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365 Devotions

November 17

By | 365 Devotions

Friendship Equity

Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, we have found him, of whom Moses . . . did write, Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:44, 45, KJV).

Scripture: John 1:43-51

Song: “Lead Me to Some Soul Today”

I still remember one crisp, perfect fall afternoon that I spent shadowing my grandfather around his little Midwestern hometown on errands. As we walked toward home, I mentioned that he had forgotten to pay for the phonograph needle at the stereo store, and my grandmother’s medicine at the doctor’s office, nor had they remembered to charge him. When he told me that neither he nor they had forgotten, and that he would settle up later, I began to understand that the nearly 50 years of trust and credibility he had built up in town was worth more than anything in a wallet.

In John’s account, Jesus called Andrew, and then Andrew brought Simon Peter. Next, Jesus called Philip, and planned to add Nathanael to the group. Notice that Peter shared Philip’s hometown. Peter was outgoing, never suffered from shyness and would one day preach at Pentecost. Surely, Peter seems a natural choice to have persuaded Nathanael, but God used Philip instead. Philip’s friendship with Nathanael may have built up an “equity” of trust and credibility that Peter could not match. Perhaps there are people in our lives who need to meet our Jesus. Though others may seem more qualified to make the introduction, we may have built up a friendship equity that no one else can touch. And friendship, after all, cares nothing for qualifications.

Father, please show me the souls that I am uniquely positioned to reach. In my Savior’s name, amen.

November 16

By | 365 Devotions

Lock, Stock and Barrel

Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed . . . of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always (Deuteronomy 14:22, 23, KJV).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 14:22-29

Song: “Give of Your Best to the Master”

One reality show featured buyers attempting to win auctions of entire defaulted storage units. Without stepping past the opened rollup doors, they were given just five minutes to view the contents of each unit, and to decide on their bids. Winning bidders became the proud (or not so proud) owners of everything contained in their storage units, whether good, bad, ugly or truly weird. One storage unit purchased for just $3,600 contained paintings which later sold for $300,

000! But whether a unit contained trash, treasure, or something in between, one thing was certain: it all belonged exclusively to the buyer.

The Lord required the Israelites to give back to Him a tithe, (or tenth) of all their substance, so that they would learn to respect the Lord deeply and acknowledge His authority in their lives. In 1 Peter 1:18, 19 (KJV) God reminds believers that we have been “redeemed,” (bought back by God) “with the precious blood of Christ.” As His purchased possession, all that we have and all that we are rightfully belongs to Him. In returning to Him a portion of our time, talent, and treasure, we acknowledge His claim on our lives, submitting completely to His authority.

Father, I know that my giving isn’t a question of Your need, but of Your lordship in my life. Please help me to withhold nothing from You. In my Savior’s name, amen.

November 15

By | 365 Devotions

Why Wait?

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).

Scripture: Isaiah 40:27-31

Song: “Wings as Eagles”

There’s something majestic about eagles, as they glide, wheel and soar high above the earth. In flapping flight, they use tremendous amounts of energy. But God has given eagles the ability to soar almost effortlessly for hours on thermal air currents. They are borne aloft to altitudes they could never reach in their own strength, and then glide until they find another thermal and soar upward again. When the strong but invisible currents on which they depend are not present—on cool, windless mornings, for example—eagles usually content themselves with a high perch, waiting for the unseen forces to stir again.

Today’s verse speaks of lifting up, sustaining and renewing strength, but hangs all that upon something many people find difficult: waiting. We simply hate to wait! But if we are to “mount up with wings as eagles,” if we would rise above those things that oppress and keep us down in our daily lives, waiting on God is an imperative. When we get ahead of God, we go on our own, forgoing His strength even as our stamina is quickly depleted, and see disappointing results. We need not only God’s will, in God’s way, but also in God’s time. And though He may seem slow to us, He’s never late!

Lord, please develop in me the patience to wait for You, rather than relying on my own strength. In Your name, amen.

November 14

By | 365 Devotions

Why Wait?

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).

Scripture: Isaiah 40:27-31

Song: “Wings as Eagles”

There’s something majestic about eagles, as they glide, wheel and soar high above the earth. In flapping flight, they use tremendous amounts of energy. But God has given eagles the ability to soar almost effortlessly for hours on thermal air currents. They are borne aloft to altitudes they could never reach in their own strength, and then glide until they find another thermal and soar upward again. When the strong but invisible currents on which they depend are not present—on cool, windless mornings, for example—eagles usually content themselves with a high perch, waiting for the unseen forces to stir again.

Today’s verse speaks of lifting up, sustaining and renewing strength, but hangs all that upon something many people find difficult: waiting. We simply hate to wait! But if we are to “mount up with wings as eagles,” if we would rise above those things that oppress and keep us down in our daily lives, waiting on God is an imperative. When we get ahead of God, we go on our own, forgoing His strength even as our stamina is quickly depleted, and see disappointing results. We need not only God’s will, in God’s way, but also in God’s time. And though He may seem slow to us, He’s never late!

Lord, please develop in me the patience to wait for You, rather than relying on my own strength. In Your name, amen.

November 13

By | 365 Devotions

Meekness Isn’t Weakness

[Elijah] requested for himself that he might die . . . And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat (1 Kings 19:4, 5, KJV).

Scripture: 1 Kings 19:3-9

Song: “I Would Be Like Jesus”

Deeply influenced by his Christian mother and upbringing, Desmond Doss grew up believing in non-violence, but after the bombing of Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the United States Army. Doss wanted to be a combat medic, saving lives rather than taking them and refused to pick up a weapon even in training. He asked and was granted permission to face the dangers of battle without any weapon to defend himself. During the Battle of Okinawa, he remained in an exposed area while the rest of his unit retreated to safety. Working alone under enemy fire, he personally saved the lives of 75 men, for which he was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for extreme valor. Courageous yet peaceable, Doss exemplified the gentle warrior.

Running for his life from Queen Jezebel, a fearful Elijah showed signs of depression, but notice how very gently Almighty God treated him. Providing for his needs, the Lord would speak quietly, comforting His prophet and encouraging him to go on. Though Exodus 15:3 calls the Lord “a man of war,” Israel’s great warrior, King David, also said of God: “thy gentleness hath made me great” (2 Samuel 22:36, KJV). Meekness is not weakness, and the Lord is a gentle role model worthy of our emulation.

Father, the better I come to know You, the easier it is to trust You. Please, make me patient, gentle and kind as You are. In Jesus’ name, amen.

November 12

By | 365 Devotions

No Experience Necessary

And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD . . . the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I (1 Samuel 3:3, 4, KJV).

Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1-9

Song: “I’ll Say Yes, Lord, Yes”

While sharing a meal with an Amish family, a Christian writer learned their unique method of selecting a pastor. In that region, few Amish were educated past the eighth grade; those with formal Bible training were fewer yet. Congregations voted for any men who showed potential to pastor. Anyone receiving three or more votes was then asked to sit randomly at a table. Each man had a hymnbook in front of him; one hymnbook contained a card identifying that man as the pastor for the coming year. The dinner guest asked what would happen if the person selected didn’t feel qualified. His host answered that if he did feel qualified, they wouldn’t want him!

When God called Samuel, he was just a young child with little training. But Samuel answered God’s call. And though Samuel initially feared the task, he obeyed and God used him mightily all his life. Throughout the Bible, people expressed their sense of inadequacy for undertaking a great work for God. Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Peter, and Paul all acutely felt their own weakness, but each submitted to God’s calling and discovered that His strength really is made perfect in weakness. God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

Heavenly Father, please help me to trust that I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. In the name of my Savior, amen.

November 12-18.Neil Bowers lives with his family in San Diego, California, and enjoys children’s ministries, preaching and wood carving.

November 11

By | 365 Devotions

A Different Voice

He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him (Genesis 27:22).

Scripture: Genesis 27:5-10, 18, 19, 21-29

Song: “Lord, Speak to Me”

A number of years ago I bought a commentary on Ephesians. I would read my Bible and then quickly read the commentary for the same verses. But then I would go back and read the Scripture again carefully and prayerfully reflect on the Scripture. It was in rereading my Bible and seeking God on His message for me in that text that it came increasingly clear that something was just not right with the commentary. Like Isaac, I felt something was wrong so I pressed further. I did some research on the author and found out that he did not believe in miracles, the deity of Christ, or in the resurrection. Since I did not want anyone else to be deceived with the book, I threw away that commentary.

The Bereans were commended for searching the Scriptures to verify the truth and we still have that responsibility today. Search the Scriptures and ask questions. God’s truth stands up to honest and careful examinations; a lie never can.

Lord, open my eyes and ears to Your instruction in Scripture that I might not be deceived by the lies surrounding me in culture. In Your name, amen.

November 10

By | 365 Devotions

The Unexpected

May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples (Genesis 28:3).

Scripture: Genesis 27:46–28:5

Song: “There Shall be Showers of Blessings”

The lava flow in Craters of the Moon National Monument in Central Idaho usually seems like a 60 mile long black, barren field. There is not much vegetation other than a few gnarled trees and some sage brush. But in the spring, when there is still snow in the sheltered areas, wild flowers bloom in a brief but dazzling show of color against the black backdrop. The display is stunning and very much unexpected in such a barren place.

Isaac’s family had become dark and barren because of Esau’s decision to marry Hittites (see Genesis 26:34, 35) and Jacob’s deception. Yet even in the barren and sorrowful consequences when Jacob fled from his brother’s wrath, we read Isaac’s unexpected blessing—a blessing that reflected God’s promise to Abraham, the blessing that truly mattered.

We can look for God’s blessing on us even in the barren places of our lives. And we can also ask God to show us how we can bless others, in His name, when they might be in similar situations.

Father, open my eyes to Your wonderful blessings for me and all who follow in Your way. In Christ’s name, amen.

November 9

By | 365 Devotions

Disappointment

When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” (Genesis 27:34).

Scripture: Genesis 27:30-40

Song: “Onward Christian Soldiers”

After William Wilberforce became a believer he spent the rest of his life seeking to abolish England’s involvement in the slave trade which was more than just a profitable business; people thought that the entire British economy depended on it.

Opposition to Wilberforce was fierce and threats were made against his life. Since he was an evangelical, high society ridiculed his devotion to Christ. To complicate matters he was frail with severe health issues and poor eye sight. At times it seemed he would die before his bill would pass.

Eleven times he introduced legislation to abolish the slave trade and eleven times he was defeated. How often he must have cried out in anguish. But unlike Esau who was seeking his own blessing, Wilberforce was crying out to God for the sake of others. His cries of anguish were for those who had no one to call on for help; no one to defend them. So in spite of the overwhelming odds against him, Wilberforce continued to press on in the strength of the Almighty until finally in 1807 the bill to end the slave trade passed by an overwhelming majority.

It is easy to cry out like Esau but Jesus calls us to a higher blessing— the blessing of joining His suffering so others might have life.

Lord, lift my eyes off of myself so I can follow Your call for the sake of others. In Your name, amen.

November 8

By | 365 Devotions

Deception

Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you (Genesis 27:8).

Scripture: Genesis 27:5-17

Song: “I Would Be True”

Here in eastern Idaho we have access to some of the best fly fishing rivers in the world. There is the Henry’s Fork with it massive rainbows and the South Fork of the Snake River with its native cutthroat trout. Just a little farther north is Yellowstone National Park with the Madison River and some great backcountry streams.

Fly fishing is built on one premise—deception. We present an artificial fly that is intended to look like a real insect. Early in the season the deception generally works but after a few weeks of heavy fishing the trout get wise and very selective. The slightest discrepancy in how the artificial fly looks or acts on the water will spook the trout. The deception must be flawless.

Deception is used in sports. Is the pitcher going to throw a fastball or curve; will the quarterback hand the ball off or throw a pass? In some instances deception can be fun and challenging but at other times it can cause tremendous strife and even destroy a family’s relationship.

Jacob and Rebekah went to great effort to deceive Isaac: the food, the clothes, and the goatskin. It all worked perfectly and Jacob got the blessing but at what cost? He would need to flee from his brother’s wrath and Rebekah would never see her favorite son again. Deception is fine for fishing but will only bring destruction when we seek to deceive others.

Heavenly Father, help me to be true to those around me knowing that You are my ultimate blessing. In the name of Your Son, amen.

November 7

By | 365 Devotions

Growing Old

Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death” (Genesis 27:2).

Scripture: Genesis 27:1-4

Song: “I Love to Tell the Story”

I recently celebrated my 70th birthday. How did this happen? I don’t remember growing old. I look in the mirror and see a gray-haired man looking back; the ground seems further down than it used to be. When I was young I did not think much about growing old. That too is different now. Dad was the first male in our family to reach 80 and died just short of his 90th birthday. So if the Lord wills, I have maybe 10 to 20 years left. But like Isaac, I don’t know how long I have. But I do know that I am not dead yet. And also like Isaac, I know there are still things to do. So like Isaac, I remind myself that each day is time that is not to be wasted. There are blessings to be pronounced and a legacy to pass on. There is still life to be lived meaningfully for others and for God. I have a wife, sons, daughters-in-laws, grandchildren and if the Lord wills, great-grandchildren that I want to pronounce blessings over and tell about the love of Christ.

Father, You have numbered my days. Help me to use every day that You have given me for Your glory. In Christ’s name, amen.

November 6

By | 365 Devotions

The Glory of Suffering

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:18-25

Song: “The Old Rugged Cross”

I enjoy reading biographies of the giants of the Christian faith and in every case I find some type of suffering or severe testing. There have been martyrs in every age since Christ; from Peter and Paul to people such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hung in 1945 for his opposition to Hitler. But there have been others who have suffered tremendously without dying a martyr’s death. Ministers and missionaries suffered numerous illnesses and some buried wives and children in foreign lands. Yet through their tears they praised and worshipped God.

No one likes to suffer. Yet for the Christian in the midst of suffering is grace from God that not only draws us closer to God but is the means by which He transforms us into more of the image of Jesus. Our verse says that Christ is our “example” and so we “follow in his steps.” We follow Jesus in everything and every way whether the crowds around us are shouting praise to God or they are shouting animosity toward all who call themselves by His name.

Lord Jesus, I don’t like the idea of suffering but suffering and testing is what You use to draw me closer to You. Strengthen me to Your service. In Your name, I pray, amen.

November 5

By | 365 Devotions

Seeking

Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob (Psalm 24:6).

Scripture: Psalm 24:1-6

Song: “Take My Life, and Let It Be“

Narrow gauge railroads once wound through the canons and mountain passes of the Rockies to remote mining camps. While today cars travel where many trains once ran, wooden trestles are gone and most of the tunnels have been abandoned. But railroad enthusiasts still look for vestiges and relics of the trains and this bygone era. Today, for example, in an area now covered with trees a person with a searching eye can see a former railroad bed partly washed away by time, wind, and water. Is that the remains of some old miner’s cabin a hundred feet from the train track?

Jesus spoke of seeking God’s kingdom as if a buried treasure in a field and a pearl of great price. The vast railroad dynasties of yesterday are now but a memory but the treasure that is ours in heaven will last forever. Men and women around the world seek fame, fortune, power, and purpose to life but the real one to seek is Jesus of Nazareth, who can meet our heart’s true desire.

Lord, I want to seek You with all my heart. Grant me the eyes to see Your glorious kingdom. In Your name, amen.

November 5–11. Steve Sperry and his wife Jan, originally from Colorado, now live in Idaho near their children and grandchildren. Steve enjoys explores Idaho’s many fishing locations.

November 4

By | 365 Devotions

The Peacemaker’s Peace

This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 25:19).

Scripture: Genesis 25:19-34

Song: “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”

Years ago a minister compiled a list of the descendants of Jonathan Edwards to show an extensive progeny of hundreds of people who held impressive titles and important positions. But, the list has one flaw: it focuses on careers, not character. For example, the Vice President was Edwards’ headstrong grandson, Aaron Burr.

By way of contrast, Isaac, a peacemaker who could wait for God to provide a well, led a household which could wait for nothing. His wife conspired to advance one son over the other; and one brother took advantage of the other in a moment of desperation, to persuade him to trade his future for a bowl of soup. And yet, from among a generation of grandchildren hard-wired for anger, there emerged a peacemaker who saved his whole family.

From Isaac and his family we learn that being a peacemaker is not the natural bent of the human heart. Troubled man is always ready for war with troubled men. That means being a person of authentic peace is a gift from God. Our advantage over Isaac is that we know that a peacemaker’s peace comes through faith in Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives” (John 14:27). The heart at peace in Christ has the tools for being at peace with others.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your plan to display peace through me. In Jesus’ name I ask You to help me to represent You well. Amen.

November 3

By | 365 Devotions

Who Put That There?

[Ishmael’s descendants] lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them (Genesis 25:18).

Scripture: Genesis 21:8-13; 25:17, 18

Song: “Find Us Faithful”

There is an old song about a petunia in an onion patch wondering how it got there. I often remember that song when I think about Jacob’s eleventh son.

As a child, Joseph was surrounded by cousins, an uncle, and even great-uncle Ishmael himself, who were steeped in bitterness. He also lived with 10 brothers who hated him. How, then, did this boy stumble out of the swampland of family feuds as a godly youth. Far from being a petunia among onions, he was a rose and he flourished!

God’s grace seldom falls from the sky in a glob of faith. He uses means. He connects dots in the process of drawing people to faith and the story of forming Jesus’ character in their souls.

So, with regard to Joseph, it is chronologically possible that, in his childhood, he may have had opportunities to talk with his grandpa Isaac. It is also possible those visits included grandpa’s struggles with the Ammonites, and even earlier events where grandpa totally depended on God.

We can be “talk-to” people. By personally depending on God we gain experience with God and His faithfulness that become stories we can tell for all who will listen.

Heavenly Father, thank You for godly people to show us Your way. May we be among them. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

November 2

By | 365 Devotions

Well Managed Success

Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully (Genesis 26:31).

Scripture: Genesis 26:28-33

Song: “Make Me a Blessing”

The British philosopher and historian, Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), wrote, “Nothing fails like success when you rely on it too much.”

My father-in-law remembered a time when Fuller’s teasel was cultivated and sold to fiber processors who used its spine-covered pod to card wool. One year they held back their deliveries to force processors to pay higher prices. The strategy worked—once. By the next year, however, carding machines made teasels unnecessary.

Because Isaac knew how to be a man of peace, he had been able to work around contentious issues. As a result he became a man of wealth and power. He even secured land and settled down— becoming a planter as well as a manager of livestock.

Then came an opportunity to flex his muscle. The Ammonites acknowledged the hand of the Lord on Isaac’s life and asked for a peace treaty. However, other than to remind them they had “hated him” earlier, Isaac prepared a banquet, showed generous hospitality, made an oath with them, and “they went away peacefully.”

A peace maker, governed by a spirit of holiness in his walk with God, will use blessings from God in ways that give others the opportunity to be at peace. As a general principle, Scripture states, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7, KJV).

Heavenly Father, thank You for successes in our lives. Teach us to use them to show the way of peace to others. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

November 1

By | 365 Devotions

Troubled by Being Troubled?

Wait for your God always (Hosea 12:6).

Scripture: Hosea 12:2-6

Song: “Does Jesus Care?”

In Bunyan’s allegory, The Holy War, he wrote about a castle called Mansoul, built for Prince Emmanuel. It had five gates such as Eye Gate and Ear Gate. And, it was populated with characters such as Will, Innocence, and Conviction. The story traces the castle’s citizens through rebellion against the Prince, rescue by the Prince, relapsed fellowship with the Prince, and restoration to the Prince.

In the “relapse,” Mansoulians became self-absorbed until they discovered the Prince could not be found. Lacking peace, they became deeply troubled until the High Secretary of the Prince helped them compose a letter of repentance. Then they waited.

Waiting for God to restore lost peace is difficult even when sin is not the culprit. The loss can be as innocent and simple as an unexplainable inner sense of disquiet. The difficulty is, whether waiting for the mist to lift or for the truth of forgiveness to sink in, being troubled naturally leads to worry, and worry can lead to the sinful conclusion that God does not care.

Jesus dealt with troubled feelings (see John 11:33; 12:27; 13:21). He also demonstrated His power to resist worry by focusing on what the Father wanted Him to do (Hebrews 12:2). He demonstrated that the basic game plan in troubled times is to keep focused on the truth that God does care (1 Peter 5:7).

Faithful God, thank You for the clear testimony that You care. Whether I’m troubled or not, help me to keep that truth in focus. In Jesus’ name. Amen

October 31

By | 365 Devotions

The Banker’s Bogus Virtue

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy (Hebrews 12:14).

Scripture: Hebrews 12:14-17

Song: “More Holiness Give Me”

It was a normal day at the bank until doors opened and a team of men and women spread through every department. For the final hours of the day they observed every station; and at day’s end they locked everything away and sealed every door and drawer. The reason? A vice president of the bank was about to be arrested for embezzlement. The bizarre feature of the crime was his objective: he gave all the money to charities.

Charity is a virtue. That is a good thing. Scripture directs us to cultivate it and other virtues such as peacemaking. Isaac was a peacemaker who understood that, in his case, wells were not worth fighting for in his search for a place. But, with all virtues there is this matter of holiness. Like the banker’s “charity,” peacemaking can be kidnapped by the dark side. Being an authentic peacemaker does not make a person holy. Rather, it is the result of it.

