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365 Devotions

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

By | 365 Devotions

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

By | 365 Devotions

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

By | 365 Devotions

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

By | 365 Devotions

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

By | 365 Devotions

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

By | 365 Devotions

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.

June 30

By | 365 Devotions

It’s a Heart Issue

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

Scripture: Matthew 6:9-15

Song: “Jesus Paid It All”

As a new believer, Trevor looked forward to learning the Scriptures and living out his new faith. Much was clear in his mind, but some things about this new life remained confusing. He struggled to grasp forgiveness, for instance, and he shared this with a godly mentor, who said, “We aren’t perfect, just people seeking to become more like Christ over the years.” Trevor was relieved to know that Christ’s forgiveness didn’t rest on his maintaining a perfect record. He might succumb to all manner of temptations. But that is exactly why Jesus came to this earth: to forgive sinners.

Yet Jesus did say: “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). Forgive that you might be forgiven?

The solution to this apparent contradiction may be this: surely we will have moments when the failure to forgive so exercises its power and influences our heart, that we ourselves are hardened to the reception of God’s forgiveness. On the other hand, as John Piper writes, “When we forgive from the heart, it is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). . . . We are a new creation (Galatians 6:15); and the mark of our newness is not yet perfection, but a persistent inclination to forgive.”

Father, I am sorry when I fail to forgive. I don’t want to hold on to grudges or cling to resentments any longer. These things take me farther from fellowship with You and others. Teach me to forgive more freely. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

June 29

By | 365 Devotions

Cancel the Power

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them (Luke 17:3).

Scripture: Luke 17:1-4

Song: “We Are the Free”

Why does he keep doing this to me? Doesn’t he see how each offense deepens the pain?

Monica and Tim had their marital struggles. She had her idea of a healthy union while Tim had another. Tim came from a home where Mom and Dad coexisted without much affection or mutual interest. Dad did his thing and Mom had pursued her own interests. As far as Tim was concerned, it worked well. Sure, Monica complained from time to time, and Tim knew his choices hurt her, but Tim figured the relative peace was worth it.

Finally, Monica firmly confronted Tim. Calmly she told of the wounds she bore and of her longing for Tim’s affection. He received her well and asked to be forgiven. His apology was sincere; he had every intention of changing his ways. But it wasn’t long before Tim was back to his old habits, and old wounds were reopened. Thus continued a cycle of offense and forgiveness.

Monica learned to live more in the strength of her Lord. And she started to understand forgiveness. It wasn’t overlooking another’s sins or excusing them. It was choosing to cancel their power over her. She would do right, in love, but let go of attempts to control or change Tim. She’d be responsible for her actions and let Tim be responsible for his.

Father, help me respond to others with love—sometimes tough love—while keeping my personal boundaries intact. In Christ, amen.

June 28

By | 365 Devotions

Release Yourself!

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).

Scripture: Colossians 3:12-17

Song: “This Is How It Feels to Be Free”

Michaela was appointed to settle the estate of her parents. She promised her siblings to do her best. And that is just what she did, going out of her way to be transparent in every transaction. But when all debts and obligations were settled, the hard feelings and accusations broke Michaela’s heart. Every action was taken with the greatest of integrity, but it didn’t matter. Relationships that seemed loving and whole were now broken.

At one time or another someone has done something hurtful to you, maybe somebody that you love. You might think or say, “Forgiving is the Christian thing to do. Once they apologize, I will forgive them.” But there is a problem with that statement. What if that apology never comes? Or what if they just don’t realize they’ve done something to hurt you?

Is it simple? No. Often we hold on to the broken feelings so we can stay in control. But ironically, we loose control when we do that by enslaving ourselves to bitterness and painful memories.

In the Bible’s original Greek, the word apoluo is translated “I forgive.” It literally means to “set free” or to “let go.” It’s giving the other person some slack—but it’s also setting ourselves free.

O Jesus, reveal any unforgivingness or bitterness that I may have tucked away deep within. I confess these hurts and release them to You. You paid a high price for the forgiveness of my sin, and I thank You. In Your precious name, amen.

June 27

By | 365 Devotions

The Enemy Knows the Playbook

What I have forgiven . . . I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:10, 11).

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Song: “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”

General Patton seldom lacked for words. As his troops and tanks counterattacked the German forces under General Rommel, Patton shouted in the thick of battle, “I read your book, Rommel! I read your book!” In Rommel’s book, Infantry Attacks, the famed “Desert Fox” detailed his military strategy. Having read the book, Patton knew what to expect and planned accordingly.

It was time for the high school football rivals to go head-to-head. The visiting team had calculated and predicted every move of their opponent—even to the extent of stealing their playbook! Inside and out they knew them and were prepared to rumble on the gridiron. For this team, no action was too extreme if it meant winning.

That night, the home team didn’t realize they’d be walking into a trap of shady sportsmanship. But the team’s integrity held them to a standard that would not allow them to betray their code of conduct, though it ultimately cost them the game.

It was a tough loss, but the offended team didn’t retaliate or seek revenge. Instead, the young men followed the lead of their coach, shaking the hands of each player. It wasn’t their place to pierce the consciences of the opposing players. But it was their choice to forgive.

Dear Father, thank You for reminding me that a personal offense reverberates far beyond me personally. It is a severe threat on Christian unity. Through Christ, amen.

June 26

By | 365 Devotions

Here I Am

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 7:12-16

Song: “Revive Me”

People would travel for miles to get a glimpse of the exquisite storefront building that boasted the craftsmanship of a true architectural genius. It was one of the finest examples of modern design in the 20th century. From the setting of its cornerstone to the opening ribbon-cutting ceremony, no detail was trivial, and no expense spared.

The once-fine example of beauty quickly lost its attraction when the caretaker’s appreciation of the timeless architectural gem waned. Years of neglect and disrepair soon led to a broken-down, unattractive pile of brick and mortar. It was no longer special, no longer held its former appeal. For some, the decaying of its beauty was so gradual that they never noticed its increasing lack of luster.

Sadly, the designer watched the crumbling decay of his masterpiece from a distance. He urged the caretaker to reach out to him for the purpose of restoration, but he did not. He waited attentively and was ready to come to the rescue. He wept over its ruin and hardship but could not intervene without an invitation to do so. There was nothing he wanted more than to make it new again.

Father, You are the master designer. Your care and attention to every detail of my life is overwhelming. You want the very best for me, and You want me to shine in this world. Do step in when I have neglected to call on You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

June 25

By | 365 Devotions

Payback or Paying It Forward?

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20).

Scripture: Genesis 50:15-21

Song: “Victory in Jesus”

Stories shared in the damp, dingy room of the recovery group were strangely the same. The names, times, places, circumstances and abuses were unique to the individual, but the underlying theme was predictable. Hurts and betrayals like none other. The innocent, all experiencing some sort of horrific maltreatment by people they were to love and trust the most: their family.

Bobbi Jo attended those meetings faithfully each week throughout her young-adult years. She battled the past and fought the temptations to seek vengeance. The hurt was severe, the pain unbearable. It was a struggle to get through each day.

Finally, unwilling to sacrifice her life due to situations over which she had no control, she set her heart on a course of restoration and forgiveness. Determined to look only toward the future, she changed her purpose from payback to paying it forward.

The damp, dingy recovery-group room was strangely transformed the night Bobbi Jo shared her new outlook on life. Her contagious determination to rise above her past and to step into a new beginning of hope laid the groundwork for others to follow.

Father, You make all things new, and I praise You for using the pain of my life to make a difference in this broken world. Keep me strong, Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

June 25–30. 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.

June 24

By | 365 Devotions

Don’t Walk By

At [the rich man’s] gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table (Luke 16:20, 21).

Scripture: Luke 16:19-31

Song: “Feed My Sheep”

As I drove through the downtown, my heart broke at the sight of several elderly women sitting on sidewalks and holding signs. Waiting at a red light, I watched people walk past the needy women. But have I ever walked by? Yes. I’ve even pretended those folks didn’t exist, ducking my head and walking swiftly away.

When I worked downtown I became familiar with the homeless there and sometimes delivered sack lunches to them. They were easy to recognize, and my usual acquaintances sat on benches by the lake where I enjoyed eating my own lunch.

It took time for Marlene to trust me, but once she did our friendship blossomed. A hat covered thin gray hair, and I became aware of missing front teeth when I handed her an apple (I promised to bring softer food). Marlene shouted “Praise the Lord!” with each item I brought her. But just the simple gift of conversation seemed to bring the most joy to this lonely woman.

As I read our Scripture today, I wondered whether the rich man’s story wouldn’t have ended differently if he’d simply sent a servant with an occasional plate of food to the beggar who sat in agony outside his gate.

Father, but for Your grace, there go I. One person can’t feed, clothe, or house the many homeless people in Your world. But remind me that what I do for any person in need, I do through the compassion that I myself have received. In Christ, amen.

June 23

By | 365 Devotions

He Walks Beside Me

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).

Scripture: Matthew 19:23-30

Song: “The River of Jordan”

Jesus made his last trek in the Perea territory before returning to Jerusalem. He taught of the kingdom of righteousness yet to come, and its divine offer to rich and poor alike.

I’ve never walked where Jesus walked. But I’d like to say I felt what it must be like beyond the River Jordan—when I visited the Valley of Fire in Nevada. I’d also like to say I thought of Jesus’ words about a camel going through the eye of a needle as I passed between stones to view the other side in this desert area . . . but I didn’t. The wind whispered in the stillness, taking me back to prehistoric times. I hiked through the large, red sandstone formations without a thought of God.

I’ve stood at the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado; I’ve lived beside the Rogue River in Oregon and watched the river flow. I’ve stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and viewed God’s awesome handiwork. I even stood at the feet of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and looked up at the face of my Lord.

I’ve never walked where Jesus walked. And sometimes, honestly, I forget about Him. But the truth remains: whether I acknowledge Him or not, He walks beside me each day. Open my eyes, Lord!

Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for walking beside me each and every day. Thank You for opening my eyes so I can marvel at all the wonders You’ve allowed me to see. For all things large and small, I give thanks for Your gifts. Through Christ, amen.

June 22

By | 365 Devotions

Greatest Story Ever Told

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

Scripture: John 3:16-21

Song: “Wonderful Words of Life”

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

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

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

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

June 21

By | 365 Devotions

Use That Gift!

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

Scripture: Luke 6:20-26

Song: “My Redeemer Lives”

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

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

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

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

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

June 20

By | 365 Devotions

Amidst Tears and Sorrow

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

Scripture: James 5:1-5

Song: “Through It All”

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

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

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

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

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

June 19

By | 365 Devotions

The Handshake

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

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

Song: “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”

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

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

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

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

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

June 18

By | 365 Devotions

What Matters?

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

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

Song: “As You Serve, Remember Me”

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 17

By | 365 Devotions

Let My Words Be Acceptable

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

Scripture: Matthew 15:1-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 16

By | 365 Devotions

Why Compound the Guilt?

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

Scripture: Mark 7:14-23

Song: “O Be Careful, Little Eyes”

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

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

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

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

June 15

By | 365 Devotions

No Favoritism Here

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

Scripture: Acts 10:23-33

Song: “Jesus Loves the Little Children”

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

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

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

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

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

June 14

By | 365 Devotions

Am I Competent?

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

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Song: “I Owe Everything to Jesus”

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

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

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

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

June 13

By | 365 Devotions

Listen and Take It to Heart

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

Scripture: Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 12

By | 365 Devotions

Caught . . . and Facing Judgment

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

Scripture: Amos 5:18-24

Song: “Yield Not to Temptation”

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

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

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

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

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

June 11

By | 365 Devotions

Defend the Oppressed

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

Scripture: Isaiah 1:12-17

Song: “O God, Defender of the Poor”

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

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

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

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

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

June 10

By | 365 Devotions

It’s Worth It: Do His Will

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

Scripture: Matthew 13:24-33

Song: “Near to the Heart of God”

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

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

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

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

June 9

By | 365 Devotions

A Little Goes a Long Way

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

Scripture: Matthew 13:33-43

Song: “Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling”

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

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

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

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

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

June 8

By | 365 Devotions

Keep On Praying

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

Scripture: Luke 18:1-8

Song: “To Worship, Work, and Witness”

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

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

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

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

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

June 7

By | 365 Devotions

You Can Go Home Again

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

Scripture: Matthew 13:54-58

Song: “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

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

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

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

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

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

June 6

By | 365 Devotions

Advancing Through Serving

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

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20

Song: “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”

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

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

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

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

June 5

By | 365 Devotions

Beauty from Common Roots

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

Scripture: Ezekiel 17:22-24

Song: “Our Father Has Planted a Beautiful Tree”

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

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

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

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

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

June 4

By | 365 Devotions

What Praiseworthy Deeds!

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

Scripture: Psalm 78:1-8

Song: “Go, Tell It on the Mountain”

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

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

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

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

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

June 3

By | 365 Devotions

Credentials Versus Connections

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

Scripture: Matthew 12:1-14

Song: “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 2

By | 365 Devotions

We Are God’s Hands

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

Scripture: Psalm 10:12-18

Song: “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit”

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

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

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

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

June 1

By | 365 Devotions

Jesus Still Heals!

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

Scripture: John 5:9-18

Song: “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 31

By | 365 Devotions

They Were Wise, and Blind

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

Scripture: Luke 14:1-6

Song: “Open My Eyes, That I May See”

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 30

By | 365 Devotions

Thrifty or Selfish?

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

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

Song: “The Cry of the Poor”

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

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

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

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

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

May 29

By | 365 Devotions

Where Are You Running?

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

Scripture: 1 Samuel 21:1-6

Song: “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 28

By | 365 Devotions

Where Are You Running?

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

Scripture: 1 Samuel 21:1-6

Song: “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 27

By | 365 Devotions

He Works Through Our Talents

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

Scripture: Psalm 34:1-10

Song: “Giver of the Perfect Gift”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 26

By | 365 Devotions

Once and for All

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

Scripture: Hebrews 7:18-28

Song: “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

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

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

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

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

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

May 25

By | 365 Devotions

From His Hands

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

Scripture: Hebrews 2:14-16

Song: “God Will Take Care of You”

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

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

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

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

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

May 24

By | 365 Devotions

Blessed Remembrance

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

Scripture: Hebrews 2:10-13

Song: “Beyond the Sunset”

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

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

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

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

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

May 23

By | 365 Devotions

How He Loves Us!

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

Scripture: Hebrews 2:5-9

Song: “He Leadeth Me, O Blessed Thought”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 22

By | 365 Devotions

Befitting Reverence

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

Scripture: Psalm 34:11-18

Song: “Teach Me Your Way, O Lord”

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

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

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

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

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

May 21

By | 365 Devotions

Prepare to Obey

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

Scripture: Leviticus 16:15-19

Song: “Search Me, O God”

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 20

By | 365 Devotions

A Celestial Jubilee

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

Scripture: Leviticus 25:1-12

Song: “When We All Get to Heaven”

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

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

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

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

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

May 19

By | 365 Devotions

Looking Out for Family

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

Scripture: Leviticus 25:35-38

Song: “Freely, Freely”

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

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

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

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

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

May 18

By | 365 Devotions

Changing the Equation

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

Scripture: Leviticus 25:13-17

Song: “What Does the Lord Require?”

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

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

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

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

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

May 17

By | 365 Devotions

The Ultimate Feast

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

Scripture: Leviticus 26:9-13

Song: “Let Us Break Bread Together”

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

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

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

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

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

May 16

By | 365 Devotions

Sharing the Load

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

Scripture: Galatians 6:1-5

Song: “Lay Your Burdens Down”

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

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

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

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

May 15

By | 365 Devotions

There’s Always Enough

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

Scripture: Acts 4:32-37

Song: “My Heavenly Father Watches over Me”

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

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

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

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

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

May 14

By | 365 Devotions

Deal of a Lifetime

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

Scripture: Leviticus 26:3-6

Song: “Trust and Obey”

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 13

By | 365 Devotions

Something Precious

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

Scripture: Leviticus 23:9-14, 22

Song: “Here I Am, Lord”

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

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

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

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

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

May 12

By | 365 Devotions

Precious Un-busyness

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

Scripture: Leviticus 23:1-8

Song: “Blessed Quietness”

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

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

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

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

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

May 11

By | 365 Devotions

Living Sacrifices

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

Scripture: Leviticus 22:17-20

Song: “The Sacrifice You Accept, O God”

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

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

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

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

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

May 10

By | 365 Devotions

A Pleasing Fragrance

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

Scripture: Leviticus 2:1-10, 14

Song: “Let All Things Now Living”

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

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

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

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

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

May 9

By | 365 Devotions

Friends Are a Blessing

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

Scripture: Philippians 4:15-20

Song: “The Sacred Ties of Friendship”

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

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

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

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

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

May 8

By | 365 Devotions

Singing the New Song

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

Scripture: Revelation 14:1-5

Song: “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”

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

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

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

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

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

May 7

By | 365 Devotions

Just the Two of Us

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

Scripture: Proverbs 3:1-10

Song: “I Love to Tell the Story”

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 6

By | 365 Devotions

Freewill Offerings

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

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

Song: “Savior, Thy Dying Love”

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

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

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

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

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

May 5

By | 365 Devotions

The Skilled Among You

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

Scripture: Exodus 35:10-19

Song: “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

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

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

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

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

May 4

By | 365 Devotions

Give Creatively

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

Scripture: Psalm 112

Song: “I Gave My Life for Thee”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 3

By | 365 Devotions

Holy to the Lord

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

Scripture: Leviticus 27:30-33

Song: “We Plow the Fields and Scatter”

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

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

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

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

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

May 2

By | 365 Devotions

Heart or Hand?

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

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:1-5

Song: “All to Jesus I Surrender”

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

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

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

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

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

May 1

By | 365 Devotions

Giving in Secret

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

Scripture: Matthew 6:1-4

Song: “Give of Your Best to the Master”

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 30

By | 365 Devotions

Bring Me an Offering

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

Scripture: Exodus 25:1-9

Song: “We Give Thee but Thine Own”

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

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

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

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

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

April 29

By | 365 Devotions

Purchased for God

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

Scripture: Revelation 5:6-14

Song: “My Redeemer Lives”

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

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

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

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

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

April 28

By | 365 Devotions

Saving the Day

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

Scripture: Revelation 5:1-5

Song: “You’re the Lion of Judah”

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

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

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

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

April 27

By | 365 Devotions

Good Whether

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

Scripture: Ezekiel 2:8–3:11

Song: “Speak, My Lord”

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

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

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

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

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

April 26

By | 365 Devotions

Once Again

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38, 39).

Scripture: Romans 8:31-39

Song: “Your Love Never Fails”

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

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

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

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

Once again, the truth sets us free.

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

April 25

By | 365 Devotions

Good, Good Father

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

Scripture: Exodus 29:38-46

Song: “Good Good Father”

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

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

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

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

April 24

By | 365 Devotions

Funerals

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

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Song: “Arise, My Love”

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

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

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

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

April 23

By | 365 Devotions

The Poverty Mind-set

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

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Song: “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus”

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

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

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

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

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

April 22

By | 365 Devotions

Time Marches On

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

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

Song: “Revelation Song”

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

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

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

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

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

April 21

By | 365 Devotions

A Glorious Day!

