Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Would Or Did?

By Bill Crowder

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Christ died for our sins . . . , was buried, and . . . rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. —1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 37-39; 2 Peter 2

Not many years ago, we watched as the “WWJD” craze swept through the Christian community. The bracelet-emblazoned theme “What Would Jesus Do?” was a valuable reminder to many people that we should consider the heart and mind of Jesus when making choices. As we seek to live in a way that honors the Savior, it is appropriate to measure our attitudes and decisions against the example our Lord set for us.

Recently, however, I was in a church where I saw a slightly different message. This church’s sign read, “WDJD—What Did Jesus Do?” That is indeed the more important question, because our salvation depends on it. Paramount among the remarkable deeds of the Son of God are the events described in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

What did Jesus do? He took the suffering and guilt for our wrongdoing and paid our penalty. He died and conquered death so we could live. And the fact is, we will never be able to fully consider what Jesus would do until we have embraced what He did do for us on the cross.

To follow Christ in all we do
Can be a worthy goal
If first we’ve put our trust in Him
To save our sinful soul. —Sper

We are saved not by what we do
but by trusting what Christ has done.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What Is In Your Hand?

By Dennis Fisher

Read: Exodus 4:1-5
So the Lord said to [Moses], “What is that in your hand?” —Exodus 4:2
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 35-36; 2 Peter 1

If you have a tendency to despair over lost opportunities or if you worry about the future, ask yourself this question: “What is right in front of me?” In other words, what circumstances and relationships are currently available to you? This question can get your focus off a past regret or a scary future and back to what God can do in your life.

It’s similar to the question God asked Moses at the burning bush. Moses was troubled. Aware of his own weaknesses, he expressed fear about the Lord’s call for him to lead Israel out of bondage. So God simply asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?” (Ex. 4:2). The Lord shifted Moses’ attention away from his anxiety about the future and suggested he notice what was right in front of him—a shepherd’s rod. God showed Moses that He could use this ordinary staff to perform miracles as a sign for unbelieving people. As Moses’ trust in God grew, so did the magnitude of miracles God worked through His servant.

Do you think about past failures too much? Do you have fearful thoughts about the future? Recall God’s question: “What is that in your hand?” What current circumstances and relationships can God use for your benefit and His glory? Entrust them—and your life—to Him.

Onward and upward your course plan today,
Seeking new heights as you walk Jesus’ way;
Heed not past failures, but strive for the prize,
Aiming for goals fit for His holy eyes. —Brandt

You can’t change the past,
but you’ll ruin the present by worrying about the future.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Collector’s Heaven

By Joe Stowell

Read: Matthew 6:19-21
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. —Matthew 6:19-20
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 33-34; 1 Peter 5

People love to collect things—from baseball cards to stamps to coins. And while collecting can be a fun hobby, it is sobering to think that once we leave this earth, everything we own becomes part of someone else’s collection. What value would it be to have collected much on earth but little or nothing for eternity?

Jesus had something to say about this. Speaking to His disciples, He said: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20).

Eternal treasures never lose their worth. They can never be spoiled or stolen. And just think—we can actually stockpile them! How? Through acts of service. Through leading others to Jesus. By being compassionate to those in need. By living according to the will and ways of Jesus. In the gospel of Mark, we read that the Lord tested the rich young ruler’s heart when He asked him to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. The ruler’s response revealed what he really valued (10:21-22).

It’s easy to become enamored with earthside stuff, but when you make the choice to follow Jesus, He’ll show you the joy of collecting eternal treasures. Nothing on earth can compare!

The treasures of earth do not last,
But God has prepared us a place
Where someday with Him we will dwell,
Enjoying the riches of grace. —Branon

Hold tightly to what is eternal and loosely to what is temporal.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ernie’s Farewell

By Dave Branon

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. —2 Corinthians 6:2
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 30-32; 1 Peter 4

On September 30, 2009, columnist Mitch Albom sat on stage at the Fox Theater in Detroit, Michigan, to interview Ernie Harwell, one of the most beloved men in American sports. Harwell spent more than 50 years as a radio play-by-play announcer, mostly for the Detroit Tigers baseball team. His kindness, humility, and warmth as a broadcaster left an indelible impression on all who met him.

When Albom interviewed him, Ernie was 91 years old and had just announced that he had incurable cancer. But as Ernie talked, he wasn’t about to let people feel sorry for him. Instead, he wanted to talk about the night in 1961 when he trusted Jesus Christ as Savior. And, during one of the final times this Hall of Fame announcer would be able to speak publicly, he concluded, “I don’t know how many days I’ve got left . . . [but] I can really know . . . whose arms I’m going to end up in, and what a great, great thing heaven is going to be.”