That is important to understand, because holiness can sometimes disturb peace. The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:15, 16, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

Heavenly Father, thank You for grace to live a life which can bring peace in my relationships; but help me not to love peace so much that I dishonor Jesus to keep it. In my Savior’s name I pray. Amen.

October 30

By | 365 Devotions

The Impact of a Forgiving Face

To see your face is like seeing the face of God (Genesis 33:10).

Scripture:Genesis 33:4-11

Song: “Depth of Mercy”

Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, had finished a message to a German congregation. Afterward she faced one of the guards from Ravensbrük where she had been abused and where her father and sister had died. The man confessed his role in her suffering and explained that he had become a Christian. Then he held out his hand and asked forgiveness. We have Corrie’s record of the thoughts and emotions she felt at that moment; but, as far as I know, there is no record of the former guard’s thoughts and emotions. Perhaps we gain an insight from Jacob.

Having cheated Esau, his brother, out of the family inheritance and stolen from him the paternal blessing, he fled for his life. Years later, having come to terms with God and found mercy, he prepared for a rendezvous with his brother and a small army. The unexpected result was Esau’s eager welcome and unconditional forgiveness.

The guard’s response may have been similar to the thoughts of Jacob: “To see your face is like seeing the face of God.”

If you have ever dreaded revenge from someone for something you did and have found, instead, welcome and forgiveness, you know something of the face of the forgiving God. For all of us in Christ, whether or not we have had some such face-of-God experience, we do have opportunities to show His face to others.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your forgiveness. Help me to show Your face to others when I forgive. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 29

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Finding Our Place

Now the LORD has given us room (Genesis 26:22).

Scripture: Genesis 26:6-22

Song: “This World Is Not My Home”

When 9-year-old Jessee and his 12-year-old brother, Josh, stopped coming to a youth boxing gym, Detective Jack Mook grew concerned. What he found were two abused boys. What he did was take responsibility for them, give them a place to call “home,” and adopt them.

We all long for a place. It can be as major as a house and a family or as simple as a chair among friends. Many have neither. Homelessness is rampant, the number of at-risk children is growing. Even among people who seem to have their niche there is a gnawing sense of not belonging. Christians are not insulated from the crises, rejections, and abuses which create homelessness. When people feel adrift, desperation can lead to conflict.

Isaac, a man in a covenant relationship with God, was a pilgrim in a hostile culture and he understood the wisdom of becoming known as a man of peace in his quest for a place.

Faith in Christ makes us pilgrims in our world (1 Peter 2:11). Although we are a people of peace, God may or may not provide a place where we feel we belong or are wanted. For all of us it is essential that we trust Jesus’ promise that He is preparing a better and lasting place for us (John 14:1-3).

Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus, who has made room for me and who is preparing a place for me to be with Him. In Christ’s name, amen.

October 29–November 12. Harold Comings is a retired Senior Minister who lives with his wife, Judy, in Florida.

October 28

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Answered Prayer for a Spouse

And Isaac brought her into his mother’s Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death (Genesis 24:67, KJV).

Scripture: Genesis 24:12-21, 61-67

Song: “Trust and Obey”

Famed missionary Jim Elliot wrestled during his college years—but not only against competitors on a mat. Jim struggled to know if he should marry or remain single. Rather than follow his own reasoning, he committed the matter to God, writing, “The Lord knows how I surrendered this ‘love-life’ business to Him long ago.” Eventually, the Lord led him to marry Elisabeth, a woman so committed to Christ she continued Jim’s mission work to the Auca Indians of Ecuador even after Jim was killed by them. Because Jim left his marriage decision in God’s hands, many souls were eventually won for the Lord.

This story of Isaac and Rebekah has such a happy ending for one reason: everyone involved yielded to God’s will. Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s direction. Rebekah obeyed God’s calling to marry Isaac sight-unseen. Rebekah’s family submitted to God’s providence and let her go. And Isaac waited for God’s best. God’s will done. God’s way resulted in God’s blessing.

Our culture tells us to “follow our hearts” rather than the Lord’s leading regarding relationships. Rather than succumb to the culture, Christians are to be shining examples of God’s plan for relationships. As we follow His direction, we will both find personal contentment and also encourage others to follow His will.

Dear Father, help us to leave the decisions of our lives up to You. Help us to remember that Your plans are always best. In Christ’s name, amen.

October 27

By | 365 Devotions

Celebrating Marriage

And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them (Genesis 24:60, KJV).

Scripture: Genesis 24:54-60

Song: “Thanks to God”

Weddings are times for splurging, but even the most indulgent bride’s parents would gasp at a $48,000,000 price tag for a nuptial. But that was exactly what the most expensive wedding in history—that of Prince Charles to Lady Diana in 1981—cost. With 3,500 wedding guests, 27 wedding cakes, and global television coverage for an estimated audience of 750 million, the Royal Family went all-out to celebrate.

After Abraham’s servant received the blessing for Rebekah to wed Isaac, he gave expensive gifts to the family members, and they all celebrated with a meal. It was a joyous occasion—not only because of the upcoming wedding but because the arrangement was of the Lord. Upon Rebekah’s leaving, her family blessed her and wished her the best in life.

For believers, marriage is a time of celebrating the Lord’s joining of a man and woman together and establishing a new family. It is also a picture of that great joining together of Christ and His Church that is to come. Someday all of God’s people will celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb.

Dear Lord, thank You for the special times of celebration You give us in this life. Help us to remember that every joy in life comes from Your hand. In Your name, amen.

October 26

By | 365 Devotions

Letting Go

Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken (Genesis 24:51, KJV).

Scripture: Genesis 24:45-51

Song: “Sweet Will of God”

Most parents understand there is a time to let their children go—but not Ben’s. Long after Ben had grown up and had left home for college, his mother would insist on still tucking him in to bed on his occasional visits home. If Ben disliked being tucked in as an adult, there was one person who liked it less: Ben’s wife!

The Lord had clearly shown Abraham’s servant that Rebekah was His choice to be Isaac’s wife. As the servant rehearsed the story of his prayer and God’s immediate answer, Rebekah’s family members could not help but see God’s providence at work. Rather than trying to keep Rebekah at home, both Rebekah’s father and brother gave their blessing for Rebekah to go.

Parents who love their children certainly find it difficult to let go of their children as they reach adulthood. As the dad of two teenage daughters, I find myself wishing that time with my girls would not go so fast. Yet if our children’s lives are committed to God’s care, at the right time we can let them go, knowing God’s providential hand is at work.

Heavenly Father, help us to submit to Your will for our lives. Help us to remember that Your will is always best. In Your Son’s name, amen.

October 25

By | 365 Devotions

Tough Mission, Much Prayer

And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day and show kindness unto my master Abraham (Genesis 24:12, KJV).

Scripture: Genesis 24:1-14

Tough Song: “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”

During World War II, pilot Robert Scott was given a difficult assignment to help evacuate Allied troops trapped in Japanese-controlled territory. Weathering fierce storms and evading enemy fighter planes, Scott helped rescue thousands. Later, he joined the legendary Flying Tigers, completing one-man air-missions to thwart enemy troop movements. But Scott realized he couldn’t complete these missions alone— hence the name of his later-published book: God Is My Co-Pilot.

Abraham gave his servant the difficult mission of finding a bride for Isaac in a far-away land. This assignment intimidated the servant. After all, Isaac was the chief’s son, and the servant had to both find a suitable girl and persuade her to leave home and marry a stranger. Yet God was with him and, upon arriving, the servant did not turn to his own wisdom, discretion, or experience—he turned to prayer, asking for the Lord’s guidance. While still praying, the Lord brought Rebekah right to him.

As believers, Christ often gives us assignments that are difficult—and sometimes seemingly impossible. Thankfully, in those intimidating times, we do not have to turn to our own knowledge, charisma, or talents. We simply need to seek God’s guidance and wait for Him to work.

Dear Lord, help us seek Your help with every assignment we are given in this life. Help us to trust Your guiding hand. In Your name, amen.

October 24

By | 365 Devotions

Falling in Love

And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept (Genesis 29:11, KJV).

Scripture: Genesis 29:1-14

Song: “O Perfect Love”

Love at first sight is not a new concept—Adoniram Judson is proof. When the famous missionary to Burma had dinner at Mr. Hasseltine’s house in 1810, he was so struck by seeing Hasseltine’s beautiful and gracious daughter, Ann, that he spontaneously (but silently) began composing a poem praising her—while still at the dinner table! They were soon married and serving the Lord together on the mission field.

Jacob was sent to the East for two reasons: to escape Esau’s wrath and to find himself a wife. Most likely, he didn’t expect to find true love his first day there. Yet Jacob appears quite love-struck upon meeting Rachel, going as far as single-handedly rolling the stone from the well for her in a seeming show of bravado. In time, the two would be married, and Rachel would remain the love of his life.

Proverbs 30:18, 19 speaks of falling in love as one of the things in life too wonderful to understand. It surely is a mystery how the heart of a man and a woman can be knit together as one. God does this as part of His plan for the family, and it is an especially beautiful experience.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your gift of love that begins a family. Help us to remember that love is from You. In Your Son’s name, amen.

October 23

By | 365 Devotions

Onward, Not Inward

But let it be the hidden man of the heart (1 Peter 3:4, KJV).

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:1-9

Song: “I Want a Principle Within”

Although Isaac Watts became well-known for his good hymn writing, he was never known for his good looks. Watts, frail and thin, stood only five-feet tall and had an over-sized head. In fact, when Watts made his only proposal for marriage, the woman refused, stating, “Mr. Watts, I only wish I could admire the [jewelry box] as much as I admire the jewel.” Due to the woman’s fixation on appearance, Watts remained a life-long bachelor.

Peter wrote to believers with guidelines for Christian living. He reminded the believing wives not to place excess value on appearance—hairstyles, jewelry, or clothes—but to value what God values—a holy lifestyle, a right heart, and a meek and quiet spirit. Likewise, Peter urged husbands to honor their wives and to view them as co-laborers in God’s work. He pointed to the example of Abraham and Sarah, who served God together and were greatly used in His plan.

Today, the world wants us to believe that wealth, appearance, and influence are important. However, what the Lord values is far different. When we learn to value what He values and to follow His guidelines, we will find ourselves as prime candidates for His service.

Father, please help us remember that what is most important in life is a heart dedicated to You. In Christ’s name, amen.

October 22

By | 365 Devotions

God’s Recipe for a Happy Home

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21, KJV).

Scripture: Ephesians 5:21-33

Song: “Happy the Home When God Is There”

When legendary symphony conductor Leonard Bernstein was asked which instrument was hardest to play, his answer was surprising: “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

Bernstein’s point is clear: every orchestra instrument, even those seeming to be less prominent, is important.

Paul pressed this same point to the Ephesian believers when he wrote about the family. God’s recipe for a happy family includes both husbands and wives fulfilling their roles: wives are to follow their husbands’ lead, and husbands are to lead with love. This divine arrangement gives harmony and order to the home. Paul added that marriage is really a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church: the church should follow Christ’s lead as Christ leads His people in love.

Modern society is often critical of God’s plan for the family. However, the role of “second fiddle” is not intended to exalt one spouse and degrade the other but to give completeness to the home. When we follow God’s guidelines, we will find our family is in complete harmony.

Dear Lord, help us trust Your plan for all our family members. Guide us to serve You together. In Your name, amen.

October 22-28. David Madsen teaches English at a Christian college and enjoys serving in his local church with his wife and four daughters.

October 21

By | 365 Devotions

Worn Out Old Bones

I have borne him a son in his old age (Genesis 21:7).

Scripture: Genesis 18:9-15; 21:1-7

Song: “Faith of Our Fathers”

I learned a lot in a six-month period. I started off with a new bionic hip, once recovered I had blood spitting pneumonia. Recovering again, I had a massive stroke that earned me a helicopter ride to Arizona’s only certified stroke hospital. Released after a week I thought I must be finished. Wrong! I was struck by invasive pulmonary embolisms while bathing.

Two of my attending doctors told me that I had been given a miraculous pardon from a death sentence, as death certificates were medical expectations for each diagnosis. To have three during the same period was a guaranteed death certificate.

I mention this medical miracle, because I was blank until recently. I’m glad I can give testimony of what Almighty God can do through broken down, old servants. I’m thankful, and a bit surprised, to be able to “make known among the nations what he has done” (Psalm 105:1).

As it seemed impossible for Almighty God to use Sarah’s old barren body; so it seemed impossible for Him to write through me. But, miracles are a small matter for Him. Our Lord can easily use His children to accomplish what pleases Him no matter their age or physical condition.

Father, I’m thankful for a long and interesting journey. Help me to first seek Your kingdom until I leave this broken shell. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 20

By | 365 Devotions

A Strange Hawaiian Story

The LORD appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:1).

Scripture: Genesis 18:1-8

Song: “Ring the Bells of Heaven”

The Lord can appear in many ways to His children. A few years ago, I was walking by myself at a Hawaiian resort in golden sunshine filtered through waving palm tree branches. I felt free and at peace as I breathed the graciously provided perfumed air and listened to the melodies of the happy birds.

Suddenly, I heard a voice say: “The Lord giveth and He taketh away.” I ignored the voice because I didn’t want to be disturbed from my reverie. A few steps later, I heard the same words in a much louder and firmer voice. Shocked, that got my attention so I said: “Is that You, Lord?” I felt an affirmation that staggered and dazed me.

As I walked into our condo, my wife met me at the door and said: “Honey, your mother is dying.” Frightened, I called California and asked my sister, who is a nurse, to lay her cell phone on my comatose mother’s breast and I sang the familiar song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children” to her as she smiled and went home to be with Jesus.

Mom isn’t blind in one eye anymore. She won’t fall down again and lay there afraid, alone in the dark. She’s with Jesus. I tell myself that the tears that are starting to flow down my face are tears of joy, but it’s really because I miss her.

Dear Lord, thank You that You still appear to Your children in many different ways. In Your name, amen.

October 19

By | 365 Devotions

Abraham Broke Into Laughter

Abraham laughed (Genesis 17:17).

Scripture: Genesis 17:15-22

Song: “Blessed Assurance”

Thinkers debate why Abraham laughed. Opinions include: He was happy at the coming prospect of a boy; He doubted God; He was so old he was starting to forget what God had said. Did they have Alzheimer’s back then? Whatever the answer, it’s possible that the true answer is a combination of reasons.

Seeing that Almighty God’s thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), we shouldn’t become trivial pursuit Christians. It is doubtful we will spend our time in Heaven searching for answers to every question. Our souls will be too busy praising the Lord and singing in the heavenly choir. Heaven is the joy and blessing of being with our beloved Lord and Savior.

When I recently walked through the valley of death and was free for the first time from my bodies’ sounds and demands, I was surprised by a beautiful peace that had surrounded me all along without me knowing it. I didn’t want to come back. I understood for the first time why the Lord describes His sheep as being “vapours” (James 4:14, KJV) that will disappear.

Death is nothing to be afraid of as He has conquered death (2 Timothy 1:10). The details that bother us now will be of little importance. Details and whatever we think is so important now will be gone like a fog that’s blown away. Why Abraham laughed probably won’t take up our time.

Heavenly Father, I’m looking forward to when I can be called away from the trials and tribulations of this life. Until then help me to rest in Your Word as sustaining evidence. In Your Son’s name, amen.

October 18

By | 365 Devotions

What Really Counts?

Abram believed in the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

Scripture: Genesis 15:1-6

Song: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

Abram was chosen by Almighty God to teach His children, no matter the age in which they might live. His faith took God’s words as a prophecy. If the Father said he would beget a child when he was old, then Abram’s faith was evidence it would happen (Hebrews 11:1).

Abram couldn’t predict the woman trouble he would have by making different women pregnant. He learned about women as he went along and Sarah’s murderous feelings toward Hagar took him by surprise. All he really knew was his Father knew best, no matter the situation. While a person’s life is complicated and flawed, it is ultimately defined by whether they believe God and what He has said or not.

A young boy went away to a college far from home. With a new opportunity to redefine himself and pursue his desires his own way he instead took Matthew 6:33 into his lonely heart and believed what his Lord said; “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.” He lived the next 60 years and found what Abram knew, that the Lord is trustworthy.

Abram’s faith lives in every one of God’s children that walk Abraham’s road.

Dear Father, please help me first seek Your kingdom in all my remaining days. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 17

By | 365 Devotions

Blessed with Faithful Abraham

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14).

Scripture: Galatians 3:6-9, 13, 14

Song: “Redeemed”

Before being beheaded, a converted Iraqi father had been forced to watch his son be beheaded and his head used as a soccer ball. As the father knelt waiting for the fatal blow, he was given one last chance to abandon Christ. With his final breathe he raised his head and loudly declared, “I refuse to abandon the Spirit of Christ.” He and his son were then united in glory.

Abraham’s faith is the path to becoming a new creature (2 Corinthians 15:17), but this path should never be forgotten as leading to the promise of the Spirit, who teaches the nations of the world about Christ Jesus (John 15:26, 27). Born-again believers feel weak and confused when they attempt to live without surrendering to the power of the Spirit they received at salvation (Romans 8:9).

The beauty of Jesus, when seen through the Holy Spirit’s eyes, strengthens terrified hearts and frail bodies. He allows almighty God’s children to pass through trauma that is more than a person can endure. We raise our heads knowing in a heart and soul full of faith that even this too will pass. Walking through the valley of death is a victorious experience for a soul feeling his shepherd’s touch. Hallelujah, we softly utter hallelujah as we go to our promised retirement home.

Father God, we desire to rest in Jesus who is the love of our life. In His name, amen!

October 16

By | 365 Devotions

Wild Man

And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him (Genesis 16:12, KJV).

Scripture: Genesis 16:7-16

Song: “Are You Washed in the Blood?”

Sarah had become impatient waiting on the Lord’s promise and her plan to get her maid Hagar pregnant by her husband, Abram, had worked just fine. The baby Hagar later gave birth to was named Ishmael, who was prophesized to become the “wild man” that would be the father of the Arabic people; whereas, Sarah’s son Isaac would become the father of the Jewish people. These two lines from Abram’s loins have been at war ever since.

Both lines have a spiritual ruler that works in everyone who is not born again. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Every born-again child of God has the Holy Spirit living within their soul (Romans 8:9). This blessed gift from our Father God is a gift with a dangerous responsibility as without the Spirit’s control the believer’s flesh will take over and produce a wild man (Galatians 5:16-25).

Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16, KJV).

Father, help me to walk today in Your Spirit and not the lusts of my flesh. In Jesus name, amen.

October 15

By | 365 Devotions

A Life Needs Purpose

O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people (Psalm 105:1, KJV).

Scripture: Psalm 105:1-11

Song: “I Love to Tell the Story”

Without purpose depression germinates into a nasty weed-like companion.

Retirement is an eagerly awaited day for most people. Our builder son told me he wanted to retire by forty. I told him that a permanent vacation sounds good, but I had discovered it was boring. There are just so many fine meals and resorts before depression begins to set in if a person doesn’t have a purpose for living.

A Christian is never supposed to completely retire. God’s children are to: call upon His name, talk with their Lord and shepherd, give thanks to Him and live with grateful hearts and mouths, and testify to His deeds every day in every way.

We must find what gives purpose to our lives, whether we are still working or not. A born-again believer has the Spirit of God living within, and He will be frustrated if we aren’t branch-like channels for the vine’s life. We must live out the power, love, and sound mind we were given at our second-birth birthday party: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV).

Father God, please work within my soul that I might wish to do and be able to complete what pleases You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

October 1–21. Robert (Bob) Segress is a retired licensed psychotherapist, who also served as a pastor, college professor, and upon retiring a prison minister.

October 14

By | 365 Devotions

Never Stop Following God

So Abram left, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran (Genesis 12:4).

Scripture: Genesis 11:10, 27, 31, 32; 12:1-4

Song: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

Daniel Boone kept moving. Born in Pennsylvania, his family moved to North Carolina. North Carolina became too crowded, so he blazed a new trail from North Carolina to the undeveloped land of Kentucky. Late in his life, when others his age were sick or dying, he moved out to the semi-tamed wilderness of Missouri.

At an age when most people settle down, Abram packed up his family and headed to entirely new lands. Not because of a sense of wanderlust, but an abiding faith in God. When God called Abram followed, no matter his age or circumstances.

New situations and locations present their own challenges and opportunities. When we follow God’s lead He provides and equips us to meet any challenges, growing us and transforming us in the process. We never need to fear the unknown or new challenges when we are moving in obedience to God.

God never wants us to settle. We always need to be ready to fol- low His call to the next ministry opportunity. To follow God in faith is a true adventure, but a sure one, as we are in God’s hands. Let us eagerly seek God’s call and direction.

O God in Heaven, You made us for a purpose. Let us seek Your calling and surrender our lives for You to fulfill Your purpose in us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 13

By | 365 Devotions

Looking Back and Looking Forward

For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10, KJV).

Scripture: Hebrews 11:4-12

Song: “Faith of Our Fathers”

Jonathan Edwards was both a renowned preacher and a godly man, bequeathing with his wife Sarah a Christian legacy to their 11 children. Starting from this foundation of faith, the descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards include one U.S. Vice President, three Senators, 30 judges, and over 100 each of missionaries and lawyers. This family of faith has lasted throughout many generations.

