Daily Devotional

Triumph Through Failure

John 21:1-9

We’ve all left footprints in the valley of failure. What matters is how we respond afterwards. Do we give up and live a defeated life, or do we believe God can restore us?

The story of Peter’s failure and subsequent restoration gives us tremendous encouragement. Jesus warned that Peter would fall short, but He also prayed for the disciple’s faith not to fail. Jesus assured Peter ahead of time that his failure would not be the end of the story—he would stand up again and strengthen the others (Luke 22:31-32).

The Lord knew that before Peter could be molded into a strong yet humble leader, his pride and self-confidence had to be brought low and his heart broken. Although Satan wanted to sift the disciple to make him useless, Christ commandeered the process to make Peter useful.

In the same way, God can use our failures to prepare us to be more effective servants for Him. Although we may feel as though we have slipped from His grasp, Jesus has promised that nothing and no one can separate us from His love. He sits at the Father’s right hand, always interceding for us (Rom. 8:34).

When we wallow in our failures and build walls around our heart to deny the Lord access, we are resisting much-needed brokenness and healing. If we want God to use us, we must allow Him to get rid of the chaff that keeps us from being who He desires us to be. But if we will humbly turn to the Lord, He’ll give us a fresh start and a renewed understanding of His goodness and purpose.

Front-Porch Relief

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.—Philippians 4:12

On a particularly hot day, eight-year-old Carmine McDaniel wanted to make sure his neighborhood mail carrier stayed cool and hydrated. So he left a cooler filled with a sports drink and water bottles on their front step. The family security camera recorded the mail carrier’s reaction: “Oh man, water and Gatorade. Thank God; thank you!”

Carmine’s mom says, “Carmine feels that it’s his ‘duty’ to supply the mailman with a cool beverage even if we’re not home.”

This story warms our hearts, but it also reminds us that there is One who will “meet all your needs,” as the apostle Paul phrased it. Though Paul was languishing in jail and uncertain about his future, he expressed joy for the Christians in Philippi because God had met his needs through their financial gift to him. The Philippian church was not wealthy, but they were generous, giving to Paul and others out of their poverty (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-4). As the Philippians had met Paul’s needs, so God would meet theirs, “according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

God often sends vertical help through horizontal means. Put another way, He sends us what we need through the help of others. When we trust Him for what we need, we learn, as Paul did, the secret of true contentment (vv. 12-13). —Marvin Williams

How might God be prompting you to meet the needs of others? In what ways and through whom has God met your needs? Spend time thanking God for His provision.

God’s provisions are always greater than our problems.

The Point of Being Alive

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.—Luke 12:15

Lately, as I’ve been skimming financial advice books, I’ve noticed an interesting trend. While almost all such books have good advice, many imply that the primary reason to cut costs is to live like millionaires later. But one book offered a refreshingly different perspective, arguing that living simply is essential for a rich life. If you need more or fancier stuff to feel joy, the book suggested, “You’re missing the point of being alive.”

Those insightful words brought to mind Jesus’s response when a man asked Him to urge his brother to divide an inheritance with him. Instead of sympathizing, Jesus dismissed him abruptly before warning sternly about “all kinds of greed”—because “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:14-15). He then described a wealthy person’s plans to store his crops and enjoy a luxurious lifestyle—the first-century version of retirement planning—with a blistering conclusion. His wealth did him no good, since he died that night (vv. 16-20).

Although we are responsible to use our resources wisely, Jesus’s words remind us to check our motivation. Our hearts should be focused on pursuing God’s kingdom—knowing Him and serving others—not on securing our own futures (vv. 29-31). As we live for Him and freely share with others, we can fully enjoy a rich life with Him now—in the kingdom that gives meaning to all of life (vv. 32-34). —Monica Brands

Lord, thank You for all You’ve so generously provided. Teach us how to enjoy what You’ve given and to share it with others. Help us to rest in You.

We don’t need to wait to enjoy a rich life in God’s kingdom.

 

A Double Promise

In perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.—Isaiah 25:1

Since she suffered with cancer several years ago, Ruth has been unable to eat, drink, or even swallow properly. She has also lost a lot of her physical strength, and numerous operations and treatments have left her a shadow of what she used to be.

Yet Ruth is still able to praise God; her faith remains strong, and her joy is infectious. She relies on God daily, and holds on to the hope that she will recover fully one day. She prays for healing and is confident that God will answer—sooner or later. What an awesome faith!

Ruth explained that what keeps her faith strong is the secure knowledge that God will not only fulfill His promises in His time, but will also sustain her until that happens. This was the same hope that God’s people had as they waited for Him to complete His plans (Isaiah 25:1), deliver them from their enemies (v. 2), wipe away their tears, remove their disgrace, and “swallow up death forever” (v. 8).

In the meantime, God gave His people refuge and shelter (v. 4) as they waited. He comforted them in their ordeals, gave them strength to endure, and gave them assurance that He was there with them.

