Monday, January 31, 2011

Ignoring Grace

By Bill Crowder

Read: Matthew 7:13-23
Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. —Matthew 7:14
Bible in a year:
Exodus 25-26; Matthew 20:17-34

In the hectic downtown of one of Asia’s great cities, I marveled at the busy sidewalks filled with people. There seemed to be no room to move in the crush of humanity, yet it also seemed that everyone was moving at top speed.

My attention was drawn to the soft, almost mournful sound of a single trumpeter playing “Amazing Grace.” The crowds appeared oblivious to both the musician and the music. Still, he played—sending a musical message of the love of God out to whoever knew the song and would think about the words as he played.

I thought of this experience as a parable. The music seemed to be an invitation to the masses to follow Christ. As with the gospel message, some believe in God’s amazing grace and choose the narrow way. Others ignore His grace, which is the broad way that leads to everlasting destruction. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

Jesus died so that “whoever calls” on His name (Rom. 10:13) can find forgiveness in His grace.

Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see. —Newton

Christ believed is salvation received.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Looking And Learning

By Cindy Hess Kasper

Read: Deut. 11:18-21
Train up a child in the way he should go. —Proverbs 22:6
Bible in a year:
Exodus 23-24; Matthew 20:1-16

As an umpire stood behind the plate at a girls’ softball game, he heard a player’s mother start chanting: “We want a new ump! We want a new ump!” Soon, other parents took up the chant. The ump smiled, then turned toward the crowd and yelled, “I want new parents! I want new parents!” The heckling died away.

It’s important for parents to set a good example, because their children are watching them. Christian parents can encourage good habits and behavior by doing things like:

• Praying for and with them—so they learn how to talk with God. “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it” (Col. 4:2).

• Reading and teaching them the Bible—so they learn God’s truth. “Teach [God’s commands] diligently to your children, . . . talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:7).

• Telling them about Jesus—and leading them to faith in Him. “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

The best way to set a good example for our children is to live out our faith in front of them. While they’re looking—they’re learning about what matters most.

Take stock of yourself and consider your child—
Your time and your thoughts are his due;
How would you reply to the Lord should He ask,
“What kind of parent are you?” —Anon.

Children may not inherit their parents’ talent,
but they will absorb their values.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Six Words From Solomon

By David C. McCasland

Read: 1 Kings 10:23; 11:1-10
Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. —Ecclesiastes 12:13
Bible in a year:
Exodus 21-22; Matthew 19

SMITH magazine, an online community that “celebrates the joy of storytelling,” invited readers to submit six-word memoirs that describe their lives. Thousands responded with brief biographies ranging from the light-hearted “Sweet wife, good sons—I’m rich” to the painful “Sixty. Still haven’t forgiven my parents.”

Based on Scripture, I tried to imagine how King Solomon might have summed up his life in six words. As a young man, he could have written: God has given me great wisdom. But in his later years, he might have said: Should have practiced what I preached.

During a reign distinguished by peace and prosperity, Solomon developed spiritual heart problems. When he was old, “his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David” (1 Kings 11:4). The result was God’s displeasure and a sad end to a previously exemplary life (v.9).

The multiple times Solomon used the word vanity (or meaningless) in Ecclesiastes may indicate his disillusionment about life. This once-wise king who had it all, lost it all, and pondered it all, ended the book with this final conclusion: “Fear God and keep His commandments” (12:13).

Those are six words worth heeding.

The pleasures of this sinful world
Are meaningless and vain;
But if we love and follow God
True purpose we will gain. —Sper

Obedience to God is the key to a life of blessing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Like A Hypocrite

By Dave Branon

Read: Ephesians 2:1-10
God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love . . . made us alive together with Christ. —Ephesians 2:4-5
Bible in a year:
Exodus 14-15; Matthew 17

Ray Stedman told about a young man who had stopped attending the church Ray was pastoring. The young man said that when he was at work he would sometimes lose his temper and treat co-workers poorly. Then, when Sunday rolled around, he didn’t want to go to church because he felt like a hypocrite.

Stedman told his young friend, “A hypocrite is someone who acts like something he isn’t. When you come to church, you are acting like a Christian. You are not a hypocrite at church.” Suddenly, the young man realized where he was being a hypocrite. He recognized that the answer was not in avoiding church but in changing the way he was at work.

The term hypocrite is from a Greek word that means “play-actor.” It means we pretend to be something we aren’t. Sometimes we forget our true identity as believers in Jesus. We forget that we are accountable to God. When we do that, we live the way we “once walked” (Eph. 2:2) and thus are hypocrites.

