When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table (Luke 22:14).
Passage: Luke 22:14-23
Song: “Blessed Assurance”
As a minister, I often had to have difficult conversations with both congregational and community members. Issues in the judicial system, school policies, outreach opportunities, or correcting and rebuking were often necessary but never fun.
And before those conversations, I often had a knot in the pit of my stomach. Nervous energy and jumbled nerves would often precede conversations that I honestly would have rather avoided.
Jesus, in contrast, only hours before His trial and execution, sits peacefully and calmly at rest. My conversations were nowhere near the magnitude or importance of Christ’s impending activities, yet our internal states could not be more different.
The difference is where attention is put. While Jesus will shortly utter the words, “not my will but yours,” I was often focused on the worst potential outcomes. None of the dire circumstances in my mind ever came to pass, but my fear often limited my ability to be fully present in the conversation.
It is discipline and belief in God’s character that will help us to keep our focus on Him. Jesus was resolutely focused on achieving God’s will. His Spirit and power now reside in His people. When we keep our focus on Him and His work, we not only honor God, but our very lives become His platform to draw other people close to Him as well.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your work through me when I turn to You in difficult circumstances. In Christ’s name, amen.
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me (Jeremiah 31:34).
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Song: “One Thing”
I love teaching in both private Christian colleges and public institutions. Teaching Christians is a chance to sharpen and refine people in the church for ministry. Teaching at public institutions is a chance to share faith and life with those seeking for truth. I open classes by telling the students that I love teaching because even if they don’t realize it, they are searching for answers.
In all of my years of teaching, I’ve never been wrong about that. Even the most adamant atheists end up intrigued and asking questions. There is something deep within us that longs to know and connect with truth. It’s the part of us that is made in the image of God. We revel in perfect peace and truth.
What is exciting as a teacher is the promise of this passage. In short, that one day I will be out of a job. The day is coming when everyone will know God. His promises never fail. His truth is never left untold. His hope is never extinguished. His sovereignty never ends.
A day of perfect paradise is coming, where all who know the Lord will dwell together in the truth and knowledge of what the Lord has done. We will not need to hear stories of His promises and faithfulness because we will all know Him intimately.
Holy God, thank You for always keeping Your promises and teaching me Your ways. In Christ, amen.
In Plain Sight
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them (Mark 14:16).
Scripture: Mark 14:12-16
Song: “Standing on the Promises”
“Dad, I can’t find my shoes.” That’s a common phrase in our house. I’ll then explain that I put them in their proper place, or where I saw them. For example, I might say, “I put them at the end of your
bed last night.”
Ten seconds later I’ll hear a shout from the bedroom. “I’ve looked, I can’t see them anywhere.”
I’ll walk into the room, explain where they are and show them that they are where I said they’d be.
We all know that frustration of looking for something and not finding it, and it’s usually because it wasn’t exactly how we expected it to be.
The disciples were told to go and prepare the Passover and Mark tells us that everything happened just as it was told to them. What they expected and what they experienced were in agreement.
Our struggles in life can come in many forms. One of them is when our expectation and our experiences differ. What’s encouraging in this passage is not primarily the notion that expectations and experiences lined up for the disciples. It’s that God’s plan was fulfilled. His promises were kept.
The same is true for us, whether expectation meets reality or not. In the midst of it all, through all of life’s circumstances and difficulties, there remains a God so ever-present and faithful that His word and His truth will always be accomplished.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness and presence in the hard times of life. In Christ’s name, amen.
Generosity and Mission
“The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly” (Mark 11:3).
Scripture: Mark 11:1-10
Song: “All That I Am”
As a father, I’ve heard every variation of the phrase, “That’s not fair!” It usually revolves around the need to share a toy, electronic device, or snack. There is something built into human nature that makes us inclined to protect personal property.
What’s remarkable about today’s passage is the complete lack of selfishness from the owners of the donkey. They were so open to what God was doing that with a simple statement, “The Lord needs it” was enough to release their possession without question.
Our abundant generosity for God’s mission can be hard. It requires us to release our time, money, and personal possessions. We might be tempted to withhold something or not offer the best of what we have. Yet God’s call into mission is a chance for us to look beyond ourselves and toward something bigger.
The generosity from the owners of a donkey was much more than one small gift. It was the fulfillment of prophecy and an integral part of the confirmation of Jesus as God’s Messiah. The display of generosity is recorded, recited, and remembered every time this story is read.
The same is true of our generosity in mission. Those lowly donkey owners may not have been able to fully comprehend what they were participating in. We may not ever fully know either, yet in God’s economy our generosity is matched and outdone by God’s. One simple act of obedience from His people is exponentially used and blessed by God.
God, thank You for the chance to give generously to Your mission. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (Deuteronomy 16:3).
Scripture: Deuteronomy 16:1-8
Song: “Never Once”
Our medicine cabinet is over-full. Headaches, sprains, strains, cuts, and bruises; if there is something that ails our family, we have the treatment. Pain, it seems, is an unfortunate side effect of life.
Yet this passage teaches the Hebrew people to eat the bread of affliction as a marker for time and eventual freedom. For the Israelites, there is something to be remembered in pain. Suffering is often a big area of growth. It is through pain that we learn to adapt, grow, and change.
My journal has a section titled, “Hurtful Experiences.” These are significant moments in life like betrayal by a close friend or an unfair character assault. I keep this list for two reasons. One, it reminds to pray for those who hurt or offend me. Two, I look back on a past experience and realize God’s grace. Below each of these experiences, I keep blank space to write lessons learned, spiritual insights, and prayers. Each of these “bread of affliction moments” has reminded me of a time of suffering, and of God›s grace and provision in the midst of trial. Several times a year, I revisit this list. I eat “bread of affliction” to remind me not only of these seasons of growth but of God’s continual provision along the way.
Thank You, God, for providing comfort in difficult circumstances. In Jesus’ name, amen.
May 27–31. Justin Hiebert is a Life Coach who helps pastors and leaders stay holistically healthy and avoid burnout to lead effectively.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us (Romans 12:6).
Scripture: Romans 12:1-8
Song: “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit”
The silver-haired woman lays out her birthday cards and copies old hymns and then writes a special message in each card. She does this for everyone in the church. And yes, if you move away, she still sends you a specially crafted birthday card. I look forward to mine every year, even though we moved away eight years ago! She has the gift of exhortation, or commonly known as encouragement. She has embraced her gift and served well with it.
God designed each of us specifically for a purpose and has equipped us with spiritual gifts to fulfill a specific purpose in His body, the church. Each of us has a part that God has ordained for us (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18). It is important that we recognize and do our part. Whether you are gifted with encouragement, teaching, prophecy, serving, or one of the many other gifts you will be blessed, and also bless others by using the gifts God has given you. So it comes down to a choice we make. We can choose to leave those gifts dormant and leave so much potential untouched. Or we can embrace the gifts given us and build up the body of Christ.
Choose to build.
Dear Lord, thank You for the spiritual gifts You have given me. Help me to recognize them and to embrace them so I take my part in the body and bless others. In Your name, amen.
Not Taking Revenge
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath (Romans 12:17-19).
Scripture: Romans 12:16-21
Song: “Here I am Lord”
My daughter, Abby, was molested by a boy in kindergarten. Later, in her middle school years, Abby was frightened when he showed up at church and in her class. We talked with Abby about how to respond and today’s Scripture became helpful. Abby chose to “leave room for God” and put the situation in His hands by leaving the class in order to became a volunteer helper teaching the younger elementary school students.
Avoiding revenge and stepping away can open up space for God to work in the evildoer’s heart. Doing the uncommon—not responding in vengeance and offering kindness—will “heap burning coals” on the head of the guilty. Those burning coals are not meant for vengeance but rather to light the fire of Christ into the person’s heart.
Not taking revenge can be hard. Releasing our anger and hunger for revenge to God is a good way to move toward loving the people we might think are difficult to love. Yet they are some of the very ones that God asks us to love.
Dear Lord, thank You for understanding the pain I feel from those who have caused me pain. Please help me release my anger and suffering to You so that I may be free to love my enemies so that they can see Your love in me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Be devoted to one another in love (Romans 12:10).
Scripture: Romans 12:9-15
I am bipolar. I also have borderline personality disorder, PTSD, anxiety, and major depressive disorder. It’s a heavy burden to carry. Sometimes I have to stay in a short term mental health facility to get my medicine adjusted. These times are very hard on my family. But my family and I do not bear these burdens alone. After a couple years of reaching out and forming intimate relationships in our church family, and especially through Celebrate Recovery we have found people who are devoted to us in love. These are people who have driven me to the hospital, picked me up, watched my children, stayed with me in the emergency room, provided dinner for my family while I was away, paid a car payment, and folded
laundry. These are demonstrations of devotion in love.
The book of Acts does not specifically use the word “love.” But the stories of believers in action most certainly shows love. Jesus changed Paul and showed him how to live devoted in love by proclaiming the truth of the gospel. Believers, the church, were devoted to each other in love each day. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32).
Today, seek to be devoted to someone in love. Certainly there are people around you to love.
Lord, thank You for the love the church has given me. Please, help me be more devoted to those around me in love. In Your name, amen.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).
Scripture: Psalm 34:1-14
Song: “No Longer Slaves”
Thump.Thump. My heart feels heavy. My body is ablaze with a fiery burn and I tingle from head to toe. My stomach is in knots. My breathing is difficult and labored. I feel like I am dying but I am not. It’s a panic attack from fear.
Even the strongest among us will likely face fear at some point. David certainly had many fearful occasions. When lions and bears would come and carry away sheep David confronted his fear and went into action to rescue the sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-37). The same was evident when all the army of Israel feared Goliath but David trusted God to deliver him. David went against his foe in the name the Lord with full confidence that God was with him and would give him skill and strength for victory (1 Samuel 30:6). David trusted God to rescue him from danger and put his faith into action as he moved into position to engage and to overcome the foe in the Lord’s name.
God never failed David. He never fails those who seek Him as the stronghold of their lives, even in the face of fear. Only by seeking God do we become ready to receive His strength and become ready to move forward in the assurance of His presence with us. This is how we can stand against the enemy of our souls without fear.
Father, thank You for Your constant presence with me and almighty strength to deliver me from fear. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Ungrateful to Grateful
He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35).
Scripture: Luke 6:27-36
Song: “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart”
A man lost three of his children in a fire. And a few years after that he lost his last child in a drive by shooting. He became angry and directed it all at God. By focusing on all he had lost and not on what he still had he became ungrateful and turned away from God. But even from all this rejection God didn’t stop loving him and still loves this man.
God never fails to show His mercy and kindness to everyone— those who are ungrateful, just as He does for those who are grateful. It’s actually very simple because it’s not about who we are—whether we are grateful or ungrateful, angry or not. It is about who God is and what He does—loves us even when we do not love Him (1 John 4:9, 19). God takes the initiative. He is the one who does not change. He simply keeps on showing us His loving kindness.
But we must look for His kindness even though an ungrateful heart can obstruct our vision. But praise God that His kindness is big enough to always be seen. It comes to us each day in ways that might be new for that day and then also more common, such as another sunrise, breath, and daily provision. So be willing to receive God’s kindness. And as we do ungrateful hearts can become grateful.
Lord, thank You for Your mercy and kindness despite myself. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13
Song: “Love Never Fails”
My daughter, Abby, was “cleaning” the kitchen floor with dishwashing soap. I stepped in to clean up her soapy, sudsy mess but my son crawled into the room. I felt angry about it all but remembered I could also choose loving kindness. There on my hands and knees in the mess I thanked Abby for her help but explained to her that I need her to ask for help washing the kitchen floor. Then, I sat her and her brother at the table with a snack while I sopped up the sudsy mess.
We always have choices about our feelings and words. Jesus shows us how to choose kindness in His interactions with a paralyzed man (Luke 5:18-25), an adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), and a thief (Luke 23:39-43). Jesus shows us loving kindness to people who made a mess of their lives because of their sin. Jesus reached down into their pit and gave each of them kindness that we might think they deserved the least. God redeems the messiest, most scarred among us. In His kindness, He loves us.
With that same love, Jesus calls us to reach out to the hurting, the sick, the sin stained—in their messes. We don’t wait for them to clean up their act. He wants us down on our knees in the middle of their mess to show and speak God’s love and kindness to save us from the mess we all can make of our lives.
Lord, Thank You for Your kindness to me. Please help me to love through kindness today. In Your name, amen.
Cracked Switch Plates
Do not be wise in your own eyes (Proverbs 3:7).
Scripture: Proverbs 3:1-12
Song: “Be Thou My Vision”
My eight year old son, Eli, loves to help. He saw some loose screws that hold the cover plates over light switches in the house and decided to use my husband’s screwdriver to tighten. In his little eyes, he was helping. But eight year old wisdom on how tight those little screws should be for the plastic cover plates does not always meet reality. Now we have a house full of cracked switch plates.
Just as Eli needed to ask for some guidance and wisdom, God says to ask Him for wisdom. He promises to give when we ask. He says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
It comes down to two choices. The wisdom of man or the wisdom of God. Without God, the Bible calls us “fools” and “mockers” (Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 13:1). However, God’s wisdom is a treasure that “is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
Where will you look for wisdom today?
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me Your wisdom when I ask for it. Please help me to use Your discernment wisely and consistently in my daily walk. In Jesus’ name, amen.
May 20–26. Susan Burkepile and her husband have four beautiful children, ranging in ages 6-13.
How much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree (Romans 11:24).
Scripture: Romans 11:11-24
Song: “Lord, I’m Coming Home”
Carol drifted away from the Lord for over six years while away from home and at college. She chose this route for herself even though she was raised in an active church-going Christian family. Her parents remained active in the church and were so glad to see her home again. But her parents were also saddened that Carol had rejected God and the faith she had adopted as a child.
Carol’s family pleaded with her to reconsider God and return to faith, but she continued to decline. They prayed for her every day, asking God to speak the truth and change her mind and heart. The Holy Spirit began to work in her heart. After several months, she decided to go to church. There, God spoke to her heart and convicted her of her lack of faith and her need to repent of her rejection and return to Him. She responded, experienced God’s grace, and was gladly accepted back.
If you have never responded to God’s offer of salvation or even rejected His previous offers of His gift of grace, then know that God can graft you back into the family of God.
He can cause you to grow in your faith and become a productive disciple for Christ. God has never turned His back on you and you can be assured that He will not do it now.
Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You for Your grace that persists for me and for all who will respond to You in faith. In Jesus’ name, amen.
An Irrevocable Call
God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
Scripture: Romans 11:25-36
Song: “Where He Leads Me”
People in Mike’s church were very familiar with his volunteer carpentry work in the community. He had been sharing with his minister about his interest for using his skills in foreign countries. When the minister stopped him in the hall one Sunday morning, he asked Mike to come by and discuss an idea he had in mind. Mike quickly accepted.
The idea was about helping a church in a storm ravaged area of Haiti that wanted to reach out to their community by repairing buildings. Because of Mike’s carpentry trade, his previous volunteer work, and his growing interest in going to a foreign country on a mission trip it seemed he might be a terrific fit for this ministry opportunity in Haiti. But Mike was somewhat apprehensive as he was concerned about his welfare. He asked, “Is it safe there?”
We might be uncertain about how to respond to God’s call on our lives because of many reasons, including health. But God remains consistent and faithful to His call upon us and He equips us for the work. He calls and equips us through His Holy Spirit. We can learn God’s call and even the source of any apprehension by going to Him in open and honest prayer. Seek God today for where He is calling, and how He is equipping you.
Loving Father, thank You for calling me into Your family. Now please help me hear and respond to Your call upon me. Please give me strength and courage for the work You are setting before me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace (Romans 11:6).
Scripture: Romans 11:1-10
Song: “Grace Greater than Our Sin”
A close friend stopped by my office one day and began to share from his heart that he felt he was failing God as a believer. He had been striving to become a better Sunday school teacher and he began to feel as though he was not doing an adequate job. He admitted that he had some areas in his life that needed cleaning up and felt that God was starting to reject him for that.
I reminded my friend that God began a work in him the day he gave his life to Christ. And God promised He would never leave him nor forsake him. I reminded him also that it was by God’s grace that he was saved and not of his works. Had he depended upon his works for his salvation, then grace would not be grace. This is the clear and powerful truth of God’s grace that the apostle Paul conveys to us in today’s passage.
When we confess our sin then God forgives. He is faithful to cleanse us from unrighteous acts (1 John 1:9). This is God’s grace at work. It is not about our efforts to perform to any standard. God’s grace is powerful and He is at work in us toward His purposes (Philippians 2:13). He has not given up on us and He will keep His promises to us.
Gracious Heavenly Father, help me this day to know that You are faithful to me and that You keep Your promises. In Jesus’ name, amen.
You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents (Acts 20:18, 19).
Scripture: Acts 20:17-24, 32
Song: “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine”
David so loved the Lord that he gave his heart and life to Him. At that time he committed, “My mission to You Lord is to go wherever You lead me.” Little did David know at that initial point in his life with God that he would witness to men and women in some of the most wicked places on the earth. He faced rejection after rejection as he traveled the globe witnessing for Jesus. But David never gave up and kept sharing the love of Jesus on the streets with much humility. David served in humility out of his love for the Lord. He learned this through Scripture’s account the apostle Paul and his ministry to the Ephesian church in spite of opposition. Paul faced opposition from the Jews; David faced opposition from unbelievers in his path.
In serving the Lord, it is wonderful to know that even in times of adversity, the Lord remains faithful to us. His faithfulness always exceeds any opposition we face. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead and minister to you.
Heavenly Father, I pray that as I witness to my community, and face the opposition of non-believers, that the Holy Spirit will lead me and draw the hearts of people to accept the gift of salvation. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
I Am Praying for You
I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally (Colossians 2:1).
Scripture: Colossians 2:1-10
Song: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
Judy opened a card in her mail from the prayer ministry of the church she regularly attended and was overtaken with joy to read that someone was praying for her. Tears of happiness trickled down her cheek even though she did not know the person who signed the card but still expressed how happy and honored she was to lift up Judy to Jesus. And then in addition, this prayer warrior was simply pleased to also encourage Judy by writing. Judy felt blessed through a double, tandem ministry.
The importance of what Paul comes through clearly to us through today’s passage and also his instruction to Timothy to pray for others (see 1 Timothy 2:1). Both are instruction to us to pray for others, and even those we may not know personally. This is a ministry we can take up ourselves. We don’t need to wait for others to get it started. We can do this from our own homes without an organized ministry within our churches. Of course, we could also organize such a ministry in our churches. Either way, we can pray for people we know and people we don’t now but are certainly our neighbors.
Heavenly Father, thank You for knowing the needs of the people on my heart and mind, and even the ones I do not know personally. Please make Your presence and love known to them. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
The Spirit Empowers the Word
The word of the Lord spread through the whole region (Acts 13:49).
Scripture: Acts 13:44-49
Song: “Holy Spirit, Breathe on Me”
The church came to life because of the power of the Holy Spirit upon the congregation following a great revival meeting. People gathered to hear God’s Word proclaimed. Many made decisions to accept Christ. The church grew and was called back to the basics of discipleship. It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was working. What a mighty God we serve!
After being revived by God’s Spirit, the church began to grow and become a lighthouse for the community with a strong outreach program. Through increased focus on and appreciation for the Word of the Lord many people became disciples on the mission for Christ. The church was encouraged by the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
The words of Scripture will certainly bless our hearts and lift us up when we pray for God’s Spirit to fall fresh on us and to enlighten us with the truth of the Word. Seek His Spirit right now, wait upon God and feel His hand upon you. Focus your mind to meditate on His Word and seek His presence while stepping into a closer walk with Jesus. Just ask Him to lead you. He promises He will.
Heavenly Father, it is so awesome to see Your Spirit working in the life of Your church and watching as it reaches out to the community. How wonderful is Your Word when the Holy Spirit is allowed to touch lives and lift up the body of Christ. Thank You for sending Your Spirit! In Jesus’ name. Amen!
Promises Come True
For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children (Romans 9:6, 7).
Scripture: Romans 9:1-18
Song: “Jesus Saves”
While witnessing to a man around 40 years old who appeared depressed, I asked him if he knew that Jesus loved him. He replied that he doubted that Jesus loved him. Having attended church as a child with his parents, he ventured away from the church when he reached adulthood. He said he tried church, but it didn’t do anything for him. He had heard Jesus’ promises many times.
Many people think God makes all these promises, but they don’t always come true for everyone who attends church. Oftentimes we may feel uncomfortable with our church membership and God seems distant from us. We see others accept Christ, but it just doesn’t happen for us. Although our family is active in church, we don’t feel drawn to Him.
It is not who we are or where we come from, or even who our family is that saves us. But if we will place our trust in Him and accept His promise, Jesus will save us. The apostle Paul was very explicit that it is not our blood-line that saves us.
Heavenly Father, help me to put my faith and trust in You today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
May 13–19. Bob Lankford worked over 20 years in management prior to entering ministry. Now retired, he enjoys teaching Sunday school, Bible study and research, and officiating at weddings. He and his wife of 48 years, have two children and six grandchildren.
A Faithful Guide
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (Romans 8:13, 14).
Scripture: Romans 8:1-14
Song: “Come Holy Spirit, I Need You”
In 2017, Southern California experienced a disastrous string of wildfires. While heroically battling blazes and trying to preserve life, first responders identified a new problem. Commuters, using smartphone applications (apps) programmed to search for lighter traffic, kept driving toward the destruction. Technology, while extremely helpful in many ways, does not offer perfect guidance. In contrast, the Holy Spirit dwelling inside believers is always a trustworthy guide—and oh, how we need Him!
Jesus’ death on the cross set believers free from the penalty of sin and death. Yet, we still reside in bodies of flesh this side of Heaven. Our flesh is hostile to godly living. Thank God for His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows the will and ways of God. He helps us “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (v. 13) so we can live in ways that please God. The Holy Spirit doesn’t leave us after conversion. He stays and guides us away from paths of destruction, so we can lead lives of blessing and peace.
Don’t be discouraged if your flesh seems to be winning at times. The Holy Spirit is a faithful guide. Let Him lead. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (v. 14).
Father, help me be sensitive to the leading of Your Holy Spirit so I share Your love faithfully with others. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Image of the Son
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:29, 30).
Scripture: Romans 8:26-30
Song: “Breathe on Me, Breath of God”
It was common in the 1990s to see people wearing WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets. They were meant to remind believers to consider how Jesus might behave before making decisions. The bracelets represented an admirable endeavor. We certainly are to imitate Christ. However, it might be more fitting to remind ourselves of God’s role in conforming us to the image of Christ.
God predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son knowing we can’t simply “will” ourselves to be like Christ. That’s why He helps us in our weaknesses. He takes every circumstance and uses it for the good of those He called for His purpose. His Spirit even intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray.
Verses such as, “The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses” (v. 26) won’t fit as easily onto pieces of jewelry as WWJD. However, God’s Word can fit on our hearts. Depend on God to help you live according to His will.
Father, thank You for Your work in my life that changes me and equips me do what you’ve called me to do as a part of Your forever family. In Jesus’ name, amen.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it (Romans 8:20).
Scripture: Romans 8:18-25
Song: “All of Creation”
In Spanish, the verb esperar can mean either “to wait” or “to hope.” Today’s passage affirms that hope and waiting are bound together for believers and creation alike.
Human beings aren’t alone in longing for freedom from the effects of the fall of mankind. Scripture states that creation “groans” while awaiting its own final redemption. However, along with groans of longing, creation maintains a posture of waiting with “eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (v. 19).
The Bible doesn’t deny the reality of suffering in a fallen world. We feel real pain and must endure loss. However, because God subjected the world to decay for His good purpose, we have reasons to maintain hope. Remember that the world’s fallen state is temporary. God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, subjected the world to decay as part of a redemptive plan. Our present suffering, as difficult as it is now, will pale in comparison to the “glory that will be revealed in us” (v. 18). God’s plan also includes purposeful living while we are waiting. We are here for a reason and our lives and actions are meaningful both
now and in eternity.
Hope doesn’t deny reality. It recognizes the beauty of a future reality. Let faith in an all loving and faithful God encourage your heart and hope.
Father, help me to remember that You are a God of hope. Help me to trust Your perfect timing and to live faithfully while I’m waiting. In Christ’s name, amen.
Seeing Others Through God’s Eyes
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:16, 17).
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Song: “Give Me Your Eyes”
Years ago, I bonded with a stranger while waiting for an airport shuttle. She was reading a book by a well-known Christian author and I initiated a conversation about it. It didn’t matter that we were of different races and age brackets. We recognized our familial relationship in Christ. A brief, sweet time of fellowship followed. After a parting hug, I thought about how faith in God affects how we see others.
Our passage today, and especially verse 16 reminds us that we are to “regard no one from a worldly point of view.” A worldly point of view measures a person’s value by perceived attractiveness or usefulness to society. In God’s economy, the least is often greatest, and the greatest is often the least. Enemies are loved and forgiven. All people are regarded as God’s image bearers with intrinsic value as His created beings. Any person you meet is a potential family member and a new creation in Christ. Moreover, we are to be ready and willing to deliver the message of reconciliation entrusted to us by the God who saves.
Is there someone in your life who needs a new look from you?
Lord, help me to be a faithful witness who sees others through Your eyes. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Risen Savior, Fruitful Faith
But Christ indeed has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (1 Corinthians 15:20, 21).
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:12-28
Song: “My Redeemer Lives”
The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, was buried with thousands of terracotta soldiers. He thought he needed them for protection in the afterlife. People from all cultures have an intuitive sense that there is life after death. As incredible as it seems, some in the early church denied the resurrection of the dead. In today’s passage, the apostle Paul admonishes believers to remember that a Christian’s hope is in a risen Savior.
Paul understood that the gospel isn’t the gospel without Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection. Paul’s rock-solid faith in the reality of Christ’s resurrection wasn’t just wishful thinking. His faith was informed by a personal encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. After describing the futility and hopelessness of faith without a resurrected Christ, Paul proclaims the joyous truth, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20).
Let the internal witness of the Holy Spirit remind you that because your Redeemer lives, so will you.
Father, thank You for raising Jesus from the dead to fulfill Your promise in the Scriptures. Now that I have received full Your assurance that You will raise me to life with You in glory, please help me to share the good news of the risen Savior with others. In my Savior’s name I pray, amen.
God sent his Son, . . . to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir (Galatians 4:4-7).
Scripture: Galatians 4:1-7
Song: “Good Good Father”
God graciously gave my husband and me a remarkable twentieth anniversary gift, a baby. When I delivered this natural-born child, I gained another heir. My oldest child became my heir when we legally adopted her. Both my children have the same rights and privileges. They are equal heirs, both in my eyes and in the eyes of the law. I hope they feel secure and confident in their status as my children in ways that help them flourish.
The Holy Spirit affirms that Christians are not merely forgiven, but adopted as God’s children. Believers sometimes struggle with embracing this wondrous truth, especially in the context of a broken relationship with an earthly father. It helps to remember how we gained status as God’s heirs—through the cross.
God initiated and completed our redemption and adoption through the cross of Jesus Christ. It was His idea and His work. Resting in the security of our relationship with Him helps us hear the same Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
Father, thank You for adopting me as Your child and sending Your Holy Spirit as a witness to this amazing reality. Help me to share the magnificent news of the gospel with others. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, amen.
A Vision for Living
“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does” (John 5:19, 20).
Scripture: John 5:19-24
Song: “Be Thou My Vision”
What would motivate someone to travel to Liberia to help treat Ebola, a viral disease that kills approximately 90 percent of its victims? According to Dr. Kent Brantly, he went in response to God’s call on his life. Dr. Brantly’s call was rooted in something all believers share, a God-given vision for living.
Jesus’ vision for earthly ministry came from His intimate relationship with the Father. Jesus did what He saw His Father doing. Kingdom vision for Christians reflects belief in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A common expression claims that seeing is believing. For Christians, believing is seeing—Jesus. We, too, are called to see Jesus to be imitators of Christ.
The smallest act of service is glorious when it honors Christ. You don’t have to be a skilled physician or travel to a foreign country to be a faithful disciple. Trust God to help you honor His vision for your daily ministry.
Father, help me to see endless ways to be joyously fruitful in Your service as I follow You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
May 6–12. Maureen Fowler is a sinner saved by grace, who seeks to grow her faith in God and obedience to His Word each day. She lives with her husband, two children, and a couple of mischievous cats.
Rescued by Grace
All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).
Scripture: Romans 3:21-31
Song: “Amazing Grace”
One afternoon my family and I found a distraught stray kitten hiding in our carport. The dirty, helpless creature was injured, infested with parasites, and weak from dehydration. If left to fend for himself, he would surely die. So, my son carefully took him in his arms and we put our rescue in motion. We took him for medical help, cared for him with tenderness and love, and made him our own. Dear Bo has been part of our family ever since.
Before coming to Christ, we were a lot like Bo, spiritually speaking. Helpless before God, we were weak when it came to following His laws and, therefore, infested with sin. We could never make ourselves spiritually healthy and clean enough for such a Holy God. If left to fend for ourselves, we would surely die an eternal death. We needed to repent and be rescued! So, out of His great love for us, God sent His Son Jesus to be our Redeemer. Through Christ alone, and not because of anything we did, we were “justified freely by His grace” (v. 24) and made right before God. Our “dirt” was washed by Jesus’ blood. When we accept that free gift by faith, we become part of God’s family forever. Rescued indeed!
Father God, Your amazing grace is sweet and life-changing. Thank You for making a way for us to be justified. It was a costly gift—the death of Your Son, Jesus—yet freely given out of Your tender love for me. In Your Holy name, amen.
Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:16-18, KJV).
Scripture: Romans 3:9-20
Song: “Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim”
At age 17, Graham dropped out of high school and left home. He decided that his one-time Christian values no longer aligned with how he wanted to live. So he took off, determined to do life on his terms—without God and without parental input. Three years later, as he continues in his rebellion, his life is, more often than not, in a tumultuous state. His family and friends often pray for him to become conscious of the seriousness of his sin, see his need for Christ, and repent.
The Bible is clear: God and the instruction in His law are not to be taken lightly. There are earthly and eternal consequences for rejecting Him. Today’s verses tell us that when we live without fearing God, destruction and misery are produced in our life and we lack peace. Yet, we may deduce that the opposite is true: when we are careful to have a proper respect (fear) of God and His law, we can live an abundant life that pleases Him and blesses us. We can experience His peace. Fearing God is putting Him in His proper place—on the throne of our lives where we desperately need Him to be.
Dear Lord, Help me to take fearing You seriously. I don’t want to be casual about my sin. May I live in such a way that honors You and reflects my full respect which You desire and deserve. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The Fact of Faithful
What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! (Romans 3:3, 4)
Scripture: Romans 3:1-8
Song: “Yes and Amen”
Gini is faithful to show up each week, ready to teach Sunday school at her small church. Her genuine love for children and God’s Word motivates her to come prepared and eager to teach. Some weeks, only a few children show up. The others are sometimes too busy playing on their sports teams or attending birthday parties to make it to church. Regardless, you can count on Gini to be there. The fact is, she’s faithful to the Lord first and foremost, so no matter the attendance numbers, she comes to serve.
A fact we can know about our Lord is that He is faithful. Think about what you’ve read in God’s Word and what you’ve experienced in your own life and you’ll see His faithfulness. Though some waiver and are not faithful in their belief of God, that doesn’t change the truth about Him. People may abandon their faith, choosing instead to follow other “gods,” but, thankfully, God’s faithfulness is not contingent on the actions or beliefs of others. The Bible confirms this in 2 Timothy 2:13: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do. No human action or opinion can ever affect that truth!
Father God, You are a truth-teller; a promise keeper—faithful to who You are and faithful to the promises You’ve made to Your children. Help me each day to remain faithful to You. Please grow my faith. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Now That Faith Has Come
So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian (Galatians 3:24, 25).
Scripture: Galatians 3:19-29
Song: “Justified by Faith”
Allison, a young mom, walks her kindergartener to class each morning. She wants to protect him from any encounters with the older kids at school. She worries about the negative influence they might have on him. She, understandably, longs to guard him from trouble and help him walk the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, there are negative influences everywhere—even inside himself! He won’t always make the right choices at school or in life. Allison can only do so much to help him.
In that same sense, the law—given as a guardian to help protect us from doing wrong—could only do so much. It was never meant to be the ultimate way of making us right with God. As sinners prone to veer off the path, we are unable to walk the straight and narrow. But, thankfully, our guardian the law pointed us to our Savior Christ. Then Christ came, not as a warning sign or guard rail, but to save us and everything changed! Through faith in Him, though we veer and sin, we are justified. Such power and grace our guardian, the law, could never possess. It’s found in Christ alone.
Dear Lord Jesus, I know I can never be good enough on my own. I’m in need of You, my Savior. As I live out my life each day help me to remember that truth and cling to my faith in You. In Your matchless name, amen.
Against the Law
For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died (Romans 7:8, 9).
Scripture: Romans 7:7-12
Song: “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”
I didn’t I realize how sinful I could be until I got married. Before the honeymoon I thought I was so mature and loving! But what I discovered in that first year of marriage was a different me than I had imagined. I felt as if my “uglies” bubbled to the surface and an easily angered, impatient, and jealous me was exposed. As a Christian, I was well aware that I wasn’t behaving in a right way, according to God’s law, and I was miserable. I also knew that God’s law wasn’t the problem—I was. Thankfully the Lord’s loving conviction drew me to Himself. He helped me and my marriage then flourished.
The law, which is “holy, righteous and good,” (v. 12) gives us a blueprint for right living, but God’s Word tells us that sin in mankind “sprang to life” (v. 9) with its contents. When we examine the law and ourselves, we recognize we are sin-ridden. But the life-giving, glorious reality is that while we fall short of the law, God sees us, His children, as holy, right, and good through His Son, Jesus. The law serves its purpose—it exposes our sin and helps us to see our need for a Savior.
Father, Thank You for not leaving me in the guilty state the law exposes, but sending Your Son to clear my name and take me from death to life. How loving You are! In Your holy name, amen.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14).
Scripture: John 10:11-18
Song: “The Shepherd Knows Your Name”
While in rural Germany I came across a shepherd herding his flock in a field—a unique sight for a city girl from California! Recalling some biblical references to shepherds and sheep, I eagerly watched to see what would unfold. What I witnessed was a shepherd hard at work, herding his flock and moving them along to where they needed to go. But that was it. His interaction with them was void of tender attention—no pats on the head, no calling by name. The sheep, too, were disengaged from their shepherd other than to respond to his shouts and prods by continuing to advance as they mindlessly grazed along the way.
Though at first the scene left me wanting, I realized something: My Shepherd is completely “other.” No human on earth can care for me like He does. He not only knows my name, He knows me! He is intimately acquainted with all my ways. He loves me fully and for all eternity. And I know Him because He has revealed Himself to me and has been faithful to teach me His ways. My shepherd, Jesus, is tender, compassionate, and patient as He leads me. As I walked away from the field that day I mindfully grazed on those precious truths. My Shepherd is God.
Dear Jesus, You are like no other. Thank You for being my intimate, Good Shepherd, faithful to lead and guide me every day as I look to You. Help me to better know and follow You. In Your powerful name, amen.
Eat, Drink, Work
Every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:13, KJV).
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:9-17
Song: “Count Your Blessings”
After college my son Ian moved into an apartment and began his career. As he embraces adult living I am reminded of some basic yet meaningful gifts from God: Eating, drinking, working. Ian describes a meal he cooked at home or ate out with friends and I hear satisfaction in his voice. He calls to ask for prayer about a goal he is striving to meet or a challenge he is struggling to overcome on the job. I then hear his robust determination and blessed dependence on the one who provided the work in the first place.
