View Full Version : Daily Devotional
09-08-2010, 01:56 AM
September 8, 2010
Read: Ephesians 4:25-32
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. —Eph. 4:29
In November 2008, the US Supreme Court debated the constitutional limits on foul language. The Federal Communications Commission cited a national broadcasting company for allowing two entertainers to use two common profanities on the air. The broadcasting company argued that “fleeting” profanity that was not blatantly sexual should not be punished. Others countered that it is our duty to protect children from such language.
The issue of inappropriate language was not up for debate in the church at Ephesus. Paul instructed believers that one of the ways they were to respond to the blessings of redemption and being made alive in Christ was by guarding their speech (4:29).
Paul did not want them to be characterized by their old way of living, which included corrupt and unwholesome speech, profanity, malicious gossip, slander, or anything that injures another and sparks dissension. Instead, he wanted the Ephesians through their words to “impart grace” and encouragement, as the need arose.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we want the words that flow from our hearts and out of our mouths to be a life-giving spring. And may all who hear our words receive a blessing.
Lord, set a guard upon my lips,
My tongue control today;
Help me evaluate each thought
And watch each word I say. —Hess
God’s Word should shape our words.
09-09-2010, 02:44 AM
Commanded To Love
September 9, 2010
Read: 1 John 3:16-24
This is His command-ment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another. —1 John 3:23
As a result of adult children neglecting their responsibilities, some elderly parents in Singapore are forced to seek financial help from charities and other state agencies. Speaking about this escalating situation, a government official said, “We cannot legislate love.”
In the Bible, however, love is commanded. That is what Moses told the nation of Israel: “I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways” (Deut. 30:16). And Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God” (Mark 12:30).
How can God command love? His supreme display of love at Calvary gave Him that right. Jesus’ beloved disciple, John, wrote: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. . . . This is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:16,23).
What opportunities do you have to obey God’s command to love? Honoring parents by caring and providing for them? Ministering to a sick friend? Offering a gracious and kind word to someone who is difficult to love?
Lord, because You laid down Your life for us, help us to show love to others.
Love is an attitude, love is a prayer,
For someone in sorrow, a heart in despair;
Love is good will for the gain of another,
Love suffers long with the fault of a brother. —Anon.
We show our love for God when we love one another.
09-10-2010, 02:00 AM
September 10, 2010
Read: Luke 15:4-6
Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost! —Luke 15:6
In my college years I worked as a guide, taking boys on treks into Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. On one occasion one of my hikers—a small, slow chap—lagged behind and took the wrong fork on a trail. When we arrived at our campsite he was nowhere to be found. I frantically went out to search for him.
Just before dark, I came across him sitting by a small lake—utterly lost and alone. In my joy, I gave him a bear hug, hoisted him on my shoulders, and carried him down the trail to his companions.
In a story by Scottish writer George MacDonald, he describes a young woman finding a child alone and lost in the woods. She gathered him up in her arms and carried him home to her father, at which point she gained an insight that was never to leave her: “Now she understood the heart of the Son of Man, [who came] to find and carry back the stray children to their Father and His.”
I want you too to know the heart of Jesus, the Son of Man, who came to find and carry back His straying children to their Father, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). No matter how far you may have strayed and how lost you may be, He came to seek and to save you.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost,
Left heaven’s glory, minding not the cost;
Looking high and low and far and wide,
The Son of Man for all was crucified. —Hess
To find salvation, you must admit that you’re lost.
09-11-2010, 04:25 AM
Everyone Knows What’s Wrong
September 11, 2010
Read: Romans 12:14-21
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. —Romans 12:21
Glance at any newspaper and the headlines tell you what’s wrong with the world. Watch television, listen to the radio, talk to friends, and you will find no shortage of opinions as to what is wrong on planet Earth. That’s because pointing out what’s wrong is easy.
When terrorists hijacked passenger planes and slammed them into the Pentagon, two New York skyscrapers, and a Pennsylvania field, the world quickly called it evil. The destructive power of this epic evil event made people feel paralyzed and helpless. And that’s what evil does best; it makes us feel powerless.
But we’re not. Most of us experience evil on a smaller, more personal scale. And for us, the apostle Paul outlined the proper response. He said we are to abhor evil (Rom. 12:9), not to repay it with more evil (v.17), and not to be overcome by it (v.21).
The true victim of evil is goodness—the goodness that God designed as part of creation for everyone to enjoy (Gen. 1:4-31). It is surprising then when Paul concludes that the casualty of evil is also its conqueror (Rom. 12:21).
Evil gets all the headlines, but God’s goodness is stronger, and He wants us to use it on His behalf to overcome His enemy.
For Further Thought
If in your personal life you’re facing the effects of someone’s evil actions, these Scriptures may be helpful: Prov. 20:22; Matt. 5:38-48; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Peter 3:8-17.
As light overcomes darkness, goodness can overcome evil.
09-12-2010, 03:34 PM
Just Another Sunday?
September 12, 2010
Read: Acts 2:41-47
They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine. —Acts 2:42
Early on a sunny Sunday afternoon after church, I headed out for a walk around the neighborhood. A man was trimming his grass along the sidewalk, and we greeted each other with the usual “Hello, how are you?” In a negative tone, he replied, “It’s just another Sunday.” Later, I wondered what he had meant by that. Was he saying, I’m just doing my chores—going through the motions?
Sometimes even church attendance can become a matter of merely going through the motions on just another Sunday. For the believers in the early church (Acts 2:41-47), joining with fellow believers was a source of excitement. That was when the church first started and everyone was a new believer—so they were bound to be enthusiastic. But what about us? What can we do to make each Sunday special?
Go with the anticipation of meeting with God. While He is with us all the time (Heb. 13:5), God is with us in a unique way as we gather with others who know Him (Matt. 18:20; James 4:8). Bring your burdens and praises to Him.
Go to learn about God. We may not learn something new every week, but we can always be encouraged by the truths of God’s Word (Ps. 119:105). Expect to hear from Him.
Go to fellowship with others. We need each other in this Christian journey. Encourage others, challenge them in their faith, and pray for them (Heb. 10:24-25).
Lord, give us a renewed enthusiasm of heart for attending church, so that it won’t be just another Sunday.
If you want to be spiritually fed,
go to church with a hunger for the Word.
09-13-2010, 02:30 AM
Ike’s Anger Problem
September 13, 2010
Read: Proverbs 16:21-33
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty. —Proverbs 16:32
On June 6, 1944, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, was the most powerful man on earth. Under his authority, the largest amphibious army ever assembled prepared to liberate the Nazi-dominated continent of Europe. How was Eisenhower able to lead such a vast army? Part of the answer can be linked to his remarkable skill in working with different kinds of people.
What many do not know, however, is that Ike hadn’t always gotten along with others. As a boy, he often got into fistfights at school. But fortunately he had a caring mother who instructed him in God’s Word. One time, when she was bandaging his hands after an angry outburst, she quoted Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Years later, Eisenhower wrote, “I have always looked back on that conversation as one of the most valuable moments of my life.” Undoubtedly, by learning to control his anger, Eisenhower was able to work effectively with others.
Inevitably, each of us will at times be tempted to lash out in anger. Yet through God’s work in our lives we can learn to control our anger. What better way to influence people than through a gentle spirit.
Thinking It Over
Do you struggle to control your anger?
For help, read Moses: His Anger And What It Cost Him at www.discoveryseries.org/q0716
He who conquers his anger conquers a strong enemy.
09-13-2010, 11:53 PM
September 14, 2010
Read: Matthew 10:27-33
Not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. —Matthew 10:29
After dinner one night, a tiny brown sparrow flew inside our house through the front door. A chase ensued. Each time my husband got near to it, the little intruder fluttered away in a desperate search for an exit. Before we could escort it safely outside, the bird toured the house so frantically that we could see its chest throbbing from its rapid heartbeat.
Sometimes we are like that little bird—anxious, frazzled, and afraid of what might happen next. It comforts me to think that “not one [sparrow] falls to the ground” without God knowing about it (Matt. 10:29). He sees and knows everything in our world.
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place” (Prov. 15:3), and nothing escapes His attention, including you and me. God understands and values the finest points of our being. Jesus said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30).
It’s amazing that God keeps a tally of our personal trivia and is even aware of a bird’s misfortune. Since He knows about these small details, we can trust that He sees and cares about the big issues that ruffle our feathers. When we ask Him for help, God’s response is always informed by His perfect knowledge of us and our circumstances. Let’s trust Him with our anxious concerns.
If God sees the sparrow’s fall,
Paints the lilies short and tall,
Gives the skies their azure hue,
Will He not then care for you? —Anon.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
09-15-2010, 12:06 AM
It’s The Real Deal
September 15, 2010
Read: 1 Peter 1:3-12
I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. —1 Peter 5:12
One of the coolest things hanging on the wall in my home office is a Certificate of Authenticity.
It has on it the logo of US Space Shuttle flight 110, which was launched in April 2002. Aboard the Atlantis on that flight was Mission Specialist Rex Walheim, who took into outer space an article from Our Daily Bread titled “Seeing God’s Glory.” Lt. Col. Walheim sent me the certificate to prove that this devotional page actually left earth’s atmosphere.
Sometimes we need these kinds of things—documents that verify truth. If I were to show that article to someone and say, “This flew on the Space Shuttle,” I could be doubted because I would have no proof. But when Walheim sent me the Certificate of Authenticity, he gave me verification.
In 1 Peter, Simon Peter created a Certificate of Authenticity for his message about the grace of God. In chapter 5, he wrote, “I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this [letter] is the true grace of God” (v.12). Peter was assuring his readers that the many messages of 1 Peter—themes of hope and courage and even suffering—were all authentic and demonstrate the grace of God.
Looking for evidence of God’s grace? Read 1 Peter, and be confident that its teaching is the real deal.
The Bible stands like a mountain towering
Far above the works of men;
Its truth by none ever was refuted,
And destroy it they never can. —Lillenas
To trust God is to trust in His holy Word.
09-16-2010, 01:07 AM
The Wonder Of Nature
September 16, 2010
Read: Job 36:26-33
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. —Job 42:5
Growing up around the woods and waters of Midwest America, I’ve been fascinated with natural wildlife native to our region. But on a recent trip to the California coast, I found myself staring in breathtaking wonder at snorting elephant seals, barking sea lions, and a forest of silent redwoods. I watched pelicans soar in formation, and I saw migrating whales spouting in the distance. Together they are just a sampling of the millions of species that make up the intricate and delicate balance of nature.
According to the Bible, the variety of the natural world is designed to do far more than inspire childlike wonder. The mysteries of nature can help us come to terms with a God who allows inexpressible, unexplainable pain and suffering.
We see this in the epic story of Job. While he was suffering, Job didn’t know that God had such a high regard for him that he allowed Satan to test his faith with a series of losses.
What emerges is this eventual, unavoidable conclusion: A Creator who has the wisdom and power to design the wonders of nature is great enough to be trusted with pain and suffering that are beyond our ability to understand. In awe, Job proclaimed, “I know that You can do everything” (42:2). We can trust that kind of God—no matter what.
If God’s creation helps us see
What wonders He can do,
Then we can trust His promises
For they are always true. —D. De Haan
It’s good to worship God in nature
if it leads us to worship the God of nature.
09-17-2010, 12:58 AM
September 17, 2010
Read: 1 Cor. 1:18-31
God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise. —1 Corinthians 1:27
In 1945, professional golfer Byron Nelson had an unimaginable season. Of the 30 tournaments he entered, he won an amazing 18 times—including 11 in a row. Had he chosen to, he could have continued his career and perhaps become the greatest of all time. But that was not his goal. His goal was to earn enough money playing golf to buy a ranch and spend his life doing what he really loved. So, instead of continuing on at the peak of his career, Nelson retired at age 34 to become a rancher. He had different goals.
The world may find that kind of thinking to be foolish. It doesn’t really understand the heart that looks beyond trying to gain more wealth or fame to real satisfaction and contentment. This is especially true when it comes to our choice to live for Christ. But it is in the world’s perception of our alleged foolishness that we might best represent the Master’s different goals to this world. Paul wrote, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27).
A commitment to living according to kingdom values might brand us as foolish in the eyes of the world, but it can bring honor to our God.
What Christ will say on judgment day
Will finally make life’s values clear;
He’ll show that we were rich or poor
By what on earth we held most dear. —D. De Haan
Core values are of no value unless they reflect God’s values.
09-17-2010, 11:03 PM
Roughing The Pastor
September 18, 2010
Read: 1 Timothy 5:17-25
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine. —1 Timothy 5:17
I was at my grandson’s eighth-grade football game when the referee indicated there was a penalty and stopped play. Apparently, after the ball was thrown, the boy who passed it was tackled, prompting a penalty flag. The announcer from the press box said: “There is a flag on the field. The penalty is roughing the pastor . . . I mean, roughing the passer.” As soon as he said it, I thought to myself, God could give that penalty to some churches today!
It’s not that pastors are perfect. If that is what we are looking for, then pastorless churches would be the norm. It’s that God calls on us to honor those who lead us spiritually, particularly “those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17 ESV). In my opinion, pastoring is one of the hardest occupations on the planet. We live in a sophisticated, fast-paced, and complex world, and our expectations for “high-performance” pastors often set the bar at unattainable heights.
So, let’s switch the focus and become high-performance church members who honor our pastors with words of encouragement and prayer. A supportive note or a “thank you” in the foyer will go a long way to stimulate pastors to serve with joy and efficiency.
Lord, help us to appreciate
The work that others do,
The service given from their hearts,
Their sacrifice for You. —Sper
Don’t be rough on your pastor—
pass along some encouragement today.
09-19-2010, 03:42 AM
By God’s Help
September 19, 2010
Read: 1 Samuel 7:2-12
Thus far the Lord has helped us. —1 Samuel 7:12
The word Ebenezer in the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” refers to a time when the people of Israel were trying to regain the close relationship they once had with God. Their spiritual leader, Samuel, told them that if they would abandon their foreign gods and return to the Lord wholeheartedly, He would deliver them from being oppressed by their enemy, the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:2-3).
When the people turned from their sin, God gave them victory. In response, “Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ ” (v.12).
When we sing, “Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’ve come; and I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home,” we are reminded that in our times of need we can always turn to God to find forgiveness and help. Whatever we have done, wherever we have wandered, He will receive and restore us by His grace.
A small stone on a desk or shelf can be our own Ebenezer—a powerful, visible reminder that by God’s help we have come this far in life, and He will see us through to the end.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise. —Robinson
Because God is with us, we need not fear what is ahead of us.
09-20-2010, 01:19 AM
September 20, 2010
Read: John 15:9-17
In Your presence is fullness of joy. —Psalm 16:11
Maggie doesn’t care much for television. She would rather look out a window than stare at a small screen. Reading doesn’t thrill her either. She has been known to “chew” on books, but only in the strictly literal sense. Nevertheless, when Jay and I read or watch TV, Maggie participates. Even though she doesn’t enjoy what we’re doing, she enjoys being with us. Maggie is our very devoted dog. More than anything (well, just about anything) Maggie wants to be with us.
The word dogged means “determined and persistent.” These words describe Maggie. They should also describe us. When we are devoted to God, we want to be with Him even when He’s doing something that makes no sense to us. We may ask, “Why, Lord?” when He seems angry (Ps. 88:14) or when He seems to be napping (44:23), or when the wicked prosper (Jer. 12:1). But when we remain devoted to God despite our questions, we find fullness of joy in His presence (Ps. 16:11).
Jesus knew that we would have questions. To prepare us for them, He urged us to abide in His love (John 15:9-10). Even when God’s ways are inexplicable, His love is reliable. So we remain doggedly devoted to Him.
Never should our love be just a word,
A passing phase, a brief emotion;
But love that honors Christ our
Lord Responds to Him with deep devotion. —Hess
We find joy when we learn to abide in Jesus’ love.
09-20-2010, 11:18 PM
September 21, 2010
Read: Isaiah 30:15-22
When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. —John 16:13
Have you ever wondered how an airplane pilot knows how to get from point A to point B? Most likely, he uses VOR, short for VHF Omni-directional Radio Range, a navigational system invented in the early 1950s. It still guides many aircraft to their destination today. The pilot sets the course of the aircraft on his dial. If the aircraft drifts from that set course, the instrument shows the pilot that the plane is deviating so he can correct it to align the aircraft to the set course again.
The nation of Israel in Isaiah’s day badly needed a reliable VOR system. And God wanted to be that for them. But despite God’s warning, they decided to align with Egypt (Isa. 30:1-2). God graciously promised that one day, however, He would be their navigator: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (v.21).
Today, Christians have an internal navigational system. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, who lives in us to “guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13). If you need direction as to where to set the course of your life, don’t rely on your own way. Use God’s VOR system. He will surely lead you in the right direction.
The Spirit gives us power to live
A life that’s pleasing to the Lord;
He also guides us and provides
Direction in God’s holy Word. —Sper
The Spirit is our navigational system.
09-21-2010, 11:11 PM
Is It True?
September 22, 2010
Read: Galatians 1:1-9
They received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. —Acts 17:11
Trust, but verify.” My husband loves that quote from Ronald Reagan. During his time in office, the former US President wanted to believe everything he was told in his political dealings with others. But since the security of his country depended on the truth being told—he strived to verify everything.
Acts 17:11 tells us that the Bereans had a similar attitude about knowing the truth. “They received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” In other words, the Bereans didn’t simply believe what someone else was telling them. They also verified it on their own—on a daily basis.
That’s important for us to consider as well. Whether we receive our Bible teaching through church, Sunday school, radio, or TV—we need to test what we hear against God’s inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We are to “be diligent to present [ourselves] approved to God, . . . rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2:15). If we do this, we won’t become prey to those who teach “a different gospel,” and those who “want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7)—false teachers who come as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).
Remember, trust—but verify!
Protection from false teaching comes
The more we read God’s Word;
For once we know the Scripture’s truth,
What’s false will sound absurd. —Sper
Knowing what’s true is the first step in knowing what’s false.
09-22-2010, 11:14 PM
September 23, 2010
Read: Proverbs 12:17-22
There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. —Proverbs 12:18
The writer of Proverbs describes an unwise person as “one who speaks like the piercings of a sword” (12:18). Our tongues can be like a multi-bladed Swiss Army knife when it comes to the variety of ways that we cut and destroy each other.
Unhealthy attitudes of anger, irritation, frustration, and impatience—even disappointment, stress, guilt, and insecurity—all contribute to our damaging speech. And as we cut with our words, we wound and divide friendships and relationships. It’s no wonder that the infamous list of seven things that are an abomination to the Lord includes anyone who “sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).
How do we stay off that list? For starters, we need to watch what we say. Gossip and slander are out, and words that hurt instead of heal are not welcome. Boasting, lying, and all the rest of the ways we use words to hurt and divide need to be gone as well. In their place, words that extend love and the healing power of forgiveness, mercy, and truth should rule our words and relationships. After all, where would we be if Jesus hadn’t spoken words of forgiving love and grace to us?
So, put the “knife” away and use your words to help and heal.
Lord, put a seal upon my lips,
Help me to guard with care
The things I say and swift repeat;
O tongue of mine, beware! —Bosch
Our words have the power to build up or tear down.
09-23-2010, 11:07 PM
Obey The Call
September 24, 2010
Read: Mark 1:16-20
They immediately left their nets and followed Him. —Mark 1:18
I read about Captain Ray Baker who flew for the Strategic Air Command during the Vietnam War. The Air Force trained him, along with the other pilots, to run out of their barracks to their planes at the sound of a buzzer. Many times during dinner he had to drop his utensils and bolt to his bomber. He had been trained to respond to the call with immediate obedience. He was so well-trained that one day while on furlough, he ran out of a restaurant when he heard a buzzer.
When Jesus called His first followers, they had an immediacy in their response to His call. The call of these fishermen was abrupt. Yet “they immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Mark 1:18). The author of this account, Mark, may have wanted to impress upon his readers the authority of Jesus. When He extended the call, these men jumped to obey because helping people enter the kingdom of God was a more compelling adventure and a grander vision than catching fish.
When Jesus issues a call to follow Him, He doesn’t want us to delay. He expects immediate obedience when it comes to telling others the good news. Bring someone the story of salvation today!
Go to the lost, in the home, in the mart,
Delay no longer, today make a start;
Tell them of Jesus who bled for their sin—
From byways of darkness bring others to Him. —Houghton
Wanted: Messengers to deliver the good news.
09-24-2010, 11:04 PM
September 25, 2010
Read: Heb. 11:13-16,23-27
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off. —Hebrews 11:13
My husband and I rode the train backward from Grand Rapids to Chicago last summer. Sitting in seats that faced the rear of the train, all we could see was where we had been, not where we were going. Buildings, lakes, and trees flew by the window after we had passed them. I didn’t like it. I’d rather see where I’m going.
Sometimes we may feel that way about life too—wishing we could see ahead. We’d like to know how certain situations are going to turn out, how God is going to answer our prayers. But all we can know is where we’ve been. That is, if it were not for faith.
The “faith chapter” of the Bible, Hebrews 11, tells us about two realities that some people in Old Testament times could see by faith. It speaks of Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, who all died in faith, “having seen [the promises] afar off.” They “embraced them” and looked forward to “a better . . . heavenly country” (vv.13,16). Besides the promise of heaven, verse 27 tells us that by faith Moses could also see “Him who is invisible,” meaning Christ.
While we don’t know the outcome of today’s struggles, believers in Jesus can by faith see forward to where we’re going: We will have a heavenly home where we will live with Jesus forever.
The future is seen in the Bible— This knowledge with us God has shared; By faith we can see the invisible, The glory that He has prepared. —Hess
The promise of heaven is our eternal hope.
09-26-2010, 02:26 AM
The Forgotten Worker
September 26, 2010
Read: Hebrews 6:9-20
God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love . . . in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. —Hebrews 6:10
People around the world are familiar with Mount Rushmore, the South Dakota site where the heads of former American presidents are carved in gigantic scale on a cliff wall. Yet, while millions know of Mount Rushmore, relatively few know the name Doane Robinson—the South Dakota state historian who conceived the idea of the magnificent sculpture and managed the project. The monument is admired and appreciated, but he is the forgotten man behind the masterpiece. His name is largely unrecognized or was never even known by some.
Sometimes, in the service of the Master, we may feel that we have been forgotten or are behind the scenes and not recognized. Ministry can be a life of effort that often goes unappreciated by the very people we are seeking to serve in Jesus’ name. The good news, however, is that, while people may not know, God does. Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”
What a promise! Our heavenly Father will never forget our service to Him. That is infinitely more important than being applauded by the crowds.
Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem so small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own. —Suffield
Serving to please Christ is a greater reward than public acclaim.
09-27-2010, 01:33 AM
September 27, 2010
Read: Romans 12:3-13Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. —1 Peter 4:9
In the New Testament, hospitality is a hallmark of Christian living. It is listed as a characteristic of church leaders (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8) and is commanded for every follower of Jesus as an expression of love (Rom. 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9). But its meaning goes deeper than being a gracious host or opening our homes to guests.
The Greek word translated “hospitality” means “love of strangers.” When Paul speaks of being “given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:13), he is calling us to pursue relationships with people who are in need. It is not an easy task.
Writer Henri Nouwen likens it to reaching out to those we meet on our way through life—people who may be estranged from their culture, country, friends, family, or even from God. Nouwen writes: “Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”
Whether we inhabit a home, a college dorm, a prison cell, or a military barracks, we can welcome others as a way of showing our love for them and for Christ. Hospitality is making room for people in need.
Reaching out to needy people,
Showing them our love and care,
Is one way that God can use us
To bring hope to their despair. —Sper
Hospitality can fill the emptiness of a lonely heart.
09-27-2010, 11:05 PM
Creation: NT Style
September 28, 2010
Read: Ephesians 1:3-6
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.
When we think about the marvel of creation—how God spoke the universe into existence and formed the earth and everything in it—we think most often of Old Testament accounts.
But it is encouraging to examine the New Testament to see how that part of the Bible refers to creation. Here is a look at some key passages:
“I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 13:35). God reveals things to us that He had kept secret since before creation.
“Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). Before the earth was created, God knew each of us—and He knew our future.
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). Before the work of creation even began, God was aware of each of His eventual children.
These New Testament verses comfort us with the truth that God’s knowledge of us and His eternal mysteries about us point toward His special creation of mankind as described in Genesis. We can do nothing but bow in awe before One whose knowledge and creative ability are eternal in nature and boundless in power. Creation: New Testament style—still another reason to give God praise!
O Lord, how manifold the work
In wisdom wrought by Thee;
The wealth of Thy creative skill
Fills earth and mighty sea. —Anon.
Each person is a unique expression of God’s loving design.
09-28-2010, 11:10 PM
September 29, 2010
Read: Hosea 14I will heal their backsliding. —Hosea 14:4
The people of Israel had backslidden, and God wanted Hosea to show them how much that hurt Him. So, in the first few chapters of Hosea, we read a bizarre story: God commanded the prophet to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Put on display as the faithful husband of an unfaithful spouse, Hosea experienced a pain similar to what God felt when Israel was spiritually unfaithful.
As Hosea wrote the ending of his book, he made it clear that despite the pain the people of Israel caused the living God, He still promised healing, forgiveness, and fruitfulness if they would return to Him: “I will heal their backsliding,” He said. “I will love them freely . . . . Those who dwell under his shadow shall return” (Hos. 14:4-7).
Life for the person who turns his back on God is often characterized by guilt and dissatisfaction. The truly born-again believer who has fallen into a lifestyle of sin knows deep down that spiritual unfaithfulness to God takes a toll.
But just as the God of grace offered Israel forgiveness and fruitfulness, even so today He offers restoration to the truly repentant (1 John 1:9). Have you made poor choices that have caused you to slip away? Come back. Repent and seek restored fellowship with the Lord today.
If you’ve rebelled and turned away
From what you know is true,
Turn back to God—He will forgive,
His pardon waits for you. —Sper
It’s not too late to make a fresh start with God.
09-29-2010, 11:01 PM
September 30, 2010
Read: Colossians 3:12-17
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. —Colossians 3:16
Several years ago, my husband helped to lead a work crew of high school students on a short-term missions trip to a Christian school in an urban community. Unfortunately, Tom had broken his foot shortly before the trip and was supervising the work from a wheelchair. He was discouraged because he wasn’t able to get around as he had hoped.
While he was working on the ground floor, a few of the girls were painting on the third floor. He could hear them singing praise choruses in harmony as their voices echoed down the wide-open staircases. Song after song ministered to him. “It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard,” he told me later. “And it lifted my spirits.”
Colossians 3 reminds us, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (v.16). Not only were those teenage girls giving sweet praise to God, they were ministering to a co-worker.
Whatever you’re doing today, cultivate an attitude of praise. Whether it is through song or conversation, let your joy in the Lord reverberate to others. You never know who you might encourage.
Our words of praise and songs of joy
Can be a welcomed gift
To those who need encouragement—
Whose spirits need a lift. —Sper
Hope can be ignited by a spark of encouragement.
10-01-2010, 07:37 AM
October 1, 2010 — by Marvin Williams
Read: Mark 3:13-19[Jesus] appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach. —Mark 3:14
Because I am not a “fix it” kind of guy, I had to call a friend who is a great handyman to make some repairs in my home recently. He came over, and I gave him my list. But to my surprise, he told me I would be doing the repairs myself! He modeled for me how to do it, instructed me along the way, and stayed with me. I followed his example and successfully made the repairs. This modeling seems close to what Jesus did when He called His first disciples.
When Jesus called those men to follow Him, He wanted them to be with Him and to teach the good news of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14,39; 6:12). The first job would require being under the immediate super-vision of Jesus—learning His words and interpretation of the Scriptures and watching His behavior. For the second task, Jesus sent them out to preach (Mark 3:14-15)—saying what He said and doing what He did. As they carried out these tasks, they were to be dependent on Jesus.
Today, Jesus is still calling His followers to this simple, yet powerful process of discipleship—being with Him, following His instructions, and living His example. Are you one who is dependent on Him as you’re following Him today?
For Further Study
For help in drawing near to the Lord to learn from Him,
read the online resource Keeping Our Appointments
With God at www.discoveryseries.org/q0718
Discipleship is relational and experiential.
10-02-2010, 12:37 AM
There’s An “App” For That
October 2, 2010
Read: Ephesians 5:1-7
Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge. —Proverbs 23:12
Remember when phones were for making phone calls? With the advent of the smart phone, what was once a way to talk to someone has become a storehouse of data. Add cell-phone applications (computer programs) to that, and you can read sports reports, play games, plan trips, find an apartment—or any of well over 100,000 other tasks available with an “app.”
That’s pretty amazing, but the “apps” for phones are nothing compared with the kind of “apps” Scripture gives us. The “applications” of the Bible are direct notes from God telling us how to apply the truth of His Word to all of life.
Take Philippians 2, for instance: The unity app (2:2), the humility app (2:3), the no-grumbling app (2:14), the shine-as-lights app (2:15). Or look at the apps of Ephesians 5: The imitate-God app (5:1), the walk-in-love app (5:2), the purity app (5:3), the tongue app (5:4). And the book of Proverbs? It’s teeming with applications.
You don’t have to wait for someone to offer these on the Internet. Just open the Bible and see the hundreds of ways to apply Scripture in your life. Got a question about the Christian life? Search the Bible. The answers are there, waiting to be discovered.
Cling to the Bible; this jewel and treasure
Brings life eternal and saves fallen man;
Surely its value no mortal can measure;
Seek for its blessing, O soul, while you can. —Smith
The Bible has treasures of wisdom for you—read it and apply it!
10-03-2010, 02:01 AM
October 3, 2010
Read: 1 Cor. 11:23-26
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. —1 Cor. 11:26
Many churches celebrate the first Sunday in October as World Communion Sunday. It is a time to observe the Lord’s Supper with a special awareness of celebrating together with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe. On this day, being with a community of believers has become very meaningful to me.
One year, however, I found myself in an airport with a long flight ahead and no opportunity to attend church on that day. Sitting alone, I read the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, along with the passages describing Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Then from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, I pondered the words so often read at communion services: “The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread . . .” (v.23). With some common elements to represent the bread and the cup, I observed the Lord’s death for us, feeling a deep kinship with those followers of Christ in many places who are unable or forbidden to gather with others in worship.
Whatever your location and circumstances today, may you find joy and strength in remembering the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (v.26).
When Christians join in blessed fellowship
Commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice,
They sense a common bond of unity
Because for every race He paid the price. —Hess
Celebrating Christ together brings strength and joy.
10-04-2010, 02:33 AM
October 4, 2010
Read: Matthew 11:25-30
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. —Matthew 11:28
People who are trying to be friendly sometimes ask, “Are you keeping busy?” The question seems harmless, but in my mind it carries a subtle message. Beneath the surface is a test of personal value. If I can’t rattle off a list of things I have to do, I feel as if I’m admitting that I’m not worth much.
But does God determine our value by how busy we are? Does He calculate our worth by how much we accomplish? Does He reward us for living on the edge of exhaustion and not taking care of ourselves?
One of the first verses I learned as a child was Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It didn’t mean much to me at the time because I didn’t understand weariness. But now that I’m older, I feel the temptation to keep pace with the world so I won’t be left behind.
But followers of Jesus don’t have to live like that. Not only has He released us from slavery to sin but also from the bondage of having to prove our worth.
Accomplishing a lot for God may make us feel important, but what makes us important to God is what we allow Him to accomplish in us—conforming us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-30).
Christ never asks of us such busy labor
As leaves no time for resting at His feet;
The waiting attitude of expectation
He often counts as service most complete. —Anon.
Our value is not measured by what we do for God but by what He has done in us.
10-05-2010, 12:54 AM
The Right Help
October 5, 2010
Read: Psalm 18:6-13
In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; . . . my cry came before Him, even to His ears. —Psalm 18:6
On a recent radio program, the hosts spoke with a “crisis management” expert about how a celebrity can recover from a public relations disaster. This specialist said one of the keys was to build strong allies who can help the star rehabilitate his or her image. In other words, it is vital when in trouble to get the right help.
That is wise counsel, for at the heart of all crisis management is recognizing that we can’t accomplish everything on our own. Some challenges are too big. Some mountains are too high. In our own seasons of crisis, it is critical that we have help. That’s why it’s comforting to know that we have the strongest ally possible.
King David knew about that ally. In Psalm 18:6, he affirmed, “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” There is no greater help in our time of need than God. He alone can carry us through the trials and crises of life, and we have His word that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
When crisis hits, we don’t have to stand alone. We have the right help. We can depend on God to be the greatest ally we could ever know. Lean on Him.
When a crisis looms before you,
Don’t face it on your own;
Seek advice from godly counsel,
And take it to God’s throne. —Sper
Our greatest hope here below is to get help from God above.
10-05-2010, 11:04 PM
Itinerary Of Redemption
October 6, 2010
Read: Philippians 2:1-11Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who . . . made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant. —Philippians 2:5-7
In his book The First Man, James Hansen chronicles Neil Armstrong’s flight to the moon. The author explains how each astronaut was asked to fill out a report upon completion of the flight. The report listed how they traveled from Houston, Texas, to Cape Kennedy, Florida, to the Moon, to the Pacific Ocean, to Hawaii, and returned to Houston, Texas. What a list of destinations!
There is another itinerary that outshines any trip ever taken. Imagine this itinerary of our Savior, Jesus Christ: Place of origin—the heavenly places; Initial destination—Bethlehem; Mode of travel—the virgin birth; Reason for travel—the redemption of sinners; Return destination—the right hand of the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11 eloquently describes Christ’s coming to earth to provide our redemption. One Bible commentator considers this passage a hymn of praise to the glory of the Suffering Servant who became exalted for His obedience: “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, . . . humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death . . . . Therefore God also has highly exalted Him” (vv.5-9).
Our Lord’s extraordinary itinerary of redemption should fill our hearts with gratitude and praise!
Our gracious redemption was carefully planned,
The gulf between heaven and earth has been spanned,
The portals are open, the passage is free,
Oh, wondrous salvation, it’s even for me! —Johnson
God broke into human history to offer us the gift of eternal life.
10-06-2010, 11:13 PM
Hold My Hand
October 7, 2010
Read: Deuteronomy 31:1-8Do not fear nor be dismayed. —Deuteronomy 31:8
The waves of Lake Michigan were high and splashing onto the pier one day as I followed a young family out to a lighthouse. I overheard the young girl say to her father: “Daddy, please walk alongside me and hold my hand at this scary part.”
Sometimes life can be scary for us too: Loss of loved ones. Financial woes. Health problems. As we carry these heavy burdens and cares, we long for a strong hand to hold ours to keep us steady and secure.
When Joshua took over the leadership of Israel, Moses reminded him of God’s help in tough times. In the difficult days to come, Joshua would need to remember to trust God and His promises. Moses said, “The Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8).
Isaiah 41:13 encourages us with these words from God: “I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ ” When life gets scary, God is with us, we can hold His strong hand.
This song by Lowell Alexander reminds us of God’s presence: “You will face mountains so steep, deserts so long, and valleys so deep. Sometimes the journey’s gentle, sometimes the cold winds blow. But I want you to remember, I want you to know you will never walk alone. . . . Jesus will be right beside you all the way.” He’ll walk alongside us and hold our hand at the “scary” parts.
Fears flee in the light of God’s presence.
10-07-2010, 11:31 PM
October 8, 2010
Read: John 14:1-6
Let not your heart be troubled. —John 14:1
Our church’s young people did what they could to “construct heaven.” It was time for the spring banquet, and the creative teens used lights, Styrofoam, and other materials to turn the auditorium into their best idea of heaven.
The theme of the banquet was “I Can Only Imagine,” from the song by MercyMe. Our daughter Melissa helped transform the church. When I visited to see how the kids were doing, she was in the rafters hanging stars. The night of the banquet, my wife and I were able to hear one of Melissa’s friends sing the theme song as we all thought about this faraway place called heaven.
Of course, we never could have imagined that Melissa would be entering the real heaven just 6 weeks later. The imaginary would become reality.
Jesus told us about heaven as a way of untroubling our hearts. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; . . . in My Father’s house are many mansions . . . . I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).
Heaven is a prepared place for prepared hearts—a place of unimaginable beauty, splendor, and majesty. It’s where God is caring for our believing loved ones, and someday for us. Imagine heaven, and rejoice!
The Lord has promised to prepare
A place in heaven above—
A home where we will always be
With Him and those we love. —Sper
Jesus is preparing a place for us and preparing us for that place.
