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Day 21 - January 26

Remember to Celebrate

At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.
— Nehemiah 12:27

Celebration is one of the key principles of life with God. Those who believe in God have reason to celebrate every single day!

Does that sound strange to you? Perhaps you’ve experienced worship that didn’t seem much like celebration.

This chapter shows how Nehemiah staged a huge victory party after the wall around Jerusalem had been rebuilt. After accomplishing their task, the Israelites took time to worship God, who had blessed their work. They celebrated!

Today’s Christians can celebrate the fact that, through Jesus, the wall between all people and God has been removed. We have a direct line to God through prayer. And that’s something we can use daily to thank God and to seek his guidance.

Day 20 - January 25

How Will Your Decision Affect Others?

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
— Romans 14:12-13

One of the biggest mistakes we make in life is forgetting how much our actions influence the people around us. Every day you are tempted to make decisions that may be the best thing for you but could have a devastating effect on the people around you. If you want to make wise decisions, you need to ask, “Will my choice harm other people?”

That’s the opposite of our culture. Our culture teaches us to think only of ourselves. But God expects you to think more of others than you do yourself. In fact, the Bible says that one day you’re going to be judged by God on how your decisions affected other people.

You may not like hearing this, but you are being watched — all the time. If you’re a parent, you should be especially aware that little eyes are always watching you. You’ve got to be careful about what you say and do because you’re influencing not just your life but the next generation as well.

Day 19 - January 24

Be a Blessing

Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
— Philippians 2:4
No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

— 1 Corinthians 10:24
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

— Galatians 5:13

When Jesus was here on earth, He talked about being a servant, but what did He mean? And how does it apply to us today? When He talked about being a servant, He was describing someone who lives to benefit others and someone who sacrifices for another person’s joy. 

Something powerful happens when you serve others—when you don’t think of yourself, but you put the needs of someone else before your own. You’ll find joy and deep satisfaction in your life. Jesus set the greatest example of a perfect servant…His whole life on earth was about serving others. 

Serving others is not typically viewed as a high, or esteemed position, and yet Jesus said it is the highest of all. That’s because when we help others, the One we are actually serving is Christ. That is one of the purposes of being a servant—to show others the love of God that He has shown us so that they too can share in it—and then pass it on. 

Day 18 - January 23

Take Control of Your Thought Life

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
— Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)

James Allen said “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

Thinking patterns have an incredible impact of the quality and outcome of our lives. This is a hard pill to swallow for many of us because we've had painful experiences in the past. Perhaps you  grew up without a dad, or someone abused you when you were young, maybe you have had a failed marriage or business. There could be a wide range of scenarios you have been through that have caused your thoughts to become negative.

While we can't change the past, we can take control of our future by taking responsibility for our thoughts. Today the encouragement is to let God help you dump those negative thoughts about the past. Ask Him to lead you in renewing your mind.

Day 17 - January 22

Our God Provides for Us

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” 4Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
— Exodus 16:3-4

The situation looked hopeless. The 2.5 million Israelites desperately needed food and water. When God didn’t provide for the Israelites in the way they expected, they became angry and accused God of taking them into the wilderness to starve them to death.

But they failed to recognize that God saw their predicament and had plans to take care of them. He supplied them with “manna.” “What is it?” was the people’s first reaction when they saw it on the ground (verse 15). God’s “food” was unusual, but that shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. After all, these were the same people who had miraculously walked through the Red Sea.

Why did God meet their need in this way? God wanted the people to depend on him, to have complete faith in him.

This passage shows that God will do whatever is necessary to provide for his followers so they can accomplish his purposes. Like Moses, we need to trust God and wait for his provision in our lives.

Day 16 - January 21

God Gives Us the Ability to Succeed

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
— Deuteronomy 8:17-18

God created each of us with ambition and a desire for significance, yet it is often that drive that blinds us to our need for him.

The ancient Israelites had this same problem. In this passage Moses reminds the people that they are not self-sufficient. He warns them to guard against allowing their prosperity to become a barrier between them and God.

Like the Israelites, we allow our successes to give us the impression that our life is complete without God. But this passage reminds us that all of our abilities—our reasoning powers, our talents, our “business sense,” even our physical strength—are gifts from God. We need to give credit where credit is due. God has given us many opportunities to use our talents for his service, and we need to live our lives being thankful for his goodness to us.

Think about the talents you have. This passage says these gifts are meant to bring you to an appreciation of God’s goodness and, ultimately, to the recognition that he has already been very kind and generous to you.