May we, too, embrace this simple, but profound fact expressed by Solomon many years ago—that we can eat and drink and enjoy the labor we’ve been given as a gift from God. These daily activities can easily be taken for granted, even grumbled over, but He wants us to take pleasure in them! We’re dependent on Him for each of these things. How it must please the Lord when we are mindful of that fact with every bite and sip we savor and each time we roll up our sleeves to work.
Lord, Thank You for the gifts of food, drink, and work that You provide. Help me to find pleasure and satisfaction in them all. In Jesus’ name, amen.
April 29–May 5. Cathy McIlvoy lives in a small coastal town just south of San Francisco, California. She serves alongside her husband in ministry through a church in their community.
Empowered for Today
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:6-8).
Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:6-8
Song: “Pentecostal Power”
The engagement party had ended, but my emotional meltdown had just begun. Another friend on her way to marriage while I was on my way to nowhere it seemed. As the tears fell, a question formed in my heart: “Lord, will I be married one day, or single forever?” Rather than give an answer, God redirected my focus. “Today you are single, so today you are to be about My business.” The apostles were not grappling with singleness, but they did have unfulfilled expectations. They longed to know what Jesus would do about the restoration of the kingdom, but Jesus called their attention to what they would do through the power of the
God wants to shift our focus from future events that are beyond our knowledge and control to our present reality as His witnesses in the earth. When we embrace the empowerment we’ve been given for today, we can abandon our anxiety about tomorrow. It is not for us to know times and dates, but it is for us to be Spirit filled witnesses of Jesus.
Father, I rejoice because the future is in Your hands, but the Holy Spirit is in my heart bringing empowerment for kingdom work. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Prepared and Chosen
Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us (Acts 1:21, 22).
Scripture: Acts 1:12-17, 21-26
Song: “Do You Know That You Were Chosen?”
“Are you crazy? I’m not a principal.” The founders of a new, Christian middle school were offering me the position of principal, and I could not contain my shock. Having observed my rapport with the high school students, they agreed that I would be a great addition to the leadership team once the school expanded. The change in roles was sudden, but working with the high school students prepared me.
I wonder if Matthias had a similar reply when the apostles nominated him to take Judas’ place: “Are you crazy? I’m not an apostle.” We are not privy to those details, but we do know that Matthias was a part of Jesus’ ministry from beginning to end (Acts 1:21,22). Though not mentioned in the Gospels, Matthias learned from Jesus, right alongside the original twelve. When the time came to appoint another apostle, God chose him.
Just like Matthias, many of us have responded to Jesus and are following Him wholeheartedly. We do not know when we will be called to leadership, but if we continue in Him, serving faithfully alongside other disciples of Christ, we will be ready when the call comes. Before God chose Matthias, He spent time preparing him, and He will do the same for us.
Father, I praise You for Your faithfulness in preparing the ones you choose. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Keep on Speaking
Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized (Acts 18:7, 8).
Scripture: Acts 18:5-11
Song: “Fight the Good Fight”
In a 1967 sermon entitled, “A Knock at Midnight,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked candidly about the difficulties of leading the civil rights movement in America. “Living with all kinds of abuse and criticism and misunderstanding, I feel discouraged sometimes,” he admitted.
Despite the opposition, King tirelessly sounded the trumpet of love, brotherhood, and justice. His speeches and demonstrations drew crowds of non-violent supporters, while at the same time inciting violent displays of hate.
Paul experienced a similar reaction when he preached about Jesus among the Jews in the synagogue. They treated him harshly and did not want to hear his message. However, right next door to the place where he faced opposition, Paul found someone who worshipped God. Not only that, but the leader of the synagogue and his household believed the good news, along with many other Corinthians.
The true gospel is confrontational and will lead either to opposition and rejection or acceptance and belief. When we share this message and people reject it, we can move forward in peace knowing that there are others who are ready to believe. In fact, those others may be right in the midst of the ones who oppose us.
Lord, thank You for making me Your witness. And thank You for the strength to continue proclaiming Your name even when people react negatively. In Jesus’ name, amen.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose (Acts 16:25, 26).
Scripture: Acts 16:25-34
Song: “Anywhere with Jesus”
In Corrie ten Boom’s second autobiography, Tramp for the Lord, she recounts how she and her sister, Betsie, maintained joy and trust in God during their imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. From conducting Bible study in their barracks to sharing the gospel with prisoners on the brink of death, Corrie and Betsie’s lives shined bright amid great darkness. Many women were drawn to Jesus because of the ten Boom sisters’ joy and faith.
Parts of ten Boom’s book hints of Scripture’s record of Paul and Silas’ brief stint in a Philippian jail. Though imprisoned unjustly, these men understood that God was still good and they were still in His expert care. Their bodies chained, but their spirits free, they overflowed with prayer and praise. Surprisingly, God’s response to Paul and Silas affected everyone in prison with them. The earthquake that He sent broke everyone’s chains, opened every prison door, and eventually led to the jailer’s salvation.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the privilege of worshipping God in every situation, no matter how daunting it seems. When we respond to trials with heartfelt prayer and praise, we will experience God’s glory in ways that leave an eternal impact on us and those around us.
Father, may my response to adversity cause others to see how mighty and faithful You are. In Jesus’ name, amen.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman . . . named Lydia, . . . The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message (Acts 16:13, 14).
Scripture: Acts 16:11-15
Song: “Make Me a Blessing”
As the stillness of the morning settled over me, I snuggled into my recliner and began to prayerfully read the Scriptures. It wasn’t long before the Lord gave me a message to share with my dad. Quickly, I picked up my phone and sent him a text which included a simple verse from the book of James.
A few hours later, my father called me and said, “The verse you sent was so timely. Today, I received some bad news and I needed the encouragement.” It thrilled my heart to know that as I spent time with God, He would direct me to the people who needed to hear from Him.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy were not on the hunt for an evangelistic encounter. Yet, as they sought intimacy with God in prayer, they had the privilege of inviting Lydia into intimacy with Him as well. They show us that when our hearts are set on communion with God, we are in the perfect position to partner with Him in reaching others with the gospel.
Dear Lord, thank You for the unexpected ministry opportunities that await me as I seek You in the secret place. In the name of Jesus, I pray, amen.
A Signature Piece
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. . . . And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:12, 14).
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Colossians 3:12-17
Song: “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”
My brother’s new girlfriend always looked as if she stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. I wanted to know her secret— how could she look so put together all the time? Her answer surprised me.
“Oh, it’s the coat,” she said. I thought about it for a moment and realized that she did in fact wear a long, stylish coat on top of every outfit. She explained further, “My outfits are simple, but I invest a lot in coats because they really bring an outfit together.” She looked like a million bucks, not because she spent that much, but because she understood the value of a signature piece.
We can say that love is the signature piece for Christians. And when we put it on, everything else looks even better. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience are vital, but love is the source from which these other virtues flow. When we put on love, our Christian life will attract others and draw them to the one who is love himself.
Father, as Your beloved child, I thank You that You have not only equipped me to display the attitudes of Your kingdom but You also call me to that life-long devotion. Since love is what matters most, I pray that all my actions and all my words would be marked by love. In the name of Jesus who shows me how, amen.
Learning to Walk
Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:3).
Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-4
Song: “Walking with Jesus”
When young children learn to walk, their parents are bursting with encouragement: “That’s it! You can do it!” “Look at Mommy’s big girl!” “Daddy’s so proud of you.”
Even if a child takes only two shaky steps before tumbling to the ground, parents cannot contain their excitement. Two shaky steps are accomplishments worthy of grand celebration when it is something you have never done before.
The ways of earthly parents with their children give us a faint glimpse of the profound love that our Heavenly Father has for us. When we first come to Him, He doesn’t expect us to know the walk of faith immediately. Instead, through His church, His Spirit, and His Word, He takes the time to teach us His ways. As we get to know Him, our steps get steadier and our pace increases as we walk in the paths He has set.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your kindness and patience toward me as I grow in faith. Thank You for teaching me Your ways, so that my obedience to You will be the natural response of a heart that knows and loves You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
April 22–28. Lakeisha D. Blake enjoys teaching, singing, and bringing people together who share a common purpose. Her heart burns with a passion to know God, to love well, and to speak truth. She lives in North Carolina.
As He Said
“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay” (Matthew 28:5, 6).
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-15
Song: “Let Him Have His Way with Thee”
“I’ll give it back to you on Friday,” were the words of my friend when she asked to borrow something. Due to so many things going on at the time, I hardly listened and quickly forgot what she said. So, it was great surprise on Friday when she came to me and fulfilled the promise that I did not really listen to and certainly did not remember.
Jesus talked with His disciples and those who followed Him, such as these two women, on many occasions about His upcoming death and resurrection. He consistently said that He would rise on the third day. People heard the words but did not really listen and take them in. But when the angel referred to Jesus doing just as He said, then those words came to mind and became real truth and fact.
All the promises God spoke through and to His servants will always be fulfilled. Some of those promises have not come to pass, but if God said it then it will be done. Knowing that we can rely on His Word strengthens our faith and gives us hope, even during our difficult times. We can always believe and hope in those promises.
Lord, Your promises are true. Thank You that we can rely on what You have told us in your Word. Help me to go back to Your promises and to trust in You. In Your name I pray, amen.
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1, 2).
Scripture: Revelation 20:1-6
Song: “Jesus Is Coming Back Again”
My daughter has been counting down her birthday for a few months now. She will turn nine and she is so excited not only about that day but that whole period of time. The week right after her birthday begins their winter break from school as well as their school play. She feels that she has so much to look forward to. Everyday her spirit is lifted by thoughts of all that is to come.
This Scripture and my daughter prompt hope within for what the future will bring. The thought of Satan being bound and chained lifts my spirits. I anticipate the coming of Christ and what it means as a believer. I am also reminded that even today, though we wait for the return of Jesus, He’s already given us victory.
Every book of the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, gives us truths and promises from God that support our hope for the future and joyful outlook on each day, as it comes. Look for more reason for our hope in all the pages you read over all the days of your life.
Heavenly Father, I thank you today for your plan of salvation for me. Thank You that one day I will be with You in glory. In my Savior’s precious name, amen.
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).
Scripture: John 20:11-18
Song: “I’ve Just Seen Jesus”
There are times of not seeing a way out of a situation or devastating events. Financial burdens, a physical conditions, or loss interrupt our lives. But then, when we seek Jesus, even in the depths of despair, He can bring financial relief, healing, peace, and comfort. Jesus breaks through.
Mary was crying at the tomb. She thought someone had taken her Lord away and she wanted to find Him. But then she turned to see Jesus and hear Him call her name. The sound of His voice in her ears clarified who she saw with her eyes—Jesus, her risen Lord! Every bit of sadness turned to joy. Jesus renewed her hope. From that experience with Jesus and His instruction, Mary was equipped to go and tell the disciples that things were not as His followers had feared.
Like Mary, we can turn to Jesus, listen to Him call our name and give His instruction. From the joy and hope of seeing our risen Lord we can spread the news of what we have seen. We can share the love of Jesus and encourage others to seek His work in their lives. We don’t have to be preachers, Bible teachers, or in a foreign land to tell others about our Jesus and the ways that we have seen Him.
Dear Lord, open my ears and eyes to see You at work in my life. Give me the words to share to someone in need today. Help me to tell others about You. In Your name, amen.
No Stone Too Heavy
So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard (Matthew 27:66).
Scripture: Matthew 27:62-66
Song: “Oh My Soul”
After my release from prison, I was certain it would be hard to find a job. I thought that no one would trust me again. Many people told me to not expect an opportunity to work in my former career field because of my conviction. It seemed as if the entrance back onto that path had a big stone rolled and sealed in front of it.
The chief priests, the Pharisees, and the Roman guard were certain that the stone rolled and sealed over the entrance of the tomb was the end of Jesus and His “career.” But it was not. The Father moved that stone with His resurrection plan. In fact, the resurrection shows what a powerful God we serve. He removes any hindrance rolled into the path of His grace, mercy, and power for us and our lives.
God unblocked the path for me and opened doors I had not imagined He could. I am again in the work that I love and use my passion to serve others. Don’t get discouraged about past mistakes, broken relationships, or financial burdens. The stone that seems to block your path into God’s goodness can easily be removed by the one who raised His Son, our Savior, from the grave. Keep the faith.
Father, thank You that no stone or any other hindrance the enemy of our souls places in the path of Your plan for our salvation and goodness can remain against Your power and plan for our lives. In the name of my Savior, Jesus, amen.
Help with the Cross
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross (Matthew 27:32).
Scripture: Matthew 27:32-44
Song: “Carry My Cross”
A young homeless woman and her two kids were stranded in an unknown city trying to reach family in another town two hours away. My coworker was compelled in her heart to help this woman that she didn’t even know. She allowed her heart to guide and gave the stranded family food and shelter until she could make arrangements to help them get to their family.
In the passage today, the soldiers forced Simon from Cyrene, an innocent bystander, to help carry the cross of Jesus. Although not the same type of compulsion, or from the same source, my co- worker felt something drawing her to help carry the burden of this young mother. We might not be present for opportunities to carry a physical cross or even taking in a stranger with small children. But we might be presented with other opportunities to help lift someone’s load. Simon helped the Son of God during His painful time. We can do the same for someone through words of encouragement, help with a task, or simply a listening ear. The help we can give others shows the love of Jesus; the love He showed for us on that same day Simon helped Him.
Father, I pray that You will open my eyes to opportunities to help someone today. Please guide and strengthen me to help. Father, send me to show Your love and to nurture hope in You. In Jesus name, amen.
Dealing with Remorse
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse (Matthew 27:3).
Scripture: Matthew 27:3-10
Song: “Free from Guilt and Free from Sin”
A woman in Louisiana sold a painting at a garage sale for two dollars. In the hands of a new owner the piece was later discovered to be an original Picasso. Apparently the seller had no idea the painting would have made a tidy sum of money that could have changed, or at least influenced, her life.
Judas apparently did not understand the grace and mercy available through Jesus, even after betrayal. Perhaps Judas would have chosen a different response to his remorse had he recognized that the One he betrayed is the same One who could freely give him forgiveness and the restoration he needed.
Jesus removes our guilt for our wrongdoing, and even betrayal, that we sincerely confess to Him and repent in both heartfelt words and living. Going to Jesus with our guilt and shame from the betrayal of our sin is our only way to receive resolution. No human action or plan will work. Any guilt or remorse we ever feel can be confessed to God and He will heal our remorse. He gives us the promise that He will take it and remove it as far as the East is from the West and will remember it no more.
Father, thank You for the grace and mercy You give through the death and resurrection of Your Son who cleanses me when I acknowledge the source of my remorse is in my guilt. Thank You for Your forgiveness when I confess and repent. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Whatever You Ask
But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask (John 11:22).
Scripture: John 11:17-27
Song: “Ask of God”
“I wish I had glasses,” said my 8-year-old. Her remark followed my conversation with her older sister about wearing her glasses at all times and not straining her eyes watching TV without them. My 8-year-old thinks it would be great to wear glasses, thinking that glasses would give her a bigger picture.
If only eye glasses would give us the bigger picture—and especially when it comes to God’s work in our lives. Sometimes God doesn’t give me what I ask Him for, but think I need. I’m learning to remind myself that I don’t know everything He knows. God sees the big picture. I am very thankful that He knows and sees what I cannot see.
Like Martha, who told Jesus that God would give whatever He would ask, we can know for sure that Jesus, as the Son of God, would not ask for just anything. Jesus would ask according to the will of His Father. Our loving Father has all wisdom and all knowledge and will grant requests based on what is best for us—what we really need. It is for our good that God does not operate just on what we think is best.
Father, thank You for knowing what we really need despite all we want. Thank You for fulfilling our every need. In Jesus’ name, amen.
April 15–21. Aleta Hall lives in Texas with her husband and three children. She currently works in the hospitality industry which gives her a chance everyday to serve others. She also loves to read and cook.
“Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).
Scripture: Matthew 26:1-13
Song: “10,000 Reasons”
A man, recently paroled and working to repair his life, passed up a potentially life-changing job interview to save a stranger seriously wounded in a car wreck. While riding the city bus to the interview, he noticed the bus had stopped. He then saw the reason; a terrible car accident. He demanded to get off the bus, even though it meant missing his interview, to help two others rescue the driver. He missed his interview, but helped save the man’s life. After his story was told throughout his state he received several offers of employment.
To be known for doing good is a noble ambition. To be remembered for giving your all to Jesus is even better. Despite the objections of Jesus’ followers, a woman poured out her perfume and her heart to honor Jesus. Like the aroma of the perfume, words like “waste” and “missed opportunity” filled the room. It’s never a waste, though, to give your best and your all to the Lord. Know- ing Him inspires love which compels action. Contemplating His sacrifice stimulates passion which fuels serving. Being in His presence elicits humility which brings us to our knees in reverence and worship. Though this woman’s name is not known, her bold act continues to proclaim the majesty of Jesus. Giving our best to Jesus can help us do the same.
Dear Lord, thank You for who You are and what You do for us. I want to honor You today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).
Scripture: Matthew 26:17-29
Song: “At the Cross”
In William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, the title character kills the king of Scotland at his wife’s urging. Her guilt over the murder gradually drives her insane. Unable to escape the weight of what she’s done, Lady Macbeth walks in her sleep, wringing her hands, trying to wash the blood from them. What she envisions as blood on her hands is a constant reminder of her actions.
For Lady Macbeth, the blood was the stigma of sin and a representation of guilt. How remarkably different is blood for us. At the Last Supper, Jesus indicated the purpose of the elements. The disciples, and all who come after them, are to remember His death and what it means: His body and blood freely given for the forgiveness of our sins.
The sweet aroma of forgiveness changes our lives. The blood of Jesus is its mark. No longer are we shackled by the heavy bonds of sin. Guilt, the stealer of hope, is banished, and the shrill voice of condemnation is silenced. Ghosts of the past, who’ve haunted us for years, fade into the shadows, and the chains of regret fall power- less. We have been set free. One of the sweetest words we can ever hear is the word “forgiven.” The blood of Jesus isn’t a sign of death or an emblem of shame. It’s the source of our joy.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your love displayed for me at the cross. Thank you for set- ting me free. In Your name, amen.
[Judas Iscariot] asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).
Scripture: Matthew 26:14-16
Song: “Praise You in This Storm”
Robert Hanssen is a former FBI agent who’s serving a lifetime sentence for selling military intelligence to the Soviets. According to government records, Hanssen became a member of the KGB and sold classified information in exchange for diamonds and cash worth more than half a million dollars. He did this while supervising counterintelligence for the FBI. His stint as a double agent ended when he was caught in 2001. Hanssen got wealth in exchange for his betrayal, but his motivation beyond that isn’t explained.
It’s hard to understand betrayal. Of all of history’s betrayers, Ju- das Iscariot may be the most well-known. I don’t think anyone sets out, from the beginning, to sell out that which matters. I suppose there are lots of little steps on the staircase of betrayal. Unmet expectations lead to disappointment. Disappointment invites discouragement. Discouragement brings frustration. Frustration leads to anger, and so it goes. As we descend, Satan applauds, and we move further away from the one we love.
Stopping the descent means going back to the source. For us, it’s Jesus. See Jesus—really see Him. He knows what’s going on when we don’t get it. He pleads for us to trust Him. He knows our hurts, dis- appointments, and frustrations. Remembering why we love Him and how He loves us can buoy us in the storms of doubt and confusion.
Dear Lord, help me to really see You. Thank You for Your love and loyalty to me. In Your name, amen.
One for All
“You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50).
Scripture: John 11:45-53
Song: “The Wonderful Cross”
In 1948 New Yorker magazine carried Shirley Jackson’s troubling story, “The Lottery.” The premise of the story is that one per- son dies for the rest of the town. Once a year, the families in a small New England village gather to participate in a lottery to select the family from whom the scapegoat comes. The process begins with the whole town and narrows down to an individual. Whoever chooses the marked rock is the “winner” and is stoned to death.
The story, when it first ran, incited all kinds of responses. Many were outraged at the dark and brutal aspects of it. I thought of that story again as I read John 11 where unknowingly, Caiaphas spoke truth in prophecy about Jesus.
Unlike Jackson’s story, though, the selection of Jesus wasn’t by random chance. He chose the marked rock. He did it so that no one would ever have to fear death. Because He was willing to die, we can live. The echo from that day still resounds: the lottery hasn’t fallen on me. Jesus’ choice means you never have to be afraid of what’s beyond the grave. The Father put the lottery on His Son and when He died, the lottery ended. None of us were selected and we won’t be. Because of our relationship with Jesus, we have life.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus and how He gave His life for us. May we live to honor Him. In Jesus’ name, amen.
“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12:8).
Scripture: John 12:1-8
Song: “In Christ Alone”
The rain didn’t seem to bother the little dancer. I saw her come into the church with her mother. Her mom rushed to get in from the downpour, but not her. She was overjoyed. I watched her artistry from the window. Though just 6-years old, she danced with grace, skill, and most of all, exuberance. The rain did not dampen her enthusiasm, nor did it wash away her passion.
Exuberant joy and unbridled passion might be a bit rare. People are not always comfortable around lavish displays of emotion. It’s a shame, in a way, because Jesus seems to honor extravagant worship. The people that came that day sat with Jesus, heard His voice and perhaps even served Him. They saw Jesus, but not like Mary did. She saw Jesus in a way that moved her deeply. Her response comes from a heart that understands His love for her. Her extravagant acts come from a desire to give to the One who has given and will give so much. Her outpouring of love, sacrifice and passion flows from a soul indelibly imprinted with the image of a friend and Savior.
When we see Jesus, as Mary did with admiration, our hearts can- not help but burst with love and passion. Being in Jesus’ presence is awe-inspiring
Lord, thank You for Your love and all You do for us. We fall at Your feet today and desire to see You. Thank You. In Your name, amen.
Things That Matter
He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
Scripture: Luke 16:19-31
Song: “I Can Only Imagine”
Charles Dickens in his story A Christmas Carol depicts Ebenezer Scrooge as a man consumed with getting what he can while he can. He rarely thinks of others’ needs and certainly not what’s beyond the life he can see and touch.
The rich man in the parable lived that way. He enjoyed every moment getting as much as he could get, ignoring Lazarus and his situation. What a shock it must’ve been after they both died. He never saw it coming. Of course, he never saw things too clearly. Awareness of the frailty and fleeting nature of this life came too late. He longed for his brothers to understand, though. He pleaded that Lazarus might be sent to warn them. There would be no Jacob Marley in this story, however. They would have to decide how they would live. We, though, have someone who shows us what really matters. Jesus is our help. He reveals the Father to us, so we can know Him. He pleads with us to receive God’s mercy and then live out that mercy toward those around us. He loves us unconditionally with a love that compelled Him to the cross, and challenges us to love one another. These things give our lives meaning and significance.
They have eternal impact. Because of Jesus, we can lead lives that look beyond.
Father, thank You for Your grace and for Jesus. Help us to see what matters. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Saved by the Blood
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (Exodus 12:13).
Scripture: Exodus 12:1-14
Song: “Nothing but the Blood”
Saved by blood. It sounds a bit odd, I know. However, for the people who’ve written testimonies on the American Red Cross website, it’s anything but strange. A woman named Amy wrote about her open-heart surgery. She’d gone through the process to donate her own blood, so if everything went as it was supposed to, all would be fine. It didn’t. The surgery had complications and more blood was needed, much more. She said, “There was a lot of waiting and praying. If it wasn’t for the actions of the Red Cross and those who donated blood I wouldn’t be here today.”
Amy isn’t the only one to know the saving power of blood. The Israelites during the final plague on Egypt experienced it too. God wouldn’t allow a destructive plague to strike any house marked with the blood of the Passover lamb. It would be spared. The blood of the lamb marked God’s people then and still does today. If you’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb, death cannot touch you. The blood of Jesus brings life.
Lord, thank You for Your love. We stand in awe of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. The Lamb of God shed His blood to take away our sins and give us life. May we live our lives to honor Him. Always. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
April 8–14. Bill Thomas lives in Washington, Missouri.
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts, no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep (Matthew 10:8-10).
Scripture: Matthew 10:1-15
Song: “The Hurt & The Healer”
Kalaupapa, is Hawaii’s leprosy colony. Eight thousand people were sent into exile there over the course of a century. As of 2015, there were 16 patients still living there, ranging in age from 73 to 92.
Untreated, leprosy can cause permanent damage to the eyes and skin. Corruption of the nervous system will cause one to lose feeling, and patients can be oblivious to pain and therefore severely injure themselves unknowingly. Leprosy is a difficult, deforming sickness, working from the outside in. In ancient Israel, people with the disease were to walk around calling out, “unclean.”
Sin is like leprosy. Untreated, it can lead to permanent damage. It blinds us to God’s truth and makes us unfeeling, oblivious to our surroundings and the damage we cause ourselves and others. It de- forms us from the inside out. It makes us unclean. Thankfully, God provided Jesus as a remedy. He came to Earth, died for us and rose victoriously. When we make Him our Lord and Savior, God looks at us, through Him, as forgiven and clean.
Lord God, search my heart and show me what needs cleaning. Forgive me of my sins and wash me from the inside out. Thank You Jesus for making this possible. It’s in Your name I pray, Amen.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. There- fore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
Scripture: Matthew 10:16-25
Song: “We Fall Down”
Doormats come in different colors, shapes, and sizes. Many say “Welcome,” while one I have seen says “Dog Hiding in Bushes Be- hind You.” But overall doormats do nothing more than just lay out there in the weather to greet people as they arrive. They also supply a good place to wipe off the dirt of the day, but still say welcome to the next person with muddy shoes.
Christians also come in different colors, shapes, and sizes. We are often in the place of doormats, out there in the world to en- courage and give people a greeting of hope. And at times we might also feel like a doormat—vulnerable to getting stepped on. It is in these places that we look less at the people who we think might be stepping on us and look to God. Jesus is there with us to help us deal with the world. He can help us be kind, merciful, loving, and forgiving. He also helps us be wise and shrewd. He did not design us to hold other’s dirt, He will deal with that. We can look to Him for the words and actions that will represent Him to the world in truth and love.
Jesus, help me to be discerning; to know when to speak and when to be still. Help me to be as shrewd as a snake and as innocent as a dove. Show me how to represent You to all who You bring across my path. In Your name, amen.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9.35, 36).
Scripture: Matthew 9:35-38
Song: “Lead Me to the Cross”
In the seventh grade I had a fantastic English teacher who was clever, innovative, and encouraged me to write, despite the fact I would spell every third word wrong. He would smile and say, “don’t fret about the mess, that’s what editors are for.” He looked at the content and creativity of my work, and overlooked the mess on the page.
Jesus loved to teach. He was clever, innovative, and encouraging. He looked out over the crowds and instead of focusing on the mess that they were, He looked inside at their content, if you will. He knew they were each unique, made by His Father in His image. He saw them and had compassion on them. He has compassion on us.
This is a huge encouragement to us. Jesus is compassionate. He sees us and wants to not only cure our sickness and diseases, but the other messes we carry around; our guilt, pain, fear, and un- forgiveness. He is our good shepherd who gently, patiently, and protectively leads us to the Father. Know that when He looks at you, He smiles and says, “don’t fret about the mess, that’s what I am here for.”
Thank You, Jesus for being compassionate. Thank You for loving me in spite of all my mess. Lead me to the Father. In Your name, amen.
No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem
“Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.” They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them (Mark 6:8, 9, 13).
Scripture: Mark 6:7-13
Song: “Keep Changing the World”
When my 17-year-old daughter left for a mission trip to Uganda, she packed flip flops that got stuck in the mud, skirts that got covered in mud, and ate food that tasted like mud. She slept under mosquito netting, and if she was able to get a shower, she was joined by gigantic millipedes. The local people had little bread, few bags, and limited money for their nonexistent belts.
When Jesus sent His disciples out to minister, He discharged them in pairs, and instructed them to take nothing more than the shoes on their feet and the shirt on their back. They were not to bring any other stuff. They stayed with the local people, and if their hosts were not interested in what they had to say, they moved on. The disciples lifted up those who welcomed them to the Father and He met their needs. He cast out their demons and healed their diseases. The disciples didn’t rely on medications, therapists, or specialists—not because these are bad, but because they were not available. They came to people empty handed and left them full of the glory of God.
Mighty God, meet us where we are. Be our strength and our healer. We come empty and ask You to fill us with Yourself. In Christ’s name, amen.
Listen and Obey
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:9, 10).
Scripture: Acts 16:6-10
Song: Word of God Speak
It was 5:00 in the evening when the phone rang. I had just dropped our eldest off at a pool party and my husband was at a Bible study in the basement of our church. “Her water has broken, come now.” The birth mom of our soon-to-be-son had gone into labor and we needed to get on the road.
I headed back to the pool and then raced with the other three kids to the church as there is no cell phone reception in the basement. We gave my husband the exciting news, and after dropping of the kids at my parents my husband and I hit the road for the 12-hour drive to meet our new baby boy.
When God told Paul to head to Macedonia, he got ready at once to leave. God spoke and Paul obeyed. As with Paul, God wants to use us to spread the gospel to people in need of help, or comfort, or salvation. Let us be people who are quick to listen and quick to obey God’s call.
Word of God speak. Open my heart and mind to receive from You. Help me to recognize Your voice, loud or soft, and take the gospel to all in need. In Your name, amen.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered (Acts 9:10).
Scripture: Acts 9:10-19
Song: “In Your Eyes”
Beats®, Skullcandy®, Bose®, Apple®, JBL® and Sennheiser®. What do all of these companies have in common? My teenage son (you thought I was going to say music or headphones, didn’t you? In all fairness, you are correct). This guy loves to listen to music; on his bike, on a run, in his room. He spends much of his day with noise entering his ears.
But teenage boys aren’t the only ones, are they? In the car, the kitchen, the office and even where we shop, we are surrounded by noise. We listen to music, podcasts, and talk radio. We turn on the news and morning shows as background sound while we dress, cook, and clean. In the midst of all this racquet, how can we expect to hear God? Ananias is described as “a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there” (Acts 22:12). He sought God, and God spoke to him and used him. While I realize Ananias didn’t have radio and TV to clutter his day, I know there were plenty of other clamorous distractions. And yet in the midst of it all, he kept himself in a position that when God spoke, he immediately replied,
Let us be people who in the middle of all the commotion, are willing to listen above the noise and respond, “Yes, Lord” when He speaks.
God, speak to me. Make me quick to listen and quick to obey. Help me turn off the noise and be still before You. Amen.
“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 1:8).
Scripture: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Song: “Mighty to Save”
Paramedics, firefighters, police officers. These are the people who run toward tragedy, while the rest of us hightail it the other way. They are known as “first responders” because they are the first to come when catastrophe strikes. They put their lives on the line in order to save, retrieve, and rescue others. They offer medication, safe transport, protection, and help to all who call.
In today’s verse we are told that we do not need to be afraid, because God is with us and will rescue us. The verse does not say, God will prevent anything bad from happening to us. It does not say we will never get sick, or hurt, or be in danger. It does promise, however, that when we need rescuing, He will be there. He is the ultimate first responder. He is ready to offer whatever is needed to all who call on Him: To the hurt—He offers hope; To the sick— healing; To the lonely—comfort; and to the terrified—peace.
When you are in need, call to the one who always hears, always cares, and always responds. He will be with you and He will rescue you.
Father God, thank You for hearing me when I call, and coming to my rescue. Thank You that I do not have to be afraid. Thank You for always responding. Amen.
April 1–7. Kim Biasotto lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her wonderful husband. Her goal in writing and speaking is to inspire others not simply to exist—but to thrive.
Do You Hear That?
Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him (Matthew 4:21, 22).
Scripture: Matthew 4:12-22
Song: “Follow Me”
A dog does not always come when it is called. Often, an owner has to train the dog to listen and obey every command given. It can take time and money for successful training. Jesus needed no training for the men He called. The sheer power of His words bade them come and follow.
As Jesus passed, He called to these fishermen and told them to fish for people. The men immediately left their jobs, their families, and their lives to follow Jesus. I cannot imagine the power that Jesus must have had behind those words or the greatness of the call pressed on their hearts when they heard it. Imagine if they’d ignored it! They would have missed the healing of the blind, the raising of the dead, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the beginning of the Church, and so many stories of God’s providence and grace.
When we hear God’s call, it will shake us to our core. It might terrify or it might excite you. It may be something that takes you from your occupation, your family, your country—but it will be the call that God has given you, and it will do something amazing in your life if you listen to it.
Lord, thank You for the call You have on my heart to work for You. I pray I would heed it and that You would give me the strength to follow it through. In Your name I pray, amen.
News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them (Matthew 4:24).
Scripture: Matthew 4:23-25
Song: “Let Them See You”
Where would you go when your teeth hurt? To a dentist. Where would you go when you need a checkup? The doctor’s office. Where would you go in ancient Syria when you were ill, paralyzed, or otherwise? Apparently, you knew to go to Jesus.
We recommend good physicians to our friends. We stay with the same doctor when he helps us. In the same way, people knew that about Jesus. Through all the gospels there are stories of people following Jesus around, asking for help, and of Him giving it freely.
Here’s the thing: people will know when we have something that works. People can see the changes in us the same way they would notice if we lost 30 pounds. They’re going to come ask you what you did that works so well. This is one of the greatest evangelical tools we can have in our belt. When we become just a part of what God desires us to be, we stand out. People will ask why we are so patient, why we are so kind or so giving. They notice, and we get to point them to what works: Jesus.
Lord, thank You for working in my life. I pray that You would build in me the character that people notice and that I would have the words to tell them of You when they do. In Your name I pray, amen.
Truth in the Face of Lies
“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11
Song: “How Firm a Foundation”
A popular Veggie Tales video gives children a good lyric to remember that God is bigger than anything that might make them afraid. This includes anything from shadows on the wall at night to anything they see or hear in media to whatever they might dream up. In the midst of every fear, whether we are children or not, we have nothing to fear. God is greater and His Word defeats every enemy.
We shouldn’t say Jesus was afraid when the devil tempted Him, but He was hungry and in the prime moment for temptation to create a miracle for His comfort or selfish gain. But Jesus states truths from the Scriptures that we have and can cling to and declare when we face temptation or become fearful. Jesus responded with truth from Scripture to every one of the devil’s attempts to sway Him. We can do the same. God, and His Word, is stronger than our temptations and fears.
Today’s passage gives not only motivation for us to read Scripture, but it gives us Jesus’ own brand of “sin-away.” When we speak truth in response to Satan’s lies, we are reminded of the right way to go.
Lord, thank You for Your truth in your Word that equips and strengthens me for confronting temptation and fear. I pray that You help me recall your truths in times of weakness and fear. I need Your strength that comes through Your Word to face every challenge. In Your name I pray, amen.
John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:14, 15).
Scripture: Matthew 3:11-17
Song: “Hands and Feet”
My parents loved to make up their own parables. One such parable goes like this: “If I saw a boulder rolling down the hill behind you and yelled for you to move, is there any time for you to argue with me?” Their lesson was essentially; “Listen—even when it doesn’t make sense.”
John learned the same lesson. He knew that he was lower than the lowest servant compared to Jesus. So when Jesus told him to baptize Him, John was understandably confused. What resulted, though, was a glorious display of Heaven opening and God anointing His Son in front of several people. And everything became clear. John’s misunderstanding and arguing could have stopped the entire narrative in its tracks, but Jesus quieted him, and God worked.
God can do amazing things when we are quiet and listen. The promptings we hear almost every day (or would hear if we stopped to listen) can turn into amazing stories of healing and of joy and of God’s providence. God wants to reach out to everyone, and He can use you.
Lord, thank You for Your promptings. I pray that You will not only give us the ears to hear Your promptings, but the strength to follow through. I pray that we may be instruments for the rest of the world to see something amazing. In Your name I pray, amen.
Wait a Second
A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9:35).
Scripture: Luke 9:28-36
Song: “In the Secret”
Peter thought he had a great idea and he had to voice it. “Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Luke 9:33). Moses and Elijah were two great historical figures to Peter, who both represented enormous pieces of history in the Jewish culture. They were respected and revered above almost all others in the Jewish Scriptures. Peter saw Jesus in the same light. He wanted to honor all three of them on that mountain that day—not only exposing the transfiguration but bringing glory to the event.