Let’s not let our old ways make us act like someone we’re not. Instead, through God’s grace, let’s live in a way that shows we are “alive together with Christ” (v.5). That’s a sure cure for hypocrisy.

Consistency! How much we need
To walk a measured pace,
To live the life of which we speak,
Until we see Christ’s face. —Anon.

It is the inconsistent Christian who helps the devil the most.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No More Struggles

By Marvin Williams

Read: Revelation 21:1-4
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. —Revelation 21:4
Bible in a year:
Exodus 12-13; Matthew 16

Fay Weldon went through what she thought was a near-death experience in 2006 when an allergic reaction stopped her heart. She retold her experience to Elizabeth Grice of the London Daily Telegraph. She said that a “terrible creature” tried to pull her through pearly gates, while doctors tried to pull her back. Later, she said, “If that was dying, I don’t want to do it again.” It’s “just more of the same. More struggle.”

Often the process of dying is a struggle. But death itself need not be feared by the believer in Christ—for it will bring us to heaven. In Revelation, John gives a wonderful description of what eternity with God will be like (21:1-4). He sees the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. The city of Jerusalem was a physical sign of the people of God and was described as the place where God dwells (Ps. 76:2). The New Jerusalem, on the other hand, will not be made by human hands. It will be a place where God lives with His people eternally, and it will be a place of “no more”—no more pain, sorrow, and sickness.

We don’t know very much about eternity, but we do know that for the Christian, whatever our emotional and physical struggles are now, they will cease then. Life with God will be better by far.

Think of a land of no sorrow,
Think of a land of no fears,
Think of no death and no sickness,
Think of a land of no tears. —Anon.

Heaven’s delights will far outweigh earth’s difficulties.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Still True Today

By Bill Crowder

Read: Acts 17:16-31
While Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. —Acts 17:16
Bible in a year:
Exodus 9-11; Matthew 15:21-39

The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, has an extensive collection of ancient Bible fragments dating back to the second century AD. One fragment on display is a piece of Acts 17:16.

The message that ancient fragment displays, however, is as contemporary as today’s newspaper. It reads, “While Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.” Paul was angered by the proliferation of idols in ancient Athens, and I am convinced he would be upset with us today.

Some idols that we see in today’s world are different than the ones in Paul’s day. Whether it’s wealth, fame, power, athletes, entertainers, or politicians, contemporary idols abound. As always, our spiritual enemy, Satan, seeks to lure us away from the Savior to the false worship of idols. Christians are not immune, and thus we must guard our hearts against self-righteous anger toward unbelievers who seem to worship everything but God.

We must also be drawn by Christ’s love to reach out to those who don’t know Him. Then, like the believers at Thessalonica, they may turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9).

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne
And worship only Thee. —Cowper

An idol is anything that takes God’s rightful place.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

God Is At Work

By Anne Cetas

Read: Exodus 14:26–15:2
He is my God, and I will praise Him. —Exodus 15:2
Bible in a year:
Exodus 7-8; Matthew 15:1-20

Jack and Trisha were driving to the hospital late one night for the birth of their second child when the unexpected happened. Trisha began to deliver the baby! Jack called 911 and Cherie White, an emergency dispatcher, was able to talk Jack through the delivery. But the baby wouldn’t breathe. So Cherie then instructed Jack how to give emergency breathing, which he had to do for 6 anxious minutes. Finally the newborn took a breath and cried. When asked later how they all got through the ordeal and remained calm, Cherie responded, “I’m glad God works midnights!”

I love to hear media reports in which God gets the glory He deserves for something good that has happened. In the Bible reading for today, it’s obvious that God should get the credit for parting the Red Sea to help His people escape from Pharaoh, even though Moses was the one who raised his rod (Ex. 14:26-27). All the Israelites and Moses gathered together and sang the Lord’s praises: “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (15:11).

When something good happens, the Lord deserves the credit, for He is the source of all that is good. Give Him the glory. Aren’t you glad He works midnights?

What may seem like coincidence
As we live out our story
Is God at work behind the scenes—
So give Him all the glory. —Sper

Seeing God at work puts a song in our heart.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Outcast

By Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Read: James 2:1-9
If you show partiality, you commit sin. —James 2:9
Bible in a year:
Exodus 4-6; Matthew 14:22-36

His face was grimy, his hair long and dirty. Beer stained his clothing and perfumed the air around him. When he stepped into the church building, the Sunday worshipers ignored him. They were stunned when the man approached the pulpit, took off his wig, and began preaching. That’s when they realized he was their pastor.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be friendly and shake hands with the people I know and those who pre-sent themselves well.