10-08-2010, 11:03 PM
October 9, 2010
Read: Psalm 86Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth. —Psalm 86:11
If we’re not careful, we may become like the man who prided himself on being an expert archer. The secret to his success was that after he shot his arrow at the side of a barn, he painted a bull’s-eye around the arrow.
It’s easy to live our lives doing what we want and thinking that our ways and instincts are right on target when in reality our “bull’s-eye” shots at life are not on target at all. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
Sometimes it may feel right to seek revenge, hoard money, chase pleasure, or yell at people who yell at us. But God’s ways are different from ours. He has painted a bull’s-eye on forgiving those who have hurt us, on giving generously to those in need, on living to please Him rather than ourselves, and on turning the other cheek. We need to pray, “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth” (Ps. 86:11). And then we need to aim to follow His ways in all that we do and say.
But we all need help to aim at the right target. Thankfully, the bull’s-eye is already painted in the brushstrokes of God’s truth as revealed in His Word. When we aim our lives at God’s Word, we’ll discover that His ways are right on target—every time!
God’s given us His holy Word
To help and guide our way;
And if we read and follow it,
We will not go astray. —Sper
God’s ways are our targets for living.
10-10-2010, 01:58 AM
October 10, 2010
Read: John 6:60-69From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. —John 6:66
Popularity is fickle. Just ask a politician. Many of them watch their ratings to see how their constituents view their policies. They may start with a high rating, but then it steadily declines during their term.
Jesus also experienced a sharp decline in popularity. His popularity reached its peak after He fed the 5,000 (John 6:14-15). It plummeted when He told His listeners that He had “come down from heaven” (v.38). Their response to His stupendous claim was, essentially, Who does this guy think He is?! (see v.41).
Jesus’ popularity continued to dip when He explained how they could have Him as spiritual bread (vv.51-52). Perplexed by what they heard, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (v.60). As a result, many left Him.
The crowds followed Jesus conditionally. They were happy only as long as Jesus supplied their needs and met their wants. They balked when He asked for commitment.
Jesus’ question to His disciples was “Do you also want to go away?” (v.67). Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v.68). Will you, like Peter, choose to ignore the world’s rating of Jesus and follow Him daily?
Those searching to know life’s true meaning
Can find it in only one way:
By serving the Lord with commitment,
And living for Him day by day. —Branon
Commitment to Christ is a daily calling that challenges us.
10-11-2010, 02:12 AM
October 11, 2010
Read: Colossians 3:1-10Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. —Colossians 3:2
What’s the first image you see when you turn on your computer? Maybe it’s a family portrait or a special vacation picture. Or perhaps your favorite pro athlete.
How about an artist’s rendition of Jesus? A man once wrote to me about his lengthy battle with pornography—a disheartening cycle that punctuated seasons of victory with crushing forays back into an online world of empty lust. Finally, he found that putting a visible reminder of Jesus in the corner of his computer screen helped him achieve lasting victory. That constant reminder of the One who set him free caused the offensive Web sites to lose their appeal. The man wasn’t tapping into some gigabyte good-luck charm. He was giving himself a simple reminder of the teaching of Colossians 3 where Paul says, “put to death . . . fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness” (v.5).
When we turn our eyes toward Jesus, He becomes a powerful reminder that our old life “died, and [our] life is hidden with Christ in God” (v.3). Whether it’s a verse taped to the dashboard of your car or a picture on your computer, choose a tangible way to lift your thoughts into the presence of Jesus.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace. —Lemmel
The best way to keep sin at a distance is to make sure Jesus stands between you and temptation.
10-11-2010, 11:50 PM
Why Is There Color?
October 12, 2010
Read: Psalm 19:1-6
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. —Psalm 19:1
Why do some trees turn into a collage of radiant maroon, red, orange, and yellow colors in the fall? Trees are green in the summer because chlorophyll, a green pigment in the leaves, absorbs red and blue light from the sun. The light reflected from the leaves appears green to our eyes.
Chlorophyll is an unstable substance, and bright sunlight causes it to decompose rapidly. Therefore, plants must continuously synthesize and regenerate it. The shortening days and cool nights of autumn, however, interfere with this process. As chlorophyll breaks down, the green colors of the leaves begin to fade. Some trees change from green to bright yellow as the chlorophyll degrades. In others, the action of sugar in the leaves creates a red pigment, causing the leaves to turn maroon, purple, and bright red as the chlorophyll fades.
But why do we have color? It seems to serve no practical purpose—at least none that scientists can discern. And why are there photoreceptors in our eyes that enable us to see it?
I believe that God’s goodness is the point of His creation. He is “good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9). He colored the world for our childlike delight. He’s like that, you know.
God, the engineer of all creation,
Spoke the word, and beauty was begun,
Then He gave to us His great salvation
Through the sacrifice of His own Son. —Hess
God’s glory shines through His creation.
10-12-2010, 11:12 PM
October 13, 2010
Read: Mark 2:13-17
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. —Mark 2:17
When people ask Michael St. Jacques, a Franciscan brother, what he’s wearing, he says, “It’s called a habit.” He wears the distinctive brown robe for a definite reason. St. Jacques told Hemispheres magazine, “We have the choice to wear it, and a lot of us make a real effort to because it acts as a magnet. People tell me things they’ve never told anyone. Complete strangers will confess something they did 30 years ago and ask if God can forgive them.” You might say that Michael is clothed in “approachability.”
Throughout the Gospels, we find that all types of people approached Jesus wherever He went. They came to be taught, helped, healed, accepted, and forgiven. When some criticized Jesus for associating with tax collectors and sinners, people they considered undesirable, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17).
Do people see us as aloof or accessible? When we become so focused on our own plans that we have no time for others, we are not clothed with the spirit of Christ.
When the Savior lives through us, His open arms invite people to open their hearts and unburden their souls.
Our world around us surges—duties vie
For all our time, our energies, our care;
But greater duty urges; don’t pass by
A hurting heart whose burden we may share. —Gustafson
Being available for the needs of others honors Christ.
10-13-2010, 11:05 PM
A Helping Hand
October 14, 2010
Read: Proverbs 31:10-20She reaches out her hands to the needy. —Proverbs 31:20
In the 1930s, jockey Johnny Longden was rammed in mid-race. While thundering steeds came up from behind, Johnny was thrown sideways off his horse. Seeing his predicament, another jockey reached out and attempted to push Longden back up on his mount. Unfortunately, he pushed too hard and Longden flew over the horse onto the other side. Still another jockey nearby grabbed him and was able to help him safely back on his horse. Amazingly, Johnny Longden won the race! A newspaper dubbed it “the ultimate impossibility.” Helping hands had not only saved him from severe injury and possible death, but allowed him to win the race.
As believers, we are to offer a helping hand to others as well. In Proverbs 31, we read of the virtuous woman who “extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy” (v.20). For centuries, the compassion of this woman of faith has been an inspiration to both men and women. She helps to remind us that extending ourselves to others is a biblical virtue to be exhibited by all believers.
There are many who are struggling or have fallen on hard times and need our assistance. Who in your life needs a helping hand?
Your faith in God is proven when
You serve as one who cares;
Faith finds a way to love and help—
Puts action to your prayers. —Hess
God often sends His help by way of human hands.
10-14-2010, 11:01 PM
Make It Known
October 15, 2010
Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-5
God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8
I told my doctor who is an agnostic that he should be glad God created us. Seeing a needle in his hands, I wondered, Perhaps I should keep quiet. But I added, “If we are still evolving, then you wouldn’t know the exact spots to place those needles.” He asked, “Do you really believe in God?” I replied, “Of course. Aren’t we intricately made?” I was thankful for this opportunity to begin to witness to my doctor.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul charged Timothy to point people to the Savior. “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2) is not addressed only to preachers, however. The word preach means “to make it known.” God’s people can do this over a cup of coffee or in school with friends. We can make known the good news of what God has done for us wherever, whenever, and to anyone who is open and seeking. We can let them know that God loves us and sees our hurts, failures, and weaknesses. Through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, God broke the stranglehold of sin over us. And to all those who will open their heart to the Savior, He will come to live in them.
Let’s not be afraid to make known what God has done for us.
We who rejoice to know You
Renew before Your throne
The solemn pledge we owe You—
To go and make You known. —Houghton
Sharing the gospel is one person telling another good news.
10-15-2010, 10:57 PM
Speaking For God
October 16, 2010
Read: Jeremiah 23:16,30-40
We have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the Word of God deceitfully. —2 Corinthians 4:2
Despite my best efforts to write clearly, sometimes I’m misunderstood. I feel bad about my failure and try to improve my skills. Occasionally, however, readers take words out of context or read into them something that bears no resemblance to the intended meaning. This is frustrating because there’s no way to control how people use words once they are published.
This brings to mind a much more serious offense—that of misusing the words of the Lord. The prophets in Jeremiah’s day did this. They put their own words into God’s mouth by claiming He said things they wanted to be true but that God had never said. So the Lord told His people, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. . . . They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jer. 23:16). Then the Lord warned the people that He would forsake those who pervert His words and cast them from His presence (vv.36,39).
In contrast, the apostle Paul made a point of saying that he did not handle the Word of God deceitfully (2 Cor. 4:2). He knew the danger of preaching his own ideas rather than God’s. All of us need to be careful to use God’s Word for His purpose, rather than for our own agenda.
Lord, keep us faithful to Your Word,
Although, at times, we might rephrase;
And help us never twist its truths
To justify our selfish ways. —Sper
<span class="smcaps"> We must align ourselves with the Bible and never try to align the Bible to ourselves.
10-17-2010, 02:16 AM
October 17, 2010
Read: Romans 8:35-39
Abide in My love. —John 15:9
On a whim, I bought a red foil balloon at the grocery store. The message “I Love You” streamed across the front in billowy script. As I was loading bags into my car, the balloon’s string slid through my fingers. I stood there watching it float away, and soon it was nothing more than a tiny red dot—finally, just a memory.
Losing that balloon reminded me of the way love sometimes vanishes from lives. Children rebel and distance themselves; spouses or loved ones desert; close friends stop calling.
I’m so thankful that God’s love is steady; it can sustain us when love here on earth drifts away. In fact, it’s so reliable that Jesus invites us to abide in His love (John 15:9). He wants us to know it’s okay to settle in and get comfortable.
We can always remain in God’s tender embrace because “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come” (Rom. 8:38), or anything else, can ever separate us from His love through Christ. Once we trust Christ as Savior, the guarantee of God’s love is ours forever.
Have you watched love disappear from your life? Rest in God’s affection—His constant care will keep your heart safely secured.
More secure is no one ever
Than the loved ones of the Savior
Not yon star on high abiding
Nor the bird in home-nest hiding. —Berg
Our salvation is secure because God’s Word is sure.
10-18-2010, 12:49 AM
October 18, 2010
Read: Ephesians 4:7-13
Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. —Colossians 3:23
The Energizer Bunny can’t top the Service Partners of RBC Ministries. RBC, the publishers of Our Daily Bread, has a volunteer program called Service Partners that gives people the opportunity to donate their skills and time—helping us accomplish our mission “to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all.”
Some of the Service Partners are well past retirement age. Despite the aches, pains, and limitations of advancing age, they show up regularly and serve cheerfully at a variety of tasks. In 2009, they completed 100,000 hours in service since the program’s inception. They just keep going and going—not unlike the famous pink bunny.
Their example is a reminder that there is no “use by” date on our earthly lives. Scripture doesn’t designate a retirement age for believers. But there is an end product for our service—one unrelated to age. In describing the results of the efforts of “pastors and teachers,” Paul says their purpose is to equip “the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). And that “work of ministry,” which is the job of all believers, can lead to “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (v.13). This task should “keep us going” for the rest of our lives.
Start where you are in serving the Lord,
Claim His sure promise and trust in His Word;
God simply asks you to do what you can—
He’ll use your efforts to further His plan. —Anon.
Young or old—God can use you if you’re willing.
10-18-2010, 08:38 AM
Wow upto page 80 impressive HardCory :)
10-18-2010, 11:17 PM
Wow upto page 80 impressive HardCory :)
Thanks, never dreamed that it would keep going, but as long as people are reading them I'll post them.
10-18-2010, 11:18 PM
Hoarding Or Helping?
October 19, 2010
Read: Isaiah 58:6-12
If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness. —Isaiah 58:10
In August 1914, when Britain entered World War I, Oswald Chambers was 40 years old with a wife and a 1-year-old daughter. It wasn’t long before men were joining the army at the rate of 30,000 a day, people were asked to sell their automobiles and farm horses to the government, and lists of the dead and wounded began appearing in daily newspapers. The nation faced economic uncertainty and peril.
A month into the war, Chambers spoke of the spiritual challenge facing followers of Christ: “We must take heed that in the present calamities, when war and devastation and heart-break are abroad in the world, we do not shut ourselves up in a world of our own and ignore the demand made on us by our Lord and our fellowmen for the service of intercessory prayer and hospitality and care.”
God’s call to His people rings true in every age: “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday” (Isa. 58:10).
Fear causes us to grasp what we have; faith in God opens our hands and hearts to others. We walk in His light when we help others, not hoard for ourselves.
Give me a heart sympathetic and tender—
Jesus, like Thine, Jesus, like Thine—
Touched by the needs that are surging around me,
And filled with compassion divine. —Anon.
As Christ’s love grows in us, His love flows from us.
10-19-2010, 11:15 PM
October 20, 2010
Read: 1 Corinthians 2:1-9
[I] did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. —1 Corinthians 2:1
When I was a kid, I learned a big word that was fun to pronounce: “antidisestablishmentarianism.” What a mouthful! I recently took the time to look it up. The dictionary defines it as “the doctrine or political position that opposes the withdrawal of state recognition of an established church.” The definition is almost as difficult as the term itself. Neither I nor my school friends knew what it meant. But using the big word made me look knowledgeable.
When the apostle Paul ministered to people, he didn’t try to impress others. In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote: “When I came to you, [I] did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God” (1 Cor. 2:1). “Excellence of speech” is the translation of Greek words meaning “high-sounding words” or “pompous speech.” This implies using words to exalt self instead of to instruct others. Paul was a brilliant scholar who expressed the deep things of God in Scripture. Yet he did not use lofty language to elevate his self-importance.
As we grow in our understanding of God’s Word, let’s follow Paul’s example and guard against parading knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Instead, let’s use well-chosen words that build up and encourage others.
The words we speak may indicate
A heart that’s filled with pride;
But godly self-control displays
The Spirit’s work inside. —Sper
It’s not the words we know that show wisdom,
but how and when we use them.
10-20-2010, 11:14 PM
October 21, 2010
Read: Proverbs 18:9-12
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. —Proverbs 18:10
In some homes, owners have built safe rooms—special places where they can go for protection should someone break into the house.
In Proverbs 18:10, Solomon reminded God’s people that God is their “safe room” and that they could find total security in Him.
In verses 10 and 11, he described two types of security to which some people run: the name of the Lord and wealth. The name or character of God is described as a “strong tower.” As a captured city might take refuge in a fortified tower, so the righteous could run to the Lord and find complete safety.
On the other hand, the wealthy imagined their riches as a high point of safety. Solomon sought to tell his readers that money might give a sense of security but it would be a false security that could lead to laziness, pride, and destruction. Yet people who are humble and find their complete security in the unchanging and holy character of God will find true safety.
Wealth may not be your particular “safe room.” You might tend to run instead to something or someone else when adversity comes. But we all need to learn to depend daily on the Lord and find a high point of safety in the safe room of His name.
It’s often easier to trust
In what our eyes can see,
But God asks us to look to Him
For our security. —Sper
The name of the Lord is our safe room.
10-21-2010, 11:23 PM
Learning From The Redwoods
October 22, 2010
Read: Isaiah 65:17–66:2
As the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people. —Isaiah 65:22
North America’s Pacific Coast Redwoods are some of the biggest trees in the world. The tallest on record, Hyperion, soars 379 feet into the air.
During a visit to California’s Muir Woods National Park, I was surprised and overwhelmed by the enormity of those redwoods. Trees as tall as a 30- story building seemed to press me into the forest floor while drawing my thoughts upward.
The memory of what I felt at the base of some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world has left me with lingering thoughts about their origin. Those redwoods, like the family tree of our own humanity, are rooted in a Creator who is infinitely and eternally greater than His creation.
The prophet Isaiah caught a glimpse of this God. In a vision that mingled the wonders of a Messianic kingdom with the promise of a new heaven and earth, he describes One who makes the skies His throne and the earth His footstool (Isa. 66:1).
Yet Isaiah saw something even more overwhelming. He saw a great God who wants His people to “be glad and rejoice forever in what I create” (65:18). In response, let’s bow before Him in humble adoration (66:2).
How glorious to think ahead
Of blessings yet to be,
Of help from God while life shall last—
Then joys eternally! —Branon
God’s work of creating is done;
our work of praising has only begun.
10-22-2010, 11:02 PM
October 23, 2010
Read: John 7:14-24
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. —John 7:24
A while back, Our Daily Bread published an article I wrote about a young woman who wore a T-shirt that said, “Love Is for Losers.” In it, I commented on what a sad message that was, and I wrote about the hurt this motto represented.
To my surprise, one of our readers gave that message a completely different slant. She sent a note informing me that her daughter and her daughter’s friends—all tennis players—wear shirts with that slogan. In tennis, a “love” score is zero. If your score in a game is “love,” you lose—so in tennis, love really is for losers. That mom’s note gave me a new perspective on that saying.
This incident reminded me how easy it is to make wrong first judgments. Based on incomplete or inaccurate information, we can jump to wrong conclusions and make poor value judgments about people and situations. And that can cause great hurt to others.
Speaking to people who had misjudged Him, Jesus warned, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). We need to be careful that our judgments are backed up by the right information (the truth) and the right attitude (the compassion of Christ). Try this motto: “Righteous judgment is for winners.”
Don’t judge too quickly what you see;
Treat lightly first impression;
Without right information. —Sper
A snap judgment has a way of becoming unfastened.
10-24-2010, 05:30 AM
October 24, 2010
Read: Psalm 133
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! —Psalm 133:1
I can still remember what it was like to take our family on vacation, only to have the kids in the backseat mar the joy of it all by their bickering and complaining. Who doesn’t remember the disruptive effects of “Dad, she touched me!” or “Mom, he won’t give me a turn!”
If you’ve had that kind of experience, you can imagine how God feels when His children quarrel and complain. Getting along is important to God. Jesus prayed that we would “be one” so that the world would believe He came from the Father (John 17:20-21). And to disciples who were prone to quarreling, He commanded that they love and serve one another (13:34-35; Matt. 20:20-28). It should also be noted that among the seven things God hates, He includes “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19).
So I’m not surprised that the psalmist tells us that when brothers dwell in unity, it’s like “the precious oil upon the head, running down on . . . the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments” (Ps. 133:1-2). In ancient times, the oil of anointing was full of fragrant spices that graced the environment wherever the anointed one went. May the unity that comes from our love and service to one another fragrantly grace our families, churches, and friendships!
When love and kindness rule our lives,
And we are seen as one,
The fragrance of our unity
Has no comparison. —Sper
Christians who get along with each other
spread the sweet aroma of Jesus.
10-25-2010, 12:49 AM
October 25, 2010
Read: Acts 8:9-23
Your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness. —Acts 8:21-22
Our yard makes poison ivy happy. I learned this the hard way. Even though I was being careful, I came in contact with the plant and ended up with a nasty, itchy rash.
Poison ivy looks like many harmless plants, and it keeps company with some beautiful ones. One gardener couldn’t figure out why she got poison ivy whenever she pruned her roses. She later discovered that a poison ivy vine was taking advantage of the tender loving care she gave to her rosebush.
Some people are like toxic plants. They look harmless, and they blend in with people who, like roses, are fragrant and beautiful.
Simon the sorcerer fit this description. He followed Philip and was baptized, but then he asked to buy the ability to lay hands on people so they could receive the Holy Spirit. Peter was appalled at his request and urged him to repent (Acts 8:22).
Sometimes people use the favorable environment of a healthy church as a network for selfish purposes. Like poison ivy among roses, they cause much misery. Like Simon, anyone who does this needs to repent, and everyone else needs to avoid contact with such a person. Spiritual look-alikes appear good but their “fruit” is toxic.
Help me, Lord, to be discerning and not let others
lead me astray with their falsehood. May the fruit
of my life be an example of a follower of Christ. Amen.
A false life belies a true faith.
10-26-2010, 12:13 AM
Declaration Of Dependence
October 26, 2010
Read: John 15:1-8
Without Me you can do nothing. —John 15:5
Adults celebrate when children learn to do something on their own: get dressed, brush their teeth, tie shoelaces, ride a bike, walk to school.
As adults, we like to pay our own way, live in our own houses, make our own decisions, rely on no outside help. Faced with an unexpected challenge, we seek out “self-help” books. All the while we are systematically sealing off the heart attitude most desirable to God and most descriptive of our true state in the universe. It’s what Jesus told His disciples: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The truth is that we live in a web of dependence, at the center of which is God, in whom all things hold together. Norwegian theologian Ole Hallesby settled on the single word helplessness as the best summary of the heart attitude that God accepts as prayer. He said, “Only he who is helpless can truly pray.”
Most parents feel a pang when the child outgrows dependence, even while knowing the growth to be healthy and normal. With God, the rules change. We never outgrow dependence, and to the extent we think we do, we delude ourselves. Prayer is our declaration of dependence upon the Lord.
Give Him each perplexing problem,
All your needs to Him make known;
Bring to Him your daily burdens—
Never carry them alone! —Adams
Pray as if your life depended upon it. It does!
10-26-2010, 11:13 PM
A Lock Of Hair
October 27, 2010
Read: Judges 16:4-17
The Lord . . . [shows] Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. —2 Chronicles 16:9
After his return from the moon, Neil Armstrong was often plagued by the media. Seeking greater privacy, he moved his family into a small town. But notoriety was a nuisance even there. Armstrong’s barber found out that people would pay good money to get a lock of his hair. So after giving the space hero several haircuts, he sold the clippings to a buyer for $3,000! Armstrong was shocked at the barber’s opportunism.
The Scriptures tell of another story of disloyalty and a haircut. As a symbol of God’s calling of Samson as a Nazirite, he was never to cut his hair (Judg. 13:5). When the Spirit of God came upon him, he was given super-human strength over his enemies (15:14). Wanting to overpower him, the Philistines hired Delilah, a woman who had a relationship with him, to find out the secret of that strength. He foolishly told her that his power would be gone if his hair were cut. She lulled him to sleep and had him shorn (16:5,19).
Greed can drive us to be disloyal to others and to God, causing us to make sinful choices. Our desire should be to exhibit a heart that is fully committed to love the Lord and others. He shows “Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chron. 16:9).
O Lord, may my heart be loyal to You
In all that I say and all that I do;
When a trusted person is not a true friend,
I know that on You I can always depend. —Hess
Loyalty is the test of true love.
10-27-2010, 11:25 PM
October 28, 2010
Read: Ephesians 6:10-18
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. —Ephesians 6:13
For a dozen years, I took an auto emergency kit on every long driving trip but never had to use it. It became such a familiar item that on the night we really needed it, I forgot it was there. But fortunately my wife remembered.
After hitting a deer on a dark rural highway, our van was completely disabled. While I fumbled with a small flashlight to assess the damage and call a tow truck, my wife opened the emergency kit, set out a reflective warning marker, then turned on the bright flashlight, much to my surprise. Later we talked about how a crisis can cause us to forget the resources we have, just when we need them most.
Paul urged the Ephesians to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). This protective covering includes truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, and prayer (vv.14-18). Although these spiritual resources guard us each day, we need to remember them when disaster strikes and the enemy tries to undermine our confidence in God’s love and care.
Use the kit. “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (v.13).
When Satan launches his attack,
We must take heart and pray;
If we submit ourselves to God,
He’ll be our strength and stay. —Sper
God provides the armor, but we must put it on.
10-28-2010, 11:11 PM
Truth Or Error?
October 29, 2010
Read: 2 Timothy 3:14-17
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God. —2 Timothy 2:15
Steve often witnesses to his co- workers. But when he mentions something directly from the Bible, someone frequently responds: “Wait! That was written by men, and it’s full of errors just like any other book.”
The following letter to the editor in our local newspaper expresses a similar thought: “Believers cite that the Word of God is infallible, but I see no apparent reason to believe that the words written in the Bible by man are any more infallible than the words written in a science journal by man.”
How do we respond when the Scriptures are so readily dismissed as being just man’s words with errors? Most of us aren’t biblical scholars and may not have an answer. But if we do some reading (2 Tim. 2:15), we’ll find the evidence that it’s God-inspired (3:16) and therefore trustworthy.
For example, consider this: Over a period of 1,600 years, 40 different authors wrote the 66 books of the Bible. There were 400 silent years between the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 of the New Testament. Yet, Genesis to Revelation tell one unified story.
While we accept the Bible by faith, there’s plenty of evidence that it’s true. Let’s be diligent to study and share what we learn with others.
For Further Study
To understand more about why we can trust the Bible, read Can I Really Trust The Bible?
In a skeptical world you can trust God’s reliable Word.
10-29-2010, 10:53 PM
October 30, 2010
Read: 2 Samuel 12:1-14
The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite. —2 Samuel 12:10
A young teen who was constantly getting into trouble always apologized when his parents confronted him. No matter how much he hurt his parents with his previous wrong-doing, he would soon turn around and do something else wrong—knowing he would be forgiven.
Finally, his dad took him out to the garage for a talk. Dad picked up a hammer and pounded a nail into the garage wall. Then he gave his son the hammer and told him to pull out the nail.
The boy shrugged, grabbed the hammer, and yanked out the nail.
“That’s like forgiveness, Son. When you do something wrong, it’s like pounding in a nail. Forgiveness is when you pull the nail out.”
“Okay, I get it,” said the boy.
“Now take the hammer and pull out the nail hole,” his dad replied.
“That’s impossible!” the boy said. “I can’t pull it out.”
As this story illustrates and King David’s life proves, sin carries consequences. Even though David was forgiven, his adultery and murder left scars and led to family problems (2 Sam. 12:10). This sobering truth can serve as a warning for our lives. The best way to avoid the lingering damage of sin is to live a life of obedience to God.
A Prayer: Thank You for being slow to anger and filled with compassion. May I not presume upon Your mercy by assuming there will be no consequences for my sin. Help me to confess and then to sin no more. Amen.
Our sins can be forgiven and washed away, but their consequences are ours to pay.
10-31-2010, 02:42 AM
October 31, 2010
Read: Hebrews 10:1-18
It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. —Hebrews 10:4
Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me-ee. Happy birthday to me. . . . Happy bir . . .
After humming the “birthday song” a second time, I turned off the faucet’s running water. It is said that singing the song through twice while washing your hands (about 20 seconds) is a good way to remove most bacteria. But it doesn’t last. I need to repeat this process each time they are contaminated.
In the Old Testament, the people of God offered sacrifices over and over to cover their sins. But the blood of the animals didn’t actually “take away sins” (Heb. 10:11). Only the precious sacrifice of Jesus could do that!
Animal sacrifices are no longer needed because Christ’s sacrifice . . .
• was once for all—unlike animal sacrifices, which had to be offered “continually year by year” (vv.1-3,10).
• cleanses us completely from all guilt and sin—unlike the blood of animals that was a reminder of sin’s penalty and could never take away our sins (vv.3-6,11).
“By one offering [Christ] has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (v.14). Only through Jesus can we be declared completely clean.
Once for all, O sinner, receive it;
Once for all, O brother, believe it;
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all. —Bliss
Christ’s cleansing power can remove
the most stubborn stain of sin.
11-01-2010, 11:53 PM
Stockpiling Or Storing?
November 1, 2010
Read: Ecclesiastes 5:8-17
Just exactly as he came, so shall he go. —Ecclesiastes 5:16
Rugs, lamps, a washer and dryer, even the food in the cupboards—everything was for sale! My husband and I stopped at an estate sale one day and wandered through the house, overwhelmed by the volume of belongings. Dish sets littered the dining room table. Christmas decorations filled the front hallway. Tools, toy cars, board games, and vintage dolls crowded the garage. When we left, I wondered if the homeowners were moving, if they desperately needed money, or if they had passed away.
This reminded me of these words from Ecclesiastes: “Just exactly as he came, so shall he go” (5:16). We’re born empty-handed and we leave the world the same way. The stuff we buy, organize, and store is ours only for a while—and it’s all in a state of decay. Moths munch through our clothes; even gold and silver may not hold their value (James 5:2-3). Sometimes “riches perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14), and our kids don’t get to enjoy our possessions after we’re gone.
Stockpiling possessions in the here-and-now is foolish, because we can’t take anything with us when we die. What’s important is a proper attitude toward what we have and how we use what God has given. That way we’ll be storing up our treasure where it belongs—in heaven.
Whatever we possess on earth
We have to leave behind;
But everything we give to God
In heaven we will find. —Sper
Letting go of earthly possessions enables us to take hold of heavenly treasure.
11-01-2010, 11:54 PM
November 2, 2010
Read: Luke 10:25-37
A certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.
One of the major obstacles to show- ing compassion is making prejudgments about who we think is worthy of our compassion. Jesus told a parable to answer the question: “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Or, who qualifies as worthy of our neighborly acts?
Jesus told of a man who traveled on the notoriously dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. As he traveled, he fell among thieves and was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Religious Jews (a priest and a Levite) passed him, but they walked by on the other side, probably for fear of being religiously defiled. But a Samaritan came along and had unconditional compassion on the wounded stranger.
Jesus’ audience would have gasped at this because Jews despised Samaritans. The Samaritan could have limited or qualified his compassion because the man was a Jew. But he did not limit his neighborly kindness to those he thought were worthy. Instead, he saw a human being in need and resolved to help him.
Are you limiting your kindness to the ones you deem worthy? As followers of Jesus, let us find ways to show neighborly kindness to all people, especially to those we have judged as unworthy.
How many lives shall I touch today?
How many neighbors will pass my way?
I can bless so many and help so much,
If I meet each one with a Christlike touch. —Jones
Our love for Christ is only as real as our love for our neighbor.
11-02-2010, 11:12 PM
It Can Never Happen To Me
November 3, 2010
Read: Psalm 30:6-12
Now in my prosperity I said, “I shall never be moved.” —Psalm 30:6
Actor Christopher Reeve was para- lyzed in a horseback riding accident in 1995. Prior to this tragedy, he had played the part of a paraplegic in a movie. In preparation, Reeve visited a rehabilitation facility. He recalled: “Every time I left that rehab center, I said, ‘Thank God that’s not me.’ ” After his accident, Reeve regretted that statement: “I was so setting myself apart from those people who were suffering without realizing that in a second that could be me.” And sadly, for him, it was.
We too may look at the troubles of others and think that it could never happen to us. Especially if our life journey has led to a measure of success, financial security, and family harmony. In a moment of vanity and self-sufficiency, King David admitted to falling into the trap of feeling invulnerable: “Now in my prosperity I said, ‘I shall never be moved’” (Ps. 30:6). But David quickly caught himself and redirected his heart away from self-sufficiency. He remembered that he had known adversity in the past and God had delivered him: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing” (v.11).
Whether He has brought us blessing or trial, God still deserves our gratitude and trust.
I can always count on God, my heavenly Father,
For He changes not; He always is the same;
Yesterday, today, forever, He is faithful,
And I know He loves me, praise His holy name. —Felten
In good times and bad, our greatest need is God.
11-03-2010, 11:24 PM
November 4, 2010
Read: 2 Kings 5:1-15
Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. —2 Kings 5:15
John is a humble, uneducated man. Yet God used him to start the peace process in Mozambique. His name is not mentioned in any official documents; all he did was arrange a meeting between two of his acquaintances— Kenyan Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat and a Mozambican. But that introduction set in motion the events that led to a peace treaty after a 10-year civil war.
From that experience, Ambassador Kiplagat learned the importance of respecting everyone. “You never dismiss people because they are not educated, because they are white, because they are black, because they are women, because they are old or young. Every encounter is sacred, and we need to value that encounter,” the ambassador said. “You never know what word might be there for you.”
The Bible confirms that this is true. Naaman was a great man in Syria when he got the dreaded disease of leprosy. A servant girl whom he had captured from Israel told Naaman’s wife that the prophet Elisha could heal him. Because Naaman was willing to listen to this lowly servant girl, his life was spared and he came to know the one true God (2 Kings 5:15).
God often speaks through those to whom few are willing to listen. To hear God, be sure to listen to the humble.
God often uses lowly things
His purpose to fulfill,
Because it takes a humble heart
To carry out His will. —D. De Haan
God uses ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plan.
11-04-2010, 10:57 PM
A Lasting Imprint
November 5, 2010
Read: Matthew 5:13-20
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:16
Caerleon is a Welsh village with deep historical roots. It was one of three sites in the United Kingdom where Roman legions were posted during Rome’s occupation of Britain. While the military presence ended some 1,500 years ago, the imprint of that occupation can still be seen today. People come from all over the world to visit the military fort, the barracks, and the amphitheatre that are reminders of the days when Rome ruled the world and occupied Wales.
It amazes me that 15 centuries later, the evidence of Rome’s presence can still so clearly be seen in that small community.
I wonder, though, about another kind of imprint—the imprint of Christ on our lives. Do we allow His presence to be clearly seen by others? Is it possible for people who interact with us to know that Jesus occupies our lives?
Jesus calls us to make known His presence in our lives to the glory of God the Father. He says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Through the light of our testimony and the impact of our deeds of service, people should be able to see evidence of the presence of God in our lives. Is it true? Can they see His imprint?
The Christ of God to glorify,
His grace in us to magnify;
His Word of life to all make known—
Be this our work, and this alone. —Whittle
Let your testimony be written in large enough letters so the world can always read it.
11-06-2010, 02:34 AM
Do It Now!
November 6, 2010
Read: Hebrews 3:7-15
Exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. —Hebrews 3:13
Several years ago a friend took me to a motivational seminar that I thoroughly enjoyed. Instead of focusing on money and success, the leaders guided us toward understanding our unique identity and purpose in life. Then they passed along some helpful methods for effective living. One motto has stayed with me: “Do it now!” The principle they taught us was that it takes as much energy to avoid a task as it does to do it. Procrastination saps power; completion gives relief.
A spiritual application can be seen in Hebrews 3, a passage filled with an air of immediacy as it calls us to obey the Lord. “‘Today,’ if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, . . . but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (vv.7-8,13). We don’t know how long it would have taken the children of Israel to reach the Promised Land if they had obeyed God, but their 40-year journey resulted from their unwilling hearts. An entire generation missed the adventure of a lifetime (vv.8-11).
When we know how the Lord wants us to live, why don’t we just say “Yes!” No debate, no delay. Do it now!
It’s easy to procrastinate
And leave good deeds undone,
But such a course will bring regrets
When life’s short race is run. —Anon.
Do it now! Today will be yesterday tomorrow.
11-07-2010, 02:20 AM
God’s Presence At Church
November 7, 2010
Read: Colossians 1:9-14
Walk worthy of the Lord. —Colossians 1:10
I love reading church slogans. You know, the ones you see on the marquee in front of churches. Recently I noticed a slogan that said, “Come in and experience the presence of God.” That one caught my attention, primarily because it’s an important promise to make and sometimes a hard promise to keep. Hard, because if we’re not careful our churches might reflect the presence of its people more than the presence of our God.
So what would a church have to do to display the presence of God? Its people would have to live like Him! Dynamics like hospitality, the loving acceptance of all kinds of people, a quickness to serve, a tangible love for one another that makes people feel safe and included regardless of color or class, and a patient tolerance of one another’s weaknesses would all be a great way to start. Paul said we should walk in a manner “worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10). And he also said that being worthy means that we will be humble, gentle, bearing with one another in love, eagerly maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3).
Let’s live in such a way that others will experience the presence of the God who lives in us—wherever we are, but especially at church.
The world gets a glimpse of God
When those who claim to be
The followers of Jesus Christ
Are living righteously. —Sper
Those who walk with Christ
bring the presence of God to everyone around them.
11-08-2010, 12:56 AM
November 8, 2010
Read: Hebrews 5:12–6:3
Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. —2 Corinthians 13:11
When my daughter and her family were in town for a visit, I had a chance to take my son and two sons-in-law out for a “guy” outing.
We decided that while the ladies were shopping, we would go to a firing range and practice shooting. We rented two pistols and took aim at our targets. While shooting, all four of us discovered that on one of the firearms the sight was set too low. If we aimed using that sight, we hit the bottom of the target. We had to aim high in order to hit anywhere near the bull’s-eye.