Strong initiative, but the wrong idea. God interrupted Peter to quiet his excitement so he would be quiet and listen to the Son.
We can have what we think are the greatest of intentions, but often we jump the gun or just take off in the wrong direction in our pursuit to please God. However, when we take the time to slow down, focus on God, and listen to Him we will be in a position to join God in His work to reveal His glory and His salvation to all people. And that was we will avoid doing the wrong thing.
Lord, thank You for Your complete understanding of me and my role in Your kingdom work. Help me pause and listen to You. Turn my eyes to see Your ways, and not mine. In Your name I pray, amen.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 8:10, 11).
Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:1-11
Song: “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
My family and I were homeless for a year, living in the basement of a family friend’s home during that time. When we moved back into a house of our own, I remember weeping tears of joy that the bathroom was ours, and that my bedroom was mine. I had my space. However, a few months later, I complained about the size, the location, and the backyard.
Today’s passage admonishes the people of Israel to not forget the Lord, the One who gives us all our good gifts. Remembering what they had endured and how God brought them into a land of blessing certainly would help them not forget their God. And yet the people did. And it can be all too easy for us to forget what God has done for us and all that He has given!
Help to remember is simple—learn to count our blessings. When we take time out of our day to remember God’s goodness to us and say “thank You,” to the one who gives us all things, we realign our focus. This leads us back into being grateful once again.
Lord, thank You for Your blessings each day. Thank You for the sun, the rain, and for another day of life in Your goodness. You are the giver of every good thing and I am blessed beyond compare. In Your name I pray, amen.
Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians (Exodus 18:9).
Scripture: Exodus 18:1-12
Song: “Go Tell It on the Mountain”
I received an amazing birthday present last year. Not only was it exactly what I had wanted, but I also found out just how much work and time it took to find it just for me. The joy that I had at the amazing gift was twofold: the gift itself, and hearing the history of the gift.
Jethro would have been excited about the gift of freedom from the clutches of the Pharaoh, but his joy was twofold when he heard of God’s hand in it all. Imagine the look on Jethro’s face while listening to all that God had done for the people in choosing Moses, working miracles, parting the Sea, protecting His people, and so much more.
God uses stories of His work to change the hearts of people. They create joy and greater faith. Our duty as Christians is to share stories of how God has worked in our lives. Share the great things God has done and tell about the change He has brought! The more you attribute your success and your happiness to the work of God, the more others can see His work in their lives.
Lord, thank You for all the amazing things You’ve done for me. Help me learn to share Your goodness with others so they share in the joy about Your work. In Your name I pray, amen.
March 25–31. Jessica Andre is a recent college graduate starting her career in Haviland, Kansas.
Small in Stature—Big in Potential
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner” (Luke 19:7).
Scripture: Luke 19:1-10
Song: “Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man”
My preschool grandchildren were sincere when they insisted there are five seasons in a year. Finally, after disputing I said, “Then name them!” Sure enough, they came up with spring, summer, fall, winter, and tax season. I should have known; their mother is a CPA.
Unlike today’s tax consultants who hold an honorable place in society, tax collectors in Jesus’ time were crooks who padded their own accounts by collecting more than was due. Zacchaeus likely fit right in. In the eyes of society they were indeed “sinners.”
We’ll never know why Zacchaeus wanted to get a bird’s-eye view of the Master. Was it mere curiosity, or a desire to change? It’s amazing that Jesus singled out this sinner, even going to his home for a meal. The dinner conversation must have been humbling for Zacchaeus as he repented of his past. I wonder if a wife was involved in preparing the meal, and if so, what were her feelings? Jesus obviously saw a man whose heart and life could change. And change it did—half of Zacchaeus’ possessions would go to the poor, and anyone who had been cheated would be repaid four times over.
It is so easy to judge someone by reputation or appearance. Let’s hope instead that we can see each one’s potential for God’s kingdom.
Lord Jesus, guide me today to see others as You would have me see them in a nonjudgmental way. In Your name I pray, amen.
Open My Eyes
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God (Luke 18:43).
Scripture: Luke 18:35-43
Song: “Open My Eyes That I May See”
As a child I often bought candy from a blind man at a kiosk. One day I witnessed a customer trying to convince this blind fellow that the one dollar bill he gave the blind man was really a five. I could see and hear it all but said nothing.
The blind man in today’s passage had heard enough about Jesus to believe that He could make him see. The blind man’s outspoken faith was louder than the ones who told him to be quiet. He was not going to just say nothing! Jesus heard and saw the blind man’s faith and responded with a miracle of sight.
Eyesight is truly wonderful, and especially when we use it to watch for God and see Him at work in our lives. When we recognize God’s grace and power at work in our lives our best response is to be like this man—shout the praises of God and follow Jesus with our whole lives. And also, like the man who could see, we can lead others to do praise God and follow Him with us. May we have eyes to see what God has done in the past, and is doing even today, in our lives and bring others with us as we praise God and follow Him.
Heavenly Father, please open my eyes to Your work in my life and help me speak loud and clear Your praises as I follow You more closely. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Come Follow Me
“Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me” (Luke 18:22).
Scripture: Luke 18:18-30
Song: “Jesus Calls Us, O’er the Tumult”
Irish born Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) gained a heart for the needy early in life. This started through a childhood experience helping an old beggar woman. Her desire grew deeper by encountering a poor little girl looking through a restaurant window at Amy enjoying tea and biscuits. Amy joined her minister handing out tracts and food to the Shawlies. She eventually moved into their neighborhood and started a church.
Amy traded her desire to marry for desire to follow the Lord completely. Despite a health condition that caused pain and weakness Amy Carmichael went to India to tell people about Jesus. Many Indian families gave their unwanted daughters to pagan temples as servants and prostitutes. One girl who escaped went to Amy because of her witness and love. More girls followed. So Amy founded Dohnaver Fellowship to give these girls a new home. Eventually boys born to temple prostitutes were also welcomed.
At each encounter with people in need Amy chose to not hold onto what she had but instead opened her heart and hands to give herself for the sake of following Jesus.
God calls each of us to give up something to follow Him. What we give up and how we serve might be different, but the rich reward of following Him is always the same—treasure in Heaven.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for calling me to serve You. Help me to live in dedicated service throughout my days. In Christ’s name, amen.
Christ’s Banner Over Me
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16).
Scripture: Luke 18:15-17
Song: “His Banner Over Me Is Love”
I was making a banner for my church in a mosaic, stained-glass style that would depict Jesus with each arm around a child. They were looking up to Jesus in wonder. But I was stuck wondering, What colors for the children’s clothes?
I stepped back and the scene came alive as I pictured the children as my grandchildren. Of course! A rose-colored fabric for the taller, blue for the smaller.
When complete, my little granddaughter recognized herself and her brother, explaining to him while pointing, “This one is you and this one is me.” Perceiving Jesus with His loving arms around my grandchildren helped me feel the warmth and depth of His love for these two little darlings in my life.
Jesus puts His arms of love around all “children,” no matter how old, who will come to Him in faith and trust in Him, like a child. This tender event shows all of us how we can enter God’s kingdom—come to Jesus in the trust and humility of a child. Feel His loving arms around us. This can be hard if we let our adult minds get wrapped up in worldly thinking. Childlike faith comes more easily when we put aside our arrogance and pride.
Lord, please help me release my self-confidence as I come to You today like a child and feel the warmth of your love and blessing. In Your name I pray, amen.
The Mission Field Near Home
“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43).
Scripture: Luke: 4:38-43
Song: “Reach Out and Touch the Lord”
As a child, I often thought of being a missionary. By adulthood the excitement of serving Christ on foreign soil had lost its luster because I realized all that was expected: low pay, strange food, “roughing it” without basic comforts, and even endangerment. All this added up as too much for me, not to mention my fear of flying.
Christ set a good example of being a missionary without venturing far. First priority is to simply meet people where they are. This is just being present with them and listening to their stories. Then minister to their needs as they become apparent. Just as with Jesus, we can help meet physical needs and also spiritual brokenness. As we serve, even if in subtle ways, others can observe our faith at work in our love of people and God. God can work through our ministry to bring the right moment to share the good news of the kingdom.
We can begin with our families. Look for opportunities teeming in the neighborhood. There is much to do, and each of us, in our individual ways, can minister to those we come in contact with today.
O Lord, open my eyes to my mission field today and prepare my heart with willingness to serve enthusiastically In Your power and wisdom, because You are the healer and redeemer all people need. In Your name I pray, amen.
The LORD your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands (Deuteronomy 26:16, 18).
Scripture: Deuteronomy 26:16-19
Song: “Trust and Obey”
Obey! As children we heard that word often; as parents we instilled it into our children. Pet owners realize the importance of it when training a puppy, often spending money on obedience classes. In today’s reading it is clear that God demanded obedience from the children of Israel. Each verse echoes the idea that obedience is commanded.
In time as we aged and matured, we realized that obedience wasn’t meant to punish but to guide us for the highest good. God also meant that for His chosen people. If they obeyed, they could expect His guidance and blessings.
The old hymn “Trust and Obey” goes through my mind as I think of today’s text. It opens with “When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory he sheds on our way.” As with the Israelites, God blesses today’s followers. The chorus concludes with truth for our lives, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Precious Lord, today and each day I want to walk with You, on Your path set out in Your Word, as an obedient follower. I offer my obedience as an expression of my love and as my worship of You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. (Numbers 5:6, 7).
Scripture: Exodus 22:1-3; Numbers 5:5-7
Song: “Nothing But the Blood”
My son, a generally good kid, model student, and knowledgeable of the Bible joined in some fun instigated by a younger friend to heckle his Sunday school teachers in class one morning. He became sorry about his actions on the ride to his teachers’ home later that afternoon where he faced the couple as he made his confession for causing the disturbance and promised to not repeat the action.
With me uncompromisingly involved, my son had no choice but to admit his wrong, confess openly, and apologize. Yet, as I reflect on my life, I realize my own reluctance to admit wrong with an all-too-easy readiness to substitute open confession with a pledge within myself to try to do better next time. Even if we need help, it is only honest, humble confession that brings us under the ultimate restitution that Christ made for us on the cross. There is no other remedy for our sins. Upon confession, we are forgiven of any burden and released from our guilt so we are able to follow Jesus in humble obedience.
Father, thank You for the restitution that Your Son made for me at the cross. May I live joyously as Your forgiven disciple. In my Savior’s name, amen.
March 18–24. Eunice Porter, a retired State of Oregon employee, is a mother of three, grandmother of five, musician, seamstress, and capitol volunteer.
We Work Until It Becomes Obvious
When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” (Luke 15:17).
Scripture: Luke 15:11-24
Song: “Jesus Shall Reign”
“Jim, I don’t think I want to become a Christian.” Cade said this after Jim shared the gospel and his recent conversion experience.
Even though God was changing Jim and Cade couldn’t deny it, Christianity just wasn’t compelling to him. Jim asked him why.
Cade responded, “Well, I know how much change God would require in my life.” Jim respected Cade’s wishes and ended the conversation by reminding him that it is God who produces the change in us.
Even though we make the gospel plain and desirable and our lives evidence the life-changing work only God can do, others will still deem Christianity unappealing.
We don’t control the results of our gospel work because we know it is God who opens the eyes of non-believers so that they come to their senses and receive His gift of life eternal and the change He produces.
O, how pressure relieving! Since God is active through His Spirit, let us remain alert and attentive to the Spirit as we walk alongside people on their spiritual pilgrimage. We don’t push them faster than they are ready to go nor do we ignore them or abandon them to their blindness.
Father, thank You for opening my eyes to recognize the obvious goodness of Your salvation. I know others will not always see it, so I ask for strength to continue loving them until it becomes obvious. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Celebrate When Discipleship Is Difficult
“ . . . ‘But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’” (Luke 15:32).
Scripture: Luke 15:25-32
Song: “The Day of Resurrection!”
Adam sat discouraged in his room while he and his youth group attended church camp at a university. Natalie, who was a new member of his group, had just argued with a girl from another church. Another girl told Adam that Natalie had cussed at her and threated her, and it was only day two of five. Adam thought to himself, Natalie was making so much progress. During that busy week Adam sacrificed his limited free-time to help Natalie orient herself to the basics of faith.
Even though Natalie had recently come to faith in Christ, she had ingrained habits from her life before Christ. She was once lost and had received new life in Christ—and it was growing in her, though slowly.
Discipling others requires patience, wisdom, and consistent celebrating because of the difficulties we encounter as we help others learn what it means to be alive. The elder brother realized the sacrifices he would have to make to reorient his prodigal brother back into the household. He didn’t celebrate.
Adam sacrificed his time at camp to help Natalie because he continued celebrating her steps with Christ. Let us not only celebrate when people first come to Christ, but also during the difficult times of discipleship.
Father, please help me celebrate those who are new in Christ as I use my time and effort to help them embrace their new life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
We Labor for the Joy of Finding the Lost
“Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (Luke 15:4-6).
Scripture: Luke 15:1-10
Song: “Came to My Rescue”
Sensing the close of the meeting and fearing the topic of mission would be skipped, William Carey grabbed Andrew Fuller’s arm and said, “Is nothing again going to be done?”
Carey knew the only way the gospel of Jesus would be received by those who have never heard it is through the labor of those who already have it.
This was not evident to everyone in Carey’s day. So, he argued with and petitioned the bodies in power until they complied to take up the labor of mission. And it is labor.
Mission is difficult. Sometimes it seems unrewarding and requires thankless effort. But like a new mother joyfully caring for her baby, mission is our joyful labor.
Just as Jesus left His heavenly realm for the joy set before Him and just as He carried out His work on earth with enduring joy, so too we can embrace the labor of mission for the joy of finding the lost. It is precisely this joy that allows us to embrace and endure the labor of mission before we enter the bliss set before us.
Father, thank You for giving me Your unmovable joy to strengthen me as I embrace Your mission and seek the lost. Knowing this mission is Yours, I ask that You give me wisdom to know how I may better participate toward Your goal. In Jesus’ name, amen.
He Came for The Sick
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31, 32).
Scripture: Luke 3:12, 13; 5:27–32
Song: “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”
Professor Anne looked wide-eyed across her desk at one of her students, Jennifer, and said, “It’s been a tough morning, but now is the time for you. Jennifer, you are the kind of student I enjoy meeting with.”
As Jennifer pulled out her notebook, professor Anne remarked how she had an unexpected phone call with another student whose husband threatened divorce, had just lost her job, and needed encouragement from a seasoned Christian.
As disciples were called to make disciples, God might very well bring us into opportunities to disciple those who are spiritually “sick” and then other times those who are “healthy.”
Rejoice when God gives you a disciple like Jennifer who is in a place of spiritual health, lives tenaciously, and is thriving in her Christian walk. At the same time, it is a privilege when God calls us to reach out to the spiritually lost or to minister to those who are struggling in their faith .
We were all spiritually sick and bereft when God called us, and none of us are ever really done with spiritual growth until we receive new bodies at the new creation.
Father, You are my spiritual healer and given me life and hope. Please strengthen me with Your Spirit so that I rejoice as I disciple both those who are healthy and those who are hurting. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
Let Kindness Be Our Principle
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them (Hosea 11:4).
Scripture: Hosea 11:1-9
Song: “As It Is in Heaven”
“You always contradict what I say.” Nancy said this to her son, James, who recently had converted to Christianity as a high school student. James became a sponge of Bible knowledge and wanted his mom to know all that he was learning.
He wanted her to simply “get it” like he was getting it. In his zeal, he would correct her statements about her faith. When Nancy eventually confronted him, James realized his attempt to be helpful was actually unkind and hurtful.
James changed his habit and began encouraging his mother in her Christian growth, celebrating what she learned, and answering her questions with grace not assuming she should already know the answers to what she asked.
Every Christian we encounter is a person for us to engage in the name of Jesus—with love so we serve and disciple them with kindness and humility.
Just as God led Israel with the cords of human kindness, so He also leads us—not in a domineering way, but with grace and kindness.
Father, thank You for leading us with the cords of kindness as we grow in understanding of You and Your ways. Please give me the ability to be patient and kind with those whom I disciple so they begin to experience Your kindness and Your patience. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
The Desire Begins with Him
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays (Ezekiel 34:16).
Scripture: Ezekiel 34:11-16
Song: “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”
Dr. Tennent closed his message saying, “This small man walked up the mountain into these remote villages of India carrying upon his back a large crate containing Coke.”
Coke had reached the villages before Christian heralds. The missionary continued, “If Coke is working that hard, how much harder should we work for the gospel of Christ!”
This fascinating story inspires us all to work diligently to spread the only news that can satisfy our spiritual thirst. But we must not forget where our real and powerful inspiration begins. The desire to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ begins with the heart of God.
He has been working to spread His love and salvation to all people through all time and He will not stop until the end of time.
It is from His desire that we were satisfied with His living waters and it is His desire that will energize us, equip us, and lead us to spread His news for His glory’s sake. As we respond in faith and obedience He will work through us to bring people from all nations into His fold.
Sovereign Lord, thank You for loving us with a love deep enough to search for us and bring us to yourself. Please give me Your love for the nations, give my hands the skills they need, and open those doors only You can open to share the only news that can satisfy. In Jesus’ name, amen.
He Has Made Us Alive
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:4, 5).
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10
Song: “Boundary Lines”
“Jason, you want to show your money.” Bruce, a veteran homebuilder, told this to Jason, who was new to the field, as the two of them watched masons construct a brick archway to enter a hall.
The hall contained wood doors with special trim that no one was able to see due to a wall. Bruce and Jason replaced the wall with a brick archway so that visitors could see these arch doors. Builders want to show their riches.
Similarly, as we live empowered by the Spirit and do good works, we show the riches God has given to us.
The new life He can build in us is far more grand and important than the most awe-inspiring mansions with wood doors or brick archways.
Whether we live in our hometowns or a foreign country, this is our mission: to show our our renewed lives.
Father, thank You for giving me this invaluable grace and mercy from Your riches. I’m humbled by this kindness and ask to have an attentive mind and open heart, so I can show the riches You’ve given me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
March 11–17. Aaron Massey and his wife live in Frisco, Texas where they both work and take evening walks with their Golden Retriever, Lincoln. Aaron enjoys encouraging God’s people whether from a pulpit or with his pen. He spends his downtime with dark coffee and long books.
In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples (Luke 14:33).
Scripture: Mark 1:16-20; Luke 14:25-33
Song: “I Surrender All”
Maybe you’ve seen it. The meme shows Jesus on one knee facing a little girl, who—with both hands—is holding onto her very small teddy bear. Jesus is extending one hand, as if asking for her prized possession.
The child can’t see that Jesus, with His other hand, is holding a much larger, nicer teddy behind His back. She replies, “But I love it, God.”
Jesus says, “Just trust Me.”
Simon, Andrew, James, and John were not searching for Jesus that day by the Sea of Galilee. They were busy working. Jesus came seeking them. Their hands were full of fishing nets, but when they heard His invitation to follow Him, they immediately dropped those nets. They left the boats, the family business, and the expectations of others. Left it all. Everything. To follow Him.
They trusted Him. Was the exchange worth it? Peter said it this way when Jesus later asked if they would leave Him: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”
Worth it? Yes! Any and every exchange is worth Jesus.
Lord of All, we offer everything to You, for You are good, and what You do is good. In You is peace incomprehensible, joy replete, and life eternal. We want to be sheep to no other shepherd. For the sake of the name. Amen.
Poor or Rich?
Poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Song: “A Child of the King”
Our temporary medical clinic in the mountains of Jamaica felt like a sanctuary. Patients joyfully sang praises to God while they waited to see doctors and dentists. Little girls in fancy dresses with multiple matching hair bows looked like flowers in bloom. My counseling office had the quaint aura of an era long past. I felt wonderfully at home there, handing out toothbrushes, combs, and soap as I listened to stories from the people and talked with them about Jesus.
The day was nearly over when she came in, a simply dressed, solitary older lady with braided hair and warm eyes. As we chatted, I handed her a bar of soap. I was not prepared for the intensity of her response. She clasped the gift to her chest with both hands, as if it were gold, and looked at me in wonder.
“Last night I used my last tiny sliver of soap,” she exclaimed. “Who can I trust but God?”
She shared with me how God faithfully meets her needs. She counts on Him, even if everyone else fails her.
Though poor, the worshipping lady enriched me. Having little of the world’s goods, she yet possessed everything, because she had intimate fellowship with the ultimate source, God himself. Wealth and poverty in the kingdom of Heaven look different than they do in kingdoms of the world.
We are amazed and grateful, Lord, that You gave up Heaven’s riches and became earthly poor in order to make us spiritually rich. Who can we trust but You? Amen.
Like a Freight Train
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13, 14).
Scripture: Philippians 3:7-16
Song: “Higher Ground”
Among my treasured possessions is a letter from my grandson Elijah, written when he was 20 years old. I was attending a women’s retreat, and my sponsor had asked him and several other people to write words of encouragement to me. Their cards and letters were presented as a surprise on the closing day.
Things change as we get older, and I had been silently struggling with the thought that aging might make me less valuable to God and His kingdom. The God-who-hears sent me a word through His son.
Here’s part of what Elijah wrote to me: “The way I see it is that one of your tasks is to lead the new generation. This doesn’t mean slowing down; this doesn’t mean taking it easy . . . there is not a sports team on the planet that takes it easy in the last quarter . . . No baseball player walks from third base to home: they go in hot and like a freight train . . . You are much needed here, with your family, and leading the next generation of Christ’s followers.”
Press on! Like a freight train.
Lord God, Your power and love are not bound by mortal time and age. May our eagerness to win the prize increase as we near the goal and motivate us to press on toward You with greater passion and vigor each day. In Christ’s name. Amen
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me (John 12:26).
Scripture: John 12:20-26
Song: “Close to Thee”
The speaker for a weekend women’s conference was well-known and greatly admired. Esteemed as a loving and wise Bible teacher, she would be ministering to masses of eager ladies. What a thrill it would be to meet her personally.
Delores, a minister’s wife attending the event, was surprised when conference organizers invited her to be “handmaiden” to the speaker. Accepting the assignment meant Delores would be available to the speaker at all times during the weekend, staying close by her, ready to provide anything the speaker needed or wanted. It also meant she would give up her own agenda, including quick shopping trips, naps, or meals with friends she hadn’t seen for a long time. Delores would be keeping the speaker’s schedule and agenda, not her own. She accepted the invitation.
Although she gave up things she had looked forward to and would have enjoyed, Delores found even greater blessing and delight being constantly in the presence of a godly woman she respected and admired. During the weekend, Delores learned and experienced things she could not have learned and experienced without being a “handmaiden.”
Jesus likewise invites us to give up our own agendas and follow His. Yes, we relinquish some things, but He promises that we, as His servants, will be where He is. What a great honor He offers us: to be always in His presence.
We are humbled, Gracious Jesus, that You invite us to be Your servants. What we give up is nothing in comparison to what we gain. We are grateful. Amen.
Love of a Lifetime
“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 10:35-39
Song: “I Love You, Lord”
God called my husband and me to move to Zimbabwe. Not visit Zimbabwe. Move there. Knowing we were called was the easy part. Resigning from our jobs wasn’t bad either. Renting our house to strangers was only slightly unsettling. Being separated from friends was starting to feel challenging. But the big, deep ache was leaving our family.
We cherish face-to-face extended family time. Every Sunday there’s a gathering around Granny’s table: my three siblings and I with our spouses, children, and grandchildren. So how do you explain to a 5-year-old that he will be an 8-year-old before he sees MaMaw and Popi again? How do you cheerfully move your college-going son into a dorm when he’s been happily living at home? How do you tell your 72-year-old mother there will be empty places at the Sunday table for three years?
We were in the kitchen when we told Mama. She didn’t say anything at first. She just took a deep breath, looked hard at the floor, and finally said, “I won’t be the one to stand between you and doing the will of God.”
Jesus is the love of her life, you see; and she blessed the fact that He is also the love of mine.
Oh, Love of my life, You will not let us go. Keep us mindful that there is a higher calling than even the bond of family. For Your glory. Amen.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).
Scripture: Mark 10:23-31
Song: “It Took a Miracle”
The bride’s father and his fiancée sat in the first row of the storefront church, the groom’s parents beside them. Behind them were the groom’s brother, sister-in-law, two nieces, three half-siblings with their spouses, and a gang of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Add a small cadre of faithful friends, and the congregation numbered 50.
The young minister grinned. The bride glowed, her pre-teen son beside her. The groom beamed, his little girl at his right hand. Everyone in the room knew they were witnessing something that was impossible.
Rewind several years. A young man in jail, convicted of felony drug dealing. An impossible case, most folks said. Impossible? He’s the grinning minister performing the ceremony. See a 20-something disheveled woman, screaming hysterically after intentionally slicing her wrist with a piece of glass. Untreated mental illness. Chronic substance abuse. Many thought it impossible for her ever to be sane and healthy. Impossible? She’s the glowing bride, a medical professional today.
Picture a man in his mid-30s. Lab work reveals shocking blood serum levels of multiple drugs in his system. He should be dead. An addict over half his life. Estranged from most of his family. Survive? Impossible. Impossible? He’s the beaming groom, who facilitates addiction recovery groups as he prepares for ministry. He’s also my son. All things are possible with God.
Thank You, Lord, for seeing a wedding where others saw three gravestones. Open our eyes to the possibilities You envision for us. In the name of the one who knows no impossibilities, amen.
A Secret in Plain Sight
“The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables” (Mark 4:11).
Scripture: Mark 4:10-20
Song: “Open My Eyes, That I May See”
It was her boyfriend’s birthday present, so the sweater Di was knitting for him had to be special. She chose a rich shade of chocolate brown for the garment itself, and a deep teal blue for horizontal accent stripes on the front. When the project was completed, Di beamed as her friends and parents exclaimed about its beauty, but it was her boyfriend’s reaction that would tell the tale.
He smiled brightly when he unwrapped the gift, then burst into delighted laughter after studying the horizontal stripes. There in plain sight was a message the others had seen but not recognized as a message at all. Her boyfriend, however, who knew the secret writing, recognized the announcement immediately. Using Morse code, Di had knitted into the stripes: My girlfriend made this sweater.
Jesus has given His followers the secret of the kingdom of God. He enables us to see, hear, and understand things that are mysteries to others. Am I looking, listening, and longing for His messages to me?
Lord, I thank You that You have revealed mysteries of Your kingdom to lowly ones such as me. May I be fertile soil for Your Word and bring forth much fruit for Your glory. In the name of my King, forever. Amen.
March 4–10. Debbie Ginder and her husband Carl live in Virginia, where they minister to jail inmates. They also enjoy birding, reading, music, and their family of five sons and their households.
For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 14:11).
Scripture: Luke 14:7-14
Song: “Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord”
Teresa of Calcutta helped the poor, sick, and dying in the poorest parts of India. She kept a humility list. One item on it says, “Do not seek to be admired and loved.” In a world so focused on being noticed and admired, I appreciate her simple words.
I love most any pie. But I don’t like “humble pie,” being forced to acknowledge my errors, often under embarrassing conditions. Admittedly, humility seems out of fashion in today’s world. It’s also often misunderstood. True humility is grounded in the character of Christ. It’s having a lowly heart, being teachable and willing to serve. False humility is thinking poorly of oneself or having low self esteem. The other end of false humility is pride, which is thinking too highly of oneself. The parable in Luke 14 reminds us that those who seek honor and exalt themselves will be humbled. When God brings us low due to pride, it is not to punish us, but rather to restore us.
Dear friend, God blesses the humble. When we prefer others, serve without complaint, accept hardship, and seek the admiration of God above all else we open the door for blessing! We can live like our Lord who humbled Himself by serving (Philippians 2:7).
Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me how to walk in humility. Less of me, more of You. That is my desire! In Your name I pray, amen.
A Full House
At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready” (Luke14:17).
Scripture: Luke 14:15-24
Song: “Come to the Table”
I love parties, especially when there’s good food involved. The highlight was in England, at the home of a friend who was connected with the royal family. Needless to say, when the invitation came, I whole heartedly accepted! I’d never seen such luxury, or food. Everything was so beautifully presented and delicious!
Luke 14:15-24 tells the parable of a great banquet. I’m already thinking about scrumptious appetizers, entrees, and desserts! Sadly, the invited guests all made excuses why they couldn’t come. So the host told his servant to invite the poor, the cripple, the blind, and the lame. He threw open the doors making His feast available for all to enjoy. He wanted a full house! This parable reveals the measure of God’s longing for relationship. Our Lord is merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love. Nothing can separate us from His love!
Dear friend, we were created to know God and to enjoy His loving presence in this life and the next. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Among the endless stream of voices calling for our attention, let’s not forget to listen to the voice of our Savior inviting us to enter into the most important relationship of our life. A feast for the soul awaits!
Father, thank You for inviting me to Your banquet. My heart is overjoyed at the thought of spending eternity in Your presence! In Christ my Savior, amen.
The Simple Sabbath Truth
Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” (Luke 14:3).
Scripture: Luke 14:1-6
Song: “Jesus, I am Resting, Resting”
Recently I read some legislation online and found the legal intricacy and frequent amendments baffling and intimidating. I wasn’t even clear on the intent of the law and felt burdened by the whole experience.
The Jews read God’s Law in their Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy in the Bible). Torah means God’s instruction for His way of life. It is neither complex or burdensome. Deuteronomy 5:12 says, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” and not working. This is life-giving and not burdensome. But the “legal experts” wrote an “Oral Torah,” their collection of manmade interpretations and regulations. The experts’ rules were burdensome restrictions to live their way. Few of their rules were life-giving. By quizzing the supposed experts, Jesus pushed them back to the simple instruction for Sabbath that was life-giving. After confronting them, He healed a man. He showed that love, expressed in mercy to meet the needs of others is holiness and obedience to God’s law.
Dear friend, God’s instruction for our lives sets us free. His ways are not a burden but give life. Keeping the Sabbath is simple when we focus on God and show love to Him and people.
Father, thank You for all Your instructions for goodness in my life. In Christ, amen.
March 1–3. Leila Grandemange lives in Virginia with her husband and several adorable dogs, which are also part of her ministry. She enjoys simple things, family dinners, walks in nature, and tea with friends.
Bearing with One Another
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2).
Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-7
Song: “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”
Tears rolled down my eyes as we argued. I couldn’t understand how two people who loved each other so much could be in such disagreement. Thankfully, after 25 years of marriage, my husband and I have learned the meaning of “bearing with one another in love.” So we humbled ourselves, apologized, and hugged each other.
Peace and unity do not just happen. Both take effort. This is true for all our relationships, even within the church. The apostle Paul urges believers to bear with one another in love. To bear means to hold up or support. At the gym, my trainer asks me to lift (bear) weights to build muscle. In a similar way, God tells us to bear the weight of one another, yet not without purpose. Each time we hold up each other despite our flaws, we strengthen our spiritual muscles, individually, and as the body of Christ.
Dear friend, bearing with one another in love has a powerful purpose. It creates a bond of peace that helps us stand firm against the devil’s schemes. People are not our enemy. Let’s endeavor to be humble, gentle, and understanding, focusing on what unites us, rather than on what divides us. For we are one body, called to one hope, and dedicated to one purpose.
Father, I’m so grateful that You are gentle, patient, and kind, bearing with me despite my flaws. Please help me to show those same qualities to others. Make me a channel of Your peace. In Christ, amen.
Sunshine and Rain for All
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: “Your Love Never Fails”
One of the most recognized figures associated with loving his enemies was Nelson Mandela. How does one spend 27 years in prison, as did Mandela, and then dedicate the rest of his life working toward restoring peace? Interestingly, the answer comes to us from nature.
God’s unconditional and unmerited love are compared to two of the greatest blessings in nature, the sunshine and the rain, which are good for all and available to all. By living with a grateful heart, aware of all the undeserved blessings we’ve received, we can open our hearts to love our enemies. Mandela must have understood this. Though he had every reason to hate his enemies, he chose to love everyone, including his persecutors. Another example comes to us from our Lord Jesus Christ, who while we were yet sinners, died for us, demonstrating the depth of God’s love for all of humanity.
Dear friend, it can be hard to love someone who’s inflicted a deep wound. But if we withhold love, how are we different from the world? Each time we return good for evil, forgive, work toward peace, and show kindness to friend and foe, we become channels of God’s unconditional love! Loving our enemies also acts as a catalyst for our own healing. Hallelujah!
Father, help me to love and pray for my enemies. Thank You for the sunshine and the rain, daily reminders of Your love for all the world! In Christ, amen.
The Ripple Effects of Favoritism
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism (James 2:1).
Scripture: James 2:1-7
Song: “The Love of God”
The ripple effects of favoritism are woven throughout our history books, news channels, workplaces, schools, and even our homes. This is seen in the deep wounds, bitterness, and anger people often carry which affect generation after generation and entire nations.
James 2:1 gives believers in Christ a stern warning. God denounces anyone who shows bias based on someone’s appearance. In today’s passage, it happens to be the rich discriminating against those who look poor. Regardless of how someone appears, we must never sit in the place of judgment, a seat reserved for God. It’s one thing to have godly discernment, which everyone needs. It’s another thing to show ungodly judgment, which is a sin. Let’s endeavor to show love to all, and partiality to none, to the glory of God.
Dear friend, whether you’re rich or poor, or whoever you are, you are the apple of God’s eye! If you’ve ever felt the sting of favoritism, God wants to bind your wounds. Forgive those who hurt you and release them to God. And if you’ve ever shown favoritism, ask God to forgive you, and if possible, work toward restoring peace. The good news about ripple effects is that they work both ways. Favoritism spreads anger, hurt, and bitterness, but showing impartiality spreads love, joy, and peace!
Father, please help me to show impartiality to all who cross my path, that all might witness Your unconditional love through my words and deeds. In Christ, amen.
Purpose Beyond the Pain
Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel (Proverbs 25:4).
Scripture: Proverbs 25:2-7
Song: “Refiner’s Fire”
It had been 14 days in a hospital bed in France. I was far from my family and home. Why did God allow this trial? It seemed unusually long, and it was far from over. Despite the turmoil within my heart, I knew God was watching over me, and that He had a greater purpose.
Proverbs 25:4 gives insight into that purpose with the analogy of a silversmith. Creating a silver vessel is a process. First, the rough ore is broken and placed in a crucible under intense heat. As the temperature rises, the impurities (dross) rise to the surface. The silversmith then skims the dross off the top. He returns the crucible to the furnace to repeat this process until he sees his reflection in the liquid, which lets him know that the silver is finally pure. In the same way, God uses our trials to eliminate the dross in us, transforming us into the likeness of Christ.
Dear friend, seeing the purpose beyond our pain is never easy, especially when our eyes are filled with tears. Yet God is asking us to trust Him. He knows what He’s doing, and He’s making everything beautiful in His time!
Father, as You purify my heart, help me to trust that You are working in my life for good and for Your glory. In Christ, amen.
February 25–28. Leila Grandemange lives in Virginia with her husband and several adorable dogs, which are also part of her ministry. She loves simple things: family dinners, walks in nature, and tea with friends.
Home Sweet Home
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress” (Psalm 91:1, 2).
Scripture: Psalm 91:1-8,11-16
Song: “Happy the Home When God Is There”
As children we long for a special hiding place. Mine was blankets over chair backs. Our children transformed large cardboard boxes into their hideaway. Then came the grandkids’ multi-level tree house. Impressive! Yet ultimately it too proved to be but a temporary retreat.
The psalmist identified a far better, permanent solution. A place free of fears, impervious to danger, and guarded by angels. Almost too good to believe, yet nonetheless available. And oh, so desperately needed.
