Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bad Choice

By Dave Branon

Read: Revelation 20:11-15
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. —Daniel 12:2
Bible in a year:
2 Chronicles 13-14; John 12:1-26

An elderly TV star was asked by talk-show host Larry King about heaven. King prefaced his question by referring to Billy Graham, who had told King he “knew what would be ahead. It would be paradise. He was going to heaven.”

King then asked his guest, “What do you believe?” He replied, “I’d like a lot of activity. Heaven sounds too placid for me. There’s a lot to do in hell.”

Sadly, this man is not alone in thinking that an existence in Satan’s realm is a preferred destination. I’ve heard people say that they’d rather be in hell because all their friends will be there. One person wrote, “If hell was real, I don’t think it would be bad. There would be a lot of interesting people.”

How can we convince folks who are deceived in this way that hell and its horrors are to be avoided? Perhaps by telling them of the realities of hell that are presented in the Scripture. In Daniel 12:2, it is described as a place of “shame and everlasting contempt.” Luke 16:23 talks about “torments.” Matthew 8:12 describes “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Revelation 14:11 says there will be “no rest.”

Biblical truth doesn’t allow anyone to think that hell might be a good place to be. Clearly, rejecting Jesus and facing an eternity in Satan’s kingdom is a bad choice.

Don’t choose to spend eternity
Where pain will never dim;
Instead decide to trust in Christ
And choose to follow Him. —Sper

The same Christ who talks about the glories of heaven also describes the horrors of hell.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Let Honor Meet Honor

By Randy Kilgore

Read: Matthew 6:1-6
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. —Matthew 6:1
Bible in a year:
2 Chronicles 10-12; John 11:30-57

I’ve always been impressed by the solemn, magnificent simplicity of the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The carefully choreographed event is a moving tribute to soldiers whose names—and sacrifice—are “known but to God.” Equally moving are the private moments of steady pacing when the crowds are gone: back and forth, hour after hour, day by day, in even the worst weather.

In September 2003, Hurricane Isabel was bearing down on Washington, DC, and the guards were told they could seek shelter during the worst of the storm. Surprising almost no one, the guards refused! They unselfishly stood their post to honor their fallen comrades even in the face of a hurricane.

Underlying Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:1-6, I believe, is His desire for us to live with an unrelenting, selfless devotion to Him. The Bible calls us to good deeds and holy living, but these are to be acts of worship and obedience (vv.4-6), not orchestrated acts for self-glorification (v.2). The apostle Paul endorses this whole-life faithfulness when he pleads with us to make our bodies “a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1).

May our private and public moments speak of our devotion and wholehearted commitment to You, Lord.

Grant me the strength this day, O Lord, to persevere,
to return honor to Your name where I am serving.
My desire is to give myself in selfless devotion
because of Your love for me. Amen.

The more we serve Christ, the less we will serve self.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Keeping The Wonder

By David C. McCasland

Read: 2 Peter 1:2-11
If these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. —2 Peter 1:8
Bible in a year:
2 Chronicles 7-9; John 11:1-29

On a recent trip, my wife was seated near a mother with a young boy on his first flight. As the plane took off, he exclaimed, “Mom, look how high we are! And everything’s getting smaller!” A few minutes later he shouted, “Are those clouds down there? What are they doing under us?” As time passed, other passengers read, dozed, and lowered their window shades to watch the in-flight video. This boy, however, remained glued to the window, absorbed in the wonder of all he was seeing.

For “experienced travelers” in the Christian life, there can be great danger in losing the wonder. The Scriptures that once thrilled us may become more familiar and academic. We may fall into the lethargy of praying with our minds but not our hearts.

Peter urged the early followers of Christ to continue growing in their faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5-7). He said, “If these things are yours and abound [or are increasing], you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.8). Without them we become blind and forget the marvel of being cleansed from our sins (v.9).

May God grant us all grace to keep growing in the wonder of knowing Him.

On such love, my soul, still ponder
Love so great, so rich, so free;
Say, while lost in holy wonder,
“Why, O Lord, such love to me?” —Kent

Continual growing in Christ
comes from a deepening knowledge of Him.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Are You Listening?

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: Numbers 20:1-13
Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water. —Numbers 20:8
Bible in a year:
2 Chronicles 4-6; John 10:24-42

He was frustrated. He was angry. He was tired of being blamed for everything that went wrong. Year after year, he had gotten them through one disaster after another. He was continually interceding on their behalf to keep them out of trouble. But all he got for his efforts was more grief. Finally, in exasperation, he said, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Num. 20:10).

