Daily Bread Articles

Christmas at MacPherson

Read: Luke 1:68–75

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. Luke 1:68

About 230 families and individuals live at MacPherson Gardens, Block 72 in my neighborhood. Each person has his or her own life story. On the tenth floor resides an elderly woman whose children have grown up, gotten married, and moved out. She lives by herself now. Just a few doors away from her is a young couple with two kids—a boy and a girl. And a few floors below lives a young man serving in the army. He has been to church before; maybe he will visit again on Christmas Day. I met these people last Christmas when our church went caroling in the neighborhood to spread Christmas cheer.

Every Christmas—as on the first Christmas—there are many people who do not know that God has entered into our world as a baby whose name is Jesus (Luke 1:68; 2:21). Or they do not know the significance of that event—it is “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). Yes, all people! Regardless of our nationality, culture, gender, or financial status, Jesus came to die for us and offer us complete forgiveness so that we can be reconciled with Him and enjoy His love, joy, peace, and hope. All people, from the woman next door to the colleagues we have lunch with, need to hear this wonderful news!

On the first Christmas, the angels were the bearers of this joyous news. Today, God desires to work through us to take the story to others.

Let's Pray

Lord, use me to touch the lives of others with the news of Your coming. Amen.

Written By: 
Poh Fang Chia

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Serve and Be Served

Read: Philippians 4:10–19 

You were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  Philippians 4:10

Marilyn had been ill for many weeks, and many people had encouraged her through this difficult time. How will I ever repay all their kindnesses? she worried. Then one day she read the words of a written prayer: “Pray that [others] will develop humility, allowing them not only to serve, but also to be served.” Marilyn suddenly realized there was no need to balance any scale, but just to be thankful and allow others to experience the joy of serving.

In Philippians 4, the apostle Paul expressed his gratitude for all those who shared “in [his] troubles” (v. 14). He depended on people to support him as he preached and taught the gospel. He understood that the gifts provided for him when he was in need were simply an extension of people’s love for God: “[Your gifts] are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (v. 18).

It may not be easy to be the one on the receiving end—especially if you’ve usually been the first one to help other people. But with humility, we can allow God to gently care for us by a variety of means when we need help.

Paul wrote, “My God will meet all your needs” (v. 19). It was something he had learned during a life of trials. God is faithful and His provision for us has no limits.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, thank You for caring for us through Your people. May we graciously give and receive help.

Written By: 
Cindy Hess Kasper

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In His Presence

Read: Psalm 89:1–17

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. Psalm 89:15

The seventeenth-century monk Brother Lawrence, before a day’s work as cook in his community, would pray, “O my God . . . grant me your grace to stay in your presence. Help me in my labors. Possess all my affections.” As he worked, he kept talking to God, listening for His leading and dedicating his work to Him. Even when he was busiest, he would use intervals of relative calm to ask for His grace. No matter what was happening, he sought for and found a sense of his Maker’s love.

As Psalm 89 confesses, the fitting response to the Creator of all who rules the oceans and is worshiped by hosts of angels is to lift up our lives—our whole lives to Him. When we understand the beauty of who God is we “hear the joyful call to worship”—whenever and wherever we are, “all day long” (vv. 15–16 nlt).

Whether it’s standing in store or airport lines, or waiting on hold minute after minute, our lives are full of moments like these, times when we could get annoyed. Or these can be times when we catch our breath and see each of these pauses as an opportunity to learn to “walk in the light of [God’s] presence” (v. 15).

The “wasted” moments of our lives, when we wait or lay ill or wonder what to do next, are all possible pauses to consider our lives in the light of His presence.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to acknowledge Your presence in each moment of our lives and to turn to You and ask for Your counsel in all that we do. Amen.

(Adapted from a book of Brother Lawrence's work by Harold Myra. See dhp.org/practice.)

Written By: 
Harold Myra

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How Much More!

Read: Luke 11:5–13

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! Luke 11:13

In October 1915, during World War I, Oswald Chambers arrived at Zeitoun Camp, a military training center near Cairo, Egypt, to serve as a YMCA chaplain to British Commonwealth soldiers. When he announced a weeknight religious service, 400 men packed the large YMCA hut to hear Chambers’s talk titled, “What Is the Good of Prayer?” Later, when he spoke individually with men who were trying to find God in the midst of war, Oswald often quoted Luke 11:13, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The free gift of God through His Son, Jesus, is forgiveness, hope, and His living presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit. “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (v. 10).

On November 15, 1917, Oswald Chambers died unexpectedly from a ruptured appendix. To honor him, a soldier led to faith in Christ by Oswald purchased a marble carving of a Bible with the message of Luke 11:13 on its open page and placed it beside his grave: “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” This amazing gift from God is available to each of us today.

Let's Pray

Father, You are the giver of all good gifts. We thank You for the great gift of the Holy Spirit who lives in us and guides us in Your truth today.

Written By: 
David C. McCasland

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Great Love

Read: 1 John 3:1–8

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

Recently, we took our twenty-two-month-old granddaughter, Moriah, overnight for the first time without her older brothers. We lavished lots of loving, undivided attention on her, and had fun doing the things she likes to do. The next day after dropping her off, we said our goodbyes and headed out the door. As we did, without a word Moriah grabbed her overnight bag (still sitting by the door) and began following us.

The picture is etched in my memory: Moriah in her diaper and mismatched sandals ready to depart with Grandma and Grandpa again. Every time I think of it, I smile. She was eager to go with us, ready for more individualized time.

Although she is as yet unable to vocalize it, our granddaughter feels loved and valued. In a small way, our love for Moriah is a picture of the love God has for us, His children. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

When we believe in Jesus as our Savior, we become His children and begin to understand the lavish love He bestowed on us by dying for us (v. 16). Our desire becomes to please Him in what we say and do (v. 6)—and to love Him, eager to spend time with Him.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, thank You for loving us so much that You died for us and rose again that we might have eternal life with You. Help us to be examples of Your love to all we meet.

Written By: 
Alyson Kieda

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Multiplied Generosity

Read: 2 Corinthians 8:1–9 

See that you also excel in this grace of giving - 2 Corinthians: 8:7

Cheryl was in for a surprise as she pulled up to deliver her next pizza. Expecting to arrive at a home, she instead found herself outside a church. Cheryl confusedly carried the pepperoni pizza inside, where she was met by the pastor.

“Is it fair to say life hasn’t been easy for you?” the pastor asked her. Cheryl agreed it hadn’t. With that, he brought out two offering plates that church members had filled with money. The pastor then poured over $750 into Cheryl’s delivery bag as a tip! Unbeknownst to Cheryl, the pastor had asked the pizza shop to send their most financially strapped driver over. Cheryl was stunned. She could now pay some bills.

When the first Christians in Jerusalem faced poverty, it was a church that rushed to their aid. Though in need themselves, the Macedonian Christians gave sacrificially, considering it a privilege to do so (2 Cor. 8:1–4). Paul cited their generosity as an example for the Corinthians, and us, to follow. When we use our plenty to supply another’s need, we reflect Jesus, who gave away His riches to meet our own spiritual poverty (v. 9).

Cheryl told all her customers about the church’s kindness that day, and, following its example, donated the rest of the day’s tips to others in need. An act of generosity multiplied. And Christ was glorified.

Let's Pray

Lord, You meet our needs in surprising ways sometimes. Use us to do that for others as well.

Written By: 
Sheridan Voysey

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Let’s Pray Together

Read:2 Corinthians 1:8-11

You are helping us by praying for us (2 Corinthians 1:11).

Few of us would think we’d done anything significant after attending a prayer meeting, much less that one day a monument would be built to commemorate what we did. College student Samuel Mills would surely have felt the same way.

One August day in 1806, Mills prayed for foreign missions with some friends. A thunderstorm arose and they took refuge in the shelter of a haystack. They continued to gather weekly for what became known as the Haystack Prayer Meeting, which sparked the American foreign missions movement. Today the Haystack Prayer Monument stands at Williams College as a reminder of how God answered the prayers of several young people.

Why should we pray with others and not simply alone? One reason is because it pleases God. Our heavenly Father is delighted when His children approach Him with a common request. Bible commentator R. V. G. Tasker wrote, “[God] desires nothing more than that His people should be united in mutual intercession offered in the name of His Son.”

Tasker was commenting on 2 Corinthians 1:11, “You are helping us by praying for us.” The Greek word for “helping us” paints a beautiful picture. It consists of three words meaning “with,” “under,” and “work.” As we intercede for others together, we’re standing alongside our brothers and sisters who face a heavy burden and are working hard together to lift it. Imagine what joy it brings when the heavy weight is lifted! No wonder the verse continues: “Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety” (2 Corinthians 1:11).

There are others who need our prayers today. As God empowers us, let’s pray together for them so that we can also rejoice in God’s goodness together.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to strengthen each other through prayer and by giving others a helping hand. Amen.   

Written By: 
Poh Fang Chia

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Phubbing

Read: Romans 12:9-21

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other (Romans 12:10).

When was the last time someone looked down at their smartphone while you were talking to them? You were “phubbed”—snubbed by someone who chose to turn their attention to their phone.

Phubbing happens, but it isn’t a kind way to treat someone. God has called us to a much higher standard of love and respect for others: “Those who love God must also love their fellow believers” (1 John 4:21). “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them” (Romans 12:9). “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Loving others requires many things, but at the very least it requires the gift of attention. When we care about people, we look them squarely in the eye and truly listen to what they’re saying. Our undivided attention silently communicates, “You matter more to me than my messages or the buzzing of my phone.”

The gift of attention may not seem like much, but it’s increasingly appreciated in our technological world. We’re all looking for friends who will look up from their screen long enough to focus on what we’re sharing. We all want to feel like we matter to someone which is difficult when we’re being phubbed.

We can’t control our friends, but we can be the kind of friend we seek. Let’s “take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10). And the reason we can offer the gift of attention to others is because we have the attention of God. If you’re God’s child, you’re “the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8 NIV). You’re not in the corner of God’s eye but in the “apple” (or pupil)—the very center. God never takes His eyes off you. He doesn’t look away when you pray. Your Father has never “phubbed” you, not even once!

Let's Pray

Dear God, help us to offer genuine attention and care to others because God is providing us with the attention and the love that we require. Help us to be the friend that we seek. Amen.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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Living and Powerful

Read: Isaiah 55:1-13

It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit (Isaiah 55:11).

“Where will the word / resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.” These words from T. S. Eliot’s haunting poem “Ash Wednesday” lament a world of people so hardened and afraid that they “walk among noise and deny the voice.” The poem echoes the thought of John 1, where the light of Jesus persistently shines in the darkness of a world that will not recognize Him (John 1:5,10).

The picture is a troubling one: Can God’s voice be ineffective and ultimately ignored? Thankfully, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Though people may resist, deny, and avoid God’s voice—always speaking to us through prayer, Scripture, and creation—it is still alive and powerful, “cutting between soul and spirit” (Hebrews 4:12). Whether we acknowledge it or not, His voice is actively shaping and transforming this world. “It always produces fruit” (Isaiah 55:11).

Why do we resist God’s voice? Perhaps we fear it will be too painful to listen to what He has to say. We would rather follow our own ideas about God than to listen for the voice that constantly challenges us.

Or perhaps we secretly believe there’s no hope for us. So, fearing a condemning word, we try to avoid God’s voice speaking into our hearts. But Isaiah 55 reminds us that enjoying God’s kingdom doesn’t depend on us, but on His power and mercy. “Turn to our God, for he will forgive generously,” Isaiah urges. Because His mercy is far above what we can imagine, there is always hope (Isaiah 55:7-11). He is preparing a future of “joy and peace” when the entire world will rejoice (Isaiah 55:12-13).

In Eliot’s poem, the speaker finally surrenders to the voice, ending with a prayer, “Let my cry come unto Thee.” May we too seek His voice today.

Let's Pray

Dear God, help us to seek your voice which speaks to us everyday. Help us to listen and obey your voice through the strength of your Holy Spirit. Amen. 

 

Written By: 
Monica Brands

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Standing Out

Read:Jude 1:1-4

I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people (Jude 1:3).

At seven-feet, three inches tall, Connor Vanover truly stands out, as do his two seven-foot brothers! He says it’s a constant reality to be “looked at all the time . . . . Most of the time people are nice about it. . . . It’s just good to have brothers to fall back on.”

Jude had some brothers who truly stood out. Jesus, the Son of God, was born of Jude’s mother Mary—though He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). And James, Jude’s biological brother, was a key leader of the church in Jerusalem. Jesus died for the salvation of those who would believe in Him. James came to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and was later martyred for his faith.

So when Jude told his readers to “defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people” (Jude 1:3), he was pointing to belief in Jesus that was lived out so well by his brother James. In contrast, some who claimed to believe in Christ were “saying that God’s marvelous grace [allowed them] to live immoral lives.” Known as “libertines,” they were—as Jude wrote—denying “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).

Jude had witnessed his brother Jesus’ death for all people—a sacrifice that allowed them to receive salvation and grow in “mercy, peace, and love” (Jude 1:2). So to see those who claimed to be Christians living immoral lives led Jude to make a passionate appeal—those who are believers in Jesus should reflect what He taught.

It can be easy to simply blend in with society. But as those living out the claims of Christ by His power, we’re called to stand out for Him. By His leading, may we live in a way that honors our calling. We “fall back on” Him along with brothers and sisters who are part of His “holy people” (Jude 1:3).

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us, your disciples, not to have double standards to say that we follow Christ and at the same time blend with all the practices of the society but help us to stand for your teachings in this world of yours. Amen.

Written By: 
Tom Felten

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Faithful in the Pain

Read: Habakkuk 1:1–2:4

The righteous will live by their faithfulness to God (Habakkuk 2:4).

Joni Eareckson Tada, a world-renowned artist, author, and speaker, became a quadriplegic as the result of an accident in 1967. She admits that every morning she wakes up tired and convinced that she can’t face another day with quadriplegia. But she takes her weakness to God, seeking His grace, and continues to serve others—her joy in Jesus radiating through her smile.

Having spent years bound by her wheelchair, Joni embodies the concept of tireless faithfulness spoken of by Habakkuk. After receiving word of Judah’s impending judgment through the Babylonians, the prophet honed in on God’s reminder that the righteous would live by faithfulness to Him (Habakkuk 2:4). According to J.J Parsons, “The Hebrew word ‘faith’ is emunah, which suggests perseverance, fidelity and steadfastness, notwithstanding appearances or circumstances that might tempt us to waver.”

Abraham demonstrated emunah when he believed God’s promise of an heir, and “the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6). Similarly, Joseph displayed emunah when he was sold into slavery by his brothers, waylaid by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:6-18), and forgotten in prison (Genesis 40:12-23). Hebrews 11 catalogs the triumphs and trials of many who brought their weakness to God and experienced emunah, while also pointing out “all these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised” (Hebrews 11:39).

Pain is real and can’t be avoided this side of eternity. And yet, we don’t lose hope; we dare to faithfully persevere by God’s strength, for “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Let's Pray

Dear God, help us to remain faithful to you even in times of pain and gain strength by holding on to your promises. Amen.

Written By: 
Remi Oyedele

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Green Shoots

Read:Isaiah 10:22–11:1

Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot (Isaiah 11:1).

For nearly a century, two towering ash trees have shaded our house and stood like sentinels watching over it. Within the last decade, however, one of the ashes suffered a mortal wound, and in the intervening years the rot and carpenter ants did their business. The arborist told us there was no saving the tree and we took it down. Since we wanted to plant another seedling (a weeping willow) in its place, we had to grind the stump completely out of the ground. “You’ll have to get rid of that stump,” the arborist said, “or nothing else will grow there.”

Isaiah describes the Assyrian Empire as a massive tree, towering over the forest (over the nation of Israel), felled by God’s thundering axe. “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power!” (Isaiah 10:33). The empire had abused God’s people long enough; and God stepped in, dropping the enemy nation to its knees.

And yet it wasn’t only the Assyrians who were chopped low. Because of their greed and rebellion, God’s chosen people were also humbled. Israel’s hope had been to receive the anointed One that God would send through King David’s family line—the One who would rescue them. But now their hopes and future lay like a dead, lifeless stump (Isaiah 11:1).

But with God, hope is never truly lost. “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot,” Isaiah said. “Yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root” (Isaiah 11:1). God’s fresh possibility arrived in the person of Jesus. Israel’s hope was renewed, as was ours. Even when everything seems razed to the ground, surrendered to decay, God keeps His promises. He brings green shoots even out of dead stumps in our lives.

Let's Pray

Dear God, Thank You for making us realize that with You our hope is never truly lost and thank You for bringing up green shoots from dead stumps in our lives Amen. 

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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Love Meter

Read: 1 John 4:9-10

God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).

A “love calculator” can be found on the Internet. As strange as it may sound, all you’re instructed to do once you’re on the website is to key in your name and the name of the person you’re interested in, and the love meter calculates your “love percentage”—supposedly revealing your chances of a successful romantic relationship. I wonder how many have naïvely tried to find true love using this website!

God doesn’t leave us second-guessing how much He loves us. The Bible speaks of God’s love being demonstrated by His generous gift of His Son—solid proof that He loves us (John 3:16). In fact, we “know what real love is” only “because Jesus gave up his life for us” (1 John 3:16). His willing death demonstrated the enormity and intensity of that affection (Romans 5:6-8) and revealed God’s heart: “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love . . . that he loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

No one compelled Jesus to die. Three times He said He willingly died for us (John 10:11,15,18). Paul said that “God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. . . . Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:25). Because His death was divinely authored, it’s not a meaningless tragedy. He purposefully died for us, taking our sin and its consequences on Himself (Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Because “all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18), we need never doubt His love. The cross of Jesus is God’s love meter. And it shows we’re greatly loved beyond measure.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord Jesus thank you for loving us beyond measure and much more than what we deserve, help us to live a life pleasing to you. Amen.

Written By: 
K. T. Sim

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We’ve Got the Power!

READ: Romans 7:14–25 

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

The loud crackling noise startled me. Recognizing the sound, I raced to the kitchen. I’d accidently tapped the start button on the empty coffee maker. Unplugging the appliance, I grabbed the handle of the carafe. Then I touched the bottom of the container to ensure it wasn’t too hot to place on the tile counter. The smooth surface burned my fingertips, blistering my tender skin.

As my husband nursed my wound, I shook my head. I knew the glass would be hot. “I honestly do not know why I touched it,” I said.

My response after making such a mistake reminded me of Paul’s reaction to a more serious issue in Scripture—the nature of sin.

The apostle admits to not knowing why he does things he knows he shouldn’t do and doesn’t want to do (Rom. 7:15). Affirming that Scripture determines right and wrong (v. 7), he acknowledges the real, complex war constantly waging between the flesh and the spirit in the struggle against sin (vv. 15–23). Confessing his own weaknesses, he offers hope for victory now and forever (vv. 24–25).

When we surrender our lives to Christ, He gives us His Holy Spirit who empowers us to choose to do right (8:8–10). As He enables us to obey God’s Word, we can avoid the searing sin that separates us from the abundant life God promises those who love Him.

Let's Pray

Lord, thanks for breaking the chains that used to bind us to a life controlled by our sinful nature.

Written By: 
Xochitl Dixon

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An Encounter with Stones

READ: Isaiah 53:1–6 

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. Isaiah 53:5

After centuries of war and destruction, the modern city of Jerusalem is literally built on its own rubble. During a family visit, we walked the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Sorrow), the route tradition says Jesus followed on His way to the cross. The day was hot, so we paused for a rest and descended to the cool basement of the Convent of the Sisters of Zion. There I was intrigued by the sight of ancient pavement stones unearthed during recent construction—stones etched with games played by Roman soldiers during their idle moments.

Those particular stones, even though likely from a period later than Jesus, caused me to ponder my spiritual life at the time. Like a bored soldier passing time in idle moments, I had become complacent and uncaring toward God and others. I was deeply moved by remembering that near the place I was standing, the Lord was beaten, mocked, insulted, and abused as He took all of my failure and rebellion on Himself.

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).

My encounter with the stones still speaks to me of Jesus’s loving grace that is greater than all my sin.

Let's Pray

Lord Jesus, through Your great sacrifice for us, we find forgiveness, healing, and hope. Thank You that we live today and forever in Your love. Amen.

Written By: 
David C. McCasland (Source: Our Daily Bread)

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Invisible Influence

READ: 1 Thessalonians 5:16–24 

Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

 On a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, I saw a masterpiece called The Wind. The painting showed a storm moving through a wooded area. Tall, thin trees leaned to the left. Bushes thrashed in the same direction.

In an even more powerful sense, the Holy Spirit is able to sway believers in the direction of God’s goodness and truth. If we go along with the Spirit, we can expect to become more courageous and more loving. We will also become more discerning about how to handle our desires (2 Tim. 1:7).

In some situations, however, the Spirit nudges us toward spiritual growth and change, but we respond with a “no.” Continually stonewalling this conviction is what Scripture calls “quench[ing] the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). Over time, things we once considered wrong appear not to be quite as bad.

When our relationship with God seems distant and disconnected, this may be because the Spirit’s conviction has been repeatedly brushed aside. The longer this goes on, the harder it is to see the root of the problem. Thankfully, we can pray and ask God to show us our sin. If we turn away from sin and recommit ourselves to Him, God will forgive us and revive the power and influence of His Spirit within us.

Let's Pray

God, show me how I have resisted Your Holy Spirit. Help me to listen when You speak. I want to be right with You again.

Written By: 
Jennifer Benson Schuldt

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Model It

Read: Titus 2:1-8

You . . . must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching (Titus 2:7).

It was a regular Monday evening at a senior care facility. Hamburgers were on the menu, and an 87-year-old named Patty was eating hers when she began to choke. But just in the nick of time, another resident came to the rescue and did the Heimlich maneuver on her—saving the day. That resident was none other than 96-year-old Dr. Henry Heimlich himself, the doctor who is widely credited with inventing the procedure. For Patty’s sake, it was a good thing that Dr. Heimlich actually modeled what he taught!

The apostle Paul reminded young Titus that he should model what he taught as well. He urged him to be an example by presenting the Scriptures in a way that was above criticism and a credit to all believers in Jesus: “Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized” (Titus 2:8). Paul noted that his protégé’s teaching would have a lasting impact only if it was backed up by a blameless and consistent lifestyle filled with good works (Titus 2:7), for Titus’ life and ministry were always on display.

When writing to Timothy, another young pastor, Paul also told him he should set an example for believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Timothy 4:12). For these young leaders, every word and action was to be carefully measured so that any basis for slander was removed and the gospel could press on in power (Titus 2:8).

If we desire to reflect Jesus well to others, we too, through the power of Christ’s Spirit (Ephesians 3:16), should pursue a life of integrity that opens the door for others to receive our testimony of Christ. With hearts full of praise to God, may we follow and model Jesus with words and actions that give us the right to be heard by those who need Him.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to do all good works as You give us opportunities so that our teaching is backed up by our blameless walk. Amen. 

Written By: 
Marvin Williams

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Battle Strategy

Read:2 Chronicles 20:1-24

You will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory (2 Chronicles 20:17).

At the height of an African government’s struggle with a terrorist rebel group, the president turned to the church for help. As people began to pray, an army chaplain declared that the war wouldn’t be won in battle, but through prayer. Thus began “Operation Gideon.” A team of intercessors gathered for several weeks of prayer and fasting. In time, a systematic breakdown of the rebel group’s influence occurred.

When Judah’s king Jehoshaphat received word that “a vast army from Edom [was] marching against [him]” (2 Chronicles 20:2), he “was terrified” and “begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4). In response to the nation’s passionate plea for help, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon . . . Jahaziel son of Zechariah, a Levite [who declared], ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. . . . Stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you’ ” (2 Chronicles 20:14-17).

Taking God at His word, Jehoshaphat “appointed singers to walk ahead of the army [into battle], singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. . . . At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.” Not a single enemy escaped (2 Chronicles 20:21-24).

Prayer might not always seem like the best strategy in your daily battles, but in reality it’s the most effective of all—for the battle and outcome belongs to God (1 Samuel 17:47). Turn your struggles over to Him, and praise Him for His powerful work in your life.

Let's Pray

Dear God, Thank You for making us realize that prayer is the best strategy in our daily battles and help us to live praising Your Might  everyday and acknowledge that the battle belongs to You. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Remi Oyedele

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Cheerful Hospitality

Read:1 Peter 4:7-10

Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay (1 Peter 4:9).

After Mary and Jim married and moved into their first apartment, they decided to set aside a room in which to host others. I became a beneficiary of their warm hospitality on a teaching trip. They welcomed me, a stranger, into their home and showered me with love.

The practice of hospitality is central in Scripture. Jesus received hospitality from those He ministered to (Mark 2:15-16, 14:3; Luke 7:36). Sisters Mary and Martha of Bethany opened their home to Jesus (Luke 10:38), and He probably stayed in their home each time He came to Jerusalem (Matthew 21:17; Luke 21:37).

The apostle John cited an example of a believer who hosted traveling teachers. Although strangers to him, Gaius gave them a place to stay. He was commended for his cheerful and loving hospitality: “You are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth” (3 John 1:5-8).

We may not be missionaries or traveling Bible teachers. But we can partner with them and others who need our hospitality. Peter wrote, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other . . . . Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay” (1 Peter 4:8-9). And the apostle Paul urges us to “always be eager to practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

Our generous, loving God can provide what we need to show hospitality to those in need.

Let's Pray

Dear God, help us to show cheerful hospitality to those in need. Amen.

Written By: 
K. T. Sim

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Undivided Devotion

Read:1 Corinthians 10:14-23

You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too (1 Corinthians 10:21).

When I started dating the man who would one day become my husband, I experienced feelings stronger than I’d ever known before. The more I got to know Francisco, the more I wanted to be with him. I would go to sleep at night thinking about getting a message from him in the morning. I intentionally prioritized my schedule to be with Francisco. I grew to be so in love with him that I couldn’t conceive of being interested in another man.

During this season of my life, Jesus showed me how much He loves me and wants my undivided devotion. This same truth was one that Paul wanted to teach the church in Corinth. The cultural practices of their time made it difficult for the Corinthian believers to fully devote themselves to Jesus. They attended pagan temples and joined in feasts in which the food had been offered to idols. Though they were sharing in “the Lord’s Table,” they were also “at the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:16,21).

Paul used a logical and culturally relevant argument to show that their thinking wasn’t right. He said that just as they experienced unity with one another and with Jesus when they took communion, in the same way, when they participated in pagan rituals, they had unity with demons (1 Corinthians 10:21). The issue wasn’t that “idols are real gods,” but that those who worshiped idols instead of the real God were honoring demons (1 Corinthians 10:19).

What the Corinthians did with their love and devotion affected Jesus’ heart (1 Corinthians 10:22). As a bridegroom can’t wait to marry his bride, Jesus can’t wait to have us in His presence (Revelation 19:6-9). Out of the overflow of His love for us, may we love and serve Him well today!

 

Let;s Pray

Dear Lord Jesus, help us to be undividedly committed to serving and honoring Your name as Christians in our everyday life. Amen.

Written By: 
Estera Pirosca Escobar |

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Misery Has Company

Read:Acts 3:1-26

This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate (Acts 3:13).

Peter’s healing of a crippled beggar drew a crowd, so he used the opportunity to tell them about the God who heals. He told them about Jesus, whom they had rejected and handed over to Pilate. “You rejected this holy, righteous one . . . . You killed the author of life” (Acts 3:14-15).

Peter knew what he was talking about. The same Greek word that is translated “rejected” was used by Jesus for Peter’s denial. “I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me” (John 13:38). Peter “broke down and wept” after his denial; and though Jesus later restored him, that moment of betrayal was seared in his memory (Mark 14:72).

I wonder what pangs of remorse Peter felt as he told the crowd they were guilty of the same offense. As he had denied his friend during His hour of need, so they had rejected Jesus and demanded His death. But perhaps Peter found solace in knowing the crowd was equally in need of the grace he had received. This is good to remember when we’re crushed by guilt. Yes, we should be ashamed. Yes, we deserve judgment. But we’re all guilty. We’re not alone.

And by His grace, God hasn’t left us alone. The very sin that led to Jesus’ death led Him to sacrifice His life for our salvation. Jesus bore our guilt and shame, “but God raised him from the dead”! (Acts 3:15). We need only “repent of [our] sins and turn to God” and our sins will be “wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send [us] Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20).

The next time we see Christ, we won’t reject Him but will welcome the One who rejected our rejection. Thanks be to God!

Let's Pray

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your gift of forgiveness that wipes away our sins when we repent. Help us to have that same attitude of forgiveness to others because we have been forgiven. Amen.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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The Great Divide

Read:Ephesians 4:1-24

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

A ministry leader once tried an interesting communication experiment. Holding giant whiteboards and some markers, he engaged passersby on his city’s streets. On one whiteboard, people were asked to write what they wanted to tell the church. The messages weren’t very kind. On the other board, people were asked to write, “What do you want to say to Jesus?” To Him they wrote surprisingly tender messages such as, “I miss you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.”