Ernie was anticipating something special! He knew that God had a glorious eternal home prepared for him (John 14:2-3; Phil. 1:21-23), so he could look death in the face and praise God. Is that your confidence? Do you know that His arms are waiting to welcome you home? At the end, that’s really all that matters.

Lord, when I take my final breath
And see You face to face in death,
Then shall my heart forever sing
The heavenly praises of my King. —Raniville

For the Christian, death means heaven, happiness, and Him

Friday, November 26, 2010

Advanced School

By Philip Yancey

Read: Psalm 27
The Lord is the strength of my life. —Psalm 27:1
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 27-29; 1 Peter 3

We tend to compartmentalize our lives. We fill our days with activities such as work, errands, chores, caring for children. And then we try to carve out time for “spiritual” activities such as church, small groups, personal devotions.

I don’t see that separation in the Psalms. Somehow David and the other poets managed to make God the gravitational center of their lives so that everything was related to God. To them, worship was the central activity in life, not something to get through so other activities could be resumed. The process of letting God in on every detail of life is one we need.

For me, the Psalms have become a step in the process of recognizing God’s true place at the center. The psalmists have an urgency, a desire, and a hunger for God that makes my own look anemic by contrast. They panted for God with their tongues hanging out, as an exhausted deer pants for water (42:1-2). They lay awake at night dreaming of “the beauty of the Lord” (27:4). They would rather spend one day in God’s presence than a thousand years elsewhere (84:10).

It was “the advanced school of faith” that these poets were enrolled in. Maybe as we read the Psalms, some of it will rub off on us.

One life to live for Christ my Lord,
One life to do my part,
One life in which to give my all
With fervency of heart. —Brandt

To have a heart for God, give your heart totally to God.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

We Thank The Lord

By David C. McCasland

Read: Proverbs 3:1-12
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. —Proverbs 3:5
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 24-26; 1 Peter 2

Anna Anderson’s husband died early in their marriage, leaving her with three young daughters and a difficult future. Although trained in Virginia as a teacher, she lacked full credentials to work in the Philadelphia schools, so she took in laundry, did ironing, and later scrubbed floors at a large department store. As African-Americans, they often experienced racial prejudice and discrimination. When doors of opportunity closed, Anna believed that if they would trust the Lord with all their heart and acknowledge Him in all their ways, He would direct their paths (Prov. 3:5-6). She taught her daughters to depend on God, follow Him, and always be thankful.

When her firstborn, Marian, rose to become an internationally acclaimed classical singer, Anna continued to pray for her, and always gave God credit for her success. Reporters, who asked Anna how she felt after attending Marian’s concerts at Carnegie Hall and her 1955 debut with the Metropolitan Opera, heard her say, “We thank the Lord.” Her reply was not a cliché, but sincere gratefulness to God.

Rather than lament what she lacked, Anna Anderson expressed gratitude for what she had and used it for God’s glory. Today, we can follow her example with faith, confidence, and a heartfelt, “We thank the Lord.”

When we consider all God’s gifts
And all that we possess,
A grumbling mood of discontent
Gives way to thankfulness. —Sper

Gratitude is a mark of godliness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Restoring Order

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: Luke 7:11-23
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. —Malachi 4:2
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 22-23; 1 Peter 1

As I looked at family members gathered around the Thanksgiving table, I smiled at the range of talents represented. At one end were doctors; at the other end were musicians. Thanks to doctors, human bodies operate more efficiently. Thanks to musicians, beautiful sounds uplift our spirits and soothe troubled minds.

Although their abilities are very different, doctors and musicians rely on the same thing: an orderly universe. Without order, there would be no predictability; without predictability, there would be no music or medicine.

Within our orderly world, disease is a sign that something is “out of order.” Healing is a sign that God will some day restore all things to their original condition (Acts 3:21). When John the Baptist wanted to know whether Jesus was the “Coming One,” Jesus said, “Go and tell John . . . the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:20-22). Healing was evidence that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah (Mal. 4:2).

I am thankful for music that soothes my troubled mind and soul, and for medicine that heals my body, because they remind me of the ultimate healing and restoration that Christ is accomplishing.

What are the prospects for this earth?
What hope is there for man?
A world restored through Jesus Christ
In whom we see God’s plan. —D. De Haan

Jesus specializes in restoration.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Unlimited Access

By Cindy Hess Kasper
By Les Lamborn

Read: Ephesians 2:11-22
Through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. —Ephesians 2:18
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 20-21; James 5

Last November, news sources said that a shocking breach of security occurred when a couple brazenly walked into a White House state dinner—even getting close enough to have their picture taken with the President of the United States. Usually, extensive background checks and careful scrutiny of the guest list screens out the uninvited.

It’s a rare day for any of us that our access is not restricted in some way. Signs warn us: Employees Only, Do Not Enter, Authorized Vehicles Only, No Trespassing. None of us want to be told that we are not welcome. But the fact is that there will always be some places from which we will be barred. It makes me grateful that God sets no restriction on who may come to Him.