Time passes. Life happens and we find ourselves once again looking for a place to hide. Only now those things we’re attempting to escape are real—pressures to succeed and provide, fear of failure. Discontentment. Discouragement. Rare is that person, worldly status aside, who doesn’t ultimately experience the need for a safe haven. The psalmist found it.
What we so desperately seek has been there all along. If we simply and finally redirect our search away from things of this world and look instead to our one true God, we are promised admittance. “Come on in. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Search over. Home at last. Alleluia! Amen!
Lord, for so long, I looked in all the wrong places for what only You can provide. And yet, when I finally sought You out, there You were welcoming me with open arms. May I dwell in Your presence from now throughout eternity. In Christ, amen.
Sanctuary in the Storm
I say to the LORD, “You are my God.” Hear LORD, my cry for mercy. Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle (Psalm 140:6, 7).
Scripture: Psalm 140:1-8
Song: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”
I was but eight years old when hurricane Hazel tore through Mathews County, yet the memory remains razor sharp. My mother, sister, and I peered out a window as the storm blew down two oak trees. I’d never seen anything like that. To me, the world felt dangerously out of control but I didn’t know what to do. Mom, on the other hand, knew. She silently cried out to God for mercy and deliverance. Silently, so as not to alarm my sister and me.
Young David experienced personal danger at many points in his life: in the open fields watching over his father’s sheep; on the battle field facing Goliath; when living in King Saul’s household. Even then, David knew exactly what to do in personal danger—cry out to the Lord for mercy and deliverance.
Storms will come into our lives. When they rage, God is there with us. He is the strong deliverer who can shield us. The doors to God’s sanctuary are accessible to everyone. All we need to do is call out to God with confidence as His beloved.
Holy Father, all honor and glory to You for You are my ever-present refuge amidst life’s chaos. In Your mercy and grace, You welcome me in with open arms. Oh, that I may love You nearly as much as You have first loved me. In Jesus’ name, I pray.
Left in Good Hands
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name (John 17:11).
Scripture: John 17:11-15
Song: “For All Thy Care We Bless Thee”
Seems just yesterday our grandchildren were being dropped off with us, entrusted into our care while their mom did all the other things mothers do. But now, our granddaughter, having completed her second year of college, spent the summer taking care of someone else’s children. The parents that employed my granddaughter made a wise choice.
Jesus’ time on earth was coming to an end. His prayer affirmed His desire, and knowledge, that the disciples would continue to be bathed in divine love as they proclaimed the good news throughout the region. He entrusted their care to the Heavenly Father, giver of the Holy Spirit.
I congratulated our granddaughter on landing her position and then affirmed my certainty in her ability to do a fantastic job because of her love for others. It is love that makes her a perfect candidate for giving care.
When I ponder my experience of Jesus in my life, love is at the top of all the notions and suppositions. Because of God’s love for us I am certain that Christ couldn’t have left us in better hands.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your great love for me. Every day You watch over me with immeasurable love as Your child. With that amazing love, please empower me to live each day in ways that attest to my love for You, my eternal Father. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Call for Help, Then Step Aside
He cares for those who trust in him . . . he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness (Nahum 1:7, 8).
Scripture: Nahum 1:2-8
Song: “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”
From the Saturday morning sign-on until early afternoon, I watched transfixed as one western hero after another galloped across the television screen. Some rode alone, others with a sidekick; some on white horses, others on palominos. All had one thing in common. Wherever trouble was brewing, each was prepared to set things right.
Nineveh was a hotbed of trouble. Oppression, plunder, and slaughter of its enemies were commonplace. To Nahum there seemed but one solution, unleashing the wrath of a God in whose presence mountains quaked and hills melted away. Yet, just as sometimes happened in Dodge City or Tombstone, when well intended folks determined to impose their wills, innocent people got hurt.
An angry mob stormed the jailhouse or a victim challenged the evil-doer to a gun fight. Until, that is, the “white hat” intervened to ensure justice was left to those best suited to administer it. Despite the notions of Nahum and others (see Jonah 3:10–4:2), Nineveh’s fate, immediate and future, was left for God to determine.
Decades removed from watching Saturday morning westerns, I’ve come to understand that distinguishing right from wrong isn’t always so simple. Surely now, as throughout the ages, such evaluations can only be perfectly made when left in another’s hands— those of our loving God, our refuge in times of trouble.
Merciful Father, guided by the Spirit, may I devote myself to reflecting Your love upon all persons while leaving matters of righteousness to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Selected, Protected, Transformed
I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you (Isaiah 41:9, 10).
Scripture: Isaiah 41:8-13
Song: “Take My Hand Precious Lord”
An intriguing opportunity emerged to join my high school debate team. Suddenly feeling adventurous, I jumped at the chance. After thanking Mrs. White for selecting me I started thinking, Oh no! What have I gotten myself into? I doubted my abilities but chose to rely upon my instructor and trust in her decision and ability to coach. She had, after all, schooled dozens of beginners. She eased my nerves and turned anxiety into assurance. With her help my debating skills grew. I learned to meet each challenge and face each opponent.
The Israelites were looking for an opportunity for their freedom. They would jump at the chance to return home but could not accomplish that on their own power. Isaiah directed their attention to God who had selected them centuries ago. If they would forego self-reliance to focus on God and put their dependence upon Him, then He would assuage their fears, build their confidence, and return them to their land.
God is still doing the same for all who recognize that He has chosen them and respond in faith and trust. We serve a mighty God. When trials come we can walk hand in hand with our Lord and He will bring us through to victory.
Heavenly Father, the knowledge of having been chosen to honor and glorify Your name continues to amaze. Setting aside all fears of inadequacy, I humbly pray, “Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.” In Jesus’ name, amen.
Walking in Faith
The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life (Psalm 121:7).
Scripture: Psalm 121:1-8
Song: “Walk with Faith in Your Heart”
My wife and I love hiking in national and state parks. Our stays are usually limited to a few days so, to maximize the use of our time, we often do advance research. What’s each trail’s difficulty level? Unique challenges? The information is helpful but sometimes incomplete and highly subjective. We’ve come to expect disparities, some “slippery slopes” along the way.
Today’s psalm, according to various Bible commentaries, is thought to have been a favorite of travelers, perhaps returning to Jerusalem, and recited or sung throughout the journey. Whether traversing mountains, sleeping in the wilderness, or battling the effects of bone-bleaching heat, the refrain reminded them of God’s ceaseless vigilance. And on they went.
In our hiking, we always try to ensure the trail will accommodate our turning around should proceeding become too risky. In our daily lives, we’ve likewise been confronted with situations prompting us to “seek the nearest exit.” Not even the Son was immune. It’s another commonality, however, upon which we should focus—the truth underscored in Psalm 121.
For us, “travelers” on a journey of faith, His Word proclaims there isn’t a single waking or sleeping moment during which we’re not under the loving Father’s watchful eye.
No additional research required. Just praise God and keep walking in faith.
Lord, as my journey continues, illumine my path with the glow of Your love. Grant me the strength and wisdom to stay the course. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Loved into Abundance
He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young (Deuteronomy 32:10, 11).
Scripture: Deuteronomy 32:10-14
Song: “On Eagle’s Wings”
Lands along the banks of the James River, running through Richmond, Virginia, are home to many bird species. Years ago, largely due to harmful pesticides, the area’s bald eagle population fell precipitously. Concerned individuals and groups spurred government to make environmental changes necessary for a “rebirth” of the area’s eagle population. Absent intervention, the eagles may have disappeared.
The Israelites found themselves in an inhospitable environment too, the desert. Forty years they wandered. Their fate, had they been left to fend for themselves, would have been tenuous at best. They needn’t have worried. A loving God was not about to abandon His children. By His love, God gave manna and quail from the sky and water from rocks to sustain them (see Nehemiah 9:15; Psalm 105:40). God’s love prevailed. It always does.
Watching an eagle soar above the river evokes awe. Imagining God’s merciful hand extending downward, reaching out to each beloved child, fills one’s heart to overflowing with love that intervenes to sustain us with everything we need to thrive.
Precious Father, in love You led me out of the wasteland of worldliness. Teach me, I pray in Jesus’ name, to reflect that love upon those I encounter.
February 18–24. Robert L. Stephens, a retiree living in Glen Allen, Virginia, loves spending time with family and in lay speaking. He and his wife, Linda, enjoy traveling and count National Parks among their favorite destinations.
A Fresh Perspective
Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind! (Psalm 66:5).
Scripture: Psalm 66:1-9, 16-20
Song: “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”
Walking through the woods in the Rockies, you keep your eyes on the ground to avoid tripping on roots and low-lying brush along the narrow dirt paths. Tiny wildflowers and vibrant Indian Paintbrush decorate the pine-needle laden ground, and occasionally a blue Columbine peeks out and graces the eyes of the hiker. Yet, if you keep your eyes down the entire time, you will miss the glorious sights above. Colorado’s blue skies are a sight to behold. The sunlight filters down through the evergreen boughs and the shadows dance and sway all around. Birdsong fills your ears and the scent of pine is fresh in the crisp mountain air.
In life, we sometimes get in the habit of keeping our eyes down to avoid trouble, or perhaps to avoid conflict. The worries of the world weigh us down, and we plod through life. It’s easy to get stuck in that rut. It’s easy to start grumbling.
Today, take a minute to stop plodding. Lift your eyes to the heavens and worship God who waits for you there. Remember He created you, He breathes life into you, and He longs to hear you lift your voice in worship. Look at the clouds. Gaze at the stars. And no matter how heavy life is at the moment, let your heart swell with praise. God is awesome.
Mighty God, forgive us for being consumed with earthly worries and responsibilities. Lift our eyes to You and accept our humble, sincere worship. You are worthy! In Christ, amen.
Strength in the Storm
You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:12).
Scripture: Psalm 66:10-15
Song: “Through It All”
In the shadow of my mother’s recent death, it felt like the valley flooded and it was all I could do to keep my head above the water. Perhaps you have felt like you were drowning in sorrow. Or maybe you’ve felt the flames of a fiery trial licking at you from every direction, the panic rising up within you as the fire threatens to consume you. Every follower of Jesus has experienced trials at one time or another. These times in our life can be terrifying as well as faith-building.
Financial struggles. Sickness. Loss of a loved one. Natural disasters. Terrorism. Persecution. Loneliness. The reasons to suffer in this world are endless, striking fear in our hearts and causing our faith in a loving God to waver.
When faced with problems, God gives us a choice. We cannot always choose our circumstances, but we can choose our response. In short, we can give up or we can look up. If we focus on the flood or the fire, we will drown or become burned. If we keep our eyes on the Lord and trust Him, He will bring us through the difficulty to a “place of abundance.” Remember Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Heavenly Father, life can be painful. Thank You that we can trust You in all circumstances, and when we choose to keep our eyes on You, we find peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.
He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God (Joshua 4:24).
Scripture: Joshua 4:19-24
Song: “He Leadeth Me”
Think of all the things we require our hands to do on a daily basis. We use them to clean, to eat with, to help others, to open and close things, to steer the car, to nurture, caress, and correct. We bond with people through our hands; often our first contact with someone is a handshake. Think of babies—the first thing we do is hold out a finger and encourage them to grasp it with their tiny hands. We connect with our hands. We comfort others through touch—a heartfelt hug, a squeeze of the shoulder, a pat on the back.
Now take a moment to think of God’s hands. What does He do with His hands? Does He have hands? The Bible says He does. His hands are powerful. He created the heavens and the earth with His hands (Acts 7:50). He made us with His hands, and continues to mold us into His image (Isaiah 64:8). He disciplines with His hands. When He removes His hand from us, we are no longer under His protection. He renders justice with His hands (Deuteronomy 32:41). He delivers us, upholds us, and leads us with His hands.
God is a loving Father. We can count on Him to guide us, cleanse us, save us, comfort us, and protect us by the power of His mighty hands.
Lord God, thank You that the same hands that created the universe are making me into Your image. In Christ, amen.
Purpose in Suffering
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11).
Scripture: James 5:7-12
Song: “Be Still My Soul”
My mother read the biography of Corrie Ten Boom to me when I was a girl, and it has had a lasting impact on me, even though nothing I’ve encountered in my own life can compare with the horrific conditions of Corrie’s imprisonment at Ravensbrück concentration camp. Like Job, Corrie, along with her sister, Betsie, decided to trust God in the midst of terrible circumstances.
In their darkest moments, the sisters turned to Scripture and prayer. Instead of complaining, they created ways to overcome their adversities. They discovered how to be thankful for fleas, and for the unthinkable close-quarters they were forced to live in. A flea-infestation kept the lewd soldiers away from them at night, and the close-quarters allowed the women in the crowded bunks to hear whispered Scriptures, find eternal life and hope in Christ, and together lift up prayer and worship.
When we suffer, we must look to Jesus, who is well-acquainted with suffering. He was despised and rejected by men. He is with us in our pain, and will never turn us away in our grief. Through Him, we can be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and look for ways to share His love with others who may be suffering similarly.
Father God, thank You for Your presence with me in every challenging situation and no matter how much darkness surrounds me. Help me to recognize Your presence and I will praise You in all circumstances. In Jesus’ name, amen.
A Living Hope
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 1:3-7
Song: “Blessed Assurance”
Part of life is hoping for things. What are you hoping for today?
Hope, as we commonly understand it, is wishful thinking—a yearning for something in the future which we cannot be sure we’ll attain. As a Denver native, I hope the Broncos will win the Super Bowl. I hope my children do well in school. We hope for good news, for favorable weather, for health and success. There’s nothing wrong with hoping—in fact, studies show hope has major impacts on our health and well-being. But is hope alive?
As Christians, our hope is not fixed on something uncertain. Rather, our hope is in the promises God has made in His Word. Jesus’ resurrection is our living proof that God will follow through on His promises. The word alive means fertile, fruitful, and productive. Likewise, “living hope” produces power through the Holy Spirit within us to induce change in our lives. A believer’s hope is an assurance, a strong confidence in God.
Hope, along with faith and love, is a virtue of the Christian life. Faith and love spring from hope (Colossians 1:4, 5). Hope produces joy and peace in believers. In contrast, those who do not place their trust in Christ are without hope (Ephesians 2:12). Hope is a beacon of light that sets believers apart from a hopeless world.
Father, thank You for the living hope we have because of our living Savior! May our hope ever and only be in You. In Your name we pray, amen.
Our Need of Mercy
He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
Scripture: Luke 18:9-14
Song: “Saved by the Blood”
On December 20, 1943, Charles Brown, fighter-pilot, scanned the view outside the cockpit of his crippled American B-17 bomber and froze in fear. He was face-to-face with a German pilot, Franz Stigler, whose jet-fighter hovered just feet away from their wingtip. The Luftwaffe plane had closed in on them with orders to shoot them from the sky. But when Brown and his copilot looked at the German pilot again, something strange happened—he didn’t pull the trigger. He nodded at them instead, letting them go in a rare demonstration of mercy during WW II. The two pilots met 40 years later and developed a lasting friendship.
When we come to God in prayer, He demonstrates extreme mercy toward us because of the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus. The holy and perfect nature of God cannot look upon sin. If we saw Him face-to-face, we would die (Exodus 33:20). If we were to “get what we deserve,” we would all be cast into Hell. But God, in His amazing love and indescribable mercy, has made a way for us to have a lasting relationship with Him, though the blood of Jesus Christ. Instead of destroying us, who were His enemies, He made a way for us to have eternal life (Romans 5:10). Instead of casting us to our deaths, He has called us friends (John 15:15).
Heavenly Father, thank You for showing extreme mercy and saving us through the death and resurrection of Your only Son. In Jesus’ name, amen.
His Heart is Touched
Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record? (Psalm 56:8).
Scripture: Psalm 56:1-9
Song: “Does Jesus Care?”
I was expecting our second child and had a determined toddler running about. We lived in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and the afternoon was hot and muggy. I had the kind of “morning sickness” that lasted 24/7. When my 15-month-old daughter finally went down for her afternoon nap, I laid on our couch and cried, feeling miserable and sorry for myself. I had a direct view of our hummingbird feeder, hanging from the tree in the front yard, but as of yet, it hadn’t attracted any visitors.
I prayed, “Father, if you care about me, send a hummingbird.” Within five minutes a sweet little hummer, in vibrant glory, visited our feeder and stayed close all afternoon. I had never felt so loved, so cherished by my Heavenly Father! That He would care enough to hear a nauseated, exhausted young mother’s prayer and answer so quickly multiplied my faith. The sickness didn’t ease up at once, but after that display of love, it was easier to bear.
Remember that God cares, even about the smallest details in your life. He delights in showing His love in personal ways.
Heavenly Father, Your heart is touched by whatever touches me! Thank You for caring so deeply, and showing Your love through Creation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
February 11–17. Jill Sanderson Millsap, wife of 30 years and mother to six, has lived a life of adventure in overseas missions, home-schooling, and serving others. Jill enjoys singing, playing piano, and family time.
Trust God Through the End
For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end (Psalm 48:14).
Scripture: Psalm 48:1-3, 9-14
Song: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
In 1954, J.R.R. Tolkien released the first installment of the epic novel The Lord of the Rings. His fantastical story involves Orcs, Hobbits, Wizards, Elves, and many other creatures as well as compelling action sequences, but the story centers around the relationship between Frodo and Sam. These unlikely heroes stick together through thick and thin to see their mission through. Readers might even find themselves sad at the end of the story, wishing to see more of their relationship.
Tolkien, a Christian, gave many glimpses into what godly loyalty should look like. It was those very traits that made his books and eventual movies wildly successful.
The good news for Christians is that God is faithful to us to the end. But the end of what? The blessed assurance we have in Christ is life everlasting. Scripture tells us God will guide us through the end of our lives here on earth and usher us into His very presence throughout eternity. We can trust Him now and forever.
Heavenly Father, thank You for being with me every step of the way through life. I trust Your direction and commit myself to You. In my Savior’s name, amen.
God’s Order Brings Peace in Our Lives
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:26-33
Leonardo of Pisa was a highly regarded European mathematician in the Middle Ages. Among his many accomplishments, Leonardo is known for introducing a series of numbers now known as the Fibonacci sequence. This sequence is a list of numbers populated by adding the preceding two numbers. If you are mathematician you may find this interesting, but there is additional interest for those of us who don’t celebrate “Pi Day” on March 14. The Fibonacci sequence is found continuously throughout nature. Flower petals, pinecones, tree branches, shells, spiral galaxies, and DNA molecules exhibit the sequence.
No one knows exactly how Leonardo came across this sequence, but a brief study will reveal its existence in our daily lives. This kind of order is prominent throughout God’s creation and is, literally, what keeps the earth spinning on its axis.
In God’s very handiwork we can see order, so we should also expect to see it in His work through us. As a parent of two teenagers, I understand how chaos can sneak into our lives, but God is a God of order and peace. He doesn’t just teach it through His Word, but also displays it in our everyday life. Take a minute to smell the flowers. And count the petals while you’re at it. You’ll find the lily with three petals, buttercups with five, chicory with twenty-one and so on. I think you’ll find it a peaceful process.
Father, please help me find peace in Your order today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Our Security Is in Christ
As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever (Psalm 48:8).
Scripture: Psalm 48:4-8
Song: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”
On September 4, 2004, the De La Salle high school football team entered Qwest Field in Seattle riding an unprecedented 151 game winning streak. Despite the fact that they continually graduated their best players, the team managed to string one undefeated season after another, building the reputation of being unstoppable. Within a few hours their streak would come to an end leading them on a soul-searching journey that is documented in the 2014 film entitled, When the Game Stands Tall.
This world offers many “sure things,” but you don’t have to live long to learn what the young men of De La Salle high school learned in the 2004–2005 football season. Even the most certain things in this world can change in a moment. But as believers in Christ we know that we can take confidence in the surety of our Lord and His kingdom.
Christ provides each Christian with the confidence that He will always provide a safe place for us. Even when the world seems to have ganged up against us, combining their forces and attacking from all sides, God will secure us, and it’s not the construction of the place or the building materials that make that place secure. It is God himself.
Lord, help me find security in You when times get hard and not to fear what life may bring. In Your name I pray, amen.
God’s Constancy Is Our Assurance
Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity (Psalm 93:2).
Scripture: Psalm 93
Song: “Everlasting God”
The Cairn de Barnenez is considered by many to be the oldest building still standing. It is estimated that the structure, in modern France, was constructed around 4850 BC, making it 2,000 years older than the ancient pyramids. Over centuries this structure has withstood all of the torture that nature and man has thrown at it, yet it still stands.
I doubt that when troubling storms move through the region that the inhabitants living near the ancient building rush over to make sure it has survived the elements. Its very history and presence might lead us to expect that it will survive many more trials for years to come.
The throne of the Lord has outlasted much more than just storms and abuse. It is more than prehistoric. It is eternal, without beginning or end. It has not decayed by time or weakened by winds or crashing waves. The very eternal existence and fortitude of the Lord makes Him the only one in whom we can trust in whatever may come. This assurance provides peace and focus in our lives despite what goes on around us.
Lord, thank You for being an everlasting God that is stronger than the waves and more reliable than the rising of the sun. In Jesus’ name, amen.
See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame (1 Peter 2:6).
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:1-8
On August 5, 2010, the world watched as news surfaced of a copper mine collapse in Chile. Days turned into weeks as rescue efforts to free the 33 trapped miners persisted without results. For 69 days the miners huddled together in the darkness, but miner Jose Henriquez had the real solution. He received the nickname “The Pastor” from others involved in the event. He continually encouraged others with Scripture that he had memorized and ultimately 20 of the miners came to salvation in Jesus Christ just days before their physical rescue.
I imagine the stones that fell, trapping the miners, might have seemed like stones of death, despair, and darkness. But for those 20 miners who received salvation those stones moved them toward God’s ultimate liberation. Through their harrowing experience the miners encountered Jesus, the true cornerstone for their lives.
If you feel trapped by your circumstances, let the Word of God speak to your heart. Call on Jesus and He will become your foundation for the future. If you are a Christian that is struggling, realize that Jesus alone is our cornerstone and we can always return to Him to find stability in life.
Lord, I want You to be my cornerstone. Forgive me and save me. In Your name I pray, amen.
God Will Come Through for You
I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the LORD am the Holy One in Israel (Ezekiel 39:7).
Scripture: Ezekiel 39:7-10
Song: “He’s Been Good”
My wife and I owned a Jack Russell Terrier named Emma. She was a thousand pounds of confidence in an eight-pound body. Emma had no fear and thought she defended our family. Her bravado emboldened her to sit on our front porch and bark aggressively at every dog that went by, leashed or unleashed, big or small. The amazing thing was that none of those dogs showed aggression toward the wiry terrier, but probably not for the reasons she thought. Sitting behind Emma was Juno, our ninety-pound Great Pyrenees. With Juno present, Emma could boldly claim victory.
God made bold statements about what He is going to do, particularly in reference to the profaning of His holy name. His solution for this problem is to stand up and defend His people, the downtrodden and helpless. He chooses to save those who know they cannot save themselves, resulting in everyone knowing that He is God.
He is willing to do this in your life as well. When things seem too much and it feels like the whole world is against you, He comes through for you, if you will trust Him with your life.
Father, please defend me. I trust You to overcome the great barriers in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Who Does He Say You Are?
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18).
Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20
Song: “All He Says I Am”
A young man from Cleveland showed his mother a photo of himself standing with someone, slightly shorter than him, clad in Cavaliers’ gear not yet available for the public. Mom kept talking about “the kid” in the photo and where did he get that team clothing. The son pointed out that his companion was not a kid, but Isaiah Thomas, NBA All-Star and point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mom knew the team but missed “the kid’s” identity.
When Jesus asked the disciples to identify Him, Peter responded accurately. Jesus then gave Peter’s identity, defined by the leadership role he would take for the church. However, before that identity would be fully attained Peter would fall asleep instead of remaining alert and praying, try to defend Jesus by attacking a soldier, and then outright deny he knew Jesus. But none of these choices changed what Jesus truly saw in Peter and knew about him. And, Peter went on to become exactly what Jesus said.
When we look at Jesus and tell Him that He is our Lord and Savior, He tells us who we are—His child. Find peace in the fact that Jesus knows not just who you are right now, but what you can become for Him.
Lord, please help me see what You want me to become. In Your name, amen.
February 4–10. Curtis James is a minister, husband, and father of two boys in Texas.
A Powerful Friend
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:10).
Scripture: Philippians 3:7-14
Song: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
We have different levels of friends. Among them are special friends, such as one of mine who recently passed away and left for her Heavenly home. We were on the same wave length; a friend I could confide in about personal problems. We also know people in our neighborhoods, at stores we shop, and so on. We know their faces, maybe their names, but we might not really know these people well. And then with others we might have working relationships, but not know much more about their lives outside of work. Then there may be others we’d like to know better.
Jesus is the friend that I mostly want to know better. I want Him to be more than a mere acquaintance, even more than a close friend. He is the most influential friend we will ever find. He knows our secrets and innermost thoughts and still loves us. He knows all our problems and the answers to each one. He knows how to fix what hurts us. I want to know this powerful friend and fellowship with Him not just because of what He can do for me but because I love Him for who He is and what He has already done.
Lord Jesus, thank You for such an amazing invitation to make You my friend. It is amazing to think that mere people can be intimate friends with an all-powerful God. We are humbled, blessed, and privileged. In the name of my most powerful friend, amen.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice (Philippians 4:9).
Scripture: Philippians 4:2-9
Song: “Things Are Different Now”
Who likes controversy? Some people thrive on it. I sat at the wheel of my car waiting for the green light, pickup trucks on the lanes on both sides of me. The truck doors opened and the two drivers strode to the front of my car shouting at each other, one with a baseball bat in hand, the other with a wrench. I had no idea how this would turn out. Then to my relief the light changed and they retreated to their respective trucks. I wondered what would have happened if the light hadn’t changed.
Of course something like that wouldn’t happen in church—at least not with a baseball bat and a wrench in hand—but maybe a Bible in hand! Paul pleads with Christians to be agreeable, gentle, and loyal to each other. Years ago I would occasionally get a little perturbed with people. My husband’s remedy was, “Give them the benefit of the doubt.” That’s something we want people to give us, but it works both ways. Also, I was reminded to forgive others as Christ forgives me.
Actions begin with thoughts. That’s why our thinking is so important and Paul gives us much to think about. He provides us with a practical remedy for the heart and mind and he gave us a pattern—prayer, petition, and practice equals peace.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the remedy for peace in Your Word. Help us to put it into practice every day. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The power that enables him [Jesus] to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:21).
Scripture: Philippians 3:17–4:1
Song: “It Took a Miracle”
A few summers ago I planted parsley to pick for cooking, but at the time didn’t know that parsley is a butterfly-friendly plant. Swallowtails lay their eggs on the plants. And so, before long, butterflies came to my parsley. Then there were eggs and soon big striped caterpillars . . . eating my parsley!
My husband wanted to protect the parsley and started squashing the caterpillars. Later I wished we hadn’t demolished the caterpillars. I’d much rather let caterpillars eat my parsley and then go through their transformation so I could enjoy more beautiful swallowtail butterflies in my garden. I’ll gladly buy parsley at the supermarket.
Some day we who believe will go through a transformation from our earthly bodies to glorified bodies. We’ll be equipped to live in the Heavenly realm. It won’t matter how we’ve been squashed while on earth. We could even be burned at the stake and the power of Jesus Christ will still transform us into a fit citizen of Heaven.
Heavenly Father, we stand amazed at Your majesty and power. We are humbled to be included in Your great plan for our future. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The Continuing Battle
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1, KJV).
Scripture: Philippians 3:1-6
Song: “Amazing Grace”
What a battle Paul was fighting . . . the Jewish religion vs. the Christian religion, the circumcised flesh vs. a circumcised heart, the people of Israel vs. the people of God. And today, we still have the same type of battles with the “religious” family within the family of God, the flesh vs. the Spirit.
Sadly there are still people who glory in their own accomplishments: how much they attend church; how much they pray; the jobs they do in their church. Their confidence is in their position and activities.
Paul warns us to not put confidence in ourselves or our accomplishments, not in how well versed we are in the Bible or how much zeal for God we have, not how strong a stand we take against those who do not totally believe the same, nor how legalistic we can be. But we place our confidence in His accomplishments. We rejoice in His work. He has performed surgery on our hearts. He has made us people of God, birthed us into a new family! His Spirit gives us insight into His Word plus the power to share it. We realize nothing we can do will make us righteous. Even with His righteousness He clothed us. We cannot add to His grace. For all this and more, rejoice in the Lord!
Father, we owe everything to You and Your Son Jesus who has made us acceptable. All we are and all we have is because of Your working in our lives. Thank You, in Jesus’ name, amen.
A Proper Boast
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness (2 Corinthians 11:30).
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:21b-30
Song: “My Tribute”
The hill was steep, too steep for my trike, and my descent was faster than my ability to steer. I was only a kid, a bit more adventuresome than a five-year old should be. And when the tricycle tipped over and my knee connected with the pavement, the whole neighborhood could hear my screams. Then, in minutes, strong arms were lifting me up and holding me close. It was my dad, and my tears stopped flowing.
Do you suppose that when Paul was being beaten and going through dangers and trials that in his weakness he felt the power of God lifting him up and holding him close? Paul would glory in his weakness. Why? Because in it he experienced the power of God and His glory. Paul could not endure what he went through without God-given strength. Paul’s weakness gave him the opportunity to boast about the strength of God’s grace and power in his life.
When you go through a trial, remember that your great weakness is matched by His greater strength. It gives God the opportunity to work in our lives and gives us the opportunity to tell of His greatness.
Heavenly Father, how privileged we are to serve such a great God. Thank You for lifting us up when we fall, comforting us in our weakness, and imparting Your grace in every situation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
An Open Secret
He [Jesus] entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret (Mark 7:24).
Scripture: Mark 7:24-30
Song: “It Is No Secret”
During President Eisenhower’s second term in office, he made a visit to Philadelphia. He was en-route in a black limousine, but without fanfare, to a hotel. But it’s impossible to keep the presence of the #1 person in the nation secret. The exciting news of Ike coming down the pike spread from cubicle to cubicle in the surrounding offices. I happened to be working in one of those cubicles. In no time I was in a crowd of people six rows deep only 10 feet from the President as he strode from the limo into the hotel. It was an exciting experience.
The presence of Jesus, the #1 person in the universe, could not be kept a secret. Whether He entered a private house, Peter’s boat, or was secluded in a private place, the crowd found Him. And the desperate Greek woman found Him.
The presence of God in the world cannot be hidden. Whether in the beauty of nature, institutions, and churches built because of Him, or the kindness and love shown by one person to another, the imprint of His presence is stamped upon humanity. We cannot and should not keep His presence in our lives secret. It is the children’s bread and free to all. There are still people searching for Him.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the bread of life. Help us to share Jesus with those who have not tasted. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code (Romans 2:29).
Scripture: Romans 2:25-29
Song: “Since Jesus Came into My Heart”
I have a friend who had a heart problem. His heart was not operating at full capacity. He was unable to function normally. Walking wore him out and running was out of the question. His heart could not receive enough oxygen; that is, until he underwent heart surgery. In time he was able to work, walk, even run. His life was totally changed, thanks to his physician.
Paul tells us circumcision and the law is based on works. Christianity is based on faith. Works follows faith. In other words, faith leads to works. Works do not lead to faith.
If we have a spiritual heart problem, the first step toward wellness is putting our faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit operates a spiritual circumcision of the heart. Our spiritual heart becomes fully functional as we trust Christ. Good works follow as we walk in His righteousness and our life is totally changed, thanks to our Great Physician.
Thank You, Father, for Your great healing, changing power through Your Son Jesus Christ and for Your Holy Spirit’s transformation in our lives. In Christ my Savior, redeemer, and healer, amen!
January 28–February 3. Ruth Myer and her husband were in church ministry for 35 years and are now retired in Florida but still active in church. Ruth enjoys playing the piano, creating puzzles, pool aerobics, and getting together with friends.
Just Like Jesus
Be likeminded, having the same love (Philippians 2:2, KJV).
Scripture: Philippians 2:1-11
Song: “O to Be Like Thee!”
For her book Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, Karen Blumenthal’s title is a celebration of one man’s ability to think different than everyone else. When Jobs came on the scene, groupthink was stifling creativity in the business world. It took an individual like Jobs to create such products as the iPod, iPad, and the iPhone. And with them, he rose to the front ranks of the digital revolution.
In his final years, battling cancer, he reflected on the difference all this creative thinking made in the world. One conclusion seemed to crystalize at the end: life is a fragile, precious, short-lived gift. Jobs even changed his mind about technology revolutionizing the world. He told an interviewer, “We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. Technology is not changing it much—if at all.”
The real revolution in life starts with thinking just like Jesus Christ! His love is totally different, and now we are just continuing the love He started—no need to be different. As Paul said, we are to have “the same love” (v. 2) from the same mind. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (v. 5).
Are you just like Jesus? First, do you have the same love—not a different love? Second, does it flow with the same motives—not with different motives? Does it display the same humble, sacrificial service that is His hallmark?
Dear Jesus, help me to be worthy of the name Christian by being just like You. In Your name, amen.
Every Church Needs a Timothy
I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare (Philippians 2:20).
Scripture: Philippians 2:19-30
Song: “Make Me a Servant”
Alexander Cameron was a veterinary surgeon who later became a Presbyterian minister. In his book Poultry in the Pulpit, he applied the lessons he learned as an animal doctor to parish work. One day he received a call from his friend, Charlie Trevelyan, the local zoo keeper. Charlie asked him to come over and look at a lion, named Ham, who was pacing in pain.
When Cameron arrived, he and the keeper entered the lion cage. When Ham pawed his right ear, they knew where to look. Since no knock-out darts were available, they cinched him down in a net. The lion’s brief struggle caused his abscessed ear to burst with puss. With cotton wool, the doctor cleaned out the ear, squeezed in a tube of medicinal ointment, and finished with a shot of penicillin. After the work was done, Charlie said, “Poor Ham must have suffered some with that ear.”
In the book Cameron observed, “That was typical of this man whose first thought was not what money he could make from zoo attractions, but the well-being of his animals.”
Timothy had this same mind-set. There was nothing glamorous about first century ministry. It was a wild age that required uncommon bravery. Harder still, they had to help believers with painful sin problems—never easy nor safe. But as no zoo can exist without its Charlie, so no church will survive without its Timothy.
Dear Lord, help me to love others like those You honor in Your Word. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Character That Shines
Become blameless and pure, children of God without fault . . . Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky (Philippians 2:15).
Scripture: Philippians 2:12-18
Song: “Take Time to Be Holy”
Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” and for good reason. His perfect balance of game analysis and disciplined coaching worked like magic on the basketball court. He set records that may never be broken. His career stats are remarkable. From 1948 to 1975, he had a winloss ratio of 885-203.
Pressed in an interview to be critical of former Indiana University coach Bobby Knight, he only said, “I think Bob Knight is an outstanding teacher of the game of basketball, but I don’t approve of his methods . . . and I’m not judging Bob Knight. There is so much bad in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us, it hardly behooves me to talk about the rest of us.” And with that bit of folksy wisdom, Wooden revealed what he loved most: Sportsmanlike conduct in all situations. Though bated by a reporter, he maintained his shining example.
What Wooden did for basketball, we should do for Christianity. We should champion high standards. Do you love what God loves? Like any good coach, our Lord loves a winner, but He loves good character even more. Making a name for yourself in ministry statistics is not the greatest achievement. When “children of God” becomes synonymous with “blameless and pure,” then you will shine “like stars in the sky.”
Dear Jesus, keep me from sacrificing my integrity on the altar of success! In Your name, amen.
Choose Good Pain
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered (Hebrews 5:8, KJV).
Scripture: Hebrews 5:1-10
Song: “Yes, Lord, Yes”
Erwin Lutzer, in his book Seven Snares of the Enemy, related a meeting he had with a man in his study. “He was in love with a woman who was not his wife. I explained that this relationship had to end; he had to return to his wife. He still had deep affection toward this other woman. I explained that he would have to end his ‘affair,’ even grieving over the loss. Jesus would say, ‘Even though it hurts, do it.’”