Some of us have great foundations of faith in our ancestors, while others of us may resemble Abraham, striking out to establish a new legacy of following God. In the first case, we can take what was handed to us and build on it. In the second case, we can set a foundation for our descendants.

The builder and maker of our faith is always God. Whether or not we were born into a family of faith, we can look forward to the city of faith secured for us in Christ. We do not control what foundation was bequeathed us. But all of us have a foundation built on the truth of God in Christ. We are given the opportunity to build further for future generations.

Any time is the best time to start building a family legacy of faith. We can invest in future generations, looking forward to that future day.

Dear God, You have given us all a legacy of faith, whether through our family or our church brethren. Help us stand on the shoulders of these spiritual giants and take the next steps in following You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 12

By | 365 Devotions

Milestones Are Not Destinations

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev (Genesis 12:9).

Scripture: Genesis 12:5-9

Song: “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”

The Butler University men’s basketball team was always competitive for a smaller program, but they attained a new level of success in the 1990s. They reached the NCAA tournament consistently, and even made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2003 and 2007.

But just reaching the tournament was not enough. They worked harder, developed skilled players, and playing against the biggest programs in the country, came within a basket of winning the national championship in 2010.

God called Abram to a special land far away. When he and his family left Ur, his father went to Haran, but God was leading Abram farther. Along the way, he would build altars and worship God, but these were not the destinations God had in mind. Abram kept going as far as God was leading him.

We should see progress in both ministry efforts and internal transformation of our lives when we are working as God intended. We can even meet significant milestones in our journey as markers of our success.

Our journey with God may be long, with periods of rest along the way. However, rest should never be confused with our final destination. Our pilgrimage is not so much a physical journey as a path through life as we allow God to keep working within us. We must keep following God’s leading right into His permanent Sabbath rest.

Heavenly Father, we delight in our journey with You. Lead us into times of movement and rest as needed, setting milestones by Your guidance. In Christ, amen.

October 11

By | 365 Devotions

Divided by Language, United by God

Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:9, KJV).

Scripture: Genesis 11:1-9

Song: “O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”

“I have nothing to wear.” These words, used by men and women, can convey entirely different meanings. According to the old joke, the husband means, “I have nothing clean to wear,” but the same words mean to the wife, “I have nothing new to wear.”

If we can assign different meanings to the same words, understanding each other becomes challenging. Then add potential interpretations assigned on the receiving end, and effective communication can seem impossible.

When God confused the languages at Babel, giving them different tongues to speak, communication was hopelessly confused. Mankind spread almost by default, to segregate into like-speaking groups.

Yet this apparently hopeless division was temporary. God caused the gospel to be proclaimed in many languages at Pentecost, so that each person could hear God’s message in their own language. What had been divided by human sin was united by the Spirit of God.

God uses us to enrich those around us. No special gift or ability is required. God has already gifted us to work in His Spirit. Just as the humblest plant adds value within creation, we can work within the church to bear fruit through God’s Spirit.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your Spirit who unites us even as so many things in this world can divide us. Help us to overcome language and other barriers to achieve true unity in You. In our Savior’s name, amen.

October 10

By | 365 Devotions

Growing from Small to Large

These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth (Genesis 9:19).

Scripture: Genesis 9:18, 19; 10:1-4, 6-8, 21-23

Song: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”

A common cartoon scenario is for a child to build a snowball at the top of a hill and give it a push. As it rolls down the hill, the snowball picks up snow and grows in size. It becomes a massive snow boulder catching everything in its path, including people.

Our efforts may seem small and even insignificant. We may despair at not having an impact in the world. But God is taking that effort and growing it, adding people and shaping it in ways that we never could. Our small efforts can result in huge advances of the kingdom of God, even if we are unaware of the impact.

Sometimes our efforts will be generational. We may start a ministry, only to hand it off to the next generation who then takes it to the next level. We are to practice patience when the effort goes slowly, and persevere in faith to the end.

Let us seek to do good for the kingdom of God, to work with God to build His kingdom. God will take our small efforts and use them in a mighty way. There are no small works in God’s economy.

O God in Heaven, we feel so very small in this world, especially when we focus on the tasks before us. Let us keep our eyes on You, and not be fearful, because You can use our small efforts to make everlasting impacts. In Your name we pray, amen.

October 9

By | 365 Devotions

The Promise after the Storm

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth (Genesis 9:13).

Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17

Song: “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”

While on vacation, the radar showed a bright red band of severe weather heading toward us. We returned to our rental house and prepared to ride out the storm. Although the sky was black, we dodged the severe weather and were then blessed to see a double rainbow arching over the bay.

While enjoying the view, we were reminded that rainbows are prisms reflecting the sunlight through water vapor. While we were all looking at the same rainbow, we each technically see a slightly different rainbow because we are viewing it from slightly different angles.

God made a covenant with Noah and his family, and used the rainbow as a sign of remembrance, for both God and man, of God’s promise. But this covenant, just like the rainbow, is both a community promise and an individual promise. God made this promise to all of mankind, and He personally makes the promise to each one of us.

As important as community is, we need to appropriate God’s promises personally into our lives. The rainbow is God’s personal invitation for us to join the community of believers in endless praise and thankfulness for what God has done for us in bringing us through all situations in life.

Heavenly Father, You remind us of Your mercy and everlasting love in many ways, but also frequently after a storm, when Your rainbow is in the sky. Let us always turn to You whenever we encounter storms of any kind. In Christ’s name, amen.

October 8

By | 365 Devotions

The Power of Potential

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it. (Genesis 9:7)

Scripture: Genesis 9:1-7

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

When Steve Jobs was building computers in his garage, he was not aware that he was building a global corporation delivering useful technological devices to people. He had a dream that was not yet realized. Only effort and potential existed at that stage.

When Noah and his family exited the ark, God blessed them and commanded them to multiply and spread throughout the earth. That command must have seemed a dream to the eight people alive. Yet mankind quickly grew in number, and after additional encouragement from God, spread throughout the earth.

We can sometimes feel inadequate to achieve our calling. However, we can always take comfort in knowing that whenever God calls us to a task, He equips us to succeed. We might be stretched or need to step out in faith, but God will enable us to complete His will for our lives.

If human beings can build great organizations in their own strength, imagine the potential when we let God work through our lives. God can do marvelous works when we submit our efforts to God’s plan.

Dear Lord, Help me to discard my perceived limitations and reach for Your vision for my life. Guide me and direct me to make the fullest use of the gifts which You have given me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 8–14. Terry Magee lives with his wife in Pennsylvania where he actively teaches at his church. Each day he seeks to better practice walking with God.

October 7

By | 365 Devotions

A Ship without a Steering Wheel

This is how you are to build it (Genesis 6:15).

Scripture: Genesis 6:9b-22

Song: “He Leadeth Me”

Leif Eriksson sailed his Viking ship with a tiller. Both Magellan and the pilgrims on the Mayflower steered their ships with a whipstaff attached to the tiller. “Old Ironsides” and the Titanic were steered by a steering wheel. But Noah had no such device for his ark.

God gave Noah exact instructions for the ark that included its size and features such as the roof, door, and decks. But God gave no instructions for a steering device. Noah and his family were to trust the Lord as helmsman of the ark. So if Noah thought that the ark was headed directly for a mountain he would have to trust the Lord. And Noah would trust God to steer the ark to a safe place to land as well.

We often like to be in control. This might lead us to make plans for where we will work or live. We make a to-do list that maps out our day. But the reality is that the Lord is the one steering the ship of our life. It’s not easy to take our hands off the rudder. But that is exactly what trusting the Lord looks like. Look to God today and let Him steer your life.

Dear Lord, I trust Your control of my life. Even though I like to be in control, I will let go of the steering wheel and let You take me where I am to go. In Your name, amen.

October 6

By | 365 Devotions

A Fresh Start

Bring out every kind of living creature . . . so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it (Genesis 8:17).

Scripture: Genesis 8:1-5, 13-19

Song: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

My friend was having a bad morning with his young son. From the moment the boy had gotten out of bed, he had been angry and uncooperative. By breakfast time, my friend had had enough. “That’s it! I want you to go back to bed, then get up and start this day over.”

The boy stomped up to his room with tears streaming down his face. After a few moments of pleasurable silence, he appeared with a smile. “I’m ready for school now!” he said.

My friend was amazed and said, “I guess all he needed was a fresh start.”

Through the flood God gave mankind a fresh start. God’s words, “Be fruitful and increase in number” signified a new start and reflect the same command for Adam and Eve.

God makes opportunity for fresh starts. When we come to Christ for salvation, He forgives us and makes us a new creation. When we feel stagnant in our Christian walk, Christ can give us something new to jumpstart our faith. Fresh starts are so close to God’s heart that he has built them into our world. Each season is a fresh start. Each sunrise is a fresh start. “For his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).

Dear Lord, I pray that today would be a fresh start. In Your name, amen.

October 5

By | 365 Devotions

You Have Been Wiped Clean

Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out (Genesis 7:23).

Scripture: Genesis 7:17-24

Song: “Nothing but the Blood”

I can always tell when one of my kids has a bowl of cereal. First of all there is the trail from the pantry to their spot at the table. Then there are the splashes and splatters of milk around their bowl. When I call them back to the table to wipe up their spills, their wiping job is haphazard and incomplete since they are in a hurry to get the job done.

When the Lord wiped every living thing from the face of the earth, He did a thorough job. He didn’t leave any living thing alive. And the flood waters went above and beyond—literally. Even the mountain tops were covered. When the Lord wipes, He does it completely and perfectly!

At the time of our salvation, we can know and feel that we have been cleansed from our sin. But as time wears on, we might not feel clean. Maybe we start to wonder if we really are cleansed from our sin. But the truth is that when Christ wipes away our sin, He does so thoroughly and completely. He doesn’t leave any splashes or splatters of guilt or disgrace.

Even if we do not feel completely clean, the fact is that we have been washed with the blood of Christ and now we stand before God in perfect confidence that we have been purified by Him.

Dear Lord, I want to bask in the knowledge that You have cleansed me completely from sin. In Your name, amen

October 4

By | 365 Devotions

Noah’s Hope Chest

On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark (Genesis 7:13).

Scripture: Genesis 7:11-16

Song: “Speak, O Lord”

Before I was married, my family threw me a wedding shower. Wow, was I surprised! I opened gifts of dishes, towels, and other things I would need to set up house. After the shower, we packed the things away in a plastic storage tub that we laughingly called the “hope chest” since I didn’t have a traditional cedar-lined wooden chest. Even though it wasn’t fancy, that tub held just as well the things my husband-to-be and I needed for our future life in our own home.

In a similar way, God gifted Noah and his family with the “hope chest” of an ark equipped with all they would need for life on the ark and obedience to God’s commands. And for us, God supplies what we need for life and our obedience to His instruction for our lives. We have the Holy Spirit and Scripture. We are given the church community to help sustain us. Obedience may not be easy, but we are capable of obeying because of God’s thorough and constant equipping.

Dear Lord, thank You for equipping me for obedience. May I say “yes” to obeying You. In Your name, amen.

October 3

By | 365 Devotions

What Are You Waiting For?

And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth (Genesis 7:10).

Scripture: Genesis 7:6-10

Song: “The Waiting”

Packing for vacation takes a long time. There are lists to make, things to purchase, and things to gather. But once the preparations are finally complete, it’s time to stuff the suitcases into the rooftop carrier and stack the coolers and pillows and blankets just so in the trunk. The kids get buckled into their car seats and the tunes are blaring on the radio. Dad gets into the driver seat, shuts the door and . . . sits in the driveway for 7 days before pulling out onto the road.

That is not how we normally start our vacations, but that is sort of what happened to Noah and his family when they were vacating their home. After long preparations and hard work, they waited for 7 days in the ark before the flood waters came. How did Noah’s family react to the waiting? We don’t know. All we know is that they had to wait.

Waiting is part of life: for the birth of a child, for retirement, for winter to get here, and for winter to be over. Waiting is also part of the Christian life: for God’s provision, for His guidance, for Christ’s return. What can we do in a season of waiting? Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.”

When we wait patiently, we reflect our God who in His loving kindness patiently waits for each part of His plan to unfold at just the right time.

Dear God, In times of waiting, still my heart to wait patiently for You and trust in Your perfect timing. In Your name I pray, amen.

October 2

By | 365 Devotions

Positional Righteousness in Action

And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him (Genesis 7:5).

Scripture: Genesis 7:1-5

Song: “Trust and Obey”

If you told me that you were a teacher, I would know your job position. But it wouldn’t be until I watched you teach that I would see evidence of your position.

Noah was called “righteous.” Here we are shown the truth of Noah’s righteous position by his sacrificial worship and complete obedience.

God provided Noah with seven pairs of clean animals. Why did he need so many? At this point in time, the distinction between clean and unclean related to animal sacrifice in worship since the Lord did not give clean animals for food until after the flood. God provided for the lifestyle of sacrificial worship that Noah had already established.

Noah’s righteousness was also manifested by complete obedience. He did all that the Lord commanded.

If you are a Christian, your righteous status can be expressed in the same way that Noah’s was: through sacrificial worship and complete obedience. We are not sacrificing animals today. But there is still sacrifice in our worship through tithes and offerings and time set aside for worship on Sunday morning and throughout the week.

When God is convicting you of His commands, obey with your whole heart. Not just halfway by skipping the parts you don’t like, but obeying all that the Lord commands.

Heavenly Father, show me how I can worship you sacrificially. Show me where I need to obey completely. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 1

By | 365 Devotions

We’re Debt Free!!

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth (Genesis 6:5).

Scripture: Genesis 6:1-8

Song: “In His Time”

One popular call-in show is about finances and paying off personal debt. Callers often share their success stories: “Before we started listening to your show, we didn’t know how much debt we had. When we finally listed them out, we were overwhelmed! Some major changes had to be made to set things right! So we got extra jobs and we sold a lot of stuff. Now the debt is gone! We’re debt free!”

When the Lord looked out over the world He had created, He looked at the balance of mankind’s accounts and found the debt of wickedness was far too great. Something drastic had to be done. When God says He regrets that He had made humans, He does not mean that He changed his mind about creation. Rather, in His perfect justice, He needed to call in the debts. This is not the only time the Lord in His justice took drastic measures to settle accounts. He sent plagues when the Israelites were disobedient. The earth swallowed Korah and his rebellious followers. Assyria and Babylon conquered God’s wayward people. And in Revelation, God has revealed His future plans for ridding the world of wickedness.

In moments of despair, we wonder if our God notices the wickedness on the earth that is both far and near. But we can trust His perfect justice and His perfect timing for enacting His justice.

Dear Lord, turn my heart of despair into a heart that trusts in Your perfect justice. In Jesus’ name, amen.

October 1–7. Rachel Schmoyer is a minister’s wife from Whitehall, PA.

September 30

By | 365 Devotions

The Blame Game

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12).

Scripture: Genesis 3:8-17, 20-24

Song: “Search Me, O God”

When growing up, playing with friends and my two sisters was usually a fun time. Mom often released us into the neighborhood with two words: “Play nice.” But many times, the other kids didn’t. An innocent game of tag could deteriorate into pushing, shoving, and yelling. When things escalated, Mom stormed out of the house to break up the brawl.

That’s when a chorus of “She started it!” and “He made me!” rose above the fray.

We expect that kind of reaction from children when they do wrong, but adults do it too. It started with our first parents in the Garden of Eden. When God asked Adam if he had eaten from the forbidden tree, Adam pointed the finger at Eve. Eve pointed the finger at the serpent, who had tempted her with a bite (v. 13).

It’s true that something or someone can incite us to give in to temptation and sin, but the decision is ours alone. We’re not little kids. We must accept the blame for what we’ve done wrong, knowing that God will never turn us away. As He covered Adam and Eve with garments after they sinned (v. 21), so He covers our sins with the blood of Jesus.

Father, when You convict me of wrongdoing, forgive me when I shift blame to someone else. Help me live honestly and openly before You and receive Your forgiveness. In Christ, amen.

September 29

By | 365 Devotions

Did God Really Say?

[The serpent] said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1).

Scripture: Genesis 3:1-7

Song: “Trust and Obey”

I’ve never heard such an emphatic answer from God. Laid off a job and finding no work, I asked if I would compromise His plans if I sought temporary employment. His resounding “Yes!” stopped me in my job-searching tracks.

Why does God want me to wait when I’m running out of money? I wondered. When I told a Christian friend what God had told me, she stared at me as if to say, “Are you sure?” Momentarily, I questioned the wisdom of waiting, but still held on.

Two weeks after that prayer time, my dream job came along— one God had been preparing for me. Had I ignored His voice and found other employment, I would have missed His best for me.

God has given more serious directives in His Word, not just to guide our steps but to steer us clear of sin. He spoke one to Adam and Eve: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16, 17). But once the serpent cast a doubt in her mind, Eve fell to ruin, and then Adam.

It’s easy to question what God has told us clearly to do or not to do. If we don’t heed His words, we undermine His authority and bring disaster on ourselves. We receive God’s best only when we obey no matter what.

Dear Father, I want to know Your voice so I can distinguish the voice of the enemy. Help me to obey You, even when it doesn’t make sense. In Christ’s name, amen.

September 28

By | 365 Devotions

This is a Test

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).

Scripture: James 1:12-15

Song: “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”

A radio broadcast is interrupted by several short beeps, followed by a voice announcing, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.” The test ensures that the alert system is working correctly so that, in the event of an actual emergency, we can be notified of what to do.

A voice in Scripture sounds much like that of the Emergency Broadcast System. “This is a test,” James says in our reading today. He’s not referring to an alert that will notify us of an impending storm; he’s referring to the storm itself. A trial has slammed into our lives with hurricane force: a dreaded disease, a debilitating addiction, marital unfaithfulness, a financial setback. It shakes the very foundations of our faith. Every day we battle raging winds of anxiety and rising waters of fear.

What can we do during the test? Persevere, James says. Ride the storm out. But when we look to ourselves, we find no adequate resources to help. That’s when we turn to the words of the apostle Paul, based on many a tempest in his life: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).

We will survive and thrive in the storm, safe in the everlasting arms of Jesus.

Father, this storm frightens me, and I want out. Help me take hold of You, knowing You take hold of me and won’t let go. In Christ, amen.

September 27

By | 365 Devotions

The Power of Influence

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42).

Scripture: Mark 9:42-48

Song: “Jesus Loves the Little Children”

My mind occasionally goes back to the Sunday my nephew James was dedicated to the Lord. Family and friends stood behind him and his mother, Sue, a single parent, while the minister charged my sister with her responsibilities. Among them, to teach James the fear of the Lord, watch over his education, direct his mind to the Scriptures, and guide his feet to the sanctuary. The minister also admonished the congregation to help Sue and do their part in nurturing James toward spiritual maturity.

Today James is a committed Christian young man, thanks in part to his mother. She took to heart every word of that dedication ceremony. To her, this wasn’t just a ritual but a reminder of how seriously God considers our influence on little ones.

Influencing children is not the work of parents alone. All Christian adults should heed Jesus’ words of warning regarding our example to young lives. Do we revere God? Do we study the Bible? Is it changing our lives and shaping our decisions? Do we worship in His house regularly? Many people will enter the lives of little ones and turn their eyes from Jesus. With God’s help, we won’t be one of them.

Lord, I dedicate myself to be the example I need to be to children. Keep me from doing anything to make them stumble. In Christ, amen.

September 26

By | 365 Devotions

The Prayer Punch

After fasting forty days and forty nights, he [Jesus] was hungry (Matthew 4:2).

Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

Song: “Nearer My God to Thee”

My friend Lois once told me, “The Lord takes prayer and fasting seriously.” She should know. Lois’s husband died when their two sons were 12 and 14. After his death, she fasted every Friday morning for wisdom in raising them on her own. Though Satan raised many a doubt in her mind, God heard those prayers. Today, Lois’ sons are devoted Christians, with wives and family members following the Lord.

Satan also takes prayer and fasting seriously, but in a different way. He sees it as an opportunity to strike a blow against us, just as he did with Jesus. At the end of a 40-day fast, when Jesus was hungry, the tempter put Him through the paces of three temptations. Jesus countered each one with the truths of Scripture—and won.

Satan didn’t realize the spiritual principle our Lord illustrated: Though a person is weakened physically through fasting, he is strengthened spiritually. Time spent in giving up food is a time for drawing closer to God.

Due to health issues, not everyone can refuse food in a fast. But all of us can give up something important to us—social media, a TV program, a sports activity—and spend that time in prayer. Doing so sharpens our spiritual senses, making us alert to the devil’s lies and to the truths of God’s Word that silence him.

Father, draw near to me as I draw near to You in fasting and prayer. In Christ, amen.

September 25

By | 365 Devotions

Grace for the Grave

For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5:15).

Scripture: Romans 5:12-19

Song: “Amazing Grace”

A local cemetery isn’t on my list of favorite places to visit, but the deaths of my parents in the last two years summoned me there. I walked among row after row of marble slabs, standing as silent reminders about every human being—that though we live, we will one day die.