This is the double promise we have—the hope of deliverance one day, plus the provision of His comfort, strength, and shelter throughout our lives. —Leslie Koh

Thank You, Lord, for Your wonderful gift of hope. You have promised to save me and to walk with me every day of my life.

Trusting God’s faithfulness can dispel our fearfulness.

Passing on the Legacy

Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.—Psalm 79:13

My phone beeped, indicating an incoming text. My daughter wanted my grandmother’s recipe for Peppermint Ice Cream Pie. As I thumbed through the yellowed cards in my aged recipe box, my eyes spotted the unique handwriting of my grandmother—and several jotted notes in the small cursive of my mother. It occurred to me that with my daughter’s request, Peppermint Ice Cream Pie would make its entrance into a fourth generation within my family.

I wondered, What other family heirlooms might be handed down generation to generation? What about choices regarding faith? Besides the pie, would the faith of my grandmother—and my own—play out in the lives of my daughter and her offspring?

In Psalm 79, the psalmist bemoans a wayward Israel, which has lost its faith moorings. He begs God to rescue His people from the ungodly and to restore Jerusalem to safety. This done, he promises a restored—and ongoing—commitment to God’s ways. “Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise” (v. 13).

I eagerly shared the recipe, knowing my grandmother’s dessert legacy would enjoy a new layer in our family. And I prayed sincerely for the most lasting hand-me-down of all: the influence of our family’s faith on one generation to the next. —Elisa Morgan

What is your family passing down to the next generation?

Sharing and living out our faith is the best way to leave a legacy.

Passing on the Legacy

Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.—Psalm 79:13

My phone beeped, indicating an incoming text. My daughter wanted my grandmother’s recipe for Peppermint Ice Cream Pie. As I thumbed through the yellowed cards in my aged recipe box, my eyes spotted the unique handwriting of my grandmother—and several jotted notes in the small cursive of my mother. It occurred to me that with my daughter’s request, Peppermint Ice Cream Pie would make its entrance into a fourth generation within my family.

I wondered, What other family heirlooms might be handed down generation to generation? What about choices regarding faith? Besides the pie, would the faith of my grandmother—and my own—play out in the lives of my daughter and her offspring?

In Psalm 79, the psalmist bemoans a wayward Israel, which has lost its faith moorings. He begs God to rescue His people from the ungodly and to restore Jerusalem to safety. This done, he promises a restored—and ongoing—commitment to God’s ways. “Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise” (v. 13).

I eagerly shared the recipe, knowing my grandmother’s dessert legacy would enjoy a new layer in our family. And I prayed sincerely for the most lasting hand-me-down of all: the influence of our family’s faith on one generation to the next. —Elisa Morgan

What is your family passing down to the next generation?

Sharing and living out our faith is the best way to leave a legacy.

Walking on Water

Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”—Matthew 14:27

During an especially cold winter, I ventured out to Lake Michigan, the fifth largest lake in the world, to see it frozen over. Bundled up on the beach where I usually enjoy soaking up the sun, the view was breathtaking. The water was actually frozen in waves creating an icy masterpiece.

Because the water was frozen solid next to the shore, I had the opportunity to “walk on water.” Even with the knowledge that the ice was thick enough to support me, I took the first few steps tentatively. I was fearful the ice wouldn’t continue to hold me. As I cautiously explored this unfamiliar terrain, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus calling Peter out of the boat onto the Sea of Galilee.

When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, their response was also fear. But Jesus responded, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:26-27). Peter was able to overcome his fear and step out onto the water because he knew Jesus was present. When his courageous steps faltered because of the wind and waves, Peter cried out to Jesus. Jesus was still there, near enough to simply reach out His hand to rescue him.

If you are facing a situation today where Jesus is calling you to do something that may seem as impossible as walking on water, take courage. The one who calls you will be present with you. —Lisa Samra

Dear Lord, thank You for the assurance that You are always with us.

When we call out to God, He hears.

 

A Good Season

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.—Ecclesiastes 3:1

Today is the first day of spring in the northern half of the world. If you live in Australia, it’s the first day of autumn—the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere. Today, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the hours of daylight and nighttime are nearly equal around the world.

New seasons are important for many people. Some count down the day because of what they hope the new season will bring. Perhaps you’ve been marking off a calendar for spring in Wisconsin to signal the end of another winter. Or maybe you live in Melbourne, and you can’t wait for autumn to bring relief from the Australian sun.

We also go through seasons of life that don’t have to do with the weather. The author of Ecclesiastes told us there is a season for every activity under the sun—a time appointed by God during which we live our lives (3:1-11).

Moses spoke of a new season in his life after he led the people of Israel through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 31:2), and he had to give up his leadership role to Joshua. And Paul faced a lonely season while he was under house arrest in Rome—asking for visitors but realizing that God was “at my side” (2 Timothy 4:17).

