Yahweh is salvation.”

As Christians, we may be aware of all these truths. But it’s easy to get caught up in the sentimentality of the manger scene without falling down in worship at the wonder of God in human form. So let’s pause to consider how we truly view Jesus at Christmastime in order to give Him top priority.

Bible in One Year: 2 Peter 1-3

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Bob Hook

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12/17/18 7:18 A

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12/16/18 9:19 P

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God-Pleasing Generosity

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church praises the Macedonian believers for their generosity. Despite deep poverty and great troubles, they desired to bless others materially. From their example, we know that our Father is pleased when we give ...

According to divine instruction. The Lord has revealed in Scripture how we are to live. He wants us to base our decisions on biblical principles rather than on our own natural, self-centered thinking. Looking solely at a paycheck or bank balance to determine the size of a donation is not trusting God.

Despite our own need. The Macedonians were poor, but they didn’t let that keep them from contributing. They gave out of the little they had. The book of Mark tells of a widow who gave her last two copper coins and was praised for her offering to the Lord (Mark 12:42-44). We don’t need to have extra money in order to give; we can trust that God is faithful to provide.

To those who spiritually nourish us. The Bible tells us to bring our gifts to the local church, where they can be used to further God’s work. The apostle Paul and others were able to evangelize because of the support provided by the church in Jerusalem. Recognizing that they owed those believers a debt, the Macedonian Christians desired to give something back.

Human reasoning tells us that we cannot part with our funds when debt seems too large or income too small. But the Bible tells us to trust the Lord to provide for our needs (Phil. 4:19) and to give generously. Are you living according to these principles?

Bible in One Year: Titus 1-3, Philemon 1

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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12/10/18 3:59 P

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12/10/18 9:35 A

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Trusting God’s Faithfulness

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Is there something God has told you to do that seems too difficult? If He has called you to carry out His will, you can trust that He’s faithful to accomplish it through His Spirit living and working in you. So if you tell Him, “I can’t do that, Lord—what if I fail?” you’re actually doubting that God keeps His word. And yet, our total expectation should be in Him—not in our own energy, ability, or experience.

When you doubt God’s trustworthiness, unbelief becomes a gap in your spiritual armor, and it is where Satan wants to attack you. You’ll begin to doubt other elements of God’s character, such as His goodness—and distrust will become baggage that’ll weigh you down in every area of life.

You might feel that you do not have enough faith to obey, but the Lord isn’t asking you to trust in favorable circumstances. He’s asking you to believe that He is who He says He is.

It’s easy to doubt God when you’re focused on the obstacles in front of you, but when you fix your eyes on Him and believe what Scripture says about His faithfulness, then you can do anything He requires. No matter what lies ahead, remember that God is not a liar, and He is faithful. You’ll be strengthened by your dependence on Him—whether a deluge of trials or a flood of blessings comes.

It’s actually when life gets rough that you’ll recognize the reality and sweetness of God’s faithfulness. As you walk through those storms in complete reliance on His strength, your trust in His character will become part of who you are and provide strength from within.

Bible in One Year: Colossians 1-4

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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11/21/18 7:57 A

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11/21/18 7:34 A

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Our Heavenly Father
NOVEMBER 21, 2018

Matthew 6:9-13

When Christ taught His disciples to pray, He told them to call God “Our Father” when communicating with Him. Jesus often addressed God as “My Father,” but now they, too, shared in that privileged family relationship. All of us who’ve been born again are part of the household of God and have this same right.

Consider some of the ways our heavenly Father cares for His children. He ...

Loves. God’s love is unconditional, since it’s based on His nature rather than our performance (1 John 4:16).

Listens. When we pray, He gives us His full attention (Psalm 55:16-17).

Provides. The Father assumes responsibility for meeting all our needs (Phil. 4:19).

Guides. He is the one who directs our path when we trust in Him (Prov. 3:5-6).

Protects. The Lord shields us spiritually, emotionally, and physically, sifting every experience through His sovereign fingers (Psalm 121).

Stays. He’s not an absentee parent, since He will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8).

Disciplines. The Lord disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness (Heb. 12:5-11).

Though experiences with our earthly dads may have distorted our perspective of the heavenly Father, we can learn to see Him as He truly is. By viewing Him through the truth of Scripture instead of our preconceptions, we will see evidence of His loving care and discover a security we’ve never known before.

Bible in One Year: Acts 27-28

Let Go and Let God!

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10/29/18 9:45 A

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10/29/18 8:55 A

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Becoming Like Jesus

2 Peter 3:17-18

God has a plan for every believer, and salvation is just the first step. He wants His adopted children to develop a close family resemblance, and the Holy Spirit is in charge of transforming each one into the likeness of Jesus.

The moment we trust Christ as our personal Savior, we are born again and become newborn babies in a spiritual sense. One characteristic of a newborn is a craving for milk, and the same is true spiritually. New believers need continuous nourishment from God’s Word for growth in godliness, grace, and the knowledge of Christ.

As we read and meditate on Scripture, the Holy Spirit replaces our former thoughts and desires with a God-centered mindset and new longings for holiness. Instead of living to please ourselves, our desire will be to glorify God through obedience.

Like any growing child, we will stumble now and then by giving into temptation. However, our heavenly Father has given us the privilege of cleansing through confession of sins (1 John 1:9). He also exercises loving discipline by revealing attitudes, behaviors, and practices that are displeasing to Him. His chastisement is always meant to train us and produce in us the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).