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

Scripture: Revelation 19:1-8

Song: “I Will Be Here”

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

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

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

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

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

April 20

By | 365 Devotions

When We Don’t Understand Scripture

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

Scripture: Ezekiel 1:5-14

Song: “He Never Changes”

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

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

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

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

April 19

By | 365 Devotions

You Don’t Have to Run Fast

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

Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-6

Song: “I Am”

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 18

By | 365 Devotions

God’s Magnificent Holiness

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

Scripture: Exodus 19:20-25

Song: “You Are God Alone”

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

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

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

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

April 17

By | 365 Devotions

Boundary Living

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

Scripture: Job 1:6-12

Song: “Blessed Assurance”

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

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

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

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

April 16

By | 365 Devotions

Rainbows for Believing

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

Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 15

By | 365 Devotions

Toy Not Included

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

Scripture: John 21:15-25

Song: “Let Your Heart Be Broken”

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

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

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

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

April 14

By | 365 Devotions

What Love Looks Like

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

Scripture: Matthew 10:34-39

Song: “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?”

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

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

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

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

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

April 13

By | 365 Devotions

The Way Home

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

Scripture: John 10:11-18

Song: “My Hope Is in the Lord”

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

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

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

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

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

April 12

By | 365 Devotions

Harvest Time

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

Scripture: Matthew 9:35-38

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 11

By | 365 Devotions

Intentional Stretching

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

Scripture: Matthew 10:5-15

Song: “Rescue the Perishing”

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

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

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

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

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

April 10

By | 365 Devotions

Blue Lava

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

Scripture: John 20:24-28

Song: “I Surrender All”

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

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

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

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

April 9

By | 365 Devotions

Eventually Flourishing

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

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

Song: “When I Fear My Faith Will Fail”

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 8

By | 365 Devotions

Cake and Fish

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

Scripture: John 21:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 7

By | 365 Devotions

Truth Be Told

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

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

Song: “I Know God’s Promise Is True”

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 6

By | 365 Devotions

Focus to Follow

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

Scripture: John 21:15-23

Song: “Where He Leads Me”

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

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

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

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

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

April 5

By | 365 Devotions

One by One

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

Scripture: Acts 8:26-35

Song: “Tell Me the Story of Jesus”

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

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

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

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

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

April 4

By | 365 Devotions

Ready, Set, Go

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

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Song: “How Firm a Foundation”

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 3

By | 365 Devotions

He Is Risen Indeed

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

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Song: “Christ Arose”

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 2

By | 365 Devotions

Our Invisible God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 1

By | 365 Devotions

Just As He Said

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 31

By | 365 Devotions

Hope Set Above

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

Scripture: Luke 24:13-21

Song: “Hallelujah, He Is Risen”

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

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

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

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

March 30

By | 365 Devotions

Incredible but True

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 29

By | 365 Devotions

Leading by Example

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

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

Song: “Beautiful Savior”

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

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

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

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

March 28

By | 365 Devotions

Searching Deep Within

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

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:27-34

Song: “Search Me, O God”

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

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

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

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

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

March 27

By | 365 Devotions

Innumerable Benefits

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

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Song: “In Remembrance”

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

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

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

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

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

March 26

By | 365 Devotions

All for Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 25

By | 365 Devotions

Closer and Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 24

By | 365 Devotions

Why, Lord?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 23

By | 365 Devotions

I Heard You the First Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 22

By | 365 Devotions

The Power of Choice

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

Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Song: “I Am Thine, O Lord”

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

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

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

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

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

March 21

By | 365 Devotions

God Rescues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 20

By | 365 Devotions

Let Me Tell You

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

Scripture: Matthew 5:21-26

Song: “Jesus Calls Us”

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 19

By | 365 Devotions

Spend Yourself!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 18

By | 365 Devotions

Sufficient and Effective

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

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 7:1-9

Song: “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

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

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

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

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

March 17

By | 365 Devotions

Gifted for a Purpose

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

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

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

Where, then, do works come in? They are the result of salvation, not the cause. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

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

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

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

March 16

By | 365 Devotions

Note of Thanks: A Grateful Heart

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

Scripture: Psalm 107:17-22

Song: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

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

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

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

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

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

March 15

By | 365 Devotions

Feeding Frenzy

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 14

By | 365 Devotions

Tidings of Reverence and Joy

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

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 29:25-30

Song: “Holy, Holy, Holy”

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 13

By | 365 Devotions

Blessed to Be a Blessing

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

Scripture: Isaiah 19:19-25

Song: “Whatsoever You Do”

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

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

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

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

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

March 12

By | 365 Devotions

See Him in Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11

By | 365 Devotions

When Small Is Just Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 10

By | 365 Devotions

No Need to Shout

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

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:36-40

Song: “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

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

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

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

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

March 9

By | 365 Devotions

The Wisest Cardiologist

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

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:28-33

Song: “On Thee My Heart Is Resting”

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

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

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

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

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

March 8

By | 365 Devotions

The Unfailing Promise Keeper

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

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 6:1-11

Song: “Standing on the Promises”

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

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

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

March 7

By | 365 Devotions

How Young Do You Feel?

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

Scripture: Acts 2:29-36

Song: “Because He Lives”

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

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

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

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

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

March 6

By | 365 Devotions

An Eternal Crown

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

Scripture: Psalm 132:13-18

Song: “Crown Him with Many Crowns”

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

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

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

March 5

By | 365 Devotions

Joyful Worship

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

Scripture: Psalm 132:8-12

Song: “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 4

By | 365 Devotions

God’s Proving Ground

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

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

Song: “Great God, Thy Providence and Care”

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 3

By | 365 Devotions

Just Look Up

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

Scripture: Genesis 22:15-19

Song: “Earth and All Stars”

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

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

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

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

March 2

By | 365 Devotions

God Said It, I Believe It!

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

Scripture: Hebrews 11:17-22

Song: “Jesus, I Will Trust Thee”

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

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

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

March 1

By | 365 Devotions

Our Secret Weapon

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

Scripture: Psalm 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 28

By | 365 Devotions

Following Jesus, Wide Awake

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

Scripture: Luke 22:39-46

Song: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”

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

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

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

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

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

February 27

By | 365 Devotions

Not the Only Need

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

Scripture: Mathew 4:1-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 26

By | 365 Devotions

How’s Your Memory?

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

Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:11-20

Song: “Lord, I Remember”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 25

By | 365 Devotions

Words of Substance

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

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:11-21

Song: “The Basics of Life”

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

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

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

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

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

February 24

By | 365 Devotions

Joyful Responsibility

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

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:9, 10

Song: “Trust Him When Thy Wants Are Many”

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

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

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

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

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

February 23

By | 365 Devotions

Contentment Is Success

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

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:2-8

Song: “For the Sake of the Call”

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 22

By | 365 Devotions

The Watches Are Safe

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

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-10

Song: “Faith of Our Fathers”

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 21

By | 365 Devotions

God’s Messenger

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

Scripture: Philippians 2:25-30

Song: “The Lord Is Blessing Me Right Now”

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 20

By | 365 Devotions

Living Reminders

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

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

Song: “More of You”

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 19

By | 365 Devotions

No Offense Intended

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

Scripture: Acts 16:1-5

Song: “I Am the Lord’s”

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 18

By | 365 Devotions

Finding Faith and Bringing Others

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

Scripture: Acts 9:36-43

Song: “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place”

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

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

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

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

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

February 17

By | 365 Devotions

Responding to a Miracle

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

Scripture: Acts 9:32-35

Song: “It Took a Miracle”

John Patrick Hughes, born with no eyes and disabled limbs, lives life in a wheelchair. While he was just a toddler, his dad discovered that he could hear a few notes played on piano, then play the exact same sequence with his little fingers on a keyboard he couldn’t see. Years later, John Patrick realized his lifelong dream of being in the University of Louisville marching band. How? His father pushed his wheelchair for every practice and every halftime for four years. A book and a movie by the title I Am Potential tell the Hughes family’s story.

Aeneas suffered overwhelming physical challenges—maybe comparable to those of John Patrick. Paralyzed and bedridden for eight years, Aeneas was not only helpless, but probably also hopeless. When Peter visited this paralytic’s hometown, he told him, “Get up and roll up your mat.” Aeneas must have known Peter’s reputation. Evidently, he demonstrated faith that he too could be healed.

First, Aeneas trusted Peter, and then he obeyed. His response to being healed was to do exactly what Peter instructed him to do—get up. No matter how God works in our lives, a response is expected; we’re to do something. How well are you and I responding to God’s miracles in these days?

O God, I confess that too often I don’t even notice the miracles that You’re still doing in people’s lives today. I’ve become too dependent on myself alone. Help me to recall all the things You’ve done for me and to lift my voice in thanks. In Christ, amen.

February 16

By | 365 Devotions

Good News and Great Joy

Unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city (Acts 8:7, 8, NKJV).

Scripture: Acts 8:4-8

Song: “Rejoice, the Lord Is King”

For decades, Scott Carter has been an itinerant evangelist and leader in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He tells a story about rushing to a speaking appointment when he ran out of gasoline. As he attempted to push his car alone, he became aware that someone else was pushing from behind. They reached a gas station, Scott pumped gas, and went inside to pay. When he looked back outside, his anonymous helper had disappeared.

“I have to believe God sent an angel to help me,” Carter says, “because He knew there were kids who needed the gospel.”

Scripture tells us the apostles were scattered everywhere to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. Can you imagine their travel stories, walking to distant cities to spread the gospel? But they were faithful. And what was always the end result? People were healed, and great joy owed forth.

Consider all the things God does for us today. Then take a look at your local church and other Christians around you. Is there a sense of joy among you? If not, why not? Let us all express the joy we should feel when we’re part of the body of Christ.

Dear Lord, thank You for using men and women of God to travel around the world spreading the gospel. Thank You for the joy Your salvation brings. Help me to be a better example of sharing the joy that Your presence gives me. In Christ, amen.

February 15

By | 365 Devotions

Do Miracles Still Happen?

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade (Acts 5:12).

Scripture: Acts 5:12-16

Song: “We Are One in the Spirit”

Mississippi minister Buddy Smith traveled with Samaritan’s Purse to distribute Christmas Shoeboxes to needy children in Ecuador. He returned with an amazing story. At one church, where Samaritan’s Purse had expected 150 children to attend, it soon grew obvious that many more were pouring onto the church grounds. Panic time? No. Smith said the ministry staff, united in heart, prayed in one spirit for a “fish and loaves” miracle, and guess what. Every child received a shoebox gift.

