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365 Devotions

June 22

By | 365 Devotions

Greatest Story Ever Told

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16, KJV).

Scripture: John 3:16-21

Song: “Wonderful Words of Life”

Who among us doesn’t like to tell stories of the good old days? The Old Testament abounds with stories told around cook-fires and passed from generation to generation. History, poetry, songs, prophecies, letters, creeds, gospels—all the genres of Scripture give us instruction, comfort, and hope. But it’s the stories, especially, that seem to speak so powerfully to the human heart.

Held in one hand, this small book, the Bible, tells a myriad of stories. I remember when my Sunday school teacher told the Bible’s stories with the use of a flannel board. Even though I know that flannel boards are still a teaching aid for toddlers, electronic devices now tend to replace it. As our teacher told the story of Noah’s ark, she would place the cutouts of Noah’s ark on the flannel board. The story became real-life to us kids, even if conveyed in flimsy felt.

Another thing we did was memorize Scripture. The goal was to receive the reward: a bookmark with the matching verse and picture of the Last Supper (or Jesus knocking at the heart’s door). To this day, I repeat John 3:16 only in the King James Version.

Dear Father, how blessed I am for the teachers who told me the Bible’s stories at a young age. I give thanks that You gave each of them the gift of storytelling. I ask Your blessing on the Sunday school teachers who continue to pass the stories from generation to generation. In the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, amen.

June 21

By | 365 Devotions

Use That Gift!

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh (Luke 6:21).

Scripture: Luke 6:20-26

Song: “My Redeemer Lives”

What is it about the early morning? It draws me. Before real light begins, birds already chirping call their greeting while oak trees cast their silhouettes against a charcoal sky. Streetlights and porch lights glow amber through the morning fog. If it weren’t for the sound of distant morning traffic, I would feel as if I lived in the country. Sometimes I see a face in the old oak tree; I think of it as the face of Jesus as I pray.

When I retired, the one thing on my bucket list was to write, to see my work published. I took a writing course, joined a Christian writer’s group, and read book after book. It wasn’t long before one of my short stories, followed by others, appeared in various magazines. I was overjoyed.

My earthly father and my heavenly Father must surely smile as they look down on me. Soon I began to write even shorter stories and devotionals. Led by the Holy Spirit, more and more I wrote for the glory of God. In fact, I hungered for the Lord, and my hunger was satisfied as I used the gift God gave me.

Inspired by the stillness of the dawn, I continue to write for the Lord. How do you use the gift God has given you?

Gracious Heavenly Father, I humbly choose to follow You. I give thanks for the gift of writing and the Holy Spirit who gives me words to use for Your glory. I praise You that the more I hunger, the more I’m fed through the Spirit within me. I pray in the precious name of Jesus, my Savior and Lord. Amen.

June 20

By | 365 Devotions

Amidst Tears and Sorrow

The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty (James 5:4).

Scripture: James 5:1-5

Song: “Through It All”

My husband’s by-pass surgery had failed. When I took him home from the hospital for the last time, he was given two weeks to live.

I faced my boss with a plea for time off. “Are you telling me your husband’s dying?” The blunt question startled me. I stared at him. How dare he put into words what I could not? “I’ll make up the time—Saturdays, whatever it takes,” I pleaded.

As a legal secretary in a “one-girl office,” I knew it would not be easy for my employer. His wife ran the office, but since they always professed to living Christian lives, I hoped they’d understand my predicament. I breathed a sigh of relief when my employer agreed. Yet the very next day he reneged. “I’m letting you go,” he said from the other end of the phone.

Three days later my husband passed away, and the injustice of the matter sent bitterness into my heart. Yet, ever so gradually, I released that chain around my heart. I chose instead to focus on something I’d known all along: the Lord holds my future in the palm of His hand, even amidst tears and sorrow. He has a plan, and His plan is for my good.

Lord God Almighty, You lift me up when I’m down; You give me courage to face the unknown; You strengthen me emotionally and physically through each of life’s storms. Thank You for reminding me once again that Your plan is always greater than mine. I pray with gratitude through Christ my Lord. Amen.

June 19

By | 365 Devotions

The Handshake

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).

Scripture: Proverbs 22:1, 2, 7-9, 16

Song: “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”

My great-uncle Jack was known as the “wheeler dealer” of the family, with Grandfather trailing a close second. My aunts said there was always a “get rich quick” scheme in the works. This was a way of life before, during, and after the Great Depression of the 1930s, a time when a man’s word was as good as his handshake. Dad was often enticed into joining their schemes—and the one who paid the price if failure followed.

Dad’s character and reputation were important to him. It took years of hard work on small ranches to save money, all while supporting our family of six. But Dad never purchased anything without paying cash. And only certain necessities werepurchased; food was home-raised.

I remember a time when my grandfather talked Dad into investing in a ranch. But when we arrived from another state the animals and equipment were gone, and they themselves traded the ranch for a motel elsewhere. Starting over was part of our life. Maybe Dad was considered poor, but he was no slave to a lender (see verse 7).

The ritual of shaking hands began as a gesture of peace in the 5th century BC. It showed you weren’t holding a weapon. In my family’s time, a handshake was the only thing needed to seal a deal.

Almighty God, Whether I’m rich or poor, I pray for wisdom to live my life according to Your will, with honor and generosity. And when the roll is called up yonder, may I leave behind a righteous reputation. In the name of Jesus, amen.

June 18

By | 365 Devotions

What Matters?

Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die (Psalm 49:16, 17).

Scripture: Psalm 49:1-4, 16-20

Song: “As You Serve, Remember Me”

They found me living in Florida, more than 50 years having gone by. Where did the time go?

I opened the invitation to my high school reunion in San Diego, California, and reading my classmates’ names (with e-mail addresses) at the bottom, inspired me to sit down at my computer to write a brief synopsis of my life after high school and retirement. I gave permission to use it at the reunion in any way they saw fit. At the end I added, “If you know where Karen lives, please give me her contact information. I’ve lost track of her over the years.”

It wasn’t long before I received an answer. You see, my friend and neighbor had never left her old address; it was I who left—over and over again. While she stayed put and let life happen around her, I searched for happiness, moving from state to state and losing close friends. “Karen, it’s your old friend, Shirley.” My voice met silence before the words sank in. I can only imagine the stunned look on her face.

What really matters in life? Beauty, riches, and power will all be lost at our time of death. What matters to you?

O Lord, as I bow my head to pray, I give thanks for family and old friends. At the end of the day, You’ve shown me what really matters, and I praise You. In Christ, amen.

June 18–24. Shirley J. Conley of Oviedo, Florida, has published creative nonfiction and fiction short stories. She’s a member of a local garden club and also enjoys giving sewing lessons.

June 17

By | 365 Devotions

Let My Words Be Acceptable

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (Matthew 15:8).

Scripture: Matthew 15:1-9

Song: “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee”

My friend worked in a clothing factory where the laborers were paid by the piece—the more they produced in a day, the better their paychecks. One day the supervisor laid a stack of jeans on my friend’s sewing table, all of them needing to be repaired. “Those aren’t mine,” she said, glaring at the man. “I’m not fixing them.”

Yet the stack remained on her table all day. The next day, angry at being expected to repair someone else’s mistakes, she went to the grievance committee, which called a meeting. As my friend turned off her machine and walked to the meeting, other machines grew quiet. She felt the eyes of coworkers following her.

Her steps slowed, and as she entered the meeting, she heard these words from Psalm 19 ringing in her mind: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD,” (KJV) v. 14

The meeting began with angry words but soon this fact emerged: the factory had been extremely hot when the damaged jeans were sewn. Learning that an air-conditioning problem contributed to someone sewing faulty jeans, my friend felt compassion—and Psalm 19:14 became her prayer. She felt calm; her calmness affected the others. The meeting ended peacefully, and my friend returned to her sewing machine, ready to make the needed repairs.

Lord, the words she heard that day are my prayer too. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. In Jesus’ name, amen.

June 16

By | 365 Devotions

Why Compound the Guilt?

Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them (Mark 7:15).

Scripture: Mark 7:14-23

Song: “O Be Careful, Little Eyes”

I took my new writers’ magazine along to read while on vacation. In the first article, the author tells about developing guidelines that help her know when to use profanity. She didn’t want to be considered either a prude or crude, so she developed a three-point standard. First, she’d determine who her intended readers were (educated ones might accept mild swear words). Then she’d decide what kind of language fit her character. Finally, she’d choose words that wouldn’t undermine her personal moral principles.

Here’s the thing: I don’t need guidelines to know when to use swearwords. My principles come from the Bible. For example, today’s verse tells us that what comes out of us defiles us. And the apostle Paul warned us against uttering any unwholesome words.

Today’s song asks whether we have been true to the trust He left us. When He blessed me with an ability to write, the Lord trusted me not to let words come out of my mouth—or my computer— that would defile me. But my responsibility goes much further; if I sprinkle unsavory words into my writing, those words will be planted in the minds of my readers. The risk is to defile not only myself but also my fellow human beings—a compounding of guilt.

Lord God, my prayer is this: whether I am speaking or writing, may the words I use always be wholesome. May I let nothing come out of my mouth that will defile others or myself. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

June 15

By | 365 Devotions

No Favoritism Here

Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself” (Acts 10:26).

Scripture: Acts 10:23-33

Song: “Jesus Loves the Little Children”

Our small grandsons stared in fascination at the picture of my husband in his Navy whites. “Grandpa, were you a pirate?” they asked breathlessly. Grandpa was already a special person to these little boys. But what if he were somebody famous? The thought that maybe he had been a pirate put stars in their eyes.

In our Scripture today, Cornelius venerated the man who stood before him, falling at Peter’s feet in reverence. My grandsons didn’t go quite that far—little boys don’t fall at their grandparents’ feet in worship! Furthermore, Grandpa wasn’t a pirate, and they were OK with that. They quickly accepted him for who he was and were soon off to another adventure.

When Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet, the apostle told him to stand up. He wasn’t a holy person to be worshipped; he was simply there to share God’s Word with the Gentiles. Peter assured Cornelius and his household that God doesn’t show favoritism. He accepts anyone who fears him and does what is right, Jew and Gentile alike.

It doesn’t matter who we are—whether an everyday grandpa or a pirate—God will accept any of us if we fear Him, sincerely seek His truth, repent and do what is right. And remember: anyone who says otherwise is still “only a man himself.”

I’m thankful You don’t pick favorites, God. And keep me from showing favoritism among the people I’ll meet today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

June 14

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Am I Competent?

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God (2 Corinthians 3:5).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Song: “I Owe Everything to Jesus”

Most of us who have been around small children know how independent they can be. So many times we’ve heard the familiar words, “I can do it myself.” And sometimes that attitude carries into adulthood. “He’s a self-made man,” we say. But today’s Scripture reminds us: none of us is capable in ourself alone. We may become competent in ministry, for example, but we can’t produce spiritual fruit by ourselves. That ability comes only from the Lord.

For years I’ve served as a caregiver for Alzheimer’s patients. My mother showed signs of memory loss before we’d even heard of the disease. Then, five months after Mother’s death, my mother- in-law’s doctor said, “I believe she has Alzheimer’s.” Later, my husband would also become a victim. After nine years of caring for him at home, I found I needed to place him in a nursing home and accept the necessity of hospice care.

Throughout my more than 35 years’ experience with Alzheimer’s, God has given me many opportunities to become a more skillful caregiver. And here’s the key: I’m able to do a better job when I don’t try to do everything myself. I can lean on all kinds of help. It may come from hospice, nursing home and hospital staff, or others who have the skills to enable me in my own role.

Thank You, God, that I don’t have to do it all myself when it comes to serving You and Your beloved ones. This day, as always, I seek Your strength. In Christ, amen.

June 13

By | 365 Devotions

Listen and Take It to Heart

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Deuteronomy 5:16).

Scripture: Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16

Song: “Hark, My Soul, It Is the Lord!”

“Honor your father and your mother,” the Scripture says, “so that you may live long and that it may go well with you.” We despaired of ever seeing any honor from our youngest son through his teenage years. Didn’t that kid hear anything we said? There were times we didn’t know whether he—or his dad and I—would live long enough to survive all the family turmoil.

But he grew up, and life became calmer as he established his own home. Then he became a father. His kids grew up, and he faced the same kinds of struggles with them in their teen years. One day as we talked on the phone, he shared with me how he coped. “I just remember the things you used to tell me when I was their age.”

His words amazed my husband and me. “We didn’t think you ever heard us.”

“I heard you,” he said. “I just didn’t take it to heart at the time.”

Finally! It took nearly two decades, but he had honored us—not in the way we expected during those battle-scarred years. But our words had indeed lingered in his heart, and we saw them bear fruit in our grandchildren.

Father, give me patience in all things. Even though I don’t see results as soon as I expect, I know You are faithful to keep Your promises. In Jesus’ name, amen.

June 12

By | 365 Devotions

Caught . . . and Facing Judgment

Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! . . . That day will be darkness, not light (Amos 5:18).

Scripture: Amos 5:18-24

Song: “Yield Not to Temptation”

Our grandson had a problem in kindergarten. “He’s telling lies,” the teacher told my daughter. That night my daughter and her six-year-old had a serious talk. Then came the hard part for the tearful little guy. “You have to apologize to your teacher,” his mother said. The next morning she went with him and stood by while he told his teacher he was sorry.

After his painful confession, my daughter hugged her son, saying she was proud of him. “And don’t you feel better now?” she asked. He ducked his head and answered honestly, “But I felt even better before you knew about it.” Our grandson knew it was wrong to lie, and he faced the inevitable “judgment day” when his mother found out.

The prophet Amos warned the people in the northern kingdom of Israel of a more severe judgment if they didn’t repent. They might try to run from the darkness they faced, but just when they thought they’d gotten away from something as fierce as a lion, they would encounter more obstacles—they would meet a bear; and as they fled from the bear, a snake would bite them.

There is no escaping judgment apart from repentance. That truth applies to everyone, whether a kindergartner caught telling lies or a whole society that ignores God.

Father, have mercy on me, a sinner. I seek Your forgiveness through the cross of Your Son, Jesus. By His blood, I can be cleansed. Praise to You, in His name. Amen.

June 11

By | 365 Devotions

Defend the Oppressed

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:17).

Scripture: Isaiah 1:12-17

Song: “O God, Defender of the Poor”

A young man stopped by the table where my friend and I sat for a book signing. The B.A.C.A. emblem on the man’s jacket caught my attention, and I asked what it meant. “Bikers Against Child Abuse,” he said. “It’s a nationwide organization that advocates for children who are physically, sexually, or emotionally abused.”

B.A.C.A. members put today’s Scripture into practice. Once they know a call is legitimate, and a child needs help, they roar into action. They don’t go to the home of the perpetrator, but they make their presence known. If a child is too frightened to sleep, a dozen bikes may rumble into the neighborhood and surround the house. One grandmother took pictures of the bikers and put them in her grandchild’s room. Having the photos nearby quieted the child, and he was able to sleep. If necessary, bikers work in shifts to provide 24-hour protection.

The emblem on the bikers’ jackets isn’t one of the worthless symbols Isaiah warned against when he said to stop bringing meaningless offerings. B.A.C.A. men and women show their love for children by actually doing what it takes to keep them safe.

O God, guide me in defending the oppressed by joining with others for practical action. Show me the way when I see someone who needs help. In Christ, amen.

June 11–17. LeAnn Campbell is a retired special education teacher in Lamar, Missouri. She is the author of a mystery series of books for middle-graders.

June 10

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It’s Worth It: Do His Will

“I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world” (Matthew 13:35).

Scripture: Matthew 13:24-33

Song: “Near to the Heart of God”

Jesus spoke practically in His parables. They teach us not to be so quick with our judgments and that the only one with the right to judge a human soul is God himself. He alone can perfectly distinguish the good and the bad in ways that we, finite creatures, can’t do. For our infinite Lord sees from the beginning to the end.

With each of His parables, Jesus took the practical approach with His listeners. He speaks of the lowly mustard seed to tell us that something small, like a single conversion to kingdom values, can have large influence in the world. He spoke of weeds and wheat that couldn’t be separated until they had finished growing, letting us know that the visible church will hold unbelievers too. Jesus spoke of the leaven for bread and the power of the Spirit to sanctify our lives. In these and so many ways the parables of Jesus made their impact upon human hearts.

One of Christ’s most practical parables tells us that there is always a hostile power in the world seeking to destroy the good seed of God’s Kingdom. It calls us to remain alert to the danger, to keep taking up the challenge to accept and do the will of God. There is no other way to peace of mind and heart in this life. It is worth everything to do His will.

Dear Lord, I pray for peace in our world and ask You to guide every member of Your church as we seek to know and do Your will. Keep us alert to every form of opposition, and show us the way through. I pray in the name of Christ my Savior. Amen.

June 9

By | 365 Devotions

A Little Goes a Long Way

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33).

Scripture: Matthew 13:33-43

Song: “Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling”

Jesus went to the kitchen to speak of the kingdom’s transforming power. Leaven was a little piece of dough kept over from another baking project and which had fermented in the keeping. It changes the nature of a whole loaf. Unleavened bread is blah, hard and dry, and pretty tasteless. Bread baked with leaven is soft, porous, and tasty. The leaven causes a change in the bread just as God’s Spirit does in the lives of men and women. It is powerful.

Shortly after my husband first retired, he and I were in the grocery store shopping for the Coalition. I had been doing the family shopping for years by myself, but now I had a “helper”—who assured me I was doing it all wrong! Along came a good friend, and I told her my dilemma. “I will bring him bread starter,” she said, and the next day she did just that.

How my husband took to the kneading of the dough! He went out and bought new pans to cook bread for gifts. He mastered cinnamon buns, which the grandchildren loved. They also loved being in the kitchen with him, making a colossal mess together.

How we loved this time together, cooking as a family. We also used that kitchen for family Bible reading. The leaven went to work on two levels . . . aided by heavenly power.

Thank You, Father, for the power by which You rule the physical world and transform my spiritual life. You are the great King, and I bow before You. In Christ, amen

June 8

By | 365 Devotions

Keep On Praying

Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? (Luke 18:7).

Scripture: Luke 18:1-8

Song: “To Worship, Work, and Witness”

I can still see my husband sitting on the ground showing my granddaughter how to work the soil before planting. He was taught by his own parents, who each sported green thumbs. He had two brothers, and the three of them were responsible for the yard chores while his three sisters helped their mom in the house.

When the boys left home, my father-in-law hired young men on Saturdays, teaching them too the proper way to take care of a yard. One Saturday after the work, he snapped a photo of his beautiful yard and mailed it to his yard supply company. Imagine his surprise when the company sent him a check: he had won a prize.

My husband and his brothers often entertained us talking about their yard tasks. They spoke of having to get the two fields of hay up with pitchforks and being paid a penny a row for cutting the stalks of corn across the road at Halloween time.

They had four or five cows, had to milk them before school—and churn and sell the butter. They also had a hundred chickens to feed and clean up after. Their reward? Probably 12 cents for a Saturday afternoon movie. But like the persistent widow in our Scripture, they kept on keeping on. Such perseverance nearly always gets rewarded. And, according to the Lord, the principle holds even when it comes to our praying.

Dear God, I thank You for Your compassion. I thank You for the kindness of others who make our life easier and more meaningful. Through Christ, amen.

June 7

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You Can Go Home Again

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home” (Matthew 13:57).

Scripture: Matthew 13:54-58

Song: “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Jesus faced plenty of disbelief and opposition when He returned to His hometown of Nazareth. The people there chose to take offense rather than open their hearts to our Lord’s good-news message of the kingdom. They could have looked into their history with Jehovah and found something in His Son to cherish. But no.

What a contrast with my own experience! I’m always overjoyed when I return to where I grew up and see old friends and acquaintances. When I get reacquainted with former teachers, Sunday school teachers, friends and neighbors, I feel so at home. (When you attend a school small enough that everybody knows everybody, you’ll be remembered through the years.)

Once I went to England with college friends, and we visited an Anglican church in London. Introducing ourselves to the minister and telling him about our college years, he said, “You Virginians are so studied.”

“Do you want me to tell you why?” I asked him. “It’s because our fourth-grade teachers did such a splendid job of teaching us Virginia history.” We waited until our three children had passed fourth grade before taking them to Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, and Richmond to review and cherish a history we hold dear.

O Lord, our lives are enriched by those who have gone before us. Thank You for the great cloud of witnesses who continue to show us the way. In Christ’s name, amen.

June 6

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Advancing Through Serving

I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18, RSV).

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20

Song: “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”

I am amazed at what all the good people around me are doing for other people. Through our local coalition many in need receive clothes, medicine, food, and help with paying their utility bills. Almost everyone I know works there at least one day per week. We have an active boys’ and girls’ club where youth can spend supervised hours in a clean and encouraging atmosphere, safe and protected. They receive homework help and also participate in sports before enjoying a good meal.

Some years back a group of women organized a Giving Circle for women and children in our county. With each woman donating $600 a year, we raised $15,000 last year for four non-profit organizations. These women have demonstrated their willingness to share their abundance with others.

There are others: the minister who, along with his cohorts, dons a clown outfit and juggles and entertains sick residents in our hospital. There are the “toy angels” who meet regularly and sew toys for little patients. And don’t let me forget those who assist and encourage Arc participants in the Special Olympics. Each in his own way assaults “the powers of death” on behalf of the kingdom.

Thank You, God, for Your servants who do so much for others. You are building Your church through the proclamation of the Gospel and by the good works that flow through Your people. You cannot fail, and I praise You! In Jesus’ name, amen.

June 5

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Beauty from Common Roots

On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar (Ezekiel 17:23).

Scripture: Ezekiel 17:22-24

Song: “Our Father Has Planted a Beautiful Tree”

In my hometown, we celebrate trees. The town was named a 2015 Tree City USA for the 36th year by the Arbor Day Foundation in honor of its commitment to urban forestry. Each year we have an Arbor Day ceremony featuring our school children.

The long leaf pine grows especially well here, and this year our children helped the town crew plant one at our public library. Treasured for their beauty and sturdiness, the long leafs stand majestic.

Joyce Kilmer’s wonderful poem “Trees” was read by a member of the Foundation, the third graders from a local school read poems and stories they had written about trees, and our mayor read an Arbor Day proclamation. “Trees bring shade to our homes and beauty to our community,” said the organizer of the ceremony. “Everyone benefits when a tree is planted. It is smart to make investments in urban forests.”

Our Scripture tells us the repentant will enjoy God’s favor. Not just each individual—but everyone in a societybenefits when any citizen repents. We are connected by the common roots of our creature-hood that grow forth from the Creator. Thankfully, prophets like Ezekiel faithfully called for humble hearts and teachable spirits—fertile soil for the growth of something truly beautiful.

Lord, Your early disciples teach us so much about our heritage as Christians. I thank You for their leadership, through Christ the Lord. Amen.

June 4

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What Praiseworthy Deeds!

We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD. . . the wonders he has done (Psalm 78:4).

Scripture: Psalm 78:1-8

Song: “Go, Tell It on the Mountain”

I have taught classes on writing memoirs. I’ve urged many friends and acquaintances to write theirs, and I’ve edited memoirs that have been written. My mother wrote her memoir after she turned 80 years of age. She called it her “story.” The title: “Faith Versus Fate.”

She had quite a story to tell because my father, unable to handle the stress of working and looking after a young family, left when I was 2 years old. She went immediately to work as a bookkeeper in a department store. We lived with my grandparents for several years until Mom could buy a seven-room house for $5,500. That seems incredible to me, but she always told me you couldn’t carry $5.00 worth of groceries back then.

With a sixth-grade education she reached the zenith in her church association and would address hundreds with her broken English. Yet she was a divorcee, a rare breed when I was growing up, and I know she faced many difficulties. She worked hard, and I seemed never to want for anything. Mom never displayed any bitterness about the way her life unfolded; she simply kept teaching me the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.

O God, thank You for the care with which good parents have reared us. Even those who failed were doing the best they could. We honor them in Christ’s name. Amen.

June 4–10. Cos Barnes is an active church member in Southern Pines, North Carolina. She has written devotionals for many years.

June 3

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Credentials Versus Connections

The Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14).

Scripture: Matthew 12:1-14

Song: “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”

Searching for a teaching position, I saw that a nearby elementary school was hiring. Just a few blocks from our home (and our young daughter was a student there), it would be perfect for me. I presented myself well at the interview, and I hoped to get the job.

Weeks later, I learned that the superintendent had hired someone from out of town—even bringing the new teacher in from out of state. Why? Well, the new hire had prior “connections” with people on our school board.

The experience caused me to consider: Doesn’t God’s will for us also include His will for others? Very soon, I was hired by another school system . . . hired for my credentials, not my connections.

Our very small school staff became my family—my best friends. We shared the same values, worked hard, and stayed tightly connected with our students and their families. My 20-minute drive to school, through the charming Amish countryside, became my treasured quiet time. Those were the best years.

Jesus came with credentials the Pharisees didn’t recognize. They overlooked His qualifications, in part because He was a local without connections. Little did they know how “connected” He was with the Father and the Holy Spirit. What a heavenly résumé!

Precious Lord, thank You for always knowing my real needs as well as the needs of others. Thank You for Jesus’ example—showing resilience, kindness, and wisdom, even in the face of criticism and misunderstanding. In His name I pray. Amen.

June 2

By | 365 Devotions

We Are God’s Hands

You, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless (Psalm 10:14).

Scripture: Psalm 10:12-18

Song: “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit”

For several years, we helped run a large facility where local homeless people were invited to gather on Saturdays to rest and socialize. We provided . . . a hot dinner, clean clothes, a warm shower, food staples, and toiletries. Hugs. Music. Prayer. A Bible lesson. Blankets. Occasional movies. Those who attended the gatherings responded with deep gratitude.

Our effort, and the facility itself, was recently declared to be in violation of various regulations. So the program was shut down. But I wonder: What happened to those who had once attended the gatherings? They all know suffering. A few know joy. Some find jobs. Some die. The rest? Some keep on getting by; however, some can’t survive for long without drastic change.

Thankfully, other programs remain in place. But people and groups like to own things, even ideas. So local resources remain scattered, unconnected, and redundant. We need a coordinated, combined effort. How shall we “consider their grief and take it in hand”? Together, I believe we could work miracles. We are God’s hands!

Lord, I thank You for groups and individuals whose hearts are open to new solutions for those in great need. The resources we control are Yours. We are Yours. I pray to know Your will in how we may combine our efforts, our people, our resources to show Your compassion. In Jesus’ name, men.

June 1

By | 365 Devotions

Jesus Still Heals!

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there (John 5:13).

Scripture: John 5:9-18

Song: “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!”

One afternoon last winter, something powerful happened at a church service. Almost every member of the congregation had come forward to be anointed with oil. Afterward, we all quietly left. No one said a word about the unusual aura we experienced during that hour. No one mentioned it afterward.

Didn’t anyone notice? Jesus had slipped away into the crowd!

I’ve witnessed healing, and I’ve experienced personal healing— time and again: physical, emotional, spiritual. Sometimes it happens almost immediately. But much healing is gradual, continuing over decades—and still continuing. It all comes under God’s way and God’s timing, usually through physicians and medications.

Of course, during our lives on earth, the Lord allows suffering, when healing does not occur. Incurable diseases continue to ravage us. Still, disabled people sometimes learn to compensate and they become role models; in this sense, they are healed,even though parts of their bodies cannot be cured in this life.

Today I’m thinking about the countless times healing occurs without our even noticing. Who healed your injury? Remember? When? Who cured my illness? How? It is all God’s gift.

O Lord, You are the poet, and we are Your poetry. Our bodies are wonderfully, gloriously, marvelously made, and I’m thankful for Your care. Through Christ, amen.

June 1–3. Anne Collins is a homemaker and a teacher living in Venice, Florida. Her loves are faith, family, friends, fitness, flowers, fabrics, and writing!

May 31

By | 365 Devotions

They Were Wise, and Blind

When Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched (Luke 14:1).

Scripture: Luke 14:1-6

Song: “Open My Eyes, That I May See”

Those Pharisees! They were like me—vulnerable, threatened, and afraid. I used to think of them as “the bad guys.” But they weren’t, as a group, “bad”; they were generally respected, wise teachers, living simple lives according to their interpretation of the Old Testament commands and rules.

When our Lord entered the scene, I think the Pharisees were caught off guard, vulnerable. Jesus answered their inquiries with questions—and thought-provoking parables—that just couldn’t be countered. So they carefully watched, waiting for Jesus to convict himself by some form of heresy. But they didn’t want to seem inhumane, so they faced a real dilemma.

Surely the Pharisees felt threatened. Jesus was radical! He taught with amazing knowledge of the Scriptures, challenging the Pharisees’ application of the laws, undermining their authority.

Do you ever feel you are so close to something, even a concept of some sort, that its truth—the reality of it—escapes you? The Pharisees were completely familiar with their Bible. But in their frame of mind prior to the resurrection, they were so close to Jesus—God in the flesh—that they could not see Him.

O God, thank You for the Pharisees, so human, as I am—vulnerable and threatened. Thank You for speaking to every kind of heart, even mine. In Jesus’ name, amen.

May 31. Anne Collins lives in Venice, Florida. She is a retired teacher who loves the great outdoors, good stories, her quiet home, and fine coffee with cream.

May 30

By | 365 Devotions

Thrifty or Selfish?

Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:10).

Scripture: Leviticus 19:9, 10; Deuteronomy 23:25

Song: “The Cry of the Poor”

Growing up, I learned to eat everything on my plate before I left on the table. If there were leftovers, we carefully stored them for the next meal. We even threw fruit and vegetable peels out back for the of birds to enjoy instead of throwing them in the trash.

Since snacks and sodas rarely filled our pantry, we savored a few in sips or bites and would “save the rest for later.” Now as an adult, I usually mix leftovers into casseroles and skillet meals—even when the freezer’s full.

If I owned a vineyard in Old Testament days, it might be hard for me to “not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen.” But now that I do have all that I need and more, it’s time to pass the blessings to others—“the poor and the foreigner.”

How can you and I leave the fallen grapes today? Well, it may mean buying extra items for the community food pantry or sponsoring a child in Africa, or even supplying a chicken or cow to a needy family overseas. Maybe we can help build a well to provide fresh ho water for a family or town. But one thing’s clear: we must start in our own vineyard.

Heavenly Father, thank You for all the blessings You’ve poured into my life over the me years. Open my eyes and heart to share my abundance with someone in need. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

May 29

By | 365 Devotions

Where Are You Running?

David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest (1 Samuel 21:1).

Scripture: 1 Samuel 21:1-6

Song: “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”

Whom do you turn to when in need? Today, we read about a wanted man, David, on the run from King Saul. The king feared that if he did not kill David, then his own son, Jonathan, would not ascend he to the throne. Instead, David—the talented shepherd, slayer of Goliath, and now the king’s palace musician—would rise to the throne.

So Saul set out to kill David. Having been warned by Jonathan that the king truly was out to get him, David ran northeast of Jerusalem to Nob, where the tabernacle and priests now were stationed. There he could pray and find safety, shelter, and food.

I’ve also run to the safety of a church, where I could rest and ask God to meet needs. Once on a road trip, my husband and I stopped our motorcycle to sit on the banks of a river, praying for God to guide our future steps. We admired the beauty of the small town is along that river, not realizing that, months later, we would receive a call to serve at a church just blocks away from where we’d sat.

Where do you sit and pray when you need guidance? Whether it’s a church, a riverbank, or a comfortable chair at home, may we run to God daily for His plan, His way, and His support.

Dear Father in Heaven, thank You that I can run to Your place of safety, shelter, and support, no matter what the reason. When I am tempted or face a tough problem or feel lost in a chaotic situation, turn my eyes again to You. Your ways are always for my best. Praise to You, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

May 28–31. Carol McLean is a freelance marketing consultant for the book industry working in Venice, Florida. She is married with adult twin boys who live in San Diego and Denver.

May 28

By | 365 Devotions

Where Are You Running?

David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest (1 Samuel 21:1).

Scripture: 1 Samuel 21:1-6

Song: “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”

Whom do you turn to when in need? Today, we read about a wanted man, David, on the run from King Saul. The king feared that if he did not kill David, then his own son, Jonathan, would not ascend he to the throne. Instead, David—the talented shepherd, slayer of Goliath, and now the king’s palace musician—would rise to the throne.

So Saul set out to kill David. Having been warned by Jonathan that the king truly was out to get him, David ran northeast of Jerusalem to Nob, where the tabernacle and priests now were stationed. There he could pray and find safety, shelter, and food.

I’ve also run to the safety of a church, where I could rest and ask God to meet needs. Once on a road trip, my husband and I stopped our motorcycle to sit on the banks of a river, praying for God to guide our future steps. We admired the beauty of the small town is along that river, not realizing that, months later, we would receive a call to serve at a church just blocks away from where we’d sat.

Where do you sit and pray when you need guidance? Whether it’s a church, a riverbank, or a comfortable chair at home, may we run to God daily for His plan, His way, and His support.

Dear Father in Heaven, thank You that I can run to Your place of safety, shelter, and support, no matter what the reason. When I am tempted or face a tough problem or feel lost in a chaotic situation, turn my eyes again to You. Your ways are always for my best. Praise to You, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

May 28–31. Carol McLean is a freelance marketing consultant for the book industry working in Venice, Florida. She is married with adult twin boys who live in San Diego and Denver.

May 27

By | 365 Devotions

He Works Through Our Talents

Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing (Psalm 34:10, NKJV).

Scripture: Psalm 34:1-10

Song: “Giver of the Perfect Gift”

I plunked down before my blank-screen computer and clicked the mouse. Nothing happened. “Now what?” I muttered. I turned the screen and punched the ON button in back. Once. Twice. The screen stayed black.

I waited, hoping the monster would eventually cooperate. It ignored me. Before I could explode, I left the room. Maybe it’ll warm up. Five minutes later I tried again. And again. Still nothing.

I stood up, clenched my fists, and in a state of extreme frustration, I mumbled, “God, please help.”

About that time my computer-smart grandson dropped in. “Hi, Gramma. How’re things?”

“Bad,” I grumbled. “My ornery computer won’t turn on.”

“Let’s see,” he said—and followed me to the den to work his magic. My home page came to life! “You must have kicked this button,” he said pointing to a small box on the floor. “It was turned off.”

Relief poured over me and thoughts of needing a new computer faded. Red-faced, I said, “David, I couldn’t fix it myself. I finally asked God for help, and He sent you, somebody He’s given a good amount of computer savvy. We can both say a prayer of thanks.”

Lord God, thank You for helping me, even if I come to You as a last resort. I’m amazed how You do Your work through me and others around me, by the gifts and talents Your hand has provided. I praise You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

May 26

By | 365 Devotions

Once and for All

He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25,NKJV).

Scripture: Hebrews 7:18-28

Song: “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

After many years of work at an automobile dealership, my husband struck out on his own with a brake-repair van. We moved to a new city, and Chet drove around to various garages. At each place he approached the owners. “I’d like to do your brake work for your customers,” he said. “It’ll take just a short while for me to add new brake pads on cars that need a change.”Before long Chet had a line of car dealers calling for his work.

The old asbestos brake pads were dusty, dirty, and depending on the driver’s use, needing to be replaced every so often. Still, it was a job my husband enjoyed, knowing he was providing a needed service.

Recently I saw a sign at an auto shop. It read: Ceramic brake pads. Good for a lifetime. What a change from the old days!

It reminds me of the priesthood of the days before Jesus. The sins of the people had to be forgiven with sacrifices every year. Then Jesus came. Once and for all He offered himself a perfect sacrifice, dying on a cross in our place. His dead body was placed in a tomb, but it didn’t hold Him. He rose again and sits at God’s right hand, waiting for those who accept His love and His forgiveness.

God, what a wonder it is that I can come to You and be forgiven. It is because Your me Son, Jesus, came to die for my sins. He was buried, rose up, and ascended. He now intercedes for me before You. Thank You, God, in His name. Amen.

May 25

By | 365 Devotions

From His Hands

[Christ] release[d] those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham (Hebrews 2:15, 16, NKJV).

Scripture: Hebrews 2:14-16

Song: “God Will Take Care of You”

The hummingbirds have arrived! Every year in mid-April I boil four cups of water and just one cup of sugar. (For the birds, as it is with me, too much sugar can harm instead of nurture.) After the mixture cools, I pour it into three red-capped feeders, red because this color attracts the hummingbirds. One feeder goes outside my front-room window. The other two hang on poles in the garden.

Before I can say the word hummingbirds, they arrive like magic. Wings of green and russet ash by as they dive-bomb in for a drink. At the feeder they come to a sudden standstill, hovering there while their wings still beat furiously.

They have been south for the winter, maybe as far as South America. Now they are back, needing food after their great migration.

Each spring I love to do this, give what is needed to these little travelers. Even so, God gives aid to us, but there is a difference. He gives not just for short periods of time. He cares for us year round and into eternity.

My Heavenly Father, from Your hands Your blessings flow to me. I know I can trust You for all my needs, from the smallest to the biggest. Thank You, God, in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

May 24

By | 365 Devotions

Blessed Remembrance

Here am I and the children whom God has given Me (Hebrews 2:13, NKJV).

Scripture: Hebrews 2:10-13

Song: “Beyond the Sunset”

Every Tuesday morning the aides at a local assisted-living home round up 6 to 10 residents. The two men and the women come pushing their walkers or riding in their wheelchairs, some taking their places on couches that line the room. Some smile when they see me arrive, but it’s not me they are waiting for. It’s the recording of hymns I play for them.

They and I are some of the “children” Jesus spoke about. Nowadays we are called Senior Saints. Each one of us is in a different stage of life, and I’d like to tell you about them (but I won’t use their real names). Joanie stares and never speaks, but I see her lips mouth the words to the hymns. Sandy whispers, “I can’t sing because I had a stroke.”

“Sing in your heart,” I say. “God will hear you.”
Laura has a vacant look. Every week she asks, “Who are you?” Tom can’t wait to listen and sing along. He hollers down the hall to someone still coming. “Bible study. Hurry up! Don’t want to miss God’s Word.” I smile.

“Not Bible study, Tom. It’s a hymn-sing.” He nods his head, and we listen as the gospel songs ring out. Tom sings along.

Abba Father, thank You for the hymns that bring a sweet remembrance of Your love extended to me down through the years. Long ago You first poured this love on me when You sent Jesus to die on the cross in my place. Because of His great sacrifice, I am one of Your children. Thus I praise You, in His precious name. Amen.

May 23

By | 365 Devotions

How He Loves Us!

What is man that You are mindful of him? (Hebrews 2:6, NKJV).

Scripture: Hebrews 2:5-9

Song: “He Leadeth Me, O Blessed Thought”

Spring arrived with a note from the car dealership: “Time to get the oil changed.”

Tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow, I decided.

But when tomorrow came, I couldn’t seem to “get in gear.” I put it into my prayer: “Is it necessary to do this today, God?” At once I relaxed and let today be today. Tomorrow would wait.

God had a surprise for me the next day in the garage waiting room. It was as though He said, “Here’s a couple I want you to meet.” Before long the three of us were talking about books. Tanna said, “I just bought a wonderful book of devotions.”

“And I write cowboy poetry,” Sam said. “All with a Christian message.”

I smiled. “And I write Christian devotions,” I told them.

The result? He sent me two of his books, and I sent him my two with the hopes our writings would encourage and inspire each other.

God does such neat things. My heart tells me that He slowed me down on that first day so I could enjoy meeting these two fellow Christians the next day. Has something like that ever happened to you? Rejoice! The Lord is always paying attention.

Father, You always answer my prayers, whether they are big or small, whether with a Go or No. Even before I ask, You answer. I am so thankful that You see all things, You know all hearts. How I love You! Through my Savior Christ, amen.

May 22

By | 365 Devotions

Befitting Reverence

Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Psalm 34:11, NKJV).

Scripture: Psalm 34:11-18

Song: “Teach Me Your Way, O Lord”

“Quiet!” Mrs. Jordan’s sharp voice shattered the silence in the classroom, and I jumped a foot off my seat. As a teacher’s aide, I was sitting at my desk in the back of the room and had been absorbed in correcting her fifth graders’ spelling papers. I hadn’t heard two of the pupils whispering—but I sure heard Mrs. Jordan!