At no point are we abandoned or rejected by our heavenly Father. He watches over every step we take, hears our prayers, comforts us, and encourages us to love and obey His Word. He promises that we’ll become complete in our likeness to Christ on the day we see Him in heaven (1 John 3:1-3).

Bible in One Year: Luke 20-22

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10/22/18 10:12 A

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10/22/18 9:24 A

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God’s Blessing of Brokenness

Exodus 2:11-15

The Lord had a great calling in mind for Moses—to free more than 2,000,000 Israelites from Egyptian bondage. And the future liberator seemed qualified for the task. As Pharaoh’s adopted grandson, he would have had access to royal privilege, power, and education.

But Moses also had a strong independent spirit that could get in the way of his obedience to the Lord. God’s plan required a broken spirit that would follow Him and rest on His divine power.

A big mistake—killing an Egyptian for beating a slave (Ex. 2:11-12)—was Moses’ opportunity to learn this important lesson. Realizing the murder had been witnessed, he fled to the desert to escape Pharaoh’s wrath. It was there that he came to the end of himself.

Like Moses, we’re all born with a tendency toward selfishness and stubbornness and want things done our way. But God gives us opportunities to bring every area of our life to Him in submission.

Though few will be given a task on the scale of Moses’, the Father has a calling in mind for each believer. Whether His plan is that we raise a godly family, reach out to a neighbor, or run a business with integrity and consideration, He wants us to do so in His power. To prepare us for this work, He sometimes uses brokenness. That wouldn’t be our chosen method, but God knows hardship is sometimes necessary to strip us of our selfish ways.

Do you want to achieve what God has planned for you to do? In humility, ask Him to bring any brokenness that He deems necessary.

Bible in One Year: Luke 4-5

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10/21/18 6:39 P

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One Big Request

John 15:16

Yesterday we looked at God’s promise in John 14:14. Too often people take the verse to imply, “If you ask anything, I will do it.” They overlook the most essential phrase: “in My name.”

Asking in Christ’s name has two meanings. First, believers are welcome to make requests that align with God’s purpose and plan. To do that, we need to ask Him if our prayers match His will. God has several ways of assuring followers that they are on the correct path. For instance, He may increase right desires or decrease wrong ones. Another possibility is that He will use His Word to redirect a Christian’s steps or confirm that the believer is going the right way. Either way, God will make a path for the man or woman who seeks to do His will.

Second, invoking Christ’s name means that we desire to glorify Him instead of ourselves. James gives this warning: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). To understand that, let’s consider those who are trying to pray their way out of a financial hole as an example. The question is, Does a person want to get out of debt so that he has more for himself or so that he can use the excess in God-honoring ways? Motives are apparent to God, and He will not encourage ones rooted in sin.

In the name Jesus Christ, there is abundant power. However, calling upon Him in prayer is not a magic charm to get what we want. Rather, it is a signal that we are laying down our personal desires and our own way of getting things done. In so doing, we commit to follow God and bring honor to Him.

Bible in One Year: Luke 2-3

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10/20/18 6:18 P

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Making Big Requests

John 14:12-15

Jesus Christ issued a bold statement when He said, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Since it is against the nature of our triune God to break a promise (Titus 1:2), we know that the Lord will fulfill that pledge.

So when we make a big request and nothing happens, the problem isn’t with God. It could be that the timing is wrong or the answer comes in a different form than we expected. But it could also be that our heart isn’t in the right place. When it comes to our petitions, the Lord wants us to ...

Approach him in complete dependence on Christ’s merits. The Savior’s blood paid for our right to enter the Father’s holy presence. Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary took away our sins and clothed us in righteousness, which allows us to stand unashamed before the throne. We don’t earn favor through works or get prayers answered because we are super spiritual. God responds because His Son sits at His right hand, interceding for us.

Approach him in holiness—that is, separated from all known sin. We cannot expect the Lord to hear us if we “regard wickedness” in our heart (Psalm 66:18). Think about it this way: If God were to answer prayer when we are willfully living in sin, then He would be sanctioning our transgression. Therefore, believers must turn away from their wrongdoing before making big requests.

God is always faithful. He wants to provide you with what you need and then bless you beyond that. But first, He wants His followers’ hearts to be in line with His so that the bold requests have pure motives. Those who live according to God’s will can trust Him for anything they ask in His Son’s name.

Bible in One Year: Luke 1

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10/17/18 10:27 P

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How to Strengthen Faith

Matthew 17:14-20

How do you know whether your faith is strong or weak? We realize that as believers, we’re supposed to trust God with every aspect of life, but circumstances may cause us to waver. This is not a new problem—five times in the book of Matthew, Jesus pointed out examples and symptoms of what He called “little faith.”

Anxiety. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed people who were worried about their basic needs being met (Matt. 6:25-34). He assured them of divine provision if God’s kingdom was their top priority.

Fear. When a storm arose, the disciples were afraid even though the Creator of the wind and the sea was with them, asleep in the boat (Matt. 8:23-27).

Focus. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he had faith to walk on water. But when he focused on his circumstances, he began to sink. (Matt. 14:24-33).

Forgetfulness. Despite the feeding of thousands, the disciples failed to remember Christ’s past provision in their current situation (Matt. 16:5-12).

Inadequacy. Although Jesus had given His disciples authority to cast out demons, they felt inadequate and lacked divine power when faced with a particularly difficult situation (Matt. 17:14-20).