James issued a serious warning for people like me. He said, “If you show partiality, you commit sin” (2:9). Favoritism based on appearance or economic status has no place in God’s family. In fact, it means we have “become judges with evil thoughts” (v.4).

Fortunately, we can guard against preferential treatment by loving our neighbor as ourselves—no matter who our neighbor may be. Reaching out to the homeless man, the hungry woman, or the heartbroken teen means we “fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture” (v.8).

In a world that keeps the outcast at arm’s length, let’s show the love of Christ and embrace the one who needs our care the most.

Forgive me, Lord, for prejudice—
Remove its subtle lie;
Oh, fill my heart with Your great love
That sent Your Son to die. —D. De Haan

True Christian love helps those who can’t return the favor.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thoughts for the Day

These verses describe the value of having God's wisdom. These scriptures tell us that His wisdom is better than silver, gold, jewels or any other worldly treasures. In fact, God's wisdom is better because it will not only produce prosperity, but it will be a prosperity that is gained in an honorable way. When a person has God's wisdom, he is even given a blessing beyond anything the world has to offer and that is the promise of long life. Only God could make this kind of promise to anyone because life and death are in the hand of the Lord.

Many men through the ages have sought happiness by seeking to obtain earthly riches. Many have even killed in search of gold and precious stones. However, when they obtained these riches, they were still not fulfilled, because real happiness and peace come only by knowing God. When we accept Jesus as our savior and repent of our sins, we are given a peace that passes all understanding. It is a gift of God. The kind of peace and joy that one receives by knowing Him is not based on circumstances, or how much material wealth we might have, or lack of it. It is based on our relationship with Jesus. When we know Him, we have access to all things that we might need in this life.

Verse 18 says that "Wisdom" is a "tree of life" and all that really grab hold of her and keep her will experience a joy and happiness in this life. Since Jesus is ultimate wisdom, we realize as we embrace Him and His ways, we experience His life in all we do. Jesus and His word is that "tree of life." As a tree continues growing, all who commit to the Lord and obey His word will continue to grow in Him.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fear And Love

By Albert Lee

Read: Deuteronomy 10:12-17
What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear [Him] . . . and to love Him. —Deuteronomy 10:12
Bible in a year:
Genesis 49-50; Matthew 13:31-58

Someone shared with me her observation about two bosses. One is loved but not feared by his subordinates. Because they love their boss but don’t respect his authority, they don’t follow his guidelines. The other boss is both feared and loved by those who serve under him, and their good behavior shows it.

The Lord desires that His people both fear and love Him too. Today’s Bible passage, Deuteronomy 10, says that keeping God’s guidelines involves both. In verse 12, we are told “to fear the Lord your God” and “to love Him.”

To “fear” the Lord God is to give Him the highest respect. For the believer, it is not a matter of feeling intimidated by Him or His character. But out of respect for His person and authority, we walk in all His ways and keep His commandments. Out of “love,” we serve Him with all our heart and with all our soul—rather than merely out of duty (v.12).

Love flows out of our deep gratitude for His love for us, rather than out of our likes and dislikes. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our fear and love for God enable us to walk willingly in obedience to God’s law.

Lord, You are holy and Your thoughts are much higher
than mine. I bow before You. Thank You for salvation in Jesus.
I love You and want to obey You with all of
my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen.

If we fear and love God, we will obey Him.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

When Someone Falls

By David C. McCasland

Read: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. —1 Corinthians 10:12
Bible in a year:
Genesis 46-48; Matthew 13:1-30

It has become so commonplace to hear of the misconduct of a respected public figure that even though we may be deeply disappointed, we are hardly surprised. But how should we respond to the news of a moral failure, whether by a prominent person or a friend? We might begin by looking at ourselves. A century ago, Oswald Chambers told his students at the Bible Training College in London, “Always remain alert to the fact that where one man has gone back is exactly where anyone may go back . . . . Unguarded strength is double weakness.”

Chambers’ words echo Paul’s warning to be aware of our own vulnerability when we see the sins of others. After reviewing the disobedience of the Israelites in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:1-5), Paul urged his readers to learn from those sins so they wouldn’t repeat them (vv.6-11). He focused not on past failings but on present pride when he wrote, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (v.12).