Some miracle stories state specifically that prayer was offered. This one does not, but it does twice mention that the apostles and other believers were in unity. As crowds of hurting people came from sur- rounding cities—like little children in Ecuador—all were healed. Let’s not miss the connection here: All of the Christ followers were united in faith, and all the people who came were healed (see v. 16).

God is still God in Ecuador and around the world. Christians desperately need to cultivate and perpetuate authentic unity in the body of Christ. Then we might see more signs and wonders in our time. Will you join me in looking for ways we can help achieve unity in our neighborhoods, homes, and churches?

Lord God, I confess that, all too often, I fail to nurture a spirit of unity in my own church and in the wider body of Christ. Forgive me and continue to remind me that all who claim to follow Christ are called to be one in the Spirit. In Christ, amen.

February 14

By | 365 Devotions

The Principle and the Practice

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27, NASB).

Scripture: James 1:22-27

Song: “O Jesus, I Have Promised”

Several years ago, Scott Edwards volunteered with Big Brothers to mentor a young fatherless boy. He had three children at home, and the time commitment would require sacrifice. But Edwards was moved by the blessing of his own intact family and by his desire to share his faith. His decision led to a ministry to the boy’s family and a Sunday routine of transporting an ever-growing extended family to worship at Edwards’s church.

This ministry illustrates two main elements in today’s Scripture: principle and practice. The passage is a short course in righteous living—be doers (not just hearers) of the Word, obey the Word, remember who you are in Christ, bridle your tongue, and serve others.

For most of us, it is usually easy to “purchase the principle”—to agree to what the Bible teaches. On the other hand, it isn’t always easy to “pursue the practice.” What if it requires too much time, too much money, too much sacrifice? Still, we can’t ignore the principle: Every follower of Christ should be alert to needs in his community, church, or neighborhood. For when we serve others, we serve Christ.

Dear Father, I am grateful to see an example of servanthood in those around me and especially in the life of Jesus. Help me commit to searching out people and situations where I can serve in Your name. Through Christ my Lord, amen.

February 13

By | 365 Devotions

He Touched Me

He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Luke 7:14, NASB).

Scripture: Luke 7:11-17

Song: “He Touched Me”

In July 2013, 6-year-old Nathan Woessner fell into a sinkhole and was buried under 11 feet of sand along the shore of Lake Michigan. Three and a half hours later, he was rescued not breathing and with no pulse. Rescuers’ compressions prompted him to resume breathing. Officials say an old tree trunk in the hole may have created an air pocket that saved his life. For his parents, it was a miracle.

Miracles have always been part of God’s work among His people. The miracle performed by Jesus in Luke 7 mirrors Elijah’s miracle in 1 Kings 17—a widow, an only son dead, the miracle-worker’s compassion, simple faith, and the dead restored to life. Obviously, the parallel between the miracles breaks down when it comes to fear and frustration; unlike Elijah and the widow, Jesus had none of either.

The Luke story says Jesus did two things to create this miracle: He touched the cof n (to have the pallbearers stop) and He spoke with authority (“I say to you, arise!”). His demonstration of faith in the Father is an example for us today. Is there a challenge in your life that needs a touch or a word from God? Go to Him with your prayer of faith, and look forward to His answer.

Dear Lord, thank You for the many miracles recorded in Your Word, giving me the assurance that You are an all-powerful God. Please help me to trust Your compassion and Your power to work miracles, large and small, in my life. Through Christ, amen.

February 12

By | 365 Devotions

Fear, Frustration, and Faith

O LORD my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die? (1 Kings 17:20, NASB).

Scripture: 1 Kings 17:17-24

Song: “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

Don Piper, a Christian minister, died in 1989 in an auto crash, his death verified by numerous first responders. Ninety minutes later, as they awaited arrival of the coroner, a friend crawled partway into the mangled car, prayed for Piper, and his heartbeat returned. Piper tells his gripping story in the book 90 Minutes in Heaven. No matter how we feel about such death and near-death experiences, we have to acknowledge that our omnipotent God can still perform miracles whenever He wishes.

Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 17 includes more than miracle. First, the widow’s oil and our supply isn’t used up because she ministers to Elijah, the man of God. But her joy turns to grief when her only son becomes ill and dies. She questions Elijah and implies that he caused her son’s death. Elijah questions God in a similar manner, asking how this tragedy could be His will.

Nonetheless, Elijah proceeds with a prayer of faith, and there’s where the story becomes instructive for today’s Christian. No matter what fears or frustrations we encounter—big or small—God is faithful to resolve them for our benfit.

God of Miracles, I praise You for always being faithful in my life, taking my fears and frustrations and giving victory over them. Through Christ, amen.

February 12–18. Randall Murphree is an avid reader, an eager world traveler, an amateur pianist, and the blessed editor of American Family Association Journal in Tupelo, Mississippi.

February 11

By | 365 Devotions

It Only Takes a Spark

The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on re by one tiny spark (James 3:5, TLB).

Scripture: James 3:1-12

Song: “White as Snow”

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” goes the childhood rhyme. But from a young age, I knew better. In elementary school my classmates twisted my last name, Aldrich, calling me Ostrich. I could have laughed it off, but the teasing cut deep.

Over the years I’ve seen other examples of the destructive power of words. As a child I recall our family visiting my mother’s Aunt Josie. The slender, elderly lady coaxed Mama onto a bathroom scale and announced “175!” She later gossiped about the weight in their small town, wounding my mother. The fact that Aunt Josie was a Christian made it confusing for me.

As an adult I went with friends to a writing conference where we made appointments to show our work to editors. A friend wept when she shared that the editor told her to go back to her letter-writing, dismissing her potential. Thankfully, the beginning author ignored the advice and has since sold hundreds of articles and dozens of books.

The beautiful truth is that the tongue has better uses. For James also says, “Sometimes it praises our heavenly Father” (v. 9). May it be so, most of the time.

God, You invested power into words. You spoke the universe into existence, healed the sick, and raised the dead with words. Yet the people You created have the power of death as well as life in their tongues. Help us speak life! In Christ, amen.

February 10

By | 365 Devotions

An Honest Man

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one (Matthew 5:37).

Scripture: Matthew 5:33-37

Song: “Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome”

My father said that John Brewer, his father-in-law, was the most honest man he’d ever met. Grandpa Brewer, a farmer and logger, worked hard to feed his family of 10 children, especially throughout the Great Depression. Before child labor laws, his brood learned his work ethic, getting up early in the morning to do chores. My mother, the seventh of the children, liked outdoor work and helped Pop feed the animals and milk the cows. She also worked at his small sawmill.

Among old family photographs and memorabilia, I have Grandpa’s ledger book from the farm and mill. In pencil his sprawling handwriting recorded sales of lumber to the school district for a woodshed, $36.00; 500 pounds of corn at $12.00 per ton, $3.00; and fees for hauling and logging. Under each item sold he noted payments, such as $5.00 cash.

Apparently he extended credit to his neighbors and clients and allowed them to pay as they were able. He kept records for each customer, and I’m sure his dealings were straightforward. For Grandpa embodied the integrity of a generation who believed a man’s word should be trusted and that a handshake agreement was binding. His yes meant Yes and his no meant No.

Lord God, thank You for the example of my grandfather who kept his word and for the overall integrity of his entire generation. Restore straightforward honesty among Your people, so those in the world can see a difference in us. Start with me, this very day. In the holy name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, I pray. Amen.

February 9

By | 365 Devotions

The Power of a Child’s Prayers

From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise (Matthew 21:16).

Scripture: Matthew 21:14-16

Song: “Whom Shall I Fear?”

The earache began the night before, and by Friday morning I could picture my eardrum bulging, feeling intense pressure and pain. Calling in sick wasn’t an option because my fth grade class would present chapel that morning to our school. I simply had to be there. But when I arrived at the school, I did ask the secretary to try to nd a substitute for the day starting at 10:00 a.m., and she later reported she had succeeded.

When the kids arrived, they excitedly donned Bible costumes for our skits on the life of Jesus. I mentioned to a few of them that my ear was hurting badly and I’d go home after the chapel service.

“Let me pray for you,” Jaden spoke up. He and a few other stu- dents asked Jesus to heal my ear and make the pain leave.

Then we acted out Jesus walking on the water, feeding the 5,000, and raising Lazarus from death. By the time we got back to our classroom, my ear felt better. In fact, it didn’t hurt. I told the kids and thanked them for their prayers.

Was their faith stronger than mine? When the substitute teacher arrived, I went to the doctor and then returned home and watched cooking shows, my favorite therapy on a sick day. I look back at that day with gratitude.

Father, I thank You for the privilege of working with children. They aren’t merely junior saints. Bless kids who love You and trust You to hear and answer their prayers. Help me to respect their faith and listen closely to their words. In Christ, amen.

February 8

By | 365 Devotions

Holy Humor

Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45, NKJV).

Scripture: Luke 6:43-45

Song: “The Joy of the Lord”

Comedian Joan Rivers made people laugh with humor described as irreverent and profane. Her trademark style garnered her fame and fortune. Only God truly knows what’s in a person’s heart, but this famous comedian had a reputation for blurting out any disrespectful comment that came to mind. When frustrated, she spoke a trio of swear words so consistently that a costar on her television show had three rings made, each with one of the cuss words spelled out in diamonds.

Off stage, away from the cameras, she was “kind and generous,” her daughter said. A single mom, Melissa appreciated her mother’s spending several days a week with her and her son in California, to get quality family time, and so the two women could work together.

Hollywood certainly has a different standard for humor than for Jesus followers! The entertainment industry often serves up jokes at another’s expense and relies on crude or sexual humor. Although some of us enjoyed this before we knew the Lord, it’s not funny to us now. What lls our hearts has changed, and the words coming from our own mouths are different as a result of that blessed conversion.