In each case, the wrong mindset resulted in a lack of confidence in Christ. Diminished faith begins not with circumstances but with our thinking and focus. Therefore, if we want to increase our trust in God, we must fill our minds with the truth of Scripture, remember our Father’s faithfulness to us in the past, and look for His hand working in our present situation. When our minds are renewed, our faith will be also.

Bible in One Year: Mark 10-12

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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How to Strengthen Faith

Matthew 17:14-20

How do you know whether your faith is strong or weak? We realize that as believers, we’re supposed to trust God with every aspect of life, but circumstances may cause us to waver. This is not a new problem—five times in the book of Matthew, Jesus pointed out examples and symptoms of what He called “little faith.”

Anxiety. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed people who were worried about their basic needs being met (Matt. 6:25-34). He assured them of divine provision if God’s kingdom was their top priority.

Fear. When a storm arose, the disciples were afraid even though the Creator of the wind and the sea was with them, asleep in the boat (Matt. 8:23-27).

Focus. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he had faith to walk on water. But when he focused on his circumstances, he began to sink. (Matt. 14:24-33).

Forgetfulness. Despite the feeding of thousands, the disciples failed to remember Christ’s past provision in their current situation (Matt. 16:5-12).

Inadequacy. Although Jesus had given His disciples authority to cast out demons, they felt inadequate and lacked divine power when faced with a particularly difficult situation (Matt. 17:14-20).

In each case, the wrong mindset resulted in a lack of confidence in Christ. Diminished faith begins not with circumstances but with our thinking and focus. Therefore, if we want to increase our trust in God, we must fill our minds with the truth of Scripture, remember our Father’s faithfulness to us in the past, and look for His hand working in our present situation. When our minds are renewed, our faith will be also.

Bible in One Year: Mark 10-12

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Returning to God

October 16, 2018

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Tuesday 16

Malachi 3:7-12

Many Christians are familiar with God’s words in verse 7 of today’s reading: “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” When Malachi delivered this message to Israel, they seemed ignorant of the fact that they had left the Lord. Throughout the book, God made statements about their poor spiritual condition, and they always responded by asking how they had offended Him.

In this passage, God accuses them of robbing Him by withholding the tithes and offerings required by the Law to support the Levites and priests. God viewed their persistent disobedience to His commands as theft because they were keeping for themselves what belonged to Him. If we consider all that the Lord has given us, we must ask ourselves whether we’re robbing Him in any way. Consider these examples:

God has given us life and determined the number of our days (Psalm 139:16). Yet some of us claim that we don’t have time to read the Bible or pray. We may be busy, but it’s our responsibility to prioritize time with the Lord in the 24 hours He has allotted to us each day.
Our Father has also given us abilities, talents, and spiritual gifts, yet we oftentimes reserve their use for our career or hobby rather than for serving Him.
God is the one who has given us the ability to work and earn an income, and all He asks of us is the first portion.

Is there anything of the Lord’s that you’ve been keeping for yourself? With an obedient and grateful heart, you can joyfully give back to Him a fraction of whatever He has given you.

Bible in One Year: Mark 8-9

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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10/15/18 10:37 A

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10/15/18 9:26 A

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Can You Trust Your Conscience?

1 Timothy 1:18-19

“Let your conscience be your guide” is a well-known expression, but one that isn’t necessarily good advice. That’s because your moral compass is only as reliable as the principles you’ve learned. It will be a dependable safeguard through your life if you store up biblical instruction. But using false ideologies from popular culture to program your conscience will set you up for moral failure.

Our heavenly Father has given each person a conscience as a gift intended to be a tool of the Holy Spirit—our one true Guide. As such, it is designed to protect you from going astray. Your conscience is most trustworthy when the following seven statements are true of you:

Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord.
The Bible is the basis for your conduct.
You have a strong desire to obey God.
You make decisions prayerfully.
Your conscience sounds the alarm when you consider a wrong direction.
You feel guilty when you disobey.
You feel compelled to repent of your transgression.
A trustworthy conscience reacts immediately to disobedience. There is no making excuses over whether or not something may have been wrong.

To develop a reliable inner compass, read and apply Scripture so God’s principles will override any false or corrupted programming. Then, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, your conscience will alert and protect you. Ask God to make it an effective tool for leading you.

Bible in One Year: Mark 6-7

Let Go and Let God!

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The Death of Self

Matthew 16:24-26

Jesus Christ was obedient to the point of death (Phil. 2:8). While some Christians may be called upon to give up their life for the glory of God, most believers won’t face martyrdom. The death required of us, however, is no less real. We die to self.

Human beings are an independent lot. We want things our way, in our time, and on our terms. But Jesus said that anyone who wants to be His follower must deny him- or herself (Matt. 16:24). Of course, that covers obvious issues like sinful habits and evil thoughts. But it also means that in some instances we must decline good things because they come at the wrong time or don’t fit God’s plan.

To an outside observer, the Christian’s commitment to obey must seem strange, especially when hands emptied by self-denial take up a cross instead (v. 24). Sometimes following the Lord involves suffering. What bystanders can’t see or experience is the deep satisfaction believers gain from doing what is right. Jesus once said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). As food is to the body, so obedience is to the soul and spirit. Working for God nourishes, energizes, strengthens, and enlightens—bringing us even more satisfaction than do those things we typically think of as pleasures.

Even when self-denial hurts, obeying God brings joy. Believers who prioritize submission to Him will know what I mean. Contentment is found in drawing close to the Lord, sensing His approval, and looking forward to hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21 NIV).