The head shaken in reproach is a common response to public sin. More helpful is the head that nods, “Yes, I am capable of that,” then bows in prayer for the one who has fallen and the one who thinks he stands.

Blessed Savior, make me humble,
Take away my sinful pride;
In myself I’m sure to stumble,
Help me stay close by Your side. —D. De Haan

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. —Proverbs 16:18

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Open Book

By David H. Roper

Read: Jeremiah 31:31-34
You are an epistle of Christ. —2 Corinthians 3:3
Bible in a year:
Genesis 43-45; Matthew 12:24-50

Because I’m a writer, occasionally a friend will say to me, “I want to write a book someday.”

“That’s a worthy goal,” I reply, “and I hope you do write a book. But it’s better to be one than to write one.”

I’m thinking of the apostle Paul’s words: “Clearly you are an epistle of Christ . . . written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3).

In his book The Practice of Piety, Lewis Bayly, chaplain to England’s King James I, said that “one who hopes to effect any good by his writings” will find that he will “instruct very few. . . . The most powerful means, therefore, of promoting what is good is by example. . . . One man in a thousand can write a book to instruct his neighbors. . . . But every man can be a pattern of living excellence to those around him.”

The work that Christ is doing in believers can result in an influence far greater than any book they might write. Through God’s Word, written “on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33), the Lord is displaying His love and goodness for all to see.

As a Christian, you may never write a book, but by living for God you will be one! You will be an open book, an “epistle of Christ” for all to read.

Oh, we would write our record plain
And come in time to see
Our unsaved neighbors won to Christ
While reading you and me. —Anon.

If someone were to read your life like a book,
would they find Jesus in its pages?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Driving In The Dark

By Joe Stowell

Read: Psalm 119:105-112
Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. —Psalm 119:105
Bible in a year:
Genesis 41-42; Matthew 12:1-23

I’ve always thought that I could get through just about anything if the Lord would tell me what the outcome would be. I believe that “all things work together for good” in the end (Rom. 8:28), but I’d do a lot better in dark times if I knew exactly what the “good” would look like.

But God usually doesn’t show us where He is taking us. He just asks us to trust Him. It’s like driving a car at night. Our headlights never shine all the way to our destination; they illuminate only about 160 feet ahead. But that doesn’t deter us from moving forward. We trust our headlights. All we really need is enough light to keep moving forward.

God’s Word is like headlights in dark times. It is full of promises we need to keep us from driving our lives into the ditch of bitterness and despair. His Word promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). His Word assures us that He knows the plans He has for us, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give us “a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). And He tells us that our trials are there to make us better, not bitter (James 1:2-4).

So the next time you feel as if you’re driving in the dark, remember to trust your headlights—God’s Word will light your way.

The Word of God provides the light
We need to see the way;
It shows us what we need to know
So we won’t go astray. —Sper

You won’t stumble in the dark
if you walk in the light of God’s Word.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Child’s Potential

By Dennis Fisher

Read: Proverbs 22:1-6
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. —Proverbs 22:6
Bible in a year:
Genesis 39-40; Matthew 11

Louis Armstrong was well known for his smiling face, raspy voice, white handkerchief, and virtuoso trumpet playing. Yet his childhood was one of want and pain. He was abandoned by his father as an infant and sent to reform school when he was only 12. Surprisingly, this became a positive turning point.

Music professor Peter Davis regularly visited the school and provided musical training for the boys. Soon Louis excelled on the cornet and became the leader of the boys’ band. His life trajectory seemed to have been reset to become a world-famous trumpet player and entertainer.

Louis’ story can be an example for Christian parents. The proverb: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6) can apply to more than the spiritual and moral aspects of our children’s lives. We should also realize that a child’s giftedness will often determine his or her area of interest. In the case of Louis, a little training in music resulted in a virtuoso trumpet player.

As we lovingly provide to our children godly instruction from God’s Word, we should encourage them in their interests and giftedness so that they might become all that God has planned for them to be.

Our children are a gift from God
On loan from heaven above,
To train and nourish in the Lord,
And guide them with His love. —Sper

Save a child, save a life.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Freedom At Alcatraz

By Mart De Haan

Read: Philemon 1:4-16
I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains. —Philemon 1:10
Bible in a year:
Genesis 36-38; Matthew 10:21-42

A tour of the federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay left me with some unforgettable images. As our tour boat pulled into the dock, I could see why this now-closed maximum-security federal prison was once known as “The Rock.”