Heavenly Father, I know Your Son, Jesus, must have had a good sense of humor. Thank You that walking with Christ allows me to laugh at myself instead of others. I don’t need ribald, off-color jokes, because I have Your joy. As I grow in You, help me take myself less seriously and have more fun. In Christ, amen.

February 7

By | 365 Devotions

Gentlemen to the Rescue

The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him (Matthew 12:34, 35).

Scripture: Matthew 12:33-37

Song: “Jesus Loves Me”

A timid traveler, I gathered my courage and drove from my home in Oregon to Seattle, Washington, to visit my sister a few weeks after her husband’s death. Exiting off the freeway, I suddenly heard a loud engine rattle. I looked at the dashboard and saw the oil light on. Not knowing what it meant, I immediately parked at a nearby service station.

I texted my son Brian, who’s a mechanic, and he replied, “The oil light is serious. Don’t run the engine.” He came over a couple hours later and diagnosed possible failure of an engine bearing.

“We need to get it towed,” he said, helping me nd the number and called my insurance. Then he left, and I waited another two hours, sitting in the car with windows rolled down in August heat.

When the driver arrived, he called out cheerfully, “Hello, ma’am, need some help?”

I laughed. “A little humor helps in this situation.”

“Just sit here in the truck, dear,” he said with a smile, “while I load your car.” His pleasant smile and gentle words soothed my rattled nerves.

Dear Lord, thank You for sending a tow truck driver with a sense of humor and a air for pampering a damsel in distress. Thank You for my kind sons who protect and care for me. You covered me, and I thank You so much, Lord. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

February 6

By | 365 Devotions

Stop and Think

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).

Scripture: Psalm 141:1-4

Song: “Speak Just a Word for Jesus”

An elderly relative of mine used to quote this verse, and I’m old enough now to relate to the sweet lady. How many times does my mouth get me into trouble? Too many! Thus I’ve become practiced at the ne art of apology.

One morning last year the mom of one of my third-grade students came to me before school and said, “Sam didn’t get his math homework yesterday, because it wasn’t in his mailbox.” The kids empty out work they need to take home from little bins we call mailboxes.

“I’m sure I put it in his box,” I replied pointedly and noticed the mom’s awkward silence. “I’ll make him another copy, and he can sit down and do it now.”

Well, it turned out Sam was more organized than his teacher. After the conversation, later that day, when I put new homework in the bins I discovered a page from the day before in an unused bin. It was the paper I should have given Sam!

I apologized to him and e-mailed his mother with an explana- tion. “I’m sorry I was so adamant that I put the homework in his box,” I wrote. “He’s so on top of things . . . and usually right!”

Her gracious reply: “No problem.”

Lord God, post sentries at the corners of my mouth to let out only kind and true words, then go deeper and cleanse my heart. I confess my pride and arrogance and declare my utter dependence on You. Help me respect and love others and to think before I speak. In Christ’s name, amen.

February 5

By | 365 Devotions

Put to the Test

Remember  how  the  LORD your  God  led  you  all  the  way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart (Deuteronomy 8:2).

Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:1-3

Song: “Your Love Never Fails”

Years ago our family manufactured accessories for the recreational vehicle industry. We built a device for towing a car behind a motor home. Taking a car along while vacationing gives travelers a chance to park their home on wheels and then easily drive around town. To ensure the strength of these tow bars, we had them evaluated at Pittsburgh Testing Laboratories. Technicians would fasten a tow bar into a machine and pull on it until it broke, recording the maximum pounds of pressure it withstood. Then they used another machine to push a second tow bar to the breaking point and recorded the results. Although the process demolished two perfectly usable tow bars, we needed the documentation to assure customers our product could handle the weight of a car.

God tests us differently. He does not intend to find our breaking point and destroy us. He tests us to discover whether we will obey Him under pressure. His goal is ultimately to strengthen us; He wants us to pass the test. Many times we succeed, but even if we fail and return to Him, we grow closer to Him. Throughout the trials of life, He’s building us strong.

Lord, I love You because You love me. During trials and heartache, I seek You and You come near. How precious is Your presence. In Jesus’ name, amen.

February 5–11. Patty Duncan teaches grade schoolers in Eugene, Oregon. She loves to delight them by cooking s’mores in a toaster oven or by reading to them from a picture book.

February 4

By | 365 Devotions

True Faith Will Show

What  doth  it  profit,  my  brethren,  though  a  man  say  he  hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:14, 26, KJV).

Scripture: James 2:14-26

Song: “Living for Jesus”

Another confession in my walk with Christ—there are times when I have struggled with the faith/works issue. While part of Galatians 2 and 3 makes it clear that we are justified by faith alone, James 2:26 brings out the vital importance of works as the fruit of a genuine faith.

If you have ever struggled with this issue, maybe this will help. Let’s say you and I are having a conversation and discover that we have a mutual love for dogs. “Oh, I love my dog so much!” I tell you. “He’s so cute and lovable! I would never want to be without him!”

A few days later, you’re at my home for a cookout, and you’re shocked by what you see: numerous times I yell at my dog. I make fun of him, calling him nasty names. I pull his tail just to irritate him. And when my dog lovingly tries to get close to me, I literally kick him away and he yelps in pain.

Needless to say, after such behavior, you would believe I don’t  love my dog—and you’d be right. When my faith and love are genuine, my actions will line up with my words, not oppose them.  True faith and love will show—with or without words.

King of Glory, I can’t earn Your love, but I can show that I love You by the way I live. Only in Your strength can I live as a child of the king. Help me to advance Your kingdom in my behavior. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

February 3

By | 365 Devotions

So Simple

That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11, KJV).

Scripture: Galatians 3:6-14

Song: “Faith Is the Victory”

Even though God’s forgiveness and unconditional love are unshakable and offer tremendous freedom, I’ve known times when I lost my focus in my relationship with Christ. In the previous devotional, I touched on prideful legalism, which believes: “Hey, I can get right with God by good behavior.” There is also a fearful legalism, which haunts so many folks: “Did God really make it so simple?” they wonder. “Surely, there’s no free lunch!”

Regardless of how I got sidetracked, I needed to be reminded of the powerful truth in Galatians 3:11, “The just shall live by faith.” I am in Christ Jesus, and His Holy Spirit is in me. Christ is the one who makes me just, or righteous, in God’s eyes. When I remember these truths, it’s no wonder why legalism never works. Christ doesn’t call me to live by stressing out, trying never to make a mistake; or by beating my brain, to make sense of everything; or by sweating drops the size of doughnut holes, struggling to gain the righteousness He freely gives me. I don’t know who said this first, but it’s true: “God doesn’t want rules—He wants relationship.” He has made it so simple to have fellowship with Him: “The just shall live by faith.”

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that I am never justified by my works but only by the work of Christ on the cross. I know that doesn’t excuse me to live sinfully, but it’s freeing to know that even when I mess up, Your grace is there. I know You still love and forgive me. All praise to You, in the name of Jesus! Amen.

February 2

By | 365 Devotions

Not by Me . . . by Him

Knowing  that  a  man  is  not  justified  by  the  works  of  the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in  Jesus  Christ,  that  we  might  be  justified  by  the  faith  of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16, KJV).

Scripture: Galatians 2:15-21

Song: “Redeemed”

It’s a beautiful, sunny day, and I wake up feeling fine. I spend some time in prayer and in the Word. I offer a sincere, loving prayer for someone who annoyed me. Traffic backs up on the way to town, but I don’t become impatient. At the grocery store, a rude customer knocks into my cart with his, so he can be first in the checkout line.

He makes no apology, but I freely forgive him and let it go. Hey, I’m a pretty good guy. But when life goes well and my behavior is good, I can become prideful as though, somehow, my “good works” play a part in keeping me right with God.

However, the first part of Galatians 2:16 quickly crushes my pride: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.”  Crushed pride doesn’t feel good, but realizing this vital truth is essential. I have never been good enough to save myself. I am justified but not by me. I am justified only by the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for me. Gratitude feels very good.

Lord God in Heaven, thank You for Your unconditional love. I need You, but I could never earn Your grace to get to You. Thank You for giving Your only begotten Son to pay my sin debt, in full, with His precious blood. I pray this prayer in the name of  Jesus, my merciful Savior and Lord. Amen.

February 1

By | 365 Devotions

Level Ground

All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being  justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23, 24, KJV).

Scripture: Romans 3:21-31

Song: “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”

I confess. Over the years, I have been too quick to judge and criticize others. I know it’s wrong and hypocritical to be that way.In God’s eyes, the sin of others is no worse than mine, and my sin is never any “better.” Sadly, I am still so quick to slam down the gavel in judgment of others’ shortcomings.

In light of all this, I find comfort and freedom in Romans 3:23. Here’s why. Since we’ve all sinned and come short of God’s glory, there’s comfort in knowing that we’re all on the same ground. You see, it means that God doesn’t play favorites. In other words, the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Freedom comes into play when I remember the extent to which of my heart changes: instead of reaching out to judge someone because of a mistake or wrongdoing, I’m inspired to reach out to someone with the love, mercy, and grace of Christ regardless of his or her sin. Believe me, that’s very liberating.

Dear Heavenly Father, even before I knew You, You pursued me and reached out to me in spite of my sin. Because of Your love, I am Yours, and You are mine. Thank You for giving me Your grace and strength to reach out and love others as well. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

February 1–4. Tyler Myers is a freelance writer for the Christian market and is the author two books. He enjoys his family, great books, good food, and beautiful music.

January 31

By | 365 Devotions

In the Morning: Loving Kindness!

Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee (Psalm 143:8, KJV).

Scripture: Psalm 143

Song: “Thy Loving Kindness”

While some mornings can start off kind of slow and leisurely— and I love that I don’t have a pressing agenda staring me in the face—on other mornings, I have a sense of urgency. I start mulling over the things I need to do as soon as my feet hit the floor. I can be frazzled in a matter of minutes.

No matter what kind of day I start off with, I’m encouraged to know that God is always on my side, and He is pulling for me. I love how Psalm 143:8 starts out: “Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness in the morning.” How wonderful. I couldn’t handle it if God chose to be angry with me every morning.