Bible in One Year: Matthew 19-21

Let Go and Let God!

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10/9/18 8:22 A

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10/8/18 10:08 P

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Obedience or Preference?

Matthew 26:36-42

Every believer must choose whether he will live by the principle of obedience or follow his preferences. When a person commits to doing the Lord’s will, then every situation and decision is sifted through the standard of “God said it, so I’m going to do it—and that’s the end of it.” He or she may complain, weep, or try to argue. But in the end, the individual will be obedient, no matter what.

I recall being invited years ago to interview with a church in Atlanta. During the entire trip, I told the Lord that I didn’t want to move. I fussed and carried on a good while, but I knew Atlanta would be my new home. I didn’t like the idea, but the alternative was unimaginable: There are few things more unpleasant than living with the nagging anxiety that you missed out on something good.

The Lord certainly understands our need to question, cry out, and petition Him for the strength to do what He commands. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a high priest who can sympathize with us. Jesus wasn’t excited or happy about the cross. He grieved over the coming separation from His Father. Nevertheless, He was committed to following God’s will (Matt. 26:39). No one took Christ’s life from Him; He laid it down (John 10:18).

Our lives are about fulfilling the heavenly Father’s purpose. Many people miss out on its goodness because they choose to follow personal preferences instead, believing their own choices are better. Obedience is sometimes hard, but the struggle and sacrifice are worth it. The Lord’s ways and principles lead believers to joy and peace.

Bible in One Year: Matthew 16-18

Let Go and Let God!

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10/4/18 3:26 P

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The Most Important Preparation

Psalm 78:1-8

When you hear the word preparation, what comes to your mind? Do you think about having enough life insurance, studying for a test, or maybe packing all the necessary equipment before a camping trip? If it makes sense to prepare for all these events, then think how much more important it must be to prepare your heart for the Lord (Psalm 78:8).

Today’s psalm is a recitation of Israel’s history and a warning to subsequent generations not to follow that nation’s unfaithful ways. Despite all that the Lord had done for them, the people had taken God’s provisions for granted and forgotten the mighty works He’d accomplished on their behalf. They lived for themselves and did not prepare their hearts to be faithful to the Lord.

We readily recognize that many of the things we do in life require preparation. But do we approach our spiritual life with the same forethought, or do we tend to take more of a haphazard approach? For instance, do you plan to spend time each day with the Lord in prayer and His Word, or do you tend to seek Him only when you’re facing a problem?

It’s doubtful that we’ll know God very well or become the person He wants us to be unless we put effort into developing our relationship with Him. In these precious moments of prayer and reflection, we have the opportunity to calmly dwell on the Word as we focus on an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. These are the occasions for strengthening our faith, growing in love for Christ, and laying a solid foundation in the Word—all of which are good preparation for whatever troubles come our way.

Bible in One Year: Matthew 5-7

Let Go and Let God!

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10/3/18 6:48 P

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10/3/18 4:27 P

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Letting Go of Unforgiveness

Ephesians 4:30-32

It’s a common dilemma: Someone has hurt us, and we know we should forgive but just can’t. Despite all our promises to God about letting go of the offense, we find ourselves mentally rehearsing the event until we’re once again consumed with anger and hurt.

God has not simply called us to relinquish our bitterness; He’s given us the means to do it. The Spirit empowers us to forgive others just as God has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32). However, it’s not always a quick process—especially if the offense is great and the hurt is deep. Sometimes we must work through steps until we can finally release the burden.

First, we must confess to God that we have sinned against Him with our unforgiving attitude and ask Him to help us repent of it.

Next, we should acknowledge that the basis for forgiving others is God’s forgiveness of us.

We didn’t deserve to be pardoned, yet Christ’s sacrifice has released us from our guilt. And it’s good to remember that while offenses against us may seem to be the most grievous, we usually underestimate the magnitude of our own sins against God.

Finally, we must let the Bible renew our minds. Instead of allowing ourselves to dwell on the wrong done to us, we can surrender those thoughts to God and replace them with biblical truths about Him, His promises, and His ways.

So how will you know when you have truly forgiven your wrongdoer? The negative emotions that once arose at the thought of the offender will subside, and you’ll be at peace.

Bible in One Year: Matthew 1-4

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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10/2/18 9:45 P

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10/2/18 9:34 P

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Forgiveness and Relationship With God

Matthew 6:9-15

When someone wrongs you, what is your biggest concern? Most of us would have to admit we are concerned mainly for ourselves or loved ones. We’re filled with anger or hurt, and forgiveness is the last thing on our minds. But how often do we consider that the way we respond will affect our relationship with God?

Sometimes as we say the Lord’s Prayer, we may quickly recite, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12) without giving the words much thought. But the two verses that follow this prayer remind us how serious forgiveness is. If we don’t move past our hurt and anger toward forgiveness, then God will not forgive us. For those of us who have repented of sin and by faith received Jesus Christ as our Savior, all our sins have been forgiven, based on Christ’s substitutionary payment on the cross (Col. 2:13-14). Therefore, these verses in Matthew cannot mean a loss of salvation. They instead refer to the barrier unforgiveness causes in our fellowship with God.

Holding on to grievances is a sin. If we allow that to continue, our communion with the Lord will be disrupted until we confess our attitude and forsake it. We understand what this is like when a child refuses to obey his parents. Although their love for him hasn’t diminished, there’s an unresolved conflict in their relationship.