The children resumed their reading assignment while I managed a silly grin. It was then I looked up at Mrs. Jordan. She was bent over her desk. One hand covered her mouth; her shoulders shook. This stern teacher was trying hard not to laugh out loud.

Stern, yes. The children probably went to sleep with her words ringing in her ears: “Walk! Don’t run.” “Please.” “Thank you.” “Shh.” But she was also kind: “If you need help, come up to my desk. I’ll show you what to do.” A misbehavior? “See me after school, and we’ll talk about this.”

Her expectation of good behavior instilled fear, meaning respect, in the youngsters. Although as God’s children we can no longer hear His words of wisdom, we can read them in the Bible. It is there we will learn to respect Him and hold Him in the reverent awe that befits an almighty king of the universe.

Dear Jesus, they called You Rabbi, or Teacher. Help me pay attention to Your words always, for they show me what to do, how to speak, and when to love. I want to be obedient to You in all ways; from You comes all wisdom. In Your name I pray. Amen.

May 21

By | 365 Devotions

Prepare to Obey

He will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion (Leviticus 16:16).

Scripture: Leviticus 16:15-19

Song: “Search Me, O God”

During her week-long visit with her grandfather and me, my 5-year-old granddaughter shoved her plate of lasagna across the table. “I hate this dinner!” Jennifer hollered.

“OK,” I said. “Off to your room. I’ll hang the frowning face sign on your door. When you decide to behave, you can turn it to the smiley face and join us.” She returned a few minutes later. “I’m sorry, Grandma,” she said. She ate her food. “May I have some more?” she sweetly asked. (I’ll confess—I wanted to dump the second plateful on her head.) But memory interceded—Remember when you were 5? Ouch.

I seem to recall pushing a plate of butterscotch pudding away, much as Jennifer had done with the lasagna. “I hate this pudding,” I hollered. “I wanted chocolate!” I slid under the table and heard my dad say, “Stay there until you apologize to your mother.” After several moments, I sighed, crawled out, and went to Mom. “I’m sorry, Momma,” I said. “I’ll eat the pudding.” Mom gave me a hug and a kiss. “OK, Honey,” she said. “I forgive you.”

So it goes, generation to generation. We must learn to obey. Learn discipline. Learn respect. And then comes forgiveness.

Father, thank You for reminders of lessons learned. Help me pass these on to my children and their children with love and forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

May 21–27. Elizabeth Van Liere, of Montrose, Colorado, has now published her second devotional book at age 92. She has 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

May 20

By | 365 Devotions

A Celestial Jubilee

It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan (Leviticus 25:10).

Scripture: Leviticus 25:1-12

Song: “When We All Get to Heaven”

Continually encouraged by my parents, I finally went. If only he I had joined in sooner; those early Stephens reunions still hold a special place in my heart. A small, single-story building near my father’s birthplace in southwest Virginia served as the gathering place. Nestled among hills emblazoned with fall foliage, the view was awe inspiring. Nothing, however, compared to the joy filling those small rooms as, once again, loved ones reunited.

Imagine the ancient scene as one clan member after another came into the view of those already arrived in that Year of Jubilee. Held but every 50 years, the celebration was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. And let us also take a moment to imagine the final reunion promised by our Father—the one to which God’s children throughout the ages have already been called.

Our current family get-togethers always include shared recollections of those now departed. Yet our expressions of sorrow most of always transition into lively contemplation of that final gathering, the day when treasured loved ones—and all believers—“will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).

Weep not. A celestial jubilee awaits. Praise God. Alleluia. Amen!

O Father, in Your wisdom You limit my knowledge of what You have planned for the me. Equip me to endure life’s hardships, as Your Word offers tantalizing glimpses of where my journey ends. Praise You, through Christ my Savior. Amen.

May 19

By | 365 Devotions

Looking Out for Family

If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger (Leviticus 25:35).

Scripture: Leviticus 25:35-38

Song: “Freely, Freely”

I must confess, I preferred getting to giving. The allure of the candy counter or a box of baseball card packs ensured my money went to Mr. Adams’s corner store. Unsure when I’d replenish my funds, sharing was out of the question! My self-serving philosophy created repeated opportunities for my mother to propose another approach—one similar to that espoused by Moses.

His companions were of every age, yet Moses knew all were newly born into freedom. A prevailing attitude of “share and share alike” would help them endure and ultimately prosper. When one struggled, others were to give, as much as they could manage. My mother’s prompting reflected just such an understanding. Over time, our conversations affected me, and Mom’s personal generosity moved me even more.

Since my mother’s death, God has placed many like-minded, “like-living” Christians along my path. Seems there’s no lack of people who respond to God’s free gift of salvation by giving of themselves. The challenge, nonetheless, remains daunting.

Need lurks around every corner. God promises that earthly insufficiency will ultimately succumb to eternal abundance. For now, blessed by this holy covenant, we are to keep on giving.

Heavenly Father, each day You pour out blessings upon me. Infuse me with the same spirit of giving I find in the best biblical examples. In the name of Jesus, amen.

May 18

By | 365 Devotions

Changing the Equation

Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 25:17).

Scripture: Leviticus 25:13-17

Song: “What Does the Lord Require?”

“Mr. Stephens, did you recently attempt to make purchases at three Toronto department stores?” Thus began my conversation with a credit card company’s fraud unit representative. It ended with a mutually expressed longing for a time when honesty and fairness prevailed—such as that prescribed in Leviticus.

Here we find a justice based on mutual integrity. When buying or selling land, the more harvests a field would likely provide before Jubilee (the return of land to its original owner), the higher the sales price; the fewer the harvests, the lower the price. Sounded great, but the math is as old as humankind: Temptation + opportunity =a potential for ill-gotten gain.

It took several years for my stolen credit card information to appear in Canada on an impeccable replica subsequently sold to someone anxious to use it. Imagine the skill and determination required. And what a waste of God-given talent.

Our Father invites us to devote our lives to the application of he a drastically different equation: Confession + repentance + love of neighbor = eternal reward. By no means new math but surely preferable in our heavenly pursuit.

Dear Father, in Your Son, Jesus, You revealed the only formula for living that’s guaranteed to ensure my spending eternity in Your presence. Empowered by the Holy ad Spirit, may my resolve be absolute, my discernment keen, and my actions motivated by a desire to claim what only You can offer. In Christ, amen.

May 17

By | 365 Devotions

The Ultimate Feast

You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new (Leviticus 26:10).

Scripture: Leviticus 26:9-13

Song: “Let Us Break Bread Together”

Oh my, how she could cook! I recall those scrumptious meals prepared day after day. Seated at that small kitchen table, I knew whatever was served would be delicious and would more than satisfy—guaranteed. The Israelites, as they soon came to realize it, desperately needed such provision.

Their elation at being freed ultimately succumbed to growling stomachs. God’s response? Bread rained from Heaven, and quail appeared in such numbers as to cover the entire camp (see Exodus 16 and Numbers 11). God left no doubt that, in spite of life’s trials, He’d provide.

My fondest meal memories recall the gatherings around a generations-old dining room table. Eating there always meant two things: even more tasty dishes from which to choose and also extra place settings. Whether joined by neighbors or relatives, what fun we had. And the food. Could it have been any better?

Let’s see. Turkey, ham, stewed tomatoes, yams, lima beans— and the desserts! Oh yeah, it was good. But Mama would be the first to avow it paled in comparison to what God offers. Where else can one partake of grace, forgiveness, salvation, and new life in Christ? All are invited. Seating’s unlimited.

O Lord, for the daily provision of spiritual nourishment, I offer my heartfelt thanks. Throughout the rest of my days, guide and direct my steps until they ultimately lead me to my place at Your heavenly banquet. In the name of Jesus, amen.

May 16

By | 365 Devotions

Sharing the Load

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Scripture: Galatians 6:1-5

Song: “Lay Your Burdens Down”

My brother-in-law is a brick mason, and his works dot the landscapes of numerous counties. The resulting beauty no doubt catches the eyes of many passersby. And yet the worth of his labor is ultimately determined by something else entirely—how well each brick can support the weight of those placed atop it. The significance of such interrelationship was clearly on Paul’s mind when penning his letter to the Galatians.

Living into God’s plan, then and now, often relies upon how well we relate to and support one another. When one errs, for example, others can provide a loving presence for reflection and healing. Shared burdens lighten everyone’s load and, more importantly, reflect Christ’s light into dark places. God carefully places each of us exactly where we need to be to fulfill His purposes.

Paige’s masonry skills are in constant demand. Word has spread, “What he builds stays built!” Nothing, however, endures like a community of God’s children determined to lift one another up, to forgo comparison in favor of unity. All the while, we can keep acknowledging each individual’s critical role in building an earthly kingdom according to the Master’s plan: Love your neighbor. (Brick) Feed the hungry. (Brick) Pray for someone. (Brick) And so up we go—all the way to Heaven!

Precious Lord, we best glorify You when united as one body. I give thanks for each and every brother and sister in my church. Through Christ, amen.

May 15

By | 365 Devotions

There’s Always Enough

God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:33, 34).

Scripture: Acts 4:32-37

Song: “My Heavenly Father Watches over Me”

The news seemed unimaginable. My classmate’s family had lost everything in a house fire. I recall trying to grasp what having “lost everything” meant. Quickly, however, everyone in that classroom became like the believers to whom Luke alluded: “one in heart and mind.” Wayne and his four siblings and parents needed help.

The disciples left everything in answering Jesus’ call. Nonetheless, basic needs remained. Few believers had much, but most had something. Infused with the Holy Spirit, together they ensured “there were no needy persons among them.” That same determination soon permeated the halls of Cobbs Creek Elementary.

We seventh graders, nine strong, joined our schoolmates and parents, and amazing things happened. Clothing was soon piling up in the small cafeteria. Furniture and household goods of every kind poured in. In short order, scarcity was swallowed up by abundance. Destruction gave way to renewal. Of course it did.

So it was and continues to be for those believing in a God of constant provision. All we have comes from Him. As modern-day disciples, we need look no further than today’s Scripture for guidance in how to respond to others’ hardships. We give all we can.

Lord, I know that You, the all-loving God, will ensure His children always have enough. I confess, Lord, that though You have given me much, my mind sometimes drifts to concerns about what I don’t have. Forgive me! Instill within me the faithfulness of those who, having lost all, continue to praise Your name, knowing You will continue to meet their every need. In Christ I pray. Amen.

May 14

By | 365 Devotions

Deal of a Lifetime

If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain (Leviticus 26:3, 4).

Scripture: Leviticus 26:3-6

Song: “Trust and Obey”

Recently I entered a process last undertaken nearly 20 years ago—buying a new car. I soon realized one objective remained paramount: getting a great deal from a trustworthy source. Negotiators using straight talk versus mumbo-jumbo garnered my undivided attention. As one seeking “just the facts,” I easily imagine the intrigue of those hearing the deal proposed in today’s passage.

God’s children, freed from bondage, could now choose how they would live going forward. Some were quickly won over by the allure of worldly pleasures, only to ultimately experience dire consequences. Nonetheless, the interest of those remaining was surely piqued by such a clear and incomparable offer—one still on the table today.

I think I got a decent deal on the new car. I have no doubt, however, agreeing to make God paramount in exchange for ceaseless provision and a peace surpassing human understanding; it’s the best deal ever. And who else but our heavenly Father could deliver on such a promise, the one true deal for a lifetime and beyond?

Though I’ll surely struggle living up to my end of the bargain, I’ve decided “I’m in.” What about you?

Dear Lord, though I know I will often fall victim to my humanity, I offer all that I am to You this day and humbly accept the unmerited blessings. In Jesus’ name, amen.

May 14–20. Bob Stephens, a retiree, loves spending time with family, freelance writing, and public speaking. He and his wife, Linda, travel frequently and count national parks as favorite destinations.

May 13

By | 365 Devotions

Something Precious

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner residing among you (Leviticus 23:22).

Scripture: Leviticus 23:9-14, 22

Song: “Here I Am, Lord”

I was watching the evening news and feeling overwhelmed by all the needs around me—the poor, the homeless, the hurricane and earthquake victims, the refugees. There seemed so little that one person could do.

Then came the final story of the newscast, one of those “feel good” closers. A 12-year-old on the basketball court was being bullied, laughed at, ridiculed because his gym shoes were well-worn and full of holes. A girl who lived in the neighborhood noticed, ran home, and retrieved a pair of not-yet-worn basketball shoes in her closet that had cost nearly $200. Even though she’d never seen the boy before, she presented the shoes to him.

Our world abounds in needful people like that boy. And they all give us something precious—the opportunity to serve and care. The teenage girl stepped up and offered a sparkle of hope, a glimmer of good, when the opportunity presented itself that afternoon.

In the end, the answer to my dilemma about “one person” has to begin with me. If I am God’s candle in the darkness, I need to step into the situation when I see the need before me. If I try, and you try, we just might tip the scales of goodness in God’s favor.

O God, show me how to help just one person today. Big or small, let it be an act that points to Your goodness working through a human channel. In Jesus’ name, amen.

May 12

By | 365 Devotions

Precious Un-busyness

There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest (Leviticus 23:3).

Scripture: Leviticus 23:1-8

Song: “Blessed Quietness”

Ironically, you’ve got to prepare for rest and then pursue it. The purpose of Sabbath, however, is not simply to rejuvenate ourselves so that we can produce more during the remaining days of the week. God’s kind of rest is more than just taking time off. Nor is Sabbath the simple pursuit of sleep, leisure, or pleasure.

Sabbath is about more than external rest of the body; it is about inner rest of the soul. The purpose of a Sabbath is to enjoy God and life in general.

Do you have a day when you’re disconnected from all the electronics around you—when the phone is off and you’re not checking e-mails and texts; an afternoon when you take a walk—not to burn calories but to listen to the birds and smell the fresh air; a day in the park playing with the kids or the grandchildren? Do you have a day when you don’t do, when you just be? The Bible doesn’t request this kind of rest; it demands it.

Keeping Sabbath is not going to usher in the kingdom. God will bring the kingdom in His good time. But Sabbath time is one of those disciplines that helps me attend the kingdom in its many ways of coming—and not miss it when it comes close to me during some very precious moments of un-busyness.

Lord of life and creation, show me how to find You in the midst of all this busyness that infuses my days. Help me to enjoy all of the good gifts of Your handiwork that surround me and enrich my life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

May 11

By | 365 Devotions

Living Sacrifices

Whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable (Leviticus 22:20, KJV).

Scripture: Leviticus 22:17-20

Song: “The Sacrifice You Accept, O God”

One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is love. That love is unconditional and unselfish, characterized by a willingness to sacrifice its own wishes for the good of others.

In today’s reading about the ceremonial laws of ancient Israel, only unblemished animals were to be offered to God in atonement for the sins of the people. The animals were to represent the people coming to worship God. Offerings had to be perfect because the perfection of the offering represented the worshipper’s esteem of God. Since God is perfect, what was offered to Him was to be as near to perfect as humanly possible.

Today, I am not called on to offer dead sacrifices. That system of approaching the Almighty has been surpassed by a better way. It was superseded when Jesus died on the cross: “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40, KJV).

Under the new covenant, I am called upon to offer a living sacrifice of my entire life. It is vital that we who are now His priests offer sacrifices that are acceptable and pleasing to God. I achieve this by doing good, loving works—not to earn my salvation but to express my gratitude for it. These are the sacrifices with which God is pleased.

Lord of love, may my life be a living sacrifice, filled with love for You and for others and pleasing in Your sight. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

May 10

By | 365 Devotions

A Pleasing Fragrance

The priest shall take a handful of the our and oil, together with all the incense, and burn this as a memorial portion on the altar, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord(Leviticus 2:2).

Scripture: Leviticus 2:1-10, 14

Song: “Let All Things Now Living”

Few things smell better to me than warm bread just retrieved from the oven. I have wonderful memories, from nearly 60 years ago, of Mrs. Davelli, our Italian neighbor, who frequently brought warm bread to our door as a gift of friendship. Each time my nose encounters that scent, I remember her.

We may be tempted to gloss over the rules of preparation in today’s Scripture. Don’t write them off quickly. Sense how images and smells connect to daily life and help us recall the past. The priest was to make the offering as a remembrance of God’s goodness. The frankincense kneaded into the loaf was expensive; it enhanced the smell and made the offering a more precious gift.

Loaves were prepared in different ways—in an oven, a pan, or a griddle—according to a person’s financial capability. Those with an oven were richer than those with a frying pan. The offering was prepared with what you had, but all three ways were acceptable.

My offerings are thank offerings. I should give with no other intent or purpose than to express gratitude for life’s blessings from God. But however you present your own offering, lift that fragrant aroma to the Lord. Let it be a sweet savor before His presence.

Ever-giving God, may I always present my gifts to You with only the thought of thankfulness for Your goodness to me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

May 9

By | 365 Devotions

Friends Are a Blessing

As you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only (Philippians 4:15).

Scripture: Philippians 4:15-20

Song: “The Sacred Ties of Friendship”

Paul understood the value of friends who stayed loyal to him during his difficult days. Whether he was writing to the Thessalonians, the Colossians, or the Philippians, he began his letters with a testimony of thankfulness to God for these friends who strengthened and encouraged him.

Having friends who will support me in good times and bad is a great blessing. They are the ones who rally around me, cheer me up, take time to just be with me when words alone won’t heal. Of course, good friends disagree with me when I need to be challenged. But they also cheer for me when I need encouragement.

When I have been cranky and irritable, when I am having a bad day, and nothing seems to go right, I am thankful for those friends who have seen me at my worst and still care for me. God is like that, for God is love.

In my lifetime, I have lived in six cities; I am grateful for Christian friends in each of them. I need friendships full of love and support to help me make it through my roughest days. To be a friend often means caring more for another person than for oneself.

I thank You, Gracious Lord, for the good friends You give me. Without them, I would not be the person I am today. I promise to do everything in my power to preserve this precious gift that You have bestowed on me. Through Christ, amen.

May 8

By | 365 Devotions

Singing the New Song

They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders (Revelation 14:3).

Scripture: Revelation 14:1-5

Song: “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”

I love “old” music. Whether it’s the classical symphonic pieces of centuries past or songs that are part of my own history, the music I enjoy most is music I already know. Sometimes that music has a strange power to capture memories, mental pictures, and emotions from my past and send them streaming into my present. Then those few bars implant themselves in my brain, playing over and over, and I can’t get them out of my thoughts.

Occasionally, the tune may be a Christian hymn that connects me to God’s love and compassion. Those old melodies and lyrics are so important to me.

But today’s Scripture talks about singing a new song before the throne of God. Why a new song? Because old songs won’t do; God, by nature, is constantly creating. Among His people, a new song is sung each time He acts in history—new victories, new triumphs.

When God’s community sings praise, the songs are mighty, thunderous, jubilant. Such singing is powerful, loud, joyful—big choir sounds. The new song celebrates the victory of God in the lives of His people. May I sing the new song with the same passion with which I recall the old—new songs about His ever-unfolding grace.

Ever-creating God, help me learn the new songs of life, even as you create new victories. Give me the energy to learn those new songs in the midst of Your fresh manifestations of grace. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

May 7

By | 365 Devotions

Just the Two of Us

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart (Proverbs 3:1).

Scripture: Proverbs 3:1-10

Song: “I Love to Tell the Story”

Years ago, as the minister of a small congregation, I would walk to the church each Sunday morning to open the building and prepare it for worship. One early morning my young son said, “I want to walk to church with you.” I was surprised but quite pleased. Until the winter weather set in, he and I took that 25-minute stroll together each Sunday morning. We talked about all kinds of things, and it became our cherished time of sharing and bonding.

Walking to church together on those Sunday mornings—just the two of us—became one of the great experiences that I enjoyed with my son while he was maturing. Yes, just the two of us. Talking. Building our relationship. Nobody else around to draw attention away from him.

When we conversed about God, usually my son was the one who began the conversation and asked the questions. Sometimes those questions were seriously challenging!

When I discover God in everyday life, recognize His presence, and pass those discoveries on to my children and grandchildren, I reveal to them the kind of love that knows no bounds. But to pass it on requires plenty of quality time together. Just the two of us.

Lord, bless those times that I share with my children and grandchildren. May they be opportunities to pass on the matchless truths of Your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

May 7–13. Drexel Rankin served as an ordained minister for more than 35 years with full-time pastorates in the South and Midwest. He and his wife, Patty, live in Louisville, Kentucky.

May 6

By | 365 Devotions

Freewill Offerings

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness (2 Corinthians 9:10).

Scripture: Exodus 35:20-29; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Song: “Savior, Thy Dying Love”

Do I sense any hesitation in my gift giving? If so, I ask the Lord to shine His light on the reason. Perhaps I believe that my possessions are actually mine rather than the Lord’s. Do I think that I will take my possessions with me when I die? Could I have a subtle hoarding mentality and not even recognize it? May the Lord help me have an open hand rather than a clenched fist.

My wife and I have been profoundly influenced by a Christian couple who rose from very plain upbringings to being wealthy philanthropists. One year their foundation website revealed that they had given away $9 million. Here’s a brief testimonial the wife shared with me:

“God has taught me that we were all created for a purpose far greater than ourselves, to do good works that He planned long ago. We come to understand that our greater purpose is more than putting bread on our tables. Abundant living begins when we look outside ourselves and into the needs of others, when we use all God has given us to help others.”

Let us pray that God will impress upon us, “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great” (Proverbs 18:16).

Be with me, Lord,to grow me into a philanthropist for You. Show me, at each step, just what I need and what I can cheerfully give away. Through Christ my Lord, amen.

May 5

By | 365 Devotions

The Skilled Among You

Bless all his skills, Lord, and be pleased with the work of his hands (Deuteronomy 33:11).

Scripture: Exodus 35:10-19

Song: “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Today I pray for God’s Spirit to show me nonmonetary ways I can give. Here’s a great example of what I mean: a Christian businessman who’s gifted in hospital visitation promised the Lord he would visit the same hospital bed each week, never knowing what patient would occupy it. Imagine doing that.

So many priceless gifts cost nothing: just offering our smiles, hugs, pats on the back, notes, and encouraging words, for instance. Many charities are built around those who donate their professional skills, like medical missionaries, building tradesmen, mechanics, disaster relief teams, and language tutors. Or consider the countless missions groups that build housing in poverty areas, blessing families physically, while also ministering through the Word and prayer. Furthermore, many towns like ours have a “Volunteer Center” that matches people with hundreds of service opportunities. Tasks are abundant but workers are few.

Christian volunteers can add the spiritual dimension. In Exodus 35 and 36, two skilled craftsmen—Bezalel and Oholiab—receive special mention for their craftsmanship in tabernacle construction. Many other skillful laborers appear in the text, but God seems to showcase these two in order to inspire us.

Lord, I am inspired as I observe the compassionate actions of others. Keep using them, while getting me into the action too! Help me identify my gifts, O Lord, and use them to enrich others and bring praise to Your name. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

May 4

By | 365 Devotions

Give Creatively

God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Scripture: Psalm 112

Song: “I Gave My Life for Thee”

Ever feel guilty about not helping the poor? What about the panhandler you just left standing at the corner? You figured, “If I’d given him money, he would have wasted it on drugs or alcohol or . . .” The nagging feeling of guilt remains.

But are there some creative ways to bless the poor while remaining a good steward? Consider:

(1) Make gifts to reputable charities, and refer the needy to those resources (or take them there).

(2) Look at your storage areas, and donate what you aren’t using. Could a poor person or family be blessed by your donation?

(3) Downsize and donate. Turn items into cash through garage sales or online ads.

(4) Put a moratorium on new purchases with the goal of increasing your charitable giving. Resolve to give an amount equal to the cost of things that you do buy.

(5) Agree as a family to lock in a certain standard of living and become philanthropists with the remaining income.

The key is asking God to lead you in being a good steward—creatively! We also need His wisdom to know when we ought to say yes or no to pleas for the funds He loans us.

Touch me with a divine discomfort, O Lord, until I grow in grace toward the poor. Then show us all how to make good choices for our futures. Through Christ, amen.

May 3

By | 365 Devotions

Holy to the Lord

You rob me. But you ask, “How are we robbing you [God]?” In tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8).

Scripture: Leviticus 27:30-33

Song: “We Plow the Fields and Scatter”

How would I explain the word tithe to my preteen grandson? First, God commanded that a tenth of everything be considered a sacred offering. But why did He command this?

Remember that every command of God also reveals His nature. Here is one great reason behind the command to tithe: In it we learn about the giving nature of our Creator. As creatures, we are to emulate our Creator, shining forth His beautiful character and enhancing His reputation in the world. And since the tithe was commanded prior to the Law of Moses, we know it is a part of God’s big plan for all people, not just a temporary rule limited to the culture of the ancient Israelites.

The Bible says many important things about the tithe: blessings come to those who put God first with their money, their time, their talents, and their relationships. And God calls for the “firstfruits” of our lives; the first part of our salaries should be set aside as a gift to God, a thank-you to show that we acknowledge the source of our blessings, that our priorities are straight.

The ancient Hebrews believed that God wouldn’t bless those who withheld the tithe. Yet New Testament Christians are to give willingly and generously, not from fear and not simply to fulfill a command. But in response to His great love.

Jehovah God, help me arrange my finances so that I give You the firstfruits of my income, time, talents, and energy. In the name of Christ, amen.

May 2

By | 365 Devotions

Heart or Hand?

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:1-5

Song: “All to Jesus I Surrender”

Grudge giving or giddy giving? “God loves a cheerful (literally, hilarious) giver,” but could it be that much of the preaching and teaching in the church produces resistance instead of readiness? After all, promotions and programs can raise dollars but never touch hearts.

My personal theology about giving is most affected by God’s own willingness to give. And the Scripture tells me that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). In other words, I am never more like God than when I give.

A middle-aged man who had lived a rather selfish life was soundly converted to Christianity. Before his baptism, the preacher reminded the man to remove his wallet from his pocket. The candidate held it up and said, “No. I’ve been pretty stingy in my life, so I’m baptizing my wallet too!”

My wife and I have often spoken of our gratitude for a certain minister who influenced us as a young married couple. He helped us look at stewardship as a heart matter rather than a “hand matter” (referring to what is dropped in the offering). A litmus test of my spiritual health and character is what and how I give.

Gracious God, continue to educate me in the things of the Spirit so I may give with a right spirit from my time, talent, and treasures. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

May 1

By | 365 Devotions

Giving in Secret

When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret (Matthew 6:3, 4).

Scripture: Matthew 6:1-4

Song: “Give of Your Best to the Master”

I loved attending a rodeo for the first time. The action in the arena ramps up the adrenalin, whether a rider succeeds or fails. After one bronco-buster was thrown hard to the ground, the announcer boomed, “Give that cowboy your applause because that’s all he’s going to get for that ride.”

Jesus taught that if I give to be noticed by others, that is all the reward I receive—mere human applause. But when my giving is meant to bless the receiver instead of the giver, my heavenly Father gets the credit. He also notices and rewards me.

Some devout disciples have taken this so literally that they won’t even allow their names to be published or inscribed on a building or plaque. Rather than being literal, Jesus used hyperbole to make a point about motives: Am I giving in order to bless someone and bring glory to God or merely to advance myself, stroke my ego, or exchange service for salvation?

I have wondered whether the “Secret Santa” idea of anonymously giving cash was motivated by our Lord’s teaching. I know this: giving secretly helps me answer, “What is my motive in offering this gift?”

O Lord, help me examine my heart so I may have pure motives in my giving, following in the footsteps of Your self-sacrificial example. In Jesus’ name, amen.

May 1–6. Bob Mize is a minister, hospital chaplain, and freelance writer living in Lubbock, Texas.

April 30

By | 365 Devotions

Bring Me an Offering

We must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Scripture: Exodus 25:1-9

Song: “We Give Thee but Thine Own”

Let’s focus on finances for a moment. No, not for business, buildings, or budgets, but for personal, spiritual reasons. Why did God say, “Bring me an offering” (Exodus 25:2)? He didn’t need money, and He didn’t need a building in which to live. Paul proclaimed, “The God who made the world and everything in it . . . does not live in temples built by human hands” (Acts 17:24). I can only conclude that my Creator wants me to learn about giving because it lies at the heart of my spiritual growth: it will be good for me.

Because God made me, He knows me, that my basic spiritual problem is the “I” in the middle of sin. However, the Holy Spirit can replace my selfish spirit, removing my self-reliance and narcissism over the years as I yield to Him.

We affirm today that giving is healthier than receiving. Have you ever wondered why? Perhaps it is because receiving can lead to greed, jealousy, mere self-gratification. My Creator frees me from these triggers of spiritual suicide. He asks me to give because I need to give for my own spiritual health. After all, “God so loved the world that he gave” (John 3:16), and He calls me to reflect His generous nature.

Dear Father, may Your Spirit remind me that I am blessed to bless others. You gave so I might know what You are like and become more like You. Show me, Lord, what offering You invite me to bring before You today. In Christ I pray. Amen.

April 30. Bob Mize is a minister, hospital chaplain, and freelance writer living in Lubbock, Texas.

April 29

By | 365 Devotions

Purchased for God

They sang a new song . . . “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Scripture: Revelation 5:6-14

Song: “My Redeemer Lives”

Staying with the Spielberg motif, have you seen Schindler’s List? If so, then it’s likely you remember the powerful scene toward the end of the film where the Jews who were saved by Schindler fashion a ring to give him. Schindler breaks down in the wake of the kindness and starts to lament: how many more Jews he could have saved if he had just traded his car, his lapel pin, and so on.

Oskar Schindler saved some 1,200 Jews from Hitler’s death machinery, giving them hope for a future. He bought their lives at a price, and because he did, the descendants of those Jews live on. Their names continue.

Which leads us to consider our Savior, Jesus the Lamb of God. He purchased us for God with His blood. Think about that. He valued us at the highest possible price, and when we see Him in Revelation, the four living creatures and 24 elders are praising Him for His deeds.

What Oskar Schindler did was admirable. He exchanged money for Jews. But Jesus gave His life for all humankind across time. That’s more than admirable. That’s the ultimate.

You are worthy, O God, of all my worship because of what You’ve done for us. Today I join the heavenly host in giving the Lamb adoration and glory, for He is worthy of all praise. In His precious name I pray. Amen.

April 28

By | 365 Devotions

Saving the Day

One of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5).

Scripture: Revelation 5:1-5

Song: “You’re the Lion of Judah”

There’s a great scene in the 1980s Spielberg movie classic Goonies where some kids have to play the musical notes written on a treasure map—on the keys of a pirate’s organ. Doom awaits them if they fail to play the right notes. One of the girls steps up because she used to take piano lessons. She saves the day, albeit with a little excitement and a couple of wrong notes along the way.

Also, I’m sure sports fans everywhere will remember the Denver Broncos’ amazing Super Bowl run in 2016. Though he was sidelined with injuries for most of the year, Peyton Manning came back in dramatic fashion to lead his team to their third Super Bowl victory, albeit with a little excitement (and a defense that was second to none).

Over and over we see it repeated—in film, in sports, and in our own lives. Against the odds, one person makes the difference (usually with some accompanying “excitement,” of course). One master calmed the waves. One friend lived a sin-free life and sacrificed himself for all mankind. One Savior rose from the dead. One champion is qualified to open the scroll and its seven seals in the book of Revelation. One God saves the day for all of us.

God, through Your apostle John, You gave us a powerful vision, through image and symbol, of the last days. Thank You for keeping our future in the palm of Your hand and assuring us that chaos has no part in Your sovereign plans. In Christ, amen.

April 27

By | 365 Devotions

Good Whether

Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says,” whether they listen or fail to listen (Ezekiel 3:11).

Scripture: Ezekiel 2:8–3:11

Song: “Speak, My Lord”

I remember learning in junior high science class about how plants make food. We had a great teacher, and he taught us all about photosynthesis and chlorophyll and xylem and phloem—all the intricacies of plant life.

For a while I didn’t look at plants the same way. I had a deeper enjoyment of them, due to a richer understanding. I’ve found that to be the case when learning about all kinds of things in life. The more we know about something, the more fascinated we’ll likely become. But whether we understand plants or not doesn’t change the truth of the matter: They will still make food.

I’ve noticed that sometimes we Christians can be as rebellious as the Israelites. We’re people, after all. But whether we listen to God or not doesn’t change what He says. Truth is truth, and we do well to listen.

Three hundred years before Christ, Aristotle said: “The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.” With that kind of danger residing in a lie, aren’t you glad that our Lord God left a perfectly accurate written record of what He has to say to us? Let us listen closely—and refuse to deviate from His expressed will.

Sovereign God, may Your truth reign in our lives today—not just theoretically, but in practical acts of mercy toward our neighbors. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

April 26

By | 365 Devotions

Once Again

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither 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).

Scripture: Romans 8:31-39

Song: “Your Love Never Fails”

I have a friend who views God as a kind of distant custodian of the universe who is usually mad about something. This friend spends most of his time feeling guilty about failing to live up to God’s standards (that is, he thinks that he’s the “something” God is usually mad about). His salvation hangs in the balance daily, as he’s never quite sure whether he’ll reach “the pearly gates.”

It’s not that he doesn’t believe in Jesus. He does. He’s just not sure that he’s good enough for a holy God. He doesn’t see how God could love a failure like him.

Does that sound like anyone you know? Oh for the grace of God to help this poor soul! Doesn’t he know we’ve all fallen short (see Romans 3:23)? Doesn’t he know that no one is righteous (see Romans 3:10)? We all need Jesus. He’s the one who kept all the commandments, lived the perfect life, on our behalf. “In Christ Jesus our Lord,” we too are righteous as we stand before the Father.

What’s true—what my friend thinks or the Word of God? The Bible makes it clear that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Once again, the truth sets us free.

Father, please help my friend—and all Your beloved children like him—to be set free from self-condemnation by the blessed truth of Your Son’s perfection. In Him, amen.

April 25

By | 365 Devotions

Good, Good Father

They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God (Exodus 29:46).

Scripture: Exodus 29:38-46

Song: “Good Good Father”

Singing “Good Good Father” in worship last Sunday, I thought of my own dad and all that he did for me over the years. He taught me, as a young man, to tell the truth. He not only provided for all my needs, he made a way for me to chase my dreams. He paid for my college education, encouraging me along the way. He always told me how proud he was of me and that he loved me. I don’t know if you know this or not, but my dad was actually the best dad ever. He was a good, good father.

So the thought occurred to me: if my earthly dad was that great, what must God the heavenly Father be like (check out Matthew 7:11)? Could it be that God uses our earthly dads—assuming they’ve been good to us—to help us see a little more clearly what He’s like? Today’s Scripture tells us that sacrifice and consecration would provide the means for God to dwell among the Israelites.

Good news: we don’t have to offer two lambs on the altar each day anymore. One Lamb—Jesus, the Lamb of God—offered himself, once for all, in an eternally sufficient sacrifice. Like a dad caring for his children, God provided (see Genesis 22:8). That’s a good, good Father.

Heavenly Father, thank You for those earthly fathers who help us learn more about what You’re like. But also keep healing the wounds that come from bad fathers who failed us, even if they were doing the best they could. Through Christ, amen.

April 24

By | 365 Devotions

Funerals

He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25-27).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Song: “Arise, My Love”

I don’t know about you, but I do not enjoy funerals. I know I should rejoice that our loved one has “gone on to a better place” and that at least “they aren’t suffering anymore” and that “all things work together for good” and all of that, but mostly I just miss people. I liked the world better with them in it. Even when I’ve just gone to “pay my respects” for someone I’m not particularly close to, I find that something stirs deep within me. I hate death.

I remember watching the film Jesus of Nazareth on TV with my mom when I was little. Watching them crucify Jesus disturbed me considerably. I couldn’t see how such a horrible thing could be done to such an obviously good and innocent man. But then Jesus changed the reality of our universe. As you know, He didn’t stay dead; He came back to life.

I liked that part. Death has been my enemy and yours since we took our first breaths in this world. And I’m glad for that day, either now or then, when death can no longer lay claim to any loved one of mine. I’m thankful for the victory we have over death through faith in our Lord.

Thank You, Lord God of All, for Your promised victory over all evil, even the destruction of death itself. When I’m tempted to accept our society’s desperate attempts to make a funeral into a sentimental exercise in nostalgia, remind me again of the deep pain and sadness that pervades our world—and the eternal joy that awaits in your coming kingdom. In the name of Jesus my Savior I pray. Amen.

April 23

By | 365 Devotions

The Poverty Mind-set

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Song: “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus”

My minister brother-in-law and I were talking the other day about believers who seem to be hopeless. Every trial plows them under. Every challenge is one more thing to gripe about. They don’t see how any of it is going to work out. He labeled it “the poverty mind-set”: a lack of vision for what is possible. Always under the weather. Never on top.

If we’re not careful, that attitude could become our own. Possibly it already is. Thing is, it doesn’t depend on our financial situation. It’s a mind-set, and it springs from our faith situation.

Do we really believe that we’ve been born into an “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (v. 4)? Do we really trust that we are “shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (v. 5)? Because if we do, then the trials that come our way are the refiners of our faith and another reason to praise God (see v. 7). Today may we cast off the poverty mind-set and fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of the richest hope available—our Lord, Jesus Christ.

O Lord, remind me today that all things are possible with You—in the overall direction of my life and in each decision along the way. Through Christ, amen.

April 23–29. Von Mitchell teaches business and coaches basketball at his alma mater in Delta, Colorado.

April 22

By | 365 Devotions

Time Marches On

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being (Revelation 4:11).

Scripture: Revelation 4:1-6, 8-11

Song: “Revelation Song”

I recently attended a concert by a popular musician from the 1970s and 80s. At age 72, he was touring the United States “One Last Time!” to share his many musical hits with his fans. I knew them all. As a kid, I had listened to his music often because my parents owned and frequently played his albums.

I was one of about 10,000 people who gathered in our community’s event arena that evening to hear him sing, and I was not disappointed. His voice was still strong, his music still dear to my heart, and I found myself singing along at the choruses with almost everyone else in the arena. For two hours, young and old alike enjoyed the many ballads, love songs, and dance tunes.

As I observed the crowd, I was struck by the joy on people’s faces. It brought me to tears, thinking of an era that has passed, people who are no longer with us, and myself getting older.

Our earthly lives are so bittersweet. We take pleasure in things like music and concerts, and these are wonderful gifts from God to enjoy. But, alas, they are temporary; time marches on. Yet we can believe that God is eternal. And someday we will worship Him in Heaven along with all of His creation.

O God, thank You for providing so many things in this world that bring me joy. At the same time, I pray that You will help me to keep these things in perspective. You come first, Lord, and I love You! Through Christ’s name I pray. Amen,

April 21

By | 365 Devotions

A Glorious Day!

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7).

Scripture: Revelation 19:1-8

Song: “I Will Be Here”

On the back lawn of an historic estate, 200 guests gathered on a warm summer morning. Classical music played softly, even as birds sang in the nearby trees. White folding chairs, arranged in neat rows, faced the back of the house, where French doors opened onto a small veranda.

A flight of steps led down to the vast lawn, where three arch- ways of white chiffon, flowers, and greenery framed the bride and groom as they walked together toward their guests and a makeshift wedding altar. The bride, wearing a simple white dress, carried a bouquet of pale calla lilies. The groom wore a tuxedo vest and necktie over a crisp, white dress shirt.

At the altar, the couple was joined by the bride’s sister, the groom’s best friend, and their minister. The 7-year-old ring bearer stood nearby with the wedding rings stored safely in his front pocket. Following a brief but beautiful ceremony, the newlyweds joined their treasured family and friends under a large party tent, where everyone enjoyed breakfast and wedding cake together.

It was a glorious day, especially for the bride and groom, who’d waited for many years to find each other. So much greater it will be on the day when Christ reunites with His bride, the church!

O Jesus, thank You for loving the church, Your bride, and making her ever more beautiful, day by day, through Your sanctifying grace. In Your name I pray. Amen.

April 20

By | 365 Devotions

When We Don’t Understand Scripture

In the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings (Ezekiel 1:5, 6).

