Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Beautiful Scars

By David H. Roper

Read: Luke 7:36-49
Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. —Luke 7:47
Bible in a Year:
1 Chronicles 14-16

A number of years ago I was hiking along the Salmon River and came across a grove of pine trees that had been partially stripped of their bark. I knew from a friend who is a forester that the Native Americans who hunted this area long ago had peeled the outer bark and harvested the underlying layer for chewing gum. Some of the scars were disfiguring, but others, filled with crystallized sap and burnished by wind and weather, had been transformed into patterns of rare beauty.

So it is with our transgressions. We may be scarred by the sins of the past. But those sins, repented of and brought to Jesus for His forgiveness, can leave behind marks of beauty.

Some people, having tasted the bitterness of sin, now loathe it. They hate evil and love righteousness. Theirs is the beauty of holiness.

Others, knowing how far they fall short (Rom. 3:23), have tender hearts toward others. They rise up with understanding, compassion, and kindness when others fail. Theirs is the beauty of humility.

Finally, when acts of sin are freely and thoroughly forgiven it leads to intimacy with the One who has shown mercy. Such sinners love much for much has been forgiven (Luke 7:47). Theirs is the beauty of love.
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me—
All His wonderful passion and purity!
O Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. —Orsborn
A forgiven heart is the fountain of beauty.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hope For A “Mudder”

By Cindy Hess Kasper

Read: James 1:2-4
Tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. —Romans 5:3-4
Bible in a Year:
2 Kings 11-14

When my husband built a covered porch on the front of our house, he anticipated that someday a bird might try to build a nest there. So he built the top of the corner post on a slant. Later we laughed smugly when we saw robins trying their best to claim squatting rights to a new home. Piles of grass on the porch revealed their wasted efforts. But after 2 days of steady rain, we saw that a nest had indeed appeared in the very spot we thought was impossible. Because of the rain, Mrs. Robin was able to mix up a batch of mud mortar. Weaving it with twigs and grass, our determined feathered friend had built herself a new nest. She had persevered.

Perseverance is inspiring! Trying to live a Christ-honoring life while experiencing hardship can leave us frustrated and discouraged. But when we depend on God to help us through our difficulties, we are empowered to keep going even when we can’t always see the resolution of our problems. Galatians 6:9 reminds us not to grow “weary while doing good” and encourages us not to give up.

Is our loving God using a seemingly insurmountable challenge in your life to produce perseverance? Let Him produce in you character, and through character, hope (Rom. 5:3-4).
When trials intrude to slow down your life,
It would be easy for you to give in;
But by perseverance you’ll overcome strife,
So just keep on plodding—with Christ you can win. —Branon
When the world says, “Give up,” hope whispers, “Try it one more time!”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Catcher

By Joe Stowell

Read: John 14:1-6
If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. —John 14:3
Bible in a Year:
1 Samuel 1-3

Life is a risky enterprise. Sometimes we fly high, enjoying great success. But then suddenly we fall into deep disappointments and the haunting reality of failure, leaving our hearts wondering if there is anything worth looking forward to.

At a funeral recently, the pastor told the story about a trapeze artist. The performer admitted that although he is seen as the star of the show, the real star is the catcher—the teammate who hangs from another trapeze bar to grab him and guarantee a safe landing. The key, he explained, is trust. With outstretched arms, the flyer must trust that the catcher is ready and able to grab him. Dying is like trusting in God as the catcher. After we have flown through life, we can look forward to God reaching out to catch His followers and to pull us safely to Himself forever. I like that thought.

This reminds me of Jesus’ comforting words to His disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled . . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And . . . I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

Life is indeed a risky business, but be encouraged! If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, the Catcher is waiting at the end to take you safely home.
Home from the earthly journey,
Safe for eternity;
All that the Savior promised—
That is what heaven will be. —Anon.
Our heavenly Father’s arms will one day catch His children.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Dalton Gang

By Dennis Fisher

Read: Proverbs 4:10-19
He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death. —James 5:20
Bible in a Year:
Joshua 19-21

The Dalton brothers were infamous outlaws during the late 1800s in the US. They started out on the right side of the law as officers. But then they followed a gradual descent into crime and became known for bank and train robberies. Their day of reckoning came when they tried to hold up two banks at once. Hearing of the robberies, the townspeople armed themselves and began to fire on the Dalton Gang. When the smoke cleared, Emmett Dalton was the sole survivor.