That suggestion might sound preposterous, but it wasn’t. Forty years earlier, the previous generation had the same complaint: no water. God told Moses to strike a rock with his staff (Ex. 17:6). When he obeyed, water gushed out—plenty of water. When the grumbling started again so many years later, Moses did the thing that worked before. But this time it was the wrong thing to do. What Moses told the Israelites to do—to listen—he himself had not done. God had told him to speak to the rock this time, not strike it.

Sometimes in exhaustion or exasperation, we don’t pay close attention to God. We assume He will always work the same way. But He doesn’t. Sometimes He tells us to act; sometimes He tells us to speak; sometimes He tells us to wait. That is why we must always be careful to listen before we take action.

Lord, help us to obey Your Word,
To heed Your still small voice;
And may we not be swayed by men,
But make Your will our choice. —D. De Haan

Listen—then obey.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Pilot’s Rutter

By Dennis Fisher

Read: Psalm 119:129-136
Direct my steps by Your Word. —Psalm 119:133
Bible in a year:
2 Chronicles 1-3; John 10:1-23

During the era of great sea exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries, sailing ships traversed vast, hazardous oceans and navigated dangerous coastlines. Pilots used various navigation techniques—including a book called a “rutter” (not the “rudder,” the ship’s steering device). This was a log of events kept by earlier voyagers who chronicled their encounters with previously unknown and difficult waters. By reading the sailing details in a rutter, captains could avoid hazards and make it through difficult waters.

In many ways, the Christian life is like a voyage, and the believer needs help in navigating life’s perilous seas. We have that help because God has given us His Word as a “spiritual rutter.” Often when we reflect on a meaningful passage, we can recall God’s faithfulness through trying circumstances. As the psalmist suggests, perils are found not only in life situations but also in our inner tendency toward sin. Because of these dual concerns, he wrote, “Direct my steps by Your Word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (119:133).

As you reflect on the teaching in the Bible, you’ll be reminded of God’s past care, assured of the Lord’s guidance in trying circumstances, and warned against sinfulness. That’s the advantage of having a “spiritual rutter.”

My Bible is a guidebook true
That points for me the way,
That gives me courage, hope, and cheer
And guidance for each day. —Anon.

With God’s Word as your map and His Spirit as your compass, you’re sure to stay on course.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Trust And Sadness

By Dave Branon

Read: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Even in laughter the heart may sorrow. —Proverbs 14:13
Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 28-29; John 9:24-41

In early 1994, when our family found out that the US soccer team would be playing in Michigan in the World Cup, we knew we had to go.

What a great time we had as we went to the Pontiac Silverdome to see the US take on Switzerland! It was one of the most remarkable events of our lives.

There was just one problem. One of our four children, 9-year-old Melissa, couldn’t join us. While we enjoyed the event, it was not the same without her. Even in our joy at being there, we felt sadness because of her absence.

As I think back on that day, I’m reminded that our sadness then is a little like our sadness now that Melissa is gone from this life—having died in a car accident 8 years after that game. While we cherish the help of the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3), even that great comfort doesn’t change the reality of her empty chair at family gatherings. Scripture doesn’t tell us that God wipes away our sadness in this life, but it does tell us that God is faithful and will comfort us.

If you have lost a loved one, lean heavily on God’s comfort. Keep trusting Him. But know that it’s okay to feel sadness for this absence. Consider it one more reason to place your burdens on your loving heavenly Father.

I have been through the valley of weeping,
The valley of sorrow and pain;
But the God of all comfort was with me,
At hand to uphold and sustain. —Garlock

Earth has no sorrow that heaven does not feel.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Real Prize

By Joe Stowell

Read: Ephesians 5:22-33
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. —Ephesians 5:25
Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 25-27; John 9:1-23

I’ve been amazed at the impact that my wife, Martie, has had on the lives of our kids. Very few roles demand the kind of unconditional, self-sacrificing perseverance and commitment as that of motherhood. I know for certain that my character and faith have been shaped and molded by my mom, Corabelle. Let’s face it, where would we be without our wives and mothers?

It reminds me of one of my favorite memories in sports history. Phil Mickelson walked up the 18th fairway at the Masters Golf Tournament in 2010 after his final putt to clinch one of golf’s most coveted prizes for the third time. But it wasn’t his victory leap on the green that had an impact on me. It was when he made a beeline through the crowd to his wife, who was battling life-threatening cancer. They embraced, and the camera caught a tear running down Phil’s cheek as he held his wife close for a long time.