Loving Jesus should be easy—He’s that winsome combination of pure affection mixed with no-nonsense strength. He’s steady enough to never compromise, yet caring enough to help us (all of us) out of our sin to lives of real fulfillment. But if believers are faithfully following Jesus, the world should see Him in us just as easily. Christ is the source of unity in the church—His body—and the one we grow to become like (Ephesians 4:15-16). The goal, then, is for the church to be a family of believers who are flourishing spiritually. In that way they can help each other mature to be more like Jesus so that “the whole body [is] healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16).

At its best, such a healthy, maturing church clearly reflects Jesus as each believer is being transformed to become more like Him. As the Holy Spirit enables, and as the Scriptures provide the wisdom we need, we can learn to follow Christ with the abandon of a true disciple.

May we persevere in following Jesus by God’s strength, for the rewards are worth it. We will please Him, encourage our fellow believers, and have a better opportunity to close the great divide that many see between Jesus and His followers.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, Jesus, help us to be faithful followers of You so that You can use us as instruments to encourage our fellow believers and close any devide in Your Church. Amen.

Written By: 
Jennifer Schuldt

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In Preparation

Read:Zephaniah 2:1-3

Seek to do what is right and to live humbly. Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you (Zephaniah 2:3).

My friend Phil began chemo treatments in December 2016 for an aggressive form of lymphoma cancer. By God’s grace, he’d been prepared for this challenge in many ways. His wife had battled cancer several years before, and he had seen me go through several treatments in my own battle with an aggressive lymphoma. He had also just changed jobs, and the benefits and community support there were just what the doctor ordered. Most of all, he had been enjoying deep relationship with God.

Zephaniah, a man who also had a deep relationship with God, was used by Him to help prepare the people of Judah for their battle against a spiritual cancer (Zephaniah 1:1). The country was stained by injustice, spiritual apathy, and a love of material things—not a love for God (Zephaniah 1:9,12,18). But in God’s grace and perfect timing, Zephaniah was preparing the people’s hearts for a good king named Josiah who would soon rediscover the Book of the Law and lead his country back to God (2 Kings 22:8; 23:1-25).

Although God’s words—including the reality that He would one day “crush Judah and Jerusalem” (Zephaniah 1:4)—were painful, they were also words that prepared the people to repent and receive Josiah’s reforms. The prophet said, “Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right . . . . Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you” (Zephaniah 2:3).

What tough stuff are you facing today? What valley is God leading you through? Remember that this is a time of preparation. As you deal with the effects of a fallen world—sin, broken relationships, disease, persecution, and more—God can use those things to test and purify your faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).

He can use them to prepare you for what’s to come.

Let's Pray

Dear God, help us to understand that this is our grace period and period of preparation that You have given us so that we may repent and turn to You. Help us to do so. Amen.

Written By: 
Tom Felten

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Doing as He Says

Read:1 Kings 17:1-16

So Elijah did as the Lord told him (1 Kings 17:5).

I don’t always like to do what I’m told; an internal resistance wells up inside me. Perhaps my natural stubbornness and my dependence on prayer to soften my heart makes me notice Elijah’s pliability and obedience in 1 Kings 17. When God tells him to do something, he obeys. And God uses him in His redemption story.

Throughout these verses, we see Elijah hearing and obeying God. The prophet announces to King Ahab the coming drought, and the rains dry up (1 Kings 17:1,7). Elijah follows God’s commands by hiding at a stream where ravens care for his needs (1 Kings 17:5-6). He then obeys Him in going to Zarephath and seeking food from a widow (1 Kings 17:8-10). She too obeys and makes food for them, although she was nearly out of food (1 Kings 17:12). Elijah promises, on behalf of God, that her oil and flour will not run dry—and God keeps His promise (1 Kings 17:15-16).

Interestingly, Bible commentators point out that the conflict between Elijah and King Ahab represents a bigger story of the true God versus false gods—in this case, Baal, a fertility god believed to be the provider of rain and thunder. So when God stopped the precipitation for several years, He also dried up any perceived power of Baal. The false god was shown to be wanting, while the true God provided for His people.

None of us are prophets like Elijah, but in God’s strength we can echo his character by building up our “obedience muscle.” Perhaps we can commit to acting on a nudge we sense when reading Scripture, or we can ask God to show us an area of life we’re withholding from Him. As we obey by His power, God may use us in His great redemption plan.

Let's Pray

Dear God, please help us to obey You at all times and see Your redemption plan work in us. Amen.

Written By: 
Amy Boucher Pye

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Growing into Our Life

Read:Luke 2:41-52

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and all the people (Luke 2:52).

Recently, my two sons (both in their early teens) and I, along with a few friends, gathered in our front yard with one mission: to take down our massive, old ash tree and turn it into firewood. The tree was perhaps forty feet tall, with a trunk the size of a small car. For an entire day, with axes and a hydraulic log-splitter, we labored with pure joy. But the moment I’ll cherish forever was watching my boys, each for the first time, heave an axe overhead and bring it down with fury. In those moments, I saw their strength in new ways. I saw their fierceness. I saw them becoming men. Wasn’t it only yesterday that they were babies and I held them in my arms?

Perhaps we think coming-of-age is something Jesus wouldn’t need to experience. Luke tells us, however, that He “grew in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). Though morally blameless, He wasn’t a superhuman unfamiliar with human struggles. Jesus had to learn how to use His mind, how to acquire and apply knowledge, how to discern and persevere. As He grew into an adult, Jesus developed in wisdom as well.

Likewise, over the years, Jesus “grew . . . in stature and in favor with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52). He wasn’t born as a man in a babe’s body. Jesus actually grew up and matured. The One who would rescue the world had to be dressed, had to have His dinner cooked for Him, and had to be taught how to walk. Jesus also had to grow into His identity, into the fullness of His life with God and with others. He had to grow, and so do we.

Perhaps we can have a little more patience with ourselves (and others) as we consider that truth. Growing into our life, into the life God has for us, will take time and His power to be realized.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to be patient as we are growing more into Your likewness everyday. Give us the power of the Holy Spirit not to give up when we face trials. Amen.

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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Alluring

Read: Matthew 14:13-21

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns (Matthew 14:13).

The owner of the coffee shop I escape to when I have a writing deadline told me she wants it to be the “community’s living room.” And I think it is. There are heart surgeons, business people, judges, medical students, teachers, kids from local schools, college students, parents, pastors, and writers who frequent it. Although I’m new to the area, I’ve already come to recognize many of the patrons. The people who work there are friendly and welcoming. The coffee and food are good. The atmosphere is cozy and alluring. It’s a go-to place in our community.

My little haven calls to mind the fact that wherever Jesus showed up became a go-to place. In Matthew 14:13 we read that He was in a remote place. But it didn’t matter! As soon as the crowds found out where He was, they left their towns and went out to Him. Part of the reason people were drawn to Jesus was that He was full of God’s healing power (Matthew 14:14). They were also drawn by the way He brought out the wisdom of the Scriptures (Luke 5:1). But central to the attraction to Jesus was the way He made all types of people comfortable around Him (Matthew 9:11). When they looked at Christ, they saw love and compassion in His eyes (Matthew 14:14).

Everything about Jesus was alluring. So wherever He happened to be—whether a home, seaside, wilderness, or even the cross—there was a pull, a magnetism that drew people close.

When we follow Jesus, when we’re filled with Him (Colossians 2:9-10), we too will be alluring. Our lives, houses, workplaces, and churches will be go-to places. May we His disciples—and the places we frequent—be alluring through His power and love within us.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord Jesus, may our lives and our houses be alluring through Your love and power within us, so that the name of our Heavenly Father may be glorified. Amen.

Written By: 
Marlena Graves

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He Knows You

Read: Psalm 139:1-24

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me (Psalm 139:1).

In The Newlywed Game, a popular game show in the US that ran from 1966 up until 2013, newly married couples were asked questions to determine how well the spouses knew each other. As I reflected on the program, I was reminded of how amazing it is that we have an intimate relationship with God—who both knows us perfectly and helps us to know Him.

This was what strengthened David when he was threatened by enemies who were out to kill him (Psalm 139:19-22). The poet turned his thoughts to God, meditating in amazement on God’s perfect knowledge of everything there was to know about him (Psalm 139:1-6). And he was encouraged that the all-knowing One was also always present (Psalm 139:7-12) and all-powerful (Psalm 139:13-18). So David could celebrate that the God who knew him perfectly was always there to guide and care for him as well (Psalm 139:24). There was no place where the psalmist was outside of God’s perfect presence, provision, and protection.

After meditating on God’s perfect knowledge of him (Psalm 139:1), David reflected on how much he valued knowing God in return. He experienced God as too wonderful to fully understand, reflecting in amazement, “Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them!” (Psalm 139:17 The Message). But David understood enough of who God is to trust Him to always be with him. He wrote, “When I wake up, you are still with me!” (Psalm 139:18).

The truth that the all-powerful God who knows all about us is with us every second should impact how we live by His strength (Psalm 139:23-24). Let’s be quick to run to Him, for “the eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Let's pray

Dear God, Thank You for knwoing us completely, help us to live lives that are fully committed to you. Amen.

Written By: 
K. T. Sim

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Complete—Yet Under Construction

Read: Ephesians 3:14-21

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong (Ephesians 3:17).

As my mom and I entered the indoor prayer garden our church recently built, I suddenly felt the sweet peace and presence of the Holy Spirit. The room had plants, a paved walkway with Scriptures displayed, a small waterfall, and a lit cross on the wall. In contrast to this peaceful, awe-inspiring sanctuary, just outside we could see contractors working on a different part of the building—with dust, tools, noisy machines, and everything else one might expect to find at a construction site.

I realized then that the part of the building under construction and the prayer garden were both reflections of my own journey with Jesus—the one a picture of the work in progress I am today, the other an image of my future transformation. They brought to mind the apostle Paul’s prayer for Ephesian believers to grow to be “complete, with all the fullness of life and power” that come from God (Ephesians 3:19). Through His Spirit, God would provide the “glorious, unlimited resources” they needed, and Jesus would build His home in their hearts (Ephesians 3:16).

And this growth is available to all believers today as well. As we receive what is needed from the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:15), our “roots will grow down into God’s love” as we grow to understand and experience it more deeply (Ephesians 3:17). This love is deep enough to fill and strengthen any heart (Ephesians 3:18).

Although we’re still under construction, through Jesus’ work we are also already “complete through [our] union with Christ” (Colossians 2:10). Through the power of the Spirit, may we continue to grow in understanding and experiencing the infinite love of our personal God and living it out in every area of our lives.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, thank you for being so patient with us and working on us to make us complete in Jesus. May your name be glorified in all the walks of our daily life. Amen.

Written By: 
Estera Pirosca Escobar

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A Father’s Love

Read: Matthew 3:13-17

A voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Matthew 3:17).

Soccer fans around the world are known for being passionate about their teams, but Boca Juniors, a team from Argentina, may have some of the most enthusiastic followers. Besides typical expressions of support like jerseys, colorful wigs, and face paint, entire stadiums of Boca Juniors fans will even go so far as to set off fireworks simultaneously in an amazing pyrotechnic display, all to communicate one simple fact: “We love our team!”

This “over-the-top” display of loyalty reminded me of the lavish way God the Father expressed His love during Jesus’ baptism. After Jesus emerged from the waters of the Jordan River, the heavens opened up and the Spirit of God in the form of a dove descended and settled on Jesus (Matthew 3:16). This in itself would have been an amazing sign of God’s favor. But the Father wasn’t satisfied with this remarkable display. Like an earthly father who simply can’t contain his pride, He declared from the heavens, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Matthew 3:17). The Father seemed to pull out all the stops to declare His passionate love.

This moment provides an important reminder of God’s character. It can be easy to slip into the perception that God is cold, distant, and judgmental. We may even view Him as surveying all of creation with His arms crossed, just waiting for us to slip up. But Matthew 3 reveals the true nature of our Father: He loves His children and affectionately displays His love in every way possible!

Even more amazing is the fact that because of the work of Jesus, believers are now part of God’s family (Romans 8:14). Our heavenly Father feels the same way about us as He does for His Son! (1 John 3:1)

Let's Pray

Dear God thank you for making us your children through Jesus Christ. Help us to live a life pleasing to yo. Amen.

Written By: 
Peter Chin

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King of the Sunrise

Read: Psalm 19:1-6

The heavens proclaim the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).

One morning before getting out of bed, I heard a radio announcer commenting on something other than news headlines and traffic backups. She was describing the sunrise, saying it was incredible and even camera-worthy. Sure enough, a glance out the window revealed an exquisite array of colors and light. Low lavender clouds embedded in a pale yellow sky grazed rooftops in the distance. To the north, fire-colored clouds hovered against a deep, turquoise backdrop.

As the sunrise melted away, I thought of what David wrote: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. . . . They speak without a sound or word” (Psalm 19:1,3). To people who don’t know God, the sky and all it contains shouts, “Yes, God exists!”

This message is available to everyone who lives on earth. The clouds and sun harmonize to send their wordless confirmation of God “throughout the earth” (Psalm 19:4). To those on the other side of the planet, the stars and moon say the same thing. There’s never a time when the sky doesn’t testify to God in our world. Dark or light, it’s always there. “Day after day [the heavens] continue to speak; night after night they make [God] known” (Psalm 19:2).

Why does God reveal Himself in such a continual, powerful way to human beings? The answer is simple. He wants a restored relationship with those He’s created. He wants “everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). God’s truth extends beyond His existence. It includes His plan of redemption through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. It also includes all the aspects of His character, which is more amazing and beautiful than the most fabulous sunrise ever seen.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord help us to realize that through all your creations you are continually speaking to us and that all this is part of your redemption plan for mankind. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Jennifer Schuldt

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Making Plans

Read: James 4:13-17

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone (James 4:14).

Andre-Francois Raffray was a middle-aged lawyer who found a bargain. A ninety-year-old widow named Jeanne Calment offered her French apartment en viager, or “for life.” If Raffray paid her $500 US per month for her remaining days, he would inherit her apartment when she died. But as months turned into years, Calment kept living and Raffray kept paying. Finally, after thirty years and a lot of money, Raffray died! Jeanne Calment celebrated her 120th birthday and shrugged, “In life, one sometimes makes bad deals.”

This true story at first glance sounds wildly unbelievable—but then life is full of unbelievable events. We’re wise to look for deals, but as Solomon observed, “time and chance happen to [us] all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 NIV). Businesses fail and accidents happen, often for no apparent reason. What seemed like security can be our undoing, all because we’re paying rent to the oldest person alive. What are the odds?

As we plan, we must remain humble. James warns us not to boast about future profits, for who knows “what your life will be like tomorrow?” Our lives are as fleeting as the “morning fog” and fully dependent on God. So we should say, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:14-15). Proverbs 19:21 explains, “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” This proverb may be the source of the Yiddish saying, “Man plans and God laughs.”

God’s sovereign power should bring us comfort. He’s not surprised when our best plans go awry. He’s got us and that’s enough. “The Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken” (Psalm 33:11). So prayerfully consider what to do, but know that you’re secure in God’s loving hands.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord as we make plans help us to realize that we are completely dependent on You and therefore remain humble and consider Your will in all that we do. Amen.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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Never Give Up

Read:Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up (Luke 18:1).

Unlike mystery novels where you never know who the villain in the story is until the final pages, in Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow, we’re clued in right at the beginning that the judge is a shady character. Jesus sets the stage by informing us that there “was a judge in a certain city . . . who neither feared God nor cared about people” (Luke 18:2). This judge didn’t waste a moment thinking about God or about anybody other than himself. He was selfish, small-minded, and power-hungry.

Jesus introduces us to another character, however, a widow who was destitute and who came to the judge’s court day after day. She repeatedly asked him for a ruling against someone who had wronged her. Time and again, the judge rebuffed her. Yet the widow refused to take no for an answer. Finally the exhausted judge decided he’d had enough. “I don’t fear God or care for people,” the judge admitted, “but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!” (Luke 18:4-5).

And this is where Jesus drives His point home: If a judge as awful and evil as this can be moved to intervene, then think about how much more powerfully God’s heart and strength will move on your behalf (Luke 18:6). If even this scoundrel finally helps the poor woman, how much more, Jesus asks, can we trust that “God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night?” (Luke 18:7).

Keep praying, Jesus insists. Keep bringing your entire heart to God. Bring your hopes and disappointments, your desires and needs, your confusion, your dismay, your brokenness. Keep praying, and never give up. Your God hears you and He will answer.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us not to give up on our worries but to keep praying persistently trusting in You. Amen.

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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Bitter or Better?

Read:Ruth 1:1-21

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty” (Ruth 1:20-21).

My friend was overjoyed. Following years of failed procedures, she was going to give birth to a daughter. With only weeks to go, however, my friend discovered her husband was having an affair. The weight of pain threatened to drown all hope of happiness.

Today, by God’s grace, the two are still together. They’ve lived through heartache and experienced the power of repentance, forgiveness, and healing. Almost a decade later, their marriage is stronger than before.

Most of us have been through challenging times and our attitude in the midst of these moments has shaped who we’ve become—bitter or better.

Naomi became bitter. Her name actually means “pleasantness,” but that was before life left her feeling broken. Not only was she forced to flee to Moab to escape famine in her hometown, but, after settling there, her husband Elimelech died. This left her alone to raise two sons in a foreign land. Her sons, Mahlon and Kilion, both married Moabite women, but ten years later they also died (Ruth 1:1-5).

When she learned that the famine in Bethlehem was over, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth returned home. Although people greeted her as Naomi, that isn’t how she felt. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara [bitter], for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty” (Ruth 1:20-21). God was working in Naomi’s heart, however, and He used the unwavering devotion of Ruth to restore her true identity (Ruth 4:13-17).

In the midst of the many challenges of life, may we too know the kindness of our heavenly Father, leading us to leave our bitterness behind as we rest in His presence. By God’s grace, we can find hope and a better way in Him!

 

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, in difficult times in life help us to experience your kindness which transforms our bitterness into betterness. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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Wrestling with God

Read:Genesis 28:10-22, 35:9-14

God blessed him, saying, “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.” So God renamed him Israel (Genesis 35:9-10).

“Fear is not a Christian habit of mind,” the novelist Marilynne Robinson has remarked. Yet fear is one of the most powerful and consistent forces in human behavior. Even outward obedience can be driven more by fear than love. What does it even mean, we might wonder, to live without being motivated by fear?

The story of Jacob can help point the way. When I read his story, I see a person who seems driven by fear. He’s so afraid of missing God’s blessing that he’s willing to do almost anything to obtain it—even if it means tricking his feeble, elderly father (Genesis 27:27-41). But throughout Jacob’s story, God points him to a different reality—one where he is loved by God and chosen for a purpose.

When God first reveals His promises to him at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-15), Jacob wonders if it’s too good to be true. “If God will indeed be with me,” he says, he would serve Him and make Bethel a place of worship (Genesis 28:20-22). And God was with him, though Jacob struggled to believe it. Later, when he’s on the road again, fearing for his life from his brother Esau (Genesis 32:3-5), God appears to him in the form of a stranger. Jacob, still desperate for a blessing, wrestles with Him all night (Genesis 32:26-30). At the end of their struggle, God blesses him—this time changing his name from Jacob (“deceiver”) to “Israel”—which likely means “wrestles with God.”

Through a long and difficult struggle, God taught Jacob to bring his fears to Him, to wrestle with Him and cling to His promises. And it seems Jacob finally “got it,” returning to Bethel once more to obey his promise to worship God there (Genesis 35:6-7). There God reminded Jacob who he really was—not a trickster, but someone who’d learned to wrestle with and follow God (Genesis 35:10).

Let's Pray

Dear God, teach us to bring our fears to You and to trust in You to lead our path. Amen.

Written By: 
Monica Brands

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With Us and For Us

Read:Matthew 1:18-25

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).

It’s easy to think the world has never been as dangerously divided as it is now. We can’t agree about how to address wars in the Middle East or how to help refugees fleeing the conflicts. The world’s superpowers seem to be edging ever closer toward the plains of Armageddon.

But the world seemed just as divided when Jesus came on the scene. Israel, ruled by the iron fist of Rome, couldn’t agree on how best to respond. There were the power-seekers—such as the Sadducees and Herod—who allied with Rome to secure power. Militaristic zealots chose to strike back while the Essenes fled to the Dead Sea, living in separate communities, waiting for God’s Deliverer to come.

Meanwhile, teachers roamed the countryside promising it wouldn’t be long until God sent His Messiah to defeat Rome. The Pharisees prepared for His coming by enforcing purity. Zealots sharpened their knives. Essenes prayed. Herod stood ready to stamp out any sign of the coming King.

This was the dangerous world into which God’s gift of Immanuel brought peace and hope. But in Christmas we celebrate that God is with us. The holy God, from whom even angels must cover their faces, is now . . . with . . . us (Isaiah 6:1-5).

Our main problem is not Rome, Herod, or religious intolerance. Our problem is us. We’re sinners, and so we’re naturally spiritually dead in our sin. But God didn’t leave us for dead. “Immanuel” means God is both with us and for us. Jesus came to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It’s true that we must die with Him (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:20), but only so we can live with Him. God says no to our past so He can say yes to our glorious future with Him. God has given us exactly what we need: Himself!

Let's Pray

Dear God, Thank You for not giving up on us while we were dead in our sins. Thank You for giving us the gift of Jesus Christ so that we may have eternal life. Amen.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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Beautiful Clothes

Read:Colossians 3:1-17

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).

When we were planning our wedding, my husband and I decided we wanted our wedding party to wear traditional clothes from their home countries. But I also wanted the colors to match. Since the outfits were being prepared by my mom and my future mother-in-law in separate countries, Romania and Thailand, color coordination was nearly impossible. What’s worse, some of our friends wouldn’t be able to try on their clothing until the wedding day! I finally stopped worrying and simply prayed that the clothes would fit everyone and the colors wouldn’t clash. When the long-awaited day finally came, everyone looked spectacular!

Our wedding story reminds me of Paul’s words about the beautiful “wardrobe” believers find through Jesus. Through our life in Him, we have a “new nature.” When we live out or “put on” this new nature, we are “renewed as [we] learn to know [our] Creator and become like him” (Colossians 3:10). The inspiring outfits of believers are made with delicate material such as “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

And if such clothing didn’t catch their eye, Paul reminded the Colossians why they should want to wear these attributes. He said, “God chose you to be the holy people he loves” (Colossians 3:12). They had been given the privilege of being loved by God and set apart for a higher purpose than “anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language” (Colossians 3:8).

We can find encouragement in the truth that we don’t need to make our own spiritual “clothes”—Jesus is the One who provides all that’s needed. “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in . . . us” (Colossians 3:11). May we wear the beautiful clothing He provides today!

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to realize that we are loved by God and set apart by Him for a higher purpose than anger and malicious behaviour and to cloth ourselves with the spiritual gifts in Christ. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Estera Pirosca Escobar

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Next Generation Faith

Read: 2 Timothy 1:5-10, 3:10-17

You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).

Graeme was part of a group of self-proclaimed Satanists at my school. By God’s grace, he came to Jesus during an outreach event, began growing in his faith, and eagerly attended church youth groups. But one day I noticed he looked quite sad. When I asked why, he said his parents didn’t approve of his newfound faith. They wanted him to go back to his former way of life that included partying.

I was shocked that his parents wanted him to go clubbing instead of attending youth group. Having grown up in the church, I’d taken for granted my parents’ enthusiastic support for participation in faith-based activities. My parents are first-generation believers, so my children are growing up with parents and grandparents who love Jesus and actively teach them about God.

Timothy had a similar gift through the faith of his mother and grandmother, who taught him the Scriptures and helped him grow in his love for Jesus (2 Timothy 1:5). The apostle Paul encouraged him to build on this foundation and “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave [Timothy] when [Paul] laid [his] hands on [him]” (2 Timothy 1:6). He challenged Timothy to “never be ashamed to tell others” about God because He “has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7-8).

A faith heritage, Paul reminded Timothy, can be a source of continual confidence and encouragement. “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

May God help us teach the next generation about the hope we have in Him—a hope based in faith that has changed Graeme’s life along with our own.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to live by the faith and the true Christian discipline taught to us by our parents and our grandparents and also teach our next gneration to have unwavering faith in You. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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Confusing Assignments

Read: Mark 5:1-20

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been” (Mark 5:18-19).

I know of a man who passionately desires to be a pastor. He’s worked in youth ministry, camp ministry, and even alongside pastors in the church. He’s well-regarded by those with whom he interacts, having willingly volunteered his time while faithfully loving his wife and children. And yet, he’s been unable to find the right place to serve fulltime. Several churches “nearly” called on him. But he’s yet to receive a ministry role in any official capacity.

In such circumstances, it can be hard to accept God’s assignment for our lives. We have our ideas about how our vocations should proceed. And we have good desires—we want to use our gifts and serve Christ to the best of our abilities (see 1 Corinthians 12). But then something happens to prevent us from using our gifts in the way we believe God wants us to use them, in ways that seem perfect to us. Such experiences can be both discouraging and disorienting.

In Mark 5:1-20, we read the story of a man healed from demon possession—a man perhaps confused by the assignment Jesus gave him. After Jesus healed him, he “begged” to go with the Savior and follow Him (Mark 5:18). But Jesus told him, “No” (Mark 5:19).

I imagine that, initially, the man must have been disappointed. But Jesus thought it best that he return to his family to tell them how merciful God had been and how much He had done for him.

For us as well, it can be hard to surrender our ministry assignments to God, to wholeheartedly say, “I want your will to be done” (Luke 22:42). During those times, it helps to lean on Him and other believers in Jesus to remind us that God is indeed good and that He’s using us for His kingdom right where we are.

Let's Pray:

Fear Lord, help us to pray for the fulfilment of Your plans in our lives and not our plans or desires . Help us to lean on You always even in hard times. Amen.

Written By: 
Marlena Graves

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Miracles Large and Small

Read: Psalm 105:1-11,37-45

Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given (Psalm 105:.5).

“Miracles are everywhere,” declared the actress who portrayed Christy Beam in the movie Miracles from Heaven. The film is based on the true life experiences of the Beam family after middle daughter Annabel contracted an incurable intestinal disorder that was inexplicably healed after a death-defying fall. Christy realized that in focusing on the illness, she’d missed other “miracles” the family had encountered before her healing. Although miracles are typically defined only as clearly supernatural interventions, Christy recognized that events that helped her family survive the trial were equally amazing because they revealed God’s hand in the midst of their pain.

The author of Psalm 105 similarly encourages his audience, in light of the history of God’s miraculous faithfulness to His people, to “give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness, [and] let the whole world know what he has done” (Psalm 105:1). Keeping His promise to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan (Psalm 105:11), God preserved the nation by sending Joseph to prepare a place for them in Egypt when famine overtook their land (Psalm 105:17-22). When the Egyptians enslaved the expanding Israelite nation, God sent Moses and Aaron to deliver them with a series of stunning miracles (Psalm 105:24-38). Once out of Egypt, God sustained His people, providing food and water in a barren wilderness, and ultimately leading them successfully into the Promised Land (Psalm 105:39-45).

When we take our eyes off our problems and instead focus on the acts of God in our lives, we will begin to see miracles of His goodness. As we uncover these treasures, may we also sing out in praise to the One who watches over and lovingly cares for us.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord in the midst of our problems please help us to see Your act of care and praise you. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Remi Oyedele

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Hold on Tightly

Read:Joshua 22:1-9

Hold firmly to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul (Joshua 22:5).

Prior to moving to East Africa, I spent hours praying, seeking counsel, and preparing for a new lifestyle and ministry. Loneliness, limited amenities, leaving friends, and cultural adjustments were among the challenges I expected. Soon, however, I realized that while my love for the Ugandan people remained constant, the hardships, constant giving of my time and energy, and responsibilities of life in a foreign land were taking a toll beyond what I’d anticipated.

Thankfully, Scripture is rich in exhortations for hard times, such as those found in Joshua 22. When heeded, they lead to enriched confidence in God, stronger character, and renewed strength to continue serving Him by His power. “Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment,” wrote C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain. Indeed, it is far easier to be giving and sacrificial when things are going smoothly. But challenges remind us that a fruitful ministry must be based on God’s leading and power—not our own intentions.

Wherever God leads us or asks us to stay, it’s our joy to follow Him in trust and obedience. In Joshua 22:5, the Israelites were instructed to love God, walk in obedience to Him, keep His commands, “hold firmly to him,” and “serve him with all [their] heart and all [their] soul.” These commands should be an encouragement to all believers, especially those serving in particularly difficult situations.

Just as the people of Israel were instructed to “share” with others out of their abundance (Joshua 22:8), may we share with others our time, talents, and treasures. And let’s hold tightly to Him during difficult days, freely giving of ourselves as He provides.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to hold on to you tightly during our difficult times with the assurance that You are our Helper and that we should overcome those situations trusting in Your power and not relying on ours. Amen.

Written By: 
Roxanne Robbins

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Misunderstood

Read:Luke 24:13-34

We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel (Luke 24:21).

It hurts to be misunderstood, especially when we’re trying our best to love. We might go the extra mile to help, yet our co-worker suspects we have an ulterior motive. We share some hard truth, as kindly as we can, and our friend responds by shutting us out of her life.