Those who come to God encounter no “Keep Out” signs. Through prayer, God the Father allows us immediate and unlimited access to Him because His Son Jesus Christ has opened the way to all who receive Him (Eph. 2:18). “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28). “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (7:37).

Once you come to Christ for salvation, you can enjoy unrestricted fellowship. The door is always open.

Our prayers ascend to heaven’s throne
Regardless of the form we use;
Our Father always hears His own
Regardless of the words we choose. —D. De Haan

God’s throne is always accessible to His children.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Storm Clouds And Blue Sky

By Anne Cetas

Read: Romans 8:18-30
Our light affliction . . . is but for a moment. —2 Corinthians 4:17
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 18-19; James 4

I was feeling down about some circumstances the other day and wondering how I might lift my spirits. I pulled from my shelf the book Life Is Like Licking Honey Off a Thorn by Susan Lenzkes, and I read this: “We take the laughter and the tears however they come, and let our God of reality make sense of it all.”

Lenzkes says some people are optimists who “camp in pleasures and good memories,” denying the brokenness. Others are pessimists who “focus on life’s losses, losing joy and victory in the process.” But people of faith are realists who “receive it all—all the good and bad of life—and repeatedly choose to know that God really loves us and is constantly at work for our good and His glory.”

As I read, I looked outside and noticed dark clouds and a steady rain. A little later, a friendly wind came up and blew the clouds away. Suddenly the skies were bright blue. The storms of life blow in and out like that.

By faith we cling to God’s promise of Romans 8:28. And we recall that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). God loves us, and He’s getting us ready for the day when skies will be forever blue.

The purposes of God are right,
Although we may not see
Just how He works all things for good
And transforms tragedy. —Sper

God promises a safe landing— but not necessarily a calm passage.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

By David H. Roper

Read: Psalm 8:1-2
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength. —Psalm 8:2
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 16-17; James 3

Psalm 8 begins with a startling contrast. David seems to suggest that while God has revealed His glory in the skies, another persuasive answer to His critics comes in the utterances of a child: “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger” (v.2).

Why is a child’s praise so persuasive? For one thing, it’s because, unlike the impersonal universe, a child can know and love God.

Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 when religious leaders were scandalized that children were running around in the temple shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matt. 21:15-16). These little ones knew—as those leaders did not know—that Jesus was the long-awaited Son of God.

Some of my most memorable moments as a parent came when I knelt beside our children’s beds at night, and they opened their hearts to God. The simplicity of their love and trust as they prayed touched me deeply, dispelled my doubts and fears, and drew me to faith.

We must never take lightly little ones who believe in Christ (Matt. 18:6,10). Their witness is great, as is the witness in the skies.

Could it be that the trusting child—
Who with childlike faith stands strong—
Can teach us more than sun and stars
About to whom our hearts belong? —Branon

Children are God’s precious jewels— help them shine for Christ.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Misapplied Learning

By C. P. Hia

Read: Romans 6:1-14
Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 6:11
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 14-15; James 2

After a 4-year-old got into trouble at preschool, his mom asked him what he had done wrong. He explained, “I was angry with a playmate. But you told me that I should not hit anyone, so I asked my friend to do it for me!”

Where does someone so young learn that? The Bible tells us he did not have to be taught—he was born with it! It is part of the fallen nature that all of us have at birth.

But the Christian does not have to respond according to his fallen nature. Paul reminds us that “our old man was crucified with [Christ], . . . that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). We are “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) and have been set free and have become “slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22).

Yet, as Christians we do still struggle with our flesh and its sinful desires (Rom. 7:18-19). But now that “we are alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” we can respond in a God-honoring way (Rom. 6:11).

Instead of being like the young boy who tried to get revenge, we can obey the instructions of Romans 6:13, “Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God . . . as instruments of righteousness.”

O help us, Lord, to heed Your Word,
Its precepts to obey;
And give us strength to quench the urge
To do things our own way. —Sper

We gain the victory when we give up sin’s pleasure in exchange for Christ’s power.

Friday, November 19, 2010

National Pride

By Joe Stowell

Read: 1 Peter 2:9-17
You are a chosen generation, . . . a holy nation . . . that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness. —1 Peter 2:9
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 11-13; James 1

My wife, Martie, and I have grown to love England—its history, culture, and people. One of our favorite activities when we visit is going to outdoor concerts (also known as proms) on the sloping lawns of ancient estates. “The Last Night of the Proms” event is the best, with fireworks and hundreds of nationals waving little British flags to rousing patriotic tunes.

We loved joining the celebration—until the summer our children came with us. When we started waving our flags with all the enthusiastic Brits, our kids were aghast. I can still hear them shouting over the music, “What are you doing?! You’re Americans!”