Our wives need to experience the kind of sacrificial, selfless love that has been shown to us by the Lover of our souls. As Paul put it, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). Prizes come and go, but it’s the people you love—and who love you—that matter most.

A man who finds a godly wife
Is blest beyond compare;
She is his greatest prize in life—
A treasure rich and rare. —D. De Haan

Life is not about the prizes we win, but the people we love.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


By Bill Crowder

Read: Matthew 6:25-34
Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. —Matthew 6:34
Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 22-24; John 8:28-59

In a radio interview, a basketball superstar was asked about his knack for making the game-winning shot in crucial situations. The reporter asked how he was able to be so calm in such pressure-packed moments. His answer was that he tried to simplify the situation. “You only have to make one shot,” the player replied. One shot. That is the essence of simplifying a difficult situation. Focus only on what is in front of you right now. Don’t worry about the expectations of your coach or teammates. Simplify.

Recognizing that the challenges of life can be both overwhelming and suffocating, Jesus urged us to take matters in hand by simplifying. He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). This was His wise conclusion to His teaching on the debilitating power of worry. Worry doesn’t accomplish anything positive; it just adds to the sense that we are drowning in the troubles we are facing. We must take things as they come­—one day at a time­—and trust Him for the wisdom to respond properly.

If you feel overwhelmed by life, do what you can today and then entrust the rest to Him. As Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV).

Don’t worry for your future needs,
It will only bring you sorrow;
But give them to the Lord instead—
He’ll take care of your tomorrow. —Sper

We lose the joy of living in the present
when we worry about the future.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Dependency

By Anne Cetas

Read: 1 John 2:24–3:3
In Him we live and move and have our being. —Acts 17:28
Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 19-21; John 8:1-27

While enjoying the arrival of a new great-niece, I was reminded of how much work it is to take care of a newborn baby. They are needy little creations who want feeding, changing, holding, feeding, changing, holding, feeding, changing, holding. Totally unable to care for themselves, they depend on those older and wiser people surrounding them.

We’re dependent children too—reliant on our Father in heaven. What do we need from Him that we can’t provide for ourselves? “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He supplies our very breath. He also meets our needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

We need our Father for peace in our troubles (John 16:33), love (1 John 3:1), and help in time of need (Ps. 46:1; Heb. 4:16). He gives victory in temptation (1 Cor. 10:13), forgiveness (1 John 1:9), purpose (Jer. 29:11), and eternal life (John 10:28). Without Him, we “can do nothing” (John 15:5). And from Him, “we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:16 NIV).

Let’s not think of ourselves as totally independent—because we’re not. The Lord sustains us day by day. In many ways, we’re as needy as a newborn baby.

We are dependent on the Lord
Who showers us with blessing;
He gives us everything we need—
Without Him we are nothing. —Sper

Depending on God isn’t weakness;
it’s acknowledging His strength.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sign Language

By David H. Roper

Read: John 1:14-18
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all. —1 Thessalonians 3:12
Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 16-18; John 7:28-53

A friend of mine pastors a church in a small mountain community not far from Boise, Idaho. The community is nestled in a wooded valley through which a pleasant little stream meanders. Behind the church and alongside the stream is a grove of willows, a length of grass, and a sandy beach. It’s an idyllic spot that has long been a place where members of the community gather to picnic.

One day, a man in the congregation expressed concern over the legal implications of “outsiders” using the property. “If someone is injured,” he said, “the church might be sued.” Though the elders were reluctant to take any action, the man convinced them that they should post a sign on the site informing visitors that this was private property. So the pastor posted a sign. It read: “Warning! Anyone using this beach may, at any moment, be surrounded by people who love you.” I read his sign the week after he put it up and was charmed. “Exactly,” I thought. “Once again grace has triumphed over law!”

This love for one’s neighbor springs from God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience with us. It’s not the law, but the goodness of God that draws men and women to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and to saving faith in His Son Jesus Christ.