Regardless of the season of life, let’s give thanks to God for His greatness, His help, and His companionship. —Dave Branon

Thank You, Father, for the promise of Your care during this season of my life. You have allowed this circumstance for a good reason. Help me to use this time appointed by You in a way that deepens my trust in You.

Every season brings a reason to rejoice.

The Process of Temptation

1 Corinthians 10:12-13

Many people act as if there’s no defense against temptation. With the first hint of desire, they immediately throw their hands up and give in to every little enticement. Can you relate to this? What we must realize is that temptation is a gradual process, and it can be short-circuited at any stage.

Temptation usually begins in the mind, where we live out imagined scenarios. The human mind has an amazing capacity to create entire exchanges and experiences out of nothing. Through fantasy, we can enjoy something without ever bringing it into the real world. Therefore, since it’s not real, we think it’s perfectly harmless.

But a fantasy world leads to a downward spiral of enslavement. Ultimately, our thoughts become so wrapped around the one temptation that it seems impossible to think of anything else. At this point, our minds are held captive by the desire. No matter where we go or what we do, we can’t outrun our own thoughts! And when our life becomes focused on anything other than God, we are trapped.

But the Lord is faithful and will provide the way of escape. Since temptation begins in the mind, that’s where the battle should be waged. The only way to disrupt the process is by filling our minds with the Word of God. As we continually feed on a hearty diet of Scripture, the Word will work in us— uprooting sin, transforming our thoughts, and overcoming the tempting fantasy. The Bible is powerful! We can trust it to set us free from the burden of temptation.

The Struggle With Temptation

James 1:12-15

If there’s one thing every man, woman, and child has experienced, it’s temptation. We have all seen something new, attractive, or unusual and thought, I must have it. What is “it” for you? The object of temptation can be almost anything—perhaps something material like a nice house or new car, or maybe a physical sensation from food, alcohol, or drugs. Another possibility is an emotional temptation that comes with the anticipation of a new relationship or recognition for a job well done.

Whatever the object, temptation demands that we must have it—now! We don’t stop to consider whether it is good for us, beneficial to our family, or harmful to someone we love. Caution and loyalty are thrown to the wind when temptation gets a grip on us. It can bring absolute destruction into our life if it’s left uncontrolled.

Simply put, temptation is an enticement to follow our desires beyond the boundaries God has set. For example, the Lord has given mankind a precious gift in human sexuality, and this God-given desire is often taken outside of the context for which the Creator originally designed it. Sexual desire is inherently good, but when left unchecked, it compromises our judgment and leads to trouble and pain.

Are you allowing a single desire to control your life? Are you continually going beyond the limits of what you know God approves? Then it’s time to break the hold of temptation by turning back to God in repentance, submitting to His rule over your desires, and relying on His power to overcome.

Revealed to Be Healed

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.—Psalm 25:4

As a boy, I watched my father plow fields that had never been cultivated. On the first pass the plowshare would turn up large rocks that he hauled away. Then, he would plow the field again, and then again, to further break up the soil. With each pass the plow turned up other, smaller rocks that he cast aside. The process continued, requiring many passes through the field.

Growth in grace can look like a similar process. When we first become believers, some “big” sins may be exposed. We confess them to God and accept His forgiveness. But as the years pass by, and as God’s Word passes through us and sinks into our innermost being, the Holy Spirit brings other sins to the surface. Sins of the spirit once thought to be mere peccadilloes—small, seemingly unimportant offenses—are revealed as ugly, ruinous attitudes and actions. Sins like pride, self-pity, complaining, pettiness, prejudice, spite, self-serving indulgence.

God reveals each sin so He can cast it aside. He reveals to heal. When harmful hidden attitudes come to the surface, we can pray as the psalmist David did, “For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great” (Psalm 25:11).

Humbling exposure, though painful, is good for the soul. It’s one of the ways in which He “instructs sinners in his ways.” He “guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (vv. 8-9). —David H. Roper

Thank You, Lord, that You remember us according to Your love. Instruct us and guide us. Teach us to live as those who have been forgiven much.

Jesus takes us as we are and makes us what we should be.

Giving the Gift of Prayer

You help us by your prayers. 2 Corinthians 1:11

“I didn’t realize what a gift prayer was until my brother was sick and you all prayed for him. I cannot tell you what a comfort your prayers were!”

Laura had tears in her eyes as she thanked me for the prayers of the people in our church for her brother, who was facing a cancer diagnosis. She continued, “Your prayers have strengthened him in this difficult time and have been an encouragement to our entire family.”

Prayer is a gift to be shared.

One of the best ways to love others is to pray for them. Jesus is our ultimate example in this. The New Testament tells us about Jesus praying for others on many occasions, and even shows us that He continues to come to the Father on our behalf. Romans 8:34 says that He “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Even after showing such selfless love at the cross, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ continues to express His care for us by praying for us at this very moment.