Scripture: Ezekiel 1:5-14

Song: “He Never Changes”

Scripture isn’t always easy to understand, is it? Consider Ezekiel 1:5-14. Here a prophet from Judah tells of a divine vision he received in 593 BC, four years after the Babylonians dragged him away into captivity. According to the Life Application Study Bible, the passage speaks of God’s character: God is strong (the lion); God is our provider (the ox); God is intelligent (the man); and God is divine (the eagle). Isn’t it wonderful to know that God represents everything good and has the power to meet all of our worldly and spiritual needs?

Many Christians today own various versions of the Bible and can access a wealth of biblical commentaries. When we don’t understand a particular passage, we can always look it up.

But there are other ways to gain an understanding of Scripture as well. We can participate in small group studies, for instance, where we explore the meaning and application of Scripture in collaboration with others. We can also pray that, during our daily personal meditation time, the Holy Spirit will guide our reading and provide insight into its relevancy for our daily lives.

Father God, show me Your will today. Speak to my heart through the Scriptures, through fellowship with others, and through my Spirit-inspired intuition. And please, open my heart to accepting the most difficult Scripture passages, knowing that in time, You will reveal their meaning to me. In the name of Jesus, amen.

April 19

By | 365 Devotions

You Don’t Have to Run Fast

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-6

Song: “I Am”

My friend was a runner and, in his day, he had even run marathons. I was impressed. How in the world could a person run 26.2 miles in one day? “As much as I’d like to be a runner,” I said, “I’m just not good at it.”

“You don’t have to run fast,” he replied. “You just have to run.”

I thought about it. A short time later, he invited me to run with him. “Just one mile,” he said. So, we ran together. I was quickly out of breath, the elastic in my shorts rubbed uncomfortably against my skin, the sweat poured down, and my feet hurt!

But my friend stayed right next to me, encouraging me with words such as, “You’re doing great! Look how far we’ve come. We’re almost there!” When we finished running that mile together, I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Even the soreness in my muscles during the next few days was a happy reminder that I had accepted a challenge and succeeded. Soon, I was out running on my own—four miles—every other day.

Others were impressed. When they say they’d like to run but just aren’t good at it, guess how I reply.

Lord Jesus, life can be challenging, and my circumstances aren’t always comfortable. Thank You for motivating and encouraging me to keep going, even when times are tough. Use my experiences to encourage others, as well. In Your name, amen.

April 18

By | 365 Devotions

God’s Magnificent Holiness

Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy’” (Exodus 19:23).

Scripture: Exodus 19:20-25

Song: “You Are God Alone”

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse was visible across the United States for the first time in 26 years. Scientists, teachers, and many others took time off work, booked flights, piled their families into cars, and traveled to out-of-the-way destinations to view this spectacular natural phenomenon that lasted for only a few minutes. Wise and informed viewers wore darkened glasses to protect their eyes from damage. They knew that even during a partial eclipse, staring directly at the sun can cause blindness.

The sun’s extreme brilliance—during an eclipse and always—is like God’s magnificent holiness. Before Jesus sacrificed His life to compensate for humankind’s sin, even God’s chosen people, the Israelites, couldn’t gaze directly upon Him because His glory and power were so strong.

For many, viewing the total solar eclipse was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, similar to Moses’ visit to the top of Mount Sinai to receive God’s Ten Commandments. Aren’t you glad that, due to Jesus’ perfect gift of salvation, we no longer need days of preparation, special equipment, or an exclusive invitation to commune with our Lord and Savior?

Father, You are God alone! You created the universe, and You orchestrate all events in the heavens and on earth according to Your holy purposes. Even in your magnificence, when I call out, You will hear me. Thank You, through Christ. Amen.

April 17

By | 365 Devotions

Boundary Living

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger” (Job 1:12).

Scripture: Job 1:6-12

Song: “Blessed Assurance”

“Be home by midnight!”
Speed Limit: 55 miles per hour.
“We only have $1,000 to spend on new equipment this year.” The rules are endless. Why? Because the roles we play in life must necessarily come with limitations. To avoid negative consequences, most of us learn to live within the boundaries set by our parents, the government, and our employers. As Christians, we also learn to live within the parameters of God’s Word.

When I read the story of Job, I am struck by the injustice: that such a godly man could lose everything and suffer so terribly. Yet even as Satan persecuted Job, he was required to stay within God’s limitations: “On the man himself do not lay a finger” (v. 12). The Bible reminds us that Satan is very real, and Christians especially can expect to be targeted, tempted, and pestered—if not persecuted— by the prince of this world and his minions.

It’s a scary reality, even for Christians. But we can rest assured that the evil one can only act within God’s parameters. Job had no idea what was coming, but God had prepared him in faith and obedience, just as He will prepare each of us for life’s hardships.

Lord, sometimes I’m frustrated by the limitations others place upon me, but I know that most are for my own good. Please use these limitations to prepare me in faith and obedience for whatever You have planned for my life. In Christ’s name, amen.

April 16

By | 365 Devotions

Rainbows for Believing

God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come” (Genesis 9:12).

Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17

Song: “There’s a Rainbow in the Cloud”

It was late July, I was 11-years-old, and I was attending a weeklong Bible camp for the first time. When we arrived at our cabin, our camp counselor, DeeDee, was there to welcome us. She had decorated the area around her bed with various items to make the cabin feel like home.

I spotted a large, pin-backed button that read, “I believe in God because of rainbows.” The button stood out to me because it was about five inches in diameter—much larger than a typical button. It was printed in a child’s handwriting and displayed all the colors of the rainbow. At the time, I had a large collection of buttons at home, and this one was different from any I had ever seen.

That week at Bible camp was memorable to me for many reasons, including the fact that my birthday fell on our last day there. What joy I felt when I walked into our cabin after breakfast that day to a shout of “Surprise!” followed by the singing of “Happy Birthday.” Then DeeDee presented me with one of the most special birthday gifts I have ever received: the rainbow button. Forty years later, I still have that gift and cherish the memory of its giver.

God, what magnificent reassurance You’ve provided for your creatures down through time. May our hearts sing out in praise each time we see a rainbow! In Christ, amen.

April 16–22. Jana Hunzicker works at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, serving in a variety of teaching and leadership roles. She lives with her husband and two dogs in Washington, Illinois.

April 15

By | 365 Devotions

Toy Not Included

“Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).

Scripture: John 21:15-25

Song: “Let Your Heart Be Broken”

One of our favorite family traditions is to participate in a gift exchange before Christmas. Because our family is large, we ramp up the fun by giving goofy gifts. For example: a four-handled Over the Hill coffee mug, a repackaged box of assorted chocolates with a bite taken out of each piece, a gold fish swimming in a water-filled sandwich baggie, a wallet stuffed with Monopoly money, a survival tin of dehydrated water, and a bicycle inner tube. Last year, I received a package of AA batteries with a note: Toy Not Included.

This time of exchanging inexpensive, fun gifts has helped us exercise our creativity. We also learn the value of developing thankful hearts along with a sense of humor. Of course, sometimes feelings do get hurt, and then we discuss the importance of choosing our words carefully. Before speaking, we try to filter our comments through a set of questions, “Is it kind and loving? helpful? true?” Our ultimate goal is to deepen our love for each other.

Jesus loved Peter, and Peter loved Jesus. Yet Peter floundered along the way. His poor decisions and mistakes encourage me during my own times of failure. God used Peter’s brokenness and heart of love to advance the growth of the church.

Father, help me feed the sheep You have entrusted to my care. Let me be sensitive to their needs and helpful in their personal growth. In Jesus’ name, amen.

April 14

By | 365 Devotions

What Love Looks Like

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37).

Scripture: Matthew 10:34-39

Song: “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?”

“Flattened! How can that be?” Our Bible camp’s director had called to tell board members that our beloved mountain camp’s chapel, standing since 1964, had simply collapsed. Heavy snows, coupled with record high winds, had caused the destruction.

I reflected on the once beautiful, rustic, log-sided building nestled in a mountain meadow. Surrounded by groves of quaking-leafed aspen trees and a nearby sparkling creek, the chapel was a living postcard. Many people loved it enough to be married there, and various missionaries, speakers, ministers, and teachers had taught and challenged thousands in the chapel for over half a century.

It’s impossible to know how many people have decided to love, follow, and serve Jesus through being moved to open their hearts in that small building. As plans materialize for the building of a new chapel, I wonder if I will love it as I have loved the old one.

Today’s verses indicate that my love for the things of this world— even for my beloved family—will, by comparison, pale in the presence of my love for Christ. That is only possible because He chose to love me first. Thanks be to God!

Lord God in Heaven, I know You want me to love my family deeply and to hold in high esteem all the blessings of this life that Your hand has provided. But help me to cherish, even more, the foundational love that supports all others: Your unconditional love for me and Your call to love You back with undivided loyalty. I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus, my merciful Savior and Lord. Amen.

April 13

By | 365 Devotions

The Way Home

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine (John 10:14, KJV).

Scripture: John 10:11-18

Song: “My Hope Is in the Lord”

After a Pacific salmon hatches in a freshwater stream, its brain records the odors of the distinct chemical compounds of that water bed. As the salmon develops, its body changes so it can adapt to salt water. It then swims to the Pacific Ocean, where it lives for a few years, maturing and gaining body mass. A salmon may travel hundreds of miles in the ocean before journeying back to its original stream in order to spawn and die.

Researchers think salmon use the earth’s magnetic field as a compass in the ocean depths. This type of internal GPS helps a salmon find its way back to the fresh-water river where it originated. Once a salmon reaches that specific river, it smells home.

At each watery intersection, a salmon must choose which river, tributary, stream, or creek to navigate. While the waterways may seem the same, this amazing fish differentiates between the smells at each junction and follows the unique scent of home.

Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd, and those who trust in Him are His sheep. He and His followers enjoy a close, personal relationship, as He leads, guides, and protects His sheep. And Jesus, our faithful shepherd, steers us home: “That where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3, KJV).

Lord, You know me by name and You care for me. Sometimes I’m tempted to ignore Your voice, and I’m inclined to follow the values of this world. Forgive me, and thank You for providing the only way to my heavenly home. In Your name, amen.

April 12

By | 365 Devotions

Harvest Time

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37).

Scripture: Matthew 9:35-38

Song: “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations”

Apple season on Grandpa’s farm always reminds me of the children’s book, The Little Red Hen. The little hen asked her animal friends to help her plant the grain, to cut the wheat, to grind the wheat into our, and to make the our into bread. Each time her friends refused to help, offering myriad excuses. Finally, she asked them to help her eat the bread, which they wanted to do!

Grandpa exhausted himself watering, pruning, grafting branches, and protecting the apple trees in his small orchard. He always preferred picking the fruit after we’d experienced the first hard frost in the fall. He said the cold temperatures sweetened the apples by converting the starch into sugar. When it was time to harvest the apples, Grandpa’s laborers were his kids and grandkids.

We climbed ladders, stood on boxes, lifted each other onto our shoulders, and scaled the limbs in order to pick every apple. It took days to complete the harvest. Instead of selling the hundreds of boxes of apples, Grandpa invited friends in our small community to bring empty jugs to fill with fresh-pressed apple cider at our family’s cider-making party.

Jesus, with great compassion for all people, proclaims the need for laborers to extend His ministry. He calls, equips, and enables willing workers for the kingdom.

Lord, let me see people as You see them. Though sometimes I’m nervous about sharing my faith, use me to minister to those living in desperation. In Christ, amen.

April 11

By | 365 Devotions

Intentional Stretching

As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 10:7).

Scripture: Matthew 10:5-15

Song: “Rescue the Perishing”

“One kid? We didn’t travel all the way to Alaska to teach Bible stories to one kid in the park!” With those two sentences, Michael discouraged half of our missions team. After dinner that night, we asked God to bring more kids and to revitalize our servant hearts.

Bad attitudes and lack of kids were merely two spiritual assaults of many we’d encountered. Prior to our trip, my husband and I contracted bronchitis, sinus infections, and a stomach virus. The airlines canceled our flight to Anchorage, rescheduled it, canceled it, and finally rescheduled it to arrive at midnight, inconveniencing the people who picked us up when we landed. At our destination, we all slept in a church basement, sandwiched together on leaking air mattresses. (Then 55 of us took turns using two showers!)

During the week, we faced evacuations twice from a raging wildfire and survived two earthquakes. However, God used us to minister to needy people. He not only brought more kids, but their impoverished parents and neighbors showed up also to hear about the hope Jesus Christ offers.

Amidst great uncertainty and with meager provisions, Jesus sent the Twelve to advance the gospel. The pivotal message of eternal life, hope, and peace in Christ shined through and changed lives.

Father, thank You for commissioning and equipping me to tell others about Jesus. What I consider necessities are all secondary to serving You. When I’m discouraged or feel stretched, remind me of Your presence and wise plans. In Christ, amen.

April 10

By | 365 Devotions

Blue Lava

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Scripture: John 20:24-28

Song: “I Surrender All”

“Popi, lava isn’t blue; it’s reddish orange.” Our grandson, Jason, continued to discuss volcanoes with my husband, Steve. His first-grade class was studying the layers of the earth, tectonic plates, earthquakes, and volcanoes. My husband had recently seen incredible nighttime photographs of Indonesia’s Kawah Ijen Volcano. Snapshots of blazing blue icing spewed from the crater and frosted the mountainsides.

Steve and Jason explored the online pictures together, but Jason just couldn’t believe the blue lava really existed. As Steve read the captions under each photo, they learned the blue sizzling glow wasn’t actually lava. Molten rock that comes from the earth at the time a volcano erupts is indeed usually reddish orange. The captivating difference of Kawah Ijen comes from the high quantities of sulfuric gases mixed with the lava. When these gases collide with oxygen at the crater’s crest, the lava sparks the sulfur and produces electrifying blue flames. Jason was correct and satisfied.

Thomas had received accounts from his friends that Jesus was alive. Only when he personally saw Jesus’ nail-scarred hands and touched His pierced side did he believe and surrender to Christ’s lordship. Thomas answered the question that causes eternity to hang in the balance for each of us: What do you think of Jesus?

Father, like Thomas, I so often rely only on my senses and intellect to guide me. Forgive me, Lord. Strengthen my faith and help me surrender to Your lordship in all areas of my life. Thank You for Your inner peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.

April 9

By | 365 Devotions

Eventually Flourishing

Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow (John 18:27).

Scripture: John 18:15-18, 25-27

Song: “When I Fear My Faith Will Fail”

I never imagined I would tell a lie while on a mission trip. During our first day in a small Bolivian city, two American doctors examined approximately 300 people while a couple of us translated. The remainder of our team constructed a bathroom for the church, and others taught Bible lessons to neighborhood children.

At nightfall, 22 exhausted bodies squeezed around a table in the church’s courtyard, reviewing the day’s highlights. Several of the church ladies had prepared chicken soup and in the dimness of low-wattage lighting, it appeared delicious and smelled heavenly.

Scooping up my first bite, I noticed a spiky chicken claw nestled in my spoon. Yikes! What should I do? We were supposed to be culturally sensitive; however, I knew I just couldn’t force myself to eat that little delicacy. So I devised a plan. I sipped all the broth and ate the scant vegetables, abandoning the claw in the bottom of my bowl. When our hostesses offered another ladle full, I shook my head, patted my stomach, and lied, “No thanks, I’m full.”

Peter lied three times in the single event conveyed in our Scripture today. It helps me to recall that instead of being doomed as a failure, Peter eventually flourished as a forgiven missionary.

Father, like Peter, I sometimes react in the moment and choose the easy way. Forgive me, strengthen me, and encourage me to serve You with integrity. In Christ, amen.

April 9–15. Vicki Hodges lives in the mountains of western Colorado with her husband, Steve. She loves to travel, camp, paint, and engage with people from different cultures.

April 8

By | 365 Devotions

Cake and Fish

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread (John 21:9).

Scripture: John 21:1-14

Song: “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus”

Of all my birthday cakes, I remember only one—a yellow cake topped with white frosting. I didn’t have a party that year, so when my mom surprised me with a cake, I was thrilled (as any cake lover would be).

That cake demonstrated my mom’s love and care for me. Even though I was a grown woman, every bite reminded me that I would always be Mom’s little girl. It may seem strange that a cake could mean so much, but it did. And I’ll probably never forget it.

Jesus’ disciples had shed all night and caught nothing. They must have been hungry and discouraged. So Jesus stood on shore ready to encourage them with a lesson about His love and care for them.

First, the Lord surprised His disciples with a boatload of sh. But I don’t think the fish provided the main message; no, that likely came through more clearly in the unexpected breakfast Jesus had prepared. I wonder what the disciples thought as they stepped ashore and found Jesus cooking fish and bread over an open re. “Come, have breakfast,” Jesus said. Then He served them.

With a simple breakfast, Jesus demonstrated how much He loved and cared for His disciples. It was a lesson they probably never forgot, and it’s a good one for us to remember too.

Father, I’m thankful today that You’ve promised to meet all my needs, just as You met the disciples’ needs. Give me this day my daily bread, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

April 7

By | 365 Devotions

Truth Be Told

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true (John 21:24).

Scripture: John 20:30, 31; 21:24, 25

Song: “I Know God’s Promise Is True”

We had a terrible disagreement. Careless words were said, and tears owed. For several weeks, I grieved over the loss of family unity. So I called my son and simply said, “We need to talk.”

My only defense was to ask, “Have you ever known me to be mean-spirited or to say something to purposely hurt someone?” I hoped he would agree that I would never do that.

When we are accused of wrongdoing or of saying something we shouldn’t have said, our character might be the only thing to stand on. Before conflict arises, it’s good to ask ourselves: Am I known for kindness and honesty? Can I be trusted? A negative answer to those kinds of questions could jeopardize our Christian testimony.

John must have known his Gospel would seem unbelievable. He wrote about Jesus—a man who walked on water, healed thousands, never sinned, died for sins He didn’t commit, and then rose from the grave! So John’s Gospel ends with a reminder of John’s own character and truthfulness.

This great apostle wrote of things he’d actually witnessed. John’s original readers, those who knew him personally and had observed his character over the years, no doubt believed his words because they knew his testimony was true. And so can we believe him.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me the Bible through faithful apostles like John. Increase my desire for more faith and understanding of Your Word. In Christ, amen.

April 6

By | 365 Devotions

Focus to Follow

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15).

Scripture: John 21:15-23

Song: “Where He Leads Me”

My husband and I have been married for 36 years. He works hard, loves his family, and is my favorite person to be with—my best friend. But he doesn’t share my love for the Lord or my desire to know God more fully through His Word. This breaks my heart. His salvation is my greatest concern and my fervent prayer; I know his eternal destiny is at stake.

In today’s Scripture reading, it appears that Peter wasn’t concerned about John’s eternal destiny. But he may have been worried about his friend’s safety. When Jesus said Peter would one day be martyred for the sake of Christ, Peter responded to this terrible news with concern for his friend. He wanted to know if John would suffer the same fate. “Lord, what about him?” (v. 21), Peter asked.

“Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me’” (v. 22). Jesus didn’t rebuke Peter for caring about what would happen to John. He simply redirected Peter’s focus from John to himself.

Clearly we are to love God more than anyone else, though it’s impossible for us humans to quantify or calculate a love level. But we do know that love and trust go together. It’s difficult to follow Christ when our minds are focused elsewhere.

Lord God, may my commitment to follow You become my primary concern as I entrust the souls of my loved ones to You. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

April 5

By | 365 Devotions

One by One

Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35).

Scripture: Acts 8:26-35

Song: “Tell Me the Story of Jesus”

After hours of studying Scripture and months of preparing my speech, I began my speaking ministry. For about a year, I traveled to women’s groups, within a 200-mile radius of my home. This gave me the opportunity to share the gospel with up to 60 women at one time. I found telling that many people about our Savior both challenging and very exciting.

All of a sudden, it seemed my life had more meaning than it had before. I felt as though this ministry gave me a special purpose—more special than most. I was wrong.

Philip’s experience, in today’s Scripture, shows us that sharing the gospel with one person is as much a priority with God as sharing it with many. The Lord has placed each of us in unique relationships with family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. We cross paths with people at the grocery store, the gym, the gas station, and at church. Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the people in our lives is God’s plan for everyone, not just a special calling for a select few.

May we follow Philip’s example and make the most out of every opportunity to tell someone (by word and example) about all that Jesus has done for us.

O Lord, thank You for giving me the ministry of proclamation—that You sent Your Son to win for us forgiveness and eternal life. Help me boldly share this great good news, and may each one who hears respond with saving faith. In Jesus’ name, amen.

April 4

By | 365 Devotions

Ready, Set, Go

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Song: “How Firm a Foundation”

I remember John, my first hospice patient, who was in his early 70s. He had liver cancer and lived with his wife, Rita, a petite woman who loved to crochet. Tote bags and baskets, piled high with yarn, graced their small apartment.

Since I’ve always been shy, my volunteer work with hospice was a challenge. Before every home visit, I prayed, “God, please go with me!”

Three months after receiving a terminal prognosis, John died. I wanted to visit Rita, but I wondered: Will I be in the way? How many family members will already be there? Will my visit matter?

So I sat down and opened my Bible. And right there I found the answer to my questions: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble” (James 1:27, KJV). In one verse, God gave me the courage I needed to visit my new friend in her time of grief.

Today’s Scripture reminds us that God gave us His Word to equip us for the work He calls us to do. The Word in our hearts gives us strength to accomplish the task at hand.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me Your Word to light my way and guide my steps. Please increase my desire to read the Bible, and help me to understand and apply its truths to my life and ministry. In Jesus’ name, amen.

April 3

By | 365 Devotions

He Is Risen Indeed

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Song: “Christ Arose”

My childhood belief system can pretty much be summed up with these words: “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” I found it easy to put all the things I didn’t understand under that heading. But as an adult, I need more than a catchy phrase.

Have you ever considered that Jesus could have gone straight to Heaven after He rose from the grave? God could have required us simply to believe His Word that Jesus rose from the dead—and there would have been nothing wrong with Him doing that.

But He stayed on earth for a while. In fact, today’s Scripture speaks of more than 500 people who saw Jesus after He died and rose from the grave. With His work of the cross complete, we can imagine how Jesus must have enjoyed those encounters.

After His suffering, He presented himself to His followers and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God (see Acts 1:3).

Aren’t you glad God gave us His Word, with so much physical proof to back up its claims?

Dear Lord Jesus, may the biblical and historical truths of Your resurrection give me boldness to speak the good news—that You died for our sins and rose from the grave to give us forgiveness of sins and fellowship with the Father. Help me daily to live in the light of Your victory over sin and death. I pray this prayer through Your precious name. Amen.

April 2

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Our Invisible God

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36).

Scripture: Luke 24:36-49 Song: “Immortal, Invisible”

One morning, reading in the book of John, I came across the verse that says, “God is spirit” (4:24). It’s difficult to explain the sadness that came over me. In that moment, it became so real to me: God is invisible. I still struggle with that. Do you? We long to see and touch and hear. That’s the way God made us.

But today’s Scripture can relieve any concerns we might have about serving an invisible God. We do have an incarnational faith, a religion grounded in history and stuff. Jesus suffered and died for our sins—in the flesh, at a specific time, in a real geographical location. After rising from the dead, He appeared to His disciples. “Look at my hands and my feet,” He said. “Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (v. 39).

Our invisible God became visible in the person of Jesus Christ. Now we taste bread and wine, we see beauty in our churches and feel the touch of healing oil, hear beautiful hymns to our Lord, and grasp the hand of a fellow believer. Ours is no mere mystical system of ethical platitudes. Jesus became man so we could know and see God Almighty.

O God, You are highly exalted, Creator of all things, awesome in power. Yet You became a man so that we could touch You. Work Your will in me, through Christ. Amen.

April 2–8. Kathy Hardee writes from her home in rural Mendota, Illinois. Her passion is to give God the glory due His name through her life and writing.

April 1

By | 365 Devotions

Just As He Said

They did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense (Luke 24:11).

Scripture: Luke 24:1-12, 30-35
Song: “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”

On April 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy stated that the United States would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Most people thought such a statement was foolish nonsense. But several teams of scientists believed in the vision, so while the public scoffed, they worked diligently to find ways to make the vision a reality.

They had faith in the president to set the project in motion, so they devoted their time and resources to a plan that ought to succeed. Seven years later, Neil Armstrong became the first American to step onto the moon, and the doubts quickly ended. What seemed like an impossible task turned into a milestone in history.

The idea that God incarnate would die for the sins of all humanity seems like nonsense to many people, and His promise to rise from the dead sheer folly. But those of us who have experienced the transforming resurrection power of new life within us beg to differ! Not in seven years—but just three days after the crucifixion—the tomb was empty, just as He said it would be. Today, Easter Sunday, let us join in a mighty chorus, declaring to the whole world: “He is risen!”

Father, today the tomb is still empty. Jesus is alive, and I know that one day I will be forever living in His presence. Praise to You, through the living Lord! Amen.

April 1. Jeff Friend is a freelance writer who lives with his wife, Nancy, in Largo, Florida. He is a big fan of his home-state Baltimore Orioles.

March 31

By | 365 Devotions

Hope Set Above

We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place (Luke 24:21).

Scripture: Luke 24:13-21

Song: “Hallelujah, He Is Risen”

The news spread quickly, as one shocked neighbor told another that the popular mayor had been arrested for stealing from the town’s funds. Decades of high unemployment and fiscal mismanagement had devastated the local economy, and the mayor had been elected based on his promises to rebuild. In the midst of dark gloom, the residents had placed all their hope in him. Surely he would be the leader they could count on.

But now he languished in a jail cell after confessing to embezzlement over several months. The townspeople struggled to accept it. How could the man they saw as their deliverer from despair turn out to be just another politician with selfish goals? How could their hope have been so misplaced?

If we put our hope in mere human beings to make our lives better, we set ourselves up for inevitable disappointment. Those folks are men and women like us, complete with all the standard faults, shortcomings, foibles, and weaknesses. Our hope and faith in Jesus Christ, however, will always be secure. One way we know this: He promised to rise from the dead. If He did indeed follow through on that, then He can be trusted to do everything else He said.

Gracious Father, You remain faithful when others prove to be flawed and imperfect. My hope is secure in You, and I can face an uncertain future in light of Your certain promises. With thankful heart, I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

March 30

By | 365 Devotions

Incredible but True

Some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus (Luke 24:24).

Scripture: Luke 24:22-24
Song: “Standing on the Promises”

For years Pedro heard his grandfather, Raul, tell about a special document he’d hidden in a remote cabin. The old man claimed it was a parchment map from the Christopher Columbus era, and only two other copies were known to exist. He described intricate details that significantly added to the map’s value.

Pedro finally decided that the document existed only in his grandfather’s imagination. After all, no one in his family had ever seen the map or knew if the cabin existed. When Pedro told Raul that his map sounded “too good to be true” and was merely a fantasy, Raul said, “Some day you’ll realize the truth of my words.”

Several years after Grandpa Raul’s death, Pedro received a call from his brother, Jose. Pedro’s face turned pale as he heard Jose excitedly tell him that he learned their grandfather had owned a hunting cabin—and Jose was now standing inside it. “And Pedro,” Jose said, “I am looking at a beautiful old framed map on the wall, exactly as he told us.”

Even His closest disciples often wondered at Jesus’ words. Yet I believe we can testify with those early believers that Jesus is fully trustworthy as the way, the truth, and the life. And we know that everything Jesus said or promised has proven to be true in our lives. His Word will forever be dependable and unquestionable.

Almighty God, Your Word is truth. Though some in my world may doubt or mock, help me rest in knowing that You will never forsake me. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

March 29

By | 365 Devotions

Leading by Example

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:15).

Scripture: John 13:1-5, 12-17

Song: “Beautiful Savior”

As I opened the jigsaw puzzle box and spilled out its contents, the pile of colorful, odd-shaped pieces of cardboard presented a real challenge. How would I ever get these thousand pieces assembled into a thing of beauty? Then I studied the top of the box, where the manufacturer had wisely placed a full-color example of how the finished product should look. OK—this would be easy! Whenever I became stuck or confused, I’d grab the box and refocus on the goal.

I soon learned, however, that there was more to duplicating the example than just glancing at it once in a while. This would take patience and concentration. The picture would develop slowly, one piece at a time. I worked several small groups at a time, waiting for the chance to join them to the bigger sections. I referred to the example time and time again for guidance, finally snapping it all into one final, gorgeous landscape.

Jesus lived His life as an example for us, knowing we could not put all the pieces of our lives together on our own. If we keep our eyes and attention on Him, then we will be able to complete our life’s puzzles and create the beautiful picture He planned.

Merciful God, help me to walk faithfully in the example that Your Son, Jesus, provided through His life and teachings. Your Word shines a light on my path so that I can see the right ways to choose, to plan, to live each day. May I too be an example to others as I follow You. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

March 28

By | 365 Devotions

Searching Deep Within

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:27-34

Song: “Search Me, O God”

Police investigators spread through the house, carrying an assortment of electronic devices, chemicals, and other tools designed to aid their crime scene analysis. Each room is thoroughly scoured for any piece of evidence. Strands of hair, carpet stains, wall markings—even the tiniest object, smell, or residue—might hold invaluable information.

To such investigators, nothing is insignificant. A serious crime has been committed, and they’re determined to solve it. It may take days or years, but laws have been broken and a perpetrator must face judgment. Without a thorough search, which might mean overlooking a tiny piece of evidence, true justice would suffer.

God doesn’t need a team of investigators to search out our sins because He already knows everything we have done. Yet He invites us to open our hearts to Him. Then, when we examine ourselves, we are rightly humbled to repentance. For what can be worse for one of Christ’s disciples than to realize, with stark candor, that we have chosen to thwart His will?

A thorough examination of heart before coming to the holy table redounds to our benefit. There He is quick to forgive; there He frees from guilt. Sin no more! says our merciful Lord.

O Lord, to You all hearts are open, all desires known. As I approach communion with You, lead me first to examine my life in heartfelt confession. Through Christ, amen.

March 27

By | 365 Devotions

Innumerable Benefits

When he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Song: “In Remembrance”

The grey-haired man stood solemnly as he stared at one of the panels of the Vietnam War Memorial. His eyes scanned the list of soldiers until they fixed on the engraved name of his fallen buddy. He gently moved his fingers over each letter as tears began to flow.

Having made the pilgrimage to this spot every year on the anniversary of his friend’s death, he was determined to keep cherished memories alive. The two soldiers had shared so many life-changing experiences, seen unspeakable horrors, celebrated valiant deeds and joyous moments. Thus he had vowed never to let time or distance keep him from returning to this place of honor and remembrance. Here was a bond that even death could not sever.

We all have memories of people who have so deeply in uenced our lives—family, friends, and even some whom we have known only briefly. We remember important dates and events that we shared with them, and often the sacrifices they made for our benefit. Holidays are observed to help us recall the men and women who gave their lives on our behalf.

When we partake in the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for our salvation. Let us never forget His priceless gift and the innumerable bene ts procured by it.

O Lord Jesus, my heart rejoices when I recall all Your blessings. The offering of Your precious body and blood makes it all possible. Thank You, in Your name. Amen.

March 26

By | 365 Devotions

All for Nothing

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36).

Scripture: Mark 8:31–9:1
Song: “I Need Thee Every Hour”

Robert had dreamed of this day for over 20 years. He had started out as an intern doing menial tasks and running errands for mid-level managers, but today he was being promoted to president of the company.

He reflected on the many long days, business weekends, and countless miles of travel that had led to this moment. Robert had decided no sacrifice was too great if he were to advance up the corporate career ladder. And now he had reached the top.

But suddenly his mind flashed other images—his divorce trial, his two sons who now had families but never even called anymore, and the many lonely nights he spent at bars trying to drown the guilt and empty feelings inside. Yes, he had reached the heights of success he always wanted, but the cost had been devastating.

Having goals in life is fine, but they should unfold from our main focus on Christ and His kingdom mission for us. Just as our Lord’s sole purpose was to glorify His Father, in word and deed, we are called to follow His example. What better way to experience what it means to live an abundant and fulfilled life?

O God, the King of Glory, may my primary goal in life remain ever the same: to please You first and foremost. I am tempted daily to rearrange my priorities and simply pursue the things of this world. So I ask that You continually remind me that my true treasures are laid up in Heaven. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

March 26–31. Jeff Friend is a freelance writer who lives with his wife, Nancy, in Largo, Florida. He is a big fan of his home-state Baltimore Orioles.

March 25

By | 365 Devotions

Closer and Better

The LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices” (2 Chronicles 7:12).

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 7:12-22
Song: “And Art Thou Come with Us to Dwell?”

My chosen place: our small living room, on the floor, with my back against the brown wall. My Bible lay open on the cushion in my lap. I was ready. I’d always prayed regularly, but this was a new commitment to commune with the Lord.

I had stayed there reading and praying for an hour or more, often using the compound names of God that come through in the Old Testament’s Hebrew text. For example, “O God, You are my Jehovah-Shammah (the Self-Existent One Is There). You are there before I arrive at any situation in my life. You’re always present. I know whatever I face, You were there first.”

I communed with the Lord, and His presence seemed to fill the room. In this way, I came to understand more about His nature, and His Spirit met with me.

In Old Testament times, God’s presence dwelt in the ark of the covenant housed in the tabernacle. In the church age, God now inhabits His people through the indwelling Holy Spirit. In other words, He chooses each of us as a temple in which to dwell.

As far back as Adam and Eve, God has desired fellowship and communion with human beings, and He still wants us to spend time with Him. When I live closer, I live better.

Holy God, I desire to be Your sanctuary. I want my heart to be a worthy dwelling place for Your Spirit. Stay close, teach me, and guide me. In Christ my Lord, amen.

March 24

By | 365 Devotions

Why, Lord?

This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, “Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?” (1 Kings 9:8).

Scripture: 1 Kings 9:6-9
Song: “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

In the state of Washington on May 18, 1980, Mount Saint Helens exploded, spewing mud and hot lava for miles. Forests were devastated, and 57 people died in the disaster. Emergency workers were able to rescue about 200 people from the mud ow. “Why does God allow this kind of tragedy?” we ask.

During a questioning period in my life, my sister offered this advice: “Let God be sovereign.” I pondered how I could do that, for I truly needed Him to fix my upside-down situation.

Since childhood I’d tried to obey His commands; thus, I felt He should help me and answer my prayers now. Didn’t I deserve His help after all I’d done for Him? I’d taught Sunday school, led ladies’ groups, and worked with the youth. I recounted all of this in my prayers.

Then I began to recall all that Jesus sacrificed for me—God himself not standing at a distance from the world’s suffering but taking on human nature and experiencing pain and evil personally. My heart was broken as I opened again to His mercy.

Eventually, I discovered how to allow God to be God (not that He needs my permission!). I relinquished my demands as to what He should do. He sees the bigger picture still hidden from my view.

All-knowing God, You are surely aware of my needs. You see the future as well as the past. I want to trust You to lead me into Your future too. Through Christ, amen.

March 23

By | 365 Devotions

I Heard You the First Time

The LORD said to him: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me” (1 Kings 9:3).

Scripture: 1 Kings 9:1-5
Song: “Come, Said Jesus’ Sacred Voice”

Almost daily my husband asks me, “What did you say?” He has hearing aids but only wears them when he’s away from home— and sometimes not even then! The hearing aids are adjustable; he can turn them up to hear better or turn them down when things get noisy. I slow down and tell him again what I just told him.

Sometimes when we pray, we may wonder whether God did actually hear our plea. We may think because He hasn’t answered as we’d hoped that He didn’t hear us. We may even ask, “Does God need hearing aids?”

We sometimes think our children have selective hearing. They don’t hear, “Please take out the garbage.” They do hear, “Want to go get a hot-fudge sundae?”

According to Scripture, God hears every prayer, every plea, and surely He takes into account everyone who will be touched by His response, including the one asking. As someone once said: “Prayer often changes things; it always changes us.”

Whether the Lord’s answer is yes, no, or wait, He hears our softest cry. His ear is turned in our direction, and His work is for our best, even in a universe that allows for a human free will that so often attempts to do its worst.

Awesome God, thank You for hearing my pleas as You fulfill Your promise to walk with me through every circumstance of life. I know that in this world I will have tribulations. But You have overcome the world through Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.

March 22

By | 365 Devotions

The Power of Choice

I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction (Deuteronomy 30:15).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Song: “I Am Thine, O Lord”

“We are only puppets, and our strings are being pulled by unknown forces,” said Georg Buchner, the depressive nineteenth-century German dramatist. I’ve heard people who thought something similar— that we indeed have no options, but that God pulls the strings.

“Puppetry is a synthesis of all the arts,” Fred Arnold said. “You’re getting everything involved when you do puppetry.” Arnold performed for 30 years as a puppet master in Chattanooga. Out of his creations of over 400 puppets, some are exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution. Those puppets had no will of their own; they were always maneuvered by someone else.

Thankfully, our God is no puppeteer. Having been created in His image, we’re free spirits, able to decide how we’ll live. We can choose to follow in the way of our Creator’s character, which will give us life and blessings—or not. Our Father gave us this amazing freedom to choose. What divine respect for humanity: that we can determine the attitude of our heart, day by day and so largely establish the course of our whole life.

How empowering to have options! But with them comes great responsibility. We will live with the results of our choices. Choose the Lord.

God of Creation, I am grateful for the freedom You gave to me when You created me. Thank You for the option of life and blessings—that is my choice! Now help me demonstrate that decision in the most practical deeds of love today. In Christ, amen.

March 21

By | 365 Devotions

God Rescues

When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate (Exodus 22:27).

Scripture: Exodus 22:21-29
Song: “Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine”

In a California business parking lot, customers heard faint cries from a kitten. The little one had fallen into an eight-inch wide storm drain a few days before Christmas 2015 and was meowing for help.

According to Inside Edition, a worker at Sierra Pacific FurBabies, a rescue organization, arrived on a Sunday and made numerous attempts to get to the kitten. She was dislodged after 33 hours that included digging a large hole near the drain. Little “Piper” recovered and went on to thrive because of a few compassionate people who heard her cry.

To what lengths will God go to rescue one of His own children? Recently a friend and I sat at a dog park talking with a brand new friend, Debbie. She’d lost her leg in a motorcycle accident and was trying out her third prosthesis, saying, “Pray that this one works!”

My friend grabbed Debbie’s hand and mine and said, “Let’s just pray now, ‘Dear heavenly Father . . .’”

We didn’t know that Debbie had walked away from God years earlier. “But that day when you prayed for me,” she said later, “was the same day I turned back to the Lord. Thank you.”

O Lord, Your great compassion and grace through distance, years, and difficulties reached out to Debbie and rescued her. I am so thankful You hear the cries of those who have stepped away from You—myself included. Give me the faith to pray continually for Your wandering sheep and to help in practical ways, wherever I can. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

March 20

By | 365 Devotions

Let Me Tell You

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you . . . (Matthew 5:21, 22).

Scripture: Matthew 5:21-26

Song: “Jesus Calls Us”

“Mom, it’s just a party. All the other parents are letting their kids go, so why can’t I?” Kyle asked. Most parents of teens have heard this plea.

“Not to this party,” I said. “You know we don’t decide whether to do something based on what everyone else has chosen, right? Your mom and dad make the decisions here, in light of the Lord’s will and what’s best for you—which amount to the same thing.”

Parents see the bigger picture. They think about who will be at that party; they check the weather and ask if adults will be there. The child dreads the final statement: “Because I said so.”

God’s Word is the light to guide us in making decisions, and Jesus himself is the incarnation of that Word in the flesh. We can look at His teaching and see the emphasis on the heart’s desire and motive when it comes to moral purity. For Jesus, sinning went much deeper than just breaking a rule; He showed it to be the soul’s subtle self-destruction.

When we face a moral dilemma—or simply feel the tug of a powerful temptation—let us take a calm moment to consider: What do I really want here? A disciple of Jesus, deep down, will want to please Him. Thankfully, He promises to “tell” us the way.

O Lord, teach me to hear what You say. I search Your Word to understand how You want me to live. No other source guides me so well. Through Christ, amen.

March 19

By | 365 Devotions

Spend Yourself!

If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday (Isaiah 58:10).