This man learned that cutting out sin hurts, but it would bear positive fruit in his life. We know this is true in physical exercise, where soreness gives way to strength. It is true in physical therapy, where pain is part of the healing process. In all such cases: “No pain, no gain!” No one illustrates this better than Jesus Christ.
Our Lord suffered the most, with the cross being the climax. Yet, as verse seven indicates, He prayed for strength to endure it, “and was heard in that he feared.” Feared what? The worst pain of all—disobedience to His Heavenly Father! Not even the cross could cause Him more pain! This was Dr. Lutzer’s point to the adulterous man. Breaking off an affair hurts, but sin’s consequences hurt more.
As with Jesus, the good pain ends, while the gains keep rolling in. May we take the long view and enjoy the returns!
Dear Jesus, help me sow the good pain that I may reap a lasting harvest! In Your name, amen.
What’s Your Whistle Worth?
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Song: “Jesus, Thank You”
In The Man Who Dared the Lightning by Thomas Fleming, an incident is told from the life of Benjamin Franklin. When he was seven years old he was given some small change by a visitor. Later, he saw a boy playing with a whistle. Little Ben offered all his money for it. He really loved his new toy and played it all over the house.
One day he discovered he had paid four times what it was really worth. Instantly, the whistle lost its charm. Ben Franklin learned a valuable lesson, and later turned it into a life principle. As an adult, whenever he saw a man neglecting his family and abandoning his friends for wealth or power, he would say, “He pays too much for his whistle.” How true. Many a popular endeavor simply costs too much. Those deceptive whistles steal their last breath. However, one is worth it.
The apostle Paul was a one-whistle-man, and he never stopped making noise with it. He would play it to all within earshot. To casual observers, it looked like Paul was wasting his breath on an over-rated novelty picked up on the Damascus Road. Paul knew better. Unlike Franklin’s toy whistle, the gospel never lost its charm, because it never lost its worth. Jesus paid a high price for our whistle. No wonder we love it so much!
Dear Savior, let my breath be dedicated to making the gospel known! In Your name, amen.
Less Bulk, More Value
Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word (Psalm 119:65, KJV).
Scripture: Psalm 119:65-72
Song: “Molding a Masterpiece”
The following words appeared in the June, 1973 issue of The Prairie Overcomer: “This figure will be sharp millions of years from now. It won’t deteriorate like paintings or get pitted like marble or bronze.” That was the claim of gem sculptor Harry B. Derian, who spent a year researching and eight months carving a ruby figurine of Christ’s head. The five-and-one-half inch carving stands on a 14-carat gold base cast to represent Golgotha, the hill on which Jesus was crucified. In 1973, its worth was estimated at $750,000— think what its value must be today!
Derian’s creation wore out 70 drill bits made of diamonds, the only gem harder than rubies. The original gem weighed 4,060 carats. It’s bulk was reduced by 2,890 carats during the carving process. To make this exquisite work of art, the gem lost 1,170 carats. It gained in value, beauty, and symbolism what it lost in crude weight.
God is the true master artist, who drills us down to size so that our worth to Him can skyrocket. Left to ourselves, we are just crude lumps of unrefined potential. It requires the diamond-like points of truth, which unlike Derian’s tools, retain their cutting power forever. Like the psalmist, we should praise the Lord that He loves us enough to conform us into the glorious image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
Heavenly Father, help me to submit to every loss that I might gain eternal value. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Love Found a Way
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground (Isaiah 53:2).
Scripture: Isaiah 52:13–53:9
Song: “Love Found a Way”
If you ever visit Death Valley in California, you’ll see that the locations are appropriately named. The map identifies the Funeral Mountains, Last Chance Range, Coffin Canyon, and Deadman Pass—not your typical vacation destinations! As park ranger Alan Van Valkenburg says, “This is a very tough place for life to survive. There’s extreme heat and dryness. But with that said, life manages to find a way.” He’s right. Life finds a way to beat the heat. Love overcomes even greater odds.
This old fallen world is the equivalent of Death Valley, only worse. Sin bakes and blisters the land. Moral and spiritual growth shrivels and even vanishes under hot temptations and trials. And yet Jesus Christ entered this deadly environment as a tender shoot. Because of His great love, He never wilted under pressure.
Satan always found a way to turn up the heat, and Jesus always found a way to fight back and flourish more. And though Satan’s hatred found a way to make Calvary’s cross bone-dry of mercy, Jesus’ love found a way to make it a flowing fountain in Death Valley! That’s where we fill up on His love. After all, “we love [Him] because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Dear Jesus, help me bring Your refreshing love to a barren world. In Your name, amen.
January 21–27. Richard M. Robinson lives in Thornton, Colorado, with his wife, Donna. He serves in pastoral ministry but also enjoys occasional graphic and website design.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21, KJV).
Scripture: Philippians 1:12-21
Song: “Jesus, All for Jesus”
As a young lady, Joan prayed for God’s guidance. He asked her to be a missionary in Africa with no steady income. She obeyed. Later, He told her to pursue journalism, even though she disliked writing. She did. Then, He asked her to become a foster parent, even though she is single. She surrendered as she exclaimed, “He is always asking me to do things I would never do!”
In the course of his life as a follower of Christ, Paul was a tentmaker, a street preacher, a writer, and a missionary. He gave himself to following God. His sole motive was to see Christ proclaimed. His actions inspired others to preach Christ and to live for Christ.
We don’t always understand God’s leading. We may suffer physically or have financial hardship. We may lack experience. But as long as we are listening and following the Holy Spirit, God is honored. Whether we are a plumber, a preacher, or a student, our calling is the same: Follow God. We can bring Him glory, no matter what our vocation is. God did not intend us to be carbon copies of each other. Rather, He delights in our creativity and our diversity. What is your vocation? What is your daily routine? Let it display Christ in you. Whatever you do, do it all for Him.
Father, no matter what our vocation in life is, help us to please You. Lead us in our every day moments to bring You praise and to please Your Son, Christ Jesus, Our Lord. In His name, amen.
Who Is in Your Life?
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3, KJV).
Scripture: Philippians 1:3-11
Song: “Blest Be the Tie that Binds”
She sat in the corner with her Bible. I didn’t want to disturb her, yet I sensed the Spirit nudging me to her. Taking a deep breath, I approached and asked, “Are you a Christian?” She beamed at me, “Yes, I am!” From that moment on, Melinda was my only Christian friend at my job. Her face radiated God’s light. She read her Bible on her break time, and she always had a worship song on her lips. Melinda’s faith encouraged me.
Paul’s letter to Philippi overflows with his love for them. Because they genuinely cared for him and showed it through their actions, Paul held them in a special place in his heart. He expressed how thankful he was for them and how he loved interceding to God on their behalf.
A joy in the Christian life is having brothers and sisters in every part of the globe. We are not created to live alone. God desires us to thrive in deep, fulfilling fellowship with like-minded people. Who has God put in front of you? Are you praying for them to be filled with the knowledge of God? Are you worshipping together? Volunteer in your community. Start a Bible study group. Host a dinner. Allow God’s Spirit to connect you. In the body of Christ, joy, grace, and peace bind us together.
Lord Jesus, lead us today to those who need encouragement and prayer. Make us willing vessels, usable for Your glory today. In Your name, I pray, amen.
The Chain of Love
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27).
Scripture: Philippians 1:27-30
Song: “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning”
Diane noticed the family living in the motel across the highway from her house. The father had lost his job and the family lost their home. Without hesitation, Diane provided the family new clothes, school supplies for the children, and other necessities to aid them. The youngest daughter of the family hugged Diane tightly, and said, “Thank you.” Diane’s eyes swelled with tears. She showed kindness and received love in return.
Paul encouraged the believers to live as worthy of the gospel. He knew that their lives were hard, yet he pushed them to persevere in good works. The good news of Christ’s death and resurrection affects every aspect of living. Paul knew that Christ had left His people on the earth to work on His behalf for everyone.
Christ’s work on the cross compels us to love. It is easy to judge those in need. It is tempting to walk the other direction. Generosity must win out over selfishness. Not a day is wasted if we choose love in action. To emulate Christ’s example, we are kind and gracious. We humble ourselves. As we surrender, God’s love is poured out on others and on ourselves. We bless, and we are blessed. We give, and are given to. It sparks a chain reaction of giving and receiving. And, above all, Jesus is magnified.
Father, Your Son gave everything when He died on the cross. Give us the grace to follow His example. Teach us to live with an overflowing heart of gratitude. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.
A Purpose On Earth
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you (Philippians 1:24, KJV).
Scripture: Philippians 1:22-26
Song: “Have I Done My Best for Jesus”
Sue walked with a slight limp and a hunched back. Multiple surgeries helped her crooked spine and disjointed hips. Despite her broken-down body, she never ceased serving in her local church. She cleaned the church building, sang in the choir, and served breakfast each week to the church leaders. “While I’m waiting for the Lord’s return, I’ll stay busy,” she said. Her desire remained to serve others.
Paul wrote Philippians while in prison for his faith. Prison bars couldn’t shake his resolve. He desired to be with Christ but also to help the young Christians in Philippi. He knew that whether he lived or died, Christ would receive glory. He never lost his passion for Christ.
Christians brim with hope for beyond the grave. Still, it is easy to have our hearts set on Heaven and to neglect the present. God places each of us on earth for a reason. We raise our eyes in prayer, but we lower our gaze to notice around us. We are called to encourage the weak. Help the poor. Aid the suffering. Give of our time and resources. Who is our neighbor? Where can we serve? How can we give? Let us not falter or grow discouraged. With zealous spirits and purposeful hearts, let us give our best until Christ returns.
Father God, give us strength as we work for You. We worship You with our tongues and our actions. Open our eyes to those in need of help. In Your name, I pray, amen.
Opposite of the World
We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it. (1 Corinthians 4:12).
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Song: “His Way with Thee”
From May to August of 1945, any German nationals living in the country of Czechoslovakia were expelled. To the Czech government, whether these Germans had supported Hitler’s regime or not, was inconsequential. Among the displaced were two sisters, Friedl and Gretl. They endured homelessness, hunger, and separation from family. However, they held fast to hope, despite the suffering. When asked how they refused bitterness, Gretl said, “One must simply forgive.”
Paul reprimanded the Corinthian church for its spiritual pride. Their worldly riches and righteous deeds were blinding them to God’s truth. Paul reminded them that the calling of the Christian is to suffer with joy and to display God’s love, no matter what circumstances surround us. We will suffer hardship, prejudice, and inequality. The world’s quick-tempered response is anger and resentment. Yet, as Christ followers, His strength transforms our trouble into a platform for praising Him. Love, blessing, and peace—these things are the trademarks of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him for help. Release the pain to Him. He creates joy where we only see sorrow. He enables forgiveness when we are powerless against our enemies. Let us be willing to showcase His power. His way is the better way.
Lord Jesus, on the cross, You forgave those who crucified You. Your pain brought redemption to the world. Thank You for Your example of love and kindness. Teach us to walk in Your footsteps with humility and grace. In Your name, amen.
No Room for Jealousy
I wish that all the LORD’S people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them! (Numbers 11:29).
Scripture: Numbers 11:24-30
Song: “A Glorious Church”
Sean’s hand trembled as he dialed the phone. Was he failing as a leader? What would his congregation think? With a shaky voice, he explained his church’s need to the minister of the church across town. “We can’t pay our rent. We are struggling, yet we desire to share the good news.”
The fellow minister replied, “Our congregation will support your church financially for the next several months. You are not alone.” Sean gratefully accepted the help.
Moses displayed a constant faith in God and fervor for holiness. However, he grew exhausted from the weight of leadership on his shoulders. God responded by giving 70 Israelite elders a portion of His Spirit. Moses was not offended; instead, he praised God for the help. He was happy that God was speaking rather than feeling jealous over who He was using.
Spreading the gospel is an enormous responsibility, so we ask for help so we do not burn out. Humility recognizes limitations. Competition doesn’t belong in God’s kingdom but encouragement and grace do. When we co-labor with fellow believers, we advance His kingdom. More voices proclaim His love. More hands to do His will. We are not soloists. We are a united choir for His glory. His Spirit is on all of us—let’s do more together.
Father God, thank You for Your people everywhere who are ready to do Your work together. Let us brightly burn for You in a dark, discouraged world. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Sent by God
God sent me before you to preserve you a prosperity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance (Genesis 45:7, KJV).
Scripture: Genesis 45:1-8
Song: “Where He Leads Me”
“The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for,” Jim wrote to his fiancée Elizabeth while he finished seminary. She read the letter with hope for their future. God had called them to a remote tribe who had not heard the gospel. A few years later, Jim was killed by the very tribe he was trying to reach. Rather than flee in fear, Elizabeth carried on the work. Her perseverance showed the Auca Indian tribe how much God loved them. Many became followers of Jesus.
Joseph said three times to his brothers, “God sent me.” He had endured wrongful accusations, slavery, and imprisonment. Yet he remained steadfast in the belief that God was working in it all for His will. It was through Joseph that God saved Israel.
Pain can breed bitterness. Injustice can evoke retaliation. It is difficult to understand God’s purpose while we are in the trenches of suffering. But God invites us to look to Him for direction. He commissions us to spread His light. We are sent for the good of people. Raise your head! Hold to your faith! God is working. Ask Him for eyes of faith. Then, steady on.
Lord God, thank You for Your master plan. Help us to walk with steady feet in unshakeable faith. In Jesus’ name, amen.
January 14–20. Kathleen Dunlap lives in Colorado with her husband, son, and Great Dane. She enjoys cooking new recipes, crocheting, and going on Sunday afternoon drives with her family.
High Seas of Grace
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6, KJV).
Scripture: James 4:1-10
Song: “Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord”
John Wesley hated the sea and abhorred the idea of sailing on it. However, his first ministerial duties required him to travel from England to Georgia in America. His early letters describe the harrowing conditions crossing the ocean. While most people could empathize that fear would seize his heart, John Wesley had no positive appraisal of himself in those moments of trial. Rather, he said, “At night I was awakened by the tossing of the ship and roaring of the wind, and plainly showed I was unfit, for I was unwilling, to die.” People benefitted because John Wesley survived his trials at sea and allowed God to humble him and by grace grow him into the evangelist he became.
Selfish desires, greed, and arrogance yield bitter fruit. These behaviors result in destruction; they never produce a good result. Positive and beneficial goods come only as a result of God’s generous grace. To the person who is honest and humble before Him, God is willing to pour out His favor.
Humility requires honest self-reflection. This week, as you pray to God, come with a heart that is wide open. Allow God to reveal any places that are weak and in need of strengthening. Our Father loves humble people and desires to lift them up.
Father, I lay my life open and bare before You. Please show me ways in which I most need to change and please give me the grace to grow. In Christ I pray, amen.
God’s Perfect Plans
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15).
Scripture: James 4:13-17
Song: “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”
In his book, The Longview, Roger Parrott quotes a university president who had led his school through many positive, high-impact changes as saying, “You know, the most significant things that have ever happened to this place were never planned.” That certainly characterizes the experience of the Christian school I work for in Thailand. No amount of long-term planning could have foreseen that the Highway Department would start tearing down several of our school buildings less than five years after we constructed them. Yet, God turned this unforeseen “problem” into good by providing our school with the resources to construct new, larger buildings that will allow us to enroll an additional 100 students.
James makes a singular, unequivocal point in this passage. Longterm planning is God’s business. He is the only one who knows what the future holds. Our job is to live faithfully before Him each day and to do our best to do His will.
Of course, we must make plans for the future. But that is never our primary goal. The number one job in our lives is to seek to do God’s will. Then, we will be prepared to take the right course of action when the often unpredictable future arrives.
Father, today we lay our plans before You and ask that You give us eyes to see the opportunities You are placing before us. May all we do today and tomorrow be in accordance with Your will for us. Because of Christ we pray, amen.
Keep It Clean
Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness (Romans 6:13).
Scripture: Romans 6:1-14
Song: “Lord, Make Us Instruments of Your Peace”
Surgeons thoroughly wash their hands before performing an operation. However, the doctor’s hands are not the only things that must be cleansed before surgery commences. All the tools—scalpels and scissors, rasps and rongeurs, lancets and ligature devices —must be sanitized beforehand. Can you imagine the horrified reaction a patient would have if the surgeon washed his hands but neglected to clean the implements?
Jesus invites us to rid our lives of sin. In Him, we are made new. The old life characterized by slavery to sin is removed. In its place, He gives us a life of freedom, a life alive to God, a life characterized by righteousness.
Because we are not yet perfect, it can be easy for us to try to justify our sin. That is not how those who have died in Christ and been raised with Him are meant to live. We are meant to be pure and righteous in every domain of life. Just like the surgeon must remove every impurity from the implements of his trade, so does God require that we present every part of our life to Him as an instrument of righteousness for service in His kingdom.
Father, please give us strength and courage to walk in righteousness in every area of our lives. Fill us with the light of Your ways and the fruit of Your Spirit. Through Christ, amen.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:2).
Scripture: Psalm 42
Song: “As Thirsts the Hart for Water Brooks”
Living abroad causes moments when you so desperately crave food from your native country that you think you won’t survive another day without it. Thankfully, our friends and family in the U.S. understand that, and one of the special gifts they give us when we are home is food. Deer steak, strawberry shortcake, sandwiches loaded with deli meat and spicy mustard, crawfish étouffée, and beef just make life better. They are the flavors of my home.
The author of this psalm wants God so badly he can taste it. He says his soul thirsts for God. In the midst of suffering such torment that tears have been his food day after day and night after night, the psalmist cries out that his one, deep yearning is for God. Being with God will satisfy him, meeting with God will quench the thirst burning in his soul.
The world will offer many false substitutes for God as having the power to comfort us in our sorrow (money, sex, alcohol, and, yes, even food). When our soul is downcast, we should learn the lesson of this psalmist and turn our yearning toward God. Our Father is the only one who can meet our deepest needs and give us hope in times of trouble.
Father, we want more of You in our lives. We ask that You meet us in the deep places of our lives and give joy, strength and renewal to our souls. In Christ we ask, amen.
Love after Loss
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift (Matthew 5:24, KJV).
Scripture: Matthew 5:21-26
Song: “God! When Human Bonds Are Broken”
A number of years ago, I had the privilege of eating lunch with a scholar whom I greatly admired. Her work on stress, loss, and resilience was among the best in the country. During that lunch, she shared about her newest work which was focused on reconciliation. She had just spent considerable time working with women who had lost sons in the war between Bosnia and Herzegovina. My jaw fell open as I listened to her tell about bringing together mothers from each country to talk to each other and begin the process of healing and restoration.
Jesus likens the hurt we inflict on others, with words spoken in anger, to murder. Actions driven by anger, whether physical or verbal, hurt. They tear apart and destroy. Sinful behaviors rooted in anger have no place in the kingdom as Jesus presents it in the Sermon on the Mount. Rather, His vision is that forgiveness and reconciliation should characterize God’s kingdom.
Forgiveness and reconciliation can be experienced by everyone and offered by everyone. Those women in Bosnia and Herzegovina engaged in the process of healing even after experiencing the worst tragedies imaginable. Truly, in God’s kingdom, there is nothing that cannot be forgiven, healed, and made new in Christ.
Father, thank You that Your church is a place of reconciliation. Please help us be people who are quick to forgive and eager to love. In Christ our Savior, amen.
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it (1 Corinthians 12:24).
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:18-26
Song: “Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord”
After my youngest son injured his pinky toe he quickly went from running and jumping to limping and hobbling. As I watched him struggle to walk, it occurred to me that I almost never think about my pinky toe. It is usually covered up. About the only time I notice it is when something goes wrong. Then, I am acutely aware of its presence.
When it comes to roles, jobs, and functions in God’s church, there are no pinky toes. Our Heavenly Father never forgets about any people and the associated gifts that they bring to the body of Christ. Paul encourages us to recognize and honor all people and their contributions to the church. In God’s kingdom, each person and each of their gifts are indispensable to the body’s proper functioning and are worthy of special honor and praise.
This week, try to notice the contributions people make to your congregation. Who cleaned the church, made coffee, set up AV equipment for worship, made the bulletin, showed up early to greet people, handled the finances, volunteered to pray, or watched babies in the nursery? As you notice people making these contributions, go tell them thank you as a way of honoring their service to the body.
Father, thank You for the variety of gifts in Your body. We are thankful for all the unique and wonderful ways You allow us to serve You and others in Your kingdom. In Christ, amen.
So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach (Matthew 23:3).
Scripture: Matthew 23:1-11
Song: “The Lord, The Judge, His Churches Warns”
There is a man at my boys’ school who inspires everyone around him toward greatness. He does this effectively because he walks what he talks—and at times, even dribbles as he walks the walk. In addition to being a principal and teacher, this man also loves coaching basketball. One day, he challenged the high school guys to start walking to school once a week while dribbling a basketball like he did when he was their age. However, he did not only call them to action with his words; he backed it up by joining them on the Thursday morning three-mile dribble-walk to school.
Amid a harsh rebuke about the Pharisees’ lifestyle of hypocrisy, Jesus presents a positive vision for His disciples. We are to be people whose lifestyle matches our words. Followers of Jesus do not simply tell other people how to live—they show them how to live.
The adage, “Actions speak louder than words,” contains much truth. As disciples of Jesus, we must consider how we can influence others positively through our “practices” as well as our “preaching.” Our world is in desperate need of people who can inspire greatness through their actions, not simply their rhetoric.
Father, may our actions today be the best sermon our neighbors hear this week. Through Christ, amen.
January 7–13. Troy D. Stuart is married and has three sons. He has worked at a university in the U.S. and a Christian school in Thailand.
A Bible Worth Dying For
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance (2 Thessalonians 3:5). And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands (2 John 6).
Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5; 2 John 4-11
Song: “How Firm a Foundation”
William Tyndale thought reading the Bible was worth dying for. He was a priest in the 16th century who was brilliant with languages. He was convinced and dedicated to the idea that the people of England should be able to read the Bible for themselves, so he began to translate it from Greek and Hebrew into English. This was against the law at the time so Tyndale traveled Europe while translating Scripture in order to avoid arrest . . . for nine years. In 1536 he was strangled and burned at the stake as a heretic.
Tyndale knew that reading God’s Word is important for God’s people to be equipped to walk in truth and in obedience to Christ’s commands. Of course, this means having the Scriptures in the language each person understands. Reading the Bible regularly gives us strength to obey, confidence in God’s love, and allows us to recognize false teaching. Even if it’s only a few verses, make time today to read and study God’s Word, starting with today’s passages.
Father God, thank You for the availability of Your Word and the freedom to read it. Help me to obey Your command to walk in love and to continue in the teaching of Christ. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 7).
Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Song: “Take My Life and Let It Be”
When Benjamin Franklin was a young man and owned his own stationer’s shop, he was careful not only to be industrious, but to be seen as industrious. He avoided places of “idle diversion” so customers wouldn’t hear of him wasting his time and money. For example, when he bought paper supplies for his shop, he would load the supplies into a wheelbarrow and then push them down the street himself. He earned a reputation as a hard worker and his business grew because of it.
Our reputation is seen as a reflection of Christ’s character because we are Christ’s representatives here on earth. So consider how to build a reputation of industrious, honest, and effective work “with all your heart as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). Try to view your life through a stranger’s eyes: what kind of a reputation are you giving Jesus Christ?
Father, help me not to be idle, but to do good and to show the world how wonderful You are. Help me to be a hard worker and to bring glory to Your name. In Christ I pray. Amen.
God’s Love Is Firm Ground
May our Lord Jesus Christ . . . who loved us . . . encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17).
Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
Song: “Generous King”
In college, some friends and I were in a car accident on a curving mountain road. No one was seriously injured, though I had a nasty scrape on my neck from the seatbelt. We were stranded far from school and even farther from my home. One friend’s parents lived nearby and they took us in for the night. They didn’t just feed us and give us a place to sleep; they went out of their way to generously provide for all of our needs, both physical and emotional. They comforted us, encouraged us, and bought us toothbrushes. The next day, when we returned to school, I didn’t feel traumatized but strengthened and loved.
God has been generous with us. He has loved us, chosen us, saved us, and called us to share in Christ’s glory. He has given us eternal encouragement and good hope. All of this generosity gives us strength to stand firm and hold to Christ’s teachings just as the parents of my friend did when they helped me recover from the shock of a car accident. Take a moment to focus your thoughts on God’s generous provision and stand firm in His love today.
Lord, thank You for being so generous to me. Help me to stand firm on the foundation of Your love, grace, and eternal promises. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Global Prayer Time
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 4).
Scripture: 3 John 2-8
Song: “Hold Us Together”
Housework can feel discouragingly mundane. Vacuuming, dusting, and cooking dinner don’t have an impact on history or affect change across the globe. But every month or so the mail brings me a magazine about Christian believers around the world. Some of the news stories bring sorrow for the hardships my brothers and sisters are facing. But all of them bring joy for the ways God is working to strengthen and expand His kingdom: the child from Mongolia who receives life-saving medical treatment; the couple in the United States whose marriage is saved; the church leader in Africa who praises God even as he stands in the rubble of his bombed-out church.
It brings me joy to hear that my brothers and sisters are faithful to the truth. They encourage me to be faithful as well and to praise God for what He is doing in their lives and in my own. I may be in my kitchen in Delaware, yet I feel connected to God’s children all over the world. I can’t be there with them, but I can send them financial support, I can rejoice with them in God’s faithfulness, and most importantly I can pray for them, knowing that prayer to our Holy God is never mundane.
Heavenly Father, bless Your children who are walking in the truth. May they prosper and be in good health even as their souls prosper. Thank You for expanding and strengthening Your kingdom around the world. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The Truth Will Come Out
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth (1 John 2:20).
Scripture: 1 John 2:20-27
Song: “Thy Word”
I sat on my hands and held my breath while a couple I respected stood before our church and shared their good news: they had met a man, a prophet, who knew exactly when Christ was going to return. They were full of joy because Christ was coming in just a few months and they wanted the rest of us to be ready like they were. The couple had been Christians a lot longer than I had—I was only in middle school—but something about what they were saying didn’t sit right with me. Didn’t the Bible say that only God knew the day and time that Jesus Christ would return to earth? It didn’t take my young brain long to come to a simple conclusion: either the supposed prophet was wrong or the Bible was. I chose to believe the Bible. Within a few weeks, the couple realized their error.
The Bible is truth and when someone teaches something that disagrees with that truth, the Holy Spirit, our anointing, warns us. Reading the Bible regularly is the best way to know the truth and therefore to identify if a teaching is true or false. Reading what Jesus said about Himself in John 3 is a good place to start.
Lord, thank You that Your Word is true. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit living inside me. Help me to abide in You and to love and study Your Word. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.
I Don’t Like Her, I Love Her
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness (1 John 2:9).
Scripture: 1 John 2:7-11
Song: “A New Commandment”
I waved goodbye to my sister in Christ and smiled, through clenched teeth. This was because I found the woman nearly impossible to work with. I found her to be cold and distant. To add to that, she had rejected most of my ideas for the project we were working on. I talked with the Lord about my frustration, concluding with, “I just don’t like her, Lord.”
The Holy Spirit responded, “I didn’t command you to like her, I commanded you to love her.” I stopped in my tracks to reflect on that more. I realized that love isn’t a warm fuzzy feeling I have to somehow produce myself; love is a command that sets out the way I choose to act toward a brother or sister in Christ.
I grinned as I felt my shoulders relax. I took a deep breath. “I can do that, Lord!” From that moment on, I made a point to love that sister and soon I began to like her as well. I discovered that she is warm, wise, and faithful.
If someone in your life is difficult to like, remember that God chose that person just as He chose you. Resolve to live in the light by showing that person God’s love with God’s help.
Father, thank You for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank You for loving each one of us as we are and for making us all different. Help me act in love toward my fellow believers. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Love With Skin on It
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down ones’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command (John 15:12-14).
Scripture: John 15:12-17
Song: “Do Something”
My friend Pam had a rough childhood. When a friend started taking her to church, Pam believed that God loved her, but she didn’t feel loved until she became friends with a woman she now calls her spiritual mom. Her spiritual mom hugged and held her with physical arms. She listened to her with physical ears and talked with her on the phone for hours with a physical voice.
To feel loved, Pam needed more than a theological concept or a verse from the Bible: she needed love “with skin on it,” as she says. Experiencing love in a tangible way strengthened Pam’s faith in God’s love—a love that is just as real, but at times more difficult for us to feel.
Find a way to show love “with skin on it” to someone today; it can be as simple as an encouraging word, a listening ear, or a helpful pair of hands.
Lord, thank You for choosing me and calling me to be Your friend. Help me to love Your people in a way they can feel and point them to Your love. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
December 31–January 6. Katie Robles lives in Delaware with her husband and four young sons. She blogs, gardens, and works in a school cafeteria.
All for Jesus
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46
Song: “May the Mind of Christ My Savior”
In the 1700s a world-wide empire and the Industrial Revolution brought prosperity to Britain, but many suffered. Poor men, women, and children worked 16 hours a day, six days a week, and lived in disease-ridden slums. The slave trade transported millions of Africans to a life of cruel servitude.
But also in the 1700s, largely through the preaching of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, revival swept across the British Isles. The Holy Spirit changed the hearts of people from all classes and denominations, giving them the gift of salvation and eternal life through Christ.
These new Christians, moved by love for Jesus and their neighbors, worked to end poverty and slavery. Robert Raikes opened Sunday schools for working children. Charles Howard and Hannah Fry worked for better prison conditions. William Wilberforce and Hannah More helped end slavery in the British Empire.
Biographies of these men and women show it was their faith in Christ that led them to sacrificially give of themselves, as Christ did, to minister to the poor and needy. Christians throughout history have often been the catalyst for charitable work in their cities, countries, and around the world.
Heavenly Father, thank You that we don’t have to be wealthy or highly placed to share our love for Christ in our communities. Help us watch for ways we can serve You in the world. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Cast out Fear
Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. . . . “I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground” (Matthew 25:14, 19, 25).
Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30
Song: “Dismiss Me Not Thy Service, Lord”
In my first year teaching art I injured my back. Doctors found nothing seriously wrong and recommended a short rest, but the pain made me so fearful, I hardly moved for two weeks. I thought I’d never teach again, but my doctor sent me to physical therapy. Therapists helped me begin exercising and walking. I was still afraid, but they had me start slowly and gradually increase my time. My back began to improve.
When I returned to school, my back hadn’t completely healed, but I knew when I followed the therapists’ directions, I gained strength. So I kept walking and exercising, and gradually I was able to do more of the job I loved—teaching art and helping my students see God’s creativity in the world and in each other.
God knows our unique abilities and gives us responsibilities in His kingdom accordingly. Sometimes the responsibilities stretch us, though, and out of fear, we want to bury our talents. But we must trust that God will strengthen us as we carry on faithfully.
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us abilities to serve Your kingdom in our communities. Help us see the opportunities You also give and serve without fear. In Your name I pray, amen.
At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them (Matthew 25:1-3).
Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13
Song: “How Great Thou Art”
The solar eclipse was just a week away. Eclipse fever gripped everyone who was close to the “path of totality.” Experts warned we needed special glasses for safety, but we put off looking for the glasses, until it was too late. On the Internet we saw more warnings and alternative ways to safely view the eclipse. Suggestions included homemade pinhole cameras, or viewing the eclipse shadow through small openings, such as between leaves. Eclipse day arrived, and we tried the alternatives, but we only saw the eclipse indirectly. We didn’t experience the real thing until some prepared neighbors shared their glasses with us.
This parable focuses on the essential preparation for Jesus’ return: faith in His death on the cross for our sins. Though we don’t know when Jesus will come, the glory of His return will eclipse every other celestial event ever. There will be no small “path of totality” either. Everyone on earth will see His return, but only those with faith in Christ will join with Him and participate fully. At that time no one will be able to borrow faith as we borrowed glasses for the eclipse.
Heavenly Father, help us be prepared with true faith in our hearts, so we may participate with joy in the glorious return of Jesus. In His name I pray, amen.
Symbols of Hope
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14).
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Song: “In Christ Alone”
Graffiti sprawls across the walls lining the train tracks into Rome, and very little gives encouragement or hope. Outside Rome is a different story. Underground catacombs go down for several levels into the soft volcanic tuff. Early Christians buried their dead in niches lining the walls of these narrow subterranean tunnels. Gradually people switched to cemeteries around churches, and the catacombs were abandoned and forgotten until the 1500s. Though some thought Christians hid there during persecutions, we now know the catacombs weren’t a place to hide, but a place to express hope in the resurrection. On the walls of the tunnels, grieving believers carved anchors, representing hope. They painted frescoes of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
The Thessalonians were grieving, as we all do, when loved ones die. Paul gives comfort with the gospel message that in our grief we have hope, because Jesus died and rose again. He assures us that when Christ returns, those who have fallen asleep in Him will return with Him, and those still alive will join the jubilant reunion of Christians from all ages.
Heavenly Father, thank You that even in grief, we have hope because of Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of His return. In His name I pray, amen.
Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me (Mark 9:37).
Scripture: Mark 9:33-37
Song: “All God’s Children”
A hot wind blows the scent of hay across the arena. In the center a little girl in a pink helmet perches on a big white horse. She sits tall and calls, “Walk on!” Her parents exchange wide grins, but this isn’t a normal riding lesson. Their daughter has special needs, and it is an equine therapy session, which helps children and adults with disabilities. It can’t happen, though, without compassionate volunteers, committed to serving these children and adults.
In this riding lesson, with volunteers leading the horse and supporting her on each side, the little girl can work without fear on tasks the instructor gives her to improve her speech, balance, or strength. The lesson ends with high-fives all around and a hug for Moses, the horse.
Jesus always gave love and attention to children, who loved and trusted Him. In this passage Jesus calls a child to stand next to Him as He teaches the disciples. They had been arguing about who was greatest, not how to serve others. It could have been scary to stand among all those adults, but with Jesus’ arms around him, the child leans back without fear. In this child’s humble trust and dependence on Jesus, the disciples saw that true greatness means serving others and leading them to Christ.
Heavenly Father, help us humbly serve You by welcoming and helping children and others in need, so they may rest secure in the arms of Christ. In Your name I pray, amen.
Beloved Little Ones
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward (Matthew 10:42).
Scripture: Matthew 10:40-42
Song: “I Love to Tell the Story”
When my mother entered a nursing home, they asked for a photo of her as a young woman to remind staff and visitors that these older folks were once active adults. One day I wandered around thinking about the people in the photos, many of whom served in WW II. The man in an army uniform may have landed on the beaches of Normandy, while one in navy blue may have endured kamikaze attacks in the Pacific. Women also served in the military or built tanks and grew Victory Gardens. We owe these folks honor and care for all they did to preserve our freedoms.
In today’s passage, Jesus called His disciples “little ones,” as a term of endearment and to emphasize that His true disciples are humble servants. In our churches are many older saints who are humble servants of the Lord. The man with the cane may have smuggled Bibles into Eastern Europe, while the white-haired lady may have translated the Bible into a people’s heart language. Others faithfully taught generations of children to love Jesus. These older saints are God’s beloved “little ones,” and we owe them our love and honor for preserving the faith for us.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the witness of older saints in our churches. Help us take time to know and serve them as beloved members of Your family. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.
How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? . . . I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts (Habakkuk 1:2; 2:1).
Scripture: Habakkuk 1:2-4; 2:1-4
Song: “Before the Throne of God Above”
Between 1873 and 1877 grasshopper plagues invaded many Midwestern states. In her book On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder said swarms blocked the sun and looked like glittering snowflakes. On the ground, their munching sounded like crackling fire as they reduced crops to stubble. They laid eggs, and newly-hatched grasshoppers joined arriving swarms to eat more crops. By spring of 1877 some families neared starvation, and the Minnesota Governor, John Pillsbury, declared a day of prayer. When several warm days followed, allowing more grasshoppers to hatch, skeptics laughed. Faithful people kept praying, though, and day four brought a freeze that killed many grasshoppers. That summer the grasshopper plagues ended.