Later, inside the legendary Big House, I stared at shafts of light coming through heavily barred windows. Then I saw row after row of cagelike cells that housed well-known inmates such as Al Capone and Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz.”

But another image made a deeper impression. Stepping into an empty cell, I saw the name “Jesus” scrawled on a wall. In another, a Bible lay on a shelf. Together they quietly spoke of the greatest of all freedoms.

Paul knew such liberty while waiting to be executed. Regarding himself as a “prisoner of Christ,” he used his incarceration to help other inmates discover what it means to be an eternally forgiven, dearly loved member of God’s family (Philem. 1:10).

Barred windows and doors represent one kind of confinement. Physical paralysis, inescapable poverty, and prolonged unemployment are others. Perhaps you endure another. None are to be desired—yet who would trade “imprisonment” with Christ for life “on the outside” without Him?

My heart and soul imprisoned lay,
Not knowing Christ the Lord;
But since the day He set me free,
We live in one accord. —Hess

To be under Christ’s control is to have true freedom.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Call It Good?

By Dave Branon

Read: Psalm 13
I have trusted in Your mercy. —Psalm 13:5
Bible in a year:
Genesis 33-35; Matthew 10:1-20

Can we really know whether to label life’s circumstances as good or bad?

For instance, your car breaks down right before you are to take a family road trip. But when you take the car to the shop, the mechanic says, “Good thing you didn’t take this out on the road. It could have caught fire.” Is that bad because of the inconvenience, or good because of God’s protection?

Or perhaps your child decides to pursue interests that aren’t all that interesting to you. You wanted her to play basketball and run track in high school. But she wanted to sing and play the oboe. You feel frustrated, but she excels and ends up with a music scholarship. Is that bad because your dreams weren’t fulfilled, or good because God directed her in ways you could not have predicted?

Sometimes it’s hard to see how God is working. His mysteries don’t always reveal their secrets to us, and our journey is often redirected by uncontrollable detours. Perhaps God is showing us a better route.

To make sure we benefit from what might seem bad, we must recognize and trust God’s “unfailing love” (Ps. 13:5 NIV). In the end, we’ll be able to say, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me” (v.6 NIV).

The circumstances in our lives
Seem random and unplanned;
But someday we will surely see
The order of God’s hand. —Sper

We may not be able to control events,
but we can control our attitude toward them.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Contract Faith

By Philip Yancey

Read: Romans 8:28-39
All things work together for good to those who love God. —Romans 8:28
Bible in a year:
Genesis 31-32; Matthew 9:18-38

Sometimes people who serve God live with an unstated “contract faith.” Because they give time and energy to work for God, they think they deserve special treatment in return.

But not my friend Douglas. He has lived a Job-like existence in many ways, experiencing the failure of a ministry, his wife’s death from cancer, and injuries from a drunk driver to himself and a child. Yet Douglas advises, “Don’t confuse God with life.”

When troubles come and doubts arise, I often turn to Romans 8. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” asked Paul. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (v.35). In that one sentence, Paul summarized his ministry autobiography. He endured trials for the sake of the gospel; yet somehow he had the faith to believe that these “things”—surely not good in themselves—could be used by God to accomplish good. He had learned to see past the hardships to a loving God who will one day prevail. He wrote, “I am persuaded that [nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ” (vv.38-39).

Confidence like that can go a long way in helping overcome discouragement about how life hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would.

For Further Study
Wondering about the reasons for your trials?
Read the online booklet Why Would A Good God
Allow Suffering? at

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. —Philippians 1:6

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Not Now?

By David H. Roper

Read: John 13:33-38
David, after he had served his own generation . . . fell asleep. —Acts 13:36
Bible in a year:
Genesis 27-28; Matthew 8:18-34

I have a dear friend who served as a missionary in Suriname for many years, but in his final years he was stricken with an illness that paralyzed him. At times he wondered why God allowed him to linger. He longed to depart and to be with his Lord.

Perhaps life is very hard for you or a loved one, and you are wondering why God has allowed you or your loved one to linger. When Jesus said He was going to heaven, Peter asked, “Lord, why can I not follow You now?” (John 13:37). You, like Peter, may wonder why entry into heaven has been postponed: “Why not now?”

God has a wise and loving purpose in leaving us behind. There is work to be done in us that can only be accomplished here on earth. Our afflictions, which are for the moment, are working for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). And there is work to be done for others—if only to love and to pray. Our presence may also be for the purpose of giving others an opportunity to learn love and compassion.