I also love the confidence of the psalmist that’s evident at the beginning of this beautiful song. Notice David doesn’t plead with uncertainty, as if to say, “God, is there any hope that I can experi-ence Your lovingkindness this morning?” He knows God’s loving-kindness is there; he simply wants to hear and receive.

God’s lovingkindness is there every morning for all of us. Will I take the time to spend with Him and listen?

Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your loving-kindness that waits for me every morn-ing. Your love and compassion for me never changes, no matter what kind of day I’m having. Fill me with Your love today and help me extend it to others in practical deeds of kindness. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

January 30

By | 365 Devotions

What in the World Is Wrong?

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt  in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him (Leviticus 19:17, KJV).

Scripture: Leviticus 19:13-18

Song: “The Love of God”

As a rule, I don’t watch the news. While there are some good stories reported, there never seems to be a shortage of bad ones: more arson, more drive-by shootings, more robbery, more terrorism, innocent people held hostage, another police officer killed. And the list goes on. It doesn’t take long to wonder: What in the world is wrong with people these days?

To answer my own question: I live in a sinful world, and if I don’t keep my spiritual guard up, being guided by the love of Jesus Christ, I can let hatred and resentment arise in my own heart. The disturbing thing is, I never need a gun, a knife, or any other weapon to commit this sin.

But Leviticus 19:17 commands just the opposite. Can I fulfill its directive? On my own, I don’t stand a chance. However, I am not left on my own to conquer hatred or any growing root of bitterness. By God’s power, I can rise above desires for revenge (and any other sin) and live in the love of Christ. For the Lord himself conquered His enemies—and the hatred they had for Him—with His love. I live in  Him, today and always, receiving His grace to meet each challenge.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that I am not left on my own in the fight against sin. Thank You for being the perfect example of love to me and for me. Thank You for empowering me to conquer hatred with Your amazing and perfect love. All praise to You, in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

January 29

By | 365 Devotions

Ouch!

If you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers (James 2:9). 

Scripture: James 2:8-13

Song: “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness”

Scenario: A single Christian man accepts the invitation and goes on a lunch break with a single, female coworker. The two end the lunch with words of appreciation and a friendly hug. But that hug leads to more attraction, a few phone calls, and—even though the Christian man knows better—a night together.

Scenario: A parent screams at her child: “I’ve had it with you!” and unleashes a violent fury that leaves the little boy with a bloody broken nose and a black eye.

Scenario: A neighborhood reels in shock, learning that one of its beloved school teachers was arrested for embezzlement.

I agree that sexual sin, child abuse, and stealing are very serious offenses, I have no right to personally slam the gavel, as though I am better than others, because . . . I am not. James 2:9 makes it clear that I am guilty of breaking God’s law by doing one simple thing: prejudicially preferring one person over another. Ouch!

Thankfully, because of what Christ the Lord has done for us, we can receive God’s forgiveness—no matter what we’ve done. There may be serious temporal consequences to pay, but eternal guilt is no longer necessary.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me come to You, openly and humbly, knowing I can  share anything with You—even what I’ve done wrong. In Jesus’ name, amen.

January 29–31. Tyler Myers is a freelance writer for the Christian market and is the author of two books. He enjoys his family, great books, good food, and beautiful music.

January 28

By | 365 Devotions

Whose Are You?

“Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said.  “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have  given me strength” (Daniel 10:19).

Scripture: Daniel 10:10-19

Song: “I Stand Amazed in the Presence”

When I was in junior high, I had a teacher who would say the  same thing every day as class came to an end. As we were walking out of the classroom, he would always say, “Remember who you are and who’s counting on you.”

That’s actually pretty good advice, but a lot of us only hear the second part. So many of us realize how many people are counting on us. It could be our family, our coworkers, our volunteer team at  church, etc. But when many people are counting on us, it can be intimidating. Often we just don’t feel up to the task.

Daniel understood this, feeling crushed by responsibility. But he also remembered who he was. He was “highly esteemed” by God, which meant that he could have peace and be strong. In Christ, we have the same identity. If you want to know who you are, this is it: You are highly esteemed by God. You are His prize, His jewel, His greatest affection. He bought you with the blood of His own Son. Jesus didn’t die for you just so He could give up on you. He is with you. He is your strength.

Don’t just remember who’s counting on you. Remember who—or rather, whose, you are.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for purchasing me with the precious blood of Your Son. Thank You for loving me; thank You that I am forever Yours in Christ. Amen.

January 27

By | 365 Devotions

Spoiler Alert

As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance (Daniel 12:13).

Scripture: Daniel 12:8-13

Song: “Last Word”

Has someone ever spoiled a movie for you by telling you how it ends before you had a chance to see it? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Thus enters the phrase “spoiler alert.” When you hear that a spoiler alert is coming, on TV or in a conversation, you have a split second to decide whether you want to keep listening or whether you want to walk away.

In today’s Bible passage, God really spoiled the ending for Daniel. He told Daniel just how bad things were going to get. But He also gave away the ending when He told Daniel that the prophet would rest and receive his inheritance.

I have a feeling that Daniel was actually glad God “spoiled” the  bearable. The great news is that God has done the same for us. He has spoiled the ending for us. We don’t know how many twists and turns there will be in our life’s plot, but we do know how the story ends. If we are in Christ, it ends the same way that Daniel’s story ended. We receive rest and an inheritance as our eternal reward.

Father God, I want to live today in light of the eternity You’ve planned. When I experience present-day annoyances, help me to remember that this is not the end, that this is not yet the best of worlds. When I experience utter heartbreak, I still want to remember that this is not the end. In Christ’s holy name I pray. Amen.

January 26

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Glory Recaptured

I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless  (Daniel 10:8).

Scripture: Daniel 10:1-9

Song: “Show Me Your Glory”

My barber is a talkative guy, so I usually hear all about the ins  and outs of barbering as he cuts my hair. During one recent haircut,  he complained about the quality of his new clippers. He said this particular brand used to be the “gold standard.”                               Every barber used them, because their quality was always unsurpassed. But now, due to efforts to cut manufacturing costs, the quality had apparently been downgraded. He informed me that he would gladly pay more money if the company would simply recapture the quality of the original product.

We’ve all seen that happen with certain products. And most of the time, we want the same thing that my barber wants. We just want the manufacturer to recapture what they used to have. The church needs to do a bit of recapturing, as well. In many ways, it seems we have lost sight of God’s glory. We have come to  see God as our friend, which He absolutely is. But He is also the God of immeasurable glory and awesome holiness. Daniel was rendered helpless in the presence of this glory. And doesn’t the church needs to recapture that sense of being smitten in the presence of an august personage, our great king? We need the glory of God to render us helpless, so then He can be our help.

Lord, show me Your glory today. I want to stand in awe of You. Glorify yourself beforeme today, and in me today. Through Christ, amen.

January 25

By | 365 Devotions

Stop Signs

When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to (Acts 16:7).

Scripture: Acts 16:6-10

Song: “Forward, Children, Forward”

My family lives near Cincinnati, and we attend several Reds baseball games every year. When we’re walking to the ballpark, the scene is consistent: A police officer is directing traffic, ensuring that the thousands of fans walking to the stadium arrive safely. You’ve likely seen the same thing at any large event you’ve attended.

The two main hand signals from the officer are simple. He motions with his hand, which means “walk forward.” Or he holds his hand up, keeping it still, which means “stop.” However, God’s “stop” and “go” signs can be more difficult to discern. In today’s passage, we see the Holy Spirit stopping Paul and his companions not once, but twice, from entering Bythinia. We later find that it’s because God was calling them to Macedonia, but they didn’t know it at the time. All they knew was that God had thrown up the “stop sign” on their plans, twice.

It’s not always easy to hear God saying “stop” when we’re convinced the command should be “go.” It can be frustrating, because we can’t see what God has in store. All we can do is trust that if He tells us to “stop,” He’s got a much better “go” waiting for us in the future.

Father, may I trust in Your wisdom and Your love for me. Help me to be patient when You tell me to stop. I want Your desires to be more important than my desires. Stop me when I need to stop. And when You are ready for me to go, I’ll go. In Christ, amen.

January 24

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Fear Can’t Stop the Mission

You, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words.  Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people (Ezekiel 2:6).

Scripture: Ezekiel 1:26–2:7

Song: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

It’s never fun to deliver bad news. When I was 16 years old, I had to tell my dad that I’d wrecked his Ford Bronco—and that                          Bronco was his baby. When he heard the news, I was afraid he would keep the SUV and tell me to pack my bags. It’s the prospect of heated confrontation that makes it so tough to  deliver bad news. That’s what Ezekiel faced. He had to confront the Israelites about their sinful rebellion against the Lord, and he knew it wouldn’t be easy. The threat of a violent reaction was quite real.

But the Lord told Ezekiel, “Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them.” Ezekiel faced an uphill battle, but God had sent him, and God would go with him.

In a culture increasingly hostile toward traditional values, it’s easy to let fear take us off mission. We fear rejection, hostility, alienation. But we can’t allow fear to hinder our response to Christ’s disciple-making command (see Matthew 28:19, 20). It’s not easy. God never promised it would be. But He did promise to go with us, which means we have no reason to fear.

O Lord, give me opportunities to carry out Your mission today. Strengthen me for the task, and give me courage when I want to back down. When I am afraid, remind me of Your presence today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

January 23

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A Present Savior

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged . . . the LORD your God will be with you (Joshua 1:9).

Scripture: Joshua 1:1-9

Song: “Nearer, My God, to Thee”

How would you like to replace a legend? For example, how would it have felt to be the baseball player who replaced Babe Ruth in right field after he retired? That would be just a little daunting, don’t you think? By the way, do you even remember that guy’s name? It was George Selkirk—but the name likely won’t ring a bell.

Replacing a legend would have to be terrifying, and yet that is exactly what God called Joshua to do. Moses had died, and Joshua was going to replace him in leading God’s people. To call Moses a legend would be a grand understatement. This was the man God had used to part the Red Sea and to lead His people out of slavery.