If you’ve been misunderstood, take heart. History’s greatest act of love was misunderstood at the time. No one who saw Jesus on the cross thought His death was an act of love. His enemies believed He was a blasphemer or at least a rebel who was getting what He deserved. “ ‘He saved others,’ they scoffed, ‘but he can’t save himself!’ ” (Matthew 27:42). Passersby assumed Jesus was merely another martyr in a long line of failed revolutionaries. Even His disciples—including His own mother—didn’t understand what Jesus was doing on the cross. They thought He was a tragic victim and didn’t grasp He was dying for them. No one standing at the foot of the cross guessed what was really going on.

It makes sense that sacrificial acts of love are often misunderstood at the time, because it’s part of what makes the sacrifice great. Our love is more heroic when we fiercely love a person who doesn’t understand or, worse, misinterprets our love as hate.

But one day all will be revealed. Just as Jesus explained His death to the disciples on the road to Emmaus—“Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” (Luke 24:26)—so He one day “will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Being misunderstood happens to us all, but God can use these challenges to help us grow to be more like Him and to love Him and others even more.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to take heart when we are misunderstood in our daily lives and be assured of the fact that God will reveal our motives in His time. Amen.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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A Song in Prison

Read: Philippians 1:15-30

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him (Philippians 1:29).

During the dark days of the communist regime in Romania, a light shone from the souls of believers in Jesus. Two believers, Nicolae Moldoveanu and Richard Wurmbrand, were lying face down on the ground in a prison courtyard on a cold December day. Their crime was their belief in Christ. To distract himself from the cold, Nicolae prayed that God would give him a song. Once they were finally allowed to return to their cell, he shared the song with Richard: “Not only future heaven to be in my speech daily, but may I have heaven and a holy celebration in life right here!”

Paul wrote to the church in Philippi while he was under house arrest for sharing the good news about Jesus. One would expect the apostle to be discouraged or at least focused on his difficulties. Yet his attitude was completely different. He stated, “The message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). What made Paul react this way in the midst of persecution?

First, he was completely confident that God was with him in every circumstance. Throughout this letter, Paul exudes a strong faith based on his close relationship with Him and encourages the Philippians to, instead of worrying, “pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6).

Second, he was absolutely sure that Jesus was worth it all. Paul grasped the sacrificial nature of the crucifixion, the amazing power of the resurrection, and knew that his life would be empty without Christ. And this assurance caused him to live only for Jesus (Philippians 1:21).

May we also come to know Jesus at such deep a level that we would consider it a privilege to suffer for Him! (Philippians 1:29).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to pray about everything and rejoce in You instead of worrying and complaining. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Estera Pirosca Escobar

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Sweet Dreams

Read: Acts 12:1-12

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe (Psalm 4:8).

Sleep deprivation has become a serious health issue around the world. A survey of South Koreans found that 17 percent had at least three nights of insomnia each week. Another study in Hong Kong revealed nearly 12 percent have insomnia. In the UK, 50 percent of Britons fail to get enough sleep; and 30 percent of American adults have symptoms of insomnia, including 10 percent who experience challenges in their daily activities due to a lack of real rest.

Peter, however, slept well even during a particularly trying time in his life. Having been unjustly imprisoned for eight days by King Herod, he was to be put on trial the following day. And it was nearly certain he would be put to death (Acts 12:2-6). But the apostle didn’t lose any sleep over his trial or his impending demise, for “the night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep” (Acts 12:6).

How could he rest at a time like this?

Part of Peter’s peace may have come from being upheld in prayer, for the church had “prayed very earnestly for him,” and was still praying this very night (Acts 12:5,12). But Peter also experienced the peace that can come only through trusting God, the distinct tranquility Paul wrote about: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

When we can’t sleep because we’re troubled by the trials of life, instead of counting sheep, we can talk to our Good Shepherd. Let’s choose to “give all [our] worries and cares to God, for he cares about [us]” (1 Peter 5:7). Sweet dreams!

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, teach us to put all our worries on you as you are the Good Shephered who cares for us and rest in your peace in times of trials. Amen.

Written By: 
K. T. Sim

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Safe Refuge

Read: Joshua 20:1-9

Anyone who kills another person accidentally and unintentionally can run to one of these cities; they will be places of refuge from relatives seeking revenge for the person who was killed (Joshua 20:3).

My first car was a secondhand mini panel van. My dad spent hours fixing it, including the final touch of painting the hood a pretty powder blue. He didn’t want me driving the car yet, but I decided to take it for a quick spin. Dad hadn’t completely refastened the hood, and as the car picked up speed, it blew off and I drove over it! I couldn’t believe it—the hood of my beautiful “new” car was ruined. I tried to bump out the dents myself, but finally—tearfully—told my dad. He hugged me, said it would be okay, and we both worked on getting the dents out of the hood and respraying it.

Yes, I did some pretty silly things growing up, but I knew I could always go home—it was my safe refuge. It still is.

The safe, forgiving space of my home reminds me of God’s provision of safety for His people. In the Old Testament, despite the high standards of Mosaic law, which included capital punishment for murder (Exodus 21:14), God made provision for safety for those who accidentally killed others. He did this by prescribing cities of refuge where they could flee (Numbers 35:15). God explained that these cities protected people from revenge killings, giving them a safe place to live (Joshua 20:3-9).

Through Jesus, God’s provision for forgiveness and safety went even further, for in Him anyone—even those who have intentionally sinned—can find forgiveness if they repent and turn to Him.

Just as a person who had killed someone accidentally was mercifully safe in these cities of refuge, so too are we saved from sin and death when we run to Jesus—our safe refuge (Hebrews 6:18-19). His grace and mercy allows us to enter a safe place for all eternity.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, thank you that we have a place of refuge in you even though we are sinners, thank you for the forgiveness we have in Jesus. Amen.

Written By: 
Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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Love Is No Accident

Read: Ezekiel 20:30-44

I have honored my name by treating you mercifully in spite of your wickedness (Ezekiel 20:44).

One rainy autumn day, my son’s vehicle left the road, went airborne at 70 mph (112 km), and found a lone tree beyond a drainage ditch. For the next hour, rescue workers toiled to pry him from his shredded car. By God’s grace, he survived.

While processing that event with friends, I shared a bit about my own youthful indiscretions. “Do you feel this accident is God judging you for your sins when you were young?” one asked. “No,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt God’s judgment.”

That got some attention. But if by judgment my friend meant punishment, I stand by my statement.

The ancient prophets show God pleading with His people to return to Him so they wouldn’t suffer judgment. Yet God still permitted them to go their own way. They chose idolatry and sexual sin over His life-giving commands. “I let them pollute themselves with the very gifts I had given them,” God said (Ezekiel 20:26). But He didn’t leave them there. “Go right ahead and worship your idols, but sooner or later you will obey me,” God told them (Ezekiel 20:39). Invasion, destruction, and exile were coming. Yet they would one day return to Him.

Sometimes accidents are just accidents. Sin, however, always carries a high cost. When we suffer the inevitable consequences, we may think we’re receiving God’s judgment. In reality, it’s His love.

God sometimes permits me to slam into the results of my sin. He pulls me out of the wreckage, brushes me off, and sets me back on my feet. I sense Him gently say, “Let’s go this way now.”

Our son for the time being is walking with a cane. I look at that cane and watch those painful steps. I observe his resilient, God-given spirit. And I see a clear metaphor for my own walk with God.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, thank You for Your love that calls us back from our sins, help us to realize that sin always carries a great cost and yet through the trials in our lives Your love and care for us is revealed. Please show us the way we should go. Amen.

Written By: 
Tim Gustafson

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Overcoming Evil

Read:James 2:14-26

It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it (James 4:17).

In his book Hitler’s Cross, Pastor Erwin Lutzer shares these heart-wrenching words from a man who lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust: “We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because, what could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. . . . We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.”

This Christian man and other members of his church felt helpless to overcome the widespread evil occurring at the hands of the Nazis. They knew they ought to act, but did nothing (see Romans 12:21).

Reflecting on this story, and on my own life, reminded me of James 4:17, “It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” And if we don’t know what to do, then we can seek God’s guidance through prayer, through Scripture, and from trusted believers in Jesus (Proverbs 15:22; 2 Timothy 3:16; James 1:5). Once we know what we ought to do, we should then act. As James wrote, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?” (James 2:14).

Often I struggle with wondering if my efforts make any difference. No matter—I must do what I know I ought by faith (James 2:18). I can’t let evil, fear, or worry over the effectiveness of my actions keep me from doing what I know is right. Even if I can’t save the world, I can do something by God’s guidance and power.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us through the power of your Holy Spirit to do what we ought to do by faith in  our daily lives. Amen.

Written By: 
Marlena Graves

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Those Who Weep

Read: Luke 6:19-23

God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh (Luke 6:20-21).

“I’ve learned more about God from the tears of homeless women than any . . . systematic theology books ever taught me,” said Shane Claiborne, explaining what drew him to sharing life in community with the poor. His words take me back to the first time I attended a church service in a poverty and violence-stricken neighborhood in Chicago. During the service, several people stood up to testify of their grief and longing for their community’s healing. As we prayed and worshiped with a depth I had never experienced, I realized that I too was broken and deeply in need of this kind of community—where pain is freely shared and together we encounter the One who meets us in our brokenness.

For this is the kind of community where Jesus was and is most at home. “God blesses you who are poor,” Jesus told His disciples (Luke 6:20), with one sentence dismissing long-held beliefs that riches proved divine favor: “The Kingdom of God is yours.” “God blesses you who are hungry now,” He said (Luke 6:21), assuring those who might doubt His care: “You will be satisfied.” “God blesses you who weep now,” He said, assuring those on the brink of losing hope that God loved them, was with them, and one day would give them joy so full they would laugh again.

While a love for others should cause us to work toward ending injustice, Jesus’ lavish blessing should remind us that we have as much to learn from the courage of those who have endured great suffering as we have to offer. Instead of modeling our lives after “success stories,” may we model our lives after the compassionate One who showed us that it’s through sharing suffering together that we experience His comforting presence (2 Corinthians 1:7).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to understand that it's through our suffering that we get to experience Your comforting presence and be glad that You have assured us Your joy. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Monica Brands

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Living Truth

Read: 2 John 1:1-6

The truth lives in us and will be with us forever (2 John 1:2).

Ever wanted to live like a monk? Thirty-four young adults did, accepting an offer from the Archbishop of Canterbury to embrace a countercultural, monastic way of life for ten months. From varied nations and denominations, the group formed a community that studied the Scriptures, prayed, and served together. At the end of their time, one participant stated, “We’ve spent time growing in intimacy with God, learning from Jesus and listening to the Holy Spirit.”

The apostle John wrote of the importance of believers in Jesus living in communities growing in both God’s truth and love. He said that he loved others “in the truth . . . because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 1:1-2). This truth includes the knowledge of Christ and the importance of faithfully following His teachings, but it also means living out the very presence of God within us. As Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you” (John 14:15-17).

As we come to know and love Jesus, His truth is made alive within us. And as we live “according to the truth,” we find that “love means doing what God has commanded us . . . to love one another” (2 John 1:4-6). One commentator wrote, “Love and truth originate in God. Like him, they endure without changing, and their splendor never fades.”

May we live out our faith for Jesus, aglow with the beauty of truth and love that reflects Him and His ways.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to realize that your truth lives in us and therefore help us to live in your love and obey your commands. Amen.

Written By: 
Tom Felten

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Living Truth

Read: 2 John 1:1-6

The truth lives in us and will be with us forever (2 John 1:2).

Ever wanted to live like a monk? Thirty-four young adults did, accepting an offer from the Archbishop of Canterbury to embrace a countercultural, monastic way of life for ten months. From varied nations and denominations, the group formed a community that studied the Scriptures, prayed, and served together. At the end of their time, one participant stated, “We’ve spent time growing in intimacy with God, learning from Jesus and listening to the Holy Spirit.”

The apostle John wrote of the importance of believers in Jesus living in communities growing in both God’s truth and love. He said that he loved others “in the truth . . . because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 1:1-2). This truth includes the knowledge of Christ and the importance of faithfully following His teachings, but it also means living out the very presence of God within us. As Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you” (John 14:15-17).

As we come to know and love Jesus, His truth is made alive within us. And as we live “according to the truth,” we find that “love means doing what God has commanded us . . . to love one another” (2 John 1:4-6). One commentator wrote, “Love and truth originate in God. Like him, they endure without changing, and their splendor never fades.”

May we live out our faith for Jesus, aglow with the beauty of truth and love that reflects Him and His ways.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to realize that your truth lives in us and therefore help us to live in your love and obey your commands. Amen.

Written By: 
Tom Felten

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Popular Opinion?

Read: 2 Corinthians 6:1-18

We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:6).

Hearing rave reviews from her circle of friends—all believers in Jesus—about a TV show they’d been watching, my friend decided to check it out. After just two episodes, however, she was taken aback by the program’s explicit sexual content. She chose to no longer watch the show due to her convictions, but wondered how to handle future discussions about it. Thinking through her concerns, she wondered why the show sustained drawing power for her friends.

Freedom and holiness (being set apart for God) are certainly not incompatible, but sometimes we may find ourselves in difficult conversations about these two powerful concepts. We know “Christ has truly set us free” (Galatians 5:1), but how do we steward this gift, especially knowing that we serve a holy God who calls us to live differently than those who don’t know Him? (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Having dealt with inappropriate behavior within the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul offers guidelines that still apply today. The foundation of our pursuit of holiness must be the remembrance of what first brought us to intimacy with Christ: God’s kindness (2 Corinthians 6:1). Only by His grace are we able to have freedom. This truth should both challenge us to set aside compromise and humble us in response to others’ choices (2 Corinthians 6:3,6).

As we mature, we come to understand how our lives preach the gospel (2 Corinthians 6:4-5); and what we allow to enter our minds can shape what comes out (2 Corinthians 6:7). As we value God’s presence, may we seek His wisdom to be a dwelling place for His Spirit instead of following popular opinion—even that of other believers (2 Corinthians 6:16). In all our responses, though, love must resonate in any correction offered (2 Corinthians 6:11), for it was Love that first drew us.

Let's Pray:

Dear God, help us to realize that freedom and holiness are not incompatible and that our minds are Your dwelling place helping us to choose what is right. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Regina Franklin

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Two Sorrows

Read:2 Corinthians 7:8-13

The kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).

When I was younger, shame or guilt would often overwhelm me. The trigger could be an obvious area where I had failed, and I simply could not shake the gloom as I desperately sought forgiveness. Other times, I endured a suffocating fear that something was wrong or that I needed to confess something. I assumed this weighty guilt was the Spirit’s conviction as I sank deeper into despair.

I wish I’d encountered the message of 2 Corinthians much sooner, where Paul clearly distinguishes between two very different kinds of sorrow: godly sorrow and worldly sorrow (or, in modern terms, guilt and shame [or regret]). The “kind of sorrow God wants us to experience,” Paul writes, “leads us away from sin and results in salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Whenever God pierces our heart, the heaviness we feel points out places of danger and leads us toward health and goodness. Then after we’ve heeded this wisdom, we’re free and relieved. “There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow,” Paul assures us (2 Corinthians 7:10).

In contrast, “worldly sorrow” has no intention to help us or transform us but only crushes our spirit and “results in . . . death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Unlike worldly sorrow, the sadness God’s Spirit may bring exerts only so much force as necessary to clear out whatever threatens to harm us (2 Corinthians 7:11). False clouds of sorrow, however, devour our energy, our hope, and our joy. Things like shame and oppressive guilt do not come from God and never yield life; they bury us.

The Spirit will certainly correct us, but this correction is kind and gentle—and leads to life. If what we feel is a sorrow that constricts and destroys, we can rest assured that what we’re experiencing doesn’t come from our good Father.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to rejoice in our godly sorrows and distinguish them from worldly sorrows and experience Your salvation in our daily lives. Amen. 

 

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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Know It All

Read: John 9:1-41

Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from” (John 9:28-29).

I had a friend who questioned his Christian workplace’s views of a particular disputable theological matter. Not long after voicing his concerns, he was labeled by co-workers as being theologically suspect. He no longer works for that ministry. But he recently found out that his accusers and the denomination with which the workplace was affiliated ended up agreeing with his stance. Unfortunately, he never received an apology from the group.

Jesus faced similar opposition for challenging people’s beliefs. When He healed a man who was born blind, the religious leaders became angry because He did so on the Sabbath. They considered Jesus’ theology to be suspect (John 9:16), since Jewish law forbade people from working on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:9-11). Not only did the leaders think Jesus was a heretic (John 9:24), they thought the man who was healed was lying when he told them he was born blind (John 9:18). When the man questioned the leaders’ attitude toward Jesus and himself and their errant theological beliefs, they grew even more indignant (John 9:28-34).

The religious leaders didn’t believe they had anything new to learn about God or that He could act outside of their understanding of Him. How dare the man born blind, so obviously a sinner, question them or attempt to give theological instruction? (John 9:34).

We can also become arrogant in our theological understanding and unwilling to be corrected. We can become hard-hearted, unwilling to admit we have anything new to learn. But God says He dwells with those who possess humble and contrite hearts (Isaiah 57:15). May we grow in our knowledge of God, but also in our humility as the Holy Spirit draws us to be in awe and amazement of who He is!

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us not to be hard-hearted and have the "know it all" attitude but to be humble and contrite in spirit and also be willing to be corrected. Amen.

Written By: 
Marlena Graves

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Living For Jesus

Read: Romans 12:1-2

I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice . . . . This is truly the way to worship him (Romans 12:1).

“My Tribute,” one of my favorite worship songs, addresses how to adequately respond to God’s undeserved mercy and grace. The lyrics note that although we can never thank Him enough, we can live in ways that please Him. Similarly, Paul describes our lives as the best way we can give thanks: “Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). While that sacrifice means some believers will die for Jesus, all of us are called to live for Him.

We can better understand the apostle’s description of believers as living sacrifices if we understand the two kinds of sacrifices commonly offered by the Israelites. Atoning sacrifices were required sin and guilt offerings—animals slain to make amends for sin (Leviticus 4:1-5, 7:1-6). For “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Thanksgiving sacrifices were offerings of gratitude voluntarily given to God in response to His blessing. They were made in response to His mercy and grace and to offer thankfulness, gratitude, love, and joyful worship to God (Leviticus 7:11-15, 22:29; Psalm 50:14,23).

The sacrifice of animals failed to solve the problem of sin, just as we could never be an atoning sacrifice for it. Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), was the ”perfect sacrifice for our sins” (Hebrews 9:14), the only one who can “remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:26).

But we can, by His strength, be a thank offering in response to what Jesus has done, “a living and holy sacrifice—the kind [God] will find acceptable” (Romans 12:1). Today, let’s live for Jesus as He leads us, for that’s “truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12:2).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord Jesus, help us to live for You each day of our life, understanding that it's the form of true worship to offer ourselves as living sacrifices for You. Amen.

Written By: 
K. T. Sim

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The One

Read:Luke 15:1-7

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? (Luke 15:4).

The trailer for the epic World War II movie Saving Private Ryan contains these words: “In the last great invasion of the last great war, the greatest challenge for eight men was saving . . . one.” Jesus similarly told a parable about a shepherd who searched for one lost lamb. “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4).

Christ told the story to illustrate how God won’t stop searching until He finds “the one” who’s lost, but I normally don’t see myself as “the one” needing to be found. I’m among those in the fold who think they are doing “just fine.” I’m the trained counselor who helps people, armed with the mission as a believer in Jesus to help and serve others who are lost.

But as I recently pondered Jesus’ story, God gently, but firmly, brought to my awareness that I am “the one” who is lost—really lost. I too am profoundly broken and in need of further repentance, grace, and healing.

Some of you reading this devotional know you’re “the one.” Past and present circumstances have left you and others lost in a wilderness of hurt and unable to find a way out. I pray that Jesus’ story of a loving God who won’t stop searching until He finds “the one” brings you glimmers of hope.

Others of you, however, are like me. You are “the one,” but you may not realize it—until something painful happens that drives you to your knees (Luke 15:7). Even if you are, with fellow believers, on a mission to save others, never fool yourself into thinking you have it all together.

We all are “the one” needing to be carried on Jesus’ loving shoulders (Luke 15:5).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, Thank you for helping us realize that we are "the one" who is lost and need repentance and salvation, help us to return to you. Amen. 

 

 

Written By: 
Jeff Olson

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A Word to the Wealthy

Read:1 Timothy 6:17-19

Tell [the rich] to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others (1 Timothy 6:18).

When Robert Edmiston lost his job in the early 1970s, he used the money he received in severance pay to start International Motors. Edmiston went on to become one of the wealthiest business owners in the UK and one of the country’s most generous philanthropists. As a believer in Jesus, he felt compelled to use his wealth to start religious and educational charities that to this day bring hope to people around the world. With offices in Europe, Africa, North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, Robert Edmiston has donated hundreds of millions of dollars since 1988.

As Bill Gates once said, “I believe that with great wealth comes great responsibility.” If this is the case, what does God expect from the rich?

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy with clear instructions on how the wealthy should use their resources. He urged the “rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable.” He encouraged them instead to put their trust in God, “who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Paul also encouraged Timothy to tell the rich “to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others” (1 Timothy 6:18).

Having a grateful heart and a generous attitude isn’t reserved only for the wealthy. Paul’s words should resonate deeply in the heart of every believer in Jesus. We can all use whatever resources and talents God has blessed us with for the good of others. “This will lay a solid foundation for the future, so that [we] will know what true life is like” (1 Timothy 6:19).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, Help us to be rich in good works and to be generous to those in need and share from what we have for the glory of Your Name. Amen.

Written By: 
Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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Not a Sprint

Read: 2 Corinthians 11:16–12:10

I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm (2 Corinthians 11:27).

In 1983, a sixty-one-year-old potato farmer named Cliff Young showed up for a grueling, weeklong ultramarathon from Sydney to Melbourne—in overalls and work boots. He shuffled off the starting line as the much younger and athletic runners sprinted ahead. Soon he was miles behind. Spectators feared for his health. But that night, as the other runners slept, Cliff took a quick nap and kept going. Five days and five nights later he came in first—ten hours ahead of his closest competitor!

The apostle Paul also wasn’t the most orthodox champion. He wasn’t the best speaker and he sometimes lacked the gracious spirit expected from a church leader (Acts 15:37-40; Galatians 2:11). He confessed he was the worst of sinners and suffered from a humbling “thorn in [his] flesh” (1 Timothy 1:15; 2 Corinthians 12:7). His enemies added to his struggles, beating him with whips and stones (2 Corinthians 11:25).

But Paul chose to boast in his weakness “so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Do you sometimes wonder if you’re falling behind in the race of life? Do you feel unappreciated, even scorned for living for Jesus? Do some people scoff at your commitment to Him?

Continue to winsomely show love to the spectators—the ones who are watching you. Remember the steady pace of Cliff Young and the apostle Paul as you run your race. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so “let us run with endurance the race God has set before us . . . keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Let's Pray:

 Dear Lord, even in the midst of insults and hardships help us to run our race with endurance keeping our eyes on Jesus. Amen.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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Streams of Mercy

Read: 2 Peter 3:3-10

[God] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9).

The council in Cassandra Boyson’s Seeker’s Trilogy was responsible for maintaining law and order in the name of the “Great One.” Instead, they were corrupt, singling out people they deemed different for cruel treatment. Slowly the surrounding society began to decay—reflecting the council’s immoral ways. Yet in a surprising twist, the Great One righted the wrongs of that world by providing a river that transformed all who came into contact with it.

Like that river offering transformation without cost, Scripture abounds with examples of God extending undeserved mercy to people in surprising ways. Though Jonah did everything in his power to prevent it, God showered mercy on a wicked Assyrian nation when they chose to repent and turn to God (Jonah 3:10). Jesus gently but firmly silenced the accusers of a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), and He shocked onlookers by associating with the hated tax collectors—even choosing one to be in His core group of twelve disciples (Matthew 9:9-11).

People may ridicule believers in Jesus for their hope in Jesus’ return, saying “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? . . . Everything has remained the same since the world was first created” (2 Peter 3:4). But Peter reminds us that the timing of Jesus’ second coming is designed to allow repentance for as many as possible. He urges us not to “forget this one thing: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:8-9).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to understand that You are being patient for our sake and therefore use this time to repent from our sins and mend our ways so that we may not be destroyed but inherit eternal life. Amen.

Written By: 
Remi Oyedele

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No Floating

Read: Micah 5:1-5

He will be highly honored around the world. And he will be the source of peace (Micah 5:4-5).

I was power-trimming weeds beneath a large tree in our backyard when I felt a painful, burning jab to the back of my skull. Turning, I noticed several hornets buzzing around me. Having been already stung by one, I fled the scene. Later that night I discovered I had bumped the hornets’ watermelon-sized nest with my head! A sting had snapped me out of my clueless state, one that could have resulted in me being swarmed and stung repeatedly.

The prophet Micah was called to do something similar—to wake God’s people out of their clueless state. They had their heads down—ignoring God and His call—living unjust, self-centered, spiritually apathetic lives (Micah 1:5, 2:2). As one commentator put it, “With passionate forthrightness, [Micah] attacks the social evils [religious corruption, social oppression, economic injustice, etc.] of his day. His stubborn refusal to float on the tide of his social environment, and his courageous stand for his convictions of God’s truth, must commend Micah to . . . every age.”

Micah brought God’s stinging words: Judgment was coming through their enemies the Assyrians (Micah 5:1). But he also gave them hope in One who would come from Bethlehem and “be the source of peace” (Micah 5:2,5). The prophet’s words described a “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)—revealing to the people of that age and ours that One would come and “lead his flock” and “be highly honored around the world” (Micah 5:4).

Jesus, the One who fulfilled that prophecy, provides what we need to passionately swim against the currents of social ills today. This is no time for floating. Let’s lift our heads and find our voice as Christ gives us the power and strength to live out His justice, truth, and love.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, Help us to fight aganist the social evils of today and not float along with it. Amen.

Written By: 
Tom Felten

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Star Gazing

Read: Isaiah 40:25-28

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth (Isaiah 40:28).

My adopted teenage son and I had the privilege of hosting two of his closest friends, Brock and Wesley (and their parents), in his native country of Uganda. Though our friends were spending just one week in East Africa, their plans were so ambitious that I said to Brock, “Your dad wants to do everything in seven days.” “It’s possible,” Brock replied. “God made the earth in seven days.” “Yes,” my son said with a smile, “but did God do all of these activities?”

As we plotted our days and tried (unsuccessfully!) to fit all we wanted to accomplish into our allotted time frame, our efforts and lighthearted conversations prompted us to reflect on this profound truth: No one, absolutely no one, compares to the Lord, our Creator, the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25).

The everlasting God desires that we continually come to this place of embracing that He alone is Lord and “the Creator of all the earth” (Isaiah 40:28). He calls us to gaze at His creation, to look up at the stars, and to marvel at His handiwork. He knows that as we do so we’ll better grasp that “he brings [the stars] out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of [God’s] great power and incomparable strength, not a single [star] is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).

This passage of Scripture, the heavens, and the entire Bible proclaims that the Lord who created and orchestrates the mighty host of stars in the sky is our Creator, and He is for us. While no person can measure the depths of His understanding, through Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and His creation we can know with full certainty that the God who never grows weak or weary is constantly at work on our behalf (Isaiah 40:27-28).

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to acknowlege that You are our Almighty Creator and that You are constantly at work on our behalf. Amen.

Written By: 
Roxanne Robbins

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Author Intent

Read:2 Peter 1:16-21

No prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative    (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Sam thought his teacher was a bit over the top with her interpretations of poetry. She could launch into a detailed explanation of why there are “five sibilant sounds in this phrase.” This would cause Sam to think, Don’t be ridiculous! The poet just used words with the letter S! Try writing a poem without that sound.

So Sam decided to conduct a test. When the teacher asked the students to choose a poem to critique, Sam wrote his own poem. Then he put a pen name to it to disguise his authorship and provided a critique. He got an A minus. The teacher marked him down slightly because “you missed some of the author’s intent.” This well-meaning teacher obviously read something into the poem that the author didn’t intend.

This story reminds me of the care we should take to respect the intentions and trustworthiness of Scripture. “We were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” wrote Peter the apostle (2 Peter 1:16). Then he said, “No prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative” (2 Peter 1:20-21), reminding us to take Scripture’s testimony about Jesus seriously.

Peter’s colleague Paul added, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

As you read the Bible, first let it say what it says and no more, prayerfully asking God to reveal its truth to you. Then listen for the Holy Spirit’s leading in applying it to your life moment by moment.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to through the power of the Holy Spirit to comprehend God's truth in the Bible and not rely on our own wisdom to make interpretations about the reading. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Tim Gustafson

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Equals in Jesus

Read:1 Corinthians 11:17-34

But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized! (1 Corinthians 11:19).

A woman named Wednesday was out walking when she saw a well-dressed woman coming toward her. The woman drifted in her path, pushing Wednesday to the edge of the sidewalk. As she brushed by, Wednesday noticed she was carrying a $60,000 Birkin handbag. She realized if she was going to be accepted in New York’s prestigious Upper East Side, she would have to get one.

Wednesday knows it’s crazy. No purse is worth thousands of dollars or the groveling required to purchase it. You can’t simply walk into a Hermes store and get a Birkin. You have to keep coming back, and even beg before Hermes will let you into the Birkin club.

Aren’t you glad Jesus frees us from such pursuits? We don’t need to pay exorbitant fees to impress people. Our status is already sealed. We matter because we belong to God.