I read dates and names on those headstones, but no cause of death. What brought the end of life to these people? I thought of disease, accidents, war, murder, and suicide. But in Romans, Paul gives the real cause for death: Adam’s sin.

Just one taste of forbidden fruit back in Eden ushered in the fall of humanity and with it, death in all its horrid forms. This news would be bleak indeed if Paul stopped there, but he doesn’t: We have the gift of grace in the Second Adam. It stands as a reminder about every believer—that though we die, we will one day live. Thank God, the grave isn’t the end of the road for those who embrace the grace of Christ!

Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son, who conquered sin and the grave so we can live forever with You. In His name, amen.

September 24

By | 365 Devotions

Right Place, Wrong Time

David remained in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1).

Scripture: 2 Samuel 11:1-5

Song: “I Need Thee Every Hour”

A swinging nightclub. A neighborhood bar. An adult entertainment establishment. These are hotbeds for temptation that can lead to sin.

King David’s story tells us that falling into sin can happen anywhere—even at home. Jerusalem was not exactly a sin city, and David’s palace was not a house of prostitution. But at the time of year when kings went to war, David did not. Israel’s commander-in-chief stayed home when he should have been on the battlefield. And it set the stage for his undoing.

In our text, David moves from seeing Bathsheba from the palace roof to desiring her, and finally to sleeping with her. The adultery they commit and David’s shrewd arrangement of Uriah’s death (v. 15) proved disastrous.

We are wise to shun locales that God obviously does not approve of. However, temptation can lurk in less obvious places, and the timing of our being there can open us up to it. For example, we stay late at the workplace when we should be home. We stay home when the family is gone; leaving the computer available for browsing. We spend time at a friend’s house when we should be in school.

We can avoid the same mistake David made by seeking God’s wisdom to keep us where we need to be, when we need to be there.

Lord, help me be alert that Satan can strike anywhere, anytime, even when I think I’m safe. In Christ, amen.

September 24–30. Sherri Langton is a magazine editor and workshop speaker at Christian writers conferences. She enjoys playing drums and percussion at her church, as well as walking and swimming. Sherri lives in Denver, CO.

September 23

By | 365 Devotions

God Invading Our Loneliness

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Scripture: Genesis 2:18-24; 4:1, 2

Song: “When God Made You”

Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals once sang, “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long.”

Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway confessed, “Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.”

Scientist Albert Einstein wrote, “It is strange to be known so universally, and yet to be so lonely.”

Author Ernest Hemingway wrote, “I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead and there is no current to plug into.”

After Adam worked his way through the dazzling beauty of a bluebird and the elegance of a black stallion, he was still alone. So, God, the giver of all good gifts, made a woman and brought her to Adam. Adam responded with joyous exaltation. Only our Creator, who knows us to the depths, can provide for us what we need to flourish and experience true joy. Look to Him for your joy in companionship.

Omniscient Father, I thank You that as long as I have Your steadfast love I am never truly alone. In the name of Jesus, amen.

September 22

By | 365 Devotions

When Listening Improves Our Vision

Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7).

Scripture: Genesis 4:3-12

Song: “Search Me O God”

My friend Don was ready to leave for work when his wife asked, “You’re not going to wear that are you?”

Puzzled, Don replied, “I certainly am. Why? What’s wrong with what I have on?”

“You have on a black shirt with blue pants,” his wife keenly observed.

“No, these are black pants,” Don insisted.

A couple of weeks passed and Don began to experience a problem with his vision. After consulting an optician, Don learned that he had cataracts in both eyes. This condition often hinders one’s ability to make accurate color distinctions. It appears that Don was wearing blue pants after all.

God warned Cain that sin was crouching at the door, like a crafty tiger hunkered down in the tall grass waiting for the unsuspecting gazelle. But like my friend Don, Cain couldn’t see it. Like Cain, we need a word from God to point out the sin we can’t see. Perhaps if we listen better we shall better see the sin that crouches, waiting for us.

Heavenly Father, speak to me through Your Word, and may I both hear and see how to respond. Through Christ, amen.

September 21

By | 365 Devotions

Helping Others Get Out Alive

The end of all things is near (1 Peter 4:7).

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7-11

Song: “Rescue the Perishing”

A New York Times article titled, “How to Get Out Alive: What the Science of Evacuation Reveals About How Humans Behave in the Worst of Times,” tells what researchers have learned about evacuation from disaster survivors.

In the case of the doomed World Trade Towers, those who made it out waited for an average of 6 minutes before evacuating. Some lingered as long as half an hour. They stayed to call relatives, shut down computers, and help or talk with coworkers.

One woman, Elia Zedeno, who was on the 73rd floor of Tower One, said she, “heard a booming explosion and felt the building actually lurch to the south, as if it might topple.”

You might expect that her next instinct was to flee. But she had the opposite reaction. “What I really wanted was for someone to scream back, ‘Everything is OK! Don’t worry. It’s in your head.’” Fortunately, at least one of Zedeno’s colleagues responded differently. “The answer I got was another coworker screaming, ‘Get out of the building!’” Years later, she still thinks about that command. “My question is, what would I have done if the person had said nothing?”

This world is going to end. The Bible promises it will happen when people least expect it. But God’s Word also gives clear directions on “How To Get Out Alive.” We can’t afford to keep quiet. People’s lives are on the line.

Gracious Father, help me to speak up and offer the reason for the hope that You have given to me. In Jesus name, amen.

September 20

By | 365 Devotions

Loving Deeply

Love one another deeply, from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:13-16, 22-25

Song: “Love One Another”

Christian author Wes Seelinger writes: “I have spent long hours in the intensive care waiting room . . . watching with anguished people . . . listening to urgent questions: Will my husband make it? Will my child walk again? How do you live without your companion of thirty years? The intensive care waiting room is different from any other place in the world. And the people who wait are different. They can’t do enough for each other. No one is rude. The distinctions of race and class melt away. A person is a father first, a black man second. The garbage man loves his wife as much as the university professor loves his, and everyone understands this. Each person pulls for everyone else.”

As a minister and chaplain who has spent many hours in the ICU waiting room, I agree with Wes. There is a unique depth to the concern and care being extended to one another as they wait on the doctor’s next report. Christ loved us in our intensive state of sin and brokenness, and as we behold His deep, deep love we will find the strength to love others deeply for His sake.

Great God of all comfort, allow me to comfort someone today with the comfort I have received from You. In the name of my Savior I pray, amen.

September 19

By | 365 Devotions

Remembering and Helping the Vulnerable

Remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering (Hebrews 13:3).

Scripture: Hebrews 13:1-6

Song: “Do Something”

Sociologist Rodney Stark describes how Christianity arose from a small group to become the dominant force of the Roman Empire in such a short time. He presents factors that would have contributed to this great movement toward Christ. He shows that there were two great epidemics during those first few centuries. If those who were affected were cared for, there was a good chance they would survive. But often when a member of the family contracted the disease, the other family members left that person uncared for and left their homes for places not affected by the disease. The Christians, however, did not do this. The Christians not only cared for their own family members, they also cared for those who were left behind by their family members. Stark points out that their willingness to suffer in order to care for the sick had a part to play in large numbers of people in the Roman Empire turning to Christ.

We as Christ followers today are a despised group who are considered hopelessly out of step with today’s pluralistic attitude toward religion. Because of their evangelistic activity the early Christians too were despised and persecuted. But they bore the persecution with such radiant power that their response served as a great attraction and witness to people. By God’s grace, may we do so as well.

Compassionate God, work in me to serve others, like Jesus who came not to be served but to serve. In His name I pray, amen.

September 18

By | 365 Devotions

Fulfilling Our Marital Duty

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband (1 Corinthians 7:3).

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7:1-7, 32-35

Song: “You’ve Got Me”

In an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” there is a scene in the Romano house at night where Ray is sitting in bed next to Debra. She’s lying down facing the camera, with her back to Ray, about to fall asleep. Ray reaches over and gently touches her exposed shoulder. Eyes closed, Debra simply says, “No.” He withdraws his hand, but gently touches her again.

“No,” comes the deadpan response.

Then, with his brow wrinkled as if conducting an experiment, Ray reaches his hand over his wife’s shoulder without touching her.

“No,” comes the response—again with her eyes closed. Then, in response to three quick passes through the air over her shoulder, Debra says “No, No, No,” each in precise timing with the passes. The scene ends as Ray reaches his hand far above her and, without touching her, swoops it down over her in what looks like an airplane pass. In a pitch that matches the height of the hand she cannot see, Debra responds, “Nooooo.”
In light of the temptation faced by husbands and wives for their eyes and hearts to roam and seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere, they are instructed to say “Yes” to one another and, therefore, satisfy each other sexually. The “No” can be reserved for the temptation of adultery, and thereby significantly weaken its power.

Merciful God, thank You for the gift of sexual relations in marriage, which serves as a dam against many sexual temptations. Through Christ I pray, amen.

September 17

By | 365 Devotions

Staying Together

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason? (Matthew 19:3).

Scripture: Matthew 19:3-6

Song: “Together”

Stefan and Erika Svanstrom left Stockholm, Sweden, on their honeymoon. But there were problems. First, they were stranded in Munich, Germany, in a snowstorm. Then they went to Australia where they were struck by a cyclone. They headed south to Brisbane but discovered that the city had experienced massive flooding. So they traveled across the country to Perth. There, they narrowly escaped raging bush fires.

Next, the couple flew to Christchurch, New Zealand, arriving just after the city was devastated by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake. Afterwards the couple went to Japan. But a few days after their arrival, Tokyo was rocked by Japan’s largest earthquake on record. The family finally returned to Stockholm after a much calmer visit to their last destination, China.

Looking back on the trip, with their marriage still going strong, Mrs. Svanstrom said: “We’ve certainly experienced more than our fair share of catastrophes, but the most important thing is that we’re together and happy.”

Certainly those who are married will face challenges but our Creator has a generous supply of grace to help.

My Creator and heavenly Father, help me depend upon You in all my challenges. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

September 17–23. Van Morris resides in Mt. Washington, Kentucky. He has served as a minister for over 2 decades and enjoys life with Kathryn, his wife of nearly 40 years.

September 16

By | 365 Devotions

The Beauty of God’s Creation

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day (Genesis 1:31).

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-31; 2:4-7

Song: “Indescribable”

My daughter is an amazing artist. She enjoys painting, drawing, and photography. My wife and I love it when she brings a finished creation for us to see for the first time. I often find myself completely speechless. Her attention to detail and use of vibrant colors is simply amazing for someone her age. I sometimes look at her art to find inspiration.

Like taking time to look at my daughter’s art, when we take time to look at God’s creation we see the indescribable universe He has created for us to enjoy. Taking time is important. Time is what leads us to the pleasure.

Discouragement in our lives, loneliness, and sadness can detract us from simply looking around at the landscapes, sunsets, and sunrises. When we focus on what God has made we see the many creatures God created with amazing uniqueness. One such creation is you! You are an amazing creation of the God of the universe. You have a purpose in creation and are part of the beauty of God’s creation.

Heavenly Father, thank You for creating me with a purpose. May I take time to acknowledge Your amazing creation and look to You for joy and strength. In Your name, amen.

September 15

By | 365 Devotions

The Importance of the Sabbath

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:3).

Scripture: Genesis 2:1-3

Song: “He Is Exalted”

In a world of fast-paced living and never ending activities, it can be hard to find time to rest. We want our food served quick. We include speed in our decision-making so we can move on to the next thing. All of this rush leads us to less time for rest.

Taking time to rest is something God established in the very beginning. He worked six days and then rested to enjoy His creation. As followers of Jesus Christ, God wants us to do the same. We are to work at the task in front of us and do our very best as doing it for God. But then we are to remember that God blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.

Theologian Karl Barth once said. “A being is free only when it can determine and limit its activity.” He is suggesting that freedom from the business of life is only found when one is following the example God established.

May we work hard and represent our Lord in all that we do, and then take time on the Sabbath to reflect on our Savior and enjoy the life He has given us.

Heavenly Father, help me to work hard and do my best in everything I do. May I prioritize the Sabbath and reflect on You. In Your name, amen.

September 14

By | 365 Devotions

The Deliverance of God

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (Deuteronomy 5:15).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Song: “To God Be the Glory”

Stranded on the side of the interstate one summer afternoon, I decided to walk for several miles to the next exit. I had been known to run out of gas but that was not the case this time. The transmission had gone out and the car was staying right where it was—the side of the road.

The person I knew who was closest to my location was a friend who lived a couple of hours away. I called him for help. It took a while for him to arrive, but I was so glad to see him. He saved me in my time of need by taking me to his home and then helping me get my car into a good repair shop. I didn’t have to sit at some hotel and was never concerned about ending up with a questionable mechanic. And we had a great couple of days together for catching up.

Remembering what we are saved from gives us reason to celebrate our new life through Jesus Christ. Our past life of slavery to sin is a thing of the past because of the mighty hand of God. Sometimes our day-to-day life can lead us to forget where we have come from. May we always remember that our God is a God of deliverance.

Heavenly Father, thank You for delivering me from a life of sin. Help me to always remember Your mighty deliverance. In Your name, amen.

September 13

By | 365 Devotions

Purity Comes from Jesus Christ

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).

Scripture: 1 John 1:5-10

Song: “Amazing Grace”

A mechanic from our church has been gracious enough to do some maintenance on our vehicles over the years. About a year ago he suggested a couple of repairs. The vehicle would continue to run and do OK, but would eventually come to a point it would have to be repaired. And if not repaired the issue could cause long lasting damage to the vehicle.

Now, he has told me the exact part to be purchased, and to let him know when I want him to fix it. I know nothing about cars and there is no way I could do the repair myself, so I absolutely need his help. He is willing, ready and knows what to do but has to wait on me to ask for help. As of today, I have yet to schedule the repair.

Jesus Christ is the only one that can wash our sins away and make us pure in the sight of God. He will forgive our sins and wash us free from all sin. However, we have to identify that we cannot “make the repair” ourselves. We must ask our Savior—who is faithful, just, and loving.

Take a few minutes to identify the things in your life that need repair and address them in a timely manner.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your forgiveness. Help me to confess the sin in my life and receive the purity that only comes from You. In Your name, amen.

September 12

By | 365 Devotions

Do Not Lose Heart

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:1).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Song: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Spending time with my three children is one of the absolute joys of my life. I specifically remember when each one of them went through the “Daddy, I want to ride on your shoulders” stage as a toddler. Nothing like carrying them up high so they could see life from a different perspective. They all enjoyed it immensely and repeatedly asked for “shoulder back rides,” as my youngest referred to them.

Regardless of how fun the ride was, fatigue would eventually set in and they would need a break. They would want to get down but hesitate because of the fatigue and sleepiness of their legs and feet. Of course I would never just put them down to walk on their own as that would simply cause them to stumble. Rather, I would bring them off of my shoulders and carry them in my arms until the fatigue subsided and they were ready to go on their own.

Sometimes the ride we are on can become exhausting and we feel fatigued. Maybe we have even told God we want to throw in the towel. Be encouraged that God has called us to a relationship with Him and, though we may get tired at times, we should not lose heart because He is the one carrying us—holding us up by the strength of His arms.

Heavenly Father, though I may grow tired and feel like giving up, I am grateful that You give the strength to stay the course. In Your holy name, amen.

September 11

By | 365 Devotions

Living like Jesus Christ

And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).

Scripture: Ephesians 4:17-24

Song: “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

My sister-in-law once had an opportunity to volunteer at a local sports team’s community evening by performing as a favorite vegetable themed, Christian cartoon character. Her role was to entertain the children as this character and help facilitate a fun evening with the sports team. She was not to be there as “Elizabeth.” The purpose of this event was to represent someone other than herself. She did an exceptional job!

I recall the stories she would later tell of the process of getting dressed that evening. It was not a costume she could just throw on, but rather one that took time, effort, and tremendous preparation in order to properly represent the character.

Living like Jesus Christ also requires the necessary time, effort, and preparation in order to properly represent who He is. Paul told the Ephesian believers to “put on the new self.” Much like my sister-in-law had to take the necessary time to get ready for her responsibilities that evening, we as followers of Jesus Christ should strive to prepare ourselves each day by reading His Word and praying.

When others see how we live they should see someone living like Jesus Christ. Avoid drawing attention to yourself, but use the opportunities God provides to point others to Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, help me to put on the new self that represents Jesus Christ. May I point others to You, and not myself. In Your name I pray, amen.

September 10

By | 365 Devotions

Remember the Greatness of God

Praise the LORD, my soul. LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty (Psalm 104:1).

Scripture: Psalm 104:1-4

Song: “Great Are You Lord”

The Royal Family of Great Britain is easily recognized whenever they make any sort of public appearance. Aside from the overwhelming security, media coverage, and adoring fans; the Royal Family is recognizable because of their appearance. The prestigious manner in which each one of them is dressed sets them apart from the rest of society. Often their fashion and attire is the focus of global debate and discussion. The splendor and majesty of it all is simply part of being royalty. We take notice because of who they are.

However, the impressive attire of the Royal Family could never compare to the majesty and splendor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The challenge for us is to remember the greatness of God even when we do not see Him with our physical eyes. So how can we remember His greatness?

Take time to notice the vastness of the universes, the illustrious beauty of the oceans and mountain ranges, the spectacular detail in the smallest of God’s creatures or the unimaginable love He has for each of us. We should take notice of the greatness of God simply because of who He is.

Heavenly Father, help me to remember Your greatness, majesty, and splendor. May I take time to notice Your creation and who You are. In Your name I pray, amen.

September 10–16. Alan Lane has served in local church ministry for years and currently resides in Landisburg, PA. He and his wife, Julie, have three children.

September 9

By | 365 Devotions

Light When We Need It

God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:17-18).

Scripture: Genesis 1:14-25

Song: “The Light of the World Is Jesus”

An electrical outlet in the hall by our bedroom has lights along the bottom that automatically come on at dusk. I also have several battery-operated candles that turn on at a set time in the evening and glow for six or seven hours. There’s a flickering candle in a metal lantern on the mantel, a small one in the centerpiece on the dining table, and a string of tiny lights in a decorative glass container on the coffee table. My husband shakes his head when these lights start coming on, but I told him that’s what God does in the sky, so it must be good.

Jesus is the Light of the World; He promised that those who follow Him will never walk in darkness. Our faith in Jesus means that we live in the light of salvation rather than the darkness of sin and separation from God. We also have the benefit of the light of truth shining on the path of our life journey, accessed through the Bible and the Holy Spirit living inside us.

Even so, there have been times when I’ve prayerfully sought guidance on a major decision and still felt in the dark. But I’m learning that God always comes through to light our way, just when we need it the most.

Lord, help me trust You to provide the right amount of light exactly when I need it. In Your name, amen.

September 8

By | 365 Devotions

Looking Past Appearances

The voice spoke from heaven a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 11:9).

Scripture: Acts 11:5-9

Song: “There Is a Fountain”

It’s amazing how we remember the message of a story long after we’ve forgotten the who, what, when and where. Fifty years ago I heard a missionary share a frightening experience of traveling alone in a remote area near a jungle. Looking ahead, he saw a man coming down the path, decked out in the trappings of a warrior from a local tribe. As the missionary silently prayed for safety, the man approached and leaned on his spear as he looked him over. Suddenly the painted and pierced face broke into a grin. He pointed to the sky and then to his heart as he repeated the word, “Christos!”

Just as we can’t judge a book by its cover, we can’t tell if someone is a fellow believer or not by their outside appearance. Just because a person looks different from us doesn’t mean they haven’t had their sins cleansed by the same blood that saved us. It would be a mistake to let tattoos, piercings, dirty skin or outrageous clothing keep us from meeting and fellowshipping with brothers and sisters in Christ. It would be even worse to let those prejudices prevent us from recognizing a soul who is searching and longing for the one who can wash them clean.

Lord, help me look past external appearances to see the hearts of those You place around me, encouraging other Christians and sharing Your truth with nonbelievers who are ready to hear it. In Your name, amen.

September 7

By | 365 Devotions

Perfect Gifts

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).

Scripture: James 1:17, 18

Song: “Count Your Blessings”

At Christmas my younger son has given me gift bags that always show how well he knows my tastes. Last year his gift bag included a soft tunic top in blue, a lilac scented candle with a wooden wick that crackled while it burned, a high-end journal in sea foam green, my favorite type of pen with a soft grip, and a box of assorted Swiss chocolates. Kevin’s gift bag left no doubt that he had taken the time to notice what I liked and enjoyed. Every single item was some- thing that made me feel special.

I’ve always thought the best gifts are those that show that some- one understands us. Nobody understands us better than God, but His gifts go beyond what we like or want. He gives us what we truly need. Sometimes God gives us something for our pleasure or enjoyment; other times His gifts are designed to meet a deeper desire or a need: A season of discontent when we’ve neglected our relationship with Him; A serious trial to strengthen our faith or prayer life; discipline when we’ve strayed into disobedience.

Even when God sends a gift that we’d prefer not to accept, we can trust in His character and His intentions. We can be sure that He is providing exactly what we need at that moment in our life.

Father, I receive all gifts from Your hands and trust that they are for my good and Your glory. In the name of Jesus, amen.

September 6

By | 365 Devotions

True Wisdom

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his (Job 12:13).