God must often feel like that when we blend in and live like the “locals” around us. I can almost hear Him saying, “What are you doing living like that?! You belong to My nation!”

Peter reminds us that we are different from the locals—we are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Being holy means that we are unique, set apart for Jesus, becoming like Him, and reflecting His countercultural ways of living. It means that we are forgiving in the face of cruel offenses; and merciful, gracious, truthful, and loyal to our promises. It means being just like Him.

So let’s start waving the flag of holiness as members of the “Jesus nation”!

O child of God, guard well your life
From anything that stains the heart;
Forsake those things that soil the mind—
Your Father wants you set apart. —Fasick

Our loyalty to Jesus should be seen and heard in our lives.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spiritual Junk Food

By Dennis Fisher

Read: Hebrews 13:1-9
Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. —Hebrews 13:9
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 8-10; Hebrews 13

In many countries, childhood obesity is at an all-time high. A major culprit in such unhealthy weight gain is poor eating habits and junk food.

The term junk food refers to items that taste good but lack nutritional value and are often very high in calories and fat. Chips, soft drinks, candy bars, cookies, and many meals purchased at fast-food restaurants fit these criteria.

To be spiritually healthy, we have to avoid “spiritual junk food” as well. Some religious teachers proclaim “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6), ranging from health-and-wealth to a counterfeit spirituality. And some Christian music and books also contain false teaching. Taking in this kind of “food” may seem to satisfy spiritual hunger, but it will not lead to spiritual health.

Hebrews warns us: “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace” (Heb. 13:9). False teaching is detrimental to our health and is not profitable, because it cannot cleanse from sin nor give power for spiritual growth. But biblical content that is based upon grace and truth does both.

Avoid “spiritual junk food” and instead feast on God’s Word to promote your spiritual health.

To walk close by Your side, my dear Savior,
To be led by You, doing each task,
To feast richly on grace at Your table,
And to know You is all that I ask. —Somerville

Feeding on God’s truth will help us avoid swallowing lies.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Say No And Yes

By Albert Lee
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Read: 2 Timothy 2:20-22
Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. —1 John 3:10
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 5-7; Hebrews 12

When we wash our hands to clean off the grime and germs, do we actually clean them ourselves? No and yes. To be precise, the soap and water does the job—not us. But we make the choice to use the soap and water to clean our hands.

In 2 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul tells us, “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself . . . he will be a vessel for honor” (v.21). This does not mean that we on our own have the power to cleanse ourselves from sin. Rather, we use the cleansing provided by Jesus Christ, who died for us on the cross.

Philippians 3:9 tells us that we are “found in Him, not having [our] own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”

When we receive Christ, His death and resurrection sets us free from the penalty and the power of sin, thus enabling us to say no and yes in everyday life. We can say no to the desires of the flesh, or “youthful lusts” that Paul mentioned (2 Tim. 2:22). And we can say yes to “righteousness” (right behavior), “faith” (right belief), “love” (right response), and “peace” (right focus).

As we’re cleansed daily, we’ll be “useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (v.21).

Lord, help us to think of the right and the true,
The pure and the noble—it all points to You;
For if we consider what’s worthy of praise,
We’ll then want to live for You all of our days. —Fitzhugh

Right thinking leads to right living.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Daily Diligence

By David C. McCasland

Read: 2 Timothy 2:3-16
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 3-4; Hebrews 11:20-40

Internationally acclaimed violinist Midori believes that focused, diligent practice is the key to performance. While playing a rigorous schedule of 90 concerts a year, she still practices an average of 5 or 6 hours a day. Jane Ammeson, in NWA WorldTraveler magazine, quoted Midori as saying: “I have to practice for my job and I practice every day. . . . It’s not really the hours, but the quality of the work that needs to be done. I see with students, that they play and they call it practice, but they are not listening and not watching. If you have your textbook open, it doesn’t mean that you are studying.”

That same principle applies to our walk of faith. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Diligence implies constant, earnest effort, and is the opposite of a careless, inattentive approach. It embraces every aspect of our relationship with God.

Just as a musician strives for excellence, we should want to serve God with confidence, seek His approval, and skillfully share His Word with others.

Am I diligently studying, praying, and listening to the Lord today?

When we live with expectancy,
Awaiting Christ’s return,
Our diligent obedience
Becomes our main concern. —Sper

God speaks to those who take time to listen, and He listens to those who take time to pray.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cross The Divide

By Dave Branon
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Read: Mark 2:13-17
As [Jesus] was dining in Levi’s house, . . . many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus. —Mark 2:15
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 1-2; Hebrews 11:1-19

Two young men with mischief on their minds approached a missionary’s outreach bus parked in a downtown area of a German city.