So, though you may desire release for yourself or a loved one, to live on in the flesh can mean fruitfulness (Phil. 1:21). And there is comfort in waiting: Though heaven may be delayed, God has His reasons. No doubt about it!

Not so in haste, my heart!
Have faith in God, and wait;
Although He seems to linger long
He never comes too late. —Torrey

Our greatest comfort is to know that God is in control.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Behind The Scenes

By David C. McCasland

Read: Matthew 6:1-6,16-18
Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. —Matthew 6:6
Bible in a year:
Genesis 29-30; Matthew 9:1-17

Recently I attended a memorial service for a gifted musician whose life had touched many people. The tribute to this Christian woman included video and audio clips, photos, instrumentalists, and speakers. After everyone had left the church, I stopped to thank the technicians whose flawless work at the control board had contributed so much to this moving tribute. “No one noticed what you did,” I told them. “That’s the way we like it,” they replied.

In Matthew 6, Jesus told His disciples to give (vv.1-4), pray (vv.5-6), and fast (vv.16-18) in order to please God, not to gain praise from people. “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place” (v.6). Whether giving, praying, or fasting, Jesus said, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (vv.4,6,18).

Something within us makes us want to be seen and recognized for our good deeds. While there’s nothing wrong with encouragement and appreciation, a desire for praise can undermine our service because it shifts the focus from others to ourselves. When there is no public “thank you,” we may feel slighted. But even when we serve God in secret, He sees it all.

The service that we do for God
May go unpraised by men;
But when we stand before the Lord,
He will reward us then. —Sper

It is better to earn recognition without getting it than to get recognition without earning it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Called From

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: Genesis 12:1-9
The Lord had said to Abram, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” —Genesis 12:1
Bible in a year:
Genesis 25-26; Matthew 8:1-17

One of the smartest people I know is a college friend who became a Christian while studying at a state university. He graduated with honors and went on to study at a respected seminary. He served a small church as pastor for several years and then accepted a call to another small church far from family and friends. After 12 years at that church, he sensed that the congregation needed new leadership, so he stepped down. He hadn’t been offered a job at a bigger church or a teaching position at a college or seminary. In fact, he didn’t even have another job. He just knew that God was leading him in a different direction, so he followed.

When we discussed it, my friend said, “A lot of people talk about being called to something, but I don’t hear much about being called from something.”

In many ways, my friend’s obedience was like that of Israel’s patriarch Abraham, who went out, not knowing where God was leading (Heb. 11:8-10). Difficulties like famine (Gen. 12:10), fear (vv.11-20), and family disputes (13:8) gave reason for doubt, but Abraham persevered and because of his faith God counted him as righteous (Gal. 3:6).

A life of obedience may not be easy, but it will be blessed (Luke 11:28).

As Abraham went out,
Not knowing where he was going;
Now, Lord, keep me from doubt,
To go the way You are showing. —Hess

You don’t need to know where you’re going
if you know God is leading.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Eye That Never Sleeps

By Cindy Hess Kasper

Read: Psalm 121
In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me. —Psalm 120:1
Bible in a year:
Genesis 23-24; Matthew 7

Detective Allan Pinkerton became famous in the mid-1800s by solving a series of train robberies and foiling a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln as he traveled to his first inauguration. As one of the first agencies of its kind in the US, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency gained even more prominence because of its logo of a wide-open eye with the caption, “We Never Sleep.”

There is no better feeling than knowing you are protected and secure. You feel peaceful when the doors are locked and all is quiet as you drift off to sleep at night. You feel safe. But many lie awake in their beds with fearful thoughts of the present or dread of the future. Some are afraid of commotion outside or of a spouse who has been violent. Some cannot rest because of worry over a rebellious child. Others are anxiously listening to make sure a seriously ill child is still breathing.

These are the times when our loving God encourages us to cry out to Him, to the One who will neither “slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4). Psalm 34:15 reminds us that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.”

Pinkerton may have been the original “private eye,” but the One who really has the eye that never sleeps is listening to the cries of “the righteous” (Ps. 34:17).

Before you sleep, just gently lay
Every troubled thought away;
Drop your burden and your care
In the quiet arms of prayer. —Anon.