Scripture: Job 12:7-13

Song: “Awesome God”

In 1854, seventeen-year-old Dwight L. Moody left home to work in his Uncle Samuel’s shoe store. But his life changed more when he answered God’s call on his life. Moody founded a seminary to educate women and a boys’ school that ministered to the poor and minorities. He also worked with educator Emma Dryer to create the Chicago Evangelization Society, later renamed Moody Bible Institute. It would be impossible to estimate how many tens of thousands of people were evangelized and educated through these and Dwight Moody’s other ministries. Not bad for a man with a fifth-grade education.

Our culture may prize advanced degrees that allow a person to add letters before or after their name, but that doesn’t impress God. He looks for people with an obedient, teachable spirit to help build His kingdom. If we depend on Him, He will pour out all the wisdom and guidance we need for the work He assigns us. Whether we’re running a ministry that touches thousands or reaching out to difficult neighbors, He will provide the understanding and discernment we need.

Today we have more educational opportunities than ever; it makes sense to take advantage of what’s available if God leads us to do that. But we don’t want to ever forget the source of true wisdom: a right relationship with God and a reverent respect for His Word.

Father, I ask you to fill me with godly wisdom that will influence my conversations, my attitudes, and my behavior today. In Christ, amen.

September 5

By | 365 Devotions

The Value of Variety

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches (Psalm 104:24, KJV).

Scripture: Psalm 104:24-30

Song: “All Things Bright and Beautiful”

When I was growing up, my family occasionally visited the church attended by one of my uncles and his family. The thing that always struck me about the tiny congregation was how much the women looked alike. They wore plain homemade dresses with no lace or trimmings and chunky black shoes. I never saw any of them in makeup or jewelry. The women all kept their hair long but pinned it up in a bun on the back of their heads.

Not many people would insist that Christians need to all dress alike, but we still try to impose restrictions on each other. Some people act like we should all enjoy the same type of music, or read the same books, or conduct our church services the same way. Just one look around us proves how much God values diversity. A walk through a botanical garden gives a sample of the dizzying array of plants He created. A visit to a zoo reminds us of the variety of animals He crafted.

God’s creativity is also evident in His people. He has made each one of us with a unique combination of physical attributes, personality traits, talents and spiritual gifts. There’s no reason for us all to talk, think or act alike. When we praise Him in our own way and let others do the same, we honor the God Who loves variety.

Father God, help me embrace the unique way You have created me and use all that I am for Your glory. In the name of Your Son, amen.

September 4

By | 365 Devotions

The Name Above All Names

Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they (Hebrews 1:4, KJV).

Scripture: Hebrews 1:1-4

Song: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!”

I thought the little angel was so cute. I cried because I couldn’t get it off. That’s the inscription my mom wrote on the scrapbook page under a black and white photo of me standing beside a tombstone. I don’t have any memory of that day because I was two years old when my parents drove my grandmother to choose my grandpa’s headstone. Apparently, the cherub carved on the top of one sample fascinated me so much that I tried to take it home.

Obsession with angels was a problem in New Testament times, and sadly, some people fall in that category today. The problem is not collecting artwork with an angel theme; it’s the tendency to pay more attention to mysterious, supernatural stories about celestial beings rather than focus on the truth about Jesus. He is the one we should be learning about, listening to, and leaning on. He is the one angels fall down before in worship.

The Bible shows that God entrusts angels with important work, but Jesus is our Savior. He is the one who died for our sins, who is now interceding for us in Heaven, and who will return to the earth one day to conquer evil. We have His promise to guide, protect, and empower us as we go through this life. He is the one who deserves our full attention and our highest praise.

Lord Jesus, I praise Your name and worship You as Lord of all. Amen.

September 3

By | 365 Devotions

Everlasting Love

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

Scripture: Psalm 136:1-9

Song: “The Love of God”

I have a strange fascination with abandoned, decaying houses out in the country. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a small farm, but I can picture the family working hard to make a living off the land. I can almost hear the laughter, tears, arguments, prayers, songs and words of love that once filled the empty rooms. I wonder about the joys, the heartaches and the eventual destinies of the people who once made their home there. I always choke up as I imagine all the life that went on in what’s now nothing more than an empty shell.

A hollow, decaying house serves as a reminder that nothing earthly lasts forever. People grow old and die. Seasons of life pass by without us noticing. Roles and relationships change and end. Our greatest accomplishments and our worst disappointments fade into dim memories. But one thing will always endure.

God loved us before we were born. He cared for us before we ever gave Him a thought. That same love that took Him to the cross to die for our sins will carry us through this life and into eternity. Once we become His child, nothing we do can ever make His love fade or waver. When the temporary nature of this earthly life causes us pain, we can hold on to the joy of knowing God’s enduring love.

Loving Father, I want to hold on to earthly things with a light grasp so that I can focus on sharing Your everlasting love with others who don’t yet know You. In Christ, amen.

September 2

By | 365 Devotions

He Will Provide

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so (Genesis 1:11, KJV).

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-13

Song: “God Will Take Care of You”

Nineteenth-century preacher George Müller directed an orphanage that cared for more than 10,000 children. They were fed, dressed, and educated well despite the fact that Müller never received government assistance, solicited donations, or borrowed money. His faith that God would meet any needs led to many faithbuilding experiences. For example, when one of the houses had no food, Müller had the children sit at the table and thank God for breakfast. As the prayer ended, the town baker knocked on the door and offered fresh bread. The local milkman provided milk because his cart had just broken down in front of the orphanage.

It’s human nature to want to have plans in place to take care of our present and future needs. But George Müller chose to depend on God to provide all that he needed to carry out the work God had laid on his heart. Because of that, Müller accomplished great things for God’s Kingdom. While there’s nothing wrong with wise stewardship and planning, God doesn’t want us worrying about temporal needs.

By the time God created the first man and woman, He had already made the plants and trees that would provide their food. God knows what we need before we do. How can we doubt that He has already planned ways to provide for us?

Lord, whenever I’m tempted to worry about the future, remind me that You have planned ahead to meet my every need. In Your name, amen.

September 1

By | 365 Devotions

A Rock Solid Foundation

For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm (Psalm 33:9).

Scripture: Psalm 33:1-9

Song: “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

My friend’s voice broke as she shared how her youngest child had wandered off at the beach. Panic-stricken, Monica finally spotted Trevor toddling along the shoreline. As she raced to reach him before a wave knocked him down, she felt as though time had switched to slow motion. Her feet sank down in the soft sand with each step, causing her to stumble several times. Fortunately, another beach goer scooped Trevor up from the incoming water and met Monica halfway.

Many people consider powdery, sun-warmed sand an inviting surface—until an emergency pops up and they need to get somewhere fast. In a similar way, we may be comfortable with the foundation of our life until we’re hit with a crisis. Then we may discover that we’ve placed our trust in something too weak or unstable to hold us up during tough times.

The only secure foundation is faith in God and the truth revealed in His Word. As Creator, He simply spoke the world into being. As our Lord, He has spoken words over us, promises of forgiveness, provision, and eternal life. If we place our trust in Him, we can rest assured those words will always stand firm.

Father, as I move through this day, help me keep my feet planted on You, my rock solid foundation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

September 1-9. Dianne Neal Matthews lives in southeast Louisiana with her husband of 44 years. She enjoys gardening, cooking, DIY projects, her grandchildren, and serving her local church

August 31

By | 365 Devotions

All Are Welcome

If you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:47).

Scripture: Matthew 5:43-48

Song:“Whosoever Will”

John Bunyan, in his classic book The Pilgrim’s Progress, introduces a character that portrays the simple-minded person we see in Psalms and Proverbs. The man Simple is often pitied but not to be blamed. He is unlike Ignorant, who is so by choice, or Little-faith, who chooses not to increase his knowledge. Rather, Simple is child- like, yet his fault comes in not seeing the danger around him.

In our church we have some simple people, and they are an added joy to our congregation. One middle-aged woman greets by name everyone who attends, yet she has had little education. During the sermon she copies the Scripture passage and gives it to me to “grade.” Taking it home, I give her an A+ and affix stickers on her paper. When it’s returned, she shows others the stars, dogs, kittens, and such, saying, “Look how I did!”

If I only greeted those in my congregation who are part of “my group,” who are leaders and those to whom I relate well, I would miss a great blessing.

Yes, our members represent different levels of socioeconomic status, but all are welcome and beloved. None are outside the circle of fellowship; all are God’s dear children.

Thank You, Lord, for reminding me that You have included each one of us in Your invitation to join in the fellowship of believers. Keep growing in me an attitude of acceptance, so that I truly appreciate what others contribute to my life. In Christ, amen.

August 30

By | 365 Devotions

Yes, Jesus Cares

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).

Scripture: Mark 4:35-41

Song: “God Will Take Care of You”

I led my high-school Sunday school class in a lesson about Jesus calming a storm. We learned about boats—like which end is the stern, for example! Then we went into some depth about how Jesus and the disciples reacted when the storm broke out. The frightened disciples asked Jesus to wake up and do something.

Beneath their fear of the storm, they voiced concern about whether Jesus even cared for them. He picked up on that and asked why they were so afraid. But soon even Jesus’ control of the elements terrified them.

Only five students attended my class: three siblings, including twins, who lived with their aunts; one boy whose disabled, single mother came infrequently to church; and an African-American boy who seemed to fit in well in the congregation. I had questions of concern not included in our discussion but uppermost in my mind: Do these students know that Jesus cares about their sibling rivalry, lack of transportation, absent parents, making friends, and their difficulty in setting personal values by which to live?

Yes, Jesus cares about everything going on in these students’ lives. He cares for you, for me, for our families, our community, and our nation.

Christ, I know that You care. You cared so much that You gave Your life for each and every one of us. I believe; help my unbelief. In Your strong name I pray. Amen.

August 29

By | 365 Devotions

Answer That Call!

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none. . . . I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them (Isaiah 41:17).

Scripture: Isaiah 41:17-20

Song:“Here I Am, Lord”

My friend Sheila answered the call to join a mission team traveling to Nicaragua for one week. She and another team member gave hygiene lessons to women and children, passing along instructions in proper sanitation techniques. They also held Bible classes twice a day. Other team members worked to install a well for a small village in León.

At the first site chosen, the drill hit rock. But a new site proved successful, and it was even closer to the church. Yet another delay sent the team to obtain proper pipes. Nevertheless, by the end of the week the well was working to supply fresh water for the villagers. A dedication service led by the local minister was a blessing for both team members and local residents.

Through this overseas experience God helped my friend to step out of her comfort zone. She learned that the Lord still has kingdom work for her to do. He didn’t forsake the people in León, Nicaragua, and He also sent Sheila and her coworkers home with grateful hearts.

There may not be another mission trip in my future, but each day I awake to new opportunities to serve God and His people right where I am. And perhaps there’s a call waiting for you to answer?

Lord God, whenever and wherever You want me to serve, I am willing. I am also confident that You will equip me for the task that best suits Your will. Thanks for asking. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

August 28

By | 365 Devotions

The Past Is Past

You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:9, 10).

Scripture: Colossians 3:8-11

Song: “A New Name in Glory”

During a training session at work, I bristled as a woman introduced herself: “I am post-abortive.” It was not her honesty that so affected my reaction, but the fact that she identified herself solely by her past. Later I spoke up and said that they would not hear me saying “I am a liar,” even though that was my dominant sin growing up. I once was a liar, but now I have a new name. I am Christian, and I seek to practice righteousness, day by day.

A self-identification with the past can be a temptation with such groups as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, as good as their work is. Their members’ introductions may become an ongoing connection with their former lives. Better to be moving on in newness of life! Paul didn’t forget the Colossians’ old ways, but he definitely affirmed their new life.

Its deeper than changing clothes, but I could use that daily habit as a reminder of my changed condition. Taking off one outfit and putting on another, I can associate each garment with an attitude I want to let go and a virtue I desire to take up. For example, might I choose to replace a purely selfish act with some form of compassion for another today? Lead me, Lord!

Creator God, I am eternally grateful that each day I am being renewed in the image of Christ. My new identity is worth celebrating. I pledge myself to be watchful about any changes that need to be made. Through Christ, amen.

August 27

By | 365 Devotions

Begin with Me

It is time for judgment to begin with God’s household (1 Peter 4:17).

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:15-19

Song: “Faith of Our Fathers”

Several years ago my husband had an extended stay in the hospital. During that time the Lord laid a burden on Bill’s heart that echoed with this refrain: “The problem is with the church.”

The context was Bill’s heartfelt concern for our society. To see our nation come back to its foundations meant, for Bill, that reform should start with the church. And the church is made up of people who confess Christ as their personal redeemer.

Peter would agree with Paul’s instruction to young Timothy: be diligent, give yourself wholly to matters of faith and practice (see 1 Timothy 4:15, 16). And it applies to us today. In fact, my minister suggested that each of us ask ourselves: “What if other church members were like me in my Christian walk? Would that advance the kingdom of God, or would the Lord’s work come to a standstill?”

This passion for revival in the church, and reform in our nation, deeply affected my husband’s prayer life and extended to members of our local congregation. We are committed to praying for revival as we invite God, “Let it begin with me.”

God of all nations, begin the reform needed in our country. I ask that You prepare my heart for revival and help me to connect that desire to the church. May Your Spirit who abides in me and ignite the fires of renewal. In Jesus’ name, amen.

August 27–31. Ann L. Coker and her husband recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in Terre Haute, Indiana. They like to quote Browning: “The best is yet to be.”

August 26

By | 365 Devotions

Planet Heaven

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1, 2).

Scripture: Colossians 3:1-17

Song: “Beulah Land”

I remember looking at the night sky when I was in the second grade. My friend Jimmy and I knew how to identify several constellations and planets; but whether we knew exactly what we were looking at or not, we stood transfixed by the vast expanse above us. I’m still interested in the night sky and fascinated by the possibility of sending men to Mars.

While spaceships, stars, and planets are interesting, the apostle Paul encourages us to look to a land beyond the stars. He himself lived his life with that end in mind. Whether he was among friends, establishing churches across Asia Minor, or stuck in a dingy prison cell, Paul knew there was a better place ahead. He was not “home” yet, nor are any of us who know Christ.

Our daily concerns can distract us from serving Christ. If we are not careful, we’ll be like a hamster on a wheel. The daily routine of eat, work, and sleep, though, won’t comprise a fulfilling life. For example, attending church isn’t just a check on our to-do lists. Instead, it is a time to set our mind on things above and to remind ourselves that we can do more than just get through; we can enjoy our lives.

God, I want to keep my mind on things above. Guide me with Your wisdom to make good choices and live so that others will see Christ through me. In Him, amen.

August 25

By | 365 Devotions

Christ as Our Example

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:31, 32).

Scripture: Ephesians 4:31–5:2

Song: “To Be Like Jesus”

When my oldest son, Thomas, played YMCA basketball, the catch phrase was to “Be like Mike” (as in superstar player Michael Jordan). The apostle Paul calls us to a higher standard: as Christians, we are to be like Christ.

Champion basketball players pay strict attention to the details. The tiniest mistakes are reduced through hours of practice. Dribbling and shooting become second nature, while the primary focus remains: playing as a team and winning the game.

Yes, be like Christ. The Scripture encourages us to eliminate all anger and bitterness, learning to confront in love, and to persevere in mutual forgiveness. It was not easy for Christ to die on the cross for our forgiveness, and it is not easy to forgive those who have done us wrong. Yet we are to be like Christ.

How can we do it? The thing to realize is that the command has two parts: Our part is to observe the example of Jesus and try to emulate His lifestyle. God’s part is to make it happen by supplying the grace and fulfilling His promise: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

O Lord, today I’ll try to follow Your example in all things. But I know and affirm that Your Spirit is working in me to make me like Jesus. And so I yield to Your power and give way to Your grace. Thank You, in the precious name of Christ my Lord! Amen.

August 24

By | 365 Devotions

To the Devil: No!

Do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27).

Scripture: Ephesians 4:25-30

Song: “Abide with Me”

In high school I was an equipment manager for the football team. Between running washing machines, driving tractors, and hauling stuff in vans, we had a few close calls.

On the way to a certain road game, our trainer complained of the van’s engine running rough. One of the coaches got out to look at it and then marched straight toward us. The coach must have immediately assessed the problem as relating to the fact that teens tend to think that a governor on an engine is an unnecessary restriction of fun. Coach said he thought we could “fix” the engine—and in doing so, we wouldn’t get in trouble.

We nodded, and then I slipped outside. My mechanical skills are limited, but I can remove a shoestring from an accelerator rod. In life we sometimes let the devil pull our strings. He is not the imagined cartoon character with a pitchfork sitting on one of our shoulders. He is invisible, but leaves his mark in the schemes and situations we face. He throws different temptations our way. If we try to handle them on our own, we will sooner or later fall.

Like the trainer asking for help from one of the coaches, we need to depend on Christ to help us through the difficult times. The shoestring didn’t belong on the accelerator rod. No string, no problem. Similarly, do not let the devil tie you in knots. Focus on Christ; let in the Light and the darkness recedes.

Father,help me to handle the temptations that come my way. May I turn my attention to deeper desires, more powerful loves: the ones You give me. In Christ, amen.

August 23

By | 365 Devotions

Forgiveness in Christ

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Scripture: Romans 8:1-11

Song: “Thank God I’m Free”

After my dad passed away, I had a chance to look through his Bible. This verse from Romans is underlined and noted throughout his Bible. He must have cherished it.

Dad served as a sergeant in WWII, though he never spoke about the war afterwards. Until—40 years later!—he told us he had been captured by the Germans and escaped by killing the guard. Through letters, local newspaper articles, and the testimony of men who served with my dad, we learned he was a good soldier and had served with honor. The killing of the guard was justified in a time of war, yet his memory of the act had haunted him for decades.

None of us live perfect lives. Abraham, Moses, and David . . . Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John . . . the list of imperfect people used by God could go on and on to this very day. It would include you and me and every Christian we know. Yet we cling to the cross; in its shadow, we are never condemned, for justice has been served on our behalf.

There is no end to the voices reminding us of our mistakes, sins, and weaknesses, real and imagined. Paul, the writer of Romans, had once held the coats of those who stoned a faithful disciple. He knew firsthand the power of forgiveness and release from Heaven’s condemnation. Do you know that release? If you are “in Christ Jesus,” today’s verse is written for you.

Dear Father, I thank You for the atoning blood of Calvary. Your Son’s death and resurrection have given new life and hope for the future. In His name I pray. Amen.

August 22

By | 365 Devotions

Jesus, Our Prayer Warrior

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. . . . Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth (John 17:15, 17).

Scripture: John 17:14-19

Song: “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

I have a circle of friends who are what some call prayer warriors, and so I call on them from time to time with special requests from the Lord. These diligent intercessors lift my concerns before the heavenly throne with passion and sincerity of heart. It helps to know they care for me—and surely God hears their intentions.

As I see it, there are some who pray, and then there are folks who . . . pray. However, none of them can pray as Christ did. In John 17, we observe Christ at prayer as a part of our prayer circle, for He prays for us. The Lord’s Prayer tells us how to pray. But here Jesus shows us how to pray.

Christ knew His disciples would have to face the rough and tumble of life. (If we never faced difficulties, how would our faith grow?) So He didn’t pray that we would be safe as we hide behind the walls of our churches. Instead, He prayed for His followers’ protection as they carried the good news into the world.

I’m thankful that Christ didn’t just pronounce His doctrines from Heaven and expect us to figure it all out. Rather, He came to earth to show us how to live and how to pray. This tells me: He’s for me. And if He is for me, it doesn’t matter who is against me (see Romans 8:31). The outcome of every struggle is already settled.

Thank You, Jesus, for praying for me so long ago. And thank You for continuing to intercede for me at the right hand of the Father. Through the holy Trinity, amen.

August 21

By | 365 Devotions

Fair-Weather Christians

He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45).

Scripture: Matthew 5:43-48

Song: “Higher Ground”

In 2005 I watched on TV as Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans. Some well-meaning Christian friends looked at each other and nodded. They figured: God has decided to punish the wicked city. A little over a month later, however, these same friends and I packed our cars and headed north as Hurricane Rita ripped along our own Texas-Louisiana border. Now the (apparently) just and the (supposedly) unjust worlds were both turned upside down.

The Sermon on the Mount calls us to a higher standard of judgment than what’s normally expected. God can and will judge peoples and nations, of course. But that work is far beyond our pay grade! We may be tempted to cloak ourselves in righteousness, announcing God’s judgment based on our whims. But traveling that path leads to danger. Instead, Christ calls us to a standard in which we’re not only to love our enemies, but to pray for them too.

Tempted to hurl God’s lightning bolts toward the evil as you bask in the sunlight? Don’t do it! The Creator has set physical processes and systems into place in our world, and unless He specifically and miraculously intervenes, they will play out amidst the good and bad alike. So let the weatherman give the weather reports; we as Christians have other important things to do.

I pray, Lord, that You help me strive to live by Your standards and not merely by what the world expects. Infuse my spirit with Your spirit of love toward all. In Christ, amen.

August 20

By | 365 Devotions

Crazy Talk

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8).

Scripture: Colossians 2:6-12

Song: “I Can Hear My Savior Calling”

As I write this, the midterm elections are about to kick into high gear, and I am reminded that the United States has a colorful history when it comes to elections. There will be many speeches and much analysis by all the political experts—and even a few good ideas will come through amidst all of the rhetoric.