As God’s children, we are called into intimate fellowship with Him. Let’s not be like disobedient children who remain under the Father’s discipline and therefore miss out on blessings He wants us to have.

Bible in One Year: Malachi 1-4

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/27/18 3:13 P

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Trust God for Your Needs

Philippians 4:19

Jim saved for a long time to take an Alaskan cruise. At last he was on board with two carefully packed suitcases. The first evening, when he heard “Dinner is served” announced over the loudspeaker, he took peanut butter crackers from his suitcase and sat at the table in his small cabin. Every day at mealtime, he repeated the ritual. It wasn’t that Jim didn’t like the ship’s tasty banquets. He simply didn’t know that his meals were included in the price of the ticket. For two weeks he enjoyed beautiful scenery and wildlife off the decks but ate dry, stale food in his cabin.

This sad story is a metaphor for the way some believers follow Jesus. God has promised to meet His children’s every need—His boundless riches are included in the price Christ paid for their salvation (Eph. 1:18). Yet many folks are instead trying to live out of their own resources. They don’t realize that the wealth of their Father’s love, power, and provision is on their “menu.”

A believer’s relationship with the Lord is one of complete unity. Jesus is our life. His Spirit lives through us. Therefore, we have remarkable resources available to us, as do our brothers and sisters in Christ—we have access to His power, strength, and endurance.

Jim didn’t know he had the right to satisfy his hunger in an extravagant way. Learn from this exaggerated example. Discover in God’s Word the riches you are entitled to through faith. God offers believers everything required for living well and wisely, so trust Him for all your needs.

Bible in One Year: Habakkuk 1-3

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Maintaining Our Witness in Trials

1 Peter 2:11-12

You are being watched. That’s always a good thing to remember as we interact with people at work or in the community. How we respond to frustrations, annoyances, difficulties, and temptations is a witness for Christianity, and the last thing we want to do is misrepresent Christ.

Many times challenging situations arise unexpectedly. Therefore, it’s important that we prepare ourselves beforehand—then we’ll be equipped to display Christlikeness, and our witness will not be derailed. To be ready ...

Stay in God’s Word. Knowing Scripture helps you view situations from God’s perspective and know how He would have you respond.

Pray. Challenge yourself to make prayer an immediate response to your problems. When you bring your concerns to God, His peace will guard your heart and mind, which is a powerful witness to a watching world (Phil. 4:6-7).

Trust and obey. When you rely on God’s promises, your peace and confidence in God will stand out to those who are consumed with fear and anxiety.

Remember whose you are. You belong to God and have been purchased by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:17-19). Your life is a display of God’s grace, and your character, conduct, and conversation should always reflect Christ.

Be gracious and kind to others. Don’t let your own troubles erupt into anger and blame. Small acts of kindness and a forgiving spirit are a tremendous witness in a world where such things are rare.

Aggravations and problems seem like hindrances to us, but our response can change someone’s life if it reflects the love of Jesus Christ.

Bible in One Year: Nahum 1-3

Let Go and Let God!

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9/25/18 8:40 P

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God’s Economy for Generosity

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

When I was a boy, my mother and I had barely enough money for food, shelter, and clothing, but that never stopped her from being generous. If one of my friends asked for some food, she always gave him something to eat, even if it was only a piece of bread. As a child, I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough for ourselves, but my mother knew that the Lord’s economy works differently from that of the world.

Worldly wisdom says, “Get all you can, and do all you can to keep it,” but God’s ways are the opposite. In today’s passage, Paul uses the natural laws of agriculture to teach us His principles for generosity. Farmers know that sowing seed sparingly will not result in a big crop, but that’s what some of us do when it comes to giving. We’d rather keep most of our seed in the barn just to make sure it’s safe.

However, when we do this, we become like the man we read about in yesterday’s parable—he tried so hard to keep all he had and yet ended up with nothing of eternal value (Luke 12:15-21). Living in God’s divine economy requires confident faith in His promises. As Christians, we readily believe Him for our eternal salvation, so why are we sometimes reluctant to trust Him with earthly things like money?

We are called to be vessels through whom the Father blesses His church and others. He has promised to provide us with enough bread to eat and more seed to sow. When we learn His ways and trust what He has written, He is glorified, and we reap a bountiful harvest of righteousness.

Bible in One Year: Micah 5-7

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/23/18 10:10 A

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All Scripture Is Profitable

2 Timothy 3:14-17

Living in this world is challenging for believers. We are surrounded by temptations and deceptions and need God’s wisdom and guidance to help us navigate with an eternal perspective. The most valuable tool we have in this process is the Bible. Paul boldly declared that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). So let’s look at the ways our heavenly Father uses His Word in our lives.

For Teaching. Every time we read the Scriptures, God can reveal new truths to us. His Word is filled with commands, principles, and examples that show us who our Father is, what He does, and how He wants us to live.

For Reproof. Scripture is likened to a sword that cuts and reveals (Heb. 4:12). That’s why we sometimes feel convicted when a passage uncovers sins or prompts us to consider what may be hindering our walk with Christ.

For Correction. God’s Word does more than simply convict us. It points out what we should do to turn around and get back on the path of obedience.

For Training in Righteousness. As we read, pray, and meditate on His Word, we slowly absorb the wisdom and knowledge of God so that we can progress in living righteously and obediently.