Scripture: Isaiah 58:6-12
Song: “Speak, Lord, I’m Listening”

My son-in-law David told my daughter, “Your mother doesn’t buy anything unless it’s on sale.” He is about right. When I meander through my favorite stores, I watch for 75%-off sale signs. I live on a strict budget, and I’ve learned about the best times to shop. Need some birthday gifts? Snap them up right after Christmas Day.

Our Scripture today speaks of a different kind of spending. God calls us to spend ourselves. A small group of our church ladies took this calling seriously and applied it practically. They knew that Miriam, a young mother of six, had just been diagnosed with leukemia. The ladies prepared dinner for her husband and family on Mondays and Thursdays while Mom was in Nashville to get a bone marrow transplant. Another lady regularly brought them bread and snack cakes. And all of this continued for several months.

God is compassionate, and He wants us to emulate Him, to lovingly touch the lives of immigrants, widows, orphans, anyone in need. Do you know a family who would be blessed by a bag of groceries or a cooked meal? Spend yourself!

Great God of Compassion, Your heart is tender toward the poor and needy. Stir my heart that I take notice of those who need my help today. Through Christ, amen.

March 19–25. Phyllis Qualls Freeman lives in the Chattanooga area. She has written for numerous markets—newspapers, ministry publications, and devotionals—for more than 20 years.

March 18

By | 365 Devotions

Sufficient and Effective

The bronze altar he had made could not hold the burnt offerings (2 Chronicles 7:7).

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 7:1-9

Song: “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

In today’s Scripture, we see the people offering sacrifices in dedication of the temple—but the offerings were too abundant for the altar to hold them. The scene reminds me of another time of abundance, found in the Gospels. When Jesus fed 5,000 men (in addition to women and children) with just two fish and five loaves of bread, He multiplied the gift to the point that 12 basketfuls remained as “leftovers.”

Throughout the Old Testament era, many believed they could be saved simply by following the rules of the Torah, the Bible’s first five books. The Israelites found there a detailed sacrificial system (to which they eventually added a plethora of complicated moral and civil laws). Yet salvation isn’t about what we can offer to God, but what He can offer to us in Christ Jesus. We know that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin (see Hebrews 10:4). And even in the Old Testament, Abraham was saved by faith in God’s promises (see Romans 4).

What Jesus has to offer fills us abundantly. His atoning blood poured out for us was sufficient for all time, all sin, all persons. And it is eternally effective for those who receive its gracious bene ts.

Dear Father, pour Your Holy Spirit into my heart today that I may show forth the lovely character of Your Son, Jesus. He is my Savior and Lord through no work of my own but by Your eternal decision to love me unconditionally. I can never repay Your love, but let me show my gratefulness in loving works of mercy. In Christ, amen.

March 17

By | 365 Devotions

Gifted for a Purpose

May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors (1 Kings 8:58).

Scripture: 1 Kings 8:54-61
Song: “Change My Heart, O God”

The nature of the doctrine of justification by faith lies at the heart of the sixteenth-century Reformation’s theological disputes. We are saved by grace, of course, through faith in Christ, not by our good works. Yet we know that we’re called to live a transformed life, to take the salvation we’ve been freely given and work it out, in gratitude, through good deeds (see Philippians 2:12, 13).

Where, then, do works come in? They are the result of salvation, not the cause. “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).

In other words, God saves us for a purpose, to be obedient to His calling—just as He called the Israelites in today’s passage. Whether that calling is to be a minister, Sunday school teacher, barista, or a stay-at-home parent, we can love God with all of our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves. (Love is an action word!)

Today I’m taking time to prayerfully consider: Where is God inviting me to be more obedient in my speech, thoughts, or actions? Can I allow the Holy Spirit to lead me into paths of righteousness as I give thanks for the free gift of salvation?

Lord, thank You for saving me by Your grace. Fill me with the Holy Spirit so I can know and do Your will throughout this day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

March 16

By | 365 Devotions

Note of Thanks: A Grateful Heart

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind (Psalm 107:21).

Scripture: Psalm 107:17-22

Song: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

A mentor mom in my Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group encouraged her kids to write their teachers thank-you notes at the end of each year. Her children were reluctant to write the notes until her daughter’s teacher came to her teary-eyed one day. The teacher said that, in her 30-year career, not one student had ever expressed gratitude for her work as a caring educator.

Is that how God feels? We’re often quick to write down our prayer requests. Our church has a prayer request sheet in the bulletin. I write down prayer requests at the end of each MOPS meeting. Some churches even have boxes outside that anyone can use to drop in their prayer petitions. Prayer often means merely this: asking God to do things for us.

But how often do we simply thank God, as today’s psalm calls us to do? A helpful acrostic for prayer is the ACTS model: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. We can even thank God as we go throughout our day for each and every provision.

While we won’t write a literal thank-you note to God, our whole lives can be a letter of gratitude to the one who provides all good gifts in all areas of life: spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional.

O Eternal Father, thank You that every day, every breath I take is a miracle of Your grace. Remind me as I go about my routines that You hold me in Your arms, surround me with Your love, and sustain me through every difficulty with Your abiding presence. All praise to You in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

March 15

By | 365 Devotions

Feeding Frenzy

He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (Psalm 107:9).

Scripture: Psalm 107:1-9
Song: “O Living Bread from Heaven”

With a husband, three young boys, and a tabby cat at home, I feel like I’m constantly feeding someone. When I go to the grocery store each week, I load my cart to overflowing (not to mention the trip I make to the warehouse store every few months to restock the freezer and pantry). Three meals, two snacks, and tons of dishes later, at the end of the day I’m thankful my husband and I have been able to provide for our young family.

In Luke 11:11-13 Jesus paints a vivid picture of God’s paternal provision: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

What are we lacking spiritually, mentally, physically, or emotionally? Where are we seeking fulfillment for these needs? The answer can’t be found in our bank accounts, credit cards, or the approval of our family and friends. Only Jesus, the living bread that came down from Heaven, can satisfy us in this life, and in the life to come (see John 6:51).

O God, the King of Glory, thank You for providing me with everything I need each day. Help me to look to You only to satisfy all of my needs, as You supply my daily bread. Keep me ever mindful of the needs of others. I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus, my merciful Savior and Lord. Amen.

March 14

By | 365 Devotions

Tidings of Reverence and Joy

So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped (2 Chronicles 29:30).

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 29:25-30

Song: “Holy, Holy, Holy”

At the end of our Good Friday service, when lights are turned off and the last candle extinguished, everyone kneels, singing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” without accompaniment. It is a quiet, solemn, humbling moment.

Contrast that with Easter Sunday. Sunshine pours through the windows. The cross at the front of the church is draped in white. Pure white lilies grace the altar, their scent mingling with that of hyacinth and the bread of the Lord’s Supper. The sound of trumpets echoes throughout the sanctuary.

Worship can be both reflective and jubilant. Dark and light. But in an age where we’re constantly distracted by the latest gadgets, it’s hard to pause and reflect on God, in either case. Sometimes we need to just humble ourselves before Him, in silence . . . with our phones turned off.

It’s also easy to become complacent in our worship, simply going through the motions without expressing true joy. It’s easier to leave the singing to the choir or to present God with a list of petitions in our daily prayers than to pour out heartfelt praises.

Let us remember to worship the one who is both suffering servant and reigning king in reverence and joy.

Dear Lord, thank You for dying for my sins and for Your resurrection from the dead. Thank You for the promise of an abundant and joyful life through faith in You. Help me to worship You in both joy and awe. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

March 13

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Blessed to Be a Blessing

In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth (Isaiah 19:24).

Scripture: Isaiah 19:19-25

Song: “Whatsoever You Do”

According to researcher George Barna, American evangelical Christians are “the most generous givers in a country acknowledged to be the most generous on the planet.” For example, donors to the charity Compassion International sponsor 1.7 million children per year, helping release them from the cycle of poverty.

Statistics can only track financial giving. Other, less tangible ways of giving are harder to measure: the encouraging word from a fellow church member; the meals brought to new moms or those recovering from illness; the volunteers who make sure the church grounds are freshly mulched for Easter Sunday.

God has blessed us so we can be a blessing—just as He promised those in today’s passage. As we give thanks for God’s forgiveness and salvation in Christ, we can consider how He might use us to bless others. While the impact of our giving may seem small, when joined with the sacrifices of others, we make a huge difference.

Just as God sent us a Savior and defender in Christ, we can help the helpless. God multiplies our seemingly small efforts, for Jesus tells us the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed—miniscule yet prolific in its growth (see Mark 4:31, 32). So let us ask God to show us even the smallest thing we can do for His kingdom today.

O God, my heavenly Father, help me to know how I can love and serve others with my time, talent, and treasure—all of which are gifts from Your hand. Thank You for blessing me so I can be a blessing to others. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

March 12

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See Him in Others

Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! (John 9:25).

Scripture: John 9:24-38
Song: “Open the Eyes of My Heart”

Ten years ago, I underwent laser eye surgery to correct my nearsightedness. Although I wasn’t blind, my vision was pretty bad. I couldn’t function without glasses or contacts, which meant I could hardly see when I first woke up in the morning.

Right after my surgery, I was able to sit up, look at the clock, and read that it was 2:00 p.m. I hadn’t been able to see that well since I was 7 years old.

I’m not an optic surgeon—far from it. I’m not even in the medical field. I’m a technical writer turned stay-at-home mom. I have no idea how the surgeon was able to correct my vision, but I do know that I’m able to see well now.

In the same way, the cure for spiritual blindness can seem confusing. Yet the proof of conversion speaks for itself. Famous church leaders such as Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, and John Calvin experienced dramatic conversions that continue to inspire Christians around the world. Often the Spirit works subtly to deliver everyday people from sins like envy, bitterness, and anger. So, while God’s hand seems invisible at times, let us look to the evidence of His handiwork in the lives of believers.

Lord, open my eyes to see what You are doing in my life and within others. Help me to know Your handiwork when I see it—and give You all the glory. In Christ, amen.

March 12–18. Lisa Earl writes from her home in western Pennsylvania. She enjoys spending time with her husband, three young sons, and cream tabby cat.

March 11

By | 365 Devotions

When Small Is Just Right

Will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! (2 Chronicles 6:18, NKJV).

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:12-21
Song: “The Lord Is in His Holy Temple”

Solomon was indeed wise. He realized the temple he built was too small to house God, and even the immense expanse of the universe was too small to contain Him. To be sure, God isn’t a part of the universe; He is apart from it. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the rmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, NKJV). But creation does not house Him, it only reveals Him. So Solomon’s temple would serve as a place of worship, not as a divine residence. God would meet with His people there, but He would not live there.

Some churches are huge. St. Peter’s Basilica’s interior measures 15,000 square meters and can accommodate 60,000 worshippers. The Anglican Cathedral of Liverpool encompasses 104,270 square feet. But if we learn anything from Solomon’s testimony, we know God cannot be contained even in a gigantic church.

Now here is a startling truth. Although God cannot live in a huge place of worship, He chooses to live in the heart of every believer. First John 4:15 (NKJV) states: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

How will God’s presence in us affect our worship, our conversation, and our behavior today? Let Him shine forth gloriously!

Dear Father, I am amazed that You have made me Your temple, and I am humbled and thankful. May I reflect Your character in all I say and do. In Jesus’ name, amen.

March 10

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No Need to Shout

Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place (2 Chronicles 6:40, NKJV).

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:36-40

Song: “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

Do you know anyone who, with a phone call, speaks normally or loudly, depending upon how far away the caller is? I do. To protect his identity, I will call him Herb. If Herb receives a local call, he speaks at a normal voice level. If he receives a call from across the state, he speaks more loudly. An out-of-state call receives an even louder response. I fear that a call from China or India would elicit such a thunderous response from Herb that the neighbors might be tempted to call the police.

I don’t think anyone can persuade Herb that a normal voice on the phone carries to distant places just as well as it does across town.

Thankfully, we don’t have to shout when we make a call to on Heaven. God’s ears are always open and attentive to our prayers. Psalm 145:18, (NKJV) assures us: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” He even hears us when we pray silently from the heart, with or without words. When Hannah prayed from her heart, Eli the priest failed to realize she was praying, but God heard her intentions (see 1 Samuel 1:9-17). So, why not whisper a prayer today, and see what happens?

Heavenly Father, You answer every prayer that is offered in faith, whether with yes, no, or wait. I thank You for hearing even my silent and whispered prayers. You know my heart; may it be pure before You. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

March 9

By | 365 Devotions

The Wisest Cardiologist

Then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men) (2 Chronicles 6:30, NKJV).

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:28-33

Song: “On Thee My Heart Is Resting”

I visit a heart doctor—a cardiologist—every six months. He checks my blood pressure, listens to my heart, and looks at my ankles to see if there is any swelling. He uses the rest of the time allotted to the visit to talk about his move from Texas to Colorado.

Once a year I undergo an echocardiogram with contrasting dye. Occasionally I have a stress test or a more complex nuclear stress test. All of these tests determine how well my heart functions and whether any structural damage exists. (So far, so good!)

Of course, as Solomon observed in 2 Chronicles 6:30, only God truly knows the human heart. A cardiologist can detect a blocked artery, an enlarged chamber, a leaky valve, or an irregular beat. But only God can discern the thoughts and attitudes of the inner person (see Hebrews 4:12). He alone knows whether the heart loves Him supremely or loves the world a bit more.

We don’t have to wait six months or a year to have God, the wisest cardiologist, examine our hearts. We can pray today: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24, NKJV).

Father, I want to love and serve You with my whole heart. Please protect me from any sin that seeks to distract me from Your lovingkindness. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

March 8

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The Unfailing Promise Keeper

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has fulfilled with His hands what He spoke with His mouth to my father David (2 Chronicles 6:4, NKJV).

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:1-11

Song: “Standing on the Promises”

We’ve all suffered broken promises. Someone agrees to meet us at a certain place and time, so we wait and wait and wait, but in where are they? We accept a job that guarantees a raise after three months, but after a year we’re still looking for that extra money. We vote for the candidate who vows to lower taxes and lift us to a higher standard of living. However, the tax rate increases, and our cost of living goes with it.
 Of course, some promises are made in good faith but circumstances change, making them impossible to keep. Dad promises his daughter, “This weekend I’ll take you golfing,” but a horrendous nonstop rain on Saturday rules out any possibility of golf.
Now here’s an encouraging fact: God will never alter, bend, or rescind His promises. We can trust in them with our whole heart.

He simply cannot lie (see Titus 1:2).
A popular chorus says, “Every promise in the book is mine.” We can cherish them, cling to them in our trials, depend on them in the throes of temptation, and let them buoy our hope of Jesus’ return.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your many promises, and I know none of them will fail. May my faith in You as the unfailing promise keeper remain firm, and may I depend on Your promises every day. In Christ I pray. Amen.

March 7

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How Young Do You Feel?

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses (Acts 2:32, NKJV).

Scripture: Acts 2:29-36

Song: “Because He Lives”

I am on the plus side of 80. However, I don’t feel old. I don’t look old (so I’m told). I don’t think old (I tell myself). But, guess what? I am old—very old. This realization did not strike me during a physical examination, but when I came across 2 Samuel 19:32 in my Bible reading. The verse states: “Now Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old.”

What a shocker to be told by Scripture that I’m truly ancient! So what can a very old man do? Should I spend whatever time remains in my recliner and watch my arteries harden? Post a sign on my front door that announces, “A woman, two dogs, and a very old man live here”?

Or should I determine to live life to the full by serving Jesus as long as I have breath? Of course, this option is by far the best one. Besides, because Jesus conquered death and lives forever in Heaven, I too shall live forever. He promised this wonderful future for all who believe in Him (see John 11:25).

So I have decided to measure my life not by the years I have lived on earth, but by the eternity I will spend with our risen Lord. Possessing eternal life makes me feel so young. How about you?

Dear Father in Heaven, thank You for the gift of eternal life through Your Son and His work on the cross for me. I am grateful that He died in my place, was buried, and was raised up from the grave. Help me to show my gratitude by representing You well today, in thought, word, and deed. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

March 6

By | 365 Devotions

An Eternal Crown

His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon Himself His crown shall flourish (Psalm 132:18, NKJV).

Scripture: Psalm 132:13-18

Song: “Crown Him with Many Crowns”

Host Steve Harvey was embarrassed. Everyone involved with the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant was shocked, including the stunned TV audience. The incident took only a moment to send shock waves around the world, but what a moment it was! You in see, Harvey announced the wrong winner, forcing Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez—originally announced as the victor—to give up her crown to its rightful owner, Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach. So Miss Columbia wore a crown for only a few seconds. Her reign as Miss Universe must have been the shortest in history.

About 3,000 years ago God promised King David that his chief descendant, the Messiah (Jesus), would wear a crown that would flourish. Although down through the centuries, many have tried to steal His crown, they have failed.
 Psalm 2 predicts a future assault against King Jesus, but it will end in a disastrous defeat. Jesus’ kingdom is an everlasting one, as and as Handel’s Messiah proclaims so triumphantly: “He shall reign forever and ever.” As Christians, we can be the most optimistic people on earth. We know what the future holds, and we know who holds the future.

Father, it seems so many enemies of Jesus and His followers have declared war on Him and us. May I represent Your Son today with courage and compassion, knowing He comes to set up His kingdom of love forever. In His name, amen.

March 5

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Joyful Worship

Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your saints shout for joy (Psalm 132:9, NKJV).

Scripture: Psalm 132:8-12

Song: “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”

I have nothing against dentists, but I don’t like having to visit mine. He’s nice enough, but here’s what keeps me from whistling, “Look on the Sunny Side”: I dread the numbing needle, the drilling, the cotton stuffed into my mouth, the “water boarding,” and the inevitable bill. Of course, I know I would pay a higher cost in terms of pain and suffering if I simply neglected my teeth.

Now, here’s what I find strange. Facial expressions in some churches resemble the expressions I see in the dentist’s waiting room. It seems many in those churches anticipate an imminent root canal. Smiles are rare, the singing resembles a funeral dirge, and clock-watching is the prime pastime.

How refreshing to visit a church where the worshippers seem glad to be there! But if we need an infusion of joy, why not read the many references to “joy” and “rejoice” in the Bible? It may surprise us to find that very few joyful believers in Bible times were rich, healthy, and surrounded by favorable circumstances. The Lord was the source of their rejoicing.

Joyful worship, both private and corporate, brightens our day and pleases the Lord. It may even carry us through a root canal.

Father, I rejoice in the blessings You pour into my life every day. May my joy extend to family and friends, to my workplace, and to my place of worship. In Christ, amen.

March 5–11. Scottish-born Jim Dyet is a retired editor and former minister. He and his wife, Gloria, have been married for 59 years and live in Colorado Springs.

March 4

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God’s Proving Ground

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8).

Scripture: Genesis 22:1-3, 6-14

Song: “Great God, Thy Providence and Care”

Abraham’s answer shows how deeply he trusted in God, even with his son’s life at stake. After all, he’s on his way to do the hardest thing he would ever be asked to do by God.

Abraham’s answer to Isaac shows that even though this father doesn’t understand why God asked him to do such a strange thing, he must have believed that somehow the Lord would bring good from it.

Even in this awkward moment when Isaac noticed they needed a lamb, Abraham kept walking to the designated place to build an altar and complete the sacrifice. Trust in God moved him forward.

Perhaps when we face a test of our faith, like Abraham, we can let our words and actions testify to the greatness of our God and the wisdom of placing our faith in Him. And while what we face may not be as severe as this ancient testing, we still have a choice as to how we respond to God’s leading.

He may ask that we let go of someone or someplace dear to our heart; or we may be called to suffer a form of physical pain or loss, or to step out on an uncharted, unknown mission. But as we follow His direction, step after step, faith grows within us and proclaims to the world—yes, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ leads and provides for His people. Trust in Him!

Dear Lord, it’s hard to trust when things don’t make sense at the moment. But let me look into Your Word, see the truth, and believe and trust. In the name of Jesus, amen.

March 3

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Just Look Up

I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17).

Scripture: Genesis 22:15-19

Song: “Earth and All Stars”

Every time I walk along the beach at sunset, I feel especially close to God. As the sun slowly meets the horizon and the sky reflects such amazing colors, my thoughts turn to the Lord Almighty, our Creator and Father. Soon the light fades, and one by one stars appear, and my focus turns to our vast universe. As I reach down and brush off the sand sticking to my feet, I’m reminded of the myriad millions, billions, trillions of minute particles filling my path along the seashore.

Yes, it’s more than my mind can handle, and often today’s verse pops into my head as a comforting truth. After God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice his only son on an altar, He promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as a seashore’s sand particles. Imagine what Abraham must have thought about that! But the great patriarch chose to believe, and he lived to see God keep His promise. Now, thousands of years later, my heart soars and my faith renews as I take in the glory of God each day.

May we, too, continue to trust, even when God’s promise seems impossible. Will you join me in looking up at the stars tonight?

Everlasting God, my finite mind can’t comprehend the infinite glory of all that You’ve created—the stars, this earth, the universe, and even me. Thank You for all the sunrises and sunsets that remind me of Your promises. Through Christ, amen.

March 2

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God Said It, I Believe It!

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones (Hebrews 11:22).

Scripture: Hebrews 11:17-22

Song: “Jesus, I Will Trust Thee”

Although it would be more than 350 years before Moses would lead the Israelites out of Egypt, at the time of his death, Joseph believed the promised event would happen. By faith, he knew be his descendants would leave Egypt and return to their promised land—and clearly Joseph didn’t want to be left behind. So he demonstrated his faith in God’s promise, detailing how to transport his bones out of Egypt at the time of the future exodus for their burial in the promised land.
 It’s amazing to observe such solid faith in one who had experienced so many painful trials. Sold as a slave at age 17 by his jealous brothers, wrongly accused by his new master’s wife, and thrown into prison for years, Joseph could have lost all sense that God cared for him. Yet he continued to trust, and God used him to interpret the Pharaoh’s troubling dreams. By age 30, Joseph became Pharaoh’s top leader, managing the country’s crops during seven years of blessing that preceded seven years of drought and famine.

This hero of the faith knew that God would do what He promised: Joseph’s remains would not have to stay in Egypt. God promised an exodus; Joseph knew it would happen. What an example of faith for us today.

Lord, I want to know Your Word that I may enjoy Your promises. Help me live today trusting in Your power to strengthen and guide me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

March 1

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Our Secret Weapon

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7).

Scripture: Psalm 20

Song: “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”

In an age when governments fear that weapons of mass destruction will fall into the wrong hands, this verse in Psalms courageously reminds us that no matter what battle we face, we can trust in the name of the Lord our God.

No doubt Pharaoh’s war department considered chariots to be their best weapons in battle. With strong horses pulling the Egyptians at high speeds, no opposing infantry unit could outrun chariots bearing archers and warriors with spears. From their vantage point, riding high above their rivals on foot, charioteers shot down the enemy and ran over the dying with ease.

The psalmist, King David, certainly knew about such weapons and what it meant to have the advantage in battle. Yet he clearly points to the ultimate advantage one can have in life. Confidently placing our trust in God’s name, knowing who He is, His authority over all creation, and His ability to crush the enemy—that’s the ultimate weapon.

May we never forget the power of prayer in Jesus’ name. And may we always rely on Him amidst any onslaught upon our heart, mind, body, and soul.

Lord, fill me with an appreciation of Your greatness—that You conquered death and You will help me achieve victory over evil, battle after battle. In Christ, amen.

March 1–4. Carol McLean is a freelance writer and marketing consultant for the book industry working in Venice, Florida. She is married with adult twin boys, who live in San Diego and Denver.

February 28

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Following Jesus, Wide Awake

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39, 40).

Scripture: Luke 22:39-46

Song: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”

No question, following Jesus can be difficult, and understandably His disciples followed Him only to a certain point at a very crucial time. Also, as the title of today’s song states, a decision must be made to follow Jesus, with “the cross before me, the world behind me.”

I recall when my granddaughter Yelena, then aged 3, called this musical testimony the “None Go with Me Song.” Although she didn’t remember the title, she remembered key words: “though none go with me, still I will follow.”

Jesus had to make a particular decision too, as He prayed on the Mount of Olives. That is, He considered—and struggled mightily with—His Father’s will in His journey to the cross, praying so earnestly that His “sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

He followed, but would His disciples continue to follow? Jesus advised them to pray that they wouldn’t fall into temptation, and we are to do likewise. After all, “sleeping” in these matters, as the disciples did, can be a dangerous thing. And “sleepwalking” through our days of kingdom service just isn’t an option.

Lord Jesus Christ, here I am, wide awake to follow You and to teach others to fol- low You too—especially my precious grandchildren. I know that You have a special place in Your heart for children, and so do I. Thank You for preparing my heart for this special blessing. I pray in Your precious name. Amen.

February 27

By | 365 Devotions

Not the Only Need

It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Scripture: Mathew 4:1-11

Song: “Bread of Heaven, on Thee We Feed”

My stomach sounded as loudly as the train rumbling by. Yet I refused to let it hinder my plan for being on the road in the first place. Besides, I’d completed all of my errands without a beep from a hungry stomach. Yet now, only minutes from my destination, it was a different story—a different story with an old, old plot, I might add.

However, as I remembered Jesus’ words to Satan in our Scripture today, I gave my growling stomach an even louder reprimand: “Be quiet! Besides, food isn’t the only need I have.”

That point was driven home when I arrived at church to get my Bible, which I’d left there after attending Bible study the previous evening. Our minister said to me, “Glad you decided to come by. Got to have the Word, right?”

That’s precisely right. Likewise, it’s right to have learned this les- son about my greatest need, the need for spiritual sustenance daily. One thing that’s helped me remember the power of Jesus’ words is an experience I had in 2002, while hospitalized for almost two weeks. During my stay, I needed to go without food or water by mouth for nine days. Of course, that’s only a fraction of the 40 days Jesus endured in the wilderness. So indeed, I am thankful for both His words and example.

Almighty and Loving God, thank You for Your Son’s leadership and earthly examples. Help me to follow them above hunger, depression, greed, or any other temptations I might face in life. In His precious and holy name I pray. Amen.

February 26

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How’s Your Memory?

Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands (Deuteronomy 8:11).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:11-20

Song: “Lord, I Remember”

Paul had known for quite some time that he “had it made.” He was “living the dream”: enjoying a well-paying job, good health, a wonderful wife, well-behaved kids—the list could go on. But at this moment, he was interrupted by a stranger, a prickly old man who hurled some blunt questions at him.

“Whoa. Aren’t you forgetting something, Paul? Who gave you all of these things?”

“Well, I earned them. I’ve always been a hard worker.”
“A hard worker because of your good health, correct?”
“Well, I guess. I also had my inheritance money to use.”
“I see. Inheritance money you received from your father, right?

Yet your heavenly Father has given you all things, and that’s what you’re forgetting, just as the Israelites did, the ones who worshipped other gods. Wake up, young man.”

Paul did just that—literally. What a scary dream, he thought. Thankfully, he hadn’t been “destroyed” (see Deuteronomy 8:19); he could actually move his limbs and get off the couch!

Can you identify with my friend Paul? How’s your memory when it comes to recalling the daily goodness of our Lord?

O Lord God, help me never to forget all that You have done for me. I especially thank You for the commands that serve as Your loving guidance. Through Christ, amen.

February 26–28. Jimmie Oliver Fleming, a frequent contributor to Devotions, lives in Chester, Virginia. She is currently planning marketing strategies for her newly designed greeting card.

February 25

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Words of Substance

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20, NASB).

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:11-21

Song: “The Basics of Life”

In college, a fierce debate divided my circle of Christian friends. At the time, I didn’t have a solid foundation of theology or biblical knowledge. I was an impressionable young believer, torn between the two sides of the argument.

Sitting with one group, I would listen to them outline their side of the issue. Their rational and supporting biblical evidence made sense. Later, when I spent time with the other friends, they also had scriptural support and well-reasoned theological arguments. Both parties seemed to have valid points. The more I listened, the more confused I became.

At last, one day I realized this point of contention wasn’t about the heart of the gospel. It wasn’t central to salvation, and so I chose to stop participating in the discussions altogether.

Paul advised Timothy to avoid “empty chatter.” And that was good advice for me too. Listening to my friends made me feel intellectual, but it wasn’t really making me wise. The smartest decision was to avoid arguments about things that faithful Christians could disagree on in all sincerity.

God, I want to speak words of substance, sharing good news that can bring life to all, on either side of any gray area debate. I am so easily distracted by discussions that take my attention away from the gospel. Forgive me. Through Christ, amen.

February 24

By | 365 Devotions

Joyful Responsibility

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10).

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:9, 10

Song: “Trust Him When Thy Wants Are Many”

In the mid nineteenth century, the village of Waterbeach, England, prospered. Yet the people became pampered, self-indulgent, and lazy. Many made stills in their homes, and untaxed liquor started owing in excess. As the residents’ behaviors worsened, so did the economy. The result was a village in chaos, full of riots and dissension.

Around 1851, Charles Spurgeon became the local preacher. Into the downward spiral of both the city’s finances and its morality, he spoke the gospel. His winsome speaking and his message of hope soon brought faith and life to the people. Instead of swirling deeper into corruption, Waterbeach transformed into a town of integrity and peace.

Paul warned Timothy about the danger of loving money. While currency itself is not evil, the love of it pulls our hearts away from God. Get-rich quick schemes and a worship of wealth abounds in our world today, but we are wise to remember: only God has the resources to satisfy our ultimate desires.

Despite the temptations, may we pursue God and avoid much grief. When we love God most, managing His riches becomes a joyful responsibility.

Dear God, help me live in this truth about money. Forgive my greed and selfishness. After all, the money I have is from You, and I ask You to teach me how to manage it wisely to Your glory. I pray in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

February 23

By | 365 Devotions

Contentment Is Success

Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6, KJV).

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:2-8

Song: “For the Sake of the Call”

Audrey wanted her life to make a difference. Born in England, she became a missionary to China. After many years there, the Holy Spirit led her to resign, and she boarded a boat to America, pleading with God to direct her future.

Not long after Audrey arrived, visitors came to her and asked whether she would teach them from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. At first she dismissed the idea. These women had so many resources, and they wanted her to instruct them in Bible study? She argued with God: Wouldn’t I be of more use back in China?

God gently invited her to do whatever He asked. So, Audrey Wetherell Johnson agreed and began teaching the Bible to this small group of Americans. Little did she know: this was the beginning of Bible Study Fellowship—now an international organization that extends . . . into China.

Paul encouraged Timothy to be content and upright. When Miss Johnson pursued God’s way without a fuss, He was able to break ground on a work that has led to great gain in His kingdom.

Are you content to obey Him in all things, big and small? We are truly rich when satis ed with Him in our current circumstances— whatever they may be.

Lord, only through You can I be content right where I am with what I currently have. I offer it all to You. Boldly, I ask You to advance Your kingdom through my life (but keep divine dividends hidden from me so I may pursue You alone). In Christ, amen.

February 22

By | 365 Devotions

The Watches Are Safe

When I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain (1 Thessalonians 3:5).

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-10

Song: “Faith of Our Fathers”

Corrie ten Boom and her family were arrested during WWII for hiding Jews. The family was separated when they arrived at prison, and Corrie didn’t know what had happened to her family—or if those Jews they’d hidden had escaped the soldiers.

On Hitler’s birthday, the guards left their posts to attend a party, so the inmates were able to shout news and messages to one another. Corrie learned her sister Betsie and herself were the only family members still incarcerated.

A week later, a package arrived from her other sister, Nollie. Corrie noticed her sibling’s handwriting slanted in a peculiar way, almost pointing at the stamp in the corner. Chuckling at her wild imagination, Corrie removed the stamp. To her surprise, she saw handwriting so small it was almost unreadable.

Corrie read the coded message, “All the watches in your closet are safe.” Every person they’d hidden was unharmed. She praised God.

Paul worried the Thessalonians had lost faith because of his difficulties. To his delight, Timothy learned they hadn’t rejected God. They were pursuing Him more and more.

Heavenly Father, forgive me for my worry. I know You are more than able to keep my loved ones safe and to preserve their faith. Please, increase my faith so that in every circumstance I am fully convinced of Your goodness. Through Christ, amen.

February 21

By | 365 Devotions

God’s Messenger

It is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs (Philippians 2:25).

Scripture: Philippians 2:25-30

Song: “The Lord Is Blessing Me Right Now”

One afternoon in 1899, two women who led street meetings for a mission in Fresno, California, met to pray. As they did, a voice told them, “I shall send my own messenger tonight. You will know him when you see him.” Later, they sat on a platform, watching and praying. The room was near capacity when a young man slipped into the back of the room.

The women quietly approached him and asked: “Are you the one who is to preach here tonight?”

“I don’t know,” he answered. They brie y exchanged stories. The women explained what had happened earlier. Then the young man, a preacher named Harry Ironside, said he’d stopped in Fresno on his way home to Oakland because the Spirit had strongly impressed him to do so. The meeting leader replied, “Then you must be the Lord’s messenger.”

The church in Philippi might have been expecting to see Timothy arrive with Paul’s letter. Instead, Epaphroditus came; his presence was a gift of joy and encouragement to them.

We might expect God to speak to us through someone familiar. Yet He may bless us by choosing an unexpected messenger. When He does, may we receive them with joy.

Dear Father, may I be open to following the unlikely leadings of Your Spirit—and willing to listen to the unexpected people sent to encourage me through Your Word. Amen.

February 20

By | 365 Devotions

Living Reminders

For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my be- loved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:17, NASB).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

Song: “More of You”

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints’ quarterback, spent some off-season time at the Guantanamo Bay boot camp. The Marines invited him to participate in their morning training, which included getting into formation and running together. The sergeant ran at the side leading a chant to help the runners keep pace and focus.

Drew quickly learned the chants. As he ran, he realized the group members were unified and strong as they called out the words and stayed in step with one another. He decided to modify and use military chants with his football team.

The next season, Drew led his team in a team-building chant before every game. He also came early and left late for practices and made an effort to know his team members personally. His passion, dedication, and caring were a way of life—one that led his team to winning the Super Bowl championship.

Paul cared for the Corinthians and wanted their faith to thrive. He sent Timothy to them and told them to imitate his lifestyle.

Are we, like Timothy, living reminders of a godly lifestyle?

Dear God, may our daily activities be patterned after Christ, so we can lead others to a life that flourishes in Him. Thank You for the examples of Paul and Timothy, and may I, like them, become a living reminder of true life and success in You. In the name of Your Son, my Savior, I pray. Amen.

February 19

By | 365 Devotions

No Offense Intended

Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek (Acts 16:3, NASB).

Scripture: Acts 16:1-5

Song: “I Am the Lord’s”

As a second grader, I was excited to attend my friend Anita’s birthday party. Her family and friends lled their small apartment with conversation and laughter. Despite the happy surroundings, I felt a growing discomfort in my 8-year-old mind. Overwhelmed, I ran to a back bedroom.

Anita and her father found me there. He gently asked what was wrong. I was afraid of offending them, but I finally said, “I don’t know Spanish!” A broad smile came across his face. He leaned down, put an arm around my shoulder, and apologized. They promised to speak in English, and I rejoined the party, now a happy girl.

No one in Anita’s family had tried to offend me. So when they realized the problem, they quickly put me at ease. With a similar motive of good will, Paul circumcised Timothy to avoid offending Jews they’d encounter on their missionary journey. They agreed nothing should get in the way of proclaiming Christ.

We can all make excuses for the way we speak and live, but who might we reach if we truly tried to eliminate all offense?

Lord, alert me to cultural differences and the ways I may need to change my behav- ior or speech in order to reach people for You. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

February 19–25. Sara Schaffer lives in Broomfield, Colorado, with her husband and two daugh- ters. She loves Bible study, sewing, Sudoku (when she wins), and strong coffee.

February 18

By | 365 Devotions

Finding Faith and Bringing Others

[Peter] got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up (Acts 9:40).

Scripture: Acts 9:36-43

Song: “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place”

Little Woody Landers was two weeks old when he suffered severe breathing problems. His parents rushed him to the hospital, but after heroic efforts, doctors pronounced the baby dead following a heart attack. Doctors allowed his parents to say good-bye. Thirty minutes later, he lay lifeless in his father’s arms as nurses removed the tube from his mouth.

But wait. Woody gave a little cough, and doctors resuscitated his heart. He recovered with no brain damage or other health issues.

Life-and-death miracles like Woody’s are tense and dramatic because they come when we’re already trying to “deal with” the loss of a loved one. This was true for Tabitha and her friends. When Tabitha died, her friends immediately thought of Peter, who wasn’t far away. They sent messengers, and Peter came to Joppa, where Tabitha’s body lay.

Even in matters that are not life-and-death for us today, we can learn from the pattern illustrated in Tabitha’s story. First, there’s great loss and a great need. Second, there’s great faith as they send for Peter. Third, there’s Peter’s prayer, which moves God’s heart for the miracle. Notice the result—many believed in the Lord.

Father, that’s what our faith should do—bring others to Your Son. I know my faith is often too weak, though. Whenever I face tragedy or any great need, help me trust You, that my example will point others to Your goodness. Through Christ, amen.

February 17

By | 365 Devotions

Responding to a Miracle

“Aeneas . . . Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up (Acts 9:34).

Scripture: Acts 9:32-35

Song: “It Took a Miracle”

John Patrick Hughes, born with no eyes and disabled limbs, lives life in a wheelchair. While he was just a toddler, his dad discovered that he could hear a few notes played on piano, then play the exact same sequence with his little fingers on a keyboard he couldn’t see. Years later, John Patrick realized his lifelong dream of being in the University of Louisville marching band. How? His father pushed his wheelchair for every practice and every halftime for four years. A book and a movie by the title I Am Potential tell the Hughes family’s story.

Aeneas suffered overwhelming physical challenges—maybe comparable to those of John Patrick. Paralyzed and bedridden for eight years, Aeneas was not only helpless, but probably also hopeless. When Peter visited this paralytic’s hometown, he told him, “Get up and roll up your mat.” Aeneas must have known Peter’s reputation. Evidently, he demonstrated faith that he too could be healed.

First, Aeneas trusted Peter, and then he obeyed. His response to being healed was to do exactly what Peter instructed him to do—get up. No matter how God works in our lives, a response is expected; we’re to do something. How well are you and I responding to God’s miracles in these days?

O God, I confess that too often I don’t even notice the miracles that You’re still doing in people’s lives today. I’ve become too dependent on myself alone. Help me to recall all the things You’ve done for me and to lift my voice in thanks. In Christ, amen.

February 16

By | 365 Devotions

Good News and Great Joy

Unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city (Acts 8:7, 8, NKJV).

Scripture: Acts 8:4-8

Song: “Rejoice, the Lord Is King”

For decades, Scott Carter has been an itinerant evangelist and leader in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He tells a story about rushing to a speaking appointment when he ran out of gasoline. As he attempted to push his car alone, he became aware that someone else was pushing from behind. They reached a gas station, Scott pumped gas, and went inside to pay. When he looked back outside, his anonymous helper had disappeared.

“I have to believe God sent an angel to help me,” Carter says, “because He knew there were kids who needed the gospel.”

Scripture tells us the apostles were scattered everywhere to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. Can you imagine their travel stories, walking to distant cities to spread the gospel? But they were faithful. And what was always the end result? People were healed, and great joy owed forth.

Consider all the things God does for us today. Then take a look at your local church and other Christians around you. Is there a sense of joy among you? If not, why not? Let us all express the joy we should feel when we’re part of the body of Christ.

Dear Lord, thank You for using men and women of God to travel around the world spreading the gospel. Thank You for the joy Your salvation brings. Help me to be a better example of sharing the joy that Your presence gives me. In Christ, amen.

February 15

By | 365 Devotions

Do Miracles Still Happen?

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade (Acts 5:12).

Scripture: Acts 5:12-16

Song: “We Are One in the Spirit”

Mississippi minister Buddy Smith traveled with Samaritan’s Purse to distribute Christmas Shoeboxes to needy children in Ecuador. He returned with an amazing story. At one church, where Samaritan’s Purse had expected 150 children to attend, it soon grew obvious that many more were pouring onto the church grounds. Panic time? No. Smith said the ministry staff, united in heart, prayed in one spirit for a “fish and loaves” miracle, and guess what. Every child received a shoebox gift.