We can sleep in peace when we remember that God is awake.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Clear Conscience

By Dennis Fisher

Read: 1 John 1
I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. —Acts 24:16
Bible in a year:
Genesis 20-22; Matthew 6:19-34

After Ffyona Campbell became famous as the first woman to walk around the world, her joy was short-lived. Despite the adulation she received, something troubled her. Guilt overtook her and pushed her to the brink of a nervous breakdown.

What was bothering her? “I shouldn’t be remembered as the first woman to walk around the world,” she finally admitted. “I cheated.” During her worldwide trek, she broke the guidelines of the Guinness Book of World Records by riding in a truck part of the way. To clear her conscience, she called her sponsor and confessed her deception.

God has given each of us a conscience that brings guilt when we do wrong. In Romans, Paul describes our conscience as “accusing or else excusing [us]” (2:15). For the obedient follower of Christ, care of the conscience is an important way of maintaining a moral compass despite moral imperfection. Confessing sin, turning from it, and making restitution should be a way of life (1 John 1:9; Lev. 6:2-5).

Paul modeled a well-maintained conscience, saying, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16 NIV). Through confession and repentance, he kept short accounts with God. Is sin bothering you? Follow Paul’s example. Strive for a clear conscience.

There is a treasure you can own
That’s greater than a crown or throne:
This treasure is a conscience clear
That brings the sweetest peace and cheer. —Isenhour

If God’s Word guides your conscience,
let your conscience be your guide.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Get Involved

By Marvin Williams

Read: John 4:7-26
But [Jesus] needed to go through Samaria. —John 4:4
Bible in a year:
Genesis 16-17; Matthew 5:27-48

Norena’s South Florida home was severely damaged during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She received an insurance settlement, and the repair work began. But the contractors left when the money ran out, leaving an unfinished home with no electricity. For 15 years, Norena got by with a tiny refrigerator and a few lamps connected to extension cords. Surprisingly, her neighbors didn’t seem to notice her dilemma. Then, acting on a tip, the mayor got involved and contacted an electrical contractor who restored power to her house within a few hours.

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), He got involved in her life and talked to her about her need for spiritual power. He established common ground with her (water, v.7) and piqued her spiritual interest and curiosity (vv.9-14). He was gracious and sensitive as He confronted her sin (vv.16-19) and kept the conversation centered on the main issue (vv.21-24). Then He confronted her directly with who He was as Messiah (v.26). As a result, she and many other Samaritans believed in Him (vv.39-42).

Let’s get involved in the lives of others and tell them about Jesus. He is the only source of spiritual power and satisfies our deepest longings.

Help me to see the tragic plight
Of souls far off in sin;
Help me to love, to pray, and go
To bring the wandering in. —Harrison

A faith worth having is a faith worth sharing.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lion Of Judah

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: Isaiah 31:1-5
Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed. —Revelation 5:5
Bible in a year:
Genesis 13-15; Matthew 5:1-26

The lounging lions in Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserve looked harmless. They rolled on their backs in low-lying bushes. They rubbed their faces on branches as if trying to comb their magnificent manes. They drank leisurely from a stream. They strode slowly across dry, scrubby terrain as if they had all the time in the world. The only time I saw their teeth was when one of them yawned.

Their serene appearance is deceiving, however. The reason they can be so relaxed is that they have nothing to fear—no shortage of food and no natural predators. The lions look lazy and listless, but they are the strongest and fiercest of all. One roar sends all other animals running for their lives.

Sometimes it seems as if God is lounging. When we don’t see Him at work, we conclude that He’s not doing anything. We hear people mock God and deny His existence, and we anxiously wonder why He doesn’t defend Himself. But God “will not be afraid of their voice nor be disturbed by their noise” (Isa. 31:4). He has nothing to fear. One roar from Him, and His detractors will scatter like rodents.

If you wonder why God isn’t anxious when you are, it’s because He has everything under control. He knows that Jesus, the Lion of Judah, will triumph.

When fear and worry test your faith
And anxious thoughts assail,
Remember God is in control
And He will never fail. —Sper

Because God is in control, we have nothing to fear.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Lover Of God

By David C. McCasland

Read: Matthew 22:34-40
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. —Matthew 22:37
Bible in a year:
Genesis 10-12; Matthew 4

In a brief biography of St. Francis of Assisi, G. K. Chesterton begins with a glimpse into the heart of this unique and compassionate man born in the 12th century. Chesterton writes: “As St. Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ. . . . The reader cannot even begin to see the sense of a story that may well seem to him a very wild one, until he understands that to this great mystic his religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love-affair.”