As You have loved me, let me love
Lost souls in darkness dwelling;
To draw the needy ones to You,
Lord, give a zeal compelling! —Bosch

Love is the magnet that draws believers together
and attracts unbelievers to Christ.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Humbly Receive

By David C. McCasland

Read: James 1:13-22
Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. —James 1:21
Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 10-12; John 6:45-71

While reading the first chapter of James, I was struck by the phrase “humbly accept the Word planted in you, which can save you” (v.21 NIV). A decision with which I’d been struggling came to mind, and I thought: I don’t need to read another book, attend another seminar, or ask another friend about this. I need to obey what the Bible tells me to do. My efforts to be better informed had become a means of resisting God’s instruction rather than receiving it.

James was writing to followers of Christ when he said: “Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21-22).

Bible scholar W. E. Vine said that the Greek word used here for receive means “deliberate and ready reception of what is offered.” Meekness is an attitude toward God “in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.” A humble heart doesn’t fight against God or contend with Him.

God’s powerful Word, implanted in our hearts, is a trustworthy source of spiritual wisdom and strength. It’s available to all who will humbly receive it.

God who formed worlds by the power of His Word
Speaks through the Scriptures His truth to be heard;
And if we read with the will to obey,
He by His Spirit will show us His way. —D. De Haan

Open your Bible prayerfully, read it carefully, and obey it joyfully.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Broken Relationships

By C. P. Hia

Read: Philippians 4:2-7

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. —Philippians 2:3
Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 7-9; John 6:22-44

I watched from my balcony as a 20-story apartment building was demolished. The demolition took barely a week to complete. In its place a new building is being constructed. It’s been months now, and despite construction activities going on nights and weekends, it is still incomplete. How much easier it is to tear down than to build up!

What is true for demolition and construction of buildings is also true for personal relationships. In Philippians 4:2, Paul wrote to two women in the church, saying, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” The quarrel between these two women threatened to tear down the witness of the Philippian church if left unresolved. So Paul urged a “true companion” (v.3) to help rebuild that relationship.

Sadly, Christians do quarrel, but we should seek to “live peaceably” with all (Rom. 12:18). Unless our conflicts are resolved, the Christian witness so painstakingly built up can be destroyed. It takes much effort and time to reconcile broken relationships. But it is worth it. Like a new building rising from the ruins, reconciled believers can emerge stronger.

May we seek to build each other up through our words and actions today!

We have a common enemy
Who wants to scar the life
Of Jesus’ precious bride, the church,
Through worldliness and strife. —Sper

Two Christians are better than one— when they’re one.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We Shall Be Changed

By Dennis Fisher

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:8
We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. —1 John 3:2
Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 4-6; John 6:1-21

Being afflicted with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Thomas DeBaggio chronicled his gradual memory loss in the book Losing My Mind. This book records the disturbing process by which—little by little—tasks, places, and people are all forgotten.

Alzheimer’s disease involves the failure of nerve cells in the brain, leading to gradual memory loss, confusion, and disorientation. It can be tragic to watch a previously mentally alert person slowly forget how to dress or fail to recognize the faces of loved ones. It’s like losing the person before he dies.

Memory loss can occur by other means as well, such as injury or life trauma. And for those of us who live into old age, the breakdown of our bodies is inevitable.

But for the Christian, there is hope. When believers receive their glorified bodies at the resurrection, they will be perfect (2 Cor. 5:1-5). But even more important, in heaven we will recognize the One who died to redeem us. We will remember what He did and know Him by the nail prints in His hands (John 20:25; 1 Cor. 13:12).

Forgetfulness may beset our earthly bodies, but when we see the Lord, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Our Savior’s life for us was given
That we might one day bloom in heaven,
Our mortal bodies changed to be
Like His through all eternity! —Spicer

In the twinkling of an eye . . . we shall all be changed.
—The Apostle Paul

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alternatives To Revenge

By Marvin Williams

Read: Deuteronomy 19:16-21 Matthew 5:38-45
You shall not take vengeance . . . , but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. —Leviticus 19:18
Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 1-3; John 5:25-47

One Sunday while preaching, a pastor was accosted and punched by a man. He continued preaching, and the man was arrested. The pastor prayed for him and even visited him in jail a few days later. What an example of the way to respond to insult and injury!

While there is a place for self-defense, personal revenge was forbidden in the Old Testament: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18; see also Deut. 32:35). It was also forbidden by Jesus and the apostles (Matt. 5:38-45; Rom. 12:17; 1 Peter 3:9).

The Old Testament law exacted like for like (Ex. 21:23-25; Deut. 19:21), which ensured that judicial punishment was not unjust or malicious. But there was a larger principle looming when it came to personal revenge: Justice must be done, but it must be left in the hands of God or the authorities ordained by God.