Some miracle stories state specifically that prayer was offered. This one does not, but it does twice mention that the apostles and other believers were in unity. As crowds of hurting people came from sur- rounding cities—like little children in Ecuador—all were healed. Let’s not miss the connection here: All of the Christ followers were united in faith, and all the people who came were healed (see v. 16).

God is still God in Ecuador and around the world. Christians desperately need to cultivate and perpetuate authentic unity in the body of Christ. Then we might see more signs and wonders in our time. Will you join me in looking for ways we can help achieve unity in our neighborhoods, homes, and churches?

Lord God, I confess that, all too often, I fail to nurture a spirit of unity in my own church and in the wider body of Christ. Forgive me and continue to remind me that all who claim to follow Christ are called to be one in the Spirit. In Christ, amen.

February 14

By | 365 Devotions

The Principle and the Practice

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27, NASB).

Scripture: James 1:22-27

Song: “O Jesus, I Have Promised”

Several years ago, Scott Edwards volunteered with Big Brothers to mentor a young fatherless boy. He had three children at home, and the time commitment would require sacrifice. But Edwards was moved by the blessing of his own intact family and by his desire to share his faith. His decision led to a ministry to the boy’s family and a Sunday routine of transporting an ever-growing extended family to worship at Edwards’s church.

This ministry illustrates two main elements in today’s Scripture: principle and practice. The passage is a short course in righteous living—be doers (not just hearers) of the Word, obey the Word, remember who you are in Christ, bridle your tongue, and serve others.

For most of us, it is usually easy to “purchase the principle”—to agree to what the Bible teaches. On the other hand, it isn’t always easy to “pursue the practice.” What if it requires too much time, too much money, too much sacrifice? Still, we can’t ignore the principle: Every follower of Christ should be alert to needs in his community, church, or neighborhood. For when we serve others, we serve Christ.

Dear Father, I am grateful to see an example of servanthood in those around me and especially in the life of Jesus. Help me commit to searching out people and situations where I can serve in Your name. Through Christ my Lord, amen.

February 13

By | 365 Devotions

He Touched Me

He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Luke 7:14, NASB).

Scripture: Luke 7:11-17

Song: “He Touched Me”

In July 2013, 6-year-old Nathan Woessner fell into a sinkhole and was buried under 11 feet of sand along the shore of Lake Michigan. Three and a half hours later, he was rescued not breathing and with no pulse. Rescuers’ compressions prompted him to resume breathing. Officials say an old tree trunk in the hole may have created an air pocket that saved his life. For his parents, it was a miracle.

Miracles have always been part of God’s work among His people. The miracle performed by Jesus in Luke 7 mirrors Elijah’s miracle in 1 Kings 17—a widow, an only son dead, the miracle-worker’s compassion, simple faith, and the dead restored to life. Obviously, the parallel between the miracles breaks down when it comes to fear and frustration; unlike Elijah and the widow, Jesus had none of either.

The Luke story says Jesus did two things to create this miracle: He touched the cof n (to have the pallbearers stop) and He spoke with authority (“I say to you, arise!”). His demonstration of faith in the Father is an example for us today. Is there a challenge in your life that needs a touch or a word from God? Go to Him with your prayer of faith, and look forward to His answer.

Dear Lord, thank You for the many miracles recorded in Your Word, giving me the assurance that You are an all-powerful God. Please help me to trust Your compassion and Your power to work miracles, large and small, in my life. Through Christ, amen.

February 12

By | 365 Devotions

Fear, Frustration, and Faith

O LORD my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die? (1 Kings 17:20, NASB).

Scripture: 1 Kings 17:17-24

Song: “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

Don Piper, a Christian minister, died in 1989 in an auto crash, his death verified by numerous first responders. Ninety minutes later, as they awaited arrival of the coroner, a friend crawled partway into the mangled car, prayed for Piper, and his heartbeat returned. Piper tells his gripping story in the book 90 Minutes in Heaven. No matter how we feel about such death and near-death experiences, we have to acknowledge that our omnipotent God can still perform miracles whenever He wishes.

Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 17 includes more than miracle. First, the widow’s oil and our supply isn’t used up because she ministers to Elijah, the man of God. But her joy turns to grief when her only son becomes ill and dies. She questions Elijah and implies that he caused her son’s death. Elijah questions God in a similar manner, asking how this tragedy could be His will.

Nonetheless, Elijah proceeds with a prayer of faith, and there’s where the story becomes instructive for today’s Christian. No matter what fears or frustrations we encounter—big or small—God is faithful to resolve them for our benfit.

God of Miracles, I praise You for always being faithful in my life, taking my fears and frustrations and giving victory over them. Through Christ, amen.

February 12–18. Randall Murphree is an avid reader, an eager world traveler, an amateur pianist, and the blessed editor of American Family Association Journal in Tupelo, Mississippi.

February 11

By | 365 Devotions

It Only Takes a Spark

The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on re by one tiny spark (James 3:5, TLB).

Scripture: James 3:1-12

Song: “White as Snow”

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” goes the childhood rhyme. But from a young age, I knew better. In elementary school my classmates twisted my last name, Aldrich, calling me Ostrich. I could have laughed it off, but the teasing cut deep.

Over the years I’ve seen other examples of the destructive power of words. As a child I recall our family visiting my mother’s Aunt Josie. The slender, elderly lady coaxed Mama onto a bathroom scale and announced “175!” She later gossiped about the weight in their small town, wounding my mother. The fact that Aunt Josie was a Christian made it confusing for me.

As an adult I went with friends to a writing conference where we made appointments to show our work to editors. A friend wept when she shared that the editor told her to go back to her letter-writing, dismissing her potential. Thankfully, the beginning author ignored the advice and has since sold hundreds of articles and dozens of books.

The beautiful truth is that the tongue has better uses. For James also says, “Sometimes it praises our heavenly Father” (v. 9). May it be so, most of the time.

God, You invested power into words. You spoke the universe into existence, healed the sick, and raised the dead with words. Yet the people You created have the power of death as well as life in their tongues. Help us speak life! In Christ, amen.

February 10

By | 365 Devotions

An Honest Man

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one (Matthew 5:37).

Scripture: Matthew 5:33-37

Song: “Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome”

My father said that John Brewer, his father-in-law, was the most honest man he’d ever met. Grandpa Brewer, a farmer and logger, worked hard to feed his family of 10 children, especially throughout the Great Depression. Before child labor laws, his brood learned his work ethic, getting up early in the morning to do chores. My mother, the seventh of the children, liked outdoor work and helped Pop feed the animals and milk the cows. She also worked at his small sawmill.

Among old family photographs and memorabilia, I have Grandpa’s ledger book from the farm and mill. In pencil his sprawling handwriting recorded sales of lumber to the school district for a woodshed, $36.00; 500 pounds of corn at $12.00 per ton, $3.00; and fees for hauling and logging. Under each item sold he noted payments, such as $5.00 cash.

Apparently he extended credit to his neighbors and clients and allowed them to pay as they were able. He kept records for each customer, and I’m sure his dealings were straightforward. For Grandpa embodied the integrity of a generation who believed a man’s word should be trusted and that a handshake agreement was binding. His yes meant Yes and his no meant No.

Lord God, thank You for the example of my grandfather who kept his word and for the overall integrity of his entire generation. Restore straightforward honesty among Your people, so those in the world can see a difference in us. Start with me, this very day. In the holy name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, I pray. Amen.

February 9

By | 365 Devotions

The Power of a Child’s Prayers

From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise (Matthew 21:16).

Scripture: Matthew 21:14-16

Song: “Whom Shall I Fear?”

The earache began the night before, and by Friday morning I could picture my eardrum bulging, feeling intense pressure and pain. Calling in sick wasn’t an option because my fth grade class would present chapel that morning to our school. I simply had to be there. But when I arrived at the school, I did ask the secretary to try to nd a substitute for the day starting at 10:00 a.m., and she later reported she had succeeded.

When the kids arrived, they excitedly donned Bible costumes for our skits on the life of Jesus. I mentioned to a few of them that my ear was hurting badly and I’d go home after the chapel service.

“Let me pray for you,” Jaden spoke up. He and a few other stu- dents asked Jesus to heal my ear and make the pain leave.

Then we acted out Jesus walking on the water, feeding the 5,000, and raising Lazarus from death. By the time we got back to our classroom, my ear felt better. In fact, it didn’t hurt. I told the kids and thanked them for their prayers.

Was their faith stronger than mine? When the substitute teacher arrived, I went to the doctor and then returned home and watched cooking shows, my favorite therapy on a sick day. I look back at that day with gratitude.

Father, I thank You for the privilege of working with children. They aren’t merely junior saints. Bless kids who love You and trust You to hear and answer their prayers. Help me to respect their faith and listen closely to their words. In Christ, amen.

February 8

By | 365 Devotions

Holy Humor

Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45, NKJV).

Scripture: Luke 6:43-45

Song: “The Joy of the Lord”

Comedian Joan Rivers made people laugh with humor described as irreverent and profane. Her trademark style garnered her fame and fortune. Only God truly knows what’s in a person’s heart, but this famous comedian had a reputation for blurting out any disrespectful comment that came to mind. When frustrated, she spoke a trio of swear words so consistently that a costar on her television show had three rings made, each with one of the cuss words spelled out in diamonds.

Off stage, away from the cameras, she was “kind and generous,” her daughter said. A single mom, Melissa appreciated her mother’s spending several days a week with her and her son in California, to get quality family time, and so the two women could work together.

Hollywood certainly has a different standard for humor than for Jesus followers! The entertainment industry often serves up jokes at another’s expense and relies on crude or sexual humor. Although some of us enjoyed this before we knew the Lord, it’s not funny to us now. What lls our hearts has changed, and the words coming from our own mouths are different as a result of that blessed conversion.

Heavenly Father, I know Your Son, Jesus, must have had a good sense of humor. Thank You that walking with Christ allows me to laugh at myself instead of others. I don’t need ribald, off-color jokes, because I have Your joy. As I grow in You, help me take myself less seriously and have more fun. In Christ, amen.

February 7

By | 365 Devotions

Gentlemen to the Rescue

The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him (Matthew 12:34, 35).

Scripture: Matthew 12:33-37

Song: “Jesus Loves Me”

A timid traveler, I gathered my courage and drove from my home in Oregon to Seattle, Washington, to visit my sister a few weeks after her husband’s death. Exiting off the freeway, I suddenly heard a loud engine rattle. I looked at the dashboard and saw the oil light on. Not knowing what it meant, I immediately parked at a nearby service station.

I texted my son Brian, who’s a mechanic, and he replied, “The oil light is serious. Don’t run the engine.” He came over a couple hours later and diagnosed possible failure of an engine bearing.

“We need to get it towed,” he said, helping me nd the number and called my insurance. Then he left, and I waited another two hours, sitting in the car with windows rolled down in August heat.

When the driver arrived, he called out cheerfully, “Hello, ma’am, need some help?”

I laughed. “A little humor helps in this situation.”

“Just sit here in the truck, dear,” he said with a smile, “while I load your car.” His pleasant smile and gentle words soothed my rattled nerves.

Dear Lord, thank You for sending a tow truck driver with a sense of humor and a air for pampering a damsel in distress. Thank You for my kind sons who protect and care for me. You covered me, and I thank You so much, Lord. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

February 6

By | 365 Devotions

Stop and Think

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).

Scripture: Psalm 141:1-4

Song: “Speak Just a Word for Jesus”

An elderly relative of mine used to quote this verse, and I’m old enough now to relate to the sweet lady. How many times does my mouth get me into trouble? Too many! Thus I’ve become practiced at the ne art of apology.

One morning last year the mom of one of my third-grade students came to me before school and said, “Sam didn’t get his math homework yesterday, because it wasn’t in his mailbox.” The kids empty out work they need to take home from little bins we call mailboxes.

“I’m sure I put it in his box,” I replied pointedly and noticed the mom’s awkward silence. “I’ll make him another copy, and he can sit down and do it now.”

Well, it turned out Sam was more organized than his teacher. After the conversation, later that day, when I put new homework in the bins I discovered a page from the day before in an unused bin. It was the paper I should have given Sam!

I apologized to him and e-mailed his mother with an explana- tion. “I’m sorry I was so adamant that I put the homework in his box,” I wrote. “He’s so on top of things . . . and usually right!”

Her gracious reply: “No problem.”

Lord God, post sentries at the corners of my mouth to let out only kind and true words, then go deeper and cleanse my heart. I confess my pride and arrogance and declare my utter dependence on You. Help me respect and love others and to think before I speak. In Christ’s name, amen.

February 5

By | 365 Devotions

Put to the Test

Remember  how  the  LORD your  God  led  you  all  the  way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart (Deuteronomy 8:2).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:1-3

Song: “Your Love Never Fails”

Years ago our family manufactured accessories for the recreational vehicle industry. We built a device for towing a car behind a motor home. Taking a car along while vacationing gives travelers a chance to park their home on wheels and then easily drive around town. To ensure the strength of these tow bars, we had them evaluated at Pittsburgh Testing Laboratories. Technicians would fasten a tow bar into a machine and pull on it until it broke, recording the maximum pounds of pressure it withstood. Then they used another machine to push a second tow bar to the breaking point and recorded the results. Although the process demolished two perfectly usable tow bars, we needed the documentation to assure customers our product could handle the weight of a car.

God tests us differently. He does not intend to find our breaking point and destroy us. He tests us to discover whether we will obey Him under pressure. His goal is ultimately to strengthen us; He wants us to pass the test. Many times we succeed, but even if we fail and return to Him, we grow closer to Him. Throughout the trials of life, He’s building us strong.

Lord, I love You because You love me. During trials and heartache, I seek You and You come near. How precious is Your presence. In Jesus’ name, amen.

February 5–11. Patty Duncan teaches grade schoolers in Eugene, Oregon. She loves to delight them by cooking s’mores in a toaster oven or by reading to them from a picture book.

February 4

By | 365 Devotions

True Faith Will Show

What  doth  it  profit,  my  brethren,  though  a  man  say  he  hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:14, 26, KJV).

Scripture: James 2:14-26

Song: “Living for Jesus”

Another confession in my walk with Christ—there are times when I have struggled with the faith/works issue. While part of Galatians 2 and 3 makes it clear that we are justified by faith alone, James 2:26 brings out the vital importance of works as the fruit of a genuine faith.

If you have ever struggled with this issue, maybe this will help. Let’s say you and I are having a conversation and discover that we have a mutual love for dogs. “Oh, I love my dog so much!” I tell you. “He’s so cute and lovable! I would never want to be without him!”

A few days later, you’re at my home for a cookout, and you’re shocked by what you see: numerous times I yell at my dog. I make fun of him, calling him nasty names. I pull his tail just to irritate him. And when my dog lovingly tries to get close to me, I literally kick him away and he yelps in pain.

Needless to say, after such behavior, you would believe I don’t  love my dog—and you’d be right. When my faith and love are genuine, my actions will line up with my words, not oppose them.  True faith and love will show—with or without words.

King of Glory, I can’t earn Your love, but I can show that I love You by the way I live. Only in Your strength can I live as a child of the king. Help me to advance Your kingdom in my behavior. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

February 3

By | 365 Devotions

So Simple

That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11, KJV).

Scripture: Galatians 3:6-14

Song: “Faith Is the Victory”

Even though God’s forgiveness and unconditional love are unshakable and offer tremendous freedom, I’ve known times when I lost my focus in my relationship with Christ. In the previous devotional, I touched on prideful legalism, which believes: “Hey, I can get right with God by good behavior.” There is also a fearful legalism, which haunts so many folks: “Did God really make it so simple?” they wonder. “Surely, there’s no free lunch!”

Regardless of how I got sidetracked, I needed to be reminded of the powerful truth in Galatians 3:11, “The just shall live by faith.” I am in Christ Jesus, and His Holy Spirit is in me. Christ is the one who makes me just, or righteous, in God’s eyes. When I remember these truths, it’s no wonder why legalism never works. Christ doesn’t call me to live by stressing out, trying never to make a mistake; or by beating my brain, to make sense of everything; or by sweating drops the size of doughnut holes, struggling to gain the righteousness He freely gives me. I don’t know who said this first, but it’s true: “God doesn’t want rules—He wants relationship.” He has made it so simple to have fellowship with Him: “The just shall live by faith.”

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that I am never justified by my works but only by the work of Christ on the cross. I know that doesn’t excuse me to live sinfully, but it’s freeing to know that even when I mess up, Your grace is there. I know You still love and forgive me. All praise to You, in the name of Jesus! Amen.

February 2

By | 365 Devotions

Not by Me . . . by Him

Knowing  that  a  man  is  not  justified  by  the  works  of  the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in  Jesus  Christ,  that  we  might  be  justified  by  the  faith  of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16, KJV).

Scripture: Galatians 2:15-21

Song: “Redeemed”

It’s a beautiful, sunny day, and I wake up feeling fine. I spend some time in prayer and in the Word. I offer a sincere, loving prayer for someone who annoyed me. Traffic backs up on the way to town, but I don’t become impatient. At the grocery store, a rude customer knocks into my cart with his, so he can be first in the checkout line.

He makes no apology, but I freely forgive him and let it go. Hey, I’m a pretty good guy. But when life goes well and my behavior is good, I can become prideful as though, somehow, my “good works” play a part in keeping me right with God.

However, the first part of Galatians 2:16 quickly crushes my pride: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.”  Crushed pride doesn’t feel good, but realizing this vital truth is essential. I have never been good enough to save myself. I am justified but not by me. I am justified only by the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for me. Gratitude feels very good.

Lord God in Heaven, thank You for Your unconditional love. I need You, but I could never earn Your grace to get to You. Thank You for giving Your only begotten Son to pay my sin debt, in full, with His precious blood. I pray this prayer in the name of  Jesus, my merciful Savior and Lord. Amen.

February 1

By | 365 Devotions

Level Ground

All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being  justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23, 24, KJV).

Scripture: Romans 3:21-31

Song: “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”

I confess. Over the years, I have been too quick to judge and criticize others. I know it’s wrong and hypocritical to be that way.In God’s eyes, the sin of others is no worse than mine, and my sin is never any “better.” Sadly, I am still so quick to slam down the gavel in judgment of others’ shortcomings.

In light of all this, I find comfort and freedom in Romans 3:23. Here’s why. Since we’ve all sinned and come short of God’s glory, there’s comfort in knowing that we’re all on the same ground. You see, it means that God doesn’t play favorites. In other words, the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Freedom comes into play when I remember the extent to which of my heart changes: instead of reaching out to judge someone because of a mistake or wrongdoing, I’m inspired to reach out to someone with the love, mercy, and grace of Christ regardless of his or her sin. Believe me, that’s very liberating.

Dear Heavenly Father, even before I knew You, You pursued me and reached out to me in spite of my sin. Because of Your love, I am Yours, and You are mine. Thank You for giving me Your grace and strength to reach out and love others as well. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

February 1–4. Tyler Myers is a freelance writer for the Christian market and is the author two books. He enjoys his family, great books, good food, and beautiful music.

January 31

By | 365 Devotions

In the Morning: Loving Kindness!

Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee (Psalm 143:8, KJV).

Scripture: Psalm 143

Song: “Thy Loving Kindness”

While some mornings can start off kind of slow and leisurely— and I love that I don’t have a pressing agenda staring me in the face—on other mornings, I have a sense of urgency. I start mulling over the things I need to do as soon as my feet hit the floor. I can be frazzled in a matter of minutes.

No matter what kind of day I start off with, I’m encouraged to know that God is always on my side, and He is pulling for me. I love how Psalm 143:8 starts out: “Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness in the morning.” How wonderful. I couldn’t handle it if God chose to be angry with me every morning.

I also love the confidence of the psalmist that’s evident at the beginning of this beautiful song. Notice David doesn’t plead with uncertainty, as if to say, “God, is there any hope that I can experi-ence Your lovingkindness this morning?” He knows God’s loving-kindness is there; he simply wants to hear and receive.

God’s lovingkindness is there every morning for all of us. Will I take the time to spend with Him and listen?

Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your loving-kindness that waits for me every morn-ing. Your love and compassion for me never changes, no matter what kind of day I’m having. Fill me with Your love today and help me extend it to others in practical deeds of kindness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

January 30

By | 365 Devotions

What in the World Is Wrong?

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt  in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him (Leviticus 19:17, KJV).

Scripture: Leviticus 19:13-18

Song: “The Love of God”

As a rule, I don’t watch the news. While there are some good stories reported, there never seems to be a shortage of bad ones: more arson, more drive-by shootings, more robbery, more terrorism, innocent people held hostage, another police officer killed. And the list goes on. It doesn’t take long to wonder: What in the world is wrong with people these days?

To answer my own question: I live in a sinful world, and if I don’t keep my spiritual guard up, being guided by the love of Jesus Christ, I can let hatred and resentment arise in my own heart. The disturbing thing is, I never need a gun, a knife, or any other weapon to commit this sin.

But Leviticus 19:17 commands just the opposite. Can I fulfill its directive? On my own, I don’t stand a chance. However, I am not left on my own to conquer hatred or any growing root of bitterness. By God’s power, I can rise above desires for revenge (and any other sin) and live in the love of Christ. For the Lord himself conquered His enemies—and the hatred they had for Him—with His love. I live in  Him, today and always, receiving His grace to meet each challenge.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that I am not left on my own in the fight against sin. Thank You for being the perfect example of love to me and for me. Thank You for empowering me to conquer hatred with Your amazing and perfect love. All praise to You, in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

January 29

By | 365 Devotions

Ouch!

If you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers (James 2:9). 

Scripture: James 2:8-13

Song: “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness”

Scenario: A single Christian man accepts the invitation and goes on a lunch break with a single, female coworker. The two end the lunch with words of appreciation and a friendly hug. But that hug leads to more attraction, a few phone calls, and—even though the Christian man knows better—a night together.

Scenario: A parent screams at her child: “I’ve had it with you!” and unleashes a violent fury that leaves the little boy with a bloody broken nose and a black eye.

Scenario: A neighborhood reels in shock, learning that one of its beloved school teachers was arrested for embezzlement.

I agree that sexual sin, child abuse, and stealing are very serious offenses, I have no right to personally slam the gavel, as though I am better than others, because . . . I am not. James 2:9 makes it clear that I am guilty of breaking God’s law by doing one simple thing: prejudicially preferring one person over another. Ouch!

Thankfully, because of what Christ the Lord has done for us, we can receive God’s forgiveness—no matter what we’ve done. There may be serious temporal consequences to pay, but eternal guilt is no longer necessary.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me come to You, openly and humbly, knowing I can  share anything with You—even what I’ve done wrong. In Jesus’ name, amen.

January 29–31. Tyler Myers is a freelance writer for the Christian market and is the author of two books. He enjoys his family, great books, good food, and beautiful music.

January 28

By | 365 Devotions

Whose Are You?

“Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said.  “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have  given me strength” (Daniel 10:19).

Scripture: Daniel 10:10-19

Song: “I Stand Amazed in the Presence”

When I was in junior high, I had a teacher who would say the  same thing every day as class came to an end. As we were walking out of the classroom, he would always say, “Remember who you are and who’s counting on you.”

That’s actually pretty good advice, but a lot of us only hear the second part. So many of us realize how many people are counting on us. It could be our family, our coworkers, our volunteer team at  church, etc. But when many people are counting on us, it can be intimidating. Often we just don’t feel up to the task.

Daniel understood this, feeling crushed by responsibility. But he also remembered who he was. He was “highly esteemed” by God, which meant that he could have peace and be strong. In Christ, we have the same identity. If you want to know who you are, this is it: You are highly esteemed by God. You are His prize, His jewel, His greatest affection. He bought you with the blood of His own Son. Jesus didn’t die for you just so He could give up on you. He is with you. He is your strength.

Don’t just remember who’s counting on you. Remember who—or rather, whose, you are.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for purchasing me with the precious blood of Your Son. Thank You for loving me; thank You that I am forever Yours in Christ. Amen.

January 27

By | 365 Devotions

Spoiler Alert

As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance (Daniel 12:13).

Scripture: Daniel 12:8-13

Song: “Last Word”

Has someone ever spoiled a movie for you by telling you how it ends before you had a chance to see it? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Thus enters the phrase “spoiler alert.” When you hear that a spoiler alert is coming, on TV or in a conversation, you have a split second to decide whether you want to keep listening or whether you want to walk away.

In today’s Bible passage, God really spoiled the ending for Daniel. He told Daniel just how bad things were going to get. But He also gave away the ending when He told Daniel that the prophet would rest and receive his inheritance.

I have a feeling that Daniel was actually glad God “spoiled” the  bearable. The great news is that God has done the same for us. He has spoiled the ending for us. We don’t know how many twists and turns there will be in our life’s plot, but we do know how the story ends. If we are in Christ, it ends the same way that Daniel’s story ended. We receive rest and an inheritance as our eternal reward.

Father God, I want to live today in light of the eternity You’ve planned. When I experience present-day annoyances, help me to remember that this is not the end, that this is not yet the best of worlds. When I experience utter heartbreak, I still want to remember that this is not the end. In Christ’s holy name I pray. Amen.

January 26

By | 365 Devotions

Glory Recaptured

I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless  (Daniel 10:8).

Scripture: Daniel 10:1-9

Song: “Show Me Your Glory”

My barber is a talkative guy, so I usually hear all about the ins  and outs of barbering as he cuts my hair. During one recent haircut,  he complained about the quality of his new clippers. He said this particular brand used to be the “gold standard.”                               Every barber used them, because their quality was always unsurpassed. But now, due to efforts to cut manufacturing costs, the quality had apparently been downgraded. He informed me that he would gladly pay more money if the company would simply recapture the quality of the original product.

We’ve all seen that happen with certain products. And most of the time, we want the same thing that my barber wants. We just want the manufacturer to recapture what they used to have. The church needs to do a bit of recapturing, as well. In many ways, it seems we have lost sight of God’s glory. We have come to  see God as our friend, which He absolutely is. But He is also the God of immeasurable glory and awesome holiness. Daniel was rendered helpless in the presence of this glory. And doesn’t the church needs to recapture that sense of being smitten in the presence of an august personage, our great king? We need the glory of God to render us helpless, so then He can be our help.

Lord, show me Your glory today. I want to stand in awe of You. Glorify yourself beforeme today, and in me today. Through Christ, amen.

January 25

By | 365 Devotions

Stop Signs

When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to (Acts 16:7).

Scripture: Acts 16:6-10

Song: “Forward, Children, Forward”

My family lives near Cincinnati, and we attend several Reds baseball games every year. When we’re walking to the ballpark, the scene is consistent: A police officer is directing traffic, ensuring that the thousands of fans walking to the stadium arrive safely. You’ve likely seen the same thing at any large event you’ve attended.

The two main hand signals from the officer are simple. He motions with his hand, which means “walk forward.” Or he holds his hand up, keeping it still, which means “stop.” However, God’s “stop” and “go” signs can be more difficult to discern. In today’s passage, we see the Holy Spirit stopping Paul and his companions not once, but twice, from entering Bythinia. We later find that it’s because God was calling them to Macedonia, but they didn’t know it at the time. All they knew was that God had thrown up the “stop sign” on their plans, twice.

It’s not always easy to hear God saying “stop” when we’re convinced the command should be “go.” It can be frustrating, because we can’t see what God has in store. All we can do is trust that if He tells us to “stop,” He’s got a much better “go” waiting for us in the future.

Father, may I trust in Your wisdom and Your love for me. Help me to be patient when You tell me to stop. I want Your desires to be more important than my desires. Stop me when I need to stop. And when You are ready for me to go, I’ll go. In Christ, amen.

January 24

By | 365 Devotions

Fear Can’t Stop the Mission

You, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words.  Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people (Ezekiel 2:6).

Scripture: Ezekiel 1:26–2:7

Song: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

It’s never fun to deliver bad news. When I was 16 years old, I had to tell my dad that I’d wrecked his Ford Bronco—and that                          Bronco was his baby. When he heard the news, I was afraid he would keep the SUV and tell me to pack my bags. It’s the prospect of heated confrontation that makes it so tough to  deliver bad news. That’s what Ezekiel faced. He had to confront the Israelites about their sinful rebellion against the Lord, and he knew it wouldn’t be easy. The threat of a violent reaction was quite real.

But the Lord told Ezekiel, “Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them.” Ezekiel faced an uphill battle, but God had sent him, and God would go with him.

In a culture increasingly hostile toward traditional values, it’s easy to let fear take us off mission. We fear rejection, hostility, alienation. But we can’t allow fear to hinder our response to Christ’s disciple-making command (see Matthew 28:19, 20). It’s not easy. God never promised it would be. But He did promise to go with us, which means we have no reason to fear.

O Lord, give me opportunities to carry out Your mission today. Strengthen me for the task, and give me courage when I want to back down. When I am afraid, remind me of Your presence today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

January 23

By | 365 Devotions

A Present Savior

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged . . . the LORD your God will be with you (Joshua 1:9).

Scripture: Joshua 1:1-9

Song: “Nearer, My God, to Thee”

How would you like to replace a legend? For example, how would it have felt to be the baseball player who replaced Babe Ruth in right field after he retired? That would be just a little daunting, don’t you think? By the way, do you even remember that guy’s name? It was George Selkirk—but the name likely won’t ring a bell.

Replacing a legend would have to be terrifying, and yet that is exactly what God called Joshua to do. Moses had died, and Joshua was going to replace him in leading God’s people. To call Moses a legend would be a grand understatement. This was the man God had used to part the Red Sea and to lead His people out of slavery.

And now, Joshua is charged with taking his place. But God specifically told Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be

discouraged.” This didn’t mean Joshua wouldn’t face fearful or discouraging situations. He absolutely would. But a fearful situation didn’t mean that Joshua had to be afraid. A discouraging situation didn’t require him to be discouraged. God’s presence—then, and now—changes the whole equation.

Our status is determined by our Savior, not our situation. That’s why we can face fear without being afraid. A present Savior trumps a perilous situation every time.

Dear God, remind me of Your presence. Forgive me when I focus on my fear instead of on You. I praise You because You are greater than any fear and stronger than any discouragement I will face today. In the holy name of Jesus, amen.

January 22

By | 365 Devotions

Are You Available at the Moment?

God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob!  Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied (Genesis 46:2).

Scripture: Genesis 46:1-7

Song: “Stay Awake, Be Ready”

We live in a world where ability is everything. We really can’t make any significant move in our lives without someone evaluating our ability. If we apply for a job, the employer examines our qualifications to determine whether we possess the required ability. If we want to buy a house, the bank examines our finances to determine whether we’ll be able to pay the mortgage.

But things work differently in God’s economy. God isn’t concerned about our ability. He’s concerned about our availability. For example, when you read Jacob’s story, you realize this man was seriously under-qualified to do anything great for God. Yet God used him to give birth to the nation of Israel, which would in turn lead to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus.

God didn’t measure Jacob’s ability; He tested his availability. So when God called out to Jacob, the response was simple: “Here I am.” Did Jacob’s ability qualify him? Absolutely not. But his availability aligned him with the all-powerful Lord. All he had to say was, “God, I’m here. Now lead me where You want me to go.”

Nothing has changed from then until now. God is still looking past our ability to see the extent of our availability.

Lord, I want to respond as Jacob did. When You call, I will answer, “Here I am. I’m available. Lead me where you want me to go today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

January 22–28. Mike Edmisten is senior minister of Connect Christian Church in Cincinnati. He and his beautiful wife, Nicki, have two sons. He loves God, family, church, and the Cincinnati Reds.

January 21

By | 365 Devotions

Prayer in the Storm

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy (Daniel 9:18).

Scripture: Daniel 9:4-8, 15-19

Song: “God of Mercy and Compassion”

A young woman and her husband were out fishing on a lake when a storm blew up suddenly. They hurried the boat to shore. When they reached the dock, the husband jumped out to get the boat trailer. The woman locked her arms around the pier to hold the boat against the waves. She began praying, “Oh Jesus, help me!” The waves got worse. Finally, the woman bellowed out a curse. Shocked at her language, she asked for forgiveness, reporting later that despite her sin, “God answered my prayer.” Her husband arrived with the trailer, and they hauled the boat to safety. She exclaimed, “The mercy of God truly is amazing!”

Daniel discovered God’s amazing mercy centuries earlier. He wrote that we don’t pray to God because we are “righteous,”  but because of God’s infinite mercy. This prophet knew that his people were “wicked” and had “rebelled” (v. 5). Yet he showed deep faith in God’s mercy. In fact, he called God “great and awesome” (v. 4).

I often feel I have no right to ask God for anything. Why? Because I have a long list of times when I have disobeyed Him. But this stop me from approaching Him in prayer?

Almighty and Compassionate Father, You know what I’ve done. I broke my promise to You. I probably shouldn’t even be praying, because I know how You hate sin. But then I’m encouraged by Daniel’s words, and I come to You, believing that You are “merciful and forgiving” (v. 9). Thank You, in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

January 20

By | 365 Devotions

Gabriel and the Peanut Man

While I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice (Daniel 9:21).

Scripture: Daniel 9:20-24

Song: “God Answers Prayer”

George Washington Carver, scientist at Tuskegee Institute, told about how God answered his prayer about the future of the peanut.  “Oh, Mr. Creator,” Carver began. “Why did You make this universe?” The Creator answered, “You want to know too much for that  little mind of yours. Ask me something more your size.”

Carver then asks about the meaning of man, and again God refuses to answer. Finally, Carver asks, “Mr. Creator, why did You make the peanut?” “That’s better!” the Lord answers, and guides Carver in the laboratory where, together, where he invents over 300 products from the peanut.

Daniel wanted answers to prayer too. In his case, God answered right away. “As soon as you began to pray, a word went out” (v. 23). Gabriel gave Daniel insight about the future. Both Carver and Daniel give us good examples of bringing problems to God and waiting expectantly for Him to answer. Whether it’s guidance over many years as plans unfold or an immediate response such as Daniel received, we can be sure God will answer our prayers in powerful and tangible ways.

Praise You, Lord, for George Washington Carver and his peanuts! Praise You for  Daniel who teaches me how to pray confidently, believing You will answer in Your time with wisdom and guidance. Amen.

January 19

By | 365 Devotions

The Great Disaster

The LORD our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him (Daniel 9:9).

Scripture: Daniel 9:9-14

Song: “Father, I’ve Failed You”

One night in Jakarta, Indonesia, a 12-year-old boy was driving his parents’ car without permission when he slammed into an SUV, killing five people. The father, a wealthy, corrupt businessman, arrived at the jail, but instead of punishing the boy, he scolded the police for arresting his son. The father eventually gave out bribes to prevent a trial. He then promised his son he would buy him a new car.

Daniel would have been baffled by this case. Blatant murder with no justice? In Daniel’s day, when people broke the law, God punished them with a great disaster. “All Israel has transgressed your law . . . refusing to obey you” (v. 11). In contrast to the Indonesian boy, the people were “covered with shame” (v. 8).

Now comes the amazing part. With Daniel’s God, there isn’t just a choice between (a) sin without retribution, and (b) sin with it. There is a third, otherworldly dimension—sin-retribution-forgiveness. “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.”

God does not shut His eyes when we do wrong. That’s good news! He is righteous, so He can’t tolerate sin and evil. At the same time, He receives us lovingly when we ask for the forgiveness that has been won for us at the cross of Christ.

Lord, forgive me when I try to get away with my rebellions, my hurtful words. Develop in me the awareness that You are righteous and do not excuse sin. I praise You for forgiving me through Christ. In His name, amen.

January 18

By | 365 Devotions

Pray Like Daniel!

I turned to the LORD God and pleaded with him in prayer   and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth (Daniel 9:3).

Scripture: Daniel 9:1-3

Song: “Make My Life a Prayer to You”

When my three grandsons were born, I prayed my heart out. The Lord answered! All three of them (of course) are wonderful and perfect. But I will never forget the fear and agony that drove me to prayer. I had no idea how the childbirths would turn out.

What if something went wrong? Thank God, everybody was OK. In a way, my intensity in prayer was like Daniel’s—except for my lack of confidence. His faith was brilliant, while mine was feeble. Still, I can identify with the description of Daniel’s intensity of pleading. Yet he prays like this—full steam—seemingly without any doubt, even as a multitasking government administrator.

But sackcloth and ashes? Really? Ashes came from fire, sackcloth from black goat’s hair. These were symbols of debasement, national mourning, and repentance. Powerful!

I’ve decided, against all odds, that I want to pray like Daniel. I’m not saying I’m going out to shop for a black goat the next time I pray. All I’m saying is that our faithful God calls us to Daniel’s kind of passionate prayer—no matter what else is  going on in our lives.

Lord, here I am! Help me pray with full force. Fill me with the fire of Your Holy Spirit.  Take away my laziness, my apathy, my comfort zone. Most of all, give me Daniel’s faith in Your power so that my fear gives way to peace and confidence. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

January 17

By | 365 Devotions

When Flames Burn Up the Trees

The cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering (Joel 1:18).

Scripture: Joel 1:13-20

Song: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

The bubonic plague hit Italy in the late 1330s. Death was everywhere, according to one witness. Bodies were left in empty houses. In five years, the plague killed 25 million people. It continued in smaller outbreaks until the 1660s.

Long before, the prophet Joel wrote about a different plague—a plague of locusts—which had “shriveled” all the seeds, ruined storehouses, and “dried up” the grain (see v. 17). In both plagues, people were forced to examine themselves and to call out for God. In fact, Joel used the locusts as a powerful incentive for repentance. “Call a sacred assembly,” he commanded. “Cry out to the Lord. . . . For the day of the Lord is near” (vv. 14, 15).

Today we know that locusts breed and then attack the earth. We know that fleas caused the bubonic plague. So, now, with the plagues of war and racist attacks, massacres, gun violence, and greed, where does God fit in? Who can know the mind of God? We continue to wrestle with this mystery daily. I do know some things for sure. I know the love of God in Jesus. I know God calls me to repentance and new birth.

I know, as the prophet Joel knew, that it is only by His grace that we can survive and even thrive on this, our dangerous planet.

Forgive me, Lord, for living only for myself. From the prophet Joel I can learn that in my sin and rebellion I cause pain in my loved ones, friends, all of society, and nature. Forgive me! What can I do to serve You more fully? In Jesus’ name, amen

January 16

By | 365 Devotions

Another Chicken Little!

I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD; and  they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart (Jeremiah 24:7, RSV).

Scripture: Jeremiah 25:8-14

Song: “We Shall See the King”

In our modern Western culture, people tend to make fun of so-called prophets of doom. American businessman Robert Kiyosaki commented, “Prophets of doom have always taken risks in terms of ridicule and humiliation. If you stand on a street corner holding up a sign that reads ‘The End Is Near,’ passersby . . . will say you’re like  Chicken Little, running around telling people the sky is falling.”

When you read Jeremiah today, did you mutter, “Oh, no, another Chicken Little!”? It’s not easy stuff. The people of Judah had stopped listening to God, so God was going to “utterly destroy them and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting reproach”(v. 9, RSV). And to top it off, slavery would follow.

What might Jeremiah be saying to us today in these words of gloom and doom? Can we hear His voice, saying “Ha! You think you are so in charge, with all your gadgets and safety nets, that you don’t really need to take God seriously?”

I believe that sooner or later, God will show us who He really  is. And then, will we be ruined? Or will we return with our whole heart to our Lord?

Lord, forgive my complacency. Am I underestimating You? Have I gradually deluded myself into thinking You are a tame God? Open my heart to Your holy power and majesty as I commit myself to relearning how to be in awe of You. In Christ I pray. Amen.

January 15

By | 365 Devotions

Have Mercy on Me!

O LORD, let thy ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant (Nehemiah 1:11, RSV).

Scripture: Nehemiah 1:4-11

Song: “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”

In his old age, the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy considered destroying the pages of his diary that described his youthful days of sin and debauchery. Later he changed his mind. He explained that by keeping the pages for others to read, “It may be seen that in spite of the degradation and shamelessness of my youth, God had not forsaken me, and that—late in life . . . I did begin to understand Him a little, and to love Him.”