Isn’t life a lot like that? If we set our sights too low, we really don’t accomplish all that we can. Sometimes we have to aim high in order to reach a desired goal.
What should be our aim in life? How high should we point our ambitions? Well, since Scripture is our true guide, we will shoot for nothing but spiritual maturity. In fact, in Paul’s farewell to the people of Corinth, he said, “Aim for perfection” (2 Cor. 13:11 NIV). And we also have the high aim of these words from the lips of Jesus, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
Perfection is a lofty target, and we won’t attain it in this life. But if we want to honor God and get close to that high goal, we need to aim high.
O to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear. —Chisholm
Conversion is the miracle of a moment; maturing takes a lifetime.
11-09-2010, 01:05 AM
A Special Virtue
November 9, 2010
Read: 1 Cor. 9:24-27
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. —Galatians 5:22-23
In her book Food in Medieval Times, author Melitta Adamson writes of European culinary delights in the Middle Ages. Wild game, pastries, puddings, and other exotic foods illustrate the creative joy taken in food preparation. But with all these wonderful entrées there was a problem—overeating. This tendency was compounded by the Christian calendar, which abounded with fasts and feasts. Abstaining from meals was often followed by gluttony.
To address this problem, theologian Thomas Aquinas uplifted the Christian character quality of temperance, calling it “a special virtue.” He saw how self-restraint should extend to all areas of life.
For the believer, temperance, or moderation, does not derive from sheer human willpower. Instead, it comes from the Holy Spirit who gives us self-control: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Self-control is the Spirit-produced quality that enables us to be “temperate in all things” (1 Cor. 9:25).
Overindulgence in food, rest, work, recreation, ministry, and a variety of “good things” can be corrected only through the balance of self-control. Take a few minutes to ask God to produce that special virtue in you.
If gaining the fruit of self-control
Is something you’re trying to do;
Submit your will in everything
To the Spirit living in you. —Kieda
To gain self-control, give the Spirit control.
11-09-2010, 10:59 PM
Where Do I Start?
November 10, 2010
Read: Luke 11:1-10
In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me. —Psalm 120:1
Several years ago, I was driving down the freeway when my car died. I pulled over to the side of the road, got out of the car, and opened the hood. As I looked at the engine I thought, A lot of good this does me. I know nothing about cars. I don’t even know where to start!
That’s how we might sometimes feel about prayer: Where do I start? That’s what the disciples wanted to know when they asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). The best place to look for instruction is in the example and teaching of Jesus. Two questions you may have are:
Where should we pray? Jesus prayed in the temple, in the wilderness (Luke 4), in quiet places (Matt. 14:22-23), in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22), and on the cross (Luke 23:34,46). He prayed alone and with others. Look at His life, follow His example, and pray wherever you are.
What should we pray? In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to ask that God’s name be honored and that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Ask Him for your daily provisions, for forgiveness of sin, and for deliverance from temptation and evil (Luke 11:2-4).
So if you’re looking for a good place to start, follow the example of the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord has shown us we can pray
Wherever we may be;
And when we say, “Your will be done,”
His work on earth we’ll see. —Sper
If Jesus needed to pray, how can we do less?
11-10-2010, 11:39 PM
November 11, 2010
Read: Philippians 2:20-30
For the work of Christ [Epaphroditus] came close to death, not regarding his life. —Philippians 2:30
On December 4, 2007, a 19-year- old soldier serving in Iraq saw a grenade being thrown from a rooftop. Manning the machine gun in the turret of his Humvee, he tried to deflect the explosive—but it fell inside his vehicle. He had time to jump to safety. Instead, he threw his body over the grenade in a stunningly selfless act that saved the lives of four fellow soldiers.
This almost unexplainable act of self-sacrifice may help us understand why the Bible tells us that there is a kind of love that is more honorable than having great knowledge or faith (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
This kind of love can be hard to find—leading the apostle Paul to lament that more people care for themselves than for the interests of Christ (Phil. 2:20-21). That’s why he was so grateful for Epaphroditus, a co-worker who “came close to death, not regarding his life” in order to serve others (v.30).
If we think we could never put our own life on the line for others, Epaphroditus shows us the first step with his selfless example. Such love is neither normal nor common, and it doesn’t come from us. It comes from the Spirit of God, who can give us the desire and ability to feel for others some of the inexpressible affection God has for us.
To give up yourself for others
Seems like such a tough thing to do;
But that’s how you can know for sure
That God’s love is working through you. —Branon
You can measure your love for God
by showing your love for others.
11-12-2010, 02:13 AM
More Than Loaves
November 12, 2010
Read: John 6:25-36
You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. —John 6:26
Seventeenth-century Quaker leader Isaac Pennington said, “The Lord has been teaching me to live upon Himself—not from anything received from Him, but upon the life itself.” The people in John 6 wanted to live off Jesus, but not for the same reason. It was not because their hearts were loyal to Him, but because their hearts were loyal to what they thought He could provide for them—namely, food and deliverance from Roman oppression.
Jesus’ provision of the loaves and fish was a confirmation in their minds of what He could do for them. Jesus knew that behind their interest in Him was their hope that He would become a different kind of king, so He withdrew from them (John 6:14-15). The next day they looked for Him and found Him, making their quest successful (vv.22,25-26). So they continued to follow Him because of what they thought He could provide. But Jesus turned the tables and identified Himself as the Bread of Life (vv.32-33). They wanted a better life from Him, but He told them He came to offer them eternal life (v.40). Only those who believe in Jesus can find true fulfillment—now and forever.
Follow Jesus, not just because He can provide “the loaves,” but because He can satisfy your deepest hunger—the quest for eternal fellowship with Him.
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him. —Bonar
You can experience complete fulfillment
if your life is filled with Christ.
11-13-2010, 03:02 AM
November 13, 2010
Read: Psalm 139:1-16
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret. —Psalm 139:15
An old TV sitcom featured an estab- lishment that the patrons seemed to frequent on a daily basis. The concept was that it was a welcoming place where “everybody knows your name.”
We all want to be accepted, to fit in somewhere. But some people live on the margins of life where it can be difficult to feel they have any value or significance, or that they matter to anyone. Children sometimes experience this: Too tall—when other kids haven’t had a growth spurt yet. Too fat—when the other kids are thinner. Too smart—when their classmates are struggling. Or “not smart enough” in comparison with others. Being different as a child can result in being mocked or bullied. But an adult who doesn’t fit into the mold may just be ignored—so insignificant that he or she feels invisible.
But what a great significance we have in God’s eyes! We were so valued that He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins and to allow us to have a relationship with Him. We were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and He has designed us and been involved in every detail of our life since before we were born (Ps. 139:1-16). Whether or not we always feel significant, we are deeply loved by our Father.
Of all creation’s treasures rare,
Not one compares in worth with man,
In God’s own image we were made
To fill a place in His great plan. —D. De Haan
The God who created the universe is the God who loves you.
11-14-2010, 02:00 AM
No Laughing Matter
November 14, 2010
Read: Philippians 1:12-20
All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. —2 Timothy 3:12
As my wife and I were walking through a shopping mall, we came to a T-shirt stand. While browsing the shirts and their often humorous sayings, I noticed one with a disturbing message. It read, “So Many Christians, So Few Lions.” That shirt, with its reference to the first-century practice of throwing Christians to the lions in the Coliseum in Rome, wasn’t at all funny.
Persecution is no laughing matter. Not long before those brave Christians faced death in Rome’s cruel sport, Paul wrote, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Persecution is inevitable, and it should be a matter of serious concern for all believers. In fact, at this very moment fellow brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are suffering in Jesus’ name.
What can we do about it? First, we can pray that God will comfort them in their suffering. Second, we can aid families left without support when loved ones are imprisoned. Third, we can pray now for courage should we face persecution. When the apostle Paul was put in jail for his faith, his courage led others to be bolder in their witness (Phil. 1:14).
Want to encourage the persecuted church? Pray. Then proclaim the message for which believers suffer.
The church of Christ can’t be destroyed,
Though many enemies have tried;
Whenever persecution comes,
The church is spread and multiplied. —Sper
We find courage to stand when we kneel before the Lord.
11-15-2010, 01:49 AM
Cross The Divide
November 15, 2010
Read: Mark 2:13-17
As [Jesus] was dining in Levi’s house, . . . many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus. —Mark 2:15
Two young men with mischief on their minds approached a missionary’s outreach bus parked in a downtown area of a German city.
The missionaries were there to offer refreshments as a way to open up conversations about Christ. The two visitors, wearing skull-and-crossbones bandannas, were there to offer trouble.
But the missionaries didn’t respond to the ruffians as they expected. The Christians welcomed them warmly and engaged them in discussion. Surprised, the guys hung around long enough to hear the gospel. One trusted Jesus that day. The other, the next day.
Those two young men and the missionaries who reached them were light-years apart culturally. The guys were German; the missionaries, American. The guys were involved in a culture of darkness and death; the missionaries were shining the light. The cultural divide was crossed with cookies and nonjudgmental love.
Look at the people around you. How can you show those on the other side of the cultural fence unconditional, unquestioning love? How can you cross the divide and help them see that Jesus’ love knows no boundaries?
Cross the divide. Take Christ to the culture—even if it doesn’t look anything like yours.
To cross a cultural divide
Takes love that shows we really care;
And once the door is open wide,
Christ’s saving gospel we can share. —Sper
Our witness for Christ is a light for a world in darkness.
11-15-2010, 11:05 PM
November 16, 2010
Read: 2 Timothy 2:3-16
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15
Internationally acclaimed violinist Midori believes that focused, diligent practice is the key to performance. While playing a rigorous schedule of 90 concerts a year, she still practices an average of 5 or 6 hours a day. Jane Ammeson, in NWA WorldTraveler magazine, quoted Midori as saying: “I have to practice for my job and I practice every day. . . . It’s not really the hours, but the quality of the work that needs to be done. I see with students, that they play and they call it practice, but they are not listening and not watching. If you have your textbook open, it doesn’t mean that you are studying.”
That same principle applies to our walk of faith. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Diligence implies constant, earnest effort, and is the opposite of a careless, inattentive approach. It embraces every aspect of our relationship with God.
Just as a musician strives for excellence, we should want to serve God with confidence, seek His approval, and skillfully share His Word with others.
Am I diligently studying, praying, and listening to the Lord today?
When we live with expectancy,
Awaiting Christ’s return,
Our diligent obedience
Becomes our main concern. —Sper
God speaks to those who take time to listen, and He listens to those who take time to pray.
11-17-2010, 02:30 AM
Say No And Yes
November 17, 2010
Read: 2 Timothy 2:20-22
Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. —1 John 3:10
When we wash our hands to clean off the grime and germs, do we actually clean them ourselves? No and yes. To be precise, the soap and water does the job—not us. But we make the choice to use the soap and water to clean our hands.
In 2 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul tells us, “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself . . . he will be a vessel for honor” (v.21). This does not mean that we on our own have the power to cleanse ourselves from sin. Rather, we use the cleansing provided by Jesus Christ, who died for us on the cross.
Philippians 3:9 tells us that we are “found in Him, not having [our] own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
When we receive Christ, His death and resurrection sets us free from the penalty and the power of sin, thus enabling us to say no and yes in everyday life. We can say no to the desires of the flesh, or “youthful lusts” that Paul mentioned (2 Tim. 2:22). And we can say yes to “righteousness” (right behavior), “faith” (right belief), “love” (right response), and “peace” (right focus).
As we’re cleansed daily, we’ll be “useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (v.21).
Lord, help us to think of the right and the true,
The pure and the noble—it all points to You;
For if we consider what’s worthy of praise,
We’ll then want to live for You all of our days. —Fitzhugh
Right thinking leads to right living.
11-17-2010, 11:00 PM
Spiritual Junk Food
November 18, 2010
Read: Hebrews 13:1-9
Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. —Hebrews 13:9
In many countries, childhood obesity is at an all-time high. A major culprit in such unhealthy weight gain is poor eating habits and junk food.
The term junk food refers to items that taste good but lack nutritional value and are often very high in calories and fat. Chips, soft drinks, candy bars, cookies, and many meals purchased at fast-food restaurants fit these criteria.
To be spiritually healthy, we have to avoid “spiritual junk food” as well. Some religious teachers proclaim “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6), ranging from health-and-wealth to a counterfeit spirituality. And some Christian music and books also contain false teaching. Taking in this kind of “food” may seem to satisfy spiritual hunger, but it will not lead to spiritual health.
Hebrews warns us: “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace” (Heb. 13:9). False teaching is detrimental to our health and is not profitable, because it cannot cleanse from sin nor give power for spiritual growth. But biblical content that is based upon grace and truth does both.
Avoid “spiritual junk food” and instead feast on God’s Word to promote your spiritual health.
To walk close by Your side, my dear Savior,
To be led by You, doing each task,
To feast richly on grace at Your table,
And to know You is all that I ask. —Somerville
Feeding on God’s truth will help us avoid swallowing lies.
11-18-2010, 11:05 PM
November 19, 2010
Read: 1 Peter 2:9-17
You are a chosen generation, . . . a holy nation . . . that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness. —1 Peter 2:9
My wife, Martie, and I have grown to love England—its history, culture, and people. One of our favorite activities when we visit is going to outdoor concerts (also known as proms) on the sloping lawns of ancient estates. “The Last Night of the Proms” event is the best, with fireworks and hundreds of nationals waving little British flags to rousing patriotic tunes.
We loved joining the celebration—until the summer our children came with us. When we started waving our flags with all the enthusiastic Brits, our kids were aghast. I can still hear them shouting over the music, “What are you doing?! You’re Americans!”
God must often feel like that when we blend in and live like the “locals” around us. I can almost hear Him saying, “What are you doing living like that?! You belong to My nation!”
Peter reminds us that we are different from the locals—we are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Being holy means that we are unique, set apart for Jesus, becoming like Him, and reflecting His countercultural ways of living. It means that we are forgiving in the face of cruel offenses; and merciful, gracious, truthful, and loyal to our promises. It means being just like Him.
So let’s start waving the flag of holiness as members of the “Jesus nation”!
O child of God, guard well your life
From anything that stains the heart;
Forsake those things that soil the mind—
Your Father wants you set apart. —Fasick
Our loyalty to Jesus should be seen and heard in our lives.
11-20-2010, 02:43 AM
November 20, 2010
Read: Romans 6:1-14
Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 6:11
After a 4-year-old got into trouble at preschool, his mom asked him what he had done wrong. He explained, “I was angry with a playmate. But you told me that I should not hit anyone, so I asked my friend to do it for me!”
Where does someone so young learn that? The Bible tells us he did not have to be taught—he was born with it! It is part of the fallen nature that all of us have at birth.
But the Christian does not have to respond according to his fallen nature. Paul reminds us that “our old man was crucified with [Christ], . . . that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). We are “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) and have been set free and have become “slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22).
Yet, as Christians we do still struggle with our flesh and its sinful desires (Rom. 7:18-19). But now that “we are alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” we can respond in a God-honoring way (Rom. 6:11).
Instead of being like the young boy who tried to get revenge, we can obey the instructions of Romans 6:13, “Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God . . . as instruments of righteousness.”
O help us, Lord, to heed Your Word,
Its precepts to obey;
And give us strength to quench the urge
To do things our own way. —Sper
We gain the victory when we give up sin’s pleasure in exchange for Christ’s power.
11-21-2010, 02:08 AM
Out Of The Mouth Of Babes
November 21, 2010
Read: Psalm 8:1-2
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength. —Psalm 8:2
Psalm 8 begins with a startling contrast. David seems to suggest that while God has revealed His glory in the skies, another persuasive answer to His critics comes in the utterances of a child: “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger” (v.2).
Why is a child’s praise so persuasive? For one thing, it’s because, unlike the impersonal universe, a child can know and love God.
Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 when religious leaders were scandalized that children were running around in the temple shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matt. 21:15-16). These little ones knew—as those leaders did not know—that Jesus was the long-awaited Son of God.
Some of my most memorable moments as a parent came when I knelt beside our children’s beds at night, and they opened their hearts to God. The simplicity of their love and trust as they prayed touched me deeply, dispelled my doubts and fears, and drew me to faith.
We must never take lightly little ones who believe in Christ (Matt. 18:6,10). Their witness is great, as is the witness in the skies.
Could it be that the trusting child—
Who with childlike faith stands strong—
Can teach us more than sun and stars
About to whom our hearts belong? —Branon
Children are God’s precious jewels— help them shine for Christ.
11-22-2010, 01:40 AM
Storm Clouds And Blue Sky
November 22, 2010
Read: Romans 8:18-30
Our light affliction . . . is but for a moment. —2 Corinthians 4:17
I was feeling down about some circumstances the other day and wondering how I might lift my spirits. I pulled from my shelf the book Life Is Like Licking Honey Off a Thorn by Susan Lenzkes, and I read this: “We take the laughter and the tears however they come, and let our God of reality make sense of it all.”
Lenzkes says some people are optimists who “camp in pleasures and good memories,” denying the brokenness. Others are pessimists who “focus on life’s losses, losing joy and victory in the process.” But people of faith are realists who “receive it all—all the good and bad of life—and repeatedly choose to know that God really loves us and is constantly at work for our good and His glory.”
As I read, I looked outside and noticed dark clouds and a steady rain. A little later, a friendly wind came up and blew the clouds away. Suddenly the skies were bright blue. The storms of life blow in and out like that.
By faith we cling to God’s promise of Romans 8:28. And we recall that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). God loves us, and He’s getting us ready for the day when skies will be forever blue.
The purposes of God are right,
Although we may not see
Just how He works all things for good
And transforms tragedy. —Sper
God promises a safe landing— but not necessarily a calm passage.
11-23-2010, 02:17 AM
November 23, 2010
Read: Ephesians 2:11-22
Through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. —Ephesians 2:18
Last November, news sources said that a shocking breach of security occurred when a couple brazenly walked into a White House state dinner—even getting close enough to have their picture taken with the President of the United States. Usually, extensive background checks and careful scrutiny of the guest list screens out the uninvited.
It’s a rare day for any of us that our access is not restricted in some way. Signs warn us: Employees Only, Do Not Enter, Authorized Vehicles Only, No Trespassing. None of us want to be told that we are not welcome. But the fact is that there will always be some places from which we will be barred. It makes me grateful that God sets no restriction on who may come to Him.
Those who come to God encounter no “Keep Out” signs. Through prayer, God the Father allows us immediate and unlimited access to Him because His Son Jesus Christ has opened the way to all who receive Him (Eph. 2:18). “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28). “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (7:37).
Once you come to Christ for salvation, you can enjoy unrestricted fellowship. The door is always open.
Our prayers ascend to heaven’s throne
Regardless of the form we use;
Our Father always hears His own
Regardless of the words we choose. —D. De Haan
God’s throne is always accessible to His children.
11-24-2010, 02:39 AM
November 24, 2010
Read: Luke 7:11-23
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. —Malachi 4:2
As I looked at family members gathered around the Thanksgiving table, I smiled at the range of talents represented. At one end were doctors; at the other end were musicians. Thanks to doctors, human bodies operate more efficiently. Thanks to musicians, beautiful sounds uplift our spirits and soothe troubled minds.
Although their abilities are very different, doctors and musicians rely on the same thing: an orderly universe. Without order, there would be no predictability; without predictability, there would be no music or medicine.
Within our orderly world, disease is a sign that something is “out of order.” Healing is a sign that God will some day restore all things to their original condition (Acts 3:21). When John the Baptist wanted to know whether Jesus was the “Coming One,” Jesus said, “Go and tell John . . . the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:20-22). Healing was evidence that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah (Mal. 4:2).
I am thankful for music that soothes my troubled mind and soul, and for medicine that heals my body, because they remind me of the ultimate healing and restoration that Christ is accomplishing.
What are the prospects for this earth?
What hope is there for man?
A world restored through Jesus Christ
In whom we see God’s plan. —D. De Haan
Jesus specializes in restoration.
11-25-2010, 01:47 AM
We Thank The Lord
November 25, 2010
Read: Proverbs 3:1-12
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. —Proverbs 3:5
Anna Anderson’s husband died early in their marriage, leaving her with three young daughters and a difficult future. Although trained in Virginia as a teacher, she lacked full credentials to work in the Philadelphia schools, so she took in laundry, did ironing, and later scrubbed floors at a large department store. As African-Americans, they often experienced racial prejudice and discrimination. When doors of opportunity closed, Anna believed that if they would trust the Lord with all their heart and acknowledge Him in all their ways, He would direct their paths (Prov. 3:5-6). She taught her daughters to depend on God, follow Him, and always be thankful.
When her firstborn, Marian, rose to become an internationally acclaimed classical singer, Anna continued to pray for her, and always gave God credit for her success. Reporters, who asked Anna how she felt after attending Marian’s concerts at Carnegie Hall and her 1955 debut with the Metropolitan Opera, heard her say, “We thank the Lord.” Her reply was not a cliché, but sincere gratefulness to God.
Rather than lament what she lacked, Anna Anderson expressed gratitude for what she had and used it for God’s glory. Today, we can follow her example with faith, confidence, and a heartfelt, “We thank the Lord.”
When we consider all God’s gifts
And all that we possess,
A grumbling mood of discontent
Gives way to thankfulness. —Sper
Gratitude is a mark of godliness.
11-26-2010, 04:43 AM
November 26, 2010
Read: Psalm 27
The Lord is the strength of my life. —Psalm 27:1
We tend to compartmentalize our lives. We fill our days with activities such as work, errands, chores, caring for children. And then we try to carve out time for “spiritual” activities such as church, small groups, personal devotions.
I don’t see that separation in the Psalms. Somehow David and the other poets managed to make God the gravitational center of their lives so that everything was related to God. To them, worship was the central activity in life, not something to get through so other activities could be resumed. The process of letting God in on every detail of life is one we need.
For me, the Psalms have become a step in the process of recognizing God’s true place at the center. The psalmists have an urgency, a desire, and a hunger for God that makes my own look anemic by contrast. They panted for God with their tongues hanging out, as an exhausted deer pants for water (42:1-2). They lay awake at night dreaming of “the beauty of the Lord” (27:4). They would rather spend one day in God’s presence than a thousand years elsewhere (84:10).
It was “the advanced school of faith” that these poets were enrolled in. Maybe as we read the Psalms, some of it will rub off on us.
One life to live for Christ my Lord,
One life to do my part,
One life in which to give my all
With fervency of heart. —Brandt
To have a heart for God, give your heart totally to God.
11-27-2010, 04:41 AM
November 27, 2010
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. —2 Corinthians 6:2
On September 30, 2009, columnist Mitch Albom sat on stage at the Fox Theater in Detroit, Michigan, to interview Ernie Harwell, one of the most beloved men in American sports. Harwell spent more than 50 years as a radio play-by-play announcer, mostly for the Detroit Tigers baseball team. His kindness, humility, and warmth as a broadcaster left an indelible impression on all who met him.
When Albom interviewed him, Ernie was 91 years old and had just announced that he had incurable cancer. But as Ernie talked, he wasn’t about to let people feel sorry for him. Instead, he wanted to talk about the night in 1961 when he trusted Jesus Christ as Savior. And, during one of the final times this Hall of Fame announcer would be able to speak publicly, he concluded, “I don’t know how many days I’ve got left . . . [but] I can really know . . . whose arms I’m going to end up in, and what a great, great thing heaven is going to be.”
Ernie was anticipating something special! He knew that God had a glorious eternal home prepared for him (John 14:2-3; Phil. 1:21-23), so he could look death in the face and praise God. Is that your confidence? Do you know that His arms are waiting to welcome you home? At the end, that’s really all that matters.
Lord, when I take my final breath
And see You face to face in death,
Then shall my heart forever sing
The heavenly praises of my King. —Raniville
For the Christian, death means heaven, happiness, and Him.
11-28-2010, 02:01 AM
A Collector’s Heaven
November 28, 2010
Read: Matthew 6:19-21
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. —Matthew 6:19-20
People love to collect things—from baseball cards to stamps to coins. And while collecting can be a fun hobby, it is sobering to think that once we leave this earth, everything we own becomes part of someone else’s collection. What value would it be to have collected much on earth but little or nothing for eternity?
Jesus had something to say about this. Speaking to His disciples, He said: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20).
Eternal treasures never lose their worth. They can never be spoiled or stolen. And just think—we can actually stockpile them! How? Through acts of service. Through leading others to Jesus. By being compassionate to those in need. By living according to the will and ways of Jesus. In the gospel of Mark, we read that the Lord tested the rich young ruler’s heart when He asked him to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. The ruler’s response revealed what he really valued (10:21-22).
It’s easy to become enamored with earthside stuff, but when you make the choice to follow Jesus, He’ll show you the joy of collecting eternal treasures. Nothing on earth can compare!
The treasures of earth do not last,
But God has prepared us a place
Where someday with Him we will dwell,
Enjoying the riches of grace. —Branon
Hold tightly to what is eternal and loosely to what is temporal.
11-29-2010, 01:50 AM
What Is In Your Hand?
November 29, 2010
Read: Exodus 4:1-5
So the Lord said to [Moses], “What is that in your hand?” —Exodus 4:2
If you have a tendency to despair over lost opportunities or if you worry about the future, ask yourself this question: “What is right in front of me?” In other words, what circumstances and relationships are currently available to you? This question can get your focus off a past regret or a scary future and back to what God can do in your life.
It’s similar to the question God asked Moses at the burning bush. Moses was troubled. Aware of his own weaknesses, he expressed fear about the Lord’s call for him to lead Israel out of bondage. So God simply asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?” (Ex. 4:2). The Lord shifted Moses’ attention away from his anxiety about the future and suggested he notice what was right in front of him—a shepherd’s rod. God showed Moses that He could use this ordinary staff to perform miracles as a sign for unbelieving people. As Moses’ trust in God grew, so did the magnitude of miracles God worked through His servant.
Do you think about past failures too much? Do you have fearful thoughts about the future? Recall God’s question: “What is that in your hand?” What current circumstances and relationships can God use for your benefit and His glory? Entrust them—and your life—to Him.
Onward and upward your course plan today,
Seeking new heights as you walk Jesus’ way;
Heed not past failures, but strive for the prize,
Aiming for goals fit for His holy eyes. —Brandt
You can’t change the past,
but you’ll ruin the present by worrying about the future.
11-30-2010, 02:47 AM
Would Or Did?
November 30, 2010
Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Christ died for our sins . . . , was buried, and . . . rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. —1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Not many years ago, we watched as the “WWJD” craze swept through the Christian community. The bracelet-emblazoned theme “What Would Jesus Do?” was a valuable reminder to many people that we should consider the heart and mind of Jesus when making choices. As we seek to live in a way that honors the Savior, it is appropriate to measure our attitudes and decisions against the example our Lord set for us.
Recently, however, I was in a church where I saw a slightly different message. This church’s sign read, “WDJD—What Did Jesus Do?” That is indeed the more important question, because our salvation depends on it. Paramount among the remarkable deeds of the Son of God are the events described in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
What did Jesus do? He took the suffering and guilt for our wrongdoing and paid our penalty. He died and conquered death so we could live. And the fact is, we will never be able to fully consider what Jesus would do until we have embraced what He did do for us on the cross.
To follow Christ in all we do
Can be a worthy goal
If first we’ve put our trust in Him
To save our sinful soul. —Sper
We are saved not by what we do
but by trusting what Christ has done.
12-01-2010, 11:00 PM
December 1, 2010
Read: 2 Corinthians 4:8-15
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed. —2 Corinthians 4:8
Have you ever heard skeptics say that the Christian faith is nothing more than a crutch—that the only reason people claim to trust Jesus is that they are weaklings who have to make up “religion” to get by?
Apparently those skeptics haven’t heard about the doctor in one Far Eastern country who spent 2 ½ years in jail being “reeducated” because he professed faith in Christ. Then, after his release, he was arrested again—this time for his efforts at his church.
And perhaps those skeptics haven’t heard about Paul. After trusting Christ, he was arrested, flogged, mocked, and shipwrecked (2 Cor. 11:16-29).
These believers were not looking for a crutch. No, they had something deep and essential in their hearts. They had a personal relationship with God—a relationship born of faith in the work of Jesus on the cross. As a result, they became children of the King—eager to sacrifice everything for the privilege of proclaiming Him. They were not limping along looking for something to hold them up.
A crutch? Hardly. Faith in Christ is not about safety and caution. It’s about believing Jesus and trusting Him no matter what. It’s about taking up a daily cross (Luke 9:23) and living for the Savior.
“Take up your cross,” the Savior said,
“If you would My disciple be;
Take up your cross with willing heart
And humbly follow after Me.” —Everest
Because Jesus bore the cross for us,
we willingly take it up for Him.
12-02-2010, 02:22 AM
Times Of Refreshing
December 2, 2010
Read: Acts 3:17-26
Repent . . . , so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. —Acts 3:19
What do you find most refreshing? A cold drink on a hot day? An afternoon nap? Listening to praise and worship music?
The biblical theme of refreshing has a variety of physical and spiritual meanings. In Scripture we read of refreshment by resting on the Sabbath (Ex. 23:12), with cool water after physical activity (Judg. 15:18-19), by soothing music (1 Sam. 16:23), and with encouraging fellowship (2 Tim. 1:16).
The apostle Peter describes a time of spiritual refreshment that took place on the Day of Pentecost. He exhorted his listeners to repent and respond to the gospel “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). The apostle’s statement was especially meaningful to the Jewish audience with its reference to the millennium when Messiah would rule. But the good news of spiritual life would also be extended to the Gentiles (Acts 10).
Even now as believers we can experience a time of refreshing by quieting our hearts in a devotional time of prayer and Bible reading. When we spend time alone with the Lord, we can experience His peace and joy which renew us in spirit. Aren’t you thankful for these daily times of spiritual refreshment?
A Prayer: Lord, I need my spirit refreshed and
renewed today. Speak to me through Your Word that I
might hear Your heart, and help me to share my heart
with You in prayer. Amen.
When we draw near to God, our minds are refreshed and our strength is renewed.
12-03-2010, 02:27 AM
December 3, 2010
Read: Genesis 1:27-31
God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. —Genesis 1:31
Displayed on the wall of my friends’ lake house is a collection of pictures. Each one of the photos is of a sunset, taken from their deck during various seasons. While each is strikingly beautiful—no two are identical. When I look at them, it reminds me of what another friend once called a sunset—“God’s beautiful signature at the end of a day.”
God writes His signature on each sunset and on each of His unique children as well. I never grow tired of discovering how every person I meet is so delightfully different. God is infinitely creative, and the variety in our personalities, senses of humor, abilities, and preferences in music and sports are all handcrafted by Him.
In the body of Christ, we see how a diversity of spiritual gifts still have a common bond and can work together for God’s purposes to bring Him glory. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, we read, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”
God’s signature that is so evident in nature is also present in His people. Let’s celebrate the differences that make each of His children unique.
In Jesus Christ we all are equal,
For God’s Spirit makes us one;
As we give each other honor,
We give glory to His Son. —Fitzhugh
The signature of God is seen on His creation.
12-04-2010, 02:21 AM
Inspiration To Perspiration
December 4, 2010
Read: Titus 3:1-8
Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only. —James 1:22
My grandfathers were both gardeners and so are many of my friends. I love visiting beautiful gardens—they inspire me. They make me want to create something equally beautiful in my own yard. But I have trouble moving from the inspiration to the perspiration part of gardening. My great ideas don’t become reality because I don’t spend the time and energy to make them happen.
This can be true in our spiritual lives as well. We can listen to the testimonies of other people and marvel at the work God is doing in their lives. We can hear uplifting music and great preaching and feel inspired to follow God more diligently. But soon after we walk out of church, we have trouble finding the time or making the effort to follow through.
James described such Christians as being like those who look in a mirror, see themselves, but do nothing to fix what is wrong (James 1:23-24). They hear the Word, but it doesn’t lead to action. James says we need to do—not just hear.
When we move from the inspiration of simply “hearing” about the good being done by others to the perspiration of actually “doing” good works ourselves, the implanted Word of God (1:21) will bloom into a beautiful garden of spiritual fruit.
I’d rather see a Christian
Than to hear one merely talk;
I’d rather see his actions
And behold his daily walk. —Herrell
Life works best when we do.
12-05-2010, 02:37 AM
Preparation And Expectation
December 5, 2010
Read: Luke 2:8-12; 21:25-28
An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. —Luke 2:9
When our children were young, we observed Advent (the time beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas through Christmas Eve) by making a wreath and lighting candles each night after supper. We sang a carol and read a short Bible passage about the birth of Christ. This was a special time of preparing our hearts to celebrate Christmas.
But Advent is more than that. When Christians first started practicing it in the fourth century, they viewed it not only as preparation for celebrating Jesus’ birth but also as a time of looking forward to His second coming. They found hope and cheer in the sure promise of His return.
The gospel of Luke describes “the glory of the Lord” that shone around the shepherds when the angel announced the Savior’s birth (2:9). Luke also records Jesus’ promise that He will return “with power and great glory” (21:27). These two events frame the purpose for which the Son of God came into the world.
In Latin advent means “a coming.” The weeks before Christmas can be a wonderful season of repentance and expectation as we celebrate our Lord’s first advent in Bethlehem and anticipate His second advent when He returns in glory. Christ has come! Christ is coming again!
The first time Jesus came to earth,
Humble was His story;
But He has promised to return
With power and great glory. —Sper
Christ has come! Christ is coming again!
12-06-2010, 01:43 AM
Change Of Direction
December 6, 2010
Read: 1 Thessalonians 1
They themselves declare . . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. —1 Thessalonians 1:9
The United States Secret Service was founded in 1865. Their mission? To deal with counterfeiters in an attempt to protect the dollar and, as a result, America’s national economy. This targeted group of law enforcement officers, however, experienced a change of direction in 1902. They became best known for protecting the President of the United States, although their charge still embodies a variety of tasks.
That change of direction in the Secret Service duties is nothing compared to the completely altered lives of the believers at Thessalonica. They had a spiritual transformation that turned their lives around, which was noticed by people far and wide. Paul wrote, “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). And “you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. . . . Your faith toward God has gone out” (vv.7-8). The change of direction they displayed was dramatic, to say the least— abandoning the worship of idols to embrace relationship with the true and living God. And people noticed the difference in their lives.
I wonder—do people recognize such a profound change in our hearts and lives?
If you are going in the wrong direction,
Or if you have no goal in view,
Let Christ transform you, have control,
Then honor Him in all you do. —Hess
Coming to Christ is not merely informational; it’s transformational.
12-07-2010, 04:17 AM
December 7, 2010
Read: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
The Father of mercies and God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our tribulation. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4
A medical school program in New York gives students who are training for geriatric medicine a unique opportunity. They experience life as nursing home residents for 10 days. They learn some of the struggles of maneuvering a wheelchair and being raised out of bed with a lift, as well as reaching the shower bar from a seated position. One student learned how little things counted for a lot—like lowering nameplates on doors so that patients can find their rooms more easily, or putting the TV remote in a reachable location.
Although the students still can’t fully relate, they will be better able to serve the elderly in their future work.
Sometimes God gives us the opportunity to use the lessons we’ve learned and the comfort He’s given us during difficult times to help others in special ways. Paul indicated this when he wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
Are you using the lessons you’ve learned in your trials to touch the lives of others? Remember—even little things can mean a lot.
The comfort God has given us
He wants us now to share
With others who are suffering
So they will sense His care. —Sper
God doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable;
He comforts us to make us comforters.
12-08-2010, 03:55 AM
December 8, 2010
Read: 2 Chronicles 26:3-19
When he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction. —2 Chronicles 26:16
Dwight L. Moody said, “When a man thinks he has got a good deal of strength, and is self-confident, you may look for his downfall. It may be years before it comes to light, but it is already commenced.” This was true of King Uzziah.
Everything seemed to be going so well in his life. He was obedient, submitted to spiritual mentorship, and sought God’s guidance during most of his reign. As long as he asked God for help, God gave him great success—evidenced by his many accomplishments (2 Chron. 26:3-15).
Uzziah’s life was one of great power and human success until he became blinded by it. His pride was evidenced in several ways: he challenged God’s holiness by trespassing the temple and presuming upon a position he would never be able to have (v.16); he viewed God’s power as good but not absolutely necessary for his leadership (vv.5,16); he refused godly correction and counsel (vv.18-19); he bypassed his opportunity to repent; and he ignored, instead of feared, the consequences of his sin (vv.18-19).
When God gives us success in any area of our lives, let’s not forget the Source of our success. May we choose humility, for God gives grace to the humble.