All around us are people who need us to follow Jesus’s example and love them with our prayers, inviting God’s help and intervention in their lives. We can ask God to help us pray for them, and He will! May our loving Lord strengthen us to generously give the gift of our prayers for others today.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for praying for me. Help me to serve You and others through faithfully praying today.

Prayer is a gift to be shared.

Pulling Together

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.—Hebrews 10:24

Why do more than five million people a year pay money to run several miles over an obstacle course where they must ascend vertical walls, slog through mud, and climb up inside a vertical pipe with water pouring down on them? Some see it as a personal challenge to push their limit of endurance or conquer their fears. For others, the attraction is teamwork where competitors help and support each other. One person called it “a no-judgment zone” where people who are strangers will reach out to help each other finish the race (Stephanie Kanowitz, The Washington Post).

The Bible urges us to pursue teamwork as a model of living out our faith in Jesus. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Our goal is not to “finish first” in the race of faith, but to reach out in tangible ways of encouragement by setting an example and lending a helping hand along the way.

The day will come when we complete our life on earth. Until then, let’s spur each other on, be ready to help, and keep pulling together every day. —David C. McCasland

Father in heaven, give us eyes to see and strength to help each other in the race of faith today.

We run together in the race of faith.

Devotion to Prayer

Colossians 4:2-4

Are you devoted to prayer? That’s a convicting question, isn’t it? Almost all of us recognize that our prayer life could use some improvement. Part of the problem is that we’re inundated with pressures and activities in this fast-paced world. As a result, prayer often becomes a quick sentence or two before rushing out the door, or it’s combined with some other activity in an effort to multitask.

However, lack of time isn’t an excuse for not sitting down quietly with the Lord to read His Word and talk with Him. The real problem is our priorities. We’re consumed with the urgent and have lost sight of what’s truly important. By neglecting prayer, we forfeit greater love for Christ, a deeper relationship with Him, and His power in our weakness.

But our lack of prayer also affects other people. When Paul told the Colossians to devote themselves to prayer, he requested that they include him and his ministry. As Christians, we have been given the responsibility and privilege of interceding for each other. This is one of the ways we contribute to God’s work in the world and display our love for fellow believers.

Knowing what’s at stake is a great motivation for faithful prayer. To make this a priority in your life, begin by setting aside a time and place to meet with the Lord each day. Then find scriptural passages about people praying, and model your requests, praises, and thanksgiving after these examples. Try keeping a written record of your requests and God’s answers, and you will see your faith strengthen, your love for Christ deepen, and your devotion to prayer increase.

The Holy Spirit’s Lesson Plan

John 16:12-15

The ways of God are a mystery to man. Only when we have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and received the Holy Spirit can we begin to understand. The Spirit of God uses three methods to open our mind and fill our heart with godly wisdom.

  1. Revelation. This term refers to truth that is given by the Lord and cannot be obtained in any other way. The Scriptures are the most obvious example. Anyone, believer or not, can read God’s Word and understand some portions, but only a Spirit-filled believer can begin to grasp the layers of meaning within the Bible.
  2. Illumination. We use this word to describe the amazing moment when the Holy Spirit enlightens our mind so that we understand God’s Word. We can read other books a few times and have a thorough understanding of them. But the Lord reveals ever-deeper truths about Himself as we mature in our faith (Eph. 1:17-18).
  3. Remembrance. The Holy Spirit reminds us of godly principles or biblical passages when we need them. He helped the gospel writers recall events and Jesus’ words many years after the fact. And He does the same for us when we could use encouragement, inspiration, or comfort.

The Holy Spirit illuminates believers’ minds so that they can recognize and comprehend divine revelation. If we have memorized scriptures and stored up biblical insights, the Spirit of God can dip into the “reservoir” for needed wisdom in our present moment.

 

 

The Holy Spirit: Our Teacher

John 14:25-26

If you are going to take instruction from someone, you want to be certain that person is well qualified, right? It’s interesting, then, that so many believers neglect the greatest Bible teacher available. We read religious books, survey friends, and ask a Sunday school class before we decide to get on our knees and consult the true Authority. While those sources can point us in the right direction, only the Holy Spirit illuminates God’s Word to our hearts and minds.

Asking someone to explain Scripture seems easier than seeking to understand it through the Spirit’s power. But consider what a person misses in bypassing Him. Who better to instruct believers about the Word’s depth and breadth than the One who wrote it? (See 2 Peter 1:20-21.) The Spirit laid His message on each human author’s heart, and the writers dutifully recorded it in their own unique voices.

Furthermore, as a member of the holy Trinity, the Spirit knows the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). He is often called the Spirit of truth, because He understands everything. The Holy Spirit recognizes our emotional and mental state and can identify exactly where we are in our Christian walk. Therefore, He can reveal to our mind the passages that will encourage, challenge, or convict us as needed.