After serving 15 years in the penitentiary, Emmett was pardoned and set free. While in prison, he had come to see the error of his ways. So when he was released, he wanted to deter young people from a life of crime. Drawing from his own experience, Emmett wrote and starred in a film about the Dalton Gang in which he showed the folly of being an outlaw. In many ways, Emmett’s film was telling others: “Do not enter the path of the wicked” (Prov. 4:14).

In a similar way, when we have sinned but have genuinely repented and experienced God’s forgiveness, we can tell our own story. We can encourage others not to make the same mistakes we have made. James wrote, “He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death” (5:20).
If others learn from our mistakes, And it saves them from the pain That we ourselves experienced— Then it wasn’t all in vain. —Sper
When we learn from our mistakes, we are less likely to repeat them.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I’m Good

By Bill Crowder

Read: Matthew 19:16-26
[Jesus said,] “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” —Matthew 19:17
Bible in a Year:
Joshua 10-12

When someone asks, “How are you?” it has become common for the response to be, “I’m good.” When we say this, we are really saying, “I’m well” or “I’m doing fine,” speaking of our general well-being and not our character. I have answered with that response more times than I can count, but lately it has begun to bother me. Because, whether we realize it or not, we are saying something specific when we use the word good.

Jesus once encountered a wealthy young man who called Him “Good Teacher” (Matt. 19:16). The young man was right, for Jesus is both good (completely perfect) and the Teacher. He is the only One who can truly make that claim.

The Lord, however, challenged the man to think about what he was saying in using that term good. “So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments’” (v.17). Jesus wanted the man to understand that the assertion he was making needed to be taken seriously. Jesus can be called “good” because He is God.

Next time someone asks you, “How are you?” it is great to be able to say, “I’m well.” But remember, only Jesus is good.
Eternal with the Father, One,
Is Jesus Christ, His own dear Son;
In Him God’s fullness we can see,
For Jesus Christ is deity. —D. De Haan
God is great and God is good, but without Him we are neither.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Ordinary Guy

By Anne Cetas

John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about [Jesus] were true. —John 10:41
Bible in a Year:
Deuteronomy 20-22

Steve was just an ordinary guy. He quietly served in a church I attended years ago. He helped prepare communion, shoveled the church sidewalks in the winter, and mowed the lawn in the summer. He spent time with teenage boys who had no fathers in the home. I often heard him telling people at church in his quiet way how good the Lord was to him. During prayer meeting he didn’t talk much about himself but would ask us to pray for those he was telling about Jesus’ forgiveness and love.

A verse in John 10 about John the Baptist makes me think of Steve. People said of him: “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man [Jesus] were true” (v.41). John didn’t perform miracles as Jesus did. He didn’t talk about himself but came to “bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe” (1:7). He said of Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29). My friend Steve bore witness of that Light as well.

Our aim, as followers of Jesus, is to do the same—to “bear witness of the Light.” We’re just ordinary people, serving God in our little corner of the world. With our quiet deeds and words, let’s point others to the Light!
Just what do Christians look like? What sets their lives apart? They’re ordinary people Who love God from the heart. —D. De Haan
Christians are ordinary people who are committed to the extraordinary person of Christ.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


By Cindy Hess Kasper

Read: Proverbs 6:6-11
How long will you slumber, O sluggard? —Proverbs 6:9
Bible in a year:
Deuteronomy 17-19

While studying the book of Proverbs in my small-group Bible study, our leader suggested that we change the description of a lazy person from a sluggard to a slacker (6:6,9). Ah, now he was speaking my lingo. I immediately started thinking of all the people I consider to be slackers.

Like the men and women who fail to teach and discipline their children. Or that guy who refuses to help around the house. Or those teenagers who neglect their studies and play Internet games day and night.

If we’re honest, we’re all susceptible to this. What about being a “prayer slacker” (1 Thess. 5:17-18), or a “Bible-reading slacker” (Ps. 119:103; 2 Tim. 3:16-17), or a “non-exercising-of-our-spiritual-gift slacker” (Rom. 12:4-8), or a “non-witnessing slacker”? (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

If we are not doing what we know God wants us to do, we are certainly spiritual slackers. In fact, when we refuse to obey God, we are sinning.