And now, Joshua is charged with taking his place. But God specifically told Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be

discouraged.” This didn’t mean Joshua wouldn’t face fearful or discouraging situations. He absolutely would. But a fearful situation didn’t mean that Joshua had to be afraid. A discouraging situation didn’t require him to be discouraged. God’s presence—then, and now—changes the whole equation.

Our status is determined by our Savior, not our situation. That’s why we can face fear without being afraid. A present Savior trumps a perilous situation every time.

Dear God, remind me of Your presence. Forgive me when I focus on my fear instead of on You. I praise You because You are greater than any fear and stronger than any discouragement I will face today. In the holy name of Jesus, amen.

January 22

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Are You Available at the Moment?

God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob!  Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied (Genesis 46:2).

Scripture: Genesis 46:1-7

Song: “Stay Awake, Be Ready”

We live in a world where ability is everything. We really can’t make any significant move in our lives without someone evaluating our ability. If we apply for a job, the employer examines our qualifications to determine whether we possess the required ability. If we want to buy a house, the bank examines our finances to determine whether we’ll be able to pay the mortgage.

But things work differently in God’s economy. God isn’t concerned about our ability. He’s concerned about our availability. For example, when you read Jacob’s story, you realize this man was seriously under-qualified to do anything great for God. Yet God used him to give birth to the nation of Israel, which would in turn lead to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus.

God didn’t measure Jacob’s ability; He tested his availability. So when God called out to Jacob, the response was simple: “Here I am.” Did Jacob’s ability qualify him? Absolutely not. But his availability aligned him with the all-powerful Lord. All he had to say was, “God, I’m here. Now lead me where You want me to go.”

Nothing has changed from then until now. God is still looking past our ability to see the extent of our availability.

Lord, I want to respond as Jacob did. When You call, I will answer, “Here I am. I’m available. Lead me where you want me to go today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

January 22–28. Mike Edmisten is senior minister of Connect Christian Church in Cincinnati. He and his beautiful wife, Nicki, have two sons. He loves God, family, church, and the Cincinnati Reds.

January 21

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Prayer in the Storm

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy (Daniel 9:18).

Scripture: Daniel 9:4-8, 15-19

Song: “God of Mercy and Compassion”

A young woman and her husband were out fishing on a lake when a storm blew up suddenly. They hurried the boat to shore. When they reached the dock, the husband jumped out to get the boat trailer. The woman locked her arms around the pier to hold the boat against the waves. She began praying, “Oh Jesus, help me!” The waves got worse. Finally, the woman bellowed out a curse. Shocked at her language, she asked for forgiveness, reporting later that despite her sin, “God answered my prayer.” Her husband arrived with the trailer, and they hauled the boat to safety. She exclaimed, “The mercy of God truly is amazing!”

Daniel discovered God’s amazing mercy centuries earlier. He wrote that we don’t pray to God because we are “righteous,”  but because of God’s infinite mercy. This prophet knew that his people were “wicked” and had “rebelled” (v. 5). Yet he showed deep faith in God’s mercy. In fact, he called God “great and awesome” (v. 4).

I often feel I have no right to ask God for anything. Why? Because I have a long list of times when I have disobeyed Him. But this stop me from approaching Him in prayer?

Almighty and Compassionate Father, You know what I’ve done. I broke my promise to You. I probably shouldn’t even be praying, because I know how You hate sin. But then I’m encouraged by Daniel’s words, and I come to You, believing that You are “merciful and forgiving” (v. 9). Thank You, in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

January 20

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Gabriel and the Peanut Man

While I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice (Daniel 9:21).

Scripture: Daniel 9:20-24

Song: “God Answers Prayer”

George Washington Carver, scientist at Tuskegee Institute, told about how God answered his prayer about the future of the peanut.  “Oh, Mr. Creator,” Carver began. “Why did You make this universe?” The Creator answered, “You want to know too much for that  little mind of yours. Ask me something more your size.”

Carver then asks about the meaning of man, and again God refuses to answer. Finally, Carver asks, “Mr. Creator, why did You make the peanut?” “That’s better!” the Lord answers, and guides Carver in the laboratory where, together, where he invents over 300 products from the peanut.

Daniel wanted answers to prayer too. In his case, God answered right away. “As soon as you began to pray, a word went out” (v. 23). Gabriel gave Daniel insight about the future. Both Carver and Daniel give us good examples of bringing problems to God and waiting expectantly for Him to answer. Whether it’s guidance over many years as plans unfold or an immediate response such as Daniel received, we can be sure God will answer our prayers in powerful and tangible ways.

Praise You, Lord, for George Washington Carver and his peanuts! Praise You for  Daniel who teaches me how to pray confidently, believing You will answer in Your time with wisdom and guidance. Amen.

January 19

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The Great Disaster

The LORD our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him (Daniel 9:9).

Scripture: Daniel 9:9-14

Song: “Father, I’ve Failed You”

One night in Jakarta, Indonesia, a 12-year-old boy was driving his parents’ car without permission when he slammed into an SUV, killing five people. The father, a wealthy, corrupt businessman, arrived at the jail, but instead of punishing the boy, he scolded the police for arresting his son. The father eventually gave out bribes to prevent a trial. He then promised his son he would buy him a new car.

Daniel would have been baffled by this case. Blatant murder with no justice? In Daniel’s day, when people broke the law, God punished them with a great disaster. “All Israel has transgressed your law . . . refusing to obey you” (v. 11). In contrast to the Indonesian boy, the people were “covered with shame” (v. 8).

Now comes the amazing part. With Daniel’s God, there isn’t just a choice between (a) sin without retribution, and (b) sin with it. There is a third, otherworldly dimension—sin-retribution-forgiveness. “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.”

God does not shut His eyes when we do wrong. That’s good news! He is righteous, so He can’t tolerate sin and evil. At the same time, He receives us lovingly when we ask for the forgiveness that has been won for us at the cross of Christ.

Lord, forgive me when I try to get away with my rebellions, my hurtful words. Develop in me the awareness that You are righteous and do not excuse sin. I praise You for forgiving me through Christ. In His name, amen.

January 18

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Pray Like Daniel!

I turned to the LORD God and pleaded with him in prayer   and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth (Daniel 9:3).

Scripture: Daniel 9:1-3

Song: “Make My Life a Prayer to You”

When my three grandsons were born, I prayed my heart out. The Lord answered! All three of them (of course) are wonderful and perfect. But I will never forget the fear and agony that drove me to prayer. I had no idea how the childbirths would turn out.

What if something went wrong? Thank God, everybody was OK. In a way, my intensity in prayer was like Daniel’s—except for my lack of confidence. His faith was brilliant, while mine was feeble. Still, I can identify with the description of Daniel’s intensity of pleading. Yet he prays like this—full steam—seemingly without any doubt, even as a multitasking government administrator.

But sackcloth and ashes? Really? Ashes came from fire, sackcloth from black goat’s hair. These were symbols of debasement, national mourning, and repentance. Powerful!

I’ve decided, against all odds, that I want to pray like Daniel. I’m not saying I’m going out to shop for a black goat the next time I pray. All I’m saying is that our faithful God calls us to Daniel’s kind of passionate prayer—no matter what else is  going on in our lives.

Lord, here I am! Help me pray with full force. Fill me with the fire of Your Holy Spirit.  Take away my laziness, my apathy, my comfort zone. Most of all, give me Daniel’s faith in Your power so that my fear gives way to peace and confidence. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

January 17

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When Flames Burn Up the Trees

The cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering (Joel 1:18).

Scripture: Joel 1:13-20

Song: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

The bubonic plague hit Italy in the late 1330s. Death was everywhere, according to one witness. Bodies were left in empty houses. In five years, the plague killed 25 million people. It continued in smaller outbreaks until the 1660s.

Long before, the prophet Joel wrote about a different plague—a plague of locusts—which had “shriveled” all the seeds, ruined storehouses, and “dried up” the grain (see v. 17). In both plagues, people were forced to examine themselves and to call out for God. In fact, Joel used the locusts as a powerful incentive for repentance. “Call a sacred assembly,” he commanded. “Cry out to the Lord. . . . For the day of the Lord is near” (vv. 14, 15).

Today we know that locusts breed and then attack the earth. We know that fleas caused the bubonic plague. So, now, with the plagues of war and racist attacks, massacres, gun violence, and greed, where does God fit in? Who can know the mind of God? We continue to wrestle with this mystery daily. I do know some things for sure. I know the love of God in Jesus. I know God calls me to repentance and new birth.

I know, as the prophet Joel knew, that it is only by His grace that we can survive and even thrive on this, our dangerous planet.

Forgive me, Lord, for living only for myself. From the prophet Joel I can learn that in my sin and rebellion I cause pain in my loved ones, friends, all of society, and nature. Forgive me! What can I do to serve You more fully? In Jesus’ name, amen

January 16

By | 365 Devotions

Another Chicken Little!

I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD; and  they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart (Jeremiah 24:7, RSV).

Scripture: Jeremiah 25:8-14

Song: “We Shall See the King”

In our modern Western culture, people tend to make fun of so-called prophets of doom. American businessman Robert Kiyosaki commented, “Prophets of doom have always taken risks in terms of ridicule and humiliation. If you stand on a street corner holding up a sign that reads ‘The End Is Near,’ passersby . . . will say you’re like  Chicken Little, running around telling people the sky is falling.”

When you read Jeremiah today, did you mutter, “Oh, no, another Chicken Little!”? It’s not easy stuff. The people of Judah had stopped listening to God, so God was going to “utterly destroy them and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting reproach”(v. 9, RSV). And to top it off, slavery would follow.

What might Jeremiah be saying to us today in these words of gloom and doom? Can we hear His voice, saying “Ha! You think you are so in charge, with all your gadgets and safety nets, that you don’t really need to take God seriously?”