Instead of returning injury and insult, may we live by Christ-honoring and Spirit-empowered alternatives: Live at peace with everyone (Rom. 12:18), submit to a spiritual mediator (1 Cor. 6:1-6), and leave it in the hands of authorities and, most of all, in God’s hands.

Lord, when I’m troubled by the insult of another,
help me to let go of my desire for revenge. May I seek
justice but also realize that it will happen in Your
time. I want to learn to overcome evil with good. Amen.

Leave final justice in the hands of a just God.

Monday, May 16, 2011

When Life Seems Unfair

By Joe Stowell

Read: Psalm 73
I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. —Psalm 73:3
Bible in a year:
2 Kings 24-25; John 5:1-24

Have you ever felt that life is unfair? For those of us who are committed to following the will and ways of Jesus, it’s easy to get frustrated when people who don’t care about Him seem to do well in life. A businessman cheats yet wins a large contract, and the guy who parties all the time is robust and healthy—while you or your loved ones struggle with finances or medical issues. It makes us feel cheated, like maybe we’ve been good for nothing.

If you’ve ever felt that way, you’re in good company. The writer of Psalm 73 goes through a whole list of how the wicked prosper, and then he says, “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain” (v.13). But the tide of his thoughts turns when he recalls his time in God’s presence: “Then I understood their end” (v.17).

When we spend time with God and see things from His point of view, it changes our perspective completely. We may be jealous of the nonbelievers now, but we won’t be at judgment time. As the saying goes, what difference does it make if you win the battle but lose the war?

Like the psalmist, let’s praise God for His presence in this life and His promise of the life to come (vv.25-28). He is all you need, even when life seems unfair.

All wrongs will one day be set right
By God who sees both bad and good;
All motives and all deeds will then
Be fairly judged and understood. —D. De Haan

Spending time with God puts everything else in perspective.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Strong Words

By David C. Egner

Read: 1 John 3:10-18
Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God. —1 John 3:10
Bible in a year:
2 Kings 22-23; John 4:31-54

The book titled UnChristian lists reasons why some non-Christians don’t like people who profess faith in Jesus Christ. Their major complaints have to do with the way some Christians act toward unbelievers. The unbelievers in the study tended to view Christians as being hypocritical, judgmental, harsh, and unloving toward people not like themselves.

I’m sure you dislike hearing their view of Christians as I do. Sometimes there’s more truth in their perceptions than we wish there was. In 1 John 3, which begins with the words, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (v.1), John introduces a sharp contrast: Believers love righteousness, keep themselves from sin, and love one another; nonbelievers practice sin, hate others, and abide in death.

These are strong words! We are either followers of Jesus Christ or of the devil. We are like Cain or Abel (v.12; Gen. 4:8-15). John says that love for others is what proves we are genuine children of God (3:10,18-19; 4:7-8). We can’t continue to practice sin and claim to be followers of Christ. Let’s always make sure our words and deeds back up our beliefs.

O help us, Lord, to live our lives
So unsaved people clearly see
Reflections of Your loving heart,
Your kindness, and Your purity. —Sper

Following Christ has two requirements:
Believing, and acting like you do.

Strong Words

By David C. Egner

Read: 1 John 3:10-18
Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God. —1 John 3:10
Bible in a year:
2 Kings 22-23; John 4:31-54

The book titled UnChristian lists reasons why some non-Christians don’t like people who profess faith in Jesus Christ. Their major complaints have to do with the way some Christians act toward unbelievers. The unbelievers in the study tended to view Christians as being hypocritical, judgmental, harsh, and unloving toward people not like themselves.

I’m sure you dislike hearing their view of Christians as I do. Sometimes there’s more truth in their perceptions than we wish there was. In 1 John 3, which begins with the words, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (v.1), John introduces a sharp contrast: Believers love righteousness, keep themselves from sin, and love one another; nonbelievers practice sin, hate others, and abide in death.

These are strong words! We are either followers of Jesus Christ or of the devil. We are like Cain or Abel (v.12; Gen. 4:8-15). John says that love for others is what proves we are genuine children of God (3:10,18-19; 4:7-8). We can’t continue to practice sin and claim to be followers of Christ. Let’s always make sure our words and deeds back up our beliefs.