Is thy heart right with God,
Washed in the crimson flood,
Cleansed and made holy, humble and lowly,
Right in the sight of God? —Hoffman
God lifts us high when we choose to live low.
12-09-2010, 04:33 AM
Recipe For Success
December 9, 2010
Read: Joshua 1:1-9
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night . . . . Then you will have good success. —Joshua 1:8
Wrinkled noses and puckered lips—sometimes this is my family’s reaction to my cooking, especially when I’m trying something new in the kitchen. Recently, I had a breakthrough with a unique version of macaroni and cheese. I jotted down the ingredients and tucked the recipe away for future reference. Without that set of instructions, I knew the next batch would be a flop.
Without God’s instructions, Joshua would have failed at leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. The first step was to “be strong and of good courage” (Josh. 1:6). Next, he was to continually meditate on the Book of the Law, and finally, he was to do everything it said. As long as Joshua followed the directions, God promised him “good success” (v.8).
God’s “recipe for success” can work for us too, but His idea of success has little to do with money, popularity, or even good health. In the original Hebrew, “then you will have good success” means “then you will act wisely.” Just as God called Joshua to walk in wisdom, He wants us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15).
As we take courage in the Lord, feast on His Word, and obey Him, we have a recipe for godly success that’s better than anything we could cook up on our own.
You will surely find at the journey’s end,
Whatever the world may afford,
That things fade away, and success is seen
In the life that has served the Lord. —Anon.
Obedience to God’s Word is the recipe for spiritual success.
12-10-2010, 03:17 AM
Tough And Tender
December 10, 2010
Read: Psalm 37:30-40
Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed. —Psalm 37:37-38
“Any fool can start a quarrel” (Prov. 20:3). “The name of the wicked will rot” (10:7). “He who hates correction is stupid” (12:1).
Is it right for God’s Word to call people fools, wicked, and stupid? Isn’t God all about love and kindness?
Indeed, God is love. God is kindness. He created a world with great possibilities for joy and contentment.
Yet God reminds us that in His love He does not overlook the foolishness of our hearts and actions. Those verses from Proverbs can remind us that while God is love, He has great expectations for us. Life is tougher than it needs to be for those who bring self-imposed trouble upon themselves.
Each negative word in those proverbs has a counterpart—an alternative that gives God’s preferred way to live. A fool quarrels, but the honorable man avoids strife (20:3). The name of the wicked rots, but the memory of the righteous is blessed (10:7). The stupid reject correction, but those who love instruction also love knowledge (12:1).
There’s always a choice in this life. Live God’s way and enjoy His smile of approval—or live as a fool and find destruction. That’s the tough and tender truth about living in God’s world. Which do you choose?
Deceptions, twists, and outright lies
Define the words of fools;
But those who follow God’s Word show
A life where wisdom rules. —Sper
Only a fool fools with sin.
12-11-2010, 03:15 AM
Praying For The Opposition
December 11, 2010
Read: John 19:1-5
Love your enemies . . . and pray for those who . . . persecute you. —Matthew 5:44
When I was a freshman in Bible college, I began to be bolder about speaking up for the Lord. Not surprisingly, my new habit created friction with some. Attending a social event with my former high school friends bore this out. One young woman to whom I had witnessed earlier laughed at my concern about where she would spend eternity. Ed, a friend who knew of my faith, said jokingly, “Three cheers for the old rugged cross!” I felt put down and rejected.
But later that evening I was filled with an unexplainable love. Recalling our Lord’s command to “Love your enemies . . . and pray for those who . . . persecute you” (Matt. 5:44), I prayed for Ed who had mocked the cross of Christ. With my eyes filled with tears, I asked the Lord to save him.
About a year later, I got a letter from Ed saying he wanted to get together. When we finally met, he shared how he had wept over his own sinfulness and had invited Jesus Christ to be his Savior and Lord. Later, to my surprise I heard that Ed had become a missionary to Brazil. The lesson I learned from that experience is that prayer is the best response to spiritual opposition. What critic of your faith might need your prayers today?
Lord, help us not respond in kind
To those who hate and turn from You;
Instead, help us to love and pray
That someday they’ll accept what’s true. —Sper
People may mock our message
but they are helpless against our prayers.
12-12-2010, 05:08 AM
Zebras and Wildebeests
December 12, 2010
Read: 1 Corinthians 12:14-26
There should be no schism in the body, but . . . the members should have the same care for one another. —1 Corinthians 12:25
After our plane landed on the gravel airstrip, Jay and I climbed out and entered the world of Masai Mara in Kenya. A Masai tribesman named Sammy met us and loaded our baggage into a Land Rover. Then we headed toward the camp where we would spend the next 2 days.
Stopping so we could watch the zebras and wildebeests migrating from Masai Mara to Serengeti, Sammy explained that the two massive herds travel together because the zebras have good eyesight but a poor sense of smell, and the wildebeests have bad eyesight but a good sense of smell. By traveling together, both are less vulnerable to predators. This was our first lesson from God’s revelation in creation, which Kenya has in abundance.
Just as God makes animals with different strengths and weaknesses, He makes people the same way. God made us to be dependent not only on Him but also on one another. The apostle Paul elaborated on this idea in his letter to the church in Corinth. As members of the body of Christ, we all have different gifts and abilities (1 Cor. 12:12-31).
The church is healthy only when we work together, look out for each other, and use our strengths to benefit one another.
Help us, Lord, to work together
With the gifts that You bestow;
Give us unity of purpose
As we serve You here below. —Sper
We can go a lot further together than we can alone.
12-13-2010, 03:17 AM
The Source Of Impact
December 13, 2010
Read: Acts 4:1-13
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John . . . they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. —Acts 4:13
The Nobel Prize is awarded annually to people in a variety of fields who have made an extraordinary impact. Leaders in economics, physics, literature, medicine, and peace are recognized for their contributions. When a person is acknowledged with a Nobel Prize, it is the ultimate affirmation of years of training, effort, education, and sacrifice in pursuit of excellence—investments that are the source of their impact.
We might wish to make a significant impact spiritually in our world, but we wonder, What is the source of spiritual and ministry influence? If we want to make an extraordinary impact for Jesus Christ, what must we invest in?
Christ’s first followers were impacted from spending time with Jesus. Israel’s religious leaders recognized this. Acts 4:13 tells us, “When [the leaders] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”
Training and education are valuable in the service of the Savior, but nothing can replace time spent in His presence. He is the source of whatever spiritual impact we might have on our world. How much time have you been spending with Jesus—your source of impact?
In the secret of His presence
How my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons
Which I learn at Jesus’ side! —Goreh
To master this life, spend time with the Master.
12-14-2010, 03:12 AM
Where’s Johnny’s Cap?
December 14, 2010
Read: Psalm 42
I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. —Psalm 71:14
A story is told about a family that went on a picnic by a lake. At one point, their 5-year-old son waded into the lake, stepped into deep water, and sank out of sight. None of the adults in the family knew how to swim, so they ran up and down the shore in panic while the child bobbed up and down and screamed for help. Just then, a man happened by who sized up the situation, leaped into the lake, and rescued the boy. He climbed out on the bank with the child, who was frightened but unharmed, only to hear the mother ask with irritation, “Where’s Johnny’s cap?”
So often we focus on small disappointments that cause us to grumble and complain rather than focusing on the wonderful things God has brought into our lives, not the least of which is His everlasting love and eternal salvation. When we complain about the small dissatisfactions of life, we’re asking, in effect, “Where’s Johnny’s cap?”
Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18). We may not be thankful for everything that comes our way, but we can give thanks in everything. It may be difficult to be grateful when we lose our job or our health fails, but we can be thankful for the good that God has brought to us in this life and grateful for the life to come.
As endless as God’s blessings are,
So should my praises be
For all His daily goodnesses
That flow unceasingly! —Adams
Instead of being preoccupied with our problems,
let’s praise the Lord for His blessings.
12-15-2010, 03:08 AM
A Submission Problem
December 15, 2010
Read: James 4:1-10
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. —James 4:10
During a talk-show interview, a celebrity confessed that she spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours each year on her hair and its styling. She recognized that it had become an addiction and admitted that her problem was “submission to the hair.”
The word submission means “an act of yielding to the authority or control of another.” Because of her desire to look and feel beautiful, this celebrity was allowing her hair to be in control of her life.
This woman’s story could lead us to wonder about our own hearts’ desires and what we’re submitting to. Do we at times want something so badly that we submit to doing anything to get it? Are we submitting to admiration? Possessions? Self? Food? Money? Pleasure?
In his epistle to the Romans, Paul said, “to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves” (6:16). When our desires “war” within us (James 4:1), we are to submit ourselves to God as “slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22).
Humbling ourselves before the Lord (James 4:10) and asking Him to show us our heart will help us to recognize our own submission problems.
Lord, help us to submit to You,
To follow and obey;
And give us strength to fight the urge
To do things our own way. —Sper
True freedom is not in choosing our own way,
but in submitting to God’s way.
12-16-2010, 02:24 AM
The Great Miracle
December 16, 2010
Read: Isaiah 6:1-8
He touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” —Isaiah 6:7
Leonard Ravenhill (1907–1994), a British evangelist, once said, “The greatest miracle God can do today is take an unholy man out of an unholy world, make that man holy, then put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.” This seems to be what God did to Isaiah when He called him to speak to His people.
Around the time of the death of Uzziah, one of Judah’s more successful kings, Isaiah had a vision of God. The prophet saw Him as the true King of the universe, sitting on a lofty throne. In the vision, Isaiah saw seraphim worshiping God with a hymn that praised His holiness, majesty, and glory.
Isaiah’s vision of God led to a true vision of himself as unholy and broken before God. “Woe is me, for I am undone!” Isaiah said (6:5). This recognition of sin led him to a need for and the reception of God’s cleansing grace (v.7). Newly cleansed, Isaiah was commissioned to spread God’s message (v.9). The Lord sent Isaiah into an unholy world, not only to live a holy life but also to tell an unholy people about a holy God.
The Lord wants to show Himself to us, thus giving us a truer vision of ourselves, a deeper need for His grace, and a greater commitment to live and speak for Him. What a miracle!
Upon my life shed forth Thy grace,
Till others seek Thy loving face;
Oh, may no thing be seen in me
To cause a soul to stray from Thee! —Roberts
Amid the darkness of sin, the light of God’s grace shines brightest.
12-17-2010, 02:41 AM
God’s Love Through Me
December 17, 2010
Read: 1 Corinthians 13
Love never fails. —1 Corinthians 13:8
During a devotional session at a conference, our leader asked us to read aloud 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and substitute the word “Jesus” for “love.” It seemed so natural to say, “Jesus suffers long and is kind; Jesus does not envy; Jesus does not parade Himself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek His own . . . . Jesus never fails.”
Then our leader said, “Read the passage aloud and say your name instead of Jesus.” We laughed nervously at the suggestion. “I want you to begin now,” the leader said. Quietly, haltingly I said the words that felt so untrue: “David does not seek his own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. David never fails.”
The exercise caused me to ask, “How am I hindering God from expressing His love through me?” Do I think that other expressions of faith are more important? Paul declared that from God’s perspective, eloquent speech, deep spiritual understanding, lavish generosity, and self-sacrifice are worthless when not accompanied by love (vv.1-3).
God longs to express His great heart of love for others through us. Will we allow Him to do it?
To love our neighbors as ourselves
Is not an easy thing to do;
So Lord, please show us how to love
As we attempt to follow You. —Sper
Living like Christ is loving like God.
12-18-2010, 02:49 AM
Jesus At The Center
December 18, 2010
Read: Zechariah 12:10-14
Then they will look on Me whom they pierced. —Zechariah 12:10
Have you heard of the “Christocentric Principle” of biblical understanding? Simply put, it means that everything we know about God, angels, Satan, human hopes, and the whole universe is best understood when viewed in relationship to Jesus Christ. He is at the center.
Recently, I discovered that one of the less familiar Old Testament books, Zechariah, is one of the most Christocentric. This book is a good example because it speaks of Christ’s humanity (6:12), His humility (9:9), His betrayal (11:12), His deity (12:8), His crucifixion (12:10), His return (14:4), and His future reign (14:8-21).
One especially meaningful passage is Zechariah 12:10, which says, “Then they will look on Me whom they pierced.” The piercing refers to Israel’s historic rejection of Jesus as Messiah— resulting in His crucifixion. But this verse also predicts a future generation of Jews who will accept Him as their Messiah. At the second coming of Jesus, a remnant of Israel will recognize the crucified One and turn to Him in faith.
This marvelous book should encourage us to look for more Christ-centered truths—both in other parts of the Bible and in all of life. Keep Jesus in the middle of everything. Live a Christocentric life.
Some have read God’s holy Book
But failed to see its glory;
That’s because they didn’t know
It’s really Jesus’ story. —Branon
Jesus Christ is the Key that unlocks the Word of God.
12-19-2010, 03:13 AM
December 19, 2010
Read: Romans 5:12-21
If by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive . . . the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. —Romans 5:17
Newgrange is a 5,000-year-old burial passage tomb in Ireland. Built by the members of a farming community in Ireland’s Boyne Valley, this magnificent structure covers more than an acre of land. It was a place where people went to struggle with the issue of death. It is best known for the beam of sunlight that moves through the chamber for 17 minutes each day from December 19 to 23 during the winter solstice, the shortest days of the year. Some say it serves as a powerful symbol of the victory of life over death.
Ever since death entered the human experience in Genesis 3, it has been life’s one great inevitability, and many people’s chief fear. It need not be so, however. The apostle Paul wrote, “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).
From that moment in the Garden of Eden with the sin of our first parents, sin and death reigned. Yet we need not fear death or its consequences. Because of Christ, we can have confident hope—His victory of life over death has given us eternal life.
Have you received Him?
Thanks be to God for victory,
The grave no terror knows;
Since Christ from death has risen,
He’s conquered all our foes. —Spittal
Christ’s empty tomb guarantees our victory over death.
12-20-2010, 01:21 AM
December 20, 2010
Read: Luke 1:26-38
Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. —1 Peter 5:6
Throughout history, Mary the mother of Jesus has been held in high esteem. And rightly so! She was singled out by God to deliver the long-awaited Messiah.
But before we get lost in the significance of her life, let’s take a look at what it meant for her to surrender to the assignment. Living in a small backwater Galilean village where everyone knew everyone else’s business, she would have to live with the perceived shame of her premarital pregnancy. Explaining to her mother the visits of the angel and the Holy Spirit probably didn’t calm things down. To say nothing of the devastating interruption that her pregnancy would bring to her plans to marry Joseph. And while we are thinking about Joseph, what would she tell him? Would he believe her?
In light of these personal ramifications, her response to the angel who told her the news about her role as Jesus’ mother is amazing: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 ESV). Her words remind us that a life of significance is most often preceded by a heart eager to surrender to God’s will regardless of the cost.
What significant experience does God have in store for you? It starts with surrender to Him.
What shall I give You, Master?
You have redeemed my soul;
My gift is small but it is my all—
Surrendered to Your control. —Grimes
Surrender to God precedes His significant work in your life.
12-21-2010, 02:09 AM
December 21, 2010
Read: Luke 2:1-7
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men! —Luke 2:14
Every so often I catch myself wondering about the whole grand scheme of faith. I stand in an airport, for example, watching important-looking people in business suits, briefcases clutched to their sides, as they pause at an espresso bar before scurrying off to another concourse. Do any of them ever think about God? I wonder.
Christians share an odd belief in parallel universes. One universe consists of glass and steel and wool clothes and leather briefcases and the smell of freshly ground coffee. The other consists of angels and spiritual forces and somewhere-out-there places called heaven and hell. We palpably inhabit the material world; it takes faith to consider oneself a citizen of the other, invisible world.
Christmas turns the tables and hints at the struggle involved when the Lord of both worlds descends to live by the rules of the one. In Bethlehem, the two worlds came together, realigned. What Jesus went on to accomplish on planet Earth made it possible for God someday to resolve all disharmonies in both worlds. No wonder a choir of angels broke out in spontaneous song, disturbing not only a few shepherds but the entire universe (Luke 2:13-14).
Once from the realms of infinite glory,
Down to the depths of our ruin and loss,
Jesus came, seeking—O Love’s sweet story—
Came to the manger, the shame, and the cross. —Strickland
The key word of Christmas is “Immanuel”— God with us!
12-22-2010, 02:44 AM
Eye Level To A Bulldog
December 22, 2010
Read: Isaiah 42:1-7
I, the Lord, have called You . . . to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. —Isaiah 42:6-7
My son and his wife have a 120- pound American bulldog with a powerful body and fearsome face. Yet until we became friends, “Buddy” wasn’t sure he could trust me. As long as I was on my feet, he’d keep his distance and wouldn’t look me in the eye. Then one day I learned that if I’d get down on the ground, the mood of Buddy’s big-jowled face would change. Sensing I was no longer a threat, he’d playfully come running like a freight train, pounce on me with his big feet, and want me to scratch his muscular neck.
Maybe what Buddy needed from me is a glimmer of what our God gave us by coming down to our level and living among us in the person of Christ. From the day that our first parents sinned and hid from the presence of the Lord, our tendency has been to be afraid of coming to a high and holy God on His terms (John 3:20).
So, as Isaiah predicted, God showed how low He was willing to go to bring us to Himself. By adopting the form of a lowly servant, our Creator lived and died to disarm our wrongs. Even now He is coaxing us from the cover of our spiritual darkness (Isa. 42:7) to call us friends (John 15:15). How can we still be afraid to trust Him?
Lord, thank You that You stepped out of heaven
and came down to this earth, that You clothed Yourself
in human flesh. We’re grateful that we can now draw
near to You, even though we’re sinful. Amen.
The high and holy One became the meek and lowly One.
12-23-2010, 03:23 AM
December 23, 2010
Read: John 1:10-18
Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. —John 1:17
If your physician called you and in a serious voice said, “Please come in as soon as you can. I have something to discuss with you,” you would know he has bad news! Your first response might be, “No, I don’t want to know.” But you go because it is only when you know the diagnosis that you can learn the cure.
God, our Great Physician, also has some bad news—about man’s spiritual condition. When against His expressed warning Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God told Adam that all mankind would die spiritually and physically. That’s the bad news.
But He also gave the solution. He promised a Savior (Gen. 3:15). The apostle John tells us, “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). But how does that help? Jesus came that first Christmas to bring God’s grace, something that none of us deserve because like Adam we have all sinned. But Jesus also came to reverse what sin brought. He came to be the truth (John 14:6) that would bring us back to God. He came to “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Listen to what the Great Physician has to say in the Bible about your spiritual condition. Then accept the cure He has provided—the gift of salvation through Christ.
Life is uncertain,
Death is sure;
Sin the cause,
Christ the cure. —Anon.
Spiritual blindness can be cured only by the Great Physician.
12-24-2010, 04:38 AM
Peace On Earth?
December 24, 2010
Read: Luke 2:8-14
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. —John 14:27
I wouldn’t want to pick a fight with a sky full of angels, but I must admit that I’ve always wondered about the promise of peace the angelic host made to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem. For the last 2,000 years, peace on our planet has been at best a rare commodity. Wars continue to ravage innocent lives, domestic violence is a growing calamity, divorce rates soar, churches split, and peace in our restless and wayward hearts seems to be an elusive dream.
Where is the promised peace? Actually, on reflection, we can see that Jesus brought all that is needed for peace in our world. He taught the principles of peace, calling for people to love their neighbors as they love themselves. And as He was leaving this planet, He promised, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). He told us to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, forgive offenses, reject greed, tolerate each other’s weaknesses, live to serve and love one another as He has loved us.
It seems that in large part, peace is up to us. Paul verifies that in Romans 12:18, “As much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” This Christmas, let’s make peace our gift to the world in which we live as we reflect the Prince of Peace.
We know at times there will be strife;
On this we must agree—
When conflict drops into our lives,
We’ll solve it peacefully. —Fasick
When we experience peace with God,
we can share His peace with others.
12-25-2010, 02:04 AM
December 25, 2010
Read: Matthew 1:18-25
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife. —Matthew 1:24
The Christmas story, recorded in Matthew and Luke, has become so familiar that I wonder if we grasp the reality of what actually happened: An angel told a young virgin that she would conceive a child by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38). The angel then told her fiancé to marry her and name the baby Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Shepherds saw angels in the sky and were told of a Savior’s birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:11). Wise men traveled hundreds of miles to worship the One who, they said, “has been born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2). Amazing!
Equally astonishing is that Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men did exactly as they had been told. Mary yielded herself to God; Joseph took her home as his wife; the shepherds went to Bethlehem to find the baby in a manger; and the wise men followed the star. With no idea of the outcome, they all took the next step by faith in the Lord. Amazing!
How is it with us this Christmas? Will we trust God and follow His leading even when we face uncertainty and overwhelming circumstances?
When you and I obey the Lord, the outcome is truly amazing!
To follow the leading of God,
To step out in faith and obey,
Is always the path we should take
Whenever we can’t see the way. —Sper
Faith never knows where it is being led,
but it loves and knows the One who is leading. —Chambers
12-26-2010, 04:26 AM
He Says, We Say
December 26, 2010
Read: James 1:21-27
Love the Lord your God, . . . obey His voice. —Deuteronomy 30:20
As my wife reviewed her day, she told me about an incident that took place with our granddaughter Eliana, who was visiting. Eliana had been playing with some toys, so when she wanted to go to another part of the house, Grandma told her, “Eliana, you need to put your toys away first.” Without missing a beat, Eliana replied, “I don’t have time.”
She was just 2 years old at the time, so she was definitely not running on a packed schedule!
I wonder sometimes if God might be a bit surprised with us when He hears our responses to His commands.
For instance, when Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28), and we say, “I can’t go on. I have too many troubles and problems,” I wonder what He thinks. When He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10), and we say, “I can’t fit You into my schedule,” I wonder what He thinks. When He says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), and we say, “But the world looks like so much fun,” I wonder what He thinks.
God has spoken. Obedience is the best way to honor Him for what He has done for us and to show Him how much we love Him.
Master, speak, and make me ready,
When Thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady,
Still to follow every word. —Havergal
Our desire to please God is our highest motive for obeying God.
12-27-2010, 03:24 AM
The True Owner
December 27, 2010
Read: Psalm 95:1-7
All things were created through Him and for Him. —Colossians 1:16
Did you hear about the church that didn’t have enough room for parking? Fortunately, it was located right next to a store that was closed on Sundays, so a church member asked the store owner if they could overflow into his parking lot. “No problem,” he said. “You can use it 51 weeks out of the year. On the 52nd week, though, it will be chained off.” The man was grateful, but asked curiously, “What happens that week?” The store owner smiled, “Nothing. I just want you to remember that it’s not your parking lot.”
It’s easy to take for granted all the material and spiritual blessings that God has given us. That’s why we need to stop and remember that Scripture says the true owner of all we possess is God: “All that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all” (1 Chron. 29:11). Even our bodies do not belong to us: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit . . . and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
As 1 Timothy 6:17 reminds us: “God . . . gives us richly all things to enjoy.” We are so abundantly blessed with good things! Let’s never take our Father for granted, but use wisely and gratefully all that He has given us.
As we all enjoy God’s blessing,
Oh, may we not forget
Our Lord, from whom all good gifts come—
In Him our needs are met. —Fitzhugh
God gives blessing to us so we can give glory to Him.
12-28-2010, 02:29 AM
The Year In Review
December 28, 2010
Read: Psalm 77:1-14
I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. —Psalm 77:11
During the last week of December, newscasters often look back at the significant events of the past year—the triumphs and failures of prominent people, natural disasters, economic challenges, and the deaths of celebrities and leaders. The most surprising events usually receive top billing.
If you reviewed the past year of your life, what would appear on the list? Has an unexpected event caused you to question God or to more deeply experience His goodness?
Psalm 77 chronicles the lament of a person in distress who felt as if God no longer cared (vv.7-9). “Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore?” (v.8). Yet, even in anguish, the psalmist said, “I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old” (v.11). The result was a renewal of trust and hope: “You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples” (v.14).
As you think back over this past year, why not write down the significant events in your life. Don’t be afraid to include your difficulties and disappointments, but remember to consider all the ways God has been with you.
During every difficulty, we can always find the faithfulness of God.
When we look back and contemplate
What we’ve been through this year,
We’ll praise You, Lord, for all You’ve done—
Your faithfulness is clear. —Sper
Difficulties in our lives give us the opportunity
to experience the faithfulness of God.
12-29-2010, 02:17 AM
December 29, 2010
Read: Deuteronomy 4:1-10
What great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments? —Deuteronomy 4:8
In the frenzied early days of the Internet, Web developers were making up their own rules. The result was confusion. Among the problems was that what looked good on one computer was unreadable on another. This caused developers to refer to the Internet as the wild, wild Web, an allusion to the days of the wild, wild West in the US when law and order were pretty much nonexistent. To bring order out of chaos, Web developers started calling for others to agree on common standards.
Their plea reminds us of why it was important for the Israelites to have laws to live by when they left Egypt (Deut. 4:1). Without them, there would be anarchy. With them, however, they would have a system that was so superior that it would demonstrate to other nations the greatness of their God (v.8).
Today, to bring order out of the chaos of our sinful, selfish world, believers submit to the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), who Himself is the fulfillment of the law (Matt. 5:17). When we submit to the standard established by Christ and love others as God loves us, we will live in peace with one another and thus provide a witness to the world of how great God is.
Let us go forth, as called of God,
Redeemed by Jesus’ precious blood;
His love to show, His life to live,
His message speak, His mercy give. —Whittle
The world will know by our love for God and others
that He is great.
12-30-2010, 02:28 AM
Life Is Like Riding A Bicycle
December 30, 2010
Read: Hebrews 11:32-40
All these . . . obtained a good testimony through faith. —Hebrews 11:39
In a letter to his son Eduard, Albert Einstein gave this advice: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” The great physicist’s advice is wise and practical.
This wise counsel can apply to the Christian life. Many believers by faith keep moving ahead through painful and trying circumstances. But when they experience a personal moral failure, they lose their balance and fall. Their regret and feeling of unworthiness of God’s forgiveness may then keep them down and they no longer move ahead in their spiritual life.
The Bible gives us many examples of those who have experienced serious personal failure. Abraham lied to Pharaoh about his wife, Sarah (Gen. 12:11-17). Jacob deceived his father to acquire Esau’s blessing (Gen. 27:18-29). Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock instead of speaking to it (Num. 20:7-12). Despite their failures, we are told: “all these . . . obtained a good testimony through faith” (Heb. 11:39).
These biblical characters are lifted up as examples because after they fell, they turned back to God and began to follow Him again. Have you lost your spiritual balance through a sinful choice, which is keeping you down? Repent and follow the God of second chances once again.
I’ve strayed, O Lord, and turned aside,
I’ve disobeyed Your voice;
But now contrite of heart I turn
And make Your will my choice. —D. De Haan
Our God is a God of second chances.
12-31-2010, 02:32 AM
Rearview Mirror Reflections
December 31, 2010
Read: Psalm 111
For You, Lord, have made me glad . . . ; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. —Psalm 92:4
I’ve always thought that you can see the hand of God best in the rearview mirror. Looking back, it’s easier to understand why He placed us in the home that He did; why He brought certain people and circumstances into and out of our lives; why He permitted difficulties and pain; why He took us to different places and put us in various jobs and careers.
In my own life, I get a lot of clarity (though not perfect clarity—that’s heaven’s joy!) about the wise and loving ways of God as I reflect on the ways He has managed my journey by “the works of [His] hands” (Ps. 92:4). With the psalmist, it makes me glad and strikes a note of joy in my heart to see how often God has assisted, directed, and managed the outcomes so faithfully (Ps. 111).
Looking ahead, though, is not always so clear. Have you ever had that lost feeling when the road ahead seems twisted, foggy, and scary? Before you move into next year, stop and look in the rearview mirror of the year gone by, and joyfully realize that God meant it when He said, “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’ ” (Heb. 13:5-6).
With the promise of God’s presence and help in mind, you can move ahead into 2011 with utmost confidence.
Shall not He who led me safely
Through the footsteps of this day
Lead with equal understanding
All along my future way? —Adams
God’s guidance in the past gives courage for the future.
01-01-2011, 07:00 AM
Eat Fast, Pay Less
January 1, 2011
Read: Psalm 63:1-8
My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You. —Psalm 63:1
A hotel in Singapore introduced an express buffet—eat all you can in 30 minutes and pay just half the price! After that experience, one diner reported: “I lost my decorum, stuffing my mouth with yet more food. I lost my civility, . . . and I lost my appetite for the rest of the day, so severe was my heartburn.”
Sometimes I think in our devotional reading we treat God’s Word like an express buffet. We wolf it down as fast as we can and wonder why we haven’t learned very much. Like physical food, spiritual food needs chewing! For those of us who have been Christians for a long time, we may have a tendency to speed-read through the passages we’ve read many times before. But in doing so, we miss what God is meaning to show us. One sure sign of this is when we learn nothing new from that passage.
David’s desire was right when he wrote in Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” That’s the way to treat God’s Word—to take time to mull it over.
Let’s not come to the Bible as if we were going to an express buffet. Only by meditating on God’s Word will we get the most value for our spiritual well-being.
Spending time in meditation,
Hiding Scripture in our heart,
Works in us a transformation
So from sin we can depart. —Sper
Reading the Bible without reflecting
is like eating without chewing.
01-02-2011, 04:29 AM
January 2, 2011
Read: 1 Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you. —1 Peter 4:12
Does it surprise you that trouble is a part of life? Probably not. We all know trouble close-up and personal—bad health, empty bank account, blighted love, grief, loss of job, and the list goes on.
It shouldn’t surprise us, therefore, that God permits the added trials of being ridiculed and hated because we follow Christ (1 Peter 4:12). But trouble, whether it is common to man or unique to Christians, can reveal to us the moral fiber of our soul.
I have never seen a golf course without hazards. They are part of the game. Golfers speak of the courses with the most hazards as the most challenging, and they will travel a long way to test their skill against the most demanding 18 holes.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I wouldn’t pass it around. I wouldn’t be doing anyone a favor. Trouble creates a capacity to handle it . . . . Meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and you had better be on speaking terms with it.”
Let’s not think it strange when trouble comes, for God is using it to test the stamina of our souls. The best way to handle trouble is to commit our “souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (v.19).
The troubles that we face each day
Reveal how much we need the Lord;
They test our faith and strength of will
And help us then to trust God’s Word. —D. De Haan
Great triumphs are born out of great troubles.
01-03-2011, 02:13 AM
An Overcoming Faith
January 3, 2011
Read: 1 Samuel 1:1-18
I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill. —Psalm 3:4
Few things disable new workers on a job like criticism from veterans. Good hiring managers know to protect new employees by surrounding them with mentors willing to shield them from unnecessary barbs.
Hannah is a mentor to us in dealing with criticism and deep desires of the heart (1 Sam. 1:1-18). Surrounded by a husband who didn’t understand, a taunting peer, and an overly judgmental clergyman, Hannah found a way through the fog by confiding in God (v.10). While we now know God answered the prayer of Hannah’s heart by giving her a child, we don’t know for sure if Eli’s blessing was a wish or a promise from God (v.17). I think her no-longer-sad face came most of all because she gained peace from confiding in Him.
We were created to be in relationship with God; and when we take that relationship to an intimate level, it bonds us not only to His presence but also to His strength. Prayers that express our hurts and emotions are most assuredly welcomed by God because they demonstrate our trust in Him. We will often find perspective, and nearly always come away comforted, knowing we’ve entrusted the things that are troubling us—whether criticism or deep desires—to the One who is best able to sort through them.
The kindest Friend I’ve ever had
Is One I cannot see,
Yet One in whom I can confide,
Who loves and blesses me. —Shuler
In prayer, it’s better to have a heart without words
than words without heart.
01-04-2011, 03:02 AM
A Lover Of God
January 4, 2011
Read: Matthew 22:34-40
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. —Matthew 22:37
In a brief biography of St. Francis of Assisi, G. K. Chesterton begins with a glimpse into the heart of this unique and compassionate man born in the 12th century. Chesterton writes: “As St. Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ. . . . The reader cannot even begin to see the sense of a story that may well seem to him a very wild one, until he understands that to this great mystic his religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love-affair.”
When Jesus was asked to name the greatest command in the Law, He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38). The questioner wanted to test Jesus, but the Lord answered him with the key element in pleasing God. First and foremost, our relationship with Him is a matter of the heart.
If we see God as a taskmaster and consider obedience to Him as a burden, then we have joined those of whom the Lord said, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).
The way of joy is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Oh, help me, Lord, to take by grace divine
Yet more and more of that great love of Thine;
That day by day my heart may give to Thee
A deeper love, and grow more constantly. —Mountain
Put Christ first and you’ll find a joy that lasts.
01-05-2011, 01:38 AM
Lion Of Judah
January 5, 2011
Read: Isaiah 31:1-5
Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed. —Revelation 5:5
The lounging lions in Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserve looked harmless. They rolled on their backs in low-lying bushes. They rubbed their faces on branches as if trying to comb their magnificent manes. They drank leisurely from a stream. They strode slowly across dry, scrubby terrain as if they had all the time in the world. The only time I saw their teeth was when one of them yawned.
Their serene appearance is deceiving, however. The reason they can be so relaxed is that they have nothing to fear—no shortage of food and no natural predators. The lions look lazy and listless, but they are the strongest and fiercest of all. One roar sends all other animals running for their lives.
Sometimes it seems as if God is lounging. When we don’t see Him at work, we conclude that He’s not doing anything. We hear people mock God and deny His existence, and we anxiously wonder why He doesn’t defend Himself. But God “will not be afraid of their voice nor be disturbed by their noise” (Isa. 31:4). He has nothing to fear. One roar from Him, and His detractors will scatter like rodents.
If you wonder why God isn’t anxious when you are, it’s because He has everything under control. He knows that Jesus, the Lion of Judah, will triumph.
When fear and worry test your faith
And anxious thoughts assail,
Remember God is in control
And He will never fail. —Sper
Because God is in control, we have nothing to fear.
01-06-2011, 04:24 AM
January 6, 2011
Read: John 4:7-26
But [Jesus] needed to go through Samaria. —John 4:4
Norena’s South Florida home was severely damaged during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She received an insurance settlement, and the repair work began. But the contractors left when the money ran out, leaving an unfinished home with no electricity. For 15 years, Norena got by with a tiny refrigerator and a few lamps connected to extension cords. Surprisingly, her neighbors didn’t seem to notice her dilemma. Then, acting on a tip, the mayor got involved and contacted an electrical contractor who restored power to her house within a few hours.
When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), He got involved in her life and talked to her about her need for spiritual power. He established common ground with her (water, v.7) and piqued her spiritual interest and curiosity (vv.9-14). He was gracious and sensitive as He confronted her sin (vv.16-19) and kept the conversation centered on the main issue (vv.21-24). Then He confronted her directly with who He was as Messiah (v.26). As a result, she and many other Samaritans believed in Him (vv.39-42).
Let’s get involved in the lives of others and tell them about Jesus. He is the only source of spiritual power and satisfies our deepest longings.
Help me to see the tragic plight
Of souls far off in sin;
Help me to love, to pray, and go
To bring the wandering in. —Harrison
A faith worth having is a faith worth sharing.
01-07-2011, 02:57 AM
January 7, 2011
Read: Romans 5:6-11
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! —1 John 3:1
I read these words on a young woman’s personal Web site: “I just want to be loved—and he has to be amazing!”
Isn’t that what we all want—to be loved, to feel cared for by someone? And so much the better if he or she is amazing!
The one who fits that description most fully is Jesus Christ. In a display of unprecedented love, He left His Father in heaven and came to earth as the baby we celebrate at Christmas (Luke 2). Then, after living a perfect life, He gave His life as an offering to God on the cross in our behalf (John 19:17-30). He took our place because we needed to be rescued from our sin and its death penalty. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Then 3 days later, the Father raised Jesus to life again (Matt. 28:1-8).
When we repent and receive Jesus’ gift of amazing love, He becomes our Savior (John 1:12; Rom. 5:9), Lord (John 13:14), Teacher (Matt. 23:8), and Friend (John 15:14). “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).
Looking for someone to love you? Jesus loves us so much more than anyone else possibly could. And He is truly amazing!
Amazing thought! that God in flesh
Would take my place and bear my sin;
That I, a guilty, death-doomed soul,
Eternal life might win! —Anon.
The wonder of it all—just to think that Jesus loves me.