The missionaries were there to offer refreshments as a way to open up conversations about Christ. The two visitors, wearing skull-and-crossbones bandannas, were there to offer trouble.

But the missionaries didn’t respond to the ruffians as they expected. The Christians welcomed them warmly and engaged them in discussion. Surprised, the guys hung around long enough to hear the gospel. One trusted Jesus that day. The other, the next day.

Those two young men and the missionaries who reached them were light-years apart culturally. The guys were German; the missionaries, American. The guys were involved in a culture of darkness and death; the missionaries were shining the light. The cultural divide was crossed with cookies and nonjudgmental love.

Look at the people around you. How can you show those on the other side of the cultural fence unconditional, unquestioning love? How can you cross the divide and help them see that Jesus’ love knows no boundaries?

Cross the divide. Take Christ to the culture—even if it doesn’t look anything like yours.

To cross a cultural divide
Takes love that shows we really care;
And once the door is open wide,
Christ’s saving gospel we can share. —Sper

Our witness for Christ is a light for a world in darkness.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No Laughing Matter

By Bill Crowder

Read: Philippians 1:12-20
All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. —2 Timothy 3:12
Bible in a year:
Lamentations 3-5; Hebrews 10:19-39

As my wife and I were walking through a shopping mall, we came to a T-shirt stand. While browsing the shirts and their often humorous sayings, I noticed one with a disturbing message. It read, “So Many Christians, So Few Lions.” That shirt, with its reference to the first-century practice of throwing Christians to the lions in the Coliseum in Rome, wasn’t at all funny.

Persecution is no laughing matter. Not long before those brave Christians faced death in Rome’s cruel sport, Paul wrote, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Persecution is inevitable, and it should be a matter of serious concern for all believers. In fact, at this very moment fellow brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are suffering in Jesus’ name.

What can we do about it? First, we can pray that God will comfort them in their suffering. Second, we can aid families left without support when loved ones are imprisoned. Third, we can pray now for courage should we face persecution. When the apostle Paul was put in jail for his faith, his courage led others to be bolder in their witness (Phil. 1:14).

Want to encourage the persecuted church? Pray. Then proclaim the message for which believers suffer.

The church of Christ can’t be destroyed,
Though many enemies have tried;
Whenever persecution comes,
The church is spread and multiplied. —Sper

We find courage to stand when we kneel before the Lord.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


By Cindy Hess Kasper

Read: Psalm 139:1-16
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret. —Psalm 139:15
Bible in a year:
Lamentations 1-2; Hebrews 10:1-18

An old TV sitcom featured an estab- lishment that the patrons seemed to frequent on a daily basis. The concept was that it was a welcoming place where “everybody knows your name.”

We all want to be accepted, to fit in somewhere. But some people live on the margins of life where it can be difficult to feel they have any value or significance, or that they matter to anyone. Children sometimes experience this: Too tall—when other kids haven’t had a growth spurt yet. Too fat—when the other kids are thinner. Too smart—when their classmates are struggling. Or “not smart enough” in comparison with others. Being different as a child can result in being mocked or bullied. But an adult who doesn’t fit into the mold may just be ignored—so insignificant that he or she feels invisible.

But what a great significance we have in God’s eyes! We were so valued that He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins and to allow us to have a relationship with Him. We were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and He has designed us and been involved in every detail of our life since before we were born (Ps. 139:1-16). Whether or not we always feel significant, we are deeply loved by our Father.

Of all creation’s treasures rare,
Not one compares in worth with man,
In God’s own image we were made
To fill a place in His great plan. —D. De Haan

The God who created the universe is the God who loves you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More Than Loaves

By Marvin Williams

Read: John 6:25-36
You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. —John 6:26
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 51-52; Hebrews 9

Seventeenth-century Quaker leader Isaac Pennington said, “The Lord has been teaching me to live upon Himself—not from anything received from Him, but upon the life itself.” The people in John 6 wanted to live off Jesus, but not for the same reason. It was not because their hearts were loyal to Him, but because their hearts were loyal to what they thought He could provide for them—namely, food and deliverance from Roman oppression.

Jesus’ provision of the loaves and fish was a confirmation in their minds of what He could do for them. Jesus knew that behind their interest in Him was their hope that He would become a different kind of king, so He withdrew from them (John 6:14-15). The next day they looked for Him and found Him, making their quest successful (vv.22,25-26). So they continued to follow Him because of what they thought He could provide. But Jesus turned the tables and identified Himself as the Bread of Life (vv.32-33). They wanted a better life from Him, but He told them He came to offer them eternal life (v.40). Only those who believe in Jesus can find true fulfillment—now and forever.

Follow Jesus, not just because He can provide “the loaves,” but because He can satisfy your deepest hunger—the quest for eternal fellowship with Him.