We have a teacher of divine quality. He will help us to learn and grow, guide us through difficult passages, and shed light on why the Lord allows certain challenges in our life. When it comes to aiding God’s people to know His Word, no one is more qualified than His Spirit.

Direct Instructions

 “I have been told by the word of the Lord.”—1 Kings 13:17

My second child was eager to sleep in a “big-girl bed” in her sister’s room. Each night I tucked Britta under the covers, issuing strict instructions to stay in bed, warning her I’d return her to the crib if she didn’t. Night after night, I found her in the hallway and had to escort my discouraged darling back to her crib. Years later I learned her customarily-sweet older sister wasn’t excited about having a roommate and repeatedly told Britta that she’d heard me calling for her. Britta heeded her sister’s words, went to look for me, and thus landed herself back in the crib.

Listening to the wrong voice can have consequences for us all. When God sent a man to Bethel to speak on His behalf, He gave explicit instructions for him to not eat or drink while there, nor return home by the same route (1 Kings 13:9). When King Jeroboam invited him to share a meal, the prophet declined, following God’s command. When an older prophet extended an invitation to dine, the man initially declined, but relented and ate when his elder deceived him, saying an angel told him it was okay. Just as I wanted Britta to enjoy her “big-girl bed,” I imagine God was saddened the man didn’t heed His instructions.

We can trust God completely. His words are our path to life; we are wise to listen and obey. —Kirsten Holmberg

Thank You, Lord, for speaking to me through Your Word. Help me to tune my ears to Your voice and obey.

God’s words are the ones that matter most. 

Age-Old Wisdom

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? Job 12:12

In 2010, a newspaper in Singapore published a special report that contained life lessons gleaned from eight senior citizens. It opened with these words: “While aging brings challenges to mind and body, it can also lead to an expansion in other realms. There is an abundance of emotional and social knowledge; qualities which scientists are beginning to define as wisdom . . . the wisdom of elders.”

Indeed, wise older people have much to teach us about life. But in the Bible, we meet a newly crowned king who failed to recognize this.

King Solomon had just died, and in 1 Kings 12:3, we read that “the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam” with a petition. They asked the new king to lighten the harsh labor and heavy taxes his father Solomon had demanded of them. In return, they would loyally serve Rehoboam.

At first the young king consulted the elders (v. 6). But he rejected their advice and accepted the foolish counsel of the young men who had grown up with him (v. 8). He made the burden on the people even greater! His rashness cost him most of his kingdom.

All of us need the counsel that comes with years of experience, especially from those who have walked with God and listened well to His counsel. Think of the accumulated wisdom God has given them! They have much to share with us about the Lord. Let’s seek them out and give a listening ear to their wisdom.

To avoid the mistakes of youth, draw from the wisdom of age.

Goodbye for Now

You do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.—1 Thessalonians 4:13

My granddaughter Allyssa and I have a regular routine we go through when we say goodbye. We wrap our arms around each other and begin to loudly wail with dramatic sobs for about twenty seconds. Then we step back and casually say, “See ya,” and turn away. Despite our silly practice, we always expect that we will see each other again—soon.

But sometimes the pain of separation from those we care about can be difficult. When the apostle Paul said farewell to the elders from Ephesus, “They all wept as they embraced him . . . . What grieved them most was [Paul’s] statement that they would never see his face again” (Acts 20:37-38).

The deepest sorrow, however, comes when we are parted by death and say goodbye for the last time in this life. That separation seems unthinkable. We mourn. We weep. How can we face the heartbreak of never again embracing the ones we have loved?

Still . . . we do not grieve like those who have no hope. Paul writes of a future reunion for those who “believe that Jesus died and rose again” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). He declares: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel,” and those who have died, along with those who are still alive, will be united with our Lord. What a reunion!

And—best of all—we will be forever with Jesus. That’s an eternal hope. —Cindy Hess Kasper

Thank You, Lord, for the assurance that this world is not all we have but that a blessed eternity awaits all who trust in You.

At death, God’s people don’t say goodbye,” but “we’ll see you later.”

Like a Little Child

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.—Mark 10:14

The little girl moved joyfully and gracefully to the music of praise. She was the only one in the aisle but that didn’t keep her from spinning and waving her arms and lifting her feet to the music. Her mother, a smile on her lips, didn’t try to stop her.

My heart lifted as I watched, and I longed to join her—but didn’t. I’d long ago lost the unselfconscious expression of joy and wonder of my childhood. Even though we are meant to grow and mature and put childish ways behind us, we were never meant to lose the joy and wonder, especially in our relationship with God.

When Jesus lived on Earth, He welcomed little children to Him and often referred to them in His teaching (Matthew 11:25; 18:3; 21:16). On one occasion, He rebuked His disciples for attempting to keep parents from bringing their children to Him for a blessing, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). Jesus was referring to the childlike characteristics that ready us to receive Christ—joy and wonder, but also simplicity, dependence, trust, and humility.