The Corinthians forgot this fact and fought over their perceived status. Some bragged they belonged to the “brand” of Peter. Others wore their allegiance to Paul or Apollos on their sleeve (1 Corinthians 1:11-12). The church was also divided by class. When they met for dinner and the Lord’s Supper, the wealthy would “hurry to eat [their] own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some [went] hungry while others [got] drunk” (1 Corinthians 11:20-21).

Paul said such divisions “disgrace God’s church and shame the poor.” It’s the reason why many of them were weak and sick and some even died. The Lord’s Table should bring us together, not drive us apart. So “wait for each other” (1 Corinthians 11:22,30,33).

Our status doesn’t depend on what brands we wear, but it does depend on the One who loves us. Jesus invites us to His Supper. As we gather around His table, we sit beside equals in the family of God.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord Thank You for reminding us that we matter because we belong to You and that our status depends on the One who loves us, so help us to consider everyone as equals and share our resources with those in need. Amen.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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No Judgment

Read: John 3:1-21

There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son (John 3:18).

Like many people with a guilt-inclined personality, accepting that the gospel is good news for me hasn’t come easy. Having grown up in the church, I knew the story, but could always think of why I might be exempt from sharing the joy of the gospel. I would worry about Jesus’ future separation between true and false believers (Matthew 25:31-46), troubled by the thought that even people who profess faith can be lost. I was haunted by the passage about the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:30-32), wondering if perhaps I could push God too far away to return to Him. Christ coming again is supposed to be the best kind of news, but I sometimes wondered for how many people it would feel that way.

Those emotions are difficult to be rid of, and there are still days I feel them return. On those discouraging days, John 3 is one of those passages through which God gently stops my tide of fear and shame and draws me to rest in Him. Jesus said, “God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 3:17). To a world already in a state of judgment and brokenness, Jesus was entirely a gift, sent from a God who loves His creation and longs for all to share in His eternal, abundant, overflowing life (John 3:15, 4:14). Although God must someday judge to restore justice in His world, this judgment is a consequence of rejecting the only solution: seeing the pure, self-giving love of Jesus and still turning away (John 3:18).

So on those days when the voices of guilt and shame keep you from believing in God’s love for you, come back to the solid foundation—that He is good, that He is love, and that in Christ life abundant and unending is freely available to all who are hungry for it (John 6:35)—even you.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, Thank You for giving us the assurance that salvation is for all who believe in Jesus and also for providing us a space to rest in you with all our guilt and shame. Amen.

Written By: 
Monica Brands

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Supporting those Serving

Read:1 Corinthians 9:1-14

On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned (1 Corinthians 16:2).

As a Bible teacher, I’ve traveled to many different countries to share the Scriptures. On many of those trips, I haven’t stayed in hotels but in people’s homes. Believers in Jesus opened their homes, providing me with food and lodging. Although we were strangers before I arrived, my hosts welcomed me, showering me with love and hospitality.

As a missionary, the apostle Paul also depended on the support of many churches and believers in Christ (Acts 16:15; Romans 16:23; 2 Corinthians 11:8-9). Some Corinthian believers didn’t want to support Paul, however, because they didn’t consider him to be a true apostle (1 Corinthians 9:1-3).

Expressing his rationale for the right to receive such support, Paul pointed to the marketplace in which workers earned their living (1 Corinthians 9:7). He then noted that the ox treading out grain wasn’t muzzled, but could take a few bites of the grain (1 Corinthians 9:8-9; Deuteronomy 25:4). Likewise, the one serving God as a pastor or teacher was to receive support from other believers so to continue in his efforts to feed the flock. Paul reminded the Corinthians it was the Lord Jesus who commanded that “those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it” (1 Corinthians 9:14).

Let’s remember that “those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them” (Galatians 6:6). Every week, we have the privilege of “[putting] aside a portion of the money [we] have earned” to support our local church and other kingdom work (1 Corinthians 16:2). As we support others who are serving Jesus, we’re serving Him—the One who came to serve and sacrifice His very life for us. Let’s give as God provides.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to support those in your ministry through prayer and giving and realize that through this we are serving Christ. Amen.

 

 

Written By: 
K. T. Sim

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Spiritual Decay

Read: Deuteronomy 30:1-20

The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 30:10).

Recently, I heard a sermon that touched on the second law of thermodynamics. I now understand a scientific principle and have been reminded of an important spiritual one!

The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy (disorder) always increases with time. In a closed system—a system with no outside influence preventing deterioration—quality always worsens as the clock unwinds. In the same way, when our Christian lives become disengaged from actively seeking God, we’ll naturally descend into increasing spiritual chaos and decay.

The story of the Israelites provides a powerful example of this principle. The Israelites were regularly warned of the consequences of excluding God from their lives (Leviticus 26:14-46; Deuteronomy 28:15-68). They persisted in their rebellion, however, which ultimately led to spiritual decay and judgment through exile in Babylon (Deuteronomy 30:1). Only a genuine heart change and a commitment to reengage fully with God by “[turning] to the Lord [their] God with all [their] heart and soul” could restore their fortunes and enable them to live abundant lives (Deuteronomy 30:10, also Deuteronomy 30:2-6). When we retreat from fully following God, we gradually slip into spiritual decline; but when we live connected to Him, we stem the destructive slide and enjoy a grace-filled life (Deuteronomy 30:11-20).

In our fallen nature, we have a tendency to drift away from God. Our noisy world and busy schedules often drown out His warnings of spiritual drift and decay. But when we connect to the influence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), we’re able to steer clear of spiritual decay and keep growing in our walk with God. The Spirit provides what we need to continue to grow and mature in Jesus!

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us through your Holy Spirit not to drift away from your presence and experience spiritual decay but to walk with you everyday and enjoy your peace and grace in our lives. Amen.

Written By: 
Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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Creation Teaching

Read: Psalm 19:1-14

They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world (Psalm 19:3-4).

We recently moved to my husband’s hometown, a city that features a beautiful metro park system. Every day, prior to work and after dropping off two of our three young daughters at school, we take a brief hike together. My husband straps our baby onto his back in a backpack-like contraption, and off we go!

Along with the trees, river, and streams, we see wild turkeys, countless deer (including fawns and their parents), herons, goldfinches, cardinals, woodpeckers, squirrels, and chipmunks. We also relish seeing turtles of all sizes sunning themselves on the trunks of fallen trees in a bog.

As we hike through the nature preserves, I remind myself to look up. For indeed, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word . . . . Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). If I’m outside at night, I intentionally gaze up at the stars in hopes of getting to know God a little better (Psalm 19:2). If I can’t go outside, I look out the window to catch a glimpse of His creation.

Spending time in nature nurtures our spiritual growth. As Paul notes, creation—animals, birds, the sky, the earth, the trees, the plants, and the fish—reveal aspects of God’s nature (Romans 1:20). Theologians call this truth general revelation.

Spending time in creation definitely does reveal the natural world’s compelling testimony about our Creator. As Jesus taught, it’s important for us to note the flowers of the field, for they reflect God’s love and provision for us (Matthew 6:28-30).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to love and respect our nature Your creation; and recognize Your glory and Your love for us through that. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Marlena Graves

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A Laughing Faith

Read: Genesis 17:15-19

Abraham . . . laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” (Genesis 17:17).

I remember where I was sitting in the cramped living room of our apartment when Miska told me she was pregnant with our first son, Wyatt. I must have sat mute for several moments because Miska asked, “Are you okay? What are you thinking?” In theory, I wanted to be a dad someday, but it had seemed like a distant possibility. But here it was . . . I was going to be a dad, and I was dumbstruck.

Abraham was in a very different situation. He was an old man, and for decades he’d wanted to father a son with his wife, Sarah. But of course, now it appeared to be too late. His body was withered and Sarah, at age 90, was advanced in years as well. It seemed that there would be no children for them.

God appeared to Abraham, however, and told him the most ludicrous, unexpected news: “I will bless [Sarah] and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants” (Genesis 17:16). Abraham “bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief” (Genesis 17:17). God must be mistaken, he thought; the idea was preposterous.

Of course, before too long, Abraham and Sarah did indeed have a son—Isaac. God revived their withered bodies and made them fertile again. He kept His promise.

Do any of God’s promises—such as “eternal life” (John 4:14) and a “satisfying life” (John 10:10)—seem so wonderful that you can’t help but laugh? Do any of God’s good and hopeful words seem impossible? Has it been difficult for you to hold on to belief in His kind intentions? Have you ever read a verse that contains a clear promise from Him—and couldn’t contain the laughter? If God has spoken, then hold on because His promises are true.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord give us the firm faith to believe that Your promises to us will be fulfilled in Your appointed time. Amen.

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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The New Risky

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:1-18

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:7).

“Safe is the new risky,” the speaker remarked. He was referring to the hidden costs of failing to incorporate people of diverse perspectives and ethnicity into the workplace, such as difficulty competing in a global marketplace. But I couldn’t help but think his point echoed the radically new perspective the gospel brings—that things are not as they seem and that there’s a hidden cost to not taking risks for the sake of the gospel.

That cost can be failing to experience the power of God through the “life of Jesus” in all its fullness (2 Corinthians 4:7-11). In His mercy (2 Corinthians 4:1), God has chosen broken, ordinary people like you and me to be the “clay jars” that carry the treasure of the good news. If we live “safe,” comfortable lives where we never really take risks—never bringing His love into the most broken places in our communities, never standing up against the injustices our culture normalizes, never trusting Him with our deepest fears—we can also miss fully tasting His love, joy, and justice. We can fail to really see the “glory of God . . . in the face of Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The gospel invites us to “never give up,” to live with courage. But sharing God’s love to a world “blinded” to it is not easy (2 Corinthians 4:1,4). Even Paul in his deepest pain “despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8 NIV). Through his suffering, Paul came to understand more deeply the paradox that as we experience suffering, we also experience the resurrection life of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:10) and a taste of the day when an “eternal glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)—the beauty of God’s future for creation—will be revealed for all to see. It’s in light of that reality that we can joyfully be ever-bolder witnesses to the relentless, death-defying love of our Savior.

Dear Lord, help us to get out of our comfort zone and trust You with our greatest fears and experience Your glory in our lives. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Brands Monica

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Seeing like Jesus

Read: Hebrews 12:1-29

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

During his 100 years of life, renowned photographer Stanley Troutman has witnessed some profound events. In 1945, as a US Navy photographer, Troutman was deployed to Germany and Japan where he captured on film some of the most poignant images of World War II. After the war, as the official sports photographer for a large university, this believer in Jesus saw and documented amazing athletic feats.

Both experiences caused Stanley Troutman to recognize that in this complex world, the only way to steadily “run with endurance the race God has set before us” is by “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Seeing the world through a camera lens can reveal much about people’s hearts, their ambitions, and the times we live in. When we focus on Jesus and God’s wisdom found in Scripture, however, we can also see a Savior who calls us to “take a new grip” with our tired hands and to find strength for our “weak knees” in Him (Hebrews 12:12).

Jesus meets us in life’s battlefields and arenas—inviting us to look to Him, the only One who “endured the cross, disregarding its shame” and who embraced hostility from sinful people on our behalf so that we “[wouldn’t] become weary and give up” as we live out His calling for our lives (Hebrews 12:2-3).

God graciously invites us to cast our eyes on Jesus and encourages us to “mark out a straight path for [our] feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong” (Hebrews 12:13). Through Christ, “We are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, [so] let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

Today, may we fix our eyes on Jesus and see all of life through the lens of His love.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord Jesus, from today help us to fix our eyes on You and view the world through the lens of Your love and live a life pleasing to You. Amen. 

 

Written By: 
Roxanne Robbins

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God’s Masterpiece

Read: Ephesians 2:8-10

We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

While watching top athletes compete in a global event, my family and I marveled at their incredible feats. But as a relatively sedentary person, I was equally awestruck by their training regimens. In interview after interview, athletes would share how they woke up early every morning and did nothing but work out for hours on end. Every calorie would be counted, every movement analyzed for maximum efficiency. But they didn’t talk about their training as if it were a hardship—something negative. No, they described it with pride and passion because they recognized the privilege of being one of the few athletes in the world capable of competing at the very highest level.

Believers in Jesus are certainly called to the privilege of serving God with passion. Ephesians 2 states that we’re created to do good works by His power and provision (Ephesians 2:10). And as clearly presented elsewhere in the New Testament, the work we’re called to do isn’t easy. Jesus Himself embraced a cross and called us to carry our own (Matthew 16:24). But when Paul talks about doing good works, he frames it as a privilege, not a burden. In Ephesians 2:10, he says that we’re God’s “masterpiece.” In this, he gives us the sense that we’ve been created and crafted by God to do good works. We were made in His image and are now new creations designed to reflect His ways (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I have to admit that far too often I view all that I’m called to do as a believer in Jesus as more of a burden than a privilege. That’s why Paul’s words in Ephesians are so important to keep in mind. When it comes to my calling to follow Christ, it’s not that I have to do it. By God’s provision, it’s pure privilege!

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to realize the significance of the privilage that You have given us as believers to do good works which You have planned for us from long ago for the glory of our Creator. Amen.

Written By: 
Peter Chin

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Eternal Perspective

Read: Acts 7:54-60

“Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” (Acts 7:56).

Tricia Mingerink’s young adult Christian fantasy series The Blades of Acktar contains a scene where the protagonist is forced to watch friends and family martyred for their faith. A fearful person, she was struck by the peace with which each martyr faced death. In a moment of clarity, she realized that these believers were not bound by their immediate circumstances. The fear borne out of her exclusive focus on the present melted away as she embraced a perspective of eternity in God’s presence.

The story of Stephen demonstrates a similar response to suffering. While facing a group of irate Jewish leaders, Stephen lifted his eyes to heaven and saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:54-56). His joyous proclamation of this sight drove the leaders into such a murderous frenzy that “they rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him” (Acts 7:57-58).

But this assault didn’t cause Stephen to take his eyes off Jesus. “As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ He [then] fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ ” (Acts 7:59-60). Even when facing his own death, Stephen was able to follow Jesus’ example and intercede on his murderers’ behalf.

When Jesus said we should “seek the Kingdom of God above all else” (Matthew 6:33), He was challenging us to move away from an exclusive focus on the here and now. In seeking God’s kingdom here on earth, we prepare our hearts for the eternity beyond and understand that the present reality does not have the final say in our story.

May we adopt an eternal perspective as the Holy Spirit helps us see all of life through God’s eyes and heart.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, even when assults arise help us to rejoice in You and follow the example You have set for us and be assured of Your Eternal Kingdom.  Amen.

Written By: 
Remi Oyedele

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You Have Enough

Read: Leviticus 5:5-19

If you cannot afford to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, you may bring two quarts of choice flour for your sin offering (Leviticus 5:11).

Our world grants increasing access to those who can afford the price of admission. If you want to hear your favorite band in concert, you can buy a ticket. Spend more money and you can buy a backstage pass and take a selfie with the band during the “meet and greet.” Pay a lot more and they may be willing to sing at your wedding or birthday party.

Money opens most doors—except the one leading to God. He owns everything, so He doesn’t care how much we possess. As long as we give our best to Him, whatever we have is enough. Even in the Old Testament, when God required ancient Israelites to offer a sacrifice for their sin, God said those who couldn’t afford a sheep or goat could present either “two turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Leviticus 5:7). And if they couldn’t even afford two birds, they could bring the amount of flour normally used by a person in one day (Leviticus 5:11).

God made a way for everyone to come to Him. Grace can’t be bought, so He didn’t offer more access or a higher grade of forgiveness to those who gave more. God forgave fully and equally those who offered a lamb and those who brought only a bowl of flour. He didn’t look down on the poor who gave less. His own Son was born into a family that could only afford two birds (Leviticus 12:8; Luke 2:22-24).

We can never buy access to God; in fact, He has bought full and complete access through the sacrifice of Jesus. God freely accepts whatever we have, but He expects even the poor to give their best. They weren’t to bring whatever crumbs they found in their kitchen but were told to offer God their “choice” flour. Let’s give our best to God out of what He’s given us and, whether it’s large or small, it will be enough.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to always give our best for You from what You have given us for we are not owners by stewards of Your blessings. Amen.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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Far Greater Love

Read: 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you (1 John 2:15).

During a major sports competition, a male sprinter jumped the gun, resulting in a false start and immediate disqualification from the event. His responses included tearing off his sprinter’s bib, writhing on the ground, and weeping in a curled-up position at the side of the track. A female sprinter was running well in her event when she slipped coming over a hurdle on a rain-slicked track and fell to the ground. Her race for all intents and purposes was over, but she got up and finished it with a look of calm determination on her face.

As I considered the contrast between the two athletes’ responses, it occurred to me that the things we truly love can be revealed when we face hard times. The apostle John contrasts love for the world with our love for God. He wrote, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you” (1 John 2:15). “World” is translated from the Greek word kosmos—meaning the evil system that is prevalent in our lives under Satan’s direction (1 John 5:19). It’s not God’s created world that He loves (see “world” in John 3:16).

So what does loving the world include? “Craving physical pleasure,” “craving . . . everything we see,” and “pride in our achievements and possessions” (1 John 2:16). In other words, when we love the stuff of this life more than the One who gave it to us, God’s love isn’t reflected in us. Our behavior, responses, values, and decisions in life—including when we face adversity—will not be pretty.

By God’s grace, we can live out what “pleases” Him (1 John 2:17). As we grasp the far greater love He’s poured out on us, our love for the world will flicker and fade.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to love the creator and giver of all good gifts more than the gifts themselves and live a life pleasing to you. Amen.

Written By: 
Tom Felten

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Upending

Read: Acts 16:16-34

Paul shouted to [the jailer], “Stop! Don’t kill yourself. We are all here!” (Acts 16:28).

A backyard bash was underway when a man carrying a gun approached and demanded money from the partygoers. The partiers would have handed their money to the bandit, but no one had any cash! So they offered what they did have—a drink. Surprisingly, the crook accepted and joined their party. An unexpected response changed everything.

According to psychologists, “responding in an unexpected way to prompt a positive response” is called noncomplementarity. In the vernacular, it’s called upending. As trendy as it may seem, the idea is centuries old. Jesus said, “Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those you hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Paul and Silas modeled upending when they didn’t run away from a jail where they’d been locked up. God used a late-night earthquake to unfasten their chains and open the prison doors. Shaken awake, the jailer assumed his prisoners had escaped. He drew his sword to end his life, but Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28).

Although the jailer had been the one to restrain them in stocks and keep them confined, they prevented him from hurting himself. Perhaps because of their kindness, he fell down before them pleading, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). That day the prison guard and his whole household trusted Jesus for salvation.

As the Holy Spirit gives us the power to go against our natural instincts for self-protection and revenge, it will cause people to wonder why. Kindness toward offenders reveals the reality of Jesus and His grace at work within us. Choosing a Spirit-led response in difficult situations honors Him—the greatest “upender” of all time (Luke 23:33-34).

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us your children; through the power of your Holy Spirit to go against our natural instincts for self-protection and revenge, and show kindness to offenders and be an upender. Amen.

Written By: 
Jennifer Schuldt

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Unappreciated?

Read: Luke 17:11-19

Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17).

Have you ever gone out of your way to do something kind for others, only to have them ignore your effort? You stayed up past midnight to finish a report for your boss or planned a special getaway for your family. You were excited to please them, but ended up disappointed when they didn’t even say thank you.

Jesus can empathize. He once entered a village with much on His mind. He was walking to Jerusalem where He knew He would die on the cross (Luke 18:31-33). His deep thoughts were interrupted by the shouts of ten lepers, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13). Ostracized by society, they’d been shut off from family, friends, and even God. (They were not allowed to enter the temple; see Leviticus 13:45-46.) They were in agony, dying, and alone. Jesus was their only hope.

He called them over and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14), in accordance with Mosaic law, which required those cured of leprosy to offer sacrifices (see Leviticus 14:1-57). On their trip to the temple, they noticed their skin was healthy again. Their sores were gone. Shouts of joy must have startled other travelers, yet only one leper—inexplicably only one—returned to thank Jesus for his healing.

Jesus noted the ingratitude of the other nine. He said, “Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:18). He didn’t sweep their lack of response under the rug. Instead, He focused on the grateful person kneeling before Him. “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you” (Luke 17:19). Although all the lepers were healed, only one person’s gratitude led him to the Savior.

Jesus continued to heal all the way to Jerusalem, where He gave His life to heal us. May we thank Him with hearts full of gratitude today.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to be grateful to you for all the blessings that we have received and not complain about what we do not have. Amen.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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Covenant Relationship

Read:Malachi 2:10-16

So guard your heart (Malachi 2:16).

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

The book of Malachi is about another broken relationship. As part of the line of Abraham, the people of Judah shared a covenant—a special agreement of commitment—with God (Genesis 12:1-3; Malachi 2:10). They were meant to show the world what it looks like to love and serve Him, but they were straying. Additionally, some of Judah’s men were committing adultery. Malachi speaks of their two betrayals at the same time, using their adultery to help them understand the severity of their sin against God (Malachi 2:11-14).

Can the same thing be said of some followers of Jesus? Am I sometimes the same as the people of Judah? Do I strive after things that lead me away from God?

Jesus calls His followers out of faithless living and into a covenant relationship with Him (Hebrews 10:16-18; 1 Peter 2:9-10). He also equips His followers to serve Him and promises that the Holy Spirit will indwell them (John 14:15-17). If you’re a disciple of Jesus, He truly has these things for you.

In a counterintuitive way, today’s passage reminds us of what a covenant relationship with God looks like. Judah’s disobedience helps us understand God’s faithfulness. Their corruption illumines God’s holiness (His perfect, transcendent nature), and their betrayal underscores His righteousness.

Worship God because He has—and always will—keep His covenants. “Guard your heart,” confess any sin that lingers, and enjoy the peace and love of a committed relationship with God today (Malachi 2:16).

Let's Pray

Dear God, help us to experience the joy of sharing a covenant relationship with you and help us through the power of your Holy Spirit to keep your commandments, whatever situations we may face in life. Amen.

Written By: 
Andy Rogers

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Gifts from God

Read: Psalm 127:1-5

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him (Psalm 127:3).

Police were sent to a home in response to a report of domestic child abuse. When they arrived at the house, they found a scared four-year-old girl with a black eye, swollen cheek, and bruises covering a majority of her tiny frame. The officers were devastated when they asked her to say her name and she meekly replied, “Idiot.”

In light of this particularly heart-wrenching example of both physical and emotional abuse, Psalm 127 has some vital words of wisdom for those who’ve been entrusted with children. Many believers in Jesus are familiar with verse 3, which says, “Children are a gift from the Lord ; they are a reward from him.” Indeed, this verse is frequently attached to birth announcements and is spoken often by parents who are experiencing joy for the children with which God has blessed them (Psalm 127:5).

Theologian Albert Barnes says that Psalm 127 “emphasizes the happiness God intends for parents to derive through having children, and explains the divine favor bestowed on parents whom God’s entrusted with children’s lives, health and virtues.”

But if people view kids as a burden, abuse will sometimes follow. For those struggling to love and protect their children, Barnes suggests looking deeply into this passage and recognizing that as we depend on God and are guided by the Scriptures, we’ll receive what’s needed to wisely and lovingly nurture them.

If you’re not a parent, consider how you can be used to love and encourage children. Most of us have children in our lives that we’re influencing in some way. May we be encouraged that the Bible can help us better understand and live out our roles. And may we seek the Holy Spirit’s power in living out His love for children.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord,give us the power of your Holy Spirit to nuture our children with love and care and in Christian disclpine so that they become witnessess of Jesus wherever they are placed. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Roxanne Robbins

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The Grand Project of Salvation

Read:Romans 1:8-17

This Good News about Christ . . . is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.

The apostle Paul describes a similar movement—how our lives take on new meaning as we’re caught up into the great purposes of God’s grand project of salvation. The apostle describes the gospel (or the “Good News about Christ”) as that “power of God at work, saving everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). This was a shocking pronouncement because Paul boldly declared how God’s interests were not, as some supposed, only for Israel but rather for both the Jew “and also the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

As Paul explained, he felt a “great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world, to the educated and the uneducated alike” (Romans 1:14). Paul’s energy exploded with new vigor because of this revelation: God’s love and renewal is for everyone. And Paul could participate in His bold scheme.

We find our own small stories erupting with new meaning when we allow God to pull us outside ourselves and place us in the center of His work rescuing the world. As Stanley Hauerwas says, “Salvation is the delightful surprise of having your little life caught up in the purposes of God for the whole world.”

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, Take and use our lives that we may also become part of your great Salvation project and therby spread the Good News wherever we are placed. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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Got You Figured Out

Read:John 9:1-6

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered (John 9:3).

Our pastor wasn’t pleased that his newspaper had been arriving late each morning—for two weeks. So he impatiently stood at his front door, ready to verbally pounce on the newspaper deliveryman and unleash his anger over the tardy papers. Before he did, however, he thought better of it. Instead, he asked, “How’s it going, Tom?” When he did, he found out that Tom’s house had burned to the ground two weeks before. He and his family were homeless. Tom had recently picked up extra work on a local farm to earn more money. Now he had to wake up even earlier than usual. It had been the worst two weeks of his life.

Needless to say, my pastor was humbled. He told us he had thought he had Tom all figured out as a lazy, thoughtless person. He was wrong.

This reminds me of another time people jumped to conclusions. In Luke 13:1-4, Jesus told his listeners that those murdered by Pilate in the temple and the eighteen who died when a tower in Siloam crushed them didn’t suffer because they were worse sinners than anyone else.

Back then (and sometimes today) people believed that suffering always resulted from people’s sins. In other words, they brought it on themselves. So whenever something bad happened to others, people thought they had it all figured out: Someone must have sinned. That’s why Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (John 9:2). But Jesus replied, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins” (John 9:3).

It’s dangerous to label others and think we have them figured out. Instead, may we pray and ask God to help us extend His grace to those we’re struggling with—realizing we can’t know it all.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, Help us not to quickly judge other people in their suffering but give us the willingness to pray for them and support them non-judgementally. Amen.

Written By: 
Marlena Graves

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The Battle for Good

Read:1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13

We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us (1 Thessalonians 2:18).

A family headed for missionary training was killed by a truck driver, just months before they were set to leave for Japan. The father had explained their mission in his blog: “The Japanese people are either the largest or second largest unreached people group on earth . . . The church in Japan is not yet large enough to share Christ and disciple new believers on its own. There is a need for more laborers.” This family answered God’s call but died on their way.

The family’s pastor spoke of the mysterious providence of our Creator. “God is sovereign over all events, and this tragedy did not surprise Him. So we take Psalm 46 to heart, ‘Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and mountains fall into the heart of the sea. . . . The Lord Almighty is with us.’ He’s ‘our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1-7).”

Yet there’s more to consider. Paul wanted to visit the church in Thessalonica and encourage them in the joy of the gospel. He said we “tried again and again” to “come to you,” but “Satan prevented us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18). Paul believed in the sovereignty of God, but he also knew we’re in a spiritual war. He wrote, “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against . . . evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

God is sovereign over all things. Yet He has given us freedom to choose both good and bad. He has also allowed Satan a season to battle against good. The evil one prevented Paul from visiting the Thessalonians, and he may have prevented this family from reaching Japan.

The battle continues. God’s call still stands. “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” By His strength, may we say, “Here I am. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, In this spiriual war give us the wisdom to understand the schemes of satan and fight againist it and not give in and be your faithful workers. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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Famously Anxious

Read:Luke 2:41-52

[Son,] why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic (Luke 2:48).

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father said jokingly to his daughter, “I’m more famous than you are.” His comment was based on the media’s coverage of him and his wife Lynn’s nervous reactions as they observed Aly’s Olympic routines. Their emotions on display became an engaging sideshow. The couple swayed and rocked as they anticipated Aly’s complex flips and twists. Lynn reached over and clenched Rick’s arm and fearfully peered out from between her fingers. There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of a loving parent!

Mary and Joseph also experienced fear and concern when Jesus disappeared as they were heading home from a festival in Jerusalem. After checking with friends and relatives, three days later they found Him in the temple dialoguing with religious teachers (Luke 2:46-47). Mary questioned Him: “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere” (Luke 2:48). Jesus responded, “But why did you need to search? . . . Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Given Jesus’ divine nature, it wasn’t wrong for Him to pursue His purpose—even at a young age. But in doing so, He asserted His independence from His parents.

Like Mary and Joseph, we may feel anxiety when our children or other kids we know and love begin to mature and exhibit independence. Our control lessens, and their control over their own lives increases. While some concern is normal, unless we believe that God is aware of the challenges our children will encounter, we may have difficulty letting them go. But if we release them into God’s care when the time is right, they’ll have the chance (like Jesus did) to grow “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all people” (Luke 2:52).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to accept the independence that our children are exhibiting and learn to entrust them in Your care. Amen.

Written By: 
Jennifer Schuldt

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An Appeal of Love

Read:Philemon 1:8-21

I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love (Philemon 1:9 NIV).

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables opens with the struggles of Jean Valjean, a man ostracized by society because he was an ex-convict. Myriel, the town’s bishop, gave him shelter one night, but Valjean fled with Myriel’s silverware. When Valjean was caught by the police, however, the bishop said that he had given the silverware to Valjean. He then gave Valjean two silver candlesticks, as if he had meant to give them as well. After the police set Valjean free, Myriel told him that he should use money from selling the candlesticks to make an honest man of himself.