01-07-2011, 11:15 PM
A Clear Conscience
January 8, 2011
Read: 1 John 1
I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. —Acts 24:16
After Ffyona Campbell became famous as the first woman to walk around the world, her joy was short-lived. Despite the adulation she received, something troubled her. Guilt overtook her and pushed her to the brink of a nervous breakdown.
What was bothering her? “I shouldn’t be remembered as the first woman to walk around the world,” she finally admitted. “I cheated.” During her worldwide trek, she broke the guidelines of the Guinness Book of World Records by riding in a truck part of the way. To clear her conscience, she called her sponsor and confessed her deception.
God has given each of us a conscience that brings guilt when we do wrong. In Romans, Paul describes our conscience as “accusing or else excusing [us]” (2:15). For the obedient follower of Christ, care of the conscience is an important way of maintaining a moral compass despite moral imperfection. Confessing sin, turning from it, and making restitution should be a way of life (1 John 1:9; Lev. 6:2-5).
Paul modeled a well-maintained conscience, saying, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16 NIV). Through confession and repentance, he kept short accounts with God. Is sin bothering you? Follow Paul’s example. Strive for a clear conscience.
There is a treasure you can own
That’s greater than a crown or throne:
This treasure is a conscience clear
That brings the sweetest peace and cheer. —Isenhour
If God’s Word guides your conscience,
let your conscience be your guide.
01-09-2011, 02:18 AM
The Eye That Never Sleeps
January 9, 2011
Read: Psalm 121
In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me. —Psalm 120:1
Detective Allan Pinkerton became famous in the mid-1800s by solving a series of train robberies and foiling a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln as he traveled to his first inauguration. As one of the first agencies of its kind in the US, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency gained even more prominence because of its logo of a wide-open eye with the caption, “We Never Sleep.”
There is no better feeling than knowing you are protected and secure. You feel peaceful when the doors are locked and all is quiet as you drift off to sleep at night. You feel safe. But many lie awake in their beds with fearful thoughts of the present or dread of the future. Some are afraid of commotion outside or of a spouse who has been violent. Some cannot rest because of worry over a rebellious child. Others are anxiously listening to make sure a seriously ill child is still breathing.
These are the times when our loving God encourages us to cry out to Him, to the One who will neither “slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4). Psalm 34:15 reminds us that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.”
Pinkerton may have been the original “private eye,” but the One who really has the eye that never sleeps is listening to the cries of “the righteous” (Ps. 34:17).
Before you sleep, just gently lay
Every troubled thought away;
Drop your burden and your care
In the quiet arms of prayer. —Anon.
We can sleep in peace when we remember that God is awake.
01-10-2011, 02:44 AM
January 10, 2011
Read: Genesis 12:1-9
The Lord had said to Abram, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” —Genesis 12:1
One of the smartest people I know is a college friend who became a Christian while studying at a state university. He graduated with honors and went on to study at a respected seminary. He served a small church as pastor for several years and then accepted a call to another small church far from family and friends. After 12 years at that church, he sensed that the congregation needed new leadership, so he stepped down. He hadn’t been offered a job at a bigger church or a teaching position at a college or seminary. In fact, he didn’t even have another job. He just knew that God was leading him in a different direction, so he followed.
When we discussed it, my friend said, “A lot of people talk about being called to something, but I don’t hear much about being called from something.”
In many ways, my friend’s obedience was like that of Israel’s patriarch Abraham, who went out, not knowing where God was leading (Heb. 11:8-10). Difficulties like famine (Gen. 12:10), fear (vv.11-20), and family disputes (13:8) gave reason for doubt, but Abraham persevered and because of his faith God counted him as righteous (Gal. 3:6).
A life of obedience may not be easy, but it will be blessed (Luke 11:28).
As Abraham went out,
Not knowing where he was going;
Now, Lord, keep me from doubt,
To go the way You are showing. —Hess
You don’t need to know where you’re going
if you know God is leading.
01-11-2011, 02:58 AM
Why Not Now?
January 11, 2011
Read: John 13:33-38
David, after he had served his own generation . . . fell asleep. —Acts 13:36
I have a dear friend who served as a missionary in Suriname for many years, but in his final years he was stricken with an illness that paralyzed him. At times he wondered why God allowed him to linger. He longed to depart and to be with his Lord.
Perhaps life is very hard for you or a loved one, and you are wondering why God has allowed you or your loved one to linger. When Jesus said He was going to heaven, Peter asked, “Lord, why can I not follow You now?” (John 13:37). You, like Peter, may wonder why entry into heaven has been postponed: “Why not now?”
God has a wise and loving purpose in leaving us behind. There is work to be done in us that can only be accomplished here on earth. Our afflictions, which are for the moment, are working for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). And there is work to be done for others—if only to love and to pray. Our presence may also be for the purpose of giving others an opportunity to learn love and compassion.
So, though you may desire release for yourself or a loved one, to live on in the flesh can mean fruitfulness (Phil. 1:21). And there is comfort in waiting: Though heaven may be delayed, God has His reasons. No doubt about it!
Not so in haste, my heart!
Have faith in God, and wait;
Although He seems to linger long
He never comes too late. —Torrey
Our greatest comfort is to know that God is in control.
01-12-2011, 03:46 AM
Behind The Scenes
January 12, 2011
Read: Matthew 6:1-6,16-18
Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. —Matthew 6:6
Recently I attended a memorial service for a gifted musician whose life had touched many people. The tribute to this Christian woman included video and audio clips, photos, instrumentalists, and speakers. After everyone had left the church, I stopped to thank the technicians whose flawless work at the control board had contributed so much to this moving tribute. “No one noticed what you did,” I told them. “That’s the way we like it,” they replied.
In Matthew 6, Jesus told His disciples to give (vv.1-4), pray (vv.5-6), and fast (vv.16-18) in order to please God, not to gain praise from people. “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place” (v.6). Whether giving, praying, or fasting, Jesus said, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (vv.4,6,18).
Something within us makes us want to be seen and recognized for our good deeds. While there’s nothing wrong with encouragement and appreciation, a desire for praise can undermine our service because it shifts the focus from others to ourselves. When there is no public “thank you,” we may feel slighted. But even when we serve God in secret, He sees it all.
The service that we do for God
May go unpraised by men;
But when we stand before the Lord,
He will reward us then. —Sper
It is better to earn recognition without getting it than to get recognition without earning it.
01-13-2011, 03:20 AM
January 13, 2011
Read: Romans 8:28-39
All things work together for good to those who love God. —Romans 8:28
Sometimes people who serve God live with an unstated “contract faith.” Because they give time and energy to work for God, they think they deserve special treatment in return.
But not my friend Douglas. He has lived a Job-like existence in many ways, experiencing the failure of a ministry, his wife’s death from cancer, and injuries from a drunk driver to himself and a child. Yet Douglas advises, “Don’t confuse God with life.”
When troubles come and doubts arise, I often turn to Romans 8. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” asked Paul. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (v.35). In that one sentence, Paul summarized his ministry autobiography. He endured trials for the sake of the gospel; yet somehow he had the faith to believe that these “things”—surely not good in themselves—could be used by God to accomplish good. He had learned to see past the hardships to a loving God who will one day prevail. He wrote, “I am persuaded that [nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ” (vv.38-39).
Confidence like that can go a long way in helping overcome discouragement about how life hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would.
For Further Study
Wondering about the reasons for your trials?
Read the online booklet Why Would A Good God
Allow Suffering? at www.discoveryseries.org/q0106
He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. —Philippians 1:6
01-14-2011, 02:46 AM
Call It Good?
January 14, 2011
Read: Psalm 13
I have trusted in Your mercy. —Psalm 13:5
Can we really know whether to label life’s circumstances as good or bad?
For instance, your car breaks down right before you are to take a family road trip. But when you take the car to the shop, the mechanic says, “Good thing you didn’t take this out on the road. It could have caught fire.” Is that bad because of the inconvenience, or good because of God’s protection?
Or perhaps your child decides to pursue interests that aren’t all that interesting to you. You wanted her to play basketball and run track in high school. But she wanted to sing and play the oboe. You feel frustrated, but she excels and ends up with a music scholarship. Is that bad because your dreams weren’t fulfilled, or good because God directed her in ways you could not have predicted?
Sometimes it’s hard to see how God is working. His mysteries don’t always reveal their secrets to us, and our journey is often redirected by uncontrollable detours. Perhaps God is showing us a better route.
To make sure we benefit from what might seem bad, we must recognize and trust God’s “unfailing love” (Ps. 13:5 NIV). In the end, we’ll be able to say, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me” (v.6 NIV).
The circumstances in our lives
Seem random and unplanned;
But someday we will surely see
The order of God’s hand. —Sper
We may not be able to control events,
but we can control our attitude toward them.
01-15-2011, 04:33 AM
Freedom At Alcatraz
January 15, 2011
Read: Philemon 1:4-16
I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains. —Philemon 1:10
A tour of the federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay left me with some unforgettable images. As our tour boat pulled into the dock, I could see why this now-closed maximum-security federal prison was once known as “The Rock.”
Later, inside the legendary Big House, I stared at shafts of light coming through heavily barred windows. Then I saw row after row of cagelike cells that housed well-known inmates such as Al Capone and Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz.”
But another image made a deeper impression. Stepping into an empty cell, I saw the name “Jesus” scrawled on a wall. In another, a Bible lay on a shelf. Together they quietly spoke of the greatest of all freedoms.
Paul knew such liberty while waiting to be executed. Regarding himself as a “prisoner of Christ,” he used his incarceration to help other inmates discover what it means to be an eternally forgiven, dearly loved member of God’s family (Philem. 1:10).
Barred windows and doors represent one kind of confinement. Physical paralysis, inescapable poverty, and prolonged unemployment are others. Perhaps you endure another. None are to be desired—yet who would trade “imprisonment” with Christ for life “on the outside” without Him?
My heart and soul imprisoned lay,
Not knowing Christ the Lord;
But since the day He set me free,
We live in one accord. —Hess
To be under Christ’s control is to have true freedom.
01-16-2011, 02:43 AM
A Child’s Potential
January 16, 2011
Read: Proverbs 22:1-6
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. —Proverbs 22:6
Louis Armstrong was well known for his smiling face, raspy voice, white handkerchief, and virtuoso trumpet playing. Yet his childhood was one of want and pain. He was abandoned by his father as an infant and sent to reform school when he was only 12. Surprisingly, this became a positive turning point.
Music professor Peter Davis regularly visited the school and provided musical training for the boys. Soon Louis excelled on the cornet and became the leader of the boys’ band. His life trajectory seemed to have been reset to become a world-famous trumpet player and entertainer.
Louis’ story can be an example for Christian parents. The proverb: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6) can apply to more than the spiritual and moral aspects of our children’s lives. We should also realize that a child’s giftedness will often determine his or her area of interest. In the case of Louis, a little training in music resulted in a virtuoso trumpet player.
As we lovingly provide to our children godly instruction from God’s Word, we should encourage them in their interests and giftedness so that they might become all that God has planned for them to be.
Our children are a gift from God
On loan from heaven above,
To train and nourish in the Lord,
And guide them with His love. —Sper
Save a child, save a life.
01-17-2011, 03:12 AM
Driving In The Dark
January 17, 2011
Read: Psalm 119:105-112
Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. —Psalm 119:105
I’ve always thought that I could get through just about anything if the Lord would tell me what the outcome would be. I believe that “all things work together for good” in the end (Rom. 8:28), but I’d do a lot better in dark times if I knew exactly what the “good” would look like.
But God usually doesn’t show us where He is taking us. He just asks us to trust Him. It’s like driving a car at night. Our headlights never shine all the way to our destination; they illuminate only about 160 feet ahead. But that doesn’t deter us from moving forward. We trust our headlights. All we really need is enough light to keep moving forward.
God’s Word is like headlights in dark times. It is full of promises we need to keep us from driving our lives into the ditch of bitterness and despair. His Word promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). His Word assures us that He knows the plans He has for us, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give us “a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). And He tells us that our trials are there to make us better, not bitter (James 1:2-4).
So the next time you feel as if you’re driving in the dark, remember to trust your headlights—God’s Word will light your way.
The Word of God provides the light
We need to see the way;
It shows us what we need to know
So we won’t go astray. —Sper
You won’t stumble in the dark
if you walk in the light of God’s Word.
01-18-2011, 02:15 AM
An Open Book
January 18, 2011
Read: Jeremiah 31:31-34
You are an epistle of Christ. —2 Corinthians 3:3
Because I’m a writer, occasionally a friend will say to me, “I want to write a book someday.”
“That’s a worthy goal,” I reply, “and I hope you do write a book. But it’s better to be one than to write one.”
I’m thinking of the apostle Paul’s words: “Clearly you are an epistle of Christ . . . written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3).
In his book The Practice of Piety, Lewis Bayly, chaplain to England’s King James I, said that “one who hopes to effect any good by his writings” will find that he will “instruct very few. . . . The most powerful means, therefore, of promoting what is good is by example. . . . One man in a thousand can write a book to instruct his neighbors. . . . But every man can be a pattern of living excellence to those around him.”
The work that Christ is doing in believers can result in an influence far greater than any book they might write. Through God’s Word, written “on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33), the Lord is displaying His love and goodness for all to see.
As a Christian, you may never write a book, but by living for God you will be one! You will be an open book, an “epistle of Christ” for all to read.
Oh, we would write our record plain
And come in time to see
Our unsaved neighbors won to Christ
While reading you and me. —Anon.
If someone were to read your life like a book,
would they find Jesus in its pages?
01-18-2011, 03:43 PM
Just started reading your daily. Is the discussion yours or from a devotional as well?:)
01-19-2011, 02:33 AM
Just started reading your daily. Is the discussion yours or from a devotional as well?:)
What discussion are you speaking of?
01-19-2011, 02:34 AM
When Someone Falls
January 19, 2011
Read: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. —1 Corinthians 10:12
It has become so commonplace to hear of the misconduct of a respected public figure that even though we may be deeply disappointed, we are hardly surprised. But how should we respond to the news of a moral failure, whether by a prominent person or a friend? We might begin by looking at ourselves. A century ago, Oswald Chambers told his students at the Bible Training College in London, “Always remain alert to the fact that where one man has gone back is exactly where anyone may go back . . . . Unguarded strength is double weakness.”
Chambers’ words echo Paul’s warning to be aware of our own vulnerability when we see the sins of others. After reviewing the disobedience of the Israelites in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:1-5), Paul urged his readers to learn from those sins so they wouldn’t repeat them (vv.6-11). He focused not on past failings but on present pride when he wrote, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (v.12).
The head shaken in reproach is a common response to public sin. More helpful is the head that nods, “Yes, I am capable of that,” then bows in prayer for the one who has fallen and the one who thinks he stands.
Blessed Savior, make me humble,
Take away my sinful pride;
In myself I’m sure to stumble,
Help me stay close by Your side. —D. De Haan
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. —Proverbs 16:18
01-20-2011, 02:35 AM
Fear And Love
January 20, 2011
Read: Deuteronomy 10:12-17
What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear [Him] . . . and to love Him. —Deuteronomy 10:12
Someone shared with me her observation about two bosses. One is loved but not feared by his subordinates. Because they love their boss but don’t respect his authority, they don’t follow his guidelines. The other boss is both feared and loved by those who serve under him, and their good behavior shows it.
The Lord desires that His people both fear and love Him too. Today’s Bible passage, Deuteronomy 10, says that keeping God’s guidelines involves both. In verse 12, we are told “to fear the Lord your God” and “to love Him.”
To “fear” the Lord God is to give Him the highest respect. For the believer, it is not a matter of feeling intimidated by Him or His character. But out of respect for His person and authority, we walk in all His ways and keep His commandments. Out of “love,” we serve Him with all our heart and with all our soul—rather than merely out of duty (v.12).
Love flows out of our deep gratitude for His love for us, rather than out of our likes and dislikes. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our fear and love for God enable us to walk willingly in obedience to God’s law.
Lord, You are holy and Your thoughts are much higher
than mine. I bow before You. Thank You for salvation in Jesus.
I love You and want to obey You with all of
my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen.
If we fear and love God, we will obey Him.
01-21-2011, 03:15 AM
Nature Abhors A Vacuum
January 21, 2011
Read: Ephesians 3:14-21
Be filled with all the fullness of God. —Ephesians 3:19
According to the ancient philosopher Aristotle, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Aristotle based his conclusion on the observation that nature requires every space to be filled with something, even if that something is colorless, odorless air.
The same principle is at work in our spiritual lives. When the Holy Spirit begins to convict us of sin, the idea of starting a self-improvement plan immediately comes to mind. We put forth our best effort to defeat our worst habits. But every attempt to get rid of unclean thoughts, attitudes, and desires is destined to fail because getting rid of one creates a vacuum in our souls. As soon as we empty ourselves of one vice, others move in to take its place, and we end up just as bad or worse than when we started.
Thinking about vacuums helps us to understand the importance of what Paul was saying to the Ephesians when he prayed that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith and that they would “know the love of Christ . . . that [they] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:19).
The only permanent solution to the problem of sin in our lives is to replace it with the love of Jesus, which fills the vacuum. The more we are filled with His love, the less room there is for any evil thing.
Father, thank You for Your Spirit
Fill us with His love and power;
Change us into Christ’s own image
Day by day and hour by hour. —Anon.
We don’t need to put our house in order before Jesus comes in;
He puts it in order after we let Him in.
01-22-2011, 01:43 AM
January 22, 2011
Read: James 2:1-9
If you show partiality, you commit sin. —James 2:9
His face was grimy, his hair long and dirty. Beer stained his clothing and perfumed the air around him. When he stepped into the church building, the Sunday worshipers ignored him. They were stunned when the man approached the pulpit, took off his wig, and began preaching. That’s when they realized he was their pastor.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to be friendly and shake hands with the people I know and those who pre-sent themselves well.
James issued a serious warning for people like me. He said, “If you show partiality, you commit sin” (2:9). Favoritism based on appearance or economic status has no place in God’s family. In fact, it means we have “become judges with evil thoughts” (v.4).
Fortunately, we can guard against preferential treatment by loving our neighbor as ourselves—no matter who our neighbor may be. Reaching out to the homeless man, the hungry woman, or the heartbroken teen means we “fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture” (v.8).
In a world that keeps the outcast at arm’s length, let’s show the love of Christ and embrace the one who needs our care the most.
Forgive me, Lord, for prejudice—
Remove its subtle lie;
Oh, fill my heart with Your great love
That sent Your Son to die. —D. De Haan
True Christian love helps those who can’t return the favor.
01-23-2011, 02:33 AM
God Is At Work
January 23, 2011
Read: Exodus 14:26–15:2
He is my God, and I will praise Him. —Exodus 15:2
Jack and Trisha were driving to the hospital late one night for the birth of their second child when the unexpected happened. Trisha began to deliver the baby! Jack called 911 and Cherie White, an emergency dispatcher, was able to talk Jack through the delivery. But the baby wouldn’t breathe. So Cherie then instructed Jack how to give emergency breathing, which he had to do for 6 anxious minutes. Finally the newborn took a breath and cried. When asked later how they all got through the ordeal and remained calm, Cherie responded, “I’m glad God works midnights!”
I love to hear media reports in which God gets the glory He deserves for something good that has happened. In the Bible reading for today, it’s obvious that God should get the credit for parting the Red Sea to help His people escape from Pharaoh, even though Moses was the one who raised his rod (Ex. 14:26-27). All the Israelites and Moses gathered together and sang the Lord’s praises: “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (15:11).
When something good happens, the Lord deserves the credit, for He is the source of all that is good. Give Him the glory. Aren’t you glad He works midnights?
What may seem like coincidence
As we live out our story
Is God at work behind the scenes—
So give Him all the glory. —Sper
Seeing God at work puts a song in our heart.
01-24-2011, 02:32 AM
Still True Today
January 24, 2011
Read: Acts 17:16-31
While Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. —Acts 17:16
The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, has an extensive collection of ancient Bible fragments dating back to the second century AD. One fragment on display is a piece of Acts 17:16.
The message that ancient fragment displays, however, is as contemporary as today’s newspaper. It reads, “While Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.” Paul was angered by the proliferation of idols in ancient Athens, and I am convinced he would be upset with us today.
Some idols that we see in today’s world are different than the ones in Paul’s day. Whether it’s wealth, fame, power, athletes, entertainers, or politicians, contemporary idols abound. As always, our spiritual enemy, Satan, seeks to lure us away from the Savior to the false worship of idols. Christians are not immune, and thus we must guard our hearts against self-righteous anger toward unbelievers who seem to worship everything but God.
We must also be drawn by Christ’s love to reach out to those who don’t know Him. Then, like the believers at Thessalonica, they may turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9).
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne
And worship only Thee. —Cowper
An idol is anything that takes God’s rightful place.
01-25-2011, 03:58 AM
No More Struggles
January 25, 2011 — by Marvin Williams
Read: Revelation 21:1-4
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. —Revelation 21:4
Fay Weldon went through what she thought was a near-death experience in 2006 when an allergic reaction stopped her heart. She retold her experience to Elizabeth Grice of the London Daily Telegraph. She said that a “terrible creature” tried to pull her through pearly gates, while doctors tried to pull her back. Later, she said, “If that was dying, I don’t want to do it again.” It’s “just more of the same. More struggle.”
Often the process of dying is a struggle. But death itself need not be feared by the believer in Christ—for it will bring us to heaven. In Revelation, John gives a wonderful description of what eternity with God will be like (21:1-4). He sees the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. The city of Jerusalem was a physical sign of the people of God and was described as the place where God dwells (Ps. 76:2). The New Jerusalem, on the other hand, will not be made by human hands. It will be a place where God lives with His people eternally, and it will be a place of “no more”—no more pain, sorrow, and sickness.
We don’t know very much about eternity, but we do know that for the Christian, whatever our emotional and physical struggles are now, they will cease then. Life with God will be better by far.
Think of a land of no sorrow,
Think of a land of no fears,
Think of no death and no sickness,
Think of a land of no tears. —Anon.
Heaven’s delights will far outweigh earth’s difficulties.
01-26-2011, 02:45 AM
Like A Hypocrite
January 26, 2011
Read: Ephesians 2:1-10
God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love . . . made us alive together with Christ. —Ephesians 2:4-5
Ray Stedman told about a young man who had stopped attending the church Ray was pastoring. The young man said that when he was at work he would sometimes lose his temper and treat co-workers poorly. Then, when Sunday rolled around, he didn’t want to go to church because he felt like a hypocrite.
Stedman told his young friend, “A hypocrite is someone who acts like something he isn’t. When you come to church, you are acting like a Christian. You are not a hypocrite at church.” Suddenly, the young man realized where he was being a hypocrite. He recognized that the answer was not in avoiding church but in changing the way he was at work.
The term hypocrite is from a Greek word that means “play-actor.” It means we pretend to be something we aren’t. Sometimes we forget our true identity as believers in Jesus. We forget that we are accountable to God. When we do that, we live the way we “once walked” (Eph. 2:2) and thus are hypocrites.
Let’s not let our old ways make us act like someone we’re not. Instead, through God’s grace, let’s live in a way that shows we are “alive together with Christ” (v.5). That’s a sure cure for hypocrisy.
Consistency! How much we need
To walk a measured pace,
To live the life of which we speak,
Until we see Christ’s face. —Anon.
It is the inconsistent Christian who helps the devil the most.
01-27-2011, 03:13 AM
January 27, 2011
Read: Matthew 5:38-48
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies. —Matthew 5:43-44
If you were to ask me who I am, I’d tell you that I’m a follower of Jesus. But I have to admit, at times following Him is a real challenge. He tells me to do things like rejoice when I’m persecuted (Matt. 5:11-12); to turn the other cheek (vv.38-39); to give to someone who wants to take from me (vv.40-42); to love my enemies, bless those who curse me, and do good to those who hate me (vv.43-44). This kind of lifestyle seems very upside down to me.
But I’ve come to realize that He’s not upside down—I am. We have all been born fallen and broken. Being twisted by sin, our first instincts are often wrong, which inevitably leaves a big mess.
We’re like toast slathered with jelly that has fallen upside down on the kitchen floor. Left to ourselves, we can make a pretty big mess of things. Then Jesus comes along, like a divine spatula, scrapes us off the floor of our sinful ways, and turns us right side up. And as we follow His right-side-up ways, we discover that turning the other cheek keeps us from getting caught in a brawl, that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and that dying to self is life at its best.
After all, His ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8), and I’ve come to realize that His ways are always best!
When we’re transformed and made brand-new
We see things differently;
What once seemed right we now abhor,
And wrong we clearly see. —Sper
What may seem upside down to us is right side up to God.
01-28-2011, 04:02 AM
January 28, 2011
Read: Acts 16:23-34
Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. —Acts 16:26
In his book A Crack in the Edge of the World, Simon Winchester writes of the small earthquake-prone town of Parkfield, California. Seeking to attract tourists, a hotel sign reads: “Sleep Here When It Happens.” A local restaurant menu features a large steak called “The Big One,” and desserts are called “Aftershocks.” But all humor aside, a real earthquake can be a terrifying experience. I know. I’ve lived through California earthquakes.
In the book of Acts, we read how God used an earthquake to open someone’s heart to the gospel. Having been falsely accused, Paul and Silas found themselves in jail at Philippi. Around midnight, an earthquake rumbled through the prison, opening the doors and loosing the prisoners’ chains. When the jailer learned that Paul and Silas had not tried to escape, he asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (16:30). Paul responded, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (v.31). That night the jailer and his family believed and were baptized. And it all started with an earthquake.
Sometimes life’s upsets can make people more open to the gospel. Do you know anyone who is going through a crisis? Prayerfully stay in contact with them, and be ready to share a sensitive word of witness.
Lord, use us as Your instruments
Of truth and love and care,
And may we bring encouragement
As Your good news we share. —Sper
Many are brought to faith by trouble.
01-29-2011, 03:52 AM
Six Words From Solomon
January 29, 2011
Read: 1 Kings 10:23; 11:1-10
Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. —Ecclesiastes 12:13
SMITH magazine, an online community that “celebrates the joy of storytelling,” invited readers to submit six-word memoirs that describe their lives. Thousands responded with brief biographies ranging from the light-hearted “Sweet wife, good sons—I’m rich” to the painful “Sixty. Still haven’t forgiven my parents.”
Based on Scripture, I tried to imagine how King Solomon might have summed up his life in six words. As a young man, he could have written: God has given me great wisdom. But in his later years, he might have said: Should have practiced what I preached.
During a reign distinguished by peace and prosperity, Solomon developed spiritual heart problems. When he was old, “his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David” (1 Kings 11:4). The result was God’s displeasure and a sad end to a previously exemplary life (v.9).
The multiple times Solomon used the word vanity (or meaningless) in Ecclesiastes may indicate his disillusionment about life. This once-wise king who had it all, lost it all, and pondered it all, ended the book with this final conclusion: “Fear God and keep His commandments” (12:13).
Those are six words worth heeding.
The pleasures of this sinful world
Are meaningless and vain;
But if we love and follow God
True purpose we will gain. —Sper
Obedience to God is the key to a life of blessing.
01-30-2011, 03:19 AM
Looking And Learning
January 30, 2011
Read: Deut. 11:18-21
Train up a child in the way he should go. —Proverbs 22:6
As an umpire stood behind the plate at a girls’ softball game, he heard a player’s mother start chanting: “We want a new ump! We want a new ump!” Soon, other parents took up the chant. The ump smiled, then turned toward the crowd and yelled, “I want new parents! I want new parents!” The heckling died away.
It’s important for parents to set a good example, because their children are watching them. Christian parents can encourage good habits and behavior by doing things like:
• Praying for and with them—so they learn how to talk with God. “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it” (Col. 4:2).
• Reading and teaching them the Bible—so they learn God’s truth. “Teach [God’s commands] diligently to your children, . . . talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:7).
• Telling them about Jesus—and leading them to faith in Him. “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
The best way to set a good example for our children is to live out our faith in front of them. While they’re looking—they’re learning about what matters most.
Take stock of yourself and consider your child—
Your time and your thoughts are his due;
How would you reply to the Lord should He ask,
“What kind of parent are you?” —Anon.
Children may not inherit their parents’ talent,
but they will absorb their values.
01-31-2011, 02:20 AM
January 31, 2011
Read: Matthew 7:13-23
Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. —Matthew 7:14
In the hectic downtown of one of Asia’s great cities, I marveled at the busy sidewalks filled with people. There seemed to be no room to move in the crush of humanity, yet it also seemed that everyone was moving at top speed.
My attention was drawn to the soft, almost mournful sound of a single trumpeter playing “Amazing Grace.” The crowds appeared oblivious to both the musician and the music. Still, he played—sending a musical message of the love of God out to whoever knew the song and would think about the words as he played.
I thought of this experience as a parable. The music seemed to be an invitation to the masses to follow Christ. As with the gospel message, some believe in God’s amazing grace and choose the narrow way. Others ignore His grace, which is the broad way that leads to everlasting destruction. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).
Jesus died so that “whoever calls” on His name (Rom. 10:13) can find forgiveness in His grace.
Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see. —Newton
Christ believed is salvation received.
02-01-2011, 05:38 AM
Counterfeits Of The Heart
February 1, 2011
Read: Jeremiah 17:5-11
The heart is deceitful above all things. —Jeremiah 17:9
True stories about deceit and deception can sound stranger than fiction. According to an AP news item, a Georgia woman was arrested after trying to pay for more than $1,500 in purchases with a million-dollar counterfeit bill. When questioned, the embarrassed patron claimed to have been misled, saying that the fake money had been given to her by her ex-husband, who was a coin collector.
The size of the bill makes us question whether anyone could really have been misled into thinking it was real. But maybe that makes it a good illustration of the almost unbelievable problem of self-deception that the prophet warns us about. When Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9 ESV), he expresses a sense of amazement that is beyond our ability to grasp. Here the prophet is not saying that some of us have a problem being honest with ourselves; he is claiming that everyone does.
Thankfully, God searches our hearts and understands what we cannot see (v.10). He gives us every reason to say, “Lord, we need Your help. Please show us whether we are being honest with ourselves and You. If we aren’t, help us to change and rely on You rather than on ourselves.”
Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts I pray.
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin and set me free. —Orr
The only way to survive in a world of deception is by trusting the One who will never deceive us.
02-02-2011, 02:54 AM
February 2, 2011
Read: Psalm 55:1-8
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you. —Psalm 55:22
Every so often, my computer becomes sluggish. Frequent use of certain programs and documents causes pieces of information to become scattered, requiring my computer to search for the pieces before I can use them. To fix it, I need to run a program that retrieves the pieces and groups them together where they are easily accessible. This process is called “defragmentation.”
Like my computer, my life gets fragmented. One situation tugs on my emotions while I’m trying to concentrate on something else. Demands from every direction bombard me. I want to accomplish everything that needs to be done, but my mind won’t stop and my body won’t start. Soon I begin to feel weary and useless.
Recently I attended a retreat where one of the handouts included a prayer with words that expressed how I felt: “Lord, I am scattered, restless, and only half here.”
King David also went through such times (Ps. 55:2). In prayer, David presented his needs to God morning, noon, and evening, confident that he would be heard (v.17).
Prayer can help to defragment our lives. When we cast our cares on the Lord, He will show us what we need to do and what only He can do.
O Lord, we bring our restless hearts
To You in fervent prayer;
Now help us wait expectantly
While resting in Your care. —Sper
We need prayer the most when we have the least time to pray.
02-03-2011, 04:04 AM
February 3, 2011
Read: Philippians 1:9-18
This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment. —Philippians 1:9
In Singapore, the Chinese New Year season’s social and business dinners often begin with a dish consisting of salads, dressings, pickles, and raw fish. The name of the dish, Yu Sheng, is a pun that sounds like “year of prosperity.” It is traditional for those present to toss the salad together. As they do, certain phrases are repeated to bring about good fortune.
Our words may express our hopes for others for the year ahead, but they can’t bring about good fortune. The important issue is—what does God want to see in us in the coming year?
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expressed his desire and prayer that their love “may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment” (1:9). The church had been a great tower of support for him (v.7), yet he urged them to continue to grow to love others. Paul wasn’t talking about intellectual knowledge but knowledge of God. Love for others starts with a closer relationship with Him. With a fuller knowledge of God, we can then discern between right and wrong.
Giving our best wishes to others for the coming year is fine. But our heartfelt prayer should be that we abound in love, so that we may be “filled with the fruits of righteousness . . . , to the glory and praise of God” (v.11).
Teach me Thy patience! still with Thee
In closer, dearer company,
In work that keeps faith sweet and strong,
In trust that triumphs over wrong. —Gladden
People with a heart for God have a heart for people.
02-04-2011, 02:40 AM
When Royalty Comes To Town
February 4, 2011
Read: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you . . . and you are not your own. —1 Corinthians 6:19
My friend Tim Davis tells the story of being in Trinidad as a little boy when Queen Elizabeth came to visit their town. He recalls going with his missionary parents to join hundreds of others who gathered to greet the queen. Waving his little flag, he watched as the entourage came down the street—first the soldiers, then the mounted guard, and then the limousine from which she waved to the cheering crowd. He looked on as the queen drove out of town, leaving everyone to return to life as usual. In Tim’s words, “Royalty came to town and nothing changed!”
For those of us who have accepted Jesus as Savior, there was a day when royalty arrived—in our heart. As Paul put it, our body is “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19)—a reality that has huge ramifications. His residence in our life is intended to transform us to live in a way that brings glory to Him. Our relationships, the way we serve our employer, how we use our money, how we treat our enemies, and everything else in our lives should reflect the wonderful reality that royalty lives within.
Has anything changed since King Jesus came into your heart? Does your world notice or do they think He was just passing through?
By this shall every person know
That we serve God above:
His Spirit dwells within our hearts
And fills us with His love. —D. De Haan
If Jesus has taken up residence in us,
the world should notice a lasting change.
02-05-2011, 03:37 AM
February 5, 2011
Read: Matthew 7:24-27
Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock. —Matthew 7:24
In 1931, the city of Hayward, California, built its first permanent city hall building. Costing $100,000 at the time, the structure with its square Corinthian columns and Roman arch entry was considered a marvel. There was only one problem—it was built on the Hayward Fault and is gradually splitting in two. In 1989, an earthquake forced its closure, and it is now off limits to occupants.
Building on an unstable foundation is not wise. This is also true of our spiritual lives. Jesus taught His disciples this truth with an illustration: “Everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matt. 7:26-27).
The shifting morals of our present world can be confusing. We may be tempted to let culture or the opinions of society be the foundation for the decisions we make. But obeying the unwavering truth of God’s Word brings stability unavailable anywhere else. “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (v.24).
The Bible stands though the hills may tumble,
It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble;
I will plant my feet on its firm foundation,
For the Bible stands. —Lillenas
Build your life on the solid foundation—Jesus Christ.
02-05-2011, 01:44 PM
You accidently repeated Feb. 4th's on Feb 5th.
Thanks so much for providing this service to ABC.
02-06-2011, 06:35 AM
February 6, 2011
Read: Colossians 3:8-17
There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, . . . slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. —Colossians 3:11
A Washington Post article reported that recent studies into the nature of prejudice found that almost everyone harbors biases, and these attitudes affect even those who actively resist them. A University of Kentucky psychologist says that much of our self-esteem comes from feeling better about ourselves than about others because of the group we belong to. Prejudice is not easy to overcome, even within the family of God.
Paul’s words to the believers at Colosse instruct us today, saying that our speech and behavior toward fellow Christians should reflect our oneness in Christ. “[You] have put on the new man,” Paul said, “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:10-11). Instead of superiority and favoritism, we should demonstrate compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience toward each other (v.12). And above all, we are to “put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (v.14).
In the body of Christ, no race, nationality, or class is better than another. Through the cross, Christ has made us one, and we are to treat each other with honesty, dignity, and love.
It matters not what race or gender,
Rich or poor, or great or small,
The God who made us is not partial—
He sent Christ to die for all. —D. De Haan
Prejudice distorts what it sees, deceives when it talks,
and destroys when it acts.
02-07-2011, 01:30 AM
The Armies Of God
February 7, 2011
Read: 2 Kings 6:8-17
He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. —Psalm 91:11
When our granddaughter Julia was very small, we took her on a driving trip over an Idaho mountain road. Afterward, she and her Nana were having a conversation about the “adventure.” “I don’t worry because I think Papa has a guardian angel,” Nana said. “I think he must have a team of guardian angels!” Julia replied.