Childlike wonder and joy (and more) open our hearts to be more receptive to Him. He is waiting for us to run into His arms. —Alyson Kieda

Abba (Daddy), Father, help us to be more childlike in our relationship with You. We long to be filled with wonder at all You have done.

Faith shines brightest in a childlike heart.

Grass or Grace

Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan.—Genesis 13:11

My friend Archie came home from vacation to find his neighbor had erected a wooden fence five feet inside his property line. Several weeks went by during which Archie tried to work with his neighbor to remove the fence. He offered to help and to split the cost of the work, but to no avail. Archie could have appealed to civil authorities, but he chose to forgo that right in this instance and allow the fence to stand—to show his neighbor something of the grace of God.

“Archie is a wimp!” you say. No, he was man of towering strength, but he chose grace over a patch of grass.

I think of Abraham and Lot, who fell into conflict because their flocks and herds overwhelmed the land. “Quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and the Perizzites [the unbelieving community] were also living in the land at that time” (Genesis 13:7). Lot chose the best of the land and lost everything in the end. Abraham took what was left over and gained the promised land (vv. 12-17).

We do have rights and we can claim them, especially when other’s rights are involved. And sometimes we should insist on them. Paul did when the Sanhedrin acted unlawfully (see Acts 23:1-3). But we can choose to set them aside to show the world a better way. This is what the Bible calls “meekness”—not weakness. Strength under God’s control. —David H. Roper

Dear Lord, I am prone to look out for myself. Give me wisdom to know when giving up my rights would best demonstrate Your love and grace to others.

My life helps paint my neighbor’s picture of God.

The Importance of Discernment

Matthew 3:1-12

Who couldn’t use a little discernment? We desperately need the Lord’s help to determine truth and reality in a world filled with confusing gray areas and evil deceptions.

John the Baptist was a man of tremendous discernment. This rough and rugged preacher came thundering onto the scene of staid orthodox Judaism, and he brought a message to the entire Jewish nation. John’s job was to prepare the way for the Messiah’s arrival. What he had to say was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).

As the multitudes flocked to hear this unique prophet and repent of their sins, John discerned that some of them were frauds. The Pharisees and Sadducees had come to check him out, not to repent. They were hiding reality behind a religious exterior.

A discerning spirit is one that is in tune with the Spirit of God. As John lived in submission to the Lord, he gained insight beyond anything that could have originated from his own mind.

He saw the situation from God’s perspective and delivered a strong rebuke to that “brood of vipers” (Matt. 3:7). Although we may never be as forthright as John, there will be times when a discerning spirit will lead to confrontation.

The Father wants His children to develop spiritual discernment in order to guard against deception. We must know how to recognize invalid philosophies as well as false doctrines that sneak into the church. What’s more, divine insight can also protect us in our relationships and even helps us see the truth about ourselves.

A Man Worthy of Our Hope

1 Peter 1:3-5

Christ’s resurrection is the foundation of our faith. There are many people who think it’s sufficient to believe that Jesus lived and died. However, the Savior’s restoration to life is central to what He claimed about His identity and to Christianity as a faith. Picking up on our question from yesterday’s devotion, we must ask what kind of man is this who rose from the dead?

The answer is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died for our sins and rose again because death has no power over Him. The resurrection validated Jesus’ ministry. All along, He said and did things to reveal Himself as Lord. When the Lamb of God—the perfect sacrifice for sin—conquered death, He confirmed His identity. Who but the Creator could return to life?

We could also answer the question by saying that the kind of man who returns from the dead is one worthy of our hope. Since Jesus Christ affirmed God’s power to give His followers eternal life, their earthly existence is not marching toward an end; rather, it is the opening chapter of a beautiful and never-ending relationship with God. Paul said that at death, Christians are absent from their bodies and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). So the best is yet to come!

Apart from Jesus’ resurrection, there is no hope. Those who chase after their own versions of immortality have no assurance of life after death, because for them, there is none. Yet believers face death with the confidence that nothing can separate them from the love of the Father. Death is just a short trip home.

Phone Zone

Pray continually.—1 Thessalonians 5:17

One of the benefits of cell phones is that we now have virtually unlimited access to others. As a result, many people talk on the phone or text even while driving—sometimes resulting in terrible car crashes. To avoid such disasters, many areas of the world have made distracted driving illegal. In the United States, highway signs are popping up to remind drivers of special cell phone zones where they can pull off the road to safely talk and text to their heart’s delight.

While it is a good idea to restrict mobile phone communication for drivers, there is another kind of communication that has no restrictions: prayer. God invites us to call on Him whether we are coming, going, or sitting still. In the New Testament, Paul’s words advise each person who wants to communicate with God to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Paul brackets this divine open-door policy by encouraging us to “rejoice always” (v. 16) and to “give thanks in all circumstances” (v. 18). God calls us to joy and thanksgiving—expressions of faith in God through Christ anchored in continual prayer.