Day 15 - January 20

An Attitude of Gratitude

We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful deeds.
— Psalm 75:1
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
— Psalm 100:4
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
— Psalm 107:1

Living a life of gratitude means having a heart that is sensitive to God’s presence in our everyday lives. 

Take some time each day to thank God for who He is and for something He has done for you. You can thank Him always for everything—great or small—but being specific about something each day that is especially meaningful to you will be a blessing to you and to God. 

For example, it can be as simple as, “Father, thank You for helping me make good decisions today,” or “Lord, thank You for sending Jesus to save us.” Take a moment to do this silently in your heart or voice your thankfulness out loud. 

Not only does it please God when we thank Him, it’ll make you feel better and change your outlook on everything from the kind of day you’re having to how you see your relationships. Start by making a list of what you’re thankful for…see how long you can make your list. Maybe even take some time to write down the reasons you are thankful for the people you’ll be with this week and then share it with them.

Day 14 - January 19

Is Fear Holding You Back?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
— Ephesians 2:10

What keeps you from developing your full potential? Fear. What keeps you from becoming all God wants you to be? Fear. What keeps you from building a legacy that will last into eternity? Fear.

There are three kinds of fear that will keep you from developing your talents and accomplishing your purpose.

1. Self-doubt. It keeps people locked in a prison and unable to develop their potential. This is actually the fear of failure. But failure is not fatal! In fact, the fear of failure is far worse than failure itself. Don’t let self-doubt keep you down. It's better to attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed.

2. Self-consciousness. If you worry about what other people think, nothing will ever get done in your life. You just have to do what God tells you to do. That’s all you’re accountable for.

3. Self-pity. There were two disciples that had spectacular failures. Peter and Judas both denied Jesus in clutch time, but they responded to their failure in very different ways. Judas went out and had a pity party and hung himself. Peter, on the other hand, wept bitterly, grieved about it, repented, asked God to forgive him, picked himself up, and went back to serving God. And 40 days later, Peter spoke to the whole city of Jerusalem on Pentecost, and 3,000 people became believers and the Church was born. Of all the people God could have used to start the church, he used the guy with the biggest failure. That means there’s room for you in the family of God!

Day 13 - January 18

Don’t Let Gossip Destroy Your Relationships

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.
— Proverbs 11:13

We tend to think of gossip as one of those “little” sins. But when God talks about gossip, he puts it on the list with things like sexual immorality and murder. Why? Because it is so destructive to relationships. Gossip can tear apart friendships, families, and churches.

Gossip is talking about a situation to somebody who is neither a part of the solution nor a part of the problem. If we’re honest with ourselves, what we’re doing is making ourselves feel a little more important at somebody else’s expense. We’re talking about their hurts and their problems to make us feel like we’re morally superior to them. That’s the danger and the hurt of gossip.

Some of you have been deeply hurt by gossip and things that have been said around the office or a broken confidence between a friend or family member. Here’s what God has to say to you: “Pray for the person who gossiped against you so that you can be released from the hurt in your life.” Or maybe you’ve been the one gossiping.

When you keep confidences, it enables you to connect to others in productive, healthy, and genuine ways.

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

Are you the kind of person that can keep people’s confidences so they can trust you?

Day 12 - January 17

Your Mouth Is a Power Tool. Use It Carefully

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

— Ephesians 4:29

Sometimes our words are like a sledgehammer. We swing away without thinking, and all of a sudden we look around, and all we’ve got is a pile of relational rubble. When you thoughtlessly sling your words around and tear people down, your relationships are going to suffer.

One of the reasons we’re not constructive with our words is we don’t realize how powerful this tool is—our mouth and the words that God has given to us. We say things without thinking. And people remember them. Certain things people said to you in a careless way—even as far back as grade school or college or when you first started working—you still remember today. That’s how powerful words are. So when it comes to your mouth, you’ve got to think of it as a power tool and be very careful with it.

Stop saying, “I didn’t really mean to say that” or “It’s just that blood sugar dip before lunch.” Realize that what you say impacts everybody around you. Instead, let your first thoughts be, “What does that person need? How can I use a word of encouragement to build him up? What can I say to make a difference in their life?”

Day 11 - January 16

Depend On God’s Wisdom, Not Yours

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. Proverbs 3:5-7
— Proverbs 3:5-7
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
— James 1:5

Have you ever had a feeling that something was so very, very right, and then when you did it, it ended up being so very, very wrong?

Feelings lie. They lie to you all the time! There’s an old country song that says, “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?” Are you kidding me? There are a lot of things that are wrong that feel so right at the moment.