The mission of angels is to protect and serve the children of God (Heb. 1:13-14). The psalmist said, “The chariots of God are . . . thousands of thousands; the Lord is among them” (Ps. 68:17). God is the “Lord of hosts,” which means “armies.” The angels are the Lord’s army.
In 2 Kings we read about Elisha and his servant who were surrounded by the Syrian army. Elisha’s servant cried out, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Elisha replied, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw that “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around” (6:15-17). The Lord’s army was at hand!
Even though we cannot see them with our natural eyes, we can rest in the confidence that the Lord of Hosts is constantly watching over us and He has an invisible army at His bidding to send where He pleases.
What ready help the Father gives
To struggling saints below!
He sends His heavenly ministers
To thwart our ancient foe. —D. De Haan
The angels of God protect the people of God
as they do the work of God.
02-08-2011, 03:34 AM
February 8, 2011
Read: Ephesians 6:1-4
You, fathers, . . . bring [your children] up in the training and admonition of the Lord. —Ephesians 6:4
Many of the first astronauts were once Boy Scouts. The scouts were good at capturing the imagination of young boys and instilling discipline to reach their goals—even if it meant reaching for the stars.
On July 20, 1969, the Boy Scouts were busy celebrating at a conference. During the gathering, the scouts were delighted to hear from former Eagle Scout Neil Armstrong, who sent them greetings from space. One of their own had grown up to realize a wonderful dream!
In some ways, the Christian home can be like a loving, spiritual scout camp. The Bible encourages parents to provide a positive growth environment for children in the home. Parents are exhorted to “bring [children] up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). “To bring up” refers to nourishing children by providing resources for their physical, mental, and spiritual needs. “Training” includes concern about all aspects of a child’s development. And “admonition” speaks of providing direction by well-chosen words uniquely suited to each child.
Let’s strive to make our home a place where loving discipline enables the children in our charge to reach their potential for God’s glory.
They are buds of hope and promise,
Possessed by Him whose name is Love;
Lent us here to train and nourish
For a better life above. —Crosby
What you put into your children’s hearts today influences their character for tomorrow.
02-09-2011, 03:14 AM
Of Weeping And Rejoicing
February 9, 2011
Read: Romans 12:9-16
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. —Romans 12:15
Golda Meir knew both struggle and success during her life. As prime minister of Israel, she experienced many episodes of conflict and loss, as well as the periodic joy of successes and victory in the life of the fledgling State of Israel. She said of joy and sorrow, “Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart, don’t know how to laugh either.”
The apostle Paul called us to a life of both weeping and rejoicing—but with a twist. In Romans 12:15, the apostle challenged us to look outside our own experiences to the needs of others. He said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
If we rejoice only in our own victories, we miss the wonder of celebrating the power of the Lord, who desires to accomplish His purposes in and through others as well. If we mourn only our own losses, we lose the opportunity to “be there” for those who are hurting by showing them compassion.
Life is filled with the extremes of joy and sorrow, victory and defeat. But we have been given the privilege of entering into those moments in people’s lives to see the grace of God at work. Don’t miss it!
Lord, give me sensitivity
To people in their grief and pain,
To weep with them and show Your love
In ways mere words cannot attain. —Sper
Looking to the needs of others honors Christ.
02-10-2011, 02:22 AM
February 10, 2011
Read: Acts 6:8-15; 7:54-60
Look! I see . . . the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! —Acts 7:56
Susan Boyle spent most of her adult life living with her cat Pebbles, caring for her aging mother, and singing in church. She certainly didn’t look like a musical superstar. That’s probably why the audience laughed at this unassuming middle-aged woman before she performed in a talent show. Undeterred, Susan faced the unfriendly crowd, sang beautifully, and went on to receive a standing ovation.
Stephen was confronted by a hostile crowd in the days of the early church (Acts 6–7). A panel of religious authorities listened to lying witnesses accuse him of blasphemy (Acts 6:13). Stephen responded by speaking the truth of God’s Word, which reinforced his faith in Christ. At the end of his speech, he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (7:56). Then the crowd stoned him (v.58). Jesus, who was watching from heaven, welcomed Stephen home.
Most Christians aren’t confronted with this much hostility. Yet we all need to “stand fast in the Lord” when the pressure is on (Phil. 4:1). We can’t let others silence our voice for Christ. Speaking up for Jesus does not always win the crowd’s favor here on earth, but it does ensure His approval in heaven, where it matters the most.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle—the next the victor’s song.
To him that overcometh a crown of life shall be:
He with the King of glory shall reign eternally. —Duffield
If you meet opposition, maybe it shows that you are doing something that counts.
02-11-2011, 02:59 AM
Will I Have To Tell?
February 11, 2011
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:12-21
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. —2 Corinthians 5:17
Jim was sharing the gospel with Kerri. He told her she was separated from a holy God because of her sin, and that Jesus had died and risen for her salvation. She kept coming up with one reason not to believe: “But if I do receive Him, I won’t have to tell other people about it, will I? I don’t want to do that.” She said that didn’t fit her personality; she didn’t want to have to tell others about Jesus.
Jim explained that promising to witness about Jesus wasn’t a requirement before receiving Him. But he also said that once she came to know the Lord, Kerri would become His ambassador to the world (2 Cor. 5:20).
After talking a little longer, Kerri acknowledged her need for salvation through Christ. She went home excited and at peace. Funny thing happened—within 24 hours she told three people about what God had done in her life.
Because we have been reconciled to God through Jesus, we now have “the ministry of reconciliation,” according to the apostle Paul (v.18). We are His ambassadors, and therefore we implore people “on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (v.20).
When we’re thankful, we want to share what God has done.
I love to tell the story,
For some have never heard
The message of salvation
From God’s own holy Word. —Hankey
There’s no better news than the gospel— spread the word!
02-12-2011, 01:12 AM
February 12, 2011
Read: Ephesians 4:29-32
An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression. —Proverbs 29:22
It erupts. It melts everything in its path. Its blast is as powerful as a nuclear explosion!
Well, maybe not—but a temper can feel as intense as a volcano when it is aimed directly at another person in a family. The moment may be quickly over, but it can leave emotional devastation and bitter feelings behind.
It’s sad that the people we love the most are often the target of our hurtful words. But even when we feel we’ve been provoked, we have a choice. Will we respond in anger or in kindness?
The Bible tells us to rid ourselves of bitterness and anger, and to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
If you are struggling with chronic anger that is hurting your relationships, surrender this vulnerable part of your emotions to Christ’s strength (Phil. 4:13). Ask God to forgive you for an uncontrolled temper and to show you how to moderate your emotions and to teach you how to honor others above yourself (Rom. 12:10). Seek out help from others to learn how to deal with your strong emotions in appropriate ways.
As we earnestly seek to love others and to please God, we can win the victory over a volcanic temper.
Spirit of God, please change my heart,
And give me a new desire;
I want to be a man of peace,
Not controlled by anger’s fire. —K. De Haan
Losing your temper is no way to get rid of it.
02-13-2011, 04:06 AM
February 13, 2011
Read: Psalm 46
. . . I am God; I will be exalted. —Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations” (Ps. 46:10). These words from a song sung long ago at the temple in Jerusalem remind us of one of our main tasks—worshiping our awesome God.
One way to do that is to meditate on His many attributes. Exalt God, for He is faithful, eternal, all-knowing, just, unchangeable, gracious, holy, merciful, longsuffering, impartial, and infinite. Our God is perfect.
Exalt God also by realizing that He is all-powerful, almighty, personal, righteous, unsearchable, wise, triune, accessible, self-existent, glorious, and compassionate.
Another way to worship God is to contemplate His names. Exalt God, for He is Creator. He is Love. He is Redeemer. He is Shepherd. He is Savior, Lord, and Father. He is Judge. He is Comforter. He is Teacher. He is I AM. Our God is the Mighty One.
Dwell on His identity. God is our shield. Our stronghold. Our light. Our strength. Our sustainer. Our rescuer. Our fortress.
Meditate on God’s attributes. Contemplate His names. Dwell on His identity. Adore Him. Respect Him. Honor Him. Love Him. Exalt Him. Use the rest of your life getting ready to worship our awesome God forever.
O worship the King,
All glorious above,
And gratefully sing
His power and His love. —Grant
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. —Psalm 150:6
02-14-2011, 03:45 AM
February 14, 2011
Read: John 15:9-17
You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. —John 15:14
The social networking Web site Facebook.com was launched in 2004 as a way for college students to connect with each other online. It is now open to people of all ages, and currently there are an estimated 500 million users. Each user has an individual page with photos and personal details that can be viewed by “friends.” To “friend” a person means opening the door to communication and information about who you are, where you go, and what you do. Facebook friendships may be casual or committed, but each one is “by invitation only.”
Just before Jesus was crucified, He told His disciples: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:14-15).
Unselfishness, oneness of purpose, and confident trust are the hallmarks of true friendship, especially in our relationship with the Lord. Christ has taken the initiative by giving His life for us and inviting us to know and follow Him.
Have we responded to the Lord Jesus’ invitation of friendship by opening our hearts to Him with nothing held back?
Friendship with Jesus,
O what blessed, sweet communion—
Jesus is a Friend of mine. —Ludgate
02-15-2011, 04:21 AM
Heat And Holiness
February 15, 2011
Read: Isaiah 43:1-13
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned. —Isaiah 43:2
Why is it taking my hair so long to get dry? I wondered. As usual, I was in a hurry, and I didn’t want to go outside into the wintry weather with wet hair. Then I realized the problem. I had changed the setting on the hairdryer to “warm” instead of “hot” to accommodate my niece’s preferences.
I often wish I could control the conditions of life as easily as I can change the setting on my hairdryer. I would choose a comfortable setting—not too hot, not too cold. I certainly wouldn’t choose the heat of adversity or the fire of affliction. But in the spiritual realm, warm doesn’t get the job done. We are called to holiness, and holiness often involves “heat.” To be holy means to be set apart for God—separated from anything unclean or impure. To refine and purify us, God sometimes uses the furnace of affliction. The prophet Isaiah said, “When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned” (Isa. 43:2); he didn’t say if. And the apostle Peter said that we should not be surprised by trials (1 Peter 4:12).
None of us knows when we’ll be called to walk through the fire or how hot the furnace will be. But we do know this: God’s purpose for the flames is to purify us, not to destroy us.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine. —Keen
The only way God hurries holiness is by turning up the heat.
02-16-2011, 03:58 AM
February 16, 2011
Read: Leviticus 19:9-15
Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. —Psalm 119:18
Growing up in rural Missouri where American outlaw Jesse James (1847–1882) had lived, my friends and I were convinced he had buried treasure nearby. We wandered the woods in dreamy hopes of digging up a saddlebag or other treasure. Often we’d run into an elderly man chopping firewood with a giant axe. For years, we watched this mysterious “axe man” trudge the highways in search of soda cans, his own kind of treasure. Redeeming the cans for cash, he’d retire to his run-down, roofless, unpainted shack with a bottle in a brown paper bag. After his death, his family found bundles of money stored in his ramshackle home.
Like the axe man who ignored his treasure, we Christians sometimes ignore parts of Scripture. We forget that all of Scripture is ours to use; that each passage has a reason for its inclusion in the canon. Who knew Leviticus held so much buried treasure? In an efficient seven verses in chapter 19, God teaches us how to provide for the poor and disabled without stripping them of their dignity (vv.9-10,14), how to run our businesses ethically (vv.11,13,15), and how to embed respect for Him into our daily life (v.12).
If a few verses can contain so much treasure, think of all that can be ours if we dig into our Bibles every day.
For Further Study
Mine the treasure in Leviticus 19, and then search
for more treasure in other parts of Leviticus to put into
practice in your Christian walk.
Every word in the Bible was placed with a purpose; any part you’ve not read is your buried treasure.
02-17-2011, 02:26 AM
February 17, 2011
Read: Matthew 3:1-12
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! . . . Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance. —Matthew 3:2,8
Medical studies have shown that even though people who have had heart-bypass surgery are told that they must change their lifestyle or die, about 90 percent do not change. Typically, 2 years after surgery the patients haven’t altered their lifestyle. It seems that most would rather die than change.
Just as doctors preach a physical message of change to prevent death, John the Baptist came preaching a spiritual message of change. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2). He was preparing the way for the ultimate manifestation of God’s reign—the Messiah, Jesus.
Repentance means to change one’s mind and attitude about God, which ultimately changes a person’s actions and decisions. Those who repent and accept Christ’s provision of forgiveness from their sins through His death on the cross will escape spiritual death (John 3:16). Repentance involves confessing sin with godly sorrow, and then forsaking sin. John the Baptist was calling people to turn from one way of living to ways that honor God.
Today, the Lord is still calling us to repent and then to respond with the “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:8).
Repentance is to leave the sin
That we had loved before,
And showing we are grieved by it
By doing it no more. —Anon.
Repentance means hating sin enough to turn from it.
02-18-2011, 01:48 AM
Dreams Or Choices?
February 18, 2011
Read: Philippians 1:1-11
Approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense. —Philippians 1:10
I’ve received a lot of good advice in my life. Near the top of the list is this wise observation from a friend: “Life is not made by the dreams that you dream but by the choices that you make.”
He’s right—your life today is the sum total of all the choices you’ve made up to this point. The apostle Paul gave similar advice in Philippians 1:10, when he said to “approve the things that are excellent” (1:10). In any given situation, we have a whole continuum of choices—ranging from really rotten choices, to the mediocrity of average choices, to choices that are good, and then to those that are excellent. God wants to move us across the continuum, past our natural impulses, all the way to excellent choices.
Often it’s challenging to make the most excellent choice, especially if there aren’t many others joining us. Sometimes it may feel as if our desires and freedoms have been suppressed. But if you follow Paul’s advice, you’ll notice some really positive outcomes—like being pure and blameless and fruitful (v.11).
Make the choice to live a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Then revel in the result!
The little choices we must make
Will chart the course of life we take;
We either choose the path of light,
Or wander off in darkest night. —D. De Haan
Make an excellent choice and watch the ripple effect of blessing.
02-19-2011, 05:17 AM
Emergency Room Fellowship
February 19, 2011
Read: Galatians 6:1-10
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. —Galatians 6:2
Not long ago, my wife, Janet, and I accepted an invitation to dine with a Christian woman who attends our Sunday school class. In her zeal to prepare a meal for us, she cut her index finger deeply. As we drove her to the emergency room, we prayed for her, and then we kept her company in the waiting room. Several hours later, our friend finally saw the doctor.
After we returned to her home, our hostess insisted we stay for the meal she had prepared. What followed was a great time of lively conversation and spiritual fellowship. While we ate, she shared with us some of the heartaches she had suffered, and how through the ups and downs she had found God’s wonderful grace invading her life.
Later, my wife and I reflected on the unexpected trip to the hospital and the shared fellowship that had resulted. This verse came to mind: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). By providing support for our injured hostess, she was blessed. Then afterward, she became a blessing to us through her hospitality and a delicious meal.
In retrospect, painful experiences can be a marvelous gateway to rich fellowship as we “bear one another’s burdens.”
Beautiful lives are those that bear
For other lives their burden of care;
Beautiful souls are those that show
The Spirit of Christ wherever they go. —Abbott
A helping hand can lighten another’s burden.
02-20-2011, 05:30 AM
Who’s The Audience?
February 20, 2011
Read: Psalm 50:7-15
Whoever offers praise glorifies Me. —Psalm 50:23
I used to view the worship service in church as a time for entertainment. Speaking of folks like me, Sören Kierkegaard said that we tend to think of church as a kind of theater: We sit in the audience, attentively watching the actors onstage. If sufficiently entertained, we show our gratitude with applause. Church, though, should be the opposite of the theater. God is the audience for our worship.
What matters most takes place within the hearts of the congregation—not onstage. We should leave a worship service asking ourselves not “What did I get out of it?” but rather “Was God pleased with what happened?”
God took pains to specify details of animal sacrifice for the ancient Israelites in their worship. Yet He said that He didn’t need their animals: “I will not take a bull from your house, nor goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:9-10). What He wanted was their praise and obedience (v.23).
By focusing on the externals of worship, we too miss the point: The Lord is interested in a sacrifice of the heart, an internal attitude of submission and thanksgiving. The goal of worship is nothing less than to meet and please our God.
Lord, may our worship and our praise,
From hearts surrendered to Your ways,
Be worthy offerings of love
For all Your blessings from above. —Sper
At the heart of worship is worship from the heart.
02-21-2011, 01:31 AM
February 21, 2011
Read: Acts 15:36-41
The contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. —Acts 15:39
In May 1884, two young parents disagreed about what middle name to give their newborn son. The mom preferred Solomon; the dad, Shippe—both family names. Because John and Martha couldn’t agree, they compromised on “S.” Thus Harry S. Truman would become the only US president with an initial for a middle name.
Over 120 years later, we still know about this conflict—but we also know that a reasonable resolution was reached.
In the New Testament, we read about another disagreement that has lived on in history. This one was between two missionaries: Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15). Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them on a trip to check on some churches they had helped previously (v.37). But Paul did not trust Mark because of an earlier incident (v.38). Paul and Barnabas disagreed so sharply that they parted ways (v.39).
We still read about this argument 2,000 years later. What’s important is not that it lived on in history, but that it didn’t leave permanent relationship scars. Paul apparently reconciled with Barnabas, and in his final days asked for Mark to be with him because “he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).
Arguments happen. But let’s make sure they are resolved. Grudges are a burden too heavy to carry.
Arguments can lead to grudges,
Which, if left, will cause a rift;
But if we bring resolution,
Our relationships won’t drift. —Sper
A grudge is one thing that doesn’t get better when it’s nursed.
02-22-2011, 02:54 AM
February 22, 2011
Read: Isaiah 49:13-18
Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. —Isaiah 49:15
I first met my wife, Marlene, in college. I was majoring in pastoral studies, and she was working on a degree in elementary education. The first time I saw her working with children, I knew what a natural fit this was for her. She loved children. It became even more obvious when we got married and had children of our own. Seeing her with them was an education in unconditional love and acceptance. It was clear to me that there is nothing in all the world like the tender love and compassion of a mother for her newborn child.
That’s what makes Isaiah 49:15 so remarkable. It’s here that God told His people, who were feeling forsaken and forgotten (v.14), that His compassion is even greater than a mother’s: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Sometimes we face struggles in life, and we are tempted to think that God has forgotten us. We may even believe that God no longer loves us. But God’s love for us is as expansive as the open arms of Christ on the cross. And the tender compassion of our heavenly Father is more dependable and more enduring than the love of a nursing mother for her infant. Be comforted—His love never fails.
God will not forget His children
Nor will He forsake our care;
His compassion is enduring—
Even when we’re unaware. —Sper
God’s love for us is as expansive
as the open arms of Christ on the cross.
02-23-2011, 03:36 AM
The Variety Of Creation
February 23, 2011
Read: Job 12:7-13
In [God’s] hand is the life of every living thing. —Job 12:10
Have you ever stopped to consider the amazing features God placed in the animals He created? Job did, and one of the most interesting he wrote about is the ostrich. Despite its apparent lack of good sense and its eccentric parenting skills, its offspring survive (39:13-16). And despite its membership in the bird family, it can’t fly—but it can outrun a horse (v.18).
Another remarkable creature is the bombardier beetle. This African insect shoots two common materials, hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone, from twin storage tanks in its back. Apart, these substances are harmless; together, they blind the beetle’s predators. A special nozzle inside the beetle mixes the chemicals, enabling it to bombard its foe at amazing speeds! And the little guy can rotate his “cannon” to fire in any direction.
How can this be? How is it that a rather dull-witted ostrich survives despite a seeming inability to care for its young while the bombardier beetle needs a sophisticated chemical reaction to ensure its continued presence on earth? It’s because God’s creative abilities know no boundaries. “He commanded and they were created,” the psalmist tells us (148:5). From the ostrich to the beetle, God’s creative work is clear for all to see. “Praise the name of the Lord” (148:13).
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful;
The Lord God made them all. —Alexander
The design of creation points to the Master Designer.
02-24-2011, 03:54 AM
What Really Matters
February 24, 2011
Read: Matthew 16:21-28
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? —Matthew 16:26
Several years ago a friend of mine visited an exhibit of relics from the infamous Titanic voyage. Exhibit visitors were given a replica ticket with the name of an actual passenger or crew member who, decades earlier, had embarked on the trip of a lifetime. After the tour group walked through the exhibit viewing pieces of silver dinnerware and other artifacts, the tour ended with an unforgettable twist.
A large board listed the names of all the passengers, including their status—first class, second class, crew. As my friend looked for the name of the person whose ticket he was holding, he noticed a line across the board dividing the names. Above the line were the names of those who were “saved” and below the line all those who were “lost.”
The parallel to our life on earth is profound. It really doesn’t make any difference how the world ranks your status. The only thing that ultimately matters is whether you are “saved” or “lost.” As Jesus said, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Perhaps you’ve already trusted in Christ for your salvation. But what about your fellow passengers? Instead of sizing them up by the externals, talk to them about their ultimate destination.
It’s not what I achieve that qualifies,
It matters not if I gain wealth or fame;
The only thing I must be certain of
Is “Have I put my trust in Jesus’ name?” —Hess
In light of eternity, what one believes is far more important than what one achieves.
02-25-2011, 12:59 AM
Perfect Peace And Rest
February 25, 2011
Read: Psalm 71:19-24
You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again. —Psalm 71:20
The psalmist had seen “great and severe troubles” (Ps. 71:20). Yet hovering in the back of his mind was the thought that God would “revive” him again. The literal meaning of this phrase is “bring him to life again.” He elaborated: “[You shall] bring me up again from the depths of the earth [the grave]. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side” (vv.20-21). If the troubles didn’t end in this life, certainly in heaven they would.
This thought—that someday we shall be in God’s presence and enjoy Him forever—crowns many of the psalms and is an assurance that helps life’s present troubles fade away (see Ps. 16,17,49,73).
Perhaps no one but God knows the trouble you’ve seen, but this is not all that shall be. Someday, your Father will “increase [your] greatness”—you will be clothed with unspeakable glory. There will be comfort “on every side.” His presence and love will bring perfect peace and rest.
Richard Baxter writes, “O what a blessed day that will be when I shall . . . stand on the shore and look back on the raging seas I have safely passed; when I shall review my pains and sorrows, my fears and tears, and possess the glory which was the end of all!”
When all my labors and trials are o’er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore
Will through the ages be glory for me. —Gabriel
When God wipes our tears, sorrow will give way to eternal song.
02-26-2011, 02:10 AM
Not Without Hope
February 26, 2011
Read: Exodus 6:1-13
I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. —Exodus 6:6
“Sixteen Tons,” written by Merle Travis and recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford, became one of America’s most popular songs in the mid-1950s. People seemed to identify with this coal miner’s lament about feeling trapped and unable to change his situation no matter how hard he worked. Coal miners often lived in company-owned houses and were paid in “scrip”—coupons valid only at the company-owned store. Even if summoned to heaven, the miner said, he couldn’t go because he owed his soul to the company store.
That sense of hopeless resignation may help us understand the feelings of the Hebrew people during their 400 years of bondage in Egypt. When Moses told them of God’s promise to release them from slavery, they didn’t listen to him “because of anguish of spirit” (Ex. 6:9). They were so far down they couldn’t look up.
But God did something for them that they could not do for themselves. The Lord’s miraculous deliverance of His people foreshadowed His powerful intervention on our behalf through His Son Jesus Christ. It was when “we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men” (Rom. 5:6 PHILLIPS).
When life is at its lowest ebb, we are not without hope because of the wonderful grace of God.
When trouble seeks to rob your very breath,
When tragedy hits hard and steals your days,
Recall that Christ endured the sting of death;
He gives us hope, and merits all our praise. —Gustafson
No one is hopeless whose hope is in God.
02-27-2011, 04:06 AM
A Bouquet Of Praise
February 27, 2011
Read: 1 Peter 4:7-11
. . . that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. —1 Peter 4:11
Corrie ten Boom (1892–1983) was a World War II concentration camp survivor and Christian who became a popular speaker around the world. Thousands attended her meetings as she talked about how she had learned to forgive her captors just as Christ had forgiven her sins.
After each meeting, people surrounded her and heaped accolades on her for her godly qualities and thanked her for encouraging them in their walk with the Lord. Corrie said she would then return to her hotel room, get down on her knees, and present those compliments in thanks to God. She called it giving God “a bouquet of praise.”
The Lord has given each of us gifts to use to minister to one another (1 Peter 4:10) so that “in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever” (v.11). We have nothing to offer others that we have not first received from the Lord (1 Cor. 4:7), so the glory does belong to Him.
To learn humility, perhaps we could follow Corrie’s example. If we receive a compliment for something we’ve said or done, let’s privately give a bouquet of praise to God for the glory He alone deserves.
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious—Thy great name we praise. —Smith
Praise is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
02-28-2011, 12:48 AM
The Core Of The Problem
February 28, 2011
Read: Romans 3:10-18
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. —Romans 7:18
One of my favorite television cartoons as a boy was Tom Terrific. When Tom faced a challenge, he would put on his thinking cap and work through the matter with his faithful sidekick Mighty Manfred, the Wonder Dog. Usually, those problems found their source in Tom’s arch-enemy, Crabby Appleton. To this day, I remember how this villain was described on the show. He was “Crabby Appleton—rotten to the core.”
The fact is that all of us share Crabby Appleton’s primary problem—apart from Christ, we’re all rotten to the core. The apostle Paul described us this way: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Rom. 3:10-11). None of us are capable of living up to God’s perfect standard of holiness. Because of our condition of being separated from a holy God, He sent His Son Jesus to give Himself to die on the cross for the punishment we deserve, and then rise again. Now we can be “justified freely by His grace” through faith in Him (v.24).
Jesus Christ has come to people “rotten to the core,” and makes us “a new creation” by faith in Him (2 Cor. 5:17). In His goodness, He has fixed our problem completely—all the way down to our core.
I know I’m a sinner and Christ is my need;
His death is my ransom, no merit I plead.
His work is sufficient, on Him I believe;
I have life eternal when Him I receive. —Anon.
We need more than a new start— we need a new heart.
03-01-2011, 02:23 PM
Win Or Lose
March 1, 2011
Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-8
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. —2 Timothy 4:7
During the 2009 college football season, University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy began every post-game interview by thanking God for the opportunity to play. When he was injured early in the national championship game, he was forced to watch from the sidelines as his team lost.
The apostle Paul experienced God’s deliverance many times, but he didn’t insist on things going his way. From prison in Rome he wrote to Timothy: “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Tim. 4:6). Some might say that Paul had failed to accomplish his goals and that his life was ending in defeat. But he saw it differently: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (v.7). He looked forward to an eternal crown (v.8).
As we walk with God, we can praise Him for His faithfulness—win or lose.
I can always count on God, my heavenly Father,
For He changes not; He always is the same.
Yesterday, today, forever, He is faithful,
And I know He loves me, praise His holy name! —Felten
In every change He faithful will remain. —Katharina von Schlegel
03-02-2011, 03:10 AM
March 2, 2011
Read: 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1
Therefore, . . . whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. —1 Corinthians 10:31
A major US newspaper has called Christopher Parkening “the leading guitar virtuoso of our day, combining profound musical insight with complete technical mastery of his instrument.” There was a time, however, when Parkening gave up playing the guitar professionally. At the height of his career as a classical guitarist, he retired at age 30, bought a ranch in Montana, and spent his days fly-fishing. But early retirement did not bring him the satisfaction he had hoped for.
Then during a visit to California, he was invited to a church where he heard a clear presentation of the gospel. Of this he wrote: “That night I lay awake, broken over my sins. . . . I had lived very selfishly and it had not made me happy. . . . It was then that I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life, to be my Lord and Savior. For the first time, I remember telling Him, ‘Whatever You want me to do with my life, Lord, I’ll do it.’”
One of Parkening’s favorite verses is 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, . . . whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” He has taken up the guitar again, but this time with the motivation to glorify God.
Each of us has been given gifts; and when we use them for God’s glory, they bring satisfaction and joy.
The gifts we offer to the Lord
Are by His standards measured;
Our sacrifice and lives of praise—
Such gifts are highly treasured. —Sper
We were created to give God the glory.
03-03-2011, 03:03 AM
Who And How
March 3, 2011
Read: Mark 8:27-33
You are the Christ. —Mark 8:29
Whenever I read the Gospels, I identify with the disciples. Like me, they seemed slow to catch on. Jesus kept saying things like “Don’t you understand it yet?” and “Are you still so dull?” (see Mark 7:18). Finally, however, Peter “got it,” at least one part of it. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ” (8:29).
Peter was right about the “who”—Jesus—but he was still wrong about the “how.” When Jesus predicted His death, Peter rebuked Him for it. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (v.33).
Peter was still thinking in human ways of establishing kingdoms. One ruler would overthrow another and set up a new government. He was expecting Jesus to do the same. But Christ’s kingdom was going to come in a new way—through service and the sacrifice of His life.
The method God uses today hasn’t changed. Whereas Satan’s voice tempts us to gain power, the voice of Jesus tells us that the meek will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). To gain citizens for God’s kingdom, we must follow the example of Jesus, who set aside selfish ambitions, served others, and called people to repent of their sin.
We say we love humanity,
But can we really claim
A readiness to sacrifice
For them in Jesus’ name? —Sper
A Christian is an ambassador who speaks for the King of kings.
03-04-2011, 01:21 PM
March 4, 2011
Read: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
I will come again and receive you to Myself. —John 14:3
At the beginning of March, my friend began a countdown. Marked on the calendar in her office were the 20 days left until the first day of spring. One morning when I saw her, she volunteered, “Only 12 more days!” A few days later, “Only 6!” Her enthusiasm started to rub off on me, and I began to keep track as well. “Just 2 more days, Jerrie!” “I know!” she beamed.
As believers, we have something to look forward to that is even more exciting than the anticipation of budding flowers and lots of sunshine after a long winter. God has made many promises in His Word, and each one has been or will be fulfilled. But the certainty that Christ will return is one of the greatest promises of all. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. . . . Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” and we’ll be with Him forever (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Although no one can know the exact day, we have God’s promise that Jesus will come back (Acts 1:7-11). As we celebrate the spring and coming Easter season, let’s encourage each other in anticipation of that day!
He is coming! Oh, the rapture
To behold His lovely face,
And to tell Him how I love Him,
Who has saved me by His grace. —Dimmock
Christ is coming—perhaps today!
03-05-2011, 02:51 AM
March 5, 2011
Read: Revelation 5:1-12
So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll. —Revelation 5:4
John, the great apostle and the one Jesus loved, was reduced to tears.
In a vision he received while imprisoned (Rev. 5:1-12) he found himself in God’s throne room as future events unfolded. In heaven, John saw God hold up a sealed scroll. He wept because as he observed the glories of God’s presence, he saw no one who could open the scroll—no one with the power to reveal God’s final revelation and to complete the concluding chapter of history’s drama.
As an apostle, John had observed the power of sin in the world. He had witnessed Jesus’ life and death on earth to conquer sin. He had seen Him ascend into heaven. But now he was fearful when he saw that no one was worthy to open the scroll and vanquish sin forever (v.4).
Imagine the drama of what happened next. An elder approached John and said, “Do not weep,” and pointed him toward Someone he knew: “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (v.5). John looked, and he saw Jesus—the only One with the power to take the scroll, open the seals, and complete the story. Soon John’s tears were dry, and millions of angels were proclaiming, “Worthy is the Lamb!” (v.12).
Are you crying? Behold, John’s friend—Jesus. He is worthy. Turn things over to Him.
Our Lord is worthy all our days
Of all our love and highest praise;
He died to take our sin and shame—
Oh, bless the Savior’s holy name! —Egner
The Lamb who died to save us
is the Shepherd who lives to lead us.
03-06-2011, 04:33 AM
March 6, 2011
Read: Psalm 19
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. —Psalm 19:1
In this age of new video technology, it might be hard to believe that some teachers still feel the best way to depict Bible stories is the low-tech flannelgraph board. I recall that my childhood Sunday school teachers used those flat boards covered with flannel, which enabled them to display cutouts of David, Daniel, Jonah, Jesus, and all the other characters. The flannelgraphs helped my teachers capture the essence of the Bible story in an artistic way.
Those old-school flannelgraphs aren’t the oldest graphic teaching devices, however. God has long had a kind of “flannelgraph” of His own, and it is called creation. God uses the marvel of creation to instruct us and to display His power.
In Psalm 19:1, David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” In creation, God has revealed Himself so clearly that Paul declared, “His invisible attributes are clearly seen.” Those who have the witness of creation are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). Why? On the flannelgraph of God’s creation, we see God’s order and design. We see His power and glory. This should lead us to worship. “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1).
With words of great power God formed the world—
By the strength of His voice heaven’s hosts were unfurled;
Now in His honor we worship His name
And in heartfelt devotion His glory proclaim. —Branon
Creation is the canvas on which God has painted His character.
03-07-2011, 04:47 AM
March 7, 2011
Read: Philippians 2:1-4
Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak. —James 1:19
I was fishing a local trout stream last summer, when my attention was fixed on a fish that was feeding nearby. I looked up and there on the bank I spied an acquaintance—nationally known fly-fishing guide and outfitter Dave Tucker. Immediately I became aware of my own performance, bungled the next cast, and lost the fish. So it is when we turn our attention away from the activity at hand and think about ourselves.
W. H. Auden has an engaging little poem about those who forget themselves in an activity—a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon making an incision, a clerk completing a bill of lading. He says that all “wear the same rapt expression, forgetting themselves in a function.” That phrase “forgetting themselves in a function” brings Philippians 2:3-4 to mind: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out . . . for the interests of others.”
When I’m listening to a friend, I need to remind myself to focus on him, not to begin wondering how I look, what he thinks of me, what I should say next. Let’s put others first by listening in rapt attention, concentrating on the one in front of us, forgetting ourselves.
When we hold our tongues and listen,
We communicate our care;
For an open ear speaks volumes
To a heart that’s in despair. —Sper
Listening may be the most loving thing you do today.
03-08-2011, 03:48 AM
March 8, 2011
Read: John 6:4-14
There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many? —John 6:9
Skeptical about the usefulness of a small lunch, Andrew said to Jesus, “What are [these five loaves and two fish] among so many?” (John 6:9). Yet the little lunch in the hands of Jesus turned out to be a huge blessing. So, before you think that you don’t have much to offer Jesus, consider this:
Edward Kimball, a Sunday school teacher in Boston, decided to visit a young man in his class to be sure he was a Christian. That day he led that man, Dwight L. Moody, to the Lord.
Moody, the Billy Graham of the 19th century, had a major impact on Wilbur Chapman. Chapman, a prominent evangelist, recruited Billy Sunday to join in his evangelistic campaigns. In turn, Sunday launched a national ministry that had great results in cities like Charlotte, North Carolina. An organization that started as a result of Sunday’s revival invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to Charlotte. In one of those meetings, Billy Graham received Christ as his Savior and later became the most prominent evangelist of our time.
When you think you don’t have much to offer, remember Sunday school teacher Edward Kimball, who spent a Saturday afternoon reaching out to someone in his class. God has a special way of using routine faithfulness in the “small things” to accomplish great things!
What may seem insignificant,
Mundane, routine, or small
Is often used by God to show
His power over all. —Sper
God uses small things to accomplish great things for His glory.
03-08-2011, 12:53 PM
Edward Kimball, a Sunday school teacher in Boston, decided to visit a young man in his class to be sure he was a Christian. That day he led that man, Dwight L. Moody, to the Lord.
Moody, the Billy Graham of the 19th century, had a major impact on Wilbur Chapman. Chapman, a prominent evangelist, recruited Billy Sunday to join in his evangelistic campaigns. In turn, Sunday launched a national ministry that had great results in cities like Charlotte, North Carolina. An organization that started as a result of Sunday’s revival invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to Charlotte. In one of those meetings, Billy Graham received Christ as his Savior and later became the most prominent evangelist of our time.
That's a really cool story.
BTW, thanks for continuing to do this Cory!
03-08-2011, 07:24 PM
That's a really cool story.
BTW, thanks for continuing to do this Cory!
I agree great story.
03-09-2011, 03:52 AM
Are We There Yet?
March 9, 2011
Read: Deuteronomy 8
The Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart. —Deuteronomy 8:2
If there is any such thing as a universal question, it may be this: Are we there yet? Generations of children have asked it. They have then grown into adults who have to answer the same question when their children ask.