God is available for our quick cry or for a lengthy conversation. He welcomes us into a relationship with Him, a constant and endless sharing of our joys and gratitude, needs, questions, and concerns (Hebrews 4:15-16). We are always in the prayer zone. —Bill Crowder

I’m grateful, Lord, that You want to hear from me. I need You today.

Access to God’s throne is always open.

We Won’t Break

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:27

As a native Californian and lover of all things sunny, I shy away from all things cold. I do, however, enjoy beautiful photos of snow. So I couldn’t help but smile when my friend from Illinois shared a winter picture of a sapling outside her window. Admiration turned to sadness when I noticed its bare, knotted branches bowing under the heavy fringe of sparkling icicles.

How long could those bending boughs endure before breaking under their icy burdens? The heaviness threatening to crack the tree’s limbs reminded me of my shoulders, hunched beneath the weight of worries.

After Jesus affirms that the greatest treasures are not earthly or temporary, He encourages us to release our anxious thoughts. The Creator and Sustainer of the universe loves and provides for His children, so we don’t have to waste our precious time worrying. God knows our needs and will care for us (Matthew 6:19-32).

He also knows we’ll be tempted to succumb to worry. He tells us to come to Him first, trust His presence and provision in the present, and live by faith one day at a time (vv. 33-34).

In this life, we’ll face overwhelming troubles and uncertainties that can make our shoulders droop. We may temporarily bend under the weight of worrying. But when we trust God, we won’t break. —Xochitl Dixon

Thanks for assuring us that we never have to worry, Lord, because You never fail to meet our deepest needs.

 

Worry won’t break us when we trust the Giver of all good things.

 

Lost but Found

Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.—Luke 15:6

When we discovered that my mother-in-law had gone missing while shopping with a relative, my wife and I were frantic. Mom suffered from memory loss and confusion, and there was no telling what she might do. Would she wander the area, or hop onto any bus thinking it would take her home? Worst-case scenarios spun through our minds as we began to search for her, crying out to God, “Please find her.”

Hours later, my mother-in-law was spotted stumbling along a road, miles away. How God blessed us in being able to find her. Several months later, He blessed her: at eighty years of age, my mother-in-law turned to Jesus Christ for salvation.

Jesus, comparing humans to lost sheep, gives us this illustration: “Suppose [a shepherd] has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, . . . he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” (Luke 15:4-6).

Shepherds counted their sheep to make sure every one was accounted for. In the same way, Jesus, who likens himself to that shepherd, values each of us, young and old. When we’re wandering in life, searching, wondering about our purpose, it’s never too late to turn to Christ. God wants us to experience His love and blessings. —Leslie Koh

Lord, You search for us and find us. Thank You for making us Your own.

The Release of Fear

Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.Mark 6:50

Our bodies react to our feelings of dread and fear. A weight in the pit of our stomachs, along with our hearts pounding as we gulp for breath, signal our sense of anxiety. Our physical nature keeps us from ignoring these feelings of unease.

The disciples felt shock waves of fear one night after Jesus had performed the miracle of feeding more than five thousand people. The Lord had sent them ahead to Bethsaida so He could be alone to pray. During the night, they were rowing against the wind when suddenly they saw Him walking on the water. Thinking He was a ghost, they were terrified (Mark 6:49-50).

But Jesus reassured them, telling them not to be afraid and to take courage. As He entered their vessel, the wind died down and they made it to the shore. I imagine that their feelings of dread calmed as they embraced the peace He bestowed.

When we’re feeling breathless with anxiety, we can rest assured in Jesus’s power. Whether He calms our waves or strengthens us to face them, He will give us the gift of His peace that “transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). And as He releases us from our fears, our spirits and our bodies can return to a state of rest.
—Amy Boucher Pye

Lord Jesus Christ, help me when the dread seems to cling to me. Release me from my fears and give me Your peace.

The Lord releases us from fear.

 

 

Fearless Giving
 
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.—Malachi 3:10

When my son Xavier was six years old, a friend brought her toddler to visit and Xavier wanted to give him a few toys. I delighted in our little giver’s generosity, until he offered a stuffed animal my husband had searched several stores in different cities to find. Recognizing the high-demand toy, my friend tried to politely decline. Still, Xavier placed his gift into her son’s hands and said, “My daddy gives me lots of toys to share.”

Though I’d like to say Xavier learned his confident giving from me, I’ve often withheld my resources from God and others. But when I remember that my heavenly Father gives me everything I have and need, it’s easier to share.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to trust Him by giving a portion of all He had supplied to the Levite priests, who would in turn help others in need. When the people refused, the prophet Malachi said they were robbing the Lord (Malachi 3:8-9). But if they gave willingly, showing they trusted the Lord’s promised provision and protection (vv. 10-11), others would recognize them as God’s blessed people (v. 12).