I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him. —Bonar

You can experience complete fulfillment if your life is filled with Christ.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Selfless Love

By Mart De Haan

Read: Philippians 2:20-30
For the work of Christ [Epaphroditus] came close to death, not regarding his life. —Philippians 2:30
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 50; Hebrews 8

On December 4, 2007, a 19-year- old soldier serving in Iraq saw a grenade being thrown from a rooftop. Manning the machine gun in the turret of his Humvee, he tried to deflect the explosive—but it fell inside his vehicle. He had time to jump to safety. Instead, he threw his body over the grenade in a stunningly selfless act that saved the lives of four fellow soldiers.

This almost unexplainable act of self-sacrifice may help us understand why the Bible tells us that there is a kind of love that is more honorable than having great knowledge or faith (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

This kind of love can be hard to find—leading the apostle Paul to lament that more people care for themselves than for the interests of Christ (Phil. 2:20-21). That’s why he was so grateful for Epaphroditus, a co-worker who “came close to death, not regarding his life” in order to serve others (v.30).

If we think we could never put our own life on the line for others, Epaphroditus shows us the first step with his selfless example. Such love is neither normal nor common, and it doesn’t come from us. It comes from the Spirit of God, who can give us the desire and ability to feel for others some of the inexpressible affection God has for us.

To give up yourself for others
Seems like such a tough thing to do;
But that’s how you can know for sure
That God’s love is working through you. —Branon

You can measure your love for God
by showing your love for others.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where Do I Start?

By Anne Cetas

Read: Luke 11:1-10
In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me. —Psalm 120:1
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 48-49; Hebrews 7

Several years ago, I was driving down the freeway when my car died. I pulled over to the side of the road, got out of the car, and opened the hood. As I looked at the engine I thought, A lot of good this does me. I know nothing about cars. I don’t even know where to start!

That’s how we might sometimes feel about prayer: Where do I start? That’s what the disciples wanted to know when they asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). The best place to look for instruction is in the example and teaching of Jesus. Two questions you may have are:

Where should we pray? Jesus prayed in the temple, in the wilderness (Luke 4), in quiet places (Matt. 14:22-23), in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22), and on the cross (Luke 23:34,46). He prayed alone and with others. Look at His life, follow His example, and pray wherever you are.

What should we pray? In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to ask that God’s name be honored and that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Ask Him for your daily provisions, for forgiveness of sin, and for deliverance from temptation and evil (Luke 11:2-4).

So if you’re looking for a good place to start, follow the example of the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord has shown us we can pray
Wherever we may be;
And when we say, “Your will be done,”
His work on earth we’ll see. —Sper

If Jesus needed to pray, how can we do less?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Special Virtue

By Dennis Fisher

Read: 1 Cor. 9:24-27
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. —Galatians 5:22-23
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 46-47; Hebrews 6

In her book Food in Medieval Times, author Melitta Adamson writes of European culinary delights in the Middle Ages. Wild game, pastries, puddings, and other exotic foods illustrate the creative joy taken in food preparation. But with all these wonderful entrées there was a problem—overeating. This tendency was compounded by the Christian calendar, which abounded with fasts and feasts. Abstaining from meals was often followed by gluttony.

To address this problem, theologian Thomas Aquinas uplifted the Christian character quality of temperance, calling it “a special virtue.” He saw how self-restraint should extend to all areas of life.

For the believer, temperance, or moderation, does not derive from sheer human willpower. Instead, it comes from the Holy Spirit who gives us self-control: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Self-control is the Spirit-produced quality that enables us to be “temperate in all things” (1 Cor. 9:25).

Overindulgence in food, rest, work, recreation, ministry, and a variety of “good things” can be corrected only through the balance of self-control. Take a few minutes to ask God to produce that special virtue in you.

If gaining the fruit of self-control
Is something you’re trying to do;
Submit your will in everything
To the Spirit living in you. —Kieda

To gain self-control, give the Spirit control.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Aim High

By Dave Branon

Read: Hebrews 5:12–6:3
Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. —2 Corinthians 13:11
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 43-45; Hebrews 5

When my daughter and her family were in town for a visit, I had a chance to take my son and two sons-in-law out for a “guy” outing.

We decided that while the ladies were shopping, we would go to a firing range and practice shooting. We rented two pistols and took aim at our targets. While shooting, all four of us discovered that on one of the firearms the sight was set too low. If we aimed using that sight, we hit the bottom of the target. We had to aim high in order to hit anywhere near the bull’s-eye.

Isn’t life a lot like that? If we set our sights too low, we really don’t accomplish all that we can. Sometimes we have to aim high in order to reach a desired goal.