When Jesus was asked to name the greatest command in the Law, He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38). The questioner wanted to test Jesus, but the Lord answered him with the key element in pleasing God. First and foremost, our relationship with Him is a matter of the heart.

If we see God as a taskmaster and consider obedience to Him as a burden, then we have joined those of whom the Lord said, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).

The way of joy is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.

Oh, help me, Lord, to take by grace divine
Yet more and more of that great love of Thine;
That day by day my heart may give to Thee
A deeper love, and grow more constantly. —Mountain

Put Christ first and you’ll find a joy that lasts.

Monday, January 3, 2011

An Overcoming Faith

By Randy Kilgore

Read: 1 Samuel 1:1-18
I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill. —Psalm 3:4
Bible in a year:
Genesis 7-9; Matthew 3

Few things disable new workers on a job like criticism from veterans. Good hiring managers know to protect new employees by surrounding them with mentors willing to shield them from unnecessary barbs.

Hannah is a mentor to us in dealing with criticism and deep desires of the heart (1 Sam. 1:1-18). Surrounded by a husband who didn’t understand, a taunting peer, and an overly judgmental clergyman, Hannah found a way through the fog by confiding in God (v.10). While we now know God answered the prayer of Hannah’s heart by giving her a child, we don’t know for sure if Eli’s blessing was a wish or a promise from God (v.17). I think her no-longer-sad face came most of all because she gained peace from confiding in Him.

We were created to be in relationship with God; and when we take that relationship to an intimate level, it bonds us not only to His presence but also to His strength. Prayers that express our hurts and emotions are most assuredly welcomed by God because they demonstrate our trust in Him. We will often find perspective, and nearly always come away comforted, knowing we’ve entrusted the things that are troubling us—whether criticism or deep desires—to the One who is best able to sort through them.

The kindest Friend I’ve ever had
Is One I cannot see,
Yet One in whom I can confide,
Who loves and blesses me. —Shuler

In prayer, it’s better to have a heart without words
than words without heart.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


By Dennis J. De Haan

Read: 1 Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you. —1 Peter 4:12
Bible in a year:
Genesis 4-6; Matthew 2

Does it surprise you that trouble is a part of life? Probably not. We all know trouble close-up and personal—bad health, empty bank account, blighted love, grief, loss of job, and the list goes on.

It shouldn’t surprise us, therefore, that God permits the added trials of being ridiculed and hated because we follow Christ (1 Peter 4:12). But trouble, whether it is common to man or unique to Christians, can reveal to us the moral fiber of our soul.

I have never seen a golf course without hazards. They are part of the game. Golfers speak of the courses with the most hazards as the most challenging, and they will travel a long way to test their skill against the most demanding 18 holes.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I wouldn’t pass it around. I wouldn’t be doing anyone a favor. Trouble creates a capacity to handle it . . . . Meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and you had better be on speaking terms with it.”

Let’s not think it strange when trouble comes, for God is using it to test the stamina of our souls. The best way to handle trouble is to commit our “souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (v.19).

The troubles that we face each day
Reveal how much we need the Lord;
They test our faith and strength of will
And help us then to trust God’s Word. —D. De Haan

Great triumphs are born out of great troubles.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Eat Fast, Pay Less

By C. P. Hia

Read: Psalm 63:1-8
My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You. —Psalm 63:1
Bible in a year:
Genesis 1-3; Matthew 1

A hotel in Singapore introduced an express buffet—eat all you can in 30 minutes and pay just half the price! After that experience, one diner reported: “I lost my decorum, stuffing my mouth with yet more food. I lost my civility, . . . and I lost my appetite for the rest of the day, so severe was my heartburn.”

Sometimes I think in our devotional reading we treat God’s Word like an express buffet. We wolf it down as fast as we can and wonder why we haven’t learned very much. Like physical food, spiritual food needs chewing! For those of us who have been Christians for a long time, we may have a tendency to speed-read through the passages we’ve read many times before. But in doing so, we miss what God is meaning to show us. One sure sign of this is when we learn nothing new from that passage.

David’s desire was right when he wrote in Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” That’s the way to treat God’s Word—to take time to mull it over.

Let’s not come to the Bible as if we were going to an express buffet. Only by meditating on God’s Word will we get the most value for our spiritual well-being.

Spending time in meditation,
Hiding Scripture in our heart,
Works in us a transformation
So from sin we can depart. —Sper

Reading the Bible without reflecting
is like eating without chewing.

Daily bread Archive