There will be political “crazy talk,” of course, and we expect that. But are you aware that Christians are constantly assaulted by spiritual crazy talk? It’s the kind Paul refers to in our verse above.

For example, on the TV, radio, and the Internet, modern preachers try to persuade us with their “be happy” messages. Or we only hear doom and gloom, but the next day we hear prosperity. Next, the world is spinning out of control—but then we’re bombarded by worthy causes asking for donations.

In all the turmoil Christ offers us a safe haven. Can we get away from the noise of the world and listen to His still, small voice for a while? “My sheep listen to my voice,” said our Lord. “I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27) Let it be so for you and for me.

O Lord, the crazier my world becomes, the more I need to spend time in prayer and Scripture. Lead me into close fellowship with You today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

August 20–26. Danny Woodall, of Port Neches, Texas, ministers with his wife in Christian education to fourth-grade Sunday school students.

August 19

By | 365 Devotions

The Way You Carry It

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

Scripture: Romans 12:9-21

Song: “Change My Heart, Oh God”

Life isn’t just a load of problems to be solved, issues to see through, and hardships to get over. Life is also the gift of peace, the kind Jesus promised us, the special kind that surpasses all our understanding. On occasion that peace requires “I’m sorry.”

Apologies are a sign of strength not weakness. And peace is the gift that comes from an apology. So . . . swallow the pride, gulp real hard, and go forward. It means having to be a whole lot of vulnerable and a little bit of brave. When we are brave enough to apologize—or just to let it go and choose to live in peace—we break through a serious spiritual barrier. We can enjoy the gift of life again.

We’ll always face relational challenges and upsets because human beings come to one another with uniquely differing goals, desires, wounds, and intentions. This creates a load or burden for each of us to carry. But here’s the key: It’s not the load itself that breaks us down; it’s the way we carry it.

Lighten the load today and stop spinning your wheels and wasting your days. Choose to diligently work through your conflicts with others. Forgive offenses. Resolve disputes. An apology is a good way to have the last word.

Heavenly Father, teach me how to apologize when I’ve been the agent of hurt, even unintentionally. Show me how to live in peace with everyone. I fail at this often, but I thank You and praise You for the example of Your Son. In His name, amen.

August 18

By | 365 Devotions

YOUnique

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us (Romans 12:6).

Scripture: Romans 12:1-8

Song: “Take My Life and Let It Be”

All believers receive at least one spiritual gift when the Holy Spirit comes to live within them. But whatever gifts we have are given to us by God’s grace, and should never be held, announced, or exercised in a spirit of pride. Our gifts are to be used to serve others, pure and simple. Therefore we ought never to be jealous of another’s gifts, nor should we neglect using the ones we have.

A gift helps us to cooperate with others in edifying the church and advancing the kingdom, without a spirit of competition.

Several years ago at the Special Olympics, the boys were running a race. One particular runner named Andrew was lightning fast and projected to win the race. As he came around the final corner of the track he was, as expected, ahead of everyone. But out of the corner of his eye, he saw his friend take a horrible fall.

Andrew ignored the cheers and the yells for him to keep running; instead, he turned and went back, picked up his friend by the hand, and together they crossed the finish line in last place. The crowd roared in applause.

True winning in the church means caring and working together, serving one another in the body of Christ with the unique forms of grace we’re given. In this way, together we are always better.

Lord, thank You Lord for the grace-gifts You have given me. May I never use them to one-up someone but to make Your church stronger. I want to use my gifts in a way that glorifies only You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

August 17

By | 365 Devotions

The Negative Committee

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:1-5

Song: “One Sweetly Solemn Thought”

When things aren’t going the way we like, we’re tempted to paint a gloomy picture of life. Our day begins to drown in negativity. Our mind begins racing a mile a minute as we descend deeper into a pit of despair.

But here’s where we must tell the Negative Committee, which is meeting in the boardroom of our minds, to sit down, be quiet, and listen up. Then we unleash the big announcement, which goes something like this: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Negative thoughts are life sucking and energy draining. And just like various pagan teachings the apostle Paul was dealing with, all false “arguments” and “pretensions” that are at odds with the mind of Christ must be confronted and, ultimately demolished. How to do that? Don’t fight those thoughts directly; just add new, better thoughts that flow from truth: you are a beloved child of God, and you rest in His loving arms today.

Take a fast detour and live a life of praise. Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. As such thoughts infuse your spirit, you may even choose to express a word of appreciation to a friend or neighbor. It will put a smile on that person’s face and a smile on your heart.

Father, transform my daily thoughts to conform more closely to the mind of Christ. Work in me to stand against any form of untruth in my outlook. In Christ, amen.

August 16

By | 365 Devotions

Fight from Victory

Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).

Scripture: Luke 6:27-36

Song: “I’ve Got Peace Like a River”

Out of nowhere something totally unexpected happens. A distressing phone call. An unwelcome visitor. Maybe someone spoke words of hatred or slandered your name. Maybe a challenge has been laid on the table, and you wonder if you are supposed to take it or not.

Do not be tempted to hit the panic button. Resist that urge. Don’t scream, yell, lose your cool, or throw your arms up in despair. Instead, run to God for the answers. In life we are always running to something or from something. God has the answer to whatever we are running from.

It might look like a dead end or an impossible task at first, but our loving Lord uses situations like this to grow our faith. Trust Him and fall to your knees.

We can’t change what was said or done, but we can change the way we react, remembering that God has awesome ways of bringing us opportunities disguised as impossible situations. Treat the offender as he or she would wish to be treated. See what happens.

After all, it’s never too late for a new beginning for those who know that they fight from victory and not for victory. Thus there is great wisdom in something uttered centuries ago by Marcus Tullius Cicero: “It is better to receive than to do injury.”

Lord, thank You for giving me a new perspective and a new direction. Help me to see everything today differently, recognizing how I can glorify You in this situation, even amidst the great hurt. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

August 15

By | 365 Devotions

Smelling Like Smoke Today?

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: “Let There Be Peace on Earth”

As Christians we can be joy-filled, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble. Plain and simple, we can turn the other cheek—a very easy thing to say, but a very difficult thing to do. How we react to people when they sling dirt at us . . . well, that defines us.

The fact is, we don’t have to accept the invitation to every fight. Even if we have been betrayed, lied to, stolen from, and heartbroken. In other words, there has to come a time when we stop walking around smelling like smoke from the ones who burned us. We can stop trying to get even with those who have done us wrong and, instead, get even with those who have done us right.

The joy of the Lord, not anger, is our strength. We can hold our head high and our shoulders back when we come to this realization. And we will survive, because in our weakness He is strong.

Today will you join me in focusing on Jesus—the author and finisher of our faith? Say the name of Jesus in praise—out loud! There is power in that name. We were not put here to sit, soak, and sour. We were placed here to be different, to stand apart from the world as a witness to the greatness and goodness of the Lord. We cannot stand apart if we engage every battle.

Lord, help me to find peace with myself and with others. I need Your words to fill me up and help me to overflow. In Jesus’ name, amen.

August 14

By | 365 Devotions

The War Within

The flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit. . . . They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want (Galatians 5:17).

Scripture: Galatians 5:16-26

Song: “Love Lifted Me”

Every driver we pass on the way to work this morning has a DUI. Driving Under the Influence of something. We are all driven by our desires, ideas, and the influences around us. Look even deeper and we may discover regrets, lies, broken promises, deserted commitments, and generally a not-so-perfect life.

In some cases, we may have rationalized for years, telling ourselves that a certain thing really is OK to do. Yet deep in the recesses of our souls, we knew it gave us no peace. We have been living life in the fast lane . . . slowly grinding ourselves down with guilt.

Those words pretty much describe most of us at various times in our lives. Yet God knows the mistakes, the dirt, the destruction, and the messes we have made. He knows the conflicts and battles we have with flesh and spirit, and He invites us to shift our desires from the world to His Word.

He patiently waits for us to realize our need for Him and to shift from the fast lane to the faith lane. When we have “crashed and burned,” He picks us up and dusts us off. He carries us when we cannot walk and holds our hand when we are afraid. He reminds us of this: hope is never-ending if we put our hope in Him.

Lord, I need help prioritizing between the things of this world and the truth in Your Word. Help me avoid the trap of self-righteousness and resentment. In Christ, amen.

August 13

By | 365 Devotions

United 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 12:12-26

Song: “Let All Together Praise Our God”

The human body is a marvelous thing. And Paul points out something obvious but powerful: no body part can function properly without the other. If we get sick, the whole body suffers. But the principle also works in reverse. If my left leg delivers a perfect soccer kick to score a goal and win the game, does my right leg get jealous? Of course not, my whole body jumps up and down and celebrates! The same is true for those who love Jesus, this communion, this body—we suffer together and we celebrate together. Why? Because we’re all members of the same body.

A precious couple at our church had served and sung praises to the Lord for many years. Yet their marriage had taken a hard hit after 30 years together, and they were contemplating divorce. Our hearts were broken when the wife cried out for prayer. As a class we surrounded her and prayed with tears falling down our cheeks.

We joined together, “bombarding Heaven” with their names— not just once, but many times. When their marriage was healed we were overjoyed.

Together we had cried; together we rejoiced.

Lord, thank You for creating our bodies to be perfectly in synch, each part with the other. Help us believers to unite in one accord rather than separating in discord. May we never grow callous, forgetting to celebrate the triumphs of the body of Christ. I pray in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

August 13–19. Tammy Whitehurst is a full-time motivational Christian speaker and writer from White Oak, Texas. Her ministry is called Joy for the Journey.

August 12

By | 365 Devotions

Only Human

Since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Song: “Take Time to Be Holy”

An oft repeated excuse for failure is the refrain “I’m only human.” Used excessively, it becomes a rather lame defense for falling short in our quest for holiness. But whatever happened to WWJD? While not as popular as it once was, I love this question (“What would Jesus do?”) and the lofty standard it extols.

“I’m only human” cannot be our Christian witness. Jesus is our example; He shows us the way. In and through Jesus, we are more than merely human. We are indwelt with deity.

As the Corinthians were challenged, let us excel in all things. Let us be done with excuses. Excel in faith. Excel in speech. Seek to excel in knowledge of His Word. Seek to excel in love. Does this sound as if we’re called to be merely human?

Jesus is our unquestioned example. He was rich yet became poor. He was divinity yet became humanity. God became man to lead man. He left Heaven and came to a small, backward town in an obscure corner of the planet. Privileges exchanged for a cross. Now He invites us to follow His example and become more like Him. Does this sound like a task for those who are only human?

O God, I’m blessed to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit through baptism. Living in Your kingdom, I want to be done with excuses. Holiness is my focus, my goal. May Your Spirit empower me toward increased faithfulness in all things. Through Christ, amen.

August 11

By | 365 Devotions

Faithful in Key Positions

We are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man (2 Corinthians 8:21).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:16-24

Song: “A Charge to Keep I Have”

A 12-year-old boy collected money from neighbors to help a local children’s hospital fund-raising drive. He never turned the money in. Years later, the now 40-something man called in during a pledge drive to make good on the money he once raised. He even calculated the interest and added it to his gift.

Do you trust those entrusted with handling your financial matters? How about those handling the financial resources of the church? Have they proven faithful in the eyes of both God and men?

Our text refers to a mysterious brother sent with Titus to collect a special offering. While anonymous to us, this brother was well-known in Corinth. He is said to have been praised by all the churches for faithful service to the gospel. He was chosen for this task because of such faithfulness.

I ask myself today: What kind of reputation do I have? Would it ensure my selection to sensitive financial positions and tasks? Apparently, the apostle Paul felt this to be the case with the brother in question.

I would like to be of such stellar reputation that my inclusion on any team or ministry ends any question of impropriety.

Lord, help me to be as faithful as this brother sent to help collect and administer this special offering. May I be seen as doing what is right, both in Your eyes as well as in the eyes of my friends and neighbors. In Jesus’ name, amen.

August 10

By | 365 Devotions

The Key to Prosperity!

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9:11).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:11-15

Song: “Fill My Cup, Lord”

A man in Australia was swindled out of more than $100,000. He had invested in a ranch in Mexico. The ranch owners promised to crossbreed snakes and cats and sell the fur these special critters would then shed.

Huh? Nothing seems to attract more attention than a truly crazy “get rich quick” scheme. And there is no lack of people ready to be taken in.

The Bible has its own version of a “get rich quick” scheme. Yet few seem ready to invest. After all, it’s not for the greedy, not for the self-centered, and it’s not about accumulating this world’s wealth. On the contrary, it’s all about giving wealth away.

Do you want to be generous more than you do rich? Do you want to give more than receive? Do you want to supply for others rather than store for yourself? If so, this plan is for you.

God’s promise is that those who truly desire to help others will prosper. The motive cannot be to gain a lot in order to give a little. But those who want to give, those who delight in helping others, will receive the necessary means to do so. In other words, you will be rich. Rich enough to give.

Lord, help me to spend less time seeking things that don’t satisfy and spend more time on Your blessings that do. Help me to seek riches only that they might allow my generosity to flow more freely toward those in need. Through Christ, amen.

August 9

By | 365 Devotions

Strange and Wonderful

In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:2).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1-6

Song: “What Can I Give Him?”

They were the strangest people you could ever meet. I’m sure you’ll agree. First of all, they faced a time of severe trial yet they were known for a joy they couldn’t seem to contain. Second, while in the depths of extreme poverty, they were richly generous. You see, they were the strangest people you could ever meet! They even pleaded with someone to take their money.

The apostle Paul used the Greek word bathus to describe the financial condition of the Macedonian Christians. It’s the word from which we get bathysphere, the first manned, submersible, deep-sea vessel. The bathysphere eventually reached a depth of more than 3,000 feet in 1934. Imagine your financial condition described in these same terms—the extreme depths of poverty. Lacking though they were, the Macedonians begged Paul for the chance to help needy Christians in another part of the world.

What was their secret? Paul says it all flowed from the fact that they gave themselves first to the Lord.

Give yourself to the Lord. All that you are, all that you possess, and all that you achieve. And then watch how strange (and wonderful) your life will prove to be.

Lord, what inspiring people those Macedonians proved to be! I thank You for teaching me that giving is to be based more on faith than riches. Use me, Father, along with my money, to enhance Your reputation in the world. In Jesus’ name, amen.

August 8

By | 365 Devotions

The Mind of Jesus

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

Scripture: Philippians 2:5-11

Song: “Footprints of Jesus”

Our youngest son decided to try a well-known, online dating service. At the same time, mutual friends were trying to arrange a meeting between him and a girl named Hannah. Before they could meet, they both registered with the dating site and were quickly directed to a potential match—with each other! A year and a half later, they were married.

I don’t know how the computer-dating systems arrange matches. I do know of certain revolutionary insights into relationships from the pages of Scripture. For example, the apostle Paul directs us to adopt the mindset of Jesus.

Jesus put others first. He gave up His divine privileges and took on human likeness for our benefit. In light of His example, we can assume that a willingness to sacrifice for others is the key to fulfilling relationships. When you think of it, it’s like the Golden Rule applied to a man and woman: Put your partner ahead of yourself.

If such an emphasis began to infuse society, it would truly revolutionize our world. Marriages would become contests in which each spouse tries to outdo the other in doing good for one another. Dissensions would dissolve. Quarreling would cease.

Want more out of life for yourself? Then seek to do more for someone else.

What an incredible challenge, Lord! To be more like Jesus. Help me as I strive to follow in the steps of the one in whose name I pray, Christ the Lord. Amen.

August 7

By | 365 Devotions

All She Had

They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on (Mark 12:44).

Scripture: Mark 12:38-44

Song: “My Life, My Love I Give to Thee”

Would you feel comfortable with someone watching you write out your weekly offering check? Would you invite your neighbor to count out the bills you take from your wallet to place in the collection plate?

Obviously, such scrutiny would make us uncomfortable. Yet Jesus deliberately sat in a place where He could watch everyone giving their offerings. He saw the rich putting in large amounts. He saw a poor widow dropping two copper coins in the collection box.

We would do well to remember that there is someone who watches our giving. There is someone who sees past actions, peering into our motives as well. And His evaluation is the only one that matters.

How could a couple of copper coins be worth more than the large amounts deposited by the rich? Jesus explains it in the simplest of terms. The poor widow put in all she had to live on. She apparently trusted God to provide for her needs, in His way and time.

I sometimes ask those I teach: Do you think the poor widow starved to death after giving all she had? (I’ve never had anyone who believed that was even remotely possible.)

The lesson is clear: Those who give in faith, trusting God to provide, are blessed accordingly.

Lord, increase my faith. I pray to be inspired increasingly by the shining example of a poor widow who gave all that she possessed. In Jesus’ name, amen.

August 6

By | 365 Devotions

Manna Moments

Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures . . . we might have hope (Romans 15:4).

Scripture: Exodus 16:13-17

Song: “In the Hour of Trial”

Have you ever experienced a “manna moment”? A time when God unexpectedly provided when you were in need? Twenty years ago, a new ministry called us to another state. One of those we left behind was John, a teenager still struggling with matters of faith.

Today John is one of a number of special friends who have reaffirmed God’s goodness to us. During a recent time of unexpected transition and need, John and others stepped up to help. It was like manna from Heaven as far as we were concerned.

Looking back, we see how God prepared us for this time. Looking ahead, we feel renewed in our continuing service to the Lord. Seeds planted and lives touched (some long ago) have produced visible results and reinvigorated our faith.

Paul wrote that all that happened in the past was written to teach and encourage us. God demonstrated through Israel’s sojourn in the desert that He would provide for His people. It may not be manna falling from the night sky, but God is faithful.

Do not despair whenever difficult days arise. Be faithful in His service, trusting Him, for your manna moment may yet be coming.

Thank You, Lord, for Your providential care, and for those special graces manifested in a time of need. Help me to remain faithful and true. In Jesus’ name, amen.

August 6–12. Dan Nicksich is the minister of New Beginnings in Newaygo, Michigan. Former empty nesters, he and his wife have recently been blessed with two teenage girls.

August 5

By | 365 Devotions

Be Careful How You Judge

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? (Romans 2:3).

Scripture: Romans 2:1-12

Song: “Love One Another”

“Do you have any prayer requests?” the teacher asked.

“I do. My neighbor’s daughter ran away again. This time, I think she ran away with the Jacksons’ boy, who sells drugs . . . at least I think he does. She’s back now, but I don’t know for how long. Both of their other kids ran away, and one never came back. I just want us to pray that there’s nothing terrible going on in that house that the kids are trying to escape.”

Have you ever heard that kind of prayer request? An account disguised as concern, while it’s actually speculating and sharing sordid details? Could this be what Paul meant when he said we pass judgment yet do the same things? Maybe not the exact same things, but gossiping and causing pain and alienation?

Jesus said not to judge, but He clarified it . . . we are not to judge hypocritically, because the same judgment we mete out will be ours. We are to be filled with love and compassion, doing what we can to help and restore. We are to pray, but not share every detail if we ask others to pray, as well. Usually, the latest “news” about someone else is best kept to ourselves. After all, how much of our own lives would we want broadcast to the community?

Father, I fall so far short of what You want me to be. Please forgive me and reveal to me my sins and motives that aren’t pure. Help me to be genuinely concerned for others, not just curious about their problems. I pray through Christ my Lord. Amen.

August 4

By | 365 Devotions

His Word Is Written on My Heart

They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts . . . their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them. This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets (Romans 2:15, 16).

Scripture: Romans 2:12-16

Song: “Thy Word”

Corey found a $10 bill on the school stairs and stuck it in his pocket. In class he overheard someone say he’d lost his money. Corey didn’t want to give it up, so he kept silent. He told himself that he hadn’t stolen anything and he hadn’t lied, so it was OK. But that night his conscience bothered him. He knew in his heart that what he’d done was wrong.

On that final day, our consciences will bear witness to our lives. Our thoughts and memories will sometimes accuse us, sometimes defend us, because deep down, we know what is right and wrong, don’t we? We know that things done against us hurt. So if we do the same thing to others, we know it’s wrong. We may try to subdue or ignore our consciences, or try to justify ourselves, but in the end, what God wants is written on our hearts.

But for those who are His, washed in His blood, judgment will be different. Jesus died for us—to save us from judgment. He will not look to which law we lived under, He will not search to see if we kept it perfectly. He will look at our hearts, to see if we are His and to judge how well we have used the spiritual gifts He’s given us. Then: reward or loss of reward (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Righteous Judge, I thank You for putting Your law in my heart. I pray that my conscience will be in agony until I repent of anything I have done wrong. In Christ, amen.

August 3

By | 365 Devotions

Sorrow That Leads to Repentance

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:9-11

Song: “Break My Heart, Dear Lord”

Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow . . . both can cause deep regret, but only one can have a saving effect. Worldly sorrow harbors the fear of others discovering our sin, and calls for a cover-up. It causes separation as we withdraw or become belligerent in order to keep others from getting too close to our secrets. It might mean deceiving people who love us, because we don’t want to hurt them. Thus worldly sorrow can be quite painful; however, feeling remorse—and even confessing to those we’ve hurt—cannot take away our sin or guilt; spiritual death is still there.