Onesimus was a fugitive slave who is believed to have stolen from his master (Philemon 1:16-19). He met Paul in prison and had become a believer in Jesus. With his life turned around, he had served well as Paul’s personal aide (Philemon 1:10-13). But Paul sent Onesimus back to be reconciled with his master, Philemon, a leader in the Colossian church.

The apostle asked Philemon to forgive and receive Onesimus back—not as a slave but as a fellow believer in Jesus (Philemon 1:15-16). Paul could have invoked his authority as an apostle and demanded Philemon’s compliance (Philemon 1:8,14), but he didn’t. Instead, Paul humbly and respectfully “[appealed] to [him] on the basis of love” (Philemon 1: NIV). The apostle sought willing and loving cooperation, not grudging acquiescence (Philemon 1:14). It was an appeal of fatherly love and brotherly affection for the reconciliation of two estranged siblings (Philemon 1:12,16).

In a world where “rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them” (Mark 10:42), Paul’s appeal of love is countercultural. May we also be different, learning to “love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude” by God’s power (1 Peter 3:8).

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to carry an attitude of humility in our daily relationships so that others will see our deeds and praise our Father in Heaven. Amen.

 

Written By: 
K. T. Sim

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With Us in the Waters

Read:Exodus 14:10-29

Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. . . . The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm (Exodus 14:13-14).

During the school holidays, we drove out to the seaside town of Scarborough on the northeast coast of England. As we walked along the beach, we were fascinated by the sight of all the boats stranded in the harbor. The tide was out and the boats stood upright in the sand. Anyone wanting to navigate one of them would have to wait for the powerful, surging waters of the tide to come in again.

The Israelites were deeply relieved to see the waters of the Red Sea recede by God’s power, enabling them to step onto dry land and cross safely to the other side (Exodus 14:22). As they faced the raging waters, they looked back and saw the Egyptian army in pursuit. Pharaoh had obviously changed his mind about allowing his massive workforce to leave (Exodus 14:5-9).

Fearing they’d be slaughtered, they cried, “Why did you bring us out here to die? . . . It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!” But Moses encouraged them, saying: ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. . . . The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm’ (Exodus 14:11-14). As Moses raised his hand over the sea, God opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind, turning the seabed into dry land. “So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!” (Exodus 14:22).

The Israelites chose to trust in God and His power. It was their only hope. Today you might be feeling like a ship stuck in the sand or you could be happily sailing through life. Wherever you are, take to heart that God is with you and you can call out to Him anytime. His power and presence will help you navigate life’s ever-changing waters.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, when we feel we are sinking and there is no one to help, teach us to trust You completely and come to Your presence to lead us through. Amen.

Written By: 
Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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One Day, Every Nation

Read:Malachi 1:6-14

All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations (Malachi 1:11).

One summer I spent a month in Bolivia, living with missionaries at a fledgling Bible school. Different jobs awaited me each day. Sometimes I cooked, cleaned, or did laundry. But every day I worked on construction projects. I loved learning all of the different tasks (okay, not the laundry!). One day, a pair of missionaries from another religion came to the school to tell us about their beliefs and to challenge ours. The thought of answering their questions intimidated me. I put my head down and kept working while a friend talked with them. I remember thinking, “I’m glad I don’t have to do that job!”

The prophet Malachi also had a task most would not envy. His job was to speak to Judah about their complacency and sin. Who wouldn’t love to do that?! Judah had returned from exile, and although they were back in their homeland they had begun to separate themselves from God. They openly questioned His love for them (Malachi 1:2), only to show their own waning affection by offering sacrifices that dishonored Him (Malachi 1:6-10). They were supposed to represent God’s love to the world. Instead, they were lazy and corrupt.

Today’s passage is an unhappy one. It explains how Judah dishonored God and broke their covenant relationship with Him. But these verses contain a truth about God that offers us hope: He’s committed to being known and worshiped in every nation (Malachi 1:11).

God wants a relationship with all people: “God our Savior . . . wants everyone to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Though we often hear of violence and war around the world, and though we’re likely to meet others who will challenge our faith, we can give our worries to God. Malachi reminds us that one day He will indeed be worshiped by every nation.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, help us to do Your will in every activity that we pursue so that our neighbours and colleagues will get to know You through our deeds. Amen. 

 

Written By: 
Andy Rogers

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Entering into God’s Rest

Read:Hebrews 4:1-13

God’s rest is there for people to enter (Hebrews 4:6).

My son and I spent a few days with friends at their home in the beautiful northern region of New England in the US. Our visit followed my ninth consecutive year of fruitful but intense ministry in East Africa. Depleted and in need of recharging, I was grateful for the physical rest my friends’ hospitality provided.

Ultimately though, it was the spiritual refreshment I experienced that did the most to renew my heart, mind, and strength. As my host Michelle and I dug into Hebrews 4 together, she encouraged me to meditate on the passage and to reflect on the rest, wisdom, comfort, and direction that are offered through Jesus alone.

I was particularly struck by verses 1-6, which explain how God’s promises of rest still stand. This rest has been prepared since He made the world. We have proof God cares about rest because He Himself rested on the seventh day; and God’s rest is available for people to enter.

Yet “even though this rest has been ready since he made the world” (Hebrews 4:3), the writer of Hebrews declares that many fail to enter into spiritual rest because of faithless hearts that refuse to believe God created rest for His people and because we disobey God, as the people of Israel did (Hebrews 4:1-3,11).

While physical rest can be obtained in many ways, spiritual rest can only be achieved through faith in Christ. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “do our best to enter that rest” He’s provided for us (Hebrews 4:11). Those with hardened hearts toward God won’t experience His rest (Hebrews 4:3,7). But those with hearts softened to Him and His Word, who listen to His voice, and who place their faith in Him will experience the peace and restoration only He can offer.

Let's Pray:

Dear God, help us to trust You completely and enter into the physical and spiritual rest through faith in christ. Amen.

Written By: 
Roxanne Robbins

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In the Details

Read:John 4:1-42

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband” (John 4:17).

Afriend opened up to me about the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy. Prompted by God to face what he had buried for decades, he courageously began to unpack tragic memories of seduction and exploitation, events that shattered his innocence and left him drowning in an ocean of shame.

For decades my friend mostly kept the abuse a secret. He feared that if people knew the details, they would turn away in utter disgust. Like all victims of abuse, it was in the details that he carried his deepest shame.

As he unfolded his story, the closing line from the book Dangerous Territory by Amy Peterson kept running through my head—“You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.” Later that same day, I emailed him those words. He read them over and over, and wept. Letting someone see his greatest shame allowed love to enter in and begin to touch what it alone can heal.

A woman once opened up to Jesus about where her life was most broken. In her case, it was a string of failed marriages and living with a man who wasn’t her husband (John 4:16-18).

Jesus asked her to “go and get [her] husband” (John 4:16). She initially tried to avoid the pain and disgrace of her past by saying “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” (John 4:17-18).

Not the response she expected.

In love, Jesus didn’t turn away in disgust. Instead, He led her to the details of her greatest shame—and it radically changed her life. The love of Christ can heal our shame when we bring it to Him and others who can lovingly help us work through it.

Let's Pray:

Dear God, give us the wisdom to bring to you any shame that we are covering up in our lives so that we can overcome it through Your love. Amen.

Written By: 
Jeff Olson

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Complete Trust

Read:1 Samuel 1:1-28

I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request (1 Samuel 1:27).

Soon after I came to the US as an international student, I realized that I couldn’t get along in the country without a car. So I relied on the generosity of friends to give me rides. In time I began praying to God, expressing my belief that He would provide when He knew I most needed a vehicle. Amazingly, on my birthday before my senior year of college, a family I knew gave me their used car as a gift!

Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel brings inspiration for us to be persistent in our prayer life. Such practice doesn’t guarantee God will give us what we want, but we can be sure He’s there and that He cares. The journey Hannah went through before she received what she asked for was perhaps more important than her request.

Hannah had a painful problem. She couldn’t have children, which in that culture was considered a divine curse (1 Samuel 1:5-6). And if that wasn’t enough, she was being mocked for it as well (1 Samuel 1:6). But in spite of her challenges, year after year she joined her family to worship God at the tabernacle (1 Samuel 1:7). She didn’t give up on God.

On one occasion when she went to worship, Hannah was in such distress that she poured out her heart “in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord ” (1 Samuel 1:10). She could have cursed Him, could have become angry and bitter, or could have stopped praying. Yet she continued to trust in God’s goodness. And in His perfect timing He answered her plea (1 Samuel 1:20).

God is actively engaged in our lives today, and “he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him” (1 John 5:14). May we trust in His goodness even when the answers don’t come or aren’t what we desire.

 Let's Pray:

Dear God, help us not to be dismayed when we do not recieve the answer to our prayers but help us to trust in you completely and believe by faith that You have heard our prayer and will act in Your time. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Estera Pirosca Escobar

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What Comes First

Read:Exodus 16:24-32

So the people did not gather any food on the seventh day (Exodus 16:30).

When I was a young child, I thought that thunder and lightning were separate phenomena that just happened to occur at the same time. It was only years later that a science teacher explained to me that lightning and thunder are directly connected to one another—that the rapid heating and cooling of the air during a lightning strike causes a massive atmospheric boom which we hear as thunder. In other words, you would never have thunder if lightning didn’t strike first.

Much like lightning and thunder, the ancient Israelites couldn’t have had a Sabbath rest if manna hadn’t been provided the day before (Exodus 16:29). It’s easy to think that the Sabbath was a stand-alone event, where God simply commanded the people of Israel to refrain from working on a given day. But we often overlook the fact that the first Sabbath observed by the people of Israel occurred a day after manna fell from heaven to feed them—a form of providence so surprising and mysterious that they would call it “What is it?” food (Exodus 16:15).

This was no coincidence. In fact, the whole reason Israel could rest from their work was because God is the One who faithfully provided for their needs: “They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord ’s gift to you” (Exodus 16:29). Their ability to rest comes directly from God’s willingness to provide. As Moses said, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat” (Exodus 16:15).

So often I have a very shallow conception of rest, thinking all it means is to take some time off from work. But the whole reason I can rest in the first place is because of God’s provision. His faithfulness makes my rest possible. So when resting, I shouldn’t just stop working, I should start giving thanks—praising the One who provides for us!

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to know that You have set apart Sabbath to give us the realization that You are our provider and that we need to put our trust in You competely and praise You for Your providence. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Peter Chin

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Fool’s Errand

Read:Luke 15:11-32

When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!” (Luke 15:17).

In my Nigerian boarding school, students loved to indulge in a practical joke. An older student would send an unsuspecting younger one on an errand to get the “rainbow bucket” from another older student. The latter would then ask the young student to get it from another older student. On and on it went until someone took pity on the unsuspecting student and revealed that the bucket didn’t actually exist!

In a far more significant way, the prodigal (or wasteful) son in Jesus’ parable set out on his own fool’s errand searching for fulfillment though embracing a destructive lifestyle (Luke 15:12-14). He disgraced his family by asking for his inheritance while his father was still alive. Worse still, he squandered that money.

Later, at his wits’ end, the young man took a job feeding pigs—one with such meager compensation that he found himself envying the pig feed. Eventually the scales fell from his eyes and he went home in hopes of attaining servant status in his father’s household (Luke 15:16-19).

His father’s generous welcome of him not as a servant but as a beloved son must have made his earlier quest seem foolish indeed. Everything he’d been searching for—acceptance, importance, and independence—had been his all along (Luke 15:22-24).

All too often, we may find ourselves in the prodigal son’s shoes. Only after our best-laid plans and efforts have proven futile do our thoughts turn to our heavenly Father. Seeking self-worth and satisfaction outside of God is the supreme fool’s errand. As we embrace our identity in Jesus, however, we’ll experience true fulfillment that can only come from God—the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, Help us to commit our ways into Thy hands and experience  the true fulfilment which is your gift.Amen.

Written By: 
Remi Oyedele

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Under Construction

Read:Isaiah 43:1-19

Forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! . . . I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland (Isaiah 43:18-19).

When I read the road sign announcing “Construction for the next 50 miles,” I groaned. Really? Construction had already been going on for the past three years and now it would be for the foreseeable future—up to three more years! Every day since, as I drive this stretch of pavement under repair, I wonder if it will ever be finished. Deep down I know it will be, yet when I’m stopped in painfully slow traffic, it’s hard to believe the interstate will ever be free of orange barrels and single lanes.

I often feel the same way about the world and myself: It seems like never-ending construction. Sometimes I think, Will everything really be made “new” one day as Jesus has promised? (Revelation 21:5). If I were to live by sight instead of by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), it would appear that the earth and my soul and everything else would be forever needing repairs. It doesn’t seem as if the consequences of Adam and Eve’s fall will ever be healed.

In Isaiah 43, the Lord declared to ancient Israel that He was doing a new thing. In verse 19, He said, “See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” Although some days I do, other days I don’t perceive it at all. I need God to give me the eyes to see and ears to hear the truth about reality and that—just as with Israel—He can do new things in and through me today.

God is making all things new—me, you, the earth, and everything else that exists—regardless of whether or not I perceive it. One day, we’ll look back and realize that He was true to His word, despite our perceptions that things would remain the same forever.

Let's Pray:

Dear  Father, Thank you for working on us to make us a new creation in you so patiently, help us to realize this and mould ourselves according to Thy will for us. Amen.

Written By: 
Marlena Graves

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A Home for All

Read:Genesis 12:1-9

All the families on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:3).

During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, one of the brightest stories was the International Olympic Committee’s decision to field the first-ever team of Refugee Olympic Athletes, a team of athletes who have no country. Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, explained the decision: “Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem. They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes.” Ten Olympians comprised the squad—refugees from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria.

Those who had no home found a home.

God’s heart has always been for those on the fringes, those often left out. He told Abram: “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Abram left all that was familiar so that ultimately all people would have the opportunity to know a true spiritual home and place of belonging. God saw our need, and He provided.

When God promised Abram a vast swath of land (Genesis 12:7), His heart wasn’t only for Abram and Israel. Rather, God told Abram: “All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Through His lineage—through Jesus—all who needed God’s welcome would receive it. Through Him, even those on the fringes would find a home.

God extends kindness and goodness to us, to heal and restore us and call us friends. But He also intends to use us to offer this same kindness and goodness to others. He intends to bless all the families of the earth.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, make us instruments to spread your love and kindness to the lessfortunate in our daily living.

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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From Bad to Worse

Read:1 Kings 17:8-24

[Elijah] cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him” (1 Kings 17:21).

In 1997 Singapore experienced the Asian financial crisis. Many people couldn’t find jobs—including me. After nine months of sending out countless resumes, I finally landed a job as a copywriter. God provided for my needs! Then the economy plummeted again because of the SARS outbreak. And, once again, I was jobless.

Ever been there? It seems like the worst is over and things are sailing along smoothly, when suddenly the bottom drops out and your life plunges into uncertainty.

The widow at Zarephath could definitely relate. There had been a terrible famine in the land and, facing starvation, the woman was preparing a last meal for herself and her son when the prophet Elijah requested a drink of water and a bite to eat. She responded and subsequently experienced a continuous miraculous supply of flour and oil by which Elijah and her family were sustained (1 Kings 17:10-16). Life was looking good. But then, her son fell ill. His health deteriorated and eventually he died.

At such times, we may respond as the widow did—wondering if God is punishing us for unconfessed sins (1 Kings 17:18). It’s easy to forget that while God may sometimes use suffering to discipline us, often bad things happen to us simply because we live in a fallen world.

Elijah chose to take his concerns to God (1 Kings 17:20). He prayed, “O Lord my God”—expressing his personal relationship with the One who is faithful and true. He then sought to understand God’s purpose for allowing the tragedy to happen. Finally, he prayed by faith in accordance to who He is and what He can do (1 Kings 17:21).

If life throws us a curveball, may we—like Elijah—realize that the faithful One will not desert us. We can rest in God’s purposes even as we pray by faith for understanding.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord,help us to realize that in our sufferings You are faithful and will not desert us but will give us the strength to face it and overcome it. Amen.

 

 

Written By: 
Poh Fang Chia

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Trolling the Masters

Read:Mark 3:20-27

If the godly give in to the wicked, it’s like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring (Proverbs 25:26).

Today, with a single click, you can freely access and rate some of the best music ever written. So how do the masters fare?

On one website, more than 8,000 respondents gave a thumbs-down to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Nearly one in twenty disapproved of Bach’s concertos. On another site, Mozart’s sublime first movement of Eine kleine Nachtmusik (“a little serenade”) received an overall score of 4.2 out of 5.

Mozart gets a B plus?! This is music for the ages, and the Internet trolls are finding fault! Regardless, it’s safe to say that the classics will continue to be loved by many.

In Mark’s gospel, we read how Jesus went about doing extraordinary things. He drove out evil spirits (Mark 1:21-26), healed people miraculously (Mark 1:29-34), and instructed the multitudes in a way they had never heard before. Yet Jesus’ own family thought He had lost His mind (Mark 3:21). The religious leaders had a more blunt accusation: “He’s possessed by Satan. . . . That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons” (Mark 3:22).

Jesus didn’t simply walk away in disgust, nor did He respond indignantly. Instead, He gave this timeless challenge: “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. . . . If Satan is divided . . . how can he stand?” (Mark 3:24-26).

When faced with a personal attack, Jesus simply gave a wise and strong warning that defended the Source of His power—the Holy Spirit.

There’s a lesson here for us. The “trolls” in life will come and go, but we don’t need to join them in exchanging petty accusations. Neither do we need to give them a free pass. If we ask, the Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom to know when to let things go and when to offer a wise challenge.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, Help us face the troubles in our lives and respond to them effectively through the power of the Holy Spirit.Amen.

Written By: 
Tim Gustafson

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You Have a Choice

Joshua 24:14-24
If you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

You mean, I can choose to believe in Jesus?” my young Nepali friend asked in surprise as I was giving her a ride to the grocery store. She was an international student at the same university I was attending and had been coming for several months to a weekly Bible study. As we were discussing her thoughts regarding the study, she suddenly became shocked by the realization that she could choose what to believe. She had grown up in a culture where faith was something she was born into, with no choice given to her.

Throughout the book of Joshua, God showed He’s completely worthy to be trusted and followed. In fact, “not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled” (Joshua 21:45). Toward the end of Joshua’s life, he reminded the people of Israel of all the incredible things God had done for them and gave them a challenge—to choose whom they would follow and serve.

The people of Israel were at a crossroads in which they had to make a decision whether to “serve the Lord alone” or serve the idols of the nations surrounding them (Joshua 24:14). God certainly could have forced them to follow Him, but He didn’t do that. Instead, He allowed them to choose. As Joshua said, “If you refuse to serve the Lord , then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? . . . But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Today, God allows us to choose whom we’ll follow just as He did with the Israelites thousands of years ago. We need not allow culture and tradition to be the basis on which we make our decision. May we, like Joshua, have the courage to choose to serve God as He draws us!

                                                                  Let us pray

Our heavenly father, help us to choose you in every endeavours of our life and serve you wholeheartedly.

Written By: 
Estera Pirosca Escobar
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Cleansing the Gum Wall

Read: Hebrews 9:11-28

Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God (Hebrews 9:14).

In 2015 a city decided it was time to clean up something that was attracting unwanted visitors. So a maintenance crew began the tedious work of removing more than one million pieces of gum—weighing more than a ton—stuck to the iconic “Gum Wall.” What began twenty years before, when patrons began sticking gum on the wall while waiting in line for the local theater, had turned into a popular tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the wall was also popular with the local rat population!

More than 2,000 years ago, God also took action against another disgusting reality—the ugly sum of all our sins. Before people believe in Jesus, they’re controlled by sinful thoughts and behavior: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things” (Romans 8:5). But through faith in Jesus people are made clean and can be given a fresh start.

As we read Hebrews 9:12-14, we see how it moves from the lesser to the greater. If the blood of animals can provide external cleaning, how much more effective is the cleansing of Christ’s blood (Hebrews 9:12). Unlike the blood of animals, Jesus’ blood is capable of cleansing the sin in our hearts. He removes the “dead” works of our conscience so we can serve and “worship the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).

Animal sacrifice and good works can’t remove sin from our lives, only the blood of Jesus can (Hebrews 9:23). His cleansing of our sins should lead us to a life of perseverance and gratitude. Today, by His strength, may we hold to our faith and give thanks to God the Father, who loved us and sent Jesus to die for us. Let’s also thank Him for the Holy Spirit who convicts us of disobedience and energizes us to serve the living God (Romans 8:6).

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, Thank You for cleansing us from  our sins through Your blood. Help us to be grateful for this sacrifice and live a life of  perseverance. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Marvin Williams

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When Words Fail

Read:Romans 8:26-27

The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words (Romans 8:26).

Helen Keller lost her ability to hear and see at only nineteen months old. Eventually, her teacher Anne Sullivan helped young Helen learn to read Braille and raised type. By age nine she could also read people’s lips with her fingers and speak. Sullivan attempted to help Helen understand the word love. The teacher made several attempts to explain the concept, which only puzzled her pupil. Then one day Sullivan said that love was like sunshine—sweetness that pours into everything. That’s when Helen Keller first understood the word love.

Even for those of us who can see and hear, there are experiences in life we struggle to comprehend. Some of them and the emotions that come with them are buried so deeply in our consciousness that we’re scarcely aware of their existence, let alone able to describe them clearly. How then can we bring these hidden and often painful struggles to God?

Scripture gives us comfort in this struggle, reminding us that our prayers aren’t dependent on our ability to communicate clearly to God. Instead, we have the Holy Spirit with us in prayer. And the Spirit doesn’t simply listen to our prayers but actively “prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Romans 8:26). Similarly, in John 14 Jesus says that in the Holy Spirit we find a Helper who is our advocate to the Father (John 14:26).

Perhaps like me you often try to rely on your own abilities to pray effectively. We may try our best to pray well, which isn’t wrong in itself, but find our words woefully inadequate. But we can take great comfort in the realization that when our words fail and our strength falls short, the Holy Spirit searches our hearts and intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:27).

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit who is our advocate and comforter in times of struggle. Amen.

Written By: 
Peter Chin

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Together Forever

Read: Joshua 2:1-24

You must leave this scarlet rope hanging from the window through which you let us down. And all your family members . . . must be here inside the house (Joshua 2:18).

A Chinese translator told a visiting theologian that her Buddhist parents admired the teachings of Jesus, but they were offended by the idea that someone had to believe in Him to be saved. They worried that their Christian daughter now believed her ancestors were in hell. The translator said, “Revering my ancestors means much to me, and I want to assure my parents that I do not want to dishonor my family heritage. So please tell me what I, as a Christian, can say to my parents about this.”

This profound question haunts many believers who feel torn between Jesus and their family. We can find help in the story of Rahab, who recognized her only hope was found in “the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below” (Joshua 2:11). She begged the spies to save both her and her family when God used Israel to judge her sinful city (Joshua 2:12-13). The spies told her to mark her house by hanging a scarlet rope from her window. Then all the family that gathered in her house would be saved.

One thing Rahab’s story reveals is that God loves our families. He sent Jesus to die for them, perhaps symbolized by the scarlet rope in the story (Joshua 2:18). We can’t say with certainty where our ancestors are—only God knows their destinies. We do know, however, that God commands us to honor our fathers and mothers, so we can readily honor our ancestors just as they deserve (Exodus 20:12).

It’s impossible for us to fully know or understand the futures of those in the past, but we can speak for God today. May we lovingly encourage our family members to join us in the house with the scarlet cord. Our loving God allows us to be united in Him by faith in Jesus—the only One who will keep us together forever.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, let Your love bind our families together forever. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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Reflections of Marriage

Read: 1 Corinthians 7:8-35

[Jesus] gave up his life for the [church], to make her holy and clean (Ephesians 5:25-26).

Our pastor read this verse during a sermon: “It’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Quite happily wed himself, he followed the reading by saying, “Marriage complicates things.” Seconds later, a masculine voice emitted a long exaggerated “Aaaaamen.” The congregation broke into laughter.

In some cases, marriage can make life more complicated. Paul pointed out that people who are married need to think about their “earthly responsibilities” and how to please their spouses (1 Corinthians 7:33-34). A married person needs to consider his or her spouse in things such as spending money, making meals, or organizing a home environment.

As an alternative to marriage, Paul suggested that unmarried people could choose to remain single. This would protect a person from becoming overly focused on things other than ministering for Christ. Specifically, Paul said, “I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking about how to please him” (1 Corinthians 7:32).

While there are advantages to being single, there are also merits to being married. Married couples have an outlet for their physical passion (1 Corinthians 7:9). In addition, a healthy marriage provides for the foundation of a family in which both parents can nurture and lovingly equip their children to grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Marriages are happiest when they mirror the mutual benefits and consistent faithfulness reflected in the relationship between Jesus and the church. Symbolically, believers are the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-26). In this role, we receive the promise of Jesus’ never-ending protection, provision, and love.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us not to get carried away with our earthly responsibilities but always focus on doing the will of God wherever we are placed and Lord let our marriages reflect Your relationship with the church. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Jennifer Schuldt

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Passing By

Luke 10:30-37
He also passed by on the other side (Luke 10:32).

During a political election year, a tow truck driver was called to assist a woman who was stranded with a broken-down vehicle. But the truck driver, upon seeing a bumper sticker on the car for a candidate he disliked, informed the motorist that he wouldn’t help her and drove away. His actions remind me how we sometimes choose to ignore those who need our help.

Jesus told the parable of a “Jewish man . . . traveling from Jerusalem” who was “attacked by bandits.” They stripped the man naked, “beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road” (Luke 10:30). One would have thought help had arrived when a priest happened along the way. But the priest “crossed over to the other side of the road and passed him by” (Luke 10:31). As the heat of the day grew fierce and the bleeding man’s wounds festered, a temple assistant also traveled by the scene of the crime. He too “passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:32).

Next a Samaritan came along, the last person you would ever expect to help a Jew (the two people groups did not get along). Yet the “Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged him. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn” (Luke 10:34). The Samaritan paid for medical care out of his own pocket and made provision for everything the suffering man might need. “Which of these three would you say was a neighbor?” Jesus asked. Of course, the neighbor was the one who demonstrated tangible mercy. “Go and do the same,” Jesus said (Luke 10:36-37).

There are many ways to offer mercy to others, whether by a prayer, a conversation, or a gift. When we see a need, may we meet it as God provides. Let’s choose to do something other than pass by.

                                                            Let us pray

Dear lord, forgive us our irresponsibility towards the lives of others and help us to be the channels of your mercy and care.

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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Mercy’s Call

 

Exodus 9:13-33
“I have sinned,” [Pharaoh] confessed. . . . “Please beg the Lord to end this terrifying thunder and hail. . . . I will let you go” (Exodus 9:27-28).

The deluge of rain reduced visibility to almost nil, forcing me and other drivers on the road to inch forward. As my usual twenty-minute commute stretched to well over an hour, I offered up prayers for God’s protection over us as I begged for the rain to cease.

Fear amid trying circumstances will often drive people to call out to God. When, by divine power, a powerful hailstorm struck Egypt (Exodus 9:24-25), Pharaoh swallowed his pride and begged the God of Moses for relief. God relented, bringing a halt to the thunder and hail. But “when Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail and thunder had stopped, he and his officials sinned again, and Pharaoh became stubborn. Because his heart was hard, Pharaoh refused to let the people leave, just as the Lord had predicted through Moses” (Exodus 9:34-35).

If God knew what Pharaoh’s response would be, why did He answer Moses’ prayer to stop the rain? Earlier in the chapter, we read that once Moses announced the next plague of hail, some of Pharaoh’s officials who feared God hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside for protection (Exodus 9:20). This is the first instance recorded where Egyptians responded directly to God’s word through Moses. Then we see that upon Pharaoh’s eventual release, the Israelites didn’t leave Egypt alone; they were accompanied by others who had witnessed God’s work and chose to believe (Exodus 12:37-38).

It’s possible God took these people, outsiders to Israel, into consideration in not unleashing the full potential of the plagues. His actions demonstrate mercy and compassion in the midst of correction. God still shows mercy to those who turn to Him in love and obedience. Call out to Him today!

                                                                     Let us pray

Merciful Lord, help us to experirnce your kind and mercy in our lives and be the carriers of it.

Written By: 
Remi Oyedele
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Mercy’s Call

 

Exodus 9:13-33
“I have sinned,” [Pharaoh] confessed. . . . “Please beg the Lord to end this terrifying thunder and hail. . . . I will let you go” (Exodus 9:27-28).

The deluge of rain reduced visibility to almost nil, forcing me and other drivers on the road to inch forward. As my usual twenty-minute commute stretched to well over an hour, I offered up prayers for God’s protection over us as I begged for the rain to cease.

Fear amid trying circumstances will often drive people to call out to God. When, by divine power, a powerful hailstorm struck Egypt (Exodus 9:24-25), Pharaoh swallowed his pride and begged the God of Moses for relief. God relented, bringing a halt to the thunder and hail. But “when Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail and thunder had stopped, he and his officials sinned again, and Pharaoh became stubborn. Because his heart was hard, Pharaoh refused to let the people leave, just as the Lord had predicted through Moses” (Exodus 9:34-35).