Whenever I read the books of Moses, I wonder how many times he heard that question from the Israelites. Before rescuing them from slavery and leading them out of Egypt, Moses told them that the Lord would lead them to “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8). He did, but first they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. This was no ordinary wandering, however. They were not lost; they were wandering for a purpose. After 400 years of slavery, the children of Israel needed to have their hearts, souls, and minds reoriented toward God. This was accomplished in the wilderness (Deut. 8:2,15-18), but not before an entire generation died because of their disobedience (Num. 32:13).
In life, it sometimes seems as if we are wandering in circles. We feel lost. We want to ask God, “Are we there yet? How much longer?” At such times, it helps to remember that the journey, not just the destination, is important to God. He uses it to humble us, test us, and show us what is in our hearts.
All God’s testings have a purpose—
Someday you will see the light;
All He asks is that you trust Him,
Walk by faith and not by sight. —Zoller
It’s the journey, not just the destination, that’s important.
03-10-2011, 04:45 AM
March 10, 2011
Read: Psalm 102:1-17
He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, and shall not despise their prayer. —Psalm 102:17
I read about a 5-minute rule that a mother had for her children. They had to be ready for school and gather together 5 minutes before it was time to leave each day.
They would gather around Mom, and she would pray for each one by name, asking for the Lord’s blessing on their day. Then she’d give them a kiss and off they’d run. Even neighborhood kids would be included in the prayer circle if they happened to stop by. One of the children said many years later that she learned from this experience how crucial prayer is to her day.
The writer of Psalm 102 knew the importance of prayer. This psalm is labeled, “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the Lord.” He cried out, “Hear my prayer, O Lord . . . ; in the day that I call, answer me speedily” (vv.1-2). God looks down “from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven [He views] the earth” (v.19).
God cares for you and wants to hear from you. Whether you follow the 5-minute rule asking for blessings on the day, or need to spend more time crying out to Him in deep distress, talk to the Lord each day. Your example may have a big impact on your family or someone close to you.
The issue isn’t how much time
We spend with God in prayer,
But seeking Him throughout each day
And knowing that He’s there. —Sper
Prayer is an acknowledgment of our need for God.
03-11-2011, 01:37 AM
March 11, 2011
Read: Psalm 103:1-10
Forget not all His benefits. —Psalm 103:2
Joyful shouts filtered into our house from outside and I wanted to know what was so wonderful out there. I peeked through the curtains and watched two young boys splashing in a thick stream of water that gushed from a fire hydrant.
The overflow reminded me of how God pours out blessings on His children, and how important it is to recognize that “the Lord . . . daily loads us with benefits” (Ps. 68:19).
Although I know He has furnished countless good things for me, when the car blows a gasket, when the flu infects my family, and when relationships threaten to unravel, dissatisfaction threatens my view of God’s blessings—they seem more like infrequent drips from a faucet rather than a flood of water from a hydrant!
Maybe that’s why in Psalm 103 David reminds us to “forget not all His benefits” (v.2). And then, to help us, he lists a torrent of blessings for believers. He reminds us that God forgives all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, redeems our lives from destruction, crowns us with lovingkindness, and satisfies our mouths with good things (vv.3-5).
Today, let’s take time to acknowledge God’s abundance instead of overlooking the overflow of His blessings.
We’re loaded with benefits daily,
Sent down from the Father above;
His mercies and blessings abounding
Are gifts of His marvelous love. —Anon.
Adding up your blessings will multiply your joy.
03-12-2011, 04:38 AM
March 12, 2011 — by David C. McCasland
Read: Matthew 5:1-12
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. —Matthew 5:8
The Gran Telescopio Canarias, one of the world’s most powerful telescopes, sits atop an extinct volcano on La Palma, Canary Islands. Inaugurated in July 2009 by King Carlos of Spain, it offers astronomers an unusually clear view of the heavens. Located at 7,870 feet, the telescope is above the cloud cover, where the prevailing winds are dry and turbulence-free. Here, near the equator, scientists can study all of the Northern Celestial Hemisphere and part of the Southern.
Jesus chose a mountainside to teach His followers about the characteristics of a life yielded to God. There He taught them that attitude, not altitude, was the key to having a clear view of the Father.
Tucked into the passage known as the Beatitudes, Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). This is not just for the few who try to achieve it, but for all who will humbly receive it. To have a heart that is clean in God’s eyes, we need to accept the Father’s pardon through Christ His Son. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse [purify] us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
A mountaintop is a great place to see the stars, but to clearly see God requires a change of heart.
Since by faith I have clear vision,
Your blest Word is rich and new;
Men with eyes by sin distorted
Cannot all its treasures view. —Bosch
To get a clear view of God, focus on Jesus Christ.
03-13-2011, 05:39 AM
March 13, 2011
Read: 1 Kings 19:1-8
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. —Psalm 19:7
Many people like both the sweetness and the energy they get from chocolate. Yet British auto technicians have found a surprising use for this sweet food. Scientists at the University of Warwick have built a racecar that runs on vegetable oils and chocolate. The fuel provides energy so that the car can reach top speeds of 135 mph.
The Bible also records a surprising source of energy from a food. When Elijah had been used by God on Mt. Carmel to call fire down from heaven, this spiritual high was followed by persecution and melancholy. In response to Elijah’s depression, God sent an angel to provide food, drink, and rest for the weary prophet. The sustaining power of that food from heaven was remarkable: “So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God” (1 Kings 19:8).
Just as we need food to sustain our physical lives, we also need nourishing food for our spiritual lives. God’s Word is “sweeter . . . than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10) and feeds our souls. It makes “wise the simple” (v.7) and provides both nourishment and energy for life’s long journey. Take time to feed on it.
God’s Word provides the nourishment
That every Christian needs to grow,
Supplying strength from day to day
By teaching what we need to know. —Sper
God feeds us through His Word.
03-14-2011, 04:45 AM
A Dream Of Answers Forgotten
March 14, 2011
Read: Job 42:1-6
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. —Job 42:5
A friend quit two jobs to become a full-time caregiver when his adult son was seriously hurt in a car accident. That same year his wife of over 30 years contracted a terminal illness and died.
Since then, he says he has no answers when his son asks “why” this happened to them. But he told me of a reassuring dream he had along the way. He dreamed that he was in a place that was awash with sunlight. There were crowds of people around him, and a man was answering all of his “why” questions. Each answer made so much sense that he clearly understood why he was not to know the answers now. Then he was with his son in the dream. But when he tried to help him with his questions, he couldn’t remember the answers. But even that seemed okay. And then he woke up.
My friend’s experience reminds me of another friend of God who suffered with unanswered questions (Job 7:20-21). Only when God finally broke His silence and gave Job a vision of Himself in the wonder of creation did Job find something that was better than answers (42:1-6). Only then did Job find peace in knowing that our God has good and even wonderful reasons to trust Him.
What God is doing you may not know now,
But someday you’ll understand why;
Questions that taunt you and trouble your mind
Will one day have heaven’s reply. —Hess
What’s better than answers to our why questions?
Trusting a good God who has His reasons.
03-15-2011, 04:17 AM
A Matter Of Perspective
March 15, 2011
Read: Revelation 3:14-22
[You] do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. —Revelation 3:17
One of my favorite stories is about the Texas rancher who was doing agricultural consulting for a farmer in Germany. He asked the German farmer about the size of his property, to which he replied, “About a mile square.” When the German asked the Texan about the size of his ranch, the rancher explained that if he got in his pick-up truck at dawn and drove until sunset he would still be on his ranch. Not to be outdone, the farmer replied, “I used to have an old truck like that!”
All joking aside, it’s important to have the right perspective. Unfortunately, the Christians in Laodicea had the wrong perspective about wealth (Rev. 3:14-22). By all appearances, they were rich. They had plenty of earthly goods and thought they needed nothing—not even Jesus. But Jesus had a different perspective. In spite of their material prosperity, He saw that they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (v.17). So He invited them to become truly rich by seeking what only He could provide: purity, character, righteousness, and wisdom.
Let’s not make the Laodicean mistake. Instead, let’s keep our perspective right about what it means to be rich. True wealth is not measured by what you have but by who you are in Christ.
In Christ we’re rich beyond belief
With wealth the world cannot see;
We have new strength and character,
New righteousness and purity. —Sper
The poorest person is he whose only wealth is money.
03-16-2011, 04:16 AM
March 16, 2011
Read: Daniel 9:20-27
While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel . . . reached me. —Daniel 9:21
Daniel poured out his heart to God (Dan. 9:2). He had read Jeremiah and rediscovered God’s promise that Israel’s captivity in Babylon would last 70 years. So, in an effort to represent his people before God, Daniel fasted and prayed. He pleaded with God not to delay in rescuing His people (v.19).
When we pray, there are things we can know and other things we cannot. For instance, we have the assurance that God will hear our prayer if we know Him as our heavenly Father through faith in Jesus, and we know that His answer will come according to His will. But we don’t know when the answer will come or what it will be.
For Daniel, the answer to his prayer came in miraculous fashion, and it came immediately. While he was praying, the angel Gabriel arrived to provide the answer. But the nature of the answer was as surprising as the quick reply. While Daniel asked God about “70 years,” the answer was about a prophetic “70 weeks of years.” Daniel asked God for an answer about the here and now, but God’s answer had to do with events thousands of years into the future.
Focused as we are with our immediate situation, we may be shocked by God’s answer. Yet we can know that the answer will be for His glory.
I know not by what methods rare,
But this I know—God answers prayer;
I leave my prayers with Him alone,
Whose will is wiser than my own. —Hickok
God’s answers to our prayers may exceed our expectations.
03-17-2011, 04:28 AM
Becoming A Go-To Person
March 17, 2011
Read: Luke 7:1-10
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. —Luke 7:3
“Would you pray for my sister?” the burly worker asked awkwardly. I eyed him suspiciously.
Months earlier, muggy August heat intensified emotions in the pre-strike atmosphere of the assembly plant where I was working that summer. Managers drove production at a frenzied pace and union members resisted. During breaks, we were coached by union officials on slowing down our output. My faith and idealism got me in the doghouse because I didn’t think God would accept anything but my best effort. I naively tried to explain.
My co-workers’ response was harassment, and this burly worker asking for prayer had been the ringleader. An undesirable task? I got the assignment. Off-color jokes had me as the star.
So now I greeted this prayer request with suspicion. “Why me?” His answer jarred me: “Because she’s got cancer,” he said gruffly, “and I need someone God will hear.” The bitter rancor between us eased as I prayed for his sister.
Like the centurion in Luke 7, people in the storms of life don’t waste time or mince words. They go directly to the people whose faith they’ve tagged as real. We need to be those people. Do our lives mark us as a go-to person in touch with God?
We give to others what they need
No greater help and care
Than when we intercede for them
And bear them up in prayer. —D. De Haan
Even the hardest of souls might ask for help
when someone they love is at risk.
03-18-2011, 04:42 AM
Keep Me From Wrath
March 18, 2011
Read: Psalm 37:8-11
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath. —Psalm 37:8
I have a friend whose note cards are imprinted with a picture of Rodin’s The Thinker, the famous sculpture depicting a man in sober reflection. Below the picture is this inscription: “Life is not fair.”
Indeed, it is not. And any theory that insists that this life is fair is illusory and deceptive.
Despite the overwhelming unfairness of life, however, David in Psalm 37 prays that he will not retaliate but will instead rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him to bring justice to the earth in due time (v.7). “For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth” (v.9).
Our wrath tends to be vindictive and punitive. God’s wrath is untainted by self-interest and tempered by mercy. His wrath can even be His relentless love that brings our antagonists to repentance and faith. We must not then avenge ourselves, “for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord . . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19,21).
This must begin in the heart, the wellspring from which the issues of our lives flow. May we cease from anger, forsake wrath, and wait patiently for the Lord.
Lord, help me not retaliate
When someone wants to pick a fight;
Instead, give me the strength and faith
To show Your love and do what’s right. —Sper
Revenge restrained is a victory gained.
03-19-2011, 05:47 AM
March 19, 2011 — by Bill Crowder
Read: Ephesians 6:13-21
Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. —Ephesians 6:13
When I played American football as a kid, one thing that took some getting used to was all the equipment we had to wear. Running effectively in a helmet, shoulder pads, and a variety of other protective items can feel awkward and clumsy at first. But over time the protective gear becomes like a familiar friend that provides welcome protection against serious injury. When a football player suits up, he knows that his equipment is designed to protect him in battle against a dangerous opponent.
As followers of Christ, we also face a dangerous foe—a spiritual enemy who seeks our downfall and destruction. Fortunately, our Lord has provided us with protection, and He challenges us to suit up for spiritual battle.
In Ephesians 6:13, we read, “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Paul then describes our armor—helmet, breastplate, shield, sword, belt, and shoes. These pieces of spiritual equipment are effective only if we put them on and use them—even if they might feel uncomfortable at first. Faithfulness in the Word (v.17), in prayer (v.18), and in witness (vv.19-20) are critical to making our armor feel like a part of us. So suit up! The battle is on!
Be not weary, Christian warrior,
Buckle on thine armor tight;
Be ye strong and face the battle
In the power of His might. —Iler
God’s armor is tailor-made for you, but you must put it on.
03-20-2011, 07:00 AM
March 20, 2011
Read: Joshua 4
When your children ask . . . “What are these stones?” then you shall let [them] know, saying, “Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land.” —Joshua 4:21-22
Not long ago, our friends had a gathering at their house and invited a group of people who were all music lovers. Kevin and Ilse, who are both gifted musicians, requested that each person or couple bring a rock for a fire pit that was often the site for their evening musical jams. But they didn’t want just plain ol’ rocks. They asked that each one be marked with a name or date or event that indicated how or when everyone had become friends.
God felt that the Israelites needed a reminder of an amazing event in their lives. Although the Jordan River had been at flood stage, the Israelites had been able to cross over on dry ground because God had stopped the water from flowing (Josh. 3:13-17). Something similar had happened years before in an escape from Egypt (see Ex. 14:21-31). On this occasion, however, God instructed His people to build a memorial of stones so that in the future when children would ask about the stones, parents could remind them of the mighty hand of God (Josh. 4:23-24).
As God continually cared for the Israelites, He continues to provide for us today. What “stones of remembrance” will you use to remind your children, grandchildren—and even yourself—of the evidence of God’s might?
God’s faithfulness we’ve known throughout the years,
His oneness with us in our joys and tears;
So many times the Lord has helped us through,
Has answered prayer and given strength anew. —F. Hess
Remembering God’s goodness is a good cure for doubt.
03-21-2011, 03:59 AM
March 21, 2011
Read: Proverbs 16:20-30
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. —Proverbs 16:24
During a time of economic crisis and depressing news, two students at Purdue University decided to lift the spirits of people on campus with some encouraging words. For two hours every Wednesday afternoon, Cameron Brown and Brett Westcott stood along a busy walkway holding a large “Free Compliments” sign and saying nice things to everyone who passed by. “I like your red coat.” “Cool snow boots.” “Very nice smile.” Some students said they deliberately walked past “the compliment guys” every Wednesday just to hear a kind word.
I was struck by these two young men who looked at people with the goal of commending them, rather than finding fault or being critical. Is that how I, as a follower of Christ, view others each day?
Instead of being like the person who is focused on evil and whose speech is “like a burning fire” (Prov. 16:27), we can take a different approach, knowing that what we say begins deep inside us. “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (vv.23-24).
Kind words may be free, but they give a priceless lift of spirit. Why not encourage someone today?
The power in words can build up or tear down—
Create a big smile or produce a sad frown;
So in all your contacts with people each day,
Be sure to encourage in all that you say. —Fitzhugh
A gentle word of compliment falls lightly
but it carries great weight.
03-22-2011, 03:49 AM
How To Bloom
March 22, 2011
Read: 1 Peter 1:1-9
Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings. —1 Peter 4:13
My family and I live in an apartment, so our “flower garden” consists of what we can grow in indoor pots. For a long time our plants would not flower despite watering and fertilizing. Then we discovered that the soil had to be raked and turned over if the plants were to bloom. Now our potted plants are a pure joy to look at with their healthy leaves and blooming flowers.
Sometimes we need a little raking and turning in our own lives to make us bloom. Writing to the harassed believers in his day, Peter said, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Like the soil in our potted plants, these Christians were having their lives “turned over.” God’s purpose in doing that was to allow their faith to result in praise and glory to Him at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1:7).
God wants to loosen the things that can choke our lives and that prevent us from radiating joy. To do this, He sometimes has to allow pain and trouble—trials that help stir up the soil of our lives. If this is what you are experiencing today, rejoice. Surrender to His touch and acquire a joy and fruitfulness you never imagined possible.
Turning the soil and pulling the weeds
Helps garden flowers to grow,
And if we’re to see growth in our lives
Trials and testings we’ll know. —Sper
Those who bless God in their trials
will be blessed by God through their trials.
03-23-2011, 03:50 AM
March 23, 2011
Read: 1 Chronicles 16:7-10,23-36
Oh, give thanks to the Lord! —1 Chronicles 16:8
When I visited Mexico, I wished I knew how to speak Spanish. I could say gracias (thank you), muy bien (very good), and hola (hello). But that was about it. I grew tired of just saying gracias to everyone who talked with me or did something for me.
But we should never grow tired of giving words of thanks to God. David knew the importance of saying thanks. After he became king over Israel and had a tent constructed to house the ark of the covenant (where God’s presence dwelt), he appointed some of the Levites “to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord” (1 Chron. 16:4). Many people remained there to offer sacrifices and give thanks to God daily (vv.37-38).
David also committed to Asaph and his associates a song of thanks (1 Chron. 16:8-36). His psalm gave thanks for what the Lord had done: “His deeds among the peoples” (v.8), “His wondrous works” (v.9), “His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth” (v.12), and His “salvation” (v.35). David’s song also gave praise for who the Lord was: good, merciful, and holy (vv.34-35).
Like David, we should never grow tired of saying gracias to God for who He is and for all He’s done for us. Take time today to offer your sacrifice of praise to Him.
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,
To His feet thy tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises sing. —Lyte
The heart filled with praise brings pleasure to God.
03-24-2011, 03:21 AM
March 24, 2011
Read: Luke 12:22-31
Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. —Luke 12:32
Of His words recorded in the Bible, Jesus has more to say on money than any other topic. Luke 12 offers a good summary of His attitude. He does not condemn possessions, but He warns against putting faith in money to secure the future. Money fails to solve life’s biggest problems.
Although Jesus speaks to many aspects about money, He seems to concentrate on the question: What is money doing to you? Money can dominate a person’s life, diverting attention away from God. Jesus challenges us to break free of money’s power—even if it means giving it all away.
Jesus urges His listeners to seek treasure in the kingdom of God, for such treasure can benefit them in this life and the next one too. “Do not worry,” He says (v.22), for God is the one who provides for our needs. And then to emphasize His point, He brings up King Solomon, the richest man in the Old Testament. Jesus said that a common wildflower is clothed more gloriously by God than a royal king. So do not have an anxious mind (vv.27-29), “but seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (v.31).
Better to trust in the God who lavishes care on the whole earth than to spend our lives worrying about money and possessions.
For Further Study
Learn more about this subject by reading
Jesus’ Parables About Money
The real measure of our wealth is what will be ours in eternity.
03-25-2011, 03:39 AM
March 25, 2011
Read: John 21:3-17
As soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. —John 21:9
It’s my duty to grill the burgers, brats, steaks, or whatever else my wife has on the menu. And while I’m not the greatest chef when it comes to outdoor cooking, I love the unforgettable aroma of grilling over a charcoal fire. So the mention of a “fire of coals” in John 21:9 catches my attention. And I find myself wondering why John would include this detail in the story about Jesus calling a failing Peter back to serve and follow Him.
In verses 1-3, it’s apparent that Peter had reopened his fishing business. Just a few days before, Peter was warming his hands over a charcoal fire when he denied Jesus to save his own skin (John 18:17-18 ESV). So why not go back to fishing?
While Peter and his cohorts were casting nets, Jesus built a fire on the beach. Coincidence? I doubt it! And as Peter approached Jesus, I wonder if the pungent aroma of the burning charcoal brought back memories of that other fire where he had failed Christ. Yet Jesus in His mercy took the initiative to call Peter back into His service.
Think of it: Jesus is willing to forgive our failures and call us into His service. After all, if only perfect people qualified to serve Him, He wouldn’t have anyone to choose from!
Although we are imperfect,
The Lord can use us still,
If we confess our sins to Him
And seek to do His will. —Sper
Being imperfect doesn’t disqualify us from serving God;
it just emphasizes our dependence on His mercy.
03-26-2011, 03:43 AM
March 26, 2011
Read: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17
We are not, as so many, peddling the Word of God. —2 Corinthians 2:17
On one of Christopher Columbus’ voyages, he found that his crew’s food supply was almost depleted. Anchored off the island of Jamaica, he was grateful to be given food by the islanders. But as time went on, the gifts of food decreased so that the crew began to starve.
Columbus knew from an astronomy book that a lunar eclipse would soon occur. He called the native chiefs together and told them God was angry about their selfishness and would blot out the moon. At first the islanders scoffed. But when they watched the night’s silver disc slowly become dark, they became terrified and quickly brought food. Columbus said that if he prayed, the moon would be restored. Though we may empathize with his circumstances, Columbus’ “message from God” was dishonest and self-serving.
Aware of religious charlatans who “peddled” God’s Word for their own desires, the apostle Paul wrote, “We are not, as so many, peddling the Word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 2:17).
At all times we must be on guard not to misrepresent God’s message to acquire what we want from others. With a heart yielded to God, we must honestly share spiritual truths that will benefit those who hear.
Don’t compromise the Word of God
Or twist what He has said;
For blessing comes from faithfully
Proclaiming truth instead. —Sper
The purpose of sharing God’s truth is to profit others,
not to prosper ourselves.
03-27-2011, 04:09 AM
Theology Is For Everyone
March 27, 2011
Read: Jeremiah 23:25-32
I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. —Jeremiah 9:24
Some say that theology is only for “professionals.” But the situation in the days of the prophet Jeremiah illustrates why it’s important for everyone to know what God says about Himself.
The religious experts in Jeremiah’s day were misrepresenting God by prophesying “the delusions of their own minds” (Jer. 23:26 NIV) and leading people astray with their lies (v.32). Due to their dishonesty, the people did not know the true nature of God.
Today there are people who portray God as angry, vengeful, and eager to punish people for every minor offense. God, however, describes Himself as “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6). Others show the world a picture of a loving God who is too kind to punish wrongdoing. But God describes Himself as one who exercises judgment and righteousness (Jer. 9:24). He is both a just Judge and a loving Father. If we emphasize one over the other, we paint a false picture of God.
The most important thing we can know about God and proclaim to the world is that God does not want to punish people; He wants them to repent so that He can forgive (2*Peter 3:9). But to be truly loving, He must also be absolutely just.
Though love for God should always move
My heart to do what’s good and right,
It’s wise to fear His judgments true
And stand in awe of His great might. —D. De Haan
Everyone must face God as Savior or as Judge.
03-28-2011, 04:33 AM
March 28, 2011
Read: Philippians 2:4-11
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. —Philippians 2:4
At the 2009 Kansas high school state track championship, an unusual thing happened. The team that won the girls 3,200-meter relay was disqualified. But what happened next was even more unusual. The team that was awarded the state championship by default turned right around and gave their medals to the team that had been disqualified.
The first school, St. Mary’s Colgan, lost first place because judges ruled that a runner had stepped out of her lane as she handed off the baton. That meant the second team, Maranatha Academy, moved up to first. After receiving their medals, the girls from Maranatha saw the downtrodden looks on the faces of the St. Mary’s girls, so they gave them their individual medals.
Why did they do this? As Maranatha’s coach Bernie Zarda put it: “Our theme for the year was to run not for our glory, but for God’s glory.” As a result of the girls’ action, their story was told throughout Kansas, and God’s name was lifted up.
When we set aside our own interests and accomplishments to recognize that it’s better to care for the interests of others (Phil. 2:4), we see God’s name glorified. Acting with grace and kindness toward others is one of the best ways to point people to God.
Love is not blind but looks
Abroad through others’ eyes,
And asks not, “Must I give?”
But, “May I sacrifice?” —Ziegler
When we love God, we will serve people.
03-29-2011, 03:29 AM
Talk Low, Talk Slow
March 29, 2011
Read: Judges 7:24–8:3
A soft answer turns away wrath. —Proverbs 15:1
John Wayne, famous American actor and film icon, once said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.” His advice is hard for me to follow since I’m a fast talker and I don’t always speak quietly or limit my words. However, this idea of controlling our speech can be a useful tool when dealing with anger. The Bible says we are supposed to be “slow to speak” (James 1:19), and that “a soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1).
Gideon gave a soft answer during a verbal scuffle with some fellow Israelites (Judg. 8). Just after his army defeated the Midianites, a group of his countrymen criticized him sharply (v.1). They were miffed because they missed out on the main part of the battle. Gideon did not fling back a rough response. Instead, he reminded them that they had captured and killed the Midianite princes. He also honored the men by asking, “What was I able to do in comparison with you?” Finally, “their anger toward him subsided when he said that” (v.3).
With the Lord’s help, we can defuse heated situations by reining in our words. Responding gently and carefully to angry people can promote unity, for God’s glory.
Lord, set a guard upon my lips,
My tongue control today;
Help me evaluate each thought
And watch each word I say. —Hess
Bite your tongue before your tongue bites others.
03-30-2011, 02:12 AM
Serve Him Today
March 30, 2011
Read: 1 Samuel 12:19-25
You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. —1 Samuel 12:20
Most of us have wanted something so badly that even though we knew it was wrong, we plunged after it anyway. Later we have felt sorrow for our spiritual stubbornness and stupidity. In the aftermath of willfully disobeying God, we may become angry with ourselves, numbed by regret, or resigned to the consequences of our foolish mistake. But there is another choice.
When the people of Israel insisted on having a king despite the warnings of Samuel the prophet (1 Sam. 8:4-9), God allowed them to have their way. But when they realized the tragic results of their choice, they asked for Samuel’s help and prayers (12:19). Samuel told the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart” (12:20).
We can’t undo yesterday, but we can act today to influence tomorrow. Samuel promised to pray for them and teach them the right way. He urged them, “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you” (v.24).
God invites us to serve Him today, humbly acknowledging His forgiveness and His faithfulness.
Sins confessed you must forget;
Look not back to yesterday—
Full of failure and regret;
Look ahead and seek God’s way. —D. De Haan
Don’t let yesterday’s failures bankrupt tomorrow’s efforts.
03-31-2011, 03:04 AM
March 31, 2011
Read: John 14:1-10
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” —John 14:6
On a teaching trip outside the US, my wife and I were denied entry into our country of destination because of visa problems. Although we were under the assumption our visas had been correctly issued by the country we planned to visit, they were deemed invalid. Despite the efforts of several government officials, nothing could be done. We weren’t allowed in. We were placed on the next flight back to the States. No amount of intervention could change the fact that we did not have the proper validation for entrance.
That experience with my visa was inconvenient, but it can’t begin to compare with the ultimate entry rejection. I’m speaking of those who will stand before God without valid entry into heaven. What if they were to present the record of their religious efforts and good deeds? That would not be enough. What if they were to call character references? That wouldn’t work. Only one thing can give anyone entry into heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Christ alone, through His death and resurrection, paid the price for our sins. And only He can give us valid entry into the presence of the Father. Have you put your faith in Jesus? Make sure you have a valid entry into heaven.
There aren’t many ways into heaven;
The Bible says there’s only one;
Good works won’t gain anyone entrance;
It’s only through faith in God’s Son. —Sper
Only through Christ can we enter the Father’s presence.
04-01-2011, 03:49 AM
April 1, 2011
Read: Hebrews 5:12–6:2
By this time you ought to be teachers. —Hebrews 5:12
The eaglets were hungry, and Mom and Dad seemed to be ignoring them. The oldest of the three decided to solve his hunger problem by gnawing on a twig. Apparently it wasn’t too tasty, because he soon abandoned it.
What intrigued me about this little drama, which was being broadcast by webcam from Norfolk Botanical Garden, was that a big fish lay just behind the eaglets. But they had not yet learned to feed themselves. They still relied on their parents to tear their food in tiny pieces and feed it to them. Within a few weeks, however, the parents will teach the eaglets how to feed themselves—one of their first survival lessons. If the eaglets don’t learn this skill, they will never be able to survive on their own.
The author of Hebrews spoke of a similar problem in the spiritual realm. Certain people in the church were not growing in spiritual maturity. They had not learned to distinguish between good and bad (Heb. 5:14). Like the eaglet, they hadn’t learned the difference between a twig and a fish. They still needed to be fed by someone else when they should have been feeding not only themselves but others as well (v.12).
While receiving spiritual food from preachers and teachers is good, spiritual growth and survival also depend on knowing how to feed ourselves.
You’ve given us Your Spirit, Lord,
To help us grow, mature, and learn,
To teach us from Your written Word,
So truth from error we’ll discern. —Sper
Spiritual growth requires the solid food of God’s Word.
04-01-2011, 04:28 AM
Feel free to start one up, guys!
In reading your thing,Philippians 4:13 came to mind"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"
04-02-2011, 04:15 AM
Known For Compassion
April 2, 2011
Read: Acts 11:19-26
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. —Acts 11:24
During Major Gen. Mark Graham’s 2 years as commander of Fort Carson, Colorado, he became known and loved for the way he treated others. One US Army colleague said: “I have never come across another general officer who was so compassionate and so concerned about the well-being of soldiers and their families.” After losing one son to suicide and another who was killed in action, Mark and his wife, Carol, dedicated themselves to helping soldiers and their families cope with service-related stress, depression, and loss.
In the book of Acts, a follower of Christ was well known for his care and concern toward others. His name was Joseph, but in the early church, the apostles called him Barnabas—“son of encouragement.” It was Barnabas who vouched for the newly converted Saul when others doubted the sincerity of his faith (Acts 9:26-27). Later, Barnabas brought Saul from Tarsus to teach the believers in Antioch (11:25-26). And it was Barnabas who wanted to give John Mark a second chance after his failure on a previous missionary journey (15:36-38).
Compassion is an inner feeling resulting in outward action. It should be our daily uniform of service (Col. 3:12). By God’s grace, may we be known for it.
Lord, help us be compassionate
To people in their grief;
Then tell them of the love of Christ,
Who’ll bring their souls relief. —Sper
True compassion is love in action.
04-03-2011, 04:22 AM
Time For A Checkup
April 3, 2011
Read: 1 Corinthians 11:27-29
Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. —1 Corinthians 11:28
Every year I have a physical—that periodic visit to the doctor’s office where I’m poked and prodded, screened and studied. It is something that can be easy to dread, and even to fear. We aren’t sure what the tests will show or what the doctors will say. Still, we know that we need this evaluation to understand our physical well-being and what is needed as we move forward.
The same is true spiritually in the life of the Christ-follower. We need to pause from time to time and reflect on the condition of our hearts and lives.
One place for an important self-study is at the Lord’s Table. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, some of whom were eating in an unworthy manner: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). In the remembrance of Christ’s death for us, there can be a sobering clarity of thought and understanding, for as we consider the price Jesus paid for us, it is the best time to consider the condition of our heart and our relationships. Then, with honest understanding of our spiritual well-being, we can turn to Him for the grace we need to move forward in His name.
Is it time for your checkup?
Search me, O God, my heart discern;
Try me, my inmost thoughts to learn.
Help me to keep from sin, I pray,
Guarding my mind throughout this day. —Anon.
Self-examination is one test from which no Christian is excused.
04-04-2011, 04:11 AM
An Attached Fuel Hose
April 4, 2011
Read: 2 Timothy 2:1-7
No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life. —2 Timothy 2:4
Felipe Massa of Brazil should have won the Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore in September 2008. But as he drove off from a refueling stop while in the lead, the fuel hose was still attached. By the time his team removed the hose, he had lost so much time that he finished 13th.
The apostle Paul warned Timothy of another kind of attachment that would cause him defeat—“the affairs of this life” (2 Tim. 2:4). He urged Timothy not to let anything slow him down or distract him from the cause of his Lord and Master.
There are many attractive things in our world that are so easy to get entangled with—hobbies, sports, TV, computer games. These may start off as “refueling” activities, but later they can take up so much of our time and thought that they interfere with the purpose for which God created us: to share the good news of Christ, serve Him with our gifts, and bring glory to Him.
Paul told Timothy why he ought not be entangled with this world’s affairs: So that he could “please Him” (v.4). If your desire is to please the Lord Jesus, you will want to stay untangled from the world. As John reminds us, “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
For Further Study
If you have questions about your life’s purpose in this
world, read online Why In The World Am I Here?
Although we live in this world,
we must declare our allegiance to heaven.
04-05-2011, 03:47 AM
The Last Jellybean
April 5, 2011
Read: Psalm 34:1-10
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good . . . . Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. —Psalm 34:8,10
One afternoon Angela gave her young daughter four jellybeans and let her know that was all the candy she was going to receive.
After practically inhaling the first three candies, Eliana lingered over the final one. She sucked on it, took it out of her mouth, bit into it, sucked on it some more, then gnawed at the outer shell. Knowing that this was her last jellybean, she took a full 45 minutes to ingest the treat completely.
Angela observed her little girl with amusement. It occurred to her that she was watching Eliana learn the value of savoring—enjoying taste and texture and learning to draw out every possible bit of flavor from the pleasurable experience.
When we read, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), we can be sure that God wants us to “savor” His presence. He allows us to gain intimate and satisfying knowledge of Him. And when we meditate on His Word, we will draw out a deeper understanding of who He is (Ezek. 3:1-3). As we taste His goodness and love, He will reveal the distinctive flavor of His creativity, sovereignty, holiness, and faithfulness.
Our Father must look on with enjoyment as we learn how to enjoy and savor Him.
Oh, taste the goodness of the Lord
And savor all that He has done;
Draw close and give your praise to Him—
The holy, sovereign, faithful One. —Sper
Our greatest privilege is to enjoy God’s presence.
04-06-2011, 04:12 AM
April 6, 2011
Read: 1 Corinthians 3:1-15
When one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? —1 Corinthians 3:4
Superstars abound in today’s culture. Great soccer players can create such excitement that fans have been known to riot in the bleachers. Popular musicians have fans who stand with adoration throughout entire concerts. And Hollywood celebrities hire bodyguards to protect themselves from adoring stalkers.
The first-century Corinthian believers had become divided over their own “spiritual superstars.” Paul viewed such favoritism as a reflection of the sinful nature in a believer’s unyielded heart. “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” he asked (1 Cor. 3:4).
The apostle’s teaching on how we view Christian leaders puts the topic in a biblical perspective that provides mutual appreciation for those who minister: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (v.6). Each person did his part: Paul had planted spiritual seed through evangelism, and Apollos had watered it with his eloquent Bible teaching. But it was God alone who made the seed of spiritual life grow. He alone is the “superstar.”
We should be careful not to put any Christian leader on a pedestal. Instead, let’s appreciate how God is using a variety of spiritual leaders for His honor and His glory.
Lord, give us wisdom. We know it’s good to follow the
example of our godly leaders, but help us not
to think so highly of them that we worship them
instead of You. Amen.
Each person has his place in God’s service,
and only God deserves the glory.
04-06-2011, 01:26 PM
April 6, 2011
Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-15
Superstars abound in today’s culture. Great soccer players can create such excitement that fans have been known to riot in the bleachers. Popular musicians have fans who stand with adoration throughout entire concerts. And Hollywood celebrities hire bodyguards to protect themselves from adoring stalkers.
The first-century Corinthian believers had become divided over their own “spiritual superstars.” Paul viewed such favoritism as a reflection of the sinful nature in a believer’s unyielded heart. “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” he asked (1 Cor. 3:4 (http://biblia.com/bible/nkjv/1%20Cor.%203.4)).
The apostle’s teaching on how we view Christian leaders puts the topic in a biblical perspective that provides mutual appreciation for those who minister: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (v.6). Each person did his part: Paul had planted spiritual seed through evangelism, and Apollos had watered it with his eloquent Bible teaching. But it was God alone who made the seed of spiritual life grow. He alone is the “superstar.”
We should be careful not to put any Christian leader on a pedestal. Instead, let’s appreciate how God is using a variety of spiritual leaders for His honor and His glory.
Lord, give us wisdom. We know it’s good to follow the
example of our godly leaders, but help us not
to think so highly of them that we worship them
instead of You. Amen.
Each person has his place in God’s service,
and only God deserves the glory.