Nehemiah could have tried to paint a rosy picture of the people of Israel. But instead he chose absolute honesty. The Israelites, he admitted, have “acted very corruptly” against God and “have not kept the commandments” (v. 7, RSV). God punished them by scattering them into exile.

Nehemiah wanted to fix the wall. But he knew that in human terms, things were pretty hopeless. His only chance was to pray to God—to repent, to ask forgiveness, hoping that the Lord in His mercy would be “attentive to the prayer of [His] servant.”

Nehemiah loved God. Tolstoy said he loved God. Can we too experience God by asking in prayer for mercy, even when we’ve messed up and things look hopeless?

Heavenly Father, when I try to serve You, I mess up. Instead of judging me, You’ve encouraged me to approach You in humility for forgiveness. Thank You, amen.

January 15–21. Larry Brook, of Elgin, Illinois, is writing a novel. His book is about traveling the world to train Christian writers. He also writes courses for an online university

January 14

By | 365 Devotions

Appreciate or Follow?

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego . . . They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god (Daniel 3:28).

Scripture: Daniel 3:19-23, 26-28

Song: “You Are My God”

While on a mission trip to Thailand, we were hosted by the owner of the local Nissan dealership. Thanking us effusively for                          giving free English lessons to the Thai people, he had his workers bring us cold water in glasses with the Nissan logo. When we left, they gave each of us a box of four glasses.

Nebuchadnezzar reminds me of this man. They were both powerful and were served by many people. They both appreciated our God and His power to the point that they encouraged others to worship Him. But in the end, they worshipped their own authority more than God’s.

Appreciating God is not the same as following Him. Many people today fail to see the difference. They may solicit our prayers, even though they do not pray themselves. Sometimes they even contribute to mission efforts, because of the good work being done. They may even attend worship services, but they merely observe rather than participate with their whole hearts.

All peoples and cultures can come together to worship the true God, if only they move from appreciation to following. We can sing, pray, and study together to win the world to Christ.

Our Father in Heaven, I praise Your name. I believe in You as the Creator of the universe and author of life eternal. Please help me to grow in faith and convey Your love today. I pray in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

 

January 13

By | 365 Devotions

He Is There

Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods (Daniel 3:25).

Scripture: Daniel 3:24, 25

Song: “Salvation Belongs to Our God”

In the nippy air, I walked quickly to pick up my newspaper from the front yard. I was stopped short by an adorable little girl standing on my sidewalk. Her curly blond hair was awry, and seeing her flimsy pajamas made me shiver.

I talked to her gently, trying to determine where she lived and why she was alone. I took her hand to walk her home as she indicated the direction of her house, but soon I picked her up so we’d both be warmer. Finally, after crossing a street, she said, “Yes,” to my “Is this your house?” I returned her to her parents, who didn’t even know she’d slipped out of the house.

That was a startling experience for me, but nothing like the surprise Nebuchadnezzar got when he looked into the fiery furnace and saw four men there. I was sent to protect the child; the person “like a son of the gods” was clearly protecting the three young Hebrew men who’d been thrown into the furnace.

And isn’t it the case that the Lord’s presence is a form of deliverance for us too? Even in our day, we’re called to trust in God’s protecting power. It won’t mean He removes every difficulty. But His presence delivers us from suffering any tough trial alone. He is there, sustaining us always.

God, thank You for loving me and protecting me with Your promised presence. Help me to know and feel Your love today. I pray in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

January 12

By | 365 Devotions

 Standing Firm

My dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Scripture: Daniel 3:13-18

Song: “Savior of All, to Thee We Bow”

My friend Connie was excited about going to a party given by the most popular girl in her class. They sat together in History and talked together often. Then her friend asked to copy her answers on an important test so she wouldn’t be ineligible for the cheerleading squad. Connie refused to let her cheat and so was uninvited  to the party. That was years ago, but she still remembers the emotional toll of standing firm in her decision.

How are we influencing children to stand like that today? Connie had been taught the value of honesty and chose integrity over popularity. She loved her teacher and wanted to honor her in her choices. She said, “I prayed about it, and I knew what was right.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose God over the king and  his golden statue. Just as people may react today when we choose  God’s ways, Nebuchadnezzar was shocked. He didn’t share their  faith and thus could not understand it. Our children may discover that their peers don’t understand their decision to act with integrity, but we can support them and encourage them in their growing faith.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your guidance as I turn to You in daily prayer. Help me to talk to my children, grandchildren, and young friends about the importance of seeking Your wisdom in all things. In Your Son’s name, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

January 11

By | 365 Devotions

Disconnected Values

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

Scripture: Daniel 3:1-12

Song: “Purer in Heart, O God”

“Why did you do that?” my mother asked sternly.

“Because he told me to,” my brother often replied.

“If he told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that?” she always responded. That conversation may sound familiar to you, for it happens over and over with children and parents.

But in the story of the gold image that Nebuchadnezzar erected, all the people responded in exactly that way. The king told them to bow, and they did it, no questions asked.

In today’s world, what do we follow without question? The foolishness of children is obvious to parents, and isn’t our foolishness just as obvious to God?

The movie that “everyone is talking about” might not build up  a Christian’s spirit. The book at the top of the best-seller list could hinder one’s pursuit of a renewed mind. And certain television shows may well wound the conscience of a disciple of Jesus.

The apostle Paul reminds us to avoid conformity to the pattern of this world system. Let us constantly say no to the lure of secular values so disconnected from our Lord.

O Gracious Lord, please give me wisdom so that I will not give in to the lure of the world. Help me to keep my mind and heart focused on You. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

January 10

By | 365 Devotions

Just for Such a Time

Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14).

Scripture: Esther 4:5-17

Song: “Each Step I Take”

My husband, Steve, and I had unloaded our U-Haul trailer the day before we went to attend the small mountain church in Boone, North Carolina. We were invited to stay after the worship service for a going-away dinner for the current preacher.

Elderly Mr. Gardner asked, “Son, do you preach?”

“I have,” Steve answered hesitantly, “but I’m here to teach at the university.”

“Now you’re also our next preacher!” Mr. Gardner said decisively. “When one preacher leaves, God always sends us another.” And he was right. We lived there for 15 months, and it was one of our best ministries ever. God had sent us to that place, though we didn’t know it when we took our jobs there.

Sometimes it’s who you happen to sit by on a bus or train. Sometimes it’s who you run into at the grocery store. Sometimes it’s noticing that the neighbor has a lot more company than usual. Sometimes it’s stopping to talk to a distraught teen.

We are sent to certain places and people in order to be messengers of God. We may be with that specific person to say what they need to hear, even if it is only “God loves you” or “I’m here to help.” Let’s be alert to where we are sent by God.

Almighty God, I want to know You have guided me to where I go today. Keep me alert to the silent nudging of Your Spirit. Let me be watchful for where I am to serve You. In the name of Your Son our Savior, amen.

January 9

By | 365 Devotions

Which Will It Be?

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29).

Scripture: Acts 5:27-32

Song: “Trust and Obey”

My friend, the buyer for a large department store, hesitated about some questionable things he was asked to do. Finally, because of his faith, he spoke up about his ethical reservations. His superiors  became quite upset with him, and he was soon fired.

For the next few months, as he searched for another position, he worked at minimum-wage jobs to help his family as much as possible. When he finally obtained suitable employment, he quickly rose to be president of a manufacturing company. And the best thing of all: His new company’s principles matched his own.

Cutting corners because the client will never notice, sharing an unsavory rumor, hiding income to save taxes, leaving out certain information the client should know (but didn’t ask about), or saying we aren’t available when we are—such are the things we’re tempted to do, even as disciples of Jesus.

How can we remember to obey God in those situations? Stay in the Word and in prayer. When my morning prayer includes “Please help me to act in a way that You will be proud of me,” I’ll be more aware of God’s beckoning influence, all day long. When I read “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13), I’m reminded to resist the pull of the world.

Heavenly Father, I want to be in the world without being of the world. Please help me in every situation to follow Your ways, despite the most powerful temptations to do otherwise. Protect me and sustain me, Lord! Through the name of Jesus. Amen.

January 8

By | 365 Devotions

What We Have Seen and Heard

As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).

Scripture: Acts 4:13-22

Song: “Seeking the Lost”

Each time I return from a mission trip, I see in myself two reactions: I am newly aware of our abundance in the United States, and I am acutely aware of people who do not know Jesus. I find myself speaking up for Him in ways I previously avoided because of worry that I would offend someone.

But the consequences for Peter and John’s proclamations would  be much greater than merely causing offense. The Sanhedrin commanded them to stop speaking about Jesus, but they couldn’t help it, even with the threat of jail. They were filled with God’s Spirit and must share His love everywhere they went.

For me, talking about my mission trip quickly sends conversations into a personal consideration of spiritual things. I can share the excitement of seeing new converts in that foreign country, and I can show my own excitement about Jesus. If I haven’t been away, I can talk to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances about my most recent project with my church.

People may not respond directly to our words about God. But when they seek spiritual help, they will be drawn to someone who shows sincere kindness and expresses a genuine interest in their concerns.

Father, thank You for my material and spiritual blessings in Christ. Help me to befriend those who don’t yet know Him. In His name, amen.

January 8–14. Lanita Bradley Boyd is a freelance writer who lives in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. Her writing springs from her years of teaching, church ministries, and family experiences.

January 7

By | 365 Devotions

What It Really Takes

In all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm (Daniel 1:20, NKJV).

Scripture: Daniel 1:8-21

Song: “Dare to Be a Daniel”

I dreamed of being an Olympic gymnast. I’d practice on my backyard jungle gym. I even made a balance beam out of a picnic bench—which worked great until it wobbled, and I ended up on the ground with a scraped-up, bleeding leg. Thus ended my dreams of Olympic glory.

My family couldn’t afford gymnastic lessons, and I decided that was the reason I never attained greatness. The truth, however, was that I had nowhere near the dedication it took to be great. After all, Olympic champions have to be fully committed. Their time, money, diet—in short, their lives—must be dedicated to their sport. We see them shine once every four years. But for them, pursuing excellence is an every day, all day goal.

Do you and I want to excel as God’s people? Daniel can be a good mentor for us. His faith defined his choices, and his choices produced results. When the moment of testing came, Daniel and his three friends were 10 times better than the others.

Today and always we can choose to be fully dedicated to God  and His ways. And wouldn’t winning the gold from God be far            more wonderful even than having a shot at the Olympics?

Lord, I want to be like Daniel, making every choice according to Your will. Help me to stand firm for You, even when it means I will stand out. I know it means significant sacrifice, but I’m ready, Lord, if You’ll take the lead. In Jesus’ name, amen.

January 6

By | 365 Devotions

How About God’s Agenda?

The king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king (Daniel 1:5, NKJV).

Scripture: Daniel 1:3-7

Song: “Till the Storm Passes By”

For years, we have been praying for a different job for a family member. His work environment is very stressful and his employers have treated him unethically more than once. Why does God keep him there? Couldn’t the Lord manage to give him a job he enjoys, with Christian coworkers?

Today’s passage might have my answer. There may be a time when we, like Daniel and his friends, are thrust into a job or position or place we didn’t choose and don’t like. It may be a new job with rather worldly coworkers, or a new place where our faith stands out and is ridiculed.

We can take heart from Daniel and his friends. It seems they didn’t let even a major shift in outward circumstances change who they were inside. They didn’t waver, standing for what was right, and God used them to turn the heart of more than one king.

Next time we find ourselves in circumstances we wish we could change, let us remain faithful and stand strong. We can remind ourselves that God may have placed us in just this spot to make a real difference for His agenda.

Lord, You know it is hard to endure when I want things to change and feel I am stuck. Please give me grace to wait patiently for You to deliver me and to trust that You have a purpose for me—exactly where You’ve placed me right now. In Christ I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

January 5

By | 365 Devotions

His No Matter What

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer (Revelation 2:10, NKJV).

Scripture: Revelation 2:8-11

Song: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”

Today’s song has a story of high cost. In the late 1800s, a great  missionary movement swept through India. Hundreds of believers from Wales, Australia, England, and America joined national missionaries to reach Northern India, a strongly Hindu area. Many of those Christian witnesses were martyred.

In one village, the first believers, a husband and wife with their two children, were captured. The husband was told to recant Jesus or see his family killed. He answered, “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.” His children were murdered.

When threatened with the death of his wife, he said, “The world  can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.” They killed his  wife. Now alone, the man exclaimed, “Though no one is here to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.”

At last, the man was executed, and joined his family in Heaven. However, when another missionary later returned to that village, he found that a great revival had occurred. Even the family’s killers were now believers.

The story spread, and a great Indian evangelist, upon hearing it, put the man’s last words to music. The song is still sung there today, a testimony of unshakable commitment to Christ.

Dear Father in Heaven, so often I’m afraid of what people will say or think of me. Help me stand for You, no matter the cost. I have decided to follow You, Lord. No turning back. All praise to You, in Christ’s name. Amen.

January 4

By | 365 Devotions

Always an Ambassador

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall  it be seasoned?  It is  then  good  for  nothing  but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men (Matthew 5:13, NKJV).

Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16

Song: “This Little Light of Mine”

Just this week, the Internet was all  abuzz  about  yet  another Christian leader who presented himself as godly and yet was  discovered to have a secret, sinful lifestyle. The world reads such stories and declares us hypocrites. As the Scriptures say, such people give the enemies of God cause to blaspheme (see 2 Samuel 12:14).

We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ, and thus our lives constantly send out messages about our faith—by the way we live—whether we like it or not.  As representatives of the gospel  message, let  us make sure our lives remain pure, so our light can shine in a dark world. Our words and deeds should glorify our Savior, not dishonor Him.

Let us be the kind of people who live with such integrity that when seekers around us hear about a fallen Christian, they respond with, “But that’s not the way a real Christian is, in my observation. I know one, and he’s got a lot of integrity.”

Would it not be wonderful to have people go so far as to be able to say of us: “She lives as Jesus preached”?

Dear Lord, I want to live today with the goal of being salt and light in my world of relationships. As King David once said: “Please keep me from presumptuous sins;  let them not have dominion over me” (see Psalm 19:13). Help me to seek purity, so my life glorifies You always. I pray through Christ my Lord. Amen.

January 3

By | 365 Devotions

Not My Home

Seek the peace of the city . . . and pray to the LORD for it (Jeremiah 29:7, NKJV).

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:4-9

Song: “This World Is Not My Home”

Discouraged about corruption in the government, broken promises  from  politicians,  or  how  far our nation is straying  from biblical  principles?  I  lived  overseas during  several  elections in other nations.  I  saw  the  news and heard the  campaign  slogans  shouted from the streets, but I didn’t get anxious about the possible results.

Those  countries  weren’t  my  own,  after  all.  Though I cared  about the people and prayed about the election, I and my fellow expatriates knew our true home was elsewhere.

As children of God, we know our spiritual citizenship resides in Heaven. Though we should care about our nation and pray for its leaders—and try to elect godly leaders when we can—we need not set our hopes on the fate of our current government.

Kingdoms here on earth will rise and fall, but our true home is elsewhere. Our leader has never broken a promise, and His kingdom is forever. As Hebrews 11:13 says, we are “strangers and pilgrims on  the  earth.”  Verse  16  beautifully  concludes,  “now  they  desire  a better,  that  is,  a  heavenly  country. Therefore  God  is  not  ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (NKJV).

We can look toward our eternal home with great hope.

Dear Lord, I pray for peace for my nation, and I ask that You would lead Your people to live in peace within it. I also pray that You will keep me from setting my heart on the things of this world. I want to live always in the knowledge that my true home is with You. I pray in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

January 2

By | 365 Devotions

God Has a Plan

When  all  the  people  saw  it,  they  fell  on  their  faces:  and  they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God (1 Kings 18:39, KJV).

Scripture: 1 Kings 18:30-39

Song: “O How Happy Are They Who the Savior Obey”

Amal  (name  changed)  didn’t  want  to  do  what  he  sensed  was God’s leading: tell the leader of another religion about Christ. It was hopeless. The religious leader would surely yell at him and throw him out. Amal finally went to see the leader and spoke the message of forgiveness through Christ, along with leaving him a book about  Jesus.  Sure  enough,  the  man  yelled,  threw  the  book  on  his  desk, and made Amal leave. Why did God ask me to do that?

Time  passed.  One  day  men  from  another  village  came  to  Amal’s door, asking about Jesus. “How did you hear about Him?” Amal asked.  The  men  told  Amal  that  representatives  from  their  village  had come  to  Amal’s  area  to  meet  with  a  certain  leader  of  their  religion. When they arrived, the leader was on the phone and, as they waited, they saw a book on his desk about Jesus. If the leader had such a book, they surmised, it must be OK. They read the book and returned to tell their people about the wonderful Messiah. Now the entire village wanted to follow Christ.

If  God  is  nudging  you  to  do  something  that  seems  hopeless  or even foolhardy, you can obey with joy. God may have a victory in sight beyond what you could ever imagine.

Lord, help me to follow Your leading, even if what You ask me to do doesn’t make sense to me, or requires a boldness I don’t have. Remind me that You have plans beyond what I can see, and Your plans are for good. Through Christ, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 1

By | 365 Devotions

I Didn’t Have Words

In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me (Psalm 56:11, KJV).

Scripture: Psalm 56

Song: “Wonderful Words of Life”

“My family is Muslim, and most of the people in my country are Muslim,” the man said. “If they find out I’m converting, they will kill me. So what should I do?”

What could I say? I had never suffered for my faith in Christ. No one had ever threatened  my  life  because  I  was  a  Christian.  How could I help him?  No words from my  knowledge  or  experience were enough.

Then I realized it wasn’t my words that were needed. He didn’t need any platitudes or peaceful-sounding phrases from any person. What he needed were words from God. I had those. As I sat there, I finally understood. God’s Word, the book of truth I had the privilege of holding in my hands, had all the encouragement, comfort, and hope to equip this man to face anything, even death.

If words from God are enough to help someone face death, they are  also  enough  for  navigating  any  difficulty  we  face  in  this  life. Next time I encounter someone who’s discouraged or suffering, instead of trying to find my own words, I plan to give them the words that have the power truly to help—God’s Word.

Lord, thanks for giving us Scripture so we can better discern Your will. Help me remember to go to Your Word when I need help and encouragement. In Christ, amen.

January 1–7. Former missionary Kimberly Rae is the author of 20 books and has worked in five languages. She trains in churches and schools on how God’s people can fight human trafficking.

 

 

 

 

December 31

By | 365 Devotions

New Year, Fresh Start

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Ephesians 4:1).

Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-16

Song: “Day by Day”

Is it your New Year’s resolution to stick to your resolutions? Or have you given up on the idea of making resolutions because you’ve failed, year after year? Experts recommend writing down goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). I’ve done that—and still failed to meet my goals or keep my resolutions.

Many of us would like to make some life changes, but we lack the discipline to follow through. Clearly, our willpower alone won’t ensure success.

Thankfully, each day gives us a fresh start. Though we have to live with the consequences of yesterday’s failures, the failures vanish into mist as we confess them to God. God forgives us and helps us start anew to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received,” as Paul says. We are called to be God’s people, to live in peace and harmony, and to serve God together. The Lord has even given each of us gifts to help us accomplish His purposes.

With God’s direction, we can set goals that will build up the body of Christ. With God’s power, we can reach those goals. So, greet the new year with confidence, knowing that God Almighty has His own infallible goal: that we will one day be like His Son, Jesus (see 1 John 3:2).

God and Ruler of all time, thank You for calling me to serve You. Show me opportunities to use the gifts You’ve given me for service in Your kingdom. Thank You for giving me fresh starts, and help me grow in You in the new year. In Jesus’ name, amen.

December 30

By | 365 Devotions

When Evil Comes

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9)

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:8-12

Song: “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing”

On June 17, 2015, a stranger joined a church prayer group in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat with the gathered Christians for awhile . . . before pulling his gun and killing nine of them. The country mourned and condemned the action, yet the families of the slain did a surprising thing. They forgave the shooter. They said they prayed for him and urged him to repent.

When evil arises, retaliating is just human nature. The Old Testament says, “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21). But Jesus turned that upside down in His Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person” (Matthew 5:38, 39). Jesus even tells His listeners to love their enemies.

In today’s Scripture, Peter reminds us of Jesus’ call to rise above evil and react with blessing. While this is difficult, the church of Charleston showed us that it is possible. We still hold people responsible for the consequences of their actions. They still owe a debt to society. But God’s Spirit helps us release our own bitterness. We can be free, in Him, no matter the actions of others.

O God, I know that evil exists and sometimes touches me personally. In my daily life, I may receive insults and meanness. Fill me with Your Spirit so that I can respond as Peter advised—with blessing. Thank You for Your gift of love! Through Christ, amen

December 29

By | 365 Devotions

Together We Stand

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13, 22-26

Song: “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

A school superintendent retired early due to his failing health. Because of kidney disease, he spent much of his time connected to a dialysis machine, but the whole community actively supported the family with help and love as the disease progressed.

When his condition became known, a former student contacted him. He had been her high school principal, a man who had believed in her, encouraging her to follow her dream of becoming a nurse. Now, tests  showed that her kidney would be a good match for him. The community suffered together with their superintendent—students, teachers, parents. And the former student felt honored to be able to give back to her principal, who had given her so much.

The old adage that “a sorrow shared is half a sorrow, a joy shared is twice a joy” gets to the heart of today’s Scripture, and it was lived out in this small town. We are all weak and needy at some point, while others are strong. In each situation, the strong are called to help the weak carry their burdens. When the weak become strong, they can help others. So when we experience joy, let’s share it with those less joyful, so that more people can be uplifted. In joy and sorrow, we are God’s people together.

Thank You, Lord, for the people You’ve put in my life to double my joys and divide my sorrows. Empower me to help those who need it and to allow others to share my joy. I know this is how we can be like Jesus to one another. In His name, amen.

December 28

By | 365 Devotions

Unwrap Your Gifts

Now eagerly desire the greater gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:27-31

Song: “We All Are One Mission”

My choir played a gift exchange game in which the player could either choose a wrapped gift from the pile or take a gift that someone else had already opened. We shared lots of laughs as people decided whether to go for the known item or open a new box. Suspense filled the air when a player chose a wrapped gift. Should the player go for the biggest or smallest box? What might be in that lumpy one? Swaps and switches were made until the very end, because everyone wanted to go home with the gift they thought was greatest.

God has given each of us gifts to use for His purposes. If we’re unsure what they are, He will help us discern our gifts. However, unlike my choir game, we don’t get to choose. Sometimes our gifts may feel under appreciated or even burdensome. Sometimes we might want to swap for someone else’s gift that seems more powerful, public, or important. However, let us trust God’s plan. He knows us and sees our great potential for service in His kingdom.

Each gift of every believer is important to God’s work in and through the church. Our gifts work together for the good of the whole body of Christ. All we need to do is unwrap our gifts—discover and develop them—and use them for God’s glory.

Gracious God, thank You for the gifts and talents You’ve given me. Help me discern where and how to use them. Show me my place in the body of Christ, and lead me in working with others to serve You. Through Christ the Lord, I pray. Amen.

December 27

By | 365 Devotions

Mission Success

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things  (Colossians 3:2).

Scripture: Colossians 3:1-11

Song: “In Heaven Above”

NASA’s New Horizons probe thrilled the world in July 2015 when it sent back its first images of Pluto, over 3 billion miles from  earth. New Horizons took almost 10 years to reach Pluto. Long before that, teams of scientists at several sites determined how the probe should be built, what scientific instruments the probe should carry, and other logistics. While the rest of us went about our daily business in the world, these scientists set their minds on space. Thanks to their work toward a successful mission, we now know much more about the dwarf planet and its moons.

The writer of Colossians tells us to keep our minds on things above. He refers to things far “above” our solar system in distance and importance. The New Horizons probe had to overcome earth’s gravity to reach outer space. We have to overcome our sinful natures to reach eternal life. Jesus alone makes that possible through  the grace that comes by His cross. Attending worship, studying Scripture, and offering daily prayer keep us focused on things above. In fact, setting our minds on things above helps give us God’s perspective and priorities. In heavenly fellowship we live our earthly lives in community as Jesus’ disciples. That’s mission success.

Creator God, I am awed to think that You made the enormous universe and little. Still You loved me enough to send Jesus to die for me. Keep my heart, soul, and mind focused on things above today. In the name of Jesus, amen.

December 26

By | 365 Devotions

Walk, Cook, and Serve in Love

Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2).

Scripture: Ephesians 4:25–5:2

Song: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”

The holiday meal’s aroma struck my nose as soon as I stepped inside my hostess’s house. A succulent turkey had cooked for hours, and my mouth watered at the thought of the accompanying stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The hostess had sacrificed time and money to plan, purchase, and prepare this meal, a “fragrant offering” for her friends. As a guest, I felt honored and thankful for the invitation. Around the table, conversation and laughter flowed as we enjoyed each other’s company. We parted with hugs, full of food and friendship.

Jesus often shared meals with His disciples, even stooping to wash their dusty feet beforehand. Those were His friends, but Jesus also loved people that society deemed most unworthy: an adulteress, a tax collector, a Samaritan woman, and others who were changed forever by His touch. Then Jesus’ love went far beyond human friendship and hospitality. He gave us His own body and blood so that we could live with Him forever.

As Jesus’ followers, we are called to “walk in love.” We may not all be great cooks, but we can use the abilities we have to share Jesus with others, bringing them the sweet fragrance of His love and forgiveness.

O Jesus, thanks for coming to live with me, showing me how to love others. Thank  You for Your sacrifice, allowing me to live as Your loved and forgiven child, now and forever. Help me to love everyone as You have loved me. In Your name, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

December 25

By | 365 Devotions

God’s Way Is New

Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).

Scripture: Ephesians 4:17-24

Song: “Away in a Manger”

We join Christians worldwide to celebrate Jesus’ birth today. He entered the world in a most unexpected way—as a brand new baby. After all, so many of God’s chosen people expected their Messiah to arrive as a warrior to overthrow their Roman captors. Instead, they—and we—got a tiny infant who grew up to save the world in a way no earthly warrior could.

Babies inspire awe as we watch them wriggle and hear them coo. The little fist that locks around one of our fingers stirs our hearts. As children grow, they react with wonder to lights, sounds, and other stimuli. Wide-eyed, openhanded, they remind us how amazing and intricate is God’s design for life—an ever-expanding newness of growth.

Today’s verse challenges us to keep becoming new selves in Christ. We are to grow more like Him, but what does it take? We can acknowledge our infantile helplessness over sin. We can turn to Jesus with humble, open hearts and receive forgiveness. We can grow as God’s children by reading and studying the Bible, spending time in prayer, and joining our Lord’s community in worship. As we heed God’s guidance, we may go in some unexpected—and blessed—directions. Thanks be to God!

God of wonders and surprises, thank You for the greatest surprise of all: Jesus’ love and mercy. Praise You, in His precious name. Amen.

December 25–31. Jane Heitman Healy, of South Dakota, is a librarian and writer for adults and children. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, serving her church, and reading.

December 24

By | 365 Devotions

In the Presence of the King

Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him (Matthew 2:2).

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

Song: “O Worship the King”

In 1994 my best friend and I took a 14-day trip to the British Isles. We saw all the normal tourist sites—Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey. We took boat rides on the Thames River and Loch Lomond. We watched pottery being made at the Wedgewood factory and visited famous cathedrals and ancient tombs.

At that time, the queen of England was staying in Balmoral Castle, and after passing by its entrance, we stopped at Crathie Chapel where the queen attended church on Sundays. Just as we left, a horse-drawn carriage came toward us and turned into the castle drive. “The queen’s getting ready to leave,” our tour guide told us. “If we had time, we’d wait so you could see her.” But we had to keep to our schedule, so we went on.

When my friend passed away in November 2014, the family asked me to tell about some highlights of our 69-year friendship. I shared a few, and then ended by saying, “Kathy missed seeing the queen by a few minutes, but now she’s standing in the presence of the king.” The Magi traveled far—about 200 miles, it’s believed—until they saw the star that led them to the baby Jesus. But they didn’t come to see just any baby; they came to worship the king.

Lord, You deserve our very highest praise and worship. Help me to live my life so that  someday I will stand in Your presence without shame. In the name of Jesus, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

December 23

By | 365 Devotions

Called to Leave

I am the LORD your God, . . . who directs you in the way you should go (Isaiah 48:17).

Scripture: Matthew 2:19-23

Song: “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go”

Not just new believers but mature Christians often ask themselves: “What is God’s will for me? What path shall I take?” We pray, seek counsel from the Bible and friends, and make what we feel is the right decision—only sometimes to discover, after a short time, the choice was wrong for us.

After working in a hospital for two years and enjoying my work, I entered nurses’ training. My church gave me a going-away party with nurses’ shoes, hose, and a nurse’s watch. I left home with excitement. Several months later, however, I knew that career wasn’t for me. I returned home, feeling like a failure.

My husband left seminary to accept the pastorate of a small  church. Although at the time we both felt it was God’s will, a year later—due to myriad family health issues—we felt just as certain it was time to leave.

God knows the future, and His timing is always right. Whether He calls us to a ministry for a few months or several years, He will not allow that time to be wasted. I grew closer to God during my brief time in nurses’ school. And I certainly learned skills that helped me later in life. In addition several lives were spiritually transformed during my husband’s one-year ministry.

Dear Father God, when You call me to a new place, help me respond in joyful obedience, knowing that the heavenly hand that points the way also provides the way! I am willing to go, Lord, in Your wisdom and strength. Through Christ, amen.

December 22

By | 365 Devotions

We Know We Can Trust Him

When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get

Scripture: Matthew 2:13-18

Song: “Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak”

I remember our first move as parents—a distance of 750 miles—with three young children, aged three, two, and eight months. Although the trip was somewhat stressful, it helped to know that my husband had a job waiting for him, and we were assured of a place to live. We’d been preparing for this move for several months.

I can’t even imagine what I would have thought if my husband had awakened me in the middle of the night and said, “Get the kids dressed. We’re moving to another country.”

“Where? Why?”

“Well, I had a dream.”

“You must be crazy! I have friends here, our kids are young, and you won’t even have a job or a place to live when we get there.”

“I know, but an angel told me . . .”

From past experience, Joseph knew he could trust God, so when the Lord spoke, Joseph obeyed. And his obedience saved Jesus’ life.

God speaks to us in different ways today—through His Word, through godly friends and, perhaps, even through a dream. And from past experiences, we know we can trust Him, so we know it will bring glory to Him and be a blessing to us, if we obey.

Lord, Your commands to us can affect our lives and, ultimately, the lives of our families. Help me to trust and obey Your voice today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 21

By | 365 Devotions

Are You There?

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”) (Matthew 1:23).

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

Song: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Why was Jesus not called “Immanuel”? The notes in my reference Bible say: “According to Hebrew usage the name does not represent a title but a characterization. The name Immanuel shows that He really was [and is] with us.” What a beautiful promise we can cling to every day.

  • Going through an illness? God is with us.
  • Facing financial difficulties? God is with us.
  • Grieving a broken relationship? God is with us.
  • Watching children leave the faith? God is with us.
  • Loving an unbelieving spouse? God is with us.
  • Going through a difficult valley? God is with us.
  • Crossing over the Jordan River? God will be with us.

I remember a period of time when our family experienced several deaths, including the suicide of a teen. “Are you sure there’s a God?” the voice of doubt taunted me. My head said yes, but my heart said, “Where are You? Are You there?” One night while praying I said, without thinking, “Lord, I know You’re here for me. You’ve always been here.” Peace returned.

O Immanuel, Lord of all, I know this is a promise I can count on: You have been there with me in the past, and You’ll be with me in the future. When I doubt, help me to stop and listen for Your voice. Speak, Lord, your servant hears! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

December 20

By | 365 Devotions

He Can Use Any Size

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel (Micah 5:2).

Scripture: Micah 5:1-5

Song: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

In years to come, the town in Michigan where my husband ministered would become known for a national golf tournament. But during the time we were there, it was just a small suburb of a larger town. Our church was small in comparison to other nearby churches, running between 30 and 40 in attendance on Sunday mornings.

We were there only one year, but in that year we saw the following: a husband and wife reunited; a mother of seven children baptized and the family committed to attending church; an agnostic neighbor who allowed her son to participate in a church talent program; our 2-year-old daughter healed of a kidney disease.

Bethlehem was a small town—a suburb of Jerusalem, so to speak—about five miles south of the great city. It is first mentioned in Genesis 35:19 as the burial place of Rachel. Naomi and Ruth came to the city, David was anointed there, and as Micah had predicted years earlier, Jesus was born there.

Thus we see that it’s not size of the place that matters; it’s what God causes to happen there that’s significant. So, it’s not the physical size of a person that counts, it’s what we allow God to do in our hearts and lives.

Lord, if we’re serving in a place today that’s small and little known, or if we feel we’re small in the world’s eyes, help us to know that little is much if You’re in it. In Jesus’ precious name, I pray. Amen.

December 19

By | 365 Devotions

Chosen of God

You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16).                  a

Scripture: Isaiah 42:1-9

Song: “Whosoever Meaneth Me”

Do you remember standing on the playground, waiting to be chosen for a team? This may bring back unpleasant memories if you were the last one standing, and the captain had to choose you. Maybe you wanted to join a glee club in school but weren’t chosen because you sang a little off-key. Or perhaps, as an adult, you  watched as someone else was chosen for a position at your workplace, a position for which you were more qualified. And it hurt.

I made out OK at our annual church youth camp, as I not only enjoyed playing softball but was also good at Bible quizzing—two things for which our team received points. But I remember other times in my younger days when I was the last one chosen. And later a boy (whom I was certain liked me) chose another girl to date. These weren’t pleasant experiences.

In today’s Scripture, Isaiah foretells the coming of Christ, God’s “chosen one.” Later, in the New Testament, we see that now we are the chosen ones: “Chosen by God and precious” (1 Peter 2:4), “chosen in the Lord” (Romans 16:13), “a chosen people” (1 Peter 2:9).

Doesn’t that have more eternal value than being chosen for a  team, a date, or a position at our job? Imagine: chosen by the Lord of the universe . . . to be a member of His family.

O Lord, thank You for choosing me to be one of Your children. In return, help me to choose You in every decision I make in my life today. In the name of Jesus,

amen.

 

 

 

 

 

December 18

By | 365 Devotions

Watching from a Distance

His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him (Exodus 2:4).

Scripture: Exodus 1:22–2:10

Song: “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”

When our son was a toddler, he would hold his breath if he didn’t get his own way. Terrified that he would pass out, I expressed my fears to my doctor. “Just let him go,” he said. “If he passes out, he’ll start breathing again automatically.” I recall the first time I did this (and the last time he tried it). Kicking and screaming, his face grew red as he held his breath. I walked away and he did pass out—but only for an instant before he came to.

Years later I had to let go of him again. My husband and I were both in bed when our son came in and asked us to give him a ride to meet a girl that we disapproved of. “I’ll take him,” my husband said. In days past, I would have stayed awake, tossing and turning, wondering what was happening. Instead, I prayed, “Lord, watch over him. If he does anything he shouldn’t, let him know it’ll be over his mother’s prayers.” And I went to sleep.

Perhaps, we can all take a lesson from Moses’ sister—stand at a distance and see what happens when we put our family in God’s hands. They will be stronger for it. And we can sleep better, knowing He’s in control.

Lord God of Mercy, I know You love my family even more than I do, and that You have a plan for each of them. Help me to let go and watch You work. I pray through Christ, my Lord. Amen.

December 18–24. Donna Clark Goodrich is a mother, grandmother, freelance writer, editor, proof-reader, and conference instructor from Mesa, Arizona.

December 17

By | 365 Devotions

Not Easy

We must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of  God (Acts 14:22, NLT).

Scripture: Acts 14:8-11, 19-23

Song: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

A man who worked for the government said to me, “Our new managers took control over the office that I had worked in for many years. They were implementing changes that would hurt the clients we were serving. Because I respectfully disagreed with them, rumors and doubts about my work, reputation, and character began to spread.” In order to fit in with the people in power, most of his fellow workers joined in on those group dynamics. “By the time I left the job,” he said, “few people were even speaking to me.”

It seems futile for us to even care about what people think of us. After all, their perceptions can change overnight, and their views may draw from gossip and innuendo. Any attempt to “fit in” with that kind of group is bound to lead to continual moral compromises on our part, because the values of the group are constantly changing.

But all of this is a hardship! We all want to be liked, and we want to feel we’re accepted by the people around us. But in carrying out Christ’s mission, building His church, can we really afford to focus on the crowd’s approval? As our Scripture today reminds us: the call to follow Christ will identify us with Him. And His life was anything but easy.

O God, thanks for reminding me of the futility of chasing after the approval of others. Let me focus solely on pleasing You today—and I know that includes loving those around me. Help me, Lord. It’s not easy! Through Christ I pray. Amen.

December 16

By | 365 Devotions

God Speaks

[Paul and Barnabas] spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks (Acts 14:1, NASB).

Scripture: Acts 14:1-7

Song: “My Soul in Silence Waits for God”

As a teen, I’d often walk up to church and play the piano when no one else was there. In the silence and semidarkness, I would sometimes stop, be completely still, and let a blessed sense of peace wash over me. Then my prayers would flow. Over the next few years, I learned that prayer involves not just talking to God but listening for Him too. And He speaks “in such a  manner” that we can hear, if our hearts are open.

Paul and Barnabas knew that a particular way of speaking in the synagogues would have the best effect. This took some planning and thinking. They’d need to take the time to know their audience and shape their message accordingly.

A few years ago, I took a course in contemplative prayer, in seeking the awareness of God’s presence in silence. The motivation issued from the psalmist’s words: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). As we pursue knowing Him, we can be sure He already knows us thoroughly and shapes His message to our spirit.                    In other words, surely God speaks to each of us in ways we can receive. He knows exactly how to reach out to us. Sometimes His voice is most clearly heard in the silence.

Dear Heavenly Father, You speak to us in ways that we can understand. Please help us to hear Your message, and prepare it for others in ways they can hear. I pray in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

December 15

By | 365 Devotions

Using Your Pain?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Song: “Cross of Jesus, Cross of Sorrow”

Ruth told me she still had severe knee pain, even though her doctor insisted that the X-rays of her replacement surgery were normal. Her physical therapist questioned whether she was doing her exercises faithfully, but she knew she was doing them exactly as directed. “What am I going to do?” she asked me. “I’ll never get rid of this pain!”

Why do some of us have chronic pain? Our Scripture today provides us with one possible explanation. There will be times when we can use our experience to assist others who are in a similar difficulty. As we go through our daily life, we can try to be aware of those situations that call out for our help.

It’s rarely helpful to say: “I know just how you feel!” However, if we do, indeed, have an idea of the suffering someone is experiencing, we can be genuinely sympathetic. We can also lift our eyes, together, to our Savior, who chose to suffer the pains of humanity with us. As the writer to the Hebrews put it: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are” (Hebrews 4:15, HCSB).

Heavenly Father, let me never waste the sufferings that come into my days! Keep me alert to others who are hurting too. Show me how to offer just the right compassion and consolation—the kind that sustains me, as well. In Christ, amen.

December 14

By | 365 Devotions

Learning from Physical Pain

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3).

Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:1-10

Song: “Who Will Suffer with the Savior?”

Most people believe that if you’re suffering, it means that you must be doing something wrong. And sometimes we’re told that all our problems can easily be solved if we’d just “live right.” Indeed, certain “life coaches” seem to think that pain and suffering are unnatural states, a sign of failure.

Is this how life actually works? For most of my adult life I’ve been living with chronic headaches. I work hard at trying to maintain my health in all areas, yet receive mixed results at best. In this area of life, I feel like the mythological character who struggles to roll the big rock up the hill, only to have the rock roll back over him as he gets near the top.

Jesus came to our world to fully feel the pain and suffering that is an inherent part of our lives. And according to the apostle Paul, there is meaning in our suffering because our experience unites us with the experience of Jesus. He came down to our level and suffered human existence so we could learn from our own suffering and become more like Him. I’ll continue to work on my health, and I’m bound to have many moments of frustration in the future. But it’s much easier to bear up under suffering when I realize that a greater purpose is always at work.