Habakkuk cried out to God in a hard time and even complained that God wasn’t listening. The prophet didn’t give up, though; he continued to pray and watch for God’s answer. Far from being angry at the prophet’s complaints, God understood and answered. The Lord wants us to come to Him with our deepest fears.
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to die for our sins, so that, resting in His righteousness, we may bring every concern to You and watch in faith for Your answers. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
December 24–30. Kathy O’Neill is a teacher, who writes and speaks about art and Christian history. She lives in Colorado with her husband and enjoys serving the Lord in various ministries, and spends time traveling, reading, and walking her corgi.
The Light of Christ
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel (Luke 2:30-32,KJV).
Scripture: Luke 1:26-31; 2:22, 25-35
Song: “This Little Light of Mine”
Reporting for Army active duty in Baltimore, Maryland, my wife and I found an apartment in a row house. These two-story identical brick units were all joined together and went for blocks. The second night we lived there I went out to a store for milk and bread. When I returned after dark all row houses looked exactly the same. I couldn’t see the house numbers in the dark, and I had forgotten our address anyway. But, by driving around into the alley I discovered that each house had unique features and ours was unique in that it had a fenced back yard. Home at last!
All the nations outside of Israel, the Gentiles, lived in the same dismal spiritual darkness despite being culturally unique from each other in many ways. The arrival of Jesus, the light of the world, brought distinctive spiritual light. Through the Savior, nations began to glow from the inside out as their citizens received the good news of salvation.
At Christmas we often see larger than life-sized figures with glowing lights inside. While these may seem disconnected from His Story, their uniqueness can serve as reminders of how Christ lightens all who come to Him in faith regardless of their past.
Holy God, lighten your people with the glow of eternity that penetrates hearts and glorifies the Savior, Jesus. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid (Luke 2:8, 9, KJV).
Scripture: Luke 2:8-14
Song: “Angels We Have Heard On High”
We were camped in the forest to complete our work more efficiently. Far away from the lights of the city, on a moonless night, it was completely dark. Even light from our small campfire seemed to be swallowed up in darkness. Suddenly a meteorite passed over in a tremendous burst of light and we were sore afraid.
Imagine the shepherds abiding in the field at night when suddenly an angel bursts upon them, quickly surrounded by the “glory of the Lord,” and followed up by a “multitude of heavenly hosts praising God.” These guys must have been basket cases! Even so, for them and for us the message was of “good tidings of great joy” and of a “Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” What other message could quiet terrified hearts? What other message could change fear into curiosity and boldness to go seek out the Savior? That message is still needed today as much as ever and we desperately need expressions of peace and good will toward others. Someone you meet today may need good will, good tidings, and an introduction to the Savior. You can skip the bright lights.
Savior, like a shepherd, lead me to those who need to hear Your message of salvation, joy, and peace. In Your name I ask, amen.
What a Finish!
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, . . . And she was a widow . . . which departed not from the temple. . . . And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38,KJV).
Scripture: Luke 2:36-38
Song: “Find Us Faithful”
Each year, my desire increases to finish well. Not just getting to the end somehow by overcoming aches and pains and difficulties, but living a quality, purposeful life that has meaning to others. Too often I’ve seen people rise to positions of fame or fortune only to end life bitterly. Without a purpose that transcends the world’s idea of importance, there does not seem to be much optimism for a good finish.
Meet Anna, who appears to be well over 90 years of age at the time we meet her. As a widow for 84 years she had not had an easy life, but she had accepted God’s plan and purpose for her. She served the Lord faithfully despite her meager situation and even at her advanced age still gave thanks to God and spoke encouraging words to others about the redemption that Jesus would provide.
In Anna we see a thankful and encouraging person, not bitter at her circumstances but rejoicing in them. She remained faithful and confident to see the result of her years of prayer manifested in the birth of the Savior of the world. What a finish!
Lord, please, shape me to be a blessing and encouragement to others and lead me to finish well the life You have planned for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20, 21, KJV).
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25
Song: “Jesus Saves”
As we boarded the plane, just before Christmas, it was snowing heavily. I looked out my window and could barely see the airport lights. I wondered if our flight would be delayed. Shortly, we taxied to the de-icing pad and heard the spray hitting the plane. Well, it certainly looked like it would be a white Christmas this year.
Several hours later we woke up on a small South Pacific island and deplaned into brilliant, warm sunshine. Suddenly, it didn’t seem like Christmas even with all the decorations in the airport lobby. Then it hit me, the people on this island don’t need snow to celebrate Christmas; their focus is on the birth of Jesus.
Among these island people there were those known as His people because they had been saved from their sins by faith in Jesus.
His people are to be found around the world, in snow or sunshine, with their faith placed solidly in the only one who can save them—Jesus. Are you one of His people?
Heavenly Father, I call out to You. Hear my prayer and make me one of Your people. Forgive my sins, see my belief and faith in Your beloved Son Jesus, and save me unto eternal life. In Christ, amen.
For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37, KJV).
Scripture: Luke 1:32-38
Song: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”
A graduate student came to my office disappointed and downcast. After trying for weeks to find a job he was empty handed. Jobs in his desired field and location were very hard to find. He was not a believer, but I suggested that we pray and surprisingly he readily consented. First, I asked him questions about what he thought an ideal job would look like. He described the work he desired, location, travel, salary, and so on. I then prayed for exactly what he described—all the time thinking, if You answer this even I will be amazed. Two weeks later he burst into my office waving a job offer that was exactly what we prayed for! “This is impossible,” he exclaimed!
Mary’s response to the angel was, “How shall this be . . . ?” She knew enough about ordinary life to realize that this situation was more than unique, it was impossible. But, the angel described how the Holy Spirit would accomplish the impossible and the Son of God would be born to her.
When God says in His Word that nothing is impossible for Him, it is clear He means it. Our God has done what people thought would be impossible; He continues to do what people think is impossible. We should never under-estimate what God can do!
All wise and loving God, help us look at our impossibilities from Your perspective not from ours. In the name of our Savior who has already done the impossible for our redemption, amen.
The Promise of a Child’s Life
And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him (Luke 1:66, KJV).
Scripture: Luke 1:57-66
Song: “Children of the Heavenly Father”
Each time a young couple brings their child before the church for a dedication to the Lord, my mind moves from the present toward the future. What is God’s plan for this child? Will the child be an artist, or a poet, or perhaps a scientist? How will the child come to faith in Christ and how will this child respond to share the good news of Jesus with others during his or her life? How will the child experience God’s love and then grow to reflect the love of God to others? These questions are a part of the mystery yet to unfold in the promise of each child.
As people rejoiced with Elizabeth and pondered the angel’s visitation as well as the curious departure from tradition in naming the child, they had every reason to speculate about his future. Surely God moves uniquely in the life of every child. Like John, a child’s life may lead to momentous events or to a series of small opportunities to glorify God. But, every child brings us a promise from the hand of a loving God. May we encourage and nurture all children into relationship with Christ.
Loving Father, may we encourage every father and mother we meet that their child is special, and can fulfill a part of God’s perfect plan and will contribute to the future of the faith in their generation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
God Hears and Answers Prayer
But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard (Luke 1:13, KJV).
Scripture: Luke 1:11-16
Song: “Hear Our Prayer, O Lord”
Several years ago I began documenting prayers and noting when they are answered. At the end of each year I’ve been amazed how many prayers received an answer. Have all my prayers been answered? No, not yet. And some answers have come years after. Sometimes I have forgotten when I first made my request. So, from time to time I have to dig back in my prayer journal to find the actual date.
Zechariah had prayed for a child for a very long time. Perhaps he had forgotten when he first began and the prayer had become routine. But God heard and answered Zechariah’s prayer, on His timing and in the place and the way that He desired. And it was the perfect time and place in history.
God hears us. And He responds—in His way and in His time for our good. We can trust His goodness for us. Answered prayer is a wonderful display of God’s love for His children.
Gracious Father, we are grateful You answer prayer. Thank You for open ears so we can bring every care before You with confidence, expectation, and assurance that You always provide the best answer. In Christ’s name, amen.
December 17–23. Denny Lynch has been an Army officer, forest ranger and professor of Forest Sciences. Through all these vocations and his current retirement he has walked with the Lord and his wonderful, encouraging wife, Joyce.
Overwriting the Past
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).
Scripture: Psalm 103:1-18, 21, 22
Song: “Jesus Paid It All”
I accidentally replaced an important document on my computer with an earlier version of the same file. It was horrifying. I lost hours of work, and there was nothing I could do.
Overwriting a file is worse than deleting it. Deletion doesn’t physically remove the data—at least not immediately—so with the right tools, deleted files can often be recovered. But overwriting a file alters the disk. There’s nothing left to recover because the original file no longer exists.
The psalmist has something similar in mind when he says that God removes our transgressions as far from us as the east is from the west. Just as the two horizons can never meet, our past sins can never be used against us once we’ve turned to Jesus for forgiveness. That’s because God doesn’t merely “delete” our sins; He “overwrites” our past unrighteousness with the perfect righteousness of His Son. It’s a permanent change, and there’s no going back.
The day I overwrote that file, I spent more time fretting over what I’d lost than I did writing new material. Sometimes we squander opportunities for spiritual growth, too, by dwelling on our sense of guilt over past sins. God wants us to know that our past is permanently forgiven so that we can spend our time living—really living—in a manner that honors our Savior.
Thank You, Father, for permanently separating me from my past. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The Coming Storm
The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked” (Numbers 14:20).
Scripture: Numbers 14:13-20
Song: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
As Hurricane Harvey made its way toward the Texas Gulf Coast, I was moved by news footage in which National Guard soldiers and out-of-town volunteers cooperated to build sand levees around major coastal communities. These people didn’t have homes in the path of destruction, yet they worked tirelessly to help those who did—even as most residents boarded up their houses and fled inland.
It seems to me that Moses’ intercession for the Israelites serves the same purpose as one of those sand levees. It holds the floodwaters back long enough for souls in peril to escape to higher ground. After all, if it weren’t for God’s mercy—and Moses’ bold prayer— the Israelites would never have survived the torrent of God’s wrath.
We know that God’s patience with sinners won’t last forever, though. His judgment is more terrifying than any hurricane, and its path of destruction is more certain than any meteorological prediction. Yet when we stand in the gap like Moses, boldly praying for the salvation of others who don’t yet know Jesus, we can help shore up the sand levees of God’s mercy long enough for the gospel to do its saving work.
There will always be those determined to ride out the storm, but we’re called to intercede before God on their behalf. And in the meantime, we must never tire of issuing the Spirit’s evacuation call—before the levees fail.
Most merciful God, give me the courage to share Your love with someone who doesn’t yet know Your salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
A Good Match
The LORD . . . maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:6, 7).
Scripture: Exodus 34:1-7
Song: “Blessed Assurance”
I work at a factory for glazed brick. Our quality control checks for illuminate metameric failure. This occurs when two colors appear to match under one light source, but not under another.
We encounter this vexing problem with popular shades of beige and dark gray. Combining different production lots of these colors is risky because two units that appear compatible in open sunlight may not match under indoor fluorescent lighting (and vice-versa). So if we’re not careful, we can easily ship incompatible units to the same job without realizing it.
Something similar happens when our concept of God is based too heavily on just one aspect of His character. In our preoccupation with God’s love and kindness, for instance, we sometimes minimize the way His perfect justice demands punishment for sin. Yet if we concentrate only on God’s punitive wrath, we’ll underestimate His grace and long-suffering patience with sinners. The Bible says punishment and forgiveness are both compatible with God’s goodness.
At the factory, we mitigate the risk of metameric failure by regularly comparing new color lots against a control sample, under multiple light sources. Likewise, we can guard against forming incompatible ideas of God by regularly comparing our thoughts against what the Bible actually says. In the perfect light of God’s Word, faulty assumptions are quickly exposed for what they really are.
Gracious and just God, help me to appreciate Your goodness in all circumstances. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Flourishing in the Desert
For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing (Nehemiah 9:21).
Scripture: Nehemiah 9:16-21
Song: “God Will Take Care of You”
The world’s largest natural flower garden flourishes in an unlikely place: a desert. The Dubai Miracle Garden boasts some 100 million blooms, planted across more than 18 acres. In 2016, it even claimed the Guinness World Record for the largest flower arrangement.
This desert oasis survives under such forbidding conditions because of an innovative underground drip irrigation system that recycles waste water and channels it directly to the plants’ roots. This mitigates the effects of evaporation and greatly reduces the amount of water needed to sustain the garden.
Marvelous as it may be, however, this ecological “miracle” pales in comparison to the miracle that sustained the Israelites during their 40-year sojourn in the desert wilderness. The Bible says God provided everything they needed—food and water, guidance and protection. Their clothes never wore out, and their feet never became swollen. They lacked nothing.
If God is willing to supernaturally preserve His people even after their stiff-necked disobedience, how much more will He preserve us in the “deserts” of our daily challenges? As Christians, we know we’re not alone in our struggles. God has promised to care for us just as prodigiously as He cares for the birds of the air and the grass of the field—if we’re willing to trust Him.
Properly directed, our faith functions like the unseen irrigation channels nourishing the unlikely blossoms in Dubai. It allows us to flourish beautifully, even under the most forbidding of circumstances.
Father, You are so good to me. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Rehearsing to Perform
Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name (Psalm 86:11).
Scripture: Psalm 86:8-13
Song: “Change My Heart, Oh God”
As a college music student, I was expected to memorize at least five solo pieces every semester. At the end of the term, a jury of my professors would grade my performance of these selections. If I failed, the panel might prevent me from continuing my major.
Memorizing that much music requires intense focus and disciplined practice. There’s no way to “cram” it in at the end of the semester. (I tried!) Like most music majors, I had a busy schedule, so if I didn’t make practice a priority, I would never get around to it. There were just too many other projects and activities demanding my attention.
I find the same to be true when it comes to cultivating a deeper relationship with God. It requires single-minded focus and diligent commitment, because there are countless other things—important things like family and work—constantly vying for my limited time and energy. If I don’t prioritize my time in God’s Word, I’ll never get around to it either. Unless I clear my schedule for prayer and godly fellowship, such things slip into a place of secondary importance in my life.
Memorizing my music grows me as a musician, just like my devotional habits grow me as a disciple of Christ. In both cases, I’m rehearsing to perform. The more I can sense God’s presence in my everyday circumstances, the better prepared I am to face my next trial with grace.
Father, I don’t want to become spiritually complacent. Give me the desire to know You more. In Christ, amen.
When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me (Psalm 86:7).
Scripture: Psalm 86:1-7
Song: “I Need Thee Every Hour”
At work, I frequently receive unsolicited sales calls from logistics companies hoping to pick up extra shipments from our manufacturing plant. Such cold calls are a frustrating waste of time because the answer will always be “no.” Our customers make all transportation decisions, not us.
Callers don’t know this, of course, until I explain it. Most politely thank me for my time and remove us from their prospect list. A few, however, persist in calling even after I’ve explained several times why we can’t help them. When that happens, I just stop answering the phone. My time at work is too valuable to spend it talking to someone who won’t honor what I have to say.
I’m grateful that God is not like me. He continues to hear my prayers even when I’m stubbornly oblivious to His response. In the face of personal calamity, I can be a lot like an annoying sales rep who continually asks for the same thing because my situation hasn’t improved. But sometimes, when I quiet my heart, I discover that God has already answered my prayer. I just wasn’t prepared for the possibility that He might say “no,” “not yet,” or “not your way but mine.”
I want my prayers to be more than “cold calls” for God’s favor in my life. The Bible assures me that God will answer when I call, but it’s up to me to hear, receive, and act on His response.
Dear God, thank You for listening to me. Now, help me listen to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).
Scripture: Romans 8:31-39
Song: “Blessed Assurance”
I’ve always marveled at the way rock climbers deftly scale 10-story vertical surfaces with little more than their bare hands. It’s a dangerous sport, even for seasoned professionals. One wrong move can send a climber plummeting to the ground.
That’s why climbers typically work in pairs. One person ascends while the other, called the belayer, supports the climber from below. The belayer wears a special harness equipped with a braking device. This allows the belayer to “pay out” rope to the climber while keeping tension on the line from below. Should the climber fall, the belayer gently arrests the fall, then safely lowers the climber to an appropriate place from which to resume the ascent.
When I think of God being “for” me, I picture Jesus as my Heavenly belayer, lovingly paying out the grace I need to progress toward the summit of His righteousness. It’s a treacherous climb— one that frequently requires me to reach beyond my comfort zones to move higher. I know that I’m bound to fall along the way, but I also know that my watchful belayer keeps me safe, gently arresting my falls and guiding me back to a secure purchase on the Rock of my salvation.
The Bible says nothing can separate me from God’s love. No failure is so great that it can sever my connection to Jesus. And that gives me the strength to get up and keep climbing.
Jesus, thank You for catching me when I fall. In Your powerful name, amen.
December 10–16. Johnathan Kanais a musician and cultural critic living in central Texas.
And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat (Joshua 24:13,KJV).
Scripture: Joshua 24:1-3, 13-15, 21-24
Song: “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”
During my short lunch break at work, I went to the food court to place my usual order. I took my place behind a man who wore a Christian T-shirt, his small son beside him. When my turn came, the woman behind the register smiled and handed me my food. “He paid for it,” she said.
“What?” I was stunned. “I told him you usually ordered pizza, so he paid for your food.” While the man was getting his soda from the drink machine, I thanked him profusely. “Be blessed!” he told me as he and his son strolled out, onto the sales floor. Isn’t this just like the Lord? This was God’s grace in action, providing for me something I didn’t labor for. He gave the Israelites the land He promised them, all ready for their occupation, complete with cities and vineyards and olive groves.
Though we don’t deserve God’s grace and forgiveness, He provided for it through Christ’s death on the cross. And since He showed us grace, let’s ask the Lord for opportunities to show His grace toward others. How? Through forgiveness, service, and love. With His help this is something we can all do.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your love and Your grace. Help me to show Your grace toward others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
True to God
It shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God (Joshua 24:27,KJV).
Scripture: Joshua 24:25-28
Song: “Jesus Lover of My Soul”
Shortly after his conversion at Oxford, George Whitefield harbored fears of being seen in the company of other Christians, especially the Wesley brothers, John and Charles.
He wrote in his journal: “Mr. Charles Wesley . . . walked with me in order to confirm me, from the church even to the college. I confess, to my shame, I would gladly have excused him; and the next day, going to his room, one of our Fellows passing by, I was ashamed to be seen to knock at his door. But, blessed be God! This fear of man gradually wore off.”
He goes on to recount the persecution he and other Christians suffered from their peers: contempt, mockery, forsaken by former friends, dirt thrown at him, and so on. But through all of this, he did not deny his Savior. Though these trials were small, he learned from them and other trials, growing spiritually till he became the man God could use to proclaim His Word.
When we stay true to God, and especially during difficult times, He gives us the same grace He gave Whitefield. Let’s follow this great evangelist’s example. Don’t rebel against the Lord. Don’t deny Him. Let Him teach us through our trials. He’s the lover of our souls. Our trials are meant to help us grow into that person He can use. His grace will be sufficient. Draw strength from it.
Dear Lord, teach me Your ways so that I may walk wisely. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
God Our Deliverer
For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed (Joshua 24:17,KJV).
Scripture: Joshua 24:16-21
Song: “Mighty to Save”
Hitler’s tanks, planes, and soldiers swarmed over Europe and the free world stared at a dark future. When the retreating Allies were encircled at a French coastal town, Dunkirk, their annihilation seemed a certainty. During a deadly nine days, as the Nazis closed in, Allied naval vessels and civilian boats rescued some 340,000 men off its beaches. Winston Churchill called it the “Miracle of Deliverance.”
And a miracle it was. As director of the Bible College of Wales, Rees Howells and his students devoted themselves to prayer during the Allies’ evacuation and continued praying till the war ended. Through their intercession, and that of others who prayed, God intervened and ultimately delivered Europe from Hitler’s brutal rule.
Israel had suffered under Pharaoh’s brutality. Slaves to do his bidding, they cried out to God who brought their deliverance.
A brutal tyrant also once ruled those of us who walk with Christ. This tyrant’s name? Sin. But God sent us a rescuer and deliverer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered Himself up as a sacrifice for us. By turning from our sins and asking Him into our hearts, we can walk in freedom from this tyrant’s chains. What a wonderful God we serve!
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your only begotten Son, Jesus, to bear my sins on the cross. Thank You for Your love. In Christ, amen.
Ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season (Joshua 24:7, KJV).
Scripture: Joshua 24:4-12
Song: “Jehovah Jireh, My Provider”
Snow in Alabama? Yes! Not every winter, though. Maybe once every few years. And when the icy white stuff drifts down and blankets the Alabama landscape, cities, towns, businesses, and numerous roads close. Since most of us deep-south Southerners aren’t used to snow, our rare blizzards are an epic event.
Several years ago, the weather news alerted me that such a blizzard was heading my way. Since I enjoy bird watching and live near a wooded area, I filled my bird feeder to provide for God’s feathered creatures’ needs when the storm hit.
When I awoke the next morning, I looked out my window. Snow lay several inches deep; cardinals perched in my trees. My backyard looked like a Christmas card. Soon all kinds of birds flocked to my feeder. They’d probably never seen snow before; it was a freezing wilderness. Thanks to my feeding them, though, they survived.
The Israelites wandered a scorching wilderness but didn’t go hungry, either. They lived in it “a long season,” Joshua said. God took care of them. He gave them water out of the rock to drink, manna and quail to eat. Forever faithful, He provided for their needs.
Our faithful God is our Jehovah Jireh, our Provider. Trust Him to take care of you. When you have a need, ask Him to provide, even during difficult times.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness. I put every situation and my every need into Your hands. I know You will take care of me, Lord, because You love me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our Faithful God
And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you (Joshua 23:5, KJV).
Scripture: Joshua 23:1-6, 14-16
Song: “Trust and Obey”
Brow furrowed, I looked at the path from the hole to my golf ball. I gave the ball a tap. It rolled . . . clunk. Right in. I was happy. But then my father putted and I grimaced. Lost another hole.
While walking to the next tee, my father said, “When you beat me, Jack, I’ll buy you a new set of clubs.”
I knew he’d keep his promise. On another occasion, he’d promised my sister he’d give her a $100 if she made a hole-in-one. To his amazement and her joy she did it, and he followed through with the deal.
My father’s one condition for giving me a new set of clubs was that I improve so I could beat him. Since I never beat him, I never got the clubs.
God promised His children He’d give them their inheritance on one condition—obedience. He warned them against going back and serving other gods. It was up to them to obey.
God kept His word and gave Israel its promised land. When the Israelites failed Him and then repented, He always forgave and restored them. Even so with us. When we love God, we’ll want to obey Him even though we’ll also fail Him at times. God forgives us when we admit our failures, though. Let us always seek to please Him.
Father God, help me to walk obediently. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Loving God, Loving Our Neighbor
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant . . . nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s (Exodus 20:17,KJV).
Scripture: Exodus 20:12-17
Song: “Alive in You”
The count rushed outside to greet strangers at his castle with all their belongings.
“Sir,” their leader said, “We are emigrants from Moravia fleeing persecution. Are you Count Zinzendorf, sir?”
“I don’t much care for that worldly title.” The count chuckled. “My name is Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, but please call me Lutz, like my friends do.”
“We heard you are a man of God. We have no place to live. May we camp here?”
“Of course!” Lutz grinned as he surveyed his visitors. “My estate is yours. My land is your new home.”
Although my account is fictional, the Moravian Christians did obtain this pious count’s permission to settle on his estate. Eventually they spread the gospel and played a key role in John Wesley’s spiritual life.
In 1722, Lutz demonstrated his consecration to God by showing compassion to these persecuted believers. Similarly, the Moravians demonstrated their consecration to Him by not coveting the count’s wealth.
As God teaches us in our Scripture reading, His last six commandments, we show our love for Him by how we treat others. Let our hands and feet be totally consecrated to the one who loves us, so that we might demonstrate His love.
Dear Lord, please give me an opportunity today to serve others out of my love for You. In Your name I pray, amen.
Has the World Seen It Yet?
For I, the LORD thy God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, KJV).
Scripture: Exodus 20:1-11
Song: “I Surrender All”
The doctor prescribed sea air for his wife Emma’s asthma, so Dwight took her on a voyage to England. Though concerned for her welfare, excitement welled inside him. In England lived his heroes, the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon and the great German Christian George Müller, whom God had used to found orphanages. He hoped to hear Spurgeon preach and meet Müller.
In the spring of 1867, they reached their destination. Though Dwight did hear Spurgeon preach and did meet George Müller, his pivotal encounter with God happened during a prayer meeting with Henry Varley, an English minister. Varley’s words hit him like a thunderbolt: “The world has yet to see what God can do with one man wholly committed to Him.”
Dwight latched onto this challenge and determined to be that man. God would raise up Dwight Lyman Moody to become one of America’s greatest evangelists.
Our loving God is a jealous God. He’s not jealous of us, but for us. He doesn’t want to share our hearts with any other god because He alone has our best interests at heart. When we love Him totally, like Moody did, He’ll use us in marvelous ways. Oh, we may not become famous like Moody, but we will be a blessing to others. And in return, the Lord will bless us.
Dear God, I surrender totally to You. Use me, Lord, in any way You see fit, according to Your pleasure and will. In Christ, amen.
December 3–9. Jack Cunningham lives in Alabama. He enjoys reading, history, and traveling.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Song: “I Love to Tell the Story”
Ever heard of Patek Philippe watches? Made in Geneva, these hand-made, pricey adornments can set you back as much as a million dollars or more and “low end” models are easily in the fivefigure range. The company promotes itself by saying, “Ask the owner of a Patek Philippe to talk to you about their watch, and you will hear a story of passion, love, and tenderness. It is a unique, personal object steeped in precious memories . . . and offering it as a gift is the most eloquent expression of love or affection.”
If owners of watches feel that way about metal on their wrists, how much more should we be passionate about God’s Word on our hearts! The Israelites were told to pass down the commands, decrees and laws of God from generation to generation. Today, it’s our privilege to tell our children and grandchildren about the most unique gift ever—eternal life. It’s personal and precious. The gift of God’s Son is truly the most eloquent expression of love and affection. Truly priceless!
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love that transcends time and space. Help me to share the good news of Your loving kindness throughout today and beyond. In my Savior’s name, amen.
In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand” (Deuteronomy 6:20, 21).
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:20-25
Song: “10,000 Reasons”
The story is told of a young man who desired a car for his graduation present. On graduation day, his father expressed his pride and then handed the son a wrapped box. The son opened the gift to discover a Bible. He yelled angrily, “With all your money, this is what you give me? Keep your Bible!” He left, vowing never to return. Many years later, he heard his father was very ill but did not arrive before his father passed. The now middle-aged man went through his father’s things and discovered that graduation day Bible. As he flipped through the pages, a key with a dealer’s tag fell from the back cover—the dealer who had the sports car he had wanted so badly.
If that young man had taken the time to open God’s Word, he would’ve reaped a great reward. Instead, he rejected the father’s gift and lost the desire of his heart as well. We might look at the “stipulations, decrees, and laws” of God as restricting when in fact, obeying them leads to deliverance and great blessing.
Thank You, Father, for Your laws that show Your love for me! In Your Son’s name, amen.
December 1, 2. Toni Campbell is passionate to show the love of Christ to hurting people and works toward this as the benevolence ministry manager at her church.
Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you (Deuteronomy 6:18).
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:16-19
In 2000, Cornealious “Mike” Anderson III was sentenced to 13 years for robbing a fast food store at gunpoint. A clerical error occurred and he never received orders to report and serve his time. Instead of continuing a life of crime he started a business, became a youth football coach, volunteered at church, started a family, and became well-respected in his community.
Thirteen years later, the state realized their error and jailed Anderson. News of this spread and an online petition garnered 35,000 signatures for his release. In a court hearing, the judge agreed Anderson was a changed man and granted him credit for the years he should have been in prison.
Mike Anderson broke the law but instead of continuing down a wrong path, he turned his life around and began living in compliance with the law. As a result, when he went before the judge, things went well for him. In Deuteronomy 6:16, 17, the people are warned “Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God.” Although they had been disobedient at Massah, quarreling and questioning God’s presence, they were given a chance at redemption and the opportunity to do what was good and right in the Lord’s sight so that it would go well with them. When we seek after God and do His will, even if we’ve stumbled previously, He is faithful to forgive us.
Lord, thank You that Your mercies are new every morning! In Your great name I pray, amen.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, . . . be careful that you do not forget the LORD (Deuteronomy 6:10, 12).
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:10-15
Song: “Remember Me”
In the early 1960s, Walter Keane became an art sensation. Copies of his “big-eyed children” paintings graced suburban homes, and Hollywood elite owned originals. Walter raked in millions. Problem was, he wasn’t the artist. For years, he took credit for his wife’s work forcing her to paint in a locked room, far removed from anyone who might discover the secret. When Margaret pushed back, rather than give her credit, he insisted she teach him to paint so he could continue the lie. He refused to acknowledge his deception even after they divorced, until a judge had them paint right in the courtroom. The finished pictures left no doubt Margaret was the true artist.
If Walter had given credit where it was due, he still would have benefitted financially by virtue of his relationship with his wife. Instead, he desired unearned praise and chose to deny the existence of the very hand by which the paintings were conceived. In the end, he lost everything. Deuteronomy 6 reminds us God is our provider. Every good gift comes from His hand. We can enjoy all the good things He’s given us, but we’re not to take credit for their existence or forget to thank Him.
Father, thanks that You withhold no good gifts from Your children. We are so grateful You give us far more than we deserve. In Christ, amen.
Guilty and Proud of It
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10).
Scripture: James 2:8-13
Song: “At Calvary”
After delivering his sermon, the minister of a small church stood at the doorway of the sanctuary greeting congregants. One gentleman was especially excited to share his experience of the previous week as he grasped the minister’s hand. With a broad smile he declared, “I’ve kept every single commandment this week!” Without missing a beat, the minister replied, “Why, that must fill you with great pride.” “It does, it does!” was the unwitting response.
While being prideful isn’t specifically named in the Ten Commandments, there are plenty of other Scriptures that caution us to be humble rather than proud, such as Proverbs 3:34 that James quotes as “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6). Being proud about supposedly keeping the whole law would be the one small part that still causes us to be guilty of breaking it in its entirety.
It is good to remember that none of us are able to keep the whole law. We are all dependent on the “law of liberty” . . . God’s wonderful and amazing mercy and grace.
Heavenly Father, on my own I can never be holy as You are holy. Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son to save me from the condemnation of the law. I am thankful for my freedom through Christ my Savior. In His name, amen.
The Hands of Truth
Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not go about spreading slander among your people. (Leviticus 19:13, 16).
Scripture: Leviticus 19:13-18
In 2004, Victor Yushchenko ran for the presidency of Ukraine. He was undeterred despite an attempt to poison him, and by election day he was in the lead. However, the state-run television station, which supported the ruling party, falsely reported his decisive defeat. It never dawned on anyone that the woman in the corner of the screen providing translation for the deaf community would preset the truth. She signed, “I’m addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine. They are lying and I’m ashamed to translate those lies. Yushchenko is our president.”
The deaf community spread the word about the fraudulent report and eventually, journalists took up the cause of truth. Within weeks, the “Orange Revolution” occurred as a million people wearing orange made their way to the capital city of Kiev demanding a new election. The new election was held and Victor Yushchenko became president.
Defrauding our neighbor means more than just taking monetary advantage of them. We can defraud by the deception of being less than honest. While the translator for the deaf took a tremendous risk in communicating the truth, she did not want the shame that would have accompanied her silence or compliance with a lie. The laws set forth in Leviticus are guidelines for righteous living that are still valid and relevant for us today. Honesty, fairness, truth, and love are values that transcend time, place, and people groups.
Father, help us to be salt and light by being honest, trustworthy neighbors, citizens and friends. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Dying to Be Loved
And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39).
Scripture: Matthew 22:37-40
Song: “Give Me Your Eyes”
In AD 251, Christian communities in the Greco-Roman world did the unthinkable. They selflessly loved their neighbors in the midst of a horrific plague. While sickness ravaged those living in the cities and the dying were pushed into the streets so they wouldn’t infect other family members, Christians opened their homes to the ostracized and nursed many back to health. Historians have suggested this act of love and kindness may have reduced the mortality rate by as much as two-thirds, even though it cost a number of Christian caregivers their lives. Although we may never encounter the same type of overwhelming malady, plagues of a different kind exist today and require us to make a decision not unlike the Christians of old. Homelessness, hunger, addiction, divorce, bullying, and hurts of all kinds leave our neighbors, families, and loved ones spiritually dead and physically dying. The call to us is the same today as it was in Jesus’ day–“love your neighbor as yourself.” In order to heed that command, we need to open the doors of our hearts and love the hurting completely and without hesitation. When we administer the healing balm of the love of Christ and selflessly consider the needs of others before our own, God works through us to reduce the eternal mortality rate.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your unconditional love. Help us to love others like You do. In Jesus’ name, amen.
November 26–30.Toni Campbell is passionate to show the love of Christ to hurting people and works toward this as the benevolence ministry manager at her church.
The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been (Genesis 30:30).
Scripture: Genesis 30:22-32, 43
Song: “Make Me a Blessing”
For over 10 years my friend, Rena, has traveled to Mexico, leading teams of youth and adults on mission trips. Together they lay foundations, build frames, and finish walls for people who have no home. Rena shared pictures of their team working together and, in the evening, spending time with the locals. The caption reads: “Memories being made. Lives being changed. God being glorified.” Over the years, many people have been blessed—the mission teammates and the Mexican people—by Rena’s willingness to initiate, plan and implement the mission work.
Laban was reluctant to let Jacob leave because he knew Jacob’s presence had blessed him. Although Laban gave credit for his success to divination, Jacob knew the blessings and increase of wealth came from God. God used Jacob as a conduit of His goodness.
Everywhere we go, near and far, we carry with us the Christian witness—the Spirit of God who indwells us. He wants us to show the world His kindness and mercy, and bless them with good things. Whether at home or abroad, we can use our hands, feet, eyes, ears, and mouth to show the love of God and leave the people we meet better than they were before.
Lord Jesus, thank You for using us to make the world a better place and bring glory to Your name. Help us give freely of our time and our resources. In Your name, amen.
And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son” (Genesis 35:17).
Scripture: Genesis 30:22-24; 35:16-20
As a young woman, Catherine worked as a midwife in Turkey. Now, in her senior years, she is a palliative-care nurse living in Sweden. Catherine has witnessed both the beginning of life and the end—sensitive seasons that require sensitive speech. When I met Catherine, I immediately saw her gentle spirit and the special gifting she has to comfort her patients.
When Rachel was giving birth to Benjamin, her midwife knew she was in distress. She may even have known Rachel’s life was in danger. But instead of focusing on the dire circumstances, the midwife spoke reassuring words to the dying mother. She drew Rachel’s attention away from her pain and helped her focus on the hope and joy that her prayer from long ago was being answered: Her son was about to be born.
We may not all be trained as caregivers, but we can learn how to say the right thing at the right time by asking God to teach us proper speech. Verses from the book of Proverbs remind us of the beauty of opportune words. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11, KJV). “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word” (Proverbs 15:23).
Dear God, help us learn how to speak uplifting and encouraging words to those who are in the middle of emotional situations. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Everything Belongs to God
Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine” (Genesis 31:43).
Scripture: Genesis 31:43-50
Song: “Take My Life”
I don’t usually counsel teenagers, but I was concerned about Janie, who was making poor choices in her relationship with her boyfriend. One afternoon as I was getting ready to meet with her, the Lord impressed upon me to bring her a gift. At the time, I lived on a farm, and running to the store wasn’t an option. I looked around the house, and my eyes landed on a porcelain bowl I’d received as a gift when I was 11. It was one of a few things I’d kept through my 30-plus moves.