O help us, Lord, to live our lives
So unsaved people clearly see
Reflections of Your loving heart,
Your kindness, and Your purity. —Sper

Following Christ has two requirements:
Believing, and acting like you do.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Benefit Of The Doubt

By Anne Cetas

Read: 1 Corinthians 13
[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. —1 Corinthians 13:7
Bible in a year:
2 Kings 13-14; John 2

In 1860, Thomas Inman recommended that his fellow doctors not prescribe a medicine for a cure if they weren’t sure it would work. They were to give the patient “the benefit of our doubts.” This phrase is also a legal term meaning that if a jury has conflicting evidence that makes the jurors doubtful, they are to give the verdict of “not guilty.”

Perhaps as Christians, we can learn from and apply this medical and legal phrase to our relationships. Better yet, we can learn from the Bible about giving the benefit of the doubt to others. First Corinthians 13:7 says that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Leon Morris, in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, says this about the phrase “believes all things”: “To see the best in others . . . . This does not mean that love is gullible, but that it does not think the worst (as is the way of the world). It retains its faith. Love is not deceived . . . but it is always ready to give the benefit of the doubt.”

When we hear something negative about others or we’re suspicious about the motive for their actions, let’s stop before we judge their intentions as wrong or bad. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

Thinking It Over
To learn more about the love described
in 1 Corinthians 13, read What Is Real Love?

Love gives others the benefit of the doubt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Come And See

By David C. McCasland

Read: John 1:35-46
Come and see. —John 1:39
Bible in a year:
2 Kings 10-12; John 1:29-51

“Can you tell me where I can find the lightbulbs?”

“Sure. Come with me, and I’ll take you to them.”

In many large stores, employees are instructed to take customers to find what they are looking for rather than simply giving them verbal directions. This common act of courtesy and walking alongside an inquiring person may help us expand our concept of what it means to lead others to Christ.

In John 1, the phrase “come and see” occurs twice. When two curious disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus where He was staying, the Lord said, “Come and see” (v.39). After spending the day with Him, Andrew found his brother, Simon Peter, and brought him to Jesus (vv.40-41). Later, Philip told Nathanael he had found the Messiah. To Nathanael’s skeptical reply, Philip said, “Come and see” (v.46).

Witnessing for Christ can be a one-time event when we speak the good news about Him to others. But it may also involve walking alongside people who are seeking help and wholeness. Our genuine interest in their spiritual welfare, our prayers, and our involvement with them say without words, “Come and see. Let’s walk together, and I’ll take you to Him.”

The gospel has to be proclaimed,
Its truth we need to share;
But sometimes seekers also need
To see how much we care. —Sper

Kindness and compassion have led more people to Christ than proclamation alone.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Helpful Love

By Dennis Fisher

Read: John 1:9-14
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. —John 1:14
Bible in a year:
2 Kings 7-9; John 1:1-28

At the end of my mother’s earthly journey, she and Dad were still very much in love and shared a strong faith in Christ. My mother had developed dementia and began to lose memories of even her family. Yet Dad would regularly visit her at the assisted living home and find ways to accommodate her diminished capacities.

For instance, he would take her some saltwater taffy, unwrap a piece, and place it in her mouth—something she could not do for herself. Then as she slowly chewed the candy, Dad would quietly sit with her and hold her hand. When their time together was over, Dad, beaming with a wide smile, would say, “I feel such peace and joy spending time with her.”

Though touched by Dad’s great joy in helping Mom, I was more affected by the reality that he was depicting God’s grace. Jesus was willing to humble Himself to connect with us in our weaknesses. In reflecting on Christ’s incarnation, John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14). Taking on human limitations, He did countless acts of compassion to accommodate us in our weakness.

Do you know anyone who might benefit from Jesus’ helpful, accommodating love that could flow through you to them today?

Love is giving for the world’s needs,
Love is sharing as the Spirit leads,
Love is caring when the world cries,
Love is compassion with Christlike eyes. —Brandt

To be a channel of blessing, let Christ’s love flow through you.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Learning To Trust

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: Isaiah 66:7-13
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. —Psalm 37:3
Bible in a year:
2 Kings 4-6; Luke 24:36-53

When I stuck my camera into the bush to take a picture of the baby robins, they opened their mouths without opening their eyes. They were so used to having mama robin feed them whenever the branches moved that they didn’t even look to see who (or what) was causing the disturbance.

That is the kind of trust that loving mothers instill in their children. That is the kind of mom I am blessed to have. Growing up, I could eat whatever food she put on the table without fear that it would harm me. Although she made me eat things I didn’t like, I knew she did so because they were good for me. If she cared only about what was easy for her, she would have let me eat junk food. No matter what Mom told me to do, or not to do, I knew she had my best interest in mind. She wasn’t trying to keep me from having fun; she was trying to protect me from being hurt.