Godly sorrow, however, is realizing that my sin has been an affront to God himself, in that I rejected His love and plans for me. It may require restitution, on the human plane, among our relationships. But in a deeper sense, the guilt before the Lord remains. We become joyless, physically weakened, and perhaps overwhelmed by feelings of remorse.

This is where godly sorrow points us to the path of redemption. When we finally stop running, finally cry out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” regret fades away and salvation enters. That surrender, that crying out to God, is exactly what we need.

Lord, please break my heart and lead me to confession. For my sin, for turning my back on You, for despising the plans You have for me, I ask Your forgiveness. And give me Your power to change and live in a way that honors You. In Christ, amen.

August 2

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Standing in God’s Way?

If God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way? (Acts 11:17).

Scripture: Acts 11:15-18

Song: “He Reigns”

When these Jewish Christians realized that God accepted the Gentiles after centuries of enmity, they praised God. They began to understand that the Scriptures saying “the whole world” and “all nations” had meant that Gentiles would be included in God’s family along with them. When they understood God’s plan, they worked to overcome their prejudice and to build relationships with their new brothers and sisters.

Today, we don’t have the same prejudice, but don’t we face one that’s quite similar? Don’t we often look at Muslims, for instance, much the way early Jewish Christians looked at the Gentiles? Who are we to stand in God’s way, His plans and His methods, to bring the Muslim people into His family?

They aren’t automatically accepted without a change of heart or repentance, any more than the Gentiles were in the first century. But the blood of Jesus was shed for all of us. And all of us, regardless of our nationalities and backgrounds, are invited to turn fully to Him. God loves the Muslims; He wants them to be in His family too. He’s not unaware of the years of their rejecting Him and persecuting Christians, but He also offers the blood of His Son for their salvation. Who are we to stand in the way of God?

Father, help me see how precious in Your eyes is every human being, every tribe and nation, with all their variety of beliefs. Your Son calls them all. In His name, amen.

August 1

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Mourning with Those Who Mourn

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).

Scripture: Romans 12:14-21

Song: “Held”

A missionary we support in Africa visited a family who had just lost a child. Even though they were the ones being comforted, the grieving family, according to the customs in their country, served their guests with the utmost hospitality. They offered a meal that the people traditionally eat with their hands, but they gave our friend a spoon. She struggled with knowing she’d just shaken hands with everyone in the room, but felt that if she ate with the spoon, it might look as if she felt too good to eat with her hands as they do. She declined the spoon. She also drank (a little) of the water they’d given her.

Before leaving, feeling she’d done little to comfort the family, she did what she could. “I prayed for the woman who had just lost a child, and for her husband who wasn’t a believer,” she said. “I asked that God take this brokenness and turn it into a blessing.”

Two weeks later, she heard that the husband had decided to be- come a follower of Christ. You see, he was deeply moved that she sat on the floor with them, ate the rice with her hand, and drank from their cup. “A God who motivates people to do these things for others,” he said, “must be worth following.”

O Lord, I pray for those who are grieving over lost loved ones, who feel alone and without hope. Please turn their brokenness into a blessing. In Christ I pray. Amen.

August 1–5. Janet Mountjoy and her husband are now retired after working with churches in the Midwest and Florida for 35 years. She enjoys family time, writing, reading, and camping.

July 31

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Bearing Good Fruit for God

The axe is already at the roof of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Luke 3:9).

Scripture: Luke 3:7-14

Song: “Holy Spirit, Grow Your Fruit in Me”

Our once-productive apple tree finally quit bearing fruit. The year before, the fruit had been sparse, but we hoped the tree was just resting for a season. But last year, there were no apples.

It was such a disappointment. My husband had planted that tree, watered, sprayed, and pruned it. Together we had harvested it, year after year. We’d made pies and apple butter, and given away bags of apples; our grandchildren loved to climb in its branches, and had set up an apple stand by the street; we’d all eaten freely from that tree. What sad day when we cut the tree down to be replaced by something else . . . that would produce.

In many ways, our Christian lives are like that tree. Our “fruit” shows our spiritual health. It showcases the work and love of our Father, and the good deeds and words we “produce” aren’t just for our benefit, but also for others. And our Father—great caretaker!— is the one who plants us, feeds, waters, and prunes us.

What we felt the day our tree fell can’t begin to compare to the sorrow God must feel when He has to “cut down” those who aren’t producing fruit for Him. I pray our lives will always show the fruit of our loving Father and caretaker.

Father, Lord of the harvest, I am nothing without Your tender care for me. I ask You to plant me where You want me to grow, to water, nurture, and prune me so I will produce good fruit that will glorify You and bless others. In the name of Jesus, amen.

July 30

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It’s Just Our Turn

I’m not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

Scripture: Romans 1:16, 17

Song: “Mighty to Save”

Christians were being persecuted when Paul wrote to encourage them to not be ashamed of the gospel. He’d experienced beatings and stonings for sharing the good news about Jesus, and yet he continued, knowing how precious the gospel was, knowing it was worth the sacrifice to give others the opportunity to know Christ.

All over the world today, Christians are being beaten, tortured and killed, their homes and churches destroyed. Tens of thousands are forced to flee their countries. Indian pastors have been beaten and killed. Chinese women were arrested and beaten for handing out material about Jesus. Eighty North Korean Christians were executed publicly for owning Bibles. In fact, more Christians have been killed in the past 100 years than in all the centuries since Christ.

Even in America, we are intimidated by charges of intolerance, and we’re even seeing legal threats to living out our faith. Solomon said there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and this is nothing new . . . it’s just our turn. Our God is mighty to save. Let us live as though we believe that, and be willing to sacrifice our personal comforts—and yes, even our lives—to advance His kingdom.

O God, please fill me with such compassion that I’ll be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of those who don’t know Your Son. In His precious name I pray. Amen.

July 30, 31. Janet Mountjoy and her husband are now retired after working with churches in the Midwest and Florida for 35 years. She enjoys family time, writing, reading, and camping.

July 29

By | 365 Devotions

Don’t Delay

At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses (Luke 14:17, 18).

Scripture: Luke 14:15-24

Song: “Are Ye Able?”

When I was in high school I had a chance to go on a trip to Japan with an exchange-student program. It would have meant spending several weeks with other American high schoolers, taking classes in Japan, and learning all about the country and culture.

It would have been an expensive trip and far from home, so I had some good reasons to stay home, for sure. In the end, I chose not to go.

But I consoled myself with the thought that I was only 17 and would have lots of opportunity to do that kind of travel later in life. Now, I am 48 and still have never set foot in Japan. At this point, I expect I never will. Sometimes when a door opens, we need to step through it if we don’t want to miss our chance for something special.

We Christians believe that it is never too late for a person to enter the kingdom. Even on deathbeds, people can come to Christ. But it is also true that we never know when our final opportunity may arise. Today might be the day when the door closes for the last time, and so we are wise if we do not hesitate when the invitation is given.

Lord, You have called all people into Your glorious kingdom, even me. Even though we have crossed those boundaries. Give me boldness to point the way to others. In Christ, amen.

July 28

By | 365 Devotions

So, What Does It Take?

Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples (Luke 14:33).

Scripture: Luke 14:25-33

Song: “Will You Come and Follow Me?”

Sam and Alice were not a happy couple the day Billy told them about his plans to join the Marines. It had been a struggle to get Billy through high school. Partway through his junior year, he’d been in a fight on the school grounds. When the school security guard broke up the fight, they smelled alcohol on Billy’s breath. Billy had only narrowly avoided getting kicked out of school.

But he made it. They had made it. Now, with a community college degree and a good lead on an electrical engineering job down the line, things at last looked better. Sam and Alice breathed easier.

Then Billy broke the news. He had already enlisted and would ship out in a few weeks. He thought the Marines would help get his life on track, and he wanted to serve his country. Alice cried. Sam, who had pulled strings to get Billy admitted to the community college, was furious.

Like Billy, we all come to risky moments of possibly disappointing those who have loved and nurtured us. To break out of the crowd and truly follow Jesus, we may have to do things that others find ridiculous or unwise. But only when we’re ready to risk that can we follow Jesus more closely.

Almighty God, You have given me family and friends who love me, to strengthen me and nurture me along the way. But there comes a time when even those who love me might hold me back from following You. Help me, Lord, to follow You no matter the cost. Help me to love You more than I desire human praise. Through Christ, amen.

July 27

By | 365 Devotions

The Loving No

This people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn (Acts 28:27).

Scripture: Acts 28:22-28

Song: “I Hear Thy Welcome Voice”

Jerry loved his son, but he was tormented by him too. His son was addicted to methamphetamines. In some ways, he had ceased to be the person Jerry knew as his son. No matter what Jerry did, his son did not respond. He lied. He stole things from the house to sell for drug money. He was verbally abusive to his father.

As a newly baptized Christian, Jerry wanted very much to love his son the way Jesus taught us to love. But it took much painful experience for Jerry to learn, and finally accept, that loving the way God loves us sometimes requires saying no to our loved ones. Part of love is having healthy limits and firm boundaries.

Jerry eventually secured a court order against his son. He had to get another against his son’s girlfriend. He had to change all the locks on the doors of his house and garage. Doing all this hurt Jerry deeply, but he knew it was the only way he could love his son.

It pains God when we will not listen to Him and when we live in ways that cause us harm. Yet God loves us too much to let us live without boundaries. On the other hand, if we will let Him, He will heal us even though we have crossed those boundaries.

Almighty and Loving God, You have ordered this world for my good and for the good of all Your creatures. When I refuse to listen to You, I soon run into trouble. Help me, O God, to open my eyes to truly see Your goodness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

July 26

By | 365 Devotions

We Sing as One

He looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:35).

Scripture: Mark 3:31-35

Song: “As We Gather at Your Table”

On a trip to Jerusalem, I spent one Sunday morning in St. Anne’s Church in the Old City. A tour group can become a stressful place after several days, especially for an introvert. I needed some time to myself.

So I was alone that morning as I sat in the beautiful stone church with its massive columns, high ceiling, and wonderful acoustics. As I sat quietly off to the side, tour group after tour group of Christians came into the church. Each group would hear the guide talk about the awesome structure. They would pray together, and each group would then sing a hymn, usually a cappella and in unison.

It was beautiful to hear their voices echo off the stone. I heard a group of Brazilian believers singing in Portuguese a tune I had heard before. I heard a German group sing a hymn I simply didn’t know.

Then a Chinese group sang a hymn with a familiar tune that I couldn’t recognize at first. But slowly it dawned on me that they were singing “Blessed Assurance.” Quietly, off to the side, I joined in the singing in English. For those few moments that morning, at least, I was reminded that whenever people gather in the name of Jesus, we are one with Him and one with each other.

God, all the world is Yours, and all who dwell in it are Your creation. Help me, O Lord, to remember that we are called as Christians to be brothers and sisters with one another. No matter what may divide us, what unites us is greater still. In Christ, amen.

July 25

By | 365 Devotions

He Knows What’s Best

Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Scripture: Matthew 16:24-28

Song: “Footprints of Jesus”

Roger had a problem with his company, the small landscaping business he’d built up over the years. He had poured his life into it, and recently it had begun to grow. He soon discovered, though, that new employees can bring new problems.

When he hired Jason, Roger thought the young man would be a great crew supervisor. But it soon became obvious he was wrong. Jason used the freedom and authority of the position to . . . skip out on his job! He would leave his crew at a work site and then disappear for hours on end. In the end, Roger had to fire him because Jason was putting his own needs and interests ahead of the good of the company.

In our life with God, we can slip into Jason-like prioritizing. We receive the gospel with joy, and the freedom it gives us, but we may use that freedom simply to “do our own thing.” But, as the apostle Paul said: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Romans 6:1, 2).

We may forget that the call of the gospel is a call to follow Jesus, to put Him first in our lives. Thankfully, when we do that, we discover that God knows exactly what is best for us.

Lord Jesus, You went to the cross that I might have abundant life in You. Speak to my heart in this moment, and show me the ways I have set aside my own cross, doing my own thing when I should have been doing Your thing. In Your name, amen.

July 24

By | 365 Devotions

Lay It All Down

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy (Luke 18:23).

Scripture: Luke 18:18-25

Song: “Faith of Our Fathers”

I sat by the bedside of a dying woman. She had been a good church-going woman all her life, hardly ever missing a Sunday. She always helped out whenever anything was going on. And she did her best to live a good and moral life.

As we sat together in her hospital room, I saw her eyes filling with tears. She told me of someone who had hurt her deeply many, many years ago: “I’ve tried so hard, but I’ve never been able to forgive her, to lay that burden down. It’s like a heavy weight I’ve carried around in my heart all these years.”

So many things we are called to let go—but we hold on anyway. Perhaps this woman knew the pain of our Scripture’s “certain ruler.” He left Jesus with a sad heart because he could not part with his wealth.

And what are you holding so tightly today? If we will follow Jesus, we must learn to travel light, laying aside those things that would tie us down or hold us back from the joyful adventure of discipleship. Wealth or bitterness or any other “possession” can hinder the heavenly fellowship. Therefore, in love, Jesus invites us to lay it all at His feet.

Lord Jesus, You call me to follow You on the joyous and light-footed journey of the gospel life. Receive into Your hands, dear Lord, those things that weigh me down and keep me from following You more closely. I pray in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

July 23

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Count the Cost!

Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? (Luke 14:31).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 20:5-8

Song: “O God, What Offering Shall I Give?”

I went to the gym one winter’s day convinced I’d finally begin getting in shape. My youthful strength was long gone, but I knew if I worked hard, I could still shed some fat and lose a few inches around the middle. There weren’t many people around me, but I still felt awkward. No matter; I’m ready to start building a new me.

The next morning, I woke up in pain. I had strained the tendons in both my elbows by exerting myself too hard on the biceps curls. It would be several days before the pain stopped. I did not go back to the gym.

I lost that battle before it even started. And it can happen in the spiritual realm as well. If we launch into a spiritual battle when we aren’t ready for the struggle, we court a serious defeat.

Jesus warned His disciples about entering into spiritual battles for which they were unprepared (Luke 14:28-33), and so we are reminded to ready ourselves for the spiritual struggles we face in life. We have an enemy who will fight hard. Following God is not for the fainthearted.

Almighty Father, I know You don’t call me to an easy battle. The enemy will not give up easily. Strengthen me today, Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

July 23–29. John Meunier is a minister serving his church in Mexico, Indiana, while also lecturing on business at a nearby university.

July 22

By | 365 Devotions

The Ultimate Feast

People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:29).

Scripture: Luke 13:22-30

Song: “There Is Coming a Day”

Who doesn’t like a good church potluck dinner? When I was a boy, I somehow thought of potato chips every time a fellowship dinner was announced. So I always loaded up my plate with potato chips! Even today, I’m a sucker for chips at a potluck.

The best fellowship dinner ever is still to come. Held in the full manifestation of the coming kingdom, its guests will come from the four corners of the earth. Leading the honored-guest list will be “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets” (v. 28). One song says, “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I will see!”

But not everyone will enjoy this wonderful banquet. Some will be left outside knocking at the door, hearing these awful words: “I don’t know you or where you come from.” They will protest, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught us in our streets.” But our Lord will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” (vv. 25-27).

Jesus is the door to Heaven, but it is a narrow door that leads to the great banquet hall. So I remind myself: Don’t miss Heaven for the world.

Lord God of the future, I look forward with great anticipation to sitting down with all Your beloved ones and feasting in Your kingdom. My tongue confesses You freely now, and I bend my knee to You, so it won’t seem unnatural to do it for eternity. I pray with gratitude in the name of Jesus. Amen.

July 21

By | 365 Devotions

Count the Cost

Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10:28).

Scripture: Mark 10:28-31

Song: “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go”

Some people leave nearly everything behind to follow Christ onto a foreign mission field. In fact, history tells of some missionaries who packed their meager belongings in coffins, so they’d have a proper burial on the mission field. They planned never to return home. After all, they might say, “Jesus said to go into all the world, but He never said anything about coming back.”

But Jesus did speak of the wonderful reward coming to those who left homes, families, and fields behind for the sake of the gospel. He said that “in this present age”(v. 30) they would receive a hundred times as much in homes, families, and fields.

I think that means new territories and souls conquered for Christ—new Christians, new churches planted, new friendships in the far-flung family of God. However, Jesus added, “along with persecutions” (v. 30). We see that happening all around the world today. But we also see an amazing explosion of conversions, in spite of the persecution. Truly, the gates of Hell cannot prevail against the church.

And the ultimate reward for those who venture forth for Christ? Consider this: “and in the age to come eternal life” (v. 30). It pays to serve Jesus.

Lord, I ask Your blessing upon every faithful missionary who has left all to follow You. Inspire and raise up many more to follow them to places and peoples who long to know Your love. And push me, too, right out among my neighbors! In Christ, amen.

July 20

By | 365 Devotions

Rock or Sand?

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24).

Scripture: Matthew 7:24-28

Song: “Be Doers of the Word of God”

One of the first choruses I learned in Sunday school was “The wise man built his house upon the rock.” A house is only as good as the foundation it rests on. Many people learned that lesson the hard way when Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans a few years ago.

My wife has hearing problems. In addition to wearing a hearing aid, she also has a cochlear implant. But some people have spiritual hearing problems—an ailment with more serious symptoms and consequences. For example, consider the type of person who knows much of the Bible but never actually tries to apply it in daily life. Jesus likens him to a foolish builder, someone who’d construct his house on a sandbar.

In light of Jesus’ teaching in these verses, we can no doubt conclude that the success or failure of a Christian’s “spiritual house” doesn’t depend so much on the hearing as on the doing. Do we indeed practice the teachings of our precious Lord?

Every time we hear the voice of Christ, whether in private reading or a congregational setting, we face a choice. Will I put these words into practice or not? Will I build my house on the solid rock or on constantly shifting sands?

Lord God, as I seek to study and know Your Word, strengthen my resolve also to be a doer of the Word, and not a hearer only. In Jesus’ name, amen.

July 19

By | 365 Devotions

A Tree and Its Fruit

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit (Matthew 7:18).

Scripture: Matthew 7:15-23

Song: “Breathe on Me, Breath of God”

My grandmother had several fruit trees in her yard. When I was a boy, I loved climbing up in the branches of those trees and selecting a nice apple, plum, or bunch of cherries. And Grandma made the best cherry pies you can imagine. I could hardly wait for one of those pies to come out of the oven. She never made a bad pie, because she always had good fruit.

It is a fact of life that only a good tree can bear good fruit. Likewise, it is impossible for a good tree to bear bad fruit, or for a bad tree to bear good fruit. That’s why Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” He was talking about false prophets (see verse 15). We still have to be on the watch for their kind today.

But we must also examine ourselves. What kind of fruit are we producing for God? The fruit we produce shows what kind of a person we are and who, ultimately, we rely on to do our works for the Lord. You see, only the Holy Spirit can actually produce fruit, as we make ourselves available for His use.

In light of this truth, consider Barnabas, a good tree. You can discover the secret of his goodness in Acts 11:24: “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”

Dear Father, fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might produce only good fruit for You and Your glory. I’m reminded that it may be in the little decisions of this day that I please or displease You. Wisdom and patience, Lord! Through Christ, amen.

July 18

By | 365 Devotions

Juice for Jesus

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

Scripture: John 15:1-11

Song: “In Heavenly Love Abiding”

I like to start my day with some wheat toast and a glass of chilled grape juice. I love bread, and it has a great history. For centuries it’s been called “the staff of life,” a food that has sustained many cultures across the centuries.

And now medical research has shown that an 8-ounce glass of dark-grape juice is good for your heart. Some doctors say that a glass of grape juice does the same as an aspirin a day in preventing strokes or heart attacks in adults.

We know that Jesus is the Bread of Life, but today’s Scripture tells us that he is also the Vine. That means all our spiritual nutrients come from Him, as we stay attached, like branches. Thus He can produce fruit through us. In other words, we need to be healthy Christians so that we can produce juice for Jesus!

No branch can bear fruit by itself; we must be open to the spiritual nutrient flow that comes to us from Jesus. If we abide in faithfulness, we will abound in fruitfulness.

The bottom line? Don’t allow “carnal cholesterol” to block the flow. My friend Kim says, “The fruit you bear through staying attached to Christ will cause many people to be drawn to the garden of God. They will want the life that flows from Jesus, the Vine.”

Dear Lord, thank You for grafting me into the true vine. May I bear much fruit for Your glory today, as You infuse me with Your spiritual life. In Christ, amen.

July 17

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The Gate for the Sheep

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture (John 10:9).

Scripture: John 10:1-10

Song: “Softly and Tenderly”

This is one of the seven recorded “I Am” statements by Jesus in John’s gospel. Only Jesus could make a stunning declaration like this. He is not one of many gates to salvation; He is the only gate to salvation.

In Bible days in the middle east, at evening, the shepherd would lay down in the opening of the sheep pen. He was, in effect, the door to the pen. That’s what our Lord did for us. He laid down His life that we might be lifted up from sin. We enter the security of the sheepfold through His loving sacrifice.