For an hour, a “conversation” raged between God and me— mostly a one-sided rant from me. “God, a 16-year-old wouldn’t like a porcelain bowl.” “Jesus, how can I give up the one thing that has stayed with me?” “Surely, Lord, I can find something else.” Finally, after tears and time, I accepted the fact that God was asking me to give away my most precious possession.
As I remember that day, I’m thankful that I obeyed when I could have held back. The experience taught me to hold everything I own with an open hand because God owns everything anyway. He wanted me to give away my most precious possession so that He could show Janie she was His most precious possession.
Father, everything I have is Yours. Help me remember to be a good steward of the things You have given me and not see myself as an owner. In Jesus’ name, amen.
God’s Unchanging Love
He said to them, “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me” (Genesis 31:5).
Scripture: Genesis 31:1-9
Song: “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go”
In the latter part of the 1800s, a 40-year-old man sat alone in his home in Scotland. George Matheson sat in darkness because he had lost his eyesight years before. It was the night before his sister’s wedding, and he grieved afresh the memory of what he’d once had—a loving engagement to a lovely fiancé. But George’s plans for a joyful, life-long commitment were shattered when the young woman spurned him, unwilling to be married to a blind man.
Overcome with grief, George picked up a pen and wrote the hymn, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.” Because the verses flowed effortlessly, George believed the song was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Matheson’s words have encouraged many to cling to God for hope. “O joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee. I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not in vain, that morn shall tearless be.”
If you have been rejected, or the love someone had for you faded over time, remember that God is with you. If you sit alone in darkness, remember how God used George Matheson. Open your heart and allow Him to use your loss and pain to comfort others in some way.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, that we can be confident in your unchanging and unwavering love. Help me share that hope with others who are hurting. In Your name I pray, amen.
Pray for Missionaries
May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion (Psalm 20:1, 2).
Scripture: Psalm 20
Song: “Lion and the Lamb”
Early one morning my husband appeared in the doorway of my home office. Choking back tears, he shared the devastating news. Co-workers living overseas had realized their greatest nightmare when insurgents stormed their guest house. One woman was shot dead, another kidnapped, and the guard hired to watch the front entrance was beheaded. Our hearts were broken.
What could we do to support the friends and families who had lost their loved ones? How could we help the young woman who had been abducted and was likely being tortured by those who captured her? We could pray—repeat the promises of love, care, and protection found in God’s Word. He sees what happens at the very ends of the earth. He is the most powerful over all. He alone can rescue and comfort.
All over the world men and women live and work in countries hostile to the good news of Christ. Although they can’t speak freely and share the gospel with words, they can demonstrate the love of God to those around them by developing close relationships and performing good deeds in the name of Jesus. As you and I go about our daily business, we have an awesome responsibility to support our at-risk brothers and sisters in prayer.
Powerful Savior, please protect Your overseas workers and rescue those who are being held captive. For Your name’s sake, amen.
Look Up for Love
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the LORD” (Genesis 29:34, 35).
Scripture: Genesis 29:31-35
Song: “Christ Is Enough”
My friend hadn’t said a kind word about her husband in years. To me, he seemed like a decent guy. He faithfully managed his business, and his collection of books on topics ranging from WWII to birdwatching made him an interesting conversationalist. One day I gently confronted my friend about her criticism, and she broke down. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, he pulled away. I cook his favorite meals and take care of our home, but he hasn’t hugged me in years.”
My friend’s sharp words poured out from her unloved heart. She tried to win her husband’s affection, but nothing worked. In the same way, Leah tried to win Jacob’s love by giving him sons, but after the birth of their fourth, she gave up trying to please Jacob and chose to praise God instead.
Everyone enters marriage with dreams of “happily ever after,” but if we face heartache and disappointment, we can look up and praise the One who always loves us. Someone once said, “If you are having difficulty praising Him in your current situation, praise Him anyway. Keep praising Him until it gets easy. He will be blessed by your sacrifice of praise and when He is blessed, He blesses you.”
Heavenly Father, when I feel unloved, help me remember to look up to You. In Christ, amen.
Stick to It
When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” (Genesis 29:25).
Scripture: Genesis 29:15-30
Several years ago, I was offered my dream job overseas. A few weeks after my visa was issued, my husband and I packed our belongings and moved. When we arrived at the office, I eagerly scanned the staff list for my name, but was shocked to find I had been assigned to work in a different department! What happened to the position I had been promised?
Jacob contracted to work for seven years and in return marry the woman he loved. But he was tripped up, ripped off and deceived by his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob couldn’t waste time wallowing in anger or bitterness because the woman of his dreams was waiting. So he agreed to work another seven years to get the one he had been promised.
In life, our plans might be thwarted by miscommunication or dishonest people. When we face setbacks, we have a choice to make: We can give up, or we can jump over the hurdles and navigate the roadblocks. With God’s help, we can persevere for the love of the dream.
Gracious Father, thank You for understanding our disappointments and always making a way for us to move forward. In Jesus’ name, amen.
November 19–25.Rebecca Stuhlmiller is a conference, retreat and seminar speaker who lives in Federal Way, Washington, with her husband Jeff. Her mission in life is to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus and impact their family, church, community and world for Him.
It’s Personal Now
If God will be with me . . . so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD to be my God (Genesis 28:20, 21, KJV).
Scripture: Genesis 28:10-22
Song: “Pass Me Not”
Edward McKendree Bounds, minister, Civil War chaplain and fervent author and speaker on prayer, went home to Heaven in 1913. Sixty-three years later, a minister traveled to Washington, Georgia, to visit the grave of E. M. Bounds, whose life he greatly admired. There, he met Osborne Bounds, Sr., a living son of E. M. Bounds, and a treasury of memories of his father. It soon became apparent, however, that while he held his father in high esteem and respected his father’s God, he had never made Him his God, and had no assurance of Heaven. God graciously allowed the younger man the privilege of leading 84 year old Osborne Bounds to accept the Lord Jesus as his own Savior!
As a son and grandson of the patriarchs, Jacob respected the Lord, but knew Him only as “the God of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac.” It was never personal with Jacob. But Jacob made a covenant with God, promising that if God would be with him, provide for his needs, and bring him home again, the Lord would be his God. God did that and more, and in Genesis 33:20, Jacob erected an altar to the Lord, calling it El-elo’he-Israel, “The God of Israel.” There was not yet a nation called Israel, but only the man Jacob whom God had renamed “Israel,” whose fathers’ God was, finally—his God.
Thank You, Father, for Your Specific love for me and for the great price Your Son paid at Calvary for my salvation. In His name, amen.
Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, we have found him, of whom Moses . . . did write, Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:44, 45, KJV).
Scripture: John 1:43-51
Song: “Lead Me to Some Soul Today”
I still remember one crisp, perfect fall afternoon that I spent shadowing my grandfather around his little Midwestern hometown on errands. As we walked toward home, I mentioned that he had forgotten to pay for the phonograph needle at the stereo store, and my grandmother’s medicine at the doctor’s office, nor had they remembered to charge him. When he told me that neither he nor they had forgotten, and that he would settle up later, I began to understand that the nearly 50 years of trust and credibility he had built up in town was worth more than anything in a wallet.
In John’s account, Jesus called Andrew, and then Andrew brought Simon Peter. Next, Jesus called Philip, and planned to add Nathanael to the group. Notice that Peter shared Philip’s hometown. Peter was outgoing, never suffered from shyness and would one day preach at Pentecost. Surely, Peter seems a natural choice to have persuaded Nathanael, but God used Philip instead. Philip’s friendship with Nathanael may have built up an “equity” of trust and credibility that Peter could not match. Perhaps there are people in our lives who need to meet our Jesus. Though others may seem more qualified to make the introduction, we may have built up a friendship equity that no one else can touch. And friendship, after all, cares nothing for qualifications.
Father, please show me the souls that I am uniquely positioned to reach. In my Savior’s name, amen.
Lock, Stock and Barrel
Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed . . . of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always (Deuteronomy 14:22, 23, KJV).
Scripture: Deuteronomy 14:22-29
Song: “Give of Your Best to the Master”
One reality show featured buyers attempting to win auctions of entire defaulted storage units. Without stepping past the opened rollup doors, they were given just five minutes to view the contents of each unit, and to decide on their bids. Winning bidders became the proud (or not so proud) owners of everything contained in their storage units, whether good, bad, ugly or truly weird. One storage unit purchased for just $3,600 contained paintings which later sold for $300,
000! But whether a unit contained trash, treasure, or something in between, one thing was certain: it all belonged exclusively to the buyer.
The Lord required the Israelites to give back to Him a tithe, (or tenth) of all their substance, so that they would learn to respect the Lord deeply and acknowledge His authority in their lives. In 1 Peter 1:18, 19 (KJV) God reminds believers that we have been “redeemed,” (bought back by God) “with the precious blood of Christ.” As His purchased possession, all that we have and all that we are rightfully belongs to Him. In returning to Him a portion of our time, talent, and treasure, we acknowledge His claim on our lives, submitting completely to His authority.
Father, I know that my giving isn’t a question of Your need, but of Your lordship in my life. Please help me to withhold nothing from You. In my Savior’s name, amen.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).
Scripture: Isaiah 40:27-31
Song: “Wings as Eagles”
There’s something majestic about eagles, as they glide, wheel and soar high above the earth. In flapping flight, they use tremendous amounts of energy. But God has given eagles the ability to soar almost effortlessly for hours on thermal air currents. They are borne aloft to altitudes they could never reach in their own strength, and then glide until they find another thermal and soar upward again. When the strong but invisible currents on which they depend are not present—on cool, windless mornings, for example—eagles usually content themselves with a high perch, waiting for the unseen forces to stir again.
Today’s verse speaks of lifting up, sustaining and renewing strength, but hangs all that upon something many people find difficult: waiting. We simply hate to wait! But if we are to “mount up with wings as eagles,” if we would rise above those things that oppress and keep us down in our daily lives, waiting on God is an imperative. When we get ahead of God, we go on our own, forgoing His strength even as our stamina is quickly depleted, and see disappointing results. We need not only God’s will, in God’s way, but also in God’s time. And though He may seem slow to us, He’s never late!
Lord, please develop in me the patience to wait for You, rather than relying on my own strength. In Your name, amen.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).
Scripture: Isaiah 40:27-31
Song: “Wings as Eagles”
There’s something majestic about eagles, as they glide, wheel and soar high above the earth. In flapping flight, they use tremendous amounts of energy. But God has given eagles the ability to soar almost effortlessly for hours on thermal air currents. They are borne aloft to altitudes they could never reach in their own strength, and then glide until they find another thermal and soar upward again. When the strong but invisible currents on which they depend are not present—on cool, windless mornings, for example—eagles usually content themselves with a high perch, waiting for the unseen forces to stir again.
Today’s verse speaks of lifting up, sustaining and renewing strength, but hangs all that upon something many people find difficult: waiting. We simply hate to wait! But if we are to “mount up with wings as eagles,” if we would rise above those things that oppress and keep us down in our daily lives, waiting on God is an imperative. When we get ahead of God, we go on our own, forgoing His strength even as our stamina is quickly depleted, and see disappointing results. We need not only God’s will, in God’s way, but also in God’s time. And though He may seem slow to us, He’s never late!
Lord, please develop in me the patience to wait for You, rather than relying on my own strength. In Your name, amen.
Meekness Isn’t Weakness
[Elijah] requested for himself that he might die . . . And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat (1 Kings 19:4, 5, KJV).
Scripture: 1 Kings 19:3-9
Song: “I Would Be Like Jesus”
Deeply influenced by his Christian mother and upbringing, Desmond Doss grew up believing in non-violence, but after the bombing of Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the United States Army. Doss wanted to be a combat medic, saving lives rather than taking them and refused to pick up a weapon even in training. He asked and was granted permission to face the dangers of battle without any weapon to defend himself. During the Battle of Okinawa, he remained in an exposed area while the rest of his unit retreated to safety. Working alone under enemy fire, he personally saved the lives of 75 men, for which he was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for extreme valor. Courageous yet peaceable, Doss exemplified the gentle warrior.
Running for his life from Queen Jezebel, a fearful Elijah showed signs of depression, but notice how very gently Almighty God treated him. Providing for his needs, the Lord would speak quietly, comforting His prophet and encouraging him to go on. Though Exodus 15:3 calls the Lord “a man of war,” Israel’s great warrior, King David, also said of God: “thy gentleness hath made me great” (2 Samuel 22:36, KJV). Meekness is not weakness, and the Lord is a gentle role model worthy of our emulation.
Father, the better I come to know You, the easier it is to trust You. Please, make me patient, gentle and kind as You are. In Jesus’ name, amen.
No Experience Necessary
And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD . . . the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I (1 Samuel 3:3, 4, KJV).
Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1-9
Song: “I’ll Say Yes, Lord, Yes”
While sharing a meal with an Amish family, a Christian writer learned their unique method of selecting a pastor. In that region, few Amish were educated past the eighth grade; those with formal Bible training were fewer yet. Congregations voted for any men who showed potential to pastor. Anyone receiving three or more votes was then asked to sit randomly at a table. Each man had a hymnbook in front of him; one hymnbook contained a card identifying that man as the pastor for the coming year. The dinner guest asked what would happen if the person selected didn’t feel qualified. His host answered that if he did feel qualified, they wouldn’t want him!
When God called Samuel, he was just a young child with little training. But Samuel answered God’s call. And though Samuel initially feared the task, he obeyed and God used him mightily all his life. Throughout the Bible, people expressed their sense of inadequacy for undertaking a great work for God. Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Peter, and Paul all acutely felt their own weakness, but each submitted to God’s calling and discovered that His strength really is made perfect in weakness. God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
Heavenly Father, please help me to trust that I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. In the name of my Savior, amen.
November 12-18.Neil Bowers lives with his family in San Diego, California, and enjoys children’s ministries, preaching and wood carving.
A Different Voice
He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him (Genesis 27:22).
Scripture: Genesis 27:5-10, 18, 19, 21-29
Song: “Lord, Speak to Me”
A number of years ago I bought a commentary on Ephesians. I would read my Bible and then quickly read the commentary for the same verses. But then I would go back and read the Scripture again carefully and prayerfully reflect on the Scripture. It was in rereading my Bible and seeking God on His message for me in that text that it came increasingly clear that something was just not right with the commentary. Like Isaac, I felt something was wrong so I pressed further. I did some research on the author and found out that he did not believe in miracles, the deity of Christ, or in the resurrection. Since I did not want anyone else to be deceived with the book, I threw away that commentary.
The Bereans were commended for searching the Scriptures to verify the truth and we still have that responsibility today. Search the Scriptures and ask questions. God’s truth stands up to honest and careful examinations; a lie never can.
Lord, open my eyes and ears to Your instruction in Scripture that I might not be deceived by the lies surrounding me in culture. In Your name, amen.
May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples (Genesis 28:3).
Scripture: Genesis 27:46–28:5
Song: “There Shall be Showers of Blessings”
The lava flow in Craters of the Moon National Monument in Central Idaho usually seems like a 60 mile long black, barren field. There is not much vegetation other than a few gnarled trees and some sage brush. But in the spring, when there is still snow in the sheltered areas, wild flowers bloom in a brief but dazzling show of color against the black backdrop. The display is stunning and very much unexpected in such a barren place.
Isaac’s family had become dark and barren because of Esau’s decision to marry Hittites (see Genesis 26:34, 35) and Jacob’s deception. Yet even in the barren and sorrowful consequences when Jacob fled from his brother’s wrath, we read Isaac’s unexpected blessing—a blessing that reflected God’s promise to Abraham, the blessing that truly mattered.
We can look for God’s blessing on us even in the barren places of our lives. And we can also ask God to show us how we can bless others, in His name, when they might be in similar situations.
Father, open my eyes to Your wonderful blessings for me and all who follow in Your way. In Christ’s name, amen.
When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” (Genesis 27:34).
Scripture: Genesis 27:30-40
Song: “Onward Christian Soldiers”
After William Wilberforce became a believer he spent the rest of his life seeking to abolish England’s involvement in the slave trade which was more than just a profitable business; people thought that the entire British economy depended on it.
Opposition to Wilberforce was fierce and threats were made against his life. Since he was an evangelical, high society ridiculed his devotion to Christ. To complicate matters he was frail with severe health issues and poor eye sight. At times it seemed he would die before his bill would pass.
Eleven times he introduced legislation to abolish the slave trade and eleven times he was defeated. How often he must have cried out in anguish. But unlike Esau who was seeking his own blessing, Wilberforce was crying out to God for the sake of others. His cries of anguish were for those who had no one to call on for help; no one to defend them. So in spite of the overwhelming odds against him, Wilberforce continued to press on in the strength of the Almighty until finally in 1807 the bill to end the slave trade passed by an overwhelming majority.
It is easy to cry out like Esau but Jesus calls us to a higher blessing— the blessing of joining His suffering so others might have life.
Lord, lift my eyes off of myself so I can follow Your call for the sake of others. In Your name, amen.
Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you (Genesis 27:8).
Scripture: Genesis 27:5-17
Song: “I Would Be True”
Here in eastern Idaho we have access to some of the best fly fishing rivers in the world. There is the Henry’s Fork with it massive rainbows and the South Fork of the Snake River with its native cutthroat trout. Just a little farther north is Yellowstone National Park with the Madison River and some great backcountry streams.
Fly fishing is built on one premise—deception. We present an artificial fly that is intended to look like a real insect. Early in the season the deception generally works but after a few weeks of heavy fishing the trout get wise and very selective. The slightest discrepancy in how the artificial fly looks or acts on the water will spook the trout. The deception must be flawless.
Deception is used in sports. Is the pitcher going to throw a fastball or curve; will the quarterback hand the ball off or throw a pass? In some instances deception can be fun and challenging but at other times it can cause tremendous strife and even destroy a family’s relationship.
Jacob and Rebekah went to great effort to deceive Isaac: the food, the clothes, and the goatskin. It all worked perfectly and Jacob got the blessing but at what cost? He would need to flee from his brother’s wrath and Rebekah would never see her favorite son again. Deception is fine for fishing but will only bring destruction when we seek to deceive others.
Heavenly Father, help me to be true to those around me knowing that You are my ultimate blessing. In the name of Your Son, amen.
Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death” (Genesis 27:2).
Scripture: Genesis 27:1-4
Song: “I Love to Tell the Story”
I recently celebrated my 70th birthday. How did this happen? I don’t remember growing old. I look in the mirror and see a gray-haired man looking back; the ground seems further down than it used to be. When I was young I did not think much about growing old. That too is different now. Dad was the first male in our family to reach 80 and died just short of his 90th birthday. So if the Lord wills, I have maybe 10 to 20 years left. But like Isaac, I don’t know how long I have. But I do know that I am not dead yet. And also like Isaac, I know there are still things to do. So like Isaac, I remind myself that each day is time that is not to be wasted. There are blessings to be pronounced and a legacy to pass on. There is still life to be lived meaningfully for others and for God. I have a wife, sons, daughters-in-laws, grandchildren and if the Lord wills, great-grandchildren that I want to pronounce blessings over and tell about the love of Christ.
Father, You have numbered my days. Help me to use every day that You have given me for Your glory. In Christ’s name, amen.
The Glory of Suffering
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:18-25
Song: “The Old Rugged Cross”
I enjoy reading biographies of the giants of the Christian faith and in every case I find some type of suffering or severe testing. There have been martyrs in every age since Christ; from Peter and Paul to people such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hung in 1945 for his opposition to Hitler. But there have been others who have suffered tremendously without dying a martyr’s death. Ministers and missionaries suffered numerous illnesses and some buried wives and children in foreign lands. Yet through their tears they praised and worshipped God.
No one likes to suffer. Yet for the Christian in the midst of suffering is grace from God that not only draws us closer to God but is the means by which He transforms us into more of the image of Jesus. Our verse says that Christ is our “example” and so we “follow in his steps.” We follow Jesus in everything and every way whether the crowds around us are shouting praise to God or they are shouting animosity toward all who call themselves by His name.
Lord Jesus, I don’t like the idea of suffering but suffering and testing is what You use to draw me closer to You. Strengthen me to Your service. In Your name, I pray, amen.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob (Psalm 24:6).
Scripture: Psalm 24:1-6
Song: “Take My Life, and Let It Be“
Narrow gauge railroads once wound through the canons and mountain passes of the Rockies to remote mining camps. While today cars travel where many trains once ran, wooden trestles are gone and most of the tunnels have been abandoned. But railroad enthusiasts still look for vestiges and relics of the trains and this bygone era. Today, for example, in an area now covered with trees a person with a searching eye can see a former railroad bed partly washed away by time, wind, and water. Is that the remains of some old miner’s cabin a hundred feet from the train track?
Jesus spoke of seeking God’s kingdom as if a buried treasure in a field and a pearl of great price. The vast railroad dynasties of yesterday are now but a memory but the treasure that is ours in heaven will last forever. Men and women around the world seek fame, fortune, power, and purpose to life but the real one to seek is Jesus of Nazareth, who can meet our heart’s true desire.
Lord, I want to seek You with all my heart. Grant me the eyes to see Your glorious kingdom. In Your name, amen.
November 5–11. Steve Sperry and his wife Jan, originally from Colorado, now live in Idaho near their children and grandchildren. Steve enjoys explores Idaho’s many fishing locations.
The Peacemaker’s Peace
This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 25:19).
Scripture: Genesis 25:19-34
Song: “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”
Years ago a minister compiled a list of the descendants of Jonathan Edwards to show an extensive progeny of hundreds of people who held impressive titles and important positions. But, the list has one flaw: it focuses on careers, not character. For example, the Vice President was Edwards’ headstrong grandson, Aaron Burr.
By way of contrast, Isaac, a peacemaker who could wait for God to provide a well, led a household which could wait for nothing. His wife conspired to advance one son over the other; and one brother took advantage of the other in a moment of desperation, to persuade him to trade his future for a bowl of soup. And yet, from among a generation of grandchildren hard-wired for anger, there emerged a peacemaker who saved his whole family.
From Isaac and his family we learn that being a peacemaker is not the natural bent of the human heart. Troubled man is always ready for war with troubled men. That means being a person of authentic peace is a gift from God. Our advantage over Isaac is that we know that a peacemaker’s peace comes through faith in Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives” (John 14:27). The heart at peace in Christ has the tools for being at peace with others.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your plan to display peace through me. In Jesus’ name I ask You to help me to represent You well. Amen.
Who Put That There?
[Ishmael’s descendants] lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them (Genesis 25:18).
Scripture: Genesis 21:8-13; 25:17, 18
Song: “Find Us Faithful”
There is an old song about a petunia in an onion patch wondering how it got there. I often remember that song when I think about Jacob’s eleventh son.
As a child, Joseph was surrounded by cousins, an uncle, and even great-uncle Ishmael himself, who were steeped in bitterness. He also lived with 10 brothers who hated him. How, then, did this boy stumble out of the swampland of family feuds as a godly youth. Far from being a petunia among onions, he was a rose and he flourished!
God’s grace seldom falls from the sky in a glob of faith. He uses means. He connects dots in the process of drawing people to faith and the story of forming Jesus’ character in their souls.
So, with regard to Joseph, it is chronologically possible that, in his childhood, he may have had opportunities to talk with his grandpa Isaac. It is also possible those visits included grandpa’s struggles with the Ammonites, and even earlier events where grandpa totally depended on God.
We can be “talk-to” people. By personally depending on God we gain experience with God and His faithfulness that become stories we can tell for all who will listen.
Heavenly Father, thank You for godly people to show us Your way. May we be among them. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.
Well Managed Success
Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully (Genesis 26:31).
Scripture: Genesis 26:28-33
Song: “Make Me a Blessing”
The British philosopher and historian, Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), wrote, “Nothing fails like success when you rely on it too much.”
My father-in-law remembered a time when Fuller’s teasel was cultivated and sold to fiber processors who used its spine-covered pod to card wool. One year they held back their deliveries to force processors to pay higher prices. The strategy worked—once. By the next year, however, carding machines made teasels unnecessary.
Because Isaac knew how to be a man of peace, he had been able to work around contentious issues. As a result he became a man of wealth and power. He even secured land and settled down— becoming a planter as well as a manager of livestock.
Then came an opportunity to flex his muscle. The Ammonites acknowledged the hand of the Lord on Isaac’s life and asked for a peace treaty. However, other than to remind them they had “hated him” earlier, Isaac prepared a banquet, showed generous hospitality, made an oath with them, and “they went away peacefully.”
A peace maker, governed by a spirit of holiness in his walk with God, will use blessings from God in ways that give others the opportunity to be at peace. As a general principle, Scripture states, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7, KJV).
Heavenly Father, thank You for successes in our lives. Teach us to use them to show the way of peace to others. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Troubled by Being Troubled?
Wait for your God always (Hosea 12:6).
Scripture: Hosea 12:2-6
Song: “Does Jesus Care?”
In Bunyan’s allegory, The Holy War, he wrote about a castle called Mansoul, built for Prince Emmanuel. It had five gates such as Eye Gate and Ear Gate. And, it was populated with characters such as Will, Innocence, and Conviction. The story traces the castle’s citizens through rebellion against the Prince, rescue by the Prince, relapsed fellowship with the Prince, and restoration to the Prince.
In the “relapse,” Mansoulians became self-absorbed until they discovered the Prince could not be found. Lacking peace, they became deeply troubled until the High Secretary of the Prince helped them compose a letter of repentance. Then they waited.
Waiting for God to restore lost peace is difficult even when sin is not the culprit. The loss can be as innocent and simple as an unexplainable inner sense of disquiet. The difficulty is, whether waiting for the mist to lift or for the truth of forgiveness to sink in, being troubled naturally leads to worry, and worry can lead to the sinful conclusion that God does not care.
Jesus dealt with troubled feelings (see John 11:33; 12:27; 13:21). He also demonstrated His power to resist worry by focusing on what the Father wanted Him to do (Hebrews 12:2). He demonstrated that the basic game plan in troubled times is to keep focused on the truth that God does care (1 Peter 5:7).
Faithful God, thank You for the clear testimony that You care. Whether I’m troubled or not, help me to keep that truth in focus. In Jesus’ name. Amen
The Banker’s Bogus Virtue
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy (Hebrews 12:14).
Scripture: Hebrews 12:14-17
Song: “More Holiness Give Me”
It was a normal day at the bank until doors opened and a team of men and women spread through every department. For the final hours of the day they observed every station; and at day’s end they locked everything away and sealed every door and drawer. The reason? A vice president of the bank was about to be arrested for embezzlement. The bizarre feature of the crime was his objective: he gave all the money to charities.
Charity is a virtue. That is a good thing. Scripture directs us to cultivate it and other virtues such as peacemaking. Isaac was a peacemaker who understood that, in his case, wells were not worth fighting for in his search for a place. But, with all virtues there is this matter of holiness. Like the banker’s “charity,” peacemaking can be kidnapped by the dark side. Being an authentic peacemaker does not make a person holy. Rather, it is the result of it.
That is important to understand, because holiness can sometimes disturb peace. The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:15, 16, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
Heavenly Father, thank You for grace to live a life which can bring peace in my relationships; but help me not to love peace so much that I dishonor Jesus to keep it. In my Savior’s name I pray. Amen.
The Impact of a Forgiving Face
To see your face is like seeing the face of God (Genesis 33:10).
Song: “Depth of Mercy”
Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, had finished a message to a German congregation. Afterward she faced one of the guards from Ravensbrük where she had been abused and where her father and sister had died. The man confessed his role in her suffering and explained that he had become a Christian. Then he held out his hand and asked forgiveness. We have Corrie’s record of the thoughts and emotions she felt at that moment; but, as far as I know, there is no record of the former guard’s thoughts and emotions. Perhaps we gain an insight from Jacob.
Having cheated Esau, his brother, out of the family inheritance and stolen from him the paternal blessing, he fled for his life. Years later, having come to terms with God and found mercy, he prepared for a rendezvous with his brother and a small army. The unexpected result was Esau’s eager welcome and unconditional forgiveness.
The guard’s response may have been similar to the thoughts of Jacob: “To see your face is like seeing the face of God.”
If you have ever dreaded revenge from someone for something you did and have found, instead, welcome and forgiveness, you know something of the face of the forgiving God. For all of us in Christ, whether or not we have had some such face-of-God experience, we do have opportunities to show His face to others.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your forgiveness. Help me to show Your face to others when I forgive. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Finding Our Place
Now the LORD has given us room (Genesis 26:22).
Scripture: Genesis 26:6-22
Song: “This World Is Not My Home”
When 9-year-old Jessee and his 12-year-old brother, Josh, stopped coming to a youth boxing gym, Detective Jack Mook grew concerned. What he found were two abused boys. What he did was take responsibility for them, give them a place to call “home,” and adopt them.
We all long for a place. It can be as major as a house and a family or as simple as a chair among friends. Many have neither. Homelessness is rampant, the number of at-risk children is growing. Even among people who seem to have their niche there is a gnawing sense of not belonging. Christians are not insulated from the crises, rejections, and abuses which create homelessness. When people feel adrift, desperation can lead to conflict.
Isaac, a man in a covenant relationship with God, was a pilgrim in a hostile culture and he understood the wisdom of becoming known as a man of peace in his quest for a place.
Faith in Christ makes us pilgrims in our world (1 Peter 2:11). Although we are a people of peace, God may or may not provide a place where we feel we belong or are wanted. For all of us it is essential that we trust Jesus’ promise that He is preparing a better and lasting place for us (John 14:1-3).
Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus, who has made room for me and who is preparing a place for me to be with Him. In Christ’s name, amen.
October 29–November 12. Harold Comings is a retired Senior Minister who lives with his wife, Judy, in Florida.
Answered Prayer for a Spouse
And Isaac brought her into his mother’s Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death (Genesis 24:67, KJV).
Scripture: Genesis 24:12-21, 61-67
Song: “Trust and Obey”
Famed missionary Jim Elliot wrestled during his college years—but not only against competitors on a mat. Jim struggled to know if he should marry or remain single. Rather than follow his own reasoning, he committed the matter to God, writing, “The Lord knows how I surrendered this ‘love-life’ business to Him long ago.” Eventually, the Lord led him to marry Elisabeth, a woman so committed to Christ she continued Jim’s mission work to the Auca Indians of Ecuador even after Jim was killed by them. Because Jim left his marriage decision in God’s hands, many souls were eventually won for the Lord.
This story of Isaac and Rebekah has such a happy ending for one reason: everyone involved yielded to God’s will. Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s direction. Rebekah obeyed God’s calling to marry Isaac sight-unseen. Rebekah’s family submitted to God’s providence and let her go. And Isaac waited for God’s best. God’s will done. God’s way resulted in God’s blessing.
Our culture tells us to “follow our hearts” rather than the Lord’s leading regarding relationships. Rather than succumb to the culture, Christians are to be shining examples of God’s plan for relationships. As we follow His direction, we will both find personal contentment and also encourage others to follow His will.
Dear Father, help us to leave the decisions of our lives up to You. Help us to remember that Your plans are always best. In Christ’s name, amen.
And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them (Genesis 24:60, KJV).
Scripture: Genesis 24:54-60
Song: “Thanks to God”
Weddings are times for splurging, but even the most indulgent bride’s parents would gasp at a $48,000,000 price tag for a nuptial. But that was exactly what the most expensive wedding in history—that of Prince Charles to Lady Diana in 1981—cost. With 3,500 wedding guests, 27 wedding cakes, and global television coverage for an estimated audience of 750 million, the Royal Family went all-out to celebrate.
After Abraham’s servant received the blessing for Rebekah to wed Isaac, he gave expensive gifts to the family members, and they all celebrated with a meal. It was a joyous occasion—not only because of the upcoming wedding but because the arrangement was of the Lord. Upon Rebekah’s leaving, her family blessed her and wished her the best in life.
For believers, marriage is a time of celebrating the Lord’s joining of a man and woman together and establishing a new family. It is also a picture of that great joining together of Christ and His Church that is to come. Someday all of God’s people will celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Dear Lord, thank You for the special times of celebration You give us in this life. Help us to remember that every joy in life comes from Your hand. In Your name, amen.
Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken (Genesis 24:51, KJV).
Scripture: Genesis 24:45-51
Song: “Sweet Will of God”
Most parents understand there is a time to let their children go—but not Ben’s. Long after Ben had grown up and had left home for college, his mother would insist on still tucking him in to bed on his occasional visits home. If Ben disliked being tucked in as an adult, there was one person who liked it less: Ben’s wife!
The Lord had clearly shown Abraham’s servant that Rebekah was His choice to be Isaac’s wife. As the servant rehearsed the story of his prayer and God’s immediate answer, Rebekah’s family members could not help but see God’s providence at work. Rather than trying to keep Rebekah at home, both Rebekah’s father and brother gave their blessing for Rebekah to go.
Parents who love their children certainly find it difficult to let go of their children as they reach adulthood. As the dad of two teenage daughters, I find myself wishing that time with my girls would not go so fast. Yet if our children’s lives are committed to God’s care, at the right time we can let them go, knowing God’s providential hand is at work.
Heavenly Father, help us to submit to Your will for our lives. Help us to remember that Your will is always best. In Your Son’s name, amen.
Tough Mission, Much Prayer
And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day and show kindness unto my master Abraham (Genesis 24:12, KJV).
Scripture: Genesis 24:1-14
Tough Song: “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”
During World War II, pilot Robert Scott was given a difficult assignment to help evacuate Allied troops trapped in Japanese-controlled territory. Weathering fierce storms and evading enemy fighter planes, Scott helped rescue thousands. Later, he joined the legendary Flying Tigers, completing one-man air-missions to thwart enemy troop movements. But Scott realized he couldn’t complete these missions alone— hence the name of his later-published book: God Is My Co-Pilot.
Abraham gave his servant the difficult mission of finding a bride for Isaac in a far-away land. This assignment intimidated the servant. After all, Isaac was the chief’s son, and the servant had to both find a suitable girl and persuade her to leave home and marry a stranger. Yet God was with him and, upon arriving, the servant did not turn to his own wisdom, discretion, or experience—he turned to prayer, asking for the Lord’s guidance. While still praying, the Lord brought Rebekah right to him.
As believers, Christ often gives us assignments that are difficult—and sometimes seemingly impossible. Thankfully, in those intimidating times, we do not have to turn to our own knowledge, charisma, or talents. We simply need to seek God’s guidance and wait for Him to work.
Dear Lord, help us seek Your help with every assignment we are given in this life. Help us to trust Your guiding hand. In Your name, amen.
Falling in Love
And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept (Genesis 29:11, KJV).
Scripture: Genesis 29:1-14
Song: “O Perfect Love”
Love at first sight is not a new concept—Adoniram Judson is proof. When the famous missionary to Burma had dinner at Mr. Hasseltine’s house in 1810, he was so struck by seeing Hasseltine’s beautiful and gracious daughter, Ann, that he spontaneously (but silently) began composing a poem praising her—while still at the dinner table! They were soon married and serving the Lord together on the mission field.
Jacob was sent to the East for two reasons: to escape Esau’s wrath and to find himself a wife. Most likely, he didn’t expect to find true love his first day there. Yet Jacob appears quite love-struck upon meeting Rachel, going as far as single-handedly rolling the stone from the well for her in a seeming show of bravado. In time, the two would be married, and Rachel would remain the love of his life.
Proverbs 30:18, 19 speaks of falling in love as one of the things in life too wonderful to understand. It surely is a mystery how the heart of a man and a woman can be knit together as one. God does this as part of His plan for the family, and it is an especially beautiful experience.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your gift of love that begins a family. Help us to remember that love is from You. In Your Son’s name, amen.
Onward, Not Inward
But let it be the hidden man of the heart (1 Peter 3:4, KJV).