That is the kind of relationship we have with God, who compared Himself to a mother: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (Isa. 66:13). As His children, we have no reason to fear what happens to us nor to envy what happens to others: “Do not . . . be envious of the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 37:1). When we trust His goodness, we are fed by His faithfulness.

Lord, we’re thankful for this example of motherhood.
But even more, we’re grateful for Your faithful
“mothering” of us displayed in Your compassion
day by day. Help us to find rest in You. Amen.

God’s care surrounds us.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Wise Ant

By Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Read: Proverbs 6:6-11
[The ant] provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. —Proverbs 6:8
Bible in a year:
1 Kings 21-22; Luke 23:26-56

Every year I do something special to celebrate the arrival of spring —I buy ant traps. Those little invaders continually march into our kitchen in search of any crumb left on the floor. They aren’t picky; a shard of potato chip, a grain of rice, or even a speck of cheese will do.

Although ants may be a nuisance, Solomon praised them for their steadfast work ethic (Prov. 6:6-11). He pointed out that ants are self-directed. They have “no captain, overseer, or ruler” (v.7), yet they are very productive. The ants also keep busy even when it’s not immediately necessary, providing supplies in the summer and gathering food in the harvest (v.8). By the time winter arrives, they’re not worried about what they will eat. Little by little, these hard workers have saved up enough to sustain themselves.

We can learn from the ant. When God gives us times of plenty, we can prepare for times when resources may be low. God is the provider of all that we have, including our ability to work. We are to work diligently, be wise stewards of what He has provided, and then rest in the promise of His care (Matt. 6:25-34).

Let’s remember Solomon’s advice: “Go to the ant . . . . Con-sider her ways and be wise” (Prov. 6:6).

The humble ant’s keen industry
Can teach us all a lesson,
If in creation we will see
God’s classroom is in session. —Gustafson

Trust God for today—and prepare for tomorrow.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Time To Pray?

By David H. Roper

Read: Psalm 70
Make haste to help me, O Lord! —Psalm 70:1
Bible in a year:
1 Kings 19-20; Luke 23:1-25

One morning, when I was a young child, I was sitting in the kitchen, watching my mother prepare breakfast. Unexpectedly, the grease in the skillet in which she was frying bacon caught fire. Flames shot into the air and my mother ran to the pantry for a bag of flour to throw on the blaze.

“Help!” I shouted. And then I added, “Oh, I wish it was time to pray!” “It’s time to pray” must have been a frequent household expression, and I took it quite literally to mean we could pray only at certain times.

The time to pray, of course, is any time—especially when we’re in crisis. Fear, worry, anxiety, and care are the most common occasions for prayer. It is when we are desolate, forsaken, and stripped of every human resource that we naturally resort to prayer. We cry out with the words of David, “Help me, O Lord!” (Ps. 70:1).

John Cassian, a 5th-century Christian, wrote of this verse: “This is the terrified cry of someone who sees the snares of the enemy, the cry of someone besieged day and night and exclaiming that he cannot escape unless his Protector comes to the rescue.”

May this be our simple prayer in every crisis and all day long: “Help, Lord!”

Any hour when helping others,
Or when bearing heavy care,
Is the time to call our Father,
It’s the proper time for prayer. —Zimmerman

There is no place or time we cannot pray.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Two Words

By Dave Branon

Read: James 4:7-10
Submit to God. —James 4:7
Bible in a year:
1 Kings 16-18; Luke 22:47-71

In the annals of US advertising history, one of the most efficient slogans ever is the California milk producers’ two-word question, “Got milk?” With that phrase, the group captured almost everyone’s attention. In surveys, the slogan was recognized by more than 90 percent of the people polled.

If “Got milk?” is so good at reminding people to drink “cow juice,” perhaps we can create some two-word slogans to remind ourselves to live more godly lives. Let’s turn to James 4 and try it. This passage gives four specific guidelines.

1. Give in! Verse 7 tells us to submit to God. Our sovereign God loves us, so why not let Him run the show? Submission helps us resist the devil. 2. Get close! Verse 8 reminds us of the value of drawing near to God. It’s up to us to close the gap between us and God. 3. Clean up! Verse 8 also reminds us to make sure our hearts are clean. That happens through confessing our sins to God. 4. Get down! James says we need to be humble before God (v.10). That includes viewing our sin as something to weep over.