But even more than salvation is promised here. We can “come in and go out.” There is wonderful freedom and liberty to be found in Christ. We are not put in a restrictive straitjacket when we become a Christian. We are free to go here and there, doing good to everyone in the name of Jesus and sharing the good news of salvation with others. The early Christians, even though they were persecuted, “preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4).

A third promise in our Scripture today is that of spiritual refreshment. Those who enter through the gate for the sheep will “find pasture.” This recalls one of the most beautiful scenes portrayed in the Bible, the pastoral setting described in Psalm 23:2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.”

O Father, I am truly grateful for the salvation, freedom, and nourishment I find in You and You alone. In the name of Your Son, my Savior, I pray. Amen.

July 16

By | 365 Devotions

The Narrow and Wide Gates

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13, 14).

Scripture: Matthew 7:13, 14

Song: “Jesus Calls Us”

I remember walking through the turnstile at Crosley Field, home of the Cincinnati Reds, when I was a 12-year-old boy. It was a narrow gate. But once I got through the slim passageway, I was delighted to see the exquisite beauty of the baseball diamond: emerald green grass, a perfectly manicured infield, and straight chalk lines down the baselines. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. It was like entering an awesome green cathedral.

It would seem to us that a wide gate and a broad road would be the way to go. But Jesus knows what is best for us. He warns us that the wide gate and the broad road end in destruction. In spite of this warning, many choose the wide gate. How much better to heed the call of Jesus to enter into life through the narrow gate.

My father paid for my ticket to Crosley Field (75 cents in 1958). That ticket granted me entrance through the narrow turnstile and into the ballpark. Jesus paid for our “ticket” when He shed His atoning blood on the cross so that we could enter through the narrow gate into eternal life.

Lord, thank You for Your goodness, wisdom, and mercy in preparing for us the narrow gate to the road that leads to everlasting life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

July 16–22. Victor Knowles, of Joplin, Missouri, is founder and president of Peace on Earth Ministries, which promotes Christian unity for the sake of world evangelism.

July 15

By | 365 Devotions

Solitaire

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8).

Scripture: Luke 18:1-8

Song: “O, for a Faith That Will Not Shrink”

Like a brilliant solitaire set in a band of pure gold, faith emerges as the precious gem that Christ longs to find in the church when He returns. Just as a diamond has different facets, faith also has several components, each demonstrating a valuable role of this carefully created and measured spiritual gift.

I vividly remember that day in 1958 when I watched for my fiancé’s arrival. I knew he would come, because he loved me and had vowed he’d return to take me as his wife. Faith is watching for the One who loves us most, the One who always keeps His promises.

Puritan minister William Gurnall penned his perception of faith along with the personification of love and hope. According to him, love finds a quiet place to take in Christ’s written devotion while hope moves to the window and waits for signs of her bridegroom’s arrival. But faith opens the door as evidence of her deepest, most imminent expectation.

In Hebrew culture, Jewish brides made themselves ready for marriage and then rested by an open window, listening for that midnight cry: “The bridegroom cometh!”

Faith is the power that motivates believers to prepare their lives in holiness for their coming King.

Holy Father, Jesus is altogether worthy of my honor. May I know Him, love Him, and make myself ready for His return. Lord, thank You that all of this may be done through Your empowering grace within me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

July 14

By | 365 Devotions

Daily Vitamins

In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name (Psalm 33:21).

Scripture: Psalm 33:18-22

Song: “Speak to My Heart, Lord Jesus”

Meagan meant to be brave should doctors deliver the familiar dreaded words she’d heard for seven years: “I’m sorry, Mrs. West. You have miscarried again.” This time, the physician leaned over her hospital bed and spoke a different message: “There’s still a heartbeat, but you have many months to go. . . . Let’s wait and see.”

Confined to bed rest, Meagan abandoned past sorrows by taking in Scriptures and praying for her unborn child. Like daily vitamins, the Bible passages gave her strength and hope.

Meanwhile, she and her husband leaned heavily on a friend’s amazing story of God’s goodness to her in a similar circumstance. Doctors had told her friend, “Your baby cannot be born alive.” But this woman of faith claimed the Lord and planted and would “bring forth fruit in due season” (see Psalm 1:3). In her case, a healthy child was born.

Meagan knew that, for many women, the answer to their prayers for a child remains “No” or “Wait.” For along with worship, prayer, and fellowship, suffering is one of the main ways that Christians grow. In light of all this, Meagan gradually let God’s words displace her anxiety. She determined to simply trust and to let God’s will be done—through her, by her, and in her.

Father, give me grace to stay firm in faith each day and to ask, in every difficulty: How can I make use of this in order to grow deeper in faith and closer to You? I want to keep remembering that Your will for me is always for my best. In Christ, amen.

July 13

By | 365 Devotions

Servants’ Quarters

Select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task (Acts 6:13, NASB).

Scripture: Acts 6:1-6

Song: “It Pays to Serve Jesus”

Larry Henry personally attests to the Lord’s ability to empower and sustain his ministers in the church. In his first pastorate, Brother Henry and his wife, Virgie, led the First Latin American Mission of Muleshoe, Texas. Within this small body of believers, the Henrys grew quite close to one of the two deacons, Rumaldo Lucero.

A humble servant leader, Rumaldo worked as a farm hand for 70 hours weekly, yet he devoted all his remaining hours to working on behalf of the tiny congregation. On one occasion, Rumaldo offered to resign his deacon position, saying that he could neither read nor write. Upon learning of other families who also needed literacy training, the Henrys gathered materials from the Laubach system and began teaching through the “Each One Teach One” method. Within mere weeks, Rumaldo and several members were reading Scripture and hymns for themselves.

Because of this deacon’s faithfulness, the Henrys were inspired to greater outreach. They began using literacy training as an effective instrument to plant churches in Texas, Mexico, and Spain throughout the next 32 years.

Father, lead me in small steps within Your perfect will. And keep my eyes open to others whose examples can inspire and encourage me. So often You speak through the words and deeds of my brothers and sisters in Christ. In His name, amen.

July 12

By | 365 Devotions

I Know the Promise Maker

He is your praise and he is your God, the one who has done mighty miracles you yourselves have seen (Deuteronomy 10:21, TLB).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Song: “What a Mighty God We Serve”

As a young English teacher, wife, and mom, I still couldn’t drive. Fast-forward past years of inconvenience for my remarkably patient mate. God eventually took away my fear. You will get that license! I believed but respectfully reminded God of one immense obstacle: I didn’t know how to drive.

I studied the manual and practiced (sometimes causing near nervous breakdowns to unsuspecting travelers). Then, by surprise, my husband took me to Texas Transportation to test God’s promise.

Meticulously I maneuvered our old station wagon through the official’s barked-out commands, his swift pen ceaselessly subtracting. “Mrs. King,” the frustrated man said, “if you don’t drive faster than 15 mph, we’ll get run over!” But had that dog-eared book stated I must drive 16 mph? And what was God’s promise? “He can’t subtract enough to fail you!”

Finally, the man reluctantly shoved the form into my sweaty hand. Atop the heavily-marked sheet was a spectacular number—71! Fear and failure and subtraction had deferred to an overcoming vow. I’d read God’s Manual; I knew the Author personally.

Dear Heavenly Father, I am glad You never allow Your word to go unfulfilled, no matter what. Sometimes I wonder, though, whether You smile while guiding the sweaty hands of Your children. Praise You, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

July 11

By | 365 Devotions

Late Call to Renewal

Warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone (l Thessalonians 5:14).

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14

Song: “Jesus, I Come”

“Come to my house right now!” It was Ruby on the phone, and it was close to midnight. I so adored this 80-something saint whose devotion to Christ was as lovely as her name. But responding to this demand was the last thing I wanted to do, for I sensed our time wouldn’t be filled with girlfriend chatter and warm cookies. I knew I hadn’t been walking close to the Lord.

I went—right then—traveling across the neighborhood. And as soon as I entered her house, Ruby motioned me toward her king-size bed. I should kneel and confess the cause of my backslidden state!

Ruby, a gracious source of tough love, wasn’t particularly known for her subtlety. But how had she known about me?

Not without regret, tears, embarrassment and sorrow, I poured forth the besetting sins that had weighed me down. I poured them out to God until redemption began mending jagged fragments of my life. Alongside me, my sister in Christ persisted in prayer until my heart was whole again. By the Holy Spirit’s power and prompting, Ruby had lovingly warned a straying believer. Hers was unwavering, righteous conviction plus action.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for caring too much to allow my steps to wander any longer. I ask boldness to share Your healing words of wisdom with those who need them. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

July 10

By | 365 Devotions

A Beautiful Example

So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also (Romans 1:15, KJV).

Scripture: Romans 1:7-15

Song: “Encouraged by Thy Word”

After speaking in a church quite different from mine, I spied a matronly woman with an adamant glare, stalking straight toward the lectern. Towering over me, she bellowed forth a strange-sounding query: “Little lady, will you get ugly for God?” Since she appeared several times my size, and apparently sought an affirmative answer, I gave her one. It was her way of encouraging me to be a bolder witness for my Lord.

There are other kinds of encouragers! Perhaps somewhat less intimidating, another woman from American history boldly emerged from the ugliest of circumstances to become a beautiful example of faith. Sojourner Truth, born into slavery circa 1797, was auctioned at age 9, along with several sheep, to new owners who treated her cruelly. Yet she escaped slavery with an infant daughter and soon became a Christian. While never learning to read or write, she learned she could now communicate directly with her Creator.

Amidst every difficulty, Truth refused any sympathy due to her illiteracy. Instead, she used the strength God gave her—“as much as in me is”—to travel across New England holding prayer sessions and counseling hospitalized freed slaves. How uplifting to reflect on this courageous believer’s lifetime of serving God’s people in spite of adversity!

Precious Lord, please grant me wisdom to keep my eyes on You when I navigate troublesome seas and sojourn through the wilderness. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

July 9

By | 365 Devotions

Who’s Asking?

If even sinful persons like yourselves give children what they need, don’t you realize that your heavenly Father will do at least as much, and give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for him? (Luke 11:13, TLB).

Scripture: Luke 11:5-13

Song: “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart”

“I want to give you my land,” said my husband’s father, with obvious anticipation. “Do you want it?” We said yes! And that Coryell Creek meadow afforded our children the pleasures of skipping stones across a stream, gathering pecans to sell for school shoes, and gritty hands that seemed to make sandwiches taste better!

Eventually Grandpa’s waning health forced us to face the inevitable: he had but days to live. Oddly, he had had some inexplicable disapproval of me through the years, but, I loved him and wanted to speak with him once more about the gracious salvation that comes through Christ. Yet I approached with fear; surely anyone else would be more welcomed by this dying unbeliever.

Indeed, I did receive a resounding rejection: “No!” Have I misunderstood the Lord’s leading? But then I simply decided: “I’ll pray!” Immediately came Grandpa’s barely-whispered words, “God, I believe in Christ Your Son. Forgive me. I’m inviting Jesus into my life.” An earthly Grandfather asks; the heavenly Father gives. And with joyous tears, I witnessed a peaceful entry into Heaven.

Lord God in Heaven, thank You for supplying salvation to all who ask, regardless of what reputations or résumés may look like. In the name of Jesus, amen.

July 9–15. Kay King lives at Texas’s Sky King Ranch where she writes devotional books and teaches Revelation studies. She and her husband, Ben, are blessed with four sons.

July 8

By | 365 Devotions

The Heart Follows Suit

You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean (Matthew 23:25, 26).

Scripture: Matthew 23:1-4, 23-26

Song: “When I Saw the Cleansing Fountain”

“Take those dishes back and bring me some clean ones!” The head cook for the breakfast shift was not happy. After taking a closer look, I saw his concern. Although it was only the first day of my summer job, I had already misjudged things. I assumed the automatic dishwasher would clean everything. It didn’t! The machine only cleaned the outside, not the inside. Cups, bowls, and platters had to be hand-scrubbed first, and then put through the dishwasher. It was more work, but the only way to ensure the dishes were entirely clean and ready for serving up the food.

Next week, things at Sammy’s Restaurant worked out much better. The cook was cheerful, the patrons had no complaints, and the manager promoted me to cook-in-training. Proper dish cleaning made all the difference.

So it is with the Christian life. When the inside is clean, the outside will be clean too. In other words, our hearts need to change first before our lives do. Any outward cleansing without the inward washing is superficial and tends to be temporary. However, after our hearts have been properly cleaned, our lives can follow suit.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10, KJV). And let this change reflect outwardly so my neighbors can see the results and glorify Your name. In Christ Jesus my Savior and Lord. Amen.

July 7

By | 365 Devotions

I Swear It’s True!

Anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it (Matthew 23:22).

Scripture: Matthew 23:16-22

Song: “How Great Thou Art”

At the substance abuse center where I worked in Reno, we conducted weekly, impromptu room searches. Mostly, we were looking for illegal drugs. And on a certain evening—no surprise—under one of the bunks, I found a bag of drug paraphernalia hidden inside a mattress.

The resident insisted the items weren’t his, saying, “As God is my witness, I swear that stuff ain’t mine. Somebody probably planted it to get me kicked out.” I assured him that he would not be evicted.

As a Christian outreach ministry, we wanted to help people with drug abuse problems, not turn them back out into the streets. However, I did tell this man that in regard to swearing an oath, it might be better if he were God’s witness, instead of the other way around.

The swearing in today’s verse doesn’t refer to cursing or using foul language. It means invoking the name of God as part of a pledge. According to Exodus 20:7, we must never misuse the name of the Lord like that, but neither should we employ it to prove our point, impress someone, or add a false sense of spirituality to our promises.

Dear God, please give me wisdom when making promises or pledges, especially when they involve Your name. May I always remember that You are listening too. I pray in the name of Jesus my Lord. Amen.

July 6

By | 365 Devotions

Grace: An Open-Door Policy

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to (Matthew 23:13).

Scripture: Matthew 23:13-15

Song: “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”

Tim had inoperable, advanced-stage cancer. Although he didn’t believe in God, I asked him to go with me to a community-wide service of renewal. A well-known evangelist was coming to town, and I convinced Tim to attend one of his services—with the thought that perhaps he would ask for prayer. I told him that God healed people in Bible days, and He still heals people today.

Tim enjoyed the service. During the invitation, he went forward for prayer while I stayed in my seat and interceded on his behalf. When Tim returned a few minutes later, I asked, “What happened? Did you receive prayer?”

He said, “No! The man told me I had to get right with God first before God would heal me.” Tim walked out of the auditorium, disheartened, shaking his head. As for me, I was frustrated; this was not the gospel of grace that I had learned.

Sometimes we slam doors in people’s faces by making the gospel message harder for others than it was for us. Whether that message is healing or salvation, our Lord surely wants His mercy available for all who are seeking it. (Note: He came for sinners.)

Heavenly Father, I don’t deserve Your mercy, but I surely need it. And so does the whole world. I am so thankful that, because of Your loving kindness, the doors to Heaven never close. I praise You in Jesus’ name. Amen.

July 5

By | 365 Devotions

Hey, Bob!

Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:12).

Scripture: Matthew 23:5-12

Song: “Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord”

I met Robert at the Carpenter Shop, a youth outreach ministry sponsored by a local church in Reedley, California. It didn’t take long for us to become good friends. Later, we started working together on the same warehouse crew at W. T. Grant’s department store, just outside of town. I fondly called him HeyBob because I was always saying, “Hey, Bob, can you help me move this crate?” or “Hey, Bob, can you look up that invoice?” No matter the work-related request, he never hesitated. He completed every job with a smile on his face and a happy tune on his lips.

Outside of work, Robert responded the same way. He was always the first person to offer a needed ride, share his meal, help with a project, let others have the credit, or say thank you. I have met many godly people over the years, but few had a servant’s heart like Hey, Bob.

We Christians all wish to take up the spirit of humility. But let us remember: true humility means more than just passively squelching our natural pride; it is actively serving God by serving others. Such practical acts of submission are noticed by God and, in some mysterious way, recorded in Heaven. At a time of His own choosing, God will reward the humble by exalting them.

Dear Heavenly Father, teach me how to serve You and others in humility—not so I can be lifted up or honored in some way, but because it’s the right thing to do. I pray in the name of my humble Savior, King Jesus. Amen.

July 4

By | 365 Devotions

Increase or Decrease?

They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues (Luke 20:46).

Scripture: Luke 20:45-47

Song: “O, to Be Like Thee”

“Excuse me, that’s my seat you’re sitting in!” Actually, the meeting was open seating, but I had learned long ago that disagreeing with Allen created more problems than it solved. And Allen did have seniority, so I relinquished my seat and moved to the back. Perhaps he had arrived first and then left his seat to attend to some business? More likely, though, he just wanted to sit in the front row, next to the staffing manager’s table.

Allen was a good, hard worker, but he craved recognition. Did he realize that every time he stepped in front of someone in line, interrupted a conversation, or uttered the last word on a matter, he was placing himself above everyone else? We don’t usually enjoy people like that, but he seemed to enjoy all the attention.

Although there’s nothing wrong with being noticed, why pursue it at the expense of others? In fact, it’s often better to fade into the background, allowing Christ to receive the acclaim for our ministries and personal accomplishments. A wise minister once told me that God could use us more if we sat in the backseat and let Him have the front. Even John the Baptist realized his need to decrease so Jesus could increase (John 3:30, KJV).

Dear Lord, every gift and talent comes from You. Yet all too often I enjoy the applause, taking the credit for my successes. Perhaps my witness would be more effective if people only saw Your Son shining through my efforts. In Christ I pray. Amen.

July 3

By | 365 Devotions

Not a Smorgasbord

Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19).

Scripture: Matthew 5:17-20

Song: “Come and Dine”

Smorgasbords are usually associated with Sweden, but they can be any buffet-style meal featuring different foods placed on tables where people serve themselves. Most of my friends and family enjoy dining at such eateries, and I am no exception. The variety of entrees and desserts is endless.

My favorite buffet is a few blocks from my workplace. I sometimes go there for a hearty meal after a long day at work. No waiting—it’s ready to dish up as soon as I find an open table. And I can pick all the foods I enjoy eating too. (Sadly, many of my choices are based on what looks tasty, not on nutritional value.)

God’s commands were never meant to be a smorgasbord. We can’t blithely select which teachings to “consume,” while neglecting the others. Nor should we set aside certain Scriptures in favor of those that seem more palatable or easier to digest.

Since none of us wants to be considered least in the kingdom of Heaven, let us consider every verse according to its historical context and purpose. And then we can ask the Holy Spirit for practical application. God has given every portion of Scripture for a reason.

O God, guide me each day as I read the Word. Teach me what I need to know about Your commands, that my spirit may grow strong and mature in Christ. Amen.

July 2

By | 365 Devotions

Reverence for the Word Without Words

You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD (Numbers 15:39).

Scripture: Numbers 15:37-41

Song: “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee”

I looked forward to Friday night’s service at my cousin’s synagogue in West Los Angeles. Having never attended a Jewish service before, I was eager to hear the rabbi’s sermon and participate in worship. Both were enlightening experiences. Ironically, the message that evening was about a Jew named Jesus.

What intrigued me the most were the tassels worn by most of the worshippers. Some tassels were affixed to garments under their shirts; others were sown onto the four corners of their prayer shawls. At one point during the service, the rabbi took the Torah scroll and carried it around the synagogue in a prayerful procession. As the Torah passed by, those wearing prayer shawls reached out to touch the scroll with one of their tassels, then pulled the tassel back and kissed it. What deep respect for the Word!

As Christians, we don’t wear tassels, but we honor God in other ways. We bring Bibles to church and study His teachings in order to better understand His will. Instead of reaching out with tassels, we raise uplifted hands to Him in worship. Or we make the sign of the cross before hearing a gospel reading. In prayer, we bow our heads in respect. God deserves these reverences—and even more.

Lord, even wordless prayerful actions honor You! Remind me to revere You in everything I do, whether I’m in church, at home, or in the workplace. In Christ, amen.

July 2–8. Charles Earl Harrel was a church minister for more than 30 years before stepping aside to pursue a writing ministry. He enjoys playing guitar, leading worship, and teaching from the Bible.

July 1

By | 365 Devotions

Mercy in Action

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?” . . . Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22).

Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35

Song: “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”

Harry had a life his father could have only imagined. Working extended hours at the local grist mill, accumulating as much overtime as he could, his father managed to tuck away every spare dime. All for one purpose: to give his son opportunities beyond the backbreaking work he endured every day.

As for Harry, he pursued higher education at the university, making his parents quite proud. The young man excelled in his studies, but fell short of funds toward the end. Thus he asked his father to sacrifice even further—with a loan he promised to repay.

Upon graduation, Harry landed a job that soon made him a wealthy man. Caught up in a life of excesses, he eventually gambled away everything he owned. At rock bottom, he asked his parents for mercy. “Could you forgive the loan? Can I come back home?”

What would you do? It’s not easy to forgive when you’ve been betrayed. God knows it’s hard. Yet He wants us to trust Him in everything, even when we want to take matters into our own hands. If we can remember how generously He forgives us, we may find the courage to extend heavenly mercy too.

Father, Your Son died on the cross, taking upon Him my sin debt. It’s not easy for me to release the debts of others—but lead me with Your wisdom. In Christ. Amen.

July 1. Kathleen Wilson-Dowdy lives in Sarver, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Jonathan. They minister together in the local church and care for foster children in their home.