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:1-9
Song: “I Want a Principle Within”
Although Isaac Watts became well-known for his good hymn writing, he was never known for his good looks. Watts, frail and thin, stood only five-feet tall and had an over-sized head. In fact, when Watts made his only proposal for marriage, the woman refused, stating, “Mr. Watts, I only wish I could admire the [jewelry box] as much as I admire the jewel.” Due to the woman’s fixation on appearance, Watts remained a life-long bachelor.
Peter wrote to believers with guidelines for Christian living. He reminded the believing wives not to place excess value on appearance—hairstyles, jewelry, or clothes—but to value what God values—a holy lifestyle, a right heart, and a meek and quiet spirit. Likewise, Peter urged husbands to honor their wives and to view them as co-laborers in God’s work. He pointed to the example of Abraham and Sarah, who served God together and were greatly used in His plan.
Today, the world wants us to believe that wealth, appearance, and influence are important. However, what the Lord values is far different. When we learn to value what He values and to follow His guidelines, we will find ourselves as prime candidates for His service.
Father, please help us remember that what is most important in life is a heart dedicated to You. In Christ’s name, amen.
God’s Recipe for a Happy Home
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21, KJV).
Scripture: Ephesians 5:21-33
Song: “Happy the Home When God Is There”
When legendary symphony conductor Leonard Bernstein was asked which instrument was hardest to play, his answer was surprising: “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”
Bernstein’s point is clear: every orchestra instrument, even those seeming to be less prominent, is important.
Paul pressed this same point to the Ephesian believers when he wrote about the family. God’s recipe for a happy family includes both husbands and wives fulfilling their roles: wives are to follow their husbands’ lead, and husbands are to lead with love. This divine arrangement gives harmony and order to the home. Paul added that marriage is really a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church: the church should follow Christ’s lead as Christ leads His people in love.
Modern society is often critical of God’s plan for the family. However, the role of “second fiddle” is not intended to exalt one spouse and degrade the other but to give completeness to the home. When we follow God’s guidelines, we will find our family is in complete harmony.
Dear Lord, help us trust Your plan for all our family members. Guide us to serve You together. In Your name, amen.
October 22-28. David Madsen teaches English at a Christian college and enjoys serving in his local church with his wife and four daughters.
Worn Out Old Bones
I have borne him a son in his old age (Genesis 21:7).
Scripture: Genesis 18:9-15; 21:1-7
Song: “Faith of Our Fathers”
I learned a lot in a six-month period. I started off with a new bionic hip, once recovered I had blood spitting pneumonia. Recovering again, I had a massive stroke that earned me a helicopter ride to Arizona’s only certified stroke hospital. Released after a week I thought I must be finished. Wrong! I was struck by invasive pulmonary embolisms while bathing.
Two of my attending doctors told me that I had been given a miraculous pardon from a death sentence, as death certificates were medical expectations for each diagnosis. To have three during the same period was a guaranteed death certificate.
I mention this medical miracle, because I was blank until recently. I’m glad I can give testimony of what Almighty God can do through broken down, old servants. I’m thankful, and a bit surprised, to be able to “make known among the nations what he has done” (Psalm 105:1).
As it seemed impossible for Almighty God to use Sarah’s old barren body; so it seemed impossible for Him to write through me. But, miracles are a small matter for Him. Our Lord can easily use His children to accomplish what pleases Him no matter their age or physical condition.
Father, I’m thankful for a long and interesting journey. Help me to first seek Your kingdom until I leave this broken shell. In Jesus’ name, amen.
A Strange Hawaiian Story
The LORD appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:1).
Scripture: Genesis 18:1-8
Song: “Ring the Bells of Heaven”
The Lord can appear in many ways to His children. A few years ago, I was walking by myself at a Hawaiian resort in golden sunshine filtered through waving palm tree branches. I felt free and at peace as I breathed the graciously provided perfumed air and listened to the melodies of the happy birds.
Suddenly, I heard a voice say: “The Lord giveth and He taketh away.” I ignored the voice because I didn’t want to be disturbed from my reverie. A few steps later, I heard the same words in a much louder and firmer voice. Shocked, that got my attention so I said: “Is that You, Lord?” I felt an affirmation that staggered and dazed me.
As I walked into our condo, my wife met me at the door and said: “Honey, your mother is dying.” Frightened, I called California and asked my sister, who is a nurse, to lay her cell phone on my comatose mother’s breast and I sang the familiar song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children” to her as she smiled and went home to be with Jesus.
Mom isn’t blind in one eye anymore. She won’t fall down again and lay there afraid, alone in the dark. She’s with Jesus. I tell myself that the tears that are starting to flow down my face are tears of joy, but it’s really because I miss her.
Dear Lord, thank You that You still appear to Your children in many different ways. In Your name, amen.
Abraham Broke Into Laughter
Abraham laughed (Genesis 17:17).
Scripture: Genesis 17:15-22
Song: “Blessed Assurance”
Thinkers debate why Abraham laughed. Opinions include: He was happy at the coming prospect of a boy; He doubted God; He was so old he was starting to forget what God had said. Did they have Alzheimer’s back then? Whatever the answer, it’s possible that the true answer is a combination of reasons.
Seeing that Almighty God’s thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), we shouldn’t become trivial pursuit Christians. It is doubtful we will spend our time in Heaven searching for answers to every question. Our souls will be too busy praising the Lord and singing in the heavenly choir. Heaven is the joy and blessing of being with our beloved Lord and Savior.
When I recently walked through the valley of death and was free for the first time from my bodies’ sounds and demands, I was surprised by a beautiful peace that had surrounded me all along without me knowing it. I didn’t want to come back. I understood for the first time why the Lord describes His sheep as being “vapours” (James 4:14, KJV) that will disappear.
Death is nothing to be afraid of as He has conquered death (2 Timothy 1:10). The details that bother us now will be of little importance. Details and whatever we think is so important now will be gone like a fog that’s blown away. Why Abraham laughed probably won’t take up our time.
Heavenly Father, I’m looking forward to when I can be called away from the trials and tribulations of this life. Until then help me to rest in Your Word as sustaining evidence. In Your Son’s name, amen.
What Really Counts?
Abram believed in the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).
Scripture: Genesis 15:1-6
Song: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”
Abram was chosen by Almighty God to teach His children, no matter the age in which they might live. His faith took God’s words as a prophecy. If the Father said he would beget a child when he was old, then Abram’s faith was evidence it would happen (Hebrews 11:1).
Abram couldn’t predict the woman trouble he would have by making different women pregnant. He learned about women as he went along and Sarah’s murderous feelings toward Hagar took him by surprise. All he really knew was his Father knew best, no matter the situation. While a person’s life is complicated and flawed, it is ultimately defined by whether they believe God and what He has said or not.
A young boy went away to a college far from home. With a new opportunity to redefine himself and pursue his desires his own way he instead took Matthew 6:33 into his lonely heart and believed what his Lord said; “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.” He lived the next 60 years and found what Abram knew, that the Lord is trustworthy.
Abram’s faith lives in every one of God’s children that walk Abraham’s road.
Dear Father, please help me first seek Your kingdom in all my remaining days. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Blessed with Faithful Abraham
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14).
Scripture: Galatians 3:6-9, 13, 14
Before being beheaded, a converted Iraqi father had been forced to watch his son be beheaded and his head used as a soccer ball. As the father knelt waiting for the fatal blow, he was given one last chance to abandon Christ. With his final breathe he raised his head and loudly declared, “I refuse to abandon the Spirit of Christ.” He and his son were then united in glory.
Abraham’s faith is the path to becoming a new creature (2 Corinthians 15:17), but this path should never be forgotten as leading to the promise of the Spirit, who teaches the nations of the world about Christ Jesus (John 15:26, 27). Born-again believers feel weak and confused when they attempt to live without surrendering to the power of the Spirit they received at salvation (Romans 8:9).
The beauty of Jesus, when seen through the Holy Spirit’s eyes, strengthens terrified hearts and frail bodies. He allows almighty God’s children to pass through trauma that is more than a person can endure. We raise our heads knowing in a heart and soul full of faith that even this too will pass. Walking through the valley of death is a victorious experience for a soul feeling his shepherd’s touch. Hallelujah, we softly utter hallelujah as we go to our promised retirement home.
Father God, we desire to rest in Jesus who is the love of our life. In His name, amen!
And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him (Genesis 16:12, KJV).
Scripture: Genesis 16:7-16
Song: “Are You Washed in the Blood?”
Sarah had become impatient waiting on the Lord’s promise and her plan to get her maid Hagar pregnant by her husband, Abram, had worked just fine. The baby Hagar later gave birth to was named Ishmael, who was prophesized to become the “wild man” that would be the father of the Arabic people; whereas, Sarah’s son Isaac would become the father of the Jewish people. These two lines from Abram’s loins have been at war ever since.
Both lines have a spiritual ruler that works in everyone who is not born again. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2).
Every born-again child of God has the Holy Spirit living within their soul (Romans 8:9). This blessed gift from our Father God is a gift with a dangerous responsibility as without the Spirit’s control the believer’s flesh will take over and produce a wild man (Galatians 5:16-25).
Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16, KJV).
Father, help me to walk today in Your Spirit and not the lusts of my flesh. In Jesus name, amen.
A Life Needs Purpose
O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people (Psalm 105:1, KJV).
Scripture: Psalm 105:1-11
Song: “I Love to Tell the Story”
Without purpose depression germinates into a nasty weed-like companion.
Retirement is an eagerly awaited day for most people. Our builder son told me he wanted to retire by forty. I told him that a permanent vacation sounds good, but I had discovered it was boring. There are just so many fine meals and resorts before depression begins to set in if a person doesn’t have a purpose for living.
A Christian is never supposed to completely retire. God’s children are to: call upon His name, talk with their Lord and shepherd, give thanks to Him and live with grateful hearts and mouths, and testify to His deeds every day in every way.
We must find what gives purpose to our lives, whether we are still working or not. A born-again believer has the Spirit of God living within, and He will be frustrated if we aren’t branch-like channels for the vine’s life. We must live out the power, love, and sound mind we were given at our second-birth birthday party: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV).
Father God, please work within my soul that I might wish to do and be able to complete what pleases You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
October 1–21. Robert (Bob) Segress is a retired licensed psychotherapist, who also served as a pastor, college professor, and upon retiring a prison minister.
Never Stop Following God
So Abram left, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran (Genesis 12:4).
Scripture: Genesis 11:10, 27, 31, 32; 12:1-4
Song: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”
Daniel Boone kept moving. Born in Pennsylvania, his family moved to North Carolina. North Carolina became too crowded, so he blazed a new trail from North Carolina to the undeveloped land of Kentucky. Late in his life, when others his age were sick or dying, he moved out to the semi-tamed wilderness of Missouri.
At an age when most people settle down, Abram packed up his family and headed to entirely new lands. Not because of a sense of wanderlust, but an abiding faith in God. When God called Abram followed, no matter his age or circumstances.
New situations and locations present their own challenges and opportunities. When we follow God’s lead He provides and equips us to meet any challenges, growing us and transforming us in the process. We never need to fear the unknown or new challenges when we are moving in obedience to God.
God never wants us to settle. We always need to be ready to fol- low His call to the next ministry opportunity. To follow God in faith is a true adventure, but a sure one, as we are in God’s hands. Let us eagerly seek God’s call and direction.
O God in Heaven, You made us for a purpose. Let us seek Your calling and surrender our lives for You to fulfill Your purpose in us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Looking Back and Looking Forward
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10, KJV).
Scripture: Hebrews 11:4-12
Song: “Faith of Our Fathers”
Jonathan Edwards was both a renowned preacher and a godly man, bequeathing with his wife Sarah a Christian legacy to their 11 children. Starting from this foundation of faith, the descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards include one U.S. Vice President, three Senators, 30 judges, and over 100 each of missionaries and lawyers. This family of faith has lasted throughout many generations.
Some of us have great foundations of faith in our ancestors, while others of us may resemble Abraham, striking out to establish a new legacy of following God. In the first case, we can take what was handed to us and build on it. In the second case, we can set a foundation for our descendants.
The builder and maker of our faith is always God. Whether or not we were born into a family of faith, we can look forward to the city of faith secured for us in Christ. We do not control what foundation was bequeathed us. But all of us have a foundation built on the truth of God in Christ. We are given the opportunity to build further for future generations.
Any time is the best time to start building a family legacy of faith. We can invest in future generations, looking forward to that future day.
Dear God, You have given us all a legacy of faith, whether through our family or our church brethren. Help us stand on the shoulders of these spiritual giants and take the next steps in following You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Milestones Are Not Destinations
Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev (Genesis 12:9).
Scripture: Genesis 12:5-9
Song: “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”
The Butler University men’s basketball team was always competitive for a smaller program, but they attained a new level of success in the 1990s. They reached the NCAA tournament consistently, and even made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2003 and 2007.
But just reaching the tournament was not enough. They worked harder, developed skilled players, and playing against the biggest programs in the country, came within a basket of winning the national championship in 2010.
God called Abram to a special land far away. When he and his family left Ur, his father went to Haran, but God was leading Abram farther. Along the way, he would build altars and worship God, but these were not the destinations God had in mind. Abram kept going as far as God was leading him.
We should see progress in both ministry efforts and internal transformation of our lives when we are working as God intended. We can even meet significant milestones in our journey as markers of our success.
Our journey with God may be long, with periods of rest along the way. However, rest should never be confused with our final destination. Our pilgrimage is not so much a physical journey as a path through life as we allow God to keep working within us. We must keep following God’s leading right into His permanent Sabbath rest.
Heavenly Father, we delight in our journey with You. Lead us into times of movement and rest as needed, setting milestones by Your guidance. In Christ, amen.
Divided by Language, United by God
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:9, KJV).
Scripture: Genesis 11:1-9
Song: “O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”
“I have nothing to wear.” These words, used by men and women, can convey entirely different meanings. According to the old joke, the husband means, “I have nothing clean to wear,” but the same words mean to the wife, “I have nothing new to wear.”
If we can assign different meanings to the same words, understanding each other becomes challenging. Then add potential interpretations assigned on the receiving end, and effective communication can seem impossible.
When God confused the languages at Babel, giving them different tongues to speak, communication was hopelessly confused. Mankind spread almost by default, to segregate into like-speaking groups.
Yet this apparently hopeless division was temporary. God caused the gospel to be proclaimed in many languages at Pentecost, so that each person could hear God’s message in their own language. What had been divided by human sin was united by the Spirit of God.
God uses us to enrich those around us. No special gift or ability is required. God has already gifted us to work in His Spirit. Just as the humblest plant adds value within creation, we can work within the church to bear fruit through God’s Spirit.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your Spirit who unites us even as so many things in this world can divide us. Help us to overcome language and other barriers to achieve true unity in You. In our Savior’s name, amen.
Growing from Small to Large
These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth (Genesis 9:19).
Scripture: Genesis 9:18, 19; 10:1-4, 6-8, 21-23
Song: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”
A common cartoon scenario is for a child to build a snowball at the top of a hill and give it a push. As it rolls down the hill, the snowball picks up snow and grows in size. It becomes a massive snow boulder catching everything in its path, including people.
Our efforts may seem small and even insignificant. We may despair at not having an impact in the world. But God is taking that effort and growing it, adding people and shaping it in ways that we never could. Our small efforts can result in huge advances of the kingdom of God, even if we are unaware of the impact.
Sometimes our efforts will be generational. We may start a ministry, only to hand it off to the next generation who then takes it to the next level. We are to practice patience when the effort goes slowly, and persevere in faith to the end.
Let us seek to do good for the kingdom of God, to work with God to build His kingdom. God will take our small efforts and use them in a mighty way. There are no small works in God’s economy.
O God in Heaven, we feel so very small in this world, especially when we focus on the tasks before us. Let us keep our eyes on You, and not be fearful, because You can use our small efforts to make everlasting impacts. In Your name we pray, amen.
The Promise after the Storm
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth (Genesis 9:13).
Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17
Song: “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”
While on vacation, the radar showed a bright red band of severe weather heading toward us. We returned to our rental house and prepared to ride out the storm. Although the sky was black, we dodged the severe weather and were then blessed to see a double rainbow arching over the bay.
While enjoying the view, we were reminded that rainbows are prisms reflecting the sunlight through water vapor. While we were all looking at the same rainbow, we each technically see a slightly different rainbow because we are viewing it from slightly different angles.
God made a covenant with Noah and his family, and used the rainbow as a sign of remembrance, for both God and man, of God’s promise. But this covenant, just like the rainbow, is both a community promise and an individual promise. God made this promise to all of mankind, and He personally makes the promise to each one of us.
As important as community is, we need to appropriate God’s promises personally into our lives. The rainbow is God’s personal invitation for us to join the community of believers in endless praise and thankfulness for what God has done for us in bringing us through all situations in life.
Heavenly Father, You remind us of Your mercy and everlasting love in many ways, but also frequently after a storm, when Your rainbow is in the sky. Let us always turn to You whenever we encounter storms of any kind. In Christ’s name, amen.
The Power of Potential
As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it. (Genesis 9:7)
Scripture: Genesis 9:1-7
Song: “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations”
When Steve Jobs was building computers in his garage, he was not aware that he was building a global corporation delivering useful technological devices to people. He had a dream that was not yet realized. Only effort and potential existed at that stage.
When Noah and his family exited the ark, God blessed them and commanded them to multiply and spread throughout the earth. That command must have seemed a dream to the eight people alive. Yet mankind quickly grew in number, and after additional encouragement from God, spread throughout the earth.
We can sometimes feel inadequate to achieve our calling. However, we can always take comfort in knowing that whenever God calls us to a task, He equips us to succeed. We might be stretched or need to step out in faith, but God will enable us to complete His will for our lives.
If human beings can build great organizations in their own strength, imagine the potential when we let God work through our lives. God can do marvelous works when we submit our efforts to God’s plan.
Dear Lord, Help me to discard my perceived limitations and reach for Your vision for my life. Guide me and direct me to make the fullest use of the gifts which You have given me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
October 8–14. Terry Magee lives with his wife in Pennsylvania where he actively teaches at his church. Each day he seeks to better practice walking with God.
A Ship without a Steering Wheel
This is how you are to build it (Genesis 6:15).
Scripture: Genesis 6:9b-22
Song: “He Leadeth Me”
Leif Eriksson sailed his Viking ship with a tiller. Both Magellan and the pilgrims on the Mayflower steered their ships with a whipstaff attached to the tiller. “Old Ironsides” and the Titanic were steered by a steering wheel. But Noah had no such device for his ark.
God gave Noah exact instructions for the ark that included its size and features such as the roof, door, and decks. But God gave no instructions for a steering device. Noah and his family were to trust the Lord as helmsman of the ark. So if Noah thought that the ark was headed directly for a mountain he would have to trust the Lord. And Noah would trust God to steer the ark to a safe place to land as well.
We often like to be in control. This might lead us to make plans for where we will work or live. We make a to-do list that maps out our day. But the reality is that the Lord is the one steering the ship of our life. It’s not easy to take our hands off the rudder. But that is exactly what trusting the Lord looks like. Look to God today and let Him steer your life.
Dear Lord, I trust Your control of my life. Even though I like to be in control, I will let go of the steering wheel and let You take me where I am to go. In Your name, amen.
A Fresh Start
Bring out every kind of living creature . . . so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it (Genesis 8:17).
Scripture: Genesis 8:1-5, 13-19
Song: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
My friend was having a bad morning with his young son. From the moment the boy had gotten out of bed, he had been angry and uncooperative. By breakfast time, my friend had had enough. “That’s it! I want you to go back to bed, then get up and start this day over.”
The boy stomped up to his room with tears streaming down his face. After a few moments of pleasurable silence, he appeared with a smile. “I’m ready for school now!” he said.
My friend was amazed and said, “I guess all he needed was a fresh start.”
Through the flood God gave mankind a fresh start. God’s words, “Be fruitful and increase in number” signified a new start and reflect the same command for Adam and Eve.
God makes opportunity for fresh starts. When we come to Christ for salvation, He forgives us and makes us a new creation. When we feel stagnant in our Christian walk, Christ can give us something new to jumpstart our faith. Fresh starts are so close to God’s heart that he has built them into our world. Each season is a fresh start. Each sunrise is a fresh start. “For his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).
Dear Lord, I pray that today would be a fresh start. In Your name, amen.
You Have Been Wiped Clean
Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out (Genesis 7:23).
Scripture: Genesis 7:17-24
Song: “Nothing but the Blood”
I can always tell when one of my kids has a bowl of cereal. First of all there is the trail from the pantry to their spot at the table. Then there are the splashes and splatters of milk around their bowl. When I call them back to the table to wipe up their spills, their wiping job is haphazard and incomplete since they are in a hurry to get the job done.
When the Lord wiped every living thing from the face of the earth, He did a thorough job. He didn’t leave any living thing alive. And the flood waters went above and beyond—literally. Even the mountain tops were covered. When the Lord wipes, He does it completely and perfectly!
At the time of our salvation, we can know and feel that we have been cleansed from our sin. But as time wears on, we might not feel clean. Maybe we start to wonder if we really are cleansed from our sin. But the truth is that when Christ wipes away our sin, He does so thoroughly and completely. He doesn’t leave any splashes or splatters of guilt or disgrace.
Even if we do not feel completely clean, the fact is that we have been washed with the blood of Christ and now we stand before God in perfect confidence that we have been purified by Him.
Dear Lord, I want to bask in the knowledge that You have cleansed me completely from sin. In Your name, amen
Noah’s Hope Chest
On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark (Genesis 7:13).
Scripture: Genesis 7:11-16
Song: “Speak, O Lord”
Before I was married, my family threw me a wedding shower. Wow, was I surprised! I opened gifts of dishes, towels, and other things I would need to set up house. After the shower, we packed the things away in a plastic storage tub that we laughingly called the “hope chest” since I didn’t have a traditional cedar-lined wooden chest. Even though it wasn’t fancy, that tub held just as well the things my husband-to-be and I needed for our future life in our own home.
In a similar way, God gifted Noah and his family with the “hope chest” of an ark equipped with all they would need for life on the ark and obedience to God’s commands. And for us, God supplies what we need for life and our obedience to His instruction for our lives. We have the Holy Spirit and Scripture. We are given the church community to help sustain us. Obedience may not be easy, but we are capable of obeying because of God’s thorough and constant equipping.
Dear Lord, thank You for equipping me for obedience. May I say “yes” to obeying You. In Your name, amen.
What Are You Waiting For?
And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth (Genesis 7:10).
Scripture: Genesis 7:6-10
Song: “The Waiting”
Packing for vacation takes a long time. There are lists to make, things to purchase, and things to gather. But once the preparations are finally complete, it’s time to stuff the suitcases into the rooftop carrier and stack the coolers and pillows and blankets just so in the trunk. The kids get buckled into their car seats and the tunes are blaring on the radio. Dad gets into the driver seat, shuts the door and . . . sits in the driveway for 7 days before pulling out onto the road.
That is not how we normally start our vacations, but that is sort of what happened to Noah and his family when they were vacating their home. After long preparations and hard work, they waited for 7 days in the ark before the flood waters came. How did Noah’s family react to the waiting? We don’t know. All we know is that they had to wait.
Waiting is part of life: for the birth of a child, for retirement, for winter to get here, and for winter to be over. Waiting is also part of the Christian life: for God’s provision, for His guidance, for Christ’s return. What can we do in a season of waiting? Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.”
When we wait patiently, we reflect our God who in His loving kindness patiently waits for each part of His plan to unfold at just the right time.
Dear God, In times of waiting, still my heart to wait patiently for You and trust in Your perfect timing. In Your name I pray, amen.
Positional Righteousness in Action
And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him (Genesis 7:5).
Scripture: Genesis 7:1-5
Song: “Trust and Obey”
If you told me that you were a teacher, I would know your job position. But it wouldn’t be until I watched you teach that I would see evidence of your position.
Noah was called “righteous.” Here we are shown the truth of Noah’s righteous position by his sacrificial worship and complete obedience.
God provided Noah with seven pairs of clean animals. Why did he need so many? At this point in time, the distinction between clean and unclean related to animal sacrifice in worship since the Lord did not give clean animals for food until after the flood. God provided for the lifestyle of sacrificial worship that Noah had already established.
Noah’s righteousness was also manifested by complete obedience. He did all that the Lord commanded.
If you are a Christian, your righteous status can be expressed in the same way that Noah’s was: through sacrificial worship and complete obedience. We are not sacrificing animals today. But there is still sacrifice in our worship through tithes and offerings and time set aside for worship on Sunday morning and throughout the week.
When God is convicting you of His commands, obey with your whole heart. Not just halfway by skipping the parts you don’t like, but obeying all that the Lord commands.
Heavenly Father, show me how I can worship you sacrificially. Show me where I need to obey completely. In Jesus’ name, amen.
We’re Debt Free!!
The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth (Genesis 6:5).
Scripture: Genesis 6:1-8
Song: “In His Time”
One popular call-in show is about finances and paying off personal debt. Callers often share their success stories: “Before we started listening to your show, we didn’t know how much debt we had. When we finally listed them out, we were overwhelmed! Some major changes had to be made to set things right! So we got extra jobs and we sold a lot of stuff. Now the debt is gone! We’re debt free!”
When the Lord looked out over the world He had created, He looked at the balance of mankind’s accounts and found the debt of wickedness was far too great. Something drastic had to be done. When God says He regrets that He had made humans, He does not mean that He changed his mind about creation. Rather, in His perfect justice, He needed to call in the debts. This is not the only time the Lord in His justice took drastic measures to settle accounts. He sent plagues when the Israelites were disobedient. The earth swallowed Korah and his rebellious followers. Assyria and Babylon conquered God’s wayward people. And in Revelation, God has revealed His future plans for ridding the world of wickedness.
In moments of despair, we wonder if our God notices the wickedness on the earth that is both far and near. But we can trust His perfect justice and His perfect timing for enacting His justice.
Dear Lord, turn my heart of despair into a heart that trusts in Your perfect justice. In Jesus’ name, amen.
October 1–7. Rachel Schmoyer is a minister’s wife from Whitehall, PA.
The Blame Game
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12).
Scripture: Genesis 3:8-17, 20-24
Song: “Search Me, O God”
When growing up, playing with friends and my two sisters was usually a fun time. Mom often released us into the neighborhood with two words: “Play nice.” But many times, the other kids didn’t. An innocent game of tag could deteriorate into pushing, shoving, and yelling. When things escalated, Mom stormed out of the house to break up the brawl.
That’s when a chorus of “She started it!” and “He made me!” rose above the fray.
We expect that kind of reaction from children when they do wrong, but adults do it too. It started with our first parents in the Garden of Eden. When God asked Adam if he had eaten from the forbidden tree, Adam pointed the finger at Eve. Eve pointed the finger at the serpent, who had tempted her with a bite (v. 13).
It’s true that something or someone can incite us to give in to temptation and sin, but the decision is ours alone. We’re not little kids. We must accept the blame for what we’ve done wrong, knowing that God will never turn us away. As He covered Adam and Eve with garments after they sinned (v. 21), so He covers our sins with the blood of Jesus.
Father, when You convict me of wrongdoing, forgive me when I shift blame to someone else. Help me live honestly and openly before You and receive Your forgiveness. In Christ, amen.
Did God Really Say?
[The serpent] said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1).
Scripture: Genesis 3:1-7
Song: “Trust and Obey”
I’ve never heard such an emphatic answer from God. Laid off a job and finding no work, I asked if I would compromise His plans if I sought temporary employment. His resounding “Yes!” stopped me in my job-searching tracks.
Why does God want me to wait when I’m running out of money? I wondered. When I told a Christian friend what God had told me, she stared at me as if to say, “Are you sure?” Momentarily, I questioned the wisdom of waiting, but still held on.
Two weeks after that prayer time, my dream job came along— one God had been preparing for me. Had I ignored His voice and found other employment, I would have missed His best for me.
God has given more serious directives in His Word, not just to guide our steps but to steer us clear of sin. He spoke one to Adam and Eve: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16, 17). But once the serpent cast a doubt in her mind, Eve fell to ruin, and then Adam.
It’s easy to question what God has told us clearly to do or not to do. If we don’t heed His words, we undermine His authority and bring disaster on ourselves. We receive God’s best only when we obey no matter what.
Dear Father, I want to know Your voice so I can distinguish the voice of the enemy. Help me to obey You, even when it doesn’t make sense. In Christ’s name, amen.
This is a Test
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).
Scripture: James 1:12-15
Song: “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”
A radio broadcast is interrupted by several short beeps, followed by a voice announcing, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.” The test ensures that the alert system is working correctly so that, in the event of an actual emergency, we can be notified of what to do.
A voice in Scripture sounds much like that of the Emergency Broadcast System. “This is a test,” James says in our reading today. He’s not referring to an alert that will notify us of an impending storm; he’s referring to the storm itself. A trial has slammed into our lives with hurricane force: a dreaded disease, a debilitating addiction, marital unfaithfulness, a financial setback. It shakes the very foundations of our faith. Every day we battle raging winds of anxiety and rising waters of fear.
What can we do during the test? Persevere, James says. Ride the storm out. But when we look to ourselves, we find no adequate resources to help. That’s when we turn to the words of the apostle Paul, based on many a tempest in his life: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).
We will survive and thrive in the storm, safe in the everlasting arms of Jesus.
Father, this storm frightens me, and I want out. Help me take hold of You, knowing You take hold of me and won’t let go. In Christ, amen.
The Power of Influence
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42).
Scripture: Mark 9:42-48
Song: “Jesus Loves the Little Children”
My mind occasionally goes back to the Sunday my nephew James was dedicated to the Lord. Family and friends stood behind him and his mother, Sue, a single parent, while the minister charged my sister with her responsibilities. Among them, to teach James the fear of the Lord, watch over his education, direct his mind to the Scriptures, and guide his feet to the sanctuary. The minister also admonished the congregation to help Sue and do their part in nurturing James toward spiritual maturity.
Today James is a committed Christian young man, thanks in part to his mother. She took to heart every word of that dedication ceremony. To her, this wasn’t just a ritual but a reminder of how seriously God considers our influence on little ones.
Influencing children is not the work of parents alone. All Christian adults should heed Jesus’ words of warning regarding our example to young lives. Do we revere God? Do we study the Bible? Is it changing our lives and shaping our decisions? Do we worship in His house regularly? Many people will enter the lives of little ones and turn their eyes from Jesus. With God’s help, we won’t be one of them.
Lord, I dedicate myself to be the example I need to be to children. Keep me from doing anything to make them stumble. In Christ, amen.
The Prayer Punch
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he [Jesus] was hungry (Matthew 4:2).
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11
Song: “Nearer My God to Thee”
My friend Lois once told me, “The Lord takes prayer and fasting seriously.” She should know. Lois’s husband died when their two sons were 12 and 14. After his death, she fasted every Friday morning for wisdom in raising them on her own. Though Satan raised many a doubt in her mind, God heard those prayers. Today, Lois’ sons are devoted Christians, with wives and family members following the Lord.
Satan also takes prayer and fasting seriously, but in a different way. He sees it as an opportunity to strike a blow against us, just as he did with Jesus. At the end of a 40-day fast, when Jesus was hungry, the tempter put Him through the paces of three temptations. Jesus countered each one with the truths of Scripture—and won.
Satan didn’t realize the spiritual principle our Lord illustrated: Though a person is weakened physically through fasting, he is strengthened spiritually. Time spent in giving up food is a time for drawing closer to God.
Due to health issues, not everyone can refuse food in a fast. But all of us can give up something important to us—social media, a TV program, a sports activity—and spend that time in prayer. Doing so sharpens our spiritual senses, making us alert to the devil’s lies and to the truths of God’s Word that silence him.
Father, draw near to me as I draw near to You in fasting and prayer. In Christ, amen.
Grace for the Grave
For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5:15).
Scripture: Romans 5:12-19
Song: “Amazing Grace”
A local cemetery isn’t on my list of favorite places to visit, but the deaths of my parents in the last two years summoned me there. I walked among row after row of marble slabs, standing as silent reminders about every human being—that though we live, we will one day die.
I read dates and names on those headstones, but no cause of death. What brought the end of life to these people? I thought of disease, accidents, war, murder, and suicide. But in Romans, Paul gives the real cause for death: Adam’s sin.
Just one taste of forbidden fruit back in Eden ushered in the fall of humanity and with it, death in all its horrid forms. This news would be bleak indeed if Paul stopped there, but he doesn’t: We have the gift of grace in the Second Adam. It stands as a reminder about every believer—that though we die, we will one day live. Thank God, the grave isn’t the end of the road for those who embrace the grace of Christ!
Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son, who conquered sin and the grave so we can live forever with You. In His name, amen.
Right Place, Wrong Time
David remained in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1).
Scripture: 2 Samuel 11:1-5
Song: “I Need Thee Every Hour”
A swinging nightclub. A neighborhood bar. An adult entertainment establishment. These are hotbeds for temptation that can lead to sin.
King David’s story tells us that falling into sin can happen anywhere—even at home. Jerusalem was not exactly a sin city, and David’s palace was not a house of prostitution. But at the time of year when kings went to war, David did not. Israel’s commander-in-chief stayed home when he should have been on the battlefield. And it set the stage for his undoing.
In our text, David moves from seeing Bathsheba from the palace roof to desiring her, and finally to sleeping with her. The adultery they commit and David’s shrewd arrangement of Uriah’s death (v. 15) proved disastrous.
We are wise to shun locales that God obviously does not approve of. However, temptation can lurk in less obvious places, and the timing of our being there can open us up to it. For example, we stay late at the workplace when we should be home. We stay home when the family is gone; leaving the computer available for browsing. We spend time at a friend’s house when we should be in school.
We can avoid the same mistake David made by seeking God’s wisdom to keep us where we need to be, when we need to be there.
Lord, help me be alert that Satan can strike anywhere, anytime, even when I think I’m safe. In Christ, amen.
September 24–30. Sherri Langton is a magazine editor and workshop speaker at Christian writers conferences. She enjoys playing drums and percussion at her church, as well as walking and swimming. Sherri lives in Denver, CO.
God Invading Our Loneliness
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
Scripture: Genesis 2:18-24; 4:1, 2
Song: “When God Made You”
Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals once sang, “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long.”
Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway confessed, “Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.”
Scientist Albert Einstein wrote, “It is strange to be known so universally, and yet to be so lonely.”
Author Ernest Hemingway wrote, “I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead and there is no current to plug into.”
After Adam worked his way through the dazzling beauty of a bluebird and the elegance of a black stallion, he was still alone. So, God, the giver of all good gifts, made a woman and brought her to Adam. Adam responded with joyous exaltation. Only our Creator, who knows us to the depths, can provide for us what we need to flourish and experience true joy. Look to Him for your joy in companionship.
Omniscient Father, I thank You that as long as I have Your steadfast love I am never truly alone. In the name of Jesus, amen.
When Listening Improves Our Vision
Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7).
Scripture: Genesis 4:3-12
Song: “Search Me O God”
My friend Don was ready to leave for work when his wife asked, “You’re not going to wear that are you?”
Puzzled, Don replied, “I certainly am. Why? What’s wrong with what I have on?”
“You have on a black shirt with blue pants,” his wife keenly observed.
“No, these are black pants,” Don insisted.
A couple of weeks passed and Don began to experience a problem with his vision. After consulting an optician, Don learned that he had cataracts in both eyes. This condition often hinders one’s ability to make accurate color distinctions. It appears that Don was wearing blue pants after all.
God warned Cain that sin was crouching at the door, like a crafty tiger hunkered down in the tall grass waiting for the unsuspecting gazelle. But like my friend Don, Cain couldn’t see it. Like Cain, we need a word from God to point out the sin we can’t see. Perhaps if we listen better we shall better see the sin that crouches, waiting for us.
Heavenly Father, speak to me through Your Word, and may I both hear and see how to respond. Through Christ, amen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason? (Matthew 19:3).
Scripture: Matthew 19:3-6
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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