Give in! Get close! Clean up! Get down! These pairs of words may not look as good on a T-shirt as “Got milk?” But they sure will look good on us.

Lord, help me live a godly life
Of faith and love and purity
So those who watch my life will see
Reflections of Your work in me. —Sper

The most powerful testimony is a godly life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Never Alone

By Bill Crowder

Read: Hebrews 13:1-8
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” —Hebrews 13:5
Bible in a year:
1 Kings 14-15; Luke 22:21-46

Having played intercollegiate soccer, I’ve never lost my love for “The Beautiful Game.” I especially enjoy watching the English Premier League. One reason is the skill and speed with which the game is played there. Also, I love the way the fans sing in support of their beloved “sides.” For instance, Liverpool has for years had “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as its theme. How moving to hear 50,000 fans rise as one to sing the lyrics of that old standard! It’s an encouragement to players and fans alike that together they will see each other through to the end. Walk alone? Never.

This sentiment has meaning for everyone. Because each of us is made for community, isolation and loneliness are among the most painful of human experiences. During painful times, our faith is vital.

The child of God never needs to fear abandonment. Even if people turn on us, friends forsake us, or circumstances separate us from loved ones, we are never alone. God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). This is not just a nice tune or clever lyrics offering an empty sentiment. It is the promise of God Himself to those who are the objects of His love. He is there—and He isn’t going away.

With Christ, you will never walk alone.

God’s unseen presence comforts me,
I know He’s always near;
And when life’s storms besiege my soul,
He says, “My child, don’t fear.” —D. De Haan

God’s presence with us is one of His greatest presents to us.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Two Rules To Live By

By Joe Stowell

Read: Matthew 22:34-40
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. —Matthew 22:40
Bible in a year:
1 Kings 12-13; Luke 22:1-20

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by rules and expectations? Think of how the Jewish people must have felt as they tried to keep up with more than 600 rules from the Old Testament and many more that had been imposed on them by the religious leaders of their day. And imagine their surprise when Jesus simplified the pursuit of righteousness by narrowing the list down to just two—“love the Lord your God” (Matt. 22:37) and “love your neighbor as yourself” (v.39).

In essence, Jesus is telling us that the way God knows we love Him is by how we treat people. All of them. Let’s face it—loving our neighbor can be a challenge. But when we do it to express our love to God, we unleash a powerful motivation that loves whether the person deserves it or not. And as we love God and our neighbor, everything else falls into place. If I love my neighbor, I won’t bear false witness against him, covet his wealth or his wife, or steal from him. Loving others for God’s sake even provides the grace and strength to forgive those who have heaped injustices upon us.

Who needs to see God’s love today through you? The more unlovable the person, the greater the statement about how much you love God!

To love your God with all your heart,
Your soul, your strength, your mind,
Enables you to love someone
Who’s hurtful and unkind. —Sper

Loving God is the key to loving others.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

If I Could Stop The Clock

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: 1 Kings 10:23–11:4
The glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. —1 Kings 8:11
Bible in a year:
1 Kings 10-11; Luke 21:20-38

Every year when May rolls around in Michigan, I want to stop the clock. I rejoice when death is defeated by fragile sprouts that refuse to be confined by hardened clay and brittle branches. Over a few weeks, the naked landscape transforms into fully clothed trees adorned by bright, fragrant flowers. I can’t get enough of the sights, sounds, and scents of springtime. I want time to stop moving.

Also in May, I come to 1 Kings in my Bible reading schedule. When I get to chapter 10, I have the same feeling: I want the story to stop. The nation of Israel has bloomed. Solomon has become king and has built a magnificent dwelling place for God, who moved in with a blaze of glory (8:11). Finally united under a righteous king, they are at peace. I love happy endings!

But the story doesn’t end there. It continues: “But King Solomon loved many foreign women” (11:1), and “his wives turned his heart after other gods” (v.4).

Just as the seasons of the year continue, so do the cycles of life—birth and death, success and failure, sin and confession. Although we have no power to stop the clock while we’re enjoying good times, we can rest in God’s promise that eventually all bad times will end (Rev. 21:4).

Father, our days are filled with pleasures and struggles.
We would like for life just to have the joys, but we know
that’s not realistic in this sinful world. Help us to wait
patiently for You to bring us Home. Amen.

In good times and bad, God never changes.

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