If God knew what Pharaoh’s response would be, why did He answer Moses’ prayer to stop the rain? Earlier in the chapter, we read that once Moses announced the next plague of hail, some of Pharaoh’s officials who feared God hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside for protection (Exodus 9:20). This is the first instance recorded where Egyptians responded directly to God’s word through Moses. Then we see that upon Pharaoh’s eventual release, the Israelites didn’t leave Egypt alone; they were accompanied by others who had witnessed God’s work and chose to believe (Exodus 12:37-38).

It’s possible God took these people, outsiders to Israel, into consideration in not unleashing the full potential of the plagues. His actions demonstrate mercy and compassion in the midst of correction. God still shows mercy to those who turn to Him in love and obedience. Call out to Him today!

                                                                     Let us pray

Merciful Lord, help us to experirnce your kind and mercy in our lives and be the carriers of it.

Written By: 
Remi Oyedele
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Something More Powerful

 

Galatians 2:11-21
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

When France’s ministry of health realized that 17.8 percent of French women smoked while pregnant, they came up with a plan. For a trial period of thirty-six months, seventeen French hospitals paid women up to 300 euros to stop smoking during their pregnancies. Of the 612 participants, 22.5 percent of the women gave up their cigarettes.

The ministry of health was interested in the health of babies, but also wanted to see whether financial incentives would help women quit addictions. They obviously did!

Paul told the Galatians that they had something more powerful than financial motivation to curb an old “habit”—they had the very power of Christ. Since attempting to gain acceptance with God through the law would only lead to condemnation (Galatians 2:19), their only hope for salvation and daily freedom was union with Jesus in His death and resurrection (Galatians 2:20).

Christ wasn’t a sinner or a criminal, but in taking on the sins of humanity, He died like one. When Paul placed his faith in the crucified Jesus, his sinful desires were crucified as well. His selfish heart came to a decisive end, and his personal interests no longer controlled his life. Consequently, Jesus gave him a new heart and a new life fully empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Rewards can motivate us to do better, but willpower alone will fail to consistently change lives. Believers have something more powerful—the manifestation of God’s love through the cross of Jesus. When we yield to the power of the cross and exercise daily faith in the Son of God, the indwelling Spirit releases His power—resurrection power that enthrones Christ in our lives.

                                                                       Let us pray

Dear God, do not allow us to depend up on our own power but on your power and presence so  that our lives will be fully transformed.

Written By: 
Marvin Williams

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United in Prayer

John 17:20-26
I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me (John 17:21).

A Chinese couple, a South Korean couple, and my Mongolian friend and I had the privilege of praying together every morning for nearly an entire year. This experience brought us together in unity as brothers and sisters in Jesus, made us more aware of the glimpses of truth He had placed in each of our cultures, and gave us strength and boldness to be light to those around us. It was a sweet taste of the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.

In His prayer, Jesus revealed His heart in a truly powerful and distinct way. He prayed for His disciples, as well as for all the believers. He said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:20-21). This means he prayed for all those who believe in Him today!

Jesus prayed that they would “experience such perfect unity that the world will know that [God the Father] sent me” (John 17:23). He was looking ahead to the time when people from every nation, tribe, social class, culture, and language would bow their knee and pledge allegiance in unity to the great I AM (Revelation 7:9-10). Jesus was implying that the unity of the believers would convince people the gospel is true.

Over the centuries, despite what Jesus prayed, believers have not always walked in unity. My experiences with my Chinese, South Korean, and Mongolian friends, however, give me hope that we can be united in Christ. May we live out a deep belief in what Jesus said to His Father: “Your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them” (John 17:26). Our unity presents the beautiful union of our triune God.

                                                            Let us Pray

 

Written By: 
Estera Pirosca Escobar
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Protective Bubble

Read: Romans 8:31-39

Let all who take refuge in you rejoice. . . . Spread your protection over them. . . . You surround them with your shield of love (Psalm 5:11-12).

Just as some people have to sleep beneath mosquito nets to ward off the little bloodsuckers, some parrotfish spin cocoons of mucus before they nod off. They secrete the mucus “sleeping bag” around themselves for protection from predators.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a protective bubble to shield us from the dangers of the evil in this world? The reality is, however, that we’re not exempt from the dangers and vulnerabilities of life. But Paul assures us of God’s presence as we experience our days on earth (Romans 8:31-39).

The apostle directs us to think of the security we have in Jesus by asking and answering seven rhetorical questions (Romans 8:31-35). In verse 36, he quotes Psalm 44:22 to show that believers in Jesus aren’t immune from trouble, calamity, hunger, danger, or death. But we don’t have to fear, for God protects, saves, and keeps us safe in His protective “net” (Romans 8:31-39). Three times Paul assures us that we’re spiritually safe and secure in Christ’s great love. No wonder Paul triumphantly declares that “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” No person or anything else “will ever be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:37,39).

Although this doesn’t mean we’ll never face pain, suffering, and death, as believers in Jesus we’re saved and safe in the promise of God’s power, provision, and presence. Jesus readily assures us, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch [my sheep] away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29). We’re truly secure forever in Jesus.

Let's Pray:

Dear Father, even though we are not immune to the suffering and trials of this world, we thank Thee for securing us under Thy protective shield. Amen

Written By: 
K. T. Sim

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Rest Affects

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you (Deuteronomy 5:14).

One morning, I was surprised to see my mail carrier lugging his heavy bag. I asked him why he was delivering mail on Sunday, and he curtly responded with a single word: “Amazon.” The online retailer had started offering Sunday delivery, so it was no longer a day of rest for postal workers.

In Deuteronomy 5, God mandated that Israel observe the Sabbath with its rest requirements. Not just the men and women of Israel were to rest on Saturday—but their children, their servants, and even their work animals (Deuteronomy 5:14). In Exodus 23:10-11, we see that the land itself was also supposed to enjoy a Sabbath rest every seven years.

There’s a very good reason for the all-encompassing nature of this command: If the people of Israel didn’t observe the Sabbath, then neither could their servants, the most vulnerable and likely overworked group. The foreigners of Israel, being of a lower social standing and with fewer resources, would also not be able to afford to stop working. That’s why God “commanded” all people to rest (Deuteronomy 5:15)—not to be domineering, but because each person’s Sabbath was interconnected with the wellbeing of others.

I often fail to recognize the interconnected nature of our lives, how my personal lack of rest can rob other people of their rest in turn. But as 1 Corinthians 12:12 tells us, believers in Jesus are one body, and what affects one part of the body affects the others. A manager might make a personal choice to never take a break at work, but the truth is that everyone around her is affected by that choice as well.

Regardless of the day, may we choose to regularly rest to honor God and bless those around us! (Deuteronomy 5:14).

                                                            Let us pray

Lord help us to use all our resources wisely including the possibility of getting enough rest and honour God in all our activities.

Written By: 
Peter Chin
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Foreigners and Nomads

Hebrews 11:1-16

These people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they . . . agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth (Hebrews 11:13).

Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, I maintained Nigerian citizenship because of my parents’ diplomatic status. I once met a lady from Indonesia who excitedly launched into her native tongue after learning my birthplace. Embarrassed, I informed her that I was only there briefly and had no knowledge of the language. I was born in the country—but am not of it.

Likewise, the Bible refers to believers as foreigners and nomads on the earth—not of it (Hebrews 11:13). Our identity isn’t created by the secular world; we live out God’s heavenly perspective. The heroes of faith profiled in Hebrews 11 were described as “looking forward to a country they [could] call their own” (Hebrews 11:14). This didn’t mean their birthplace or place of origin, “but they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16).

It’s for this reason that Jesus urged His followers to store up treasures in heaven, rather than on earth, for our hearts tend to be centered wherever we have our treasure (Matthew 6:19-21). He went on to describe those who hoard material things in this life as fools who don’t have “a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:16-21).

Whenever I take a trip for work I focus on the tasks that need to be accomplished, but never lose sight of the fact that my home awaits me. This prompts me to be efficient with my time, so as not to delay or jeopardize my trip back there.

In the same way, we must strive to accomplish the earthly purpose for which we’ve been created in God’s power and leading. He’s the One who will one day renew the earth—uniting it with all that is heaven (Revelation 21:1).

Written By: 
Remi Oyedele

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Amazing Grace, Amazing Faith

Matthew 8:5-13
When Jesus heard this, He was amazed (Matthew 8:10).

If I asked you to hum the melody of Amazing Grace, it’s likely you would know it. It’s a well-known song that reminds us about God’s astonishing forgiveness. His grace gave us spiritual sight when we were blind—allowing us to draw near to Him. God’s grace makes us shiver in reverence of Him, but it also eases our fears. As the song says, God’s grace is truly amazing!

While we marvel at the wonders of God, it’s interesting that Jesus once marveled at a person’s faith. In one instance, a Roman officer approached Jesus and explained that his servant was bedridden and in severe pain. Jesus volunteered to visit the soldier’s house and heal the man. But the centurion felt he wasn’t worthy of Jesus’ visit, and believed He could heal his servant without being present (Matthew 8:8). “When Jesus heard this, He was amazed” (Matthew 8:10). Then He commended the solider for his great faith, and confirmed that He had made the patient well.

What keeps us from amazing Jesus with our faith? Without even knowing it, we sometimes believe that the laws of nature and time limit His power. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is the One who created time and the scientific constants that help us understand our world. “Through [Christ] God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we . . . can’t see . . . and He holds all creation together” (Colossians 1:16-17).

According to the Bible, Jesus can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. He has the power to heal us physically and give us spiritual life. God has revealed His incredible grace through His Son (2 Timothy 1:9-10). If He’s amazed you with His grace, will you amaze Him with your faith?

Written By: 
jennifer benson schuldt

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Encouraging Leaders

Exodus 32:1-22
My dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Corinthians 15:58).

A pastor friend told my husband and me that he’s considering leaving the ministry because he feels as if his efforts haven’t resulted in heart change for any of his congregants—that their priorities remained out of step with God’s. After my husband and I prayed for him, he told us that we had encouraged him. Even so, I’m not confident that he’ll remain in fulltime pastoral ministry.

This pastor’s anger and lament over the spiritual state of some believers in Jesus reminded me of Moses’ anger and discouragement with the Israelites. When Moses descended Mount Sinai holding the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments engraved on them, he saw the Israelites worshiping the golden calf. In his anger, he smashed the tablets at the foot of the mountain (Exodus 32:19). He then approached his brother Aaron and demanded to know how such idolatry came about. Aaron wouldn’t take even part of the blame, saying, “You yourself know how evil these people are” (Exodus 32:22).

We complain about those we consider to be inept and ungodly leaders in the church. And of course, there are some leaders we should approach with genuine questions or concerns. Matthew 18:15-20 calls us to go to those with whom we have issues. Sometimes, however, we can be the source of the problem—people who fill our leaders with grief. We discourage them with our complaints, critical spirits, and mean-spiritedness.

Today, as the Holy Spirit guides us, may we try to encourage our pastors and other church leaders—letting them know that their work is of great value: “Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Written By: 
Marlena Graves
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The Other Way

Luke 9:10-17

But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish (Luke 9:13).

Photographer Oliver Curtis’ exhibit Volte-face (“about turn”) interacts with iconic landmarks—only his images capture what’s found in the opposite direction. So, when he arrived at Stonehenge, he turned 180 degrees before taking his pictures, capturing images that are typically ignored. Curtis says the photos “send [our] gaze elsewhere and . . . favor the incidental over the monumental.”

Most of us are drawn to large possibilities, solutions, or obvious sources of provision and power (the big things) over small possibilities, quiet solutions, or inconspicuous sources of provision or power (the incidental things). Jesus’ disciples weren’t immune to this tendency, as demonstrated by their reaction to the needs of the crowds drawn to Jesus. In one instance, when He’d attempted to slip away to rest, the “crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him.” Jesus “welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick” (Luke 9:11).

More than 5,000 people had gathered in the wilderness, however, and they were hungry. Jesus asked His disciples to feed them, but they replied: “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish” (Luke 9:13). Of course the situation was impossible, even ridiculous. Yet the disciples would soon learn to see things in a new way—Jesus’ way. Jesus often uses the small, forgotten, or foolish things to do His work (1 Corinthians 1:27). Only a few biscuits and sardines to feed thousands. A motley crew of bewildered disciples to announce God’s good news. A dying Savior to redeem the whole world.

You may think you have nothing to offer—that your life is too trivial or insignificant. Look closer. With God, nothing is too small.

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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In Hiding?

Genesis 3:8-13
People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy (Proverbs 28:13).

My parents didn’t have much money, so when Dad gave me a small pocketknife, I treasured it. The gift came with one caveat though. Because I was only eight years old, I couldn’t use it—I could only carry it in my pocket!

You might guess how that went. Soon I found a place to hide and opened the knife to admire the edge. It wasn’t long before I began to whittle sticks with it. One day the blade slipped and cut my finger. Now I had to hide the wound from my parents! It wasn’t long until my mother noticed and quickly guessed the cause of the cut. At first, I engaged in hardline denial. But after what seemed like weeks of “interrogation” (actually only a few minutes), I admitted my crime. Dad took the knife and forgave me. Eventually, he gave it back—much later.

When we do something we know is wrong, our instinct is to hide. That’s what Adam and Eve did when they did the one thing that God told them not to do. God came looking for them, but His motive wasn’t to destroy them in anger. Instead He asked, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)—not because He didn’t know, but because He knew Adam and Eve had to confront what they had done.

Both the man and the woman engaged in blame-shifting (Genesis 3:12-13), neither of them owning up to their disobedience. Still, God provided for them and made a way forward. He never stopped loving them.

In my case, my dad felt more sadness than anger over my disobedience. That’s a small picture of God. We’re ashamed of our failures and sin, and so we hide from Him. Yet He already knows us intimately, and He always comes looking for us. That’s the kind of God we serve. He offers us a place to belong—one with other forgiven sinners. Today, will we hide or step inside?

Written By: 
Tim Gustafson
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This Present Crisis

Esther 2:5-23

[God] controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings (Daniel 2:21).

“The World in Crisis, and No Genius in Sight” read an editorial headline of The Wall Street Journal in July 2016. The article was written against the backdrop of a world watching to see who would win the presidential election in the US; investors and economists speculating the impact of Brexit (the UK’s exit from the European Union) on the world’s economy; the dark cloud of terrorism looming over Europe; and waves of refugees looking for safe haven.

Today, the world continues to be in crisis, and we’re still looking for solutions. Fortunately, the book of Esther speaks to us in these perilous times.

In Esther 2, we encounter a king looking for a new queen after exiling his last wife in a rage. The king’s advisors concocted a plan—for the king to have his pick from the most beautiful young women in the kingdom. Esther, a young Jewish girl, was one of the women brought to the king’s harem (Esther 2:7-8).

Esther stood out from the group and found favor with Hegai, keeper of the harem, and subsequently with the king, who “loved Esther more than any of the other young women” and crowned her queen (Esther 2:15-17). As harrowing as this must have been for Esther, to have her life in the hands of an unpredictable king, her ordeal set the stage for the young queen to play an important role in protecting God’s people from total annihilation (Esther 8:1-17).

Although God’s name is never mentioned in the book of Esther, we can see Him working behind the scenes to save His people. And He’s still at work today. Although evil and tragedy may strike, God is still on His throne and nothing can ultimately thwart His purposes. We can rest in His good ways—knowing that He will never leave or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5).

Written By: 
Poh Fang Chia

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Subscribe to God’s Help

Matthew 26:36-46
Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak! (Matthew 26:41).

Unsolicited emails are as annoying as a swarm of insects. Perhaps you made an online purchase and later received a stream of follow-up emails enticing you to buy other products. There’s only one way to try to stop them—unsubscribe!

Don’t you wish you could also unsubscribe from nagging temptations that attempt to lure you away from Jesus? While we can’t eliminate temptation, it’s encouraging to know we can subscribe to God’s help in our struggles with sin.

After spending time agonizing in prayer, Jesus returned to the three disciples, who should have been praying with Him. What He found was discouraging. They had slipped into slumber—failing another test (Matthew 26:40). Their deep sleep solicited a gentle rebuke and challenge from their Leader and Lord. Jesus urged them to remain spiritually alert and to continue praying to God for extra power to fight against temptation (Matthew 26:41). God’s strength would shore up their defenses and help them remain faithful to Jesus, especially in the dark hours that followed.

Like unsolicited emails, temptations keep coming at us in a variety of ways. Though we may not feel strong enough to ward them off, we’re not powerless to fight against them. We have the Spirit of the risen Christ empowering us in our struggle against sin. Because He has defeated sin, we too can experience victory. Our connection to His power through consistent and persistent prayer will assist us in fighting against our sinful desires and the devil—guarding our heart and strengthening our spirit. Then, instead of giving in to temptation, we’ll be able to resist its pull and stand strong by God’s faithful provision (1 Corinthians 10:13).

                                                       Let us pray

                    Lord help us to be the owners of consistent and persistent prayer 

                                          so that we can defeat all the temptations.

Written By: 
Marvin Williams

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Representing Jesus

Colossians 3:12-17

Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father (Colossians 3:17).

My first experience behind a radio microphone was at the local university campus station. I was eager to learn a new skill and wanted to fit in with all the other radio personalities. I soon realized, however, that my values as a believer in Jesus differed greatly from many of the other students. Though I didn’t agree with much of what I saw or heard, I experienced boldness and strength from Christ to share with others the difference He’d made in my life.

Years later, I met up with one of those radio personalities who said he was now serving God. I was amazed to learn that he’d explored the Christian faith because of the way I had represented Jesus to him.

As believers in Christ, God calls us to represent Him by going into our sphere of influence dressed with “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). In an often brutal and merciless world, we’re able to display the dramatically contrasting nature of our Savior—making allowance for the faults of others and forgiving those who have wronged us (Colossians 3:13). We can be ambassadors of Jesus by allowing His peace to rule in our hearts and by always being thankful, no matter the circumstance (Colossians 3:15).

When love is our overriding motive, we naturally become a harmonious expression of Him on earth (Colossians 3:14). We can’t help but embody Christ’s character when we allow who He is and His message to fill our lives and flow out and through us (Colossians 3:16). May we remember: “whatever [we] do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).

                                                           Lets Pray

                     Lord, help us to be your representatives in a compromising world.

Written By: 
Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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Myth No More

Read: 1 Peter 2:1-12

You can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).

“We were sure that we, and our civilization, had grown out of the nursery myths of God, angels, and heaven.” Peter Hitchens said those words in describing his younger years when he and his brother Christopher Hitchens, who would become an outspoken atheist, were moving from nominal faith to atheism. Peter ceremonially burned a Bible at age fifteen to declare his disbelief in God.

Later, in his adult years, Peter felt unrest in his soul. One day, while viewing Rogier van der Weyden’s painting Last Judgment, deep conviction filled his heart. The wrongs he’d committed and his rebellion against God required justice. That day, Hitchens began a journey into the arms of Jesus—seeing God no more as myth but as his Maker.

Peter Hitchens’ youthful view of God is nothing new. In 1 Peter, the apostle wrote to believers in Jesus who were considered “strange, superstitious, and disloyal to Roman society,” as one commentator puts it. Unbelievers stumbled over Jesus because they did “not obey God’s word, and so [faced] the fate that was planned for them” (1 Peter 2:8). What was it that pierced Hitchens’ heart? It was the truth that a just God must judge the world. He must turn to right the wrongs that have been committed against Him and others.

An innate desire for justice burns within our hearts. Why? Because we’re made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). And He has also provided the perfect path for us to move from being condemned because of our unjust ways (Romans 3:23) to being made clean by His mercy (1 Peter 2:10). As we trust in Him and His ways, God removes our disgrace (1 Peter 2:6). “Through the mediation of Jesus,” our lives can be made to please our just God (1 Peter 2:5).The justice we seek reveals He’s no myth.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to realize that You are a righteous judge Who does not want His creation to be condemned but have eternal life, so help us to mend our ways according to your purpose acknowledging You as our Maker. Amen.

Written By: 
Tom Felten
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Hidden Sins

Read: Galatians 2:11-21

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11).

I was ready to board a plane when my flight was cancelled due to engine failure. Unable to get on another flight, I had to wait until the next day. Because of my travel woes, the airline paid for my overnight stay at a nearby hotel. I was exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep, but I wasn’t able to rest well because of the jarring sound of jet engines. Perhaps if I lived right near an airport, I’d be used to the sound of jets taking off and landing and would sleep right through the night!

Similarly, we can become so accustomed to ignoring sin that it fades into the background, and we grow increasingly numb to it. And if we continue down the path of ignoring sin instead of confessing it, we’re in danger of bringing “sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). Having a deadened conscience would mean that we would no longer clearly hear the alarm bells of our conscience accusing or warning us of wrongdoing. Eventually, we wouldn’t even feel guilty for the sin we’re committing, having become completely insensitive to it.

How do we avoid this dangerous progression? A primary way is to follow the example of the psalmist who wrote: “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). The Holy Spirit can use Scripture hidden in our hearts to expose sin and prick our consciences.

The Spirit also uses others to help us see our sin. Paul had to confront Peter about his hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14). It’s crucial for us to be reminded that we have been “crucified with Christ. It is no longer [we] who live, but Christ lives in [us]” (Galatians 2:20). In His power, we can confront hidden sins.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us through Your Word and Your Holy Spirit to confront and confess our sins so that we live a life pleasing to You. Amen.

Written By: 
Marlena Graves

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The Kingdom We Long For

Jeremiah 23:1-6
He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land (Jeremiah 23:5).

I remember the way grief hung so heavy the morning after news broke of the deadliest mass shooting in US history in 2016.

This shooting happened just days from the one-year anniversary of yet another shooting: a racially motivated killing at an African-American church in my nation’s south. Have we learned nothing? Will we continue to kill one another? Must communities live in fear?

In such moments, I often feel helpless and need to return again to Scripture’s ancient wisdom to learn from the people who have gone before us. Israel knew much about devastation, violence, and oppression. But they also had a relentless hope in the God who would save them. As believers, we can join Israel’s tear-drenched prayer: “Save us, O Lord our God! Gather us back from among the nations, so we can thank your holy name and rejoice and praise you” (Psalm 106:47).

The prophet Jeremiah assured God’s people that “the time [was] coming” when a righteous king would come to rule—a powerful and good king whose kingdom would extend to every nation (Jeremiah 23:5). This king would “do what is just and right.” When He came, “Judah [would] be saved and Israel [would] live in safety” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).

Jesus has come, and God’s kingdom entered with Him. But this kingdom has not yet arrived in all its fullness, and we still encounter the bitter pain of violence and evil. Until God’s kingdom comes in final victory, we work and we utter prayers like this: We pray for God’s kingdom of peace over violence, God’s kingdom of love over hate, God’s kingdom of hope over despair, and God’s kingdom of friendship over estrangement and isolation. May the kingdom of Jesus Christ rule over every rival kingdom. O God, make Your kingdom come in us. Amen.

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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Offering Refuge and Hope

Read: Isaiah 16:1 -4

Let our refugees stay among you. Hide them from our enemies until the terror is past. (Isaiah 16:4)

My friends Shelah and Jade Acker are the founders and directors of Refuge and Hope, a faith-based ministry serving the urban refugee community in Kampala, Uganda.

One weekend, Refuge and Hope hosted a 7K “Race for Refugees” in Uganda to educate participants about what refugees face when they’re forced from their homes, communities, and countries. My thirteen-year-old son participated and joined four friends who became his “family” for the event. They had to work together to complete an obstacle course that included physical and mental challenges designed to represent hardships refugees face in real life when forced to seek safety and shelter in another country.

Through the event, my son and his event “family” gained a greater understanding of how Isaiah 16:2-4 reflects the loss and suffering experienced by refugees today.

When people are forced from their communities, they become like the women of Moab who were “left like homeless birds” (Isaiah 16:2). In this state of despondency, refugees are vulnerable. “Help us,” they cry. “Defend us against our enemies. Protect us from their relentless attack. Do not betray us now that we have escaped” (Isaiah 16:3). “Let our refugees stay among you,” they ask of those able to offer them refuge and hope, “Hide them from our enemies until the terror is past” (Isaiah 16:4). For many years, my friends have been coming alongside refugees and helping them to know that “God is [their] refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Let's Pray:

Lord help us to be the helping hand for the destitute and homeless and through our work let them know that God You are their refuge and strength and a very present help in times of trouble. Amen.

 

Written By: 
Roxanne Robbins
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Uber Conversations

Genesis 2:15-25
It is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Jasper Fu drives two hours a day for Uber, an app-based taxi service. He doesn’t do it for the money, since he already has a fulltime job. He says he does it because it’s a good way to “talk to people.” Chinese culture encourages quiet restraint, so it can seem inappropriate to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. It’s different when you’re picking them up in your car. Jasper says, “Under no other circumstance can I find a stranger to talk with me for like 10 to 20 minutes.”

Jasper isn’t alone in his desire to connect with others. A lot of us long to matter to someone, and we receive little help from our culture. If an evil villain wanted to make sure we have as little human contact as possible, this is the society he would have created. We’re separated by houses with backyards but no front porches. We’re separated by cars, in which we travel alone. We buy groceries, pump gas, and withdraw money from our bank—all without making eye contact with others. We’re separated by technology. In our free time we scroll and text alone.

In our isolation we might feel like David crying out from his cave, “No one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me” (Psalm 142:4). But we won’t go down without a fight, for we know it’s not good for us “to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Since our triune God created us for relationship, may we follow Jasper’s lead and find ways to foster friendship. We can text our friends to meet up face-to-face. We can bring cookies next door to share with neighbors. And we can view unexpected visits not as interruptions, but opportunities to reflect the relational nature of our loving God who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

                                                                         Let us pray

                  Triune God, help us to reflect your divine nature of unity in our relationships.

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer

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Prayer on an Airplane

Romans 1:15-17
I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

“Could you pray for us?” asked the French woman sitting next to me on the airplane. We were experiencing violent turbulence. Just minutes earlier this med student and I had been having a lively discussion about God and science. With my broken French and her broken English, I had used a Chinese-English pamphlet to share the good news about Jesus with her. To my new friend, the gospel message seemed like a fairy tale; but when our airplane began to dip and shake, her inclination was to ask God for help, allowing me the opportunity to share my faith and pray with her.

Sharing the good news is a great privilege. In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul describes his passion for sharing God’s plan to rescue people from the effects of sin and spiritual death through faith in Jesus (Romans 1:15-17). He was not at all ashamed; rather, he was compelled to share the gospel.

On another occasion, Paul was in the public square in Athens speaking “to all who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). As a result, he was asked by the high council of the city to tell them about this new teaching. This gave him the amazing opportunity to share with those who believed in many gods about “the Lord of heaven and earth, [who] doesn’t live in man-made temples and . . . gives life and breath to everything” (Acts 17:24-25).

Followers of Jesus today continue to have the privilege and challenge to share His good news with those they meet (1 Peter 3:15). At times, as with the woman on my flight, people may even call out to us for spiritual help. May we prayerfully and intentionally look for God-provided bridges to the gospel in everyday situations. As we listen to those around us and carefully take in their stories, God will open doors for us to share His good news.

                                                                     Let us pray

                           Lord, help us to share the good news with great enthusiasm

Written By: 
Estera Pirosca Escobar

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Adding Interest?

Exodus 22:16-31
If you lend money to any of my people who are in need, do not charge interest as a money lender would (Exodus 22:25).

We can take for granted the idea that any money loaned to someone should be paid back with interest; this is seen as normal. Secular culture often judges things on a purely functional basis, whereby acquiring wealth and even gaining at the expense of another is simply the way things are. In contrast, God has always judged things from a “heart perspective.” What’s the motivation behind our actions? Are we fueled by desire for our own gain, or by compassion, love, and a desire to glorify God?

God’s laws in Exodus 22 were designed to ensure that His people always acted fairly, possessing a heart attitude of compassion and justice that reflected His own. The Israelites were to display integrity, honesty, kindness, and love to one another. In charging interest to one of your own people, it was possible that you were taking advantage of someone’s financial hardship. This showed a lack of love and misrepresented the character of God.

In verse 26, note how God told His people to return a person’s cloak, even if it was taken as a pledge. It didn’t matter to Him what the business transaction was—He required His people to care about a person’s well-being at all times, including those who couldn’t defend themselves (Exodus 22:16,22).

God has put His laws in the hearts of believers in Jesus. The Holy Spirit guides us from within—helping us to understand and live out the wisdom of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How can we be more generous today, not only with our money, but—even more—with our time, our kindness, and our love for all people? When we give, let’s not always expect a return, but simply rejoice in God using us to build His kingdom.

Written By: 
Russell Fralick
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Lord of the Cosmos

Colossians 1:15-20
He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together (Colossians 1:17)

As you read this, the moon is circling the earth at 2,300 miles per hour. Even at that speed, it will take it nearly a month to make a full rotation. Meanwhile, despite circling the sun at 66,000 miles per hour, the earth will take a whole year to make one orbit. And our sun is just one of 200 million other suns spinning around the Milky Way at 483,000 miles per hour—a speed which necessitates 225 million years to circle around once. And the Milky Way is but one of 100 billion other galaxies shooting through space at over 1 million miles an hour. The universe is immense!