I believe that sooner or later, God will show us who He really  is. And then, will we be ruined? Or will we return with our whole heart to our Lord?

Lord, forgive my complacency. Am I underestimating You? Have I gradually deluded myself into thinking You are a tame God? Open my heart to Your holy power and majesty as I commit myself to relearning how to be in awe of You. In Christ I pray. Amen.

January 15

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Have Mercy on Me!

O LORD, let thy ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant (Nehemiah 1:11, RSV).

Scripture: Nehemiah 1:4-11

Song: “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”

In his old age, the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy considered destroying the pages of his diary that described his youthful days of sin and debauchery. Later he changed his mind. He explained that by keeping the pages for others to read, “It may be seen that in spite of the degradation and shamelessness of my youth, God had not forsaken me, and that—late in life . . . I did begin to understand Him a little, and to love Him.”

Nehemiah could have tried to paint a rosy picture of the people of Israel. But instead he chose absolute honesty. The Israelites, he admitted, have “acted very corruptly” against God and “have not kept the commandments” (v. 7, RSV). God punished them by scattering them into exile.

Nehemiah wanted to fix the wall. But he knew that in human terms, things were pretty hopeless. His only chance was to pray to God—to repent, to ask forgiveness, hoping that the Lord in His mercy would be “attentive to the prayer of [His] servant.”

Nehemiah loved God. Tolstoy said he loved God. Can we too experience God by asking in prayer for mercy, even when we’ve messed up and things look hopeless?

Heavenly Father, when I try to serve You, I mess up. Instead of judging me, You’ve encouraged me to approach You in humility for forgiveness. Thank You, amen.

January 15–21. Larry Brook, of Elgin, Illinois, is writing a novel. His book is about traveling the world to train Christian writers. He also writes courses for an online university

January 14

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Appreciate or Follow?

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego . . . They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god (Daniel 3:28).

Scripture: Daniel 3:19-23, 26-28

Song: “You Are My God”

While on a mission trip to Thailand, we were hosted by the owner of the local Nissan dealership. Thanking us effusively for                          giving free English lessons to the Thai people, he had his workers bring us cold water in glasses with the Nissan logo. When we left, they gave each of us a box of four glasses.

Nebuchadnezzar reminds me of this man. They were both powerful and were served by many people. They both appreciated our God and His power to the point that they encouraged others to worship Him. But in the end, they worshipped their own authority more than God’s.

Appreciating God is not the same as following Him. Many people today fail to see the difference. They may solicit our prayers, even though they do not pray themselves. Sometimes they even contribute to mission efforts, because of the good work being done. They may even attend worship services, but they merely observe rather than participate with their whole hearts.

All peoples and cultures can come together to worship the true God, if only they move from appreciation to following. We can sing, pray, and study together to win the world to Christ.

Our Father in Heaven, I praise Your name. I believe in You as the Creator of the universe and author of life eternal. Please help me to grow in faith and convey Your love today. I pray in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

 

January 13

By | 365 Devotions

He Is There

Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods (Daniel 3:25).

Scripture: Daniel 3:24, 25

Song: “Salvation Belongs to Our God”

In the nippy air, I walked quickly to pick up my newspaper from the front yard. I was stopped short by an adorable little girl standing on my sidewalk. Her curly blond hair was awry, and seeing her flimsy pajamas made me shiver.

I talked to her gently, trying to determine where she lived and why she was alone. I took her hand to walk her home as she indicated the direction of her house, but soon I picked her up so we’d both be warmer. Finally, after crossing a street, she said, “Yes,” to my “Is this your house?” I returned her to her parents, who didn’t even know she’d slipped out of the house.

That was a startling experience for me, but nothing like the surprise Nebuchadnezzar got when he looked into the fiery furnace and saw four men there. I was sent to protect the child; the person “like a son of the gods” was clearly protecting the three young Hebrew men who’d been thrown into the furnace.

And isn’t it the case that the Lord’s presence is a form of deliverance for us too? Even in our day, we’re called to trust in God’s protecting power. It won’t mean He removes every difficulty. But His presence delivers us from suffering any tough trial alone. He is there, sustaining us always.

God, thank You for loving me and protecting me with Your promised presence. Help me to know and feel Your love today. I pray in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

January 12

By | 365 Devotions

 Standing Firm

My dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Scripture: Daniel 3:13-18

Song: “Savior of All, to Thee We Bow”

My friend Connie was excited about going to a party given by the most popular girl in her class. They sat together in History and talked together often. Then her friend asked to copy her answers on an important test so she wouldn’t be ineligible for the cheerleading squad. Connie refused to let her cheat and so was uninvited  to the party. That was years ago, but she still remembers the emotional toll of standing firm in her decision.

How are we influencing children to stand like that today? Connie had been taught the value of honesty and chose integrity over popularity. She loved her teacher and wanted to honor her in her choices. She said, “I prayed about it, and I knew what was right.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose God over the king and  his golden statue. Just as people may react today when we choose  God’s ways, Nebuchadnezzar was shocked. He didn’t share their  faith and thus could not understand it. Our children may discover that their peers don’t understand their decision to act with integrity, but we can support them and encourage them in their growing faith.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your guidance as I turn to You in daily prayer. Help me to talk to my children, grandchildren, and young friends about the importance of seeking Your wisdom in all things. In Your Son’s name, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

January 11

By | 365 Devotions

Disconnected Values

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

Scripture: Daniel 3:1-12

Song: “Purer in Heart, O God”

“Why did you do that?” my mother asked sternly.

“Because he told me to,” my brother often replied.

“If he told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that?” she always responded. That conversation may sound familiar to you, for it happens over and over with children and parents.

But in the story of the gold image that Nebuchadnezzar erected, all the people responded in exactly that way. The king told them to bow, and they did it, no questions asked.

In today’s world, what do we follow without question? The foolishness of children is obvious to parents, and isn’t our foolishness just as obvious to God?

The movie that “everyone is talking about” might not build up  a Christian’s spirit. The book at the top of the best-seller list could hinder one’s pursuit of a renewed mind. And certain television shows may well wound the conscience of a disciple of Jesus.

The apostle Paul reminds us to avoid conformity to the pattern of this world system. Let us constantly say no to the lure of secular values so disconnected from our Lord.

O Gracious Lord, please give me wisdom so that I will not give in to the lure of the world. Help me to keep my mind and heart focused on You. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

January 10

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Just for Such a Time

Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14).

Scripture: Esther 4:5-17

Song: “Each Step I Take”

My husband, Steve, and I had unloaded our U-Haul trailer the day before we went to attend the small mountain church in Boone, North Carolina. We were invited to stay after the worship service for a going-away dinner for the current preacher.

Elderly Mr. Gardner asked, “Son, do you preach?”

“I have,” Steve answered hesitantly, “but I’m here to teach at the university.”

“Now you’re also our next preacher!” Mr. Gardner said decisively. “When one preacher leaves, God always sends us another.” And he was right. We lived there for 15 months, and it was one of our best ministries ever. God had sent us to that place, though we didn’t know it when we took our jobs there.

Sometimes it’s who you happen to sit by on a bus or train. Sometimes it’s who you run into at the grocery store. Sometimes it’s noticing that the neighbor has a lot more company than usual. Sometimes it’s stopping to talk to a distraught teen.

We are sent to certain places and people in order to be messengers of God. We may be with that specific person to say what they need to hear, even if it is only “God loves you” or “I’m here to help.” Let’s be alert to where we are sent by God.

Almighty God, I want to know You have guided me to where I go today. Keep me alert to the silent nudging of Your Spirit. Let me be watchful for where I am to serve You. In the name of Your Son our Savior, amen.

January 9

By | 365 Devotions

Which Will It Be?

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29).

Scripture: Acts 5:27-32

Song: “Trust and Obey”

My friend, the buyer for a large department store, hesitated about some questionable things he was asked to do. Finally, because of his faith, he spoke up about his ethical reservations. His superiors  became quite upset with him, and he was soon fired.

For the next few months, as he searched for another position, he worked at minimum-wage jobs to help his family as much as possible. When he finally obtained suitable employment, he quickly rose to be president of a manufacturing company. And the best thing of all: His new company’s principles matched his own.

Cutting corners because the client will never notice, sharing an unsavory rumor, hiding income to save taxes, leaving out certain information the client should know (but didn’t ask about), or saying we aren’t available when we are—such are the things we’re tempted to do, even as disciples of Jesus.

How can we remember to obey God in those situations? Stay in the Word and in prayer. When my morning prayer includes “Please help me to act in a way that You will be proud of me,” I’ll be more aware of God’s beckoning influence, all day long. When I read “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13), I’m reminded to resist the pull of the world.

Heavenly Father, I want to be in the world without being of the world. Please help me in every situation to follow Your ways, despite the most powerful temptations to do otherwise. Protect me and sustain me, Lord! Through the name of Jesus. Amen.

January 8

By | 365 Devotions

What We Have Seen and Heard

As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).

Scripture: Acts 4:13-22

Song: “Seeking the Lost”

Each time I return from a mission trip, I see in myself two reactions: I am newly aware of our abundance in the United States, and I am acutely aware of people who do not know Jesus. I find myself speaking up for Him in ways I previously avoided because of worry that I would offend someone.

But the consequences for Peter and John’s proclamations would  be much greater than merely causing offense. The Sanhedrin commanded them to stop speaking about Jesus, but they couldn’t help it, even with the threat of jail. They were filled with God’s Spirit and must share His love everywhere they went.

For me, talking about my mission trip quickly sends conversations into a personal consideration of spiritual things. I can share the excitement of seeing new converts in that foreign country, and I can show my own excitement about Jesus. If I haven’t been away, I can talk to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances about my most recent project with my church.

People may not respond directly to our words about God. But when they seek spiritual help, they will be drawn to someone who shows sincere kindness and expresses a genuine interest in their concerns.

Father, thank You for my material and spiritual blessings in Christ. Help me to befriend those who don’t yet know Him. In His name, amen.

January 8–14. Lanita Bradley Boyd is