After six months in a relationship, you wonder, “What was I thinking?” Just a few months into a job, you think, “How in the world did I get messed up in this?” A quick decision that seemed harmless at the time leaves you broken and scarred years later.

If you really want God’s blessing on your life, you have to depend on God’s wisdom and not what your feelings say or what your gut says. Trust in the Lord and not on your own understanding.

So, how do you get God’s wisdom?

You pray. You talk to God, and you let him talk to you by reading the Bible. That’s how you get God’s wisdom.

God doesn’t want you to make dumb mistakes. He doesn’t want you to hit dead ends or go through failure after failure in your life. God wants you to succeed. He wants you to make wise decisions with your time and your money and your relationships.

If you want to be blessed, you’ve got to get God’s wisdom. If you want God’s wisdom, then you’ve got to get in God’s Word.

Day 10 - January 15

Jesus: A New Beginning

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
— 2 Corinthians 5:17

God made all things new for us after Jesus’ death, and that is such good news. Who doesn’t love a new beginning?

God was not satisfied to leave man in this degenerate condition, and because of His great love for us He made a way through Jesus; His death, burial, and resurrection opened the door for man to now have a new beginning.

When we become born again, God gives us a new heart (see Hebrews 8:10), and we are warned in the book of Proverbs to guard our hearts (see Proverbs 4:23). We only get a new heart once, but the Apostle Paul admonishes us in the New Testament to renew our minds and therein lies the key to remaining a new man. If we keep our thought life synchronized with God’s words and ways we will be stable in holding our position as the new creation.

Day 9 - January 14

Live like Jesus - With God's Help

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
— 1 John 2:3-6

How do Christians live? Like Jesus. Why do Christians live that way? Because they know and love Jesus, their savior and leader. What if people say they know and love Jesus but don’t live like him? Then, according to this passage, their claims are empty.

In your own power and ability, you’ll never be able to live like Jesus. Don’t even try. But when you do become his follower, follow him. In other words, live like him.

With God’s power at work in you, such a lifestyle is possible. When you accept God’s help, the changes you’ll notice will prove that something supernatural has happened in your life.

Day 8 - January 13

Have a Conversation with Your Creator

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
— Psalm 116:1-2

It took me a while, but I finally figured out that this marriage thing is about communication. I discovered that on the days that I had deep, soul-communication with my wife — not “Hi. How are you? I love you. See you later” — that’s when our relationship would grow.

The same is true with God. On the days when you have deep, significant talks with God, your relationship grows. It’s that simple.

When you really love somebody, you don’t just want to spend time with them. You want to talk with them. Remember when you first fell in love as a teenager and your parents got upset because you were always on the phone? You talked and talked and talked because you were getting to know that person. Communication is how you get to know others.

What do you talk about if you want to express love to God? Anything that you’d talk to your best friend about: your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your anxieties, the things you’re embarrassed about, the things you’re proud of, the things you’re ashamed of, your goals, your ambitions, your hurts, your cares — every part of your life.

If you don’t feel close to God because your Christian life has become routine, dull, joyless, and lifeless, there’s a simple remedy: Start talking to God again.

Prayer is not some duty that you have to do. It’s a privilege. You get to talk to the Creator of the universe! He’s waiting on you to have a conversation with him so that your relationship can grow.

Day 7 - January 12

God’s Grace is for Everybody

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
Romans 4:16

No matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, God loves you, and he wants you to come home to him. He wants to shower his grace on you. He wants to throw a party for you when you return. All of us can come to God in the same way: through faith in the grace of God through his Son, Jesus Christ. And God's grace is for everybody!
Does “everybody” include short people? Yes. Does it mean rich people and poor people? Yes. Does it include politicians and blue-collar workers? Yes. Does it include people from every ethnic background? Yes. Does that mean people from every country in the world? Yes!

It means everybody. Everybody! God’s grace is available to you.

You can’t understand what it means to have a relationship with God without understanding grace. Without grace, you don’t have any relationship with God. It is the heart of Christianity. It is the heart of following Christ and being a believer. Remember: No matter what you’ve done and no matter who you are, God’s grace is available to you.

Day 6 - January 11

Love: The Driving Force

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
— John 3:16
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
— Matthew 1:23
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39

Love is the driving force of the story of Jesus.

God came down to earth, became human, lived among us and modeled love each day. He showed us that our daily life is not separate from our faith. Our whole life—every thought and action—can show love in our world. 

Love—knowing you're loved—is what every person desires. We all want to feel valuable and know we matter. 