The end result of this fourfold work of Scripture is that we will become “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). And isn’t that what we need? No matter what circumstance, trial, or challenge arises, the truth in God’s Word will help us face it effectively by trusting Him and responding as He desires.

Bible in One Year: Obadiah 1, Jonah 1-4

Let Go and Let God!

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9/22/18 7:48 P

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The Divinely Inspired Book

2 Peter 1:12-21

How important is your Bible to you? If you’re like most Christians in the Western world, you probably have several copies of Scripture in your home. But the number of Bibles we own is no measure of their value to us. It’s what we do with God’s Word and what it does in our heart that reveals how much we treasure it.

The Bible is the most important book in the world because it’s the only one that is the inspired Word of God. Nothing else ever written can match the wisdom and revelation of the Scriptures.

How then did God give us this sacred text? 2 Peter 1:21 says that the writings did not result from “an act of human will” but came to be through “men moved by the Holy Spirit.” While retaining their own personalities, intellect, and vocabularies, these human authors were borne along by the Spirit of God, writing only what He willed them to say.

Amazingly, the same God who created the universe divinely inspired the writing of Scripture. He did so to reveal Himself to us and to explain how sinful mankind can be made right with a holy God. Everything we need for life and godliness is found within its pages (2 Peter 1:3).

And He hasn’t left us on our own to interpret what He has written (2 Peter 1:20). The truth is that in ourselves, we can’t understand it. But God has given us His Holy Spirit so we can know His mind through the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). However, if we rarely open it, we won’t know His thoughts and as a result will forfeit His blessings and wisdom.

Bible in One Year: Amos 5-9

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/21/18 8:37 P

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There are no great acts of love, only small acts done with great love- Mother Teresa
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9/21/18 6:33 P

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The Witness of God

Romans 1:16-23

No one is born an atheist or agnostic, “because that which is known about God is evident within them” (Rom. 1:19). The Father has given every person an inborn witness of His existence, but this isn’t the only evidence given to mankind. Creation itself testifies of God’s invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature (Rom. 1:20). However, it’s possible to ignore or reject both the internal and external witnesses of God. When that happens, the mind becomes progressively darker until it can no longer see the light of truth.

On hearing this, many believers react with concern for the multitudes who have never heard the gospel. They wonder, How can people be saved if the only evidence they experience of the one true God is the natural world and an inborn sense of His reality, which their culture may try to deny or manipulate? Yet our text today says there is no excuse for anyone who rejects both these witnesses (Rom. 1:20).

One thing we must remember is that God will be just, and we cannot claim to be more righteous, compassionate, and merciful than He. We can trust that He will judge every person rightly (Deut. 32:3-4). All people will be evaluated according to the truth they received, the opportunities they had, and what they did with both: Did they believe or reject what God revealed?

One thing we can know for certain is our part in the divine plan for unbelievers—Scripture is clear that we’re to be witnesses to as many as possible. You have the opportunity to share the gospel with people in your sphere of influence. That is God’s plan for the unreached.

Bible in One Year: Amos 1-4

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9/20/18 7:49 P

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9/20/18 5:13 P

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The Best Friend You’ll Ever Have

John 15:12-17

Good friends are hard to find, and our busy schedules don’t help. Many people don’t make time to cultivate meaningful friendships—are you possibly among their number? If so, notice how Jesus prioritized time with His friends. He lived closely with His disciples for three years and proved to be not only their Lord and Savior but also the best friend they’d ever had.

Unlike the disciples, we’ve never physically walked with Jesus, but this doesn’t exclude us from His friendship. First 1 Peter 1:8 says, “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Every person who trusts in Christ becomes His friend, and the ultimate proof of His unwavering love is that He laid down His life for whoever would believe. Without the Savior’s amazing act of self-sacrifice, His disciples—along with every one of His followers since then—would have been eternally lost and separated from the Lord forever.

Although Jesus is a unique friend unlike any other, we can learn much about friendship from His example. He tells us to love one another as He has loved us, and His is a self-sacrificing love that does what’s best for the other person. Jesus was open and honest with His friends, making known to them all that the Father had told Him.

What a comfort to know that though others may disappoint and abandon us, Christ always remains a faithful, patient, and loving friend. And as we seek to emulate and obey Him, we will become that same kind of friend to others.

Bible in One Year: Joel 1-3

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/20/18 4:28 A

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9/19/18 10:40 P

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The Blessings of Brokenness

Deuteronomy 8:1-14

God’s discipline isn’t easy, but we cannot ignore its wonderful benefits to spiritual growth. It gives us an entirely new perspective on the Lord’s plan for our life. If we enjoyed a steady, uninterrupted stream of blessings, we might think our Father exists solely for our happiness, and we wouldn’t know the truth about who He is.

Think about what we generally request of the Lord. We ask Him for healing, success, or financial security and seek His blessing on our family and relationships. Philippians 4:6 tells us to pray about everything, so there is nothing wrong with coming to God with all our concerns. But we must be careful that we don’t inadvertently begin to think of Him as our personal assistant or some sort of catalog, where we place our order and He delivers.

If that is the case, who is actually at the center of our prayers? It certainly isn’t almighty God, who as our Creator and Savior is worthy of our adoration and worship. When we find ourselves at the center of our prayers, the end result is the subtle deception that the Lord exists for our benefit. This distortion breaks the Lord’s heart and leads us far away from truly knowing His character and majesty.