In Scripture, the vastness of the universe is said to reflect God’s own grandeur. It is He who stretched out the stars of heaven, covered the earth with the seas, and made the mountains rise (Psalm 104:1-9). “Through everything God made,” Paul says, “[we] can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). Modern telescopes help us see God’s power and divinity—not just in our earth and sky, but in faraway galaxies too.

Paul knew nothing of the universe being 100 billion galaxies large, but consider these inspired words he wrote about Jesus. “He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see” (Colossians 1:16)—including not only “kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world,” but everything in the cosmos. All those luminous galaxies were made by and for the divine Creator Jesus, and He holds them all together in His hands (Colossians 1:17).

This is mind-boggling! The One who walked this earth two millennia ago is the same One who keeps the galaxies spinning like carousels. Jesus isn’t just the Lord of you or me. He’s the Lord of the cosmos.

                                                                         Let us pray

                            Lord of the cosmos, open our eyes to see your never ending glory

Written By: 
Sheridan Voysey
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Farming Hope

Joel 3:17-21

In that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk (Joel 3:18)

I’m not a farmer, but I once attempted to be one as the guest of a self-sustaining community. The group lived together in dormitories, eating their meals together as a family. They grew most of the food they consumed and raised cattle for milk and meat. During my stay, I performed a number of barnyard chores, from shoveling dung to taking the old cow on her morning walk around the property—leash and all!

The ancient Hebrews understood both the hard work of farming and their dependence on creation. Their lifestyle was tied closely to agriculture. In order to survive, they depended upon the vitality of their produce, healthy livestock, and the availability of fresh water. If a plague or enemy destroyed their crops, they despaired (Joel 1:2-20).

Joel 3:17-21 is a depiction of the future for all believers in Jesus. It refers to that hopefully-someday-soon time when God will completely eliminate wickedness and return His creation to peace and vitality in His presence (Joel 3:21). Joel illustrated this great day with agricultural images: sweet wine (vegetation, produce), milk (birth, cattle), and a fountain that waters arid places (Joel 3:18).

Although many of us likely buy our food without knowing the farmers who produce what we consume, we are all dependent on an earth that often struggles to be fruitful. But a time is coming when God will renew the earth for farming and provide an endless river of life (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 22:1-2). As Paul wrote, “With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:20-21). In whatever trial we’re facing, with whatever unmet need, we can place our trust in God. The future He’s preparing is full of hope and life!

                                                                           Let us pray

                             Lord help us to believe in your providence for our future

Written By: 
Andy Rogers
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Because of Sunday

Mark 10:32-34
The angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” (Mark 16:6).

What would you do if you only had one week to live? Would you touch base with a few friends? Spend time with your family?

Knowing He had less than a week to live, Jesus responded very differently than many of us would—courageously making the journey to Jerusalem while preparing His followers for His death.

On Sunday, the crowds cheered His entrance into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11). Monday, He chased thieves out of the temple—calling it “a house of prayer” (Mark 11:15-17). Tuesday, the temple leaders questioned His authority (Mark 11:27-28). The Pharisees and other religious leaders also questioned Him about paying taxes and the greatest commandment (Mark 12:13-34). On Wednesday, one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, began to plot His demise (Mark 14:10-11).

On Thursday, after a Passover meal during which Jesus prepared His disciples for life after His death, Judas betrayed Him to religious leaders who had Him arrested (Mark 14:43-46). On Friday, they handed Jesus over to Roman authorities who had Him beaten and then crucified on a cross (Mark 15:15).

As the reality of Jesus’ death sank into the hearts of His followers on Saturday, so did despair—for their hopes died with Him. But then came His amazing resurrection on Sunday morning! (Mark 16:1-7).

The events of Jesus’ last week shows that because of Jesus and His love we can face the trials of today in His strength. Because of Easter Sunday, we can enter the conflicts of Monday through Wednesday; we can embrace the betrayal of Thursday, the suffering and humiliation of Friday, and the despair of Saturday.

Jesus’ resurrection gives us the ultimate assurance that even the most difficult realities of life in our present broken world will not have the final say.

                                                                          Let us pray

Most gracious heavenly father, we thank you for your unending love towards us. Give us the courage to face life's rude realities with the hope of resurrection.

Written By: 
Jeff Olson

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Our Real and Present God

 

John 14:8-17
The Father . . . will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you (John 14:16).

In 2005, two researchers coined “moral therapeutic deism” (MTD) as a description for the prevailing religious views of younger Americans. MTD is a constellation of beliefs that can be summed up this way: God exists and provides a moral way of ordering your life so that you can fulfill the ultimate goal of your life—to be happy and feel good about yourself. Although God is mostly removed and uninvolved in your life, He will welcome you to heaven when you die if you’ve been good.

Unfortunately, MTD describes many people’s religious views, not only the younger generation’s. While we may balk at some of the assertions above, practically speaking, many of us grapple with the idea that God is actively present in our lives. Perhaps we’ve prayed desperately for the healing of someone we love, only to find ourselves weeping at a grave. Perhaps we’ve asked God to change a relationship or provide a job or bring justice to the oppressed—only to have loneliness, unemployment, or injustice threaten to overwhelm us in the end.

Scripture promises us, however, that God is near and that He is active in our lives. He’s never far away; He surrounds us. Before Jesus ascended to the Father, He told His bewildered, fearful disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit who would never leave them (John 14:16-17). The Spirit would continue to lead them “into all truth,” the same truth that Jesus brought to us and that He announced on the cross and in His resurrection (John 14:17).

Whatever our experiences—including at times being disappointed or troubled by our inability to understand God’s actions or silence—we have Jesus’ promise that His Spirit is here. God is a very real and present God.

                                                                   Let us pray

Heavenly father, help us to understand and affirm your existance and presence throughout our lives

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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Gift of Tears

1 Samuel 20:30-41
Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David (1 Samuel 20:41)

The old lumberjack always strode with a purpose. But not today. Today the world clawed at his soul. As the gruff Swedish immigrant trudged up the hill to his family farm, tears rolled down his cheeks. The date was December 7, 1941, and Axel Gustafson had just heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His sons would be going to war.

My dad was one of those sons. He never forgot the tears of his outdoorsman father. He learned that men with true strength cry too.

King David cut the mold for ruggedness. As a youth he’d killed a lion, a bear, and then of course Goliath—and no, he didn’t use a rifle to do it. He would become the man of whom Israelite women sang, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Yet, as the warrior poet, David also displayed an artistic side. In 1 Samuel 20 we read the bittersweet story of David and Jonathan’s friendship. When it became clear that Jonathan’s father King Saul intended to kill David (1 Samuel 20:30-33), the two had an emotional farewell. “Both of them were in tears” (1 Samuel 20:41).

It’s not only a male trait to suppress tears. Women can also cling to stoicism. “I don’t cry,” a female friend told me. Yet the pain in her life was obvious to anyone who knew her.

The ultimate example of a man with true strength was Jesus. He cried over Jerusalem because it would reject Him (Luke 19:41). He cried at the grave of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). He endured such emotional turmoil the night before His crucifixion that “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). Jesus freely showed His emotions.

Our emotions are a gift. They reflect the image of a God who gets angry at evil, and who loves us with all His heart.

                                                                         Let us pray

                             Dear Lord, help us to channelise our emotions meaningfully

Written By: 
Tim Gustafson

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Faith in the Fields

Read: Matthew 9:35-38

The harvest is great, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37)

One day as I drove by a vineyard located several miles from my house, I noticed a sign that read: Fieldworkers needed. For just a moment I imagined myself hard at work, standing between rows of vines with the sun on my neck and sweat on my face. I could almost smell the fruit ripening in the summer heat and feel myself snapping clusters of grapes from beneath broad leaves.

My brief longing to be a part of a harvest reminded me of Jesus’ words, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Jesus wasn’t talking about grapes. He was talking about people—Spirit-ripened people who were ready to receive the gift of eternal life but needed to hear how to do so (John 4:36).

I wonder if the disciples truly understood what Jesus meant by “the harvest is great.” Did they know that they would be meeting plenty of people who would respond to their message? Their time in the fields would yield a massive, bountiful harvest of changed lives.

As for the problem of so few workers, Jesus’ answer was simple. Pray. Instead of asking His followers to take too much work on themselves, He urged them to ask “the Lord who is in charge of the harvest . . . to send more workers into his fields” (Matthew 9:38). Even while they worked for His kingdom, Jesus wanted them to rest in God’s sovereignty and provision.

We aren’t responsible for whether or not the people we witness to receive Jesus as their Savior. They may reject the gift God offers. As we go out into the fields, however, we can remember that the One in charge of the harvest has equipped and empowered us by His Spirit to be His witnesses.

Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, help us to be faithful workers in your field and thank you for entrusting us with the responsibility to pray for more workers to join in the harvest. Strengthen us Father to do so each day. Amen.

Written By: 
Jennifer Benson Schuldt
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Pizza and God’s Presence

 

Psalm 121:1-8
The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade (Psalm 121:5).

Not placing an order at a pizzeria may have saved Kirk Alexander’s life. When Alexander, who’d been purchasing pizza almost daily since 2009, hadn’t placed an order in more than a week, the restaurant’s manager asked a delivery driver to go to the customer’s house and check on him. Sure enough, Alexander didn’t answer the door—even though his lights and TV were on. Thanks to the driver’s 911 call, Alexander—who required “immediate medical attention”—received treatment and survived.

Far more attentive than that pizzeria manager, the psalmist wrote that the “Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade” (Psalm 121:5). As he looked to the hills of Jerusalem (Psalm 121:1), the psalmist noted where his security could be found. He affirmed that God, who has unbounded power, was Israel’s only true source of help (Psalm 121:1-2).

The God who redeemed Israel was the God who watched over, kept, and sustained His people (Psalm 121:3). Not only was He the source of their help, but He watched over His people at all times. The psalmist said God watched over Israel (the corporate community, Psalm 121:4), providing encouragement and refreshment (Psalm 121:5). God’s protection moved with His people wherever they went (Psalm 121:7-8).

Did this mean that the people of Israel never experienced hardship and that we shouldn’t expect times of struggle? No. But the psalmist accurately stated that God is there and aware of what’s happening in our lives. We can rest in His love and care for us, even when we go through dark valleys (Psalm 23:4). And, when tough times come, we can look forward to being in His peaceful presence “forever” (Psalm 121:8).

                                                                            Let us pray

         Dear Lord, make aware of us about your encouraging presence in all our life situations.

Written By: 
Marvin Williams
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Starting Small

Zechariah 4:6-10
It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (Zechariah 4:6).

The only thing Julius Kettle didn’t enjoy about returning home from boarding school on weekends was the countless rocks he had to gather. His father was gradually turning their family farm into a structure that looked much like a castle, built from the rocks of the land—rocks that Julius had to collect. Years later my folks bought the property, and when I now look at the castle-house, I can’t help but marvel at how skillfully it was crafted.

When the people of God started returning to Jerusalem after years of captivity in Babylon, He instructed them to rebuild the temple that now lay in ruins. God encouraged them in their task by showing the prophet Zechariah glimpses of a future restoration of all they had lost in exile through the coming reign of a victorious King (Jesus) and His kingdom (Zechariah 9:9-10).

God reminded His people that the rebuilding of the temple would not be possible “by force nor by strength, but by [His] Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). When they became despondent at seeing only its foundation, God urged them to not “despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” and assured them that He would ensure its completion (Zechariah 4:7-10).

Just as there were days when God’s people wanted to give up rebuilding the temple, perhaps you’ve been tempted to give up on something God has called you to do. Press on in His strength. As the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “You should finish what you started” (2 Corinthians 8:11). Even if you feel like you’re experiencing only “small beginnings,” you can move forward in the power God provides.

                                                                       Let us pray

Lord, help us to trust in your strength inorder to complete the mission that you have entrusted us.

Written By: 
Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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Beauty of Diversity

Acts 6:1-6
Select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility (Acts 6:3).

Watch a video of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964, and you’ll be struck by the charm and grace with which they performed. It’s easy to assume that the four musicians were simply born with the skills they displayed. But in his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that what made the Beatles a hit with fans was lots of hard work. Before that celebrated performance, the band had done nearly 1,200 shows—practice that prepared them for greatness.

The early church worked hard to protect and encourage diversity, leading to some great results. Already on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:7-12), the believers in Jesus enjoyed differences in language, geography, socioeconomic class, and race. The diversity—a work of the Holy Spirit—can be clearly seen throughout the book of Acts.

But unity amid diversity doesn’t come easily. In Acts 6, when a conflict arises about how the widows of different cultural backgrounds were being treated, the apostles didn’t sit on their hands and wait to see if things would work themselves out. No, they did nothing less than create a completely new level of leadership for the church, filling it with seven respected men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:2-4). In Acts 15, “the apostles and elders met together”—the Council of Jerusalem—to make sure that Gentile Christians were not discouraged in their faith (Acts 15:6). Diversity might have been a gift of the Spirit, but they worked hard to cultivate that gift.

We all want diversity in our churches and in our relationships, for it reflects how God loves all people and calls us to form a new family—the body of Christ. But I have to remind myself regularly that even though diversity is a gift of God to be celebrated, it’s also one to be cultivated. May the Holy Spirit help us do that well.

                                                                      Let us pray

                             Lord help us to cultivate diversity and to celebrate it

Written By: 
Peter Chin
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Starting Small

Read Zechariah 4:6-10

It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (Zechariah 4:6).

The only thing Julius Kettle didn’t enjoy about returning home from boarding school on weekends was the countless rocks he had to gather. His father was gradually turning their family farm into a structure that looked much like a castle, built from the rocks of the land—rocks that Julius had to collect. Years later my folks bought the property, and when I now look at the castle-house, I can’t help but marvel at how skillfully it was crafted.

When the people of God started returning to Jerusalem after years of captivity in Babylon, He instructed them to rebuild the temple that now lay in ruins. God encouraged them in their task by showing the prophet Zechariah glimpses of a future restoration of all they had lost in exile through the coming reign of a victorious King (Jesus) and His kingdom (Zechariah 9:9-10).

Just as there were days when God’s people wanted to give up rebuilding the temple, perhaps you’ve been tempted to give up on something God has called you to do. Press on in His strength. As the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “You should finish what you started” (2 Corinthians 8:11). Even if you feel like you’re experiencing only “small beginnings,” you can move forward in the power God provides.

Let's Pray:

Lord help us to firmly believe that even though we are currently experiencing hindrances in work we have started, You will help us to finish it by the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Written By: 
Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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“For God’s Sake!”

Joel 1:1-20
Lord, help us! . . . Even the wild animals cry out to you (Joel 1:19-20).

As I read the news account of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Ecuador in 2016, the exclamation of one young man stood out: “For God’s sake, help me find my family!”

“For God’s sake . . .”

Those words can certainly be used wrongly—taking the Lord’s name in vain. Yet, while I have no way of knowing if the young man has a relationship with God, it occurred to me that we so often invoke His name when calamity strikes. And since we’re made in His image (Genesis 1:27), to cry out for the sake of others can truly be for His sake.

The plaintive cry of the young man reminds me of an exclamation from the lips of Joel: “Lord, help us!” (Joel 1:19). Judah, the prophet’s nation, had been decimated by two natural disasters—an overwhelming swarm of locusts had eaten everything in their path and a drought had turned what remained to dust (Joel 1:6,12). The physical destruction—mirroring the nation’s spiritual condition—was devastating (Joel 1:14-15).

Joel, whose name means “the Lord (Yahweh) is God,” had been called to deliver God’s solemn message to the people of Judah (Joel 1:1-2). A two-pronged response was prescribed: Cry in grief and call out to God for relief.

These two reactions can lead to help and restoration when we confront pain. Perhaps someone close to us has taken her last breath. Or we’ve witnessed the ruthless slaughter of innocents. Or the disease has returned . . .

In genuine mourning and heartfelt prayer, we can draw close to God whose love “never ends.” But we may need to “lie face down in the dust” to once again find “hope at last” (Lamentations 3:22,29). For our sake, God meets us in our suffering and leads us through the fire and rubble to the joy that lies ahead.

                                                                      

Written By: 
Tom Felten

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Good Words

Romans 12:9-16
You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak (James 1:19).

In the summer of 2016, a two-year-old was snatched by an alligator as he waded into a lagoon at an amusement park resort. His father tried desperately, without success, to rescue the boy from the alligator. A frantic search for the child ensued, but tragically, a few days later, divers recovered the toddler’s lifeless body.

When news of what happened became public, some immediately took to social media to express sorrow and to offer condolences to the grieving family. But others accused the parents of irresponsibility and expressed cruel sentiments such as, “I would never let that happen to my child.” I was taken aback by the mean-spiritedness of some of those who commented on social media. They wasted no time in finding fault and in heaping scorn upon parents who were in the midst of grief and agony over the loss of their little one.

Since I’m on the care staff at my church, I’m often at the bedside of those who are sick or dying. I also visit those who have experienced other kinds of personal and familial crises. Even if the person or one of the family members I’m visiting is clearly at fault for a tragedy that occurred, I’ve learned that there’s a “time to be quiet and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). It goes hand in hand with James 1:19 where we’re told to be “quick to listen, slow to speak.”

I’m continually reminded that our attitudes and behaviors are to reflect those of Jesus—the One who does not “crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle” (Matthew 12:20). There’s a right time and a wrong time to dole out advice. In the meantime, may God give us the wisdom to “be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

                                                                            Let us pray

                                       Lord, help us to be with the people who are in need

Written By: 
Marlena Graves
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Into the Dark Unknown

 

Job 4:12-15
Fear gripped me, and my bones trembled (Job 4:14).

At the outset of World War II, a man—who would eventually rescue 669 children from Nazi slaughter—helped two Jewish boys secure passage on a train escaping Czechoslovakia. After the war, the boys received a final letter from their parents who had died in a concentration camp.

Here are a few lines: The time has therefore come . . . for us to ask you to become good men. . . . You took a piece of your poor parents’ hearts with you. . . . [You have heard] about the hard fate of all our loved ones. We too will not be spared and will go bravely into the unknown, with the hope that we shall yet see you again when God wills. Don’t forget us, and be good.

We can only imagine the agony the parents experienced as they penned those lines and the boys’ convulsing sorrow as they read them. I have no words to assuage this grief.

I do know, however, that the Bible doesn’t ignore this kind of anguish. In a most distressing narrative, Scripture recounts how Job lost his children, his wealth, and his reputation as a God-fearing man (Job 1:14-19, 22:4-5). His ruin was so immense that when his friends came to visit him, they hardly recognized him (Job 2:12).

Though he endured much confusion and grief, Job refused to turn from his Creator. Although he would “curse the day of his birth,” he would not reject God even when his wife prodded him to do exactly that—to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Job believed God was present in the ruins as much as in the blessings (Job 1:21).

Like Job, many of us will face terrible sorrows, but God will be with us even there. We may face hardship and despair, and we may have no answers or consolation. But God is with us, even in the dark unknown (Romans 8:38-39).

                                                                         Let us pray

                             Lord help us to be with you in our dark unknown situations

Written By: 
Winn Collier

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Envy and Humility

Acts 11:19-30
Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch (Acts 11:25-26).

The movie Amadeus depicts Antonio Salieri as a composer who couldn’t enjoy his gift because he happened to live at the same time as the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salieri worked diligently to create a decent musical work, only to watch the impish Mozart sit down at the piano and play soaring music, seemingly off the top of his head. Salieri begged God for Mozart’s gift, but he believed that God gave him just enough talent to recognize the many ways he didn’t measure up.

Salieri’s jealousy had turned to envy. Jealousy says, “I want what you have.” Envy says, “If I can’t have what you have, then I don’t want you to have it.” Envy rejoices at others’ failures.

The book of Acts depicts Joseph as a gifted leader in the early church. Loved by all, the other apostles nicknamed him “Barnabas (which means ‘Son of Encouragement’)” (Acts 4:36). He happened to live at the same time as the greatest church leader of all time, the apostle Paul. Rather than feel threatened by this talented leader, Barnabas humbly served by his side.

When the Christians in Jerusalem weren’t sure they could trust the newly converted Saul, Barnabas “brought him to the apostles” and vouched for his story (Acts 9:26-27). When Barnabas was sent to encourage the believers in Antioch, he went and found Saul so they could lead together (Acts 11:22-26). And when Paul refused to take another chance on Mark, Barnabas decided to let Paul go on and lead without him. Barnabas saw potential in Mark and was willing to risk his reputation to lift him up (Acts 15:36-40).

How do we react when we see people who are better at whatever it is we do? May we seize the opportunity to praise God for their abilities and pray for their success.

                                                                        Let us pray

                              Lord, help us to appreciate the good, and gifts in others

Written By: 
Mike Wittmer
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We Are at War

Ephesians 6:10-20
Put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm (Ephesians 6:13).

My great-grandfather was a Romanian sailor on the King Carol I warship during World War II. On October 10, 1941, he was one of twenty-one sailors who lost their lives when the ship hit a mine and sank near Varna, Bulgaria. Until the beginning of World War I, King Carol I had served as a cruise ship. Once the war started, the ship was transformed into a warship with guns and special armor for launching mines and grenades. While I’m proud and thankful for the legacy my great-grandfather left, I know that I am also engaged in war. It is a different kind of war—a spiritual one. Just as King Carol I was especially armored for war, I need to arm myself for the spiritual battles I face.

When we answered the call of Jesus to follow Him, we were transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Obviously, this infuriated the evil one. So it should be no surprise to us when Satan wants to steal our joy and peace and attempt to destroy God’s plan for our lives. The apostle Paul alerted the Ephesians that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against . . . mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Nevertheless, we don’t need to worry! God has already told us how to get ready for battle. Paul said to “put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil” (Ephesians 6:13). This verse does not imply that the time of evil might come, but states that it will come. We must expect it and be prepared so that “after the battle [we] will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

                                                                                Let us pray

                       God, help us to overcome the satanic forces and stand firm in spiritual war

Written By: 
Estera Pirosca Escobar

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The Details of Love

Exodus 25:8–26:14
You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you (Exodus 25:9).

When my wife and I chose her engagement ring, I suggested she pick out whatever setting she wanted. But I asked her if I could select the center stone, so that I could personally choose a special representation of my love for her. I wanted to demonstrate my commitment to her with a beautiful symbol of our life together that she would cherish—just as we both celebrate the relationship God has given us.

Thinking about the meaning of her engagement ring helped me understand the meticulous detail with which God described the blueprint for building the tabernacle. He said, “You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25:9). Although those details might at first seem to have no relevance to us today, they would have been very meaningful to an ancient Israelite—pointing towards a deep relationship with God.

The words, “so I can live among them” in verse 8 make clear that the relational character of God is at the heart of the tabernacle’s design. For example, the ark of the covenant containing the Ten Commandments would always remind Israel of their covenant with God and the way He revealed Himself to them on Mount Sinai. The rings on the side of the ark, making it portable, would remind them that God’s presence would move with them. The lid of the ark, called the “mercy seat,” would remind Israel of their need for God’s forgiveness.

With the coming of Jesus, Immanuel (“God with us”), we no longer require the tabernacle to experience God’s presence (Matthew 1:23). But there are countless signposts in the world reminding us of the God who loves us and is with us.

                                                            Let us Pray

                 Our Loving God, equip us to discern your loving presence in our daily life.

Written By: 
Russell Fralick

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Lifting the Lonely

Ecclesiastes 4:7-12
Two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? (Ecclesiastes 4:11)

“I’m lonely,” wrote Augusten Burroughs in one of his edgy memoirs. “And I’m lonely in some horribly deep way and for a flash of an instant, I can see just how lonely, and how deep this feeling runs.” I’ve seen Burroughs’ quote shared multiple times on social media. Clearly, he’s expressed a feeling many of us share.

Loneliness can be debilitating. The writer of Ecclesiastes states this with honesty: Someone who is alone finds life’s difficulties harder to manage (Ecclesiastes 4:10), is more vulnerable to abuse (Ecclesiastes 4:12), and can feel that his or her life is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8). While having a few friends is best (Ecclesiastes 4:12), just one friend can make a difference. Ecclesiastes puts this beautifully: “Two people lying close together can keep each other warm” (Ecclesiastes 4:11).

One of the most touching examples of this I’ve heard is about a woman I’ll call Erica. She was in the depths of depression, feeling isolated and lonely. But she had a friend named Emily. When Erica needed to cry, Emily didn’t stop the tears. When Erica needed to scream, Emily didn’t quiet her down. When Erica needed hope, Emily was ready with an encouraging word.

At her darkest moment, Erica lay curled up on an armchair one afternoon. She’d lost hope, and Emily had no words left. So Emily did the best thing she could do—she climbed into that armchair and hugged her friend. Erica drifted off to sleep. Then Emily did too. And that’s how they stayed for the next two hours—two friends embraced in warm silence. Seven years later, Erica remembers that hug more than anything else.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). And they can also help quell the deep loneliness many of us feel.

                                                                                Let us pray

                                     Lord, help us to be with the lonely people in thier needs

Written By: 
Sheridan Voysey
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Protected and Safe

Genesis 3:1-15

He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15).

Molly DeLuca was playing in her backyard with the German shepherd her family had recently adopted. Suddenly, the canine leaped in front of her and began jumping up and down. He was protecting Molly from a rattlesnake that had slithered onto the scene. Later, the dog was rushed to the veterinarian where the family learned that he’d been bitten three times by the reptile. Amazingly, he made a complete recovery.

When Eve encountered Satan disguised as a snake in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1), her body wasn’t poisoned by venom, but her mind was infected by Satan’s lies. She became convinced that satisfaction awaited her if she ignored what God said and ate the forbidden fruit.

Eve took a bite and Adam followed her example (Genesis 3:6). Later, when God confronted their sin, He spoke prophetically. To the snake, He said, “I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Thousands of years later, this prophecy came true when Jesus was crucified. He suffered temporarily, but His resurrection permanently broke “the power of the devil, who had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14).

Unfortunately, Satan still has some power. Like a snake in the grass, he strikes by tempting us. If he’s successful, he swaggers up in front of God and accuses us of our sin. Jesus, however, intervenes and stands up for His followers (1 John 2:1-2).

Satan’s accusations are dispelled by God and His power. We’re safe forever in Him—our Protector who is alive and well!

                                                                        Let us pray

                          Dear God, help us to stand firm against all satanic forces and structures

Written By: 
Jennifer Benson Schuldt

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Connecting the Dots

 

Joshua 3:14-17
Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by (Joshua 3:17).

In the 1850s, cholera was a global scourge capable of devastating entire cities. When a particularly terrible outbreak hit the Soho neighborhood of London, Dr. John Snow realized that the outbreak centered around a certain water pump. Snow then noticed that rather than this being an isolated case, the fiercest outbreaks always seemed to focus around these water sources. By connecting the outbreaks to infected pumps, Dr. Snow was able to establish that cholera was spread by contaminated water—a landmark step towards eradicating its terrible effects.

Connecting the dots resulted in something good by helping to thwart a disease. We can also connect the dots to see the work of our good God.

As the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, they could have perceived it as an extraordinary but isolated miracle—a one-time example of God’s intervention (Joshua 3:17). But as they passed through the water, they surely were reminded of their earlier crossing through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22). God’s providence could no longer be seen as an isolated occurrence but part of a long history of faithfulness. And after they passed through, they erected a monument of twelve stones as a reminder of that faithfulness (Joshua 4:19-23).

Often I perceive God’s work in my life as nothing more than isolated and disconnected occurrences—random situations where things work out in a way I could have never imagined. But as with the Israelites, this isn’t the case at all. God’s faithfulness in my present is connected to all the moments of His faithfulness in my past. And connecting these experiences, one to another, helps remind me that God isn’t just faithful in the here and now. He can be trusted to be faithful in the future and forever!

                                                          Let us pray

                        Lord help us to believe in your faithfulness in all the days of our life

Written By: 
Peter Chin

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Laying Down Our Lives

John 15:12-14
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).

In May 2016, a teacher was eating at a restaurant with his wife when he saw a man attack a waitress with a knife. George Heath left his wife’s side and leapt into action—running at the attackers and wrapping his arms around him in an effort to keep the man from hurting anyone else. Heath’s efforts to protect the others in the restaurant proved successful. He was able to detain the suspect until police arrived. Sadly, however, the brave teacher died just minutes later. A stab wound during his heroic rescue attempt led to his death.

George Heath laid his life down for others in the restaurant that day. Heath’s wife later stated that this courageous behavior was typical of him. He often engaged in acts of everyday heroism.

As I think about this brave teacher, I’m reminded of what the greatest Teacher once told His disciples. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus consistently modeled self-giving love to His disciples. He freely shared His life as if it wasn’t His own, culminating in His ultimate sacrifice on the cross (John 19:16-18).

We lay down our lives for others and demonstrate our love for them when we actively seek their good in big and little ways. It might even require that we lose our physical lives as George Heath did. But the key is to die to ourselves every day, laying down our lives following Jesus’ example. Not only did He give us the perfect model to follow, He also provides the strength and perseverance we need to live it out.

                                                               Let us pray

                                   Lord, help us to emptify ourselves and give life to others.

Written By: 
Marlena Graves
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Responding to suffering

Job 1:6-22
In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God  (Job 1:22).