Though we may not always feel loved by those around us, the truth is, God loves us unconditionally. He doesn't love us because of anything we do or don't do; He just loves us. We can't buy His love or get rid of it. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (see Romans 8:38-39).

Once that truth is rooted deep inside us, we can begin to see ourselves the way God does and love ourselves in a healthy way. And then out of that, His love can flow through us to others. God’s love changes us. It softens our hearts and allows us to see other people the way God sees them. When we understand God’s love, we really do begin to live differently. 

Day 5 - January 10

Jesus: The Final Sacrifice

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
— Hebrews 10:10-14

This passage is educational for spiritual explorers in that it provides a brief essay on the mechanics of the Jewish sacrificial system. The writer uses these images, which were very familiar to his original readers, to describe why Jesus’ sacrifice for sin on the cross eliminates the need for such sacrifices.

The old Jewish sacrificial system was unable to cleanse the human conscience (verses 8–10). For one thing, under that system the way into God’s presence was barred to his people. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place in the temple, and then only once a year. Something more than ritual was required to unite the people with their God.

That something was the blood of Christ. Jesus offered his own blood as the sacrifice for sin (verse 12). When we accept Jesus’ actions on our behalf, our sins are washed away and our consciences are cleared. When we’ve experienced true forgiveness, we’re free from the weight of guilt in our lives and ready to serve God.

Day 4 - January 9

Seeking The Truth

Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21but test them all; hold on to what is good,
— 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

Wanting to be sure about the things we believe is not evidence of a lack of faith. As a matter of fact, Paul tells us to test everything. We can’t just assume that everything we hear is God’s truth. In that sense, Paul encourages all people—from spiritual explorers at the very beginning of their journey to veteran Christ-followers—to continually search for truth.

We live in a world full of deception and spiritual counterfeits. Many new ideas and fraudulent philosophies have come and gone over the centuries, but God’s revelation in the Bible doesn’t change. As always, God’s Word is the ultimate test of the validity of any new teaching.

Day 3  - January 8

A New Identity

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
— Acts 9:1-6
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
— Acts 9:17-20

After Saul’s dramatic conversion, he spoke repeatedly about his new beliefs. The crux of his message concerned Jesus’ true identity. Saul’s first words to the outside world were simple: Jesus is the Son of God.

Note the significance of this transformation. Saul became a new person with a new name, Paul, after his encounter with Jesus. Saul had known about Jesus and was convinced that he had lived. What radically changed was Saul’s belief about who Jesus was.

A personal encounter with Jesus will be at the heart of any change that occurs in your life. Merely knowing facts about Jesus won’t save you. But when you look to him for salvation and make the same acknowledgment Saul did, you will most certainly find eternal life (see John 3:18).

Day 2 - January 7

Jesus Rose from the Dead

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
— Luke 24:37-43

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
Luke 24:37-43

Was the resurrection of Jesus just a spiritual event? Jesus answers with a resounding No!

The disciples actually saw Jesus’ physical body—the one that had been nailed to the cross. That body had been changed in his resurrection, but it still bore the marks of his sacrifice. If his was not a physical resurrection, he could not have had his disciples touch him. He would not have claimed to have “flesh and bones” (verse 39). And he would not have been able to eat a piece of fish.

Some people claim that Jesus rose spiritually but not bodily. That ignores the fact that Jesus’ tomb was empty and that his disciples and others saw him, talked with him, and touched him.

One of the most important doctrines of Christianity is believing that Jesus rose from the dead. Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

Day 1  - January 6

The Name of God

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” 15God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
— Exodus 3:14-15

The God of the Bible is a personal God. That means he is not just a force, not just something, but someone. The Bible makes this clear by the titles it uses to describe him. Here God reveals himself to Moses and says that he should be identified as “I AM WHO I AM,” or simply “I AM.” This name emphasizes God’s timelessness—he’s the one who always has been and always will be.

In the next verse God uses a proper name, translated “LORD.” The letters that form this word in the original Hebrew language are YHWH. “I AM” in Hebrew is very similar to the letters YHWH. It’s clear God wanted Moses to understand the close relation of these names in sound and meaning.

Throughout the Bible, God uses many words and phrases to refer to himself as he tries to help us understand his multifaceted nature. And when we come to the second part of the Bible—the New Testament—and read about Jesus, we find out something astounding. Jesus refers back to the time before Abraham was born, saying, “I am!” (John 8:56–58). He was with God right from the beginning!

These devotionals and many more are available for free at bible.com and in the Youversion Bible App.

All scripture from NIV translation unless otherwise noted.