The antidote for this self-centered idolatry is brokenness. When God says “no”—taking away instead of adding more and then divinely managing what we have, how much we have, and how long we have it—He is helping us keep our eyes on Him. Do not despise such moments. Instead, recognize them as the voice of your Father calling you back into His loving arms.

Bible in One Year: Hosea 10-14

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/18/18 3:52 P

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9/18/18 1:32 P

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The Path of Brokenness

John 12:23-28

A seed that is not planted will never produce a crop. So Jesus used a seed to illustrate why He had to die in order to bring many people to glory. He was teaching a principle that’s also true in our lives: If our ambition is to remain isolated, protected, and comfortable, we’ll never bear the fruit God desires. It’s in dying to self and being broken of pride and self-sufficiency that we become fruitful and useful to the Lord.

Brokenness is one of the means God uses to mature His children. In that process, we may find ourselves challenged in:

Circumstances that cripple our self-sufficiency.
Areas in which we are not submissive to Him.
The timing of His plans.

If we refuse to be re-formed and instead cling to whatever God wants us to release, then how can He use us for His kingdom? Just like the single, unbroken grain of wheat, we will remain unproductive.

With so much at stake, why do we still resist His process of breaking us down? The problem is usually our shortsighted desires. It’s difficult to let go of things or relationships or hobbies we enjoy even when we know they are stunting our spiritual growth. We prefer to take the path of least resistance and hope God will bless us anyway.

Don’t be distracted by short-term happiness—that isn’t the road to maturity that God has prepared for you. An abundance of fruitfulness awaits you if you’ll release your grip and let Him do whatever it takes to get you there.

Bible in One Year: Hosea 6-9

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/17/18 3:28 P

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9/17/18 3:06 P

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God Helps Us Pray

Romans 8:26-27

Why do we sometimes feel as if our prayers go no farther than the ceiling? We’re speaking, but is God listening? The truth is that the Lord is always attentive to the prayers of His people. He’s the one who has invited us to come boldly into His presence. What’s more, He has also promised to assist us as we pray.

First, our Father has given us His Word to teach us truth so we’ll know how to pray wisely and effectively. We find guidance for prayer in God’s direct commands, the descriptions of His ways and thoughts, the examples of biblical characters, and scriptural principles that teach us how to apply divine truth to every area of our life.

Second, He’s given us many promises in His Word. These assure us that He will direct our paths (Prov. 3:5-6), meet our needs (Phil. 4:19), give us wisdom (James 1:5), answer our prayers (John 14:13), and cause all things to work together for good as He conforms us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

Third, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us because in our human weakness, we don’t always know how to pray as we should (Rom. 8:26-27). He takes our misguided or uncertain requests and reframes them according to God’s will.

Fourth, Jesus Christ sits at the Father’s right hand as our High Priest, interceding on our behalf (Heb. 7:25-26).

We are never alone when we pray, because the Trinity acts on our behalf. Not only is prayer an amazing privilege; it’s also an awesome and powerful endeavor. The next time you come to the Lord in prayer, remember that it’s a divine appointment with almighty God.

Bible in One Year: Hosea 1-5

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/14/18 5:10 P

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There are no great acts of love, only small acts done with great love- Mother Teresa
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9/14/18 4:44 P

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Two Ways Through a Valley

Psalm 27:1-14

What do you do when the pressures of life seem greater than you can bear? Journeys through a valley are inevitable and painful, but God doesn’t waste them. The trials of life can be times of discovery about Him.

In our helplessness, we discover His almighty power to sustain us.
In our despair, God invites us to experience His peace and promises.
In our pain, He becomes our comforter and protector.
In our hopelessness, He lifts our eyes to see His sovereignty and goodness.

Other discoveries we make in severe crises have to do with ourselves. Terrible times test our faith and reveal our true character. When a crisis first hits, most of us immediately respond with alarm. But at that point, we can take one of two very different paths.

The way of fear. If our relationship with the Lord is weak, fear may cause us to panic, seek ungodly counsel, blame people or God for the problem, or try to find a way out on our own.

The way of faith. On the other hand, if our faith is strong, we’ll progressively move from alarm to trust by seeking the Lord through prayer and His Word. We do this by believing He will keep His promises despite supposed evidence to the contrary and by remembering how He helped us in the past. In this way, our endurance and confidence in the Lord is strengthened.

Every adversity God allows in our life is designed to bring us to spiritual maturity, not to devastate us. When we yield to Him in the midst of a crisis, He enables us to trust and wait on Him with patience and hope.

Bible in One Year: Daniel 5-6

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/13/18 9:21 A

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9/13/18 9:11 A

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You Must Be Born Again

Life is like a ladder we climb until we die. It would be a shame if we simply stopped and never progressed. But it could be utterly disastrous if we placed our ladder against the wrong wall and after a lifetime of climbing discovered that we had wasted all the years given to us.

This may have been how Nicodemus felt after talking to Jesus. He’d climbed to the top rung of religious success in Judaism and was known as “the teacher of Israel” (John 3:10). Yet Jesus told him the only way he would see the kingdom of God was to be born again. All his good works, extensive knowledge, and great accomplishments were worthless. Nicodemus realized immediately that just as he had done nothing to bring about his first birth, he could do nothing to be born again. His hopes for eternal life were dashed.

Before Nicodemus was ready to hear the good news, he had to be emptied of all his self-confidence and accomplishments in order to see his need for a Savior. His ladder came crashing down, and he had to start afresh with a new birth of the Spirit if he hoped to gain the kingdom of heaven.