Whether we’re managing our finances, our schedules, or the gifts God entrusted to us, giving can be an act of worship. Giving freely and fearlessly can show our confidence in the care of our loving Father—the ultimate generous Giver. —Xochitl Dixon

Lord, please help us live with full confidence in Your faithful provision, so we can give freely and fearlessly to You and others.

Fearless giving to God and others reveals our

Our Sure Foundation

[The Lord] will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.—Isaiah 33:6

For many years, people in our city built and bought homes in areas subject to landslides. Some knew about the risk of the unstable land, while others were not told. “Forty years of warnings from geologists and city regulations created to ensure safe home-building” were unexplained or ignored (The Gazette, Colorado Springs, April 27, 2016). The view from many of those homes was magnificent, but the ground beneath them was a disaster in the making.

Many people in ancient Israel ignored the Lord’s warnings to turn from idols and seek Him, the true and living God. The Old Testament records the tragic results of their disobedience. Yet, with the world crumbling around them, the Lord continued reaching out to His people with a message of forgiveness and hope if they would turn to Him and follow His way.

The prophet Isaiah said, “[The Lord] will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” (Isaiah 33:6).

Today, as in the Old Testament era, God has given us a choice about the foundation on which we will build our lives. We can follow our own desires, or we can embrace His eternal principles revealed in the Bible and in the person of Jesus Christ. “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand—all other ground is sinking sand” (Edward Mote). —David C. McCasland

Father in heaven, we acknowledge You as our sure foundation. Our security and hope are in You.

The Lord Himself is our strong foundation in life.

 

 

Blooming in the Right Spot

“A weed is any plant that grows where you don’t want it,” my father said, handing me the hoe. I wanted to leave the corn plant that had “volunteered” among the peas. But Dad, who had grown up on a farm, instructed me to pull it out. That lone cornstalk would do nothing but choke the peas and rob them of nutrients.

Human beings aren’t plants—we have minds of our own and God-given free will. But sometimes we try to bloom where God doesn’t intend us to be.

King Saul’s son, the warrior-prince Jonathan, could have done that. He had every reason to expect to be king. But he saw God’s blessing on David, and he recognized the envy and pride of his own father (1 Samuel 18:12–15). So rather than grasping for a throne that would never be his, Jonathan became David’s closest friend, even saving his life (19:1–6; 20:1–4).

Some would say that Jonathan gave up too much. But how would we prefer to be remembered? Like the ambitious Saul, who clung to his kingdom and lost it? Or like Jonathan, who protected the life of a man who would become an honored ancestor of Jesus?

God’s plan is always better than our own. We can fight against it and resemble a misplaced weed. Or we can accept His direction and become flourishing, fruitful plants in His garden. He leaves the choice with us.

Lord, please forgive us for those times when we act as if You have planted us in the wrong place. Help us see what You have for us to do today.

Enjoying GOD

Psalm 5:11-12

The Scriptures are full of verses that speak of the enjoyment God’s people find in Him, and this sometimes leaves us wondering why our experience doesn’t match theirs. If we aren’t delighting in the Lord on a consistent basis, there may be some hindrances in our life.

We may not know God. No one can have a personal relationship with the Father except through His Son Jesus. But when we believe in Christ as Savior and Lord, we become children of God. Then through His Word, we learn He’s not a Father who is quick to punish us for breaking His rules, but He’s one who tenderly watches over us and restores us when we fall.

We may be afraid of God. When the Scriptures tell us to fear the Lord, it means to honor, revere, and obey Him as a child does a parent. But if we see Him as a tyrannical Father, we’ll be afraid of Him, and this kind of fear keeps us from experiencing joy in our relationship with Him. We must remember that our heavenly Father loved us so much that He sent His Son to rescue us and has placed us securely in His loving family.

Sometimes the problem is sin. When we disobey the Lord, our fellowship with Him—but not our relationship with Him­—is broken. If we confess our sins, then He is faithful to forgive us and restore our intimacy with Him. (See 1 John 1:9.)

When we really enjoy the Lord, we find ourselves slow to leave His presence and desiring to linger. Does this describe your relationship with your heavenly Father?
 
 

Make Him Known

Read Mark 1:1–13

Published: Sep 18, 2017

John the Baptist spent his life preaching repentance and baptizing all who confessed their sins. Even though his was an unorthodox lifestyle, wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts and wild honey, he led those who came to him into God’s truth. He had a great following, but he knew there was one greater than he.

This was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie” (Mark 1:7).

John witnessed the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and resting upon Jesus. He heard the voice from heaven declaring Jesus as the Son of God (Mark 1:10–11). Could there be any doubt this was the Promised One? John knew he baptized the Son of God that day and didn’t hesitate to tell others.

Those who have received salvation through the death of Christ on the cross, know they have encountered the Messiah. Like John, they too can lift up Christ so others might be drawn to Him.

Prayer Suggestion: Lord, guide me to help others know who You are.

Quicklook: Mark 1:4–11