Listen to these challenging and convicting words from the book of James: “It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (4:17 NLT). Let’s not be spiritual slackers.

When we know what God wants us to do,
But then we refuse to obey,
We’re ignoring the voice of the Lord,
And sinfully choosing our way. —Sper

We may make excuses for not obeying God,
but He still calls it disobedience.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More, More, More

By Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Read: Philippians 4:10-20
I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. —Philippians 4:11
Bible in a year:
Numbers 34-36

Now that my daughter is learning to talk, she has adopted a favorite word: more. She will say “more” and point to toast with jam. She held out her palm and said “More!” when my husband gave her some coins for her piggy bank. She even exclaimed, “More Daddy!” one morning after her father left for work.

Like my little one, many of us look around and call for “more.” Unfortunately, enough is never enough. We need the power of Christ to break the cycle so that we can say with Paul, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

The phrase “I have learned” tells me that Paul did not meet every situation with a smile. Learning contentment required practice. His testimony included ups and downs ranging from snake bites to soul-saving; false accusations to founding churches. Yet he claimed that Jesus was the answer to soul-level satisfaction. He said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (v.13). Jesus had given him the spiritual muscle to endure lean times and to avoid the pitfalls of abundance.

If you find yourself angling for “more, more, more,” remember that contentment comes when you have “more” of Christ.

Fret not for want of earthly things;
They’ll never satisfy.
The secret of contentment is
To let the Lord supply. —D. De Haan

True contentment is not dependent on anything in this world.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wings Like A Dove

By David H. Roper

Read: Psalm 55:4-22
Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. —Psalm 55:6
Bible in a year:
Numbers 28-30

David sighed, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (Ps. 55:6). As for me, I’d build a cabin in the Sawtooths, or take a permanent post in a fire-lookout tower. When life weighs on me, I too yearn to fly away and be at rest.

David wrote freely about his circumstances: Violence, oppression, and strife surrounded him on all sides, stirred up by the disloyalty of an old friend (55:8-14). Fear and terror, pain and trembling, anxiety and restlessness overwhelmed him (vv.4-5). Is it any wonder he longed to fly away?

But escape was impossible. He could not evade his lot. He could only give his circumstances to God: “As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice” (vv.16-17).

Whatever our circumstances—a burdensome ministry, a difficult marriage, joblessness, or a deep loneliness—we can give them to God. He has lifted the burden of our sins; will He not lift the weight of our sorrows? We have trusted Him with our eternal souls; can we not entrust our present circumstances to Him? “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you” (55:22).

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by. —Oatman

Because God cares about us, we can leave our cares with Him.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Just Because He’s Good

By Anne Cetas

Read: Psalm 100
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! —Psalm 136:1
Bible in a year:
Numbers 11-14

Joel and Lauren decided to move from Washington State back home to Michigan. Wanting to make one last special memory, they bought coffee from their favorite cafe and then stopped at their favorite bookstore. There they picked up two bumper stickers with a favorite motto of the town they were saying goodbye to: “It’s an Edmonds kind of day.”

After 2 weeks and a 3,000-mile drive, they entered Michigan. Hungry and wanting to celebrate their arrival, they stopped and asked about where to find a restaurant. Although they had to backtrack a few miles, they found a quaint little cafe. Emma, their waitress, excited to learn they were from her home state of Washington, asked, “What city?” “Edmonds,” they replied. “That’s where I’m from!” she said. Wanting to share the joy, Joel got their extra bumper sticker from the car and handed it to her. Amazingly, the sticker was from her mother’s store! It had gone from her mom’s hands to theirs, across 3,000 miles, to her hands.

Mere coincidence? Or were these experiences good gifts orchestrated by a good God who loves to encourage His children? Proverbs tells us, “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord” (20:24 NIV). In response, let’s “bless His name. For the Lord is good” (Ps. 100:4-5).

Bestowed with benefits daily,
Sent from the Father above;
Mercies and blessings abounding,
Gifts of His marvelous love. —Anon.

Every good gift comes from the Father.