Where have you placed your ladder? Has God ever emptied you so He can fill you up again? Although there’s nothing you can do to be born again—no good works or religious service—there is something you can believe. God wants you to glimpse His holiness and realize how far you are from His perfect standard. Then, if you come broken and contrite to Jesus, believing His death paid your sin debt, you’ll be born again and will someday see the kingdom of heaven.

Bible in One Year: Daniel 3-4

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/12/18 12:43 P

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9/12/18 12:26 P

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Jesus Christ Is Lord

Romans 14:7-9

“Jesus is Lord” is the confession of every Christian because it is fundamental to our faith. In order to be saved, the apostle Paul says we must confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9). Such doctrine is central to Christianity, and those who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ believe that He is Lord of all creation and all time.

However, when we say “all,” it means us as well. If Jesus truly is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, then He is also the Master of our individual lives. Christ’s sovereign rule is not limited to governing the vast universe; it’s also a personal issue. He is Lord of our normal, daily lives—our choices, priorities, activities, attitudes, words, everything.

Paul captured this truth in Romans 14:8 when he wrote, “For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord.” The apostle considered it impossible to compartmentalize Christ’s lordship. He knew his life belonged wholly to Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t want to be part of our life; He made that clear with His disciples. When we give the Lord just a portion, then we are telling Him there are other things we consider at least as important as He is. Do you know what the Bible calls this? Idolatry.

Jesus never called people to give Him a try. He demanded full surrender: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). We can’t squeeze Jesus into one segment of our life and continue living as we please. If we’re truly His, then Jesus is our life.

Bible in One Year: Daniel 1-2

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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9/11/18 7:49 P

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When Foundations Are Shaken

Hebrews 12:25-29

Seventeen years ago, the United States of America experienced a massive surprise attack by terrorists. Our people were shaken by the realization that the country is not as safe as we once thought.

Of course, it grieved us to learn of the events that occurred and the lives that were tragically lost. But at the same time, the horrible situation led to some positive outcomes. For example, our nation unified and people served with courage and selflessness.

One of the biggest benefits, I believe, was that many of us realized our great dependence upon God. Safety in this world is an illusion. Sadly, the peace and blessings we’ve experienced in America have led to much complacency and self-dependence. Sometimes we need to be shaken out of our forgetfulness and into reliance upon Jesus Christ.

Just listening to the news these days can rattle our sense of well-being. There is always something unsettling taking place. But as believers, we should look at life from a resurrection perspective. We are children of the living God, not people who seek security only in the natural, secular world. Our hope and refuge is firm: Through Jesus Christ, our relationship with the Lord is eternal. Everything else we possess could be destroyed in a moment.

Worldly circumstances—natural disasters, wars, and assorted turmoil—may have an effect on everyone, but they can’t control the believer’s heart. Let your hope rest in Christ alone. Only by finding security in the arms of almighty God can you endure times of uncertainty.

Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 46-48

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

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9/10/18 4:01 P

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9/10/18 2:53 P

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Tune In
Proverbs 2:1-22

Read
My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.

He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. (Proverbs 2:1-10)

Reflect
Wisdom comes in two ways: It is a God-given gift and also the result of an energetic search. Wisdom’s starting point is God and his revealed Word, the source of “knowledge and understanding” (2:6). In that sense, wisdom is his gift to us. But he gives it only to those who earnestly seek it. But because God’s wisdom is hidden from the rebellious and foolish, it takes effort to find it and use it. The pathway to wisdom is strenuous. When we are on the path, we discover that true wisdom is God’s and that he will guide us and reward our sincere and persistent search.

God gives us wisdom and victory but not for drifting through life or acting irresponsibly with his gifts and resources. We gain wisdom through a constant process of growing. First, we must trust and honor God. Second, we must realize that the Bible reveals God’s wisdom to us. Third, we must make a lifelong series of right choices and avoid moral pitfalls. Fourth, when we make sinful or mistaken choices, we must learn from our errors and recover. We can pray for all aspects of wisdom and take the steps to develop them in our lives.

Respond
The first few chapters of Proverbs are Solomon’s fatherly advice to young men and anyone else seeking wisdom. What’s the best advice you’ve been given? What godly advice would you offer a child or an adult?


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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9/10/18 2:52 P

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Unshakeable Foundations

Romans 8:35-39

Our world is a changing, uncertain place. Many people seek security in wealth, relationships, and power. These things, however, are not guaranteed from one day to the next. Watching the news provides enough proof that any of them can be taken away in a moment. No wonder there is such despair and fear.

For believers, thankfully, reality is not based on what we see. Nor is our foundation found in this world. We build our hope and trust on the Lord, and we believe the truth in His Word.

Even in chaotic times, our certainty is found in God’s loving relationship with us as His children. Today’s passage tells us that nothing can tear us away from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, in the midst of turmoil and trials, we have assurance that our lives are in the grip of the almighty God. We can rely not only on His love and presence but also on His uninterrupted attention, faithfulness, and perfect care.

When difficulty arises and circumstances seem overwhelming, we can respond with confidence and strength because of Jesus. Along with the psalmist, who also lived during times of war and stressful events, we can call the Lord “my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2).

Consider where you find security. Is the foundation of your life built upon the solid rock of Jesus? Or is it planted in something as unstable as sand—like money or prestige? Placing hope and confidence in anything apart from the Lord will ultimately leave you feeling broken and defeated.

Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 43-45

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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9/9/18 4:56 P

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