What should be our aim in life? How high should we point our ambitions? Well, since Scripture is our true guide, we will shoot for nothing but spiritual maturity. In fact, in Paul’s farewell to the people of Corinth, he said, “Aim for perfection” (2 Cor. 13:11 NIV). And we also have the high aim of these words from the lips of Jesus, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

Perfection is a lofty target, and we won’t attain it in this life. But if we want to honor God and get close to that high goal, we need to aim high.

O to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear. —Chisholm

Conversion is the miracle of a moment; maturing takes a lifetime.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Seeded in Him

By Cindy Sproles

When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 1 Corinthians 15:37-38

He dumped the entire canister of seeds onto the ground. “Help me find the daisy seeds.” My son was determined to grow a garden of daisies and he thought we could pour a can of mixed wild flowers onto the ground and pick out the right seeds.

“Honey, I don’t know which of these seeds are daisy seeds or if any of them are daisies.”

“Look!” He shoved the empty canister in my face. “See, daisies.” His tiny finger pointed to the picture on the can.

“Sweetie, I don’t know which seeds are daisies and which are marigolds.”

“So what do we do?” He asked.

“We plant them and wait for the surprise. God knows what’s inside the husks.”

I was a child when I gave my heart to Christ. My parents tilled the ground of my life, prepared it as best they could, then planted the seeds of Christ in me. But only God knew what would emerge from the seed.

We’re more than skin deep. We’re soul deep and within that soul is a body to which none other can compare. Our Father has determined our body but He doesn’t force us into it, rather He waits and watches for the moment we submit; then He welcomes His debutant to the ball.

It took awhile for my spiritual body to mature…maybe longer than most. I had to sort through bad choices I’d made, learn dependence on God and then grasp hold of trust. But when I did—when I finally broke free of the shell I was hidden in and said yes to Christ, He formed a new me.

I couldn’t pick out the daisy seeds from the pile. All I could do was cover them with fertile soil and let God have control. When spring came we enjoyed the new bodies that sprung from the ground. They were nothing like we planted, but God had a plan. Beautiful bodies from the husks we’d sown.

Are you seeded in Him? Spring forth with the newness of the Christ. Break free from the shell. Be all He wants you to be.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Do It Now!

By David C. McCasland

Read: Hebrews 3:7-15
Exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. —Hebrews 3:13
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 37-39; Hebrews 3

Several years ago a friend took me to a motivational seminar that I thoroughly enjoyed. Instead of focusing on money and success, the leaders guided us toward understanding our unique identity and purpose in life. Then they passed along some helpful methods for effective living. One motto has stayed with me: “Do it now!” The principle they taught us was that it takes as much energy to avoid a task as it does to do it. Procrastination saps power; completion gives relief.

A spiritual application can be seen in Hebrews 3, a passage filled with an air of immediacy as it calls us to obey the Lord. “‘Today,’ if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, . . . but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (vv.7-8,13). We don’t know how long it would have taken the children of Israel to reach the Promised Land if they had obeyed God, but their 40-year journey resulted from their unwilling hearts. An entire generation missed the adventure of a lifetime (vv.8-11).

When we know how the Lord wants us to live, why don’t we just say “Yes!” No debate, no delay. Do it now!

It’s easy to procrastinate
And leave good deeds undone,
But such a course will bring regrets
When life’s short race is run. —Anon.

Do it now! Today will be yesterday tomorrow.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Lasting Imprint

By Bill Crowder

Read: Matthew 5:13-20
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:16
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 34-36; Hebrews 2

Caerleon is a Welsh village with deep historical roots. It was one of three sites in the United Kingdom where Roman legions were posted during Rome’s occupation of Britain. While the military presence ended some 1,500 years ago, the imprint of that occupation can still be seen today. People come from all over the world to visit the military fort, the barracks, and the amphitheatre that are reminders of the days when Rome ruled the world and occupied Wales.

It amazes me that 15 centuries later, the evidence of Rome’s presence can still so clearly be seen in that small community.

I wonder, though, about another kind of imprint—the imprint of Christ on our lives. Do we allow His presence to be clearly seen by others? Is it possible for people who interact with us to know that Jesus occupies our lives?

Jesus calls us to make known His presence in our lives to the glory of God the Father. He says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Through the light of our testimony and the impact of our deeds of service, people should be able to see evidence of the presence of God in our lives. Is it true? Can they see His imprint?

The Christ of God to glorify,
His grace in us to magnify;
His Word of life to all make known—
Be this our work, and this alone. —Whittle

Let your testimony be written in large enough letters so the world can always read it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Remember John

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: 2 Kings 5:1-15
Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. —2 Kings 5:15
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 32-33; Hebrews 1

John is a humble, uneducated man. Yet God used him to start the peace process in Mozambique. His name is not mentioned in any official documents; all he did was arrange a meeting between two of his acquaintances— Kenyan Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat and a Mozambican. But that introduction set in motion the events that led to a peace treaty after a 10-year civil war.