O Lord Jesus, You freely chose to share in our suffering. With Your example and help, may I approach my daily difficulties with equanimity. Reveal to me how these trials can move me closer to You. In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.

December 13

By | 365 Devotions

Christ Answers Our Dilemmas

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27).

Scripture: Philippians 1:27-30

Song: “O Scattered Seeds of Loving Deeds”

I know a lady who was a visiting nurse for over 20 years, and she always put much effort into caring for her patients. But in order to maximize their profits, the home health care company she worked for told all the nurses that they would have to greatly increase the number of their daily visits. She was never afraid of hard work, but she realized that no one could possibly perform the required number of visits—and still provide quality care to the patients.

It would be very difficult for her to leave her job. Because she had specialized in home care for so many years, she questioned whether she had the technical experience to be hired for other facets of nursing. Yet she faced a fact she couldn’t ignore, as a disciple of Jesus: she just couldn’t work for an agency that disregarded the welfare of patients. So she quit her job and eventually worked at an adult day-care center where patient care was the top priority.

When making difficult life decisions, we can review how the options before us are in line—or out of kilter—with Jesus’ teaching. WWJD? “What Would Jesus Do?” can be a reliable guideline when we seek wisdom from above. As we keep an open heart to His leading, the best decision will soon emerge.

My Father in Heaven, please help me to recognize Your guiding hand as I make decisions during times of change and uncertainty. I am reminded today that You have my best at heart, and I am thankful. Through Christ my Lord, amen.

December 12

By | 365 Devotions

Example of Faith

 “In him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring” (Acts 17:28).

Scripture: Acts 17:22-33.

Song: “A Stronger Faith, Dear Savior”

One day my friend told me about his grandmother: “She lived a very painful life, yet you wouldn’t know it by her peaceful and loving manner. Orphaned as a young girl, she worked as a live-in maid. She married a wonderful man, but he suffered from bouts of severe anxiety and died young. My grandmother struggled with alcoholism for much of her early life. Her last 20 years were spent as an unwanted guest, shipped off between the homes of her two daughters. Yet somehow she emerged from these experiences with the feeling that God was by her side.

“One of my earliest childhood memories of her was when we’d feed the birds, and she’d tell me stories about St. Francis. She exuded a gentle sense of loving-kindness that extended to animals as well as to difficult people.”

After that conversation, I almost felt as if I knew this wonderful lady. We all “live and move and have our being” in the Creator, but it seems that some folks grow so close to Him that His beauty becomes clearly visible in their personalities. I want examples like that to emulate. And I hope, by the workings of God’s grace, to be an example to others as well. As my friend said: “The memory of my grandmother always gave me hope that—someday—I could have a faith like hers.”

Heavenly Father, may I continue to encounter people in my life whose example points me to You. I pray in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.

December 11

By | 365 Devotions

How Does Prayer Work?

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love . . . that they may know the mystery of God (Colossians 2:2).

Scripture: Colossians 1:24–2:5

Song: “The Mystery of Faith”

A friend told me that alcoholism was a major factor in his family of origin. “My brother and I grew up with a sense of foreboding,” he said, “knowing the smallest thing could turn our family into a war zone. The situation was bearable because we had each other as we went through it all.” But years later, he and his brother parted . . . on bad terms.

Then he saw “The Tempest,” a play about a man who was wronged by his brother. The man was able to forgive when he realized the suffering his brother had endured in life. From that night on, my friend began praying for his brother. “I didn’t want to see him; I just wanted him to be all right.”

Two months later, he received an unexpected call from his brother. There was a different attitude; something had changed in him. Slowly, over time, the relational tensions evaporated. Was my friend’s heart opened because he began to pray for a brother he didn’t even want to see? Was the brother’s heart opened by those prayers, though he didn’t know about them? “And did God put me in the audience of that play,” my friend asked, “in order for this whole process to unfold?”

Lord of Heaven and earth, as I continue to pray, I find encouragement growing in my heart. May You reunite us all through our prayers! In the holy name of Jesus, amen.

December 11–17. Gary Wilde, editor of Devotions, lives with his wife, Carol, in Venice, Florida. They have twin adult sons, recently married, who work as industrial engineers in Denver and San Diego.

December 10

By | 365 Devotions

Set Apart

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

Scripture: Acts 13:1-12

Song: “Voice of Truth”

I knew, without question, that the Lord had called me to minister to women who needed healing from abortions. He had set me free from the guilt and shame that had haunted me for years, and I knew He wanted me to lead other women to that same freedom.

It wasn’t an easy journey, though. In order to accomplish that mission, I had to “go public.” I had to bear the judgment of what lovingly supportive, some women began to avoid me. Others weren’t at all shy about their feelings, asking how I could kill a baby.

I had moments of questioning God. “Is this really what you want me to be doing? If this is your will, shouldn’t it be easier?” I did not yet have the courage of Paul to call my doubt what it was: an enemy.

When a woman approached me after worship with tears in her eyes, I braced myself for condemnation. But all she said through her tears was, “I thought I was the only one.” Any hurt I had to endure was well worth the hope I soon saw in her eyes.

Lord, I know You have set me apart for a purpose. Help me listen to Your voice and boldly do the work to which You have called me. When opposition forms against me, help me to be strong in stepping

December 9

By | 365 Devotions

Everyday Blessings

On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27).

Scripture: Acts 14:21-28

Song: “Count Your Blessings”

I’d been waiting in the emergency room most of the day. Then, the medical tests to determine the cause of my miserable symptoms finally came. The results? Food poisoning.

I was given intravenous fluids and allowed nothing by mouth for hours. My desert-like mouth only added to my misery. Despite my pleas, I was denied even an ice chip. Hours later, though, I was finally given a small, single-serving container of apple juice. It was the sweetest, coldest, most delicious apple juice I had ever tasted.

Despite my weakened state, I had to know the source of this miracle nectar. I rolled back the foil lid and told myself, “I must buy this brand from now on.” Days later, back at home, I moved some pitchers around in the refrigerator and saw a bottle of apple juice hiding in the back. Immediately I recognized it as the same brand  of juice from the hospital.

When God “shows up” at the times when I need Him so desperately, it is truly a sweet time, and I am eager to share that experience. But my blessed apple juice reminded me: He is there, every day, working for my good. I want to be able to draw from those defining moments so I can share them with others.

Lord, help me to pay attention to Your hand in my life and recognize the day-to-day mercies You lavish upon me. I ask that You help me share the countless stories of Your faithfulness with others. In the name of Jesus, amen.

December 8

By | 365 Devotions

The Power of Words

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (Romans 1:11, 12).

Scripture: Romans 1:8-12, 16, 17

Song: “Overcomer”

For weeks I’d been looking forward to a night out with several girlfriends. I had envisioned a relaxing dinner with much laughter, because we always so enjoyed getting together. No matter how long it had been since being together, we could pick up right where we left off and catch up with each others’ lives.

On this particular night, a few new acquaintances joined us. It delicious dinner. But on the drive home I realized I didn’t feel energized as I usually do; instead, I felt drained.

There had been a different dynamic, I reasoned, because “new” ladies had joined us. I thought back on the conversations we had shared; they were not uplifting. Much of what we’d talked about was negative and critical. Our words did not build each other up. We were certainly not “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

Paul longed for that encouraging communion with fellow believers and the pleasure and strength that comes from sharing our lives. He knew the power of our words when we meet. They can lighten the burden that comes with kingdom work and strengthen us to keep moving forward in God’s grace.

Lord of the church, I want to be more intentional with my words within my fellowship. Help me offer encouragement to others—while controlling my tongue when tempted to let a critical spirit have its way. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

December 7

By | 365 Devotions

Lofty Glances

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided (John 9:16).

Scripture: John 9:13-17

Song: “Does Anybody Hear Her?”

As we were growing up, my dearest friend, Lisa, and I had many things in common. One thing we didn’t share, though, was her very strict Christian home. Anyone who knew Lisa knew that her family was “very religious.” Along with myriad other restrictions, she wasn’t allowed to attend parties or school dances or to use Sundays for anything but rest.

Lisa often struggled with the fear of disappointing her parents if she didn’t live up to their ideals. One of those disappointments came in the form of her college boyfriend, Steve, who did not share her family’s faith.

On a Sunday afternoon visit to her house, I arrived to find Lisa and Steve in the front yard washing his car. We were having a great time, chatting and catching up, and then Lisa’s parents arrived. Her mother’s first words as she bolted out of the car were, “Never again embarrass me by doing such a thing as washing your car at my home on the Sabbath! But, I don’t suppose you would know anything about the Sabbath.”

I wonder: Did this Christian woman’s proclamation entice Steve to want to know more about her faith?

Lord, help me when I’m tempted to judge others. Let me display Your compassion,  mercy, and grace instead of lofty glances. I pray. Amen.

December 6

By | 365 Devotions

The Unseen Battle

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome [ungodly spirits], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Scripture: 1 John 4:1-6

Song: “In Christ Alone”

Recently, my family vacationed in an area known to have a large pagan population. There has been much written about one small tourist town in particular, some even calling it the satanic capital of the country.

We’d visited years prior without this knowledge, and without noticing anything out of the ordinary for a typical small tourist town. However, our then 9-year-old daughter, while we visited a shop along the main street, became pale and asked that we leave.

Questioning her, we found she couldn’t identify any specific thing, but she had “a bad feeling; something feels bad here.” Fast forward to a recent trip with my son.  In order to get to a particular attraction, we had to pass through this same town. Getting ready in the hotel that morning, my son said, “Maybe we shouldn’t go; I don’t feel like battling demons today.” I almost let fear win—until today’s Scripture verse came to mind. It was a comfort to remind my son that we don’t have to battle. Jesus already fought that battle against every anti-Christ spirit and false prophet. Now the Lord invites us to live with joy in His world-conquering victory.

Lord, I thank You for defeating every spiritual enemy of Your kingdom. I am grateful that I can walk in victory over the evil one through countless battles that I cannot even see. I pray for those who do not know You as their conqueror and ask that You make Your grace and mercy known to them. Through Christ the king, I pray. Amen

December 5

By | 365 Devotions

Have I Missed a Blessing?

Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place (1 Samuel 3:9).

Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1-9

Song: “God Calling Yet”

When my children were young, my husband, Jeff, and I had a few disagreements on the topic of children and obedience. I credited his zero tolerance for disobedience to his former military days. He would patiently remind me that if one of our children were in a dangerous situation, disobedience could be a matter of life and death.

One afternoon Jeff was doing yard work, as our then 3-year-old daughter happily played on the front porch. Taking a break, Jeff  looked up to the porch and calmly said, “Shelby, stand up and slowly come to me, right now.”

She didn’t question the command; down the steps she went. Her father sat her safely away and killed the copperhead snake that had wound its way to the rocker where Shelby had been sitting. What could have happened had she argued—had she merely lifted her hands in exasperation—was unthinkable.

Although Samuel didn’t know at the time that God was calling him, he still answered without argument. Time after time, he practiced obedience. It makes me wonder. What blessings have I missed because I questioned, procrastinated, or threw up my hands in exasperation?

Lord, I know that Your call for obedience is for my good. Help me to obey Your call. I  want to respond to You without question, always. Help me to put away my doubt and my fear at each step. In Christ I pray. Amen.

December 4

By | 365 Devotions

Giving Ministry Away

The LORD said to Moses, “Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, where I will commission him.” So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves (Deuteronomy 31:14).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:14, 15, 23; 34:9

Song: “Giving It All Away”

I serve as a team leader at our congregation’s information center.  Because our church is portable, meeting in a school building, much preparation is required on Sunday mornings. Arriving early and setting up is the responsibility of the team leader and frankly on some Sundays, I find it difficult to get out of bed.

It was such a pleasant surprise to get a message one Friday from a team member, Liz. A friend of hers had requested that, in lieu of birthday gifts, random acts of kindness be offered to others. Liz let me know that she was able to show up early on Sunday and would handle setting up for me. I was thrilled and welcomed the extra sleep.

Liz did a great job, and I had enjoyed the break. It started me thinking. Liz has been a faithful team member, and perhaps it was time to give away the ministry of team leadership. Liz was eager to take on more responsibility while I moved on to other ministry areas. Had I been too caught up in wanting to preserve a title—or afraid that things wouldn’t be done just right? Liz and I both would have missed out on great opportunities.

Lord, help me to be willing to give ministry away, releasing any feeling of control or selfishness. Your work is not about me, but You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

December 4–10. Carla Edmisten is a social worker and freelance writer living in Spotsylania, Virginia. She enjoys collecting antiques and traveling with her family.

 

 

 

 

 

December 3

By | 365 Devotions

Etch-A-Sketch Heart

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord  (Acts 3:19).

Scripture: Acts 3:11-21

Song: “Is Thy Heart Right with God?”

The cutest brown-eyed girl in the world beckons me to play with her. She picks up her Etch-A-Sketch toy as we sit together on the fluffy rug on her floor. She makes swirls and patterns, deftly turning the knobs, and then forms a heart over the patterns. As quickly as she draws it—shake, shake, shake, and it’s gone.

“Why did you erase it?” I asked.

“It looked messy, so I want to make a new one,” she replied.

I realize I feel that way about my own heart at times. I try doing the “right” things by going to church and reading the Bible. I pursue bringing my children up with good values and treating people nicely. But somehow, my heart continues to get messy; I make mistakes, give in to moodiness, and harbor resentment.

Sin  invades  my  heart  because  I’m  human—there’s  absolutely  no   way to be perfect. But there’s one, my Savior, who makes me new. Yes, my heart’s purified through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. No   matter how dirty and ugly my life may become, Jesus’ blood is the cleansing stream that makes it pure. I love how the apostle John put   it: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our   sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Lord, thank You for the atoning work of Your Son on the cross. Thank You for the gift of salvation and forgiveness. Cleanse my heart and make it pure in Your sight.  Help me to live in a way that brings honor and glory to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

December 2

By | 365 Devotions

Flash

Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong (Acts 3:7).

Scripture: Acts 3:1-10

Song: “Christ, the Great Physician”

I  looked  at  my  husband’s  right  temple  in  horror.  The  incision was much bigger than either of us had expected. I was thankful the surgeon was able to remove all the skin cancer, but I knew he hated that huge gash near his eyebrow.

What’s  more,  the  repair  work  done  to  his  skin  left  him  with  a zigzagged wound that closely resembled a lightning bolt. Thus, my kids and I affectionately nicknamed him “Flash”—which, surprisingly, he took a liking to.

The  healing  process  took  longer  than  anticipated.  Secretly,  I wished  I  could  magically  heal  the  wound  on  my  husband’s  face, saving him all the pain. I wanted to take the mark from him, making it better quickly.

Even though I couldn’t heal his wound, there is a great physician who heals all wounds. Today’s Scripture assures us that God cares deeply about His children, so much so that He tends to our hurts with love, patience, and compassion.

Our wounds come in many different forms. Sometimes we break a bone; at other times we’re nursing a broken heart. What is it for you? Your place of brokenness is prime territory for the Lord’s healing powers.

Lord, You bring healing to my hurts and sustain me in my difficulties. Thank You. Today I place all of my wounds in Your care. Saturate my injuries with Your Words, and increase my faith as You give the care I need. Help me extend Your care to others. Amen.

December 1

By | 365 Devotions

You’re Invited

I  have  made  you  a  light  for  the  Gentiles,  that  you  may bring salvation to the ends of the earth (Acts 13:47).

Scripture: Acts 13:44-49

Song: “Come and Dine”

“Why are we eating off the fancy plates?” my 12-year-old daughter asked. She glanced at our table as the beautiful porcelain plates sparked her interest. A glass vase filled with daffodils made the perfect centerpiece—stark contrast to our normal routine of eating on paper plates! “We’re having special guests for dinner, and I wanted to use our fine china,” I replied. “Well, these must be  some  pretty  special  guests.  Do I have to dress up? I don’t want to wear anything fancy,” my daughter continued. She assumed she too must do something special to prepare for dinner with our friends.  But really, all she  needed  to  do  was come as she was.

Similarly, God invites  everyone,  not  just  His  chosen  people,  to dine at the table of grace. He extends His gift of salvation to each of us who will receive it. We’re assured there’s always an available place  at  His  table—no  matter  what  we’re  wearing,  where  we’re from,  or  how  many  scars  have  marked  our  hearts.  Come  dine  at the  table  of  grace  with  your  heavenly  Father.  There  is  a  place  set especially for you.

Lord God of all, thank You for offering Your gift of life-saving grace. I come to Your table just as I am, only needing to accept Your invitation. Guide me to make decisions today that bring me closer to You. I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

December 1–3. Alisha Ritchie writes from Stanfield, North Carolina, where she enjoys spending time with her husband of 20 years and with her two wonderful children.

November 30

By | 365 Devotions

Faithful GPS

Those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:49, 50, NKJV).

Scripture: Luke 7:44-50

Song: “Day by Day”

Recently, my mom and I went on a day-trip to a place we had never been before. I relied on my trusted GPS to help us navigate to our destination. Mom, not having any experience with GPS, was totally amazed at how the little device guided us. When we finally arrived, she exclaimed, “You had faith that this machine would get us here, and it did. That is so amazing!”

Faith is wonderful, especially when it resides in Jesus. Trusting in God, even though we do not see or realize His full plan, helps our faith grow and mature.

The sinful woman in today’s Scripture trusted Jesus enough to know she just wanted to be in His presence. She longed to show her love by serving Him, even though she was a sinner and, no doubt, felt unworthy. Yet she must have believed that Jesus loved her despite her shortcomings.

Jesus yearns for us to place all of our trust in Him so He can guide us on our journey of life. So it’s crucial for us to ask ourselves, continuously: What or who am I placing my faith in today? My own goal is to make a commitment to trust God with all of my heart, releasing total control to Him.

Lord, thank You for loving me, even though I am a sinner and have failed You. Help me to have complete confidence in Your plan for my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

November 29

By | 365 Devotions

Prophets Still at Work

When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways (Acts 3:26).

Scripture: Acts 3:22-26

Song: “Be Love in Me”

The ancient biblical prophets were God’s messengers to His people. Often their proclamations focused on turning people away from their sin so they could turn back to God.

In some ways, Christian friends can be like those prophets. For instance, I have a friend who leads by example. She doesn’t use words to lecture me, but she is certainly prophetic in demonstrating by her actions what the Lord wants to see in my own life. In fact, she proclaims the goodness of God’s will to all who observe her.

In light of her example, my heart is convicted when I lose patience with my children after a long day. Other times, I realize I’ve harbored a poor attitude in certain situations after talking with her about those times. My friend has a positive influence on me, often causing me to have a change of heart, just as the prophets affected the Israelites.

Who has God placed in your life, that special someone who helps guide you in the right direction? Thank God for that person and their ministry of servanthood toward you. Then resolve to be a positive influence on others for God’s kingdom.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me enough to send people into my life who help me in my walk with You. Guide me in making good choices for friends and men-tors. Help me to be a positive Christian influence on others for Your glory. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

 

November 28

By | 365 Devotions

Failing to Fall

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me (Psalm 118:13).

Scripture: Psalm 118:10-14

Song: “Children of the Lord”

As a physical therapy assistant, I work with patients who sustain falls because of difficulties with balance. One patient recently told of her latest fall which caused a trip to the hospital and a very sore knee.

“I was walking into the bathroom when my knees felt weak. I lost my balance and just kept falling backwards, like I was being pushed. I tried to grab hold of the counter to catch myself, but at that point, there was nothing I could do to stop myself from falling,” she said.

Ever felt like that—as if you were being pushed back? There are days when nothing seems to go right, as if we just can’t make any progress toward our goals. Or one door after another closes, barring access to the cherished places we long for.

Our key verse reminds us, however, that God is always there to help us. The key is to admit our need. I like how Christian psychiatrist David F. Allen says it: “We don’t want to feel helpless, so we use fear, anger, addiction, or unbridled sexuality to block out our helpless feelings. The fact is that if we cannot openly face our feeling of helplessness, we cannot receive help. It is important that we accept our helplessness, taking it to God and allowing Him to be strong where we are weak.”

Lord, thank You for loving me and being my stability when it seems the world is against me. Guide me in trusting You as You provide support, never letting me fall from Your grasp. In Jesus’ name, amen.

November 27

By | 365 Devotions

He Won’t Let You Down

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans (Psalm 118:8).

Scripture: Psalm 118:1-9

Song: “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”

My eyes welled up with tears as my best friend’s harsh words echoed in my ears. How could she talk behind my back like that? I wondered.

I was hurt, confused, and feeling betrayed by one of the closest people in my life. So I prayed for guidance about how to move forward and heal the deep wounds of deceit and betrayal.

I am reminded of a crucial biblical principle: no matter how much we trust in people, they will fail us. After all, none of us is perfect; we are human. And no matter how good our intentions, it’s inevitable we will fail at some point to carry through on our good intent. And when we fail, others can get hurt.

We have faith that the Lord will never fail us. We put all our trust in Him, having complete confidence He will never let us down. We turn to Him with all of our problems, knowing He will provide us with safety and protection. His love is enduring, persistent, and forever.

Even though it’s difficult to suffer life’s hardships and betrayals along our journey, peace can be found when we put our faith and hope in God. He remains constant and true, even when our world is not. Put your trust in the only one who endures forever.

Lord, thanks for being the one who remains good and true always. Lead me to trust in You completely, healing my hurts from those who have failed me. In Christ, amen.

November 27–30. Alisha Ritchie writes from Stanfield, North Carolina, where she enjoys spending time with her husband of almost 20 years and with her two wonderful children.

 

November 26

By | 365 Devotions

For Our Own Best Good

Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:23-34

Song: “Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord”

Sitting on our porch, my husband and I laughed over memories of our children’s reactions to chores. Those kids are now hardworking adults, but we wondered if they would ever accept correction and learn to work well. Over a decade ago, one of the girls said we “liked bossing kids.” She wanted to play and saw no value in work.

She was convinced we made her labor for our personal enjoyment, but in reality, we would’ve rather done it ourselves. It’s a hassle motivating a resistant child and waiting for a job to be finished at a snail’s pace.

Another daughter decided she was Cinderella because she had to dust a stairway railing. One of our sons decided that moving some rocks constituted slavery. At the time it was discouraging. We knew that if our children didn’t learn, though, they’d suffer in the future. If they remained immature, they were the ones who would be fired, would suffer for lack of funds, or would feel dissatisfied, no matter how fair their employer.

I wonder how many times I’ve resented the Lord’s correction due to my immaturity? How many times has He saved me from serious consequences through careful parenting of my soul?

Lord, I am shortsighted sometimes when You prune away pieces of my sinful nature. Like a child, I can be sure my goals are right and fail to see the big picture. Please continue to teach me and discipline me, through Christ. Amen.

November 25

By | 365 Devotions

Under Construction

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is (Romans 12:2).

Scripture: Romans 12:1-8

Song: “Glory Be to God the Father”

Recently, my husband and I purchased an old, neglected house. Everywhere we looked there was an urgent project begging to be done, so we hired some workers to help with the initial push. I learned quickly that there are many construction decisions to make each day as new situations arise.

One of the early, intimidating decisions we faced: What to do with a distressed ceiling? In a burst of uncharacteristic confidence, I instructed the workmen to pull it down; I was hoping to find some good beams underneath that we could stain to complement exposed wood beams in other rooms.

The workmen took a small section down and looked at me dubiously. “Are you sure?” they asked. “Yes,” I answered. “Do it. If we don’t find what I’m looking for, we can always put up new dry wall and finish it.”

When they removed the ceiling, it exposed the good beams and two lovely triangle windows that had been hidden by former owners’ remodeling. They were cheap panes but the structure was there.

Work? Yes. Messy? Yes. Beautiful, once the beams and windows were renewed and transformed? Yes!

Dear God, You are renewing my mind with Your Word and Your Spirit, transforming me over time. May I cooperate humbly with Your efforts. Help me remember that even when I feel like I’m a big mess, You see my potential. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

November 24

By | 365 Devotions

Forever Covenant

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them (Mark 14:24).

Scripture: Mark 14:22-25

Song: “There Is Power in the Blood”

Mary and I were 7-years-old when we decided to become blood sisters. She suggested it. I was the oldest kid in my family and had never heard of such a thing, but she was the youngest of five siblings and had lived in a foreign country. I’d only lived in the United States.

I had only a vague understanding of why the blood was necessary, but I liked Mary and was amazed by her superior knowledge of the world. So we met in her father’s shed to become extra special friends forever. Sitting there in the dirt next to the lawn mower, we pricked our fingers with a needle and made our vow, rubbing our spots of blood together. We then made up a secret handshake to make things extra official.

Her family moved a few years later, and I never heard from her again. I don’t know if she remembers me or the solemn pledge we took. Our forever as blood sisters was rather short-lived!

The blood Jesus shed for the forgiveness of all people, however, is truly forever. He knew exactly what He was doing and for whom. That sacrifice was sufficient for all and effective for those who simply receive its benefit. We can count on it now and for all eternity.

Lord Jesus, I am so grateful for Your willingness to spill Your very blood in order to fulfill the Father’s plan for a new covenant of mercy with humankind. I am awestruck by Your love and faithfulness. In Your name, amen.

 

November 23

By | 365 Devotions

Just As Advertised

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them (Mark 14:16).

Scripture: Mark 14:12-16

Song: “I Believe the Promises of God”

Libraries were among my most favorite places as a child. I loved reading, adored the smell of books, and luxuriated in the quietness. I delighted in reading titles and selecting a book. I liked opening file drawers and flipping through alphabetized cards, searching for new treasures.

When I’d read everything written by a specific author, I found the librarian to be an invaluable resource for guiding my next selections. Often she knew other authors I would likely enjoy, based upon whom I already liked. Invariably I’d find her whispered book recommendations to be just as wonderful as promised.

In so many other situations in my young life, however, asking questions and getting answers wasn’t as rewarding for me. For example, when I asked about dinner I was fooled more than once by a name—I thought shepherd’s pie would be sweet and fruit-filled, and I expected I’d like something called brussels sprout. But at libraries, books were just as good as librarians said they were.

When God’s Word tells us how things are—or will be—we can trust Him. God’s knowledge far exceeds even the best librarian’s. He knows what was, what is, and what will be.

Dear Heavenly Father, You know me, inside and out—what I need, what I’ll ask, and what is best. And with You, things are always just as You promise. I rejoice in Your unchanging goodness, and I thank You for guiding my steps today. I pray in the name of Jesus my Lord. Amen.

November 22

By | 365 Devotions

Be Merciful

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy (Jude 22, 23).

Scripture: Jude 1-4, 17-25

Song: “God, We Praise Thee for Thy Mercy”

One of our children was having a tough time accepting a big change, and her behavior showed it. At the end of one particularly difficult week, I suggested that we “get the situation under control.” I was ready for action—ready to improve life for the rest of the family. My husband listened to me and then announced, “I’m going to take her out for ice cream.”

I was shocked. I was ready for a battle plan; he was ready to extend mercy. I felt suspicious that his way wouldn’t help. Nevertheless, he followed through on his idea and her behavior improved. She felt understood and loved. Mercy triumphed.

In the years since, I’ve seen other teenage hearts soften when I’ve listened to their angst—without trying to fix them or their problems. I’ve seen my own attitude improve also when another has refused to judge me for a mistake. In fact, I’ve often found that listening with patience is more helpful than defensively protecting God’s reputation.

Even when someone is on a destructive path and I attempt intervention, I’ve still found that words of mercy and acts of service are the best course (along with remembering my own shortcomings). Grace extended helps the drowning person receive God’s forgiveness and saving help.

O God of Grace and Mercy, please prompt my heart to be merciful as You have been to me. Help me to see people with Your eyes and respond to them with Your compassion. Amen.

 

November 21

By | 365 Devotions

Our Blemished Record

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good (1 Corinthians 11:17).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

Song: “I Am a Vessel”

My neighbor and I were walking when she asked, “How can you go to church with those hypocrites?” How to help her accept that both lambs and wolves attend churches, and even the sheep go astray?

I prayed for wisdom and gently waded into the river of anger and fear that I heard in her voice. “When I was younger, I was disillusioned about all the hypocrites in church,” I told her. “I learned through painful experience that I was no different. I want to be like Christ in all things, but I don’t succeed—I let fear gag me, I rationalize my poor behavior, I have good intentions that never materialize into action.”

I felt sadness as I confessed how imperfect I am and how I fail to live up to my own standards. And then, I remembered Christ’s redeeming work. I heard the gratitude in my voice as I described how unfailing God’s love is, even when we fail; how He forgives us and still utilizes our willingness to serve Him. Yet I was unsure of how my friend received my words.

Later she shared with me that she had begun trusting Christ as her Savior. She said our talks had helped open her heart. How amazing that our perfect God uses such imperfect believers in the process of bringing lost sheep into the fold!

Heavenly Father, thank You for correcting me and forgiving me when I go astray. I am amazed You are able to use sinful people such as me to tell others about You. Through Christ my Lord, amen.

 

November 20

By | 365 Devotions

Favored by Association

He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13).

Scripture: Colossians 1:9-20

Song: “Lord, Thou Art with Me”

When I was 9-years-old, my family moved from Florida to California. I was the only new kid in my fourth-grade classroom, so getting to know Catherine significantly changed my lonely world. Our teacher seemed old and tired to me, but Catherine claimed that Mrs. B. would let us put on a play for extra credit. Without Catherine, I never would have asked for special favors. But because she was so obviously liked by all, I agreed.

With Catherine leading the way, we boldly approached Mrs. B’s desk to present our proposal. Yes! The office staff let us copy programs on the mimeograph machine; we were welcomed into the classroom during recesses to practice; and we received keys to the supply closet for prop-making materials. Catherine and I organized and performed two puppet shows, a play, and a musical review that year.

With Catherine’s friendship opening doors, the intimidating school became a secure haven for me. As a Christian, I now have someone even more beloved and influential in my life. Jesus Christ is His Father’s beloved Son, and when I tag along with Him, I am free to walk as a favored child allowed to explore the kingdom. I am Jesus’ friend. I am favored by association.

Thank You, Jesus, for reconciling me to God the Father and making me a welcome, favored child of Your kingdom. In Your name I pray. Amen.

November 20–26. Tanya T. Warrington is a freelance writer residing in Fort Collins, Colorado. She enjoys writing about God—the healing and freedom of walking in His love daily.

 

November 19

By | 365 Devotions

Peace . . . Possible?

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

Scripture: Hebrews 12:14, 15, 18-29

Song: “Holiness”

We have so much hatred in the world today. Just days ago (as I write this) a gunman went into a South Carolina church and killed nine people. Apparently the crime was racially motivated, white on black. It’s absolutely tragic. But the people of that congregation are moving forward. I’ve read accounts of them encouraging each other to love and forgive. It gives me hope.

And isn’t that what we all need? We need hope that things can be different—that race relations, for instance, can be based on love and respect, kindness and understanding, and hopefully, trust. Trouble is, once that trust is broken—and it just keeps getting broken—our Christian walk is challenged. Will we love instead of hate?

I mean, could you blame members of that church for hating the gunman? They lost loved ones. But if they retaliate, the cycle continues. White on black. Black on white. No one will have peace. Add any other race that you want to the mix. Only love wins.

I admire and applaud anyone who encounters hatred yet chooses to love in return. They are the ones who demonstrate what it means to “make every effort to live in peace with everyone.”

Lord, how my heart longs for peace among all peoples! I pray for victims of hatred-inspired crimes and pray that we’d all demonstrate more of Your loving ways. In Jesus’ wonderful name I pray. Amen.

 

November 18

By | 365 Devotions

Once for All

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).

Scripture: Hebrews 9:11-15

Song: “Jesus Paid It All”

My wife and I recently enjoyed some vacation time up around the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. On our first day of exploring, we turned left off the main tourist artery to avoid a stretch of road construction. That took us straight to one of those ranger gate/toll booth–type bottlenecks where you quickly realize once again: the best things in life might be free, but this particular experience isn’t going to be.

As I reached for my wallet to pay for entrance into the Grand Tetons, the thought occurred to me that I’d probably have to pay a similar fee the next day for the privilege of touring Yellowstone Park.

Long story short, I got a special discount for entrance into both parks for seven days. That made me happy. I paid one time, and from then on, all I had to do was show the receipt.

I hope you see the analogy I’m trying to draw here. Jesus, by His own sacrifice, paid for our entrance into grace . . . one time. He did it for us all. That’s “once for all.” All we have to do is trust Him. He paid the price.

That, my friends, is the greatest receipt of all time.

O Gracious God, thank You for coming to earth in the person of Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for the sacrifice of the eternal, spotless lamb on my behalf. Praise You that His work of atonement, offered once for all, lasts for all eternity. Help me, as I seek to give my life to Him in return. Through His precious name I pray. Amen.

 

November 17

By | 365 Devotions

The Right Thing

This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds (Hebrews 10:16).

Scripture: Hebrews 10:11-18

Song: “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”

It’s been said that character is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. But isn’t it just living up to the code of right and wrong that the Creator has put into every one of us?

Rick Reilly, the great sportswriter, tells the story of four college football players who went into a store after-hours thinking it was open. They picked up a video cord and some batteries in the store—which had been left open by mistake—and waited at the counter to pay someone. When no one appeared, the players took out some money and waved it at a surveillance camera before placing it on the counter. One of the young men even took $.80 out of his pocket to pay the sales tax.

We live in a day when athletes are reported in the news for everything . . . except for doing the right thing. Domestic abuse. Blood-doping. You name it, it’s been on the front page. How refreshing to read about young people making headlines for a different reason!

We all know right from wrong, due to natural law. It’s the moral “ought” written within the human spirit, so that we are without excuse (see Romans 1:20). Let’s all show character today by doing the right thing.

Dear Lord, please help me always live up to Your code of right and wrong. I know what’s right, but please give me the power to do it. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

November 16

By | 365 Devotions

The Power of a Testimony

Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me (Psalm 66:16).

Scripture: Psalm 66:16-20

Song: “Miracle of Grace”

My wife was “Facebooking” the other day when she came upon an incredible post. It all happened in a Sam’s Club. An elderly gentleman cried out for help in the store as his wife slumped over—the victim of a diabetic seizure. She was dying. But another woman and her sister saw the commotion and went to pray for the lady. They prayed that she would live and not die, in Jesus’ name, and the woman literally came back from the brink of death.

One of the sisters immediately went to her car and recorded a transcript of the event and posted it to social media. Still bubbling with energy, she made it readily clear that God did something amazing in her life as well. She humbly and sincerely witnessed the power of God. The power of her testimony now serves as a witness to others who view the video.

I’m convinced that hearing about what God has done for others bolsters our faith. Do you agree? How many times has it been the case for you?

If you’re the kind of person who struggles to speak about your faith, you can start where you are by describing what God has done for you. May your story then serve as a witness to the great goodness of your Lord.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for all You’ve done in my life. May the story of what You’ve done for me encourage others. Simply give me the courage to share it. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

November 15

By | 365 Devotions

At the Altar of Opinion

Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything (Deuteronomy 4:23).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 4:21-24

Song: “Come, Let Us Worship and Bow Down”

When people think of idolatry, they may recall the golden calf of Moses’ day or think of a statue to which other peoples have bowed down and paid homage. In our society, we may think of money or a new car, or a weekend hobby or work, and of how it takes the place of God Almighty on the altar of our lives.

But what if your opinion were to become an idol?

Let me explain. The Bible abounds with good news about how we are made—“fearfully and wonderfully”(Psalm 139:14) as you may recall. Yet many of us don’t really believe that. We speak poorly of ourselves and harbor low thoughts about our makeup. In other words, we let our opinion trump God’s Word.

Here’s another one: we look at some situation and deem it impossible. In our opinion: case closed. We’ve rendered a judgment. But God’s Word says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37, KJV).

The Bible says not to make an idol for ourselves, but we do when we place more weight on what we think than on what God thinks. Our opinions are never facts until they line up with God’s truth.

 Lord, I pray that Your truth would reign supreme in me. Please help me to line up my thinking with Your Word. When I am in doubt, give me pause to consult Your indwelling Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

November 14

By | 365 Devotions

Help Needed!

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12

Song: “O to Be Like Thee”

I’ve been spending a lot of time in nursing homes lately. With all due respect to the patrons, some of them are seriously grumpy. In all fairness, I don’t know all of their stories. Maybe some of the folks have a reason for tormenting the night help. Possibly they are justified in complaining nonstop.

Whatever the case, they are motivating me like crazy. I’ve determined that if God wills it for me to live to a ripe old age, I want to be one of the sweetest of senior citizens.

I see plenty of challenges ahead, though. I’m already less than patient. I’m often critical. I’m getting terribly set in my ways. But I’m declaring right now that I’m willing to put it all down. I want to be like Jesus.

I’m so glad He gave us the red-lettered instructions, aren’t you? The Beatitudes provide the blueprint for us to have a beautiful attitude. We can cultivate a humble demeanor. We can hunger and thirst for righteousness. We can extend mercy and strive for peace.

We can do it all by the grace of God through Christ who gives us strength (see Philippians 4:13). And I don’t know about you, but I’m going to need the help.

Dear Lord God, I seek to be pure in heart today. Yet I realize that only through Your inner influence can I do so. Help me to walk close to You. Then Your character qualities have a chance to become my own. Thank You for this blessed potential for growth. In the name of Jesus, amen.

November 13

By | 365 Devotions

Awesome—or Not?

How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you (Psalm 66:3).

Scripture: Psalm 66:1-4

Song: “Awesome God”

Awesome is an overused word in our culture today. Just the other day I saw a YouTube video of two women fighting at a Walmart, and the guy recording the video took a moment to declare the whole episode as awesome. We’ve got awesome food, awesome performances, awesome cars, and awesome people. You name it—we’ve got an awesome version.

Trouble is, much that we call awesome simply isn’t. Is the spectacle of two women swearing at each other and launching haymakers in the store aisles really awesome? How about last night’s pizza or the fact that your favorite team won the game? I’d submit to you that none of these qualifies as awesome. Awesome is beyond all of that.

God is awesome. Parting the Red Sea is awesome. Raising a man from the dead is awesome. Restoring someone’s sight is awesome. An ax head that floats is awesome. When used in that context, the word makes a lot more sense. It fits. After all, who can look on God’s body of work and not be filled with awe?

It’s an adjective of a higher order. God’s deeds are a cut above.

Other things might be cool or good or entertaining.

But God? Awesome!

Lord God of All, I stand in awe of You today. Thank You for all Your wonderful deeds that flow from Your matchless character. In Jesus’ name, amen.

November 13–19. Von Mitchell teaches business and coaches basketball at his alma mater in Delta, Colorado.

November 12

By | 365 Devotions

Ready to Forgive?

No longer will they have to teach one another to obey me. I, the LORD, promise that all of them will obey me, ordinary people and rulers alike. I will forgive their sins and forget the evil things they have done (Jeremiah 31:34, CEV).

Scripture: Jeremiah 31:27-34

Song: “Laden with Guilt, and Full of Fears”

We all seem to carry some kind of past emotional baggage. In my case, it was a childhood of abuse, which led to all kinds of teenage rebellion. Although I am quite adult today, there have been times when guilt about my past behavior has cropped up to cripple me.

The idea of doing better when you know better gets totally ignored on a guilt trip. The voice inside my head wants to reassure me I am an overall lousy individual—all for some act long ago committed.

The Lord never intended that I relive my transgressions. After all, He receives my confessions of sin and then forgets they ever happened. Will I accept that it can be that simple?

Through prayer, I was able to recognize the core of the problem: It seems I was willing to allow God to forgive me, but unwilling to do the work of forgiving myself.

I thank God for helping me see the difference between real guilt and feelings of false guilt. The one has forgiveness; the other needs it.

 Father of all compassion, You have reminded me that my forgiveness is free but came at great cost to You at the cross. Thanks for Your mercy and grace. Now help me let go of lingering false guilt. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

November 11

By | 365 Devotions

Take It Personally

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you (Luke 22:20, KJV).

Scripture: Luke 22:14-20

Song: “Nothing but the Blood”

The main message of the media today seems to be: Your life should be easy! And people in our American culture seem to have a great deal of trouble distinguishing between actual needs and particular wants.