People often blame God for their suffering. In 2016, one plaintiff even filed a legal request for a restraining order against his Creator. The man, who actually appeared in court for the case, told the judge that over the past three years, God “had been very negative towards him” (no specifics were recorded).

Distraught with grief over the destruction that had decimated his household, Job—who would seem to have every right to file a “restraining order” against the Almighty—initially addressed his suffering differently. Feeling the full force of sorrow from unwelcomed and unexpected calamities, Job tore his robe and shaved his head—customary practices of mourning in the ancient world. Then he fell to the ground, not in despair or anger, but in submission and worship, recognizing God’s sovereign right to give and take away (Job 1:20). Although Job would later bring his “case” of the unjust suffering he experienced to God (Job 13:3,8,24), He also praised Him in the midst of his pain (Job 1:21).

Scripture is realistic about suffering found in the world and in the lives of believers in Jesus. It’s universal and comes in various forms (Genesis 3:16-19; Job 14:1). So we shouldn’t be surprised when adversity comes. And when it does, by God’s strength may we choose to worship, bring our pain and problems to God (Psalm 73:16-17), pray (James 5:13), and believe He can provide victory (Romans 8:37).

In His mercy, God extends comfort and strength through our fellowship with other believers (1 Thessalonians 5:11), helping us to stand together displaying “one spirit and one purpose” (Philippians 1:27). Blame God? No, for He stands with us in our pain (1 Peter 2:21).

Let us pray

Lord, help us to see your strengthening presence in our

life struggles and sufferings

Written By: 
Marvin Williams
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Brutiful

Hosea 1:2–2:1
In that day you will call your brothers Ammi—“My people.” And you will call your sisters Ruhamah—“The ones I love” (Hosea 2:1).

During my sister-in-law’s lengthy hospital stay, battling an advanced form of cancer, our family spent many hours in a “family room” just down the hall from her room. We befriended a family whose mother had been diagnosed with the same disease. When both women entered hospice within days of each other, the two families shared tears and hugs. As I talked with a daughter of the mother, she said their experience had been “brutiful”—both brutal and beautiful. Similar to my family’s experience, God’s love and light had consistently peeked through the darkness of their family’s grief and pain.

The people of Israel experienced a chilling darkness in their relationship with God due to the deadly spiritual disease of idolatry (Hosea 1:2). The prophet Hosea’s relationship with his wayward wife provided a real-life portrait of his nation’s rebellion against their Lord. When Gomer, the prophet’s wife, had three children, God told Hosea to name them Jezreel (“for I am about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel”), Lo-ruhamah (“not loved”), and Lo-ammi (“not my people”) (Hosea 1:4,6,9). Not exactly a happy trio of names!

But happiness was on the horizon, for God said, “What a day that will be—the day of Jezreel—when God will again plant his people in his land” (Hosea 1:11). Not only was Jezreel’s name redeemed, but God transformed the other two children’s names too: Ammi (“my people”) and Ruhamah (“the ones I love”).

God alone has the power and grace to allow us to experience beauty even when things are brutal. He alone allows us to see light and life as it peeks through the darkness. Seek Him and His “brutiful,” transforming ways even in the midst of your most difficult days.

                                                                              Let us pray

                          Dear Lord, help us to discern your divine presence in our life situatons

                                             which we consider as dark  and hopeless...

Written By: 
Tom Felten

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Giving is Living

FOOLS FOR CHRIST

Luke 18:15-30
A certain ruler asked him, ’Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ [Jesus] said to him, ’You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. ' (verses 18 and 22)

I once knew someone who had lived a good life, had lots of friends, but had never partnered or had children. When faced with a terminal illness, my friend’s sadness at having no successors was expressed in the words ’l do not want to be forgotten.’ This friend was perhaps asking the same question as that asked of Jesus ’what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus’ reply was to exhort the rich man to give away all his riches to the poor. My friend didn't quite do that but, in the months of life remaining, made generous gifts towards some conservation projects and provision for bequests to provide a range of educational scholarships. While future generations might know nothing of the person of their benefactor, my friend’s name will indeed live on.

There’s a well-known saying often associated with memorials: ’to live in the hearts of those we love is not to die'. Living in the light of the Jesus story takes it a step further. It’s our commitment to justice, our willingness to give what we have to the poor, our courage to look and act beyond the comfortable circle of those we love that will ensure that our name lives on long after we have died, in other words, that we gain eternal life. Not everyone has money to spare, let alone to give away .Your response might be to give some time each week or even each day to a literacy programme, or deliver meals to shut-in people, or some similar community activity.

 

                                                                  Lets Pray

                         Lord help me to have the courage to let go of the abundance in my life,

                                                          so that others might live.

Written By: 
Lynne Frith
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THE GIFT OF GRACE

 Ephesians  2: 1-10

Jesus for it is by his grace you are saved through trusting him; it is not your own doing it is God is gift (v. 8).

 This Pauline letter emphasizes the features of the body of Christ; the Church. Several images of the church were drawn as body, temple, mystery, bride and so on. Paul explains how God almighty, through the only begotten Son, through his grace has elected, adopted and redeemed the entire creation for the glory of God. Let us examine various dimensions of Grace from this passage.

1. Grace as the ‘Gift’ (v.8): The passage highlights the temptations of this world. The creation became a fallen one due to man's failure in temptation. Thereby the God given nature became polluted, and the infrastructures and technologies used by human led to a competitive aggressiveness in grabbing more. In the midst of all these human transgressions and violence against nature and fellow creation, the grace of God is the gift of God to us to be obedient and honest to the creator. The gift is always especially meant item for a specially meant people. Therefore grace is a special capacity given to the specifically chosen people to stand for God.

2. Grace as the ‘Gesture’ (v.7): Grace is delineated here as the gesture of kindness as we see in v.7. Therefore it is a natural behaviour of all those who have the grace of the God. Today’s world is reluctant to open the door to strangers, migrants, refugees, the landless and the homeless. The grace of God that made possible the birth of Christ Jesus in a manger challenges us to manifest this same grace in our dealings with the poor and the needy.

3. Grace as the means to be ‘Genuine’ (v. 10): Each one of us should understand that we are the workmanship of God and we are created to do good works in Christ. In today’s world we hardly see this genuineness in people even in the ecclesial level. Most of the times we preach one thing yet practice just the opposite. But the grace of God invites us to be genuine.

Let’s Pray

Almighty God helps us to consider your grace as the gift, the gesture and the means to grow as communicative, kind and genuine persons, Amen.

 

 

 

Written By: 
Rev. Philip George, Thotakad

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MANAGING GOD'S GRACE

1 Peter 4:10 - As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Peter was sharing about how “the end of all things” was coming. Christ had lived the perfect life and died for all. Those who had heard the gospel were not only to live a rich life and cease from all sin, but they were going to escape the final judgment at His Second Coming. He then went on to explain how these believers were to live that rich life. Be of sound judgment, keep fervent in love for one another, and be hospitable to others. Then he began talking about gifts received. Several times, Paul talked about spiritual gifts (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12) and how every believer has one specific gift, a combination of the various categories uniquely blended for each person who has received Christ.

 

Today, we, as Christians, have received God’s special gifting. When we confessed and believed, we not only received the Holy Spirit immediately, but we also received His very special, unique gifting. As each individual is totally like no other, so our gifting is one-of-a-kind, designed specifically for us. How are we to use this gift? We are to serve one another. That is the essence of the Christian life: to minister to the needs of others, to both Christians and non-Christians. When we use this gift as God intended, we are proving to be good stewards, or managers, reflecting to others the grace that God has bestowed on us. We must use this gift daily in a way that we can serve others.

 

 Let’s Pray

Thank You, God, for the gifts You have given me. May I use these gifts wisely.

 

Written By: 
Bob Marette

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COMPLETE EACH OTHER

Gal 6: 1.5, Carry each other’s burden (v. 2).

There is an African indigenous philosophy of life known as Ubuntu. Which means “I am because of we are.” Understanding oneself in community and community in oneself. In this text, Paul urges the Galatians to practice a similar kind of mutuality. The Christian faith cannot be privatized, and compartmentalized without any connection to the community. Three major elements of Christian community life are emphasized in the selected passage. 1. Correct/Edify each other 2.Carry Each Other 3. Complete Each other.

 Correction or edification is an integral part of Christian life [v.6: 1]. Paul reminds the believers to be gentle in the process of edification. Correcting somebody should be constructive! We are eager to correct others but slower to be corrected! Carrying each other’s burden is another emphasize in the text .In an ultra-individualized society today, everybody is busy with their own pursuits. Most often, the ‘other’ is considered as ‘enemy’ or ‘burden.’ In such a disconnected world, carrying each other’s burden is a real need and challenge. Moreover, Paul reminds us that, we are completed by the other. Nobody is completed without community [v.3]. In community we learn, relearn and unlearn about our own lives. Jean Wanier, the founder of L’ Arche community, writes in his famous book Community and Growth; ”Community is terrible place. It is the place where our limitations and our egoism are revealed to us. When we begin to live full-time with others, we discover our poverty and weaknesses, our inability to get on with people, our mental and emotional blocks, our seemingly insatiable desires, our frustrations and jealousies, our hatred and our wish to destroy. While we were alone, we could believe we loved every one. Now that we are with others, we realize how incapable we are of loving, how much we deny life to others.”

Let’s Pray

Dear God, grant me the courage to be corrected, Amen.

Written By: 
Rev. Baiju Markose
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CONSIDER IT JOY?

James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.

The question we face is not how we will respond “if” we encounter trials, but rather “when.” A trial is something that comes up in our lives and breaks the pattern of peace, joy, comfort, and happiness. This happens to everyone. We cannot escape it. When faced with a trial, we have a choice. We can act either as “victim or victor”. A victim says, “Why me, Lord? Why did this have to happen to me?” Then he goes into self-pity and joy is the farthest thing from his mind. James said we should be a victor. When a trial comes, the victor does not say, “Why me Lord?" Rather, he says, “Lord, What are you trying to teach me?” It is at this time we turn to joy. That does not mean that we rejoice because of our pain. That is not a natural thing to do. We as Christians are called to rejoice in the middle of our pain because God can, and will, use our pain for our benefit and growth.

During the trial period, it is the time to remember God’s promises. Lf you know his promises, you can rejoice because: (1) He will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5), (2) He will never give you more than you can handle (I Corinthians 10:13), and (3) He will always meet your needs (Philippians 4:19). As you focus on God’s promises and keep your eyes on Him, you will think less about your situation and your trials. Look for what He is trying to teach you. Then, you can rejoice.

Let’s pray

O God, help me to know and trust Your promises, and as I do, restore the constant joy in my life.

 

Written By: 
Bob Marette
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JUST ASK, AND THEN BELIEVE

James 1:5 But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

 

The wisdom James wrote about was the understanding and practical skill needed to live a life to God’s glory. It is the knowledge and the ability to make wise decisions in difficult circumstances (v.2). It is not a wisdom of philosophical speculation, but rather the wisdom contained in the pure and peaceable absolutes of God’s will for our lives - the wisdom from above (James 3:17). James says, if any of you lack wisdom (and we all do), then we should ask. We should ask the One who can give it to us. We should not ask for wisdom or counsel from the ungodly (Psalm 1:1), but rather from our God, the Creator and Provider of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). But we must be careful to have faith that God will answer (v.6).

Asking of God is a very necessary part of the believer’s prayer life. God sometimes uses trials in our lives to drive us to greater dependence on Him, by showing us just how inadequate we are to handle life’s uncertainties. The good news is that when we ask, God will give us His wisdom. When we get this wisdom then we are able to handle those trials that come upon us, and then we can also rejoice. (v.2). “Ask . . . and it will be given.”

Let’s Pray:

God, You and I both know I lack wisdom, so I earnestly seek You today, because You are wisdom. I ask, believing that I will be given this wisdom to guide me throughout the day.

Written By: 
Bob Marette
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HEARTS ON FIRE

Luke 24:25-32

Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? (part of verse 32)

Nothing looks quite the same with the living Jesus at our side, including the Bible. The two people on that road thought their world had ended with Jesus’ death. It was only after the fact, that they understood what God was up to. About 20 years ago we had a fire in the sanctuary of my church. The organ was a write-off, and smoke damaged much of the front wall. It was awful at the time. But today, after generosity and hard work, the sanctuary feels fresh and contemporary. I’m not sure things would have changed without that fire.

I wonder what in your past will be seen in different perspective in the days ahead as Jesus opens the scriptures among us. l wonder what part of the Bible might come alive for you and what aspect of Jesus you might see in new light.

Let’s Pray

Living Lord, unsettle what we think we know about you.

Illuminate the scriptures again. Set our hearts alight.

Written By: 
Nathan Eddy
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COMMITTED AND COMPLETE

1 John 1:1-41

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (Verses 3-4)

To be Christian means to share what you have in fellowship – as partners promise to do in a wedding ceremony. Like all committed relationships, Christian community takes work. It can involve real pain and suffering. There are indications in this book of a painful split in John's community.

In 2:1 9 we read, ’they went out from us, but they did not really belong to us’. Ouch.

Perhaps these opening verses reflect a disagreement over Jesus - other Christians at the time believed that he only appeared to suffer, or came only as a spirit, not flesh and blood that could be seen and touched. But our author is clear: Jesus, the Word of life, was real – someone whoose body and wounds could be touched.

You don't need me to tell you that our relationships and faith communities are as fragile as Jesus' human body. Churches, like John's, can be torn apart. But the bonds of God's love (the bonds that are God, according to 1 John!) are stronger even than death. In that love all creation is called into committed fellowship. And we are called to build it up, relationship by relationship - not just read about it.

Let’s Pray

Gracious God, thank for you sharing everything you have with us.

Give us your commitment and generosity

to share with others, to complete your joy.

 

Written By: 
Nathan Eddy
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THE FORGIVING CHRIST

"I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home."  Mark 2: 11

Three categories of people can be found in the healing ministry of Jesus: the person who needs healing take the initiative as in the Barthimaeus event (Mark 10: 43-52),the community take initiative (Mark 2: 1-12) and Jesus takes initiative ( John 5: 2-9). All healing signs were manifestations of the Kingdom of God and invitation to a life of wholeness. At the core of these healing ministry is the understanding of ‘forgiveness of sins’. The Jewish hierarchy in Jesus’ time condemned some as sinners by interpreting the laws given by Moses. So Jesus wanted to correct it and wanted to include them in the fellowship of Kingdom of God.

Four compassionate persons in the community brought the paralytic ma before Jesus. Jesus responds to the faith of the people and ordered to the man rise and pick up his bed and go home. The paralytic man became healed. Our faith in God can do miracles in society if we respond to the needs of other people compassionately.

Some Jews believed that suffering was due to sin. This belief is closer if Indian concept of fate ‘Karma’. Jesus doesn’t subscribe to this belief. In John 9: 1-12 we read Jesus refute the idea that the blindness because of his sin or the sins of his parents. Sometime our attitude sickness cause more hurt and pain to the sick one’s.

So healing is necessary not only to sick one but to false beliefs carried by the community.

Written By: 
Rev. Dr. K.A. Abraham
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TRAIN YOURSELF FOR GODLINESS

"But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women, On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." I Timothy 4:7

Throughout the Bible, God tells us not only the things to do, but also the things to avoid. In the previous verse, Paul told Timothy to “be a good servant of Jesus Christ, constantly nourished on the words of faith….” Then he told him what to avoid. Keep far from worldly fables. Worldly or profane as some translations read, is the opposite of holy. Fables refer to myths, fit only for old wives. Many false teachers were bringing human wisdom and heresy which caused spiritual catastrophe to those who heed it. Paul said to avoid that, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”.

Godliness is the proper attitude toward God and a proper response. This godliness, with contentment would bring great gain. The word ‘discipline’ was used by athlets. Another translation uses the word “exercise”. This is rigorous, self-sacrificing training that an athlete subjects himself in order to win the race. It is a conscious decision. Similarly we must exercise and train our minds and bodies so that God can use us. How do we do that? We do so by spending time on our knees, becoming prayer warriors for Christ, and by spending time in God’s Word; reading, studying and memorising it.

Make that decisions today, and then be diligent to exercise daily.

Written By: 
Bob Marette
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BEFORE THE SUNSET

‘Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger’ Ephesians 4:26

Be angry. Is it OK to be angry? Of course it is. Jesus was angry when he turned over the tables in the temple marketplace. However, there are two kinds of anger; righteous anger and selfish anger. Righteous anger is what Jesus displayed. He got angry because His Father’s house was made into a den of robbers. When we see things happening around us that we know God hates or displeased with – injustice, immorality, ungodliness, etc., - we should hate it as well, and it might make us angry. When this occurs, we can be angry and yet, we are not sinning.

When we become angry for other matters, we must deal with it right away. When our feelings get hurt or when things don’t happen the way we want them to, then the resulting anger is sin, and it needs to be addressed right away. If it is vented thoughtlessly, it can ruin a relationship and hurt others. If it is bottled up, it can cause us to become bitter and destroy us from within. We must handle it like a Christ like manner and we must do it today, before the sun goes down.

 

Written By: 
Bob Marette
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SPEAK TRUTH

"Therefore laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbour, for we are members of one another." Ephesians 4: 25

Here Paul was telling the people in Ephesus church to "lay aside the old self … with the lusts of deceit" (v.22) and "put on the new self which is in the likeness of God" (v. 24). Then he said, since you have done this therefore lay aside falsehood, no more exaggerations or fabrications, no more ‘false excuses’ nor more ‘white lies’. These are all forms of lying, and as a Christian, should not be part of our behaviour.

Our words should reflect Christ in ‘everything’ we say, If we are not speaking the truth, we cannot be fit instruments for the Lord to use. Paul told Timothy that all these things should be set aside and we should be vessels ‘for honour, sanctified and usefull to the Master ( II Timothy 2:21). Lying to each other creates conflicts and destroys trust. It tears down relationships and leads to open conflict. Paul said we are to build up and not to tear down. We must speak ‘only’ the truth ‘at all times’.

 

Written By: 
Bob Marette
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DO NOT WORRY

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body what you will wear…." Matt. 6: 25

Popular magazines, books and websites show us that our human priorities haven’t changed much in the past two thousand years. We still worry about how long we live, about our physical appearance, what to wear, and what to eat. As consumers, we devote much of our lives to these matters.

Look at the form of Jesus’ teaching, not just the content. Notice the rural images, the striking comparisons such as the one between wild flowers and King Solomon’s finery and his question and commands. Imagine listening to him, with one picture flashing into your mind after another.

In emphasising that his hearers must not ‘worry’, was Jesus, too, encouraging an attitude of non-attachment? Was he forbidding responsible forethought or simply discouraging his followers from needless anxiety and fretting?

 

Written By: 
Prof. Eleanor Nesbitt
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WORSHIP INFLUENCED BY CULTURE

"In our life in the Lord Woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman." 1 Cor. 11:11

The gospel of Christ is not available to us in a vacuum but in a specific context. Passages such as today’s that instruct women to cover their heads need to be considered in the historical and cultural settings in which they were originally written.

Woman having long hair and covering their heads in public, with the opposite applying to men, was the cultural convention in the first century Corinth and Paul was asking the Christians there to follow the practice in the church as well. If a woman today chooses to wear a head covering in the church, she has the right to do so. However, insisting on that would be problematic.

The manner in which St. Paul in today’s passage introduces his discussion strongly suggests head covering was not his main concern. After discussing (in verse 3) the functional relationship between man and Christ, woman and man, and Christ and God, he affirms the supremacy of God over everything else.

Notions of human hierarchies change with the times

but the supremacy and finality of God prevail over all human relationships.

Written By: 
Dr. Jesudas Athyal

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THE COURAGE TO LIVE A COUNTER CULTURE

"Jesus Christ is the same Yesterday today and forever." Hebrews 13: 8

The Salmon is born in freshwater, but live most of their adult lives in the ocean. They then make an incredible upstream journey, battling against the tide, back to the fresh water to spawn. The writer of Hebrews reaches to a close of his letter, with a set of ethical teachings, urging and encouraging the faith community to be different from the broader society.

Verses 1 and 2 reminds the believers to strengthen the bonds of love between the community. It is a community of faith. Dissensions, factions and perhaps power struggles were beginning to form within community. The writer reminds the believers not to forgo the greatest commandment of love. We are called not be people safeguarding our institutions and structures but to extend brotherhood.

The writer also reminds the believers to be different in their approach money and material belongings. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi,

"there is enough for every one’s need , but not for everyone’s greed."

The want for more, creates a wild hunger in us, that is so dangerous and fatal to us and for our ecosystem.

Written By: 
Rev. Prince Varghese Madathilathu
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WILLINGNESS TO BE WITH THE ABANDONED

Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “ I am willing; be cleansed.” Mark 1: 41

Jesus touched the leper

The man with leprosy stand for all who have been ostracized and stigmatized as ‘unwanted category’. Here the hurt of the heart was deeper than the wounds over his body. Therefore the very touch of Jesus was exactly a touch of consolation in leper’s heart.

This willingness is the very nature of God who opted to be with the Israel who were being oppressed by the Egyptian Empire. The Exodus journey proved how the unnamed and unwanted multitude became a nation with God who was moving along with them. Christ expresses the same will of God by being part of the marginalized. His selection of disciples, option to travel the borders of Capernaum and Naphtali, ministry in Decapolis and fellowship with tax collectors and the so called sinners amply prove how his style of ministry transformed many.

 

Written By: 
Rev. Philip George
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THE GIFT OF GRACE

 

"For by grace you have been saved through faith ... It is the gift of God.’’ Ephesians 2: 8

This Pauline letter emphasizes the features of the body of Christ, the Church. Several images of the church were drawn as body, temple, mystery, and bride and so on. Paul explains how God almighty through Jesus Christ redeemed the entire creation for the glory of God.

This passage highlights the temptations of this world. The creation became a fallen one due to man’s failure to obey God. The fallen man became more aggressive and indifferent to his own brother’s growth. The technologies developed by man are used for his greed rather to share his means for the needy in society. The grace of God enable us to repent and receive God’s grace with humility. That may widen brotherhood for harmonious living.

Written By: 
Rev. Philip George
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DIVINE ELECTION

‘But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;...’ I Cor. 1:27

Once a famous Christian leader faced a question, “why did Jesus select Judas Iscariot?” He replied ; I do not know. It is even more surprising that he did select me to be in His privilege. Call to become a follower of Jesus is a blessed occasion.

God’s choice is surprising

Corinth a city in Greece, was a famous commercial centre in the large Roman Empire. It was a cosmopolitan city with people of diverse cultures and religions. There were philosophers, high official and rich people. But majority of the church members were poor and ordinary people. Corinthian church included slaves, peasants, artisans and a small proportion of elites. And the love of God reaches to this humble ones.

God qualifies the called

God does not call the qualified, but he qualifies the called. Paul tells that a believer receives righteousness, sanctification and redemption through Jesus Christ .It is not the human ability but God’s working in us that makes us useful for the Kingdom of God. ‘We can say I belong to God. I have been chosen by God. I am one of his sheep’ ( Martin Luther)

 

Written By: 
Rev. Sam Philip

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DIVISIVENESS IS AGAINST THE GOSPEL

“ I appeal to you, my brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; agree among yourselves and avoid divisions;…” I Cor. 1:10

In Verse 10, he briefly shows us the ground of unity, and the nature of unity in a church. The ground of course, is the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “I appeal to you,” he says, “ by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Their relationship to Christ was the unifying factor for the church. In order to have unity among the churches. May we forsake attempts to make a name for ourselves and uphold the name of Christ and have the mind of Christ.

The letter to the Philippians also demnds the same. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." (Philip. 2:5) He then goes on to describe for us the mind of Christ, which is a willingness to give up rights and personal privileges and give in and take a lower place.

Dear Lord, we pray that you may save us from pride and the things which separate us from others, Amen.

Written By: 
Rev. Mothy Varkey

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CALLED TO BE SAINTS

‘To the Church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy’ I Cor. 1:2

In the opening lines of his letter addressing his readers in the Corinthian Church, Paul reminds them of their calling to be saints leading holy lives.

Saints are Single minded people for God

Saints are people devoted for fulfilling God’s purpose, a deep awareness of which makes them radically different from others. Christians are called to be saints. Love, Peace, and unity are the three essential marks of holiness.

Saints are set-aparted for mission

Here Paul gives the apostolic blessing of grace and peace. An Apostle is the minister of peace. Set apart for the Purpose of Lord. It is a life of purpose, obedience and joy. The vitality of the Church in every age, depends on those who hear him and affirm God’s call to holy living and who make that pursuit – the principal agenda of their lives.

Father, each day is a blank canvas and a new start. Help me today to paint a beautiful picture for you, Amen

 

Written By: 
Rev. Dr. K.V.Simon
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RIGHT VISION - RIGHT MISSION

Luke 13: 10-17

We live in a culture of indifference. We are often advised not involve in matters that do not affect us. However, Jesus in his ministry always moved beyond the conventions. Here in this text, v 10 narrates that Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. This is the last synagogue narrative recorded in the Gospel. A teacher in the synagogue was supposed to read the scriptures and explain it to the mass. But Jesus takes a step further to it. Rather than minding his own business, he very affirmatively notices the plight of the bent woman in the crowd. Often when we are deeply engrossed with matters affecting us and our near ones, this divine gaze is a reminder. It reminds us of having a vision that is all inclusive and healing.

For the past 18 years her vision of the synagogue and the people surrounding it was very much restricted. Being bent, she was considered as disgrace in the society. However Jesus’ intervention reverses here situation. Her position is elevated. By inviting the woman to come in front, Jesus forces everyone to have a look at this woman. Also by healing her in public, he teaches all of us to have the right vision.

I was wondering who got healed by this miracle. It is true the woman got a divine healing. But much more than that, it was the leader of the synagogue and the people with rigid beliefs that received true healing. The deformity associated with their understanding of Sabbath and healing got straightened through this act. Often when we tend to act blind towards the plight of people near us, act rigid towards helping others, this act of Jesus is a call to straighten our vision. Only then we can do our mission in the right manner.

Triune God, this lent season, open our hearts, so that we may be able to see the sorrows around us.

Open our hands that we may be a helping hand for them. Amen

 

Written By: 
Rev. Thomas Rinu Varghese

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FRUITS OF SUBMISSION

Luke 1: 5- 23

Priest Zechariah was at the pinnacle of his priestly service, when he receives the chance to offer sacrifice in the most holy place of the temple. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a priest. Here, God uses one of Zechariah’s daily activities as a medium for revealing his divine plan. Often when we look for extraordinary means for God to speak to us, we forget the fact that even in our most mundane and daily activity, we can experience and witness the presence of God.

In this chapter, Luke narrates both Elizabeth and Zechariah as members of a priestly order who lived a righteous and blameless life (v.6). They were advancing in their age and they did not have a child. In those days, a barren woman was considered as a disgrace. Also the fact that God did not show favour to such a righteous priestly couple might have caused more pain to them.

We tend to evaluate our suffering on the basis of our faithful living. Faith and experience always stands in tension. The more we try to question our experience and pain in the light of our faithful life, the less we allow God to act on it. Here, the annunciation to Zechariah is a reminder that God is always in control of our life. Though he disbelieves, Zachariah and Elizabeth obeys the divine commandment and raises the child the way God asks them. This nurturing allows John the Baptist to fulfill the divine revelation prophesized about him in verses 16-18.

Even in our life situations when God proposes us with his divine plan, it gets fulfilled only when we submissively obey to the imperatives associated with it. Every annunciation becomes fulfilled only by the prayerful participation of the receiver. Here, the life of Zechariah and Elizabeth remains as true model for it.

 

Every annunciation becomes fulfilled only by the prayerful participation of the receiver.

Written By: 
Rev. Thomas Rinu Varghese
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SET YOUR PRIORITIES IN CHRIST

Galatians 5: 1-12

 

Paul, in this passage tries to give a new understanding about Law to the members of the church at Galatia. This text is a debate against the meaningless following of circumcision and law.

Divided loyalties

In v.2 Paul vehemently opposes the need for circumcision. Paul, being a devout Jew was well aware of the obligations associated with circumcision. Through circumcision a person is obliged to obey the whole law (v.3). Following Law demands a different way of life. Paul being aware of it suggests both law and grace of Christ as two different categories and spheres of influence. Thus Paul here questions the allegiance of the believers. We cannot have divided loyalties. In our spiritual journey we often simplify the way and pattern of Christ. We tend to look at it in a very futile manner. Though we proclaim our allegiance to Christ, we often set our priorities elsewhere. Thus, we become slaves of many masters and fail to enjoy the freedom in Christ.

Faith as a verb

Faith in itself is not a passive noun; rather it is a very dynamic verb. To have faith calls for an active faithful living. Paul is very particular while using this concept in his letters. In v.6 he expresses very clearly that one need to express faith through our love for fellow beings. Such actions manifest the fact that God is working through us. Our actions should go in sync with our beliefs. To merely claim that I have faith in Jesus Christ and to live that faith are two different things. Paul advocates the importance of the latter one.

In a busy world, words like faith have become too common for us. Thus, we tend to lose its meaning within our life. Paul here advices us to set our allegiance in Christ and live the faith we proclaim in him.

Prayer

Triune God, this lent season guide me to set my priorities in you.

Often when I shift my allegiance away from you, enable me to live the faith that I proclaim. Amen

 

Written By: 
Rev. Thomas Rinu Varghese

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