04-07-2011, 04:28 AM
School Of Hard Knocks
April 7, 2011
Read: Hebrews 12:3-11
No chastening seems to be joyful for the present . . . ; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. —Hebrews 12:11
Of all my childhood memories, one stands out above the others. While I have no idea what my teacher said, I clearly remember telling her to “shut up.” She sent me home, so I got up and left my kindergarten class to walk the half-block home. Walking down the sidewalk, I saw my mother weeding in the garden behind our house. I was now faced with a strategic decision—continue on my way and tell my mother why I was home early from school, or turn around and go back to face my teacher.
When I returned to the classroom, I was immediately escorted to the restroom where my teacher washed my mouth out with soap. That kind of discipline probably wouldn’t happen today, but take it from me, it was effective! To this day I am acutely sensitive about the impact of my words.
God is passionately interested in our positive growth as His children. At times He needs to confront us with unpleasant circumstances to catch our attention and reorient our lives to more consistently produce the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).
Don’t resist God’s corrective hand. Respond to His reproofs with thankfulness that He loves you enough to care about what kind of a person you are becoming.
Because our Father’s heart is grieved
Each time we go astray,
He lifts His chastening hand in love
To help us to His way. —D. De Haan
God’s correction is our hope for a better life.
04-08-2011, 04:07 AM
April 8, 2011
Read: 1 Corinthians 9:11-23
Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more. —1 Corinthians 9:19
A Christian sports reporter was visiting a major league baseball clubhouse. While he was chatting with a Christian player, a team official came by and noticed that they were talking about “Christian stuff” after a tough loss. He scolded the reporter for not talking about the game and then he left. The All-Star pitcher said to the reporter, “Sorry. He just doesn’t get it.”
We live in a world of people who “don’t get it.” They don’t understand that while we strive to be the best at what we do, the most important thing in life is to please God. For the believer, it is for God’s glory and the gospel of Jesus that we play ball, sell insurance, run a printing press, or teach school.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul explained that the disciple of Christ should “endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ” (v.12). The goal of the believer is getting the word out about Jesus. “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” he said (v.16). One way to do that is to live out a godly lifestyle that prompts others to ask about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).
Around us are people who think the things of this world are most important. But instead of becoming frustrated at the resistance we meet, our goal should be to advance the gospel by helping others to “get it.”
Dim not, little candle,
Show Jesus through me!
Glow brightly till others
The Light clearly see! —Adams
May God make your life a lighted window of Christian example.
04-09-2011, 04:15 AM
Bel Bows Down
April 9, 2011
Read: Isaiah 46:1-9
I will carry you! —Isaiah 46:4
The prophet Isaiah draws a picture for us in Isaiah 46 of the siege of Babylon and the evacuation of its idols. The carts and carriages that carry them creak, and the weary animals groan under the load (v.1).
In contrast, Isaiah says that God carries His children from birth (v.3). “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you!” God declares (v.4). The contrast is precise and vivid in the Hebrew text: The carts and carriages are “loaded” with the weight of the idols (v.1), but we are loaded upon God (v.3). Idols are a “burden,” a thing carried (v.1), but God has gladly “carried” us from the womb (v.3).
The Lord has made us (v.4). Nothing could be more comforting, for our Father loves and cares for His children. He promises, “I will carry you!” and that includes every care and worry that comes our way throughout our lifetime.
So we may let Him carry us and our every burden. This song by Annie Johnson Flint challenges us to experience God’s care: “Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, / Our God ever yearns His resources to share; / Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; / Thy Father both thee and thy load will upbear.”
Heavenly Father, I want to unload my
burdens on You today. Help me to leave them with You.
I trust You with my past, present, and future.
Thank You for Your goodness to me. Amen.
Our work is to cast care; God’s work is to take care!
04-10-2011, 05:03 AM
A Forever Service
April 10, 2011
Read: Revelation 22:1-7
Behold, I make all things new. —Revelation 21:5
Two young brothers sat on the front row in church every Sunday, observing their dad as he led the worship service. One night after sending the boys to bed, the dad overheard one of his boys crying. He asked him what was wrong, but the boy was hesitant to answer. Finally, he confessed, “Daddy, the Bible says we’re going to worship God in heaven forever. That’s an awfully long time!” Because he pictured heaven as one long worship time with his dad up front leading, heaven sounded pretty boring to him!
While I sometimes wish we had more information about what heaven will be like, we know this for sure: boring can’t possibly be the right word to describe it. We will see beauty like we’ve never seen before, including “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal” (Rev. 22:1). We will experience “the glory of God,” which will illuminate heaven (21:23; 22:5). And we will enjoy a life without pain or sorrow (21:4).
Yes, we will definitely worship in heaven. People “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9) will rejoice in praising Jesus, the worthy Lamb who died for us and rose again (5:12).
We will bask in the glory of the Lord’s presence—forever. But not for one second will we be bored!
In heaven we’ll see our Savior
And like Him we will be;
We’ll praise Him and we’ll serve Him
For all eternity! —Fitzhugh
The pleasures of earth cannot be compared to the joys of heaven.
04-11-2011, 04:24 AM
The Penny Syndrome
April 11, 2011
Read: 1 Samuel 17:32-37
The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion . . . , He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. —1 Samuel 17:37
The penny has been called the most despised unit of US currency. Many people will not bother to pick up a one-cent coin if they see it lying on the ground. But some charities are finding that pennies add up to significant sums, and that children are generous givers. As one participant said, “Small contributions can make a huge difference.”
The Bible account of David and Goliath describes a seemingly insignificant person whose confidence in God was greater than any of the powerful people around him. When David volunteered to face the giant Goliath, King Saul said, “You are not able to go against this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:33). But David had faith in the Lord who had delivered him in the past (v.37).
David did not suffer from “the penny syndrome”—a sense of inferiority and helplessness in the face of an overwhelming problem. If he had listened to the pessimism of Saul or the threats of Goliath, he would have done nothing. Instead, he acted with courage because he trusted God.
It’s easy to feel like a penny in a trillion-dollar deficit. But when we obey the Lord in every circumstance, it all adds up. Collectively, our acts of faith, large or small, make a big difference. And every penny counts.
It matters not how large or small
Your faith may seem to be;
What really counts is whom you trust
In life’s uncertainty. —Fitzhugh
Courage will follow when faith takes the lead.
04-12-2011, 04:17 AM
Pay Attention To Signs
April 12, 2011
Read: Luke 11:29-45
As Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. —Luke 11:30
The road was smooth and we were making good progress as we headed for Jay’s dad’s house in South Carolina. As we drove through the mountains in Tennessee, I began seeing detour signs. But Jay kept going, so I assumed that they didn’t apply to us. Shortly before we reached the North Carolina border, we came to a sign that said the highway ahead was closed due to a rock slide. We would have to turn around. Jay was surprised. “Why wasn’t there any warning?” he wanted to know. “There were lots of warnings,” I said. “Didn’t you see the signs?” “No,” he said, “why didn’t you mention them?” “I assumed that you saw them,” I answered. We now tell this story to entertain our friends.
Throughout history, God provided plenty of “signs” to show people the way to live, but they kept going their own way. When God finally sent His Son as a sign (Luke 11:30), the religious leaders paid little attention to His warnings. Life for them was good. They were recognized and respected (v.43). They resented being told that they were wrong (v.45).
We can be the same way. When life is going well, we tend to ignore warnings that we need to turn around and change our sinful ways. It’s important to remember that we may be wrong even though life is good.
God gives us warnings to prevent
What comes from falling into sin;
But if we do ignore—and fall—
Confession cleanses us within. —Sper
God sends warnings to protect us, not to punish us.
04-13-2011, 04:37 AM
April 13, 2011
Read: Luke 12:1-7
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. —Luke 12:1
Sourdough bread became popular during the California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. In the 1890s, it was a favorite during the great Gold Rush in Alaska. Prospectors would carry with them a small portion of sourdough mix that contained a natural yeast. It could then be used as a starter to make more of their favorite sourdough bread.
In the Bible, though, yeast or leaven can have a negative connotation. For example, in the New Testament, “leaven” is often referred to as a corrupting influence. This is why Jesus said: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).
Hypocrites put on a show of righteousness while hiding sinful thoughts and behavior. Christ warned His disciples and us that secret sins will someday be exposed to full disclosure. He said, “There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” (v.2). Because of this, we are to reverentially fear God, to ask for His grace to forsake any sin, and to grow as authentic believers.
Yeast may be a blessing in the bakery, but it can also remind us to guard against the permeating influence of sin in our hearts.
The holiness of God demands
A heart that’s pure within,
Yet grace unites with holiness
To purge the heart from sin. —D. De Haan
Be sure your sin will find you out. —Numbers 32:23
04-14-2011, 04:34 AM
Breath Of Life
April 14, 2011
Read: Psalm 139:13-18
The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. —Job 33:4
In his book Life After Heart Surgery, David Burke recalls his close brush with death. Lying in his hospital bed after a second open-heart surgery, he found himself in incredible pain, unable to draw a full breath. Feeling that he was slipping toward eternity, he prayed one last time, trusting God and thanking Him for forgiveness of his sin.
David was thinking about seeing his dad, who had died several years earlier, when his nurse asked how he was feeling. He replied, “I’m okay now,” explaining he was ready to go to heaven and meet God. “Not on my shift, buddy!” she said. Soon the doctors were opening his chest again and removing two liters of fluid. That done, David began to recover.
It’s not unusual for any of us to ponder what it will be like when we face our final moments on earth. But those who “die in the Lord” have the certainty that they are “blessed” (Rev. 14:13) and that their death is “precious in the sight of the Lord” (Ps. 116:15).
God fashioned our days even before we existed (Ps. 139:16), and we exist now only because “the breath of the Almighty gives [us] life” (Job 33:4). Though we don’t know how many breaths we have left—we can rest in the knowledge that He does.
God holds our future in His hands
And gives us every breath;
Just knowing that He’s by our side
Allays our fear of death. —Sper
From our first breath to our last, we are in God’s care.
04-15-2011, 04:00 AM
Dealing With Delay
April 15, 2011
Read: Isaiah 26:1-9
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You. —Isaiah 26:3
In April 2010, clouds of ash spewed by a volcano in Iceland closed airports across the UK and Europe for 5 days. Nearly 100,000 flights were canceled and millions of passengers around the world found themselves in an enormous holding pattern on the ground. People missed important events, businesses lost money, and no one knew when it would end.
When our plans fall apart and there is no remedy, how do we deal with frustration and delay? Isaiah 26:3-4 is an anchor for our souls in every storm of life: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in [Jehovah], the Lord, is everlasting strength.” Whether we’re facing annoying inconvenience or heartbreaking loss, this rock-solid promise is worth memorizing and repeating every night when we close our eyes to sleep.
Today, when plans are shattered, do our minds dwell on the circumstances or on the Lord? During frustrating delay, can we still trust the loving heart of God? In the hymn “Like a River Glorious,” Frances Havergal so beautifully expressed what we long for.
Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,
Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest. —Havergal
When we put our problems in God’s hands,
He puts His peace in our hearts.
04-16-2011, 04:38 PM
Of Pain And Gain
April 16, 2011
Read: Psalm 32
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. —Psalm 32:10
During summer training camp, the coaches on one football team wore T-shirts intended to urge their players to exert maximum effort. The shirts bore the motto, “Each day you must choose: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” Discipline is tough—and something we may try to avoid. But in sports and in life, short-term pain is often the only path to long-term gain. In the heat of battle it is too late to prepare. Either you are ready for the challenges of life or you will be haunted by the “what ifs,” “if onlys,” and “I should’ves” that accompany the failure to be prepared. That’s the pain of regret.
One source defines regret as “an intelligent and emotional dislike for personal past acts and behaviors.” It’s painful to look back at our choices through the lens of regret and feel the weight of our failures. This was the case for the psalmist. After a personal episode of sin and failure, he wrote, “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him” (Ps. 32:10). In the clarity of hindsight, he saw the wisdom of a life that strives to honor the Lord—a life that does not need to be marked by regret.
May our choices today not result in regret, but rather be wise and God-honoring.
In You, O Lord, we take delight,
Our every need You can supply;
We long to do what’s true and right,
So, Lord, on You we will rely. —D. De Haan
Present choices determine future rewards.
04-17-2011, 04:25 AM
Who Is This?
April 17, 2011
Read: Luke 19:28-40
Blessed is [He] who comes in the name of the Lord! —Luke 19:38
Imagine standing shoulder to shoulder with onlookers by a dirt road. The woman behind you is on her tiptoes, trying to see who is coming. In the distance, you glimpse a man riding a donkey. As He approaches, people toss their coats onto the road. Suddenly, you hear a tree crack behind you. A man is cutting down palm branches, and people are spreading them out ahead of the donkey.
Jesus’ followers zealously honored Him as He entered Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion. The multitude rejoiced and praised God for “all the mighty works they had seen” (Luke 19:37). Jesus’ devotees surrounded Him, calling out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v.38). Their enthusiastic honor affected the people of Jerusalem. When Jesus finally arrived, “all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’” (Matt. 21:10).
Today, people are still curious about Jesus. Although we can’t pave His way with palm branches or shout praises to Him in person, we can still honor Him. We can discuss His remarkable works, assist people in need (Gal. 6:2), patiently bear insults (1 Peter 4:14-16), and love each other deeply (v.8). Then we must be ready to answer the onlookers who ask, “Who is Jesus?”
So let our lips and lives express
The holy gospel we profess;
So let our works and virtues shine,
To prove the doctrine all divine. —Watts
We honor God’s name when we call Him our Father
and live like His Son.
04-18-2011, 05:02 AM
The Purpose Of God’s Goodness
April 18, 2011
Read: Psalm 67
God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us. —Psalm 67:1
When I was growing up, we often sang a song in Sunday school that went like this: “God is good to me! God is good to me! He holds my hand and helps me stand! God is good to me!”
I need to say right away that I believe God is good and He takes delight in doing good things for people. He does indeed hold our hand in times of trouble and helps us stand against the onslaught of life’s difficulties. But I wonder if you’ve ever asked yourself, Why is He good? It certainly is not because we deserve it or because He feels the need to buy our love and allegiance with His benefits.
The psalmist prays for God to bless him so that “[the Lord’s] way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations” (Ps. 67:2). God’s daily blessings are proof positive that He is indeed a good God who cares for His own. But how will our world know this about God if we never praise Him for His goodness to us? (v.3).
So, the next time God blesses you, be sure to look for ways to appropriately give Him the credit. Consuming His blessings without communicating His goodness shortchanges the very purpose of His gifts of grace in our lives.
As endless as God’s blessings are,
So should my praises be
For all His daily goodnesses
That flow unceasingly! —Adams
God is good—make sure the people in your world know what He has done in your life.
04-19-2011, 03:48 AM
The Dividing Wall
April 19, 2011
Read: Ephesians 2:11-22; 4:1-3
He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation. —Ephesians 2:14
November 9, 2010, marked the 21st anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. On that day in 1989, an announcement over East German TV informed people that they were free to travel to West Germany. A day later, East German bulldozers began to dismantle the wall that for 28 years had divided East and West Germany.
Jesus Christ “has broken down the middle wall of separation” between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14). But there was an even more impenetrable barrier that separated man from God. Jesus’ death and resurrection made the reconciliation between man and man and between man and God possible (v.16).
All believers are now “members of the household of God” (v.19). Together, we are to grow into “a holy temple in the Lord” (v.21) with God’s Holy Spirit living among and within us (v.22).
But sadly, Christians often re-erect walls between one another. That is why Paul urges us to “walk worthy of the calling . . . , bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:1-3). Rather than building walls, let’s work to dismantle what separates us. Let the world see that we are indeed of the same household.
We’re members of Christ’s body,
A blessed family;
So let’s not fight or quarrel,
But live in harmony. —Fitzhugh
Unity among believers comes from their union with Christ.
04-20-2011, 03:42 AM
Knowing God’s Will
April 20, 2011
Read: Ephesians 5:17-21
. . . that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. —Romans 12:2
A young man facing the future and unsure of what the next year would bring, concluded, “Nobody knows what God’s will is.” Is he right? Does a lack of certainty about the future translate into not knowing God’s will?
The concept of knowing God’s will is often limited to discerning what specific situation we will be in at some future time. Although seeking God’s specific leading is part of it, another aspect that is just as vital is to follow the clearly defined elements of God’s will each and every day.
For instance, it is God’s will for us to be good citizens as a challenge to those opposed to Christ (1 Peter 2:15), to give God thanks no matter what (1 Thess. 5:18), to be sanctified sexually, avoiding immorality (1 Thess. 4:3), to live under the Holy Spirit’s control (Eph. 5:18), to sing to Him (v.19), and to submit to other believers (v.21).
As we submit to God in these and other areas, we are more likely to live in what Romans 12:2 calls God’s “good and acceptable and perfect will.” Living with God’s smile of approval leads to His guidance for the future.
As we seek to know God’s will for the future, we must also act on what we already know now.
Knowing God’s will for the future
Comes when we follow today
What He’s revealed in the Scriptures
As His commands to obey. —Sper
Love and obey the Lord every day, and He will unfold your future.
04-21-2011, 03:36 AM
Moving Past Sinful Failure
April 21, 2011
Read: 2 Samuel 12:1-23
I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. —Isaiah 43:25
How should we handle moments of faith-failure, when we’ve damaged the kingdom of God in the eyes of our friends and family or dishonored God in our actions?
We can learn from King David after his humiliation in the Bathsheba scandal. Though the terrible consequences of that sin could not be avoided, he found his way back to a relationship with God that made it possible for him to continue to serve Him. We too can find our way back.
David’s pattern in 2 Samuel 12 serves us well: We need to declare our error candidly (v.13) and seek God’s forgiveness. Then we can ask God that others be spared the consequences of our actions (v.16). Finally, we need to recognize that sometimes the consequences simply cannot be avoided and must be endured. While we always mourn those consequences, we can’t allow them to so consume us that we cease to be servants of God (vv.20-23).
Satan not only delights in the moment of our failure but also in the spiritual inactivity that sometimes snares us in our remorse. When we’ve blown our witness, we are and should be humbled. But we should not multiply the damage by retreating into silence and obscurity as ambassadors of Christ. We can move past failure.
If after you’ve confessed your sin to God, you still suffer
with guilty feelings, memorize Proverbs 24:16 and
1 John 1:9 and ask God to help you believe His Word.
God forgives our sins completely
to restore us to His presence and service.
04-22-2011, 04:40 AM
April 22, 2011
Read: Hebrews 2:10-18
He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many. —Isaiah 53:12
Sooner or later we all feel the painful effects of sin. Sometimes it’s the weight of our own sin and the shame and embarrassment of having failed miserably. At other times, it’s the load of someone else’s sin that weighs us down—someone who betrayed, deceived, abandoned, ridiculed, cheated, or made a fool of us.
Think about a time when the weight of that guilt or pain was so heavy that you couldn’t pull yourself out of bed. Now try to imagine the heaviness of the combined grief that everyone’s sin has caused your family, your church, your neighborhood. Add to that all the suffering sin has caused everyone in your city, state, nation, and the world. Now try to imagine the accumulated grief that sin has caused throughout the centuries since creation.
Is it any wonder that the weight of all this sin began squeezing the life out of Jesus on the night He was called to bear it? (Matt. 26:36-44). The next day, even His beloved Father would forsake Him. No other suffering can compare.
Sin put Jesus to the ultimate test. But His love endured it, His strength bore it, and His power overcame it. Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know beyond a doubt that sin will not and cannot win.
Is God aloof from human pain
That ravages our mortal frame?
Oh, no, Christ felt our agony
When sin and death He overcame! —D. De Haan
Christ’s empty tomb guarantees our victory over sin and death.
04-23-2011, 04:45 AM
A Family In Trouble
April 23, 2011
Read: Malachi 4:4-6; Matthew 1:1-2
He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. —Luke 1:16
Many of America’s 30 million white-tailed deer find themselves endangered not by guns, but by the cars of our expanding suburbs. I was reminded of their plight when a mature doe dashed through traffic just ahead of me. As I watched, I wondered what had driven her to take such a chance, and why she then stopped on the other side and looked back over her shoulder. As I drove by her, I turned to follow her gaze and saw two small fawns looking helplessly at their mother across the busy street. Instead of following, they turned and walked back into the woods.
This family is not alone. We too can find ourselves in circumstances of separation and danger we did not anticipate. Reading Malachi and Matthew reminds us that we are troubled children of troubled parents who desperately need the help of our Father in heaven. Sometimes we need His help to see and avoid repeating the sins of our fathers (Neh. 9:2-3). Sometimes we need His help to turn back to the example and care of loving parents (Luke 15:18).
Only from our heavenly Father can we find the perfect forgiveness, example, and inner grace we need. He knows we are all fallen children of fallen parents, and even now He offers us the help of His Spirit and the rescue of His Son.
Each day we learn from yesterday
Of God’s great love and care;
And every burden we must face
He’ll surely help us bear. —D. De Haan
It’s never too soon to turn back to God.
04-24-2011, 04:43 AM
Too Good To Be True?
April 24, 2011
Read: Luke 24:1-12
Their words seemed to [the disciples] like idle tales, and they did not believe them. —Luke 24:11
In the 1980s, John Knoll and his brother Thomas began experimenting with a computer program to manipulate images. Software companies thought they were crazy, because photographers didn’t use computers at that time. Initially the brothers called their program Display, then Imaginator, and finally they settled on Photoshop®. Today Photoshop® is used by amateurs at home and professionals in business around the world. A San Jose Mercury News article noted its place in popular language. When something looks too good to be true, people say, “It must have been Photoshopped.”
On the first Easter morning, the women who took spices to anoint the body of Jesus found the tomb empty and heard angels say, “He is not here, but is risen!” (Luke 24:6). When the women told this to the disciples, “Their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (v.11). Nonsense! Mind-boggling! Too good to be true!
If someone manipulated the evidence, then millions of people around the world gather today to celebrate a myth. But if Jesus conquered death, then all He said about forgiveness, power to change, and eternal life is real.
Because Christ has risen and lives today, this news is too good not to be true!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign. —Lowry
The resurrection is a fact of history
that demands a response of faith.
04-25-2011, 04:39 AM
Resurrection And Life
April 25, 2011
Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
I am the resurrection and the life. —John 11:25
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life”! It’s one thing to make such a bold assertion; it’s another to back it up—and back it up Jesus did by rising from the dead.
“If you believe that the Son of God died and rose again,” writes George MacDonald, “your whole future is full of the dawn of eternal morning, coming up beyond the hills of life, and full of such hope as the highest imagination for the poet has not a glimmer yet.”
The Son of God died and rose again, and His resurrection is the guarantee that God will bring us up and out of the ground: A thinking, feeling, remembering, recognizable person will live forever.
Living forever means living out the thought of eternity that God has placed in our hearts; meeting again one’s believing loved ones lost through separating death; living in a world without sorrow; seeing our Lord who loves us and gave everything to unite us to Him forever.
But I see another meaning. Since we have this life and the next, we don’t have to “have it all” now. We can live in broken and ruined bodies for a time; we can endure poverty and hardship for a while; we can face loneliness, heartache, and pain for a season. Why? There is a second birth—life in heaven forever.
Yes, Christ the Lord is risen,
Has come forth from the grave;
He breaks the chains of death for you
And now has power to save. —Woodruff
The resurrection is the foundation of our faith.
04-26-2011, 03:40 AM
Hard To Imagine
April 26, 2011
Read: Philippians 1:19-26
I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. —Philippians 1:23
Whenever my wife, Martie, and I get ready to go on vacation, we like to read about our destination, study the maps, and anticipate the joy of finally arriving at the place we’ve dreamed about for so long.
For those of us who know Jesus Christ, we have an incredible destination ahead of us—heaven. But I find it interesting that a lot of us don’t seem to be very excited about getting there. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we don’t understand heaven. We talk about streets of gold and gates of pearl, but what is it really like? What is there to look forward to?
I think the most profound description of heaven is found in Paul’s words to the Philippians. He said that to “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” (Phil. 1:23). It’s what I told my 8-year-old grandson when he asked what heaven is like. I started by asking him, “What is the most exciting thing in your life?” He told me about his computer game and other fun things he likes to do, and then I told him that heaven is far better. He thought for a minute, and then said, “Papa, that’s hard to imagine.”
What is it that you look forward to in life? What really excites you? Whatever it is, although it’s hard to imagine, heaven will be far better!
To be in His presence! A glorious thought
So awesome I cannot conceive;
I’ll bow down and worship the Lord on His throne
And add to the praise He’ll receive. —Sper
The more you look forward to heaven,
the less you’ll desire on earth.
04-27-2011, 05:09 AM
April 27, 2011
Read: Proverbs 10:11-23
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. —Proverbs 10:19
London’s domed St. Paul’s Cathedral has an interesting architectural phenomenon called the “whispering gallery.” One Web site explains it this way: “The name comes from the fact that a person who whispers facing the wall on one side can be clearly heard on the other, since the sound is carried perfectly around the vast curve of the Dome.”
In other words, you and a friend could sit on opposite sides of architect Sir Christopher Wren’s great cathedral and carry on a conversation without having to speak above a whisper.
While that may be a fascinating feature of St. Paul’s Cathedral, it can also be a warning to us. What we say about others in secret can travel just as easily as whispers travel around that gallery. And not only can our gossip travel far and wide, but it often does great harm along the way.
Perhaps this is why the Bible frequently challenges us about the ways we use words. The wise King Solomon wrote, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19).
Instead of using whispers and gossip that can cause hurt and pain while serving no good purpose, we would do better to restrain ourselves and practice silence.
Lord, help us bridle what we say
And tend our conversations,
Avoiding careless gossiping
That murders reputations. —Sper
Gossip ends at a wise person’s ears.
04-28-2011, 03:24 AM
Haters Of God
April 28, 2011
Read: 2 Timothy 2:23-26
God gave them over to a debased mind. —Romans 1:28
Recently, I listened to an audiobook by a militant advocate for atheism. As the author himself read his own work with spiteful sarcasm and contempt, it made me wonder why he was so angry.
The Bible tells us that a rejection of God can actually lead to a more hateful attitude toward Him: “Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind . . . [to become] haters of God” (Rom. 1:28-30).
Turning one’s back on God does not lead to secular neutrality. Indeed, recent militant atheists have shown their desire to remove any reference to a Creator from culture.
When we hear about atheists trying to remove crosses or the Ten Commandments from society, it’s easy to respond to their hatred of God with our own hatred. But we’re exhorted to defend the truth with an attitude of love, “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).
The next time you see the works or hear the words of a hater of God, do an attitude check. Then ask God for a spirit of humility and pray that the offender might come to the knowledge of the truth.
Lord, help us not respond in kind
To those who hate and turn from You;
Instead, help us to love and pray
That someday they’ll accept what’s true. —Sper
Defend the truth with love.
04-29-2011, 03:55 AM
April 29, 2011
Read: Job 38:1-11,31-33
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth? —Job 38:33
For all of us who, like Job, have suffered through tragedy and then dared to aim our questions at God, chapter 38 of Job’s book should give us plenty to think about. Imagine what it must have felt like for the great man of the East when “out of the whirlwind” he heard God say, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me” (vv.1-3). Gulp!
Job must have felt as puny as an ant. As God unveiled His questions in the verses that follow, what He said was as unexpected as it was powerful. He didn’t really answer Job’s “why” questions. Instead, God seemed to be telling him to notice the power and might with which He created this world and to observe His ability to control every element of it. Isn’t that reason enough to trust God? Job should have been asking himself.
As one example of His awesome power, God pointed to the sky and told Job to observe two of His awe-inspiring creations: Pleiades and Orion (v.31). Highlighting His grandeur and man’s relative insignificance, God mentioned two constellations that demonstrate power beyond our understanding.
This is Someone we can trust. If He has the stars in His hands, surely He can take care of us as well.
Creator of the universe
Who reigns in awesome majesty:
How can it be You love and care
For such a one as me? —Sper
He who holds the stars in space holds His people in His hands.
04-30-2011, 05:01 AM
April 30, 2011
Read: Romans 6:1-14
Do not let sin reign in your mortal body. —Romans 6:12
Paul said in Romans 5:20, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” But that radical concept opens a theological floodgate. The biblical writer Jude warned that it is possible to “change the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 4 NIV). Why be good if you know you will be forgiven? Not even an emphasis on repentance erases this danger completely.
In Romans 6, Paul spoke directly to the point. “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” He gave a short, explosive answer: “Certainly not!” (vv.1-2) and used an analogy that starkly contrasts death and life. “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (v.2). No Christian resurrected to new life should be pining for sin.
Yet wickedness does not always seem to have the stench of death about it. Sin can be downright appealing.
Paul recognized this, so he advised: “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” and “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (vv.11-12).
If we truly grasped the wonder of God’s love for us, we would spend our days trying to fathom and share, not exploit, His grace.
I am unworthy to take of His grace,
Wonderful grace so free;
Yet Jesus suffered and died in my place
Even for a soul like me. —Roth
God does not save us by grace so that we may live in disgrace. —Faber
05-01-2011, 05:53 AM
If I Could Stop The Clock
May 1, 2011
Read: 1 Kings 10:23–11:4
The glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. —1 Kings 8:11
Every year when May rolls around in Michigan, I want to stop the clock. I rejoice when death is defeated by fragile sprouts that refuse to be confined by hardened clay and brittle branches. Over a few weeks, the naked landscape transforms into fully clothed trees adorned by bright, fragrant flowers. I can’t get enough of the sights, sounds, and scents of springtime. I want time to stop moving.
Also in May, I come to 1 Kings in my Bible reading schedule. When I get to chapter 10, I have the same feeling: I want the story to stop. The nation of Israel has bloomed. Solomon has become king and has built a magnificent dwelling place for God, who moved in with a blaze of glory (8:11). Finally united under a righteous king, they are at peace. I love happy endings!
But the story doesn’t end there. It continues: “But King Solomon loved many foreign women” (11:1), and “his wives turned his heart after other gods” (v.4).
Just as the seasons of the year continue, so do the cycles of life—birth and death, success and failure, sin and confession. Although we have no power to stop the clock while we’re enjoying good times, we can rest in God’s promise that eventually all bad times will end (Rev. 21:4).
Father, our days are filled with pleasures and struggles.
We would like for life just to have the joys, but we know
that’s not realistic in this sinful world. Help us to wait
patiently for You to bring us Home. Amen.
In good times and bad, God never changes.
05-02-2011, 01:30 AM
Two Rules To Live By
May 2, 2011
Read: Matthew 22:34-40
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. —Matthew 22:40
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by rules and expectations? Think of how the Jewish people must have felt as they tried to keep up with more than 600 rules from the Old Testament and many more that had been imposed on them by the religious leaders of their day. And imagine their surprise when Jesus simplified the pursuit of righteousness by narrowing the list down to just two—“love the Lord your God” (Matt. 22:37) and “love your neighbor as yourself” (v.39).
In essence, Jesus is telling us that the way God knows we love Him is by how we treat people. All of them. Let’s face it—loving our neighbor can be a challenge. But when we do it to express our love to God, we unleash a powerful motivation that loves whether the person deserves it or not. And as we love God and our neighbor, everything else falls into place. If I love my neighbor, I won’t bear false witness against him, covet his wealth or his wife, or steal from him. Loving others for God’s sake even provides the grace and strength to forgive those who have heaped injustices upon us.
Who needs to see God’s love today through you? The more unlovable the person, the greater the statement about how much you love God!
To love your God with all your heart,
Your soul, your strength, your mind,
Enables you to love someone
Who’s hurtful and unkind. —Sper
Loving God is the key to loving others.
05-02-2011, 11:31 PM
May 3, 2011
Read: Hebrews 13:1-8
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” —Hebrews 13:5
Having played intercollegiate soccer, I’ve never lost my love for “The Beautiful Game.” I especially enjoy watching the English Premier League. One reason is the skill and speed with which the game is played there. Also, I love the way the fans sing in support of their beloved “sides.” For instance, Liverpool has for years had “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as its theme. How moving to hear 50,000 fans rise as one to sing the lyrics of that old standard! It’s an encouragement to players and fans alike that together they will see each other through to the end. Walk alone? Never.
This sentiment has meaning for everyone. Because each of us is made for community, isolation and loneliness are among the most painful of human experiences. During painful times, our faith is vital.
The child of God never needs to fear abandonment. Even if people turn on us, friends forsake us, or circumstances separate us from loved ones, we are never alone. God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). This is not just a nice tune or clever lyrics offering an empty sentiment. It is the promise of God Himself to those who are the objects of His love. He is there—and He isn’t going away.
With Christ, you will never walk alone.
God’s unseen presence comforts me,
I know He’s always near;
And when life’s storms besiege my soul,
He says, “My child, don’t fear.” —D. De Haan
God’s presence with us is one of His greatest presents to us.
05-04-2011, 03:32 AM
May 4, 2011
Read: James 4:7-10
Submit to God. —James 4:7
In the annals of US advertising history, one of the most efficient slogans ever is the California milk producers’ two-word question, “Got milk?” With that phrase, the group captured almost everyone’s attention. In surveys, the slogan was recognized by more than 90 percent of the people polled.
If “Got milk?” is so good at reminding people to drink “cow juice,” perhaps we can create some two-word slogans to remind ourselves to live more godly lives. Let’s turn to James 4 and try it. This passage gives four specific guidelines.
1. Give in! Verse 7 tells us to submit to God. Our sovereign God loves us, so why not let Him run the show? Submission helps us resist the devil. 2. Get close! Verse 8 reminds us of the value of drawing near to God. It’s up to us to close the gap between us and God. 3. Clean up! Verse 8 also reminds us to make sure our hearts are clean. That happens through confessing our sins to God. 4. Get down! James says we need to be humble before God (v.10). That includes viewing our sin as something to weep over.
Give in! Get close! Clean up! Get down! These pairs of words may not look as good on a T-shirt as “Got milk?” But they sure will look good on us.
Lord, help me live a godly life
Of faith and love and purity
So those who watch my life will see
Reflections of Your work in me. —Sper
The most powerful testimony is a godly life.
05-05-2011, 02:52 AM
Time To Pray?
May 5, 2011
Read: Psalm 70
Make haste to help me, O Lord! —Psalm 70:1
One morning, when I was a young child, I was sitting in the kitchen, watching my mother prepare breakfast. Unexpectedly, the grease in the skillet in which she was frying bacon caught fire. Flames shot into the air and my mother ran to the pantry for a bag of flour to throw on the blaze.
“Help!” I shouted. And then I added, “Oh, I wish it was time to pray!” “It’s time to pray” must have been a frequent household expression, and I took it quite literally to mean we could pray only at certain times.
The time to pray, of course, is any time—especially when we’re in crisis. Fear, worry, anxiety, and care are the most common occasions for prayer. It is when we are desolate, forsaken, and stripped of every human resource that we naturally resort to prayer. We cry out with the words of David, “Help me, O Lord!” (Ps. 70:1).
John Cassian, a 5th-century Christian, wrote of this verse: “This is the terrified cry of someone who sees the snares of the enemy, the cry of someone besieged day and night and exclaiming that he cannot escape unless his Protector comes to the rescue.”
May this be our simple prayer in every crisis and all day long: “Help, Lord!”
Any hour when helping others,
Or when bearing heavy care,
Is the time to call our Father,
It’s the proper time for prayer. —Zimmerman
There is no place or time we cannot pray.
05-06-2011, 03:03 AM
The Wise Ant
May 6, 2011
Read: Proverbs 6:6-11
[The ant] provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. —Proverbs 6:8
Every year I do something special to celebrate the arrival of spring —I buy ant traps. Those little invaders continually march into our kitchen in search of any crumb left on the floor. They aren’t picky; a shard of potato chip, a grain of rice, or even a speck of cheese will do.
Although ants may be a nuisance, Solomon praised them for their steadfast work ethic (Prov. 6:6-11). He pointed out that ants are self-directed. They have “no captain, overseer, or ruler” (v.7), yet they are very productive. The ants also keep busy even when it’s not immediately necessary, providing supplies in the summer and gathering food in the harvest (v.8). By the time winter arrives, they’re not worried about what they will eat. Little by little, these hard workers have saved up enough to sustain themselves.
We can learn from the ant. When God gives us times of plenty, we can prepare for times when resources may be low. God is the provider of all that we have, including our ability to work. We are to work diligently, be wise stewards of what He has provided, and then rest in the promise of His care (Matt. 6:25-34).
Let’s remember Solomon’s advice: “Go to the ant . . . . Con-sider her ways and be wise” (Prov. 6:6).
The humble ant’s keen industry
Can teach us all a lesson,
If in creation we will see
God’s classroom is in session. —Gustafson
Trust God for today—and prepare for tomorrow.
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