From that experience, Ambassador Kiplagat learned the importance of respecting everyone. “You never dismiss people because they are not educated, because they are white, because they are black, because they are women, because they are old or young. Every encounter is sacred, and we need to value that encounter,” the ambassador said. “You never know what word might be there for you.”

The Bible confirms that this is true. Naaman was a great man in Syria when he got the dreaded disease of leprosy. A servant girl whom he had captured from Israel told Naaman’s wife that the prophet Elisha could heal him. Because Naaman was willing to listen to this lowly servant girl, his life was spared and he came to know the one true God (2 Kings 5:15).

God often speaks through those to whom few are willing to listen. To hear God, be sure to listen to the humble.

God often uses lowly things
His purpose to fulfill,
Because it takes a humble heart
To carry out His will. —D. De Haan

God uses ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plan.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It Can Never Happen To Me

By Dennis Fisher

Read: Psalm 30:6-12
Now in my prosperity I said, “I shall never be moved.” —Psalm 30:6
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 30-31; Philemon

Actor Christopher Reeve was para- lyzed in a horseback riding accident in 1995. Prior to this tragedy, he had played the part of a paraplegic in a movie. In preparation, Reeve visited a rehabilitation facility. He recalled: “Every time I left that rehab center, I said, ‘Thank God that’s not me.’ ” After his accident, Reeve regretted that statement: “I was so setting myself apart from those people who were suffering without realizing that in a second that could be me.” And sadly, for him, it was.

We too may look at the troubles of others and think that it could never happen to us. Especially if our life journey has led to a measure of success, financial security, and family harmony. In a moment of vanity and self-sufficiency, King David admitted to falling into the trap of feeling invulnerable: “Now in my prosperity I said, ‘I shall never be moved’” (Ps. 30:6). But David quickly caught himself and redirected his heart away from self-sufficiency. He remembered that he had known adversity in the past and God had delivered him: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing” (v.11).

Whether He has brought us blessing or trial, God still deserves our gratitude and trust.

I can always count on God, my heavenly Father,
For He changes not; He always is the same;
Yesterday, today, forever, He is faithful,
And I know He loves me, praise His holy name. —Felten

In good times and bad, our greatest need is God.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Neighborly Kindness

By Marvin Williams
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Read: Luke 10:25-37
A certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. —Luke 10:33
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 27-29; Titus 3

One of the major obstacles to show- ing compassion is making prejudgments about who we think is worthy of our compassion. Jesus told a parable to answer the question: “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Or, who qualifies as worthy of our neighborly acts?

Jesus told of a man who traveled on the notoriously dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. As he traveled, he fell among thieves and was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Religious Jews (a priest and a Levite) passed him, but they walked by on the other side, probably for fear of being religiously defiled. But a Samaritan came along and had unconditional compassion on the wounded stranger.

Jesus’ audience would have gasped at this because Jews despised Samaritans. The Samaritan could have limited or qualified his compassion because the man was a Jew. But he did not limit his neighborly kindness to those he thought were worthy. Instead, he saw a human being in need and resolved to help him.

Are you limiting your kindness to the ones you deem worthy? As followers of Jesus, let us find ways to show neighborly kindness to all people, especially to those we have judged as unworthy.

How many lives shall I touch today?
How many neighbors will pass my way?
I can bless so many and help so much,
If I meet each one with a Christlike touch. —Jones

Our love for Christ is only as real as our love for our neighbor.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stockpiling Or Storing?

By Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Read: Ecclesiastes 5:8-17
Just exactly as he came, so shall he go. —Ecclesiastes 5:16
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 24-26; Titus 2

Rugs, lamps, a washer and dryer, even the food in the cupboards—everything was for sale! My husband and I stopped at an estate sale one day and wandered through the house, overwhelmed by the volume of belongings. Dish sets littered the dining room table. Christmas decorations filled the front hallway. Tools, toy cars, board games, and vintage dolls crowded the garage. When we left, I wondered if the homeowners were moving, if they desperately needed money, or if they had passed away.

This reminded me of these words from Ecclesiastes: “Just exactly as he came, so shall he go” (5:16). We’re born empty-handed and we leave the world the same way. The stuff we buy, organize, and store is ours only for a while—and it’s all in a state of decay. Moths munch through our clothes; even gold and silver may not hold their value (James 5:2-3). Sometimes “riches perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14), and our kids don’t get to enjoy our possessions after we’re gone.

Stockpiling possessions in the here-and-now is foolish, because we can’t take anything with us when we die. What’s important is a proper attitude toward what we have and how we use what God has given. That way we’ll be storing up our treasure where it belongs—in heaven.

Whatever we possess on earth
We have to leave behind;
But everything we give to God
In heaven we will find. —Sper

Letting go of earthly possessions enables us to take hold of heavenly treasure.

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