Yet, for some of God’s children, that is not the case. Christians are persecuted severely for their faith all over the world these days. The battles rage on for Jesus—even if in distant lands.

We prefer to avoid the word sacrifice. Yet it is the essence of our new life as Christians. Had Jesus not shed His blood for us and sacrificed His very life, we would still linger in death’s power.

Just because it may be easy for us wherever we are, that does not mean we aren’t meant to participate in the ongoing faith challenges of other peoples. For the sake of Jesus, the sacrifices continue, and those who suffer are part of our body of Christ.

As believers in a land where faith has its freedom, we can still contribute by sacrificing our time in volunteer efforts. Or we may send our money as we feel led. In any event, let us pray for those who struggle to be able to drink the cup as openly as we do.

Father, Your Son sealed the testament—Your covenant with us of promised forgiveness—by offering His blood on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper I am honored to acknowledge Your sacrifice . . . and take it personally. Praise to You, in His name. Amen.

November 10

By | 365 Devotions

Stow the Phone

I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and love, and you will really know me then as you never have before (Hosea 2:20, TLB).

Scripture: Hosea 2:16-20

Song: “Blessed Quietness”

As I walked into my ministry leader’s office one Sunday afternoon, she surprised me by saying, “I so envy you and your stay-cations!”

I had to smile. A few years ago, I realized that the hustle and bustle of my world pulled more from me than it gave back on most days. At the end of perpetually encroaching deadlines and responsibilities, I found myself out of energy and, even more important, out of compassion for others. That’s when I decided to regularly schedule spiritual stay-cations. My goal was to seek God and replenish myself back to the human being He intended me to be.

Since then, I’ve learned how to stow the phone and turn off the television. I’ve walked labyrinths while reading the Psalms. I’ve danced all over the house to worship music. I’ve plopped myself on the patio, coffee in hand, and watched the birds, lizards, the sunrises and sunsets.

These quiet times, with no expectations either from or for me, have served to still my spirit. They have opened up my heart to receive what God has planned for my life. Mostly, they have enabled me to continue to be a kind servant to others around me.

Dear Heavenly Father, when my days become too hectic, call me to a peaceful place. I am so thankful that You speak in the stillness. Open my heart to hear! I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

November 9

By | 365 Devotions

With Grace, Unity

“There is hope for your future,” declares the LORD, “and your children will return to their own territory” (Jeremiah 31:17, NASB).

Scripture: Jeremiah 31:15-20

Song: “My Hope Is in the Lord”

For the first time in their adult lives, my two daughters agreed to an all-girl trip. I felt as though their consent was an answer to prayer, as the communication between us had dwindled to a bare minimum over the years.

Each of us led very different and distinct lives, so I asked God to open avenues of commonality among us. It didn’t take long before our differences started surfacing: While one or two liked a certain activity, the other didn’t . . . and on it went. Everyone voiced an opinion, from politics to parenting. For a day or two, I feared we were going to experience a very negative family vacation.

Slowly, but surely, God’s grace bubbled to the surface. As we waited on one person to shop in the homemade soap store, the other two talked and waited patiently. If two agreed to dine, the other would come on board in unison. By the end of the trip, we were functioning in cohesion, giving and taking as each situation arose, with no one leading the pack.

I witnessed the uniqueness of God’s kingdom through my girls. Their strengths varied, yet they could lay those down for the sake of another they loved. I came to respect them greatly as children of the heavenly Father with purposes of their own.

Thank You, Dear Father, for the challenges of family living—which can give rise to very special workings of Your grace. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

November 8

By | 365 Devotions

What’s the Next Thing for You?

I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, says the LORD (Jeremiah 31:14, ESV).

Scripture: Jeremiah 31:10-14

Song: “I Am Satisfied with Jesus”

We live in a world where the next best thing is always just around the corner. If you were born to the group now referred to as the “Baby Boomers,” you’ve seen everything from televisions to credit cards to wet suits to buffalo wings come along. The creative invention possibilities, in our culture today, seem to be endless.

Conversely—even though our homes are constantly being filled and refilled with gadgets of one sort or another—we still struggle with living in personal peace. Somehow, we haven’t managed to find it in our new cell phone or hi-def television setup. Our quest to find what really matters never seems to end in a soul-deep satisfaction.

While we continue to change our focus and adjust our goal-seeking, our God hasn’t changed at all. He “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, ESV). We can only find peace within a sincere relationship with Him. We can’t drive through and pick up time to spend with Him; instead, we’re invited to carve out a quiet space for Him in our busy lives. We can’t buy an app and expect Him to respond; we’ll need to pray. His abundance will always supersede any next best thing we can create or buy.

Dear Father, You’ve reminded me today that all I need to live a life of contentment and joy is to walk with You. Thank You for the invitation to know You in close personal fellowship. Through Christ my Lord, amen.

November 7

By | 365 Devotions

Many Happy Returns

I will bring them from the north and from the distant corners of the earth. I will not forget the blind and lame, the expectant mothers and women in labor. A great company will return! (Jeremiah 31:8, NLT).

Scripture: Jeremiah 31:7-9

Song: “Even Me”

The Bible teacher in our class asked a simple question, yet I was timid about raising my hand in response. “How many of you have family members who have turned away from God?”

I had family members in exactly that state, but I didn’t want to be the only one in the room who raised a hand.

I had a quick minute to decide how honest I wanted to be with the group. Were my prodigals a statement against my own faithfulness? Before I could process my thoughts completely, hands started rising into the air.

To my surprise, most of us were in the same situation. Instead of feeling vulnerable, the admission made a way for all of us to join together in prayer for the return of God’s people to His kingdom. Now, we periodically stand in a circle, holding hands, as each person vocalizes the first names of their loved ones. As a group, we lift to Heaven our intentions for them.

Our God knows His people. He hears our prayers concerning them and causes the right people to cross their paths who will draw them in. Upon their return, He will welcome them.

Dear Father, I know that, along with us, You look forward to the homecoming celebration of any of Your children who stray from Your care. Thank You for your continual love when I fail You. Amen.

November 6

By | 365 Devotions

Why, Lord, Why?

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3).

Scripture: Jeremiah 31:1-6

Song: “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee”

Some days truly feel surreal. Such was the case when my daughter was diagnosed with an incurable disease. I remember trying to listen intently to the doctor’s prognosis, while inside I kept asking, “Why, Lord, why? I couldn’t imagine how God could allow such frightening circumstances to invade my family. I couldn’t believe we were chosen to live out this kind of future.

I didn’t receive the answer to my question that particular day. Two years later, I still don’t have the answer. Yet, after a short time, my questioning shifted from begging to prayer, and finally, I settled in to listening for His still, quiet voice inside this wilderness. Then He gave something more valuable than I originally asked for. I discovered our history with God.

He showed me how His love has been everlasting. I could see Him clearly at work in the hard places of the past. From that point forward, as we moved through days of difficulty or of ease, the Lord continually reminded me of where we’d been as well as where we were going together.

We often seek the source of our troubles. But could the solution lie in seeking our God and His lifelong commitment to us?

O Lord and Father, I ask that You help me know and feel this very day Your personal presence and immense love. All praise to You. Amen.

November 6–12. Melanie Stiles, of Spring, Texas, is a Christian life coach and author. She loves mentoring others in discipleship, writing, and playing with her granddaughter.

November 5

By | 365 Devotions

A Life That Honors God

The LORD God of Israel says: . . . “Those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30, NKJV).

Scripture: Numbers 25:10-13; 1 Samuel 2:30-36

Song: “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Ever heard someone refer to God as “the Big Guy” or “the Man Upstairs”? Not exactly terms of honor!

For our hearts to truly honor God, we must acknowledge who He is—the omnipotent Lord of the universe. With that kind of resumé, our God is clearly worthy of our deepest respect, worship, and adoration. He is holy and majestic, powerful and sovereign.

How can we honor God? We can follow His commands. We can strive to live according to the teachings of the Bible. He gave us His written Word to guide our ways so that we can live a life that honors Him, enhancing His reputation in the world.

And a God-honoring life has its rewards. Our Scripture today tells us that God will honor those who honor Him, and I want to take those words to heart each day.

The blessing can go beyond the personal and affect national life as well. John Haggai put it like this: “God is concerned with nations, but nations also need to be concerned with God. No nation can have a monopoly on God, but God will bless any nation whose people seek and honor His will as revealed by Christ and declared through the Holy Spirit.”

O God, the King of glory, may I never lose sight of Your awesome holiness, Your power and glory. You dwell quietly in my heart. How great You are, and how I wish to love You with all my being! Through Christ I pray. Amen.

November 4

By | 365 Devotions

Believe It? Respect It!

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD. . . . Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for men abhorred the offering of the LORD (1 Samuel 2:12, 17, NKJV).

Scripture: 1 Samuel 2:12-17

Song: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ”

Eli’s sons didn’t know the Lord. They were evil and had no respect for God’s laws regarding sacrifices and offerings. So, they abused those laws. If you don’t believe in something, then you probably won’t treat it with respect.

The reverse is true, as well. For example, I love the American flag because I respect the courage and sacrifice of so many who have given their lives to keep our country free. That’s why, when I see a torn and tattered flag, I wonder why the owner hasn’t replaced it with a new one. Don’t they care enough to honor our flag and all it represents?

When I see a news story where someone has burned a flag, I will admit that my heart churns with indignation. I can’t understand their action. But I do understand that they do not respect our flag.

I find the same holds true for any symbol of God’s sovereignty in our world. For instance, do we treat the Bible with respect? Do we enter places of worship with hearts bowed in adoration? Do we approach the elements of the Lord’s Supper with reverence? The list could go on: if we believe in it, let us respect it.

 O Father, thank You for the freedom we have in the liberation, the redemption that comes through the cross of Jesus. May America always be a people of prayer who love Your life-giving values. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

November 3

By | 365 Devotions

Modern Day Idols

They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel (Numbers 25:2, 3, NKJV).

Scripture: Numbers 25:1-9

Song: “Be Thou Exalted”

Idol worship has always landed God’s people in trouble. From the days of ancient Israel to our present culture, mankind is prone to wander from God. In place of the infinite Lord, we substitute something finite and make a god of it.

There are parts of the world where physical idols still exist. In our American culture our idols aren’t usually carved from wood or other materials, but they nevertheless show what is of highest value for us. Anything that we make of ultimate concern—our unconditional value—is our god. It will drive a wedge between us and our almighty Creator.

It isn’t wrong to love our families, but let us praise God as the source of all family joys. It isn’t wrong to have money and wealth, but let us give as much as we can to kingdom causes. Garnering fame and status may be the natural result of excellence in any area. But let us acknowledge our gifts as coming from the Lord.

The simple fact is: God wants first place in our lives, and it starts in our hearts. When we have this priority right, it makes all the difference in our relationship with God.

Lord God Almighty, help me today to reorder any priorities that make You less supreme in my life than You deserve to be. Give me wisdom in all things! In the holy name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, I pray. Amen.

November 2

By | 365 Devotions

For Love’s Sake

Yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ (Philemon 9, NKJV).

Scripture: Philemon 8-16

Song: “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”

When I read in Philemon how Paul pleads on behalf of Onesimus—and I read these words, “yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you”—I hear an echo of other words Paul has written in his letters.

I am reminded of his impassioned words on love in 1 Corinthians 13, for instance. In the Philemon story, we witness Paul living out the message he wrote in Corinthians. I feel the impact of this in my own life when I struggle to reach someone with the message of love.

Sometimes we fail to show love or give it effectively. But I also think of the people in our lives who seem unable to receive the love we offer them. Is there a relative in the family who ridicules you when you try to talk to them about the Lord? Is there someone at work who makes fun of the Bible that pokes up from the top of your tote bag?

Many people carry deep wounds from the church or from life in general. And wounded, hurting people tend to wound others. What is needed? Continued compassion. For the sake of love, we keep trying and we keep loving the world around us, no matter the response. It is what Paul teaches us in the famous love chapter of the Bible, and it is what Christ exemplified in His life.

Lord,  I ask You today to fill my heart with love for everyone who crosses my path. May I speak Your love in word and deed to those around me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

November 1

By | 365 Devotions

Pray for One Another

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another: . . . rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer (Romans 12:10, 12, NKJV).

Scripture: Romans 12:9-18

Song: “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

I am blessed to be part of a November gathering of women from my church. We are just a small group, and we meet once a November in one of our homes, but we come together to pray—and we’re serious about it. We take praying for our church, our ministers, and our teachers and missionaries very seriously. We take praying for our country seriously. We take praying for one another seriously.

One of our ladies recently lost her husband to an 18-year battle with cancer. Another lady is getting ready to go to Haiti on a short-term mission trip, and she knows we will be back here praying for her. One lady’s husband has been out of a job for several Novembers, and he is very discouraged. We trust God with every prayer request, knowing He hears each one.

Together we bear one another’s burdens, and together we lift each other up in prayer. We may come with a heavy heart but we leave with a lighter heart. I count it a privilege to pray for others, and I am thankful to know that others pray for me.

Lord, thank You for Your attentiveness to our prayers. We know You hear our prayers and You are at work on our behalf. I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

November 1–5. Kathy Cheek writes devotions, inspirational stories, and poetry appearing in various publications. She and her husband live in Dallas, Texas, where two daughters also reside.

 

October 31

By | 365 Devotions

Give My Heart

A woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table (Matthew 26:6, 7, NKJV).

Scripture: Matthew 26:6-13

Song: “Have We Any Gift Worth Giving?”

I don’t have an alabaster flask of costly fragrant oil. So although this biblical account is a beautiful story, I ask myself, “What do I have of value that I can give to God?”

The poor widow gave everything she had with an offering of two mites. She didn’t have a costly possession to her name, but God was very pleased with her offering (see Luke 21:1-4).

In O. Henry’s beloved short story, “The Gift of the Magi,” a husband and wife sell the only worthy thing they have in order to buy each other a gift. But in the end, their sacrifice turns out to be their gift of love to each other.

In the “Little Drummer Boy,” we see the best gift a poor drummer boy could give a newborn king: to play his best on his drum.

In a Christmas poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Christina Rossetti declares her gift in these words.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Isn’t that what the Lord wants from us, after all?

 O God, as a sacrifice of love for You today, I give You all of me, I give You my heart. Let me be Your hands and feet of compassion today. Through Christ, amen.

October 30

By | 365 Devotions

Not by Sword

I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever (Psalm 44:6-8, NKJV).

Scripture: Psalm 44:1-8

Song: “He Is Able to Deliver Thee”

During a difficult time I faced a battle that pressed me against a wall of gigantic proportions. My giant wasn’t a 9-foot-tall soldier named Goliath. But it was a giant-sized problem I couldn’t handle on my own.

I thought of David and Goliath—as we all do when faced with such looming difficulties. In the blink of an eye, I could see David reaching for the five smooth stones and placing one in the slingshot, the others in a pouch. He’d been offered a traditional soldier’s armor and sword, but this wasn’t a traditional fight. David knew this victory would only come from God, so he chose a familiar weapon and walked forward by faith.

Shouldn’t I make the same choice David did when Goliath called him out? My hope comes from the Lord.

God gave David the victory when He sent that one smooth stone sailing like a missile into Goliath’s head. I know my victory will also come from God, and I praise Him for the mighty works He does on my behalf.

Lord, thank You for being my hope and source of strength when I face the large battles in my life. Strengthen my heart to always trust You. In Christ’s holy name, amen.

October 30–31. Kathy Cheek writes devotions, inspirational stories, and poetry appearing in various publications. She and her husband live in Dallas, Texas, where two daughters also reside.

October 29

By | 365 Devotions

Life-Giving Binding

These now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses . . . to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the LORD (Nehemiah 10:29).

Scripture: Nehemiah 9:32-38; 10:28, 29

Song: “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

For centuries in countries all over the world, children have played a game called “mercy.” It is also known by other names, such as “Uncle” and “Peanuts.” To play, two players face each other and hold each other’s hands, left hand to left hand, right hand to right hand. On the word “go” each tries to bend the other’s fingers and wrists and inflict pain until the other cries out the word of the game.

For millennia, people have reached out to take the hand of God, but then they’ve sought to go their own way. Rather than submit to God’s will, they’ve arrogantly believed God should submit to theirs. Guess who ends up crying for mercy.

The result in Nehemiah’s day was that the people lost their freedom. That’s the result today as well, because we become enslaved to sin when we go our own way.

Eventually, the people relented, crying out for mercy, realizing that doing things their way only brought more pain. Then they bound themselves to God, so He would lead them.

They realized that being bound to God wasn’t constricting, but life giving. That’s the blessed lesson for us, as well.

Forgive me, Lord, when I am arrogant and believe that I know what is best in my life. Forgive me for pushing off into my days without consulting You or listening to You. May I submit to Your will so I won’t have to cry for mercy later. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 28

By | 365 Devotions

A Reward for the Persistent

God “will repay each person according to what they have done” (Romans 2:6).

Scripture: Romans 2:1-8

Song: “We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes”

As a teenager I only got a small taste of what it was like to be a day laborer. Though I worked a hot job for several summers in a lumber yard in South Alabama, I once did a couple of the hottest and nastiest days of work ever: picking cucumbers for a man who’d planted about 20 acres of them.

We each got paid according to the amount of cucumbers we picked. So, the harder we worked, the more money we made. And even now, every time I pass a field where people are picking vegetables, I can only imagine what it’s like to do that work every day, year after year.

Paul reminded the Romans that the Lord will give a reward to those who are persistent in doing good. This isn’t a passage that sells cheap grace, but neither does it tell us we earn our salvation.

Salvation still comes by the grace of God. However, the Lord seems eager to bless those who remain persistent in doing good, and the blessing for them is eternal life. In contrast, the warning is clear: for those who live a life that is purely self-seeking—and who reject the truth and follow evil—well, instead of the blessing of eternal life, only wrath and anger can remain. Thankfully, we get to choose.

Lord, I know that my goodness cannot earn me a heavenly home. However, I see that You expect goodness from me and want to bless me because of my care for others. So, may my life be a living sacrifice for You. Help me by your grace, I pray. Amen.

October 27

By | 365 Devotions

I’m Not Exaggerating Here

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble (Luke 17:2).

Scripture: Luke 17:1-4

Song: “Footsteps of Jesus”

“I’m starving; I could eat a horse; wow, this thing weighs a ton; she’s older than the hills; I could sleep for a year, I’m so tired; he’s got tons of money; I’ve told you a million times I don’t like seafood.” What do all these expressions of speech have in common? They’re all instances of hyperbole, otherwise known as exaggerations. People don’t use these expressions of speech literally. Rather, they are used for emphasis or effect.

Everyone knows you are not literally starving or that you could actually consume a real horse. No, your friend simply understands that you are really, truly hungry.

Jesus used hyperbole in the same way, to bring emphasis to things He wanted to stress as important. Our Lord didn’t want anyone to literally end up in the bottom of the sea with a millstone around his neck because he or she caused a “little one” (a phrase used for a follower of Jesus) to stumble or sin!

Jesus spoke this way in order to emphasize the seriousness of leading another believer away from doing what is right. It’s a stern warning. “Watch yourselves,” He says. And He’s not exaggerating.

Father in Heaven, help me to live a consistent life so that people who see me at church, the tennis courts, the ball game, the movies, or out with friends will see the same person—someone seeking to do what is right in Your eyes. I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus, my Savior and Lord. Amen.

October 26

By | 365 Devotions

Wiping the Slate Clean

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3).

Scripture: Psalm 130

Song: “Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God”

As a small child I remember the joy of being chosen to wash the schoolroom chalkboards after a week of class work. The task consisted of taking an empty gallon can (once filled with beans or peas) from the lunchroom, filling it up with water, and dipping a rag in it to wash the old, black slate.

It was a satisfying feeling to see a nice, clean board. There was no longer any record of what had been written there, no record of class work, or even words of punishment some of us may have written 50 times or more, such as “I will not pass notes in class.”

The psalmist pondered this question: “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” He realized the importance of having his sins forgiven, his slate wiped clean, and the feeling that comes from knowing that the mistakes he had committed against God could remain in the past. Just as we could enter a new day with a clean chalkboard, the psalmist could enter a new day with a clean heart.

Because of God’s unfailing love, and because God did not abandon him when he made mistakes, the psalmist was filled with hope . . . and so can we.

Almighty and most merciful God, thank You for the feeling that comes with sins forgiven. Thank You for wiping my slate clean and giving me a chance to start this day anew. I pray I may serve You in gratitude, always. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

October 25

By | 365 Devotions

Loving Without Understanding

In your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God (Nehemiah 9:31).

Scripture: Nehemiah 9:26-31

Song: “Down by the Riverside”

In the movie, A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean says, in reference to his wayward son, “It is those we live with and love, and should know, who elude us. You can love completely without complete understanding.”

Parents whose children have gone astray understand this statement. They may be left scratching their heads, unable to understand their child’s destructive decisions. Yet despite such poor choices, the love of parents usually remains unshaken.

Might that describe God’s ways with us? Might our decisions leave God shaking His head in disbelief? Take those stubborn Hebrews in today’s text as examples. How many times did they find themselves in a mess? Yes, there were consequences for their poor choices, for love doesn’t mean the absence of consequences. However, God, the loving parent, was unable to stay away, unable to abandon them because of His deep compassion. Time and time again He came to their rescue.

Let us praise God that He loves us so much, so completely. The river that runs through our lives is a river of grace and mercy, understood most completely in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord God, as Jesus stood in the River Jordan to be baptized, He prayed. As He did, Your Spirit descended upon Him. Demonstrate Your love to me in such a way. Empower me, lead me, and help me so I will find my way. Through Christ, amen.

October 24

By | 365 Devotions

God Knows You by Name

You made the heavens, . . . and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. . . . the multitudes of heaven worship you (Nehemiah 9:6).

Scripture: Nehemiah 9:5-8

Song: “He’s Everything to Me”

Our solar system has eight planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto was demoted from the list to dwarf planet status in 2006. Poor Pluto. The Kepler Space Telescope recently helped discover another planet, bringing the number of identified small worlds potentially suitable for life to 12.

Nearly 2,000 exoplanets that orbit stars other than the sun have been discovered since 1988. With 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, astronomers estimate there could be as many as 11 billion habitable earth-size planets in our solar system. It is estimated that there are one hundred billion galaxies in the universe. Wow!

The God who made all of these planets knew Abraham by name. He chose him to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and promised to give him a land, a people, and a blessing.

The God who made the heavens and the earth knows you by name too. That God seeks to establish a relationship with you. He wants to lead you and use you to accomplish His work.

So the next time you look up and see the stars, ponder the won-der of the God who made the heavens, the God who knows you by name and calls you to join His mission plan.

Lord, the heavens remind me of You, not just because I see Your handiwork in the midst of the darkness, but because of its infinitude. I cannot comprehend its vastness, nor can I cannot comprehend the vastness of Your love and mercy. In Christ, amen.

October 23

By | 365 Devotions

The Rewards of Worship

“Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting” (Nehemiah 9:5).

Scripture: Nehemiah 9:1-5

Song: “Time Now to Gather”

A man once said that his parents drugged him when he was a boy. They drug him to Sunday school and to church on Sunday morning. They drug him back to church on Sunday night and to church at midweek. They drug him to church whenever the church doors were opened.

We may smile, but today church attendance has been replaced by sports events, trips, and work. It’s not that these are bad things, but when they become replacements for worshipping with other believers, how will families learn to “stand up and praise the Lord”?

The Israelites gathered in the same place on the same day of each October and repeated the same rituals. They fasted, wore sackcloth, and put dust on their heads as a sign of grief. They read from the Law, confessed their sins, and worshipped for hours.

God doesn’t reward us just because we have an unbroken record of worship, nor is God interested in our developing a legalistic religion where we feel compelled to attend every event sponsored by the church. However, there are great rewards awaiting those who humble themselves before God and worship Him with other gathered believers who have a habit of doing so.

God, thanks for the opportunity to gather with others each week in praise of Your greatness. I freely express my love, my needs, and my thanksgiving. In Christ, amen.

October 23–29. Michael Helms, author of four books, is senior minister in Jefferson, Georgia. He and his wife, Tina, have two sons, John and Ryan, and a daughter-in-law, Alyssa.

October 22

By | 365 Devotions

The Loving Disciplinarian

I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands (2 Samuel 7:14).

Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:1-6, 8-10, 12-16

Song: “Just as I Am”

Many states define parental abuse in language similar to this: “Parents . . . can use reasonable and appropriate physical force, if it is reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain or promote the welfare of the child.” There are many countries in Europe that prohibit the spanking of children altogether, whether at home or at school.

Beatings with rods and flogging wouldn’t meet the definition of “reasonable physical force,” of course; that crosses the line! Yet there were times when I, as a parent, had problems finding that line—and I know I’m not alone.

If any court were to judge God as to whether He is a loving father based on the verses above, He would be found guilty of unconditional love toward His children. Yes, what God told David holds true today: He loves us as our Father; we are His children. The next verse adds that He will never, ever take His love away from us.

But when we stray, He will discipline us; that, also, is an out-flowing of His love. He knows exactly what kind of discipline, the timing and the amount, that is “reasonable and appropriate.” With such a Father, how can we not want to love Him back?

O God my Father, I thank You that You love me enough to set boundaries for me. Forgive my sin, and lead me in the way of righteousness. When Your discipline seems greater than I can bear, I cling to Your loving purposes. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

October 21

By | 365 Devotions

Learning Curve

David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers (1 Samuel 16:21).

Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:19-23

Song: “How I Love Thy Law, O Lord”

Benjamin Franklin was an inventor, scientist, and writer. He came from humble beginnings, his formal education ending at the age of 10 when he became a printer’s apprentice. At 17 he ran away to Philadelphia.

He worked as a printer until the governor of Pennsylvania sent him to England to buy a printing press—without purchase money! By the time he returned to America, he had acquired experience and wealth that allowed him to buy a newspaper company. He became the official printer for the colony and began Poor Richard’s Almanac. He also played a role in the creation of a fire department and the University of Pennsylvania and served as clerk at the state assembly.

By the time he became a leader in the Revolutionary War, Franklin was prepared to speak, write, and intercede on behalf of the fledgling nation. No wonder he was involved in the Continental Congress, sent as the American ambassador to Paris, and wrote the preamble of the Constitution of the United States.

David didn’t go straight from sheepherder to king. From the time he entered Saul’s service until God placed him on the throne, God prepared him. He will do the same for us.

Sovereign Lord, You’ve called me for a purpose, and You will bring it to pass. Wherever You lead me today, may I work with all my heart, knowing You are preparing me for the future. Forgive me when I skip ahead of Your plan! Through Christ, amen.

October 20

By | 365 Devotions

God’s Word, His Bond

Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you (Psalm 89:8).

Scripture: Psalm 89:1-15

Song: “The Lord, the Sovereign King”

At a time when so many marriages end in divorce and public officials are constantly caught in scandals, we naturally feel that faithfulness is a quality in short supply. I considered some people I might consider faithful: Billy Graham, Corrie ten Boom, Teresa of Calcutta.

Then I thought of Preacher Bill. I shared my nursing home room with Brenda, and every Wednesday and Sunday Preacher Bill came to visit her. Since my home church was 30 miles away, I asked him if he’d be my minister as well. He instantly agreed.

After Brenda died, he continued his visits, buying fruit and soft drinks and toiletry items for my use. His visits continued until earlier this year: he retired, and I moved to another home. On his last visit, I bid him a heartfelt farewell.

Only it wasn’t his last visit. He followed me to my new nursing home. He acted as my advocate with the administrator. He traveled to a sister church on Sunday, specifically to talk with the minister and leadership about me. They have taken over the visits, but Preacher Bill still keeps in touch by e-mail.

Imagine that kind of faithfulness, multiplied beyond our comprehension, and we’ll have a tiny glimpse into the faithfulness that characterizes our great and good God.

Lord, I praise You for Your might, but I don’t always recognize Your faithfulness. You are faithful to do what You promise. And because of Your great love, displayed upon the cross, I will spend eternity in Your fellowship. Thank You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 19

By | 365 Devotions

Get to It

Now begin the work, and the LORD be with you (1 Chronicles 22:16).

Scripture: 1 Chronicles 22:6-16

Song: “Work, for the Night Is Coming”

As a writer, I often accept a contract from a publisher. The devotionals I’ve written for this week are one such assignment. When I looked at David’s commission to Solomon to build the temple, I noticed parallels to my writing contracts:

  • The publishing company gave me an assignment. I received a commission from them and the Lord to do the work of writing; God gave Solomon the job of building the temple.
  • I study the assigned passages and pray for discretion and understanding before I write the devotionals, so that my words will accurately reflect God’s Word. David prayed for wisdom for his son, and more importantly for a heart committed to God.
  • When the writing becomes hard—and I doubt myself—I try not to give in to fear and discouragement. David told Solomon to be strong and courageous, not fearful and discouraged.
  • My editor provided me with everything necessary to write the devotions: Scripture passages, format, and samples. David provided all the material and workers Solomon would need to build the temple.

Not all of God’s assignments are as clear-cut as David’s commission to Solomon. But whatever work God calls me to do, I will have success only as I follow His lead.

Lord, You promise to lead me in the way I should go. Once You make Your will known, help me obey with courage. I thank You that You will provide for all my needs—financial, intellectual, and spiritual—to do the work. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 18

By | 365 Devotions

Looking Ahead

“My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the LORD should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it” (1 Chronicles 22:5).

Scripture: 1 Chronicles 22:2-5

Song: “Who Knows When Death May Overtake Me”

The doctor’s verdict: 10 years left to live, a measly 3,650 days. As those days count down, I’m striving to align my priorities with God’s. And it seems to me the Lord has given me three things to strive for: Get to know Him better, so Heaven will be but a step away from life on earth. Keep writing (whenever I ask God if it’s time to stop, He gives me new assignments). And create a legacy that’s more than my books.

I hope to shower my family with love and share my faith all during the time I have with them. David must have reached a similar point in his life. God had established him as king over Israel, given him victory over all his enemies, and blessed him with many sons. But the king’s one remaining wish—an act of gratitude—was to build a house for the “Name of the Lord my God” (v. 7).

God said no, promising that Solomon would build it instead, but David still wanted the temple to be his legacy. He couldn’t build it, but he could get everything ready: workers, supplies, silver, and gold.

Lord, You are eternal, and whatever our stage in life, we can ask You to light the path to the future. Teach me to number my days, and forgive me for the times I place my will above Yours. Shine light on my days and put courage in my heart, that I may follow the path You open before me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

October 17

By | 365 Devotions

Father God

I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him (1 Chronicles 17:13).

Scripture: 1 Chronicles 17:9-15

Song: “Children of the Heavenly Father”

Raising kids is never easy. My son was baptized into Christ when he was 7-years-old. At 12, he confirmed that decision. At 15, choosing an atheist as his best friend, he was arrested for possession of LSD.

Sadly, our family’s story isn’t unusual. But during that difficult time, God reassured me, over and over again, speaking to my heart words like these: “My heart is broken too; I love him more than you can. After all, he’s my adopted son, and I will accomplish my plan for his life.”

Now 35, Jaran is doing well, and his two older children are believers. The work God began in my grandmother’s heart has produced spiritual fruit for five generations.

When David’s sons committed grave crimes, God offered a promise. His son would succeed him, and God would establish His kingdom forever, a promise ultimately fulfilled in our Savior, Jesus Christ. They would enjoy a father/son relationship. God would never remove His love from David’s son.

I suspect that last promise meant the most to David. It did to me; I measure my son’s success by his love for the Lord. He could work any job at all, as long as he enjoys a life-long love affair with his Savior.

Father God, how thankful I am that You are also a father to everyone I care about, family and friends. Your love for them exceeds mine. Day by day, may they follow the path You have laid out for them with all their heart, soul, and mind. In Christ, amen.

October 16

By | 365 Devotions

The Day Everything Changes

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11).

Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1, 11-13

Song: “Step by Step”

I spent my youth preparing for a ministry in music and missions. I accompanied my choir, played clarinet in the all-state band, and earned a Bachelor of Sacred Music degree in college. From there, I went for a Master of Music degree.

At the end of my second semester, the professors decided I wasn’t talented enough to continue. My world changed that day. Instead, I became a teacher and a writer.

David had a day like that. He was out tending the sheep, as he had every day. He excelled at it, killing any threats to the animals. But as the youngest son, he had few prospects for any other kind of life.

Then one day the prophet Samuel arrived at his father’s front door and anointed him as Israel’s next king—even though Israel already had a king. Before long, David left home to enter Saul’s service as the first step on his road to the throne.

David accepted his change of roles with courage and faith. I can’t say I took my change day with joy, but I did seek God’s direction. Our lives may contain several days that change everything— for me, most recently, moving into a nursing home. With each change, God has gone before, preparing me for ministry.

Lord, I am so thankful that You control my days. Cleanse me of any sins and burdens that keep me from serving You wherever You lead me. Through Christ, amen.

October 16–22. Darlene Franklin, of Purcell, Oklahoma, spends much of her time writing at the crossroads of love and grace.

 

October 15

By | 365 Devotions

Not My Idol

Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold (Exodus 20:23).

Scripture: Exodus 20:18-26

Song: “The Doxology”

Jack loved his car. It wasn’t brand new, but he kept the thing spotless, inside and out. If there was a family outing, Jack would have his wife take her car—the thought of kids eating in the back seat of his spotless sedan made him nauseous.

One day while his kids were playing kickball, the ball got away and bounced on the hood of the car. He started screaming at his youngsters and ran over to inspect the damage. When Jack found no trace of harm and saw his kids sobbing, he came to an awful realization: His car had become an idol.

The Old Testament prohibition against idolatry was repeated over and over to the Israelites. Even so, they frequently succumbed to the seduction of pagan gods who supposedly controlled the rains, the ability to conceive, and even success in the marketplace. It wasn’t until after the Jews returned from the exile that all traces of pagan idolatry vanished from their day-to-day lives.

Have you noticed that anything good can become an idol to us? If we end up placing more security in a thing, or bank account, or a relationship—more than we do with God—we’re dealing with an idol in our lives. Then it is time to consider replacing the good with the best.

Lord, if there’s anything in my life that’s taking Your place, if I’m putting my security in anything or anyone but You; please, help me to put that thing in its proper place. Let my ultimate trust reside in You—no matter the cost. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 14

By | 365 Devotions

Vow Keeping

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and any-one who marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:32).

Scripture: Matthew 5:27-32

Song: “Take My Life and Let It Be”

Jim was sitting in his minister’s office, hoping to get a green light to divorce his wife. “Has she had an affair?” “Has she ever been violent, or threatened violence?” “Has she told you that she doesn’t want to be married anymore and plans to leave?”

Jim answered all the questions with no.

“Then your marriage covenant has not been broken by your wife, and if you marry someone else while that covenant is still intact, you’ll be committing adultery.” Jim was disappointed; there wasn’t even a shade of gray in what his minister was saying.

Back in the first century, a Jewish man could say to his wife “I divorce you” three times, hand her a certificate of divorce, and marry a “younger model” the next day. According to the Pharisees, this would close any loophole in the Law. But according to Jesus, if a man were to do this, then the original marriage covenant would still be in place.

The marriage covenant can’t be nullified by boredom, disappointment, or the absence of romantic feelings. If the marriage vows have not been broken through adultery, abuse, or abandonment, then divorce is simply not a God-honoring option.

Father, You are the one who instituted marriage. Yet within the most intimate of all human relationships, a lot can go wrong. Give me the humility to seek Your wisdom in this relationship, honoring the covenant that defines its boundaries. In Christ, amen.

October 13

By | 365 Devotions

The First Step

If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there . . . . First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23, 24).

Scripture: Matthew 5:21-26

Song: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

John’s brother was murdered by a guy named Harry during a drug deal gone bad. When John heard about it, he set out to get a gun to take care of Harry, but never found him. Years later, John and Harry ended up in the same prison. John had found Christ through a prison ministry, but struggled with forgiving his brother’s killer.

One day at lunch, Harry offered John something off his tray, and the supernatural ability to forgive hit John like a tsunami. Today, John and Harry attend the same church and talk freely about what happened between the two of them.

According to Jesus, once we become aware that someone has a legitimate issue with us, we need to go to that person and make things right. Quite often, simply owning up to what happened will make our relationship with that person even stronger.

Sometimes conflicts, especially in families, can go on for years because no one will take the first step toward reconciliation. If we are followers of Christ, then taking the initiative in conflict resolution is our responsibility. Even if we are the ones who were hurt, it’s important to get that discussion going.

Father, I know that we can’t control how other people respond, but we can be the first ones to try. As You bring memories of past conflicts to my mind, please give me the courage to take the initiative in seeking peace. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

October 12

By | 365 Devotions

The Bible’s Authority

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).

Scripture: Matthew 5:17-20

Song: “The B–I–B–L–E”

A pastoral candidate was asked by the nominating committee why he believed that the Bible was the authoritative Word of God. He replied, “In addition to affirming the claims of the biblical writers in regard to the authority of God’s Word, my primary reason for believing in this is Jesus’ high view of the Scriptures. Jesus often quoted from the Old Testament as if they were indisputably authoritative. Jesus also made it clear that the Holy Spirit would speak through the apostles. For me, there is no more compelling reason to believe in the reliability and authority of the Scriptures: I take the Bible seriously because Jesus did.” That was enough for the committee; they extended a call to the young man, and he accepted.

Yes, Jesus held a high view of the Bible, and in rising from the dead He gave His words eternal weight. While His enemies may have accused Him of tr ying to get rid of the Law, He countered by saying that He was there to fulfill it all, perfectly. To treat the Bible lightly was to invite God’s discipline upon them.

In our culture the Bible is often attacked as archaic and irrelevant. Even so, because of the testimony of Jesus, we know that all biblical principles are timeless and applicable to us, regardless of their cultural manifestation.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the authority and timelessness of Your Word—and its witness to the Living Word, my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

October 11

By | 365 Devotions

Rest in What’s True

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).

Scripture: Exodus 20:13-17

Song: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

For 10 years, Thomas refused to talk with his dad. Why? Because after his parents divorced, family members convinced Thomas that his dad didn’t care about him.

But when Thomas was about to get married, his fiancée talked him into inviting his dad to the wedding. That one act started an avalanche of revelations that convinced Thomas he’d been duped about his dad. These family members had given “false testimony” against his father—and because of that, he lost more than a decade of interacting with his father, who cared deeply about Thomas.

Throughout Scriptures, we see a myriad of examples of “false testimony” discrediting someone who had done nothing wrong. Consider Naboth, the vineyard owner—or even Jesus, during His trial. The damage caused by someone “lying under oath” cannot be overestimated. For this reason, the prohibition against lying is emphasized repeatedly in the law of Moses.

Having to face false accusations can be heartbreaking. Even so, if we focus on what is factually true and respond in appropriate ways, we can trust God to take care of the rest. Retaliation is never a God-honoring option. Simply rest in what is true.

Lord, give me the courage to confront gossip whenever I encounter it. If someone is not being represented well in his or her absence, help me to draw awareness to what’s happening. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 10

By | 365 Devotions

Mom and Dad

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).

Scripture: Exodus 20:1-12

Song: “God, Our Father, We Adore Thee”

David’s mom was bipolar. When she was depressed, she’d camp out on the couch and sleep. During these times, the TV would stay on 24 hours a day. When David’s mom was manic, she could be exceptionally cruel. Whenever he was around her, he felt as if he were walking on eggshells.

When his mom had a massive stroke, he wrestled with all the loose ends that would never be addressed. But when she passed away, the Lord seemed to comfort him, “I have held your mom responsible to the degree to which she could be held responsible. Be at peace.”

The only one of the Ten Commandments with a promise is the one to honor our parents. This was especially important for the Israelites, whose cohesiveness as a nation depended on strong family bonds. When those bonds were weak, the people of God became vulnerable.

Sometimes it’s hard to honor parents, especially if they were harsh, abusive, or negligent. Even so, we can assure ourselves that God is the one who chose our parents for us. We can honor them in the roles they served. And if forgiveness is warranted, then let us extend mercy to them. To do so is to honor not only them, but God as well.

God, thank You for the parents You gave to me. In Your sovereign plan, Mom and Dad are the ones You chose for me. I honor You in honoring them. In Christ, amen.